Monthly Archives: June 2010

3 posts

Good Jobs in Higher Education Forum Held at State House

State House, Boston – map

As you surely know, Cambridge is recognized across the globe as a center for academic study and technological advancement. The prestige that MIT and Harvard bring to the city is something that Cambridge should certainly be proud of, but equally worthy of our City’s pride and recognition are the thousands of people who work behind the scenes to keep these institutions running at full steam.

On Wednesday, June 16th, I co-hosted a forum with SEIU Local 615 at the State House to discuss the state of jobs at higher education institutions across Massachusetts. Wayne Langley, the higher education director at SEIU Local 615, joined John Collins, an employee of MIT, and Juan Gutarra, an employee of Harvard, in expressing their concerns about how the endowment crisis has impacted workers and local communities.

Wayne Langley discusses the findings of the white paper.

Mr. Langley discussed the findings of a white paper that was commissioned by SEIU Local 615 to study the effects that the financial downturn has had on endowments at institutions in New England. The paper’s findings point to the need for higher education institutions to pursue more responsible investment strategies in order to protect the livelihoods of their workers. It is my hope that these findings will help start a productive dialogue within the legislature about how to ensure that the communities of the Commonwealth that depend on higher education jobs can survive times of economic instability.

John Collins speaks to Tim after the event.

Mr. Collins, a long time resident of Somerville and active member of SEIU Local 615, gave a powerful speech about his recent experiences as an employee of MIT. He explained that as he has watched MIT expand, he has also seen friends, co-workers, and neighbors lose their jobs at the institution. He stressed that many parts of Cambridge and Somerville depend heavily on MIT for good, reliable jobs, which have become harder and harder to find in recent years.

Juan Gutarra described how his experience working at Harvard has changed during the economic downturn.

Mr. Gutarra, speaking through a translator, explained that he has faced a similar situation at Harvard, where he has worked as a janitor for the past decade. He described how his hours have been cut and altered, making it harder for him to get by, and asked that more oversight be exercised over universities to ensure that endowments are invested responsibly.

It was a great honor to co-host this important discussion with SEIU Local 615, and to hear the concerns and challenges of our community’s workers firsthand. I believe that this forum has helped raise awareness in the legislature over what is a critical situation to so many, and I am looking forward to working with my colleagues to tackle this complex issue. Above all, I will continue to stand by the workers of Cambridge and Somerville in the months and years to come.

Positive Steps Forward for Green Line Extension

East Cambridge & East Somerville – map

After years of countless meetings, public hearings, letters and tireless advocacy from so many involved community members, I’m pleased to announce that the Commonwealth has reached a major milestone in the extension of the Green Line through Cambridge, Somerville and Medford with the release of the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA).

The Green Line Extension will vastly improve the state of public transportation in the City of Somerville, making our community easier to access for residents and visitors. As this project moves forward, however, we need to make sure it is done in a way that is right for the people who live near it and the people who will use it when it is completed.

Before a project of this magnitude can be undertaken, it is important that we study the potential impact on the environment, the safety of the community, and the quality of life for the Green Line Extension’s immediate neighbors. Last year, EOEEA released a Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment (DEIR/EA) detailing the effects of the proposed extension.

In January, I sent a letter with my comments regarding the DEIR/EA to Secretary Ian Bowles of EOEEA. I used my comments to express many of the concerns that members of the community had voiced to me. On June 15th, the FEIR was released, and I am happy to say that many of the changes to the DEIR/EA that our community advocated for have been included in the final report.

First and foremost of these changes is the decision about the location of the new Green Line maintenance facility. In the letter that I sent to the Secretary in January, I expressed my concern that the use of Yard 8 for the maintenance facility (which was at that time the favored option) would negatively impact the residents of the Brickbottom area, and would potentially stifle future economic development within the Inner Belt. In my comments, I stressed that Option L, one of the two alternatives presented in the report, was a far better choice for the location of the maintenance facility. Thanks to the active participation among members of the community, including elected officials, the Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership (STEP) and the residents of Brickbottom, I am pleased to report that MassDOT has chosen Option L as the preferred site for the maintenance facility.

This is a victory for the residents of East Somerville and East Cambridge for a number of reasons:

• Option L will create more separation between residential areas and the maintenance yard.

• It will not preclude road construction between Brickbottom and the Inner Belt, meaning that future economic development in the area will not be hindered.

• The Brickbottom Artist Building, Hampton Inn Hotel, Glass Factory Condominiums, and future developments on Water St. will experience no more than one decibel of additional noise from the Option L maintenance yard.

• The placement of the facility in an existing industrial area will mean that the local environment will not be substantially altered.

• The yard will comply with all state and federal air quality regulations, and will reduce the amount of storm water drainage at the site.

Option L (center in blue) would produce less noise for Brickbottom residents than Yard 8 (bottom left in blue).

In my January letter, I also expressed concerns over the design of the proposed Lechmere station overhaul. These concerns were echoed by the East Cambridge Planning Team (ECPT), and I am pleased to see that the redesign includes better door access from the north and south sides of the station, as well as fare collection and other amenities that are now fully inside the station, shielded from the elements. The bus drop-off/pick-up area will now be directly connected to the station by a door, and the station will be fully handicap accessible.

One of my most pressing concerns about the Green Line Extension project is that it will move Lechmere station to the opposite side of the Monsignor O’Brien Highway, creating a potentially dangerous situation for the thousands of commuters that will now need to cross a wide, busy street to access Lechmere from East Cambridge. The layout that has been proposed since the DEIR includes accommodations for a wider pedestrian crosswalk, and the FEIR makes the recommendation that a median no less than 20 feet wide be constructed on the O’Brien Highway in order to shield pedestrians from turning traffic. Although this is not an ideal solution for the commuters travelling to the station from East Cambridge, it is a vast improvement over earlier proposals. I will continue to fight both in the State House and City Hall to make pedestrian safety a top priority as the project moves forward.

The proposed Lechmere station layout found in the June 15th FEIR.

Finally, I want to share with you my excitement at seeing the Green Line Extension moving closer to becoming a reality. The release of the Final Environmental Impact Report marks a significant step forward for a project that will be crucial to the future of East Somerville. Affordable and efficient transportation is critical to any urban area, and the latest numbers indicate that the Green Line Extension will increase daily ridership by 52,000 people by 2030. That means that each day, 25,000 fewer miles will be travelled by cars through our communities! Now that, my friends, is a breath of fresh air.

MAPS Director Honored at 26th Annual Heritage Day of Portugal

State House – Boston map

On Tuesday, June 1st, 2010, members of the House, Senate, the Massachusetts Portuguese community, Lt. Governor Murray, and others gathered in the House Chamber to celebrate the 26th Annual Heritage Day of Portugal. The Heritage Day of Portugal was founded in 1985 as a way to honor the contributions that Portuguese immigrants, those of Portuguese decent, and friends of the Portuguese community make to their neighborhoods, the Commonwealth, and the nation.

Recipients of the Portuguese Heritage Award were honored in the House Chamber.

Each year I have the great honor of recognizing an individual member of the Portuguese community in Cambridge and Somerville who has enriched the lives of those around them. This year was certainly no exception. It was with great pride that this year I nominated the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS), Paulo R. Pinto, for the Portuguese Heritage Award.

Paulo is a native of Portugal, and was raised in Mozambique. He immigrated to the United States in 1980 and has spent his career working on behalf of the Portuguese community in the health and social service fields. Before joining the MAPS in 1994, Paulo served as Executive Director of the Immigrants Assistance Center, Inc. of New Bedford for four years. Paulo also coordinated the Governor’s Urban Teen Service Corps and Youth Council for the Center for Health and Human Services in New Bedford.

Paulo began his career at MAPS as Program Administrator for Disease Prevention in 1994, and then moved up to Deputy Executive Director in late 1995. In 2000, he was appointed to the position of Executive Director of MAPS by the organization’s board of directors. For the last 10 years, Paulo has led the organization with the vision of improving the lives of the Portuguese-speaking residents of Massachusetts. MAPS helps members of Portuguese-speaking communities become active participants in American society while maintaining a strong cultural identity. MAPS also seeks to increase the Portuguese-speaking community’s access to essential services, such as health and education, through advocacy and outreach.

Tim with award recipient Paulo R. Pinto

Paulo Pinto is a shining example of an individual who understands what it means to be an effective advocate. His service to our community’s Portuguese-speaking immigrants has been essential in building a thriving and engaged Portuguese community in Cambridge and Somerville, and it was an honor to have had the opportunity to recognize him.