State Senate candidate Joan Lovely talked about everything from why she's running and what sets her apart from the other candidates to her take on the MBTA and the first issue she'd tackle if elected in a live chat with Salem Patch readers on Monday.
Here's what Lovely had to say:
On her reasons for running
Bo: Why do you want to be a senator?
Joan Lovely: I'm seeking the office of state Senator because I know firsthand how critical it is to have a senator who understands what our communities are going through to deal with municipal budgets under pressure, a sluggish economy, aging infrastructures, and the ever-increasing demands on school resources and public services. Like Senator Berry, who also served as a city councilor, I bring a keen understanding of those issues and of how actions on Beacon Hill impact our local communities for better or for worse. I think my experience as a 15-year city councilor dealing with those issues prepares me well to represent Beverly, Danvers, Peabody, Salem and Topsfield.
Lovely says unique experience from opponents
Janice: This is a broad question, but what sets you apart from the other candidates for this position?
Joan Lovely: Thanks for the question, Janice. To begin, I'm the only candidate in this race who has 15 years of experience balancing municipal budgets, funding schools, public safety and senior services. I clearly understand what our communities need from the state. I will fight for the resources we need for schools, flood mitigation, transportation and tax relief. I will also fight against unfunded state mandates that cripple local budgets.
Also, I'm the only candidate who has refused donations from PACs and special interests. I believe you cannot vote in everyone's best interest if you are beholden to special interest groups. Another difference is that I'm the only candidate who will serve full-time and give 100 percent effort to represent the district, as did Senator Berry and Senator King and Senator Harrington previously. My opponents have indicated that they will be continuing to practice law and serve the district part-time.
Lastly, I'm the only candidate who has been working to make things better for ALL working men and women and their families for over 20 years (not just election years). I've been a neighborhood leader, community volunteer, ward councilor, at-large councilor, school literacy buddy, Council on Aging liaison, school parent, business and tourism advocate, and a pro-bono legal services provider for needy elderly. I think that's why so many local parents, seniors, veterans, nurses, teachers, firefighters, police officers, small business owners, tradesmen, school and office workers, health care workers, retirees, disabled citizens and taxpayers are supporting me and have become a part of my campaign.
Housing the homeless
Luna: What issue would you work on first, if elected?
Joan Lovely: I have pledged that, if elected, I will fight unfunded mandates that cripple local budgets. One instance of this is what happened in Danvers, when Danvers taxpayers were required to pay for school transportation for students living in the motels along Route 1. Senator Berry and Representative Ted Speliotis got that particular unfunded mandate corrected. However, the issue is bigger than just transportation. Currently, the state pays over $80 per night per room to house a whole family in one motel room with a bed and a hot plate. This policy is morally outrageous and fiscally unacceptable. A motel next to a highway is no place for any child to live and play. Finding a better solution for homeless families will be a top priority of mine from day one.
Reader: If elected, what's your plan for helping people get back to work?
Joan Lovely: Employment is a top issue. Even though the unemployment rate on the North Shore is lower than the state and national averages, that is cold comfort if you or someone in your family is out of work. I've met with SSU President Meservey, NSCC President Burton, Business Enterprise Center Exec Director Sullivan and the leaders of the local chambers, the North Shore Business Alliance, Salem Partnership, Salem and Beverly Main Streets, Mayors Bettencourt, Scanlon and Driscoll, Danvers Town Manager Marquis and Topsfield Town Administrator Wilder who are all ready, willing, and able to work together with state government to attract new businesses, to expand educational programs, and to train employees in our region. As a state senator, I will be a full and reliable partner in those efforts.
Richard: Local and state pension obligations will eventually bankrupt the state unless bold action is taken to cap and possible reduce them. What specific actions will you take regarding this issue if elected?
Joan Lovely: Under Governor Patrick and the current Legislature, there have been three phases of pension reform to eliminate abuses in the system. The Bay State paid state retirees almost $1.5 billion in benefits in 2011. The reforms passed by the House and the Senate will allow us to fully fund our pension obligations by 2040 when coupled with the annual state and employee contributions. We have to be diligent in monitoring the pension system going forward to prevent fraud and to continue closing any loopholes in the system.
Changes to the MBTA
David: What changes should be made with the MBTA commuter rail and T?
Joan Lovely: I know time is short, but one particular thing I would like to mention is the need to bond the T debt so that it is not passed immediately onto the ratepayers through excessively high fare hikes and reduced and/or eliminated service.
For a complete transcript of Monday's chat, .