March 11, 2016
The House was not in session this week which gave me the opportunity to catch up on some meetings and attend a variety of events in Massachusetts. Here are some of the ways I spent my time:
Italian Home for Children
I spent some time this week at the Italian Home for Children, founded by Italian immigrants to care for children orphaned by the terrible influenza epidemic of 1918. Over the years, the Home’s mission has expanded significantly. Today, staffers care for children traumatized by abuse and neglect, and others whose emotional and behavioral needs cannot be met by their biological parents. Residential treatments as well as home-based therapy programs are offered. Counseling and treatment help children to “self-regulate” so they will not pose dangers to themselves or to other children. Art and music therapy offer safe modes of self-expression. It was encouraging and inspiring to meet with such dedicated staff and teachers. I appreciated their time and their commitment to the young people they serve.
I was able to catch up with staff at Fenway Health during this district work week for an update on the great work they do providing health care services. The mission of Fenway Health is to provide high quality care to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, with services available to the whole Fenway neighborhood. Patients have access to primary care, including eye and dental care. Counseling services, substance abuse programs and support for victims of violence are all available to patients. Fenway Health also provides excellent transgender care, including walk-in sessions, counseling and guidance on every aspect of transgender health. I have been working with staff at Fenway Health since first taking office and think it’s important to stay connected so that I can hear firsthand how federal policies are impacting the delivery of health services.
Corner Stalk Farm
I also visited Corner Stalk Farm in East Boston and was impressed by the work they are doing to grow fresh produce in an urban environment. Corner Stalk Farm is a “Controlled Environment Agriculture” enterprise. Staffers use shipping containers to grow lettuce and other produce which is available year round on site and at the new Boston Public Market. I learned a lot about how use of the shipping containers allows for large crop plantings and year round harvesting. With the increasing popularity of locally grown produce and farm to table dining experiences, Corner Stalk Farm is an important contributor to the local economy and an environmentally responsible business.
The People’s Academy
On Thursday I met with the founder of the newly established People’s Academy in Dorchester. The school’s mission is to train young people in urban areas so they become skilled in a building trade. This training should greatly increase the likelihood that they will find good jobs. The People’s Academy also has a program that gives local home and business owners access to trained students so they may make affordable improvements to their facilities. This can improve the neighborhood and give students some practical experiences. Students can currently enroll in a two year sheet metal working program. I talked with the Academy’s founder about the overall concept and timeline for adding additional programming.
Today I toured the Needham headquarters of Trip Advisor, a site that helps travelers book hotels, flights and other components of their trip without having to visit multiple sites. The company also has a facility in Cambridge, and I have been interested in learning more about their operations, particularly in my capacity as a member of the House Transportation Committee. Trip Advisor is another example of a thriving company in our technology sector. I appreciated the perspectives Trip Advisor’s employees shared with me about opportunities and obstacles that not just Trip Advisor but other internet based service companies face.
The Franklin Project of the Aspen Institute
I met today with representatives of the Franklin Project of the Aspen Institute, including Alan Khazei who is Vice Chair of the Service Year Alliance. The Franklin Project is supported by many distinguished Americans, including former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice, and former Peace Corps Director, Harris Wofford. The Institute proposes a National Service System, offering all young Americans, ages 18-28, an opportunity to serve their country and fellow citizens in one of the branches of the military or in civilian corps – such as education, conservation, health. I was interested in their proposals and want to learn more.
What’s Up Next
The next House votes are scheduled for Monday March 14th. The House is expected to consider an extension of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization legislation.