Enio Lopez and Marisol Santiago Endorse Joe Gravellese

Chelsea City Councilor Enio Lopez and School Committee Member Marisol Santiago Endorse Joe Gravellese for State Representative

Chelsea City Councilor Enio Lopez and Chelsea School Committee member Marisol Santiago announced their endorsements for Joe Gravellese this week in the 16th Suffolk District State Representative race (Revere, Chelsea, and Saugus).

Early voting is underway in the Democratic Primary, with Election Day coming up on September 1.

Gravellese had been previously backed by Chelsea School Committee member Roberto Jimenez Rivera, and was also unanimously endorsed by the Chelsea Ward 4 Democratic Committee. On the Revere side of the district, Gravellese has been backed by the Revere Democratic City Committee.

“Councilor Lopez embodies the attitude I take to public service – he shows up and he gets things done,” said Gravellese. “Councilor Lopez has worked tirelessly as an employee at the Chelsea Soldiers Home to support veterans; lifts up fellow members of the immigrant community; and has dug in to improve infrastructure like streets and sidewalks in Chelsea.”

“Marisol Santiago has long been a champion for working people in Chelsea, and fights every day for fair and equitable public education as a member of the School Committee,” he continued. “I am honored to have their backing and look forward to fighting alongside them on Beacon Hill.”Voters can learn more about Gravellese’s campaign at www.joegrav.com.

A Commitment to Transparency

Last week, my campaign was endorsed by Act on Massachusetts – an organization dedicated to increasing transparency in our historically secretive state government. They endorsed me in part because I am one of dozens of candidates around the state – but the only one in my race – to sign the State House Transparency Pledge.

The Transparency Pledge commits me to making all of my committee votes available to the public. Most important votes at the State House happen in committees. But these committee votes are not required to be made public – meaning voters don’t know how their legislator is voting, one way or the other, on key bills.

I’m committed to changing this by 1) posting all of my own votes publicly, and 2) pushing for rule changes to require everyone to do so.

The Pledge also commits me to standing for a public roll call vote on bills I co-sponsor. Legislators often sign on as “co-sponsors” to bills to show that they support them, but there are bills that more than half of the Legislature has signed on to that still never even get an up-or-down vote. The Transparency Pledge pushes to change this. 

It’s common practice to try to dodge difficult votes that may drum up opposition in your district. I think that if you really believe in something, you’ll make the case directly to your constituents about why it’s important, and accept the consequences of your vote one way or the other. 

I also support Act on Massachusetts’ push for rule changes that would require that the public and legislators be given more time to review bills before voting on them.

I worked as a staff member at the State House, and I saw up close the absurdity of the budget process. A massive budget amendment would be released that contains hundreds of funding items worth millions of dollars, and legislators would have just a few hours to review this before voting on it. This needs to change.

Act on Massachusetts is also pushing for term limits for key leadership positions. Right now, too much power is concentrated in too few hands. 

My commitment to transparency extends beyond the Pledge. I’ve committed myself to being up front with the voters about my intention to truly be a full-time representative. That means holding no other job while serving.

Legislators are allowed to hold other jobs, and most do. There’s no rule against it, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. But I didn’t get into this race for the salary, I got into it to make change – and that requires a lot of hard work and long hours.  

I would also resign from my volunteer post as the chairman of the City of Revere’s Scholarship Committee if elected. In that role, I have to vote on who is awarded scholarships by the City. It may create the appearance of a conflict of interest if I have to vote between a student who is in my voting district and one who isn’t. To prevent such a conflict, I will give up this position. Voters deserve clarity on these types of questions before they cast their vote.

Throughout this campaign, I’ve tried to be transparent with you about my priorities. I’ve hosted town hall events where I’ve spoken about issues, and opened the floor up for questions. I’ve publicly answered hard questions about where I stand on certain bills. I’ve filled out many questionnaires from endorser groups asking about my stances, so I’ve posted one publicly on my website for you to review.

If you vote for me, I can’t promise that we will agree 100% of the time, on every issue. I can promise that I will always be honest with you; I will always be willing to talk candidly with you; I will always hold myself to the highest standards of transparency; and I will always work tirelessly on behalf of the people of this district.

I worked at the State House. “The way things are” isn’t because the people who work there now are bad people. They’re not. They’re doing the best they can to make things better within a broken system. But all over Massachusetts, there are candidates running who want to change that system, who don’t accept “but we’ve always done it this way” as an answer. 

If you are looking for continuity with the way things have always been done, I am probably not your candidate. But if you’re looking for something different from business as usual, I hope to earn your vote on September 1. 

Protecting those who served: An agenda for Veterans Services

While there are many areas where Massachusetts has fallen short, one area where we remain a national leader is in providing services to veterans. There is always room for improvement, but the State Legislature has been effective in passing bipartisan legislation to continuously update veterans benefits.

If elected as the next State Representative in the 16th Suffolk District, I hope to continue this strong leadership on behalf of those who served in the military, and I have particular priorities for veterans services that I hope to focus on:

1. Addressing veteran homelessness: Like all vulnerable Massachusetts populations , veterans face pressures from displacement and rising housing costs. In 2019 there was a slight decrease in veteran homelessness, but there were still over 900 homeless veterans in the state. It’s fair to anticipate that this number may rise in 2020 amidst this economic crisis.

To address veteran homelessness, we need to support veteran-preference affordable housing projects that include on-site supports, similar to a project in Revere successfully pushed by Mayor Arrigo and Councilor Novoselsky. Veterans often require particular on-site services that address concerns like post-traumatic stress disorder, physical challenges, and other after-effects of serving.

We can create more of these projects through tax incentives and funding. We can also support state-level changes to zoning laws, and add teeth to affordable housing laws, that will help incentivize veteran-preference projects. We also need inclusionary zoning policies in our communities, to make sure that when new development takes place, space is set aside for affordable housing, especially for vulnerable populations like veterans. 

2. Educational access for veterans’ families: Senate Bill 2502, introduced by Senator Julian Cyr, would allow those benefiting from the Massachusetts National Guard educational credit tuition waiver to distribute these free credits to their children up to age 26, up to a total of 130 credit hours. This is a sensible policy change that would allow those who have served in the National Guard to use benefits they’ve already earned to support their families.

3. Soldier’s Home oversight: This summer, the Baker administration introduced a series of proposed reforms to governance of Soldier’s Homes following the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldier’s Home. But as this tragedy occurred under this administration’s watch, it’s crucial that the Legislature exact oversight as well. 

A special legislative task force chaired by Rep. Linda Dean Campbell is currently investigating the circumstances around the Soldier’s Home outbreak, and preparing its own proposals for reform. 

While the investigation is specifically focusing on the incident in Holyoke, the recommendations oversight panel will have implications for the state’s other Soldier’s Home, located in Chelsea. As such, the two members of the Chelsea House delegation next year – whoever those two may be, as both seats are currently contested – must urge inclusion for one of us to sit on this panel and be active participants in any proposed reforms to Soldier’s Home governance. 

4. Protecting benefits for veterans with PTSD, and veterans discharged for being LGBT: We need legislation similar to a bill passed in New York that would allow more veteran benefits to extend to veterans who received a less than honorable discharge who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder or a traumatic brain injury, or were discharged for being LGBT during the age of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Too many veterans have been denied recognition because they were dismissed for who they are. It will take federal action to correct these less than honorable discharges, which is unlikely under this administration – but at the state-level, we can do more to ensure access to benefits.

5. Protecting mental health care and substance abuse services: The veteran population will be particularly impacted by ongoing, much-needed efforts to ensure equity in coverage for mental and behavioral health services, as well as expanded access to evidence-based substance use treatment. 

In the Legislature, I will champion expanded access to these services, just as I did when working at Revere City Hall, when Revere emerged as a regional leader in substance use treatment. I’m proud that the Arrigo administration has prioritized increasing staffing and funding for public health programs and substance abuse treatment, and I look forward to taking this experience with me to the Legislature to benefit veterans and other populations in need of these services. 

*

Living up to our obligations to those who served in the military is one of the most important duties of government. The acceptable number of homeless veterans is zero. The acceptable amount of roadblocks to veterans receiving mental health and substance use treatment is zero. While we can be proud of what Massachusetts has accomplished so far, we still have more to do- and i look forward to pushing for more if elected on September 1.  

To Thwart Polluters, We Need Better Policies

The hazards of living near heavy polluters in our district – from Logan Airport to our south, to the Wheelabrator incinerator in Saugus, to the emissions from trucks and tailpipes that impact Chelsea each day – are usually invisible. We can’t immediately see the results, but they’re there – increasing rates of asthma, cancer, and COVID-19, in communities like Revere, Chelsea, and Saugus.

Sometimes, the invisible becomes visible. Last Sunday, when smoke billowed out of the Wheelabrator facility in Saugus, it was a visible reminder of the consequences of decades of failed environmental policies – and a clear example of the need for change. But just asking for change isn’t enough – we need to look at the big picture, and put in place the structures that will create change. 

The first step is making sure Massachusetts is putting appropriate resources into environmental enforcement. In July, the Boston Globe reported that enforcement actions and fines against polluters – such as landfills and gas facilities – dipped nearly 75% since 2006, as the number of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection employees fell off by nearly 25%.

When we don’t have the people in place to do air quality observations, safety inspections, and other needed checks, the result is going to be weaker enforcement. This is a bipartisan mistake, as every year our supermajority Democratic legislature continues to pass budgets that dedicate less than 1% of the state budget to environmental protection, despite warnings from public health and environmental groups about the critical need to invest in these programs. 

Beyond strengthening the Department of Environmental Protection, we also need to put in place stronger ethics laws that cut back on the revolving door of government regulators being heavily influenced by the companies and industries they are supposed to regulate. It doesn’t matter how well-staffed our environmental protection agencies are if they are staffed by people who are too cozy with polluters.

I am the only candidate in my race to have committed to not taking campaign contributions from fossil fuel lobbyists or executives. This should be a requirement of anyone serving in a leadership role on legislative committees like the Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture, or the Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy.

When it comes to the Wheelabrator facility specifically, we need to look at  both short- and long-term steps to improve public health.

In the long-term, we need a state-level commitment to zero-waste policies that move us away from sending so much trash to landfills and incinerators. Ultimately, if trash is produced, it’s going somewhere – and right now, cities and towns are putting many items into the trash that we already know how to reuse or recycle, like food waste, yard trimmings, mattresses, and paper goods. Even just by offering up better recycling and reuse programs for the things we already know how to work with, we can cut municipal waste by over 50%. These steps are essential to preventing future expansion of landfills and incinerators, which we should be concerned about whether they be in our backyard or someone else’s.

In the short-term, the work of lobbying both the Saugus Board of Health and the MassDEP regarding Wheelabrator’s operations is important, though limited in likely effectiveness without broader policy shifts. We also need to look at immediate steps to provide public health relief, such as fighting to have the unlined, 140-acre landfill lined to prevent pollution from leaking into the nearby marsh; and putting in place – and enforcing – tougher guidelines on what comes out of the smoke stacks.

To be certain, none of this work will be quick or easy – whoever picks up the baton to continue the fight against pollution in vulnerable communities like ours will have to overcome decades of entrenched policy. But there are steps we can take to shift these policies, and move us toward a cleaner and more sustainable future. 

National Association of Social Workers MA-PACE Endorses Joe Gravellese for State Representative

The National Association of Social Workers Massachusetts Chapter – Political Action for Candidate Election (NASW MA PACE) has endorsed Joe Gravellese in his campaign for State Representative in the 16th Suffolk District (Revere, Chelsea, Saugus). 

“The National Association of Social Workers MA-PACE is proud to endorse Joe Gravellese in the 16th Suffolk district race,” said Allison Bodek, co-chair of NASW MA PACE. “Joe’s vision of economic and environmental justice, as well as equitable access to education, transportation, and health care for all are in line with NASW-MA’s mission. We are excited to endorse a candidate whose platform will not only support social workers, but also the clients and communities we serve.”

Joe Gravellese said of the endorsement, “The members of the National Association of Social Workers do critically important work, often with little recognition – from those supporting vulnerable students in schools, to those helping our neighbors struggling with addiction. But beyond the important work they do on the job, social workers also understand the importance of using their voice and their political action to lift up the most vulnerable people in our society. NASW MA works tirelessly to address inequities in education, housing, and economic opportunity. It is a true honor to have their endorsement, and I look forward to working alongside them in the Legislature to move Massachusetts forward.” 

For all the reasons we have cited above and more, the PACE committee is proud to endorse Joe Gravellese for State Representative in the 16th Suffolk District

The Primary Election will take place on Tuesday, September 1, 2020. Voters can find their polling location by visiting WhereDoIVoteMA.com. 

Progressive Massachusetts endorses Joe Gravellese for State Representative

Progressive Massachusetts – a statewide advocacy organization working to elect legislators who will bring more transparency to state government, and bring needed change to Beacon Hill to invest in education, transportation, the environment, and other key priorities – has endorsed Joe Gravellese for State Representative in the 16th Suffolk District (Revere, Chelsea, Saugus).

“With Massachusetts facing crises of growing inequality and accelerating climate change, we need elected officials who will fight for workers’ rights, accelerating our transition to clean energy, and investing in our collective future. Joe Gravellese is such a leader and is committed to fostering transparency and civic engagement to bring more people into the democratic process,” said Jonathan Cohn, political director for Progressive Massachusetts.

“Joe Gravellese is former legislative director and mayoral aide and has hands-on experience of crafting policy,” said the release from Progressive Massachusetts. “He’s running for office in order to fight for greater investment in public transit, solutions to our affordable housing crisis, and an accelerated transition to 100% renewable energy.”

“Progressive Massachusetts urges our state to live up to its highest ideals,” said Gravellese. “The members of Progressive Massachusetts share an important belief I hold, which is that our state, which has been a national leader on so many issues – from public education, to public libraries, to equal rights – must continue to set a positive example for the rest of the country.”

“I particularly appreciate their commitment to civic engagement and getting more people involved in the political process,” continued Gravellese. “At my campaign events, you’ll see union laborers, high school and college students, immigrants, new residents of the area, young professionals, and people who have lived in Revere for multiple generations. This is the kind of inclusive movement I am looking to work with to bring change.”

The Democratic primary election will be held on September 1.

Gravellese Commits to being Full Time State Representative if Elected

Being a State Representative isn’t about just showing up to vote – it is a full time position that gives you a platform to advocate for your community every day, and raise important issues. 

That’s why I’m taking the Full-Time Commitment Pledge. If elected, within 90 days, I will resign from my full-time job in higher education, and I will remove myself from the volunteer city board I serve on (the Revere Scholarship Committee) so I can dedicate myself to doing the job of State Representative, with no distractions and no conflicts of interest. The voters deserve to know that this job will have my full attention.

-Joe

Chelsea School Committee Member Roberto Jiménez Rivera Endorses Joe Gravellese for State Representative

Roberto Jiménez Rivera, who topped the ticket in his first run for Chelsea School Committee in 2019, has endorsed Joe Gravellese for State Representative in the 16th Suffolk District (Revere, Chelsea, and Saugus). The Democratic primary in that race will be held on September 1.

“Joe understands the systemic education and climate injustices that plague Chelsea and Revere,” said Jiménez Rivera  “He has built the community relationships that will enable him to advocate for us and reform the broken government systems that have led to our inequitable status quo.”

“I’m honored to receive the endorsement of an emerging leader in Chelsea like Roberto,” said Gravellese. “Roberto has led the conversation around a safe reopening of schools, and has been a fierce and effective advocate for better investment in low-income students in communities like Chelsea.”

“Throughout this campaign, I’ve worked to ensure that the whole district knows they will have a champion in the Legislature if I am elected on September 1,” he continued. “I’m proud of the relationships I’ve built in Chelsea, from the unanimous endorsement of the Chelsea Ward 4 Democratic Committee, to the support of local leaders like Roberto. I look forward to continuing this work in the Legislature, because Chelsea needs strong partners at the state level as it recovers from COVID-19.”

350 MASS ACTION endorses Gravellese for State Representative 

350 Mass Action’s State Political Team, representing 350 Mass Action chapters from across the state, has unanimously endorsed Joseph Gravellese for State Representative for the Suffolk 16th  district, including parts of Revere, Saugus, and Chelsea.

350 Mass Action is a statewide network of volunteers dedicated to addressing climate and environmental challenges, by moving toward a just, healthy, and sustainable energy future. 

“While some state-level progress has been made around climate protection and environmental justice issues, there is much more to do,”  said 350 Mass Action Political Manager, Cabell Eames. “The health and prosperity of our cities and towns requires that Massachusetts prioritize these issues. We are happy to endorse Joe Gravellese because we expect him to be a climate champion in future Legislatures.” 

In their decision, 350 Mass Action stated that the endorsement was based on Mr. Gravellese’s background fighting for a safer environment, more aggressive action against dangerous climate change, and effective government action at both the local and state-wide level.  

“I’m honored to have the backing of all three environmental groups who have endorsed in this race,” said Gravellese, who was previously endorsed by the Sierra Club and by Sunrise Boston, two other prominent environmental advocacy organizations.

“These endorsements represent not only my background and experience working on these issues, but also the way I’ve run my campaign – with a commitment to fighting for more transparency at the State House, a pledge to refuse donations from fossil fuel executives, and detailed and honest conversations with voters about my priorities when it comes to environmental legislation.”

The Democratic primary election for State Representative will be held on September 1. 

Investing in small businesses, during and after the crisis

Op-Ed: Investing in small businesses, during and after the crisis

By Joe Gravellese, candidate for State Representative

Small businesses are the backbone of any community. A just and equitable revitalization of areas like Revere Beach, Route 1 Saugus, and downtown Chelsea requires strong, locally-owned businesses, which not only add economic vibrancy to a community, but also provide a bulwark against displacement. The need to support small businesses is now even more urgent in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Here are some ways I’ll fight for local entrepreneurs if elected State Representative on September 1: 

Making permanent reforms that give more flexibility to small businesses 

In the wake of COVID-19, local governments got creative about green-lighting ideas for businesses that would normally require months of red tape.

Kowloon in Saugus and Easy Pie in Revere have hosted drive-in movie nights. Restaurants like Demaino’s, Dryft,  and the Hammersmith have expanded their outdoor patios, including occupying street or parking lot space to create more safe opportunities for dining. “To-go” cocktails are available for pickup at your favorite restaurants.

We need to make many of these short-term changes permanent, and give businesses the flexibility to try new, creative ideas. This includes making sure that licensing and permitting requirements are focused on public safety, and not on stifling competition. It also means continuing to monitor abuses of employment law, like noncompete clauses, which big businesses often use to depress innovation and competition. 

Investing in locally-owned businesses and workers

As a region, we must invest in thoughtful workforce development programs that train local residents of all backgrounds to participate in the 21st century economy.

This means ensuring that when the new Revere High School is built, it is equipped to train students for the jobs of the future, including space for robotics, biotechnology, and life sciences. It also means ensuring the school has a vocational and technical component to give more students access to career education.

Revere, Chelsea, and Saugus need partners at the state level to unlock investment in programs that support small food vendors, artists, and other unique enterprises.

When I worked in the Mayor’s office in Revere, I worked on projects to create a one-stop landing page for starting a business in Revere, and to create “e-permitting” to make the process of getting started easier and more convenient. We need to invest in additional resources like these to make the process of starting a business less daunting.

Creating Walkable, Vibrant, Accessible Spaces 

The best way to help small businesses thrive is to create safe, walkable, vibrant spaces, especially near transit. State-level grant funding has been crucial in upgrading infrastructure in key corridors like Broadway and Shirley Ave in Revere.

Continued upgrades to transit are also crucial. By strengthening bus service and reimagining the commuter rail, we will increase the number of neighborhoods with access to a workforce and a customer base.

Recognizing that internet is essential

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted both the necessity of the internet, and the gap in internet availability. Businesses need quality internet access to participate in today’s economy, and customers need the internet to connect to commerce and to jobs. But we can’t rely on monopolistic cable companies to expand internet access.

Several communities around Massachusetts, including Chicopee, have invested in community or municipal-owned broadband programs. Communities like ours should explore similar options to make sure our residents have access to the tools they need to participate in the economy.

Supporting green-collar enterprises

The working-class jobs of the future will be “green-collar” jobs in clean energy, or in retrofitting existing buildings. We need to invest in job training programs for these jobs, make sure local vocational schools and community colleges are equipped to prepare residents to move in to them, and ensure that Massachusetts rightfully emerges as a global leader in wind and solar technology.

Short-term COVID-19 relief

In coming months, small businesses will need continued support from the government to stay afloat. This means another round of small business loans to help businesses keep employees on their payroll and remain open. It also means continued state-level investment in PPE and sanitation supplies to provide to local businesses to allow them to operate safely. 

We need state-level support to ward off economic devastation, especially in hard-hit communities like Chelsea, where local leaders recently called on the Governor to provide additional support for programs like food and rental assistance. If the local workforce and customer base can’t afford to pay rent or for essentials, businesses will suffer, too.

Our region needed thoughtful investments in workforce training and community development even before this crisis – but now, as we recover, these efforts are more important than ever. I am committed to championing small businesses and local entrepreneurs if elected to serve the 16th Suffolk District. 

Joe Gravellese is a candidate for State Representative in the Democratic Primary election on September 1 in the 16th Suffolk District (Revere, Chelsea, Saugus).

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