With State Representatives Steven Howitt re-elected last Tuesday, he plans to get back in the saddle to advocate for his district.
“The next day you sort of catch your breath,” Howitt said, adding that he’s gotten a lot of positive responses to his re-election. The Seekonk resident attributed his success to his many volunteers, particularly his wife Pam, for helping with his campaign.
Howitt received about 63 percent of the votes. In Seekonk, he beat out opponent A. Keith Carreiro 4459 to Keith Carreiro 2491. In Norton, Howitt had 2,226 votes to Carreiro’s 1,366. In Swansea, Howitt obtained 1,334 votes to Carreiro’s 1,615. Finally in Rehoboth, Howitt garnered 3,929 while Carreiro received 2,025.
Howitt represents the 4th Bristol district, which includes Norton, Seekonk, Rehoboth and Swansea.
“I work well with Jay [Barrows] and I work well with Pat Haddad (D Somerset),” Howitt said. “I straddle two senatorial districts. Mike Rodrigues in the south and Jim Timilty in the north. And again, we all work for the best of our constituents. I’m very lucky to be part of the delegation with them.”
These days Howitt has been filing home rule petitions. In Seekonk, for example, they have a home rule petition for liquor licenses.
“Our big strength is in constituent issues,” Howitt said. “We have solved a lot of problems along the way in the past two years. I think our record shows that we’ve worked very hard on their behalf.”
Howitt said that he keeps files on all constituents who contact him. These files are opened until he has an answer for them.
“It’s unfortunate, but people have problems with the state and state agencies and they contact us to try and cut through the red tape, which is what we try to do,” Howitt said.
The future for each town in Howitt’s district will have a different focus. In Norton one issue will be for the town to tie in with the Mansfield sewer line. Howitt and Barrows have a piece of legislation to increase Title 5 tax credits for those who participate. Howitt notes that this would affect the entire district as everyone is on septic systems. Howitt also hopes to secure a grant for the Woodland Meadows complex to purchase a much-needed generator. A bus enclosure for GATRA is on the to-do list as well so riders are protected from the weather.
Another hot topic is zoning. While Norton selectmen hope to attract businesses, there are only so many places to occupy in town.
“We do have environmental laws that restrict certain development,” Howitt added.
Chapter 40B housing also a part of the equation.
“Unfortunately for 40B, and this doesn’t make sense to me, trailers are not part of the formula,” Howitt said. “We thought that it should be because they are a form of affordable housing for many people. But that being said, you need to have a balance between business and residential to offset the taxes on the residential side.”
Norton is also looking into getting another ramp on Route 495 to be more attractive to businesses. This is an addition to the one just added through the help of Barrows and former State Representative for Norton Betty Poirier.
“Norton has good planning,” Howitt said. “Between the School Committee, Board of Selectmen, the Administrator and the Planning Board, I think they’re in very good shape. They work very well together and they are looking into the future.
“Quite honestly, it’s not for me to decide one way or another of which direction they go to. I’m there just to be their conduit for their help, whatever I can do from a state level.”
In Seekonk, the completion of the Route 152 redesign project at Bakers Corners will be one of his main objectives. Next in line is the 114A project at Arcade and Fall River Avenue .
“It’s one of the worst intersections in the state,” Howitt said. “We were able to land money from the state to do the design, and that’s scheduled in the next year or two on the DOT schedule to be renovated after all these years.”
Howitt says he will continue to foster his relationship with the DOT 5 in Taunton by attending monthly meetings and voicing concerns about state roads.
In other towns the focus will be on local agriculture and helping senior citizens and veterans.
Howitt and the other representatives make it a point to have a presence in town, whether by going to Town Meetings, events or holding office hours.
“That’s where the advantage of having two in a district or in a town works out, because if there is something I can’t make, Jay will be there, or vice versa,” Howitt said.
Though there are no office hours currently scheduled, Howitt says they will be planned for early 2013. Howitt reminds constituents that while face-to-face time is valuable, they may reach out to him at any time through emailing email@example.com or calling 617-722-2305.