A VOTER’S GUIDE To Democratic State Rep. Candidate Judy O’Connell

WILMINGTON, MA — Judy O’Connell (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 Judy’s Q&A’s with Wilmington Apple, along with links to her supporters’ letters to the editor; her campaign endorsements; her campaign press releases; the full video of the WCTV debate she participated in; her interviews with WCTV (video) 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 next State Representative representing the Town of Tewksbury and Wilmington for many reasons. I was fortunate to be born and raised in the Town of Wilmington and began my career in public service based on my desire to give back to a community that has given me so much. For a nine (9) year period, I was fortunate to be elected to the Wilmington School Committee and the Board of Selectmen during which time I am proud of the work that was accomplished based on the collaborative team effort of many volunteers and the town leadership team working on behalf of the Town of Wilmington. Through this work it became obvious to me that I had aspirations to one day take my public service career to the next level at the State House.

With the 19th Middlesex State Representative seat now open, I am excited and invigorated about the prospect of being elected to this position. I have always had a passion for serving others and the public. Also, I believe my diverse personal and professional background make me a uniquely qualified candidate for this position. I would kindly suggest and encourage any resident of the Town of Tewksbury and Wilmington who would like to learn more about me as a State Representative candidate to please visit www.JudyForStateRep.com and review the “About Judy” section which provides some insight regarding my background and my proven track record in public service. Together, we have accomplished many tasks and there is still more work to be done! As a local businesswoman, previously elected School Committee and Board of Selectmen member and volunteer, I remain committed to serving the constituents of the 19th Middlesex District now and in the future.

As it stands today, I believe Wilmington and Tewksbury continue to be two of the most attractive towns in Massachusetts to live in, work in and raise a family. If elected as the next State Representative for the 19th Middlesex District, I promise to serve the constituents I have been entrusted to represent to the best of my ability. If elected, I will be a fiscally conservative and responsible leader who advocates for policy and funding for high quality education, smart economic development at both the residential and commercial levels, education and treatment for the current opioid epidemic, infrastructure maintenance and enhancement, public safety and the highest quality of constituent services possible to name a few. As the next State Representative, I promise to be available, approachable and accountable because to me public service is a privilege and a trust. In closing, it would be my distinct honor to serve and represent the Town of Tewksbury and Wilmington as the next State Representative for the 19th Middlesex District. I look forward to continuing on the campaign trail and I look forward to meeting and talking with as many residents within the 19th Middlesex District in the days and weeks ahead as we approach the State Primary on September 4th. Please remember to come out and VOTE for Judy O’Connell for your next State Representative. Thank you!

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

As a Democratic State Representative candidate for the 19th Middlesex District, I would consider myself to be a moderate leader with a conservative side. If elected as the next State Representative, I will continue to maintain my personal core values and principles and represent my constituents in the same manner I always have as a prior elected School Committee and Board of Selectmen member for the Town of Wilmington while embracing the Town of Tewksbury every step of the way now and in the future. From a political standpoint, I believe in common sense government regardless of political party and I will continue to be well informed on the issues and will consider the feelings and opinions of the constituents I have been elected by and entrusted to represent with every single vote I take. In my efforts to represent both the Town of Tewksbury and the Town of Wilmington, I will advocate for policies and funding at the state level that support all aspects of state and local government. As a moderate leader I will continue to support positive core family values, being fiscally responsible and protecting human rights among other things.

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 believe that the 2nd Amendment “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” was written with positive intention. The right to protect yourself and one another makes perfect sense to me. I certainly want to protect myself and the people that I love. Having said that, I do not own a gun or wish to have one in my home. I am not trained to use a gun and do not have the proper licensing. I do believe that law-abiding citizens that have successfully passed criminal background checks and have completed the proper training should absolutely have the right to possess a gun. Here’s where this issue causes me to reflect, as I’m sure it does for the entire world. The 2nd Amendment has been questioned and identified as a culprit in recent tragic events such as school shootings, and I believe that these devastating acts stem from mental illness and not addressing or educating people of all ages about the consequences and irreparable damage of gun violence. Also, I believe there should be restrictions on the type of firearm a person is allowed to carry such as a personal hand gun versus a machine gun for example.

When, if ever, should a citizen’s 2nd Amendment rights be curtailed?Once again, I would like to address the necessity of gun safety education and the consequences of gun violence.  I believe this should be part of every citizen’s early education from family and schools.  Where there is a clear and present danger identified, such as if a person has been convicted of a violent crime or has a documented history of mental illness, there needs to be safe-guards in place to prevent access to guns.

Yes, I consider myself a pro 2nd Amendment candidate.

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.  I believe in swift and appropriate punishment after due process of law has occurred. However, no system is without flaws, and we know that it is possible to sentence an innocent person or rather issue a punishment that doesn’t fit the crime.  An execution cannot be overturned. I do believe criminals who commit egregious acts of violence such as first degree murder for example should be sentenced to prison for life without the possibility of parole.

When, if ever, should a person convicted of a crime be put to death by its government? Never.

Would you support reinstating the death penalty in Massachusetts? No.

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?

According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are approximately 173,000 undocumented immigrants living in our Commonwealth. To provide perspective, The Department of Homeland Security, The Pew Research Center, and Center for Migration Studies, estimate there are an estimated 11-12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. Nearly one in six Massachusetts residents is an immigrant, while one in seven residents is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent. That’s 16% of our state’s population. Immigrants, including those undocumented, are a vital part of our communities, labor force, and economy. However, it cannot be ignored that unlawful presence in the United States is a civil offense and depending upon how the individual entered the United States, a crime may have been committed.

I fundamentally oppose Massachusetts being a sanctuary state. I believe any time you limit the cooperation between state and federal officials, there are unintended consequences that could exacerbate the very situation you are attempting to resolve. I understand the spirit of intent that providing sanctuary in a city or state promotes cooperation between undocumented immigrants and law enforcement to make communities safer. However, I also feel that providing sanctuary significantly impedes law enforcement’s ability to apprehend criminals in the US illegally or to properly evaluate threats to local and national security. The risk is simply too great.

Immigration has been regulated by the US Congress at the federal level, but the policies and practices of state and local governments have a direct impact on the lives of immigrants within their communities. There needs to be an end to the gridlock with bipartisan support for immigration policy promoting consistency and cooperation between federal, state and local governments and law enforcement. This is long overdue.

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

I will always support a woman’s right to choose. I don’t believe the government should be involved in this matter under any circumstance. If I were faced with this decision, I would choose life, but that’s a personal belief and I would never sit in judgment of anyone who makes a different decision.

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? 

According to the Massachusetts Bureau of Substance Abuse Services and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the opioid-related death rate in Massachusetts has surpassed the national average, with a sharp rise in numbers in the last two years. As a State Representative, I will be a strong voice for the people and families who are struggling with this insidious disease on Beacon Hill in any manner possible. This crisis affects every demographic. Both sides of the aisle need to be “all in” in our efforts to help address this serious problem.

Specific to the 19th Middlesex District, according to the MA Department of Public Health, between 2014 and 2017, based on town of residence, there were 38 confirmed opioid related deaths for Tewksbury and 21 confirmed for Wilmington. This may not be the totality as additional deaths between 2016-2017 are still in process of being confirmed by the Chief Medical Examiner. I would argue that 1 fatality is too many. The stakes are higher with increased potency of drugs such as Fentanyl. I would advocate for any state funding to help support local initiatives whether it’s through early education within the public schools or community based education and prevention programs for all residents, including our veterans and seniors. Early education of our children is key. We must carefully balance our desire to keep children sheltered from the harsh realities of this disease with the need to provide them with the tools they need to ensure that they don’t succumb to substance abuse disorder. Furthermore, I will fully support any initiative for harsher penalties and sentencing requirements for drug dealers.

We need to treat families impacted by substance abuse in our district with care and compassion. We need to end the stigma, support recovery and find ways to help addicts in recovery get their lives back on track and recognize that it will likely take long term comprehensive treatment. The state funding provided to the Tewksbury State Hospital for the myriad of treatment programs must continue and possibly be increased. As State Representative, I would support legislative efforts to address the misuse of legal prescription medications which are a major contributor to this issue. While the prescription monitoring program is showing some signs of success, we need to continually improve upon these statistics. As of 2017, the rate of individuals with activity of concern in Massachusetts was 6.3 per 1,000, down from 14.3 per thousand in 2013. Let’s continue to work on shutting down any loopholes for potential abuse.

During my tenure on the Wilmington Board of Selectmen, I was a staunch advocate for hiring a full time Health and Recovery Coordinator funded by tax payer dollars. We also need to continue our efforts relative to the role of mental health in substance abuse. Additionally, we need to dive deep into understanding how substance abuse affects men versus women. Despite the number of deaths affecting more men than women, female deaths are on the rise. We also need to address why women are much less likely to seek treatment due to family and child care issues.

Finally, I believe it’s important to listen and take direction from our public safety officials and others on the front lines of fighting this epidemic in the process of crafting legislation. I support House Bill No. 4470 by House members of the Mental Health committee currently referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

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?

As a State Representative, I would be a staunch supporter of smart economic development programs that would benefit the 19th Middlesex District. Governor Baker proposed an Economic Development Bill which is pending in the House which is intended to increase our ability to attract new businesses to Massachusetts. This proposed legislation includes a number of reforms to our economic development incentive program by expanding the availability of refundable tax credits and creating the opportunity for larger credits commensurate with extraordinary economic opportunities. The legislation also enables the use of credits to fill vacant downtown storefronts and makes a technical correction to an existing tax deduction on the rehabilitation of abandoned buildings.

I admire the Town of Wilmington’s initiative to engage the services of the Economic and Public Policy Research group at the UMass Donahue Institute to perform a market study of the Route 38 corridor and the shopper profile that will allow us to reach out to business types that can thrive in our environment.

Recently the Town of Wilmington Town Meeting approved the Tax Increment Finance (TIF) agreement with Analog Devices which will be the catalyst for this global technology leader expanding its presence in Wilmington by making their location in Wilmington their global headquarters. This agreement is an example of how the communities within the 19th Middlesex District can work with businesses to retain them and help them grow which will lead to an increase in employment in the area as well as tax revenue. The Town of Tewksbury continues to make the same inroads with economic development with a current highlighted example of the Lowell General Hospital medical facility that is currently being constructed on Route 38 after years of town officials and community members advocating for the economic development of that area.

Yes, I do consider myself a business-friendly candidate as I have been a small business owner in Wilmington for the past 11 years. Additionally, I am a member of the Wilmington Tewksbury Chamber of Commerce and I support shopping locally whenever possible. As an elected official within the Town of Wilmington over the past decade, I am acutely aware of how important commercial businesses are to a community and the value they provide in services as well as tax revenue.

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 would have voted against the raises.  It was wrong to treat legislative raises as “an emergency”, and the residents of Massachusetts deserve better than that.  If elected, I will be a full time legislator.  I have been fortunate to build a successful real estate agency with my sister Shelley, and as partners, we are proud of the team of agents that we have assembled to serve our present and future client base.  We have a transition plan in place, so that my responsibilities as a manager and partner will be fulfilled, allowing me the privilege of serving as a full time representative for the district if elected.

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?

First and foremost, I will fight to keep as much of the towns of Wilmington and Tewksbury as possible in the same district.  I am a realist, and I understand that our system of government requires re-districting from time to time, but I will do everything in my power to beat back any gerrymandering that would further carve up the district.  As for the three issues you mention, in my years as a resident and Selectman in Wilmington, I have consistently and steadfastly supported the town’s efforts not simply to have a “seat at the table”, but to have a meaningful voice in solving the myriad of challenges associated with these three issues.  Of course, I would continue this work as a State Representative, without regard to district lines.  As a candidate, I am uniquely well positioned to understand not only the detrimental impacts from these sites, but also what it takes to solve the problems.  The Town of Wilmington has been unanimous in opposing the transrail operation that is proposed by NET, and we will continue to take all steps possible, both legal and political, to stop the project.  As for Maple Meadow, we need to continue to be diligent, and insist that DEP continuously monitors any erosion of the grading and shaping materials that have been brought to the site, to ensure that there is no  threat to the water supply going forward. Finally, with regard to the Olin Site, beyond stopping the pending NET proposal, the town needs to continue the work that is currently underway.  Local, state and federal officials, along with Wilmington’s environmental consultant and community WERC group, need to continue to work together to ensure the site is remediated in a manner that is acceptable not only to EPA, but in a manner that is acceptable to Wilmington. Furthermore, as State Representative, I would work with local officials and residents to insist that any redevelopment on the Olin site would be undertaken in a manner that is environmentally responsible in the eyes of the town, and is in the best interests of the community.  In short, the challenges of these issues are complex and significant, and I am well aware of the impacts to the community and the environment.  If elected, I will use the weight of the office to the fullest, to go to bat for Tewksbury and Wilmington residents, without regard to the precincts in which they live.

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?

Yes, 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? There is no easy or short answer to this question as the Massachusetts state budget approaches a total of $41 billion dollars a year. In January 2018, the Baker-Polito administration submitted a FY19 budget proposal that attempted to keep state spending in line with revenue growth, to minimize reliance on non-recurring revenues, and to avoid tax or fee increases to balance the budget, while investing in key areas such as local aid, education, workforce development, substance misuse, mental health, housing, and transportation. Massachusetts has started the next fiscal year without a permanent budget in place after lawmakers were unable to reach an agreement in time. The 2019 fiscal year began July 1 and the Legislature passed an interim budget which will fund the state through the end of July. With the passing of this interim budget, there will be no disruption of any services in Massachusetts. As State Representative and member of the House of Representatives, I would be an active participant in this process and I would be advocating for the 19th Middlesex District with the taxpayers in mind while ensuring Wilmington and Tewksbury receive their fair share and any possible increases if possible in Chapter 70 funding and Unrestricted General Government Aid. These funds are critical to both communities in helping assist local government with providing the suite of services that people and families have come to expect and deserve. I would advocate for any available state grant money for any projects or initiatives that pertain to either community within the District on an annual basis.

As a prior elected official on the School Committee and Board of Selectmen for the Town of Wilmington, I have always been fiscally conservative and have attempted to strike a balance in meeting collective bargaining agreements, supporting capital improvement projects, continuing the highest level of municipal services possible, supporting smart economic development within the community, maintaining a strong free cash position as recommended by the town’s financial advisors and supporting the Board of Selectmen annual vote of the maximum tax shift classification to help lessen the tax burden on the resident population. I intend to take this same balanced approach to Beacon Hill while recognizing we need to look at strategic ways to fund current and future services not always on the backs of taxpayers.

As State Representative, I would become a scholar of the state budget and would always keep a watchful eye in looking for areas of improvement regarding waste, fraud and abuse. There are documented cases of abuse such as overtime costs, employee benefit cases, etc. for example and one could analyze areas of wasteful spending in every budget which I intend to do on a regular basis. Regarding fraud, I will be reviewing consistently the work done annually by the Office of the Inspector General for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts which is an independent agency charged with preventing and detecting fraud, waste and abuse in the use of public funds and public property. This Office investigates allegations in these areas at all levels of government; reviews programs and practices in state and local agencies to identify system-wide vulnerabilities and opportunities for improvement; and assists the public and private sectors to help prevent fraud, waste and abuse in government spending. There have been various reports released from the State Auditor’s office. For example, in April 2018, State Auditor Suzanne Bump released the annual report for her office’s Bureau of Special Investigations (BSI), which identified a record $16.9 million in public assistance benefit fraud in FY 2017, a 9% increase over the previous year. This marks the seventh straight year of increased findings according to the report which is not an indication of more fraud in these programs, but rather a reflection of the growing effectiveness of the agency and the expanded use of data analytics to identify fraudulent activities. According to this report, Bump’s office identified over $16 million in fraud, spread over 1,150 completed investigations. The majority of the fraud which was approximately $10.3 million or 61 percent was identified in the Mass Health program. There are other reported areas of fraud and as State Representative, I would do my part in helping to ensure these public benefit programs continue to be designed to provide the needed assistance to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged residents who truly need the help as many of the beneficiaries of these programs are children, disabled adults, veterans and seniors.

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?

Yes, if elected, I do pledge to provide the same extraordinary level of constituent services that State Representative Miceli provided that the people of the Wilmington and Tewksbury are accustomed to while looking for ways to enhance and improve these services provided in any manner possible. State Representative Miceli should be applauded for his hard work, commitment and dedication to constituent services on behalf of the 19th Middlesex District for decades and I would be honored to carry on his legacy in this regard if elected as the next State Representative.

As State Representative, there are many ways to be responsive to the communities within the 19th Middlesex District. First, I will hold regular offices hours in both Wilmington and Tewksbury to be available to the public. I would make sure my contact information is widely publicized and my commitment is to be accessible and responsive to anyone within the District at all times. Some constituent service matters are highly sensitive and confidential and must be treated with the proper care and compassion they need and deserve. Sometimes in addition to taking care of the business at hand, people need a leader who listens and one who is trustworthy and provides a level of human service that goes beyond just being an elected official. I am committed to providing this kind of constituent service as I believe it is the right thing to do in taking care of the people and families that make up the fabric of our district that I have been entrusted to serve. Additionally, I intend to be very visible in both Wilmington and Tewksbury by attending as many events, community activities and town meetings as possible. I will be an active listener, a strong voice for the people and I will be willing to assist the residents of the 19th Middlesex District relative to any matter or need that they have. Constituent services can span across many areas and I would use the full weight of the office to be a supporter and advocate for the entire District including residents, local businesses and municipal town government. Providing the highest quality of constituent services as the next State Representative is of critical importance to me and I will work tirelessly on behalf of the 19th Middlesex District every day I am in office.

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?

It is true that the Massachusetts education funding formula has not been updated in a very long time. It is also true that the Chapter 70 formula is a very complicated formula to explain and absolutely should be updated on an ongoing basis. In general terms, the formula sets a minimum budget (foundation budget) required for each city or town to provide for its public education. There are various factors that go into determining this foundation budget such as enrollment, demographics, student to teacher ratios, employee benefit costs such as health care, etc. Health care is a major contributor to the issue with the formula for example as the rates being used to estimate health care costs are outdated and therefore are creating a financial gap in the overall foundation budget calculation. Employee health care costs continue to increase year over year and if the metrics in the formula are not updated with current rates then the calculations will continue to create a shortfall. Other areas contributing to gaps in the overall budget calculations are special education costs and English Language Learner (ELL) costs. The formula needs to include actual costs versus applied formula costs. Governor Baker has made strides in increasing the rates in the formula, but once again there is still a financial gap. As a State Representative, I would strongly support incremental increases in key metrics within the formula to address the areas mentioned as well as any other areas that have a negative impact on the education budgetary process. I believe the key is “incremental” increases as these increases will impact the overall state budget which needs to be feasible and sustainable. The Chapter 70 formula also determines how much each city or town is required to contribute to schools which is based on total personal income and property values in each community. The Chapter 70 funding from the state is intended to fill the gap between the minimum budget for each city or town (the foundation budget) and the required local contribution which is calculated based on the Chapter 70 formula just described. Some cities and towns may elect to spend additional local resources and funds above the requirements to provide support and services to their public schools. This may happen often as the funding amounts in the foundation budget are often inadequate based on the current formula. In my opinion, both Wilmington and Tewksbury demonstrate their continued commitment to education year after year through their approved school budgets at Town Meeting and should be applauded for their efforts.

In addition to fighting for an updated formula, I will continue to be a staunch supporter of education in all areas. Some of these areas include maintaining and increasing state funding, pursuing grant opportunities whenever possible, supporting improved education and special education initiatives, increasing school safety and providing more services relative to social and emotional issues for students, their families and school personnel which includes bullying and the opioid crisis. As a former school teacher, I am very passionate about education. Therefore, as the next State Representative for the 19th Middlesex District, I will do my part to ensure that every student in Tewksbury and Wilmington has every opportunity to receive a public education of the highest quality possible.

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?

The technical definition of negative campaigning is a politician or party focusing on criticizing another politician or party rather than emphasizing their own positive qualities. Studies show that there is a backlash associated with campaign attacks and it serves to alienate potential voters from the political process. This is a disservice to the democratic process.

I do make a pledge not to engage in negative campaigning in this State Representative election. I will further state that I will not attack a candidate in a way that is embarrassing or humiliating to them. It goes against my core qualities as a human being. Lastly, I will not be complicit to negative campaigning by proxy which has already found its way into this race. Rather than reference another’s mantra, I will simply state my own. You never look good trying to make someone else look bad. However, if I am personally attacked, I will defend myself with facts separate from emotion. If a candidate chooses to go this route, I’m capable of matching their energy without negativity, sacrificing my dignity or losing sight of the important topic of debate and the impact it may have on the people of Tewksbury and Wilmington.

In answering this question, I would like to point out that there is a clear distinction between criticizing a candidate and pointing out where your viewpoints may be in contrast or conflict with those of another candidate. There are respectful and tactful ways to accomplish this. During this process, I will also be a keen listener. I am always open to listening to all sides of an issue. Separate from this campaign process, the hard work of the State Representative position will be engaging in intelligent debate, the art of compromise, and building a consensus toward achieving a common goal. I have a demonstrated track record on each of these fronts and I look forward to the opportunity to bring this skill set to Beacon Hill in representing the 19th Middlesex District.

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 and continue to be supportive of our local police and fire departments. As a taxpayer and prior member of the Wilmington Board of Selectmen, I have supported collective bargaining contracts, capital improvement expenditures and training for both departments throughout the years. As a future State Representative, I will continue to support the public safety officials of the 19th Middlesex District in any manner possible through state funding and programs that will ensure at the end of their shifts our public safety officials have the greatest chance of going home to their families safely. It has been an absolute travesty regarding the increase in police officers being shot and injured and in some cases killed. I would support state legislation that is focused on protecting the men and women who serve and protect us every day in our communities. For both police and fire, I would be open and supportive of state training initiatives that focus on the training, health and welfare of our public safety officials.

Regarding the North Wilmington substation, I truly believe one is necessary more now than ever. The growth and development in Wilmington continues and there is a definite need in the north side of town especially with the train tracks near Elia’s and off of Salem Street. I fully recognize this substation will come with some upfront costs relative to the build and an increase in staffing, capital equipment, potential overtime costs, etc. However, I think this substation is vital and frankly long overdue. As a State Representative, I will be open and supportive of a project such as this assuming it is well planned out with fiscal responsibility and present and future needs in mind. As a State Representative, I would also be committed to seeking any available state funding sources to assist with this project.

Additionally, I would support a new center fire station in Tewksbury that was approved last year. The people of the community have spoken and this project is coming forward because there is a need. Once again, I am very receptive and supportive of doing what is necessary for our 19th Middlesex District public safety. If this is a need and the current infrastructure will not be sustainable for the foreseeable future, I believe it makes sense to consider construction now as construction costs, financing options, etc. continue to be on the rise. Therefore, the project you don’t do today will definitely cost you more tomorrow. In closing, I will say that the police and fire departments of both communities within the 19th Middlesex District are the life line for all of us to turn to in a time of need. These fine men and women deserve our respect and our attention in ensuring they all have what they need to do their jobs to ensure our continued public safety as well as their own.

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?

As a patriotic person and as a prior Selectman for the Town of Wilmington, I have always been supportive of our Veterans. As you have stated, these men and women in our armed forces have and continue to be willing to sacrifice to preserve our freedom. These people are the true heroes among us and they deserve to be respected and cared for in the most appropriate manners possible.

As a State Representative, I will continue to support the Veterans’ programs throughout the state from VA services, to state hospital services, to Veterans’ housing initiatives, to social and emotional programs and funding and the list goes on. The needs for our Veterans is ever changing and spans across many subject areas. These brave men and women are often called upon to “unplug” from their current lives inclusive of their family and friends and go to foreign lands to serve and protect the American freedoms so many of us enjoy. It’s important as a society and for the next State Representative for the 19th Middlesex District to be cognizant of these facts and help these community heroes integrate back into their daily routine upon their return right here at home. This is not always an easy process as there are often health care needs and costs, mental health needs, etc. that our Veterans need help with as part of this re-integration and it’s imperative that local cities and towns and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts continue to provide assistance across all these matters. The incidence of PTSD and suicide among Veterans is continuing to drastically rise and as a state and within our local communities we need to continue our care and concerns for these most deserving people who truly need our help. I am committed to this personally and as a future State Representative for many reasons and simply stated because it’s the right thing to do!

As a prior elected official for some time I have always supported any Veterans’ related matter that came before the Board of Selectmen such as discussions about a Veteran’s related event and the list goes on. I can say that all of my colleagues on the Board of Selectmen have and continue to support our Veterans and the Veterans’ Services provided by Lou Cimaglia and his team in Wilmington. As a private citizen, I have attended fundraisers for Veterans, I have supported the Disabled Veterans and I have provided transportation for a friend and family to the various VA facilities when called upon. I have also been a supporter of the Wilmington Local Heroes and iPods for Wounded Veterans as I proudly wear my red, white and blue bracelet that was made for me and purchased at the Wilmington Senior Center a few months ago. Also, I was happy to volunteer for the Vietnam War Moving Wall that was just here last week. I attended multiple nights of ceremonies and I was truly moved by the whole experience. As Lou Cimaglia said it best, “the attendance during the time the wall was here shows that Wilmington doesn’t forget and will never forget our Veterans and more specifically our Vietnam Veterans.”

Regarding family members who have served in the military, I have many who have served and also have been residents of the 19th Middlesex District. I am so proud of their service to our country and they will forever have my respect and admiration for wearing a military uniform. My great grandparents, grandparents, cousins and brother have all served in the armed forces. Also, I have step parents and in-laws who have also served in the military. My father-in-law from Tewksbury was a soldier and part of the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam who I respect tremendously as a human being, a family man, a friend and for his service to our country. He is also my personal historian who shared the facts about this war and history in general which I have so much appreciated throughout the years. In closing, I want to once again express my unwavering support for our Veterans and my commitment to advocating for as much funding, benefits and support as possible for the brave men and women of our armed forces both past and present who serve our country.

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, I would like to say that both Wilmington and Tewksbury do an excellent job maintaining the infrastructure of the 19th Middlesex District with the current personnel and budgets available to manage this vital necessity in both communities. As expected, there is always room for improvement and like other districts, we need the support of both towns and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in providing funding and programs to assist in the process. Our roadways, sidewalks, traffic signaling, bus transportation and railroad operations need regular oversight for maintenance, enhancement and improvement on an annual basis beyond just the budgetary process. For example I was pleased to see in Wilmington’s 2019 Budget that there is funding appropriated for the maintenance and upgrades to 755,662 square feet of building space, maintenance of 102 miles of accepted roads, 85.75 miles of sidewalks, 60 acres of parks and public spaces, 29 acres of burial plots, 73 miles of drainage pipe and 1,242 fire hydrants. Tewksbury continues to do the same in allocating FY’19 funds for infrastructure maintenance and improvements as well which is critical especially with a lot of recent development on the Route 38 corridor as one example.

Regarding specific streets and areas within both towns that need work, I would like the to see the Route 38 project in Tewksbury completed that was started as the roadway is not in the best condition to drive on. Traffic especially on this route continues to be problematic and there is no easy solution to this issue. However, having roads that are in quality condition to travel on are certainly a great start! Many would like to see Route 38 improved right through Wilmington as this is the main access road that connects the two towns and offers primary access to some of the major exits off of Route 93. Also, I am looking forward to the completion of the sidewalk project on Lawrence Street in Wilmington as well as the roadway work that is currently underway over near the North Intermediate School also in Wilmington. It is important in both communities that we have ample sidewalks to allow for pedestrian traffic as well as providing wheel chair access for residents. I have had the pleasure of meeting and talking with some very passionate residents in Tewksbury who believe sidewalks are a big topic in town that continues to be a problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Also, I would like to note that Dascomb Road could benefit from some roadway improvements as this road is heavily traveled and is substandard in keys areas with multiple residential properties and commercial businesses in the area. Also, the Tewksbury intersection at South Street and Salem Street continues to be very dangerous and needs to be addressed. Finally, Wilmington has been on the TIP program for improvements from the Route 62 bridge down Route 38 to Woburn for years and town funding has already been appropriated to get this design process started. I would like to see this project expedited to the extent possible as this is long overdue. As part of this process, the intersection of Butters Row and Cross Street needs to be restructured as this continues to be an extremely dangerous intersection with limited views and sight distances. With the additional traffic and use of the Yentile Farm Recreational Facility this project is even more critical now than ever. I am pleased with the work that has been completed thus far, but in my opinion the state timelines are simply too long. The Wilmington Butters Row bridge has had recent work, but this bridge will need additional work in the future and still remains an unsafe area for pedestrians.

If elected as State Representative, I will assist in any manner possible to ensure the roadway projects, sidewalk projects, etc. continue to be addressed. Through my leadership meetings with both Wilmington and Tewksbury it is clear that both Town Managers know the importance of town infrastructure for the 19th Middlesex District. Both towns continue to put short-term and long-term plans in place to maintain and enhance infrastructure to the extent that is fiscally possible and responsible. As State Representative, I am committed to helping the district receive the maximum Chapter 90 funding possible which are funds for capital improvements such as highway construction, preservation and improvement projects. Also, I would be committed to assisting the district with determining and applying for any opportunities relative to the Complete Streets Funding Program, the Public Works Economic Development Grants Program and the State Transportation Improvement Plan Program (TIP).

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?

To increase affordable housing for seniors and veterans there needs to be a collaborative effort at the municipal, state and federal levels. I believe the Commonwealth of Massachusetts needs to evaluate every state parcel available and determine the viability for affordable housing projects. One example of how this has been done in a neighboring town is when the state through a signed bill conveyed to the Town of North Reading the 36.7 acres of state-owned land on Lowell Street in North Reading that was once part of the John T. Berry State Mental Health facility that closed in 1995. This bill allowed North Reading to acquire the land in exchange for compensating the state for a portion of the “sunk costs” associated with the property. In December of 2017, it was reported that the Town of North Reading sold the parcel to a national developer (Pulte Homes) for approximately $30 million dollars with North Reading receiving almost $21 million and the state receiving almost $9 million. In addition, the town will receive approximately $3 million dollars in annual tax revenue based on 2017 numbers when the sale was reported. As a result of this joint effort, there is an over-55 development in process that offers housing for seniors which includes veterans with an affordable component as part of this project. This is one project where everybody wins and is an example of what is possible in other communities like Wilmington and Tewksbury.

The housing provided in Wilmington at Deming Way and in Tewksbury at Saunders Circle are operated through their respective Housing Authorities and are run very well with the buildings, personnel and budgets they have to work with on an annual basis. The wait lists for both housing complexes are 1-2 years out without enough units to fulfill the needs of the district. This is a problem that does not come with an easy solution. This problem has been identified for quite some time and there appears to be no interest at the town level to be in the housing business which means this falls back on state based housing programs that lack the amount of units needed. I am hopeful solutions will be strategically designed to address this issue in the near future, but frankly there is still a lot of work to be done in this area.

Regarding affordable housing for young adults, this continues to also be an issue as house prices continue to be on the rise. Government based programs for affordable mortgage financing options need to continue which will assist first time home buyers and others with entering into the market as prospective homeowners. Also, it should be noted that the cost of purchasing house lots and new construction building costs continue to increase which results in developers needing to build a bigger house structure resulting in premium pricing. One way to assist with this is through zoning and allowing for more density relative to the number of house units allowed which will drive a more diversified housing stock and more affordable pricing if planned, approved and managed correctly. This type of development comes with concerns relative to population growth, impacts on the community infrastructure, the impact on the local school system(s), the impact on public safety and the potential increase in traffic to name a few. My position is that smart economic development makes sense when it is done at the right scale and in a way that is ultimately beneficial to the residents of the community who are also the taxpayers. This is a very difficult and delicate balance to strike and manage and the pro’s and con’s need to be fully evaluated with every housing project proposed.

Regarding the Governor’s housing proposal which would change the 2/3 majority vote to a simple majority vote for rezoning at town meetings, I would support this proposal as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is in a housing crisis. We do not have enough housing stock across the state relative to single family homes, condominiums and multi-units to meet the demand that currently exists in Massachusetts which continues to drive pricing up due to supply and demand. In addition, we do not have the diversified housing stock needed to address affordable, senior and veteran housing needs. As a result, there are many that are crossing our state borders to live which means revenues are going elsewhere which is not good for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and for our economy for many reasons.

I fully recognize the concern that a simple majority will make it easier for a project to be approved as 2/3 is obviously a more difficult metric to meet. Also, I recognize that the town meeting process is an open process that is available to all residents of the town. All residents will continue to have an equal opportunity to attend, to have their voices heard and to have their respective votes counted. A change like this will reaffirm the fact that the responsibility is on all of us to attend town meetings and to participate.

Finally, the 40B formula does need to be looked at for necessary changes. There have been many statistics and stories reported for decades about 40B projects. Also, there have been studies conducted and researchers have identified the key controversies and concerns raised during the permitting process of 40B projects. Among the fears and concerns that were uncovered were the detrimental impacts on municipal services, schools, density, neighborhood change, environmental impacts, health and safety, property values, and the preservation of open space. The research showed that the controversies surrounding these cases were not realized to the extent feared. The concerns raised varied for each project, but it can be concluded that the underlying roots of these controversies are the loss of local control over zoning. These same researchers have also reported that cities and towns who have successfully endured a 40B project are now more aware of the need for affordable housing and more proactive in the planning for the development of that housing. This new, proactive approach will likely involve working with developers, town government officials and with residents which will result in less controversy relative to future projects. This is key as it has been stated for example in 2020 that Wilmington is projected to fall below its 40B requirements. In my opinion, I would rather see Wilmington be proactive and get out in front with crafting plans to address this fact rather than having to accept 40B plans. The topic of 40B will continue to be a “hot topic” for the 19th Middlesex District now and in the future. As State Representative, I will be committed to supporting smart economic development that is designed for the betterment of the communities I have been entrusted to serve while striving to preserve the character and open space that exists in both Wilmington and Tewksbury.

(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

Endorsements

Press Releases

Watch The Debate

Candidate Conversation with WCTV

Wilmington Town Crier Candidate Profile

Campaign Rally Coverage

Campaign Finance Report

Candidate’s Website & Social Media

Closing Argument

Dear Wilmington & Tewksbury Voters,

This year we will be electing a NEW State Representative to represent the 19th Middlesex District for Wilmington and Tewksbury. It is critical that we elect a person with prior municipal government experience. As a prior elected official who served honorably for the Town of Wilmington for (3) years as an elected member of the School Committee and for (6) years as an elected member of the Board of Selectmen, I believe I have this experience. Together as a community we have many successful milestone achievements to be proud of and there is still more work to be done!

As a Democratic candidate, I am excited about the prospect of representing you on Beacon Hill as I have always had a passion for serving my community and others. I believe my (27) years of professional work experience in both the public and private sectors highlights my unique qualifications as a candidate for this position. As it stands today, I believe Wilmington and Tewksbury continue to be two of the most attractive towns in Massachusetts to live in, work in and raise a family. If elected as the next State Representative, I promise to serve the constituents I have been entrusted to represent to the best of my ability. I promise to be available, approachable and accountable because to me public service is a privilege and a trust and it would be my distinct honor to serve you.

As your State Representative, I will be focused on the issues that are most important to the people of the 19th Middlesex District which include education and special education initiatives, veterans’ services and benefits, elderly services, combating the opioid crisis, supporting smart economic development including attracting new businesses to the district, infrastructure improvements, public safety, fiscal responsibility relative to the utilization of state funds, affordable health care for all and maintaining funding for Tewksbury Hospital to name a few. To review my candidacy once again prior to visiting the polls, please visit http://www.JudyForStateRep.com.

In closing as we approach the 2018 Massachusetts State Primary on Tuesday, September 4th, I would like to extend a sincere thank you to all of the wonderful people in the 19th Middlesex District that I have had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with over the past few months out on the campaign trail. I would especially like to thank my dedicated supporters who continue to place their faith and trust in me year after year with every election since my public service career began. Also, I would like to thank the Committee for Judy O’Connell, my family and friends for all of your support during this race and always. This has been a very rewarding experience for me as a person and as a candidate and I am proud of the positive campaign that we have run together! The time has come for you the voters to decide who you would like to see as your next State Representative. Thank you for your participation in this civic process which best represents our democracy. I respectfully ask for your vote on Tuesday, September 4th!

Sincerely,

Judith L. O’Connell
Democratic Candidate for State Representative
19th Middlesex District for Wilmington and Tewksbury

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