WILMINGTON, MA — Wilmington Apple is asking weekly questions to the seven candidates running in contested primaries for the Wilmington/Tewksbury State Representative seat (19th Middlesex).
Below, in his own words, are the responses to this week’s questions from candidate Dave Robertson (D-Tewksbury).
#15) What you will do at the State House to ensure that our local police and fire departments have what they need to adequately protect us? Do you support a fire substation in North Wilmington? Did you/do you support the construction of the new center fire station in Tewksbury that was approved last year?
First responders are getting the squeeze from all sides today, especially in our two towns. With the growth of greater Boston and greater Lowell, and Tewksbury and Wilmington’s unique positions of overlap between the cities, our emergency services are strapped more than ever. What is certain is that this isn’t just a “peak” in calls, this will be the new norm for both towns due to the growth of the region and our increase in population, and we should dedicate time and resources to prepare for this new normal.
First, lets tackle some issues pertaining to our firefighters.
Answering the above questions; yes I absolutely support the construction of a new fire substation in North Wilmington. In addition to the issues that have repeatedly occurred at the North Wilmington train station where commuter rail trains have blocked emergency responders at the road crossing, response time to North Wilmington will only grow as first responders have to navigate difficult traffic and congestion. By having a substation, residents will have to worry about losing precious minutes when a loved one or themselves is lying on the floor waiting for 9-1-1 to arrive. I also voted in favor of constructing a new center fire station, and as State Representative would do everything in my power to see that a bond issuance by the state for capital improvements would include funding for Tewksbury’s fire station reconstruction, to put the town in a better financial situation. Of course, I would do exactly the same for Wilmington if the town needed assistance in doing so. I also am a strong proponent of adding a section to the budget that requires the state provide yearly assistance for police and fire departments, as we currently do with roads and schools. These road and school funding lines are mandated, and I believe it would be of great benefit to towns who can use it for local aid.
I also want to add that Tewksbury typically goes unreimbursed for responses to Tewksbury State Hospital, but thanks to Senator L’Italien and Representative Miceli, were compensated $180,000 in the previous annual budgets. I was responsible for monitoring and ensuring that provision stayed in the budget during its course in the House of Representatives on a day-to-day basis. As State Representative, I would ensure that Tewksbury would be supported in the same manner.
Lastly the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts, the union representing the men and women of our fire departments, have proposed a great piece of legislation that supports public fire departments and specifically their EMS services.
Local hospitals have begun operating ambulance services that do not have to match the quality of our public paramedics, and can charge Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurances in ways that local fire departments cannot. PFFM proposed mandating a portion of these charges be instead given to local fire departments, so that local fire houses can maintain quality responses and more advanced services to those in need, without raising on taxes on local residents. This is a solid piece of legislation that preserves our local fire departments quality of services, allows hospitals to supplement ambulance coverage, and saves the taxpayers money. Talk about a win-win-win. I am already familiar with this bill, and would happily support such a venture on behalf of PFFM and our local fire departments.
Our police departments, while facing a different set of challenges, are also facing the same results of higher demand and stretched budgets. Our State Representative needs to continue working with the local chiefs, their departments, and ensure that their capital equipment is up to snuff, as well as continuing to support their training and growing ranks. Again, I believe the state owes it to the towns and their first responders to mandate adding in local support year after year, as we do our schools and roads. We also need to continue bulk purchase of narcan in order to save, as the state has done before.
Above all, while supporting firefighters and police officers financially, both towns need a State Representative aware of nuances such as insurance and pay-rates for our first responders work. These are putting pressure on the ability for police and fire employees to provide for their families, and in a competitive market we will lose quality staff and trainees to other municipalities. In addition, I would proudly support PTSD support services for first responders as State Representative, integrated training for potential active shooter events, and more. Not only do I openly state my support for our first responders, I have actively worked on their behalf and will continue to do so. First Responders Day, a state holiday memorializing the fallen, was sponsored by Representative Miceli and the first bill I was ever tasked to work on. I am proud to say it passed, and after meeting dozens of fire fighters and police officers from across the state who testified on the bill, I never felt more proud or safe.
#16) The Vietnam War Moving Wall recently visited Wilmington. It was a sobering reminder of what the men and women in our armed forces are willing to sacrifice to preserve our freedom. What will you do at the State House to support our local veterans and veterans statewide? What, if anything, have you done as a private citizen and/or locally elected official that shows a commitment to veterans? Do you personally have any family that serves/served?
Did you know Massachusetts is the only state that has a network of local veteran agents, tasked with helping veterans and their families, that reaches as far and wide as it does? Massachusetts has a great veterans support network. That being said, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be even better.
Supporting veterans to me is a two-fold mission, and one of my highest priorities. First and foremost is helping them with constituent issues. Over my years working in the state house, I have tracked down numerous DD-214’s (release paperwork critical for veterans applying for their retirement and other benefits), secured VA appointments, and even finding housing vouchers for several homeless veterans around the area. Helping vets with recovery, PTSD services, and chapter 115 (financial assistance for vets in financial dire) is an obligation I have no issue navigating, and I am the only who has done it to the degree or extent of any candidate. I pledge to the veterans, regardless of age, conflict, or branch, to dedicate myself to helping them with their issue, as the bureaucracy from both the state and federal government can be maddening at times. With an intricate knowledge of veterans issues that no other candidate can claim, I stand ready to help them.
Aside from the individual attention I would pay to veterans issues as State Representative, I would proudly support them legislatively. Public housing is prioritized for veterans, which is great, except when there is no public housing left for them to move into. This is especially troublesome for our older veterans looking to downsize their housing, but want to stay in the area. Educational support can be made better, and I would love to see online classes offered by the state network of colleges to be discounted to active duty servicemembers and veterans anywhere. In addition, ensuring veterans receive the job training benefits, business contract preferences with the state, and offering tax benefits for their own businesses or businesses that hire them are ideas that I believe are of great importance to the health of our state and those who answered the call of service.
Both my grandfathers are veterans, one serving in the Army, and the other in the Air Force. I am also proud to say that I have a number of veterans helping assist me with my campaign, which above all other support honors me that they would put their trust and support in what I believe in.
(NOTE: Do you have a question for the candidates? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be asked in a future Q&A or in a debate.)
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