By Andy McKeever On: 01:36PM / Saturday November 16, 2013
Juliette Kayyem talked with the Berkshire Brigades on Wednesday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Juliette Kayyem doesn't do luck. She does preparedness.
After being called on three times to lend her hand to the government in the wake of tragedy, she is trying to get out in front by running for governor to make sure Massachusetts is prepared for the future.
"We need to solve the problems of today and there are many. But, we need to solve the problems in a way that is sustainable in the future," the Democratic candidate said at a meet and greet on Wednesday with the Berkshire Brigades.
Kayyem's career began as a civil rights attorney before she moved into homeland security. She served on the National Commission on Terrorism and later was appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick as the state's first undersecretary for Homeland Security, leading the state's push for security planning.
She moved back to the federal level as President Barack Obama's appointment for assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs. There, she coordinated responses to major tragedies such as the BP oil spill and the H1N1 flu outbreak while also planning on issues such as immigration.
"Two presidents and a governor have asked me to make government work when it matters the most but it matters most all of the time and that's the way I would think of it as governor," said Kayyem, who also adds lecturer at Harvard, former Boston Globe columnist and mother of three to her resume.
Kayyem said her task in those roles was not just focused on terrorism but all of the factors that contribute to safety and security — such as gun control or climate change.
"I know people hear homeland security and they think terrorism. But, it is not that. Homeland security is as much about the homeland as it is security," she said.
Her views on climate change is one example of how she would prepare the state for the future. While Kayyem believes the state should reduce carbon emissions, she also believes it should build infrastructure to reduce the effects. She said it was only a few miles and low tides that kept the state from being significantly impacted by last year's Hurricane Sandy. Since the state can't solve the problem alone, Massachusetts needs to be prepared for the changes.
Another way the state needs to prepare is economically, because she doesn't believe the state's revenue projects are correct — particularly with the amount expected from the tech tax that was repealed and income from casinos. Nor does she believes the current tax system will provide the needed revenue for the future.
"We're not sure what we can expect from that," Kayyem said. "It is the obligation of the next governor, you need to figure out what does the budget look like and what is realistic and unrealistic sources of revenue."
She is calling for a complete overhaul of the tax system, reforming the criminal justice system, and finding where to reduce expenses.
Kayyem's career has been focused on public safety but she wants to do more for the people of Massachusetts.
"I think we're going to have to start talking about a new tax system that is fair for everyone and gives the state a source of revenue not just for today but in the future," she said.
And as with other democrats, she is calling for investment in infrastructure and education — saying those are ways the state can best prepare for the future.
She said the state shouldn't be backing down from economic competition with other states or countries but push to make the state the best.
"All of us on the Democratic side are going to talk to you about jobs, education and infrastructure. And that's good. I'm going to talk about raising the minimum wage and that's right. And paid sick leave and that's right. That's the bare minimum. What we need to prepare for is a stronger, resilient state in the future," Kayyem said.
Kayyem said the state needs to have a vision of what it wants to be in the future and set a path to together. There are jobs in transportation, life sciences, technology and biotechnology, she said, and government needs to cut through the minutiae to get to the solutions. Government can't just look for a quick solution, she said.
"One of the good things about being a new politician is you can see the challenges of politics," she said.
For example, Kayyem said while officials debate charter schools, they should instead be discussion how the children are currently learning and how the state can prepare them for those future jobs.
Kayyem says the government's job is to be progressive and work for everybody in the state.
"Government has the capacity to do good for people every and also that government can always do better. There is no finish line," she said. "Government's job is to open doors and make sure everyone belongs."
Kayyem says she brings a "new kind of leadership," which sets her apart from the other candidates.
"I represent a new kind of leadership, a new generation that we saw represented in Boston race, where people like me, who have different skills — I know government but maybe politics is new to me — can actually provide a vision and a way of moving forward that is different and something people want to hear," she said.
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