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Chris Dempsey, Candidate for State Auditor of Massachusetts

As a part of my Meet the Candidate Series, I sat down and talked with Chris Dempsey, Candidate for State Auditor of Massachusetts.

The son of public-school educators who met while teaching in the Boston Public Schools, Chris Dempsey is a proven advocate and watchdog for the public interest. Chris was named “Bostonian of the Year” by the Boston Globe Magazine in 2015 for his volunteer work leading the grassroots campaign No Boston Olympics, which was successful despite being outspent 1,500-1 by some of the most powerful business interests in the state.

Chris served as Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Governor Deval Patrick, where he co-founded the MassDOT open-data program, which launched smartphone applications that tell you when your bus or train is going to arrive, saving taxpayers and farepayers millions compared with more costly and cumbersome alternatives. In the private sector, Chris worked with some of the country’s largest companies to help the economy grow, and also led business development for a software technology startup that created jobs in Massachusetts.

Chris has worked to improve his community as an elected Town Meeting Member since 2012, and as Chair of the Transportation Board.

Chris knows how to tackle complex financial problems, build grassroots coalitions, and stand up for our most important priorities. Chris will be an Auditor who can ensure an efficient, effective, and equitable state government for all residents of the Commonwealth.

Topics discussed in this episode include:

  • Chris’ background (01:27)
  • The 2015 Olympics and why Chris was so passionate about stopping them coming to Boston (02:40)
  • Chris’ educational background (05:57)
  • What Chris hopes to accomplish as State Auditor (09:13)
  • The Environmental component of Dempsey’s plan for State Auditor (13:54)
  • Closing Statement (18:16)

Connect with Chris Dempsey

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Transcript – Please note, this Transcript is AI Generated. It has not had the discerning ears of a real human to edit it, as such, there are bound to be a few errors

Jimmy Tingle 0:00
Hello, everybody, welcome to the Jimmy tingle show. I am Jimmy and I want to introduce you to a new segment of our show the Meet the candidate series. It is intended to give candidates running for public office, a platform in a voice so voters know who is running for office, why they’re running and what they hope to accomplish if they are so fortunate to be elected. So please feel free to share these interviews with your family and friends and citizens around this fine land because an educated and informed population is essential for a healthy democracy. And isn’t that what we all really want? A healthy democracy? Enjoy the interviews stay healthy. My name is Jimmy tingle, and I approve this message. Hello, everybody. Welcome back to the show. This is the Meet the Candidates series and our guest today Mr. Chris Dempsey. Chris was named a Bostonian of the year in 2015 by Boston Globe magazine for his volunteer work leading the grassroots and victorious effort to stop the Boston Olympics. No Boston Olympics, he was a volunteer in that effort. He also served as Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Governor Deval Patrick, please welcome to today’s show. candidate for State Auditor of Massachusetts, the one the only Mr. Chris Dempsey. Hello, Chris, how are you?

Chris Dempsey 1:24
Today? I’m doing great. It’s wonderful to be all with your audience today.

Jimmy Tingle 1:27
It’s a blast to have you tell me my friend what tell us first of all, tell us a little bit about Chris Dempsey. Tell us a little bit about your background.

Chris Dempsey 1:36
So I’m running for State Auditor as the son of public school teachers My parents met while teaching at the Martin Luther King school in Dorchester in 1970. And they were placed in adjoining classrooms and it was love at first sight. That was the result of that happy marriage along with my little sister Alison, who is herself a public school teacher along with her wife, Beatrice in New York City. So I’m from a family of teachers and I saw my parents digging into their own pockets to pay for school supplies, as we know public school teachers across Massachusetts do to this day. And when you see that firsthand, Jimmy, you ask basic questions about why we are spending our public resources in some areas while other areas go wanting to eat. And that’s why I’m running for state auditor is why I led the grassroots group know Boston Olympics. It’s why I served for Governor Deval Patrick work, proving public transportation across the Commonwealth. I’m deeply committed to public service. And I want us to make the right smart decisions as a Commonwealth and the state auditor plays an absolutely essential role in doing

Jimmy Tingle 2:40
so Chris, tell me I assume that you’re not against the Olympics. why you were so passionate about stopping the Olympics coming to Boston in 2015? What was driving that passion on your end?

Chris Dempsey 2:53
Jimmy, I’m like a lot of people in that at first, the idea of the Olympics was pretty exciting. We got a beautiful state, you know, why not show that off to the world. But then you start to dig into the details of the Olympic process and the Olympic bid. And that bid that was put together by a private group that had strong corporate backing and financial backing, required that we cover 100% of the cost overruns, we as taxpayers cover 100% of the cost overruns. And it required building all of the most expensive Olympic venues so they were not going to use existing venues they were going to build a new stadium, velodrome which is an indoor cycling arena, and aquatic center, Olympic Village, all from scratch, we were on the hook for probably about $15 billion. And as fun as that three weeks might have been that’s not a good use of public resources. And we needed citizens to stand up. And that’s exactly what happened. I’m so proud of what we accomplished with that effort. We got outspent Jimmy 1500 to one. But we were successful because we put the facts and the data in front of the people in Massachusetts and we made smart decisions. And that really is the job of the state auditor to dig into the executive branch and to figure out what the data is what the facts are to put it back in front of all of us. And then we can build that stronger Commonwealth do that.

Jimmy Tingle 4:18
So obviously, you had the public interest, the public dollars at heart not being on the hook for possibly billions of dollars. So tell me about your background and what lends itself to running for a state auditor.

Chris Dempsey 4:30
So as I said, I’m the son of public school teachers and my parents taught me about the importance of public service. I worked for Governor Deval Patrick and Senator Ted Kennedy in the 2006 Democratic coordinated campaign that helped elect Governor Patrick to Office and then I served for Governor Patrick in the administration in the first term as Assistant Secretary of Transportation. While I was there, I co founded the MassDOT program that created all the smartphone applications that tells you in real time when your bus or your train will arrive. And Jimmy, I know you’re a red line rider. And you’ve probably use those apps or those countdown signs that tell you when the train is gonna come. It’s really transformed transit ridership, and especially bus ridership. I’m a bus rider, that transit rider, myself, the fact that you now know where your bus is, in the palm of your hand, instead of the old days, where you just kind of looked down the street, you know, you’re looking for that number one bus, not knowing right is, you now have that information. So proud of that worked working inside of state government to make it work better for all of us. And then the work I’ve done outside of state government, including window Boston Olympics, and also running a transportation advocacy group called transportation for Massachusetts, which has been fighting for more investment in transit. If you’ve been following the headlines, you know, what a sorry, state the MBTA is in right now. And we need to invest more in that system invest in invest in better management to make things better,

Jimmy Tingle 5:57
and your educational background, I see that you went to Harvard Business School and MBA from Harvard Business School, tell me about how that’s going to translate and working in government. Do you think that’s going to be a big asset?

Chris Dempsey 6:09
Well, a proud Public Schools graduate, I went to the Brookline Public Schools my entire life. And I went out to a middle school in California called Pomona College, little small college out in the Los Angeles area. And I’ve been back in Massachusetts, ever since. You know, when I was at business school, I still knew that while my career was going to take me into the business world for a while that public service was always going to be important to me, I do think the skill set that you develop in business school can be helpful in terms of making state government more efficient or effective. I’m the only candidate in this race with educational experience and background in finance and accounting, which is part of the job of state auditor, I’m very comfortable poring over lines on spreadsheets, and figuring out how the numbers line up. So I think that’s important. But really, throughout my career, even when I was in business school, and in the business world, I’ve been committed to public service. You know, for the last decade, I’ve been an elected town meeting member in my hometown of Brookline, that is not the most glamorous job, but it is an important one in our small d democracy in our local government. I also served as the chair of the Brookline transportation board, I’ve been overseeing I’d have overseen, you know, hundreds of hours of public meetings around where to put stop signs and where to put bike lanes and what the parking meter rates should be. Again, not the most glamorous questions, but the ones that fundamentally make our society work better, make us more equitable, more efficient, more environmentally sustainable. And that’s the kind of thinking and work that I want to bring it to the auditor’s office.

Jimmy Tingle 7:43
I mean, it’s a grassroots education in terms of local government. I was talking to one of the candidates for the Lieutenant Governor, I think it was in anyway was saying Jerry Brown had this famous quote, he was the governor of California, two, maybe three terms. And at one point he we stopped, you know, serving as governor, he ran for mayor of Oakland run for mayor. Yeah, remember this. And he said, When you run for mayor, it’s harder than being the governor, because you are dealing with people on the grassroots level, and they know where you live in there, you know, and you see them in the supermarket and you know, from the ground up what the needs and the and the challenges are in the neighborhood in the city. So not don’t don’t don’t diminish your service on the Brookline town committee.

Chris Dempsey 8:30
Well, Jimmy, so I had a big weekend, this past weekend actually got married. Wow. And, and so I’ve got this, this new ring on my finger getting comfortable and used to that. And just earlier today, I had to walk over to town hall to file file, the marriage license documents. And on my way back from town hall, which is only about four blocks away, I ran into four different constituents who want to talk with me about how the campaign was going and what was going on in town. So you’re absolutely right. I’m very comfortable with that small d democracy to run into people at the grocery store, or on the bus in my case, or riding the train. And those are the conversations that inform our public leaders and will make us a stronger Commonwealth.

Jimmy Tingle 9:13
So tell me in terms of being state auditor, what does that really entail? And how does how does your background translate into that and what do you hope to accomplish a state auditor,

Chris Dempsey 9:24
and I very much appreciate that many people don’t have a great grasp on what the State Auditor’s Office does, but I can think of the job as the chief accountability officer for the Commonwealth. We’ve been served in that role for the last 12 years by auditor Suzanne bunk. She is the person who knows the job that best she’s the first woman to ever hold the Office of State Auditor and she has strongly endorsed me in this race, and I’m very proud of having earned that endorsement, the auditor’s office as a team of about 200 auditors and analysts. We send them into every corner of the executive branch of state governor to figure out what’s working and what’s not working and how things need to change, and then we put forward recommendations for how to make state government stronger, more effective. It’s really not a direct policymaking role. It’s an indirect policymaking role. Because what it comes with is a strong platform is one of six statewide elected officials to stand up to represent public interest. That’s why I talk so much about my experience leading no Boston Olympics, what I think voters want in this role is someone who’s independent, someone who’s driven by facts and data and come to their own conclusions, but also someone who can be persuasive about the changes that we need in state government, even when that means so uncomfortable conversations like the ones we had around the Olympics, where I was going up against the most powerful people in Massachusetts, but I think we got to the right outcome as a Commonwealth there. So the role is Chief accountability officer. It’s about transparency, it’s about performance improvement, it’s about making sure we’re watching our tax dollars. Now, I’m the only candidate in this race that has demonstrated that history and has the experience working in the executive branch of state government, which is the focus of this role.

Jimmy Tingle 11:09
So for example, are you running the numbers like profit and loss statements on, say, the T ridership versus how much we’re spending and how much we’re bringing in that type of thing for each department of the state government?

Chris Dempsey 11:24
So it can be that it’s not exclusively limited to that, but that’s certainly a part of the job is, let’s look at the long term financial health of some of our institutions or agencies within government. It’s also tracking the dollars in a more specific sense of saying, are the dollars that we’re asking are the dollars that we are spending as a state? are they actually going to the right places, in terms of vendors in terms of employees within state government, and then are those agencies actually being effective and executing on their job, so it’s departments large and small, we will audit the MBTA. We will also audit, say, the Merrimack Valley YMCA when it receives a state grant to run a after school program with public dollars, we want to make sure that that program was actually up and running, that it was effective at keeping kids safe, that it was what the community needed with those public dollars. So it’s issues large and small. And you can ask a different set of questions depending on the agency that you’re looking at. You have this ability, again as one of six statewide elected officials to try to use that platform to be an advocate within state government.

Jimmy Tingle 12:32
When I was doing a little research before this interview, I saw one of the articles the headline was Chris Dempsey has some really great fresh ideas for state auditor, please tell the audience about some of your ideas and what you hope to accomplish?

Chris Dempsey 12:47
Well, I’m proud that we were the first campaign in this race to put out a policy paper about what we actually wanted to do with the powers of the office. In fact, we put out the first three, before any of our opponents put out a single paper, our first was on oversight of federal stimulus dollars, making sure that we are spending that 5.3 billion in federal stimulus money well, that we’re building back our Commonwealth stronger than we had it before the pandemic. Our second was on climate and environmental justice. And I’d love to talk with you more about that we’re proposing to make the office the first in the country to incorporate carbon accounting into our audits of state agencies. And the third was on reform and oversight of the Massachusetts State Police. And I think that’s an institution where people want reform, they want change, they’ve read about the scandals that have taken place there. I have immense respect for our troopers who are on the front lines, but they deserve to work for an agency that meets their level of service that rises to the occasion and the honor that they deserve. We don’t have that today. And the auditor is one of the few roles on Beacon Hill that has oversight of the State Police.

Jimmy Tingle 13:54
So tell me about the environmental component of your plan, because that would be a little different. You’re not counting you be counting carbon rather than necessarily money. Tell us how that’ll work.

Chris Dempsey 14:04
And I do think that fits well with the auditors job, right? It’s about accountability. It’s about count accounting and metrics and data. We know that climate is a crisis that we need to address it. And I come at this work from my work in transportation, Jimmy worked in transportation for many years, it’s the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in our state. And it’s actually increasing while our emissions from other parts of industry and society like buildings and power plants are actually decreasing. So transportation is a big problem. But I can tell you that the Secretary of Transportation and the MassDOT board of directors have not put climate front and center in their decision. That’s because we’re not properly holding them accountable to it. And we’re not using the data and metrics that we know are there for climate. So we will hold those agencies accountable for the laws that are on the books that require them to reduce emissions. And I promise you, Jimmy, that we will be the first in the country to take this approach but we You will not be the last one we started here in Massachusetts, it will become a national leader. And that’s really how we win on climate. It’s not just about reducing emissions here in Massachusetts, we have to be a leader for other states and other nations. We’ll do that through the power of the auditor’s office. Just one more thing I want to add here. As we address climate change, we can’t leave anybody behind. And I’m proposing to create an auditor’s Commission on Environmental Justice, so that those people across the Commonwealth were on the frontlines of the crisis. But they live in Pittsfield, next to a peaker power plant, whether they live next to a busy highway in Somerville, where they’re experiencing air pollution from that highway, where they live in a coastal area that’s prone to flooding in Chelsea or in Revere. All of those folks are on the frontlines of the crisis. They deserve a seat at the table on Beacon Hill, and under my leadership, we’ll be sure that they have that

Jimmy Tingle 15:51
when you take on an issue like that, which is, you know, kind of uncharted territory in terms of the auditors job historically, do you think you’re going to need to get partners, for example, in the transportation sector, that are on board philosophically with this approach? Because I imagine there’s a lot of folks there that might not be as that up to date with carbon and and do you have any influence with the those type of appointments, do you think, Well,

Chris Dempsey 16:18
I am a collaborative leader. And I want to always welcome people into the conversation, the role I’m running for is independent, it’s elected by the voters. And it’s very important that it doesn’t report to the governor reports only to the voters. So I’ll be proud of that independence, and I’ll use it to its full potential. But I don’t think anyone can succeed in this job if they’re just a bomb thrower. Because the role doesn’t have direct policymaking ability have to work with people. And that means you can sometimes disagree, but you can do it without being disagreeable. That’s always been my approach. And it’s the approach that I’ll take in the office, it will mean that there are some tough conversations. But I truly believe that we can do anything we put our minds to and Massachusetts, especially when we’re working together, and we’re following the facts and the data and I want to be a leader for us in the Commonwealth doing that through the power of the auditor’s office,

Jimmy Tingle 17:06
do you think we’ll be able to use some of this federal money for say, ramping up with electric vehicles and ramping up with charging stations and all that sort of thing?

Chris Dempsey 17:16
Well, we have to, I mean, yeah, we’ve got this one time, pot of money. And I’m proposing in that first plan I mentioned, to try to track those dollars in as close to real time as possible. You know, most state programs are budgeted on an annual basis. And so you can go in at the end of the year, and figure out what didn’t work, and you can fix it for the next year. But we don’t want to do that with 5.3 billion in one time funding, we don’t want to spend all 5.3 billion, then go in and audit it realize we didn’t spend the money that well, but then we don’t have the money to spend. And so by tracking it in real time, we can course correct if we’re seeing issues in real time, that need to be fixed and need to be changed. Investing in electrifying our transportation system, including not only our cars, but our buses and our trains is essential. We also need to be electrifying our buildings and our heating systems, homes and institutions across the state. So there’s so much work to be done. It’s good that there’s some money available to do it. And let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Jimmy Tingle 18:16
All righty. Chris, we have a couple of minutes left, just give us a couple of bullet points in terms of some of the things you’ve been most proud of as a public servant. And then a closing statement of how people ask them. Let them know how they can support you find you make a donation to the campaign volunteer. Well,

Chris Dempsey 18:35
Jimmy, I’m incredibly proud of the grassroots campaign that we’ve put together. You’ve already heard that I have won the endorsement of incumbent State Auditor Suzanne bumped the woman who knows the job the best. I’ve also won the endorsement of the Massachusetts Democratic Party with our win at the convention earlier this month. And when you look at the coalition that we built, we won the most rural senate districts in the state. And we won the most urban senate districts in the state. We want every single senate district in Metro West, we want every single Senate District all six in the city of Boston, our second best performing senate district in the entire state was the district of Sonia Chang Diaz, one of the few majority minority senate districts in the state. So I’m proud of the grassroots support that we have. We’ve had contributions from over 1800 individual contributors. That’s by far the most in the race. We collected all of our signatures that we needed 5000 signatures without resorting to any paid signature gathers. It’s a campaign and a coalition that is coming together around the idea that there’s a lot of good that’s happening in our commonwealth, but there’s plenty that we have to fix in state government. We have to hold state government accountable to our ideals and our goals and make Massachusetts a leader again, in issues from transportation to the environment to social rights, whether that’s transgender rights, or racial equality and racial justice. I want to be that leader and part of that team on Beacon Hill, and I’d be honored to have the help and support everyone who’s watching. Folks can learn more at Dempsey for They can follow me on Twitter at C, D MPC and forum. Follow me on Facebook at Dempsey for auditor For auditor and it’s been an honor to talk with you and all of your listeners and viewers today.

Jimmy Tingle 20:19
Thank you so much, Chris. Chris Dempsey, everybody, candidate for auditor of the fine state of Massachusetts. Chris, we will see you on the campaign trail. Best of luck. And thanks so much for joining us today.

Chris Dempsey 20:29
Thanks so much, Jamie.

Jimmy Tingle 20:31
Thank you for joining us today. This has been a humor for humanity production. Our mission is your mission humor for humanity at Jimmy Thank you

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