Author: Jay Livingstone

Offering balance to debate over ROE Act

Editor, Townsman:

This letter offers balance to points made in a letter to the editor by Ms. Theresa Gorey which was recently published in The Eagle-Tribune and The Andover Townsman.

Ms. Theresa Gorey states that the ROE Act (House Bill 3320) is Rep. Tram Nguyen’s bill. Actually the ROE Act is sponsored by Reps. Patricia A. Haddad (5th Bristol) and Jay D. Livingstone (8th Suffolk). Rep. Nguyen is just one of an additional 100 House members from all over the commonwealth who have co-sponsored it. Readers interested in this issue should download the bill from the Massachusetts House website ( and develop their own conclusions.

In my opinion, Ms. Gorey’s choice of words in her interpretation of the House Bill 3320, does not reflect the intent of the bill, nor is her interpretation shared by the legislators who have signed on to support this bill. Demonizing trained medical professionals and duly elected legislators by suggesting they would support and advocate for a bill to kill an unborn child is grossly unjust. Further her omissions on important language within the bill, such as “A physician, acting within their lawful scope of practice”, “physician’s best medical judgment”, “pregnant patient’s written informed consent on a form prescribed by the Commissioner of Public Health”, “duly licensed”, etc. weaken her position.

Lastly, I have found Rep. Nguyen to be open and accessible to constituents. She has made it clear on many occasions that while she may not always share the viewpoint of constituents, she is ready to listen respectfully. My personal observation is that conversations, impassioned or not, as opposed to uninformed accusations, are always welcome.

Yes, I am a supporter of Rep. Nguyen and I have a close working relationship with her. I am also a strong supporter of facts and civil discourse. One does not preclude my support of the other.



City Considering Sept. 22 for Car-Free ‘Open Charles Street’

To dovetail with the Beacon Hill Civic Association’s Fall HillFest, city officials are exploring the idea of closing Charles Street to vehicular traffic and transforming it into a pedestrian-only walkway for the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 22, for “Open Charles Street,” according to Jacob Wessel, the city’s public realm director.

But Wessel told those in attendance at a special meeting of the BHCA Traffic and Parking Committee on July 30 at 74 Joy St. to address the matter that the city hasn’t yet committed to the event, which would be modeled after “Open Newbury Street.”

Now, in its fourth year, “Open Newbury Street” “puts the “park in parking,” as Wessel said, by temporarily converting Newbury Street, along with some side streets, into a car-free zone. It has expanded from a one-day event in 2016 to three days each summer this year, with the next taking place on Sunday, Aug. 25.

For “Open Newbury Street,” Wessel said some restaurants in the neighborhood receive one-day license extensions that allow them to temporarily transform the sidewalk outside their storefronts into outdoor patio space. No vendors from outside the Newbury Street area are allowed to participate either, he said, so only neighborhood businesses profit from the events.

State Rep. Jay Livingstone pointed to the many road closures caused by “Open Newbury Street” and suggested that the city look carefully at who will be most impacted by the event in planning “Open Charles Street.”

Ali Ringenburg, co-chair of the Joint Charles Street Committee and a Beacon Hill Business Association board member, requested that only neighborhood businesses, be allowed to participate in the event, and that no vehicles whatsoever be permitted on the street (except in case of emergency).

“The five blocks on Charles Street are very conducive to having events like this, maybe even more than Newbury Street,” Ringenburg said, “and the businesses want to support this event and have it correspond with HillFest.”

Ben Starr, chair of the Traffic and Parking Committee, suggested that if “Open Charles Street” comes to pass, the event should adhere to the same hours – noon to 4 p.m. – as the Fall HillFest, the annual block party held between on Mt. Vernon Street between Charles and Brimmer streets.

Starr said the proposal would go before the BHCA Executive Committee for a vote of opposition or non-opposition prior to the next board meeting on Sept. 9 while an informal poll of those in attendance at the Traffic and Parking Committee meeting found that 13 of 14 of those surveyed supported the idea, and one opposed it.

In another matter, Starr said the installation of a curb-cut at 28 Pinckney St. could result in the loss of two parking spaces while expressing frustration that the neighborhood didn’t have an opportunity to weigh in on the decision.

“Unlike with the [Zoning Board of Appeal] and zoning variances, there’s no process for curb-cuts; it’s just administrative approval,” Starr said. “They don’t seek neighbors’ thoughts and opinions…and to me, this is just a flaw in the system.”

Meanwhile, Starr said the installation of a new station for the Blue Bike metro bike-share program at the corner of Charles and Mt. Vernon streets would also likely result in the loss of two more parking spaces, and that a Blue Bike station now located outside Panificio Bistro and Bakery at 144 Charles St. will be relocated to the side of The Whitney Hotel.

Bills look to extract more money from Uber, Lyft

BOSTON — East Boston Rep. Adrian Madaro was running late Tuesday morning to testify on legislation meant to address the frustrating congestion that plagues Boston’s highways and main city streets and roads because he was “stuck in traffic in the Sumner Tunnel surrounded by” cars from ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft.

Those ride-for-hire services, or transportation network companies (TNCs) as the state refers to them, have exploded in popularity and contribute to the congestion, especially single-passenger trips and trips that start or end with an empty car at the airport, Madaro said.

Once he got out of the tunnel and into the State House, Madaro was joined by Boston Rep. Jay Livingstone to pitch the Financial Services Committee on legislation (H 1039) that would change the fee structure for TNCs to generate new funding for public transit options and the communities that deal with the worst congestion.

“This situation and the fight over the roads, especially with respect to Boston, it’s really a negative feedback loop where people are discouraged with the time buses are taking to go anywhere so they’re using TNCs as and alternative to that, and that is causing buses to take even longer,” Livingstone said.

Madaro and Livingstone said the bill acknowledges that the 20 cent per TNC ride fee imposed by the Legislature in a 2016 law is insufficient and that the rigid fee structure is not flexible enough to truly mitigate the effects of TNCs.

“We now know that this fee is too low in proportion to the traffic and congestion effects these rideshares have on our city streets,” Madaro said. He added, “By switching from an outdated, low, flat fee to a dynamic percentage fee, we are more accurately accounting for the impact these rides have on our communities and our infrastructure.”

The bill would change the fee to be a percentage of the total ride cost calculated by distance and demand, Madaro said. The structure would differentiate between solo rides and pooled rides with multiple passengers by charging 6.25 percent for a solo ride and 4.25 percent for shared trips.

Madaro also filed a bill (H 1041) that would charge companies for every so-called “deadhead” ride — a ride-hailing vehicle trip taken with no passenger, contributing to congestion — at Logan International Airport.

From 2017 to 2018, the number of TNC trips increased 25 percent in Massachusetts to more than 81 million a year. The total number of rides grew across the state, but the growth was largely concentrated in the greater Boston urban core.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh testified before the Financial Services Committee on Tuesday in support of another piece of legislation (H 1067/S 102) that would change the TNC fee structure.

The bill Walsh supported, filed by Boston Rep. Michael Moran and Winthrop Sen. Joseph Boncore, would change the TNC fee to be equal to 6.25 percent of the total ride cost for solo trips and 3 percent for shared rides. Half of the money generated from those fees would go to the city or town where the ride originated and the other half would go to the Commonwealth Transportation Fund and MassDevelopment.

Under the bill, TNC drivers who are on the road during peak travel times but do not have a passenger in the car would also be charged 20 cents per mile without a passenger.

“TNC’s should be contributing more to the public good, given the major impact they’re having on our streets. Look at the numbers: 42 million TNC rides started in Boston last year. That’s 115,000 every day. That’s more than one every second. Many of these rides happen during rush hour. And oftentimes, the pick-ups and drop-offs happen in a travel lane, including bus stops, bike lanes, and emergency vehicle areas,” Walsh said. “Increasing the assessment will help us ensure that the positives of this growing industry outweigh the negatives.”

Though the company did not testify in person on Tuesday, Uber said in a statement that it shares the goals of reducing congestion and limited greenhouse gas emissions but does not agree with the ways Walsh and others are seeking to accomplish those goals.

“We support the mayor’s goal of reducing congestion and want to continue to work with the city on innovative pilots like new pickup and dropoff zones,” Uber spokesperson Alix Anfang said in a statement. “However, rideshare vehicles represent a small fraction of cars in Boston and new taxes targeting rideshare customers punish Bostonians who don’t have a car while doing little to invest in much needed improvements to transit.”

Legislators seek to protect Sea Grant

Heard recent chatter of an uptick in local shark activity? Curious why your fishing lines haven’t been twitching recently? When something peculiar happens in the water around us, our questions are usually answered by marine science experts at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution or Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Last week at the State House, Fernandes and Livingstone hosted a presentation by both WHOI and MIT scholars, showcasing recent research findings and valued partnerships within the commonwealth. State legislators noshed on oysters from Wellfleet Oyster Co. to highlight Sea Grant’s impact on local shellfishing industry.

“The Sea Grant program is administered right here in our district by the Woods Hole Oceanographic [Institution], and helps communities across Cape Cod preserve and protect our ocean,” said Fernandes in a press release. Fernandes is a Democrat from Falmouth representing the Cape and Islands. A vocal environmentalist, Fernandes has focused much of his time in office on protecting the natural health of the Cape and Islands.

Massachusetts is one of only two states to have both a college-based program and an institutional program.

“We appreciated the opportunity to highlight Massachusetts Sea Grant programs’ role in sustaining and growing the Blue Economy in the commonwealth,” said Dr. Matt Charette, director of Woods Hole Sea Grant, in the release. “We look forward to partnering with the state in the future on job creation, water quality, coastal resiliency, and sustainable fisheries, as well as providing innovative solutions to the many challenges our coastal communities will face with changing climate.”

We need to talk about periods – Bill would make menstrual products available in schools, shelters, prisons

IN 2014 a German nongovernmental organization called WASH United dubbed May 28 “International Menstrual Hygiene Day” to raise visibility around the daily struggle many people face with menstrual hygiene management. The date was chosen intentionally as a reference to the average length of the menstrual cycle – 28 days.

Since then nine states in the US have exempted tampons from taxation, acknowledging that the state budget should not be funded by a cost borne by only half the population. In 2016, New York City passed legislation to make menstrual products available in all public schools, shelters, and prisons. And, just a few months ago, we saw a short documentary, Period. End of Sentence, take home an Academy Award and watched the filmmakers give an impassioned acceptance speech about the need for better menstrual health education and access to menstrual products across the globe.

Right here in Massachusetts, Somerville, New Bedford, and Brookline student activists are organizing to demand that bathrooms be stocked with menstrual products. And town meeting in Brookline voted last week to do just that. It can’t be denied that the menstrual equity movement is growing.

Today, our Massachusetts Legislature has an opportunity to lead the country in menstrual equity legislation by passing Mass NOW’s new bill, An Act to Increase Access to Disposable Menstrual Products in Prisons, Homeless Shelters, and Public Schools. (It’s nicknamed the “I AM. Bill.”) The bill, sponsored by Sen. Patricia Jehlen of Somerville and Reps.  Jay Livingstone of Boston and Christine Barber of Somerville, contains language to ensure the products are truly accessible without stigmatizing the individual seeking them.

As it stands, over 70 legislators have signed on in support of our bill and more than 40 menstrual activists, advocacy organizations, nonprofits, businesses, and public servants in Massachusetts have signed onto the Massachusetts Menstrual Equity Coalition. But the path forward is long and our work toward ending the stigma around menstruation is far from over. There is a dearth of information about what the state of access to menstrual products is in schools, prisons, and shelters. We’re working with stakeholders across the state to gather stories from all those who would be impacted by this bill to develop an implementation strategy that’s feasible, economical, and truly a service to those it’s meant to support.

Language matters because it is a part of how systems of oppression operate. That’s why the bill refers to “menstruating individuals” – because we know that not all women menstruate, and not all menstruators identify as a woman. We also avoid using the word hygiene because periods are not something dirty that needs to be cleaned away.

Meet the Author

Sasha Goodfriend

Massachusetts chapter National Organization of Women

Mass NOW is calling on menstruators and non-menstruators alike to talk about periods. The power in the stigma and shame around menstruation – and around female and femme identifying bodies more broadly – lies in our refusal to even talk about it. We have the power to break this cycle through conversations around the dinner table, in health education classes and  with Mass NOW; in consciousness raising style in living rooms across the Commonwealth. We shouldn’t need a day to talk about periods, but once you start talking about it, you’ll find that the conversation doesn’t stop flowing.Sasha Goodfriend is the president of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization of Women.