Finding Common Ground, Even In Divided Times

If you’ve been following my campaign for State Representative, you know that I have strong opinions about how to move Massachusetts forward. These firm convictions are a big reason why I decided to run. 

But I had another reason for running: a desire to bring leadership that understands how to find common ground, even with people who disagree with you on other issues.

For too long, we’ve faced a false choice between officials who stand for their principles and those who would abandon them. I believe progressives, moderates, and conservatives can find areas of agreement that don’t require sacrificing our principles – but do require thoughtful cooperation. 

As an example, I recently called for eliminating the waiting list for vocational and technical schools. Democrats and Republicans alike agree that this is a sensible investment in our future. We may disagree on other details about education policy, but we can come together to fix this problem.

Another area where we can find bipartisan agreement is reforming small business regulations to make them more flexible and up to date.

Let’s learn from the flexibility cities are showing in allowing businesses to modify operations due to COVID-19. From Easy Pie hosting a drive-in movie night in Revere, to establishments operating with outdoor seating to maintain social distancing, local officials are realizing it’s important to fast-track ideas that would, in normal times, be a nightmare of permitting and red tape. 

Once this crisis is over, we need to modernize permitting, to encourage new businesses with creative ideas to flourish. Regulations designed to protect public safety are good and necessary; those whose purpose is to entrench the status quo are not. 

Something we can all agree on: nobody likes getting ripped off by the cable company. Now more than ever, internet service is a necessity, but consumers are faced with an expensive lack of options. Revere took a positive step by permitting RCN to create competition, but the state needs to do more to ensure residents of all communities have affordable internet access, including exploring public broadband programs. 

The most divisive issue in local politics is housing. There are some housing policy questions that we’re just never going to get broad agreement on. But where we can find common ground, we need to take action.

When Revere moved forward with housing for veterans on Shirley Ave, most agreed it was a good idea. A majority also agrees that homeowners should be able to have “in-law” apartments in their own homes. Many homeowners already have in-law apartments that date back to before current zoning laws, and are taxed accordingly – but face heavy fines if they look to do work on them. Changing this situation is common sense.

A few years back, Revere launched a 311 constituent service system. Pothole repair and trash pickup isn’t Democrat or Republican – and our Democratic mayor and Republican governor agreed, working together to fund this program to help the city operate more efficiently.

An area where progressives and conservatives in Massachusetts find common ground is on the need for transparency in state government. 

Last month, the House updated their rules to allow members to cast votes remotely during this crisis – but there was also initial talk of a change that would make it even more difficult for bills to come to the floor for a vote. Progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans spoke out against this idea, arguing that we need to have more – not less – public debate. Ultimately, the House made the right decision, and chose not to alter that rule. We can be thankful to advocates from across the political spectrum who spoke out in favor of transparency.

The key to making bipartisan progress is not sacrificing your principles or “meeting halfway.” The key is figuring out where the areas of agreement are, and not letting other issues hold you back. I can argue passionately for a progressive priority like expanding access to healthcare, while working together with a Republican who agrees with me on the need to cut red tape holding back small businesses. That’s the kind of leadership I want to bring to Beacon Hill, and it’s the kind of leadership residents across the district deserve.

Joe Gravellese is a candidate in the Democratic primary for State Representative on September 1 in the 16th Suffolk District (Revere, Chelsea, Saugus). Voters can learn more about his campaign at www.joegrav.com

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