You asked and State Rep. candidate George Georgountzos answered your questions. This is also the first story in our feature, in response to reader Tom's question: "It would be great if we could use the Patch forum to meet the future elected officials in Stoneham. We the voters could ask questions and the future elected officals could answer our questions. I'd like to know the person better that I'm possibly voting for."
Georgountzos, a Republican from Stoneham, is challenging incumbent State Rep. Jason Lewis, a Democrat from Winchester, for his seat. The State Rep. position represents the communities of Stoneham and Winchester.
Here are Georgountzos' responses to our readers' questions:
Bob Campatelli asked: "What can either candidate do to help improve Stoneham's budgetary issues?"
A state representative has two important roles to play vis-à-vis his or her relationship with town officials. First, the representative must be willing to work with the towns he represents to always seek out and take advantage of state aid or other grants that are available. But more critical, the state representative must foster macro-economic policies that promote job growth and employment and reduce waste. Sadly, despite litanies to the contrary, the incumbent consistently and regularly takes the “tax and spend” approach to government management of the economy rather than letting individuals and businesses do what they do best. His solution is more government, more programs and more oversight. As your State Representative, my main focus will be on improving the economic conditions so that our towns revenues will grow because more people will be employed, purchase homes, buy cars and the like, which will enhance the tax rolls for Winchester and Stoneham.
In the shorter term, Stoneham suffers from the imbalance of funding under Mass. Gen. L. c. 70, the aid to local schools, to the tune of about $500,000 per year. Again, my opponent has called for, and has pushed through, a comprehensive overview of the problem. This study is due to report in a few years; leaving Stoneham $2 million short from where it ought to be under the 17.5 percent formula. I believe a more immediate approach to attack this problem is to call upon lawmakers to actually follow the law and see that each community gets the full 17.5 percent of its core funding, or take immediate steps to make the system more fair. The fact that school districts like Newton, Dover, Brookline, and Medfield get their fair share under the formula where Stoneham, Swampscott and other more modest towns are left holding the bag. Are children in those more affluent communities worth more than ours here in Stoneham?
Elaine Mitrano asked: "We have a huge drug problem in both towns, what do they suggest we do to get drug dealers off our streets and drugs out of the hands of our middle school children, and all our children?"
I think we need to look at making sentencing guidelines mandatory. Too often, criminals before certain judges walk away with short or no sentences in prison while others are released on probation, and often times become repeat offenders. With respect to drug use in our schools, the first solution must always be the parents. However, when families are ill equipped to deal with this very important problem, our criminal justice system needs to have the teeth and mechanisms to ensure that offenders suffer the consequences of their acts. A turnstile approach to punishing young offenders, with no real, serious costs to these young folks, does them no favors. Schools, working in conjunction with police and other public safety officials, play an important role in identifying these offenders and steering them towards programs already in place that are able to assist them in turning their lives around.
Mark asked: "In 2011 Massachusetts Taxpayers spent $93 Million on 54,732 Illegal Immigrants Health Care. Illegals put a strain on our finances with police and fire calls, court and prison cost along with taking Chap 70 funding from towns without Illegal Immigrants and giving it to towns with Illegal Immigrants so they are able to hire interpreters and English as a second language teachers. All at the expense of our own Children, Seniors and Veterans. What will you do to insure that our tax dollars are being used for legal taxpaying Bay Staters and their families?"
I could not agree more. Contrary to the repeated public positions of my opponent, I will vote to stop ALL public assistance to individuals who have no legal right to be here… PERIOD. If you are not here legally, you are not entitled to public assistance of any sort, and the burdened taxpayer has had enough of supporting such individuals, who often times occupy public housing units needed by citizens or legal immigrants, who drive up the costs of education because their children are in public schools, and who add to the costs of automobile insurance because they drive without coverage or in cars that are unregistered, unsafe and uninspected. Enough is enough already.
Tom asked: "What do...you have planned to curb drug use in our community for our students? Needles were recently found on Washington (Street) and most recently on Central (Street) in Stoneham. I would like to see random drug testing of our students in our town. Our students will be our community leaders some day. Let's head them in the right direction."
I refer you, Tom, to my answer above. Random drug tests may be a little too extreme, because the premise is that our young students are likely to be on drugs. It is better to identify truants, juvenile offenders, and others who use drugs and deal with them once they are known seriously, rather than forcing others to take a drug test when they have done nothing wrong. After all, these students aren’t in school by choice, like employees at a job; they enjoy the right to their public education.
[Editor's note: We'll run State Rep. Jason Lewis' answers to the same questions once we receive them from his campaign office.]