The six candidates for the state representative seat in East Boston participated in a candidates’ forum hosted by the Jefferies Point Neighborhood Association (JPNA) Monday night at the Jeffries Point Yacht Club.
Democratic candidates Ed Deveau, Camilo Hernandez, Adrian Madaro, Joe Ruggiero, and Lou Scapicchio and Independent candidate Joanne Pomodoro each delivered biographical introductions and answered questions posed by audience and JPNA board members.
Considering the frigid conditions outside and the limited parking available, it was a credit to the candidates, their supporters, interested residents, and JPNA board members that the forum nearly packed the yacht club’s function hall.
JPNA co-chair Margaret Farmer told the gathering that the Democratic primary will be held on March 3.
“I don’t care who you vote for as long as you vote on March 3,” said Farmer. “It is very important that you make your voice be heard.”
Following are summations of the candidates’ speeches and responses at the forum:
Deveau stressed his 13 years of experience in state government.
“I’m running for state representative because I believe that East Boston deserves a state representative that has the experience, vision, and passion to help lead this neighborhood forward.
“I spent 13 years working in the state legislature. I was chief of staff to Anthony Petruccelli in both the House and the Senate. I have written legislation that has benefited this community. I have been through the budget process. I believe that I am the only candidate in this race with that level of experience.”
Deveau said the one thing he is most proud of is co-founding “Eastie’s Elves,” an effort that has resulted in thousands of children enjoying gifts during the holiday season.
Deveau was asked about residents’ health concerns related to Logan Airport and what can be done to address them.
“In terms of the health study, I was involved in that during my time in Sen. Petruccelli’s office and to be frank it took too long because it was held up during the Romney Administration.
“I think we can do better. I don’t think it was as comprehensive as it could be. I don’t think it’s as comprehensive as it should be.”
Deveau said if elected, he would file legislation to create another health study.
Camilo Hernandez talked about the realization of “The American Dream.”
Hernandez said he decided to move to the United States 20 years ago following the death of his father.
“The last words [of my father] were, ‘invest in people, invest in people, invest in people.’’’
A former professional tennis player in Colombia, he came here seeking a good education. He earned degrees in business administration and television production.
Hernandez said he volunteered for a year in Tenacity, a statewide program that promotes tennis and literacy. He eventually took a part-time position with Tenacity.
Hernandez helped open up the Piers Park Sailing Center to a larger number of East Boston youths. Following his success there, he became an aide to City Councilor Sal LaMattina, a position he held for five years.
“I am running for state representative in East Boston because I want to bring the American dream back because we deserve it – that’s why I’m running for state representative.”
Hernandez was asked about his support of granting drivers’ licenses to undocumented immigrants.
“It’s a safety [issue] first. We need to know who lives next to you. We need to know who’s here. The second thing is revenue. We need that money. That money needs to be circulated around the community.”
Hernandez also said that immigrants need access to higher education. “That’s why I’m proposing drivers’ licenses.”
Madaro highlighted his local roots, his educational background and his service as chief of staff to former state representative Carlo Basile.
“I am born and raised in the community over in Eagle Hill. My mother, Debra Cave, grew up on Webster Street down Jeffries Point and my dad is an immigrant from Italy.
“I went to Boston Latin School for high school, Tufts University for college, and it was when I was a senior at Tufts that I began working for Rep. Carlo Basile at the Statehouse. I went back to Tufts and got a master’s degree in public policy and urban planning. It’s been a very interesting ride working for the rep.”
Madaro said he grew up “steeped with the ideas of community activism and civic engagement.” He said he founded a fellowship for youth at East Boston High School called the Mario Umana Public Service Fellowship that provides youth with public service internships with elected officials and leaders of non-profit organizations.
Madaro said he would work to bring a top-notch, state-of-the-art senior center to East Boston.
He was asked about ways to unite long-time East Boston residents, an under-represented immigrant class, and developing young, professional residents.
“That’s part of what makes East Boston special, our diversity in the community. I do see myself as the only candidate who can build the bridges between the three East Bostons. You have old East Boston – I was born and raised here. My mom has deep roots in this community and I understand the needs and desires of old East Boston well. New East Boston – I’m a young, educated professional who just happens to be born and raised in East Boston. And for the immigrant community, I’m a first-generation American, my dad being an immigrant right from Italy so I understand those struggles as well.”
Pomodoro used the forum to introduce herself as the Independent candidate for the seat. She will compete against the Democratic nominee in the March 31 general election. “I’m asking people to be objective and listen openly. I know you have your loyalties to your candidates but I just like people to be open minded and give me a chance.
“I would like to follow in the footsteps of the amazing Carlo [Basile]. He was a wonderful advocate for everybody.”
Pomodoro attended schools in East Boston and the North End and Northeastern University. She returned to graduate school at the age of 45.
Pomodoro was asked about the delivery of key services to East Boston residents.
“As a social worker, I do that every day. I help people meet with services, find services and resources. I know where they are and I know what it takes. Social welfare policy is a big piece of social work. We’re called change agents for a reason.”
Joe Ruggiero spoke about his life as a small business owner in Orient Heights where he and his father operate the Ruggiero Funeral Home. He also highlighted the impact he has made in the community with his involvement in non-profit organizations, youth and senior programs.
“I went to Savio Prep and after Savio Prep, I decided to pursue the family business and I went to Mount Ida College and got a degree in Business and Funeral Management.”
Ruggiero said he decided five years to become “an active participant in East Boston.”
“We have a lot of great institutions and some great non-profits here. I felt that getting involved was more than just sitting on a board or writing a check. It was about getting active and being really hands-on to try help people in the neighborhood.”
Ruggiero said he also reached out to seniors and other small business owners to talk about some of the services available to them in East Boston.
Ruggiero said he worked at Suffolk University in government affairs and community affairs. He said the university is developing a partnership with East Boston that will bring Suffolk athletics and scholarships and funding to East Boston High School.
Ruggiero was asked how he would fully engage residents in the community process for future developments.
“As a state representative, it is crucially and vitally improvement to make sure that all of our residents are heard. I will have no problem standing up in front of the Zoning Board of Appeals and going against a project that City Hall thinks is a beneficial project. I have no problem if the direct abutters and the stakeholders in the area feel that way. I think we need to do a better job of listening to the community.”
Scapicchio spoke proudly about his East Boston roots, his participation in the legal profession and his service in the United States Army.
Scapicchio graduated from Savio Prep, Suffolk University (with a degree in Criminology) and Suffolk University Law School. He passed the bar examination in 2008.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is that right after high school I enlisted in the United States Army.
“I’m very proud of that because I come from a very long history of service. My family, with their roots here in East Boston, has been totally committed to public service. I have very deep roots in this community.
“And that’s why I decided to get in to this race. I’ve had the chance to receive so much from East Boston. This is the chance for me to give back.”
Scapicchio said he spent 4 ½ years on active duty as a Judge Advocate General (JAG) attorney and that experience allowed him to travel throughout the country and learn about the operations of various municipal governments. Scapicchio serves as the legal counsel to the Chelsea Soldiers Home.
He was asked what concerns from veterans he would bring to a discussion with the federal delegation.
“I don’t think it’s any secret at all how poorly the Department of Veterans’ Services on the federal level has operated. From working with veterans and from seeing the ways that government – during the drawdown of the numbers of troops after 10 years of war – the way that the government got to that, a lot of times it was on the backs on shoulders who served for a long period of time.
“The first thing I would say [to the federal delegation] is that they need to get on to Massachusetts’ level with their concerns for veterans’ services. I do think we set a great example.”