Category Archives: Massachusetts

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.