LETTER: Resident Joins Race for Watertown Library Trustee

I recently pulled papers to run for the office of Watertown Free Public Library Trustee in the November 2019 election. In the coming weeks and months, I will be canvassing around town, initially gathering enough signatures to appear on the ballot, and getting to know voters and their thoughts about the future of the Watertown Public Library. First, I would like to introduce myself here to my fellow Watertown residents, and explain why I am running for Library Trustee. I am a lifelong Watertown resident. I grew up in the Irving Park neighborhood near Perkins School for The Blind in the 80s and 90s and about 13 years ago moved to the west side of town where I co-purchased a home with my sister.

OP-ED: MBTA Behind on Climate Change Adaptation

State Sen. Will Brownsberger

The following piece was provided by State Sen. Will Brownsberger of Belmont who also represents Watertown and parts of Boston:

At a recent MBTA board meeting, it became alarmingly clear that the MBTA is behind in its planning for climate resiliency.  Add that challenge to the challenges of catching up on maintenance, assuring safety, and expanding service. Andrew Brennan, Senior Director for Energy and Environment, explained to the board that the MBTA completed a “high-level” vulnerability assessment of the system in 2017.  His presentation materials are here and his talk begins at 2:55 in this livestream of the June 10 board meeting. The 2017 high level assessment revealed the obvious: Namely, that the most exposed asset is the Blue Line and that the greatest risk to the Blue line comes from flooding due to sea level rise. Only months after the assessment, the winter high tide of 2018 flooded Aquarium station. As to the lowest lying assets on the Blue line (Aquarium station and the Orient Heights Maintenance Facility), more detailed engineering studies have been completed to identify just how they would be flooded and what can be done to protect them: for example, raising openings like vent shafts and raising the most water sensitive components like transformers.

LETTER: Group Hosting Vigil to End Human Detention Camps

Event organizers submitted the following announcement:

On Friday, July 12, 2019, Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps will bring thousands of people to locations across the nation to protest the inhumane conditions faced by refugees. We are part of a coalition of people dedicated to human rights and the fundamental principle behind democracy: that all human beings have a right to life, liberty and dignity. Please join us on the green in Watertown Square from 7-8 p.m. We’ll have candles–bring your signs and songs! This is a family- and child-friendly event. A silent sea of candles in cities, towns, homes, and especially at every detention camp, will light up the nation.

LETTER: Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment Celebrates 40 Years

Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. The following information was provided by the Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment:

On Sunday, June 9, Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment gathered at our Annual Meeting and Potluck at the Belmont/Watertown United Methodist Church to celebrate our 40th anniversary. Forty years ago, the worst accident at a U.S. nuclear power plant took place at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania. That was 1979, and in response to that seminal event, Watertown Citizens for Environmental Safety was born. We later became Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment.

LETTER: Thank You to Our Local Government for Cleanup

On Saturday, April 27, members and supporters of Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice & the Environment again participated in the annual Charles River Cleanup. The general impression is that there was less trash this year; the ban on single-use thin plastic shopping bags works! However, we were appalled to discover a nearby stretch of property being used as a dumping ground for construction debris. Old windows, carpeting, tiles among other trash were among the objects we found. This was too much for us to be able to remove.

OP-ED: State Senator on the Bad Week for the MBTA

The following piece was written by State Sen. Will Brownsberger, who represents Watertown, Belmont and parts of Boston:

It has been a very bad week for the MBTA. Two train derailments injured dozens and massively inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of people. 

As I write, no one seems to know yet how long it will take to repair critical signal systems that the derailed train destroyed. Red line riders may have to endure diminished service and extraordinary rush hour crowding for days or weeks. While expediting repairs, the MBTA has rightly brought in an outside consulting team to review the events. The legislature will take great interest in the results of that review. 

For me, here is the big question: What will that review reveal about the work force and operational management of the MBTA? We knew that from time to time scheduled bus trips simply don’t happen because an employee doesn’t show up. We know that the MBTA’s derailment rate is high. We knew that a terrifying runaway train incident was triggered by an operator disabling a safety device. Investigators have already concluded that the recent green line derailment was operator error. 

While safety is always nominally the number one mission of any transit agency, how strong is the safety culture really? Are line managers overextended and under too much pressure to deliver timely service with inadequate staffing? What do these incidents say about employee morale and discipline? As legislators, we tend to focus less on operational conditions, which are hard to evaluate from outside, and more on the issues of system repair and service expansion. My impression has been and remains that the MBTA’s board and leadership team have been doing a very good job in turning around a state of physical system decay that was produced by decades of inadequate investment.

LETTER: Watertown Group Holding Vigil Against Starting War with Iran

The following information was provided by Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice & the Environment:

Donald Trump is threatening war on Iran. On Sunday, May 19, he tweeted that a fight between our two countries would mark, “the official end of Iran.” These genocidal threats cannot go unchecked. Military experts are warning that a war with Iran would be horrific. Our friend Colonel Larry Wilkerson recently stated that the conflict would be, “a disaster that will make the 10 years in Iraq look like child’s play by comparison.” 

Watertown Citizens will rally with Massachusetts Peace Action in Watertown Square on Saturday, June 1 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. We will raise awareness of this crisis and protest the Trump Administration’s reckless rhetoric and attempts to destabilize yet another Middle Eastern country. We will urge our representatives to support the Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act (H.R. 2354).

OP-ED: Sen. Brownsberger’s Update on Proposed MBTA Bus Changes

The following piece was provided by State Sen. Will Brownsberger, who represents Watertown, Belmont and parts of Boston. The MBTA has been listening carefully to public feedback about the 47 cost-neutral bus route changes that service planners are proposing across the region. At their meeting on April 8, the MBTA’s board offered a “sense of the board” supporting 36 of the proposals. Board members deferred final approval to give themselves time to review in full detail the equity analysis for the whole package. When final approval is provided, as appears likely, the package will be the most significant set of route changes in memory.