Democrat Juliette Kayyem threw her hat into the Massachusetts governor's race last month.

Credit: Juliette Kayyem

Juliette Kayyem On Casinos, Eduction, Syria

September 11, 2013

Juliette Kayyem, a Democratic candidate for Governor of Massachusetts, stopped by Boston Public Radio on Tuesday to speak with hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan. Kayyem is a former columnist at The Boston Globe, a lecturer of public policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and she spent nearly 15 years in counter-terrorism, homeland security, and emergency management. 

Before we get to Massachusetts- you're an expert in homeland security. Is it even possible to verify that chemical weapons are gone, or is this just like Iraq Part II?

I think it's absolutely possible. I think this issue is relevant to a Governor's race. I think it's important to the citizens of the state. We have a national guard and a military- I used to oversee them. We have a Syrian population of people interested.

I have to tell you- I think this may be a bit of a gift from Russia and we should let it play out. I don't see why we would be in a hurry. I see an importance in verifying what they're doing, but we shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth right now. This may be an out for everyone and that would be good. And, meanwhile, no more chemical weapons will be used by Syria. No one should pretend like this is a long term strategy with what's happening in Syria.  I was just there- when I was with the Globe I was on the Jordanian Syria border. The refugee crisis will be there a long time and it's relevant to Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and our allies.

The New York Times did a story about the notion that there's one Boston for the people who died or were injured during the Marathon and another Boston for those who live in Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan. Where are you on that in terms of response to crime, attention to violence, and what some people see as terrorism in their back yard?

I think One Boston should include all crimes. People say to me you're a terrorism expert why are you running for governor? I say actually I deal with risk and threats whatever they are. Whether it's climate change, or crime on the streets, or a Columbine, or terrorism as we saw. Our response to it should always be the same- support for law enforcement and response and emergency management. It should be response for hte communities. But the Boston Marathon was different, it was an attack on the city and the state as a whole... I would never argue that it's more important than the bigger issues that are confronting our society- which are far beyond crime, even.

Do you entertain the possibility that if the feds did their jobs better that the Marathon Bombing wouldn't have happened?

I do not go down the path of the blinding clarity of hindsight. In hindsight, yes, we could put the pieces together and say "If only...", but that's just not who I am. I mean, I think we learn from what happened. I think that there should be a separate investigation.

What we're dealing with now is a little bit like whack-a-mole. We have so many threats right now, it's not just terrorism. We have to accept that as a society bad things will happen (...) how we should be judged as a society is how prepared we are for those moments. And that's the kind of leadership and management that I bring to the table so that in the moment when that bad thing happens you know how to work state government, federal government, get people together across the aisle, across all types of stakeholders and get to a solution. And that's why I've been asking for an investigation.

Speaking of investigations. The ACLU has asked the Attorney General to investigate the killing of Ibrahigm Todashev, who was linked to a triple murder in Waltham. Martha Coakley has said she won't do it. Is she wrong?

I don't know the specifics. I'm very careful about ongoing investigations because we don't know the specifics. But certainly, at least what I've seen publicly as a public citizen I don't think we have good enough explanations right now.

So, would you ask the AG if you were governor now to investigate? We had two state troopers there...

Right. I'm a big fan of lessons learned (...) I was pushing for lessons learned- a review, an assessment. If it gets to blame an investigation so be it. The capacity of government to learn after something happens should never be denied. And I always say this about the Boston Marathon- we can talk about luck and Boston Strong- and I have a mantra that I actually don't do luck, because it wasn't luck. It was an investment in learning from past attacks, past crimes, past whatever it is to get better at what we do. And we can get better.  There's no finish line. Government can always get better. There's no perfect situation, we just adapt and respond and get people to engage in the progressive politics and the public policy problems that we have.

You had the gig at the Globe writing a column, you're on CNN all the time, you were at Homeland Security, you teach at Harvard. Why do you want to run for governor?

I have served most of my life in the public sector.  I love working in government. I've worked in state government and federal government. I have the skills. I have the varied and diverse background that I think- that I know will help for the challenges of the future. So, that's the why. And I also think there's not much disagreement about what the priorities should be- jobs, education, technology, climate change, all those big issues- it's the how.

And I think just given my experience, that I want to provide to everyone who will listen to me at every caucus and every district an opportunity to hear what I've done both as a civil rights litigator as well as someone in homeland security and crisis management.

I love this state. I have to say I've had many jobs in government. State government is the most fulfilling job I've ever had. Period. You can have ideas, they can get done. It's manageable (...) I have traveled to 43 or 44 other states. We're really good. We're not perfect, but to the extent that government accepts new ideas, can change and modify, that we are a beacon of rights for gay marriage, and immigration, and new energy sources- all of these issues make it very exciting and also do-able. And that's what I wanted to bring to the table.

Give us the cliff notes version of what you'd do on education...

If it's K-12, I would have an evidentiary approach here. We know two things for sure work in schools: better student-teacher ratios and training, education, technology for teachers. You just look at any of the evidence out there and that's it. You invest in those two aspects and you help the school deliver.

You give alternatives. Right now there's no other alternatives for people who want to stay in the system. And I think as a parent that has two children in public school and one in private for a very personal decision we made about my daughter. How would I stand here and say there can be no choice? That seems to me to be the height of hypocrisy.

Higher education is different because we know the jobs that people should be getting educated for- biotech, tech, the health industry, education- and we're gonna have a gap. And unless we  address that gap- which is addressable- you steer students toward those majors, you support teachers in those efforts- we won't be educating the students that are going to stay in Massachusetts. The great thing about our higher public education system is that our students stay here. Let's focus on the jobs that will have them stay here. Give them the education that will get them those jobs. 

Did you support Governor Deval Patrick's $2 billion tax package that he advocated for? 

I supported what the taxes would go to- I think it's important to invest in those two areas. You can't imagine us successful in the 21st century without a greater focus on education and infrastructure. On the tech tax (...) I think there's been enough hoopla about it that we should maybe revisit a tech tax. But I want to make clear this is a mature industry that has lobbyists and others who can debate with legislators so to stand there and say I'm never gonna have a tech tax is ridiculous. You don't know what the industry is gonna look like in the future. 

I think my first job as governor will be to do a budget review to see where you can get the savings, where you can get creative forms of income (...) and then decide where you want to ask for more taxes. But I wanna say something about what just happened with the legislature. A governor should push. Any governor should not start on what's going to acceptable to the legislature. You start by the push. And we may disagree on the margins of where this governor or another governor pushes the envelope. But I have to tell you that's part of the democratic process and you want someone in that role who's not gonna settle. And whether it's on progressive policies in criminal justice reform, or whether it's on new forms of income or new taxes. 

On the way he would raise money, you were supportive with the exception of the tech tax?

Yes. I think that it will be revisited by the next governor because the investments in pre-K and education have to be funded somehow. So, we have the casinos (...) I support the revenue that casinos are going to bring. You look at that number- how will we fund public education without casinos? So, people who are for the repeal- you have to say where are we going to get that income? I've taken over a lot of offices. First thing you do- who are the people, what's the budget look like? So the governor, knowing what he knows, went for the big ask. And I do not criticize anyone for the big ask. Because you know for the the legislative process it's gonna come back. Right? It's gonna have compromise. And that's right. 

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