This is the third and final part of an interview series with State Senator Anthony Petruccelli at his office in the State House. Petruccelli has been in the Senate since July 2007 representing the First Suffolk Middlesex District. In addition to the North End, the district includes Beacon Hill, Cambridge, East Boston, Revere and Winthrop. Read Part 1 and Part 2 of this interview series.
In the third part of this series, hear Senator Petruccelli’s view on education, charter schools, parks, Greenway, shadow bill, LNG tankers, technology, the election and today’s political climate. The Senator also shares some personal aspects of growing up in an Italian-American family.
NorthEndWaterfront.com recently published an article on the cut of a State tourism earmark for the Hull St. visitor center with restrooms in the North End. Should there be some type of public restroom funding for these tourists?
Cuts like that are not easy to make. We had to eliminate 1,500 earmarks. I had a lot of earmarks that were very important to me including money for substance abuse programs and homeless shelter funding. I think it is an unfortunate reality of how tough it is to cut $3 billion from the State budget.
The Eliot School has seen a terrific resurgence and parents are filling up waiting lists to get in. Some parents have been advocating for a new downtown public school. Would you support that effort?
Yes, if the demand is there. It’s a good thing that parents want their children to go to the Eliot. It is a success story in the Boston Public School system. I know some folks in Beacon Hill have talked about including a school as part of the Government Center garage project.
As a side note, education reform was an important piece of legislation that we did this year. I support charter schools and we have one in East Boston that does wonders. Not all schools in Boston are doing as well as the Eliot. We have to give cities and towns the tools necessary to go after underperforming schools and improve the learning environment.
Paul Revere School in Revere just opened. It is the first innovation school in Massachusetts. We allow for the flexibility to increase school days and years, curriculum changes, and partnerships with non-profits. For example, I believe the Eliot school is talking to the New England Aquarium on such a partnership.
Regarding certain parks such as Christopher Columbus Park, does the Shadow Bill which you co-sponsored have a chance of coming back next session?
I hope it will come back. Representative Walz is taking the lead because it is a big issue in the Back Bay. There were some concerns that it was too far reaching so there likely will be some changes to scale it back.
How do you view the Greenway, the Conservancy and are there legislative changes in the works? What about the salaries?
The Greenway is in its infancy. It sounds like it is getting better use with the carousel, the food carts and wi-fi. It is such a big piece of land. We will have to see if further changes are necessary. On the salaries, I support MassDOT’s position. I understand that the Greenway has amenities that are different and somewhat more expensive than traditional State parks. However, I don’t think the public can digest why the salaries should be so high to manage open spaces. The Executive Director should not make more than the Governor.
What is your position on the LNG tankers in Boston Harbor?
Everyone would like to see them in a more remote location. The reality of that is not around the corner. I have met with the Coast Guard on a number of occasions. They do a pretty good job with it. It is still a concern of mine.
Your GOP opponent in the upcoming November election, Frank Addivinola, describes himself as fiscal conservative. How would you characterize yourself?
I feel I am running for a seat, not necessarily against other individuals. I would point to the record that I have established over the last few years and doing what is right for the people.
Do you think the political landscape has changed since the Scott Brown win in the U.S. Senate?
It is not about Scott Brown, but rather 9% unemployment. Some of the building trades have unemployment rates over 30%. I think that is more of the driving engine for the political landscape.
How does being an Italian-American influence your views?
It has had an impact on my whole life. I am very proud of where I came from. My grandfather had a grocery store in East Boston, which was a very Italian neighborhood at the time. He was the oldest of five and started a business at 18 years old after his father died very young. I am the middle child of four, my father is an electrician while my mother stayed at home and raised the kids. I grew up in a blue collar neighborhood and family was such an important part of the culture. My mother is from East Boston too. My grandfather is a veteran of World War II and Korea. He was a career Army guy. When I think back of where my family came from and now I am representing those people in the State Senate, it is really pretty humbling and exciting. It is an honor and I love it.
Since NorthEndWaterfront.com is online and part of the digital age, I have to ask you about your own use of technology?
I am doing better at it! I look at Facebook every once and a while, but I mostly depend on my staff. I don’t tweet. I use email and have a blackberry but I am mostly an old-fashioned phone guy. I like to talk to people.
What else should folks know?
When you look at the issues of the North End, I think I have a strong record of accomplishment. Whether it be on transportation reform, preserving the toll discount program and the parking discount for businesses. Whether it be for the Green Ticket bill or standing up on neighborhood issues like the library and the haz-mat issue. I think I have shown that I am forward thinking and independent. For me, it comes back to common sense on serving my district. I go to work every day with a smile. But, I realize these are challenging times. I would ask people for their vote in November to continue being their State Senator.
Thank you Senator for taking the time to speak with NorthEndWaterfront.com.