Month: February 2015

Sen. Eric Lesser discusses urban issues with Boston Mayor Martin Walsh at Boston City Hall

By Shira Schoenberg, The Republican

BOSTON – State Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, met Tuesday with Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, in an attempt to build relationships across Massachusetts’ east-west divide.

“It’s important for us in Western Mass. to expand those types of links and build those types of relationships,” Lesser told The Republican/MassLive.com. “The default is for it to be all about Boston, so any opportunity we can get for leaders in the eastern part of state to hear what our concerns are is an opportunity we should jump on.”

Bonnie McGilpin, a spokeswoman for Walsh, said, “The Mayor enjoyed meeting with Senator Lesser today and looks forward to collaborating with him on a number of valuable priorities for the future of Massachusetts.”

Western Massachusetts residents and politicians often complain that state resources are directed primarily toward the eastern part of the state. The issue has boiled up again recently with debate over whether, if Boston wins a bid for the 2024 Olympics, the games should be concentrated in Boston or should be spread statewide. This could affect, for example, which transportation projects are prioritized in the coming years.

Lesser said the topic of the Olympics only came up generally, in the context of ensuring that all parts of the state are treated fairly.

Lesser said he talked to Walsh about urban issues such as homelessness and economic development, and how lessons learned in Boston can be applied to Springfield, Chicopee and other cities in Western Massachusetts. They talked about Walsh’s experience growing the technology sector in Boston and how to incorporate the technology industry into a city’s economy. Lesser said Walsh was eager to learn more about communities in Western Massachusetts.

“He was very enthusiastic about wanting to continue a dialogue,” Lesser said.

Walsh also offered Lesser advice from his time in the state Legislature – for example, about how to stay in touch with constituents. Walsh was a state representative from 1997 to 2014, when he left the House to become the mayor of Boston.

Lesser, a former White House aide under President Barack Obama, won a seat in the state Senate in 2014 in his first bid for elected office.

Lesser said his first conversation with Walsh came when Walsh, a Democrat, called Lesser to congratulate him on election night. Tuesday’s meeting at Boston City Hall was set up by Walsh chief of staff Daniel Koh, who went to college with Lesser.

Eric Lesser Hosts Senate Tour in Springfield, Chicopee

Springfield, MA- Kicking off the first in a series of statewide tours, Senators Eric Lesser (D- Longmeadow), Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield), James Welch (D-West Springfield), and Donald Humason (R-Westfield) visited local businesses, colleges, and human service agencies across Western Massachusetts, learning first-hand about issues ranging from economic development to substance abuse and open government.

The group was joined on the tour by Senate President Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst), Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), and Senators Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport), John Keenan (D-Quincy), and William Brownsberger (D-Belmont). Together, the delegation comprised more than one-fifth of the state Senate body.

“This tour comes at an opportune time for Western Mass,” said Senator Eric Lesser. “The Springfield area is undergoing many significant changes, and residents need and deserve a state Senate that is open, transparent, and above all, committed to listening. Today’s discussions mark a strong first step in making sure the State Senate is responsive to the needs of Western Massachusetts.”

The tour started with a stop at the Berkshire South Regional Community Center in Great Barrington for a town hall-style public forum, highlighting key programs and community leaders in Berkshire County. From there, the Senators visited the Western Massachusetts Correctional Alcohol Center in Springfield and received a briefing from Hampden County Sheriff Michael J. Ashe on efforts to combat substance abuse, among other issues. The Senators then traveled to Chicopee for a tour of Hoppe Technologies, a high-tech manufacturing company. The day culminated with a town hall meeting at Holyoke Community College, where residents of Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden Counties shared ideas and asked the Senators questions.

“I would like to thank all of the Senators who attended today’s events and the members of the public who took time out of their day to participate,” said Senate President Stanley Rosenberg.

“This was a fantastic exercise in direct democracy and listening to the concerns of our constituents. These conversations help us craft our agenda and engage the public in the good work that we hope to accomplish this legislative session.”

The Commonwealth Conversations Tour is a series of visits by the State Senate to communities in every region of the state. The goal is for the Senate to better understand the unique needs of each region of the Commonwealth, and to ensure those concerns are reflected in the Senate’s upcoming legislative term.

Each member of the Senate has committed to attending at least two of these sessions outside of their own region, in addition to hosting events in their own community. The tour dates run from February 4 through March 11. All members of the public are encouraged to participate. More information is available at https://malegislature.gov/cc as well as on Twitter at @Ma_Senate.