The Stow Independent... Online                                                       August 22, 2012

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State Rep Candidates Respond
Compiled by Ann Needle

    In preparation for the Fall elections, the Independent concludes its series of questions for local candidates. Each candidate was given identical questions to his or her opponent, along with the same amount of space for his or her responses.  For this issue, candidates for state representative, incumbent Kate Hogan and newcomer Chuck Kuniewich,  present their views. 

1. Why you are running for state representative, and why do you believe you are qualified for the office? 

Hogan: I am running for re-election to my third two-year term as your State Representative. When first elected, I brought 25 years of experience in the print and media industry to the office, as well as my service on various town committees in Maynard and Stow. Now, I bring four years of experience representing this district during some of the most difficult economic times in Massachusetts history.
    As your representative, I have worked to successfully increase Chapter 70 funding for education, expand the Councils on Aging formula, and provide enhanced resources for Early Intervention programs. Recent passage of the Valor Act provides our veterans with greater access to housing, employment, and education. As the co-chair of the Elder Caucus I work with legislators throughout the budget process to ensure that essential programs for seniors are protected. On the local level, I hosted a transportation summit to discuss the needs of our towns and will continue to work on this important issue.
     I am a straight shooter with my constituents as well as my colleagues. I am a 24-7 representative who is just as dedicated to constituent service as I am to public policy. I work closely with municipal and regional officials and all stakeholders on an issue. I will always be your voice on Beacon Hill.

Kuniewich:  I am running because our politicians are not listening to us and, in some instances, they refuse to even acknowledge us. 
    What qualifies me is my life’s experiences, my sincerity, and my no B.S. approach to problem solving. I have a focused passion for effective, efficient government. I seek truth and facts, so I am motivated to get results that are in the best interest of everyone in our district. I am a uniter, not a divider. I want to be a statesman, not a politician.    

2. Given Stow’s particular character and needs, what town priorities would you advocate if re-elected? 

Hogan: My highest budget priorities for the town of Stow are the proper funding of our schools through Chapter 70, police and fire protection through local aid, and Chapter 90 funds for our roads and bridges. Stow will see an increase in funding for all these important areas in next year’s budget.  I am an advocate on Beacon Hill for owners of the many small farms and orchards in our town, because it is vital that our state government understand the challenges faced by family farms. I am working to ensure that Stow receives its fair share of social services from regional agencies, and I am committed to creating local and regional transportation services.

Kuniewich: I am a strong advocate for local governments to have the flexibility to be able to make local and creative decisions. Whether it’s regionalization, privatization, or something else, the state must provide local governments the tools they need to chart their own destiny and to create their own identity.   

3. Some residents have cited high tax rates as their reasons for moving out of Stow. How would you work toward making housing in Stow more affordable? What would the effect on conservation land be? 

Hogan: There will never be a good answer to this question. There are local and state policies that assist both seniors and veterans with property tax relief. However, it is likely not enough to fully assist either group. We pay high property taxes to live in one of the most beautiful towns in Massachusetts; our children attend some of the best schools in the state; we live with open space, active farms, and abundant conservation land. How we pay for it leads to other questions about expanding tax bases and watching school budgets. It is important to work towards keeping Stow a place where all ages and incomes can live while protecting the rural aspects of our small town. The cost of living will be an ever-present issue we grapple with as we move forward with future state funding and local capital projects. I do think it is important to note that the state has not increased taxes or fees over that last three years in full knowledge of the struggles so many face in this economy.

Kuniewich: Local aid reduces the pressure on the town tax rate, but it can only go just so far. Therefore, the focus has to be on boosting people’s income. The state needs to be committed to getting out of the way of conducting business and letting us keep more of the money that we earn so we can pay our bills, including our housing costs.
    If people had the freedom as well as the confidence to know what the rules were going to be, they would create wealth. Then the town would have the luxury of deciding what to do with the money in all areas, including conservation land, but without enough money being generated there really isn’t a lot of viable choices and conservation lands suffer. 

4. How can Stow develop a broader tax base and attract more business?

Hogan: Stow has a rich agricultural heritage that is well loved by its residents. We see flats of flowers and vegetables for sale in the spring, we buy fresh produce from our local markets in the summer, and we watch as our roads fill with folks headed to our orchards in the fall. 
   On the other hand, we struggle with the challenges of limited infrastructure. It is very difficult to compete for business development if a business has to factor in high infrastructure costs in order to be here. As Stow’s State Representative, I have worked closely over the last three years with residents, state agencies, and local businesses in addressing many of these issues.
   This fall I will host a State Hearing in the district, in conjunction with the Patrick Administration and local business groups, to solicit testimony from small business owners on what can be done to assist specific small business sectors and identify ways to further streamline the permit and regulatory process to assist small business.

Kuniewich: Each town needs to be honest in evaluating their own balance sheet of factors that potential businesses use in their decision of where they will want to locate to. The state rep’s job is to be the conduit that matches up the needs and wants of the town with the needs and wants of businesses looking to locate here. It has to be compatible for everyone or it will be miserable for everyone.   

5. At a time of tight school budgets, what should the priorities be for the district’s schools?

Hogan: The top priority of our schools should always be the well-being and education of the children. The 2013 State Budget shored-up funding with significant increases in Chapter 70 aid, as well as full funding of the Special Education Circuit Breaker and increases in regional school transportation resources. These are all significant priorities because, without them, it becomes difficult for other aspects of education to function properly. I am also working with a local school official in the district to explore the use of a virtual school curriculum in expanding the classroom and intellectual challenges for gifted students. 

Kuniewich: The priority for all school districts must be to provide an education that actually prepares students with how to be adaptable and confident for the real world, while developing critical independent thinking. The districts must also all come together and no longer let the state get away with creating new and ever more unfunded mandates.

6. If elected/re-elected, what else do you aim to accomplish?

Hogan: I am committed to working with local public safety and fire service officials to expand the Student Awareness Fire Education Program to Older Adults. Implementing the S.A.F.E. Program for seniors will target the leading fire risks for older adults. On the state level, it is time for a thorough look at the Chapter 70 Foundation budget.  It is general knowledge in the legislature that MBTA Funding and public transportation are first up in the legislative batter’s box and I plan on having a request in hand for the next step forward for our district in creating a plan for public transportation. If re-elected, I would look forward to continuing my work on many fronts including jobs creation, small business development, and agriculture and the family farm.

Kuniewich: At a minimum, I hope to give people many reasons to respect and appreciate those in government. My big picture aspiration is to help people understand and then foster a healthy dialogue about not only what the role of government should be in our lives, but what role each of us has in building the kind of future where all of us will be able to pursue and quite possibly find happiness.