As I begin my eighth year as State Representative serving South Boston and Dorchester, I’m proud of our accomplishments so far this session and excited about the work ahead in 2018. We had a number of successes in 2017 in several key areas, including education, criminal justice reform, the environment, transportation, public safety, and economic equality. These are issues that I hear about daily from folks across the City and the Commonwealth:
Every day, I hear from constituents that rising costs of housing are forcing seniors and working families out of the city, threatening the character of our neighborhoods, and driving one of the worst income inequality gaps in the nation. Since 2011, I have worked with the city to create housing that accommodates the growing demand for low to middle income residents and attempts to stabilize costs for Bostonians.
Recently, the House passed a $1.7 billion Housing Bond Bill reaffirming our commitment to low and moderate income housing across the Commonwealth. It includes $600 million for Public Housing Renovation to help update our existing affordable units, $150 million for a Housing Stabilization / Investment Fund, $60 million for a Home Modification Loan Program, $55 million to support integrated housing for persons with disabilities, and a Low Income Housing Tax Credit. I am also proud to say we passed a bill to allow elderly residents of Boston to stay in their homes by deferring property taxes until the sale of the property. But more needs to be done in our communities to bring down costs. I will continue to advocate for development of affordable housing in our neighborhoods that will allow families, workers, veterans, and seniors to be able to afford to continue living in their communities with dignity.
As South Boston and its waterfront continues its economic boom, we have been taking important steps to relieve traffic congestion and improve service and access for residents who rely on public transit to get to and from work every day. Since securing $25 million in the 2014 Transportation Bond Bill to implement the South Boston Waterfront Sustainable Transportation Plan, we have pushed for upgrades at the City Point Bus Terminal to maximize efficiencies, added more MBTA buses and drivers to reduce overcrowding on the Number 7 and Number 9 routes, and are looking at ways to consolidate bus stops to improve accessibility and reduce overcrowding.
We’ve begun work on a Bus Rapid Transit pilot initiative to bring faster, better bus service to and from Dudley Station for residents to access the jobs centers on the South Boston Waterfront. I have also been strongly advocating to bring rail service connecting the Fairmount Corridor to the South Boston Waterfront because connecting Boston’s neighborhoods to rapidly growing economic centers is not only a matter of alleviating traffic congestion, but one of access, opportunity, and fairness for all City residents.
Look no further than our most recent storm for evidence that climate change is rapidly affecting the way we must think about development, transportation, and resiliency in our City. I believe environmental sustainability is a cornerstone of all good public policy, and that’s why I have co-sponsored a number of bills which would protect the environment, incentivize renewable energy usage, and establish Massachusetts as the national leader in energy efficiency information for home buyers. We have been exploring ways to utilize ship-to-shore power along the Boston Waterfront to use more clean energy while also increasing the economic impact of the cruise industry. I have also been a staunch advocate for protection of public access to greenspace and the waterfront. Whether by improved accessibility on the Harbor Walk, or by public ownership of parks and open space in our neighborhoods, all residents deserve to have access to quality green and open space.
Criminal Justice Reform:
My House colleagues and I have taken up one of the defining issues of our time: reforming our criminal justice system to make it more fair, just, and equitable for all. We are looking at the elimination of mandatory sentences for non-violent, first time drug offenses so that our communities can deal with the impacts of substance abuse with a compassionate, constructive lens. We are debating ways for juveniles to expunge or seal their records so that once they have served their sentence for youthful indiscretions, they can move past their mistakes and find a productive path. We are working on CORI reform because everyone deserves to have a second chance at getting a job, bettering themselves, and staying out of the cycles of crime and poverty that have afflicted our neighborhoods for too long. These reforms are being carefully debated to ensure that we are creating pathways for nonviolent and youthful offenders while continuing to crackdown on career criminals and traffickers that drive most of the violence and large scale criminal activity in our communities.
It is no secret that Boston is going through an unprecedented period of economic growth, but not all Bostonians are sharing in that success. As Vice-Chair of the Economic Development Committee, my staff and I are actively crafting economic stimulus legislation to ensure that economic mobility and opportunity are accessible to every resident of Boston. We have toured life sciences infrastructure across the state, attended hearings, and researched ways to incentivize this important industry. We have worked with local job training centers to create connections to good employers, serving as a conduit for the community. We are constantly working to not only create good jobs, but to make them accessible to all residents. Read more about our efforts to increase access to economic mobility and opportunity.
Moving Massachusetts Forward:
-We had a major legislative victory in 2017 by passing the LOOK bill, allowing for more inclusive language learning methods to ensure that all children in Massachusetts, including English Language Learners, have the opportunity to learn and grow alongside their peers.
–We passed the ACCESS bill, legislation ensuring women in Massachusetts continue to have access to co-pay free contraception, reaffirming our commitment to women’s rights.
-We are pushing back on predatory practices against our seniors, including the abrupt closing of Harborlights, a critical nursing facility service to seniors and families in our community and across the region.
–We are standing up to bigotry and hate, signing onto a Joint Resolution in support of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for our foreign-born neighbors who enrich our communities and contribute to our local and regional economies.
My wife and I have also just welcomed our first child, Justine Liff Collins, to the world. We are overjoyed to begin raising our family, and now more than ever I am reminded of the importance of our work. While I am proud of the success we have achieved, there is still much work to do, from economic opportunity and equality, to environmental justice, quality education for every child, to simply making your daily commute a little better. I look forward to 2018 and finding more ways to improve the quality of life for all Massachusetts residents.
Thank you for your continued support.