New senators Cronin, Gomez pledge focus on equity

When the next Senate is sworn in Wednesday, it will have two new members: John Cronin, a Democrat from Lunenburg, and Adam Gomez, a Springfield Democrat.

Gomez, the body’s first Afro-Latino senator, brings a progressive lens to policy, while Cronin brings a military background. Both senators say they will focus on equity.

The two senators-elect sat down with the Codcast to introduce themselves and discuss their expectations for the session.

Gomez is a community organizer and Springfield city councilor who comes from a Puerto Rican family with a tradition of military service. Gomez says with issues like police reform and race relations at the center of the national dialogue, he can bring his lived experience to the Senate as someone with African and Caribbean heritage.

Gomez says he has a “progressive ideology” and often supports left-leaning legislation because “it’s part of my values, my morals, and I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Cronin is a US Army captain who deployed twice to Afghanistan and has done veterans advocacy work at a legal services center in Boston.

Cronin opposed the Senate version of the recent police reform bill because he thought it went too far in subjecting police officers to civil liability, though he supports the compromise that became law. He resists the labels centrist or progressive, saying he will choose to support bills based on “whether I believe it’s the right thing and whether I believe it’s the right thing for my district.”

Amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, Cronin – who has been in the State House just once – said it is harder to build relationships as a new senator when so much is done over Zoom. “Building that camaraderie, building that trust among colleagues is harder,” he said.

Gomez said while he’s not looking forward to his 80-mile commute to Boston when the pandemic ends, he wants to be in the building and meet his Senate colleagues. “It feels somewhat eerie, like you’re walking in to be a senator and you haven’t really walked into the Senate yet and been able to smell the wood or walk into the steps of history,” Gomez said.

Cronin said his priorities this session will be steering the state through the pandemic and recovery, as well as looking at issues related to equity in education and transportation and “finding progressive revenues to make really equitable investments in ourselves as a Commonwealth.”

Cronin supports raising taxes on income over $1 million. “We live in a time of historic inequality. It’s as good a time as ever to be really rich and it’s really expensive to be poor,” Cronin said. “So I think there are equitable investments that, if the Commonwealth is going to continue to grow and be a place where people come to innovate and raise families, that we need to make.” Cronin said the state needs to invest in improving access to transportation, substance use disorder treatment, early childhood education and vocational training.

Gomez said he too will be committed to equity, including in housing. He wants to focus on veterans and economic recovery, particularly getting small businesses moving again.

Gomez said he will speak from a place of “lived experience,” as a city councilor who represents the poorest district in Massachusetts.When it comes to not being able to pay the rent, I understand exactly what that feels like because I’m still a renter,” he said.

Gomez said there is a lot of hurt and pain now, particularly in poor communities and communities of color. “If we cannot sustain the folks that are hurting the most, then there’s a problem,” Gomez said.

In recent years, some lawmakers have pushed to make the State House more open, and Gomez said he is a “total proponent” of transparency. I think the public needs to know how you vote and why you voted, because regardless if…they agree with you or not, it’s better for coalition building and also for people in your constituency to understand where you’re coming from,” Gomez said.

Gomez also supports the millionaire’s tax, and he thinks the state should look to raise more revenue from the marijuana industry to support areas like housing and education. “It’s something that is real and it’s something that there’s money on the table and money that can go back to our constituents,” Gomez said.

Asked about their legislative role models, Gomez said former US Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, has been his mentor. He also cited state Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, a Springfield Democrat, who Gomez said has been “a true champion of me since I was a teenager.”

Cronin pointed to state Rep. Hank Naughton, a Clinton Democrat who is a National Guardsman and, Cronin said,somebody who never forgot who he is, where he came from, and continues to advocate for Clinton and the rest of the district where he raised his family.”

SHIRA SCHOENBERG

FROM COMMONWEALTH

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FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

North Shore lawmakers lay out their priorities for the next legislative session, and they include education, rail, mental health, and laws relating to sex offenders. (Salem News)

After 40 years in politics, retiring Rep. Ted Speliotis of Danvers reflects on his career and says he isn’t sure what he will do next other than spending more time with his family. (Gloucester Daily Times)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

First responders at a number of police and fire departments are split on whether they will take the COVID-19 vaccine. (MassLive)

New coronavirus cases leaped in Massachusetts in the week ending Saturday, rising 14 percent as 34,579 cases were reported. (USA Today) 

ELECTIONS

In yet another norm-destroying mark of his tenure, President Trump pressures the Georgia secretary of state in an hour-long telephone call to “find” enough votes to reverse the state’s certified results in the presidential election. (Washington Post) The call may have violated laws prohibiting interference in state or federal elections. (New York Times) A Globe editorial says members of Congress who indulge Trump’s deranged talk that the election was stolen during Wednesday’s session to accept states’ electoral vote counts “don’t deserve to be in public office in a democracy.” 

All 10 living former defense secretaries, including two who served under Trump, say the time for questioning the election results has passed. (Washington Post

Conservative Trump ally Jim Lyons narrowly won reelection as chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, fending off a challenge from state Rep. Shawn Dooley. (Boston Globe

Nancy Pelosi narrowly wins reelection as speaker of the US House. (NPR)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Businesses worry about having to raise the minimum wage at a time when they are already struggling. (Telegram & Gazette)

While 97 of 109 Springfield bars and restaurants renewed their liquor licenses this year, restaurateurs say many of them are hanging on with a thread and still may not survive. (MassLive)

Talk about crying in their beer: The Sheehan family, whose beer distributorship brings in about $1 billion a year in revenue, is embroiled in a nasty lawsuit brought by two of the family’s eight children against their 89-year-old father and 88-year-old mother. (Boston Globe

Recreational marijuana sales raised $14.9 million in taxes for cities and towns last year, although uncertainty remains about how the market will look in the coming years. (MassLive)

A developer plans to convert a former union health center for a 15-unit housing complex. (Herald News)

EDUCATION

Several Central Massachusetts school districts are committed to sticking with their hybrid education plans, even as COVID-19 case numbers rise. (Telegram & Gazette)

Teachers who asked for COVID-19 accommodations in Worcester schools file a discrimination complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination saying the district imposed unreasonably short deadlines on teachers to request accommodations. (MassLive)

Asian families, many of which objected to changes to exam school admission policies, say they are being ignored by the Boston Public Schools. (Boston Globe

ARTS/CULTURE

Country music star Tyler Rich finds a body while running in Chicopee Memorial State Park on New Year’s Eve. (MassLive)

The century-old bronze sword that belonged to a statue of Gen. William Shepard, an Army general who fought in the French and Indian War and the War of 1812, is returned to the town of Westfield after being missing for 40 years. An aging veteran said he stole it as a student prank and still feels guilty so wanted to make things right. (MassLive)

The Azorean Maritime Heritage Society asks for community support to build a permanent home for its whaleboats. (Standard-Times)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Boston is joining the push toward “municipal aggregation” of electricity purchasing, a change that will switch many consumers to a utility that uses a higher share of renewable energy than Eversource and which will charge slightly less per month for the same power use. (Boston Globe

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Homicides were up in Boston last year, as in most major US cities, another harmful impact, experts say, of the pandemic. (Boston Globe)

In the latest installment in a series of disturbing reports about the Boston Police Department, the Globe focuses on the ways officers get away with lying without paying much of a price