By Meredith McCulloch
Editor’s Note: Click here to watch the conversation on Bedford TV’s YouTube channel.
Ken Gordon and David Fionda, Democratic candidates for State Representative sat down with Bedford Common hosts Julie Turner and Ron Cordes for a dialogue on Bedford TV on August 21. Virginia Mooney and Walter Zenkin were also invited to join the conversation, but did not attend.
Subjects of the evening included how, having been active in local politics, the candidates would shift to considering statewide issues. How would they meet the challenge when the three communities in the district did not agree on an issue? What are their points of view on Hanscom development and transportation issues, including the MBTA debt?
In the opening statement, Ken Gordon spoke of his community activities in Bedford over 21 years of residence. He is currently the Vice Chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Chair of the Bedford Cultural Council. As a lawyer, he works in the area of employment discrimination and harassment, a field which he finds very rewarding.
David Fionda describes himself as a first generation Italian-American who worked three jobs to put himself through college. He has served two terms as a Burlington Town Meeting member, serving on the Land Use Committee. He has been district chair of the Rotary Club, covering 47 communities in eastern Massachusetts. He is proud of having done the Pan-Mass Challenge nine times.
When asked how they would prepare for statewide responsibility, Gordon said that in his chosen career as an employment attorney, he currently works on a statewide basis for legislation that would protect workers from contracts that restrict their ability to work elsewhere in their field after a company lay-off.
Fionda stressed his statewide Rotary Club experience as District Chairman. He has gone door to door to meet Bedford residents and community leaders and has sought advice regarding his campaign from friends in the legislature, three of whom have endorsed him.
A land-locked parcel in Burlington was raised as an issue where there is not necessarily agreement within and among the three towns. Fionda said he would get people to work together toward common goals and to collaborate and understand each other’s point of view. He is in favor of keeping the parcel as open space. Gordon referenced his experience on the Zoning Board of Appeals, where a property owner’s desires might run up against the concerns of abutters. He said he’d work for a solution in which both sides win some of what they want. In the end, he said, the voter must learn to trust that an elected official is voting based on his best judgment, founded on his core values. He stated that he would like to see the land-locked parcel remain undeveloped.
Development of Hanscom Airport for commercial use was also discussed. Gordon sees the two big issues as traffic and noise pollution, and said he would not support expansion unless there were plans to deal with those two issues. Fionda acknowledged that much of the decision is the hands of MassPort, but that he would oppose locating heavy commercial enterprises such as FedEx there.
Looking toward serving in the legislature, each was asked what House committee they would want be appointed to. Gordon would like to work on economic development to bring business to towns and to provide more employment opportunities. Fionda mentioned transportation and education as areas of interest, noting that teachers presently feel handicapped by regulation and changing educational frameworks.
Mr. Cordes asked for the candidate’s views of transportation issues, for example the MBTA debt. Fionda said he’s seen and admired the European transportation network and would like to move our systems in that direction. He does not want to cut services, but to increase MBTA ridership and revenue; however, as a last resort he would support a tax increase.
Gordon said the MBTA is important to the economy and helps keep down both traffic and air pollution. Workers depend upon on it, as do students at our universities When candidates were asked if they would support a tax increase to fund the MBTA, Gordon said he had looked at gasoline taxes in the six New England states, and the Massachusetts tax is the second lowest. For example, in Massachusetts a four cents per gallon increase for a car driven 12,000 miles per year at 20 mpg would cost a driver only $24 more.
Fionda said he would support anything to keep more cars off the road. He said raising taxes is not always the best way to solve a problem, but he would support a gasoline tax increase as a last resort. He would also consider a discounted Charlie card for those below the poverty line.
In his closing statement Fionda stressed his life-long commitment to community service. He said that in his conversations with voters he hears that they want two things: 1) that the voters decide who the candidate will be, and 2) that the candidate put people first. He would put people first and not cut services as a knee-jerk reaction to funding issues. He would look for more efficiency, protect seniors and support new small businesses to put people to work.
Gordon noted in his closing statement that his work as an employment lawyer has been defending the individual, and that as State Representative he would do the same thing across the state. He has worked in Bedford for controlled growth and that we should not depend entirely on the tax rate, but should set priorities for the community. He would work to make Bedford, Burlington and Wilmington attractive to business in order to bring more jobs to the area.
The primary is on Thursday, September 6. To vote for any Democratic or Republican candidate in the 21st Middlesex State Rep contest, voters must use a sticker or write in the candidate’s name and address.