Category Archives: Massachusetts

How to vote by mail in Massachusetts

Motley tshirtI believe that voting is a civic responsibility incumbent upon all of us. However, voting during a pandemic can be tricky so I apprerciate that Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill into law earlier this month, allowing all registered voters in Massachusetts to vote by mail in the primary and general elections this fall.

How to vote by mail in Massachusetts

Voting by mail in Massachusetts is easy, requiring you to do the following: 

1 – Fill out the 2020 Vote By Mail application

2 – Send the ballot back via postal delivery, email or fax. For the Sept. 1 State Primary, your application must arrive at your local election office by Aug. 26 and for the national election on Nov. 3 it must arrive by Oct. 28.

Note: Your signature must be visible and everything legible and complete to ensure your ballot is not disqualified.

MAILING ADDRESS:
Election Department
One City Hall Square
Room 241
Boston, MA 02201

EMAIL: absenteevoter@boston.gov

FAX: (617) 635-4483

vote, elections, midterm elections, gay votemassachusetts online voter registration

If you are unsure if you are registered or would like to register, you can easily do this online at Massachusetts Online Voter Registration System.

– HELP SPREAD THE WORD –

Support the arts community with H.4879

cultcha, ahts, ICA, institute of contemporary Art, MFA, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, bosartsContact your state rep about h.4879 today

Massachusetts legislature is currently considering an important bill that will help provide relief for the arts and culture sector in Massachusetts, which includes organizations large and small that enrich our life and need your legislators support to provide funding for artists, local museums as well as students to gain access and experiences from our local arts and cultural organizations.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Write or call your legislators at the State House today to voice your support for H.4879, An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth.

Use this form to quickly and easily contact your representatives on Beacon Hill

The House expects to pass this bill by midnight, so your representative needs to hear from you ASAP. In most cases, the more sponsors an amendment has, the better its chances are for adoption.

Learn more about H.4879

Massachusetts continues to be a leader in public education: Why I think that matters

In an age where many feel like access to a  quality education is only available to the wealthiest it isn’t really surpirsing that many have developed a distrust of our education system.  Over the past 20 years we’ve seen this distrust extend to people who are highly educated and articulate. So perhaps I’m bucking the trend here bragging about Massachusetts recent rankings in US News & World Report of the best high schools in the nation; half of Massachusetts’ high schools are in the top quarter of the national rankings — the highest proportion of any state.

I recognize that there are significant disparities in Massachusetts public education system; those raised in affluent communities absolutely have advantages children in poorer communities do not. However, regardless of party affiliation in this state, there is a genuine commitment to investing in education and it is that consensus that I think helps drives Massachusetts ranking year after year. It is my hope that the “war on education” in our politics and society will stop. Bravo Massachusetts on continuing to excel and your commitment to public education. There is definitely room to improve and addressing inequality in our system ranks fairly high on that list, but kudos for being a leader here.

Massachusetts RMV recognizes “Gender X”

non binary gender option in MassachusettsMassachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles now provides drivers with a third gender option to choose from. The option, “X,” is available for people to select who don’t identify as male or female.

This past Tuesday, during Transgender Awareness Week, Massachusetts state registry of motor vehicles (RMV) started offering residents a non-binary gender designation option for their driver’s licenses and ID cards. This was done as part of a system upgrade at the RMV and makes Massachusetts one of approximately a dozen states in the United States to recognize a third, non binary gender.

Almost on cue Massachusetts GOP Chairman Jim Lyons called this insane and railed against the change. I can appreciate there are people who’s heads spin at the idea of non-binary, but I don’t understand the need to make sure their point of view supersedes others or how decisions like this by the State of Massachusetts impact Mr. Lyons and those who agree with him. It seems like the same failed logic that was applied to opposing same sex marriages.

15 Years ago Massachusetts made history (again)

Gay marriage, same-sex marriage15 Years ago today Massachusetts became the first state in the United States to legalize same sex marriage. Conservatives said Mass. was making a mockery of marriage, yet this state still has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country.

To all those who helped bring about this change here in Massachusetts and elsewhere, congratulations. When Massachusetts legalized same sex marriage they set in motion and made possible the landmark Supreme Court case, Obergefell v Hodges. Make no mistake, same sex marriage would eventually have become legal even if , but I’m particularly proud of the role my home state played in forcing the issue. Below I’ve included an excerpt from that historic ruling, majority opinion that was written by State Supreme Court Justice, Margaret Marshall, which took place the year before. It still moves me today to read it.

Congratulations to all those couples celebrating their 15th anniversary.

Mass DOT Public Hearing for the North South Rail Link project this week

On Monday, December 10th, Massachusetts Dept of Transportation will hold a public hearing on the North South Rail Link, sharing public comments received, the draft report and cost estimation. Long-time residents of Boston may recall, linking both North and South Station was initially part of the “Big Dig” but was later scrapped after poor management of the project led to cost overruns and ridiculous delays.

Mass DOT Public Hearing: North South Rail Link project
Monday, December 10th 5PM – 8PM
10 Park Plaza, 2nd Floor, Conference Rooms 2 & 3

For those unfamiliar with the project, the North South Rail Link (NSRL) project would connect the  MBTA commuter rail networks (South Station and North Station) into one regional system through the construction and operation of a rail tunnel through Downtown Boston. This tunnel would enable through-running of MBTA Commuter Rail and Amtrak trains, increasing system coverage, capacity, and ridership.

Boston transit, Boston Commuter Rail, Massachusetts Bus and Transportation Authority

North South Rail Link Feasibility Reassessment Draft Final Report

I would like to see any project that links these two commuter hubs with a direct link via the MBTA subway system as well, providing a better and more direct connection for people who use the subway.

If interested, you can download and read the entire draft final report here.

Massachusetts has 2nd highest share of population that identifies as LGBTQ

Late last month a new report entitled, Equality and Equity Advancing the LGBT Community in Massachusetts, was released by The Boston Foundation. The report shines a bright light on the size of and the challenges faced by the LGBT community in Massachusetts.

A jaw-dropping 16% of 18- to 24-year olds in Massachusetts identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or something else, according to researchers from Boston Indicators, part of the Boston Foundation and the Fenway Institute, part of  Fenway Health. The LGBT community composes roughly 5% of the state’s population overall, making the commonwealth the “second gayest” state in the country behind Vermont, according to the report.

Source: Gallup Daily Tracking Survey. The Williams Institute. UCLA.

Despite being a leader in gay rights for more than four decades, LGBTQ youth still face some daunting hurdles. The report points out that nearly half of lesbian, gay or bisexual youth in our state have considered suicide as compared to 11% of their non-LGB peers. The report delves into much more detail about the strides we’ve made and the challenges that remain. Read the full report here, Equality and Equity Advancing the LGBT Community in Massachusetts.

LGBTQ curriculum to be added to MA schools

Considering the current political climate in the US it was interesting to see that earlier this week it was announced that Massachusetts schools will be able to try a new curriculum with LGBTQ-themed history, English and health this fall.

The curriculum, developed by a team of teachers with Massachusetts Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students and the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth, will be released this summer, and is expected to feature lessons on the 1969 Stonewall Riots and writings by gay and lesbian authors. It will also feature lessons like how Nick Carraway’s love for Jay Gatsby may have influenced themes in “The Great Gatsby.”

LGBT history

Allen Ginsberg on the left was was an American poet, philosopher, and writer. He is considered to be one of the leading figures of both the Beat Generation

The units are optional and the decisions of what will be included will be made at the local level. In case you missed it you can read the full article about this interesting change (for the better IMHO) in the Boston Herald article

Growth projections could pose challenges for metro Boston

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) recently released a report to help the region and surrounding communities plan for the future, but since the future cannot be predicted with certainty they have two different scenarios based on different assumptions. One projection, called the “Status Quo” assumes a continuation of current trends and a second projection called “Stronger Region” explores how changing trends could result in a higher population growth, more demand for housing and a substantially larger workforce. The projections provide a window into what the region’s future might look like.

Massachusetts population shifts, METROPOLITAN AREA PLANNING COUNCIL

Click on maps to enlarge || Source: MAPC Analysis

Above is a side-by-side comparison of projected population changes under both scenarios. However, Boston’s population has increased by nearly 50,000 people (in 2010 the city’s population was 618,000 and in 2016 it increased to approximately 667,137) so perhaps their projections need to be revised. Under the “Stronger Region” projection it suggests the area could gain 90k+ by 2030 but the current trajectory suggests that could be achieved by 2023; although this doesn’t take into account a general population drain that may be happening in surrounding communities. Key findings include the following:

  • Slow growth is in store if the region keeps losing population to other states. Therefore attracting more young people is critical to growing the region’s
    economy.
  • New housing demand will outpace population growth due to declining household size. Many signs point to the resurgence of urban
    communities.
  • Under either scenario, the number of school-age children in the region and most municipalities peaked in 2000 and is likely to decline over the coming decades.

According to US Census data, the city of Boston had a population of 618,000 people in 2010, that increased to approximately 667,137 in 2016. The Greater Boston area is home to an estimated 4.7 million, making it the 10th largest metropolitan area in the United States.

If you’d like to read the executive summary or full report shared by MAPC visit their website, www.mapc.org/learn/projections.

Changes to Massachusetts marijuana law

legalize potChanges were recently made to Massachusetts recreational marijuana bill which was voted into law last November through a ballot initiative that was years in the making. WBUR shared some key points that those interested in keeping marijuana safe and legal in the state should know.

1 – The law calls for marijuana to have a maximum tax rate of 20 percent, up from a maximum 12 percent rate outlined in the voter-passed ballot question. While this is more than the ballot initiative outlined it is in line with other states that are selling marijuana for recreational use.

2 – The Cannabis Control Commission was originally outlined as a three-person panel, with its members all appointed by the state treasurer. Now, it’s five members, and the governor and the attorney general have appointment authority as well. The three officials have to select these five commissioners by Sept. 1st.

3 – The compromise bill makes no changes to the existing law governing the home cultivation of cannabis plants for personal use. Every adult over 21 can grow up to six plants in their home, with a maximum of 12 plants per household.

4 – Although marijuana has been legal for adults in Massachusetts since December, there are no retail establishments selling recreational pot. That changes July 1, 2018, when shops can open.

5 – Perhaps the most controversial change is changes to the process by which a city or town in Massachusetts can ban forthcoming retail marijuana shops. The original law said the decision rested with an individual community’s voters, but this bill says if your municipality voted for marijuana on November’s ballot measure, a question of banning or limiting pot businesses has to be put to a voter referendum. If your town or city voted against marijuana, then the decision rests with the local governing authority, like a city council or board of selectmen.

For the record more than 60% of voters in Boston and approximately 70% of voters in Cambridge and Somerville voted to legalize marijuana so this issue hopefully won’t be held up by our Mayor or selectmen.

You can read the WBUR article in full here.

Memorial Day in Massachusetts

Boston CommonAt the end of each May, just days before Memorial Day, volunteers help place 37,000 flags on the Boston Common as a tribute to those who served our country in arms but did not return home.

The temporary installation is a poignant reminder of the sacrifice many have made and for me it also reaffirms my feeling that war and aggression is too often America’s course of action.

US News & World Report ranks Mass. best state in U.S.

March 2017Recently I wrote about the survey findings from Boston Consulting Group, that showed Massachusetts taking the top spot in their “well being” study. They cited a healthy population that has near universal healthcare insurance, education and an incredibly robust and balanced economy as reasons for the top ranking.

Just two weeks later U.S. News and World Report awarded Massachusetts its top honor, citing the state’s continuing academic achievement, innovative health care system, and strong economy in its ‘Best States’ ranking – sound familiar?massachusetts The US News & World report evaluates all fifty states across seven categories: health care, education, opportunity, economy, infrastructure, crime and corrections, and government. Massachusetts ranked No. 1 in education and No. 2 in healthcare, and placed within the top ten for economy and crime and corrections.  There are many surveys that evaluate quality of life and economic opportunity.  When you start seeing different surveys finding the same thing over and over again it becomes a trend. 

Where did your state rank? Check out the listing of all fifty states here.

Massachusetts ranked 1st in well being study

massachusettsGDP alone does not offer a complete picture of a country’s performance. The well-being of citizens is an important measure too. With that in mind, the professional services firm, BCG, ranked each of the 50 states, and the New England region out performed the rest of the country. Three of the top five states come from New England with Massachusetts achieving the best overall rating followed by New Hampshire (second best) and Vermont (fourth best).

Massachusetts, the number one state overall, was ranked 1st in investments, 11th in economics, and 19th in sustainability, but the state does have challenges. The report cited: an aging population, high cost of living and a school achievement gap between white and black students as areas to focus on for improvement.

In addition to the state’s investments, Massachusetts received high marks for:

Health: The state has the best access to primary care; lowest infant mortality rate in the nation; the third lowest obesity rate; and fifth highest life-expectancy.

Education: MA ranked high in education, pre-school enrollment and has the highest proportion of people with college degrees in the country.

Economics: MA ranked 11th overall, with the third-highest GDP per capita; third-lowest poverty rate among the most populous states; and low unemployment, which currently stands at 2.8% (nationally the rate is 4.8%).

You can read more about this from the article in The Boston Globe here.

Bloomberg ranks Massachusetts most innovative (again)

massachusettsThe Bloomberg US Innovation Index ranked Massachusetts (again) as the most innovative state in the nation. With California (again) coming in second.

Bloomberg scores each state on a 0-100 scale across six equally weighted metrics: R&D intensity; productivity; high-tech density; concentration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) employment; science and engineering degree holders; and patent activity.  Massachusetts has enjoyed a faster recovery from the last recession than most states and now boasts 2.9% unemployment rate, leaving it tied for second-best in the country – as compared to the 4.6%  national average.

While most may look to or think of Silicon Valley when it comes to innovation because of companies like Apple and Google, Bloomberg index is measured by the number of companies rather than market capital, rewarding Massachusetts for its breadth over California’s tech giants. This point impresses me even more because when you compare the relative size of both states.

General Electric Co.’s announcement earlier this year that it would move its headquarters to Boston amid rancor over tax increases in Connecticut helps to illustrate how Massachusetts widened its lead.

For more information you can read the full article in The Boston Globe here.

Massachusetts will be home to nation’s largest medical marijuana facility

Yes on 4, legalize pot in MassachusettsThis past November Massachusetts residents voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Earlier this month Denver-based medical marijuana facility developer AmeriCann announced plans to build America’s largest medical marijuana facility in the country in Freetown, Massachusetts, which when completed will be an astonishing 1 million square feet.

The CEO of AmeriCann, Tim Keogh said he wants to make the Massachusetts Medical Cannibis Center “the place in the northeast U.S. for the creation of a wide variety of exciting new advanced products for medical cannabis patients.”

AmeriCann

Image from Campanelli Construction

Despite the ongoing protestations of our Governor, Boston’s Mayor and our State A.G., economic opportunity appears to be the result of the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana. It would be great if marijuana medical research could be done here. I would think it would benefit from the world class medical research community that already calls Massachusetts home.

I’m sure Freetown and the surrounding communities will also benefit tremendously from the construction jobs this will create, the full time jobs the center will employ and the tax revenue it will generate for the town and state.  You can read the full article in the Boston Business Journal here.