Month: October 2017

Senator Lesser Cheers Long-Awaited Redevelopment of Former Belchertown State School Site

Scale and potential of project makes it one of the most “transformative and exciting developments happening in all of Western Massachusetts” says Lesser

BELCHERTOWN — Senator Eric P. Lesser welcomed the announcement by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito on Thursday that the state is investing $10 million to redevelop the former Belchertown State School site.

The project is a partnership between the town of Belchertown and MassDevelopment, the state’s economic development agency.

“This project represents a giant step forward for Belchertown, as the state works with local officials to redevelop the vacant Belchertown State School site. This new construction will provide local job opportunities, expand residential housing options, and ultimately find a purpose for 25 acres of land that can be put to good use,” Sen. Lesser said.

The grant will construct a 2,000-foot road and associated utilities, providing access to 25 acres of land and improving the marketability of 12 more acres.

The MassWorks infrastructure program will leverage $10 million in state capital authorization and enable construction of up to 268 new residential units, in addition to providing sewer service for two commercial parcels, including the Belchertown Day School.

“The scale and potential for the Belchertown State School property makes this project among the most transformative and exciting developments happening in all of Western Massachusetts,” Sen. Lesser said.

The Belchertown State School was established in 1922 as an institution for those with mental illnesses and intellectual disabilities, but horrific conditions there helped spur an overhaul of mental healthcare facilities across the state. The Belchertown State School was closed in 1992 and the campus has remained vacant ever since.

The campus includes dozens of buildings, some of which cannot be repaired and others which have solid foundations for future repurposing.


Senator Lesser Votes to Ban “Bump Stocks” and “Trigger Cranks” in Mass. after They Were Used by Las Vegas Shooter

Las Vegas Shooting Was Deadliest in U.S. History, Leaving 58 Dead and 489 Injured

“Too many Americans fear for their safety and the safety of their families. It is time for us to step up and say we will not tolerate this senseless killing anymore,” said Lesser


BOSTON — Today the State Senate voted 38-0 to ban the use or sale of “bump stocks” and “trigger cranks,” attachments used by the Las Vegas shooter on Oct. 1 which enable semi-automatic rifles to fire faster, simulating automatic fire. The Las Vegas mass shooting was the worst in U.S. history, leaving 58 dead and 489 injured.

Banning “bump stocks” and “trigger cranks” have been a unifying issue in the debate over reducing gun violence. The National Rifle Association announced on Oct. 5 that it was open to new regulations on such devices.

Following the vote, State Senator Eric P. Lesser issued the following statement:

“There are commonsense solutions to reducing gun violence while protecting the Second Amendment. Banning ‘bump stocks’ and ‘trigger cranks’ is one of those commonsense solutions.

“Too many parents have had to bury their children, too many movie-goers have had a fun night out turn into a nightmare and too many Americans fear for their safety and the safety of their families. It is time for us to step up and say we will not tolerate this senseless killing anymore — or the ease with which it is carried out.

“I understand that no one law will end our epidemic of gun violence, but there are actions we can and must take today that make it harder to commit mass murder and to keep weapons of mass murder out of the hands of criminals. Western Mass has a long tradition of hunting and sportsmanship, but bump stocks and trigger cranks are designed to turn semi-automatic guns used by hunters or hobbyists into weapons of war capable of inflicting terror in our communities. They should be illegal.

“This is not an issue that should be used to divide us. We can come together even on these tough issues of life and death as long as we listen to each other and continue to look out for our neighbors the way we have always done in our communities and across our country.”

The vote came a week after a report that the Las Vegas shooter had researched concert venues in Boston and searched for hotels near Fenway Park.

Similar legislation passed the State House of Representatives the previous day.

Legislation banning bump stocks at the federal level was introduced by a bipartisan group of 20 legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives on Oct. 10.



Lesser Welcomes Del. Gov. Carney and Gov. Baker to Springfield to Tour Commerce High School

SPRINGFIELD — On Friday Senator Eric P. Lesser welcomed Governor Charlie Baker and Del. Governor John Carney to Springfield for a tour of Commerce High School to see the innovative practices employed by students and teachers to improve the school’s performance.

“It’s an honor to welcome Governor Carney to Western Massachusetts and to showcase the fantastic work happening in the Springfield School System. The Springfield model is showing success for students that can be replicated across the state and even around the country,” said Sen. Lesser.

In 2010, a number of low-performing Springfield schools formed an “empowerment zone” to allow school principals more autonomy and flexibility in managing their schools’ curriculum and finances. The move prevented a takeover by the state, and is showing promise as a successful model for improvement.

Sen. Lesser has introduced legislation that would allow schools in cities and towns across the Commonwealth to adopt the empowerment zone model and to replicate the success seen in Springfield.

In September, Sen. Lesser testified in favor of the bill before the state legislature’s Education Committee, alongside Springfield Superintendent of Schools Dan Warwick, president and CEO of the Urban League of Springfield Henry Thomas III, and the principal and two teachers at Duggan Middle School.

The teachers, Emma Klein and Evan Christner, explained why they feel the empowerment zone model has given them greater flexibility in the classroom to avoid “teaching to the test.”

Gov. Carney drove up from Delaware to see how the empowerment zone model was improving students’ success, and whether or not something similar could be implemented in his state.

“I hope Gov. Carney will be able to take some of what he learned back to Delaware with him,” Sen. Lesser said.