5th Congressional district candidate discusses immigration, part 2

It sounds like you believe that this is an issue for states to handle. Is that correct?

Yes.  Illegal immigration is an issue that should be left to the states because they are the ones being directly affected.  The federal government shouldn’t force the states to enact specific policies.  I support the deportation of illegal immigrants, which is something that I’ve said on my website.  However, I don’t believe that the states should be mandated to deport illegal immigrants.

What sort of provisions would you endorse if you are elected?

I would encourage Massachusetts to enforce the federal laws already in place.  I think that the local authorities should be allowed to report illegal immigrants if they choose.  That’s why we have the police—they’re here to enforce the law.  The states should work together to fix immigration since it’s an issue that affects them.

Shapiro is running against three other candidates for the Republican nomination.  To find out more about him, visit his website www.shapiro4congress.org.  The state primary is on Tuesday, September 14th and the general election is on Tuesday, November 2nd.


5th Congressional district discusses immigration, part 1

Robert Shapiro (R-Andover), who is a candidate in the race for the 5th Congressional District, is just as moved by the immigration debate as the rest of us.  The invalidation of key parts of S.B. 1070 has stoked passions on both sides of the immigration debate, and more people are making themselves heard.  In light of this latest development, Shapiro agreed to discuss the ruling yesterday.

A few days ago, U.S. District judge Susan Bolton struck down the most controversial provisions of the Arizona immigration law. What is your response to the ruling?

Arizona has a right to take to take action because illegal immigration endangers states.  People that come into this country illegally have access to our public services.  Public services were created for the benefit of legal citizens, not for illegal immigrants.  It’s not fair to everyone that is here legally to have to support people that are here illegally.

Do you agree with the judge’s decision to strike down parts of the law?

The Arizona law enforced federal regulations that were already in place.  Arizona was merely doing what was asked by the federal government.

What makes you say that states have a right to pass immigration legislation?

Like I said, illegal immigration harms states because illegal immigrants can use public services.  A state can’t support itself economically if the services its paying for are being used by people that don’t have legal access.  That’s why, if elected, I would support measures to close loopholes that currently allow illegal immigrants to use public services, many of which are supported by federal funds.  People shouldn’t be rewarded for breaking our laws.

To read the rest of Shapiro’s interview, read 5th Congressional district candidate, part 2.

Slot machine dilemma stalls other issues

The slot machine controversy seems to have caused a figurative fender bender as other key pieces of legislation are also being delayed. With four days left in the legislative session, the great casino debate still hasn’t been resolved. In the process, advocates for different bills are left biting their nails as they watch the session wind down.

The Boston Globe reported today that supporters of Stop Handgun Violence are worried that their efforts might end up in vain. The group, founded by John Rosenthal, supports a bill that could tighten handgun purchases. That piece of legislation is now in jeopardy as well because the House and the Senate are so embroiled over slot machines.

Other bills that could be jeopardized include the proposed tax holiday. Though it is possible that the measure might not be passed because of budget concerns, it seems more likely that the slot machine debacle could be to blame. The President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, Jon Hurst attests to the trouble the gambling legislation is causing. Hurst stated that advocates are closely watching the casino bill because it’s, “’…having an impact on a whole lot of other activity.’”

In light of virtually endless contention, it could be argued that the controversy is proof that the gambling bill might not be as effective as described. If the bill can actually bolster the economy, then why hasn’t it passed? After all, union giant Teamsters 25 organized a major demonstration on Beacon Hill in favor of casinos. Plus, both versions of the bill received popular support in both the Senate and the House.

Race for 1st Middlesex district heats up

As the Massachusetts primary draws ever closer, Chris Doherty (D-Lowell) and Eileen Donoghue (D-Lowell) keep turning up the heat with their campaigns. With 50 days left until September 14th, both candidates are making back-breaking efforts to speak with as many voters as possible.

Chris Doherty‘s campaign is, for lack of better words, operating energetically around the clock. Since the start of the race, Doherty has been out and around the first Middlesex District on a daily basis. According to a campaign spokeswoman, Doherty and his volunteers contact at least 100 households and hold phone banks each day. In addition, the Doherty campaign holds signs across the district and regularly meets with voters at Spinners baseball games in Lowell.

In addition, the Doherty campaign holds meet and greet events at supporters’ homes at least twice a week. Last night, advocates from Groton and Pepperell converged at the house of Groton selectwoman Anna Elliot in order to demonstrate their support. The crowd numbered in the mid-twenties, which is more intimate compared to the massive groups that gather at Doherty’s fundraisers.

Eileen Donoghue‘s campaign appears to be equally passionate. Donoghue’s campaign holds daily phone banks and frequently knocks on voters’ doors. The campaign reports that Donoghue attended the Lowell Folk Festival over the past weekend. Her volunteers contributed to what the campaign calls a “mobile visibility” as they were all decked out in t-shirts. The mobile visibility seems to have been a big hit as the campaign stated that they received a positive response.

The Donoghue campaign attends bi-weekly house parties throughout the district.  On July 20th, a group of approximately twenty-five convened at the house of Tyngsboro Selectman Rick Reault.  Donoghue parties typically number in this range, minus fundraisers and cultural events.  When asked about the turn-out, the campaign said they “felt lucky to have so many incredible volunteers willing to open their homes.”

As volunteers crank up the heat, voters face a tough choice in September as they choose which candidate gets the nomination on the 14th. Though the debates are still being scheduled, it is too early at this point to tell which candidate is going to shine more.

Unemployment benefits extended

On Thursday, Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell) signed a bill which extends unemployment benefits. According to many critics, the legislation will add another $34 million to the federal deficit. The measure passed which means that thousands of Massachusetts residents could see their benefits restored.

By a vote of 272-152, the House passed their version of an unemployment benefits package which was promptly sent to President Obama. Obama signed the House bill the same day and appears confident that the funds will be distributed as quickly as possible. Before the package was passed, an estimated 70, 000 local Massachusetts residents were slated to lose coverage by the end of November.

“‘I have always had a very good job, I work hard, PAY TAXES and I certainly have not been living in excess. Last July my company had to cut staff and my entire team was let go. I have never had a problem finding a job but this search has been extremely difficult…Unemployment benefits helped me to stay on track with life’s basic necessities such as food, gas, insurance, etc,'” explained one of Tsongas’s constituents. Such sentiments were read aloud by Tsongas as she advocated on behalf of her district.

Critics, including Sen. Scott Brown, point out that while extending benefits are necessary alternative funding should be considered. Brown contends that unspent stimulus resources should be utilized because they are, “…just waiting to be used…and what to better way to use them today, then to return them directly to the unemployed Americans who need them most. That is real stimulus, which can help the economy – instead of just letting the money sit around for years without being spent.”

Jon Golnik and Sam Meas, two of Tsongas’s conservative challengers, favor legislation to extend benefits without adding to the deficit. While crafting a “deficit-neutral” bill is laudable, a potential problem is that it could take a long time to frame it and gain majority support. Thursday’s bill took months to resolve before any semblance of a package could be passed. Given the high demand for benefits, it seems unlikely that the public would wait a long time for a solution. The problem for any candidate right now is to create popular economic solutions in as little time possible.

A different perspective on MA casinos

Despite having a full schedule, Representative Sean Garballey (D-Arlington) made the time to discuss the current casino legislation two days ago. Garballey covers most of Arlington and part of Medford in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and was elected in 2008. He is a member of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources,and Agriculture, the House Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, and the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development.

As we talked about the current legislation, Garballey mentioned that this is not the first time such legislation has been introduced. “In 2008, the House crafted a bill that was similar to the current Senate version. That bill called for the construction of three casinos but there was no provision for slot machines,” he explained. Though the House legislation didn’t become law, he seemed to have felt that wouldn’t have been the end of the issue. “There was a lot of support for the House bill, even though it didn’t pass.”

The current House version passed unanimously by a vote of 120-37 in April of this year.

With the bill currently on hold and the legislative session almost over, its passage is called into question. Even if a compromise is reached before July 31st, the public is probably curious as to how effective the legislation will be given the current economic climate. The latest unemployment figure, calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for the state is 9.0% as of last month.

Though this month’s percentage has not yet be released, chances are it will stay in the range of 9.0% to 9.5%. Unemployment figures for the Bay state haven’t gone below that range since September 2009. This is figure is approximately half of the figure for country’s underemployment, which was released by Gallup on the 19th.

Garballey is running for reelection in the 23rd Middlesex district and intends to kick his campaign into high gear once the session ends. His constituency appears to appreciate his efforts as more than six hundred local supporters attended his campaign launch party in May.

Alleged unsound politics behind construction

Today residents received a pamphlet discussing a construction controversy in Chelmsford, which is backed by the prominent Eliopoulos family. The pamphlet is being circulated by Roland Van Liew. Van Liew is the President of Hands On Technology Transfer, Inc. (HOTT), which is based in Chelmsford. The Eliopoulos family, alleges HOTT, might be flying past obstacles in its efforts to build 15, 000 sq. ft. commercial building. The problem here is that the construction seems to be deflecting restrictions too quickly and effortlessly, which is what HOTT appears to be claiming.

The land in question is located behind the fire station in the center of town, and is protected by a decades-old provision which bars construction on the site. There have been several big plans for the plot, including updating and expanding the neighboring fire station. Since the land is now privately owned by the Eliopoulos family, the plans to fix the station at its current location aren’t possible.

According to HOTT’s circulation, Eliopoulos’s construction proposal “…unlawfully violates the letter and the spirit of a deed restriction on the property, and both of those points along with many others were made in opposition to the permits.” Van Liew’s critique is that the Board of Selectmen should have said no, and not yes, to the proposal given longstanding restrictions.

Van Liew does not appear to be the only resident with such concerns. Former Town Selectman Peter Lawlor and Michael Sargent have filed suit in Land Court claiming that the Eliopoulos proposal is a direct violation of the 1978 historical preservation restriction.

Getting to the heart of issue is tough because two seemingly contradictory interests are at play: preserve historical sites or expand the business community. This balancing act has been an imporant part of the town’s Master Plan for years, which is why some areas of the town appear more urban than others.

This controversy is made all the more contentious as both sides are swapping barbs. In response to being portrayed as self-serving, the Eliopoulos family is calling Van Liew a liar.