7th Essex District State
Representative John Keenan
(D-Salem) - Biography


........A lifelong resident of Salem, John and his wife, Kara, have been married eleven years and have two children, Aidan and Erin. John's father, like his father before him, worked at the Flynn Tan leather factory near Blubber Hollow in Salem. His mother was a nurse's aide at Salem Hospital. John attended Salem Public Schools (K-12). In 1983, he graduated fourth in his class from Salem High School, where he was the captain of both the football and wrestling teams and later was inducted in to the Salem High School Hall of Fame.
........After high school, John attended Harvard College. He was an economics major and graduated with honors (B.A., 1987). While at Harvard John continued to play football and was a NCAA Big Brother. In his senior year, John was awarded the prestigious Henry Lamar Award, having been selected by his Harvard football teammates as the player who made a unique contribution to society.
........Following Harvard, John enrolled at Suffolk University Law School, where he graduated with honors (J.D., 1992). As the lead articles editor on the Suffolk University Law Review John published legal articles of his own and selected and edited others submitted for publication. He was also a member of the Constitutional Law Appellate Team and a representative to the Student Bar Association. Upon graduation he was chosen by the faculty to receive the Leo J. Wyman Memorial Award, as the Suffolk Law School student who most advanced the civic and professional responsibilities of a lawyer.

........After Suffolk, John started his legal career as a criminal prosecutor in Essex County under then District Attorney Kevin Burke. He prosecuted cases in the district courts, primarily in Lynn District Court - one of the busiest courts in the Commonwealth. He was one of the first assistant district attorneys to serve as a prosecutor in the Domestic Violence Unit in Lynn.
........After serving in the Essex County District Attorney's office, John worked for a small law firm in Salem. In 1996, former Mayor Neil Harrington appointed him as Assistant City Solicitor. He was reappointed in that capacity by Mayor Stanley Usovicz in 1999. In 2001, the Mayor promoted John to City Solicitor, the top legal job in the city. During his eight year tenure the Salem Legal Department negotiated a new lease for the Salem Transfer Station saving city taxpayers half a million dollars for a mandatory environmental clean-up at the site, saved both the Old Salem Jail Keeper's House and 18 Crombie Street from demolition, facilitated the redevelopment of the old police station, prosecuted negligent property owners forcing them to clean up their properties, preserved affordable housing at Salem Heights, and fought to clean up and keep open the Salem Power Plant, the city's single largest property tax payer and one of its biggest employers.

........Since graduating from Harvard, John has been very active in the community. He has served on the Boards of the Salem Rotary, Salem Y, Chamber of Commerce, Friends to the Council on Aging, and the Foundation for Salem Public Education. He has served as the Co-President of the Foundation for Salem Public Education since 2001. John has been an active Rotarian since 1999 and has volunteered as the coach of the Salem High School mock trial team. He has bicycled in sixteen Pan Mass Challenge fundraising rides since 1989 to help find a cure for cancer.
........In March 2004 John stepped down as the City Solicitor in order to run for State Representative. After a strong, positive campaign John won 60% of the vote in the Democratic primary in September and 74% of the vote in the general election in November. In the legislature, John serves on the Judiciary Committee, the Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development Committee, and the Post-Audit and Oversight Committee. He also is a member of the legislature's Northeast Caucus, Progressive Caucus, Children's Caucus, Boating Caucus, Coastal Caucus, Elder Affairs Caucus, Bicycle & Pedestrians Caucus, and the subcommittee on shared parenting. As Salem's State Representative, John remains as dedicated as ever to the community in which he grew up. He is honored to represent the people of Salem in the Massachusetts State House and is a candidate for re-election in 2006.

........John has a proud record of delivering real results for the people of Salem. Shortly after being sworn in for his first term, John began aggressively lobbying the Governor and others in the administration to get the $110 million Salem courthouse project moving. While the project - which will dramatically stimulate the downtown Salem economy - had been in the works for many years, John was able to work with other leaders in the community to advocate effectively to get it started.
........He brought a similar tenacity for Salem to bear in his work pushing for the $15 million Bridge Street beautification and bypass road project, which had also languished for nearly thirty years before work began in 2005. When John learned of the deplorable conditions at the Rainbow Terrace housing development, he took the residents' case to the state housing department and did not relent until repairs - including emergency de-leading work - were made and long-term renovations, long pushed off by the state, were finalized and guaranteed. Working with business leaders at the Salem power plant and in the community, along with the state's Seaport Advisory Council, John worked to bring back the popular Salem-to-Boston harbor ferry with the help of a $2.3 million state grant. The commuter ferry service has helped relieve congestion on Salem's roadways and entrance/exit corridors, while also stimulating tourism in a unique and exciting fashion.
........In 2005, John brought two important legislative committees to Salem for special hearings - the Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development and the Committee on Education. The Tourism Committee's visit was it's first every forum outside of Boston; at the hearing, hundreds of people connected to the travel and tourism industry in Salem and across the North Shore attended to offer their opinions and views on important issues facing the industry. The Education Committee came to Salem to hear input from parents and educators about school funding, education reform, and other topics of importance.
........John has helped pass important legislation beneficial to Salem, including a law allowing a voting resident of Salem to sit on the water supply board for the community. He also helped secure funding for the Creative Economy Association of the North Shore, North Shore Community Mediation, Salem State College, Destination Salem, the Essex National Heritage Commission, the Essex County District Attorney's office, and the Essex County Sheriff's office. In 2005, John delivered Salem's first increase in local aid in three fiscal years and, in 2006, he secured Salem's largest increase in local aid since 1998. Since his inauguration, John has been able to deliver nearly $40 million in local aid directly to the City of Salem to help resolve fiscal difficulties, improve schools and roads, bolster public safety, and stem rising property tax bills. On top of this, the state has delivered over $50 million in grants and loans to the city of Salem and Salem nonprofits in the past two years, helping with projects and programs as diverse as school building work, hunger and homelessness prevention, and clean water improvements.

........Most significant amongst the many laws and bills John has supported in the legislature is Massachusetts' new comprehensive health care reform law. This law, the first of its kind in the nation, balances individual responsibility with a fair employer assessment to ensure that almost every person without insurance in our Commonwealth will be covered. It reduces health care costs by lessening the burden on the uncompensated care pool and requiring that businesses that can afford it, offer their employees coverage. The new law restores, preserves, and expands Medicaid and MassHealth coverage and benefits, makes health insurance more affordable for the working uninsured, expands public health measures, creates financial incentives to purchase insurance, establishes a financial penalty for employers who do not provide insurance, and provides funding guarantees to safety net hospitals. Under the provisions of the law, over 90% of Massachusetts' half-million uninsured residents will soon have health coverage. John voted for the landmark stem cell research bill early in his first term, in support of the ever-growing health and biomedical technology industry that is growing rapidly in Massachusetts.
........In his first term, John also stood firm against a proposal to revive the death penalty in Massachusetts. A former prosecutor and a member of the Judiciary Committee, John made a stirring floor speech during the debate, observantly connecting the dangers of wrongful executions today with the history of his own hometown of Salem. In the end, the proposal was soundly rejected. John also voted for Melanie's Bill, which gave Massachusetts one of the toughest anti-drunk driving laws in the nation, and a comprehensive anti-gang legislative package that will give prosecutors and law enforcement the tools they need to better fight gang violence and crime on our streets.
........John has also been on the forefront of pushing for sensible tax reform that benefits the people of Massachusetts. He supported legislation that greatly expanded property tax breaks for senior citizens and helped pass legislation the provided tax credits to homeowners and businesses that made energy efficiency improvements. In addition, John backed a repeal of the unfair retroactive taxation of capital gains earned by Massachusetts residents in 2002, sending back tens of millions of dollars to taxpayers. He also supported a bill that closed $85 million in corporate tax loopholes, which helped reduce the tax burden on working families. In all, John has voted for $200 million in sensible, responsible tax reductions in 2005-2006, coming out to $500 per Salem resident.
........In 2005, John received a 100% record from the Massachusetts Audubon Society. As a proponent of the Cape Wind Farm project, John has been active in promoting renewable and alternative energy projects, including supporting legislation to encourage the state and local governments in Massachusetts to move to "green buildings." He is also a promoter of initiatives to stimulate conservation and preservation; when a bill was proposed to turn one of the Boston Harbor Islands into a liquefied natural gas terminal, John went out to the island and examined the potential impact up close and in person. He has backed legislation to provide tax incentives for the conservation of open space and habitats and has voted for bills that reduced mercury use in the Commonwealth and required the use of safer alternatives to the most toxic of chemicals.
........John often points out that Salem's economic engines are a microcosm of the Commonwealth's: tourism, arts, and culture, health care, and, importantly, higher education. With Salem State College - one of the leading state colleges not just in Massachusetts but in the nation - based in the 7th Essex District, John has been very active in promoting investment and funding for public higher education in Massachusetts. Co-President of the Foundation for Salem Public Education, John has also been an ardent proponent of the early education for all initiative, a movement to provide free pre-school and kindergarten to all children in Massachusetts. He has supported increasing Chapter 70 school aid to local cities and towns to help retain good teachers, reduce classroom sizes, and provide our schools the resources necessary to make them second to none in the country. He has also endorsed closer studies and sensible reform of charter school funding and the implications of fully funding education reform. John has been supportive of efforts to increase state funding for mandated special education costs that are escalating in districts across the Commonwealth, as well as legislation to promote better school nutrition and physical education, and restore funding for important arts and music programming.
........Just as higher education is an important economic engine in Salem, so, too, is tourism, arts, and culture. As a member of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development, John has been extremely active in supporting and improving tourism and arts and culture efforts and investments in Salem and throughout the Commonwealth. He has been the leading cosponsor on proposals to reinvest and increase funding for the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Massachusetts Association for Arts, Sciences, and the Humanities, and the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. When efforts to re-establish the dormant Cultural Facilities Fund, to provide matching grants for the renovation and construction of museums, theaters, and cultural spaces in Massachusetts, stalled in the legislature, John helped lead the efforts to revive the important program, authoring and filing an amendment to the state budget to bring the program back into existence. The fund will begin operation in fiscal year 2007 thanks to his leadership and hard work.
........A strong proponent of a woman's right to choose, John is proud of his 100% voting record from Planned Parenthood and NARAL-Pro Choice Massachusetts. He has cosponsored legislation to ensure safe buffer zones around women's health clinics and access to emergency contraception. He is also supportive of comprehensive health education in Massachusetts. A strong advocate for women's rights, John cosponsored equal-pay-for-equal-work legislation, as well bills protecting and defining the rights and benefits available to expecting mothers.
........John has also worked hard to extend and strengthen benefits for Massachusetts' veterans, not only voting for the "Welcome Home Bill" that provided increased support for veterans' families, insurance benefits, and tuition credits, but also helping to author and file a provision to the bill that provided returning veterans from the war on terror with a cash bonus, similar to the bonus program that had been available to Massachusetts' soldiers returning from all conflicts since World War I.

........Despite all of these good works, John is anxious to make progress on many other issues that still need to be addressed. Locally, Salem is still waiting for a new MBTA garage and platform at the commuter rail station - one of the key entry points for tourists and workers alike. Renovations are needed on Bridge Street, Boston Street, North Street, and Canal Street. And, while the ferry and new South Harbor walkway are good first steps, there is still work to be done to complete the vision put forth in the Salem Harbor Plan for a new pier and revitalized waterfront for the city.
........In the legislature, John has filed a bill that would protect seniors from abuse while in nursing homes and give family's more information about potential criminal offenders that are in a facility with their loved one. A member of the House Post-Audit and Oversight Committee, John is dedicated to reforming government for the better in Massachusetts; he has written legislation that would significantly reform the bail system in Massachusetts, to remove the potential for fraud and ensure the safety of court employees.
........John has been a vocal advocate both in the legislature and in the press for increasing and indexing the Commonwealth's minimum wage. A strong proponent of the working family agenda, John has a 100% rating from the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and an 89% rating from the pro-worker organization Neighbor to Neighbor.
As a former prosecutor and member of the Judiciary Committee, John has worked with his colleagues to introduce legislation to protect consumers - including a cell phone user bill of rights, a bill to protect consumers from identity theft, and measures to fight auto insurance fraud and ensure more fairness and lower rates for good drivers. He has also taken a public stand in advocating for the repeal of the statutes of limitations on sex abuse crimes and has cosponsored legislation to protect children from offenders and give law enforcement better tools to crack down on these criminals.
........John will continue to fight on these and other important issues facing Salem and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As our state emerges from recession and we are able to re-assess our financial and economic situation, John will fight for renewed investment in public higher education, reforms to special education unfunded mandates and the charter school funding formula, and more support for affordable housing and homeownership assistance. John has been proud and honored to be able to represent the people of Salem as their voice on Beacon Hill and he will continue to do his best to bring real results to the community he loves and serves.