June 6, 2016
Last week was a District Work period. I spent time attending local events, meeting constituents and catching up on paperwork.
Mystic River Watershed
On Tuesday I joined the Mystic River Watershed Association, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and local officials to share information about the state of the Mystic River Watershed. This valuable natural resource is accessible to many Greater Boston communities and its water quality is important, not only for recreational use but for the wildlife found in and around its waters. The Mystic River Watershed is 76 square miles, which includes 44 bodies of water. 22 communities are part of the Watershed, including Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett and Somerville. Parts of the Watershed, including the Mystic River and Chelsea Creek, received high marks for water quality. Other areas, such as Alewife Brook, still need attention. Although there is clearly still much to do to improve water quality in key areas of the Watershed, I am encouraged that we are moving in the right direction. I thank the Mystic River Watershed Association and the EPA for their commitment to improving water quality standards in the areas where it is still very much needed and protecting this local treasure.
Federal Transit Administration
I met last week with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to talk about the status of the Green Line Extension (GLX). Now that the state has reduced its overall cost, the FTA must review certain aspects of the changes. I reaffirmed my strong support of the GLX and talked with the FTA about their ongoing role as the project moves forward. I will continue this dialogue with the FTA as the state works to advance the GLX.
Four Corners Main Street
On Thursday I spent some time with Executive Director Nicole Purvis and staff from Four Corners Main Street, a non-profit organization that supports businesses located in this Dorchester neighborhood. The organization is involved in local development projects and provides assistance to the small business community. We also visited several businesses in Four Corners. I spoke with employees about their work and the role that government can play in helping small businesses succeed.
National Gun Violence Awareness
Thursday June 2nd was National Gun Violence Awareness Day. I participated in a gathering commemorating those who have lost their lives to gun violence and calling attention to this crisis. Events like this are important because changing minds about gun control is essential and will not happen without strong and committed efforts. Those of us who believe in commonsense gun control must continue advocating every day. My heart breaks for the families who have lost precious loved ones to gun violence.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
Last week I wrote to Treasury Secretary Lew and Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Watt expressing concern over their policies regarding the government sponsored enterprises (GSE) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, noting in particular the serious consequences for the residents of underserved markets across the country. 31 of my colleagues joined me in this effort. I have long been troubled by the current policy of directing GSE profits to the Treasury, rather than allowing both entities to use those funds for housing purposes and to build up their capital reserves. Despite the fact that the GSEs have repaid over $50 billion MORE than they borrowed from Treasury after the 2008 financial crisis, neither entity is allowed to retain their profits, not even to build up their capital base to protect against another fiscal crisis that threatens taxpayers. Instead, by agreement between FHFA and Treasury, all GSE profits continue to be swept to the U.S. Treasury. It makes no sense to require two institutions that play such a crucial role in todayís housing market to lurch from quarter to quarter without any capital cushion and without any ability to plan their business beyond a 3-month cycle. We donít expect any other large financial institution to operate that way. On the contrary, regulators are requiring the largest players in the financial market to hold more capital than they did before the crisis, as they should.
As we pointed out in our letter, the remedy for this problem does not require further legislation. Congress has already spoken on this point. In the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, Congress expressed its intent that the GSEs be operated in a safe and sound manner and be adequately capitalized. Requiring the GSEs to run down their capital base to zero by 2018, as provided by the FHFA/Treasury agreement, does not comport with that requirement. I am hopeful that Treasury and the FHFA will reassess their policy and restore some stability to the GSEs.
Whatís Up Next
The next House votes are scheduled for Tuesday June 7th. The House is expected to continue consideration of FY 2017 appropriations bills.