Gravellese signs State House Transparency Pledge

REVERE – Joe Gravellese, Democratic candidate for State Representative in the 16th Suffolk District, announced that he has signed the Act on Mass State House Transparency Pledge, affirming his commitment to increasing transparency at the State House.

Gravellese said:

“I’m proud to have signed the Act on Mass State House Transparency Pledge. My commitment to you is that if elected, I will publicly disclose every vote I make on any committee I serve on. I will also advocate for more publicly recorded roll call votes on bills and amendments. Beyond the terms of the pledge, I’m also committed to be open and transparent with the voters about why I vote the way I do. I’ve started a blog on my website, https://www.joegrav.com/, which I’m using now to share updates about my campaign; if elected, I pledge to use that platform to explain to you my logic behind every roll call vote I take.”

Gravellese is running in the Democratic primary election on September 1, 2020.

Highlights from Joe’s “Virtual Town Hall”

With traditional campaign activities shelved due to social distancing, Joe Gravellese, Candidate for State Representative, turned to Facebook last week to host a “Virtual Town Hall,” answering questions online about his candidacy. By the end of the week, the video had over 1,400 views.

Some questions and answers from the Town Hall event are below. (Answers lightly edited for length and clarity.) The full video can be viewed here on Joe Gravellese’s Facebook page.

What specific steps do we need to take to improve transportation in our community?

“The first thing we need to do is acknowledge the problem. We have a transportation crisis in Massachusetts, no matter what mode of transportation you take. If you get on the T, you deal with breakdowns and overcrowding. If you get on the commuter rail, the situation is even worse – the trains only run every couple of hours and are often delayed or canceled. And if you get in your car, you deal with the worst traffic congestion in the country.

How did we get here? For years, we’ve underfunded the T. We built up a multi-billion dollar backlog in repairs to the system, making it unsafe and unreliable, and failed to expand the system as the economy grew and evolved.

Meanwhile, as the T has gotten less reliable, it’s also gotten more expensive. Since 1991, bus fares are up 300%. Subway fares are up 220%. Commuter rail passes cost 246% more. We’re charging more money for worse service.

The end result? In 2017, the average Massachusetts resident drove over 9,000 miles per person. In 1981, that number was about 6,250. So people are driving more and further distances – possibly due to further commutes due to our housing issues, possibly due to Uber and Lyft, and possibly because the T has become unreliable and in some cases more expensive than driving. You see the impact of this on your daily commute.

So, we need to fix the T – because that impacts everyone, including people who drive, because every person on a bus or a train is a car off the road. We need to fix the backlog of repairs to the current system, but we also need to do a lot more than that.

We need to connect the Blue and Red lines on the MBTA. We also need to extend the blue line to Lynn or Salem. It’s long overdue, and would give residents here access to jobs in Cambridge, the Seaport, and up the North Shore.

We also need to transform the commuter rail into a reliable regional rail system that runs every 30 minutes. Right now, people from all over the North Shore drive to Wonderland every day to get on the T, adding to the traffic problem in Revere and Saugus. We need to give people options to get on the commuter rail further up the North Shore closer to where they live. 

When you lay out making investments like this a lot of people  say “we can’t afford it.” But in reality, we can’t afford the status quo. The transportation crisis threatens the future of our economy. The average resident of Greater Boston lost over $3,000 last year in lost productivity from sitting in traffic – not to mention the impact of wear and tear on vehicles from aging bridges and roads, plus the untold burden of stress and mental health challenges. We need a change.” 

What changes would you propose to zoning laws to address the cost of housing in Massachusetts?

“First, we need to understand that the housing problem is also a transportation problem. Every community that has access to the T – as we are seeing in Revere – is seeing prices go through the roof as all the people working in Boston are bidding on limited supply. If we had more communities with access to the T, it would take some of the development burden off a small number of cities right around Boston. 

Consider Germany. If you live in the Berlin area and are about 40 mins out of the city – think of a place like Natick, Beverly, or Foxboro – you have access to a train that runs every 10 minutes, seven days a week, to get to downtown Berlin. If we had something like that in Boston, there would be so many more communities with access to jobs and it would relieve the pressure on communities like ours. 

As for zoning – a lot of the housing that families like mine grew up in are basically illegal to build now in most cities. I grew up in a two-family house, in an in-law apartment with my grandparents. Lots of Italian immigrants around here grew up in 2- or 3-family homes, living with family, or in small, modest apartment buildings. You don’t see these built anymore – because you’re not allowed to build them in our zoning laws. In much of Revere, in-law apartments are either illegal, or require an expensive, bureaucratic process to make them legal. 

We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We need to find ways to work together and make progress. Governor Baker has proposed a good bill that would help make it a little bit easier for cities and towns to make these modest zoning changes. We need to make some progress on the housing issue and this is a good first step.”

What are the three biggest issues facing our district today?

“The first two, we already talked about – transportation and housing costs. The third is probably preparing for climate change. This is going to be an incredibly expensive problem for coastal communities to deal with, so we need to be upgrading our infrastructure and making sure our construction is sustainable now.

When I worked in Rep. Lori Ehrlich’s office I was part of the budget process, and I worked with her to fight to make Lynn and Nahant beaches safer and cleaner. I understand that process well, and that would help me fight to get state money to upgrade our seawalls and prepare our community.”

What are your core values, and how do they impact the way you lead?

“I believe in generational responsibility. Previous generations built the society we live in today, and it’s our responsibility to make it a better, fairer place for future generations

I also believe in progress, and the things we can accomplish by working together. I don’t believe in ideological purity – I think it’s important to work with people whenever you can to make progress and deliver results for people. That’s your job as an elected official. 

I also believe in transparency. It’s our job as public figures to be completely honest and transparent with people about how we vote and what we believe. People don’t have to agree with us on everything, but they should always know where we stand and why.

How do you feel about designating internet as a public utility and creating restrictions on price gouging? In many areas, Comcast has basically a monopoly. 

“Yes, this is definitely something we need to look in to. We should be looking in to municipal broadband – several towns in Massachusetts and around the country have done this, where the city sets up the internet network and people pay a fee to the city or town for internet service instead of a corporation like Comcast or RCN.

Internet is a public good. It’s as essential nowadays as water coming out of the tap. I believe in market competition, but that competition isn’t real for a market like cable or internet where there are impossible barriers to entry – so a company like Comcast gets basically a regulated monopoly and pushes others out.

I appreciated that Mayor Arrigo made getting RCN into Revere a priority, but we need to do more to increase affordable access to the internet.”

What are your thoughts on community solar?

“I’m committed to 100% clean, renewable energy – and that means ramping up our investment in wind and solar. So yes, we should support more community solar initiatives and remove the cap on solar net metering in the state.” 

With rent prices increasing, what are your thoughts on a “Tenants Bill of Rights” or a cap on increases in rent? 

“Tenant protections are important, especially as our communities get more expensive. I have a record of fighting to make sure tenants know their rights and have access to resources.

When I worked in the Mayor’s office, I built a partnership with Housing Families, a non-profit that provides legal services to those vulnerable to homelessness or facing other housing challenges. We helped people get free legal assistance and learn how to access housing resources. 

We need to look into additional protections. I like the idea of a “right of first refusal,” where current tenants in a building can have an opportunity to purchase that property if it goes up for sale. We also need to expand the rental voucher program to help vulnerable families.

As far as rent control goes, there’s really no evidence that it works. San Francisco and New York have rent control but they still have a housing crisis just like we do. Most of the evidence suggests that rent control creates a small number of winners and many losers, by increasing the cost of the rest of the housing stock.

I think we have other tools that would work better to expand affordable housing. We need to look more at linkage fees to make sure new development in our area includes money that. We need to invest in repairing and improving conditions in our public housing, and also see more housing for veterans and seniors to protect the most vulnerable. These would be better options for protecting struggling families.”

What makes you better than your opponents than this seat?

“I’m not here to compare myself to anyone – I’m here to run my own race, based on who I am and my record. 

As of right now, my one opponent in this race is a fantastic public servant and has been a very good city councilor. You’ll never see me running a negative campaign. 

My goal is to tell you about my experience and my beliefs, my opponents can do the same, and then we can let the voters decide. That’s what democracy is all about.” 

What are your thoughts on criminal justice reform?

“The Legislature just passed a significant criminal justice reform bill last year and we should take some time to review its impacts, but two things I believe in for sure – we need to try to find alternatives to cash bail, as it’s unjust for someone to be in jail or not based on how much money they have to pay; and in an age where Gronk can go on TV and sell CBD and people are making big money selling marijuana, nobody should be in prison for past mariuana offenses. 

There are a lot of areas where we can debate or find compromise but I think those are two things we should all be able to agree on.” 

How do you feel about ranked choice voting in Massachusetts?

“Ranked choice voting is a great idea. It’s not up to me, it’s up to the voters – it’s on the ballot as a question this year.

Ranked Choice Voting would allow you to rank candidates 1-2-3-4 etc. instead of just voting for one, meaning no more “wasted votes” or “spoiler candidates” if you have a lot of candidates in a race. This would help third party and non-traditional candidates have a better chance and make elections fairer. I will be voting in favor of this.”

When you talk about preparing students for the jobs of the future, what do you mean by that?

“The economy in Greater Boston is transforming and a new generation of good working class jobs that don’t necessarily require a college degree are available, including advanced manufacturing, robotics, and jobs in the wind and solar energy industries. But we’re not doing enough to prepare our kids to be able to compete for these jobs.

Right now if you’re a student in this area who wants to go to the vocational school, you face a waiting list. This is crazy. We need to eliminate the waiting list to go to vocational schools by either building new ones or adding some capacity for vocational education at the new Revere High School. The voke is a great pathway to good jobs that will always be there, no matter what happens in the economy.

I also believe we need free community college for all in Massachusetts. This either gives our students an opportunity to get an associates degree or some job training, or then transfer in to a four year college.”

What was your motivation for running for State Representative?

“I care deeply about my community, and I have great pride in being from here. I care about the future of my neighbors. I think I have the right experience and values to fight for the people who live in Revere, Chelsea and Saugus.” 

How do you feel about the second amendment?

“The courts have ruled over and over again that the second amendment protects individuals’ rights to own a gun- but it also protects governments’ ability to enact commonsense regulations to keep the community safe.

This is one area where Massachusetts does a very good job. We have the lowest rate of gun violence in the entire country, but we do still have plenty of people who are allowed to responsibly own guns for recreation, for sport, or whatever reason. 

Gun control measures here in Massachusetts have worked – the next step is pushing the federal government to follow the wishes of 80%+ of the American people and enact some sensible measures at the national level.” 

Which committees would you ask to serve on in the legislature?

“Definitely transportation or housing, and the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Recovery.

Working in Mayor Arrigo’s office, one of my top priorities was fighting for the opening of the Substance Use Disorder Initiatives office. Since that office opened, thousands of residents have gotten the help and support they need, and overdose deaths are down in the city. But we still have a lot of work to do. There are lots of evidence-based strategies to help people struggling with addiction, but there is still so much stigma that we need to break through to get more communities to embrace this work.”

What support can Massachusetts provide for childcare for working families?

“This is definitely an issue we need to talk about more — childcare is one of the biggest expenses facing working families. I believe in universal pre-K, but the challenge goes even beyond that, with childcare for the earliest years. We need to look at a number of different options – responsibly licensing and permitting more childcare providers, exploring things we can do with the tax code, and also looking at where we can create or expand public programs.”

Notes from Congresswoman Clark’s Coronavirus Tele-TownHall

This evening, Congresswoman Katherine Clark hosted a tele-town hall on coronavirus, with Homeland Security expert Juliette Kayyem and Dr. Nahid Bhadelia of BU Medical School. They took some time to answer questions about the virus itself, the public health response, and government actions.

Some takeaways:

-Community spread of coronavirus is here – both in Massachusetts and around the country. Due to inadequate testing, we still don’t really know how many people are carrying the virus or exactly how deadly it is here. 

We have three ways of addressing the challenge now:

  1. Personal conduct – washing our hands, staying in if we’re sick, avoiding touching surfaces touched by others, etc.

  2. Institutional responses – companies closing down, large events being canceled

  3. Government response – broad-scale shutdowns. Prior to the last few days, this was mostly being done on a disjointed, state-by-state basis, but we’re finally seeing clear guidance from the federal government to take this seriously.

Juliette Kayyem, who has been on top of this situation from when it initially seemed like a distant concern (and is a must-follow on Twitter @JulietteKayyem), said that the #1 priority is surging resources we are going to need in the weeks ahead, such as respirators, testing kits, and hospital beds. We may need to utilize military assets to do these things.

About the question of how long we’ll have to live like this- according to Kayyem, it’s “not two weeks and not a year – it’s somewhere in between.”

Congresswoman Clark gave an update from Washington about Congress’s response. As a constituent, I appreciate her leadership right now in making sure Congress’s response is focused on fighting for those most in need.

Two weeks ago, Congress passed an $8.3 billion emergency funding bill, including $3 billion toward the development of treatments and a vaccine, and billions in low-interest loans to small businesses. 

Last week, the House passed a bill to provide support for the most vulnerable, including low-income students and seniors, people on Medicaid, and those requiring paid sick leave. They’re waiting for the Senate to pass this bill, while also working with both Democrats and Republicans to pass a third bill, which will be focused on economic stimulus. 

Some notes from the Q&A with residents:

Is it safe to go out for fresh air if you’re over 60?

-Yes. Feel free to go outside and enjoy fresh air. Just be sure to avoid crowded spaces and maintain distance. 

What should people do who are caregivers for an elderly person or a person with disabilities?

-First of all, take care of yourself and make sure you don’t get sick and pass the virus on to a person in your care.

-Talk to your loved one’s medical provider and get their advice on whether it’s safer for them to be cared for in a medical facility or at home.

What advice can be given to those nervous about being foreclosed on or evicted due to temporary job loss?

-Congress is exploring a foreclosure moratorium.

-For renters locally, the Massachusetts housing court has halted evictions until April 21 to give people the ability to find some solutions

How will authorities know when to relax social distancing measures?

-That’s going to be a public health decision; Honestly, we don’t have a definitive answer. Some of it will be based on how successful these measures are in flattening the curve. 

Should you touch the mail or boxes being delivered to your house? Is there a chance that can transmit the virus?

-Your biggest concerns in terms of surfaces are ones that get touched often. Surfaces such as the mail could have a miniscule chance of transmitting the disease. The bigger concerns are door handles, elevator buttons, your iPhone – things that lots of people touch or might get placed on a surface that gets touched regularly. 

Why have people been advised against buying face masks?

-The disease is transmitted through sneezes and coughs – the fluid carries the virus. If you’re walking around, as long as you keep a distance from people,  you can only be contaminated by touching surfaces touched by those with the virus. There is no need for a mask to do that. 

Dr. Bhadelia noted that people with masks sometimes feel a false sense of security and get too close to others. The key is to keep a distance from people and protect yourself from surfaces that may transmit the virus. 

What are the chances of getting legislation passed to help people most in need, given that the administration was initially pushing for a payroll tax cut?

Congresswoman Clark noted that the payroll tax is too slow and inefficient of a method to get money into the hands of people who need it the most – to pay rent, to buy food and to get prescriptions. Working with the White House, Congressional Republicans, and fellow Democrats, the Congresswoman is working on a bill to expand paid family leave, unemployment benefits, food benefits, and Medicaid for those most in need. 

Urgent Challenges: Why I’m Running for State Representative

By Joe Gravellese

Last week, I announced my campaign for State Representative for Revere, Chelsea, and Saugus.

I’m proud to be born and raised in Revere – son of a union operating engineer, grandson of a union teamster, and a graduate of Revere High School. I’m running because I deeply love my community, and want to give back to this place that has shaped me. 

In my lifetime, there has never been a serious competition for this seat. With Massachusetts facing so many challenges that threaten our future, the residents of Revere, Chelsea, and Saugus deserve a positive and thoughtful debate.

Our public transportation system has been chronically underfunded – leaving it unsafe, unreliable, and out of reach to too many communities. This forces more commuters on to our crowded and crumbling roads and bridges. The Boston area has the worst congestion in the nation. We must fix this.

Housing costs are pushing an entire generation out of Greater Boston. Not enough communities have access to reliable transportation, so neighborhoods that do have MBTA access see prices go through the roof, as demand far exceeds supply. Mid-sized, modest housing for working families is essentially illegal to build in most cities and towns. We must fix this.

The working class jobs of the future are arriving in Greater Boston – but community college, associate’s degrees and job training programs remain out of reach to too many people due to cost or lack of access. Students who want to attend technical and vocational schools face waiting lists and not enough seats. We must fix this.

Cities like Revere have worked hard to tackle the opioid crisis and have seen some success, with overdose deaths down over 40% in three years since the Substance Use Disorder Initiatives office opened. But we still have a lot of work to do. In far too many communities, evidence-based strategies to address substance abuse are not embraced due to stigma. We must fix this.

Climate change is not a future problem – it’s today’s problem. Residents are already being impacted by historic storms and flooding, and escalating flood insurance costs. Sea level rise will impact our district within my lifetime. 

We need to urgently move away from fossil fuels and push for 100% clean, renewable energy – a transition that will not only make our air and water cleaner, but will also create a new generation of good jobs. We also must work to upgrade our seawall and make our communities more resilient. 

My experience prepares me to deliver results for our district. While working at the State House for Rep. Lori Ehrlich, I helped build coalitions and advance legislation to hold utility companies accountable for gas leaks, protect working people from exploitation, and push Massachusetts toward a clean energy future. 

At Revere City Hall, I was part of the team that worked on the nuts and bolts of making government work better – increasing access to substance abuse treatment, re-launching the city’s disabilities commission, expanding public health and recreation programs, and making government more transparent and accountable.

If elected as your Representative, I can’t promise that you’ll agree with me on every issue. But I can promise you that I will always listen, that I will always fight for you, and that I will always be honest and transparent. 

I can promise you that I will always stand up for my values, but I will also be willing to roll up my sleeves, find common ground, and work with anyone who has good ideas on how to tackle the big challenges we all face.

We must be clear-eyed about this moment: we need serious action to tackle issues like transportation, housing, public health, the environment, and job training. I’m ready to fight hard and deliver results.

If you want to learn more, or if you’re ready to join me, visit www.joegrav.com, attend my Virtual Town Hall on Wednesday, March 18 at 7 PM, or to commit to supporting me in the primary election on September 1. 

In Lieu of Rally, Gravellese to Launch Campaign with “Virtual Town Hall” Wednesday, March 18 

Joe Gravellese will formally launch his campaign for State Representative in Revere, Chelsea and Saugus with a “Virtual Town Hall” on Facebook on Wednesday, March 18 at 7 PM, in lieu of holding a rally, mindful of concerns about public gatherings in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“I’m excited to begin meeting residents all over the district and schedule an in-person event as soon as it’s prudent to do so,” said Gravellese.

“But in the interest of public health, especially for seniors, it makes sense to start by introducing myself and my plans to voters online. I’ll host a video conference on Facebook next Wednesday night, talk about my agenda for a better Massachusetts, and answer questions submitted by residents virtually.”

Residents can email questions in advance to info@joegrav.com. The campaign’s Facebook page, where the Virtual Town Hall will be streamed live, can be accessed at www.facebook.com/joegrav

Speaking on the coronavirus, Gravellese added that “residents should not panic, but should continue to take note of reliable sources on public health and take proper precautions.”

“From working with the state’s Department of Public Health during my career, I know that we are fortunate to have some of the world’s foremost experts on public health working right here in the Commonwealth. We should take their guidance seriously as it becomes available,” he said.

“The goal in the coming weeks is to make sure that the virus spreads less quickly, so that our hospitals and clinics aren’t overwhelmed. If we do that, people who get sick will be able to recover more quickly.”

Residents interested in learning more about Gravellese’s campaign for State Representative can visit www.joegrav.com. Gravellese, a Revere native and graduate of Revere High School, entered the race for State Representative this week, running a campaign focused on fixing Massachusetts’ transportation system, addressing the state’s affordability concerns, and promoting clean energy.

Gravellese Announces Run for State Representative

REVERE — Joe Gravellese (D-Revere) announced his candidacy for State Representative in the 16th Suffolk District on Monday, joining the race to replace outgoing representative RoseLee Vincent. 

He will launch his campaign with a Virtual Town Hall on Facebook on Wednesday, March 18 at 7:00 PM, taking questions from residents on social media or via email at info@joegrav.com.

“Massachusetts is facing serious challenges that require bold leadership,” said Gravellese. “Our transportation system is in a full-blown crisis, with commuters all over the region experiencing delays and gridlock. Housing in the Boston area is becoming increasingly unaffordable for working families. Climate change is already causing flooding in coastal communities like ours, and will impact us for the rest of my lifetime.”

“To tackle these challenges, we need ambitious leadership that pushes to change the status quo and leave behind a better Commonwealth.” 

Gravellese is well-known to residents in Revere, having served in the administration of Mayor Brian Arrigo, as Chairman of the Revere Scholarship Committee, and as a member of the Revere Democratic City Committee. Gravellese also spent time working at the State House as legislative director to Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead), where he worked on legislation to protect workers from predatory workplace practices, repair natural gas leaks, and promote clean energy.

He is a Revere native, having grown up in the Beachmont neighborhood before moving to West Revere. Gravellese is a 2006 graduate of Revere High School, and a 2010 graduate of Boston College.

Gravellese said his top priorities will include further investing in public transportation, including connecting the MBTA blue and red lines, expanding service on the commuter rail,  improving the bus system, and making the system safer and more reliable. He will also push for legislation to make housing more accessible and affordable for working families in the Boston area; increase access to higher education, including technical and vocational programs; and transition Massachusetts to 100% clean, renewable energy.

Gravellese will formally pull papers to run for office this week.

Residents can learn more about Joe and his campaign at www.joegrav.com

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