SOUTHBOROUGH, Mass. — The Daily Voice recently sat down with state Rep. Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston), who is running for re-election in the 8th Middlesex District. Dykema will face Republican Marty Lamb on Nov. 6.
The Daily Voice: What in your past experience qualifies you for this seat?
Rep. Dykema: Local government experience. I served on the [Holliston] Planning Board for five years; before that I was on a wastewater commission and a sewer action commission, working with the state to understand the needs of the community and open up a line of connection there. So I think having an understanding of what it’s like to actively try to address local challenges and to work with the state to find a way to do that is absolutely critical. Local needs are what we’re about serving as legislators at the state house, so to have an understanding of what those needs are at the ground level, I believe, is what makes me the strongest candidate for this position.
DV: How do you feel you can work with other legislators to accomplish your goals, including across party lines?
CD: I’ve got experience; I’ve clearly got more experience than my opponent in that respect. I sponsored a bill for municipal health care reform and I had a Republican co-sponsor of that bill. And components of that bill ended up in final legislation. My veterans’ bills have broad Republican support. I represent Westborough, and for the last two years have worked directly with two republican legislators to address Westborough’s needs. So I have a proven history of being able to work across party lines.
The Westborough State Hospital is being redeveloped, and under the usual framework the community does not have a formal role in how that decision making is done and how that property is redeveloped. We filed a bill—again, with Republican support—that required local representation from both Northborough and Westborough on that commission on the redevelopment of Westborough State Hospital. Towns ought to be able to control their own destiny, especially with a property like that.
DV: We’ve heard a lot lately about the impact of unfunded mandates, including at a recent meeting in Shrewsbury. Do you think these mandates are a problem? If so, what is your solution?
CD: A lot of times, special education funding comes up as an unfunded mandate. A lot of those mandates come down from the Federal Government and they’re there to address the need. I think we need to be careful about what kind of requirements we put on our communities because they cost money, obviously especially now more than ever we need to be very careful about that. But I also think that the government has a role to play to ensure that special education students get a fair education. I think the question is about who pays for it, and there’s a fairness question.
DV: Can anything be done to increase state reimbursement for the special education circuit breaker? What about transportation funding for special education students, which is not reimbursed?
CD: There’s been a lot of discussion about whether to include transportation as part of the circuit breaker, which reimburses 70 percent of special educations costs. The question is where is the money going to come from? And at this point in time, everybody is strapped for cash. I will say that—whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat—that local aid is the number one priority. By local aid I consider special education circuit breaker funding—which is up dramatically this year—Chap. 70 education funding, transportation funding. So from a state perspective, we recognize that the towns are fiscally strapped, and we work to push as much money down to the local level to help them meet those obligations.
Are there more conversations to be had, about how to pay for these mandates? I think there absolutely are. And hopefully, as the economy picks up to some extent there will be additional revenues that come in.
DV: You're running to represent several communities. How will you make sure that you are representing the residents of all of your communities, especially those that are split, like Westborough?
CD: The more communities that you have, the more time you have to put in to make sure that you’re truly giving each community the best representation that you can give them. Which is why I think this is a full-time job. I stay in very close touch with the community leaders, be it the Board of Selectmen or the individual departments, like the planning departments, over the Westborough State Hospital property. So it’s really a matter of putting in the time and taking the time to build those relationships.
That’s why I do local office hours, and have since I was elected. That’s why I do a quarterly newsletter—anybody who contacts my office and gives me their e-mail gets this newsletter. Communication is a huge part of what I do.