February 23, 2018
This time feels different. Young women and men, fed up with inaction on gun control, are raising their voices and demanding change. Led by brave survivors of the massacre in Parkland, students all across this country are saying “Never Again”. Children who are growing up participating in active shooter drills at their schools are leading the way. When Florida state legislators declined this week to even consider debate on a bill that would ban assault weapons, their failure to act just made students even more determined. I have great respect for their resolve. It truly gives me hope that, finally, progress is coming on gun control.
I wrote to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), urging them to redirect Logan Airport’s departure paths so aircraft will fly directly over the water, an approach they recently took with two California cities located near John Wayne Airport (JWA). This provides a measure of relief from noise and pollution burdens, and there is no reason why the FAA cannot apply that same approach to the neighborhoods impacted by Logan.
The FAA and the Massachusetts Port Authority are currently conducting a joint study, exploring ways to lessen the impact of air traffic on residents living under flight paths. While the data being gathered as part of the ongoing study will provide all of us with important insights, the FAA did not wait for a study in California to take action. The agreements signed between JWA and the two communities were completed without first conducting a study.
In my letter, I urged the FAA to move air traffic over the harbor as soon as possible after take-off and keep planes over water for as long as possible before landing except in instances where safety or weather make a water only approach more difficult. Given what we know the FAA has implemented in California, officials must, at a minimum, make it a priority to keep air traffic over the water and away from neighborhoods as much as possible. If it works on the west coast, it can certainly work here.
Recognizing African-American Veterans
It was an honor to attend the City of Boston’s African American Veteran Appreciation brunch on Saturday at the William E. Carter American Legion Post 16 in Mattapan. Veterans shared poignant stories about their experiences in the military, which are important for all of us to hear. Event participants talked about the importance of supporting our veterans when they return from service. Too many struggle to adjust to life after the military and need the support of community and government. I appreciated the invitation to spend some time with these extraordinary veterans.
During this district work period I met with members of the Cambridge City Council and State House delegation. We had a comprehensive discussion about many issues, including sanctuary city status and President Trump’s poorly crafted infrastructure plan. Of particular concern is the administration’s apparent lack of support for any future large transportation project. They are demonstrating this indifference by zeroing out New Starts and proposing an unworkable 7 to 1 local/federal match for new transportation funding. This will put large transportation projects out of reach for many communities because the numbers won’t work. We also talked about the current atmosphere in Washington, including the appalling lack of progress on gun control and the unwillingness of the majority to have a full and frank debate on immigration reform.
Behind the Curtain — More House and Trump Administration Actions You Don’t Want to Miss
Here are this week’s additions. If you need to catch up or share with friends, you can find the full list here.
- It’s February 2018 and there are still over 130 political appointees working in the White House Executive Office who do not have permanent security clearances. This long list includes first daughter Ivanka Trump, first son-in-law Jared Kushner and White House Counsel Don McGahn. 47 of the 130 appointees report directly to Trump. Ten National Security Council members still have only temporary clearances.
- In February 2018 Politico reported that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner significantly increased the amount of debt they hold, according to recent financial disclosures. Kushner, who still does not have a finalized security clearance, oversees a vast portfolio ranging from foreign affairs to domestic issues. The disclosure reports do not require the exact amount of debt to be listed. Instead, it is reported as a range. The couple’s debt was reported at a range of $19 million to $98 million. It then rose to between $31 and $155 million in just one year. Ivanka and Jared are White House employees, in fact, they are Presidential advisors. One would think a job like that requires a full time commitment. What could they possibly be doing on the side to rack up that kind of debt? Jared has credit lines with Bank of America, New York Community Bank and Signature Bank held jointly with his parents who have their own business interests. All of this debt makes Jared vulnerable and a potential national security risk – and he still doesn’t have a completed security clearance.
- In February 2018 the Trump Administration went after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) again by proposing to expand access to short-term health plans. Designed for people who are between jobs or taking time off from school, the plans are available for a three month period. Under the rule, they would be available for a year. These short-term plans are exempt from key ACA requirements. For example, individuals with pre-existing conditions can be charged more or denied coverage altogether. The overall impact of expanding access to short-term plans would be higher premiums for many consumers, particularly those with pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure.
- In February 2018 the Intercept reported that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is removing the phrase "nation of immigrants" from its mission statement. The information was contained in a staff email obtained by the media outlet. The word “customers” was also removed from the mission statement. USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna explained in the email that the word “customers” essentially implied the satisfaction of applicants was the main goal of their work. While it’s probably not surprising that USCIS is rewriting its mission statement given the way the Trump Administration has approached immigration, they’re also ignoring American history by removing the phrase “nation of immigrants”. We wonder what Lady Liberty would think about that.
- According to February 2018 news reports, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has spent well over $90,000 in taxpayer funds to fly first or business class. Pruitt is a public official but apparently doesn’t want to interact with the public. He reportedly flies first class because people have approached him to criticize his policies. He doesn’t like that.
What’s Up Next
The next House votes are scheduled for Monday February 26th. At this writing a legislative schedule is not available.