Monday, December 28, 2015

Essex Designated as New Green Community

The town of Essex has achieved the official designation of a Massachusetts Green Community by the Baker-Polito Administration. The town, and eighteen others, will share $3.1 million for local clean energy and energy efficiency projects.

“The Green Communities program demonstrates state and local governments can work together to save energy and taxpayers’ money, while making the Commonwealth a healthier place to live,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “These nineteen communities will be able to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy, reducing energy costs and reducing their carbon footprints.”

All Green Communities commit to reducing municipal energy consumption by 20 percent over five years. 155 communities in the program have collectively saved the equivalent of heating and powering nearly 17,000 homes, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 203,538 tons.

“As Massachusetts residents prepare for the lowering temperatures of winter and the rising costs of energy bills, there is good reason to welcome these Green Communities grants,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “Essex will receive $130,000 to help fuel its efforts to reduce energy consumption. This partnership allows us to take greater control of our energy future so that we can move away from a reliance on foreign non-renewable energy sources.”

Essex can now apply to the Green Communities Division for approval to use the funds for projects. Funding for these grants is available through proceeds from carbon allowance auctions under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and Alternative Compliance Payments paid by retail electric suppliers that do not meet their Renewable Portfolio Standard compliance obligations through the purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates.

“Through the Green Communities program, DOER is able to work with municipalities to find clean energy solutions that reduce long-term energy costs and strengthen local economies,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Beaton. “The commitment and hard work of these 19 communities to reduce their energy use and undertake clean energy projects will help Massachusetts continue its leadership in energy efficiency, renewable energy and emissions reductions.”

A city or town must meet these five criteria to be designated a Green Community:
• Provide as-of-right siting in designated locations for renewable/alternative energy generation, research & development, or manufacturing facilities;
• Adopt an expedited application and permit process for as-of-right energy facilities;
• Establish an energy use baseline and develop a plan to reduce energy use by 20 percent within five years. • Purchase only fuel-efficient vehicles for municipal use;
• Require new construction to reduce lifecycle energy costs (i.e., adoption of an energy-saving building “stretch code”).


Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas To All

The culmination of weeks of preparations and planning have brought us to this special day.  I am so very thankful for the opportunity to wish you the very best Christmas.  May the blessings of Christmas be with you and your family today and always. 

The gifts that we give and the gifts that we receive are truly special because each reflects an expression of kindness.  In that spirit, it is my hope that you will also take a few moments today to acknowledge our men and women in uniform who are currently on duty and away from family.  Their service on our behalf is also a gift.

On this very special day I wish you peace, good health and happiness.

God bless.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Constitution and a Christmas Eve

The excitement of the holiday season has many of us moving about our days quickly. We take note of time well spent with family and friends and our preparations for the special days of Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

In the Massachusetts Senate, we also mark time and occasions unique to our legislative body, while some are grand and ceremonial some others are much less so. Today, our Senate session on Christmas Eve brought focus to our legislative functions in the State House and it brought a reminder of a process defined by our Constitution.

John Adams gifted our Commonwealth the authorship of what is now the oldest constitution of any government in the world. His insistence that our government be founded first in establishing the rights of citizens, including religious freedoms, was fortified in the charge to serve those citizens by having the Senate meet at least once each 72 hours, even when that day is Christmas Eve.

With Senate Clerk William Welch and Majority Whip Anthony W. Petruccelli


Greater Boston - Year In Review

Jim Braude, host of WGBH's Greater Boston, invited former Judge Nancy Gertner, Business Columnist Shirley Leung from the Boston Globe and I to take look back at the some of the top issues that were talked about in Massachusetts in 2015.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Media Alert

Please tune in tonight to WGBH Channel 2 for the public affairs program Greater Boston, where I will join host Jim Braude and other guests to discuss the major news events of 2015.  The show airs at 7PM.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Festive Community Weekend

Although we may not have a white Christmas this year, we can still have a festive holiday season that brings people of good will together, that’s what I had the pleasure of enjoying this weekend.

Saturday morning at Gloucester City Hall we celebrated the life of Abdullah Khambaty. Ab was an inspiration to many, a former Gloucester City Council President, School Committee member, and an active citizen; he gave more than 30 years of service to the people of Gloucester. This ceremony marked the beginning of an Extraordinary Service Award in Ab’s memory.

On Saturday afternoon, Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken and I greeted holiday shoppers and rang kettle bells for the Salvation Army at Market Basket in Gloucester.

Sunday I joined with City Councilor Bob Whynott and his family, Councilors Greg Verga and Paul Lundburg, former State Representative Tony Verga and a hearty band of carolers for the Whynott family’s annual traveling Caroling Party. With stops at Seacoast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and the Curtis Clark Building the event was a great chance to share the holiday spirit with many of the community’s seniors.

I also had fun caroling Sunday night throughout the East Village of Boxford for the Grand Illumination. The event started at the town library’s field with a holiday bonfire and the lighting of the Christmas Tree on the Community Center lawn. Carolers were led by the Boxford Historical Society, we moved through the neighborhood from home to home singing carols and asking each homeowner to light their home’s Christmas lights. We ended at the Holyoke French House with warm drinks and cookies.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Community Compacts Build Partnerships

Astute observers know that people are best served by their government when legitimate needs are clearly understood and resources are judiciously applied in response. With a goal of improving municipal services, Governor Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito have established an initiative, the Community Compact, which will help local governments set and achieve priorities valuable to individual communities.

Yesterday, I was pleased to join Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken and Representatives Brad Hill and Ann-Margaret Ferrante, and local officials from Ipswich and Gloucester to welcome Lieutenant Governor Polito to Gloucester City Hall for the signing of community compact agreements.

For Ipswich, the agreement, signed by Selectmen Chairman Nishan Mootafian, will help the town with financial planning and to review the long-term financial ramifications of policies and programs. Gloucester’s mayor pursued a compact that moves the city forward with their complete street project. The effort will enhance sidewalk accessibility, provide safer routes for pedestrians and bicyclists.

These agreements are grounded in the concept of developing constructive partnerships among and between local governments and the state; an approach that I have advocated for strongly over the years in the Senate. Taxpayers will benefit from the municipalities’ access to state technical assistance, the requirements to use best practice methods, and state financial assistance. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor, having each served as selectmen, are encouraging cities and towns to leverage state resources, in turn, the administration will actively seek to remove obstacles, regulatory and otherwise, that state governments and school districts have often unfairly imposed.

The approach of the Community Compact initiative will include points of contact in each of the executive secretariats and agencies and include clear standards that will measure progress. 78 communities have now entered into a two-year agreement with the state, I look forward to the positive results that each of these cities and towns deserve.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Coastal Erosion Commission Report Released

In the state budget for fiscal year 2014, I authored and sponsored legislation to create a Coastal Erosion Commission to research the issues surrounding erosion, and develop strategies to address these issues. Specifically, this effort was intended to move the Commonwealth to a proactive posture toward storms and erosion, and away from a reactive approach that has all too often resulted in decisions and actions being made and taken in the crisis environment of coastal storms, the impending loss of public and private property, and threats to public safety.

Often these decisions and actions have been less effective than they could have been, because of the absence of proper planning, engineering, and research. Hence, the importance of the report and changes in approaching issues of erosion.

Worthy of note is that the communities of Salisbury, Newburyport and Newbury have successfully been building and implementing a proactive model for addressing erosion issues since 2008 through the Merrimack River Beach Alliance. My experience with MRBA inspired the legislation which created the Commission, and its membership has worked hard to inform the process undertaken by the Coastal Erosion Task Force.

Recently the Commission released its report, and while there remains a great of work to do, let’s hope it begins a new era of dealing with erosion in Massachusetts.

You can read the report by clicking the link below.

Coastal Erosion Commission Report December 2015


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Hanukkah Wish

“May the lights of Hanukkah usher in a better world for all humankind.” ~Author Unknown

To all of my Jewish friends and constituents, I wish you a happy Hanukkah celebration. May this season of beauty and light fill your heart and home.

Happy Hanukkah!


20th Annual North Shore Toy Drive

Santa is on the way. With your help, North Shore 104.9 and I will make the 20th annual North Shore Toy Drive a success.  Tune in to 104.9 FM on Thursday the 10th from 6 AM to 6:30 PM or come and visit us at one of nine broadcast locations throughout the North Shore.  To learn more, get connected to bid on our auction, or make a donation please visit


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Media Alert: WBZ Report on the Andrew Bridge Audit

Tune in today to WBZ TV News for their report on a now complete state audit that I requested on the costly delays and poor project management of repairs of the A. Piatt Andrew Bridge in Gloucester.

Reporter Brayn Kath talks with me about why the audit was warranted and what it revealed. 


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Audit of A. Piatt Andrew Bridge Project Finds MassDOT Could Have Saved $2.6 Million & Delays

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) could have avoided excessive, multi-year delays and saved as much as $2.6 million on the rehabilitation of the A. Piatt Andrew Bridge in Gloucester, according to an audit released today by the Office of the State Auditor.

“Our audit found that MassDOT overspent and experienced delays because it failed at the outset of the project to do an updated assessment of the bridge’s structural deficiencies,” said Auditor Suzanne M. Bump. “As a result, the project was marred by expensive change orders and cost overruns, and excessive delays.”

Because MassDOT would not pay for a new inspection, the contractor had to rely on outdated information from 1999 and 2005 to begin work. When subsequent work uncovered the need for significant structural repairs, Phase One of the project required eight change orders for extra work totaling $2.6 million. The amount of additional work and cost led MassDOT to competitively bid for Phase Two work, rather than continuing to use change orders. This process added time to the project, which is now slated to end in April 2016, but was originally scheduled for completion in June 2011.

“The collection, use and maintenance of reliable and up-to-date data is essential not just for MassDOT, but all of state government,” said Auditor Bump. “Without it, agencies cannot craft effective, long-term plans that take into account their comprehensive needs.”

Senator Bruce Tarr and Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante requested this audit in an effort to ensure public tax dollars were spent in the best interest of their districts. Representative Ferrante and Senator Tarr also raised concerns about the negative economic impact the lengthy construction process had in the region as well as the worsening of quality of life of residents in the area.

“Keeping the A. Piatt Andrew Bridge safe and accessible is critically important, and there have been too many haunting questions about the time and money it’s taking to get it repaired properly,” said Senator Bruce Tarr. “Now, thanks to the work of the Auditor’s Office, we have some important answers and a meaningful reform that prevent lost time and money in the future. That reform has already gone into effect, creating a positive change.”

“The mismanagement of taxpayer’s dollars and the detrimental effects on residents, travelers, and businesses found in this Auditor’s report are unacceptable. I will continue to work with Senator Tarr, my legislative colleagues, and the Governor, to make sure that these oversights are remedied immediately. I am encouraged that MassDOT has already begun to reform its practices and protocols. I am also pleased that Auditor Suzanne Bump and her staff did a thorough job in investigating the lapses in MassDOT’s bid process and planning” said Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante.

In the audit report, Auditor Bump called on MassDOT to allow its contracted design engineers to perform inspections of bridges that need repair in order to develop proper scopes for work. MassDOT has indicated this is now its current practice.

“Taxpayers expect construction projects to be done with expedience and with an eye toward maintaining public safety and containing costs,” said Auditor Bump. “Better project planning will produce better results in the future.”

The Office of the State Auditor conducts technical assessments and performance audits of state government’s programs, departments, agencies, authorities, contracts, and vendors. With its reports, the OSA issues recommendations to improve accountability, efficiency, and transparency. The Office of the State Auditor has identified $1 billion in savings and potential recoveries for the Commonwealth since 2011 and auditees have implemented 95 percent of the OSA’s recommendations.

Audit Report - MassDOT Restoration of a Piatt Andrew Bridge - Gloucester MA