Category: MIT

Metro-Boston Communities Endorse Cape Bill

    
From MassDivest…

FALMOUTH – Rep. Dylan Fernandes’ bill to allow the 104 independent retirement systems in Massachusetts to divest from the fossil fuel industry (H.3662) has gained the support of two cities in the Metro-Boston region. The city councils of Cambridge and Somerville have passed resolutions calling on the Legislature to pass the Cape bill.

Somerville City Council President Katjana Ballantyne introduced the resolution April 25 and gained unanimous support from the Council. According to Ballantyne, “We all need to get out of these fossil fuel investments before we lose everything. We need to invest in alternatives to fossil fuels before all is lost.”

This development came on the heels of a similar resolution passed in February by the Cambridge City Council.

“I support H.3662 to give cities and towns local control over divesting their retirement funds from fossil fuels,” said Jan Devereux, vice mayor of Cambridge. “Many Cambridge residents, businesses and municipal employees are working hard to reduce their carbon footprints, and it sends a mixed message for the city’s retirement fund to hold investments that are in direct conflict with the goals of our Net Zero Ordinance and action plan.”

MassDivest introduced these resolutions in Somerville and Cambridge.

“With climate risk increasingly threatening the future, it is important for retirement systems to have the option to protect their assets from the decline of the fossil fuel industry,” said Jessica Hanway, of MassDivest.

Fernandes’ bill provides legislative authorization deemed necessary by the Public Employees Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) via a local option mechanism that allows independent retirement systems to divest from the fossil fuel industry. The bill does not mandate divestment in the way that the Legislature has previously done with regard to tobacco and apartheid South Africa.

“The local option bill would allow fossil fuel divestment to move forward in Massachusetts,” said Randi Mail, legislative director of MassDivest. “Instead of a top-down approach, it would be bottom-up. This bill would empower 104 independent retirement systems at the city and county levels.”

Cambridge and Somerville have long histories of supporting fossil fuel divestment. Somerville has advocated for this move since Mayor Joseph Curtatone called for it in 2014.

“The need for urgency when it comes to cities addressing climate change cannot be understated,” Curtatone said. “Every city and town needs right now — not later — to be taking a close look at their carbon output, setting ambitious carbon reduction goals, and following through. Some of that work will be challenging and complex, but fossil fuel divestment is an impactful and fiscally responsible step we could all easily take right now with the help of Rep. Fernandes’ important bill.”

Fernandes cited this legislation in remarks to the organizers of Harvard University’s recent Heat Week event: “Investing is putting down money now for a long-term future gain, and you can’t name a worse long-term future than one where climate change continues to ravage our cities and towns. That’s why we need to divest from fossil fuels. As a millennial, there is no greater issue that’s going to impact my generation or my children’s generation than that of climate change, global warming and sea level rise. We need to get serious about this, and we need to get serious about it here in Massachusetts, which is why Rep. Jay Livingstone and I filed a bill that allows our 104 independent retirement boards to divest from fossil fuels.”

About MassDivest

MassDivest is a coalition working to divest pension funds in Massachusetts from fossil fuels. They have partnered with Rep. Dylan Fernandes and Rep. Jay Livingstone on H.3662. MassDivest also works with Senator Marc Pacheco, who has introduced S.636, a similar bill in the Senate.

Are text-a-thons the future of activism? Cambridge’s Activist Afternoons thinks so.

Boxes of pizza, an aroma of hot coffee and smiling people invested in their phones filled a Cambridge workplace in the heart of Central Square yesterday, but the gathering wasn’t purely social.

As millions of Americans across the country prepared for the midterm elections by reading up on issues and candidates, over 160 volunteers in Cambridge spent the evening before Election Day encouraging voter participation at a text-a-thon hosted by Activist Afternoons.

The gathering was one of many the group has hosted since it launched in the fall of 2017. The first of three around the state, Activist Afternoons hosts weekly events with a different menu of activities – often including meetings, activist training sessions, and text-a-thons – for the Cambridge community at Workbar, a membership-based coworking space on Prospect Street.

Hustling young people to the polls

The members of the five national and local organizations present at the Nov. 5 text-a-thon used Hustle – the texting platform used for Bernie Sanders’ campaign in the 2016 presidential election. For three hours they sent personalized messages to registered voters, reminding them to vote on issues, political parties and candidates this Election Day.

Daniel Curtis, community organizer at Activist Afternoons, said the goal of Monday night’s text-a-thon was to motivate or remind residents of Cambridge and others nationwide to participate, especially younger voters.

“The main objective of tonight is to get in contact with as many people as possible and encourage them to vote, ” said Curtis. “A general concern we have is that, historically, young people are the least likely to vote.”

During the 2014 midterm elections, only 17.1 percent of eligible 18- to 24-year-olds showed up at the polls. That was less than half the turnout of the population at large – 41.9 percent of whom voted – according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 Current Population Survey.

Curtis said he thinks a significant cause of low turnout among young people is the fact that they have never voted before.

The future of activism?

With Gen-Xers and younger generations representing 59 percent of American adults eligible to vote as of April 2018, according to the Pew Research Center, text-a-thon volunteers were hoping that the last-minute mobilization of younger voters has a serious effect on election results.

Among the clicking, tapping and chattering volunteers was state Rep. Jay Livingstone, D-Boston, who opted to make calls rather than texting during the 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. event.

“I couldn’t really figure out how to work the texting, so I went with calling,” laughed Livingstone.

Out of the five Democratic organizations represented at the text-a-thon, Livingstone chose to work with the Environmental Voter Project and Justice Democrats groups. He noted that one of the reasons Democratic organizations specifically tend to focus on mobilizing the younger generations is because they tend to be more worried about social issues and protecting the environment.

“Young people are more concerned about social and environmental issues,” said Livingstone, who represents parts of Cambridgeport as well as Boston. “The way we get the Democratic Party to where it needs to be is by convincing people to vote at events like this one.”

“Texting as a medium appeals to younger people and can easily reach tons of voters,” said Labandibar. “I think we will see more voters turn out as result of these texting events.”

Ian Anderson is a Boston University journalism student writing as part of a collaboration between the Cambridge Chronicle and BU News Service.

http://cambridge.wickedlocal.com/news/20181106/are-text-a-thons-future-of-activism-cambridges-activist-afternoons-thinks-so

MBTA Focus 40 Comment Letter

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority unveiled a 35-page drafted investment plan, called “Focus40,” which mapped potential improvements and plans for the T. You can read the report here.

I was disappointed that the MBTA had yet again failed to address the possibility of connecting the Grand Junction Rail to Kendall Square via West Station. I was also disappointed that a connection of the Red and Blue lines were not prioritized either. Both connections would be a fantastic boon to the economy of Kendall square by increasing access to the hub. During the comment period, I submitted a letter to this effect, which you can read below:

[pdf-embedder url=”http://www.jaylivingstone.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/MBTA_Focus40_Comment_Final.pdf”]

Rep. Fernandes Seeks to Save Threatened Federal Sea Grant Program

BOSTON – A local legislator is defending the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution-based Sea Grant College Program, which could lose funding as part of proposed Trump Administration budget cuts.

Barnstable, Dukes, Nantucket State Representative Dylan Fernandes co-sponsored a resolution which passed through the House that urges level funding for the program which began in 1966.

The network of 33 Sea Grant programs throughout the country promotes sustainable economic development and oceanic conservation.

“The Sea Grant Program has helped our communities guard against natural disasters, promote our blue economy and develop our oceanic resources in a sustainable way,” said Fernandes.

“The program has been an indispensable asset to our region and eliminating it is unacceptable.”

The resolution was introduced with State Rep. Jay Livingstone, whose district is home to the Sea Grant College Program housed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Woods Hole Sea Grant program’s history traces back to 1971 and has since worked with towns to build sustainable aquaculture programs, promote coastal resiliency and educate the public on environmental issues.

An initial budget proposal from the Trump Administration last month would completely eliminate the program.

Fernandes said the program generates about $142 million in economic activity each year.

A copy of the language used in the resolution will be sent to all the members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation and the White House Office of Budget and Management.

MassDOT Plans to Consolidate Construction on Longfellow

Last week, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has announced implementation of a plan to re-sequence construction on the Longfellow Bridge by combining Stages 4 and 6 – a measure which the contractor White-Skanska-Consigli (WSC) said would result in faster completion of the project in June 2018, three months earlier than previously anticipated.

This announcement follows a robust public process, which included a stakeholder briefing and two public meetings in Boston and Cambridge in August. MassDOT has begun the multimodal shifts to accommodate the combined stages

Under this plan, WSC will simultaneously rehabilitate the bridge under the MBTA outbound track (Stage 4) and reconstruct the downstream roadway and sidewalk (previously planned for Stage 6). With this modification, the contractor anticipates having all modes of travel in their final configuration by June 2018. Stage 5 will be performed after the combined Stages 4 and 6.

“It’s no secret that the rehabilitation of this historic bridge posed significant challenges in the early stages of construction, but by working with and challenging our contractor to think creatively, we are happy to see a significant time savings and bring this project to completion sooner,” MassDOT Highway Administrator Thomas J. Tinlin said. “This response to challenges faced demonstrates MassDOT’s commitment to delivering the highest quality projects that respond to the needs of all modes and types of travelers.”

State Rep. Jay Livingstone said, “I’m pleased that MassDOT and its contractors continue to look for ways to shorten the reconstruction of the Longfellow Bridge. I fully support MassDOT’s newest plan, which will again shorten the reconstruction by months. MassDOT’s willingness to keep all critical stakeholders fully informed has been extremely helpful throughout the entire process”

State Rep Tim Toomey said, “MassDOT and the Longfellow Bridge contractor are clearly working hard to get the project completed at an earlier date. I appreciate their efforts to consistently provide residents and stakeholders with the latest information about the project, and they’ve been doing a great job at coming back to the community on a regular basis to provide updates and answer questions.”

To accommodate this time saving work, all modes of travel will use the upstream side of the bridge, pedestrians will use the upstream sidewalk for travel in both directions; inbound bicyclists will use the new 5-foot wide designated bike lane on the upstream roadway; and outbound bicyclists will share the upstream sidewalk with pedestrians.

While outbound cyclists may ride their bikes on the sidewalk, MassDOT asks that cyclists and pedestrians use caution and respect the rights of everyone to use public infrastructure in this temporary shared configuration.

Also, MBTA and emergency response access across the bridge will be maintained at all times.

Visit the project Web site to learn more about the Stage 4 ans 6 bike routes and to view the bike route maps for the Boston Approach and the Cambridge Approach.

The Cambridge-bound detour remains in place using the existing signed route from Charles Circle following Charles Street to Leverett Circle, Monsignor O’Brien Highway (Route 28)/Charles River Dam Road and Land Boulevard.

View the Stage 4 and 6 Graphic for travel space configuration along the Longfellow Bridge. Learn more about Stage 4 and 6 in the Construction Updates section of the project Web site.

The Longfellow Bridge restoration project began in 2013. White-Skanska-Consigli Joint Venture is the contractor for the project.