Governor's Councilor and state Senate candidate Mary-Ellen Manning fielded a broad range of questions in a live chat with Salem Patch readers Thursday on everything from local taxes to the region's biggest challenges, Salem's power plant, illegal immigration, affordable housing and more.
Roger: Would you care to comment on Joan Lovely's insatiable appetite for increasing taxes on Salem residents please?
Mary-Ellen Manning: Roger, thank you for participating in this chat. It is true that there are clear differences between me and my opponents on the issue of taxes. I have pledged to do all that I can to lower the state income tax rate to 5 percent as promised by the State House years ago. My opponent from Peabody voted to override the voter initiative to reduce taxes. Likewise, the Salem City Councillor has voted to increase property taxes, water and sewer rates, increased parking fines and fees, voted for a special meals tax and approves of an Internet sales tax. Very recently she called for a special session of the Salem City Council and voted in favor of the CPA, which had already been rejected by the voters a few years ago. I trust voters' judgment. In these difficult economic times, it is wrong to increase taxes.
Biggest challenges for North Shore
Stan: What, in your opinion, are the biggest challenges the North Shore is facing at the moment? How do you propose we fix them?
Mary-Ellen Manning: Thanks Stan. The biggest problems are jobs, the economy, taxes and waste. I propose we attack the waste in the budget, such as duplication of services. The half billion dollar Department of Correction comes to mind. Post-release services are duplicated by the DOC, the Sheriff's Departments, the trial court and parole. We need to attack this overspending and use these savings to address our essential services and decrease taxes. Decreasing taxes and providing small business incentives will boost the economy and give us the jobs we desperately need.
J. Curley: Thanks for being here, Mary-Ellen. Could you share your thoughts on the development of the Salem power plant property as well as the possible wind farm on historic Winter Island?
Mary-Ellen Manning: Thank you J. It is so important for Salem to do what is best for Salem, with an eye toward what is best for the region. We need to work together to make sure that what each of our municipalities does works well with the goals of the region. I think that's one of the roles of the State Senator --having the region pull together. It is so important that the State Senator balance each town's needs against the needs of the district as a whole. State government also try not to override the goals of any city or town. So, while I am a big believer in clean energy, I am most interested in making sure that the residents of Salem are happy with the outcome of very large projects being sited in Salem. It would have been great to have done some economic gardening on the Salem power plant site, to bring in some entrepreneurs, but that was not to be. I am glad that the site is going to be cleaned up. Salem has suffered too long with the pollution from the coal-fired plant.
Americus Bell: What is your position on low-income housing, especially in areas that have met their "40B?" All politics being local, I suspect you may be called upon to advocate for/influence funding by, well, local gov'ts.
Mary-Ellen Manning: Affordable housing is a value that most communities feel is important. Some communities do more than their fair share, however. In the communities that are interested in building more affordable housing beyond their 40B quota, I'm all for it and would support their efforts. It is important to note that this is one of those areas that regionalization may be in order: the communities of the district should be able to work together to trade 40B obligations so that, as a region, the 40B quota is met. It's important to work together. That's something that I could assist with as a state senator should more legislation be required to make that happen.
Michael: Illegal immigration is a growing problem in Salem and Massachusetts and is putting additional stress on the state safety net as well as education systems and job availabilty, have you any thoughts on how this can be addtressed at the state level?
Mary-Ellen Manning: We must hold employers criminally responsible for hiring unauthorized aliens. This odious practice takes jobs away from those here legally, takes advantage of the immigrants, and suppresses wages for everyone in an already depressed economy. We must put a stop to these illegal hiring practices.
Where do you stand?
Fran: Mary-Ellen, where do you find yourself in agreement with your Democratic party? And where is there a lot of daylight between you and that platform?
Mary-Ellen Manning: I believe that our government should provide services to those in need, protect us from criminals, educate our children, treat everyone fairly and equally and pull us together as a society. The programs of the Democratic party are ones that I have benefited from, including public education and my Dad getting to go to college on the G.I. Bill. I think we can provide more direct, value-added services by getting rid of the waste in the budget. I am looking to do more with less, because putting more money in everyone's pockets is better for all of us. I hope that answers your question.
For a complete transcript of Thursday's chat, .