Looking back on two terms in office, state Sen. Daniel Wolf is most proud of the pivotal role he played in getting the money and regulatory changes that powered the Cape Cod Commission's much-needed update of its regional water quality management plan.
Working with state Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, Wolf pushed for legislative updates that created a permitting process for alternative wastewater technologies such as composting and diversion toilets. That meant towns could get credit and funding for including alternative technologies as part of their wastewater cleanup plan.
Wolf, a Harwich Democrat, and Peake also did heavy lifting in amending the state's Clean Water Act to allow the state to issue permits on a watershed basis instead of by town.
Wolf was also a key player in securing the $3.5 million in state funding needed to create the wastewater plan, which some estimate may save towns $4 billion in cleanup costs.
Wolf, who briefly ran for governor in 2013 before being grounded by an Ethics Commission ruling related to his ownership stake in Cape Air, has served both of his terms as co-chairman of the Senate Labor and Workforce Development Committee. He championed a minimum wage increase from $8 an hour to $9 next year with annual increases to $11 by 2017.
"We're really starting to understand better what the disparity of wealth and income is doing," Wolf said. The true value of the minimum wage had fallen by 25 percent since 1968, he said.
"Our act "» is a huge accomplishment for the poor and working people. It doesn't get us back to where we were, but it is one of the steps in addressing a gap which is at risk to cripple our economy."
In a district where income levels are 10 percent below state average in areas such as South Yarmouth and Dennis, Wolf sees access to education and workforce training as the most important factors in creating opportunity and leveling the playing field.
He is encouraged that Bridgewater State University is working on a satellite campus on the Cape that will offer a four-year degree program.
He would like to see the Cape be able to take advantage of jobs created by massive infrastructure projects such as transportation, wastewater cleanup, sustainable energy and climate change adjustments.
But Wolf thinks the Cape needs to bridge the gap between the average wage and the price of housing. He believes the foundation has been laid with nonprofit organizations and housing authorities, but the Legislature needs to provide the funding that will get housing built.
"The house is built, now we need to invest in it," Wolf said. He is especially drawn to redevelopment opportunities, particularly along the Route 28 corridor, where he thinks the large hotels offer the greatest opportunity for creative planning.
But affordable housing initiatives, and other programs near and dear to the Cape, face stiff competition from funding requests in other parts of the state. Wolf believes he has a close relationship with incoming Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, a Democrat from Amherst, and that many of Rosenberg's goals, such as economic disparity, protecting the environment and adapting to climate change, and confronting the substance abuse problem and affiliated criminal activity, match closely with issues the Cape is dealing with.
Overall, Wolf has a vision he calls the Cape's generational legacy.
"What should the Cape look like 30 years from now?" he asked. "What is the collective will?"
Wolf believes that good, innovative planning and zoning could lead to revitalized, walkable villages.
He thinks no other infrastructure is as critical to the Cape as the two bridges over the canal.
"I think we need a Cape Cod Canal plan," he said. Wolf believes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should gradually cede control of the bridges to Massachusetts Port Authority. He does see the need for a third bridge.
"If we manage the bridges better, there will be less congestion, less delays," Wolf said. "And not more growth on Cape Cod. We're not widening Route 3 or Route 6."