Armini Part II: We Must "Clean the Grid"
Editor’s Note: Each of the six candidates for State Representative of the 8th Essex District recently sat down for a conversation with Marblehead Beacon. Last week, we covered Jenny Armini’s personal and professional background. This week, we are focusing on some key issues she finds most relevant to her campaign.
“Shoring up our collective coastline is crucial,” Armini says, referring to the shoreline vulnerabilities of the district she is campaigning to represent. While the state has a long-term goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 and the local activist group “Sustainable Marblehead” has a more aggressive 2040 target date, she says those are “long-term goals to reduce damage from climate change.” We are experiencing damage to our infrastructure right now, she explains, in part because we are on the coast and have rising seas.
“Clean the grid” is a phrase Armini uses to underscore the importance, from her perspective, of relying less on fossil fuels for electricity, instead utilizing wind, hydro, solar, and nuclear power. When pressed about the likelihood that this would lead to higher prices for ratepayers, Armini contends that “we can offer rate relief to people struggling financially.” Electrifying public transportation is also an important aspect of her focus on countering greenhouse gases. This, she says, should include both buses and the commuter rail–specifically this district’s Rockport line. “Trains would run faster” she says, though she notes she is not sure how electrification speeds up the railway. Armini’s climate plan includes also offering generous government rebates to those who purchase electric vehicles (“EV”), while strengthening infrastructure for these EVs by building more charging stations around the district. Armini believes strongly that although “transitions are messy,” we must find ways to discourage or ban the use of fossil fuels.
Armini’s household, by her own admission, owns “gas guzzlers” and could do better, but she expresses frustration with a failed attempt to improve her family’s personal environmental footprint. Having called Mass Save twice for an energy audit of her home–an antique–Mass Save (which offers subsidized, reduced-cost energy-optimizing enhancements to homeowners across the state) advised her that due to access and construction limitations of her home, subsidized insulation under this program was not available to her. MassSave, according to Armini, is too limited in the services provided, and she believes it should have more flexibility with older homes in the area.
Armini is “passionate” about education and believes we are in a “precarious moment” with our students facing learning loss and massive social anxiety. The state government, she suggests, should provide resources and technical expertise to get all students to grade level while recognizing that every community is unique and may have different needs. Grant programs from the state would provide individual districts with the necessary funding, Armini says. She would also like to see additional adjustment counselors in schools statewide, along with funding for more after-school programming, particularly in the younger grades. Communities need a range of programs beyond sports to engage students of all ages and interests, she believes. Armini also supports government-funded universal pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten across the Commonwealth. Marblehead is one of a handful of communities that only funds kindergarten for a half day.
There is an overwhelming need for more housing units, contends Armini, with an estimate of 180,000 new units needed to meet current demand. To her, this simple supply-and-demand pressure is what is making housing so costly in this area. One solution she points to is a current bill that would increase the “Senior Circuit Breaker,” a tax credit for low-income seniors paying property tax, from $1,170 to $1,775. Particularly in our district, Armini notes, this would be a welcome break for seniors on a fixed income living in their own homes. She points to communities like Brookline that offer property tax breaks to seniors and disabled owners and wonders why we don’t do the same. Though she acknowledges that such tax breaks would transfer the tax burden to remaining property owners, she believes in this district that would be acceptable. As to the potential negative consequences of increasing housing stock in the eastern part of the state given the failing and inadequate public transit system, when prompted she agrees that more should be done to consider building housing in central Massachusetts. But before we can expand housing, the priority must be to improve the transportation infrastructure so people can commute to greater Boston from the central and western parts of the state.
Armini’s campaign website can be found here.
Editor’s Note: The author of this story, Jenn Schaeffner, is on the steering committee of the group PowerUP!, on which another candidate for the 8th Essex District–Terri Tauro–serves. Prior to launching Marblehead Beacon, Schaeffner contributed to Tauro's campaign. Additionally, Marblehead Beacon co-founder Lena Robinson and her family have been close to Armini and her family for more than 25 years. Robinson’s husband, Dwight Robson, has donated to Armini's campaign.