Nancy Pitkin is a regular contributor to richardhowe.com. She attended the Massachusetts State Senate’s “Listening Session” in Lawrence recently and submitted the following report:
On Monday, February 23, 2015 we attended the Massachusetts State Senators “Listening Session” in Lawrence. It was the fourth of eight state wide forums being held around the commonwealth by our state senators “listening to what you have to say, and working hard to make sure they carry your voices and your ideas back to Beacon Hill.” The function facility at Salvatore’s in RIverwalk was easily accessible with plenty of free parking. It was the largest forum to date – over 300 people.
The forum began about 7:10 PM with opening remarks by new Senator Barbara L’Italien who introduced the Lawrence City Mayor Dan Rivera. And then the forum began. This is a list of institutions/topics that were introduced. I was not able to write down all the names of the speakers. The forum ended at 8:30 PM and if you had signed up to speak but were not able to, you were invited to submit your remarks on their website.
All but 5 or 6 of those who spoke were leaders of institutions/schools/business groups, unions, etc. (in other words, only a few appeared to be speaking as individual citizens rather than in a representative capacity). The following is my list of the concerns raised by those who did speak. This is by no means a comprehensive record but it does capture the gist of the speakers’ concerns.
1. Lawrence General Hospital – Medicare reimbursements
2. Northern Essex Community College – talked about the number of students enrolled in No. Essex Community College and effectiveness of dual enrollment for high school students
3. President of the Lawrence city council – wants legislature to increase the balance of power like the national constitution
4. Prison guards are both public employees and contractors – and the contractors do not have the same commitment to the job but are paid more. Read from a union supplied document
5. Spanish speaker on maintenance worker at Logan Airport – how conditions have changed for the worse. . Read from a union supplied document
6. Head of Chamber of Commerce help for business
7. Lawrence Teachers Union
8. Families of American Dream want clean safe city – bread and roses
9. Community Action Council – works with WIC, fuel assistance rental vouchers for working poor
10. Recycle textiles and paper; Mass only has 8 landfills and 2 will close this year and 2 will close next year. Build new incinerators which no one wants or increase recycling
11. Revitalize cities – continue Gateway Cities for affordable housing
12. New bill passed about integrity of election – must be able to hand count a portion of ballets – don’t rely on computers
13. Continue to say no to Kinder Morgan pipeline to protect the environment
14. Lawrence public schools Receiver/Superintendent: schools are in receivership – they are the most improved community schools. Contract to renew in June for three more years – then exiting the city
15. Lawrence Police chief – establishing a training facility for police in Lawrence for whole state
16. Head of Mass Realtors on mortgage debt relief on phantom income
17. ESOL classes in Lawrence Methuen Haverhill –funding was cancelled no classes and they were the only provider of Eng. classes
18. Realtor (didn’t catch his title) scrap metal bill negatively effects all – pass the lower thresh hold for charity license plates
19. Many affected by drug overdoes – help others to stay off drugs
20. Work for everyone – new minimum wage, and sick time for all – but need help for full time workers
21. Trust Act – secure communities- safe driving for all with license so everyone has insurance
22. Disabled person needs access to apartment and landlord not complying with laws
23. Animal protection act – keep out industrial farming in MA
24. Income inequality – between Lawrence and No. Andover and need discussion on race in the community in Massachusetts
25. Consumer advocate for affordable health care: high copayment barrier to care now to avoid acute costs later
26. D’Youville – established in 1960 – nursing home with most patients on Medicare which does not cover the cost of care
27. Need a bill to not discriminate against transgender people in public spaces.
28. Health care for all – restore mental health care
29. No mosquito spraying – kills honey bees – no honey bees, no food
30. Developmental individuals – funding to help families of disabled
31. Able Act – disabled allowed to have a bank account and not loose social security – ($2000.00 is the maximum they can have in an account)
32. Lowell Community health Center over 50,000 patients are helped
33. Mental illness hero – was on heroin, now helping others but we need longer term treatment facilities
One lesson I’ve learned by becoming more politically active in the last three years is that it’s very interesting to attend a political gathering and see the politicians in action yourself. It can be, and usually is, very different from what you get to read and hear in the media. Attendance at these kinds gatherings is eye opening. Attend one yourself to find out.