Andrew Flowers Statement:
Thank you to the Sustainable Sharon Coalition. I’m honored to be here.
I’m Andrew Flowers, candidate for State Representative. I’m running because we need a fresh infusion of progressive leadership on Beacon Hill. We have tough challenges to face: our transportation system is failing us, inequality is getting worse, and the perils of climate change must be addressed.
A little about me: I grew up in a working-class family that struggled. We moved more than 20 times before I graduated high school. I watched my parents go bankrupt twice. As a teenager, I worked for my dad’s janitorial business, rising before dawn to clean office buildings and retail stores before racing to school.
I now have more than a decade of experience in economics, including five years at the Federal Reserve during the financial crisis. More recently, I was an economist for Indeed.com, the world’s largest jobs site. My wife and I have two young kids and we live in Walpole, where I’m a local leader: the Vice Chair of the Finance Committee and Chair of the affordable housing committee. While I live in Walpole, my 4 year old daughter Vivian goes to the Cooperative Nature Preschool at Moose Hill Farm, right here in Sharon.
I care deeply about environmental issues. A quick story: last summer, my family was vacationing at a beach on the Cape. While our kids played in the sand, my wife and I heard a talk from a scientist, who said that by 2070 that very beach would be fully eroded. It hit us: By the time our children are in their 50s, they’d look back at these family photos to see a beach that will have vanished.
Here’s my environmental vision. There are three critical problems I’ll work to address as your State Representative:
- Climate change is an existential threat. Not just in Australia or to California’s forests, but to Massachusetts – right now.
- Environmental justice for our low-income communities and people of color is lacking across the Commonwealth.
- Local government needs more resources and tools to achieve a sustainable future.
For all three issues: We need bold, progressive action. But the State House is not matching the urgency of the time. The Legislature has not led on climate since the Global Warming Solutions Act passed in 2008. To begin to fix the environment, we need to begin to fix Beacon Hill. That’s why I’m running.
First, climate change. The science is crystal clear: In MA, we’re experiencing more hot days and extreme precipitation events, as well as devastating coastal erosion. On Beacon Hill, there is consensus between the House, Senate, and Governor on a goal for net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Great. I support that bill. But we can’t be limited by consensus, for two reasons: (1) the executive branch implements the law, and that’s risky and (2) the real action on climate comes from carbon pricing.
What’s carbon pricing? It’s just that: we’d put a price on carbon, starting at $20 per ton and gradually raise it. It would generate $400-$600 million in revenue per year. Yes, there would be slightly higher costs for consumers. But this program would rebate 70% of funds back to low- and moderate-income households in a way that’s progressive. The other 30% of funds are Green Infrastructure Fund. We’d take that money and invest in the future. According to the non-profit Climate Exchange, the town of Sharon would get about $1.3 million per year after just five years into the program.
Second, environmental justice. Low income communities, people of color – they’re disproportionately burdened by pollution. What’s lacking is a coherent definition of “environmental justice” to guide state policy. The Environmental Justice (EJ) Act which I support, would codify such a definition and require state agencies to have their “environmental impact reports” consider EJ communities.
Thirdly, local governments need more resources and tools to pursue conservation and sustainable objectives. Two examples: Local net zero stretch codes; and the option for local and county pension systems to divestment from fossil fuel companies. As a member of FinCom, I was proud to advocate for Walpole Town Meeting to pass a 100% green energy by 2050 resolution, and we were successful.
At the end of the day, I’ll ask you: Who is leading on climate right now? You’re seeing freshman and sophomore Reps like Rep. Meschino and Rep. Robinson lead. These are Reps who entered with a background in policy analysis, like me. They’re the ones innovating around climate policy. I will do the same. That’s why I’m running: because we need a fresh perspective on Beacon Hill.
Ted Philips Statement:
As a thirteen-year member of the Sharon Finance Committee, I am proud to have supported each and every initiative that the Sustainable Sharon Coalition has proposed for the town, in both formal and informal capacities. Whether it be Sharon’s plastic bag ban, its resolution to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, energy efficiency initiatives, or working with the Conservation Commission to protect Lake Massapoag and the water system it’s a vital part of, I have always voted in favor of positive recommendations to Town Meeting or for actual funding for specific projects.
In my position as Staff Director to Representative Kafka, I was pleased to coordinate the offices of the Sharon legislative delegation in order to advocate effectively for the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to put up vital funds to purchase the Rattlesnake Hill property and protect the vast majority of said land from ever being developed. I have an environmental record that I’m extremely proud of, but if given the honor of representing the 8th Norfolk District in General Court, there is much more that I intend to do.
Right now, there are a number of bills on Beacon Hill that meet the overwhelming challenge of climate change with creative and practical solutions; it is my fervent hope that they are passed into law this session, but if they aren’t, I intend to cosponsor these bills next session and fight for their passage. Bills like Representative Meschino’s 2050 Roadway Map, which requires carbon neutrality by 2050 with interim emission limits for 2030 and 2040 (https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H832), or Representative Decker’s bill to Re-Power Massachusetts with 100% Renewable Energy by 2035 (https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H2836) are progressive climate bills that deserve passage.
I would also advocate for policies like the Senate’s proposal to create a Climate Policy Commission, modeled on our Health Policy Commission, to provide consistent data and guidance to the legislature about how we can be better at creating and passing effective climate policy moving forward.
I would join the ongoing effort to pass the Green Budget, a movement to spend 1% of the Commonwealth’s annual budget on environmental agencies and the policies they support. That level of commitment has not been reached since the early 2000’s; currently, we spend approximately 0.60% of the budget on the agencies in question- the DCR, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Division of Ecological Restoration (DER), & the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program. These deficiencies have led to lax oversight of environmental laws and understaffed state parks like Borderland, a regional jewel that deserves better maintenance than what it currently receives due to lack of resources.
Finally, one of the “soft” powers of the office of State Representative, especially one who represents multiple towns, is the ability to facilitate the sharing of best practices between the towns in the district. If I see creative policies being created in one community, I intend to make sure that the other three know about it so that they can either initiate similar efforts or collaborate with their neighbors to regionalize said efforts. Facilitating effective communication between like-minded groups leads to better outcomes and reduces the chances of redundancies.
I’m really excited to tackle the challenges ahead of us, and for the opportunity to continue to work with Sustainable Sharon as your State Representative to create lasting, effective policies regarding climate and sustainability that we can all take pride in. Thank you, and I humbly ask for your vote on Tuesday, September 1st!