Photograph by Joanne DeCaro/ CC BY 2.0 from Flickr User Charlie Baker (https://flic.kr/p/z6g1z6)

Photograph by Joanne DeCaro/ CC BY 2.0 from Flickr User Charlie Baker (https://flic.kr/p/z6g1z6)

It is critical for the Commonwealth to promote emerging sources of renewable energy in order to meet our greenhouse emissions goals as well as to end our dependence on natural gas. Massachusetts is a nationally recognized clean energy leader because we have made a clear legislative effort to grow our green energy sector. Our solar power industry is a prime example of our progress having created 15,000 jobs working on over 26,000 projects throughout the state.

In order to continue the solar industry’s progress in Massachusetts, both the House and Senate passed differing versions of legislation that would raise the net-metering cap and allow for the permitting of large solar projects to continue. The legislation also made changes to how solar energy producers would be reimbursed for the electricity that they provide to the grid. A Conference Committee consisting of three House Representatives and three Senators has been discussing how to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate bills for the past several months.

In December of last year, I wrote to the House conferees to voice my concern about the proposed changes in the House version of the solar bill. Specifically, I asked them to base potential changes to solar compensation on a professional study carried out by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), and to use that study to guide and set future reimbursement rates (see link to letter below). 

Additionally, I have joined many of my colleagues in signing a letter to the Conference Committee that expresses the urgency for passing legislation this year that will raise the net-metering cap, reform the SREC program, and maintain the current retail reimbursement for net-metering until we have a better understanding of the true costs and benefits of solar energy to ratepayers (see link to letter below). 

It is my hope that these efforts, along with the many advocates and residents who have voiced their strong support for solar energy, will help steer the conferees toward a better solar bill—one that will allow this vital industry to continue to flourish in Massachusetts.

Letter to Solar Conference Committee on Net-Metering Rate Calculation

Joint Letter to Conference Committee on Solar Legislation

 

GLX bannerThe Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and the MBTA Fiscal Management Control Board are holding a joint meeting next Wednesday, March 16th at 11:30am at the State Transportation Building on Stuart Street in Boston.

This meeting gives Somerville and Cambridge residents another opportunity to show Governor Baker and MassDOT how important the Green Line Extension is to our communities. I’m hoping for a strong showing of public support, and encourage attendees to bring signs and/or to speak during the public comment section of the meeting.

Please click here for directions to the building.

maple-syrup-bottlesGovernor Baker declared this March “Massachusetts Maple Month” to recognize our state’s maple producers. Most of our state’s 300 maple producers are located west of Worcester, but it turns out we don’t have to go that far to enjoy local syrup tasting – join Groundwork Somerville tomorrow, March 12th for Somerville’s annual Maple Syrup Boil Down Festival. All members of the community are invited to the Somerville Community Growing Center at 22 Vinal Avenue between 10am and 2pm to watch and learn as sap from local sugar maple trees is boiled down into pure maple syrup over a warm fire. In addition to syrup-tasting, waffles, and hot drinks, this family friendly festival features activities for kids, demonstrations, and much more!

The 12-year old Somerville Maple Syrup Project coordinated by Groundwork Somerville in partnership with the Somerville Community Growing Center, Somerville Public Schools, Tufts University, and each dedicated Maple Syrup Project volunteer. Please click here for more inforamtion about about The Maple Syrup Boil Down 2016 or contact Sarah Lindsay – at sarah@groundworksomerville.org ~ or call 617-628-9988.

 

Memorial Drive/Land Boulevard westbound will be closed in the vicinity of the Longfellow Bridge this weekend, beginning at 11:00 pm on Friday, March 4. and reopening at 5:00am on Monday, March 7. Please see MassDOT’s Charles River Basin Projects traffic information page for more details, including car, pedestrian, and bike detour routes.

The project team has announced that the last “Grounding McGrath Working Group” meeting will be held on March 24th at 6pm in the library at the East Somerville Community School on 50 Cross St. Formed by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) in late 2014, the working group has been meeting regularly to discuss the planned redesign and overhaul of the McGrath Highway corridor in Somerville. The project would remove the McCarthy Overpass and transform McGrath into a more connected, accessible, and livable urban boulevard.

An early design from the 2013 Grounding McGrath report shows the McGrath and Washington St. intersection transformed by the removal of the McCarthy Overpass.

An early design from the 2013 Grounding McGrath report shows the McGrath and Washington St. intersection transformed by the removal of the McCarthy Overpass.

All meetings of the working group are open to the public, and residents and interested parties are encouraged to attend.

For meeting minutes or more info on this project, please visit this link. More information about the McGrath Boulevard Project is also available in Portuguese and Spanish.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has announced a series of public meetings to discuss potential cost-saving measures proposed for the Green Line Extension. Right now, we are arguably at the most critical point in the project’s history as transportation officials, hired consultants, and the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board weigh what changes to make to the project. These decisions are being made on an accelerated timetable, and at this stage it is crucial that the public weigh in directly. Please consider attending these meetings in order to show the Baker Administration how important the Green Line Extension is to Somerville, Cambridge, and Medford. I also welcome any comments or questions you might have for me. You can find ways to contact me here. -Tim

The following is from a press release made by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation:

Friends –

We are pleased to inform you that a series of public meetings has been scheduled on the Green Line Extension project.

As many of you know, MassDOT and the MBTA are currently working through a re-evalaution of the Green Line Extension project, focusing on four key areas: (1) project management; (2) redesign; (3) re-procurement; and (4) the development of a reliable cost estimate and schedule. This re-evaluation has been prompted by significant cost overruns on the project, and is expected to be complete and submitted to the MassDOT Board of Directors and the MBTA Fiscal & Management Control Board in May.

In order to seek public ideas and input on the re-evaluation, MassDOT and the MBTA will be holding the following public meetings over the next two months:

Wednesday, March 2nd
5:30pm-6:30pm: Open House
6:30pm-8:00pm: Presentation and Q&A
Arts at the Armory
191 Highland Avenue – Somerville

Wednesday, March 23rd
5:30pm-6:30pm: Open House
6:30pm-8:00pm: Presentation and Q&A
Tufts University
51 Winthrop Street – Medford

Wednesday, April 13th
5:30pm-6:30pm: Open House
6:30pm-8:00pm: Presentation and Q&A
Argenziano School
290 Washington Street – Somerville

Wednesday, April 27th
5:30pm-6:30pm: Open House
6:30pm-8:00pm: Presentation and Q&A
St. Anthony’s Parish Hall
400 Cardinal Medeiros Avenue – Cambridge

Thursday, May 5th
5:30pm-6:30pm: Open House
6:30pm-8:00pm: Presentation and Q&A
St. Clement’s Parish Hall
579 Boston Avenue – Medford

Information about the meetings will also be posted to the Green Line Extension website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at info@glxinfo.com.

Thank you for your continued interest in the Green Line Extension project.

 

 

 

 

State Representative Tim Toomey has announced his re-election bid for the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Toomey, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Somerville and Cambridge, said he is running so that he can continue the work he has done on issues like improving transportation access and reliability, ensuring government transparency, increasing funding for low income and affordable housing, and social justice issues such as gender pay equity and LGBTQ rights.

“I am honored to serve the people of Somerville and Cambridge,” Toomey said. “I plan on using my experience to continue advocating for the full completion of the Green Line Extension and to fight for the necessary investments we need to make in our communities and schools.”

Toomey said rising income inequality was one of his primary concerns as a legislator, and cited the work he has done to advance the “Fair Share Amendment” and increase funding for housing voucher programs as examples of his leadership on the issue.

“Massachusetts needs a tax system where everyone–including the rich–pays their fair share,” said Toomey. “The ongoing effort to advance the Fair Share Tax Amendment is the best chance we have had in many years to accomplish this, and I am proud to say I have been among the leading voices in the legislature calling for its passage.” The Fair Share Amendment, an amendment to the state’s constitution that would implement an additional 4% tax on income over $1 million, was recently advanced by the legislature’s Joint Committee on Revenue, of which Toomey is vice chair. Supporters expect it would raise about $2 billion annually for investments in transit and public education.

In 2015, Toomey was a prominent voice for increased funding for housing voucher programs, and helped lead an effort to increase funding for the Alternative Housing Voucher program by $1.05m, creating 120 new housing vouchers for low-income, disabled Massachusetts residents. “Housing prices are a huge part of the rising inequality that we see in our state’s urban areas,” said Toomey. “Funding for housing vouchers is an essential part of combating the affordability crisis in Massachusetts and ensuring that every resident has safe and affordable housing that meets their needs.”

Toomey also pointed to his work to reform the state’s criminal justice system in order to reduce incarceration and recidivism as an ongoing priority. He has partnered with Somerville state senator Pat Jehlen to sponsor legislation that would allow dying inmates to be placed in more medically appropriate and humane settings. Toomey has also been working as a member of the legislature’s Harm Reduction and Drug Law Reform Caucus to change our state’s drug laws to promote recovery and rehabilitation as an alternative to mass incarceration. “We have learned that the past approaches to criminal justice and sentencing haven’t been effective, and that our laws need to be smarter–not tougher–on crime,” said Toomey. “There is a growing movement in the legislature to tackle these issues head on–the recent vote to repeal mandatory driver’s license suspension for drug offenses is a great example–and I am proud to be a part of this effort.”

As a State Representative for a diverse and vibrant community, Toomey has played an integral role in facilitating collaborative efforts between the public, advocates, and state agencies on transportation and economic development projects. “I’m proud to represent such an engaged and passionate community,” Toomey said. “That drive and collaborative willingness is what preserved the viability of the Grand Junction Path as a commuter-centric multi-use project, and I will fight tirelessly for continued strong public involvement on projects like the Somerville Community Path, the Grounding McGrath project, and the Green Line Extension.”

“I have always believed that my job as a representative is to listen to my constituents and to be strongly committed to providing excellent constituent services. Having been born and raised in the district that I now represent in the legislature, it’s especially important to me that I do my best to represent our communities’ values on Beacon Hill.” Toomey cited his strong track record of making himself available and accessible to his constituents, and vowed to continue to make himself available for meetings and conversations at his district office in East Cambridge.

While Toomey is proud of his accomplishments so far in the 2015-16 legislative session, he stressed that he will continue to fight to pass key social justice legislation. “I’m confident that the Massachusetts legislature will continue to lead the nation in progressive change, and I will continue to fight for adding protections for gender identity in public accommodations to the state’s non-discrimination laws, making insurance coverage mandatory for a wider variety of contraceptives, and passing the Equal Pay Act to strengthen Massachusetts families by closing the gender pay gap.”

The Cambridge Community Development’s (CDD) Housing Division is hosting two one-hour informational sessions on affordable housing opportunities in the City of Cambridge on Monday, February 22 at St. Paul’s Christian Life Center from 6pm to 8pm – first session starts at 6pm and the second at 7pm.

The session will cover Cambridge’s inclusionary rental housing program and the City’s home-ownership programs such as Homeowner Resale Pool, First-Time Homebuyer Workshops, and Downpayment/Financial Assistance Programs.

CDD staff will be available to help attendees find out if they qualify for these programs and how to apply. The session is open to the public and doesn’t require registration. For those unable to attend on February 22, the City will hold similar sessions on March 10 on 2401 Mass. Ave. from 6pm-8pm, and on March 22 at City Hall from 12pm-2pm.

The Joint Committee on Revenue voted 12-4 in favor of the “Fair Share Tax” amendment during an Executive Session yesterday. This was the next in a series of steps necessary before the initiative can appear on the 2018 ballot – the initiative now must receive 50 affirmative votes at a Constitutional Convention during the current legislative session, and 50 affirmative votes at a Constitutional Convention during the next legislative session. As I wrote in this op-ed, this proposal would create a more even effective tax rate across all income levels – the poorest Massachusetts residents are currently paying an effective tax rate that is on average 38% higher than that of top earners – as well as address the Commonwealth’s unsustainable income inequality gap by investing in transportation, roads and bridges, and public education.

Work continues on the restoration and rehabilitation of the historic Longfellow Bridge.

A Red Line train crosses the Longfellow Bridge on its way into downtown Boston.

Later tonight, a public meeting will be held to discuss the future of late night MBTA service. The meeting will be held at Cambridge City Hall in the Sullivan Chamber from 6pm to 8pm.

The MBTA Fiscal Management and Control Board has recommended the discontinuation of the late night service program, which has provided an extra 90 minutes of T service each Friday and Saturday night since 2014.

While the late night program is more expensive to operate than regular service, I believe that cancelling it would be short sighted. Tens of thousands of people, many of them workers and students, have come to rely on this program as a safe, affordable method of transiting the city late at night. Earlier today, I sent a comment letter (included below) to the MBTA General Manager requesting that this service be preserved. If you would also like to voice comments to the T, please email them to latenightservice@mbta.com, or attend the meeting tonight at City Hall.

Click here to read my letter to the MBTA GM in opposition to cancelling late night service.