Thank you for staying engaged with our office over the past few months. I wanted to reach out and give you an update on what we have been up to for the first half of the year:
In January we set forth an ambitious transportation agenda, including rapid transit equity on the Fairmount Line, improved public transit access for the Silver Line, generating new revenues to make major investments in the MBTA, and improving current service levels. I am proud to say that we have made substantial progress on several of those initiatives, and remain committed to seeing them through.
After more than a year of advocacy and partnership with Transit Matters, our office was successful in pressuring the DOT to run a pilot program on the Silver Line, allowing access to that particular ramp in the South Boston Waterfront during certain times, and speeding up trips to Logan Airport.
Our office secured a provision in the Senate Budget that mandates a full study of electrification of the Fairmount Line, which is an important first step in achieving true transit equity for the corridor. The language calls for the study to be published by March 2020, and the electrification work to be completed in 2023. With continued efforts, and focused community advocacy, I know we can work together to finally turn this commuter line into a clean, rapid, reliable transit corridor for the residents who live there today. Access to public transit breaks down barriers to economic mobility, and clean, electric energy will help reduce the public health disparities we see today.
Recent derailments and service failures have highlighted the need to earn back public trust and faith in the MBTA. To do that, we need to make bold, lasting investments. Otherwise, the system will continue to lose riders and our streets will become more and more congested.
Since they were first announced, I have been outspoken in opposition to the disproportionate and regressive MBTA fare increases, at least until there is a long-term finance plan to make significant, system wide improvements. I have offered several policy proposals to offset that revenue and create passive income for the system that does not place the burden on riders. These include:
- Securing air-rights leases at Cabot Yard and across the T’s Greater Boston portfolio. Similar to Hudson Yards in New York, these Public Private Partnerships can generate lasting incomefor transit systems without costing riders a dime, providing serious funding to make the sort of game-changing investments we need.
- Legislation to allow cities and towns to levy additional fees on TNC’s to offset the negative environmental and transportation impacts associatedwith single use rides. We need to encourage more people to use clean public transit.
- Voting for the Fair Share amendmentto generate significant revenue for transportation and education investments.
Annual Budget Process
Every year the Legislature debates an annual spending package which reflects our values and priorities. My office was focused on delivering for every community in the First Suffolk District, prioritizing economic mobility, job training, public health programming, environmental justice, and support for our small businesses.
I want to highlight that the Senate Budget makes a significant down payment on the work of the Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC), and funds local education, Chapter 70, at its highest level ever; $5.176B, an increase of $268.4M over FY 2019. That means cities and towns will have more money to invest in quality education where it is most needed, including special education, English language learners, and low-income students in economically disadvantaged communities.
One program that underscores our priorities is New England Center for Arts and Technology (NECAT). We secured $300,000 for their program to impact poverty, opioid addiction, homelessness and recidivism by helping chronically unemployed and underemployed adults develop the skills to thrive in Boston’s booming food services industry. Funding will go towards free training, case management and employment services. On average, 42% of NECAT’s students are homeless, 54% are in recovery from substance abuse and 52% have a criminal record or were previously incarcerated. The average age is 36, 74% are persons of color, and 38% are female. This past year, graduates from NECAT earned an average of $16.49 per hour, plus benefits.
In an effort to reduce the opportunity gap for high school students in Boston, we increased funding for the Boston Scholar Athletes to serve 5,000 young people with academic coaching, mentoring, health and wellness services, and college and career readiness programming. BSA students are 45% African-American, 31% Latino, 25% English-language learners, and face public health and greenspace access disparities.
We supported amendments related to increased access to the cannabis industry for disproportionately impacted communities, an increase in the Healthy Incentives Program, and increasing youth jobs and internships through the Boston Private Industry Council.
We also championed funding for:
- Technical assistance and support services to local, black-owned businesses through BECMA
- Outreach to immigrant communities in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan
- High quality civics education programming
- Gang violence reduction and workforce development at College Bound Dorchester
- Urban farming, environmental justice, and greenspace access
- Youth and family servicesin South Boston, Dorchester, and Mattapan
- Increased public safety resources on our public beaches and waterfronts
- The Annual Caribbean Carnivalcelebration
- Mental health and substance abuse programmingacross the First Suffolk
Since January, the Massachusetts State Senate has passed several important pieces of legislation, including:
- Allocating more than $15 millionto the City of Boston for roadway improvements
- Defining safe street policies to improve pedestrian and multi-modal safety
- Outlawing the use of a hand held electronic device while driving
- Creating a sales tax holiday (August 17-18)
I’ve also filed bills to ensure that any company receiving tax credits in the Commonwealth has a diversity plan in place to make sure that that economic activity reaches every neighborhood in Boston.
I was proud to Chair a hearing of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means earlier this year to engage with the executive branch and inform their spending plans. We pressed the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development on affordable housing, small business technical assistance, and equitable economic growth. We challenged the Executive Office of Workforce Development to bring more job training opportunities to underserved communities. We also had the opportunity to make the case for more opportunities for communities of color in the emerging cannabis industry.
With regards to education: I am a proud cosponsor of the PROMISE act and the CHERISH act to fully fund our K-12 and our public higher education institutions. I have stood up for the UMass Boston Campus, pushing for full funding for the centers and institutes. I also have filed a bill to require mental-health education in all k-12 schools so that kids are getting the support they need to cope with and overcome trauma, and mental health issues that are disproportionately prevalent in low-income communities.
In the past 6 months my office and I have hosted the St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast in celebration of the experience of Irish-Americans and all immigrants to this country.
We’ve marched in the Haitian Flag Day Parade, the Dorchester Day Parade, the Mother’s Day Walk for Peace, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and the Pride Parade.
We’ve worked on hundreds of constituent cases from every corner of the First Suffolk District.
We’ve attended over 400 public meetings on topics ranging from cannabis regulations, to parks and green space, to housing development, to monthly civic association meetings.
We stood with the Stop and Shop workers in pursuit of fair labor practices, and celebrated Earth Day with community cleanups in Mattapan and Codman Square.
In short, my office has been making significant progress in delivering real results for every resident in every community in the First Suffolk District. I am proud to represent you in the State Senate, and I couldn’t do this without your support. Please, continue to use our office as your voice in state government.
Thank you for your continued support,