“Mass Senate Listening Session” by Nancy Pitkin

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.

2 Responses to “Mass Senate Listening Session” by Nancy Pitkin

  1. Marie Sweeney says:

    Thanks for this summary. Fascinating to read the breadth of citizen/institutional concerns that range from saving the honey bee to access to mental health care. Now what does the Senate do to follow-up? Stay tuned….

  2. Chris says:

    #13 The pipeline issue is interesting.

    There is a strong argument that the gas pipelines within New England are adequate to meet New England demand however the shale gas is now being pumped *though* New England for export via Nova Scotia:


    Based on the news, I used to think it was a purely a New-England supply-demand issue (as electric plants convert to gas we use more gas so we need more supply) but it looks like the amount of gas that goes *through* New England now is far larger then the increased usage.

    It seems to me the public debate may be focusing on the smaller issue of New England demand where as the larger issue appears to be that New England gas pipeline infrastructre has transitioned from a local import lane to a clogged export highway.

    The question I’m starting to wonder is why is Nova Scotia a big export site for shale gas — there are many ports much closer to the Marcellus. . .is Nova Scotia preferred for its existing infrastuructue? Different laws? Is there something unique about this port?

    I think if we can figure out why it is attractive for the gas industry to expend the effort to ship shale gas a considerable distance through New England we may find a simpler solution to the core issue?

    FWIW this is all very close to us in Lowell; we’re one of New England’s energy crossroads for both pipelines (gas goes *through* Dracut for export via Nova Scotia):


    and on trains (Pan Am railways ships LNG *through* Lowell for export via Portsmouth):