Dan Bennett, a Republican, is seeking the state representative seat for the 13th Essex District, which includes all of Danvers, Ward 6 and Ward 5, Precinct 2 in Peabody and Precinct 2 in Middleton.
Bennett fielded questions from Patch readers Thursday afternoon on a wide range of topics, which included everything from the Route 128 project to the handling of homeless students that live in Danvers hotels.
He is challenging state Rep. Ted Speliotis (D-Danvers) who is in a bid for his ninth consecutive term in office and has represented the district for 24 years in total, just not consecutively. Speliotis did a live chat on Patch on Wednesday.
On his opponent
Patch.com: As some questions come in, we can start by hearing why you are running again against the same opponent.
Dan Bennett: Because nothing has changed. The same issues from two years ago are still an issue, such as the warehousing of homeless families.
Frank: What's the number one thing Ted has done that you disagree with?
Dan Bennett: I disagree with the way he presents his record. He continues to distort the facts to make it seems as he is an effective State Rep and a leader when in fact he is a follower.
Susan: I feel that Ted has made a "career" out of his state rep position, which, of course, it was never meant to be. Do you support term limits?
Dan Bennett: Yes, and this is year to execute term limits on a "career" pol. While I have been involved for 20 years in service, I always bring new and fresh ideas to my new positions. Beacon Hill needs fresh ideas.
On the Route 128 construction project
Jeff: Dan, what are your thoughts on the Route 128 project? Obviously, the traffic is terrible most of the time, what should the town or state being doing to try and fix this?
Dan Bennett: Should have done a traffic study before the project, not after. We all know how bad the traffic on local roads are, however the state does not. The lights need to retimed.
Patch.com: Dan, before we move on, anything else to add on the Rt. 128 project?
Dan Bennett: Between the Water Street and Liberty Street project we need to press Massachusetts DOT to pay attention to the traffic routing.
Frank: I am so stressed out about the mess on Route 128. What could you do on Beacon Hill to fix it?
Dan Bennett: Frank, accountability and a more transparent way to monitor projects
On Question 2, about doctor-assisted suicide/"death with dignity"
Don B: Dan, what's your position on Question 2 on the ballot?
Dan Bennett: I am voting no because there are not enough safeguards and still needs more careful thought.
On funding for homeless student transportation
Jeff: Dan, it seems like there's a big disagreement between you and Ted Speliotis on how much money Danvers has actually received for homeless student transportation now. Can you explain your take on this?
Dan Bennett: Jeff, it cost the town over $400,000 to date and we received $100,000. Those are the facts, it is not fully funded as Ted claims.
Patch: What would you do as state rep. make sure the town gets all the money that is needed to fund homeless student transportation?
Dan Bennett: The first thing is to fix the problem and eliminate the warehousing of families in motels. The true cost of this problem needs to be identified and accounted for. Ted's solution is to take the program away from these families, not to solve it.
Patch.com: What would you do to try to eliminate the warehousing of families? And what do you think are some of the hidden or unknown costs of the issue?
Dan Bennett: Create affordable housing at the 30-60 percent income level. The cost of warehousing these families is $48 million dollars of taxpayers money per year.
On state aid to Danvers
Jeff: So what about the $1.6 million Danvers is getting now in state aid?
Dan Bennett: Jeff, the $1.6 million is from Chapter 70, a school fund state aid program created in 1973 by the state. Ted first said it was due to his efforts to change Chapter 70 and then he said he changed it in 2006. Now he claims it is due to the homeless population. What is the straight answer?
Frank: Dan, so the state money to Danvers went up and Ted said he changed Chapter 70 formula and then he said it was because of the homeless students?
Dan Bennett: Frank you are correct. His stories keep changing
On Danvers and regional dispatch
Don B.: Dan, do you think Danvers should have joined the regional dispatch center in Middleton?
Dan Bennett: Don, in the beginning I was in favor, however it soon became clear that it would cost the taxpayer more money than keeping it local.
Patch.com: How much more would it cost Danvers?
Dan Bennett: The direct cost as presented was lower than the actual total cost. Because there was more funding needed from the state, which is your tax money.
Patch.com: Is there a point in the future that you think Danvers should reconsider and should again look at joining?
Dan Bennett: Perhaps it will be worth while revisiting in the future. I believe never to close doors.
On One-Party Rule on Beacon Hill
Susan: Our one-party legislature needs an infusion of Republicans to make it balanced, to say the least. Our state is not fairly represented. And nobody should run unopposed. Thank you for agreeing to run again, albeit later rather than sooner! Good luck on Tuesday!
Dan Bennett: Thank you. You are correct we need balance on Beacon Hill.
Sal: Dan, it seems the only way to get things done on Beacon Hill is to make concessions and compromises. How do you look at this, since you'd be in a small minority on Beacon Hill as Republican?
Dan Bennett: Sal, there is no concessions and compromise with one party rule. It is important to vote more Republicans in. My style is to work with a body and for the good of the taxpayer.
On the new Vocational School
Wayne: What about the regional voke? Is Danvers getting a fair shake with that new school?
Dan Bennett: Wayne, I have worked hard on two committees to help bring the school on to the same page. The local impact needs to be watched in the future.
On campaign donations to Ted Speliotis
David: Do you think it is right that Speliotis has raised most of his campaign money from outside the district?
Dan Bennett: It is surprising to me for someone who over the years bragged that he did not take special interest and PAC money now is flush with it.
On Staying Connected with Constituents
Dana: Hi Dan. If voted in, how would you keep in contact and accessible to the members of the community?
Dan Bennett: Dana, phone, e-mail, in person, Skype, what ever you want. Though my years of service I am always accessible and respond quickly.
Click here for a full transcript from Thursday's chat.