August 13, 2013
The House is in the midst of a District Work Period. I’ve been meeting with constituents, attending grand openings and groundbreakings, and touring local businesses. I thought you might be interested in learning more about some of my activities.
Mass Peace Action
I recently met with constituents representing Mass Peace Action and the Budget for All campaign. They shared some troubling stories with me about the hardships caused by sequestration. Some of these initial difficulties may not be obvious yet, such as families who cannot access housing assistance because funding has been cut. As you know, sequestration is cumulative, and its hardships will become more obvious and more painful if Congress does not take action to re-balance priorities. I told them I believed that the defense budget could be reduced, not perhaps by the percentage they propose, but in ways that still preserve our strength and security. I urged those with whom I met to continue their advocacy and I thanked them for taking the time to meet with me.
Mass Nurses Association
Representatives from the Massachusetts Nurses Association met with me to discuss proposed legislation to set nursing staffing levels. They made compelling arguments that the nurse-patient ratio crucially affects medical care, leading to better health outcomes and lower costs. They cited studies that showed, for example, fewer deaths in intensive care units, fewer hospital acquired infections, decreased lengths of hospital stay and fewer readmissions. I do not doubt their arguments or their evidence.
That said, I felt I had to share with them my reservations about attempting to legislate these ratios at this particular time. Hospitals are all being seriously challenged to control costs, and I am reluctant to micro-manage. I supported the Affordable Care Act, and am committed to achieving its principal goal of quality health care for all Americans. It is complex legislation, however, with many intended and unintended consequences yet to unfold. Hospitals may need some flexibility to manage these transitions. I thanked the group for sharing their concerns with me. They are all clearly devoted to the welfare of their patients.
I was pleased to join state and local officials at the ceremonial groundbreaking for the rehabilitation of the Longfellow Bridge. This work is long overdue and I thank the Patrick Administration for making it a priority. The Longfellow Bridge connects Boston and Cambridge. It is one of our most important travel routes, carrying cars, bikes, pedestrians, and the Red Line. I noted at the groundbreaking that it was the third time I had attended a groundbreaking for the Longfellow. About a decade ago, I joined then Governor Romney at the bridge to launch his “fix it first” campaign. The Longfellow Bridge was supposed to be the first project completed under that initiative. Needless to say, the work was never finished. I know this time the outcome will be different.
This particular project is a challenge because the bridge is so heavily traveled. Many of us, including myself, are being impacted by the detours necessary to complete work. I am closely monitoring how traffic is being impacted and communicating with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
Somerville Senior Picnic
I stopped by the annual Somerville Senior Picnic last week. I saw many old friends and had a chance to meet some new constituents. Somerville’s Council on Aging does a great job with this event and it is always well attended. Many of the people I talked with expressed concern over the current environment in Washington and how budget cuts are impacting local programming. I share that concern and hope that Congress can find a way to compromise on spending.
Mass Bay Veterans Center
I joined the Volunteers of America last week at the grand opening of the Mass Bay Veterans Center (MBVC) in Somerville. This facility provides transitional housing and other services for veterans. The purpose of the MBVC is to help veterans who are having trouble finding or keeping housing and to give them access to a whole host of social services while they are living on site.
Our country just doesn’t do enough for our veterans who have sacrificed so much for all of us. Too many have difficulty transitioning back into their lives after years of service. I thank the Volunteers of America for the commitment they are displaying for the veterans who are most in need of services.