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Election 2012: Second Suffolk and Middlesex Senate Candidate Interviews

Belmont Democrat Will Brownsberger faces Republican challenger Steven Aylward for the senate district that includes Belmont, Watertown and parts of Boston, including the Back Bay, Kenmore Square and the Fenway.

Democrat Will Brownsberger of Belmont won the race for state senate in a special election in January, and as incumbent faces a challenge from Watertown Republican Steven Aylward for the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District. 

The district includes all of Belmont, Watertown and part of Boston, including the Back Bay, the Fenway, Kenmore Square, Allston and Brighton.

Patch recently interviewed both candidates:

1) What are your top three priorities?

Will Brownsberger Steven Aylward

From a long term standpoint, my priorities are:

1) A vibrant regional economy that includes decent jobs for everyone.

2) Protection of personal liberty and privacy

3) Environmental sustainability

 

In setting priorities for the 2013-14 legislative session, I have to consider how those long term priorities interact with changing events and the priorities of other legislators.  I am engaged in ongoing conversations with my colleagues which will heat up after the election.  Likely priorities include:

1) The MBTA – addressing its maintenance backlog and financial sustainability.

2) The criminal justice system – continuing reforms to improve rehabilitation and reduce overall incarceration levels in the context of the public health drug lab scandal.

3) Education – continuing reforms so our schools better meet the varying needs of each child and more fully develop the varying talents of each child.

All of these legislative priorities dovetail with and are elaborated in my answer to the next question (jobs).  

An additional area of ongoing interest for me is public employee compensation reform.  I am currently serving on several study commissions in this area.  There is a lot we should do to improve fairness, credibility and sustainability of the system.  This area which will be central for me in the coming session if I continue in my role as Chair of the Public Service committee.

1) Increase Job growth by reducing taxes on all businesses large and small, and by eliminating unnecessary regulation.

2) Begin the establishment of a top tier public University (no offense to the UMass graduates) which offers a top shelf education at an extremely reduced rate for legal residents.  We need in Massachusetts what states like South Carolina and Virginia already have and have had for years.  The sorry state of higher education in Massachusetts could be solved easily if the legislature made it a priority, and we put knowledgeable and experienced Educators in charge of our public universities instead of hack career politicians.  Our children deserve the best education, instead of the highest burden of student loan debt.

3) Hold all individual tax rates steady until spending has been reduced.  At that time, across the board tax cuts should be implemented.  And we should provide individual tax credits for all types of job training education, by example anything from Financial Planning courses to HVAC training.  Anything that makes an individual more employable deserves a tax credit.

 

2) How will you help promote business and increase the number of jobs in the district?

Brownsberger Aylward

Business leaders agree that public transportation is the top jobs issue in the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

The Senator who represents the Second Suffolk and Middlesex district has a special responsibility for job creation in Massachusetts.  The district includes many of the great job engines of our regional economy.  It includes the Longwood Medical Area which is the most vital center for health care and biomedical research in the world.  In addition, it includes Boston College, Boston University, the Museum of Fine Arts, Symphony Hall and many other educational and cultural institutions.  Finally, it includes the Hynes Convention Center, the Prudential Center, several major financial institutions and some of the finest office space in the region.

Transportation bottlenecks substantially constrain this great concentration of economic energy.  Many of the great institutions in the area located there when it was relatively green and quiet.  Now there is congestion throughout the district and residents resent the burden that traffic places on their neighborhoods.  Residential objections and absolute physical limits on traffic now constrain growth in the area.

So, a top priority for job creation in the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District is efficient public transportation.  That starts with putting the MBTA on a sound financial footing that allows it to reduce its maintenance backlog.  The MBTA's inability to properly maintain and update its core resources will lead to further degradation of service over time.  Additionally, we need to look at measures to improve service on the Green Line, which serves much of the district -- changing traffic signalization on the major thoroughfares that it shares with vehicular traffic may help.  Finally, longer term, we need to advance plans for improving circumferential transit service -- connecting Longwood to the other great concentration of research in Kendall Square area and also to residential areas from Everett to Roxbury where many hospital workers live.  This inner belt transit concept has been on the drawing boards for years, but has been stalled by the Big Dig financial crunch.

In the very long term, we need to study improved vehicular access to the area.  We need to keep alive the discussion of direct access from the Massachusetts Turnpike.  The costs involved in adding Turnpike ramps directly into Back Bay or Fenway appear huge and may be prohibitive.  Additionally neighborhood preservation concerns may be entirely prohibitive.  But the additional carrying capacity of local roads is nil to negative, so the concept bears further study.

These transportation concerns, while most urgent for the Boston areas of the district, are also significant for Belmont and Watertown, where many residents are concerned about congestion and/or use public transportation to commute to work in Boston.

Equally important for long-run job creation is education to supply institutions with a well-prepared labor force.  The institutions of the second Suffolk and Middlesex have huge needs for workers at all education levels.  Our great private educational institutions that import talent from around the world help create the advanced labor force needed to lead growth.  But Massachusetts residents can contribute more in the biomedical industry and in all of our other dynamic export industries if we do a better job educating kids and adults to meet specific employment needs at multiple levels in the work force.

At the elementary and secondary level of education, there are two basic challenges:  First we need to draw more kids into science, math, engineering and technology.  We need to identify the kids with the talent and motivation to excel in these fields and give them opportunities to move more quickly and develop the passion that will carry them into careers in these fields.  Second, we need to do a better job keeping underachieving kids in school -- even if they will not excel in advanced fields, they need to develop the basic work skills that school helps ingrain, like showing up and accepting direction.

To meet both of these challenges, we need to break away from our current industrial model of education which treats all kids as the same and moves them up an escalator of grades all at the same pace as if on an assembly line.  Instead, we need to give kids much more differentiated learning opportunities within public education.  Kids should be doing homework online at their own pace, with their teachers monitoring progress online -- some working well beyond grade level, others, perhaps, behind. In class, kids should be engaged in peer learning activities where some kids are leaders and where teachers are coaches and mentors.  School should be a place that kids gather for coaching and mentoring and for age-appropriate social, sports and other group activities.  Change generally along these lines is happening around the country at all levels. The faster we can expand it in Massachusetts, the better off our kids will be and the better off our economy will be.  Teachers will also benefit from less time preparing content presentations and less time grading papers. 

For both kids and adults, we need to expand specific job training opportunities.  Many jobs do not require broad education.  They require specific skills. These range from very basic skills like food preparation and hotel courtesy to middle skills in manufacturing.  Some of this job-focused training happens in schools., but much of it happens in community based non-profits under the supervision of public-private job training organizations.  We need to make sure we are providing the necessary state support for the public-private network that helps connect kids and adults to jobs -- especially disadvantaged kids and adults who, for whatever combination of reasons, have fallen off the career ladder.

Kids that drop out of school frequently end up in the criminal justice system and adults who have criminal justice histories are among the hardest to employ.  And unemployed adults who don't see a pathway into a legitimate stable life (which they often crave) will return to crime.  Criminal justice reform that allows more system resources to go towards job training and preparation for re-entry is an essential public safety strategy and also can contribute toward job growth.

Finally, as to job creation, I do believe that tax and regulatory reforms can play a role.  I generally favor simplification and transparency.  These issues are important but not quite as central to employment in the Second Suffolk and Middlesex, which is so dominated by large non-profit institutions.

The role of government is not to make it harder to employ people, it is to create an environment which makes  it is easy for businesses to hire.  Government should concentrate on providing the infrastructure (public transit and roads, for instance) which allows business to function, while offering a competitive tax rates that attracts business from other states to Massachusetts.  Government should promote  businesses small and large, but never give directly to business, as it did with A123 Battery and others.  But rather than scare business off with excessive regulations and bureaucracy, government must facilitate business, not restrict it. 

 

3) What are the key differences between yourself and your opponent?

Brownsberger Aylward

There are a number of ideological differences, especially on social issues, but some areas of agreement, notably as to the importance of fiscal responsibility.  We also share some background in business.

I hope voters will also compare me to my opponent based on our track records of accomplishment in public service.  I have spent 14 years in progressively more responsible levels of elected service to my community, rising to the top of community leadership in Belmont as Chair of the Board of Selectman and then rising through the House to the Senate.  In all of these roles, I have a very visible record of accomplishment. For an overview, visit, http://votebrownsberger.com.

First, I have been endorsed by the Citizens for Limited Government (CLT)  By contrast my opponent has the lowest rating possible from that tax payer supported organization.  In 7 votes in the Senate on taxes, each time my opponent has voted against the taxpayer.  I will always vote ‘for’ the taxpayer.  Second, I am a free market Capitalist, who believes that when businesses grow and prosper, we all benefit, whether it be through job opportunities, lower taxes, or a growing 401k.  And lastly on quality of life issues, with specific attention paid to crime, I am always one to side with the victim, as opposed to the perpetrator.  As much as I respect my opponent, I cannot for the life of me understand his recent vote against Melissa’s Law.  Melissa was raped and murdered by a 27 time career criminal.  If Melissa’s Law had been in effect when the killer was in prison, Melissa and dozens of other children might be alive today.  As a father of four daughters, I strongly believe that the safety of children can never be secondary in any argument.  I will always make child safety the very highest priority.

 

4) How much time will you spend in the district, compared to your time spent on Beacon Hill?

Brownsberger Aylward It works out to something like 70/30 -- somewhat more in the district than in the statehouse.  On most weekdays, I spend some time in the state house and some time going to meetings and events in the district.  I prefer to meet people where they live or work, in part for their convenience, but also because I tend to get a better understanding of issues when I can see them directly.  On evenings and weekends, I often have multiple meetings and events in the district. I will spend as little time as possible of Beacon Hill and as much time as possible in the district.  And while I understand that in order to get things done one must build and foster relationships, the State House is now a place whose occupant’s have forgotten that the  role of citizen government is to work for and provide for the greater good.  On Beacon Hill, they have stopped listening.  God gave them two ears and only one mouth for a reason, but that very obvious fact seems lost on more than a few of them. Representing the people of a district is a privilege, and to be trusted to see, listen and learn from the people I represent is something I would be only too proud to do.  I was raised to believe that hard work can solve most problems.  As such, I can say honestly that  I would rather shovel dung with the little guy any day of the week rather than sip brandy with the rich and famous.

 

5) What is something that people may not know about you but should?

Brownsberger Aylward In the summer of 2011, I rode a bicycle from Belmont to Anacortes, Washington in 41 days.  It was a grueling athletic experience but also a bonding experience with America.  It deepened my passion for this country in all of its red and blue splendor. When I was a very young boy, my father died suddenly.  Although growing up was that much harder, it taught me a lot.  As my Uncles acted as male role models for me, and gave of their time and energy, I came to realize what a positive impact a person could have on the life of another, simply by caring and being there.  Instead of throwing a ball up against a wall, I had loving and caring people there with me to have a catch.  I have never forgotten the generosity I received from so many in my early years, and I have always tried to remember in my daily life that helping others is as rewarding an endeavor as a man will ever know. It is why I became a Big Brother several years back, it is why I chose to serve on the School Committee, and it is why I want to represent the people of this district in the State Senate.

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