Guest Op-Ed: Showing up and doing the work

By Joe Gravellese

When 2020 started, I never envisioned running for office. My involvement in politics has always been behind the scenes – from organizing for candidates, to working on legislation at the State House, to working on the nuts and bolts of making city government work more effectively at the Mayor’s office in Revere. 

But as I speak to voters around the district, it’s clear that we need leadership in government for whom politics isn’t about having their name on a sign or appearing at photo ops – it’s about showing up and doing the work.

Over the last five months, I’ve used this space to speak with you each week about the specific things I want to fight for if elected. From transportation, to education, to job training, I’ve laid out an ambitious agenda to stand up for the residents of Revere, Chelsea, and Saugus.

But leadership isn’t just about saying the right things, it’s about translating words into action. And I have a history of showing up, digging deep, and working behind the scenes to fight for change.

At the State House as legislative director for Rep. Lori Ehrlich, I mobilized a group of workers from all over Massachusetts to share their stories about how they were exploited by “noncompete” agreements – from sandwich shop workers, to a summer camp counselor, to people working in technology and scientific research whose opportunities to start businesses and pursue new ideas were limited by bad policy. 

By making the case directly to other legislators and to the public, we were able to build support for a bill that eventually prevented the worst kind of abuses of noncompete agreements.

I was also involved in organizing a coalition that fought for a law holding utility companies accountable for gas leaks. I was in meetings with powerful legislators and staff, directly making the case for why certain language was needed in the bill to make it effective. The end result was a bill that led to the repair of thousands of gas leaks, and further raised the profile of this important issue.

Turning the page to my time at the City of Revere, the work I did was also not glamorous, but it was important.

The day after Mayor Arrigo’s victory was confirmed, I sat down for a meeting with members of Revere’s Healthy Community Initiatives office. In that meeting in the basement of City Hall, the plan was hatched for the new Substance Use Disorder Initiatives office, which brought the city’s work to tackle addiction under one roof and gave it proper funding and support.

In the first months of the Mayor’s administration, I pushed every day in meetings to move this project forward, to apply for the grants needed to fund it, and to work with city staff to roll it out to the public. The end result was a new, vital city office that has contributed to a 40%+ drop in overdose deaths in Revere.

I was also involved in re-launching Revere’s Commission on Disabilities. The Commission hadn’t met for years, and had no clear direction. So I put out a call to hire new commissioners, and recommended the appointment of Ralph DeCicco to head up this work. Working with Ralph, we energized the commission and set it on a path toward ensuring ADA compliance at city facilities, creating more programming and support for youth with disabilities, such as Special Olympics and programs at Revere Recreation, and created a transparent and fair process for applying for handicapped parking spots.

My willingness to show up and do the work is also reflected in how I’ve run my campaign. Even as COVID-19 has upended traditional campaigning, I’ve worked hard to adapt. I’ve done over ten hours worth of virtual town halls and interviews where I answer questions and speak directly to voters. I’ve published a series of policy papers both in print and online for you to review. I’ve spent time in all three communities in the district, dropping literature and getting to know community leaders.

The series of endorsements I have received in this race – from trade unions, to the Massachusetts Teachers Association, to environmental advocates like the Sierra Club – stem from the fact that when these groups meet with me, they know that I’ve done my homework on the issues, have a deep conviction to do what is right, and have a work ethic that pushes me to keep on fighting for change, even when it’s hard.

When I started this campaign, I knew that nobody owed me anything – I’d have to work hard to earn each and every vote. I’ve tried my best to do just that, and I hope to earn yours by September 1.

Joe Gravellese is a candidate for State Representative.

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