DiZoglio, Uyterhoeven Call for State House Staff Supports

Earlier this year, State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) facilitated an anonymous, voluntary survey that was created by State House staffers in various offices, alongside Beacon BLOC, a collective of BIPOC staff members devoted to ending racial inequities among State House employees.

Many concerns were raised in this climate survey, including issues around compensation, financial security, monthly work expenses pre/post-COVID-19, pay equity and overall dynamics in the building.

DiZoglio, alongside State Representative Erika Uyterhoeven (D-Somerville), has filed a series of five bills, all designed to assist State House staffers.

HD4386, An Act Relative to a Legislative Employee Living Wage, provides a floor for the lowest tier of legislative staff salaries to reduce the barrier for entrance into public service for members of underserved populations, for persons of color, for recent graduates for whom student debt is an insurmountable obstacle.

The legislation provides appropriate adjustments to other salary tiers to make public service a viable career choice, in order to increase diversity and representation among those who serve on the front lines between Beacon Hill and the residents of the Commonwealth.

HD4387, An Act Relative to Legislative Employee Compensation Equity Adjustment, adjusts legislative staff salaries for the entire period of the COVID-19 shutdown to reflect pandemic-driven increased costs of working from home and job responsibilities, and in light of legislator salary increases effective as of the beginning of session.

HD4388, An Act Relative to Legislative Employee Compensation COLAs, provides COLA adjustments to legislative staff salaries, similar to that provided to legislators.

HD4389, An Act Relative to Health Insurance Coverage, eliminates the waiting period for health insurance coverage for legislative staff, comparable to benefit provided to legislators.

Finally, HD4390, An Act Relative to Employee Liaison Mediation and Conflict Resolution Training, establishes a position in each chamber for an officer to anonymously represent legislative employees before all persons authorized to make employment-related decisions, to give them a voice as members of the workforce and as residents of the Commonwealth before those in positions of power.

The legislation also requires HR to make available mediation and conflict resolution training.

“State workers deserve to live with a standard of dignity in the communities they work so hard to serve,” said DiZoglio. “Beacon BLOC, the organization comprised of BIPOC staffers, has repeatedly expressed concerns that persons of color and people of low-income backgrounds cannot afford to apply for State House jobs, as they don’t provide living wages, nor immediate health care coverage. We always hear about the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion, yet don’t recognize outdated policies that make it difficult for those who don’t already come from a position of privilege to get a seat at the table. Many in low-income and gateway communities can’t afford to take a job that isn’t offering basics like health care coverage on day one – especially on the heels of the pandemic. Furthermore, those who currently work on Beacon Hill have repeatedly expressed their concerns that every single decision regarding staff compensation, titles and benefits lies solely in the hands of the powerful Speaker or Senate President and has nothing to do with their work performance, education, or experience. Workers have stated they are afraid to speak out about working conditions for fear of retaliation from the most powerful on Beacon Hill. Staff should not fear retaliation for simply raising concerns about inequities – but they do. Our hope is this legislation will help to change the culture on Beacon Hill to one of equity and inclusion.”

“More than one year after George Floyd’s murder and our nation’s racial justice reckoning, we are urging the State House to do its own self-examination of racial barriers and inequities for our staffers,” said Uyterhoeven. “I’m proud to file these bills in partnership with Beacon BLOC and Senator DiZoglio. We look forward to pushing for concrete steps to improve the working conditions for our Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color staff.”

Senators Call on Governor to Sever Ties with Controversial Consulting Firm

State Senators Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) and Anne M. Gobi (D-Spencer) are calling on Governor Charles Baker (R-Swampscott) to end his Administration’s relationship with McKinsey & Co., the consulting firm that earlier this year paid out $573 million for its involvement in the nation’s opioid crisis.

Recently, the Governor’s Administration tasked McKinsey & Co. with conducting a report to assess the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on work behavior. This came on the heels of the Administration earlier providing funds to the firm for consultation on the state’s pandemic response.

This past February, McKinsey & Co. settled a lawsuit brought by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D-Boston) and 46 other state Attorneys General after admitting to their role in helping Purdue Pharma bolster the sale of opioids like Oxycontin to increase profits.

In a letter to the Governor, dated July 27, Senators DiZoglio and Gobi requested the Administration sever ties with McKinsey & Co. immediately and “stop wasting taxpayer dollars on a company that has a proven record of violating the public trust.”

“It is simply unconscionable that the Administration would reward McKinsey & Co. with additional state contracts after all of the pain they have inflicted upon families in Massachusetts and across the country,” said DiZoglio. “That they have been tasked with the preparation of critical reports on COVID-19 metrics is all the more confounding. The Administration must end its relationship with this notorious firm as soon as possible.”

“People have the right to know their tax dollars are being spent appropriately and they also need to have reassurance that reports generated from those tax dollars can be relied upon,” said Gobi. “Unfortunately, this fails in both arenas.”

Dune Renourishment Project to Begin on Salisbury Beach

The state legislative delegation and local stakeholders have announced the approval and commencement of a dune renourishment project on Salisbury Beach.

Following a significant storm this past February and several instances of dune erosion and storm surges in Salisbury, funding has been secured and allocated for the purchase of sand and permits have been approved for dune renourishment on Salisbury Beach. The approval of the project comes on the heels of months of advocacy from the state delegation and local stakeholders.

The project will consist of the placement of sand along numerous dunes in the North End Boulevard area of the beach, aimed at improving along public ways and providing residents with protections for their properties.

“I am truly grateful we have been able to get this project, which has been a long time coming, approved for the people of Salisbury, so many of whom were at risk of losing their homes due to sand dune erosion,” said State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen). “This project never would have been possible without the tireless efforts and advocacy from Salisbury residents, including Town Manager Neil Harrington, Conservation Agent Adriane Marchand and the incredible members of Salisbury Beach Citizens for Change and the Salisbury Beach Betterment Association.”

“Nourishing the dune system on Salisbury Beach is a proven method of responding to the type of erosion danger that now threatens homes, utilities, coastal resources, and public safety,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce E. Tarr (R-Gloucester). “Fortunately, the Salisbury Beach Citizens for Change and the Salisbury Beach Betterment Association developed an initiative to join homeowners together with state and local government to get the job done, and remained focused on that initiative. That focus, in turn, gave our legislative delegation, the town of Salisbury, the Baker-Polito Administration and the Merrimack River Beach Alliance a clearly defined project, and the opportunity for collaboration. Through that partnership, and perseverance to overcome numerous obstacles, a significant amount of sand will soon be on the beach and making a difference, and proving once again the value and effectiveness of working together to confront a major problem. Everyone involved in this effort should be commended, and I have been particularly pleased to work with Senator DiZoglio and Representatives Kelcourse and Mirra to achieve this worthy objective.”

“Dune erosion and storm surges have been damaging Salisbury Beach for quite some time,” said State Representative James M. Kelcourse (R-Amesbury). “I am pleased the Baker-Polito Administration has committed to the purchase of sand to be placed on the beach, which will protect the storm battered dunes and prepare for the beach season ahead. This achievement is made possible thanks to the tireless efforts of the legislative delegation – Senator DiZoglio, Senator Tarr, and Representative Mirra – along with Town Manager Harrington, Conservation Agent Marchand and the passionate citizens and members of the Salisbury Beach Citizens for Change and the Salisbury Beach Resiliency Task Force. This project will bring the community one step closer to maintaining our beloved shoreline, and we are excited to begin this very anticipated work.”

“Although Salisbury is not in my district, I couldn’t turn a blind eye to this problem, and my office was happy to lend whatever help we could during this process,” said State Representative Lenny Mirra (R-Georgetown). “It truly took all hands on deck. We worked with a great group of hardworking, dedicated and committed people, and all that hard work paid off.”

“This project is the culmination of months of hard work and perseverance of many people,” said Tom Saab, president of Salisbury Beach Citizens for Change. “We started this process just days after the February storm and it took us four months to work through the challenging permitting and funding process. I would like to thank Senators DiZoglio and Tarr, Representatives Kelcourse and Mirra, Town Manager Harrington and Conservation Agent Marchand for all of their help and guidance throughout the project. I’m just glad for the residents and our summer visitors that our team was able to prevail.”

“The approval of this project is great news for Salisbury Beach and our entire community.” said Bill Greilich, president of the Salisbury Beach Betterment Association. “It took a monumental team effort led by our legislative delegation and town officials to get it accomplished. They worked tirelessly to secure state funding and to bring the necessary state agencies to the table to ensure that all regulatory requirements were satisfied.”

DiZoglio Secures State Funds for Lake Gardner Beach Renovations

Among the local funds secured by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) in the Fiscal Year 2022 Senate Budget is $100,000 toward renovations at Lake Gardner Beach in the City of Amesbury.

Recently, local stakeholders have been working to address a variety of issues at Lake Gardner. The City will be hiring a Beach Director this season to ensure a consistent presence at the beach and the local Department of Public Works has been making improvements to the bathrooms there. They are also considering a potential tenant, such as a coffee shop or kayak rental company, to use the small commercial space in the building.

However, the City needs improvement of the parking area and in particular access to the beach and surrounding park in order to ensure compliance with ADA requirements.

“There has been a significant increase in use at all of the City’s recreational areas during the pandemic,” said DiZoglio. “The urban beach and its trails play an important role in keeping the community healthy, mentally and physically and these funds will go a long way to ensuring they are accessible to all residents and visitors alike.”

“Amesbury’s open spaces are an integral part of our identity, and Lake Gardner is one of our most important natural assets,” said Amesbury Mayor Kassandra Gove. “This funding from the state would allow us to make necessary improvements for accessibility and overall access for our residents. We are grateful to Senator DiZoglio for her continued advocacy for Amesbury and look forward to working with her and Representative Kelcourse to get this into the final FY 2022 budget and bring the funds to Amesbury.”

“As Amesbury’s District 4 City Council representative, ensuring the ongoing improvement of Lake Gardner Beach has been a priority of mine for quite some time,” said Amesbury City Council Vice President Nicholas Wheeler. “My thanks to Senator DiZoglio, Mayor Gove and their respective teams for recognizing the need for continued investment, and for helping to secure these much-needed funds for our community beach. It’s my hope that these funds can help us restore this treasured public facility for the continued enjoyment of future generations.”

DiZoglio Calls for Senate Oversight Hearing into Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, Pearlstein Report

On the heels of the Boston Globe Spotlight Team’s scathing report on the behind-the-scenes roles of Governor Charlie Baker and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders in the tragedy at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) is calling for a Senate oversight hearing, with sworn testimony from the Governor and his Administration, utilizing the full subpoena and record review powers within the Legislature’s purview, into the layers of potential wrongdoing raised in the Spotlight investigation.

In a June 1 letter to Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland), DiZoglio raised several questions around the “Pearlstein Report,” the investigation commissioned by the Governor, spearheaded by attorney Mark W. Pearlstein, and released last summer that was critical of the home’s then-superintendent, Bennett Walsh, for mishandling the outbreak yet placed no responsibility upon the Governor or his Administration for the tragedy at Holyoke.

Among her questions, DiZoglio raised how Walsh, someone with no health care background, was hired to make life and death decisions for a vulnerable population during a global pandemic. The Senator questioned why former Veterans Services Secretary Francisco Urena was forced to resign by the Administration when he had no statutory oversight of the management and operations at Holyoke and also raised concerns around Governor Baker’s claim that the first time he met Walsh was during his swearing-in to the superintendent position – a claim refuted in the Spotlight report, which revealed Baker was in fact greatly involved in his hiring and even interviewed him.

“As we took time to remember and honor those brave soldiers who gave their lives for our nation this Memorial Day, I was filled with an even greater sense of urgency and responsibility to find out what truly happened at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in order to prevent it from ever happening again,” said DiZoglio. “As elected leaders, we need to do more to protect the most vulnerable veterans in our care. Now is the time to get answers to some of the questions raised by the recent Boston Globe Spotlight series which exposed not only serious flaws in the management and oversight of the entirely state-funded Holyoke Soldiers Home, but also begged the question of how to legislatively prevent similar disasters from ever happening again.” 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, 77 residents of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke died of the virus – the deadliest outbreak at a long-term care facility in the United States during the course of the pandemic. In late March, there had been 230 residents at the home. By the end of April, only about 100 remained.

DiZoglio Calls for Immediate Action on Bills to Help Local Restaurants

On the heels of Governor Charlie Baker’s announcement that Massachusetts’ state of emergency will end on June 15, State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) is calling for immediate action to be taken on legislation she filed to assist local restaurants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter dated May 17 to Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland) and House Speaker Ron Mariano (D-Quincy), DiZoglio calls for two bills she has filed to be advanced through the legislative process: S. 196, which expands beverage take-out and delivery options for restaurants, and SD. 2556, which extends third-party delivery cost containment for restaurants.

Measures around take-out and delivery and third-party delivery cost containment were implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – and are set to expire following the end of the state of emergency. While DiZoglio has filed these measures as amendments to the FY22 Senate Budget, the final state budget will not be signed into law until well after the end of the state of emergency.

“These measures were critical to helping our small businesses remain afloat in the face of the pandemic – and remain just as essential to them now, on the road to recovery,” said DiZoglio. “It is imperative we get this legislation across the finish line as soon as possible and ensure our local restaurants do not lose access to these crucial, revenue-generating opportunities that can make all the difference regarding their survival.”

DiZoglio is sending her letter to fellow state legislators for consideration and urges concerned residents to contact their legislators and ask them to sign on.

Senator DiZoglio to Host Attorney General Healey for Small Business and Youth Engagement Roundtables

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) will host Attorney General Maura Healey for a small business and youth engagement tour of the Merrimack Valley on Monday, May 10.

During the visit, DiZoglio and Healey will embark on a small business tour in the City of Haverhill, meeting with local entrepreneurs who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and listening to their concerns during a small business roundtable. The Senator and Attorney General will then meet with local youth in the City of Methuen who have been involved in the creation of a first-ever Methuen Youth and Community Center. The visit will close with Healey visiting the future Youth Center site itself.

“As I travel the state, I’ve seen how resilient our communities are as we recover from this pandemic,” said Healey. “I look forward to meeting with small business owners in Haverhill and visiting Methuen’s new youth center. Supporting the health and wellbeing of young people is a top priority of my office, and I thank Senator DiZoglio for her leadership on this important community project.”

“It has been an extremely challenging year for our small businesses, who have faced countless obstacles in weathering the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said DiZoglio. “I am so grateful to the Attorney General for coming to our community and meeting with local entrepreneurs who have worked tirelessly to remain afloat. I am also so excited for the Attorney General to meet with local students who have done an incredible job working toward making the dream of a Methuen Youth and Community Center a reality.”

Irene M. O’Brien Honored After Nearly Two Decades of Service as North Andover Senior Center Executive Director

After nearly two decades of service as executive director of the North Andover Senior Center, Irene M. O’Brien will this year be retiring.

O’Brien, who previously served the Towns of Salisbury, Newbury, and Groveland, was recently celebrated for her service during a St. Patrick’s Day celebration hosted by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) at the Senior Center.

DiZoglio, fellow Senator Bruce E. Tarr (R-Gloucester) and State Representatives Christina A. Minicucci (D-North Andover) and Tram Nguyen (R-Andover) presented O’Brien with proclamations from the Legislature in honor of her service and accomplishments.

“In her role as executive director, Irene has been a tireless leader and advocate, helping countless older adults in the community by identifying their health, economic and social needs and working with them to improve their quality of life,” said DiZoglio. “She will be greatly missed but we wish her all the best in her retirement!”

DiZoglio, Perry Call on Baker for More Vaccines to the City of Methuen

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) and Methuen Mayor Neil Perry are calling on the Baker Administration to allocate additional COVID-19 vaccines to the City of Methuen.

Their request comes on the heels of the City of Methuen being designated a “red” community by the state Department of Public Health, meaning it is among the municipalities with the highest COVID-19 rates in the Commonwealth.

“While we appreciate the Administration recently, finally providing the City of Methuen with some vaccines, the allocation needs to be significantly ramped up now, at a time when the community needs it most,” said DiZoglio. “We are continuing to see the bulk of vaccines go to the mass vaccination sites, which are inaccessible to many residents, especially among our most vulnerable populations. People should be able to turn conveniently to their local municipal provider to receive this critical vaccine. I strongly urge the Administration to allocate additional vaccines to the City of Methuen as soon as possible.”

“While I’m grateful that we have been able to get 600 vaccine doses the last several weeks, it’s important to note that Methuen is once again this week designated as a red or high-risk community,” said Perry. “That, combined with the announcement yesterday of near-term eligibility dates for remaining citizens, makes it imperative that we are able to increase the supply to match the demand, We need the pace of vaccine distribution increased to enable every resident of our community to get vaccinated – because at our current pace, it would take more than a year – and that is simply unacceptable.”

State Delegation Calls for Severe Weather Emergency Declaration in Salisbury

The state legislative delegation is requesting the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) declares a Severe Weather Emergency Declaration in the Town of Salisbury.

In a letter to Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen A. Theoharides, dated February 23, State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) calls for both an emergency declaration and the providing of the Town of Salisbury with sand for dune nourishment. The letter was co-signed by State Senator Bruce E. Tarr (R-Gloucester) and State Representatives Jim Kelcourse (R-Amesbury) and Lenny Mirra (R-Georgetown).

The call for an emergency declaration comes amidst severe sand dune erosion at Salisbury Beach, the result of increasingly harsh and more frequent storms along the coast.

“Residents who live in Salisbury, particularly on North End Boulevard, are in a dire situation,” said DiZoglio. “The sand dunes in that area are rapidly being eroded. This must be addressed as soon as possible. We can use the example of what is happening in the Reservation Terrace area of the City of Newburyport as a reference of why immediate action must be taken. Residents there are seeing major flooding of their homes and destruction of their property. If we do not act quickly, we are going to see history repeat itself in Salisbury.”

“The recent coastal storms have caused extensive damage to homes on Salisbury Beach and have compromised our protective dunes,” said Bill Greilich, president of the Salisbury Beach Betterment Association. “This erosion is putting homes and public recreation areas at immediate risk of significant, irreversible harm and is a clear illustration of the challenges our beach property owners and community face. An emergency response is urgently required along with long-term strategic planning. The Salisbury Beach Betterment Association (SBBA) is grateful for the work that Sens. Diana DiZoglio and Bruce Tarr and Rep. Jim Kelcourse have been doing on behalf of Salisbury Beach and is hopeful that this Emergency Declaration is approved as soon as possible.”

“Over the years I have personally experienced many storms at Salisbury Beach including the Blizzard of ’78, No Name Storm of 1991, Nor’easters in 2008, 2013 and 2018, and now these two in December 2020 and February 2021,” said Tom Saab, president of Salisbury Beach Citizens for Change. “We continually work together to rebuild dunes and make every effort to protect our properties. However, what we must have is for the state to cooperate by declaring an emergency as they have done in the past and then assist us by providing us with sand. We, as homeowners, will then provide and pay for the contractors and equipment to do the work needed from that point on. Without an emergency declaration from the state, it becomes much more difficult and sometimes impossible for property owners to rebuild dunes and protect their properties from further damage that will surely come from future storms. The key to protecting beachfront properties, once again, is an emergency declaration from the state.”