Progressive Democrats of Somerville 9/7 Forum

09/08/03, posted by j

The Progress Democrats of Somerville Forum began with a brief introduction about the organization and the forum. Each of the mayoral candidates was brought into the room separately and asked the same four questions from the PDS. Theoretically, none of the candidates knew what the questions were in advance. Then the moderator asked them questions from the audience submitted on index cards. The inquirer indicated whether the question is for a particular candidate or for all three candidates. After asking and receiving responses to the four standard questions, the moderator asked questions designated for the candidate, then asked questions designated for all of the candidates. Because of timing, the moderator asked some candidates more questions than others.

The order of the candidates corresponds to the order to which they responded to the PDS’ initial invitation to participate in the forum: Tony LaFuente, Joe Curtatone, and Dorothy Kelly Gay.

What follows is based on the notes I took during the forum on my PalmPilot. I have tried to flush the questions and answers out based on those notes. If I use “I” or “me,” it refers to the way the question was asked or the candidate’s answer; I am not referring to myself. I did not ask any questions at the forum.

Tony LaFuente

Q: What is your plan for the development of Assembly Square?

A: He replied that his business experience gives him an edge in negotiations with developers because he knows their perspective. He says he’s not the Mystic View Taskforce candidate, but he praises their plan heavily and supports it. He mentioned that he is working with some of the people affiliated with the Taskforce on the plans. He said he would work to bring the parties back to the negotiation table.

Q: How do you plan to decrease the city’s dependence on state aid?

A: LaFuente admits to being new to politics and speaking to crowds. He
sees dependence on state aid as a huge problem. He mentioned money left by Capuano that has just disappeared during Dorothy Kelly Gay’s administration. Lafuente
would start with an audit. He claims priorities and spending need to be reworked

Q: How do you propose that we keep people away from the gangs and preserve the civil liberties of certain people?

A: We need to work with youth and newer gang members to give them alternatives to the gangs.

LaFuente admitted to being new again and not knowing much about social problems in the city. He says his strengths are business and finance.

Q: How can we hold you accountable for your actions?

A: Don’t vote for him again, he said. He emphasized that he could do a better job than the current mayor and that he thinks accountability is important.

Q: Convince me that having a business person in a political office is a good thing.

A: He understands that running a city isn’t like running a business, but sees lots of overlap. He has experience he can apply.

Q: Why did you switch political parties recently?

A: “I woke up.” Lafuente elaborated by talking about his recent philosophy shift and how that influenced him to change his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in the last few years.

Q: Who did you vote for in the last 3 presidential elections?

A: Bush, Sr., Clinton, and Gore

Q: The current administration has implemented many new fees. You mentioned something about these fees. What is your plan for them? What are your thoughts on the towing policy?

A: LaFuente thinks that the city’s collection of fees before certain kinds of items are picked up is not working. The city ends up cleaning up the junk anyway because people just dump it somewhere, like on the sidewalk, and won’t go through the hassle of getting a permit for the trash people to remove it legally. He proposes eliminating the fees.
The current administration has said that towing generates revenue for the city. He doesn’t think so because people will move their cars instead of getting towed, but many are willing to pay a $10 ticket instead of moving their cars. Towing creates a lot of animosity. He would revert to ticketing instead of towing cars.

Q: What does he think about seniors not having adequate transportation in the city anymore? (There was a shuttle service for seniors, but it was canceled within the last two years.)

A: LaFuente wants to improve many things for seniors, not just transportation.

Q: How does he plan to encourage development that has long term benefits for the city?

A: LaFuente agreed that development should be beneficial for the city and not just something that pleases developers. He would gather feedback from many sectors of the community on major development projects.

Q: How would he get minority opinions during his administration?

A: He says people should be included, but he doesn’t say how. He joked about being the minority candidate because of his heritage and that people often don’t know the origins of his last name.

Q: Would he encourage the T coming to Union Square?

A: Yes he would and he mentioned extending the Green Line as far as Gilman Square.

Q: How does he plan to work with the School Committee on educational issues?

A: Again, LaFuente says he doesn’t know, how he’ll work on these issues, but he’s not doing it alone and he wants help from people at the Forum.

Q: Does he agree with a Proposition 2 1/2 override?

A: Yes, he does, but the override needs to be tied to something. The override won’t go through on its own.

Q: Why do you want to be mayor?

A: LaFuente is not happy. He thinks administration is doing a bad job and he thinks he can do better. He emphasized that it isn’t in his best interest to put his business on hold while he serves as mayor.

[This question is out of order. I can’t remember where it’s supposed to go. I didn’t have time to write it down while it was being asked and answered.]

Q: What is the principal function of municipal government?

A: To provide safety and public services to the community

[Note: At the times when LaFuente mentioned that he didn’t know about the issue, he often gave concrete examples of how he would work with people or organizations in the city on those issues.]

Joe Curtatone

[I had a difficult time understanding Curtatone because of his thick accent and how quickly he spoke.]

Q: What is your plan for the development of Assembly Square?

A: Curtatone talked in detail about the site and the development plans. He talked about limiting development to certain store sizes.

Q: How do you plan to decrease the city’s dependence on state aid?

A: He would audit the city’s services to figure out how to improve efficiency and cut costs.

Q: How do you propose that we keep people away from the gangs and preserve the civil liberties of certain people?

A: He talked about being proactive about the city’s youth and giving them alternate activities.

Q: How can we hold you accountable for your actions?

A: We could vote him out. He will advocate for democratic issues locally.

Q: What is your relationship with Assembly Square Limited Partners? Is it in an official city capacity or something else?

A: As alderman, he has been involved in the development, but that’s it. He has no ties to them other than working with them as an alderman.

Q: As an attorney, are you opposed to citizens filing lawsuits?

A: Curtatone supports citizens suing the government. (He clarified his remarks at a political debate that spurred this question.)

Q: Has he decided whom he will name as department heads?

A: No.

Q: What happened to the people in the nursing home and were there any violations?

A: His family ran a nursing home and it closed several years ago. They helped move the residents to other facilities. As far as he knows, there were no violations.

Q: What does he think about seniors not having adequate transportation in the city anymore?

A: Cutatone wants to form a transportation committee to examine all transportation issues.

Q: How does he plan to encourage development that has long term benefits for the city?

A: He talked about the city’s changing tax figures to represent changing development.

Q: How would he get minority opinions during his administration?

A: He said people and ideas make the city.

Q: Would he encourage the T coming to Union Square?

A: Curtatone mentioned expanded T options throughout city, not just in Union Square.

Q: What is the principal function of municipal government?

A: It starts with strong leadership and management.

Q: How does he plan to work with the School Committee on educational issues?

A: He mentioned how the schools need improvement and it’s something he would work on.

Q: Does he agree with a Proposition 2 1/2 override?

A: He does not favor an override.

Q: A gay/lesbian/transgendered person should vote for you because ____________.

A: Curtatone recognizes many problems GLBT people face in the community. He focused on problems in school system and educating children about GLBT issues.

Q: What would he do about the traffic problems IKEA might bring?

A: He appreciates the concern and will look into it, including public transportation options.

Q: How would you facilitate access to city services for non-native English speakers?

A: By working with key groups to let them know what’s available and doing outreach, Curtatone thinks he can provide more access to city services for non-native English speakers.

Q: Would you cut pay to prevent layoffs?

A: No. He’s pro-labor. He would make them part of the solution.

Q: Why do you want to be mayor?

A: He doesn’t like the current state of city. He and his family plan to stay here, so he wants to try to change things. He said he is the only candidate with public and private sector experience, which makes him an excellent choice during these times.

Dorothy Kelly Gay

Q: What is your plan for the development of Assembly Square?

A: Kelly Gay gave a brief history about Assembly Square development, including her administration’s master plan. She lamented the current lawsuit a citizen is bringing against the project. She said she will hold the developers to the fire ’til the city gets what it wants.

Q: How do you plan to decrease the city’s dependence on state aid?

A: She talked about many plans she has currently in place to increase the city’s tax revenue through commercial development and decrease the city’s dependence on state aid, including the revitalization of the squares, new commercial development, and Assembly Square. She also mentioned the city’s leaner budget.

Q: How do you propose that we keep people away from the gangs and preserve the civil liberties of certain people?

A: Her administration is taking steps to preserve liberties.

Q: How can we hold you accountable for your actions?

A: She has attended every democratic convention and listened to the needs of her constituents.

Q: What will she do differently during another term?

A: Kelly Gay replied that she doesn’t plan to do anything differently. She will build on current issues, like the bike path, energy, education, economic development, and affordable housing.

Q: Is it true that you laid people off while leaving your cronies on the payroll?

A: No. It’s been a tough budget year and there were many layoffs, including a key staff member.

Q: You took away the senior shuttle. Will you bring it back?

A: There was low ridership and not enough money, so she ended the service. She realizes it was a valuable service to many people. If money wasn’t such a problem, she would bring it back.

Q: Are there any plans to upgrade transportation?

A: Kelly Gay gave details about the new Somerville Avenue design and Beacon Street plans with bike lanes.

Q: Are the fees and fines increasing the city’s revenue?

A: They are new and numbers aren’t available yet.

Q: How can you better disseminate information to the senior community?

A: She listed current ways and said they’re looking for new ways to get the word out about city events.

Q: What’s the situation with linkage fees from developers? Why are you doing different negotiations with them instead of following the ordinance? If there’s a problem with the ordinance, why not change it?

A: The Target money in question was not related to linkage fees. Kelly Gay said the person was mistaken about the issue.

Q: What would she do to reunite the city after a contentious election?

A: She’s not worried because the city will reunite. It always has.

Q: Do you support the current towing policy?

A: She supports towing because cleaner streets are important to many city residents. The streets can’t be cleaned properly if people don’t move their cars.

Q: What would she do about the traffic problems IKEA might bring?

A: The traffic studies say we can handle it, but her administration will monitor it.

Q: How would she get minority opinions during her administration?

A: She tries to get their input through outreach and by placing minorities in city positions. She acknowledged that getting minorities involved in government is a problem.

Q: Would she encourage the T coming to Union Square?

A: Yes. She also mentioned other transportation issues, like the Orange Line stop at Assembly Square.

Q: What is the principal function of municipal government?

A: To govern with input from the people

Q: Why do you want to be mayor?

A: Kelly Gay thinks she’s a good advocate for residents. She also feels like she has lots of work left to do before she’s finished being mayor.

Here’s a different take on the forum.

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