Gov. candidates talk progressive issues

December 6, 2013
By

To no surprise, two Democratic candidates for governor—Attorney General Martha Coakley and state Treasurer Steve Grossman—advocated progressive issues, such as raising the minimum wage and implementing earned sick time, during a progressive forum hosted by two local organizations.

But it was not a complete walk in the park for the candidates, as Grossman was questioned whether the proposed minimum wage hike is sufficient, while Coakley was quizzed over an investigation into her campaign’s finances.

About 45 people attended the Nov. 20 forum at Doyle’s Cafe at 3484 Washington St. Jamaica Plain Forum and JP Progressives hosted the event.

JP Progressives formed in 2009, but has been dormant for some time. JP Progressives co-chair Reuben Kantor said the Nov. 20 forum was the “kick-off” to a “JP Progressives 2.0.”

A second forum with three other Democratic candidates—Joe Avellone, Donald Berwick and Juliette Kayyem—was scheduled for Dec. 4, after the Gazette deadline.

Grossman talked during the Nov. 20 forum about being the chief executive officer (CEO) of Grossman Marketing Group for 35 years. His grandfather originally founded the company in 1910 as the Massachusetts Envelope Company.

Grossman relayed the anecdote of how 26 years ago, an employee came to him and said she needed to leave the company. When he asked her why, she responded that an adoption agency was requiring her to spend six months full-time with the potential adoptee. Grossman told her to take the time off and she would be paid in full.

The former CEO said such acts create loyalty and productivity. He said that it is “stunning” that today there are millions of people in the state who have no earned sick time.

Grossman also talked about how his company converted to wind power for all its printing and manufacturing. He said that the business community has a responsibility to lower its reliance on fossil fuel.

As treasurer, Grossman said, he has brought transparency to his office by putting the state’s checkbook online and has saved the state money by sending major contracts out to bid.

During the question-and-answer segment with Grossman, Jeff Brummer, a Jamaica Plain small-business owner, asked the treasurer about minimum wage. Brummer said he never pays his employees less than $15 per hour. He said that proposed state minimum wage hike to $11 per hour is not a livable wage and that the current $8 per hour can’t “put the roof over someone’s head.”

Grossman agreed that $11 per hour is “not sufficient,” but that it is a “step forward.” He said that he might lose the small-business community—which he is close to—over his support for the minimum wage hike and earned sick time, but he is willing to do so.

“The minimum wage is not a livable wage,” he said.

Coakley talked about how as attorney general she has taken on Wall Street and helped 33,000 people stave off foreclosure and stay in their homes. She gave an anecdote involving the couple Eddie Pilicy and Kate Reynolds. Pilicy, a self-employed arborist, fell out of a tree and severely injured himself. That left the husband and wife struggling to pay their mortgage until the Attorney General’s Office helped get the payments modified.

Coakley discussed fighting against the Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids federal recognition of same-sex marriage, and urging the U.S. Supreme Court to repeal the act.

“That work continues,” she said.

The attorney general also talked about raising the minimum wage, saying that the state legislature’s effort is a “good start, but not enough” and said she is in favor of earned sick time. She called those two issues “basic necessities.”

Coakley said she wants to ensure everyone has access to “good, quality health care.” She discussed having intervention and prevention for people who have mental health issues, noting that she had a brother who suffered from depression before committing suicide at 33 years old.

“We need to remove the stigma about getting help and make sure health care covers it,” said Coakley.

During the question-and-answer segment with Coakley, Jamaica Plain resident Peter Anderson quizzed the attorney general over the investigation into whether Coakley improperly used funds from her failed 2010 U.S. Senate run for her state political campaigns, which Massachusetts campaign finance law forbids.

Coakley responded by saying she was “glad” Anderson had asked that questioned and said it is important for candidates to be “transparent.” She said the “minute we learned the campaign finance irregularities, we began talks with the Federal Election Commission.”

“We made some mistakes. I’ve acknowledged that. It’s my fault. We will fix it,” said Coakley.