Spend an hour discussing contemporary issues with state Sen. Daniel Wolf and you'll no doubt end up emotionally and intellectually exhausted. His brain works like an Intel chip inside an Apple computer, processing countless bits of data per minute.
That's a good thing for the Cape and Islands, which faces a myriad of complex issues, from wastewater disposal to rising seas from climate change, a third Cape Cod Canal bridge, and inequitable school funding.
But what we most admire about Wolf, who is running against Republican Ron Beaty for the Cape and Islands Senate seat, is his ability to see the big picture, to keep focused on a grand vision of the Cape's future. He calls it "a generational legacy."
"First, we need to have a vision for where we want to be as a community 10, 20 or 30 years from now," he told the Times editorial board. "Then we have to build a platform around that. First and foremost, we have to remember that we are here because of what the Cape is — a national treasure. We have to clean up the damage that has been done, and there has been significant damage to our embayments, our ponds, our estuaries," he said, referring to the Cape's wastewater challenge.
But that's a challenge that Wolf has tried to triage head on. One of Wolf's greatest accomplishments in his last term was working closely with the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, the Cape Cod Commission and other stakeholders to advance the Cape's comprehensive wastewater planning project, which needed $3.5 million from the state budget in the last two budget cycles — money Wolf helped obtain. It also required changes in wastewater legislation, which Wolf also championed.
"We have to tackle this wastewater problem watershed by watershed, estuary by estuary, pond by pond," he said. And each of the Cape's towns must be actively involved in any regional initiatives.
Wolf's vision also includes good land-use planning. "I see an opportunity to revitalize the Route 28 corridor from Hyannis to Chatham, reduce curb cuts, and implement smart-growth concepts," he said. "Over time, we have to address some of the bad land-use decisions of the past and enhance the character of the communities here. We want to invest in infrastructure to promote walking village centers. We've made strides in Dennis Port and Harwich Port, but we need to do more revitalization."
Then there is Wolf's vision for improved transportation and energy infrastructure, including a smart grid. "If we do this right, we can export energy through our renewables," he said.
At the same time, Wolf wants to help bridge the gap between wages and housing costs here. Wolf fought to raise the minimum wage, and now he wants to secure more state funding for affordable housing. "The mechanisms are there, through our housing authorities," he said. "The question is whether we (the Legislature) will make the commitment to fully fund those opportunities."
As for economic development and job creation, Wolf sees opportunities in the fishing industry, including expanded aquaculture operations. "It's been called the blue economy," he said. "We are all about the water here."
On Nov. 4, give Wolf another two years to continue shaping his (and our) vision for the Cape.