On April 29, 2016, four of the five candidates for the State Senate seat currently held by Dan Wolf participated by invitation in a forum, facilitated by Florence Seldin of the League of Women Voters, Cape Cod Area. James Crocker, Sheila Lyons, Brian Mannal and Anthony Schiavi were in attendance; the fifth candidate, Julian Cyr had a prior commitment and sent a brief statement.

Income inequality was the focus of the forum entitled “Toward a More Just Society.”  The Network of Human Services and Faith Communities of the Lower/Outer Cape hosted the event with 71 attendees at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Orleans. The event was the 22nd forum convened over the past 11 years by the Network.

The foundation for the discussion was provided by four speakers starting with Vaira Harik, the Department’s Senior Project Manager, who presented statistics and observations about poverty and housing affordability on the Cape(VHarik Presentation 4-29-16 pdf icon). She was followed by three community members who shared some of their experiences and challenges living in this region.

Senate candidates spoke next; each gave a brief statement which included some personal background and experience with some of the challenges described by the previous community speakers. After all the candidates had introduced themselves, questions were taken from the audience with each candidate being given a chance to respond.  Topics covered in the questions included:

  • Living wage: how can more living-wage jobs be created on the Cape? Is the proposed $15 minimum wage realistic and advisable for the Cape & Islands?
  • Funding: who will pay for solutions to the problems cited by the community speakers? Affordable housing, more child care subsidies, better-paying jobs, improved public transportation – all these take money. Where will it come from?
  • Housing: how can we increase rental housing and what is the state’s role since local zoning and town decision-makers set the guidelines?
  • Addiction: how can improvements be made to current treatment services for opiate and alcohol addiction, both endemic on the Cape?

Concluding the morning, the audience was invited to suggest topics for future Forums convened on a bi-annual basis by the Network, starting with the next one which will be scheduled in the fall. Suggestions for focus issues included: rental housing; how to communicate effectively with town officials; addressing misconceptions about the people who actually need affordable housing and other services; and education on the processes involved in creating affordable housing. Finally, the importance of participation and voting at all levels, from spring town elections to fall primaries and November elections, was stressed.

To get on the contact list for future Forums and for more information about the Network of Human Services and Faith Communities on the Lower/Outer Cape, email Dr. Ruth Bournazian at riborn26@aol.com or Fr. Ken Campbell at ksbcampbell@verizon.net.