WILMINGTON, MA — Erika Johnson (D-Wilmington) is one of the five Democratic candidates competing in the September 4 primary election for the 19th Middlesex State Representative seat.
Below are Erika’s Q&A’s with Wilmington Apple, along with links to her campaign endorsements; her campaign press releases; the full video of the WCTV debate she participated in; her interviews with WCTV (video), Your Tewksbury Today (audio) and the Town Crier (written); coverage of her campaign rally; a copy of her campaign finance report; and her website and social media, followed by her “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 the 19th Middlesex District’s State Representative because I believe it is time for a new, innovative, progressive voice in the legislature. I grew up in Wilmington and am so grateful for all the opportunities I had growing up here. With that said, I want to give back to the communities that gave me so much. I will be an outspoken advocate for our communities, I will protect and ensure quality public education for future generations of Wilmington and Tewksbury Students and make Route 38, the heart of our district, a hotbed for economic development by working on traffic issues, safety and the condition of the road.I will work hard on issues most important to constituents and make all decisions with current and future generations in mind.
Do you consider yourself a liberal, conservative or moderate? Please describe your political ideology.
I would consider myself a liberal in political ideology. I believe:
- Equal opportunity and Equality for all races, religions, social classes, sexual orientation, gender identity etc.
- Quality public education
- Healthcare is a human right
- Minimum Wage should be a fair, living wage
- Taking care and protecting society’s most vulnerable
- A woman has a right to her own body
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?
My interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is as read “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”, written in 1789. While I respect the constitutional right to bear arms, we must acknowledge that much has changed within our government, society and gun technology since 1789. I believe in 2nd Amendment but also support universal background checks, closing the gun show loophole and banning bump stocks and assault rifles. I stand with Congressman Seth Moulton and many other fellow veterans who have called for the ban of assault rifles; saying these dangerous weapons should only be in the hands of trained military personnel.
Gun violence is an epidemic in our country and we must put safeguards in place to protect the population. I applaud the Massachusetts Legislature for passing the Red Flag Gun Law which gives judges the power to strip weapons from individuals flagged as a danger to themselves or others. We, as a society, are becoming desensitized to the atrocities that have happened from Newtown to Virginia Tech to Aurora to Las Vegas; schools to movie theaters to concerts, it’s overdue that we act on common sense gun reform and I’m so proud to live in a state that although slow, has taken action to protect its people.
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 not support capital punishment and would not support reinstating the death penalty in Massachusetts. I believe capital punishment violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment, a state should not be able to kill one of their own. As a country, the US is seen as a leader yet this practice is seen internationally as inhumane.
When this issue is brought up, I often think of the victim’s family and the quote “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” – Mahatma Gandhi. Personally, (god forbid) if I was put in that situation, I would feel more at peace knowing the person who killed my loved one was spending the rest of their life behind bars 23 hours a day than killed.
Also, the sheer cost of capital punishment cases is astronomical; Cases without the death penalty cost an average of $740,000, while cases where the death penalty is sought cost an average of $1.26 million. Maintaining each death row prisoner costs taxpayers $90,000 more per year than a prisoner in general population. (https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/costs-death-penalty). If other states took Massachusetts’ lead and abolished capital punishment, that money saved could be reinvested in more effective crime deterrents such as education, gang prevention programs, mental health and drug treatment programs. Between the money spent, long appeals process, media coverage and drawn-out, painful process for the victim’s family, Massachusetts made the right decision when the death penalty was abolished in 1984.
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?
The name “Sanctuary State” is a misnomer, becoming a “Sanctuary State” would limit Massachusetts cities and towns’ cooperation with federal immigration enforcement agents in order to protect low-priority immigrants from deportation, while still turning over those who have committed serious crimes. I support Massachusetts becoming a “sanctuary state” because immigration status should not change the way local police respond to 911 dispatch calls, children should not have to worry about their parents/family being deported at any time and since undocumented victims and witnesses of crime are afraid to call for help, we are all safer when police officers don’t perform the job duties of ICE.
The US is overdue for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, especially with the current situation on our southern border, and that reform is in the hands of the federal government. In the meantime in Massachusetts, I support the Safe Communities Act that is currently in the legislature (Senate Bill: S.1305 and House Bill: H.3269. This bill would bar police from arresting or detaining a person solely based on immigration status, ensures due process is upheld equally for citizens and non-citizens, and requires notice to immigrant detainees of their legal rights in their native language.
Do you consider yourself a pro-choice candidate or a pro-life candidate? Under what circumstances, if any, should abortion be legal?
I am proudly and outspokenly pro-choice; women have the right to a safe, legal abortion under any circumstances as upheld by the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade in 1973. The difficult decision of whether or not to abort a pregnancy, is one to be made between a woman and her healthcare provider, no one else, a stance that 70% of all Americans agree with according to a Pew Research poll.
I am proud to be endorsed by First Ask of America, an organization that supports and recruits pro-choice women to run for office at state and local levels.
On the subject of reproductive health, I also believe in accessible and affordable contraception as well as quality sex education in public schools that includes topics of safe sex and consent.
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?
The opioid epidemic has hit this district hard. I keep logging on to Facebook or opening the newspaper and seeing obituaries of people I went to high school with and other local residents dying of overdoses. Increased resources and funding for this issue are long overdue. We must start with preventative education in our schools for our students but also parents and teachers especially focusing on warning signs and how to best help, while also increasing resources for those struggling with addiction and their families.
For so many of those addicted, it all started in a doctors office. We must work with our healthcare professionals on educating patients of alternative pain management options and if opioids are necessary, educating patients and caregivers on specifics of the medication, risks and warning signs as well as resources for them to contact so if something were to go awry, addiction can be treated early.
Lastly, we need more awareness and an end to the stigma around this disease. Those addicted are not “junkies” but rather human beings suffering from a terrible disease. They are also not criminals, we need to connect those addicted with paths for recovery not jail time.
I am particularly interested in following Gloucester’s policing policy where if someone addicted to drugs goes into the Police Department and asks for help, they will connect them to a local hospital where they will be guided through the process of recovery. They will also take any drugs or drug paraphernalia brought to the Police Department and dispose of it properly, rather than charge the person with a crime.
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?
The first thing I’d do as State Representative to help attract and maintain businesses in Wilmington and Tewksbury would be to secure state aid to fix Route 38. This state road is the heart of our district, running through both towns and connecting 495 and 128, lined with homes and businesses. The state of that road has commuters actively avoiding potholes and other structural impairments, not even noticing the businesses along the road.
Over the past few years, 128/95 has become a hotbed for new and growing companies, Wilmington and Tewksbury are just a few exits up from 128, right off of 93 and less than 20 miles from Boston. This prime location and the many empty lots and large buildings, such as the old Teradyne building in Wilmington, should make both towns attractive to new and/or growing businesses to move to. This would bring more jobs to the district, attract talent and increase tax revenue.
I’d also love to work with both town’s Board of Selectmen and Chamber of Commerce to host an annual (or bi-annual) day to promote local businesses, for them to showcase what they offer and show residents what is available within Wilmington and Tewksbury, similar to annual days that are hosted in Andover, Stoneham and Reading.
I would consider myself a pro-business and pro-worker candidate. I believe it is important to support local businesses while also being sure their employees are treated fairly. As a candidate and if elected, I want to hear from local businesses to see what their ideas are for increasing business here and also attracting other businesses to come to the district. We have so many empty lots and storefronts in both districts, I would love to see these inhabited and our district becoming a popular destination for shopping, dining, offices and services etc.
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 am running for this seat to make a real impact in the lives of current and future generations of Wilmington and Tewksbury residents, not for the money. If elected, I will focus fully on my legislator position.
Frankly, it was underhanded how the Legislature handled the $12-18 million pay raise package that included raises for lawmakers, judges and constitutional officers. While I do believe that Legislators should be paid enough that they can fully focus on fighting for their communities and not worrying about how they are going to pay for their utility bills. Elected officials work for their constituents, therefore their constituents should decide if they get a raise through a ballot initiative rather than a vote in self-interest. I also want to point out that the legislature passed their own pay raise before voting on paid family leave and raising the minimum wage, putting themselves before their constituents.
It is also important to note, surrounding states such as New Hampshire and Rhode Island have part-time legislatures where lawmakers receive a small stipend that is supposed to help with travel expenses while continuing their day-to-day whether it be a job, retirement etc. Massachusetts is one of only about a dozen states that have full-time legislatures where elected officials work year-round. The National Conference of State Legislatures averages the pay in all the full-time states to $81,000 where Massachusetts has a starting pay of $62,500.
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?
I am well aware of these sites and even though they’re not in the district, will still be spots that I fight to be sure all Wilmington and Tewksbury residents are safe, see minimal impact from these sites and any other that may potentially arise. It is important to keep in mind that while serving as State Representative, your district comes first, but especially in Wilmington and Tewksbury’s case where you have a majority of each town, every decision you make not only impacts your district but the other precincts not to mention the Commonwealth as a whole.
I attended the community meeting regarding Transrail and have been keeping up with anything coming out of the Surface Transportation Board regarding the site. If Transrail is approved, this will be detrimental to our community both for residents and the environment. This project would have hundreds of trucks driving large loads of trash through Wilmington daily, it will be situated on the Olin Superfund Site (which is has been vacant for years) with the very real possibility of unearthing chemicals and other toxic agents back into the air and soil. It will have a negative impact on the daily lives of residents especially those living on Eames Street and surrounding neighborhoods.
As State Representative, I will fight for all Tewksbury and Wilmington residents and take a strong stand to protect our environment.
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?
The state budget (funded by taxpayers) is a reflection of our values, therefore what we choose to fund and how much money is appropriated, shows what we view as important. Massachusetts has some of the best schools and hospitals in the country, something we, as residents take for granted yet people come from all over the world come to utilize. We must invest to reap the benefits of being “the best”.
With that said, it is up to our elected officials to fight for higher appropriations to the things we value most. As your State Representative, I will fight for higher appropriations to our public education systems, towards healthcare and also, want to hear from taxpayers in the district about what is most important to them. I will fight to be sure our values are truly reflected in our budget, year after year.
As I am speaking with residents, a common thread seems to be a general concern about being priced out of Wilmington and Tewksbury and their children, who were raised here, not being able to afford living in their hometown. It is imperative that whoever is in the State Representative position for this district is fighting tooth and nail for more local aid so that other streams of revenue such as property taxes can stay stagnant.
It is shameful when we turn on the news and hear vast abuse of our hard-earned money such as the State Police taking advantage of overtime benefits and our Governor has no idea. We must have true transparency including public audits of any agency or organization that relies on taxpayer funds.
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?
When I interned for Representative Miceli in college, I had a firsthand look at how responsive and accessible he was and how hard he worked to help the families of Wilmington and Tewksbury. As an intern, I worked closely with him on day-to-day responsibilities, but the constituent services aspect of the position was the one that stuck with me. Seeing how the weight of the office of State Representative can be used to make a difference in the lives of others, I knew then that one day I wanted to run for this office to be able to help others in a similar capacity that Representative Miceli did.
As I am talking to Wilmington and Tewksbury residents, everyone has a story of how Representative Miceli helped them, a family member, a friend etc. and how they worry that whoever is next in line for this office won’t be as accessible or helpful. If elected, I will work tirelessly for all of my constituents, be accessible, approachable and advocate on your behalf.
Personally, I have always been motivated by making a difference, contributing to the greater good and helping others. Values that were instilled in me from a very young age and that continue to drive me to this day and make me the best choice in this race.
I chose to study Political Science in college because I saw politics as a way to use my voice and passion for helping others to advocate and make a real difference in our communities. I’ve had the opportunity to intern on Beacon Hill as well as Capitol Hill, seeing firsthand how our state and federal government operates. “All Politics is Local” to quote Tip O’Neill and the state government is much more efficient in getting things done while being accessible to the people, two components I take very seriously.
I want to hear from the residents of Wilmington and Tewksbury when in office but also on the campaign trail, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at any time. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org, I’m on Facebook (www.facebook.com/erikaforthe19th), Twitter (@erikaforthe19th) and Instagram (@erikaforthe19th); all accounts I will continue to maintain if I am elected. I plan to hold office hours frequently in both towns where I, myself (not a staff member or intern), will be available to talk about anything on constituents’ minds whether it be an issue, a policy stance or even just to chat. I will also be public with my office and personal phone number. This position is unique in that it’s not 9-5 Monday through Friday, as a public servant, I am always on the clock. If you see me around town, come say hi or tell me what’s going on.
Transparency is also something I value, and I will borrow U.S. Representative Mike Capuano’s biweekly newsletter idea where he summarizes every bill that was up for a vote, how he voted and why, that will be emailed, available on my website and I will also work with local media organizations (Wilmington Apple, Town Crier, Your Tewksbury Today, etc.) to be sure it is accessible for all. You, the residents of Wilmington and Tewksbury, are my boss and I am accountable to represent you.
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?
Education is the key to the future, therefore, our public schools deserve to be well-funded if not, fully funded. The current formula, Chapter 70 is outdated and absolutely needs to be updated. The formula, as it stands, is stacked against students in low-income communities.
I have heard from several teachers along the campaign trail who tell stories of how much they’ve spent out of pocket to be able to provide their students the best education possible, it’s eye-opening. Our teachers need better support and the resources needed to provide a world-class education for all students.
I was a strong proponent of the Millionaires tax, a ballot initiative that was recently struck down by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on a legal technicality (not the substance of the bill). This tax would have increased taxes for those receiving an annual income of over $1 million and all revenue would fund public education and public transportation. Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to hear Democratic Gubernatorial candidate, Jay Gonzalez speak at an event hosted by the Burlington Democratic Town Committee at which Gonzalez expressed that he would support a bill along the lines of the Millionaires tax that taxed the richest in Massachusetts to fully fund our public schools and public transportation, a measure I would be happy to champion if elected.
There is currently a bill “S. 308: An Act Strengthening and Investing in our Educators, Students and Communities” that would update the Chapter 70 funding formula, mandates a moratorium on and replacement of the state’s high-stakes testing regime, promotes community collaboration in improving schools, and provides services critical to student academic and social-emotional development, such as recess for grade-schoolers and appropriate bilingual education services for non-native speakers (Summary provided by the Massachusetts Teachers Association). I fully support this bill as I believe it will vastly improve our public education system in Massachusetts for all students and urge our Legislature to act on this bill.
I am also supportive of keeping the cap on charter schools, as I proudly voted “No” on Question 2, one of the ballot initiatives in 2016. Charter schools take taxpayer dollars yet are run by nonprofit or for-profit organizations and are exempt from regulations put forth by state and local boards of education in curriculum and hiring practices. Raising the cap or funding for charter schools takes away money and resources for our public school children with no accountability.
Every child living in Massachusetts has the right to a quality public education that prepares them for current and future job markets. With that said, we must be sure that with any update to education funding, we are advocating for every child – regardless of their zip code, household income, if they are English Language Learners (ELL), if they require special education or Individualized Education Program (IEP), etc.
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?
I do not plan to engage in negative campaigning during this election. With so much on the line for our district, it is important to stay focused on the issues not personal attacks.
I will be taking Michelle Obama’s approach, “When they go low, we go high”.
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?
I have the utmost appreciation and gratitude to the police and fire departments in Wilmington and Tewksbury. Personally, I cannot thank them enough for their swift response and their kind nature toward my grandmother, who lives in an memory-care facility in Wilmington, anytime she has needed their help.
We must be sure that our public safety officials are properly trained, have the resources they need to stay safe and are supported by local and state government. Therefore, if elected, I will fight to be sure all of these are upheld through increased local aid and helping to secure grants for programs and equipment.
I want to thank the Wilmington Firefighters Local 1370 for hosting Coffee with the Candidates this past Saturday. It was a great opportunity to learn what concerns Firefighters have and for whoever is elected, how we can best support them. One firefighter brought up how several of his fellow firefighters were forced to move out of Wilmington because they cannot afford it with their current salary and increasing cost of insurance. While compensation is not directly in the purview of State Representative, I am so saddened to hear this, our First Responders deserve to be compensated at a rate that allows them to live in the communities they protect and not worry about how they’ll be paying their bills.
In terms of the North Wilmington Substation, I live in North Wilmington and I worry about response time by first responders being so far from the Public Safety Building. I fully support studying the feasibility of the North Wilmington substation, which while adding costs, will decrease response times in certain neighborhoods and allow for an expansion of services.
Additionally, I am in support of the new Tewksbury center fire station. The increased size and capabilities of the new station will provide support and room to grow for the foreseeable future. As Wilmington and Tewksbury continue to grow, we need to ensure we have the resources needed to address all emergency situations within both town(s). The role of firefighters and police officers have expanded greatly in the past 20 years, and sometimes public support lags behind the curve. If elected, I will work with both town governments, to ensure that Wilmington and Tewksbury have everything they need to service the community and continue protecting our lives and property.
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?
I am so grateful to have experienced the Moving Wall twice, the first time when it came in 2008 and last weekend. The Moving Wall is just as powerful and harrowing as its counterpart in Washington D.C., and to have it (twice) on Wilmington’s Town Common,.
On the state level, we must be doing all we can for those who put their lives on the line to defend our freedom. If elected, I look forward to working closely with Wilmington and Tewksbury’s Veterans Agents to see how the Office of State Representative can best help veterans and their families in the communities. I promise to be accessible for all constituents, including veterans and provide as much help and access to resources as I possibly can.
My grandfather and my mom’s stepfather served in Army. I am incredibly grateful to them and to all of those who serve/have served. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your service!
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?
First and foremost, we need to fix Route 38. I cannot count how many people who live, work, or commute through this district have told me how frustrated they are with this major state road that desperately needs some work. I have also heard countless voters tell me how we need to repair our sidewalks and put some in on certain dangerous roads across the district.
Second is traffic and dangerous intersections. Personally, I was involved in a car accident in the intersection of Salem Road and South Street in Tewksbury that totalled my car and sent the firefighters in the South Tewksbury station running over because they heard it happen. They, along with the responding police officers told me how they’ve lost count of the number of car accidents that have occurred at that intersection. Over a year later and I do all I can to avoid that area. In sharing my story, residents have brought up intersections and roadways they are concerned about such as the new turn on East St to Maple St in Tewksbury and In Wilmington, the lights at High Street where it meets Route 62. At the light, the right lane is a turn-only lane, but many people go straight from there so they aren’t stuck behind someone making a left on 62. As State Representative, I want to continue to hear about areas of concern for residents and from there, work with local and state powers-that-be to address these concerns, secure state aid and grants when eligible and make sure our roads are safe for all who travel them.
As an anecdote, back in March 2010, the bridge known as the Brown Street Bridge in Tewksbury and the Nichols Street Bridge in Wilmington, was closed due to flood damage. While they did end up finishing ahead of time, the state-funded repair project that was low cost and a relatively minor project, took over 2 years to complete. In the summer of 2012, the project was still incomplete. While interning for Representative Miceli, I was given the task of calling the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) every day that summer asking for an update and reminding our contacts at there how important it is for bridge to reopen as soon as possible. The project was complete in September 2012 and reopened. If elected, I would continue Representative Miceli’s “squeaky wheel” approach; delivering results for the residents by fighting for state aid to make necessary infrastructure repairs while making sure they are addressed in a timely fashion to have minimal disruption to traffic and local neighborhoods.
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?
As a person who had to move home after graduating college due to student loan debt, I am well aware of the lack of affordable housing opportunities in the district as well as the greater Boston area. I also had a firsthand look while interning for Representative Miceli at how few affordable housing units there are in the district and just how long the waiting list is for places like Deming Way in Wilmington for seniors and veterans looking for affordable housing. As real estate prices soar in this area, Wilmington especially, we must take a smart approach to growth and help these demographics be able to live in our communities. As I am talking to voters, I keep hearing how their children who grew up in Wilmington having to move to other towns that are more affordable or how long their children have to commute into Boston to work because they were priced out of the area. What I find especially troubling is what I wrote about last week, the Wilmington firefighters who are being priced out of the very community they put their lives on the line to protect.
Dan Koh, a Democrat running for Congress in Massachusetts’ 3rd District, recently issued his plan for affordable housing on the federal level that I completely agree with. His plan is to expand incentives for affordable housing development, pass legislation to protect home buyers, ensure safe public housing standards, and fight to end chronic cycles of homelessness. While I hope we see these ideas come to fruition on the federal level, Massachusetts can work on these initiatives on the state level as well, all concepts I would advocate for if elected.
Governor Baker released a proposal to add 135,000 housing units across the Commonwealth by 2025. “To do so, he has introduced legislation that will allow municipalities to adopt certain changes to local zoning by a majority vote, instead of by super-majority, as currently required by state law. The zoning changes include relaxing dimensional, density and parking requirements, as well as adopting smart growth and starter home zoning districts. The proposed legislation would also promote accessory dwelling units and the transfer of development rights to allow cluster developments.”
While we do have a need for increased housing, I have several serious concerns about the Governor’s proposal. The first thing that comes to mind is capacity in our public schools, making sure both communities’ new high schools and other schools can properly hold the amount of people these new rules would bring in as well as keeping class sizes down to allow for an effective learning environment. In terms of the proposal to promote more dense housing developments by changing the 2/3 majority vote to a simple majority vote for rezonings at Town Meetings, I don’t agree. I believe in the sanctity of Town Meetings and believe in the right of the residents to have a real say in town decisions. With any proposal that comes forward, residents need to consider how it fits into the landscape of the town it is proposed for, how many affordable units are included if any at all, number of units/occupancy and its impact on our schools, public safety and infrastructure. Changing the super-majority rule to a simple majority vote is a disservice to the participating town.
The one part of this proposal that I think is a fantastic idea is the Starter Home Zoning Districts that would help young people attain homeownership, a concept that is becoming increasingly harder given crushing student loan debt and an economy where real estate prices keep soaring. While speaking to voters throughout the campaign, my team and I met numerous residents who had their adult children living with them because moving out was financially unattainable. In Wilmington and Tewksbury, median home prices are in the $400,000 range and high monthly rent for the apartment complexes in the district, price tags that are not feasible for so many people. Starter Home Zoning Districts would make it much more realistic for young people especially, to be able to move back to their hometowns when they would’ve been priced out before this initiative.
Wilmington and Tewksbury have long been communities that foster a deep sense of community, where families plant their roots and generation after generation have lived and grown; ideals that are threatened by status quo thinking. By finding new solutions, such as “Starter Home” zoning districts, we can help our communities thrive by maintaining these ideals while fostering growth.
While I agree with the goal of Chapter 40B, to make at least 10% of every Massachusetts’s community’s housing stock affordable, I am troubled by the qualifications under the current law. Chapter 40B relies solely on income and number of people living in the household at a time where average wages have been stagnant for quite some time and costs across the board are rising. We live in a country where a person working a minimum wage job cannot afford rent anywhere in the U.S. therefore these qualifications need to be adjusted (https://bigthink.com/stephen-johnson/report-minimum-wage-jobs-cant-pay-the-rent-anywhere-in-us). The current program also does not take into consideration other necessary bills and added costs such as student loan payments, living expenses, monthly bills for those with a chronic illness etc. all necessary expenses that affect financial stability and for many, render Chapter 40B un-affordable housing. This statute gives developers far too much power over local communities as they can override municipal zoning bylaws and determine their own pricing structure. Developers can choose to build minimum amounts of affordable housing units, while profiting largely off of the other units in the development. This creates a demand for affordable units and pricing out those who may not meet the affordable criteria but still can’t afford the market value units.
(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.)
- Erika Johnson Endorsed By Planned Parenthood
- Erika Johnson Endorsed By ‘Moms Demand Action’
- Erika Johnson Endorsed By ‘Run For Something’
- Erika Johnson Endorsed By ‘Progressive Massachusetts’
- Erika Johnson Endorsed By ‘First Ask Of America’
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To the voters of the 19th Middlesex District,
I can’t believe we’re so close to Primary Election Day and what a journey it has been. First, I’d like to thank you. Thank you for sharing your stories with me, for welcoming me into your homes on rainy days when I was out knocking on doors, for your support, for your constructive criticism, and for listening to my ideas for this district.
I am a proud Progressive Democrat and have been my authentic self during this whole campaign. I am not entrenched in local government, town boards or previous administrations, I am a truly new voice.
I have been honest about my stances on many different issues and am open to hearing differing perspectives. As your State Representative, I would continue to be open, accessible and transparent. I have signed on to a pledge that 14 other female candidates running for office across the Commonwealth have taken to stand for Roll Call Votes and increase transparency on Beacon Hill. I believe that elected officials need to be held accountable by the very people who put them in office. I have also stated that my office would issue a biweekly newsletter that summarized all the bills that came up for a vote, how I voted and why. I would work with local news organizations to be sure this newsletter was published broadly online and in print.
I will fight tirelessly for our working families; making childcare and higher education more accessible and affordable, help our seniors and be sure our students and teachers are supported, safe and have all the resources they need. I will work with the Department of Transportation on our traffic issues across the district and secure funding to finally fix Route 38. As someone who grew up in Wilmington, I want to give back to these communities and make sure the next generation has even more opportunities than I did. With every vote I take and decision I make, I will legislate with current and future generations in mind.
In this race, I accepted endorsements from organizations that aligned closely with my values;Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund, Run For Something, First Ask of America, andProgressive Massachusettsand most recently, People For The American Way. I was also recognized as a Gun Sense Candidate by Moms Demand Action and a candidate with distinction from PlatformWomen. The organizations that have chosen to endorse me believe in my vision and leadership to make effective change on Beacon Hill and have helped me tremendously by providing mentorship and volunteer hours, I have not taken a dime from them financially. I am proud to have run a truly grassroots campaign, with mostly small donations from neighbors, family, friends and supporters who believe in my vision.
We are at a crossroads in our political system and this district stands to be left behind. It is time for a new face, progressive vision and bold voice to represent Wilmington and Tewksbury and I believe that person is me. I kindly and respectfully ask for your vote on Tuesday September 4th. Thank you!
Erika Frances Johnson
(My full name as it will appear on the Ballot)
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