Once per month, we will ask you what one question about a local issue you would ask Jones if you had 20 minutes to sit down with him.
So, if you have a question for Brad Jones, ask it in the comment section below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are five questions that the state representative answered for this month's installment:
Is there any type of investigation going on to see why the highway starts deteriorating through the white painted lines? And is the paving contractor held responsible for it?
In consultation with the MassDOT (formerly MassHighway) the answer is as follows: During the 1980s and 90s, MassDOT placed a new type of wearing surface on its interstate highways called an Open Graded Friction Course.
This new pavement type offered improved safety by increasing the friction between the tires of a car and the surface thereby reducing the number of accidents, particularly due to hydro-planing in wet weather. The pavement also had the added benefit of reducing noise during the early years of its service life.
Unfortunately, the MassDOT also experienced a couple of disadvantages as these pavements aged. First, when they degrade, they tend to unravel rather than crack, which causes what we call a delamination of the pavement. Second, to increase the reflectivity of pavement markings, the thermoplastic marking material we used at the time required that it be placed at a higher temperature than had been the case in the past. This higher temperature caused a weakening of the underlying pavement causing further delaminations at the lane line and skip lines.
Since this problem has come about, MassDOT has had an aggressive program in the last five years to address these deteriorating pavements statewide.
MassDOT has made changes to the pavement design for the open graded friction course to make them less susceptible to this issue. There were also changes to the pavement marking materials used on these pavements.
The changes first focused on modifications to the materials and application thickness of the pavement and the thickness and application temperature of the thermoplastic lines. Those changes did not have sufficient results so an engineering directive was issued in 2005 discontinuing the use of thermoplastic lines on open graded pavements and substituting the use of epoxy based marking materials.
The same engineering directive discontinued the use of snowplowable, raised pavement markers on these pavements, which were also found to be a likely contributing factor due to snow plow blades slightly "launching" off the markers and then bouncing on the pavement causing damage that led to deformations. Slotted, recessed pavement markers are now the standard for open graded pavements.
We have made a lot of progress in a short amount of time, but there are still sections of the Interstate System where additional projects are under development to correct defects associated with earlier versions of this open graded wearing surface.
In light of the ongoing Sal DiMasi trial, how big of a problem do you believe corruption currently is at the State House?
First, if I or any colleague knew of an instance similar to what is alleged in the DiMasi trial, we would have an obligation to speak up and bring it to the attention of the appropriate authorities. That said, in light of numerous high profile cases, the legislature enacted new, tougher ethics measures in 2009.
While they were an overall step in the right direction, ultimately the ability to avoid corruption is a direct function of the people chosen to serve in positions of public trust. I do think too that an aspect of the numerous examples of this abuse is a result of one-party government in the commonwealth, and the enhanced power it concentrates in the hands of too few.
More balance would enhance the system of checks and balances essential to our democracy.
Reading Memorial High School recently had a problem with its memorial wall. Repairing the facade will cost somewhere between $40,000 and $60,000. What state program, if any, could help the school district pay for those costs?
Through the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), there is a program designed to help communities address repairs to school buildings. Said repairs include, but are not limited to, roofs, boilers, etc. However, these funds are designed to address items and repairs more closely linked to essential upgrade aspects of schools as opposed to something more aesthetic.
Naturally all avenues need to be explored relative to warranties, guarantees and insurance opportunities at the local level. Otherwise the only state money would be dollars specifically set aside for the repair/replacement of the façade, which is something that is not likely to happen given the fiscal circumstances of the state.
Oaktree Development recently said that its $18.3 million mixed-use installation planned for Haven Street (in Reading) — which includes affordable housing — may fail without an additional $200,000 in funding. Could the state lend any assistance in this matter?
As you well know, the redevelopment of the site at 30 Haven St., would provide many new businesses and would expand affordable housing opportunities in the town of Reading. Upon determining that additional funding was needed for the Haven Street project, Oaktree Development approached the state to see if any funding would be available to help finance the project.
The state, at a meeting with Oaktree and the Town of Reading, was supportive of the proposal that Oaktree lay before them, but informed the developers that there were many other projects state-wide that were farther advanced to receive state funding. Additionally, the state told Oaktree Development that in order to receive state funding the wait would be at least two years, and that Oaktree could not have started any construction on the site before the grant is awarded.
The developers then applied for, and were awarded, this past Tuesday, a $200,000 grant from the Town of Reading’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The developers have indicated that the total need for funding was $400,000, and they will need to make a determination as to whether or not to move forward with the project given their funding from all sources.
I have supported the Town of Reading with regard to this project in sponsoring special legislation requested by the Town to allow an additional package liquor license in Town for this site.
What are you and the GOP doing about limiting government funds going to illegal immigrants?
I have been a long time supporter and frequent sponsor/co-sponsor of a variety of initiatives to ensure taxpayer resources are utilized for the benefit of persons here legally be they citizens or non-citizens here under color of law.
To be certain under the United States Constitution and federal law, we are required to provide certain services regardless of immigration status, most specifically in regard to public education for K-12 students and emergency health care services.
Recent legislative attempts have focused on putting in place protocols and requirements to check on the status of applicants/recipients of other public benefits.
While unsuccessfully in the most stringent efforts, last year saw the inclusion of tougher policies in the state budget which were a by-product of the increase in public advocacy in a time of scarce resources. Similar efforts to ensure even tougher guidelines failed narrowly during the recent House budget debate.
On the related topic, I co-sponsored an amendment to the FY12 budget relative to the Secure Communities Act, an initiative introduced by the Obama Administration to remove level one criminals who are illegal aliens from the US. The amendment to the budget would have directed the Governor to join this federal initiative. However, this most recent attempt by the Republican caucus to enact upon secure communities was defeated during the House budget debate by a vote of 73-84.
If the Secure Communities Initiative was enacted, fingerprints of everyone arrested and booked into local law enforcement custody will not only be checked against FBI criminal history records, but they are also checked against Department of Homeland Security (DHS) records. If fingerprints match DHS records, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) determines if immigration enforcement action is required, considering the immigration status of the alien, the severity of the crime and the alien's criminal history.
The program would have significant fiscal ramifications to the commonwealth – there were 806 illegal immigrants in Massachusetts Correctional Institutions (MCI) in 2008, incarcerated for an average of 241 days. Thus, the cost per inmate in 2008 was $46,000, a total cost of over $30 million to the commonwealth.
In the city of Boston, where Secure Communities was first piloted, Immigration and Customization Enforcement (ICE) has put 268 felons on the path to removal to their home countries. According to state statistics, the commonwealth of Massachusetts spends $30 million a year to incarcerate illegal immigrants.