Thursday, April 27, 2017

Concerns Raised – Taking Action on Commuter Rail

The MBTA recently announced its intention to shut down commuter rail service during summer weekends in order to complete federally mandated safety projects and bridge repairs. I have met several times with Department of Transportation officials to share the many concerns that all of us have about the rail service and the impact that a shutdown would have. At this time, the T has not offered to provide alternative service through buses or other means.

Earlier this month I announced a public meeting in Gloucester to hear from those impacted by these plans. Although MBTA officials postponed their attendance at this meeting, it took place last night at Gloucester City Hall. A large number of people attended and shared their concerns about the impacts of losing train service without alternatives.

I am thankful to the many who attended last night and to those who have contacted me in other ways.

I invite you to consider this online petition which we will share with the T officials: PETITION IS AS FOLLOWS: The undersigned oppose closure of all public transit for the commuter rail north of the Salem Commuter Rail Station, as has been proposed for a minimum of 28 days from July 17 through August 13, and of the entire North Station to Rockport line for a series of weekends in the summer of 2017, without suitable mitigation. We and others rely on the commuter service to get to work, school, food shop, visit family and friends and also to reach recreation and entertainment and shopping destinations on Cape Ann. Many people, especially lower paid workers, will lose their jobs if they have no public transit, as they have no private car to use instead or cannot afford the parking costs. Cape Ann businesses often rely on summer income to hit sustainable revenue needs for the entire year and some will fail due to absence of public transit. The valuation of all Cape Ann real estate will be diminished by the enduring poor reputation as having unreliable essential public transit. Alternative public transit must be made available to serve residents and visitors, at times and prices sufficiently affordable to accommodate all public needs. You may participate in this petition by clicking this link - Citizen Petition MBTA


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Senator Tarr’s Statement on a Recent News Article

Boston- Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) released the following statement today on a recently published newspaper article entitled: “Plan to Seize Guns Hits Opposition”:

A recent newspaper article entitled “Plan to Seize Guns Hits Opposition” correctly indicated that I had some questions about a particular piece of pending legislation. Unfortunately and disturbingly, it also created an impression that I am opposed to the concept of preventing those who present an “extreme risk” from having access to firearms.  That is not accurate.  While I have raised such questions about this bill, I do not disagree with its goal.

Massachusetts currently has some of the strongest laws in our nation to prevent this from happening, and I have worked diligently to strengthen them.  Should there be a gap in this area that needs to be filled to protect public safety, we should consider and act on the best means to fill it, and do so in a sustainable and constitutional way.
Those who pose a risk of harm to themselves or others should not only be prevented from having access to firearms, they should receive effective treatment, to prevent them from harming others with anything, including a truck or a bomb improvised from a pressure cooker.
That is a priority we should all share, and I hope we can work together to address it.



Spofford Pond Elementary Concert and Jazz Band

I was delighted to welcome the 6th grade Concert and Jazz Band from Spofford Pond Elementary School in Boxford to the State House today.

Representative Lenny Mirra and I had the opportunity to listen to show the students around the Senate and House chambers. We also were able to stick around with the students’ friends, family, and other State House employees to hear them put on a fantastic show led by Mrs. Andrea Monty.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Senate Republican Caucus Offers Crime Lab Audit Law

Boston-  Senate Republicans today announced a bill to detect and prevent the mishandling of forensic evidence in the state’s crime laboratory.  The bill, written in the wake of more than 21,000 dismissed drug convictions connected to former state chemist Annie Dookhan, will safeguard the accuracy and integrity of lab procedures and results.

“The justice system was compromised because a so-called scientist with falsified credentials lied about her work for years.  We all want to make certain that those responsible for maintaining the integrity of criminal evidence have proper oversight,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R– Gloucester).  “Accountability and accuracy are essential in every aspect of government and we know that many people were falsely convicted of crimes and others who may have been guilty were let free.  We aim to empower state officials with the authority to conduct audits and reviews of the crime lab so that this doesn’t happen again.”

The state’s Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled that cases tainted by Dookhan would be dismissed or re-prosecuted.   The discredited chemist falsified her academic credentials and admitted in court to intentionally contaminating evidence in an effort to rack up higher lab results, she was convicted of 27 charges in 2013 including for perjury, obstruction of justice, and altering evidence.

The court’s action would require prosecutors to show that they could secure convictions in retrials without using evidence handled or contaminated by Dookhan.  The court’s action comes too late for some who were sentenced because they have already served out their prison terms.

“Annie Dookhan’s mishandling of criminal lab evidence was a travesty.  Investigations into her actions and her conviction brought to light serious gaps in the management and oversight within the crime lab,” said Senator Ross (R-Wrentham), ranking Republican member of the Judiciary Committee. “A thoroughly conducted triennial review of procedures used in crime labs is necessary to take preventative measures against misconduct and abuse of the justice system.”

A 15-month investigation by Inspector General Glenn Gunha which concluded in a 2014 report found that lax lab management failed to detect the actions of Dookan.  The report identified important reforms which have been undertaken such as requiring crime lab facilities to meet national accreditation standards.

“Since the issues of evidence tainting have been identified, the State Police have assumed control of the labs and they have worked effectively to reform the way the labs operate,” said Tarr.  “The work of they are doing is commendable, and it needs to be supported with every tool available. Audits have been proven to be effective tools, and we should make sure they are done regularly because the consequences of evidence tainting are just too negative for the integrity of our criminal justice system.”

Sponsors of the bill propose requiring the Executive Office of Public Safety’s Forensic Sciences Advisory Board to initiate a comprehensive audit of all laboratories providing forensic service for the state by September 1st of this year.  The state Inspector General, in collaboration with the state Auditor, would be directed to initiate such an audit to ensure the accuracy and integrity of lab work every three years.

The Forensic Sciences Advisory Board is comprised of representatives from the District Attorneys Association, Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, the Commissioner of Public Health, the Massachusetts Organization of State Engineers and Scientists, members of bar associations, and others with expertise in forensic and biological sciences.

Senators expect the bill to gain bipartisan and bicameral support as it moves through the legislative process.



Monday, April 24, 2017

Public Hearing on Commuter Rail Shutdown Plans

You may be aware that my office had worked to arrange a public meeting with MBTA officials on Wednesday, April 26th at 6:30 pm at Gloucester City Hall to discuss these subjects and others. Unfortunately, we were notified today that the MBTA has postponed their participation while they consider how to best address the situation.

Yet, because there has been such interest in a public forum to discuss concerns, and because so many people and organizations have planned to come to the meeting on Wednesday evening, we WILL continue to hold it for a singular purpose: to allow those who attend to express their concerns. In turn, we will document those concerns, and Cape Ann TV will record the proceedings. All of that information will then be provided to the MBTA.

There may also be a petition to sign that evening, to seek reasonable alternatives to a suspension of service without other options.

Please do not hesitate to contact my office if I may be of any further assistance, and thank you for your consideration.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Patriots Day

On April 18, 1775, two lanterns were hung from the steeple of the Old North Church, launching the American Revolutionary War. Governor Charlie Baker and I greeted Paul Revere; the Governor gave the keynote remarks at the Annual Lantern Ceremony event. The ceremony included a reading of Longfellow's poem, Paul Revere's Ride, representatives from local colonial militia, the USS Constitution Color Guard, and Honorary lantern carriers as the National Park Service Rangers celebrates their 100th birthday.

 Every year since 1875, on the eve of Patriot’s Day, the Old North Church has commemorated the hanging of the lanterns.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!

I would like to wish everyone a wonderful and happy Easter that is celebrated with family and friends. May the holiday bring you and your loved ones many blessings.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bosoton Marathon Wreaths Arrive From Greece

I had the honor today of partnering with Senator Karen Spilka, Representative Carolyn Dykema, and the Alpha Omega Council to host the annual presentation of wreaths for the Boston Marathon at the State House. Each year, the marathon wreaths are grown, handcrafted and covered in gold in Greece, where the inspiration for the modern marathon originated in 490 BC. The wreaths were brought to Boston and given to the Boston Athletic Association and the people of our state by the people of Greece, reflecting the strong bond that continues between us. Ultimately the wreaths are placed on the heads of marathon winners as a crown of victory.

In these photos: Ambassador Lalacos, Consul General Kanara, Athens Mayor Kaminis with Speaker DeLeo, Governor Michael Dukakis and Kitty Dukakis. Women of the Boston Lykeion Ellinidon dressed in ancient Greek attire presented the Marathon wreaths to the Boston Athletic Association.


MBTA Rail Line Community Meetings

Locations and times for MBTA meetings near you. Please note: the MBTA has informed me this morning that the Beverly-Salem bridge will be closed one week later than appears in this flyer. They now project the bridge closure for Saturday July 15th.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

At Passover!

I would like to wish all my Jewish constituents a wonderful and joyous Passover that is shared with friends, family, and loved ones in celebrating the true spirit of the holiday and that your time together is filled with peace and happiness.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Commemorating George Demeter and a Parliamentary Legacy

This morning, I had the honor of recognizing outstanding individuals who exemplify the very meaning of service-based organizations in celebration of Parliamentary Law Month and George Demeter Day.  I felt privileged to welcome representatives of the George Demeter Unit of the National Association of Parliamentarians, the Boston Chapter of the Order of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, which is the largest Greek-American organization in the world, and the Hellenic Bar Association.

George Demeter was best known as the first Greek-American elected to serve in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1932, ultimately serving two-terms.  He also authored Demeter’s Manual of Parliamentary Law and Procedure, a manual with parliamentary rules and procedures to prepare anyone seeking to become a certified parliamentarian.  Prior to getting elected, Demeter was heavily involved with the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, serving as President of the Boston Lodge.  According to Boston Globe accounts, the inclusion of Greek traditions in the annual Boston Marathon such as crowning the winners with a laurel wreath and presenting them a bronze medal from Athens was started, in part, by Demeter.

Senator Linda Forry and I had the opportunity to assemble a group picture with the representatives from these organizations.

Representing these distinguished organizations today (pictured from left to right) were President Frank Fotis, and his wife Maryned, of the Boston Chapter of the Order of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, former President of all three organizations Peter A. Senopoulos, who is also the great-Grand Nephew of George Demeter, along with his wife Jane, and President Kendra O’Toole and Michael Malamut of the George Demeter Unit.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

MBTA Commuter Rail Service Interruptions

Recently the MBTA informed municipal officials, lawmakers and others that it plans on suspending weekend commuter rail service to most of the rail lines in the state in order to comply with a federal mandate to install new train control safety equipment.

According to the MBTA, this hardware must be in place by December 2018 and meeting that deadline will require suspending summer weekend train service this year. Such suspensions would cause a number of problems, and thus I have deep concerns about them.

I have contacted the MBTA to express my concerns about the impacts that summer suspensions of weekend rail will have on riders and these impacted communities. The Federal Rail Administration has mandated that Commuter Rail Positive Train Control (PTC) systems will be installed on every Commuter Rail line, dispatch center, locomotive, and control car throughout the entire rail system. We are told that they must be in place by December 2018; if they are not, the federal government may impose substantial financial penalties. The PTC is intended to enhance safety through a coordinated system of satellite and ground based systems that will reduce train accidents including derailments, work crew strikes, switch errors, and train to train crashes.

Even a major outreach to potential commuters about project updates on these closures and suspensions, as the MBTA has promised, will still likely cause major disruptions and hardship. Simply put, weekend commuter rail is used by workers and people traveling for recreation; summer tourist season train traffic generates tens of thousands of visits to our communities each season.

Here is a brief look at some proposed MBTA outages: • Newburyport / Rockport Line - Weekend service suspension from July 8th through September 30th. • Beverly Drawbridge Replacement Project. Shutdown for the Beverly Drawbridge Replacement project from July 8, 2017 through July 22, 2017. • Haverhill Commuter Rail Line – Weekend service suspension from September 23rd through December 2, 2017. • Lowell Commuter Rail Line - Weekend service suspension from July 29th and will end the weekend of September 30, 2017.

My office has worked with MBTA officials to arrange a meeting to address not only the proposal to suspend weekend service, but also the repair and replacement projects including the Gloucester and Beverly-Salem bridges. The details of that meeting are as follows:

Date- April 26th Time- 6:30 PM Location- Kyrouz Auditorium, 9 Dale Ave, Gloucester, MA

At least two other additional meetings will follow, most likely in Newburyport and Beverly.

Clearly this is a critically important transportation issue for our region, and we need to explore every avenue for mitigating or eliminating adverse impacts.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Gold Star Wives Day Ceremony

Gold Star Wives are women whose husbands died while serving in the Armed Forces of the United States or from disabilities connected to their service. Today marked the annual Massachusetts Gold Star Wives Day Ceremony in Memorial Hall at the State House. The ceremony was presented by the Military Friends Foundation and the Greater Boston Chapter of the Gold Star Wives of America.

Governor Charlie Baker and Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Services Francisco Urena offered remarks before a memorial service in which each Gold Star wife honored their husband by sharing his name, branch of service, and where he served. The risks of warfare are well known, the sacrifices of those who defend our nation, and the loved ones who support them, are gifts to us all. We should honor, always, the men and women who wear the uniform.