October 28, 2016
I was concerned to read a recent report in the Boston Globe detailing repeated train cancellations on the Fairmount Commuter Rail Line. According to the news report, Keolis Commuter Services has been taking functioning trains off the Fairmount Line, cancelling service, and instead using those trains on suburban lines when the trains allocated for those routes either broke down or weren’t available.
The Fairmount Line runs through many low-income neighborhoods whose residents rely on public transit. These neighborhoods are also home to a predominantly non-white population. Intentionally diverting trains from these communities to service other, more affluent communities raises questions for me of economic and racial injustice. I have asked the Department of Justice and the Federal Transit Administration to review this matter.
While I certainly hope that the reviews do not conclude there were any breaches of Federal equal protection laws, it is important to ask this question. Too many commuters found themselves scrambling for alternative transportation too many times. It is troubling to learn that Fairmount Line trains needed in the neighborhoods they should be serving were being used elsewhere.
I have written Attorney General Loretta Lynch, urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to open a criminal investigation into Wells Fargo. We learned last week that the Attorney General of California has already done so. While I am encouraged by this, I hope it does not mean that the DOJ is planning on leaving it to the states and municipalities to investigate this matter. Wells Fargo has a history of customer abuse that goes beyond recent reports detailing the creation of approximately 2 million fraudulent customer accounts. They have engaged in mortgage fraud, mistreatment of military service members and much more. In the letter I wrote, “The Department of Justice should treat large financial institutions that engage in criminal wrongdoing with the same zeal that it prosecutes the individual bank robber — an apology and a small fine are no deterrent and do not further the principal of equal treatment under the law.”
Fenway High School
I had the pleasure recently of spending time with a class of Humanities students at Fenway High School. The students have been learning about the electoral process and how our system of government functions. I shared stories about my background and experiences in government. The students asked great questions about Congress and how the decisions made at the federal level impact state and local policies. They wanted to learn more about a typical day for me both in Washington and in the 7th District. We also discussed immigration reform and what that could mean for our economy. I enjoyed my time at Fenway High School and appreciated the invitation.
I also went to the Brown School in Somerville, talking with elementary age students about my work in Congress. Visiting schools in the 7th district is one of my favorite activities. Regardless of whether I am reading to a class of kindergarteners or talking about government with an honors history class, I am always impressed by the students’ curiosity and enthusiasm. I enjoyed my time talking with the young people, hearing from them about the issues that they and their families are interested in and concerned about.
The Possible Project
The Possible Project in Cambridge was established in 2010 as a way to give high school students the opportunity to learn how to succeed in the business community. I had the pleasure of visiting the Possible Project, meeting with students and staff. Young people who attend Cambridge’s public high schools can join a three year after school program, learning how to establish and sustain their own businesses. Students learn practical entrepreneurial skills such as marketing, customer service, computer skills and developing a business plan. They are also taught that good character, leadership and persistence contribute to success in business. Students will ultimately conceive and develop their own entrepreneurial initiative, working with career and college mentors as they prepare to complete the program. Based on the success in Cambridge, the Possible Project is planning to expand in Massachusetts.
American College of Emergency Physicians
I spent some time this week in the Emergency Department of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The Emergency Department Chief and several other physicians emphasized a serious problem that affects the care they can provide: persons suffering from mental illness spend far too long in the emergency room because there are so few “psych beds” to which they can be responsibly transferred. Most cannot be just treated and discharged; and many will require long-term care. Emergency physicians typically stabilize patients and transfer them to the appropriate specialty. Too often, it takes far too long to facilitate the transfer of this subset of extremely vulnerable persons. Thus, they remain in the Emergency Department, requiring attention and care, and delaying treatment of other patients who may present with life-threatening conditions. We discussed ways to solve this problem and I encouraged the doctors and nurses to remain in touch as they formulated their proposals.
Boys and Girls Club
Yesterday I visited the Boys and Girls Club of Boston’s Yawkey Club of Roxbury. I am fortunate to have a number of Boys and Girls Clubs throughout my district. The staff and volunteers at these facilities are important neighborhood resources for our young people. The clubs offer after-school activities where students can participate in arts and music, sports, technology, volunteer opportunities and so much more. The Yawkey Club also offers summer camps, tutoring and the opportunity to travel abroad.
Airline Baggage Fees
The Department of Transportation (DOT) recently issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to gather commentary on requiring airlines to refund baggage fees when luggage is significantly delayed. This is a step I have been pushing for quite some time, through legislation and advocacy with the DOT. Most airlines now charge fees to check luggage. If a traveler’s bag does not arrive at its destination in a timely fashion, then the traveler should not be required to pay for its delivery. The DOT has committed to a refund policy. The discussion now involves establishing the timeframe that will result in fee forgiveness. The DOT is also taking steps to require airlines to post information about baggage fees prominently when a consumer is researching ticket prices. I am encouraged by this consumer focus.