State Represenattive Tom Sannicandro (D-Ashland) is being challenged for his seat by former Ashland Board of Selectmen Chair Jon Fetherston, a Republican.
The 7th Middlesex District, consists of Ashland and six of Framingham's 18 precincts. The district has been redrawn this year, due to redistricting. The Framingham precincts in the new district include 8, 13, 14, 16, 17 and 18.
Editor's Note: I live in town and would vote in Precinct 15.
Framingham Patch asked the two candidates to answer 6-8 questions and to provide some background information for voters. The answers to the questions are below. (Answers are alphabetical with Fetherston appearing first.) Each candidates' background information is below. (Sannicandro's responses appear first.)
Rep. Tom Sannicandro
Occupation: Legislator, lawyer, business owner
Family: Wife Mary Anne and children: Dave, Laura, Zach & Jesse
Political or municipal experience: Ashland School Committee
Community Involvement Ashland/Framingham: Metrowest Economic Research Council
Family: Wife Wendy and Sons: Andrew and Nicholas
Political or municipal experience: Former Chair Board of Selectmen in Ashland. Current Ashland Board of Health member. Former Chair of the MetroWest Regional Collaborative. Ashland Affordable Housing Trust, MBTA Transportation Authority, Autism Speaks, Asperger's Association of New England, former board member of a large Regional School Board
Local affiliations: Ashland Emergency Fund board member, Ashland Collation for Teens. Veteran of United States Army
Community Involvement Ashland/Framingham: GREAT Program, Citizen's Police Academy, Ashland Coalition for Teens, Ashland Day Committee, 12 food drives to collect food and to raise awareness for local food pantries
QUESTION #1) What are your top three priorities?
Fetherston: 1. Job creation/Small business owners
2. Fair funding for Public Education
3. Better Public Transportation/Roads and infrastructure, MBTA trains, Buses, improve access to public transportation for Special needs.
Sannicandro: 1. Promoting an economic development strategy centered on our best resource, brainpower, to grow sustainable, good paying jobs.
2. Making sure Massachusetts schools have the resources to offer our students a world-class education and making sure that every person in the Commonwealth has a chance to get a good education, go to college, and get a good job.
3. Taking care of the most vulnerable among us, including seniors and people with disabilities. Maintaining a strong social safety net. Promoting a self-determination model of service delivery so that our seniors, people with disabilities, and their families can make choices about how they want to live, not the state.
QUESTION #2) Where do you stand on Secure Communities and why? What are your views on immigration laws as it relates to Framingham. Would you file any state legislation to make changes? Do you support free education for illegal or undocumented immigrants? driver's licenses for illegal immigrants?
Fetherston: I am a strong supporter of Secure Communities. As a Selectmen I always said my two biggest priorities are Public Safety and Children. Our local Police and Fire officials must have ALL the resources available to support Public Safety. I do not support free education for undocumented immigrants. I am a lawful person. I support legal immigration and do not think it is fair for those "in line" and who follow the rules. I also do not support issuing drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants. As a lawful person I have problems with rewarding those who are not. However, I do believe there needs to be changes in immigration law at the national level which should be addressed with our Congressmen and Senators.
Sannicandro: Our immigration system is broken. The federal government has failed to address this pressing need. In the absence of federal action, we are left to try and find solutions that work for us as communities. Solutions that address the reality of where we are and that uphold our values.
QUESTION #3) How will you help promote business and increase the number of jobs in the district?
Fetherston: Streamline the permitting and regulation process. Also, we must rationalize the fees. Who really pays the fees? The people who buy the goods and services from the businesses do! Work to ensure that we are business friendly. We are lucky that we have access to skilled labor and an educated work force in this area.We must work with all business owners to help them create jobs for Ashland and Framingham. I will file legislation to help business owners hire the young (under 30) and over 50 who are both unemployed and underemployed. MetroWest must be a focus of the legislature. We must have the resources to promote and grow business. Certainly new and better jobs will be created. Beacon Hill must ensure that Framingham is getting the support and tax dollars coming back to us so we can grow jobs. The Speaker can not ignore MetroWest as we are an educated and growing segment of Massachusetts. I will ensure that we are expanding our local economy.
Sannicandro: I have and will continue to use my experience as a business owner to tackle the obstacles businesses face. One success I’ve had is lobbying the state to change the way it charges businesses for unemployment insurance. Previously, the amount we charged a company fluctuated wildly year to year, increasing most when the economy slowed. By participating in a federal program, businesses can now predict what their unemployment insurance costs will be and don’t have to worry about it skyrocketing when the economy slows.
The community college reform I helped craft will better align curriculum with regional economic needs. For example, MassBay, in partnership with Toyota, has a program that gives students a chance to work at local dealerships as mechanics. Other colleges offer career-specific programs in biotechnology, information technology, nursing, and more. Identifying these kinds of opportunities and developing curriculum to fill regional job needs will become a bigger part of the community colleges’ mission following the reforms. I also crafted the Innovation Fund, the signature piece of the 2012 Jobs Bill.
Massachusetts’ economy--particularly in the MetroWest--is built on innovation, research, and technology. Increasingly, this research is being done by universities, often in collaboration with private companies. The Innovation Fund will attract $150 million in outside investment in the type of research and development that feeds our innovation economy. Finally, I have introduced bills that will allow Massachusetts to capitalize on advances in technology and address the way businesses do business in the age of the Internet, including a bill that would allow for virtual corporations and another that would allow electronic notarization of documents. The state would see increased revenues by charging a nominal fee for the use of electronic notarization and virtual corporations. Corporations would relocate to Massachusetts because of the ease of doing business.
QUESTION #4) Framingham has been shortchanged local funding for education for a decade - estimated at $10M. The Framingham Public School district is now ranked as a level 3 district with almost half of its 8 elementary schools ranked as level 3. Framingham's only level 1 middle school is the McAuliffe Charter School, which received a record number of applicants last year. What would you do as state representative to improve the quality of public schools in Framingham and what legislation would you file over the next two years?
Fetherston: I will file legislation to make the creation of charter schools easier. Educational alternatives raise the bar of excellence and provide our children a much better education. I will work to make transportation easier and more efficient to the school choice schools and Charter schools. I will also file legislation to reform the chapter 70 formula and work with the appropriate State agencies to improve the funding for schools. The current formula does not reflect the needs of Framingham's children or it's teachers. How many children have missed out on a quality education because Chapter 70 has failed to provide the improvements required for a quality education? Chapter 70 must be changed! I will work and communicate with the school committee and the local officials to ensure we determine the required actions to continuously improve the education of our children in Framingham.
Sannicandro: My roots in public service are in education. I began as the chair of the Ashland Parent's Advisory Council before becoming chair of the Ashland School Committee. I've worked hard to support education at Framingham and Ashland schools. The reality is Framingham and Ashland schools have been shortchanged by the Chapter 70 school funding formula since its inception in 1993. However, changes to the formula, which I fought for, have moved us towards greater equity. Framingham has seen an approximate $20 million increase in its yearly allotment of state aid. Its aid has increased
more than any other town or city in the Commonwealth. The changes have meant more than $56 million extra for the Framingham schools. The changes were phased in over a long period because of the economic recession,
meaning lost revenue for our schools. I have and will continue to fight for additional state money to make up for this decreased revenue. I will also continue to fight for an adequacy study and re-work of the formula so the state aid for our schools better reflects the actual cost of education. In addition, the legislature has made efforts to improve education without interfering with local control. Legislation passed this past year aims to have every student reading
proficiently by third grade. Early education efforts, good teachers, and adequate funding are paramount in ensuring a good education for our kids and I will continue to support legislation that supports those efforts.
QUESTION #5) There is a disconnect between the residents who live in town and the residents who live and use downtown. What could you do as state representative (and/or what have you done) to make Framingham Downtown a thriving destination for ALL residents?
Fetherston: Making downtown Framingham a thriving destination is the role of the local officials and the business owners. I will work with them and fight for them on Beacon Hill. I will always be accessible so I know what they need. Communication is the most important part of leadership in this area. The business owners know what their needs are and it is the legislature's role to help them solve the issues. Meeting with them on a monthly basis will be a priority of mine. The Selectmen and Planning Board must take the lead and establish the vision for downtown and then I will work with their vision and plans to find the funding and the support required for them to be successful. Parking, lighting and traffic are all key issues. It is time to stop the studies and rhetoric. It is time for common sense plans and real leadership to implement them. We have done all the studies needed, it's time to take the "test" and ensure that downtown Framingham does not continue to have disconnects with it's residents.
Sannicandro: Following this election, the downtown area will be entirely in my district. I grew up in South Framingham and continue to frequent downtown. One of the things I’ve been focused on is lobbying the administration to invest in opening a downtown MassBay campus. I think this could mean a lot in terms of revitalization. We’ve secured the first $22.1 million but I will continue to fight for additional funding to make the dream of a comprehensive downtown Framingham MassBay campus a reality. The other issue I’ve focused on is improving the traffic situation. One of the biggest problems for people coming from North Framingham or Ashland into downtown is accessibility. Recently, we secured $8.8 million to improve traffic congestion. Ultimately, I am fighting for a full scale solution to the at-grade rail crossing. I have and will continue to fight to make sure the revitalization of downtown Framingham is seen as not only a local priority but a regional and state priority as well.
QUESTION #6) One of the major issues facing your six precincts in Framingham is an increase in crime, and violent crimes. What can you do to help police decrease crime and make residents feel more secure?
Fetherston: Framingham Police do not have the resources or the staffing required and you see the results in more crime and fear. Cuts to local aid have had devastating effects on Public Safety in Framingham. I will work to ensure that Public Safety is never compromised due to budget cuts or politics. For example, lighting in the Beaver Street area and around all businesses needs to be improved. Patrolmen working and walking the streets is a must. I worked on Community Policing initiatives in Ashland and will work to get funding for Framingham to help the Police promote public awareness and participation. These actions will also make downtown Framingham a more desirable place to live, work, and shop.
Sannicandro: We have to take a policy approach that strives to be smart on crime. I have and will continue to fight for funding for local programs that empower communities and police departments to address crime in their communities. I’ve fought for funding for the Shannon grant program. Shannon grants foster a police-community partnership in fighting gangs and youth violence. I’ve also fought for funding for the Jail Diversion program, a program that our police department has pioneered which connects police with mental health professionals. This session, I voted for a bill that would end the possibility of parole for our most violent repeat offenders. This bill also reduced mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses. A major part of fighting crime is fighting the root causes of crime. One of the ways to do this is make sure people have access to opportunity through education. That means all kids are getting the level of education and support they need in our K-12 system. It also means that people have access to higher education and job training. This has been and continues to be my top priority as a legislator.
QUESTION #7) What else would you like voters to know?
Fetherston: As a veteran the needs of our veterans can never be short-changed. I will ensure that all of their needs around jobs, education and health care are met. As a father of an Autistic child, I will ensure that those with Special Needs and their families are represented and have access to all resources needed. Better access to schools and transportation for those with special needs will be a priority of mine on Beacon Hill.
I am accessible and accountable. I return all calls and e-mails within a reasonable time. A State Representative must be available and visible to the community. I will hold local office hours at convenient times and locations for my constituents. I care about ALL people. I will work everyday for a better Ashland and Framingham. I will represent all of the residents. I feel a State Rep position is about the people, not the party or agenda. I will work with all, including the Speaker, but will only vote for the best interest of Ashland and Framingham! I am a leader, one who will fight and ensure that we are represented on Beacon Hill, even when it is not easy or popular with the rest of the legislature. I will work tirelessly as I have in my past elected and appointed public positions.
Sannicandro: I’m running for re-election because I believe I can continue to be an effective advocate for Framingham and Ashland. Please vote for me on Tuesday. Visit my website TomWorksForUs.com if you want more information.