Sciortino: Transportation Biggest Issue Facing District, State
State Rep. Carl Sciortino, who's running for reelection in the 34th Middlesex District, spoke to Patch about his legislative priorities and campaign.
Democrat State Rep. Carl Sciortino, who was first elected in 2004 to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, represents a diverse district that straddles Somerville and Medford.
His district includes West Somerville's Ward 7 and most of Winter Hill's Ward 4. (Under redistricting he'll represent all of Ward 4.) In Medford, he represents wards 4 and 5 and parts of Ward 7 and 8, in the southern part of the city.
This year, Sciortino did not face a challenge in the primaries, and he'll be running against Republican David Rajczewski in the general election.
Sciortino said he is "confident" he'll win the election, and noted he's been attending gatherings across the district as he campaigns.
Patch spoke with Sciortino recently to talk about his reelection effort and the issues that matter to him.
Biggest Issue: Transportation and Green Line Extension
"The biggest issue facing Massachusetts" is transportation funding, Sciortino said.
Likewise, in his district, the Green Line Extension is the biggest issue. Of the seven new Green Line stations planned as part of the extension, four will be in his district, at least in part—Gilman Square, Ball Square (the Medford side), College Avenue and Route 16.
In terms of transportation budgets, "We have to figure out how to get the MBTA in order" if the district has any chance of earning federal New Starts funding, he said. Meanwhile, in the upcoming legislative session, lawmakers will have a "robust conversation on how we fund our transportation network" across the state, he said.
It will be "the number one debate coming back into session in January," he said.
How to solve the state's transportation woes is a complicated issue, he said, and "the answers are not going to come from any one legislator."
He didn't support any specific ideas for funding transportation in the state, such as a gas tax. In previous years, "the public mantra we heard was reform before revenue," he said, adding, "we did the reforms." He said the state has a $1 billion deficit per year for the next 20 years to maintain the existing transportation network of roads, bridges and transit systems, and at this point, reform alone "will never be enough to get us where we need to go."
"Revenues have to be on the table," he said. "We have to talk about and explore every option."
The outcome of the national election will also play a role, he argued, saying, "On transportation funding in general, this election has consequences" for Massachusetts.
In addition to supporting the Green Line Extension, which is an "ongoing effort," Sciortino said his top achievements in the legislature have been his support of gay marriage rights and transgender issues and being part of the state's health care overhaul in 2006.
"Most of the work I do day-to-day is helping individual constituents," he said.
Those interactions often inform his approach to statewide policy, he said. He recalled the first phone call he received as a representative, from a constituent whose child was denied medical care. "We were able to get that child care," he said, but the experience was one reason he supported broader health care reform.
He also supported statewide efforts to provide rights to tenants whose landlords were foreclosed on, he said.
He also supported I-Cubed funding for Assembly Square, which is adjacent to his district.
Sciortino is a Tufts University graduate, and the university sits in his district. Asked if that ever creates a conflict for him, he said it hasn't. "It's allowed me to build bridges" between the community and the institution, he said. He's also said he's able to connect constituents to resources at the university.
As mentioned above, Sciortino said he was confident in his own reelection effort.
Another race in Somerville, in the 26th Middlesex District, pits State Rep. Timothy Toomey against challengers Michael Connolly, a progressive independent, and Thomas Vasconcelos, a Republican.
In that race, "I support Tim Toomey. He's been a very good colleague," Sciortino said, adding that the Somerville delegation "works very well together."