Democrat Gubanatorial Forums

Democrat Gubanatorial Forums

Wichian Rojanawon

Natalia Cooper

Two more candidates spoke about their views at UMass Boston last week as the Gerontology Institute’s series of forums on senior issues finished up for the time being. According to a representative from the Gerontology Institute, other candidates have been invited, including Green Party candidate Jill Stein and controversial Republican Mitt Romney. However, scheduling times with the remaining candidates has been a trying task for the program, and the series may or may not continue later on this summer.

On Tuesday June 25, Steve Grossman addressed attendees in the Small Science Auditorium on the campus of UMass Boston. Grossman has a strong background in the business world. He is the president of MassEnvelopePlus in Somerville, Massachusetts, and the founder of, an Internet company that helps nonprofit organizations use the Internet to raise funds. He has also served many philanthropic, civic, and cultural associations, sometimes as a board member, sometimes as Chairman.

Grossman began his remarks with some personal recollections about working in the business world and also in the private, non-profit sector as well. Following a brief anecdote about his family business and his dedication to lifelong learning initiatives, Grossman began to highlight some topics in his running platform.

Among main issues of concern for senior citizens in Massachusetts is the high cost of prescription drugs. Grossman has aired a series of commercials targeting that issue.

“The thrust of the ads,” he explained, “is what do we do about the cost of prescription drugs in Massachusetts that is threatening to bankrupt our business community and harm seniors, and those who lack prescription insurance? One out of every four of our fellow citizens lacks prescription insurance as we sit here this afternoon.”

Grossman also touted the importance of such proposals as bulk purchasing and preferred drug lists, both of which could help to reduce the cost of prescription drugs here in the Commonwealth. He went on to condemn the wining and dining of doctors by pharmaceutical companies, a method of persuasion used to push certain prescription drugs. Grossman explained that, if elected, he will hold those pharmaceutical companies responsible for money spent in that way, and vowed that he will hold them accountable for every penny.

“The irony is that this is the center of the universe in terms of medical research,” the candidate explained. It is also the “single greatest concentration of biotechnology companies in the world.”

After his strong words about the current health care situation, Grossman moved on to tackle public higher education. “We should make public higher education, UMass Boston, and our fifteen community colleges the centerpiece of the way we see job-training in these next five to seven or eight years.”

He also discussed his plans to push skills-building tax credits if he becomes governor. “I want to give people an opportunity to go back to school whether it’s through a certificate program or an alternative learning program, to be able to go back to those institutions to be able to learn.”

The private sector side of this candidate came out when Grossman boasted he is “the only candidate who’s running who has ever created a job in the private sector.” Later, he discussed the importance of strong partnerships between the public and private sectors as well as not-for-profit institutions.

After speaking for about 45 minutes, he took questions from the audience.

In response to a question about prescription drug coverage through Medicare, Grossman stated, “We all know that a prescription benefit through Medicare is the right strategy, that’s what we really need.” He briefly mentioned the prescription advantage plan saying that as governor he would be “a lot more aggressive in taking Prescription Advantage out there on the road and trying to educate lots more people about how good this program is and how much it would benefit them.”

UMass Boston student Chris Garner asked a pointed question about lottery practices in this state. “I’ve never seen a gambling problem like this state,” Garner said, “In every other state you find cans on the ground, and in this state you find lottery tickets, and I think that this state has an inherent contradiction in the fact that it has blue laws on the one hand and sin taxes on another.” Garner went on to ask what steps Grossman would take, if elected, to make sure people who only have “a dream and a dollar” are protected.

Grossman responded, “… there is a seductive quality to the issue of gambling because it has the potential of producing some short-term revenue for no particular loss.” Except of course, he added, a loss in terms of human capital, which “is enormous.”

“I’d much rather see us bring a biotechnology certificate program to Bristol Community College in Fall River/New Bedford and then bring Biotechnology manufacturing jobs to that region, paying 15, 16, 17, 18 dollars an hour, with health benefits, with pension benefits, [and] long-term employment solutions, than to go that quick-fix route.” Grossman admitted, however, that he would not greatly constrain the current lottery system because it would have an adverse effect on cities and towns, which reap large revenues from the lottery.

A question about Title IX, a law that requires equal opportunity in public education for male and female students, came next.

Grossman responded, “I’ve said all my life, not just in this campaign, but all my life that discriminatory practices of any kind are unacceptable. One of the reasons why I have said that I support civil unions legislation in Massachusetts, and want to be the governor who signs that legislation, is that we openly discriminate in this Commonwealth against people, and provide unequal treatment under the laws of this commonwealth.” He also discussed equal pay for equal work, a policy he upholds at MassEnvelopePlus, where an equal number of men and women earn the highest wages at the company.

“Any matter of public policy that is openly discriminatory, or acts in a discriminatory way, whether it is open or not is something we’ve got to stamp out,” he declared.

When asked about affordable housing, Grossman had this to say, “More than 300,000 people left Massachusetts in the last ten years than came here. And you talk to people and you say, why did you leave? Housing, housing, housing, is overwhelmingly, one of the key reasons for that to happen.”

“We don’t have enough senior citizen living that’s affordable,” he said, ” The word I hear over and over again from people who are seniors is independence … Assisted living, that middle ground between staying at home and a nursing home, clearly is something that I favor, and favor significantly.”

Grossman also expressed disapproval for the loss of public housing facilities. The housing crisis in Massachusetts is notoriously difficult and affordability plays a large role in the mass exodus discussed earlier in the forum. “We’re knocking down public housing in Massachusetts when we should be fixing it up. It has happened in Lowell, it’s happening in Fall River. I understand the political dynamics. I’m going to oppose that, because unless you’re prepared to replace every unit that you knock down with another unit that’s equivalent in value and affordability, I’m not interested in that.”

“We also have to bring more housing on college campuses,” Grossman said, later adding, ” … it would free up all those units for people who are being priced out.”

One of the last questions of the afternoon came from a representative from the Greater Boston Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Aging Project, who asked if Grossman would support the creation of a commission on LGBT elders, and if so, how he would task it to come up with recommendations on LGBT aging services. Grossman responded by discussing his support of equal rights for long-term partners and equal civil rights under the law, and vowed, “the issues that concern the people in LGBT community would be front and center.”