In a talk that touched on Washington gridlock, the MBTA Green Line extension, and the Main Street Fairness Act, Congressman Michael Capuano spoke at the kick-off of the Somerville Chamber of Commerce’s new monthly “Government Affairs Breakfast Series”. The late January event was held in the Mount Vernon Restaurant, a short distance away from the new Assembly Row development and the future Orange Line T stop.
After providing a descriptive backdrop of what’s going on in Washington (“what you’ve read is all true, unfortunately”), Mr. Capuano, who sits on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, threw some cold water on the MBTA Green Line extension project. It’s a billion dollar project and the MBTA has only a fraction of that to spend. The benefits of the project are many: better access to Somerville businesses, more options for commuters, less traffic congestion; the list goes on. But Mr. Capuano argued that supporters of the project must first understand how much funding is actually available, and second, what parts of the project can be built with the available funding and would benefit the most people. Further, by not understanding these two points, the project runs the risk of not getting built.
I also asked the congressman about the Main Street Fairness Act, a bill currently before congress that would help “bricks and mortar” retail. Today, internet retail purchases are taxable, but for the most part those taxes go uncollected, and the local mom-and-pop stores suffer from the competitive disadvantage. On the other side, when the larger online players such as Amazon are given tax advantages, they build distribution warehouses, rather than walk-able Main Streets. Many of Arrowstreet’s clients are developers and retailers. They all want to build projects where people can live, work, play, and shop. Mr. Capuano agreed, and is a supporter of the bill, but admitted that it still faces an uphill battle for passage.