State Rep. Ted Speliotis, who is engaged in a bid for his ninth consecutive term in office, fielded questions from Patch readers Wednesday afternoon on a wide range of topics, which included everything from the Route 128 project to his campaign contributions.
At times, the discussion resembled more of a debate, as Speliotis and readers went back and forth over some local topics that have long been contentious.
Speliotis (D-Danvers) has represented the district for 24 years in total, just not consecutively. He is being challenged again this year by Republican Danvers Selectman Dan Bennett. Bennett will live chat with Patch readers at noon on Thursday.
- David: Since Jan. 1 of this year, reports available at the Office of Campaign and Political Finance show that your campaign has received a total of $24,000 in contributions and that $20,000 of this total has come from outside the 13th Essex District. Many of the contributions are from large alcohol distributors, such as MS Walker Company ($1,500), Martignetti ($1,000), United Liquors ($500) and Ruby Wines ($1,500), which do not even operate in Danvers, Peabody or Middleton. As a representative of the people of Danvers, Peabody and Middleton, how do you justify accepting such large donations from outside the district that are simply attempts to buy favors within the State House?
- Ted Speliotis: I chair one of the busiest committees at the State House that serves as the center of discussion on major bills, such as the Right to Repair. Obviously, that atttracts advocates for and against the proposal. Historically, I spend and raise less than most of my colleagues, and for this reason I have chosen not to ask, on a regular basis, for my friends and family to contribute.
- Patch.com: For anyone interested in looking at the actual finance reports Rep. Speliotis has filed with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance (as well as his opponent's), you can find them here: http://www.efs.cpf.state.ma.us/SearchReportResults.aspx?cpfId=10403.
- Steven P.: The town of Danvers is good at completing projects on time and under budget (middle school, Town Hall, high school…) and the state has a horrible track record (Pine Street, Waters Street bridge, 128 off-ramps). Why not just turn the money over to the town and let them contract the job? I know it would save millions.
- Ted Speliotis: Actually, for those of us living near the Route 128 ramps the traffic has been a nightmare, however, financially the project will be completed nearly one year ahead of schedule and $8 million under budget.
- Patch.com: In terms of the Rt. 128 project, we have heard a lot of complaints. Since turning the project over to the town is not feasible, what is the state, and you, doing to make sure it comes to an appropriate conclusion with a configuration everyone can all work with?
- Ted Speliotis: I meet with neighbors on an almost daily basis and am still continuing to discuss alternatives, such as was suggested to me over the past weekend by a Danvers resident to remove the yield sign when you are heading eastbound and wish to go north on Route 128 with a red arrow. This would make that turn much safer, but would slow the traffic down even more.
- Patch.com: What are the exact things that have made the traffic a "nightmare" for you and what are you doing to make sure that does not last forever?
- Ted Speliotis: The costruction has served to cause severe traffic delays. As the project winds down, the engineers are able to better assess the traffic at each intersection and modify the lights. Suggestions such as I made above and others are also being reviewed.
Homeless student transportation
- Taxpayer: When is Danvers going to get the remaining $300,000 that it spent on homeless student transportation? Your literature says that this was fully funded but your opponent says it only received 25 percent of what it spent.
- Ted Speliotis: Danvers has already received that money and much more. By receiving an extrodinary 36 percent increase, or $1.6 million more, in education funding, Danvers has more than made up for the loss. Any community in the state would be thrilled to spend $400,000 to make $1.6 million.
- Taxpayer: Those are two separate issues. You claim that the homeless transportation is fully funded in your literature, but now you say it's not?
- Ted Speliotis: That is not true at all. Without the families living in hotels in Danvers there would be no large increase in aid.
- Taxpayer: WHAT??? Are you claiming that the homeless students changes the demographics and triggered the circuit breaker increases in Chapter 70 aid? I though that it was caused by changes that you "fought for" back in 2006???
- Ted Speliotis: Both are true.
- Patpeabody: I also see with the homeless that the only reason Danvers received a substantial amount of funding for its schools was because it spent a few thousand on the homeless issue. Are you saying that the Danvers schools didnt really need that much extra funding?
- Ted Speliotis: That is not my call. We have a School Committee, Board of Selectmen and Town Meeting to answer that question.
The Higgins project
- Danversdad: Ted, why did you attempt to take full credit on the Higgins Middle School project in a letter you recently sent out. Don't you think there were others that helped Peabody get to the point of making this project a priority?
- Ted Speliotis: I did not take full credit, but I will take full credit for placing the project at the head of the list. The day after Mayor Ted Bettencourt announced that the city would build a new school, I called Treasurer Steve Grossman and invited him to Peabody. He visited within a few weeks and approved the project within a few months.
- Patpeabody: So on the Higgins Project, you are saying the only reason Grossman approved it is because you called him and the project's merits would not have stood on their own? Ted, these are the concerns that I have with you. You say two different things...
- Ted Speliotis: No, I am not saying that at all. I am saying the project was immediately on the Treasurer's radar screen.
- Patpeabody: With regards to the regional voke, why wasn't it structured to have spending by city capped out vs. a blank checkbook? It's a great opportunity for cities to participate in, but it has the potential to cause a huge burden to the cities and towns participating. How do you feel that the cities and towns are at risk that have a reduced percentage of voting power?
- Ted Speliotis: The school will be a regional school subject to the same rules and regulations.
- Taxpayer: On the voke funding... why does Danvers and Middleton pay the same per pupil transportation costs as Gloucester?
- Ted Speliotis: Good question.
- Patpeabody: What I am asking is that if the majority votes for increased budgets and the smaller towns can't afford it then they are contractually obligated to pay so it could impact their own school budgets. So you have these communities competing for funds between schools.
- Ted Speliotis: I do not know why as a Peabody resident you would be so conerned about the smaller communities. Peabody, by virtue of your size, will have a powerful voice on the board.
Click here for a full transcript from Wednesday's chat.