Response by State Representative Denise Provost
I’ve lived almost my entire adult life in Somerville, first as a law student at Boston University. I was recruited to work in the administration of Mayor Eugene Brune, as Assistant City Solicitor in 1984. I met my husband working at Somerville City Hall, and we bought a home on Albion Street and raised our two daughters here. After the birth of my children, I practiced law privately, became involved in school, church and community groups, as well as Somerville’s Council for Children. These experiences inspired me to run for city government, and I served as Alderman-at-Large from 2000 to 2006. In February 2006 I was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in a special election. Since then I have worked full-time as a legislator, even putting aside my law practice. I have maintained extensive connections with individuals and community groups in the city, and have a child still attending Somerville High School.
As an incumbent, what qualifications do you feel you have that makes you the best candidate for State Rep.?
I have a long, deep relationship with Somerville and its people, spanning over three decades. I know hundreds of my constituents personally, and receive about a hundred contacts a day from people in my district. I’ve worked with dozens of community groups on various projects, many still ongoing. I have long working relationships with this mayor and board of aldermen, the school committee, and with our congressman. All this has given me a deep understanding of Somerville’s needs and interests.
As an incumbent, I have gained familiarity with the rules, procedures, customs and people of the Massachusetts House, allowing me to work there effectively on behalf of my district.
My door is always open, and I’m a presence in the community. I work hard to understand the difficulties Somerville experiences, and to solve city and individual problems. Just ask around.
What is the number one issue you would address as a State Rep.?
The number one issue that motivates me as state representative is what benefits the City of Somerville and its people? What do my constituents want, and how do I make these changes? It is the lens through which I examine each year’s state budget and all legislation.
This consideration also informs the bills I file or co-sponsor and work on. These include efforts such as getting the state to allow lower speed limits on local roads, to making utility companies replace unsightly, dangerous double poles. It extends to more complex legislation such as the “Healthy Transportation Compact” in the 2009 transportation reform bill, which requires the state to analyze the health impacts of transportation projects.
There is so much work in progress that needs to be completed, such as the unbuilt Green Line extension, and the MBTA’s precarious finances. Legislation takes time; I have work to complete.
Do you believe in term limits and why?
We have term limits for Massachusetts legislators now – they are called “elections.” Massachusetts legislators serve two year terms. Every two years, constituents get to evaluate their legislators’ performance, and decide whether or not they should continue in office.
I believe in standing before the electorate every two years and asking for a vote of confidence. I do not see the value in restricting the number of terms a state legislator can serve. Legislatures have a lot of natural turnover, through elections and attrition. There is significant value for the public in having members with institutional memory, experience, and subject-matter expertise.
Mandating term limits for state legislators is a relatively new trend, which started in the 1990s. They were proposed in Massachusetts, but held to be unconstitutional by our Supreme Judicial Court in 1997. (I won’t go into presidential or gubernatorial term limits, which are another matter entirely.)
I believe that legislative term limits can have serious negative consequences. In California, indications are that it has led to both gridlock, and heavy reliance on special interests for the expertise needed to draft legislation. We should beware of any government in which the legislators have term limits, and the lobbyists don’t.
Comment (anything you would like to add)
I am accessible, and want to hear from Somerville constituents. You can reach me at the State house at 617-722-2263, to talk or arrange a meeting. My State House email, for official business, is email@example.com; election-related inquiries should be directed to DeniseProvost2012@gmail.com.
My website, www.deniseprovost.org, has information about my positions on issues. For more frequent updates, email me to receive my electronic newsletter, or “like” Representative Denise Provost on Facebook.
I can often be found walking my neighborhood, shopping at local stores, visiting the high school and attending local events. I look forward to hearing from you.