Somerville public meeting on Lifeline telephone program

Staff from the Department of Telecommunications and Cable (DTC) will be in attendance at the Somerville Elder Services Elder Fair on Wednesday, April 15th at the Holiday Inn at 30 Washington Street from 9:00am to 1:00pm to discuss the Lifeline telephone program as well as answering questions and offering general information on telephone and cable service in the Commonwealth.

Lifeline is a federal and state program that allows eligible low income customers access to discounted telephone service. Eligibility is based on household income and participation in the following programs:

  • Emergency Aid to Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC)
  • Fuel Assistance (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP)
  • MassHealth or Medicaid
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
  • National School Lunch Program (free meals program only)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

 Please click this link for more info on the Lifeline telephone program.

Scrapping the Film Tax Credit would hurt working families

Governor Baker has proposed doubling the earned income tax credit (EITC), an essential benefit that provides a boost to the incomes of low-income workers across Massachusetts. While the Governor should be lauded for his commitment to increasing the EITC, he has proposed tying this increase to the elimination of the Massachusetts film tax credit. The film tax credit, which has been in existence since 2006, has helped build a thriving film industry in Massachusetts that provides good jobs to many people. By attempting to link the fates of these two tax credit programs, Governor Baker has created a false choice for the legislature that has little to do with fiscal responsibility, and much more to do with political convenience.

With this proposal, Baker is attempting to strike at our basic sense of fairness. Who could argue that a family with children getting by on less than $52,000 per year deserves a tax credit less than Columbia Pictures? It’s a narrative that, on the surface, is politically-palatable in a time where the problem of income inequality continues to dominate national conversations.

But unfortunately for Baker, the reality is just not as simple. The truth is that the film tax credit has been far from ineffective. It has created thousands of jobs in Massachusetts and has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity within the state’s borders. While critics often fault the film tax credit for the fact that it generates a lot of new spending that winds up leaving the state, Department of Revenue figures show that the film tax credit has generated millions in new, in-state private spending in industries like transportation, construction, and food service. Like with the earned income tax credit, this money winds up back in the local economy where it is used by workers to pay for everyday goods and services, generating hundreds of millions in new economic activity and personal income.

If the film tax credit is eliminated, it is likely that Hollywood producers and actors will just move on to other states offering similar incentives. Left behind will be our neighbors and family members—the carpenters, costume makers, electricians, caterers, and other small business owners who depend on the film industry to make a living. Many of these people have invested years of blood, sweat, and tears into building businesses within the Massachusetts film industry, but by scrapping the film tax credit now, we would be pulling the rug out from under them at the worst possible time.

With corporate tax credits, deductions, and rebates in Massachusetts totaling more $1.7 billion annually, we have many ways to pay for an EITC increase at our disposal. That Baker has instead decided to pay for that increase by eliminating another tax credit for working class people is disappointing, but hardly surprising. There is no doubt in my mind that increasing the earned income tax credit is badly needed, but there is no need—other than a political one for the Governor—to link the two issues together.

The Joint Committee on Revenue is hearing Governor Baker’s proposal on Tuesday, March 31st at 10:30 am. As the Vice Chairman of this committee, I am looking forward to hearing testimony and working with my colleagues to develop a plan that allows for the film tax credit to be maintained while providing for the expansion of the EITC.

Photo by Chalmers Butterfield, licensed under CC BY 2.5

Progress Continues on Grand Junction Path

Exciting times are ahead for the Grand Junction Multiuse Path.  Last month the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) announced that they would start construction this year on the first section of the path. When the shovel hits the ground, it will be a true milestone in the history of this project.

What makes the Grand Junction Multiuse Path such an important project is its ability to connect so many amenities in Cambridge and Somerville. By connecting existing parks and public facilities throughout the corridor, the path will act as an urban necklace that makes open space and other neighborhoods more accessible for residents of Cambridgeport, Area 4, Harrington/Wellington and East Cambridge.  It has the potential to serve as a critical link between paths along (and over) the Charles River on one end and as a connection to the Somerville Community Path and Minuteman Commuter Bikeway on the other. It has immense potential to improve the quality of life for our neighborhoods by providing safe pedestrian and cyclist access to a large part of Cambridge, including a number of schools and parks.

An overnight success this is not.  It’s the culmination of many years of hard work, patience, and focus. Advocates like Friends of the Grand Junction have greatly contributed to the viability and public awareness of this project. Friends of the Community Path, whose primary focus has been on the Somerville Community Path, have worked with MassDOT to guarantee that a future connection between the Somerville Community Path and the Grand Junction Multiuse Path would not be physically obstructed by the Green Line Extension. These groups, along with many residents and officials, have had the vision to look ahead to the path’s creation, and have found ways to leverage new development to make progress on the Grand Junction path.

Along the way we have dealt with proposed uses for the Grand Junction route for Commuter Rail Trains and Ethanol Transport that could have impacted future use as a multiuse path. Advocates, legislators, and the community have been able to suppress both proposals and preserve the viability of the Grand Junction Multiuse Path.

The start of construction on a portion of the path–which has been made possible through the help of MIT and the CRA—means that we must continue to work to find ways to make construction of the entire path possible.  At a recent council meeting I moved to take two steps that I believe will keep this momentum going.  The first is asking the CRA to continue its work with the City of Cambridge to help us understand the complexities of land uses along the path heading towards the Somerville boarder.  With their help we can start to make progress on portions of the path that have yet to be studied in depth.

More importantly I have asked the City of Cambridge to consider creating a Grand Junction Overlay District along the length of the path.  An overlay district can help to shape the vision of the path while attempting to alleviate some possible obstacles identified by many studies of the project. It can help to preserve setbacks while ensuring development won’t encroach on the path while allowing more flexibility to landowners who may be redeveloping parcels along the path.  This will help our long term visions and goals for the corridor and I hope get people more excited about what this can be. Imagine a future where instead of the rails being a back alley, they are embraced and it becomes the front door to future residents, students and retail that want to take advantage of a bustling, commuter-centric path connecting the eastern half of Cambridge.

There remains much work to be done, but at the moment I will be happy to see the first shovels break ground.

If you want to hear more about the Grand Junction please join us at the Transportation Committee Meeting at 4 pm on Wednesday, March 25 at City Hall.

“GovOnTheT” raises awareness of transit needs

Tim at Kendall Square

Today I joined dozens of legislators from around Massachusetts in riding the T to work as a part of “Gov on the T,” a project focused on raising awareness about the problems facing our public transit system.

Many of my constituents have called or written me in recent months to express their profound frustration with the current state of public transit in Greater Boston. Though this winter has made the poor state of the MBTA’s equipment obvious, regular transit riders know that our system has difficulties year-round. Much of this is due to aging and obsolete equipment that is overdue for replacement. Unfortunately, continued budget problems at the T have hampered new investment and led to fare increases for commuters. Without new revenue or a reduction in expenses, the ability for the T to serve as a foundation of our region’s economy will continue to be at risk.

For this reason, I support alleviating the T of some of the so-called “Big Dig Debt” as a way to reduce pressure on its budget. While this debt is associated with legitimate public transit projects that were built as a part of Big Dig mitigation agreements, it continues to contribute to budget deficits that keep the T from making needed investments in signaling systems and other equipment that directly impact service quality. Shifting this debt obligation to the Commonwealth Transportation Fund would provide over $100 million in relief to the T every year.

GOVT

While we still have a lot of hard work to do in order to achieve the public transit system that we want and deserve, I also think that it is important to acknowledge some of the recent victories we have achieved in pursuit of this goal. Two years ago, the legislature passed transportation financing legislation that helped jump start investment in equipment and system expansion. Since then, the T has entered into a contract for the purchase of 284 new subway cars in order to upgrade to the aging Red and Orange Line fleets. Delivery of the new cars is scheduled to begin in 2019, and will provide substantial reliability improvements for Red and Orange line riders.

This transportation financing legislation also helped secure a $1 billion New Starts grant from the federal government for the Green Line Extension. This grant is absolutely critical to extending Green Line service to areas of Somerville that have been the most chronically underserved by mass transit. It also brings with it the purchase of new Green Line cars and the construction of a new Green Line maintenance facility, which will serve Green Line riders system-wide.

As someone who believes that public transit is an essential public good, this winter has been difficult and at times discouraging. For that reason, I want to thank everyone who has called, written, or stopped by my office to advocate for a better transit system. Your voices have helped bring this issue into focus for elected officials across Massachusetts, and it is essential that we keep the conversation going.

Boston Olympics Public Meeting in Cambridge Tonight

On the evening of Wednesday, March 18th there will be a public meeting held at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School regarding the Boston 2024 Olympic proposal. The meeting will begin at 6:30 pm and will take place in the Fitzgerald Theatre. It will be hosted by Boston 2024, the private group that is financing and organizing a bid for Boston to be chosen by the International Olympic Committee as the site of the 2024 Summer Games. According to documents presented to the US Olympic Committee, organizers are hoping to host at least one Olympic event in the City of Cambridge.

I continue to have very serious concerns about the Olympic proposal. One of my most serious concerns—one that I expressed in an op-ed that was published here and in several local papers—is that there has been a lack of a substantive public involvement in this process thus far. Our communities were entered into the running for the Olympic games without a single public meeting, discussion, or vote occurring beforehand. Even with polls now showing that less than half of area residents support hosting the games and that more than three quarters feel there should be a referendum, Boston 2024 organizers continue to press forward in the bidding process.

From conversations that I have had with constituents over the past several months, I know that there are many people who have legitimate concerns about the wisdom of hosting the games in Boston, and others who question whether there would be any real public benefit. I am hopeful that the meeting tonight will be an opportunity to voice those concerns, and I encourage anyone who is interested to attend.

Organizers have stated that they plan to host a meeting in Somerville as well, but a date has not been announced yet.

Weekend Going-Out Guide for Cambridge and Somerville

LongfellowBanner

We’re thankfully getting closer to the many local outdoor festivities that Somerville and Cambridge have to offer every Spring, but we’ll first have to deal with the reappearance of King Winter this weekend. As always, you can avoid the gloomy weather with some of the many fun indoor cultural activities our community has to offer.

Don’t miss “AcousticaElectronica” tonight at the Oberon in Cambridge. Presented by Touch Performance Art, this performance blends elements of electronic and classical music, dance, circus arts, and immersive theater with the energy of contemporary nightclubs.

If you’re looking for a more traditional dance/theatre collaborative, Paradise Lost will perform “Lost in Time” at the Multicultural Arts Center on Friday and Saturday. The show will address various topics from identity, to childhood into adolescence, transportation journeys, and human interactions.

Want to see a Colossal Fossil? If you do, head over to the Museum of Science (MOS) on Saturday to see the: Triceratops Cliff where you can get an up-close view of this 65-million-year-old fossil, discovered in the Dakota Badlands in 2004. Named for the grandfather of its anonymous donor, Cliff is one of only four nearly complete Triceratops on public display anywhere in the world. MOS is open between 9am and 5pm on Saturday and this exhibit is free if you buy an Exhibits Hall ticket.

Finally, you’ve got two great alternatives to end the weekend on a cultural high-note. The opening reception of “Motion, Memory,” the work of three artists whose work is a hybrid of photography combined with painting or printmaking, will take place between 3-5pm at the Brickbottom Gallery in Somerville, while hundreds of dancers will take to the stage at the Israel Folkdance Festival of Boston at M.I.T.’s Kresge Auditorium. The thirty-ninth annual performance includes dancing feet and flying horas, Spanish-infused Ladino steps, and lithe Yemenite movements.

Weekend Going-Out Guide for Cambridge and Somerville

The sun will be shining this weekend and temperatures are expected to be in the mid-30s so we can finally enjoy some local shopping and dining again. First though, start of the weekend with some music at the Armory in Somerville from 7:30-9:30pm where the new trio of Eric Hofbauer, Aaron Darrell, and Curt Newton will bring together three distinctive voices from Boston’s vital jazz and improvised music scene.

The Armory in Somerville

On Saturday from noon-4pm, The Great Boston Chili Bowl will bring local Boston and Cambridge restaurants and breweries together to showcase their variations of chili and beer. All funds raised by this event will advance research toward effective treatments at the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI), the world’s largest drug development organization dedicated to ending ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease.

After filling up on local chili and beer, head over to the Somerville Theatre to watch the world-renowned Alloy Orchestra, a three man musical ensemble, writing and performing live accompaniment to classic silent films, present the Boston premiere of its live musical score to the 1926 classic silent film The Son of the Sheik, directed by George Fitzmaurice and starring Rudolph Valentino, Vilma Bánky, and George Fawcett.

Finally, for all the museum lovers out there, cap off the weekend at the Harvard Semitic Museum to see the rich assortment of antiquities collected by museum founder David Gordon Lyon (1852-1935). See Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets, ancient Palestinian pottery, Egyptian funerary art, and ethnographic treasures, along with Lyon’s own excavation photographs this Sunday between 1-4pm.

Otis Street Playground Community Meeting

The Otis Street Playground community meeting previously scheduled for February 3rd has been rescheduled for Tuesday evening March 3rd at the East Somerville Community School Cafeteria at 50 Cross Street from 6:30-8:00 pm.

A team of landscape architects will draft the new park plans, but the city needs resident input to be sure that the new design meets all the needs of the community. Spanish and Portuguese interpreters will be available.

Weekend Going-Out Guide for Cambridge & Somerville

We’re finally going to have a, hopefully, precipitation-free weekend with some sunlight. It’s still going to be freezing cold, however, so here are a few warm indoor ways to enjoy your weekend.

Friday

Using 50,000 lumens of projection systems, Visualize Somerville is bringing you the chance to climb a waterfall, a picturesque mountain peak, or even a lava flow all in one night in an event hosted by BKB and Aeronaut Brewing. Featuring climbing on projection mapping, live DJs, and an art show highlighting Somerville and Boston-based artists, this one-night experience will add another dimension to your climbing experience.

Bluegrass Fridays are back in the Café at the Center for Arts at the Armory in Somerville. The event is free and you can either listen to the host musicians play or jump in with your own instrument.

Saturday

Don’t miss the artists behind “Fields of Viewpoints” talk about their work at the Kathryn Schultz Gallery in Cambridge. Saturday represents the last day of this interesting collaborative exhibit that features “four artists whose work reflects various ranges, prospects, scans, scoped, observations, interpretations, and involvement. This show is part of the Cambridge Art Association’s 70th exhibition year.

Later on Saturday evening, Altan, one of the world’s finest traditional Irish bands, will transport your mind to the beautiful rolling hills of Ireland at the Somerville Theater.

If you’d rather be transported to the romantic streets of Paris, head over to the First Church in Cambridge to experience the tunes of Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston.

Sunday

Cap off the weekend with some American classics presented  by the acclaimed song duo Valerie Anastasio & Tim Harbold in their new show, In the Mood – A Time Capsule of Classics from 1939. Valerie & Tim showcase a remarkable year in film and song with songs from The Wizard of Oz, along with beloved song hits of the year including In the Mood, All the Things You Are, Good Morning, And the Angels Sing, Sunrise Serenade, Beer Barrel Polka, and Lydia the Tattooed Lady.

 

Construction Advisory: Medford St. Bridge Sidewalk & Street Closure

As part of the Green Line Extension (GLX) project, it will be necessary for the GLX contractor, White Skanska Kiewit, to close the eastbound travel/bike lane and west side sidewalk between School Street and Walnut Street to vehicular, bike, and pedestrian traffic for the purposes of erecting a temporary utility bridge.

Residents will be able to cross Medford Street over to the east side sidewalk to cross over the bridge and the westbound lane will be reconfigured to allow for two-way vehicular and bike traffic.

This construction will start tomorrow, Tuesday February 24th at 8:30 AM and last until the end of September 2015. Signage providing direction and detail police providing assistance will be available to assist vehicular, bike, and pedestrian traffic.

Please click here to learn more about the GLX project, and feel free to contact the GLX project team at 855-GLX-INFO or info@glxinfo should you have any questions.

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