Reach Out and Read: Improving Childhood Literacy

CAMBRIDGE – Windsor Street Health Center, 119 Windsor St. #1 map
Cambridge Chronicle blog post: “Rep. Toomey reads to children at Windsor Street Health Center”
Reach Out and Read official website

Reach Out and Read (ROR) is a fantastic national children’s literacy program that focuses on young at-risk children who so often enter school unprepared to learn. By encouraging parents to read with their children from a very early age, and by providing developmentally and culturally appropriate books to children when they visit their pediatricians, Reach Out and Read addresses the very route of the problem of the gap in childhood literacy. Studies have shown that by exposing children to books at earlier ages, ROR has given many two-year-olds as much as a six-month head start developmentally, putting them on a course to be active, productive learners and members of their communities.

From Reach Out and Read

On Thursday September 25th I visited the Reach Out and Read affiliated Windsor Street Health Center in Cambridge to read aloud to a group of young children from the CAAS Head Start program. The three books that they had selected for me to read, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, and David Gets in Trouble, were perfect for the occasion and for the age-group. It seemed like many of the children were familiar with the stories, and they chimed in to help me with some of their favorite lines.

From Reach Out and Read

It was a great experience, and I think that I probably had just about as much fun as the children did. I’m proud to have been able to participate in and to support this outstanding program, and I look forward to making many more visits like this one in the future.

2007-2008 Formal Legislative Session Update

At the end of July, the House and the Senate wrapped up the 2007-2008 formal session with a list of legislative accomplishments that will help to significantly improve our state’s economy, environment, health care system and aging infrastructure.

The extent of our broad-reaching achievements in the legislature is in part thanks to our new Governor Deval Patrick – it is great to again have a democratic partner in the executive office to help us work towards a better Massachusetts for all citizens across the state.

The following sections detail highlights of important bills and spending initiatives passed and signed into law during the 2007-2008 Formal Legislative Session:

In the increasingly difficult and unstable fiscal climate, it is now more important than ever to the residents of Cambridge and Somerville that their elected officials on Beacon Hill are working to ensure their safety, the quality of their schools and hospitals, their economic stability, the sustainability of their environment and their quality of life. I’m proud to say at the end of the 2007-2008 formal legislative session that we have taken significant steps to address each of these areas, and that the productive efforts of the legislature will have a positive and meaningful impact on the citizens of our communities for many years to come.

From the Green Communities Act to the Child Abuse and Neglect Bill, from the Environmental, Housing and Transportation Bond Bills to the Municipal Partnership Act and increased local aid and Chapter 70 school aid, the wide range of initiatives signed into law over the past year and a half will benefit children, families, taxpayers and municipalities throughout the commonwealth.

I would like to thank the hundreds of people who called, emailed, and wrote in over the last year for making your voice heard on these important issues in the state and in our district. Please feel free to look through this legislative update and contact my office if you have any further questions or to let me know about your priorities going forward into the next session.

Local Bills

Cambridge:

Public Salaries to Municipal Employees Serving Overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan:
This landmark local Home Rule bill authorized the City of Cambridge to pay full salaries and benefits to municipal employees serving in theaters of combat overseas such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill also ensures that any such employee will not lose any seniority or accrued vacation leave while serving our country.
Chapter 153 of the Acts of 2007

Somerville:

Establishment of a Municipal Hearing Officer:
The creation of the position of Municipal Hearing Officer in the City of Somerville provides a venue for residents to dispute citations for violations of local ordinances without being required to appear in district court.
Chapter 106 of the Acts of 2008

Updating the City’s Charter:
This expansive piece of legislation provided for many simplifications and modernizations of Somerville’s Charter and the Department of Public Works: it created divisions of highways, engineering, waterworks, and buildings within the Department of Public Works; it allows for the mayor, with the approval of the board of aldermen, to eliminate existing divisions and create new ones as deemed necessary by the city; it created the position of superintendent for each new division of Public Works; and, it mandates the annual appointment of the superintendent of each division by the mayor subject to the approval of the board of aldermen.
Chapter 112 of the Acts of 2008

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Read more about the 2007-2008 Formal Legislative Session:

Statewide Bills

Bond Bills:


Transportation Bond Bills:
Both the three-year $3.5 billion bond bill to finance and increase efficiency in long term projects for the state such as the Green Line Extension through Cambridge and Somerville, and the $1.5 billion bond bill to fund projects on municipal transportation projects will serve to help Massachusetts to meet the increasing demands of our state’s aging transportation infrastructure.
Chapter 86 of the Acts of 2008
Chapter 172 of the Acts of 2008

Housing Bond Bill:
This $1.3 billion bond bill was passed to create and encourage long term development of capital improvements and affordable housing resources, helping to make homeownership a more attainable goal to families across the state
Chapter 119 of the Acts of 2008

Bridge Repair Bond Bill:
This $3 billion bridge repair bond bill provides for the preservation of existing transportation infrastructure, and the assurance of safety on our state’s bridges.
Chapter 233 of the Acts of 2008

Higher Education Bond Bill:
This $2.2 billion bond bill will help the Commonwealth to control costs of higher education for Massachusetts families.
Chapter 258 of the Acts of 2008

Children and Families:

Booster Seat Bill:
This crucial public safety initiative is an important step in protecting child passengers on the road, and requires children up to the age of 8 or the height of 4’9” (whichever comes first) to be secured by child passenger safety devices. The proper use of booster seats has been proven to significantly decrease child fatalities in motor vehicle accidents.
Chapter 79 of the Acts of 2008

Child Abuse and Neglect Legislation:
This bill created a brand new cabinet level secretary responsible solely for child welfare, establishes minimum education requirements for social workers and toughens penalties for child abuse and neglect.
Chapter 176 of the Acts of 2008

Child Protection Legislation (Jessica’s Law):
Aiming to further protect children from sexual predators, this important legislation increased penalties for sex offenders, and enhanced online tracking of online sexual predators.
Chapter 205 of the Laws of 2008

Education:

Reorganization of the Commonwealth’s Education Governance Structure:
This reorganization has taken important steps to streamline, simplify and improve communication and coordination between every education sector of the Commonwealth. Most importantly, it created a cabinet level secretary to oversee the state’s education system and its reorganization.
Chapter 27 of the Acts of 2008

Reorganization of Early Education Quality & Care System:
As an extension of the overall education reorganization, this initiative works toward improving access to and the quality of early childhood education for all children in the Commonwealth, creating the new Department of Early Education and Care.
Chapter 215 of the Acts of 2008

Environment:

Global Warming Solutions Act:
With this bill, Massachusetts put in place a long term plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions. This is an important step forward in the fight to save our environment from the dangerous effects of harmful emissions produced by humans.
Chapter 298 of the Acts of 2008

Green Communities Act:
This broad reaching energy reform package establishes bold new clean, renewable energy goals for the Commonwealth, providing incentives to municipalities, businesses and individuals to invest in progressive energy saving technologies to meet the new benchmarks.
Chapter 169 of the Acts of 2008

Green Jobs Bill:
Unanimously supported by both braches of the legislature, this innovative initiative will encourage green start-up companies to expand in Massachusetts, and provide residents of all experience levels with exciting new and sustainable careers.
Chapter 307 of the Acts of 2008

Ocean Management Bill:
This bill clarifies existing ocean management laws to allow for clean energy development in areas that had previously been zoned only for traditional energy generation.
Chapter 114 of the Acts of 2008

Health Care:

Electronic Health Records for Health and Human Services:
Moving to further improve Massachusetts health care system, this bill modernizes and standardizes the state’s health care records for those enrolled in states programs. It will help to simplify record keeping and decrease costs to taxpayers over the next several years.
Chapter 130 of the Acts of 2007

Protecting Patient Confidentiality:
This common-sense legislation provides clients of mental health counselors with the same right to privacy and confidentiality as clients of psychiatrists and psychologists.
Chapter 142 of the Acts of 2007

Public Service:

Commonwealth Corps:
This bill established the Commonwealth Corps, a statewide volunteer service organization that works in partnership with the Massachusetts Service Alliance. The mission of the Commonwealth Corps is to engage Massachusetts residents of all ages and backgrounds in direct service to rebuild communities and address unmet community needs. The Corps will provide opportunities for skill building, leadership development and will encourage and enhance a lifelong civic vocation for Corps members.
Chapter 192 of the Acts of 2007

Increased Benefits to Families of Police and Firefighters:
Helping cities and towns to show gratitude to the loved ones of those killed in the line of duty for their thankless public service, this bill allows municipalities to raise funeral expense reimbursements to families of police officers and firefighters killed while on the job from $5,000 to $15,000
Chapter 110 of the Acts of 2007


Tax/Fiscal Policy
:

Sales Tax Holiday:
For the fifth year in a row, the members of the legislature overwhelmingly voted to suspend the state sales tax for one weekend in August, providing consumers with an incentive to stimulate the local retail economy.
Chapter 211 of the Acts of 2008

Corporate Tax Reform:
This bill closed several so-called corporate tax loopholes that were being abused by larger companies at the expense of small businesses and individual taxpayers, increasing tax fairness in the Commonwealth.
Chapter 173 of the Acts of 2008

Investment in Life Sciences:
This 10-year, $1 billion bill invests in our state’s ever-growing life sciences sector, helping to draw new life science companies to the region and keep current ones here. This will have a significant impact growing the number of quality jobs and the state’s reputation as a world leader in life sciences.
Chapter 130 of the Acts of 2008

Mortgage Foreclosure Relief:
In response to the unprecedented spike in the number of home foreclosures, this legislation encourages banks to help borrowers, providing a three month window to cure defaults. It also mandates tough new licensing standards for mortgage loan originators.
Chapter 224 of the Acts of 2007

LIHEAP Fuel-Assistance Appropriation:
Passed in anticipation of a difficult winter season, this bill provided emergency funding to help more than 100,000 elderly residents and low income families pay to heat their homes over the coldest months.
Chapter 174 of the Acts of 2007


*Note: This list only reflects a sampling of some of the more important legislation passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by the Governor. If you have any additional questions about any legislation, whether it is on this list or not, please feel free to contact my State House staff at 617-722-2692.

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Read more about the 2007-2008 Formal Legislative Session:

Bills that Require Further Attention

Although the 2007-2008 formal legislative session was extremely productive, some bills never made it to a full vote, and must remain priorities for the 2009-2010 session. Over the past two years we were able to address many of the pressing concerns of the citizens, families, businesses and municipalities of the Commonwealth, but several other crucial matters still require further attention.

Here are a few highlights:

CORI Reform:

In the beginning of 2008, Governor Deval Patrick introduced legislation relative to reducing recidivism rates by providing better employment opportunities to citizens who have been convicted of criminal offenses. One of the most important parts of this bill would prevent employers from accessing information about fraudulent charges on which a defendant has been found innocent.

Although the bill gained some attention this year, it never made it to the floor of the House for a vote, and it remains a top priority hopefully to be addressed early next session.

Non-Lethal Defense Sprays:

In the interest of helping citizens protect themselves from violent and predatory criminals without needing to buy a firearm, it is essential that Massachusetts increase the availability of non-lethal defense sprays. While on the one hand it is important to work to decrease the number of illegal and unregistered hand guns and automatic weapons on our streets, another often neglected front in the battle against crime is providing people with legal ways that they can protect themselves and their families. Non-lethal defense sprays offer an effective and safe way for people to feel secure both while out walking on city streets and within in their own homes.

I filed a bill that will help increase legal access to such defense sprays, which has been reported favorably by The Committee on Public Safety, but still requires a vote before the House and Senate.

Urban Speed Limits:

In the wake of several tragic deaths on roads in urban districts, it is clear that we must take steps to increase the safety of pedestrians on sidewalks and in crosswalks. Vehicles operating at high speeds in highly populated areas cause a significant threat to safety for all pedestrians, and especially children.

Based upon the recommendation of various transportation agencies and safety experts, this bill will decrease roadway speed limits in urban districts to 25 MPH and will considerably increase the safety of the tens of thousands of pedestrians in urban areas every day.

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Read more about the 2007-2008 Formal Legislative Session:

FY 2009 Local Aid for Cambridge and Somerville

In the Fiscal Year 2009 State Budget approved by the House and Senate and signed by the Governor, both Cambridge and Somerville saw increases in the amount of aid that they receive from the state. There are three types of assistance that cities and towns receive from the state:

1. Chapter 70 funding. The Chapter 70 program is the major program of state aid to public elementary and secondary schools.
2. Additional Assistance.
3. Lottery Aid funded through Lottery revenues.

All three types of assistance are crucial to municipalities, and I’m very pleased that we were able to oversee increases in the bottom line for both cities that I represent.

Cambridge:

$9,313,701

Chapter 70 Funding:

$17,956,060

Additional Assistance:

$8,781,240

Total Lottery Aid:

$36,054,001

Total:

$800,348

Total Increase over FY 2008:

Somerville:

$20,597,265

Chapter 70 Funding:

$16,219,924

Additional Assistance:

$13,901,505

Total Lottery Aid:

$50,718,694

Total:

$341,626

Total Increase over FY 2008:

Fiscal Year 2009 Budget

Fiscal Year 2008 Budget

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Read more about the 2007-2008 Formal Legislative Session:

FY 2009 Budget Highlights

Helping to craft our state budget is one of the most important parts of my job. Every year, the legislators across Massachusetts hear from their constituents about important priorities for funding within the district. Citizens and advocacy groups are encouraged to call, write, or come visit the State House to make sure their Representative knows the importance of funding specific local and state-wide projects. From there, legislators work closely with each other to build broad support, negotiate, and assign the limited funds of the state. It is not aways an easy process, especially during a year when the revenue for the state is significantly down.

I am proud of the combined efforts and cooperation of the Cambridge and Somerville delegations in the House and Senate to ensure that our cities received funding for so many of the important programs we rely on. Whether it was affordable housing, nutritional assistance, youth programs, homelessness prevention, adult basic education, early childhood education, family planning, adoption services, elder protective services, urban park funding, or local health care, our delegations stood together to give Cambridge and Somerville a powerful voice at the state level.

The following are just a few of the highlights from our finalized state budget that directly affect the residents of the 26th Middlesex district. All budget items listed below I sponsored or co-sponsored in the FY 2009 budget requests and budget amendments. They are either state-wide programs with a local impact, or local programs specific to Cambridge and Somerville.

Adult Basic Education/ESOL
For contracts and grants to provide and strengthen adult basic education services, including reading, ESOL, writing, and mathematics, to a diverse network of organizations which have demonstrated commitment and effectiveness in the provision of such services. The state-wide funding effects many organizations within Cambridge and Somerville.

Youthbuild
A youth and community development program that addresses core issues facing low-income communities: housing, education, employment, crime prevention, and leadership development.

Horizons For Homeless Children
For Playspace Programs operated by Horizons for Homeless Children. The Playspace Program provides homeless children in Massachusetts with the nurturing, stimulation and opportunities for early education and play to help them learn and grow in healthy ways.

Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP)
MRVP is the state’s rental assistance program, operated by the Department of Housing and Community Development for low-income families and individuals. The MRVP offers tenant-based vouchers that can be used for any approved apartment, and project-based vouchers that are restricted to certain rental units or developments.

Family Planning
For comprehensive family planning services for low income uninsured, underinsured residents of the Commonwealth, including HIV counseling and testing, HPV immunizations, community-based health education, outreach, and follow-up with at-risk populations.

Citizenship for New Americans Program
Gives low-income immigrants the opportunity to learn English and American civics, as well as receive help with the citizenship application process.

Alternative Dispute Resolution
For the continued funding of seventeen alternative dispute resolution centers in Massachusetts, including the Community Dispute Settlement Center, Inc. of 60 Gore St Suite 202, Cambridge and the Somerville Mediation Program of 337 Somerville Ave, Somerville, whose core missions are to offer a community-based forum for dispute resolution through mediation without involving the Commonwealth’s court system.

Computer Centers and the Work Force Program
For the Cambridge Housing Authority Tenant Services to operate 2 Community Computer Centers and the Work Force program. The Work Force program is an award-winning nationally recognized youth development program for adolescents living in the Cambridge Housing Authority’s subsidized housing.

Local Language-Specific Community Assistance
The following programs provide local language-specific assistance, including legal help, adult education, youth programs, and broader advocacy and involvement for immigrant rights.

Concilio Hispano
105 Windsor St, Cambridge
Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS)
92 Union Square, Somerville
1046 Cambridge St., Cambridge
Haitian Coalition
268 Rear Powder House Blvd Apt # 17C, Somerville
Centro Presente
17 Inner Belt Road, Somerville

Support Services to the Children and Families Served by DSS After Adoption
For the Center for Family Connections at 350 Cambridge St, Cambridge, to provide therapeutic and rehabilitative mental health services, targeted research on well-being outcomes and permanency planning for older hard-to-place youth and those aging out of the system.

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Read more about the 2007-2008 Formal Legislative Session:

September Calendar

This monthly calendar represents only a small portion of the many interesting things happening in Cambridge and Somerville. If you would like to add another event, or a link to your own calendar of events, please email my office at toomeyblog@gmail.com.

Other Local Calendars:

September in Cambridge
City Calendar

September in Somerville
City Calendar
The Growing Center

Green Line Extension Calendar

Saturday, September 6 @ 2pm-11pm
Sunday, September 7 @ 8:30am – 11pm
Cosmas and Damian Feast
Warren St, Cambridge map
2008 Feast Schedule of Events
Chronicle Article on the feast.
This huge Italian Feast is a two-day celebration with great food, music, and fun! Bring the whole family, and for more information call Sal DiDomenico at 617-661-1164 or visit
www.cosmas-and-damian.com.

Sunday, September 7 @ 2-5pm

Swiss Beach Day at the Charles

Weeks Footbridge, Cambridge map
http://www.thinkswiss.org/thinkswim/index.html
Celebrate the unveiling of the exhibit “Think Swim, Think Swiss: Bringing Swiss-Style Swimming to the Charles River” with a Swiss Beach Day at the Charles. Find out about Swiss river swimming culture during an afternoon filled with activities and enjoyments. Free and open to the public.

Wednesday, September 10 @ 7-9pm
East Cambridge Planning Team (ECPT) Meeting

East End House, 105 Spring St, Cambridge map
ECPT meets to discuss East Cambridge issues twice every month on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday from 7–9pm.

Thursday, September 11 @ 7pm
Wellington Harrington Neighborhood Association (WHNA) Monthly Meeting

Vin-Fen, 950 Cambridge St, Cambridge map
This month WHNA will be speaking with members of the Cambridge Traffic Department about the traffic on Windsor St, along with an open discussion about the neighborhood.

Friday, September 12 @ 9-10am
Ladies Free Monthly Breakfast

Citywide Senior Center, 806 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge map
60+ Ladies Free Breakfast 9:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m. Food served 9:00-9:30 a.m.
Please call 617.349.6060 as a reservation is required.


Tuesday, September 16 @ 7am – 8pm
State Primary Day
Find your local polling station by entering your address here or by contacting me here.
Don’t forget to vote!

Wednesday, September 24 @ 7-9pm
East Cambridge Planning Team (ECPT) Meeting

East End House, 105 Spring St, Cambridge map
ECPT meets to discuss East Cambridge issues twice every month on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday from 7–9pm.