By Joe Gravellese, Candidate for State Representative
My campaign was recently endorsed by Act on Massachusetts – an organization dedicated to increasing transparency in our historically secretive state government. They endorsed me in part because I am one of dozens of candidates around the state – but the only one in my race – to sign the State House Transparency Pledge.
The Transparency Pledge commits me to making all of my committee votes available to the public. Most important votes at the State House happen in committees. But these committee votes are not required to be made public – meaning voters don’t know how their legislator is voting, one way or the other, on key bills.
I’m committed to changing this by 1) posting all of my own votes publicly, and 2) pushing for rule changes to require everyone to do so.
The Pledge also commits me to standing for a public roll call vote on bills I co-sponsor. Legislators often sign on as “co-sponsors” to bills to show that they support them, but there are bills that more than half of the Legislature has signed on to that still never even get an up-or-down vote. The Transparency Pledge pushes to change this.
It’s common practice to try to dodge difficult votes that may drum up opposition in your district. I think that if you really believe in something, you’ll make the case directly to your constituents about why it’s important, and accept the consequences of your vote one way or the other.
I also support Act on Massachusetts’ push for rule changes that would require that the public and legislators be given more time to review bills before voting on them.
I worked as a staff member at the State House, and I saw up close the absurdity of the budget process. A massive budget amendment would be released that contains hundreds of funding items worth millions of dollars, and legislators would have just a few hours to review this before voting on it. This needs to change.
Act on Massachusetts is also pushing for term limits for key leadership positions. Right now, too much power is concentrated in too few hands.
My commitment to transparency extends beyond the Pledge. I’ve committed myself to being up front with the voters about my intention to truly be a full-time representative. That means holding no other job while serving.
Legislators are allowed to hold other jobs, and most do. There’s no rule against it, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. But I didn’t get into this race for the salary, I got into it to make change – and that requires a lot of hard work and long hours.
I would also resign from my volunteer post as the chairman of the City of Revere’s Scholarship Committee if elected. In that role, I have to vote on who is awarded scholarships by the City. It may create the appearance of a conflict of interest if I have to vote between a student who is in my voting district and one who isn’t. To prevent such a conflict, I will give up this position. Voters deserve clarity on these types of questions before they cast their vote.
Throughout this campaign, I’ve tried to be transparent with you about my priorities. I’ve hosted town hall events where I’ve spoken about issues, and opened the floor up for questions. I’ve publicly answered hard questions about where I stand on certain bills. I’ve filled out many questionnaires from endorser groups asking about my stances, so I’ve posted one publicly on my website for you to review.
If you vote for me, I can’t promise that we will agree 100% of the time, on every issue. I can promise that I will always be honest with you; I will always be willing to talk candidly with you; I will always hold myself to the highest standards of transparency; and I will always work tirelessly on behalf of the people of this district.
I worked at the State House. “The way things are” isn’t because the people who work there now are bad people. They’re not. They’re doing the best they can to make things better within a broken system. But all over Massachusetts, there are candidates running who want to change that system, who don’t accept “but we’ve always done it this way” as an answer.
If you are looking for continuity with the way things have always been done, I am probably not your candidate. But if you’re looking for something different from business as usual, I hope to earn your vote on September 1. Joe Gravellese is running for State Representative in the Democratic Primary in the 16th Suffolk District (Revere, Chelsea, Saugus). Election Day is September 1.