Peter Capano likes to stay close to home. In his case, moving away meant crossing the street.
“I live on Alley Street. I’ve lived there my whole life. I live across the street from the house I was born in,” he said.
The Democratic candidate for the state legislature’s 11th Essex District is a life-long Lynner. He remains close to his parents, who still live across the street. He met his future wife, Michele, while performing with his band at the old Hotel Edison.
Those close ties are why Capano sees the opportunities available in Lynn and Nahant. He’s spreading that idea of economic potential in the final days before the Sept. 4 primary.
Unlocking that potential comes in workforce development. Helping residents develop the skills employers want has been at the core of his work both as president of General Electric workers union IUE-CWA Local 201 and as a Lynn City Councilor.
“We have a job training program over at Lynn Tech, a machinists’ program that we started in the ’90s and it’s still going today,” Capano said. “There’s a big demand for skilled labor in the area, so we’ve graduated 500 machinists in that span of time and it’s still going strong now.”
General Electric has two new engine lines in place at its Lynn plant, and has hired more than 350 new workers with more positions expected to open up in the future.
“There’s a good bridge that could be strengthened between the need of good-paying jobs in the city with benefits, and the demand for skilled labor in the area,” he said.
To make that connection, Capano would work to bolster vocational education and reach out to potential employers to develop a new pipeline of skilled workers. He also supports the state fully funding charter school reimbursements and changes to the state’s formula for foundation funding for schools.
Jumpstarting the careers of new veterans is another way to support residents and spur economic growth, Capano said. He would push to make sure veterans could use the skills they learned while in military service without forcing them back into training courses.
Lynn’s push to develop more housing is important for the city’s economic growth, but it should be done with an eye toward helping the people who already live in the community, said Capano.
“We’ve created sort of a bubble here, where everything is focused on people moving into Lynn from Boston with disposable income, which, to some extent, I agree we need that to generate economic stimulus,” he said. “But, on the other hand, what’s happened is we’re forgetting about the rest of Lynn. There’s a whole city here.”
Capano supports linkage, which would require developers to kick into a fund for affordable and low-income housing. He would also vote to expand the state’s housing voucher programs to help lower income residents secure a place to live.
Rent control should be also considered on a project-by-project basis as a bargaining chip with developers looking for a break on taxes, he said.
“How do you ask somebody that’s working two or three jobs with no healthcare benefits, no child care — unless they pay for it out of their pocket — and then has to go find an apartment for $2,000 a month, where does it end? How does this help people in Lynn?” Capano said. “You have to get some kind of community benefit.”
An example of a project that promotes growth in the city while providing the community with additional benefits is the Gateway North development on Washington Street, said Capano. Lynn Housing Authority and Neighborhood Development worked with funding from the AFL-CIO Pension Trust, MassHousing, and other organizations to build workforce, moderate, affordable and market rate units. The developer also gave $100,000 to Lynn Tech’s workforce development program, Capano said.
“That’s an example of a public-private partnership that came together,” he said. “We need to have discussions with developers like that.”
While housing is critical to the city’s success, so is developing more commercial and industrial space, especially along the waterfront.
“When you talk about the waterfront, there’s been a lot of talk about residential housing, which I have been a part of,” Capano said. “But there’s a whole part of the waterfront where there could never be housing, but there can be industry there.”
Part of that non-residential waterfront development in Lynn could help solve a problem in Nahant; Capano would like to see Northeastern University refocus its expansion plans away from the state’s smallest town and toward the Lynn waterfront.
The school has said it has no interest in shifting to the Lynn waterfront but Capano said it’s an open conversation.
“In any negotiation, the answer is ‘no’ until it isn’t,” he said.
Capano said he signed a joint statement with his fellow Democratic candidates Drew Russo and Hong Net opposing the school’s Nahant expansion after he spoke with residents and lobstermen from the town.
“I don’t think it’s right for the town of Nahant,” he said.
If elected, he would work to update the so-called Dover Amendment, a state law that allows nonprofits to skirt local zoning ordinances. The law was passed as a measure to combat discrimination against religious schools. Capano said the amendment should have exemptions based on environmental impact and community size.
IMMIGRATION AND DIVERSITY
Capano would have supported the Safe Communities Act, which would have provided more protection to immigrants in the commonwealth. The measure failed to pass in the legislature after a bitter fight earlier this year.
In the district, Capano said he’ll continue to work with the growing Latino community. While he said he’ll continue to reach out to specific communities, part of integrating Lynn is bringing people of all background together to discuss common goals. That helps integrate immigrants into the city and shows immigration skeptics that all Lynners want the same things.
“If you can set up situations where everybody is in the same room together, you get to see that a lot of the issues and problems that you have are very similar,” he said.