• Mary Ellen Gambon - Wicked Local Stoughton

State Rep. candidate Ted Philips: Experience will reduce learning curve

Ted Philips is no stranger to the inner workings of the State House. For the past 15 years, the lifelong Sharon resident has gained experience there, beginning as a legislative aide and then rising steadily to committee director and staff director under the man he hopes to succeed, retiring Rep. Louis Kafka.


In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Philips said he believes his ability to hit the ground running and track record working for Kafka for the past 13 years will be assets in his campaign for state representative.


“There are going to be changes in the system as a result, and I am pushing to make sure that my district doesn’t suffer for it,” Philips said in an interview in early April.


He noted that Kafka’s office has been “busier than we’ve been in months” with people looking for information on resources both locally and from the state and federal governments.


“We’ve been triaging cases to make sure that every resident gets the resources they need as quickly as possible,” Philips said.


Philips is running against Andrew Flowers, a former economist, for the Democratic Party’s nominee for the Eighth Norfolk District seat in the September Primary. The district consists of Stoughton: Precincts 2, 3, 4, 6; the entire Town of Sharon; Walpole: Precincts 3, 4; and Mansfield: Precinct 4 (Bristol County).


A whole new world


On a legislative level, Philips spoke of helping constituents with daily calls of how to apply for unemployment insurance.


“On the other hand, we are waiting for federal stimulus money for those who work in the gig economy who file 1099 forms,” he added. “It’s a frazzling time for people who are unemployed.”


The relationships Philips has formed among Select Board members in Walpole, Stoughton, Sharon and Mansfield as well as in the state’s legislative and executive branches would make him a valuable asset as a state rep, Philips said.


“I have a pretty good pipeline to the governor and other big offices, so I can send bills up the flagpole faster than other people,” he added. “Lou [Kafka] trusts my judgment, so experience really does make a difference because I am able to step in during a crisis. If I have the honor of being elected, there wouldn’t be much of a learning curve. It would be just plug and play.”


Philips stressed that, especially in these times, he would want to be accessible to his would-be constituents.


“I want to be diligent in getting information out to keep the public informed,” he said. “But I don’t want people to be overwhelmed. I am very aware of the mental health and anxiety issues that people are experiencing, and we all need to brace ourselves for what is coming.”


What he will do


As a representative, Philips said his goals would be to put a solid commercial recovery plan into place so that “businesses can get back on their feet.”


“There should be some sort of moratorium on rents so they can climb back to where they were before this,” he said.


Looking at the current coronavirus crisis as if he were a state rep or a governor, he said he would take a “deep dive” into the how the situation evolved.


“There were things the state did right, and things where we were caught flat-footed,” Philips said. “Of course, hindsight is 20-20. But we need to identify the weak spots.”


One problem, other than the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospitals and medical professionals, was the lack of connection among state agencies in providing services to the most vulnerable, including elders and people with disabilities, he said.


“For the next major emergency, we need to have a clear plan in place, and not just be making it up as we go,” Philips said. “We should never be caught in this position again.”


He added there should be a list of protocols in place, so “if this event occurs, it would be triggering events A, B and C on Day One from this department, and D, E and F on Day Two, and on down the line.


“Then we can mimic the system on the municipal level, so that the town managers would be responsible for certain tasks, the police chiefs would handle others, and fire chiefs would handle other duties. There would be a structure of protocols in place.”


In addition, unemployment benefit guidelines should be set up “in one week” so that constituents would not have to be under so much economic pressure.


“I think Gov. Baker is doing the best he can,” Philips said. “One of the things this crisis brought to light is that the state is not fully ready to have a work-from-home environment. We didn’t have a plan in place.”


Philips also encouraged a greater investment in the Massachusetts Emergency Management Association (MEMA).


“We have been much more reactive than proactive,” he said. “We also could have worked more with our boards of health.”


Preparedness, whether on a state, town or even a business level, is better than anxiety, Philips said.


“I would rather be wrong in telling companies it was a false alarm than not being ready at all,” he said.


Philips noted that during the time of the Cold War, students had to hide under the desks and be prepared in case of a nuclear attack. Although it never happened, people took precautions.


“When I talk to people now, I hear a lot of fear in their voices,” Philips said. “They want to know who is reaching out for them and who will act for them. And they don’t want to have to wonder if the government has its stuff together.”


Phillips has his own personal fear. His grandmother, who suffers from dementia, is currently in lockdown at the Whitney Place nursing home facility in Marlborough.


“Her PCA can check on her so she can see a friendly face,” he said. “That’s the reality now.”


Opportunities ahead


If he gets elected, Philips said he sees a lot of opportunities ahead.


“There was a health care bill that stalled last session that I worked on that will probably get new momentum because the coronavirus is at the forefront now,” he said. “There can be a work-from-home tax credit, because we just stress-tested that idea.”


Improving public transportation access via the MBTA and the Ride has been on his radar for years. For seven years, he has helped write a bill that would allow The Ride to reach Stoughton even though it is also served by Brockton Area Transit (BAT), the local transit authority.


“It’s crazy that the Ride can go almost all the way up to New Hampshire,” he said. “But you can’t go from Stoughton to Boston or Dedham.”


Making Massachusetts carbon neutral by 2050 is a more valid argument now, ironically because of the ramifications of the coronavirus, Phillips said.


“In Venice, they showed that fish have recently returned to the canals that were polluted with oil for decades,” he said. “Once the traffic stopped and the oil cleared up, they came back.


“The coronavirus is an awful reason that we came to know this,” Philips added. “It’s really wild, but the planet has an opportunity to heal itself.”


On the local level, Philips sees the district coming “roaring back” with help from federal stimulus money.


“In Stoughton, you have the master plan for the downtown ready to go,” he said, noting the hard work of Stoughton Economic Director Pam McCarthy and Town Engineer Marc Tisdelle. “The sewer project at Campanelli Drive will open up that area for biotech companies.”


Sharon also is looking at opportunities for an expanded downtown once federal money can be used to help it be converted to a sewer system.


“We are running on a septic system, but right now it is at capacity,” he said. “Right along Route 1, Sharon is shovel ready once we get the money.”


As for Mansfield, Philips said, “the downtown is booming, and the Select Board is always ready with ideas.”


Likewise, “Walpole is always good to go,” he added.


Source: Wicked Local Stoughton

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