August 12, 2011
District Work Time
The House is in the midst of its August District Work period, which gives Members some extended time in their districts to attend community meetings, meet with constituents and visit local businesses and organizations. Since I returned from D.C., I’ve met with individual citizens, business persons, community advocates and activists. I’ll be doing more of that in the weeks ahead and yes, I also hope to take a couple long weekends with my wife.
Regardless of the issue that brought the group to my office or sent me to their sites, everyone has expressed concern about the economy. As you know, Congress voted to raise the debt ceiling at the beginning of the month. Despite that vote, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about the economy and people are understandably concerned about the impact that the debt crisis will have on them.
I voted against the bill to raise the debt ceiling because I did not believe that it represented a balanced approach to our problems. I am also skeptical that the Super Committee charged with finalizing a plan for further deficit reductions will be able to reach consensus by the deadline of November 23rd and that Congress will pass their plan by the deadline of December 23rd.
I have received a tremendous amount of feedback on this issue since returning to Massachusetts. The overwhelming majority of opinion expressed has been that we must seek a balanced approach to our deficit, and that the deal reached to raise the debt limit did not meet that threshold.
By the way, I am sure you have heard that some are calling on Congress to go back into session to address the debt crisis. I am very willing to return to Washington if there is a serious proposal on the table to address economic concerns, particularly job creation. Unless there is a serious proposal to debate, I hope Members of Congress are spending time in their districts, listening to their constituents and learning how they feel about addressing our debt. I know I’ve heard from many of you and that always helps inform my decision making. I thank you for all of your interest and engagement and I will work hard to represent your views as this debate continues in Washington.
Lance Corporal Alexander Scott Arredondo, USMC
On Sunday August 7th it was my privilege to attend the dedication of the Jamaica Plain Post Office at 655 Centre Street in honor of fallen Massachusetts Hero Lance Corporal Alexander Scott Arredondo, USMC. Arredondo was on his second tour of duty in Iraq when he died in August 2004. During an intense firefight in the city of Najaf, Arredondo led his team of Marines through the clearing and securing of a two-story building. He was mortally wounded by a sniper as he checked on the safety of his fellow Marines. For his heroism on the battlefield Arredondo was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat V and the Purple Heart.
As a small way to say thank you for his ultimate sacrifice to our country, I introduced legislation earlier this year to have the post office renamed for Arredondo, who was a Jamaica Plain native. It was truly moving to see so many members of our community come out in memory of Lcpl. Arredondo and in support of his loving family.
I met this week with a number of constituents who are affiliated with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). They expressed concerns that I share about threats to individual freedom and privacy. We talked about the risk that comes from increasingly sophisticated technologies that both capture and store data. Devices that read car license plates, for example, have legitimate uses in controlling parking violations or tracking stolen cars. They should not be used to keep track of the comings and goings of citizens.
We also discussed “Secure Communities.” This program, initiated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), requires fingerprints of every person arrested to be sent by local police departments to the FBI and also shared with ICE. I believe that states and cities should not be compelled to do this if local elected officials and law enforcement authorities object. Federal immigration resources should be devoted to the apprehension and detention of dangerous criminals, terrorists, and human traffickers.
Green Line Extension
The Commonwealth recently announced that it was delaying the Green Line extension in order to complete the acquisition of parcels necessary to complete the project. I am a strong advocate of this transportation project and have been working hard to advance it for years. Although I am convinced that the state shares my commitment, I am concerned about any delay in this project. I am beginning to meet with local officials to review the status of the project and talk about the issues surrounding the delay. I will continue working to ensure that the Green Line extension is completed and I am keeping a close eye on it.
Association of Nutrition Service Agencies
I spoke this week at the annual meeting of the Association of Nutrition Service Agencies (ANSA), which is taking place in Boston this year. ANSA members provide nutritious meals for the homeless and low income persons with acute illnesses. The ANSA annual meeting focused on a number of topics, including what the changes in healthcare mean for Medicare and Medicaid nutrition providers, new ways to track the impact of good nutrition on ANSA clients and the importance of good nutrition to overall health. I was invited to speak by one of the conference’s local hosts, Community Servings in Jamaica Plain, an organization that prepares and delivers meals to the homeless and homebound who are suffering from life threatening illnesses. I thanked attendees for the work that they do to help some of our most vulnerable citizens. In this very difficult economic climate, the demand for their services is increasing and the likelihood of federal assistance not high. The types of programs that ANSA members administer are an important safety net for so many and I appreciate all that the providers do to deliver services to those in need.
Massachusetts Service Alliance
I met this week with members of the Massachusetts Service Alliance (MSA). The MSA is an organization that promotes service and volunteerism. MSA connects volunteers with organizations in need. Volunteer opportunities are available for a whole host of programs. MSA representatives came in to advocate for support of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which provides funding for thousands of service programs all across the country.
The impact of that funding is felt through tutoring programs, mentoring for at risk children, health care services, home building projects and many other initiatives. We talked about the significant federal funding challenges that many worthy organizations are experiencing and the importance of the work that they do to serve the community. Their efforts provide an excellent example of the ways federal funds can be leveraged to encourage private and foundation support for worthy programs. Cuts in government funding will be devastating for volunteers as well as for public sector employees.
I spent time this week with employees at Thermo Fisher in Cambridge, a company that produces laboratory equipment, software, and instruments. Thermo Fisher also provides scientific data analysis for their clients. They work with many colleges, universities and hospitals, as well as pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. I spoke with employees to learn more about the work they are doing and to hear about the issues that most concern them. Not surprisingly, issues surrounding the economy were a topic of discussion. They pointed out that many of their clients, hospitals and universities, depend upon research funding from the National Institutes of Health. Cuts in the NIH budget will affect many workers in the private sector.
I also met with employees at Levant Power in Cambridge. Levant Power is a recent addition to the business community. It was founded in 2008 by engineers from MIT. The company’s focus is on developing green technology that can increase a vehicle’s fuel economy. The company has already met with success with their product GenShock, which can deliver increases of up to 6% in fuel economy, depending on the type of car. Development of green technologies is an important environmental initiative and I enjoyed learning more about Levant Power’s work. I am proud to represent a district whose main resource is intellectual capital and whose main product is innovation.