A VOTER’S GUIDE To Democratic State Rep. Candidate Dave Robertson

WILMINGTON, MA — Dave Robertson’s (D-Tewksbury) is one of the five Democratic candidates competing in the September 4 primary election for the 19th Middlesex State Representative seat.

Below are Dave’s Q&A’s with Wilmington Apple, along with links to his supporters’ letters to the editor; the full video of the WCTV debate he participated in; his interviews with WCTV (video), the Town Crier (written) & Wilmington Patch (written); coverage of his campaign rally; a copy of his campaign finance report; and his website and social media, followed by a “Closing Argument” to the voters.

On The Issues (Q&A’s with Wilmington Apple)

Why do you want to be our State Representative? 

I want to be State Representative because I want to give back. I know many people say that they want to, but I owe everything to where I am now to Wilmington and Tewksbury. Growing up in Tewksbury, I had a great education, joined extraordinary sports programs, and participated in several extracurricular activities. As a Boy Scout, I was taught civic duty, leadership, responsibility, and more; which resulted in earning my Eagle Scout Award alongside my best friend. While I refurbished the nature trail behind the Heath Brook School, he built the loading dock at the Wilmington Food Pantry, and together we worked on both projects. As a matter of fact, it was at my ceremony where I asked Representative Miceli for an internship position because of my passion for public service. He said yes, which led to me eventually joining his office for the next ten years in a multitude of roles. Since then, I have solved hundreds of constituent issues, researched and developed legislation, and more. This was wonderful as I was able to assist families, place sons or daughters in detox, help house veterans, or even just help people get their trash picked up or mail delivered. This allowed me to sharpen my community service skills, which I now wish to put toward serving the 19th Middlesex district.

Do you consider yourself a liberal, conservative or moderate? Please describe your political ideology.

I consider myself a moderate Democrat. Each term above covers a wide spectrum of ideology, so I will specify some of my positions.

I strongly support working with municipalities, in a local role, using state resources to promote local community development and direction as the residents see fit. I support increasing school funding, especially for special needs students, which is the largest portion of both Tewksbury and Wilmington’s budget. I understand the need for affordable housing, but believe it needs to be done in a way that respects the towns. The generations who built Wilmington and Tewksbury are finding it harder to live in our district, and first-time home-buyers are paying record prices. As a moderate Democrat, I believe the state can play a vital role in preserving the housing market and improving development in Metro Boston. I also believe that the state government can play a role in promoting the towns to businesses in a way that makes use of currently dormant or underutilized properties.

As for state-wide issues, I am for internet neutrality, a passionate issue of mine, and believe that the federal government’s decision to reverse it is a slap in the face to consumers and small business owners, who will be extorted by the cable and phone companies for what we already pay for. I am for helping legal immigrants in Massachusetts, but I oppose sanctuary cities and believe it is up to our federal government to create a bipartisan solution to fix our broken system. I am for promoting college opportunities by expanding classes offered to “night schoolers” and improving our state’s 529 savings plans by increasing the tax incentives to encourage savings. The MBTA still suffers from performance issues, and it is clear that Keolis has failed on their promises to increase service and contain costs. While I applaud what the state has done so far to address the opioid crisis, we still suffer from the effects of Heroin and Fetanyl in our communities. More needs to be done educationally to address the realities and dangers of this crisis early on. Most importantly, I oppose raising taxes on the middle and working class and small business owners. Seeing the Boston skyline rise and new companies flock to Massachusetts, it is clear that our economy is growing well, but I feel that assistance to our municipalities, small businesses and families could be improved significantly.

What is your interpretation of the 2nd Amendment? When, if ever, should a citizen’s 2nd Amendment rights be curtailed? Do you consider yourself a pro 2ndAmendment candidate?

I love this question because of the phrasing by Mr. Fasulo, who said it with the statement that these are rights. Firstly, let me say I am a very pro-2nd amendment.

As I was growing up I was taught the importance of both our rights and uses of firearms, and I have my permit application to gain my Class A LTC. Over the years I have fired AR-15s, numerous .22 caliber rifles, and pistols, and come to understand them as tools to be respected and treated well.

Firearms and 2nd amendment legislation is important, and I am by far the most qualified candidate in the race on the matter. Not only will I refile Representative Miceli’s “An act Relative to Constitutional Rights” I was the only one who testified on the matter, on behalf of Representative Miceli, alongside the Gun Owners Action League (GOAL). In addition I am intimately familiar with other legislation put forward to increase firearms rights and safety, such as allowing for a tax deduction for the purchase of a trigger lock, gun safe, and more. Some will say they are pro-firearms, but to know the GOAL representative on a first name basis and have a working relationship with them is an entirely other matter.

I do honestly, and have spoken with many, about the limitations of bump-stocks, trigger modifications and other such devices. While I have spoken to many, and perhaps some will approach me with legitimate uses, I do not see any need for something along those lines in Massachusetts. They are not critical to hunt, for home defense, or for target purposes. The issue with such legislation considered for banning these is that it has poor enforcement provisions and does not compensate anyone who purchased such items legally, nor puts any consideration for potential legitimate use in the future.

Do you support capital punishment? When, if ever, should a person convicted of a crime be put to death by its government? Would you support reinstating the death penalty in Massachusetts?

I do, in extraordinarily limited circumstances such as Representative Miceli’s legislation he had me refile annually. I am first and foremost for a system that seeks to deter re-offenders; both us in society and the prisoner gains absolutely nothing by having them waste away in jail. That being said, taking the example of the Tsarnaev brothers or the hijackers of September 11th, some people seek to destroy the very system that sets out to rehabilitate them. Be this by terrorist bombings, assassination, or other attacks on democracy, they seek to destroy our very way of life. In my eyes, these select few people are incapable of being saved, and will go to any extreme to dismantle the system they seek to destroy. In this scenario, as Tsarnaev is in, how can one ever rehabilitate him to the point he can be released again? By the time they were reformed enough to even trust the judicial system, which they fought against, it would be lifetimes. Thus, these extreme criminals are irredeemable and should not be given the chance to radicalize others or attempt their attacks again. I would also like to mention, like firearms, this is a subject I am by far the most familiar on. Given Representative Miceli’s annual refile of the bill, we were almost certainly contacted by the public, colleges, and the media regarding the death penalty and relevant legislation. I became so heavily involved that I was tasked personally by the Representative to draft a debate letter in his name, which he signed off on, to appear in USA Today.

How big a problem is illegal immigration in Massachusetts? What, if anything, should the legislature be doing to curb illegal immigration? Do you support or oppose Massachusetts becoming a sanctuary state?

Illegal immigration in Massachusetts has become a big problem, especially for the cities of the state, that has been decades in the making. The question is, what can the legislature do?

As many folks know, immigration is controlled by the federal government and is a contentious topic of the day. I for one, believe the federal government is concentrating too much on who is here already without stopping the flow. It’s like mopping up a puddle while the pipe is still leaking! ICE is unbelievably broken and disgraceful, especially when compared to itself years ago, and both sides in Washington are refusing to compromise. In fact, they haven’t had any truly strong showing at fixing our immigration issue since the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” proposed immigration overhaul years ago that was logical. I also believe that felonies have occurred regarding the treatment of immigrants being detained; what has emerged needs to be investigated.

I believe that Massachusetts will harm itself as a sanctuary state, and instead should focus on helping legal immigrants gain education, start businesses, and become a part of society. These people who came here legally are Americans, and it is our duty to welcome them and support them as they will to us, their new neighbors. I want to add, however, that mass deportation is impossible and disruptive. Estimates over the years put the number of illegal immigrants in the Commonwealth from anywhere around 150,000 to 250,00 people. This is too large an effort, and would throw businesses, families, and communities into disarray. Anyone who proposes legislatively that roughly the population of Worcestor can be deported is naive to the time, money, and lost productivity that would occur.

To remove the incentive to move to Massachusetts, I believe businesses should be imposed to strict penalties for hiring folks illegally and that we should also not grant drivers licenses to anyone but Massachusetts residents. I also stand strongly against any local ordinances that would grant people living illegally the right to vote in municipal or state elections. Aside from this, there is not much the state can do other than not get in the way of federal officials.

I eagerly await Congress to wake up, and pass something. I would recommend hire more immigration officials to process visas (be they temporary or permanent), and set a path to remove criminals and make contributing illegal immigrants citizens. Even President Reagan sought such a path; punish businesses who exploit their labor, collect back taxes owed by such individuals, remove criminals, and fix the border both in terms of bureaucracy as well as physical security. Later Presidents, including Clinton, Bush, and Obama all tried such compromises as well. Instead, DC would rather argue while guns, drugs, and human beings are trafficked across the border.

Do you consider yourself a pro-choice candidate or a pro-life candidate? Under what circumstances, if any, should abortion be legal?

While I personally am not a proponent of abortion, I understand the need for it due to medical reasons threatening the mother or child, as well as in the case of rape. I am unsure if this makes me either pro-choice or pro-life, but medical professionals have made it abundantly apparent that this is needed to save lives that otherwise would be loss. As they are professionals, far more qualified on this matter, I place my trust in them. To ban it would put entire families in jeopardy of losing both mother and child, and would place the state at risk for legal action. At the end of the day, the Supreme Court has ruled and made this issue more or less moot with Massachusetts laws allowing women patients to make her own decision. Unless Roe v. Wade is overturned, I do not see this returning to the floor of the Massachusetts legislature in any degree.

What will you do as State Representative to help individuals and families in Tewksbury, Wilmington and beyond who are struggling as a result of the opioid epidemic? 

As Representative Miceli’s aide, the opioid epidemic was revealed to me long as a major issue long before it hit the news, though those who work in the medical fields as well as law enforcement probably saw it long before I did. The issue is complex, so forgive me for the longer issue.

On an individual level, I vow to always help those in need just like I did before. Over the years I have worked to find dozens of individuals, many not even from the district, detox beds, residential program beds, and even halfway houses once they are further down the road of recovery. I daresay I am the only candidate who has worked with families who have successfully sectioned (Section 35 for those curious) an individual, and worked with the family, courts, and patient to successfully find beds. And let me tell you, there were many months were sometimes the closest bed I could find was Worcester or even further away! I, however, am very familiar with the process and the pitfalls that accompany trying to find an individual struggling with addiction the help they need. I can’t tell you how many times I called an insurance company, or MassHealth, to argue to extend the patients stay or change their insurance network so someone could be properly admitted. On occasion, I even helped a family work with a free attorney to successfully petition the courts to have a loved one sectioned and committed.

Overall the state has taken steps to systemically revamp this system, and vastly improve resources to fight this epidemic, because it robs us of family and friends. From a medical standpoint, Governor Baker expanded the timeframe that a court detox-commitment order was valid for and invested in more treatment beds. This is great, however it needs to be kept up and maintained as the crisis has not peaked. In addition, Massachusetts needs to focus on medical facilities that are not looking at their financial bottom line with regards to this crisis. Working with families I have seen first-hand that many of these centers are actually held by a holding company, and treat the patient with minimal care which ultimately leads to relapse. It is a rinse and repeat cycle that tragically leads to high rates of overdose down the line, and while may work for some is in my eyes not as effective as centers focused on the patient’s overall health. I also believe the state needs to invest in poly-substance and dual diagnosis treatment. Poly-substance abuse treats addictions across a multitude of drugs, and dual diagnosis treats those with mental health issues that led to addiction. Both are extremely critical to understand in the world of dependency, and in my view have been ignored long enough.

I also want to point out that, as many have seen in the news, the US and Massachusetts struggles to adapt to new drugs being introduced into our communities. A simple change of a molecule could introduce a new drug that is technically legal. China, Mexico, even Afghanistan all have labs which focus on creating new drugs, and can easily change the chemical makeup of opioids and other drugs. Massachusetts needs to overhaul its drug laws to target the end result of chemical compounds rather than criminalizing one drug at a time. The bureaucracy here is literally killing citizens, and needs to create a flexible and responsive set of laws to allow our men and women in the police to stop drug distributors.

What will you do as State Representative to help attract and maintain small and large businesses in Wilmington and Tewksbury? Do you consider yourself a business-friendly candidate? Why?

It is no secret that Tewksbury and Wilmington are having some issues filling the vacant storefronts. In Wilmington, there has been great fanfare that the vacant Chili’s is being filled. That’s wonderful, but I am still worried about the Textron site, Sonic, and the retail space next to Simards Roast Beef, and more. In Tewksbury there are many vacant fronts too, such as on Route 38 across from the storage center, and some of the empty buildings around Avid Technology.

The state can, and does, play a vital role in this matter. In the past I helped write and prepare presentations to provide Secretary Jay Ash, the head of the Housing and Economic Development for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, when his department was in discussion with General Electric and Amazon during their move to the state. The plan called for the use of either the Textron plant or the old Avid site for use by GE or Amazon. It was envisioned that these properties were already ready for either corporation, and would serve well as customer service centers or payroll processing. This of course would bring many employees to our community, which would bring great economic benefit to either town. The close access to Route 93 and 495 would mean easy commutes in and out of town, with minimal traffic impact on local residents, while creating demand in our local hotels, restaurants, and more. Attracting blue-chip, Fortune 500 level companies require that relationship that I as a candidate have established before through previous work, as well as careful diplomacy to ensure the company finds what it is looking for without giving away the farm. As State Representative, there are three parties looking to benefit, and the people of Tewksbury and Wilmington need someone who at the end of the day are going to hold their local interests above all.

That being said, while corporate members bring reliable jobs and long term investment the highest quality communities in the world have a strong small business environment. I believe, above all, the small business suffers from a “thousand cuts” as the old adage goes. Traffic, lack of resources to locate and hire qualified employees, and competition from big Boston businesses all make it tough to operate a small business in the area and have all been aired as issues facing entrepreneurs. Luckily for us in Tewksbury and Wilmington, there is already a great organization we can mirror. (In fact, Tewksbury is already a member). The Middlesex 3 Coalition is a 9 member town that worked to help revitalize businesses from Burlington to Lowell, and I believe that a joint Tewksbury-Wilmington Route 38 development committee could work with local businesses to find out what owners believe are the most pressing issues. Together, we can connect resources to businesses, businesses to vocational and college students looking to learn, and establish an environment where local men and women can achieve their dream of marking their mark in the world and create a successful business. There is so much more than tax-rates that foster a pro-business environment, and the fact that Massachusetts outperformed the nation in growth last year shows that we’re on the right path overall; we just need to bring a little bit of that magic to our towns with a local focus.

Last year, there was a controversial bill in which members of the state legislature voted to give themselves large raises (up to to 45% in some cases), and included judicial raises in the bill so that the voters couldn’t potentially override the bill in a ballot question. The salary increases for elected officials came at a time where taxes were increasing and certain services were being cut. As state representative, how would you vote on such a matter? (Mind you, members of the New Hampshire state legislature earn only $200 per year.) Additionally, if elected, do you intend on working a second job or will you focus fully on your legislator position?

Last year, there was a controversial bill in which members of the state legislature voted to give themselves large raises (up to to 45% in some cases), and included judicial raises in the bill so that the voters couldn’t potentially override the bill in a ballot question. The salary increases for elected officials came at a time where taxes were increasing and certain services were being cut. As state representative, how would you vote on such a matter? (Mind you, members of the New Hampshire state legislature earn only $200 per year.) Additionally, if elected, do you intend on working a second job or will you focus fully on your legislator position?

I have been looking forward to this question. First and foremost, without question, if chosen by our district I promise that being your State Representative will be my only job. Unlike the view of, I believe that to properly represent the people one needs to be dedicated 24/7, 365 days a year. It has been my job to serve you over the past years, and I will not have any second paycheck, business on the side, or interests other than the fine citizens of this community.

That said, I would vote against any further pay increases, but I also want to set the record straight that the job is not a lucrative one in terms of a paycheck. For those who are curious, and it is public record, the next State Representative will make $62,500. This is well-paying, but not astronomical when compared to other jobs. I also want to point out the comparison to NH is an extraordinarily poor example, as NH is a part-time legislature with no constituent services and a powerful Executive Office. Rather, public assistance is done through the Governor’s office or on a town level in a far less effective manner, where dollar for dollar resources are not allocated as efficiently, systems are not integrated, and things such as state-wide veteran services pale in comparison to our own. It is apples and oranges. Perhaps it is too anecdotal, but I once was assigned a case where a homeless veteran from NH called us from a local hotel. I was able to find and locate housing for him using his own resources before the NH Department of Veteran Services even called us back, and his State Representative and Senator’s office simply never returned the calls I placed on his behalf.

People expect the best constituent services, and they need a candidate in that office who will always be available, already has the contact and experiences, and will not treat the title as an achievement, second-job, or post-retirement plan.

The late Representative Miceli fought hard on environmental issues. Even though the Olin Superfund site, the Maple Meadow Landfill, and the New England Transrail project were not in his district, he went to bat for the Wilmington residents to help in the detrimental impacts from these sites. Do you have a clear knowledge of the threats from these sites and even though not in your district, will you fight for the residents of Wilmington like Jim Miceli did?

Not only would I fight as passionately as Representative Miceli; I learned from him and am already well-educated on these issues. When it comes to Transrail I am the only candidate who has spoken to the EPA, DEP, NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board), and other parties fighting the Transrail proposal. I have spoken to the lead parties for the federal government (which feelings on the current administration aside, have been ordered to fasttrack developments like this) and know the men and women in charge. I don’t wish to panic the people of Wilmington, but this proposal will rear its ugly head again.

I wish to ask the people reading this, which candidate in this race has already appeared arguing against the proposal? Which one has seen the tentative proposal plans, the blueprints for proposed sidings for the railcars, or the report on the stasis of the “sarcophagus” at the site. (A concrete slurry wall meant to contain the continuing leakage of chemicals). I have seen the technical details, and I know that this development would destroy that section of the town of Wilmington, and am ready to dig in and fight.

I was also down at the hearings also fighting against the proposed concrete plant on Eames St, a “simple, small” proposal that would have brought chaos to the neighborhoods both in terms of the natural environment as well as the aesthetic environment. No other candidate was there, nor even issued a statement on behalf of the residents concerns. Thankfully, this was halted and the site is not being used for concrete production. I also responded to, and testified against the proposed route of the Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline, which would have traversed hundreds of residential, commercial, and other private properties in both Tewksbury and Wilmington. I have not checked the entirety of the records, but as far as I know I am the only candidate who had spoken multiple times, if at all, against the proposed route in defense of our neighbors. I worked with Representative Miceli at this time, seeking to strike balance with the proposal, by routing the pipeline down Route 93 before the company abandoned the plans.

As a Scout, and reasonable person I believe our environmental preservation must be balanced with our intelligent development. The use of an environmentally devastated site makes no sense for a heavy industrial application (nor just about any at all). I am already intimately familiar with legislation, such as net-metering, toxic chemical use reduction proposals, and more.

Lastly, I want to say that it does not matter that a certain district may be technically under another legislator, I will work with these individuals in conjunction to do what is right by our home towns and know the other legislators very well. I already served hundreds of residents in these areas, fighting a larger development that is unwanted or needed is part of the job as it impacts not just these neighborhoods, but our hometowns overall.

Do you feel Massachusetts residents are over-taxed? How will you balance the need to provide government services to the taxpayers & fund the government with most taxpayers’ desire for no tax increases? Can you point to anywhere in the state budget where you believe there is waste, fraud or abuse? What will you do about it?

This is a huge question, and could honestly fulfill an entire semester’s worth of classes. Long-story short, yes I believe strongly the middle and lower class is overtaxed. While many might not have read about it, they live an everyday fact; middle and lower class income has fallen in the past year across the entire nation. That means a combination of rising prices of goods, fuel costs, and housing has put a stretch on the working men and women’s dollar. Our federal tax cuts have led to an average return of 18 dollars a week for an average household (while putting our nation even deeper into deficit), and while the economy booms folks aren’t bringing home their piece of the pie they worked towards building.

Massachusetts is fortunate that we’ve experienced bipartisan work between a Democratic legislature and Republican governorship in the previous years that has revolutionized some forms of government. The Baker administration, as well as Speaker DeLeo and the Senate have moved to work with departments to streamline and adjust procedures. Such investments include the combination of MassHealth computer systems to alleviate backlog and pool information into one stable platform, working across agencies to share information such as tax returns to verify systems, or using electronic tolling points to save on overhead. As a legislator, I find that saving dollars here can be extremely beneficial, and can be used to further invest in things that benefit everyone or ultimately can be returned to the taxpayer.

Now we face a conundrum; with lower expected federal aid for schools, roads, and more how do we continue being among the best in the nation for education, healthcare, and economic growth? I believe that the far fringes of the upper class should be held more liable, and give a break to the middle and lower class. It is actually an economic myth that the upper-class creates jobs, as they invest in safe investments such as treasury bills and blue-chip stocks. Contrary to the economic truths of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s it is now actually the upper-middle and middle class who are the most likely to risk their own capital and time in businesses and products. Now how can they do that in Massachusetts, where a highly skilled and educated population stands ready? By encouraging small and mid-size businesses with tax incentives, and cutting the tax burden on the lower 70% of folks and shifting it to the higher end.

As for where does fraud, waste, and more exist? Well, that is a list hundreds of potential areas long, but voters should be aware of ways that I could support finding it. MassHealth, for example, has been researching a program that would sporadically check bank accounts and other financial information to ensure compliance within the program, as have other state agencies. Programs that are automated and can cross verify thousands of folks a day need to be implemented to ensure that fraudulent individuals don’t slide by our checks. In addition, a legislator needs to support the Bureau of Special Investigation, which handles welfare fraud and investigations, which is a department I have worked with before to close on benefits abusers. In addition, I believe the state can increase proof of residency requirements, including the prohibition of out of state spending of EBT cards, health insurance benefits, and more without prior authorization. This would single-handily deal a large blow to those using public money incorrectly, and I would be happy to propose such a bill. Many years ago another bill, which was in my opinion well-needed and founded, would bar the use of cash for EBT purchases and allow oversight on spending use to ensure such cards were not used for improper purchases. It was not ultimately signed by a former gubernatorial administration, but was a step in the right direction to me.

Former State Representative Jim Miceli was known through the district for his extraordinary constituent services. Do you pledge to provide a similar level of constituent services if elected? How will you be responsive to requests for help from residents of Wilmington and Tewksbury?

As the candidate who best knows the power of constituent services, as I ran the services under Representative Miceli, of course I would pledge to provide the same level of service as before.

Constituent services is a combination of knowing exactly what programs are available, who runs them, and most importantly, a dedication to keeping oneself involved in a case. Representative Miceli always made sure he knew of where and how a case was going, and was not afraid to call a Secretary or Director of a department if those further down the chain of command were not resolving an issue.

Of course, not every issue is resolvable, but it is required of a Representative to involve themselves in every issue and fight for the problem that only one voter, one family, or one street might be having.

Over the years I have helped hundreds, if not thousands under the direction of Representative Miceli. From resolving insurance issues, to helping locate housing, to even finding out why mail deliveries to one street were chaotic I have the deepest and longest experience. I have helped fetch lost court records, and even had passports and licenses rushed to travelers stranded abroad. Residents of the district came first, but it was not rare for us to help those who lived in town for years and moved, as they were people in need of help as well. Representative Miceli had a great quote about constituent services, as he used to say “We’re in the yes business.” We would be upfront and honest about the reality facing a constituent, and give every problem our best attempt to resolve it, but we would never turn anyone down.

Voters can’t afford a Representative who doesn’t know the services available from the state, or who knows who runs it but not the programs, applications, or qualifications behind such services. Voters cannot afford someone who is solely legislatively focused, or else our friends, neighbors, and even ourselves may be at a loss when facing a problem. There is only one candidate in this primary who has been in the trenches, who has stayed the odd hours, and has the mastery of what is available from being on the phones when someone has reached the end of the rope before, and that is me.

The Massachusetts education funding formula hasn’t been updated in 25 years. This Chapter 70 formula fails to provide the funding needed for school districts to fund core expenses. The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center published a report last week (“Building An Education System That Works For Everyone: Funding Reforms To Help All Our Children Thrive“) detailing the problem. The Wilmington & Tewksbury School Committees have long advocated for the State House to update the Chapter 70 formula. Do you commit to fighting for an updated formula? What else will you do as State Representative to help our public schools?

Chapter 70 funding, nick-named after the section of the General Laws that cover educational structures and operations in Massachusetts, is the foundation for why Massachusetts consistently places as an international powerhouse in education. That being said, I agree and have worked in support of revamping Chapter 70 to reflect the modern costs of educating students and individuals in Massachusetts. First, a bit of background for those who may not know how Chapter 70 works.

First, a town or city is given a funding requirement per student referred to those as the “foundation budget” which is considered adequate for providing a student an adequate education. This average is calculated based on part of the student demographics, including low-income or English-language-learners, as well as things such as maintenance, teacher salaries, and more. This foundation budget is then divided down further into subsections, each of which is assigned to the town or state to provide for funding. Let’s say for Tewksbury or Wilmington this costs a theoretical $10,000 total contribution, split between the town and state, per student.

The “local contribution” ,which is money allocated by the town or cities annual budget, is often the towns largest category overall of spending. This tax is paid for by local residents, businesses, and other local levies as part of their annual local tax payments, and local contribution is determined by the formula taking into account things such as property values, resident income, commercial property tax, and more. After determining a town’s local contribution rate, let’s say a theoretical $7,000 per student for Tewksbury or Wilmington, the state then allocates additional funding to fill the remaining amount of funding required between the set foundation budget and the local contribution. The state would pay $3,000 per student, times the number of students enrolled in the district,allowing the budget to provide the required foundation budget of $10,000 per student we set above. A richer town, like Andover, may find itself required to pay $8,500 per student, as it has higher property values and resident incomes, with the state providing the remaining $1,500. If any town finds itself in a budget surplus, or if residents want to, it can then further supplement the school budget past the required foundation.

While this is only a simple explanation the formula at face value seems fair, with more affluent towns paying a higher share and lower income towns receiving more state-aid, right?

Well, while the formula was developed with the goal of improving education for all Massachusetts students and has to an extent, but it has several serious flaws. Using our example above, more affluent Andover easily may provide $10,000 per student locally, and it still collects the state aid (which is legally mandated the state do). In addition, cities and towns like Lowell, Boston, or even Tewksbury or Wilmington which are far more affordable and diverse are could be required to have a higher foundation budget per student. Why? Due to more affordable rents our town is home to more low-income students and a higher percentage of those learning English, which the Chapter 70 formula requires more money to be set aside for. Our foundation budget, again higher due to ELL or low-income students, may require us to theoretically provide $10,500 per student, while Andover only needs to set aside $10,000. While the amount state aid for Tewksbury or Wilmington may be higher, Andover can easily surpass the required foundation budget and in the end offer more money per student.

So what can a State Representative do to improve Chapter 70 allocations to towns and cities?

Well, in the short-term our next State Representative should do everything to continue restoring state tax revenue towards Chapter 70 until levels are restored to where they were before the previous economic recession. This has been the trend the past several years, but it wasn’t until just recently that levels approached to what the state was paying before the market crash. In addition, they can to support our schools during the annual budget formation by requesting budget line-item requests specifically geared towards assisting and supporting the local schools.

First and foremost, and to readers it will be obvious, the formula itself needs to be changed. The growth of the international community in Massachusetts due to our booming economy and widespread introduction of cheap and quick airtravel has led to many recent arrivals requiring English Language classes, a resource intensive demand on local school budgets, something Chapter 70 no longer adequately addresses in its formula composition. In addition, requiring the state and not the town to shoulder even more of the contribution to towns with higher percentage of low-income students would boost our local education levels without increasing local taxes on residents. Long story short, the state needs to pick up the slack itself and allocate more money to towns who are doing the hard work of educating marginalized student groups.

Secondly, and something that I have seen firsthand working in the State House; unfunded mandates are absolutely murdering local school budgets. While striving for better education is something both the local school boards, its members, and the state legislature all agree on, the state legislature has an apt for implementing requirements on communities but lacking any sort of follow through on financing these programs. We all would love to see the next generation of children speak two languages, play a variety of sports, and even know how to play an instrument or sing, but when such educational requirements are codified into law local school boards are left to their own in figuring out ways how to pay. Each year these local boards work miracles stretching dollars while working with the teachers to maintain educational quality, but how long until they cannot do anymore? The state needs to stand behind the boards and give them the support they need. To help achieve this, I believe that Chapter 70 should reflect the price these mandates have on our cities and towns, and alleviate such a burden.

We have a lot of to be proud about in Massachusetts about our primary and secondary education, and we owe that in a large part to Chapter 70. As folks can see from above, however, we have outgrown and need a new formula to support our next generation of Bay Staters.

Define “negative campaigning.” Do you pledge not to engage in any negative campaigning during this election? Why or why not? When responding to an attack, will you follow the “when they go low, we go high” Michelle Obama mantra or the “when someone attacks me, I always attack back… except 100x more” Donald Trump mantra?

Negative campaigning is a broad spectrum to cover; and if I had to define it in only a few words I would describe it as lying about their policies, attempting to deceive voters, or attacking the person rather than their qualifications and ideas. This has unfortunately become, at least in my eyes, a regular occurrence in both parties on the local, state, and federal level. Civil discourse has been replaced by shouting, lies, and refusal to listen to one another for the most part.

I fondly remember when Obama and McCain respectfully met each other with dignity and respect at a debate years ago, as two US Senators on the Presidential-campaign-trail would, and I believed that their actions showcased the right way to conduct oneself while on any campaign trail. Candidates are supposed to disagree, it’s vital to our democracy, but they are supposed to disagree with dignity, honor, and public discussion. Even if their respect is not for each other, they should conduct themselves with dignity out of respect to the voters and citizens of the towns and cities they represent. Not doing so is simply a slap in the face to those who live and work in the area, who pay taxes, who served in the military to defend our system of democracy. We are fortunate to live in two lovely towns, and as candidates we partially represent our district to the public-at-large; because of this we should always have our best foot forward and run campaigns that reflect the values of our homes.

That being said, I am sad to say some campaigns have already tried going negative towards myself and others. I am blessed that when faced with such events, I can simply address such negative attacks with the truth. People in the towns know me as an active and caring resident, and my ideas and platform is widely available for anyone to see and reflect on. Simply put a negative campaign towards a candidate is offensive as it assumes voters are stupid and naive, which in Tewksbury and Wilmington is simply not true. The hard working men and women of the 19th Middlesex may be busy but they always take the time to learn the truth, and I know they do not take kindly to liars, as liars waste their time. This brings me to my last point on negative campaigning, if a campaign is willing to lie on the campaign trail, their candidate WILL lie in office. I only seek office for one reason, which is to represent the people of the 19th Middlesex with honor and dignity. If I campaign negatively I cannot do that, and I will betray the very reason I am running, so I vow to always tell the truth and put my best foot forward, just as the towns taught me to do growing up.

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.

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.

What are some of the major infrastructure needs in the district? Can you point to specific streets/areas within both towns that “need work?” What will you do as State Rep to ensure certain roadway projects, sidewalk projects, etc. finally get addressed?

Every candidate, without a doubt, is bringing up Route 38 for good reason. Under-peforming intersections constrict business development, increase commutes, and make it dangerous for pedestrians to be out. Sidewalks exist, then don’t exist, before popping into place again, and turn lanes are backed up for hundreds of feet. It’s anarchy, and only getting worse.

Some of the notable hotspots, for both towns that need to be addressed immediately.

  • Route 38 and 129 in Wilmington, especially that left turn lane.
  • Route 38 and 62, down to 129 in Wilmington. Hours of life are lost on that straightaway.
  • Route 38 and Pleasant St in Tewksbury.
  • Route 38 and Shawsheen in Tewksbury.

The next State Representative needs to fight for financing for these projects, as all are intersections with terrible capacity to handle our current demands. The trick here is that the funding is divided into two parts. Sure, it is one thing to get the money allocated in a bond bill, but then the bonds themselves need to be released. The release of the bonds is an entirely separate duty, and requires one to press the Treasurer’s office and other agencies to ensure the funding is actually allocated to the project. See, when a construction project is approved it goes through a series of steps including design, bids, and placed onto a development plan that oversees the region. While a project may be given status on this list, and bond money allocated to the project, if the cash isn’t ever allocated the project is as good as dead. A good State Representative needs to attack our traffic issues in two ways; first by getting the project funding, and then keeping the pressure on the various agencies to proceed with the process to develop it and ensuring the allocated money is actually given. It is not uncommon for a project to be supported in a bond issuance bill, along with hundreds of others, just to be left out of the allocation process.

In addition, streets are becoming multi-use. Future redesigns should be more pedestrian and bike friendly, as people want to go out and about with their families and may not always want to use their cars. Sidewalks are a bit more prevalent in Wilmington, but Tewksbury lacks major pedestrian access. With the future Tewksbury Rail Trail developing nicely, sidewalks will be a tremendous addition alongside the route, allowing folks to bike to and from the store if they want, or just to escape the neighborhood to another part of town. I have spoken to many people on this issue, who feel trapped in their homes or worried about their kids because they cannot walk the neighborhood. Imagine the ability for a senior to walk to the Tewksbury Bike Path right to the Senior Center, as the trail will pass closely by, to join their friends.

Another concern of mine, and one I am familiar with in the state house, is the continued support of the Small Bridges Program that Governor Baker and his administration have rallied behind. I am sure the older Tewksbury and Wilmington residents shudder when remembering the Brown St Bridge issue that plagued both towns and Billerica. It’s better to get ahead of the curve, and address our collapsing infrastructure.

Lastly, and this is a major concern I touched on before; something needs to be done about the North Wilmington train station. It is a small lot that can use a bit of attention. Several folks have mentioned the state of disrepair the parking lot sits in, and it is a major pain in the you-know-what when a MBTA train sits in the crossing, blocking the road by Eli’s. While this is a specific example, it is also a potentially deadly one as Wilmington Fire and Police have been held up there before. I would love to see the state take a hard look at what can be done to improve commuters experiences while also mitigating the impact to the neighborhood.

As State Rep, what will you do to increase affordable housing opportunities for seniors, veterans and young adults right out of school? Also, what are your thoughts on the Governor’s proposal to promote more dense housing developments by changing the 2/3 majority vote to a simple majority vote for rezonings at Town Meetings? (Background: https://www.massachusettslandusemonitor.com/zoning/governor-baker-proposes-zoning-changes-to-promote-more-housing/) Finally, do you feel the state’s 40B laws need to be updated? Why?

The Boston housing market… a headache for all, regardless of age, income, and family composition. This is a hugely regional issue and while it is a symptom of good things like strong educational systems, job prospects, and a high quality of life I believe the market has become too hot. I, as State Representative, will look to approach this by two avenues. First, we need to address the required affordable housing disasters that are approaching Tewksbury and Wilmington. This will require negotiation with developers to find locations that are least impacting in the two towns, because like it or not the developers do have the leverage. In Tewksbury I would hope to find a location near the state hospital, where land is more plentiful on certain boundaries and neighborhoods wouldn’t be uprooted. Wilmington is much harder to plan for, as it has been nearly developed outright. One interesting concept, which I researched and presented to Representative Miceli who in turn showed it to a number of concerned Wilmington residents is the revival of a State-loan program that granted money to towns to purchase single family, duplex, and condo units. The towns could list this on the affordable housing stock sheet, and a family could purchase the home and pay the town as they would a mortgage. The only caveat for the family is that they would have an affordable housing restriction placed on the deed, meaning they could only sell to another low-income family, senior, or like party. This program was a great idea in my opinion because it did not create any concentrated areas of poverty, maintained the look and feel of neighborhoods in ways that mass developments cannot, and allowed families who bought such houses to be truly part of the town.

While I support 40b’s end-goal, I do strongly believe that it needs rehab, and that rehab needed to occur years ago. Other states such as California, for example, requires developers of 40b-style projects to adhere to town master plans, address resident concerns, and more. While this is a burden on the developer, it makes for a stronger community while building affordable housing at a rate similar to Massachusetts. 40B’s result is ill-placed and ill-conceived high-density units surrounded by single-family homes, forests, and more. It makes for ugly towns, isolated neighborhoods, and a host of other concerns. While better than the slums of yesteryear, I believe that these places are only slightly better and do not do anything to strengthen a town or the lives of the people who live in such projects. What I would propose as State Representative to change 40b would include requiring such projects to adhere to a municipalities master plan, removing incentives to build out of place high density projects by allowing a town to limit the number of units per parcel at a lower percentage, and providing incentives to ensure such communities are connected with the rest of the town by public transit, sidewalks, and more. I could write an entire page on this topic alone, but those three core issues of 40b are just the ground I would start breaking and I believe are of the highest priority in addressing.

(Editor’s Note: The above questions were submitted by readers. Each candidate was given the same amount of time each week to answer. These answers were previously published on Wilmington Apple over the past 3 months.)

Letters To The Editor

Watch The Debate

Candidate Conversation with WCTV

Wilmington Town Crier Candidate Profile

Wilmington Patch Candidate Profile

Campaign Rally Coverage

Campaign Finance Report

Candidate’s Website & Social Media

Closing Argument

To the thousands of people I have met on this campaign “trail” (which some days feels more like a race track!),

Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to listen to me, taking the time to disagree with me on issues, taking the time out of your busy schedules to take a pamphlet, a phone call, or a moment passing on the sidewalk while I spoke. Over the years here I discovered an important realization, one that was cemented even more over these past few months. Wilmington, Tewksbury, and our shared neighborhoods aren’t “just towns”; they’re homes. Now, after meeting residents who have lived here decades, or in one case only a few days, I cherish the places I grew up more than ever before. I have now heard some wild stories from across the decades, met remarkable people I would have never otherwise met, and learned to appreciate our communities even more.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it my whole life, I owe a great deal to the communities for making me who I am today. Over the past years working under Representative Miceli in the state house I have had some opportunity to return a helping hand to my fellow residents of the 19th Middlesex, paying back for all the times my coaches, teachers, and community leaders put in hours so I could live and grow. Now, I want to continue working for you so those who built our towns may live in comfort, those still working can live an even richer quality of life, and so for those growing up can choose from an even larger bundle of opportunities.

Our towns are at a crossroads, and it is apparent the next few years will not just influence the development of the towns for the coming decades, but far beyond that. Route 38 is overtaxed, our seniors and first-time homebuyers are being priced not just out of town, but out of New England, and despite the red-hot residential market we have vacant commercial markets. What is needed is beyond ideas, what our towns need is action.

As State Representative I would hit the ground running with my previous experience, using my expertise to allocate funding from the state budget, testifying before committees, and drafting legislation. I am blessed to have working relationships with each various department, ranging from the Department of Housing and Economic Development to the Department of Veteran Services to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. I know where Tewksbury’s Elementary School project is headed, and I know Wilmington’s urgency to stop Transrail in it’s tracks. I am fortunate to have the knowledge to bring to bare on behalf of both towns, to work everyday to improve the entire district, and to respect and care for both halves as I did serving as Chief of Staff before. I have answered that early morning phone call, arriving at work the next day to help find a detox bed for a family, a lost discharge form for a veteran, or to assist a senior member of community involved in a money scam. This was a reward beyond a paycheck, knowing I helped out a neighbor at the end of their rope with nowhere else to turn, and it was something I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to experience.

I am ready to work and serve, which brings me to ask you, the reader, what I have asked so many residents so far. Will you give me the honor of serving you as your State Representative?

Again, thank you everyone for the wonderful race so far, and for giving me this opportunity.

Remember this coming Tuesday, “Last on the ballot, first in choice.”

Sincerely yours,
David A Robertson

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