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Alison Leary Announces Run for State Representative in the 10th Middlesex District

Dear Friends,

It is with a great deal of excitement and anticipation that I announce my candidacy for State Representative for the 10th Middlesex district which includes parts of Newton, Waltham and Watertown. I believe that I can be an effective voice on Beacon Hill and I am committed to being part of the solution to some very difficult problems.  My priorities include:

Improve Public Transportation Services

Our communities are suffering from some of the worst traffic and congestion in the country. We must invest in and modernize our public transit system. Without adequate or reliable transit services we force more people into their cars and this has a stranglehold on our ability to grow and thrive. Traffic congestion is choking economic growth, stunting productivity and adding significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and air and water pollution. Yet House leadership has not been able to move forward with a transportation funding plan that was supposed to happen before the end of 2019. I support new revenues dedicated to transportation funding to build a reliable, dependable and affordable public transit system that serves all users.

Address the Climate Crises.

At my core, I am an environmentalist and I recognize how important it is that we continue to push our goals around sustainability issues. Scientific evidence is overwhelming that the current rates of greenhouse gas emissions are leading to a rapidly warming planet that, if not immediately addressed, will have profound negative impacts. The Commonwealth needs to do more to support local communities that have been leading the way. Newton, Watertown and Waltham all have put together climate action plans that set targets over a 30-year time frame in order to become carbon neutral by mid-century. But we need more support from the Commonwealth on transportation, building codes and carbon pricing.

Meet Our Housing Needs

I support expanding housing opportunities for all. We desperately need more housing to provide for our more vulnerable residents as well as young families who are being priced out of our neighborhoods and for employees who work in or around our communities and contribute to our region’s economic growth. I put a priority on denser, age-friendly housing near transit and amenities and improving safety and walkability as part of the development.

Advocate for Accountability and Transparency on Beacon Hill.

Massachusetts is unique in that no other state in the nation exempts all three branches of government from the open meeting law.  Recently, a special commission on public records dissolved after unsuccessful attempts to expand public records law. There must be some middle ground that allows more transparency and citizen engagement.  A healthy democracy depends on it.

Your financial help is critical to my success. Please make a contribution via my website or mail a check to:

Committee to Elect Alison Leary
192 Chapel Street
Newton, MA 02458

Thank you very much,
Alison Leary

Voting Rights

One of the reasons I am challenging the incumbent, Rep. John Lawn is my frustration with his lack of action on expanding voting rights. Currently, voters must register at least 10 days before election day in Massachusetts. This means thousands of people get disenfranchised. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have passed laws to adopt same-day registration, including Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont. It has been working well in these states for many years. Where is Massachusetts on this?

Mr. Lawn is the Chair of the Joint Committee on Election Laws and he is letting important bills languish in his committee. This includes House Bill 636 which has just been extended until after the November election with no favorable (or adverse) report on “ought to pass” or “ought not to pass”.

The original champion of the bill has resigned her seat and is no longer serving. https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H636 Why is Mr. Lawn not taking up the mantle to push this bill through the House before the end of the term?

It’s the same deal with H685 https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H685

And the same with the Senate bill 396 https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S396/BillHistory…

Both Attorney General Maura Healy and Secretary Galvin support same-day voter registration. Mr. Galvin called it the “final step to ensuring everyone who can vote will have the opportunity to do so”.

Ms. Healy has stated that same-day voter registration will expand opportunities to more people who want to vote. “Voting rights are civil rights” and by “increasing participation among people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to vote, we’ll be taking a stand against the apathy and frustration that makes thousands of people opt out of the system all together.”

Same-day voter registration is an effective policy that clearly boosts turnout. States with same-day registration have a well-documented turnout advantage over states without it — an advantage of 7 percentage points in the 2018 midterm, according to the “America Goes to the Polls” report from Nonprofit VOTE and the U.S. Elections Project. In fact, seven of the 10 highest turnout states in 2018 had same-day registration.

Where is Chair Lawn on efforts to ensure all Massachusetts voters have the right to vote? 

Please see the attached articles for more information:

Same-Day Voter Registration Bill Could Boost Turnout In Mass. By 100,000, Advocates Say

Massachusetts should pass Election Day registration legislation

Galvin, Healey advocate for same-day voter registration on Beacon Hill

The 100% Renewable Energy Act

The 100% Renewable Energy Act (H.2836), filed by Representative Marjorie Decker and Representative Sean Garballey, will transition Massachusetts to 100% renewable electricity by 2035 and 100% renewable energy for heating and transportation by 2045. In addition, it would accelerate the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to reach 100 percent renewable by 2035 and support job training and workforce development for Massachusetts residents to work in the clean energy sector.

A majority of members of both legislative chambers have cosponsored this bill or similar legislation filed in the Senate by Senator Jamie Eldridge (S.1958).

The Decker/Garballey 100% Renewable Energy Act would build on the example of the 100% renewable electric sector commitments adopted by other states, territories, cities, and counties while going further by transitioning heating and transportation to 100% renewable sources of energy as well.

Action on Climate Change

  1. Increase Energy Efficiency – Improving energy efficiency and conservation programs save money and energy. This includes energy-efficient appliances, windows, light bulbs and adding insulation. Build more energy-efficient buildings including passive house design – the Gold standard for energy-efficient homes.
  2. Green the Grid -increase solar- which has already increased more than 240 times since 2009. By installing solar panels on every rooftop, we could generate 47 percent of Massachusetts’ electricity from solar. Offshore wind in particular offers a great opportunity to meet our energy needs and this can be done safely with minimal impact on wildlife. Massachusetts has already set an ambitious agenda to exploit offshore wind that will help us meet greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) goals, replace aging power plants and create thousands of new jobs. 
  3. Incentivize the electrification of buildings –Heat pumps, convection stoves and other clean technologies instead of fossil fuel heating can be cost-effective in new construction and retrofits of existing buildings. The growth of heat pump technology has been significant. There are real advantages to building without relying on fossil fuels and it’s cost-effective and results in very low monthly utility bills.
  4. Electrify Transportation – This includes buses and commuter rail. This is a key strategy to decarbonization and it’s more efficient than gas or diesel. Electrifying our transportation system also results in much cleaner air, which is good news for all of us, but especially so for people living near busy roads or commuter rail lines. We already have an electric light rail on the MBTA. The next step is the commuter rail and buses. Drive an EV, there are more than 40 models on the market. With battery technology improving all the time, EV’s are practical, reliable and fun to drive. 

    Getting to 100% Renewable Energy can be done by 2045 or even earlier!

Studies affirm the feasibility of 100% renewable energy. The barriers are primarily political.

One study found that powering Massachusetts with 100% renewable energy for electricity, heating and cooling, transportation, and industry would reduce health costs by $8.21 billion per year while saving people an average of $26 on their energy bills.

A recent study from the Center for Environmental Policy at the University of California, Berkeley found that the United States can achieve 90% carbon-free electricity by 2035 at no additional cost to consumers.

The 100% Renewable Energy Act

The 100% Renewable Energy Act (H.2836), filed by Representative Marjorie Decker and Representative Sean Garballey, will transition Massachusetts to 100% renewable electricity by 2035 and 100% renewable energy for heating and transportation by 2045. In addition, it would accelerate the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to reach 100 percent renewable by 2035 and support job training and workforce development for Massachusetts residents to work in the clean energy sector.

A majority of members of both legislative chambers have cosponsored this bill or similar legislation filed in the Senate by Senator Jamie Eldridge (S.1958).

The Decker/Garballey 100% Renewable Energy Act would build on the example of the 100% renewable electric sector commitments adopted by other states, territories, cities, and counties while going further by transitioning heating and transportation to 100% renewable sources of energy as well.

Transparency and Accountability in Our Government

Massachusetts is the only state in the country that exempts all three branches of government from open meeting law. It’s only one of four states that exempt the Legislative branch from open meeting law. In particular, the House of Representatives has a very secretive and haphazard committee process. 

 

In Senate-only committees, votes are posted online but for House-only committees, the rules say a committee vote will be recorded and made public only if a committee member requests it at a meeting. It really makes one wonder what exactly is the House’s opposition to making all committee votes public? 

 

Most of the significant policy issues in the Legislature are dealt with by joint committees of both House and Senate members. Shira Schoeneberg, a reporter for CommonWealth Magazine wrote a good story about this last March. Here is the link: March.https://commonwealthmagazine.org/government/beacon-hills-secretive-committee-voting-process/ 

 

The magazine called the House and Senate co-chairs of 15 joint policy committees and requested vote counts for a bill that was recently reported out of that committee, either favorably or unfavorably. Staff in most offices provided the overall vote tallies, some after multiple phone calls. Some revealed how each member voted, others would only release some or none of that information.

In particular, the Election Laws Committee, chaired by John Lawn, was the one committee that refused to provide any information on how members voted, on a bill that would let residents vote early in municipal elections. The bill was sent to study, where it will never see the light of day but no information was provided on how individual members voted. 

Schoenberg wrote, the chief of staff to Senate chair Barry Finegold of Andover, said Finegold and House chair John Lawn of Watertown agreed not to make individual votes public unless members are informed in advance. As a result, she said she could not reveal the vote total for the early voting bill. “Individuals don’t expect them to be made public.”

Asked about the policy, Lawn said the committee members decided to keep their committee votes private, but anyone who is interested can always ask individual members how they voted. “Each individual committee member can make their vote public as they wish,” Lawn said. “You can ask anybody for their vote.”

Your lawmakers, whose job is to take votes on important bills, don’t expect them to be made public?  Think about that for a moment. These are lawmakers we elect and who are accountable to their constituents. It’s their job to take votes. Many Committee Chairs, with these haphazard rules, enable their members to hide their votes and not be held accountable to the people who elect them to office. This is a perverted system.

 

My promise is that I will not be a part of this culture. One of my goals will be to help build the political will for more openness and transparency and to develop a standard system so that committee votes are made public.

Racial and Economic Justice and Black Lives Matter

The events of the last 3 months have put a spotlight on how far we still need to go to have a truly fair and just society. A society where people are not prejudged, dismissed or disenfranchised because of the color of their skin. Systemic and entrenched racism has permeated this country from its inception. The whole world now knows the name of George Floyd who has become a symbol of our culture of violence and police brutality. We know his name, but there are many others.  In our neighborhoods, in our streets, the voices are loud and clear that change has to happen.  Elected officials have a crucial role to play in recognizing the problem and putting in place new policies and laws to protect the civil rights of all people. The role of the police must change as well. Their role must reflect all the people that they have a duty to serve.  We must broaden the definition of public safety and security and make better use of public resources to ensure security for all. Fundamentally, it is not a heavily armed police officer that keeps us safe. It is the integrated fabric of our community that supports, nurtures us, and makes us whole. It is our neighbors with secure jobs, with a comfortable place to live and with health insurance they can afford. It is also our neighborhood schools, our libraries, our senior centers, our neighborhood organizations and clubs and our houses of worship that bring us together, look out for one another and keep our neighborhoods thriving, learning and inviting. 

Over fifty years ago the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and many others called for a “revolution of values” in America. They sought to build a broader movement that could unite us all and include our marginalized communities. I hear that call now. There is work that remains unfinished. I believe that as a Commonwealth we must build the political will to confront the chronic problems of an economy based on fossil fuels and the raw exploitation of both people and the environment. I’m tired of the underfunding of programs that support human needs. This requires that collectively we rethink our priorities. I for one would prioritize safe affordable housing, good quality health insurance and clean air and water rather than excessive spending on weapons of war and the militarization of our police.

I want to be clear that  police reform and the Black Lives Matter Message are not mutually exclusive. I see how they complement each other and help make our law enforcement institutions stronger and more effective. Our Police officers in Waltham, Watertown and Newton are good people. Many have grown up in our communities and live in our neighborhoods. They are well-trained professionals that help people in times of great need and distress. They deserve our support.

The BLM message does not mean other lives don’t matter, of course they do. Every human life matters. The message of BLM calls out the inherent racism suffered every day by people of color and the significant increase in violence, arrest and incarceration that occurs in their interaction with law enforcement and the legal system. Black men and boys are killed by police at the rate 2 1/2 times the rate of white men and boys. It’s a shocking statistic and we need to recognize the important message of BLM is working to change that statistic. 

On July 25th Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a sweeping police reform and accountability bill that would, among other provisions, certify all law enforcement officers in the state and curb the use of force tactics by police. My opponent voted against the Bill in its entirety. The bill was far from ideal but I believe that it would lead to progress. Rep. Lawn also voted “NO” on key amendments proposed to strengthen the bill. This included the use of tear gas and a restriction on “no-knock warrants” that required the police to ensure that minor children and adults over 65 are not in the home.  

I would have voted very differently. 

More Affordable and Diverse Housing

Over the last 30 years, we have not been building enough housing to meet the needs. The result is sky-high housing costs that burden all but the affluent.  I support building density where appropriate and prioritize building smaller and highly energy-efficient units.  Mixed-use developments adjacent to city centers near amenities and transit reduces reliance on driving and helps create more walkable and vibrant communities.

I support the Governor’s Housing Choice Bill which is a collaboration between the Commonwealth and our communities that will enable the adoption of certain zoning best practices related to housing development by a simple majority vote, rather than the current two-thirds supermajority.

For more information:

Baker-Polito Administration Files New Housing Legislation to Increase Housing Production in Massachusetts

 

 

Invest in Transit

The transportation system is generally in poor condition. We rank 45th out of the 50 states in crumbling infrastructure. As we invest and rebuild we must be thinking about the future which must include the electrification of public transit and more active modes of transportation, including walking and biking and shared autonomous vehicles.  The current dominance of single-occupant vehicles is an expensive and inefficient mode of getting around. The average driver in Greater Boston wastes $2000 a year sitting in traffic wasting their time and burning fuel. 

To get people out of their cars the options have to be convenient and cost effective. This of course requires that we make significant investments in public transit and make our roads safer for all modes of transportation. Improving our transportation infrastructure requires a serious commitment and sustained leadership at all levels of government.

The transportation system needs to move more people in fewer vehicles

One relatively simple and quick way to start this process is by prioritizing buses over vehicles that carry fewer occupants. This can include bus transit signal priority, bus rapid transit and dedicated bus lanes. Major thoroughfares like Main Street and Mount Auburn Street are likely candidates for such changes. By giving people more convenient and cost-effective choices we can coax people out of their vehicles which will reduce congestion on our roads. This of course requires that we make significant investments in public transit and make our roads safer for all modes of transportation. We can significantly improve the efficiency by prioritizing buses over vehicles that carry fewer occupants. 

Our Land use and development decisions Impact transportation patterns

There is good data demonstrating how we design the built environment has the most impact on quality of life. Changing these land-use patterns is essential to improve environmental quality, increase density where appropriate and allow us to shorten travel distances. By giving people choices and making them less dependent on driving for many local trips we can make a significant reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT). This is also very important in reducing our Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Just 10%-20% reduced single-occupant vehicle (SOV) use is the difference between gridlock and moving traffic. The Commonwealth is also realizing the huge negative impacts of congestion and all the pollution, GHG emissions and lost productivity that comes with it.

We must de-carbonize Transportation

In Massachusetts, the transportation sector is both the largest and the fastest-growing emitter of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). If the Commonwealth is to meet its goal of reducing overall GHG emissions by 80 percent by 2050 (and recent data is showing we must reduce emissions sooner than that), a large proportion of the emission reductions will have to come from transportation. Accelerating the conversion of cars and light-duty trucks to electricity or other zero-emission technologies is a key strategy.

Needed investments need to be prioritized and funded

Our communities will need to work together to set priorities for maintaining, modernizing, and expanding its transportation systems and we will need to leverage a combination of public and private resources to make the investments needed to create, operate and maintain a 21st-century transportation system. We will also need to decide how to pay for it. But it is clear that not meeting this challenge will end up being much more costly than avoiding taking action now. Policies to consider to move the needle include:

Price parking and driving to reflect what it actually costs to drive. The way we set parking policies has an enormous impact on the built environment and how we choose to get around.

Disconnect the parking from the housing unit. This will also make the housing unit more affordable as parking adds a significant cost to any development.

Add a fee on ride-hailing services with the money dedicated to transit improvements

Demand pricing for curbside parking and delivery.

See the following links for more information:

The future of transportation in Boston could be bold — and bright

The Massachusetts car economy is costing us $64 billion a year, and we barely notice it

There are several ways that we can improve our transportation system. We need to address how our land-use and development decisions affect our transportation patterns, how to minimize single-use vehicles, and how to decarbonize our transit.

Read more about our transportation systems and what they can be here:

The future of transportation in Boston could be bold — and bright

The Massachusetts car economy is costing us $64 billion a year, and we barely notice it

Addressing the Climate Crisis

At my core, I am an environmentalist and I recognize how important it is that we continue to push our goals around climate and sustainability issues. The Commonwealth needs to do more to support local communities who have been leading the way. Newton, Watertown and Waltham all have put together climate action plans that set targets over a 30-year time frame in order to become carbon neutral by mid-century. But we need more support from the Commonwealth on transportation, building codes and carbon pricing to ensure success.

We must hold the utilities accountable for repairing leaky gas pipes to reduce this major source of methane pollution. I oppose efforts to expand gas pipelines and will advocate and support policies that wean us off fossil fuels altogether. I will prioritize State efforts to work with local communities to prepare for and adapt to the effects of climate change. Climate must be considered in everything we do because it is the most pressing issue we face. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to lead on this issue and be successful in meeting all milestones.

We need more transparency and accountability in government

I am committed to good and effective government. This requires listening to all voices and giving everyone a seat at the table. Collaboration and engagement, robust debate and thoughtful planning have been hallmarks in my work as a city councilor and I will continue on that path as your state representative.

Massachusetts is unique in that no other state in the nation exempts all three branches of government from the open meeting law.  Recently, a special commission on public records dissolved after unsuccessful attempts to expand public records law. There must be some middle ground that allows for more transparency and citizen engagement.  A healthy democracy depends on it.

Invest in Transit

There are several ways that we can improve our transportation system. We need to address how our land-use and development decisions affect our transportation patterns, how to minimize single-use vehicles, and how to decarbonize our transit.

Read more about our transportation systems and what they can be here:

The future of transportation in Boston could be bold — and bright

The Massachusetts car economy is costing us $64 billion a year, and we barely notice it

More Affordable and Diverse Housing

Over the last 30 years, we have not been building enough housing to meet the needs. The result is sky-high housing costs that burden all but the affluent.  I support building density where appropriate and prioritize building smaller and highly energy-efficient units.  Mixed-use developments adjacent to city centers near amenities and transit reduces reliance on driving and helps create more walkable and vibrant communities.

I support the Governor’s Housing Choice Bill which is a collaboration between the Commonwealth and our communities that will enable the adoption of certain zoning best practices related to housing development by a simple majority vote, rather than the current two-thirds supermajority.

For more information:

Baker-Polito Administration Files New Housing Legislation to Increase Housing Production in Massachusetts