Category: Featured

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

Worsening BU Bridge, rotary traffic causes headaches in Cambridgeport

By Diane McLaughlin / Cambridge@wickedlocal.com

Since August, traffic on the Boston University Bridge has worsened, leading to congestion in the Cambridge rotary, adjacent intersection and Cambridgeport streets. Because of a network of one-way streets, many residents say they have found themselves trapped in the neighborhood.

“I’m just trying to get out of my street,” said Nancy Wei, a Rockingham Street resident.

City and state officials have met twice this fall with the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association (CNA) to address traffic problems. While some issues have been identified, neighbors at the most recent meeting stressed the need for further improvements.

Multiple agencies involved

More than 70 residents have emailed complaints to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation [MassDOT] since the completion of the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge project in August, according to CNA members Walter McDonald and Carol O’Hare, who have reviewed the correspondence.

″[Traffic has] never been great in anyone’s memory, but it seems to be worse starting after the summer 2018,” said Joe Barr, director of the city of Cambridge’s Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department.

Barr was one of several city and state officials who met with the CNA in September and again on Nov. 1 to address residents’ concerns. More than 40 people attended the latest meeting at the LBJ Apartments.

Along with the BU Bridge, neighbors are concerned about the lack of signs, traffic lights and lane markers for the rotary; drivers from Waverly Street who block the intersection; and a tree on Granite Street affecting cars approaching the intersection.

State Rep. Jay Livingstone, D-Boston, who represents Cambridgeport, told the CNA that multiple government agencies have jurisdiction over the areas experiencing these problems. These include: MassDOT, which operates the BU Bridge; city of Boston, which manages the traffic lights at the end of the bridge on Commonwealth Avenue; the state Department of Conservation and Recreation [DCR], which controls the rotary and traffic signals in Cambridge before the bridge; and the city of Cambridge, which manages the roads adjacent to the rotary – Brookline, Granite and Waverly streets.

“When there are multiple agencies that butt up against each other, like here, you often have all of the agencies running away,” Livingstone said. “But here … every agency is really invested in working together in trying to solve the problem.”

Traffic backup from BU Bridge

A key issue affecting Cambridgeport is the traffic backup on the BU Bridge, often extending around the rotary and blocking the intersection at Granite, Brookline and Waverly streets.

During the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge project, lane adjustments were made to the BU Bridge. Now, most of the road from Cambridge to Boston is a single lane, with two lanes in the other direction.

Hamilton Street resident Stephen Kaiser said extending the single lane has made it more difficult for cars to access the adjacent lanes at Commonwealth Avenue, causing traffic to stretch into Cambridge.

Neil Boudreau, a traffic engineer with MassDOT, has worked since September to identify causes for the increased traffic congestion. He said adjusting the lanes again would cause more gridlock.

One problem on the BU Bridge has already been identified. In speaking with city of Boston officials, Boudreau learned that a traffic detection system was damaged during the bridge project. The system, which recognizes cars waiting at the traffic light, was fixed by the city of Boston Oct. 29, Boudreau said. He did not yet know the impact on bridge traffic.

The rotary and intersection

Another problem involves the rotary itself. The cars backed up into the intersection of Brookline, Granite and Waverly streets also affect drivers who want to head away from the bridge.

Wei, the Rockingham Street resident, said with the intersection blocked, cars cannot turn left from Granite Street onto Brookline Street, causing the Granite Street traffic to back up.

The network of one-way streets means Granite Street is the only way out for some neighbors. Several people at the CNA meeting said cars drive the wrong way on one-way streets to avoid the congestion.

Neighbors would like to see lane markings, signs and traffic lights for cars entering the rotary from Memorial Drive. For traffic approaching the rotary from Waverly Street, neighbors suggested signs advising cars not to block the intersection, with fines for offending drivers.

DCR could look at short-term solutions, including painting lines and putting up signs, Livingstone said. Long-term solutions for the rotary will be included in the third phase of DCR’s Memorial Drive project.

Tree preservation leads to reduced space

The blocked intersection is not the only problem affecting Granite Street.

To preserve a tree affecting sidewalk accessibility, the city of Cambridge routed the sidewalk into the street near the intersection, reducing the lane available for cars taking a right toward the rotary and contributing to congestion on Granite Street.

As a temporary solution, seven parking spaces on Granite Street have been eliminated starting Oct. 29, Barr said, allowing drivers to start lining up sooner for the left turn onto Brookline Street.

Barr said the city would continue to look at other solutions to address the intersection and surrounding streets.

Leaders call for ‘fair’ hotel strike settlement

Brooks Sutherland Tuesday, October 30, 2018

City leaders joined striking hotel workers  outside the Ritz-Carlton yesterday to urge Marriott to strike a “fair” settlement with its union employees.

Five city councilors and state Rep. Jay Livingstone hand-delivered a letter addressed to Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson that was signed by 30 local elected leaders. The letter, urging the CEO to reach a “fair compromise” with UNITE HERE Local 26 that would end the strike, read: “We write to express our concern with the ongoing strike of Marriott hotel workers in Boston and to voice support for our constituents’ desire to provide for themselves and their families with fair earnings and benefits from one job.”

“This is a matter of respect and dignity,” At-Large Councilor Ayanna Pressley told the Herald. “And the stabilization of their families. There’s nothing charitable about this, this is what they deserve.”

Pressley joined fellow councilors Michelle Wu, Tim McCarthy, Kim Janey and Ed Flynn. Dozens of striking workers marched up and down the front sidewalk of the hotel, banging on buckets, blowing whistles and chanting emphatically.

“We’re demanding that they end the strike and come back with a contract that works for these workers and their families,” Flynn said. “I think it’s very important to let our workers know that we’re here to make sure that we’ll always fight for them. To make sure they’re treated fairly.”

Mei Leung, a housekeeper at the Sheraton put on a poncho and spent the day fighting for what she says, “is the right thing to do.”

“We’ve been negotiating for a long time, and they don’t accept our requests,” she said. “I’m 71 years old and still have to work.”

Last week, Wu filed an ordinance that would attempt to give hourly workers more protection as it pertains to predictable, consistent scheduling, an issue raised throughout the strike.

“Overall, we are at a point in our country’s economy and politics, where more and more workers are part-time, without benefits, and trying to balance multiple jobs in order to make everything work,” Wu said. “And when you introduce the ability of corporations and companies to change schedules at the last second, that really throws everything up into the air.”

Marriott has said it does not conduct negotiations in the press.

http://www.bostonherald.com/business/business_markets/2018/10/leaders_call_for_fair_hotel_strike_settlement

Endorsements for Re-Election on November 6, 2018

I am pleased to announce that the following organizations have endorsed my candidacy for re-election:

Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund

Sierra Club of Massachusetts

Environmental League of Massachusetts

Massachusetts Peace Action

SEIU, Local 509

Carmen’s Union, Local 589

Iron Workers, Local 7

Massachusetts & Northern New England Laborers’ District Council

Boston Ward 5 Democratic Committee

Boston Ward 4 Democratic Committee

Mom’s Demand Action Candidate of Distinction (this organization does not endorse)

MBTA Update: Touring the New Orange Line Cars

Earlier this week, I was able to see the benefits realized from my first vote.  My first vote in the legislature increased the gas tax by 6 cents and directed the money to the transportation fund.  Governor Patrick, as anticipated, immediately used the money to sign contracts to purchase new orange and red line trains (as well as green line trains and buses).  The current administration continued this program, which is finally bearing fruit.

I toured one of the first new orange line trains that has been delivered to the MBTA.  The MBTA has received six phototypes that it is currently testing.  The inside of the train is pictured.  (The bags are filled with sand to represent the weight of people for testing.)  The MBTA currently is on pace to start adding the new trains to its fleet in January 2019.  In December 2018, it will start receiving four new trains a month, which it will test and, if they pass, add to the fleet as well.  The pace will continue until it received 150 new orange line trains.

Currently, the orange line runs 96 cars each morning and night. The MBTA hopes in the near term to increase that to between 102-108 with the addition of the new cars. Over time, as the entire fleet is replaced, the MBTA will also replace the signaling system for the trains. The new signaling system will allow it to run more trains at one time, maybe as many as 120 at a time. Each train can hold 1500 passengers, which is the same as the current trains, so additional trains are the way we will add capacity.

The MBTA anticipates delivery of the first red line trains next April and the introduction of them to the fleet by November 2019. The MBTA has a similar plan to add four new trains each month until the fleet is all new. The red line trains will have more capacity than the current ones (they are larger). In addition, the MBTA is purchasing new signaling systems for the red line to allow more trains to run at a time. Again, this will greatly increase the capacity of the red line.

The MBTA also required the manufacturer to use the same components for the red and orange line trains. This will help in the future with repairs. Currently, there is one type of orange line train and several models of red line trains – each differs from each other as well as from the orange line. The MBTA needs to hand-make many replacement components because it cannot place large enough orders for anyone to manufacture them as the parts are specialized for the different types of trains it has. Having two fleets will the same parts will help to avoid this situation in the future.

It is great to finally start to see the results I anticipated when I took this vote so many years ago.