Tonight the Joint Committee on Redistricting met at Lawrence High School for the ninth in a series of hearings seeking testimony and input from across the Commonwealth from elected officials, representatives of organizations and interests and from the general public. The session lasted for nearly three hours before a very large audience. My colleague Dick attended and already posted his observations.
I was able to speak early in the process and thought I’d post my own comments before the committee:
Good evening. Mr. Chairman and members of the Redistricting Committee. I thank you for allowing me to speak. I’ll be brief.
My name is Marie Sweeney of 51 Fiske Street in Tewksbury. I am a native of Lowell and a 40-year resident of Tewksbury – a nearly life-long resident of the 5th District except for a 10-year cycle when the Town of Tewksbury was – in my opinion – incompatibly redistricted into the 7th District. (It did us no favors.)
While many might connect me with politics – as the Chair of Greater Lowell Democrats and a member of the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee serving this district where you are meeting – the Second Essex/Middlesex District – it is my decades as a community activist that spur me to comment tonight. My activities, issues and concerns include advocacy for education, history, preservation, volunteerism, cultural affairs and social services. So I do see the big picture but I have seen how big picture decisions affect the regular citizen.
The commonality of interest of the core communities of the currently configured 5th District goes way beyond politics – into its history, geography, ethnicity, diversity as well as shared values, experience, goals, commitment and economic reality. Others have already spoken quite well about these elements and connections.
My particular concern is the federal designation and funding approaches that affect such programs as Head Start, fuel assistance, homelessness prevention, early childhood education, affordable housing and services, workforce and job development, youth programs, small business assistance and more. These are systems and programs critical to people of the Greater Lowell/Merrimack Valley – core corridor of the 5th district. The partnerships, collaborations and focused commitment existing in this core along with the clout of the District Congressperson directly impact life in the Merrimack Valley and beyond. Given past experience, I fear a “sell-off” of pieces of the 5th district is possible and I plead for an approach that takes all concerns of the district residents into account as you consider your options and make your very tough decisions. Keeping the historic core of the Fifth District intact is important – it’s real – it’s relevant – it’s vital to the well-being, future and quality of life of the residents of the Massachusetts Fifth District.
Thank you for listening.