By: Tom Duggan – August 7, 2013 OTHER METHUEN STORIES
Former State Senator James Jajuga is running for Methuen City Council At Large (city wide). Jajuga is a Vietnam Era Veteran, was a member of the Massachusetts State Police, is former Public Safety Commissioner and is the former head of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce in Haverhill.
In an exclusive interview with the Valley Patriot, Jajuga says that drugs are going to be one of his highest priorities and voters should elected him because of his experience.
“I provide a different kind of leadership than what you have on the council now,” Jajuga says.
“I am not criticizing them, but look where they come from.
“As a legislator I worked well with other side. My background and knowledge of government, politics, and the process, is something that will let me bring a different focus of leadership.”
“I’ve worked with Democratic leadership and Republican leadership. I’ve always tried to weigh the issue at hand and look at how it affected the state and the taxpayers and my district. It didn’t matter to me who was advancing the issue or who filed a bill, my vote was always directly related to how it impacted my district or the state. That’s the kind of leadership I will bring to Methuen. “
“I was in the marine corps, I care about veteran in the community.”
“If you look at my experience, I was the Public Safety Commissioner in Massachusetts after 911.”
“It was a very difficult time for Massachusetts and the country. I learned a lot from that. I understand more from working with the police and fire chiefs across the commonwealth, the US Attorney, The District Attorney. It gave me a better understanding of the bigger picture. That’s what I am talking about when I say I bring a different type of leadership. I understand that there are no easy answers, because if we had them these problems wouldn’t exist.”
Jajuga also says that the council needs to work together, “not just in Methuen but as a region.”
“We need to brush aside the personalities and the inside baseball. My focus as a city councilor will be on substance abuse and keeping people from being enslaved their whole lives. Let’s work together to solve these real issues and really do something meaningful.”
“That’s why I’m running. I honestly feel I can provide something different that doesn’t exist on the council right now. That’s the bottom line. I will be honest with you. I will pitch my message to the public and hope that citizens respond if I am honored to serve as their councilor at large.”
Working as a Region – Drugs, a Major Priority
“I think another issue for me is that we have to work together as a region more often. I will give you an example of a regional problem that I think needs addressing:
We’ve seen lately a number of local stories of substance abuse, and a number of heroin overdoses.
I’ve spoken to many law enforcement folks and they will tell you it starts with abuse of prescription pills. And when they can’t get the pills, it leads to the purchase of heroin.
If you read the arrests on a daily or weekly basis, you see tons of out-of-state people coming to our region to sell or buy their heroin.
So it makes sense to have a regional approach to this problem. There are folks in Methuen addicted who need help. We need to look at regional treatment facilities, intervention facilities; we need to look law enforcement treatment and intervention as a region. We can possibly get some grants to help these people. “
“Those are things that cry out for, not just a Methuen approach, but a regional approach. Remember now, a lot of these house breaks and larcenies are drug related. And it’s a lot more than drugs. Whether it’s transportation or housing we need to look at our own house and then work as a region to solve those problems.
Jajuga says that he favors saving money by privatizing pensions and hiring contracted workers instead of employees.
“I think there are still a lot of people in the state still who are hurting, and I think we have to look to maintain fiscal stability. Now, how do we do that? Let me give you an example:
I had watched the solicitor search unfold. I think that the solicitor should be appointed by the mayor and the solicitor should serve co-terminus with the mayor. That means he would serve for two years with the mayor. I also think the solicitor should be given a contract.”
“I think that those are the things we need to look at doing that for a lot of positions. But, you have to start off small. We have to look at people already in the system, municipal employees, we need to protect their positions, yes. But, going forward we need to take a hard look at any positions we fill and look at determining whether or not we can give them a contract verses making them an employee for life.”
“By doing that, and we will have to do some work on it … it’s better than paying an employee for 20 or 30 years, during their retirement. We are going to have to figure out a system in lieu of putting money into a retirement system. Maybe it could be some kind of 401K, so that when an employee severs their service with the town, they can take it with them. It’s portable, and we have no recurring cost to the City of Methuen. “
“I think you have to start off small and look at what jobs you can do that with. But, it’s that mindset you must have with this economy. Now, that would entail working on a charter change and whatever legislation needs changing. The fact of the matter is, we have to recognize in this changing environment we can’t keep this up. Our pension payments are really hurting us. I think it’s a balance. There are obviously jobs we will not be able to do that with. And we have to protect current employees, we do. But, we have to do things differently.”
“We need to do everything we can to ensure that a substantial parentage of our students in Methuen get though the system successful. We have to make sure they have the opportunity to get some kind of training or get into a community college or four-year college. So, that takes more collaboration between the city council and the school committee. We need to look at these things and really examine all of these issues very closely.”
Surely, I am not saying throw money at all these problems, because I recognize with the economy that too many people are hurting and we have to be conscious of that and try to work with people to make Methuen a better place to live and work. We have to do it in a fiscally responsible way. I just hope the voters will give me a chance to serve them on the city council so we can start to have these discussions, and start working on real solutions to real problems. That’s what I hope to do if I am honored enough to be elected City Council At-Large.”