October 27, 2006
The Big Dig made headlines again this week with reports that state transportation officials were using engineers from Bechtel for some of the repair and inspection work on the project. This news is just unbelievable to me and I am deeply concerned about these developments. In July I asked the Department of Transportation's Office of the Inspector General to provide an oversight role as various agencies conducted investigations and engaged in repairs. I talked this week with the DOT IG's and they too are deeply concerned, particularly because they were given assurances that Bechtel would not be involved in this process. I am continuing to stay in touch with the DOT IG's office and other federal agencies as the Big Dig reviews continue.
Irish American Partnership
I recently attended a meeting of the Irish American Partnership with members of the International Monitoring Commission (IMC), the group created by the British and Irish governments to evaluate paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland. The Commission's mandate is to promote "the transition to a peaceful society and stable and inclusive devolved Government in Northern Ireland." Its' semi-annual report, which was just released, is very encouraging. It cites a significant decline in paramilitary and criminal activity. The IMC reaffirms its earlier judgment that the leadership of the Provisional IRA, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, has "committed itself to a peaceful path," seeking to achieve its aims through politics rather than through violence.
I hope that the example of Northern Ireland can be more widely applied: democratic governments working to end generations of conflict, insisting on an end to violence and a focus on negotiations.
I met recently with Partners for Jackson, a group designated to redevelop Jackson Square. It is essential that this area of Boston be thoughtfully redeveloped. It can serve as a gateway to Roxbury and Jamaica Plain, reconnect Egleston and Hyde Squares, and offer terrific opportunities for transit oriented development, housing and community space. I support this project, and though it is going to take some time, I look forward to the day it is complete.
Health Insurance for Children
The State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) was created in 1997 as a federal-state partnership to help extend health care coverage to uninsured children whose families make too much to qualify for Medicaid. SCHIP has been a success, reducing the percentage of uninsured children by 20%. Unfortunately, because SCHIP is a block grant, it is possible for states to exhaust their allotted federal funding in any given year. If Congress does not act, many states, including Massachusetts, could face funding shortfalls in Fiscal Year 2007. I recently joined many of my colleagues in urging the Congressional Leadership to provide additional funding before the end of the year. I am also a co-sponsor of H.R. 6098, a bill that would provide this funding, ensuring that no child loses health care coverage.
Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership
I recently met with Julia Kehoe, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, and members of her staff, to discuss several important issues surrounding housing in the 8th district. Metropolitan Housing Partnership works to ensure that those of low and moderate income have choice and mobility when it comes to affordable housing. Topics of discussion included homelessness prevention and housing stabilization, real estate and the Section 8 program. I am always concerned about the Bush Administration's continued efforts to cut funding for the Section 8 programs and will continue fighting for this and other important housing programs.