Charlestown Patriot Bridge (CPB): As you travel around Charlestown, how has the response been to your campaign?
Representative Dan Ryan (DR): To be honest, the past couple of weeks have been quiet in terms of volume of voter contact. However, the response from those who were around was great. The name and face recognition still catches me by surprise at times, but it is good to know that people are paying attention and want to talk about the issues that concern them. Now that people are home from their summer retreats, my phone and Facebook are buzzing again. You will see the same enthusiasm on September 9th as there was on March 4th. And it will be a little warmer!
CPB: What do you think are the most pressing issues Charlestown is facing and how do you plan to address them?
DR: No surprises here but the casino and other major developments on our borders seems to be at the forefront. As I have said since January, we need to address our gateway corridors regardless of where the casino is located. In my most recent talks with residents I’m starting to hear the concerns that I brought up all along. We have major development in Kendall Square and Assembly Row. These developments are coming to fruition as we speak but so much energy is being focused on a casino that has a fifty-fifty chance of being here sometime in the future. I want transportation to the jobs and resources that are being built right now. The new orange line stop is a nice start but it is only part of a solution. I have proposed in some of my discussions a Water Shuttle that connects different parts of the Mystic River. Also some sort of transit or bus link into Cambridge needs to happen, even if it is just in the bad weather. We also need to have a better regional development plan. We need find way to make a community like Charlestown affordable for families and people who would take the jobs that are being located in the area. Right now I don’t feel the two are compatible.
CPB: Waterfront development is a big concern in Charlestown. The biggest issue is balancing the need for development with the proper mitigation for parking to accommodate these new developments. How have you (or do you plan) to address this issue?
DR: Unfortunately the mistakes of the past are putting a burden on currently proposed developments that actually are trying to find parking. I have had several discussions with Boston Transportation and MASSDOT. One quick, low cost fix is to assess the parking we have now and try to make better use of the on street spots that are available. It may sound like just a drop in the bucket but adding a few spots here and there will add up. We are also looking into the space under the Tobin Bridge, it is being used as construction staging right now but a reuse of that space in some capacity makes sense. We also need to look at the waterfront as one long connected area and not segment it into Navy Yard, Moran Terminal and/or “Domino’s Sugar”. I’m very intrigued by the old rail-bed that travels the length of Medford Street. That is a hundred-year-old connection from the Navy Yard to the Sullivan Square station area that can be used as a pedestrian, bike or shuttle path. The Mystic River was once a thriving commercial catalyst for the region. I think it can be again. More modern, lighter uses without hampering the current Marine Industrial uses can work. State regulations on the waterfronts need to be responsibly streamlined.
CPB: The state recently passed a comprehensive bill to address substance abuse. How do you plan to work with the two anti-drug agencies in Charlestown to ensure they get the resources they need to address the problem?
DR: I have worked with Charlestown Against Drugs since the days when “Just Say No” was the national approach and I am a founding member of the Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition. As there is not one type of addiction or addict there are multiple approaches to fighting this disease, from awareness and prevention at a young age to intervention and recovery. Charlestown does a good job at assessing its situation and adapting to the needs of the community. Unfortunately, for far too many of our loved ones those changes to the system come too late. The substance abuse bill we passed this summer was a major step forward in changing some of the clinical approaches towards addiction. But, I’ve already heard complaints that we still haven’t replaced all the beds and services that were cut statewide over the years. I think this is where Charlestown’s experience with accessing available services can be a model for the state. The Drug Court also seems to be a successful model that both Chelsea and Charlestown have adopted. I will continue to support these innovations to the system.
CPB: What are some of the things you’d like to see as part of the Rutherford Ave. project moving forward?
DR: As I have said for over a decade, while we discuss a long term plan something can be done to make Sullivan Square more accessible, safer and more workable in the short term. My first meeting as an elected official was in the rain, in Sullivan Square and in the presence of what felt like half of Mayor Walsh’s staff. I know the Walsh administration is committed to getting this right. The moderate changes so far are a step in the right direction. I certainly believe the new lines and lighting are better than what was there. It also shows that we care about getting this addressed.
For the long term, an honest open discussion with real numbers has to occur. Discussing traffic numbers on a road that was half closed is not realistic. It is unfortunate the delay in giving attention to this corridor and the inability to access federal dollars in a timely manner led us to a flawed process that became divisive. I feel we all lost sight of the big picture. Some advocates adopted a win at all costs mentality rather than conversation. As my election numbers have always shown and will show again on Tuesday, I am a uniter. I know I will bring willing people together on this issue.
CPB: Is there anything else you would like to add?
DR: It has truly been an honor to serve the people of Charlestown and Chelsea. My wife and I are raising three children just off of Rutherford Ave and one mile from the proposed casino. We use the public school system and understand the issues facing Charlestown resident’s everyday. Your concerns are mine as well. I thank everyone for their continued support and ask for your vote one more time so that I can continue to serve you and our community.