This is the second part of an interview series with the Republican candidate for State Senate, Frank Addivinola, Jr. who is running against Democratic incumbent State Senator Anthony Petruccelli for the First Suffolk Middlesex District. In addition to the North End, the district includes Beacon Hill, Cambridge, East Boston, Revere and Winthrop.
In this second part of the series, Frank Addivinola, Jr. talks about healthcare and education on the state and local level. He then turns to neighborhood issues including hazardous material truck routing, LNG tankers, trash, Green Tickets and the question of alcohol licenses and commerce in the North End.
Many small business owners say that healthcare costs are their largest deterrent to hiring. How would you change the healthcare system in Massachusetts?
Well, Matt, I don’t think we can understate the importance of healthcare costs. They are a substantial burden for businesses and individuals. The healthcare costs in Massachusetts have been skyrocketing as they have throughout the country. There are a series of reforms that could be implemented to address the increase in healthcare costs. Such reforms have been introduced in the State Senate, where I am seeking office, but they were rejected by the Democratic majority.
What are the healthcare reform measures that you would support?
These include removing prescription drug coverage as part of mandated healthcare and lowering medical malpractice premiums. We can enter into participation within the Medicaid managed care system and this could save the state $150 to $200 million per year.
We also need to look at some parts of the system in Massachusetts, the Connector, for example. While an excellent service for those that are disadvantaged, forcing all individuals into that system raises the costs for healthcare services.
When individuals show up at the emergency room for routine services, the costs are much higher than if they had scheduled a visit with their primary care physician. Too many consumers use the emergency room for convenience for services that are not time-sensitive. There is currently a 52 day wait to see a primary care physician.
Although we have 98% of all citizens with healthcare coverage in the Commonwealth, the 52-day wait has made the system ineffective. The State has addressed the issue of accessibility, but not the issue of cost.
I can speak about this subject because I concentrated my advanced law studies on healthcare. I currently teach classes that discuss these issues regarding how to effectively deliver services in the healthcare system. As a legislator, you must have a balanced viewpoint.
Turning to education, I use the Eliot School as an example for Boston Public Schools given the turnaround there. How would you improve the public education system? Do you support charter schools?
I am personally a big proponent of a quality public education. I feel it is the government’s responsibility to provide the highest quality of education to our children. I am disappointed that Massachusetts has decided to abolish the MCAS standards that had made our students achieve some of the highest results in the country. I think this was done for financial reasons for a budget supplementation and I don’t feel that was a good decision. In the past, I have worked with aspiring teachers and training them to administer the MCAS.
As far as the local schools are concerned, I don’t think the teachers union should be dictating the standards to the citizens or the themes of what should be delivered in the schools.
Charter schools are an excellent idea because they provide an aspiration for schools to become as effective as possible to deliver a higher quality of education to children. I don’t feel we should be inhibiting schools to compete for students when they provide the best teaching curriculum for effective learning.
Many residents of the North End and the downtown neighborhoods are advocating for a downtown school. Would you support that?
I would support that we have access for students to go to their choice of schools. It is an unfortunate approach when we try to fortify those schools that are less effective in teaching children. We should reward those schools that are doing the best job teaching students and facilitating the learning process. We should have schools become competitors to deliver quality education. We should not restrict parents to send their children just to the local school when that school may not be delivering the quality that would be optimal for the children.
Trucks carrying hazardous materials are a concern in the North End as these trucks cut-through using our neighborhood streets. How do you believe these trucks should be routed?
It is a major concern. They provide a hazard to the community as well as a disruption to the lifestyle within the North End. I am not in favor of having haz-mat trucks come through the city. I would support a restriction on access for haz-mat vehicles traveling through the North End. I do not feel it is an undue burden for the trucking companies to utilize Route 128 to connect to Route 93. I feel that the interests of the residents of the North End should be advocated for and all actions allowed under the law should be used to block the movement of hazardous materials through the North End.
Your district includes many neighborhoods abutting the harbor. Do you see any solutions regarding the LNG tanker threat?
I have not seen any reports on the LNG tankers, but I know they pose a serious environmental concern as well as for the life and safety of individuals. I feel the tankers should be addressed in a serious way ensuring that all safety precautions that are reasonable and practical are used to protect life and property. This is an industry that has the potential to create great devastation if there is an accident.
The Green Ticket Bill was recently passed by the State legislature and signed into law by the Governor. The law provides more enforcement to the green tickets by adding unpaid fines to the landlord’s property tax bill. What is your view?
The Green Ticket bill is a similar system used elsewhere in areas such as New York City. I have a concern regarding notice to the landlord. Not all landlords are receiving proper notice and may not be aware that a penalty is due. We need to make sure we administer this properly.
The overall thrust of the law is excellent. We should encourage people to keeping the community clean and the effective disposal of the trash.
How do you think we should keep the North End streets clean?
In general, the North End has much more litter than should be tolerated. I think it is a serious issue. There needs to be an effort by the municipality. Through the efforts of Clean Streets, we want to encourage the residents to participate. I think trash is a sanitary issue as well as a deterrent for tourism and the overall desirability of walking in the North End.
We need to make sure there are accessible receptacles in the North End and the schedule for collection is efficient. We need to make sure trash does not accumulate in the alleys and streets. What we need to do is improve the efficiency of trash collection in the North End and by increasing availability we encourage people to participate in a timely way.
Some residents believe the North End is oversaturated with visitors, college students, restaurants, drinking, traffic and loud noise. This has caused tensions between residents, college students and business owners. What is your view of the availability of alcohol licenses and related issues such as live entertainment? How would you balance these issues?
The North End is a dense and unique neighborhood with a distinctive flavor that attracts tourists and makes it a desirable place to live. It also needs to be in balance and we need to protect the rights of the people that live in the community.
With regards to the college students and their disruptive behavior, many universities are under pressure to build dormitories. College students tend to be loud, but they also offer a dynamic component within the community so we need to balance the number of these students. We need to look at how to incorporate them as a productive component to the community and not to override the local residents. I feel we need to be concerned about the density of college students within the community and we need to encourage them to become productive and responsible neighbors.
Regarding alcohol licensing, that is a concern because alcohol can encourage disruptive behavior in individuals. But in general, people are responsible and we want to encourage commerce. We want to have alcohol available in restaurants to serve to their clients. We want to ensure restaurants are encouraging the responsible serving of alcohol.
On the issue of live entertainment, those licenses should be permitted. But we need to respect abutters and realize they can create nuisances for their neighbors. We need to respect the privacy and peaceful enjoyment that many neighbors want without loud and disruptive behavior. So, while I am not opposed to such licenses, we need to listen to those most affected and try to compromise where we can have such licenses while protecting the rights of residents.
It is a tough balance in a densely populated community like the North End with commerce and residents living close to each other. It creates both an interesting and dynamic community as well as an opportunity for conflict.
Coming up later this week will the final part of this series before the November 2nd election. In the last part, Frank Addivinola talks about libraries, parks, development and the political scene.