Category: Beacon Hill

For the Coming Year Livingstone’s Legislative Agenda Considers Both District-wide and National Issues

by Dan Murphy • February 7, 2019 •

While State Rep. Jay Livingstone conceived his legislative agenda for the new year with his constituents firmly in mind, he hopes it will also reverberate on a national level.

“I focused on priorities for the district, as well as thinking about how to continue making Massachusetts a leader, which is more necessary now because of what is happening at the federal level,” he said. “One thing that is under attack nationally is women’s reproductive rights…and we want to make it clear that Massachusetts reaffirms women’s reproductive rights.”

Livingstone and Rep. Pat Haddad have filed legislation called “The ROE Act” to protect women’s decisions regarding their own bodies, which has become the “top priority in the legislative term” for the nonprofits NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts and Planned Parenthood.

According to Planned Parenthood, “The ROE Act eliminates the onerous requirement that forces teens to obtain permission from a parent or judge to access abortion. This process causes teens to delay care or travel outside of the state, and is opposed by the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.”

Another bill that Livingstone filed with Rep. Adrian Madaro, who represents East Boston, aims to raise fees on Uber and Lyft to better align them with the fees levied on ride-sharing services in other states while using the proceeds to improve public transit, as well as bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

 “I’m excited to address improving our transportation system and discouraging use of fossil fuels,” Livingstone said. “I think this bill will help address congestion that is increasing at an exponential rate because of these services and decrease transportation pollution as a result.”

Meanwhile, Livingstone and Rep. Andy Vargas have filed new legislation t to further facilitate early voting in all elections.

“I think we should continue to make voting as easy as possible for people to increase participation,” Livingstone said.

http://beaconhilltimes.com/2019/02/07/for-the-coming-year-livingstones-legislative-agenda-considers-both-district-wide-and-national-issues/

State sees bicyclist unity on protected lanes, but safest path behind museum looks far off

Bicyclists gave feedback to state officials Tuesday on how to engineer safer travel near the Museum of Science, with improvements expected as soon as the spring. But the safest path for people walking or biking – one on the other side of the museum, far removed from car traffic – remains a project without a leader or much hopes of happening anytime soon.

The state called the meeting shortly after bicyclist and grad student Meng Jin, 24, was struck and killed Nov. 9 by a dump truck at Museum Way and Monsignor O’Brien Highway, a jumble of state and city roads near the museum. (“As has been mentioned, this road is so complicated it has three different names,” state Rep. Mike Connolly said of Museum Way, also known as the Charles River Dam Road and state Route 28.) The meeting place was moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s student center from the museum as the number of people expected to attend swelled.

The large room held several dozen state and city officials as well as bicyclists, who stood as the speeches wound down to form a ragged wall of handheld blue fliers saying “protected bike lanes save lives.”

Among them was George Schneeloch, of the Cambridge Bikes! group, who noted that bike lanes protected from traffic by plastic posts or more permanent infrastructure had long ago been called for by city officials. “Where are they?” Schneeloch said of physical lane protections. “We aren’t forgetting about this. It’s on the city’s bike plan, and it’s important to us.” Nathanael Fillmore, of the Cambridge Bicycle Safety group, was similarly upset that the road along where Jin was struck might be marked off from traffic only by paint. He called the lack of protections for a mere 4-foot-wide lane “deeply inadequate.” Flex posts were needed as a bare minimum, he said, and concrete separators were better.

But Andy Paul, a highway design engineer for the state Department of Transportation, assured that come the spring there was a commitment for flex posts for the road “where possible.” That excluded stretches such as around the Craigie Bridge, where infrastructure got more complicated with medians and added lanes.

Before the paint and flex posts will come the posting of speed-tracking radar signs in January and a comprehensive road safety audit, the state said. Speed limit signs reflecting a change to 25 mph have already been posted.

Looking for input

The meeting was called the first of several at which the state would solicit input on improvements, with state highway administrator Jonathan Gulliver assuring participants that “we are really, really looking for your input.” Two options were presented as starting points: one from 2008 that adds bike lanes, removes one of five vehicle lanes and adds a left turn lane into the museum; and an update that is the same except for providing three travel lanes to Leverett Circle in Boston and restricting left turns into the museum. There were stations set up where people could suggest their own infrastructure arrangements, demonstrating how they worked by laying down colored paper standing in for different kinds of lanes on a background representing the road.

The idea of moving a pedestrian and bicycle path to behind the museum was liked by many – David Loutzenheiser, senior transportation planner for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, was walking around the meeting showing a plan with a path immediately behind the museum – but everyone agreed getting it done would be complex in terms of design, funding and leadership.

An archive of interest

There’s been “probably three or four attempts” to promote a path or bridge over the past three decades, said Wayne M. Bouchard, chief operating officer of the museum. The most recent was around five years ago, with a model that incorporated a drawbridge to let boats through the locks and would require staffing.

“Our position [at the museum] is always that we’re very excited about anything that will allow more access to the river and make that part of the river come alive. It’s an underused resource, and a huge opportunity for someone to do something big. The challenge is always who’s going to really run with this project, and how’s it going to be funded?” Bouchard said. “Usually there’s a design and discussion – and then things get quiet for a long, long time until someone else comes up with another interesting design.”

The museum can’t even join in fundraising, he said, because “there’s never been an actual proposal.”

Museum involvement looks like the least complicated part of a project that would likely require long-term cooperation among Cambridge, Boston, the state Department of Conservation & Recreation – if a path goes in directly behind the museum on existing land, anyway – and design and construction funding from the state Legislature.

“What’s missing is an overarching process owner. Is it Boston? Is it Cambridge? Is it DCR? Is it the governor’s office? Who would sit above all of this and pull all of the interested parties and government agencies together, and in a way where there would be a plan that would survive the changing nature of politics over 10 or 20 years? It’s going to take a lot of years to get people lined up,” Bouchard said.

Best-case scenario

In his own conversation with Gulliver about a bridge or separated path, Fillmore said the “best-case scenario was five years in the future” even if all permitting went as fast as possible and funding was in place. “Five years is a really long time for us,” Fillmore said.

State Rep. Jay Livingstone, whose 8th Suffolk District includes parts of Cambridge and Boston,  was “a big fan” of the idea, but said current funding for infrastructure solutions by the museum will pay for paint and flex posts – not for putting up a quarter-mile bridge.

Though plenty of stakeholder input about a pedestrian and bicyclist path would be needed first, “if there’s a transportation bond bill for this term in the Legislature, it’s definitely something I would want to include,” Livingstone said.

Longfellow Bridge’s biker-safety posts to remain in place for now

By Steve Annear GLOBE STAFF DECEMBER 14, 2018

A group of state elected officials sent a letter to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation on Friday demanding a delay in the winter removal of plastic flexposts that separate cyclists from vehicular traffic along both sides of the Longfellow Bridge.

In a letter addressed to MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack, and forwarded to the Globe, state Senators Sal DiDomenico and Joseph Boncore and state Representatives Mike Connolly and Jay Livingstone called for a meeting with staff from the transportation agency “as soon as possible” to address the issue.

“We ask that you delay the removal of any safety measure from the bridge until that discussion concludes,” the letter said.

The request was sent after MassDOT officials announced earlier this week that the safety posts — also referred to as bollards — would come down beginning Sunday to make it safer and more convenient for plow trucks to clear snow off of the bridge during the winter months.

On Friday, after the letter was sent, officials said “given that there are no winter weather events in the immediate forecast,” they would delay the removal schedule.

“MassDOT has made the decision not to remove the bicycle lane flex posts on the Longfellow Bridge this weekend so that it can continue evaluating the stakeholder feedback it has received on this topic,” said Patrick Marvin, a spokesman for the department, in a statement.

The original announcement about removing the posts beginning Sunday was immediately met by harsh criticism from cyclists in the community who regularly travel across the bridge connecting Boston to Cambridge.

Organizers from several bike groups said MassDOT had initially promised in June — when the bridge reopened following years of reconstruction — to keep the flexposts in place for the winter, regardless of snow.

Cycling activists said taking them down will make bike commuters vulnerable to fast-moving vehicles that often break the speed limit going across the bridge.

“We know that about 40 percent of people who ride in warmer months continue to bike through the winter,” Becca Wolfson, executive director of the Boston Cyclists Union, said in a statement this week. “And MassDOT is choosing to make their commutes much more dangerous and uncomfortable with this move.”

MassDOT officials said removing the bollards is necessary in order to “ensure that the vehicular travel lanes, bicycle lanes, gutter line, and drainage structures are all cleared at the same time.”

“Additionally,” Marvin said, “keeping the flexposts in place would restrict plow access to the bicycle lanes and would delay snow removal operations in the bicycle lanes until post-storm cleanup activities.”

In the letter to MassDOT, elected officials said they are “incredibly disappointed” that the department is “reneging on its specific commitment” to keep the flexposts in place through the snowy season.

“We are also disappointed that MassDOT has not announced any other safety measures for the bridge to mitigate in any way its removal of the flex posts,” the letter said. “It appears that the safety concerns that you had expressed earlier this year are not being addressed at all with this change.”

Marvin, the MassDOT spokesman, said in a statement Friday that the department looks “forward to reviewing this letter.”

Cyclists upset with MassDOT’s decision said they are organizing an event next week along the bridge to protest the removal of the flexposts.

According to a Facebook event page called “Human Protected Bike Lane on the Longfellow Bridge,” activists plan to stand in line along the bridge, arm in arm, to send “a strong message to MassDOT that cyclists need protection on our bridges.”

The protest is being hosted by the Boston Cyclists Union, the Cambridge Bicycle Safety group, LivableStreets Alliance, WalkBoston, and the Somerville Bicycle Committee.

MassDOT plans to put the flexposts back in place in the spring.

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/12/14/beacon-hill-officials-call-massdot-delay-removal-bike-lane-posts-longfellow-bridge/CdOY6M8sCBBjI7oVttnAUO/story.html

Esplanade Association Board says ‘Thank You’ to Rep Livingstone

November 9, 2018

By 

The board of the Esplanade Association hosted a reception to thank State Rep. Jay Livingstone for his contributions to the Charles River Esplanade, and to the neighborhoods of Back Bay and Beacon Hill on Thursday, Oct. 25, at the home of T.K. and Lianne Ankner.

At this intimate gathering, Livingstone met with EA supporters and spoke of some of his proudest moments while in the Legislature. He was acknowledged for his contributions to public access to the Charles River Esplanade, including advocacy for the completion of the Fanny Appleton Footbridge, inclusion of Commissioner’s Landing for funding in the Governor’s 2018 Environmental Bond Bill and his active role in planning for the future of the former Lee Pool site.

“As a Friends group to a state park, it is invaluable to have allies in the State House to help secure funding for major improvements to the park or advocate for the removal of impediments to public access,” said Michael Nichols, executive director of the Esplanade Association. “Rep. Livingstone understands the role the Esplanade plays in improving the quality of life for the people in his District and beyond and he has been a strong supporter of the park throughout his years in office. We were thankful for this opportunity to express our gratitude.”

Hill Voters Still Have Early Voting Option

November 2, 2018

By 

Beacon Hill voters can cast their ballots in the Commonwealth’s general election at their assigned polling locations on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, or take advantage of early voting ending on Nov. 2.

Republican Charlie Baker will be seeking a second term as governor in the race against Democratic candidate Jay Gonzales, who served as the state’s secretary of administration and finance under Gov. Deval Patrick from 2009 to 2013, while KarynPolito, Baker’s Republican running mate in the reelection bid, is vying for her second term against Democratic challenger Quentin Palfrey, an attorney who worked as senior advisor for jobs and competitiveness in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy during President Barack Obama’s first term.

In the race for U.S. senator, incumbent Democrat Elizabeth Warren is running for a second term against Geoff Diehl, a Republican who represents the 7th Plymouth District in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and Shiva Ayyadurai, a scientist and entrepreneur running as an Independent.

 

Incumbent Democrat Maura Healy will face GOP challenger Jay McMahon, a Cape Cod attorney, in her bid for second term as attorney general, while Democrat Bill Galvin is seeking his sixth term as secretary of state against Republican Anthony Amore, director of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and Green-Rainbow candidate Juan Sanchez.

In the race for state treasurer. Democrat Deborah Goldberg is running for a second term against Keiko Orral, a Republican who serves in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and currently represents the 12th Bristol District in the General Court, and Green-Rainbow nominee Jamie Guerin.

Incumbent Democrat Suzanne Bump is seeking a third term as state auditor running against Republican Helen Brady, Libertarian Daniel Fishman and Green-Rainbow candidate Edward Stamas.

In the race for Suffolk County district attorney, Democratic candidate Rachael Rollins, former general counsel of the MBTA, will face Independent candidate Michael Maloney, a criminal defense attorney. Rollins has made waves during her campaign by vowing not to prosecute a list of 15 crimes if elected.

Meanwhile, the general election ballot also includes Question 1  – a proposed law that would limit the number of patients who could be assigned to each registered nurse in Massachusetts hospitals and other healthcare facilities; Question 2, which the secretary of the state’s website describes as a “proposed law would create a citizens commission to consider and recommend potential amendments to the [U.S.] Constitution to establish that corporations do not have the same Constitutional rights as human beings and that campaign contributions and expenditures may be regulated’; and Question 3, a “law [that] adds gender identity to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in places of public accommodation, resort or amusement.”

On November 6, Election Day, the polling location for voters for voters in Ward 3, Precinct 6 is Boston City Hall, 1 City Hall Square; for voters in Ward 5, Precinct 3 – the State House, 24 Beacon St.; Ward 5, Precinct 4 – the West End Branch of the Boston Public Library, 151 Cambridge St.; and Ward 5, Precincts 5 and 11 – Hill House Community Center, 127 Mt. Vernon St. All polling locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The state’s early voting period runs from Monday, Oct. 22, to Friday, Nov. 2. A Massachusetts state law passed in 2014 requires that cities and towns offer early voting for the general election every two years. The first early voting period was in 2016, so this year is only the second time the City is offering early voting.  Anyone who is registered to vote in Boston can take advantage of early voting in the city at any of the polling locations.

The main polling place in Boston is City Hall, though there are a number of pop-up locations throughout the city to make it more convenient for people to cast their ballot. This year, the city offered a full weekend of early voting on Saturday, Oct. 27, and Sunday, Oct. 28.

The most successful polling place over the weekend was the Copley branch of the Boston Public Library, bringing in 1339 voters on Saturday. Overall, there have been 15,603 early voters as of Oct. 29, according to the Election Department—and there are still two more days to go.

City Hall remains the main polling place, and will be open for voting from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, but there are also a few remaining pop-up locations. On Thursday, Nov. 1, polls will be open from noon-8 p.m. at: The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center, the ABCD Thelma D. Burns Building, and The Blue Hills Collaborative.

State Rep. Jay Livingstone, who also supports early voting, said he hopes that the initiative makes it easier for people to access their right to vote and subsequently leads to higher voter turnout.

As for the ballot questions, Livingstone expects Question 3 will do “overwhelmingly well.” He added, “I’m pleased that the voters have upheld civil rights granted to transgender people in 2016 with the legislation that I actively supported.”

Also, Livingstone applauded Rachael Rollins as candidate for Suffolk County district attorney, adding that he “look[s] forward to the benefits to our criminal justice system and society as we encourage treatment and rehabilitation over incarceration.”

Livingstone also predicts that Elizabeth Warren and Maura Healy will “blow it out of the water” in their respective races for reelection as state senator and district attorney.

“It’s great working with Elizabeth Warren and Maura Healy, and I’m pleased that voters are returning them to office,” Livingstone said. “I’m grateful for people’s continued faith in me to serve them in the House of Representatives, and I look forward to this new term.”

Kenzie Bok, chair of the Boston Ward 5 Democratic Committee, also expects that Warren will handily win her bid for a new term while adding that she is encouraged by Jay Gonzales’ and Quentin Palfrey’s hard work on the campaign trail.

“Jay Gonzales and Quentin Palfrey are really doing a great job raising important issues and challenges in Massachusetts and… by not giving Charlie Baker a free pass,” Bok s aid. “The overall direction that the Republican party is taking the county in is disturbing and worrisome… so we still hope on Tuesday, the people will send [Baker] a message.”

Bok said the Ward 5 Dems are pleased with the return of early voting, which they hope will be available in all elections going forward.

“As far as increasing participation, early voting really moves the needle forward the most when combined with same-day registration, so that is hopefully something we can get in next election cycle,” Bok added.

Bok is also encouraged by the many people in their 20s and 30s who were engaged politically for the first time during this election, volunteering for campaigns and taking an active part in the process.

“It’s exciting…and this activation will matter a lot for future elections,” Bok said.