Q&A With the State Senate Candidates
The four Democratic candidates for state Senate answer a series of questions on local issues in the district.
As a final piece of our election coverage of the 2nd Essex District Senate race leading up to Thursday's primary, we've asked each of the four Democratic candidates a series of questions on local issues.
Here are their answers in order of topic and response:
Salem Harbor Power Station
Patch: What is your vision for the future of the Salem Harbor Power Station site?
Edward Carroll: My vision for Salem, Peabody, Danvers, Beverly and the rest of the district is to lower the property taxes and bring more job opportunities to the region. At one time Salem was the leading seaport on the East Coast and brought tremendous financial revenues through the international trade.
Salem could easily become, once again, the crown jewel. Salem has easy access because of the trains, water ferries, buses, private yachts and can even accommodate large cruise ships. If I am elected, I would provide the leadership to get rid of any power plant and construct a high-end casino/resort complex. The site is a 65-acre parcel of waterfront land, which is sufficient space for a casino/hotel complex.
Instead of unsightly coal ships, I envision international cruise ships entering and docking at our port. We already have a ferry service from Salem to Boston that would bring tourists from the Boston hotels. A casino/hotel complex would thrive due to our unique deep water harbor.
Existing restaurants and shopping areas would thrive from the overflow of people from the casino/hotel complex. This would be the district’s highway to financial prosperity.
However, I would have two conditions to the project. First, I would demand that all employment be preferential to citizens from the district, and secondly, I would demand that for every dollar coming into the complex, a penny must be put into a district pool to lower residential property taxes.
Joan Lovely: The Salem Harbor Power Station will be replaced with a smaller state-of-the-art gas-fired plant on 20 acres of the site, opening the other 40 acres of the waterfront property to mixed commercial redevelopment. Footprint Power LLC has contracted with NAES Corp. of Issaquah, Wash., to operate the existing coal and oil-fired plant until May 2014, when it will then demolish the facility and begin the environmental cleanup of the site.
The current plan shows the gas plant to be situated on the Blaney Street side of the site, roughly where the oil tanks are today. It will be situated away from the harbor to keep the waterfront open for other uses. The facility will also need to be buffered from the street side to decrease any potential impacts on the neighborhood. Whatever is developed will include public access to the waterfront, which also is a requirement of the state waterways licensing process.
For centuries, Salem has been a working harbor. This site has the potential to be a great asset to the whole community. As state Senator, I will work with Mayor Driscoll and city leaders, state agencies and the new owners to ensure the site realizes its full potential for the city and the region.
John Slattery: Footprint, Inc. owns the power plant and an additional 42 abutting acres. Footprint has publicly committed to building on site a gas fired power plant, to decommissioning the existing coal fired plant and to remediating the site. The new gas fired power plant should be a cleaner operation and should provide Salem with necessary tax revenues which otherwise may have been lost if no successor was in place.
The issue is what to do with the remaining 42 acres. As the owner, Footprint may develop the site, within the bounds of federal, state and municipal law, as it deems appropriate. Salem Harbor is a designated deep water port. As state Senator, I will urge the city of Salem to reclaim its harbor heritage.
To this end, Salem should explore a public/private partnership with Footprint for the development of the 42 acres. Public incentives may include infrastructure improvements and tax credits. Development should center on renewable energy technology, bio-marine research, expanded harbor front access and a mixed commercial/retail use which may include cruise ship docking, ferries, extended stay hotels and restaurants.
Mary-Ellen Manning: Unfortunately, the special interests at work in the Salem Harbor Power Station land deal will control the "vision for the future" of the site. It is now privately owned by a company that donated to members of the energy subcommittee of the legislature, made contacts with and donated to Salem officials, and lobbied for a sweetheart deal that would result in higher electric rates for the next 15 years.
A review of my Salem opponent's campaign finance disclosures reveals that she too has taken assistance from those interested in favorable legislation for gas companies, such as those who work for the energy lobbying firm of Considine & Furey and those who have brokered meetings between Salem officials and Footprint Power, according to a Salem News story. I was not in favor of that Footprint Power deal as originally structured and the legislature concurred, dumping the offending provision.
The question of whether Salem residents can have a seat at the table to discuss the development of the site has been left unanswered by the legislation, which is a real loss to Salem. I have learned by speaking with many who live in Salem that there is growing concern about the future of the site and how it will be redeveloped. It could have and should have been handled differently. The only vision that is in play now is Footprint Power's vision, or that of whomever they sell the land to.
Patch: Route 128 is the district's lifeline to the rest of the state. There have been some improvements recently in Danvers but most people feel the road is still inadequate and, in places, unsafe. What improvements do you feel are a top priority and what would you do to secure the necessary funding to pay for that work?
Edward Carroll: The consultants who designed the improvements must be held accountable, just as was done when fines were levied against the companies who performed the work on the Big Dig in Boston.
That said, however, the worst of the traffic tie-ups appear to be due to the fact the project is not yet completed, and there is ongoing roadwork, which is constricting the lanes. On top of that, final paving and pavement markings have yet to be installed.
Once all of that is finished, a more accurate assessment can be made. At that point, if the problem persists, I will provide the leadership to conduct a comprehensive study on how to improve the traffic flow in a safe manner. I would move the state to hire a qualified and impartial consultant to provide the permanent solutions to such a critical regional problem, and I would work hard to implement those solutions.
The North Shore and the Cummings Center that this road serves, provide substantial revenue to the state. The state has a responsibility to provide safe roads for its citizens. I would work hard to make the state meet its obligations.
Joan Lovely: The Route 128 corridor is a lifeline to the region’s economic engine. Residents and visitors alike use it to reach the North Shore educational institutions, shopping malls, tourist destinations, historic sites, cultural assets and most importantly, their employers who are located the region’s office and industrial parks from Centennial Park in Peabody to Cherry Hill Park in Danvers and Cummings Center in Beverly along this job corridor. It also provides important access to the North Shore’s medical facilities as well as to Boston and the rest of the state. It is critical to the region’s future economic development initiatives and job creation efforts.
While the recent Route 62 and Route 35 exchange improvements address traffic safety issues and improve access to important business centers, immediate efforts are required to “work out the kinks” that have become obvious. In speaking with local mayors and town managers, I have learned that the Exit 19/ Brimbal Avenue project has been made the priority economic development project in the region. I will work with Mayor Scanlon and the city of Beverly and businesses located in proximity to the exchange as a partner to assure that all state resources are pursued and I will aggressively support applications for such funding.
I will also seek advice and counsel from the local communities, regional organizations and businesses to identify other projects that need to be addressed in addition to Route 128. I will work to assure that the Commonwealth and its agencies work as partners with the local officials on such matters.
John Slattery: Route 128 was built at a time when there were less cars on the roadway. Today’s traffic volume overwhelms its capacity resulting in intermittent slow downs, traffic jams and accidents caused by stop and go rush hour traffic. The current improvements being made in Danvers are part of a plan that is outdated.
I believe we should commission a comprehensive study of the anticipated growth in the communities serviced by Route 128 with a goal of being able to appropriately plan for the expected traffic volume. The study should include alternative traffic solutions such as widening Route 128 in areas where it reduces to two lanes, thereby creating unexpected bottlenecks, and for better on and off ramp access along the entire Route 128 corridor.
I believe we must also consider increasing local access to mass transit to reduce roadway traffic volume. I support extension of the Blue Line from Revere to Lynn. With this extension, commuters to Boston and/or Logan Airport will have the alternative of direct light rail transportation from Beverly or Salem to Lynn, where they can transfer to the Blue Line and all connected points south.
Funding for maintenance and expansion of our public transportation system will be a subject of intense debate in the upcoming legislative session. The MBTA is operating at a deficit of about $150 million a year, a deficit which cannot be balanced by unfair rate hikes borne by our seniors on fixed income, our low wage earners, our students and our disabled. Dedicated revenue sources at both the federal and state level shall need to be explored to solve this deficit. Public transportation, which includes not only mass transit, but our roadways and bridges, is vital to the growth of our region’s economy.
Mary-Ellen Manning: I was born in Danvers. Because I have lived in Danvers, Peabody and Salem, all five of the North Shore communities in the district are equally important to me. Sadly, some of the better run municipalities, such as Danvers, wait in line for funding of its projects behind the more poorly run communities. One of my opponents has pledged to put Salem first. It is imperative that the state Senator treat all five municipalities in the district even-handedly. There is a shrinking pool of available state funds. One of the reasons is that there is too much waste, duplication of services and fraud.
Certainly, the road situation on 128 in Danvers is a regional priority, and must be tackled in a way that ameliorates the highway's impact on Danvers. Any issue that impacts our district's core service, like the impact of state roads, will get top priority. The legislature has lost its way. It must cut the waste out of the budget in order to cover the cost of important core services. The legislature's spending problem is now out of control, leaving less money to get things done. Attacking the waste in our state budget will insure that taxes are reduced and funding is available for important core services -- and the people won't have to wait to get their roads fixed correctly.
Patch: One of the least talked about -- but most important jobs -- of an elected official is day-to-day constituent service. What is your approach to constituent service? Please give an example from your experience as an elected official where a constituent brought you a new problem and explain how you solved it.
Edward Carroll: While I was a member of the Governor's Council, the governor commuted the life sentences of eight women who killed their spouses or partners. Today those women would be treated as victims of domestic violence. The women became known as the “Framingham Eight.” To ensure I would not be responsible for releasing violent offenders, I went to the Framingham facility and sought vital information about their conduct and enrollment in programs that would advance their success if released. That information, together with what I learned at the hearings, allowed me to vote in favor of their release, and the lives of the women were forever changed.
As Senator, I would work to get more affordable day care so people who are on welfare and live in state-subsidized motels, or have other difficulties making ends meet, can become more easily employed. That would solve a lot of problems for the state, and would bring in more revenues as well. Constituent problems and crime are reduced when people are employed and can makes ends meet.
I would also request that the mayor or town manager of each city or town provide me with accessible office space in the city or town hall so I can meet with their leaders and constituents in order to provide the best solutions to each of their problems and needs. However, as the next state senator, I would work hardest to do everything possible to bring jobs to the district and lower the property taxes.
Joan Lovely: I believe constituent services and responding to constituents is one of the most critical responsibilities of a state legislator. My 15 years of legislative experience as a city councilor has taught me just how critical this is. My experience as a legislative aide to former Salem state Rep. Mike Ruane taught me the importance of responding to the district and constituents in need.
I believe this is by and large a substantial part of my success as a city councilor. Not a day goes by that I’m not returning phone calls and responding to emails. I attend many meetings to learn about projects and issues. I roll up my sleeves and get to work to find solutions to people’s problems. I will continue this work ethic as the next state Senator.
John Slattery: Constituent service keeps you in office. If an elected official turns a deaf ear to requests for help from his/her constituents in need, it will be only a short time before his/her constituents turn a deaf ear to that elected official’s need for a vote.
I served the people of Peabody as Councilor-at-Large and as their state Representative on Beacon Hill for four terms. During my tenure as state Representative, I had staff assigned to constituent service requests. All requests were logged in the order in which they came and I reviewed each and every request. If it required my personal attention to resolve the issue, I took the action necessary to do so. If the matter could be resolved by my staff, it was. No matter whether handled directly by me or by my staff, each constituent request received prompt, diligent attention.
From my four terms as state Representative and from my practice of law for 27 years, I know that communication is the key to keeping constituents satisfied. Each constituent received a prompt return to his/her original call, updates on progress towards resolution and, as is sometimes the case, if the desired resolution was out of reach, discussion of alternative solutions.
I received countless calls from people who needed help negotiating with a state agency, from seniors and the disabled in emergency need of public housing and from people who needed help getting on the state health program. In such cases, my office put the constituent in touch with the right person in the state agency who could be of assistance, called the local Housing Authority to help the person get on the list or, if an emergency situation, move the person up the list, and worked to insure coverage for those seeking health insurance. No matter the nature of the request for help, I and my staff worked hard to resolve the matter in the constituent’s favor.
Mary-Ellen Manning: I have been honored to have represented the region as your elected Governor's Councilor for the past 12 years. The Governor's Council has a very important role in state government, providing advice and consent to judicial appointments. So many people need help from their government, and most people get the necessary assistance as there are many levels of government to which those in need can bring their problems. It has been my experience, however, that there are some people who can't seem to find anyone to help them. After they have called everyone and gotten nowhere, they come to me. Most often the situation is quite desperate.
Here's a story that illustrates my point. An accomplished Peabody marathoner, who was by then in her mid-30s and a mother of two, was training to run in the Olympics, most likely her last one given her age. In order to compete, she needed to prove she was a United States citizen, which she thought she was. She discovered that she was not. She was born in Portugal and emigrated when she was one. Due to a change in the immigration laws, she had fallen between the cracks of the naturalization process -- her older brothers were citizens and one of her parents was a citizen, but she was not. This was a devastating blow to her.
After her local representative, her state senator and her congressman couldn't help her, her brother, a childhood friend of mine, called me. The odds were a million to one that I could help her get her citizenship. I won't bore you with the details, but a former intern of mine was working in Sen. Ted Kennedy's office, and I wouldn't rest until her case was reviewed. Within a few days, the previously insurmountable obstacles to her citizenship were cleared and she competed to run in the Olympics for her country, for our country, the United States of America.
Patch: During the mayor’s race last year in Peabody, a lot of attention was focused on bringing life back to the downtown. In addition to addressing flooding (we’ll get to that in a minute) and making Main Street safer, there was talk of mixed-use parking garages, creating a friendlier business climate, restarting an old river walk project and overall recreating the downtown into a destination, much like Peabody’s neighbors have done. As the senator for the district, how would you support that mission?
Edward Carroll: I support The Peabody-Salem Corridor Concept Action Plan, which collaborates input from the city of Salem, the city of Peabody and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. (MAPC). I endorse the approach set forth by the MAPC and the recommendations that are being set forth to make Main Street and Boston Street a more vibrant, livable and attractive community corridor.
I especially support the consideration of well-planned transit stop amenities to improve the visibility of the bus stops of the corridor, and to add amenities such as benches, shelters and schedules to improve the passenger experience at stops. The focus on this is especially important, given that the new multi-million dollar Salem Senior Center is to be located at the corner of Bridge Street and Boston Street, which, together with the abutting commercial establishments, will be an active, vibrant and integral part of the corridor.
Joan Lovely: I think that I would follow what seems to have worked for Senator Berry over the last 30 years, it is important for communities like Peabody to identify what it wants to do with its downtown, and as state Senator I would engage state agencies and pursue state grant funding and appropriations to support those community initiatives.
Mayor Bettencourt has initiated a major effort to change downtown Peabody by changing Main Street. I will work with the mayor, the Peabody Chamber of Commerce and the mayor’s Business Economic Council to address any issues that may arise during the project. Obviously, addressing the downtown’s chronic flooding problems is critical to the revitalization efforts in downtown Peabody.
John Slattery: I believe that decisions on municipal planning and community development in Peabody reside with Mayor Bettencourt, the Department of Community Development, the Peabody City Council, the Peabody Zoning and Planning Boards. I will support the initiatives pursued by these local officials any way that I can, including seeking state funding for local projects as a means of keeping the city’s costs low, thereby reducing the impact of such projects on the local tax base.
This does not, however, mean that I am averse to making suggestions to the mayor and city boards on the availability of state funding for projects for which Peabody may be eligible if I believe the nature of the available project is one which will improve the quality of life in Peabody. Peabody has a number of capital projects currently in the works, including the building of a new middle school. As your next state Senator, I will work to move the middle school project through the process to completion with school building assistance program dollars.
Mary-Ellen Manning: First of all, with respect to the vitality of its downtown, Peabody has to do what is best for Peabody. It is not the role of the state Senator to dictate how local officials address the needs of its residents. We are now in the middle of the worst economy since the Great Depression, and while we are lucky in Peabody because it is a well-run city and has low unemployment, it is now more important than ever to lower state taxes, provide small businesses incentives and create jobs.
I am sad about the number of empty storefronts in downtown Peabody. My business was one of those driven from downtown due to the flooding. I know that downtown revitalization is a top priority for Peabody, and my sister Peabody Councilor-at-Large Anne Manning-Martin keeps me posted about discussions.
Downtown Peabody would benefit from some "economic gardening." Entrepreneurs are better than anyone at creating jobs and at creating supportive environments attracting small businesses to communities. As your next state Senator, one of my goals would be to get Peabody, if it so chooses, on board with this innovative concept that has boosted many communities across the country.
Patch: In regard to flooding, both Peabody and Salem have weathered the brunt of some of the worst floods and suffered heavy damages over the years both to homeowners and businesses. So what’s the solution? Is it just a matter of digging up more outside funding for Peabody’s flood mitigation project, which would cost more than $30 million in total, or are their other options to pursue?
Edward Carroll: In order to understand the flooding problem, it is important to know its history and its source. The Dukakis Administration created a so-called “state-of-the-art” landfill in Peabody, just off Route 128. The landfill has many contaminants, and, therefore, was designed with a leachate collection system. Thus, instead of seeping through the ground and replenishing the aquifer underneath the ground, the rain water was diverted to the existing Peabody sewer system pipes (which then connect to the Salem sewer system pipes, which then go to the South Essex sewer treatment plant for treatment). The plant then discharges the outfall into the ocean. During periods of heavy rain, the effluent is too much for the pipes to handle, and backs up, causing repeated property damage and business loss.
That property damage is not limited to the individual homeowners and businesses that are flooded, but affects everyone in the area. Every time a vehicle drives through those flooded areas, the wheel bearings and other components are likely to become damaged. This wide-spread problem needs a permanent solution.
As state Senator, I would provide the leadership to cause the state to focus on providing a solution to this serious problem. Our property taxes have gone up. Our water and sewer rates continue to go up. It’s time to have a permanent solution to the flooding, and the state will have to be brought on board.
Joan Lovely: Several communities in the district have been severely affected by some of the worst floods in recent history including Peabody, Salem and Topsfield. In Salem, I have served on the Flood Committee for many years to work towards resolving our flooding woes. I have been following the proposed three-phase project for Peabody Square to 1) install new, wider culverts; 2) widen the river canal; and 3) widen the North River.
As the next state Senator, I will be committed to identifying and securing the funding to get this multi-stage project completed to the benefit of the businesses that have long suffered flood damage and loss of business. This project will not only improve Peabody’s flooding but could potentially impact Peabody’s downstream sister city of Salem. I will work with local leaders in both communities to resolve these issues. This is the type of work the next state Senator has to concentrate on to deliver state resources for successful and sustainable projects.
John Slattery: There is no question that a regional solution is necessary to solving the flooding problems experienced in both Salem and Peabody. Solutions can and should include discussion of a tidal wall in Salem and upstream reservoirs/detention ponds in Peabody. Each community has experienced different impacts.
As with any community planning and development, the decision on which course of mitigation shall be pursued is a matter for the municipal officials in Peabody and Salem.
As your next state Senator, I will support the initiatives pursued by these local officials any way that I can, including seeking state funding for mitigation studies and approved local mitigation projects determined to be economically feasible, as a means of keeping the city’s costs low and thereby reducing the impact of such projects on the local tax base.
Mary-Ellen Manning: My home is in Downtown Peabody, and I have been lucky because my basement is dry. But I was a lot less lucky when it came to my law office, which was flooded out twice. My law office is now in Salem as a result. In my opinion, the flooding in Peabody is the number one regional issue for the next state Senator.
It is important to note, however, that the state should not be interfering in how Peabody addresses its flooding issue. As a state Senator, I would bring together city officials at all levels from Peabody, Salem and Danvers (because Danvers is affected also) to provide support to Peabody while recognizing the regional aspects of the problem. However, Peabody chooses to address the flooding issue will impact its border municipalities, so it is vital to get district cooperation.
If Peabody wants to address this problem, then I would do everything I can as state Senator to eliminate the waste in the state budget to provide the talent, the resources and the funding to get it done -- not only for Peabody but for the region.
Federal regulations on the waterfront
Patch: Amid the legal fight to bring a Black Cow restaurant to city-owned waterfront property in Beverly next to Veterans Memorial Bridge, is the argument that perhaps the protected port area designation should be lifted to allow broader redevelopment of the waterfront. The land is one of 12 designated port areas in Massachusetts, a restriction that was enacted in 1978 to protect working waterfronts. Is that still necessary today for Beverly or is it hindering beneficial growth?
Edward Carroll: We can have working waterfronts, together with boutiques, restaurants, antiques shops, art galleries, etc. We need to welcome tourists and create a memorable experience for them. The Beverly waterfront should be a part of that concept. The waterfront should not be for the benefit of industrial use only, but must also be planned to be a viable source of beauty and recreation for the public at large. I believe that the Black Cow restaurant, and the public ferry boats slated to be working from their front dock, enhance those goals.
In keeping with those goals, under the Carroll Plan of Action, there will be a major cruise and tourist ‘industry” at the waterfront, which would not be viable in an inland location. We are at the juncture of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to beautify the harbor and create a water front industry that truly benefits all of the people forever, rather than a few big-pocket industrialists.
Under my plan, transportation will be provided through trolleys, and will be free for the people of the district. There will be pedestrian walking areas fronting the entire harbor and trolley service along Derby Street to the Willows, so that the residents of the Willows will not be as impacted by traffic, as they presently are. The Carroll Plan of Action will bring prosperity, jobs, and will reduce the property taxes for the entire district. The only thing that is needed is the leadership to accomplish it, and I am that leader.
Joan Lovely: I believe the development of the city-owned property on Beverly’s waterfront to bring a Black Cow restaurant to the site is consistent with protected port area designation. It is my understanding based on preliminary plans and discussions that the building that will house the restaurant will also be home to a business that will support recreational water activities like kayaking and the like. With access to the docking areas off the property, the restaurant will also service customers that arrive by water on boats and other watercraft. When the litigation is finally resolved, I would be supportive of the city’s efforts to develop the site and would seek expeditious consideration of any application filed with state agencies for permits necessary to commence work on the project.
John Slattery: The Patrick Administration has already acted to designate five deep water ports, one of which is Salem Harbor. Salem can now focus on its untapped waterfront resource to further economic growth and development. I would like to see this opportunity for growth and development extended to smaller water ports such as Beverly. I am supportive of creating opportunities for waterfront development such as expanding water transport opportunities, by linking North Shore waterfront communities such as Beverly, Salem and Gloucester, and by allowing for residential and commercial development of waterfront property. The potential of waterfront development in Beverly and Salem is exciting. It will be an economic engine and job creator for the North Shore.
Mary-Ellen Manning: A friend of mine owns a building in one of the protected ports. She had a fire, and now has to rebuild. The restrictions have prevented her from rebuilding, which is a great personal and financial tragedy. Despite this individualized negative impact, I believe in protecting certain ports to advance maritime concerns. "Broader redevelopment of the waterfront," as you put it, could include multi-storied buildings that not only prevent the public from even seeing the waterfront, but also drive maritime businesses from the waterfront. God only gave us so much waterfront. Protecting a few working ports is a good thing. If it is not working out for Beverly, then, by all means, it should be up for discussion. The owners of the port shoreline knew what they were getting into when they purchased the land -- they must build with an eye toward maritime uses. This strikes the appropriate balance in my view, as the harbor is a cherished natural resource and should be treated with care for all to enjoy.