DENNIS – Members of the Cape’s legislative delegation gathered Friday in Dennis to talk about the most prominent issues facing the region.
The inaugural “State of the Cape”, hosted by CCB Media and the Cape Cod Community Media Center, examined issues ranging from the opiate epidemic, wastewater and bringing back youth to the Cape.
Senator Dan Wolf, Representative Tim Whelan, Representative Sarah Peake, Representative David Vieira, Representative Randy Hunt and Representative Brian Mannal were the legislators that took part in the discussion.
Wolf, who is not seeking re-election, discussed what he will be doing until his term ends.
“For me right now, the next number of weeks remaining are going to be really focused on the budget, how to advocate for local projects while at the same time how to be fair to the entire Commonwealth through the budget process,” said Wolf. “After budget, between then and the end of session, we have a lot of priorities there.”
The opioid epidemic on the Cape was the most discussed issue by the legislators during the event.
Wolf said he wants to help solve the problem by focusing on those that are responsible for the issue.
“What do we do about the fact that huge profits are being made by the market being flooded by producers of these drugs who are not being held accountable,” said Wolf. “Instead we’re looking for insurance and we’re looking for the private sector to figure out how to pay for this and I really think we need to hold the pharmaceutical companies more accountable.”
Peake expressed her concern with the distance those who seek rehab programs have to take in her district to get to services in Hyannis.
“We see them going to downtown Hyannis and hopefully they find the services they need there, but if they don’t, they become part of the homeless population,” said Peake.
Mannal said talk about moving services away from Hyannis would not help the situation.
“There’s plenty of businesses who feel very much put out because we’ve become a magnet or a haven, but the reality is that the situation would be much, much worse if we didn’t have those services in place and pulling them away does nothing to help solve the problem,” said Mannal.
Hunt said it is going to take some time to figure out the way to solve the opioid issues on the Cape.
“We’re going to have to have a commitment that’s generational to be able to get our arms around this problem because it’s not getting better based on the statistics we’ve seen in the last few years,” said Hunt.
In the discussion over wastewater issues and the “208 Plan” Vieira said more money needs to be invested.
“The key going forward is that we continue to look at those adaptive management strategies, that we continue to look at aquaculture, permeable reactive barriers, making sure that we can invest in bringing in that technology up to a standard that’s recognized in the field and can be utilized as a key component to local plans,” said Vieira.
“There’s lots of work that needs to be done but the good news is that there’s lots of smart people around the table, we’re thinking creatively, we’re thinking out of the box,” said Peake.
Whelan discussed the issue of keeping young professionals on the Cape and expressed his disappointment in the likelihood of him not being able to have his children and grandchildren live on the Cape because the cost of living is too high.
“We need to diversify our economy, we can’t just be retail, we can’t just be seasonal, we can’t just be hospitality, we need to diversify if we’re going to keep our young people here on the Cape,” said Whelan.
Wolf said he didn’t think it was just a youth issue.
“I think the youth issue is the canary in the coalmine,” said Wolf. “I think we’re focused way too much on it being an issue on youth, it’s really an issue about affordability and it’s affordability for anybody and everybody.”
The Cape delegation also talked about current legislation that they are working on in the current legislative session.
Watch the Full State of the Cape Video Below!
By JUSTIN SAUNDERS, MATT PITTA, CapeCod.com Newscenter