Tommasina Anne Olson
Job: investment advisor, broker, run LifeVest financial; Belmont Republican Town Committee chair
Compiled by Laura Franzini
In the 24th Middlesex district which includes Belmont and neighborhoods in Arlington and North Cambridge, the state representative seat is vacant after William Brownsberger won the state senate seat from that district in a December special election needed when Steven Tolman resigned to become president of the state AFL-CIO.
Three Democrats, Margaret A. Hegarty, Robert Paul Reardon Jr., and David M. Rogers are vying for the chance to face Republican Tommasina Anne Olson in the November general election.
Hegarty says she’s the only candidate in the race that has spent her career working exclusively in the area of public service.
Hegarty worked at the Volunteer Lawyers Project in Boston as a paralegal while going to Suffolk Law School at night. After graduation she became a staff attorney there and went on to work as a prosecutor, public defender and in the special investigation and narcotics unit in the state Attorney General’s office before becoming legislative counsel at the State House.
“I’ve proven myself to be a public servant to those most in need,” she said. “From day one I will be effective because I know how the district works.”
Hegarty says her priorities if elected will be “preserving excellence in our public school system and insuring that our public transportation system is sustained.”
She said she would work to make sure local communities continue to receive Chapter 70 education funding as well as special education “circuit breaker” money.
“I would advocate for local school districts, for community colleges and public universities to insure that our citizens enter the work force with the skills needed,” she said.
Hegarty said she relied on public transportation to get to her various jobs in Boston, and that she is committed to preserving bus and train options for commuters in the face of “enormous and challenging” budget issues.
“We need a serious, longterm solution from the Legislature,” she said.
Hegarty said she supports state Treasurer Steven Grossman’s recent proposal to tax internet, phone and catalogue sales to help fund public transportation.
Now Massachusetts only taxes online, phone and catalogue sales if they are from a company that has a physical presence in the state.
Estimates from the Massachusetts Retailers Association put new revenues from these sales at $336 million, Hegarty said.
“This is a source of income we can’t afford to ignore,” she said. “This could be a longterm solution and a positive change for local businesses.”
Right now, she asked, why would you buy locally when you can go on Amazon and not pay tax? it levels the playing field, she said.
“I think this is a workable solution for the MBTA.”
Reardon grew up in Belmont and says he has deep family roots in the district with his mother growing up in Arlington and his father in Cambridge.
Reardon is a twice elected Belmont Town Meeting Member and says his experience as a legislative intern in state Representative William Brownsberger’s office while a student at Bentley University before graduating this past spring prepared him for the job.
The most pressing issue facing the state is funding the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which Reardon calls “the engine that drives the economy in greater Boston.”
Reardon said the crushing debt faced by the T is not being adequately addressed by fare increases and service cuts.
“We need a longterm, sustainable solution,” he said. “We need someone in the Legislature dedicated to solving the problem.”
Reardon said he would push for a payment in lieu of taxes program asking non-profits such as colleges and universities and other private institutions along the MBTA line to make voluntary payments into a fund to help finance public transportation.
“That alone won’t solve the problem, but it would help and it certainly is a start,” he said.
He also said he’d look into setting up public-private partnership agreements where private companies help pay for infrastructure improvement.
Reardon’s second priority, if elected, will be increasing funding for local schools.
Since he entered Belmont High School in 2000, Reardon says he’s seen cuts in programs and staff at his alma mater.
“I’d look at Chapter 70 funds that local schools rely on,” he said. According to Reardon, the state is funding this line item at a lower level than it should be.
“It should be 17.5 percent of the entire state budget,” Reardon said. But it has been funded at just 16.5 percent, meaning approximately $100 million less in aid to local education, he said.
“Communities would greatly benefit by getting that full 17.5 percent,” he said. “It would be just a small percentage of the entire state budget, but it would relieve the strain on local school budgets.”
Reardon said the change in funding could provide Arlington and Belmont with an addition $1 million in state aid to pay for school programs.
Rogers believes his experience working in all three branches of government gives him an edge over the other candidates in the race.
He said he worked in a “junior staff position” on healthcare reform in the Clinton Administration, was on the staff of U.S. Rep. Eva Clayton, the first African American woman elected to Congress from North Carolina in nearly 100 years, in the criminal prosecution division of the Environmental Protection Agency and for a federal judge in Washington D.C..
He also volunteers his time as a legal mediator for civil cases in Middlesex County.
For the past 15 years Rogers has been a business lawyer.
“My extensive business experience coupled with my political experience has shown me how the decisions we make at the state level actually impact our competitiveness globally,” he said.
If elected, Rogers said he will focus on transportation and infrastructure, and education which he said all impact the economy.
He said the MBTA is carrying debt while cutting services and neglecting to fund maintenance at its stations and on the trains.
“The T budget is getting worse,” he said. “And service is getting worse.”
Rogers said new funding approaches are needed, and cited the public-private partnership legislation recently passed in Chicago as something to be considered here.
“That is certainly something worth exploring,” he said. “We have to be creative.”
Rogers also said he’d push to allow regional transit authorities to raise money locally to support their systems, and would take a hard look at corporate tax breaks.
“Some of these were put in with the best of intentions, but have not succeeded in creating jobs, or if they have, the price is too expensive,” he said.
Rogers also said increasing funding for education would be a priority.
“We spend more money on prisons in Massachusetts than we do on higher education. That is not a formula for longterm success,” he said.
Rogers said in addition to reducing mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent offenders that have proven ineffective in deterring crime, he would look at the formula to determine state education funding.
“The state formula doesn’t take into account a lack of commercial tax base in communities like Arlington and Belmont,” he said.