Usually I’m late to endorse, and rarely endorse in State Rep races. But this is different. Tommy Vitolo, our own stomv on Blue Mass. Group, is running for State Rep (15th Norfolk, Brookline) to replace the retiring Frank Smizik. Tommy was Smizik’s campaign treasurer, and a Town Meeting member and Constable. He’s facing a formidable opponent in the primary.
Tommy has been a friend to this site since we started it in 2004, having provided high-value, expert commentary, particularly on energy issues. He has a PhD in Systems Engineering from BU. Professionally, he is an Senior Associate for Synapse Energy, advising on how to integrate renewables and decarbonize electricity markets. He has testified or advised energy regulators and policymakers in 20+ states and DC. BMG readers know he is passionate about energy, renewables, conservation, and transit. He knows the high-tech, wonky solutions (solar incentives, e.g.); and also the low-tech ones (conservation). He’s advised us, both on this site and in person. I can attest that he’s a great guy personally — warm, smart, real, and funny.
This is the moment for people like Tommy to get into making state policy. Right now we’re making epochal decisions regarding energy, environment, and climate readiness; our future literally depends on it. The “bridge to the clean energy future”, as the old saw goes, is not natural gas: It’s sound, reality-based, well-informed policy design — powered by political urgency. We need expert advice to get us from Point A to Point B, with maximum efficiency. For instance: What solar credit system will result in the swiftest growth of clean power? How can the state compensate for the loss of Pilgrim Nuclear without using more fossil fuels? Massachusetts is fortunate to have policy visionaries, like Michelle Wu, the Acadia Center, and the TransitMatters; Tommy’s one of them.
Of course, Tommy’s constituents in Brookline will want to know his views on education, public safety, housing, cost of living, and so forth. I will let him make his case on those subjects. But energy, environment, and transit policy affect everything. They are the existential issues of our time, vis-a-vis global warming. They are the economy (your heating bills); They are social justice and inequality (the unequal costs of pollution born by the most vulnerable). Transit is physical and social mobility; it is cost of living (do you need a car?); it affects whether you can reach a new job, and keep it by showing up reliably.
By putting Tommy in the State House, we’ll be putting his expertise very close to those who make the real decisions: The Speaker and his chosen committee chairs. The power of proximity is not to be discounted: Lobbyists are powerful not simply because of campaign cash or perceived political juice, but because they are useful in providing information and expertise. Tommy will act as an informed foil to fossil fuel interests, who obviously still have a heavy influence on Beacon Hill. (It is getting ahead of myself to hope that a few years in the State House might prepare him for a future stint as Secretary of Energy and Environment. But it’s not a crazy thought.)
This is the moment for Tommy Vitolo to be in the State House. I’ve sent him some money; I hope that you will donate or volunteer, too.