Around the District
There has been a lot of activity around infrastructure projects in the district recently, with the construction season coming to an end, and funds being disbursed from grant programs. This summer, Shirley celebrated the opening of the new Main Street Bridge with a ribbon cutting. I was happy to assist the town in securing MassWorks funding for the project, which will ensure that the bridge over the Catacoonamaug Brook is safe for drivers and pedestrians alike.
MassDOT brokeground in Lunenburg in September on the Summer Street Revitalization Project to reconstruct a 1.6 mile stretch of Summer Street and North Street. The redesigned length of road will include a bicycle lane, sidewalks, and new pavement. This is one of the first projects I started advocating for as a newly elected legislator in 2009, and while it took nearly a decade to secure the funding, I’m glad construction is finally beginning.
Within a few days of hearing concerns about the condition of the platform at the Ayer Commuter Rail stop, Senator Jamie Eldridge and I were on the ground with town officials to take a look for ourselves on October 22. We reached out to MassDOT,and within days, we were able to get them to clean up the platform area,install a fence, and repaint the entrance.
I had a conference call with Shirley officials, the MBTA, and Senator Eldridge about the feasibility of paving the parking spaces at the Shirley Commuter Rail stop.Improving parking at both the Shirley and Ayer stations is important to increase ridership and convenience for commuters. Also in Shirley, I toured the War Memorial Building with trustees Scott Bulger and Norma Albert. The War Memorial Building houses American Legion Post 183, and is a popular gathering spot for veterans in the area. However, the building is more than 80 years old, and not handicapped-accessible. We discussed possible sources of funding to add ramps and an elevator, and make other repairs to the building.
This fall, it was announced that Acton was awarded a $75,000 grant from the MassDOT Community Transit Grant Program to fund dispatch services for the shuttle for seniors and residents with disabilities in Acton, Boxborough, Littleton, and Maynard. The transportation options offered in Acton by CrossTown Connect have become a model for transportation management associations across the state, and I’m proud to be part of the local delegation that advocated for this funding.
Events in Acton
On August 10, I was in Acton for a ribbon-cutting for the Acton and Maynard section of the Assabet River Rail Trail (ARRT). Construction of the AART began nearly 15 years ago in Marlborough, and it has been amazing to watch its expansion northward. Thanks to the determination of local advocates and the AART organization, Acton families and commuters will now be able to enjoy the 12-mile-long trail.
Later in the summer, I attended a meeting of the Acton Manufacturing Workforce with town officials, educators from local technical schools, and employers. We discussed ways to make careers in manufacturing more appealing to young people so employers can find workers to fill positions at their companies.
Even though I didn’t have an opponent on the ballot, I participated in the Acton Area League of Women Voters’ candidates forum, because I think it’s important to always be accountable to my constituents. I answered several voter-submitted questions about public records reform, the need for more women in public office, and education funding. It was great to be able to provide direct answers to voters’ questions and talk about my legislative priorities and record of accomplishments.
I also sponsored and stopped by the October 7 Acton-Boxborough Farmers Market to chat with constituents, attended the ribbon cutting for the new VNA Care location, and toured the Associated Environmental Systems office to learn more about their business. On October 12, I celebrated the installation of Rabbi Mike Rothbaum as the leader of Congregation Beth Elohim at a ceremony at the synagogue.
On October 15, I spoke at a forum in Acton on the legislative process and how to be an effective advocate. The event, organized by Chinese-American constituents, was similar to one I participated in in June. It was an excellent opportunity to discuss best practices for ensuring that your voice is heard with your legislators on Beacon Hill.
When Senator Eldridge and I attended the October 17 Community Supper in Acton, we recognized Joan Appleton for her decades of service to the community. Since 1985, Joan has volunteered at the supper as a manager, server, and cook. In her years there, she helped train hundreds of volunteers and served tens of thousands of meals.
As a member of the Manufacturing Caucus, every year, I nominate a manufacturing business to be the district’s “Manufacturer of the Year”. For 2018, I nominated Burkart & Phelan, Inc., a company that has been manufacturing instruments in Massachusetts for decades. I was glad company founder and Harvard constituent Lillian Burkart was able to come to the State House to accept the award and a citation from the House of Representatives.
Women In Government Conference
In October, I attended the Women In Government annual meeting and health care summit in Washington, DC. I’ve been a member of this nonpartisan organization for years,and I joined their Board of Directors in 2017. At the health care summit, I moderated two panels, including one on public policy solutions for addressing the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
At the State House
After School Program Funding Report
The Afterschool and Out-of-School Time (ASOST) Coordinating Council released its final report on October 23. Years of research and study found that prolonged underfunding has left too many Massachusetts children without access to the afterschool and summer learning programs that would help them reach their fullest potential. The Council recommended establishing new funding sources to increase investment in programs and staff, including tapping into tax revenue from the sale of recreational cannabis. As the House Co-Chair of the Council since it was established in2009, I’m proud of our work, and I hope it will serve as a foundation for supporting afterschool programming going forward.
Supplemental Budget Supports Schools, Infrastructure
A FY19 supplemental budget was signed into law in October. After depositing $240 million in the Stabilization Fund, pushing it past $2 billion, the $540 million spending bill shores up underfunded accounts from last year, and invests $42 million in grant programs for school security and youth counseling. It also invests $50 million in local roads and bridges, and sets aside $10 million for the recovery efforts from the gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley.
I’m thankful and humbled to have been re-elected to another term in the House of Representatives by my constituents. My staff and I are diligently preparing for the 191st Legislative Session. I’m looking forward to hitting the ground running as I continue to advocate for the district and pursue thoughtful, data-driven policy solutions that will help make Massachusetts a better place to live and work.
Please reach out to my office at Jennifer.Benson@MAHouse.gov or 617-722-2140 for help with a constituent matter, or to let me know what your legislative and budget priorities are for 2019.