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.
Exciting times are ahead for the Grand Junction Multiuse Path. Last month the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) announced that they would start construction this year on the first section of the path. When the shovel hits the ground, it will be a true milestone in the history of this project.
What makes the Grand Junction Multiuse Path such an important project is its ability to connect so many amenities in Cambridge and Somerville. By connecting existing parks and public facilities throughout the corridor, the path will act as an urban necklace that makes open space and other neighborhoods more accessible for residents of Cambridgeport, Area 4, Harrington/Wellington and East Cambridge. It has the potential to serve as a critical link between paths along (and over) the Charles River on one end and as a connection to the Somerville Community Path and Minuteman Commuter Bikeway on the other. It has immense potential to improve the quality of life for our neighborhoods by providing safe pedestrian and cyclist access to a large part of Cambridge, including a number of schools and parks.
An overnight success this is not. It’s the culmination of many years of hard work, patience, and focus. Advocates like Friends of the Grand Junction have greatly contributed to the viability and public awareness of this project. Friends of the Community Path, whose primary focus has been on the Somerville Community Path, have worked with MassDOT to guarantee that a future connection between the Somerville Community Path and the Grand Junction Multiuse Path would not be physically obstructed by the Green Line Extension. These groups, along with many residents and officials, have had the vision to look ahead to the path’s creation, and have found ways to leverage new development to make progress on the Grand Junction path.
Along the way we have dealt with proposed uses for the Grand Junction route for Commuter Rail Trains and Ethanol Transport that could have impacted future use as a multiuse path. Advocates, legislators, and the community have been able to suppress both proposals and preserve the viability of the Grand Junction Multiuse Path.
The start of construction on a portion of the path–which has been made possible through the help of MIT and the CRA—means that we must continue to work to find ways to make construction of the entire path possible. At a recent council meeting I moved to take two steps that I believe will keep this momentum going. The first is asking the CRA to continue its work with the City of Cambridge to help us understand the complexities of land uses along the path heading towards the Somerville boarder. With their help we can start to make progress on portions of the path that have yet to be studied in depth.
More importantly I have asked the City of Cambridge to consider creating a Grand Junction Overlay District along the length of the path. An overlay district can help to shape the vision of the path while attempting to alleviate some possible obstacles identified by many studies of the project. It can help to preserve setbacks while ensuring development won’t encroach on the path while allowing more flexibility to landowners who may be redeveloping parcels along the path. This will help our long term visions and goals for the corridor and I hope get people more excited about what this can be. Imagine a future where instead of the rails being a back alley, they are embraced and it becomes the front door to future residents, students and retail that want to take advantage of a bustling, commuter-centric path connecting the eastern half of Cambridge.
There remains much work to be done, but at the moment I will be happy to see the first shovels break ground.
If you want to hear more about the Grand Junction please join us at the Transportation Committee Meeting at 4 pm on Wednesday, March 25 at City Hall.
The Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) is a document designed to guide the Commonwealth’s long-term infrastructure planning. It’s not exactly scintillating reading and most people have probably never heard of it, but it’s an important step in any transportation project becoming a reality.
The Metropolitan Planning Organization has released a proposed draft for Amendment Four to the TIP, which you can read here. From now until April 9, the MPO is accepting public comment on the draft amendment, including its most recent addition: a statewide congestion mitigation and air quality program designed to offset the MBTA’s planned purchase of 10 new locomotives.
Copies of the document are available free of charge from the Metropolitan Planning Organization. You can request a copy or have your comments entered into the public record by calling (617)-973-7100, faxing your comments to (617)-973-8855, or emailing your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
MassDOT is undertaking a study of the feasibility of transporting ethanol by rail through several Greater Boston communities, including Somerville and Cambridge. The next public meeting is scheduled for tonight, March 11, from 6:30-8:30pm at the Argenziano School in Somerville (290 Washington St.).
I encourage you to attend tonight’s public meeting to share your perspective and to learn more about the proposals put forward by MassDOT. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.
The first phase of construction on the Green Line Extension is officially underway, bringing with it a promise of light rail service to and from a new Union Square station by 2017. Speaking at the event, Governor Patrick and Congressman Capuano emphasized that both sustainable growth and environmental justice require investment for the long term, a sentiment echoed by Mayors Curtatone, Davis, and McGlynn.
I was happy to see so many members of state and local government at the event, but the attendance of local home- and business owners showed what this project is all about. The last two people to speak weren’t politicians but the owners of CasaB, a restaurant in Union Square. The “B” in CasaB refers to one of the owner’s grandfathers, whose love of Latin cuisine inspires the menus of chef Alberto Cabré. Alberto and his co-owner Angelina Jockovich were born in Puerto Rico and Colombia respectively, but they’ve chosen to start their business in Somerville, a decision they said was influenced by the promise of the Green Line Extension.
Alberto and Angelina, along with the tireless community leaders who made today possible, reflect the best of our community. Their speech was brief—they, and we, still have work to do.
6 – 8 PM
Kennedy-Longfellow School Auditorium
158 Spring Street Cambridge
For questions, please contact:
Bill Deignan –Transportation Program Manager
Cambridge Community Development Department
344 Broadway Cambridge, MA 02139 – by e-mail at: email@example.com
(617) 349-4632 TTY (617) 349- 4621
contact Regan Checchio by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 617-357-5772 x14.
The City of Cambridge Community Development Department does not discriminate on the basis of disability. Community Development will provide auxiliary aids and services, written materials in alternative format, and reasonable modifications in policies upon request.
Transportation Bond Bills:
Both the three-year $3.5 billion bond bill to finance and increase efficiency in long term projects for the state such as the Green Line Extension through Cambridge and Somerville, and the $1.5 billion bond bill to fund projects on municipal transportation projects will serve to help Massachusetts to meet the increasing demands of our state’s aging transportation infrastructure.
Chapter 86 of the Acts of 2008
Chapter 172 of the Acts of 2008
Housing Bond Bill:
This $1.3 billion bond bill was passed to create and encourage long term development of capital improvements and affordable housing resources, helping to make homeownership a more attainable goal to families across the state
Chapter 119 of the Acts of 2008
Bridge Repair Bond Bill:
This $3 billion bridge repair bond bill provides for the preservation of existing transportation infrastructure, and the assurance of safety on our state’s bridges.
Chapter 233 of the Acts of 2008
Higher Education Bond Bill:
This $2.2 billion bond bill will help the Commonwealth to control costs of higher education for Massachusetts families.
Chapter 258 of the Acts of 2008
Children and Families:
Booster Seat Bill:
This crucial public safety initiative is an important step in protecting child passengers on the road, and requires children up to the age of 8 or the height of 4’9” (whichever comes first) to be secured by child passenger safety devices. The proper use of booster seats has been proven to significantly decrease child fatalities in motor vehicle accidents.
Chapter 79 of the Acts of 2008
Child Abuse and Neglect Legislation:
This bill created a brand new cabinet level secretary responsible solely for child welfare, establishes minimum education requirements for social workers and toughens penalties for child abuse and neglect.
Chapter 176 of the Acts of 2008
Child Protection Legislation (Jessica’s Law):
Aiming to further protect children from sexual predators, this important legislation increased penalties for sex offenders, and enhanced online tracking of online sexual predators.
Chapter 205 of the Laws of 2008
Reorganization of the Commonwealth’s Education Governance Structure:
This reorganization has taken important steps to streamline, simplify and improve communication and coordination between every education sector of the Commonwealth. Most importantly, it created a cabinet level secretary to oversee the state’s education system and its reorganization.
Chapter 27 of the Acts of 2008
Reorganization of Early Education Quality & Care System:
As an extension of the overall education reorganization, this initiative works toward improving access to and the quality of early childhood education for all children in the Commonwealth, creating the new Department of Early Education and Care.
Chapter 215 of the Acts of 2008
Global Warming Solutions Act:
With this bill, Massachusetts put in place a long term plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions. This is an important step forward in the fight to save our environment from the dangerous effects of harmful emissions produced by humans.
Chapter 298 of the Acts of 2008
Green Communities Act:
This broad reaching energy reform package establishes bold new clean, renewable energy goals for the Commonwealth, providing incentives to municipalities, businesses and individuals to invest in progressive energy saving technologies to meet the new benchmarks.
Chapter 169 of the Acts of 2008
Green Jobs Bill:
Unanimously supported by both braches of the legislature, this innovative initiative will encourage green start-up companies to expand in Massachusetts, and provide residents of all experience levels with exciting new and sustainable careers.
Chapter 307 of the Acts of 2008
Ocean Management Bill:
This bill clarifies existing ocean management laws to allow for clean energy development in areas that had previously been zoned only for traditional energy generation.
Chapter 114 of the Acts of 2008
Electronic Health Records for Health and Human Services:
Moving to further improve Massachusetts health care system, this bill modernizes and standardizes the state’s health care records for those enrolled in states programs. It will help to simplify record keeping and decrease costs to taxpayers over the next several years.
Chapter 130 of the Acts of 2007
Protecting Patient Confidentiality:
This common-sense legislation provides clients of mental health counselors with the same right to privacy and confidentiality as clients of psychiatrists and psychologists.
Chapter 142 of the Acts of 2007
This bill established the Commonwealth Corps, a statewide volunteer service organization that works in partnership with the Massachusetts Service Alliance. The mission of the Commonwealth Corps is to engage Massachusetts residents of all ages and backgrounds in direct service to rebuild communities and address unmet community needs. The Corps will provide opportunities for skill building, leadership development and will encourage and enhance a lifelong civic vocation for Corps members.
Chapter 192 of the Acts of 2007
Increased Benefits to Families of Police and Firefighters:
Helping cities and towns to show gratitude to the loved ones of those killed in the line of duty for their thankless public service, this bill allows municipalities to raise funeral expense reimbursements to families of police officers and firefighters killed while on the job from $5,000 to $15,000
Chapter 110 of the Acts of 2007
Sales Tax Holiday:
For the fifth year in a row, the members of the legislature overwhelmingly voted to suspend the state sales tax for one weekend in August, providing consumers with an incentive to stimulate the local retail economy.
Chapter 211 of the Acts of 2008
Corporate Tax Reform:
This bill closed several so-called corporate tax loopholes that were being abused by larger companies at the expense of small businesses and individual taxpayers, increasing tax fairness in the Commonwealth.
Chapter 173 of the Acts of 2008
Investment in Life Sciences:
This 10-year, $1 billion bill invests in our state’s ever-growing life sciences sector, helping to draw new life science companies to the region and keep current ones here. This will have a significant impact growing the number of quality jobs and the state’s reputation as a world leader in life sciences.
Chapter 130 of the Acts of 2008
Mortgage Foreclosure Relief:
In response to the unprecedented spike in the number of home foreclosures, this legislation encourages banks to help borrowers, providing a three month window to cure defaults. It also mandates tough new licensing standards for mortgage loan originators.
Chapter 224 of the Acts of 2007
LIHEAP Fuel-Assistance Appropriation:
Passed in anticipation of a difficult winter season, this bill provided emergency funding to help more than 100,000 elderly residents and low income families pay to heat their homes over the coldest months.
Chapter 174 of the Acts of 2007
*Note: This list only reflects a sampling of some of the more important legislation passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by the Governor. If you have any additional questions about any legislation, whether it is on this list or not, please feel free to contact my State House staff at 617-722-2692.
Read more about the 2007-2008 Formal Legislative Session: