DiZoglio Fighting to Reinstate Merrimack River District Commission

In the Fiscal Year 2020 Senate Budget, State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) passed legislation to create a Merrimack River District Commission, an inclusive commission of local stakeholders — from sewage management professionals to environmentalists to elected officials — as well as representatives from state agencies, to assess the current health of the Merrimack and to map out strategies to ensure the health and safety of the river going forward.

Though unanimously passed by the Senate, language to establish the Commission was eliminated after budget negotiations began with the House on the final Conference Committee Report – despite the inclusion in the final report of $50,000 to fund it.

Now, DiZoglio, alongside fellow senators from the Merrimack Valley, is fighting to have the Commission reinstated. She, alongside State Senators Edward J. Kennedy (D-Lowell), Barry R. Finegold (D-Andover), Bruce E. Tarr (R-Gloucester) and James B. Eldridge (D-Acton), penned a joint letter to State Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, requesting that the legislation be moved to the Senate floor for consideration as soon as possible.

“This commission has been a priority of mine since the start of this legislative session, as I work to bring together stakeholders from all along the Merrimack to address issues around pollution, including discharge from combined sewer overflows (CSOs),” said DiZoglio. “We have never convened a diverse group of experts from various sectors to work together, agree on the basic facts, and advise the legislature on how to proceed to restore our beloved river so that it may be here for future generations to explore and enjoy.”

In June, DiZoglio, alongside the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission, hosted a kick-off of the Merrimack River District Commission that was attended by more than 50 local stakeholders, environmentalists and experts, including the Army Corps of Engineers.

“While this group will be funded, it is imperative that the Commission be established at the state level, as this will formalize the process, requiring that a report be delivered back to the legislature on the Commission’s findings regarding the health of the Merrimack,” said DiZoglio. “This report will help our region identify both short- and long-term solutions.”

“Recent reports have illustrated in stark terms that combined sewer overflows caused by outdated infrastructure pose a pervasive and reoccurring threat to the health of the Merrimack River,” said Kennedy. “The establishment of a Merrimack River District Commission would bring together stakeholders in communities that the river flows through to determine solutions to this issue and to preserve this vital natural resource into the future.”

“I applaud Senator DiZoglio for making the Commission a top priority, and I share her desire to see it reinstated,” said Finegold. “Since taking office in January, I’ve heard from dozens of constituents who are concerned about the river’s health and the impact it has on our community. We need the Commission so that we can bring all the organizations, advocates, and experts together and make the best decisions for the Merrimack River in the years to come.”

“The discharge of pollution is a serious concern made even more so when it is dumped directly into one of New England’s largest public drinking water sources – the Merrimack,” said Tarr. “This commission could bring key stakeholders and resources together to effectively mitigate the impacts from exposure to contaminants, and improve our economy and quality of life.”

While the establishment of the Commission was not included in the final Conference Committee Report, the final budget did include an amendment sponsored by DiZoglio for $100,000 toward a pilot program to notify swimmers and boaters of CSOs in the Merrimack. The program will utilize physical and virtual means to notify residents of potential CSO concerns, in the form of flagging and through a mobile app and website alerts.

Jackie Marte Named 2019 Unsung Heroine

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Jackie Marte has been named one of 2019’s “Unsung Heroines” by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, in honor of her non-profit work across the Merrimack Valley.

Marte was recently honored at a ceremony at the Massachusetts State House, recognizing extraordinary women from across the Commonwealth. She was nominated for the recognition by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen).

“As co-founder of the non-profit Suenos Basketball, Jackie has helped countless children in the Merrimack Valley develop the skills needed to succeed both in and out of the classroom,” said DiZoglio. “Moreover, as a member of the Merrimack Valley Project, a group of regional faith, labor and community leaders, Jackie has done extraordinary work taking action on economic and social justice issues and been dedicated to helping those battling addiction in this opioid epidemic.”

“It is a blessing and honor to be nominated as an Unsung Heroine by Senator DiZoglio,” said Marte. “She is a tireless leader and advocate for her community.”

DiZoglio Secures Funding for Merrimack River District Commission, CSO Pre-Notification

State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) has secured through the FY20 Senate Budget funding toward several initiatives around addressing the health of the Merrimack River.

Among the amendments adopted into the budget are two pertaining to a Merrimack River District Commission – one amendment toward its creation and a second amendment of $50,000 funding the commission.

This commission will ultimately bring together a variety of stakeholders along the river — from environmentalists to elected officials — to address issues around pollution, including discharge from combined sewer overflows (CSOs). The commission will advise on next steps, developing a plan to clean and maintain the river moving forward.

“The Merrimack River is one of the single biggest economic and cultural drivers of our region,” said DiZoglio. “By creating and funding this commission, we are working to preserve this natural treasure that has given so much to our state — and to ensure that it remains a clean, safe piece of our region for generations to come.”

Additionally, DiZoglio secured $100,000 toward a pilot program to create and implement a pre-notification alert system for CSOs in the Merrimack River. The program will utilize physical and virtual means to notify residents of potential CSO concerns, in the form of flagging and through a mobile app and website alerts.

“We live along a river that has a long, proud industrial history, but many of the cities that line the Merrimack have an aging water infrastructure that puts the river at risk of combined sewer overflow,” said DiZoglio. “This funding will greatly help in the development of a flagging system that will inform the public of potential hazards and ensure they are able to enjoy what the Merrimack has to offer without fear of illness from pollution.”

“The Merrimack Valley Planning Commission is excited to serve as the host of the Merrimack River District Commission, as it is squarely within our mission to facilitate this important conversation regarding the current and future health of our region’s most important natural resource, the Merrimack River,” said Karen Sawyer Conard, executive director of the MVPC. “We look forward to coordinating the effort of the District Commission and its key stakeholders moving forward.”

“I believe that the river communities in the Merrimack Valley have come together to strongly support these initiatives,” said Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday. “While we work to address the infrastructure needs in our cities, it is so important that we notify swimmers and boaters using the river of CSOs.”

Star Sprinter Honored for Successful Sophomore Year at Central Catholic

Katharine Duren

Katharine Duren, a sophomore hurdler on the Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field teams at Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, was recently recognized by the Massachusetts State Senate for her stunning successes over the last two years.

A Haverhill resident, Duren won the Merrimack Valley Conference championship in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 14.57 seconds on Saturday, May 18, breaking the meet and school records.

This winter, Duren won the Division II indoor state championship in the 55-meter hurdles, setting a regional and school record of 8.35 seconds on February 15, a week after she broke the previous school record at the Merrimack Valley Conference indoor championship with a time of 8.43 seconds en route to receiving All-Conference honors.

“Katharine is one of the brightest athletic stars in the Merrimack Valley,” said State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen), who invited Duren to the State House for a celebration in her honor. “Her impressive dedication has served her and her fellow Raiders well and it is my hope that she continues her success collegiately at the highest level in the coming years.”

Asked of how she felt earning a standing ovation in the Senate Chamber after receiving an official citation in honor of her accomplishments, Duren said it was a great experience to be there with her parents David and Khristine, her sister Janessa and her grandfather, David Sr.

“It was an honor to be there today, representing my school,” said Duren. “It was really fun and I especially enjoyed being there with my family. They’re my biggest supporters.”

DiZoglio Pushes for Campaign Finance Reform on Beacon Hill

Among the legislation filed in this session by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) is a bill to increase transparency in the Commonwealth’s public elections.

Senate Bill 399, An Act enhancing disclosure of campaign finance activity by expanding the depository reporting system to include legislative candidates, requires legislative candidates in Massachusetts participate in a depository reporting system.

The benefit is designed to be twofold – the legislation allows for any disparity to be identified by the Commonwealth’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) early on so that candidates can review records more immediately to clear the issue and it allows for more transparency in government.

Common problems encountered with the current non-depository system include missed deposits, data entry errors, balance issues and uncashed checks – issues that would be remedied through a depository system. Where non-depository reports are filed merely two or three times per year, depository reports are filed twice monthly by the candidate’s bank, an independent third party.

Recently, DiZoglio testified before a public hearing of the Joint Committee on Election Laws in favor of the legislation.

“Virtually all candidates, including statewide officers, county officers, Governor’s Council, mayors and councilors in cities over a population of 65,000, participate in this depository reporting system today – except for legislative candidates,” said DiZoglio. “This bill enhances government transparency, assuring the public that the information they review on the OCPF website is accurate, and makes it easier for OCPF to do its job by having the ability to promptly address campaign finance reporting issues. In the event of a problem that needs to be addressed, a notification would come quickly, as opposed to several months down the line.”

“Expanding the depository system to include more candidates makes good sense,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “It will increase the accuracy and completeness of campaign finance information and that is a win for voters and candidates alike.”

“Many legislative candidates have contacted OCPF over the years to self-report that their balances do not reconcile to their actual bank balances, usually due to errors that have snowballed over several years,” said Michael J. Sullivan, director of OCPF, in testimony delivered to the committee. “Some of these issues include errors when entering credit card contributions, bounced checks, not entering all expenditures that clear the account, previously reported expenditures that never clear the account, and not accurately carrying the ending balance from the last report as the beginning balance for the next report. Most of this won’t happen if legislative candidates are in the depository system. If this bill passes, OCPF looks forward to working closely with all House and Senate candidates to transition from the non-depository system to the depository system.”

Newburyport Manufacturer Receives Workforce Training Grant

The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development has awarded a $48,000 grant through its Workforce Training Fund Program to MacDiarmid Machine.

The Executive Office anticipates the grant, which will be used to train 13 employees, will also help MacDiarmid add five new jobs by next year at its 6,000-square foot facility at 7 Perry Way.

For more than 30 years, MacDiarmid has provided precision state-of-the-art machining and assembling components from prototype through production for critical applications in a variety of metals and plastics for markets, including commercial and military robotics, alternative energy, medical, and biotech.

“Continued state investment through programs like the Workforce Training Fund help Merrimack Valley businesses like MacDiarmid prosper and grow, enhancing the economy of our region by putting people to work and giving them the tools to advance in their careers,” said State Senator Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen.

Funded by Massachusetts employers via contributions made to unemployment insurance, the Workforce Training Fund helps companies improve productivity and competitiveness by providing resources to invest in the Massachusetts workforce.

In 2018, 926 Massachusetts employers were approved for more than $21 million in WTFP grants, which were used to train 15,278 workers statewide. In FY2018, companies that completed grants added jobs at an almost 12 percent rate, more than three times the state average.

DiZoglio Hosts Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Day

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State Senator Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, recently hosted advocates from the Merrimack Valley and across the Commonwealth at the State House for the fifth annual meeting of the state legislature’s Parkinson’s Disease Caucus.

DiZoglio, who serves as co-chair of the caucus alongside State Representative John C. Velis, D-Westfield, provided legislators an opportunity to learn more about Parkinson’s and consider legislative steps to address the neurological disease, which affects an estimated one million Americans and is the 14th leading cause of death in the United States.

It is estimated that 60,000 people are diagnosed each year in the U.S. with Parkinson’s and its prevalence is expected to more than double by the year 2040. The exact cause of the disease, which is chronic and progressive, with no treatment to slow or halt its progression, remains unknown.

Joining the Representative for the caucus meeting were the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and the Massachusetts chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association (APDA).

During the caucus, DiZoglio presented a Senate resolution, co-sponsored by legislators from across the Commonwealth, proclaiming April as Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month in Massachusetts.

“Greater research, education and community support services are needed to find more effective treatments and to provide access to quality care to those with Parkinson’s,” said DiZoglio. “I am honored to chair this important caucus and committed to continue raising awareness around the disease with advocates from the Merrimack Valley and across the Commonwealth. As always, thank you to North Andover’s Charles Brown of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease for again helping to organize this important event.”

DiZoglio officially created and launched the Parkinson’s Disease Caucus in November 2015.

“It is hard to believe this is our fifth year of holding this event,” said Charles Brown, North Andover resident and public policy and advocacy volunteer with the Michael J. Fox Foundation. “This would not be possible without the support that we have received from both Senator DiZoglio and her chief of staff Andrew Carden. They both have been true supporters of raising awareness around Parkinson’s.”

“It’s important that we get to speak to legislators on a daily basis to help people who are living with Parkinson’s Disease,” said Chad Moir, owner of DopaFit, a Parkinson’s management center based in Southampton.

Moir’s advocacy began when his mother passed away from the disease, which affects between 18,000 and 21,000 people in Massachusetts.

“She inspires me, along with all of the inspiring people I meet every day who fight this disease,” he said. “It was great to see a strong turnout today and to see all of the senators and representatives in attendance. I thank them for their continued efforts.”

Attendees of the caucus heard from several residents from across Massachusetts living with Parkinson’s. They noted transportation and building access as two of their greatest daily challenges living with the disease.

One attendee, Greg Heath, a former Westfield firefighter who has battled Parkinson’s for seven years, spoke on behalf of a bill filed by Rep. Velis that would provide accidental disability benefits to firefighters who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

In addition to Senator DiZoglio and Representative Velis, other legislators in attendance at Thursday’s event included Reps. William Galvin, D-Canton, Joseph McGonagle, D-Everett, Ruth Balser, D-Newton and Patrick Kearney, D-Scituate, as well as Sen. Walter Timilty, D-Milton.

Galvin, who sponsored a House resolution naming April Parkinson’s Awareness Month at the request of his constituent Dan Harvey, said he has become more aware of the disease in the five years that he’s known Harvey and is impressed with the efforts of advocates like those in attendance.

McGonagle, whose late mother also fought a courageous battle with Parkinson’s, vowed to continue supporting Parkinson’s-related legislation.

“Since I came into the house, I told Diana I would be a big advocate for her because of my own personal experiences,” said McGonagle. “Know that I will help carry the torch in the House of Representatives.”

Regarding the firefighter bill, Velis said it is “absolutely critical” that the Commonwealth treat a Parkinson’s diagnosis the same as a career-ending injury suffered by a firefighter in the line of duty.

“On a daily basis, firefighters put their lives at risk to keep the public safe,” said Velis. “We must err on the side of doing the right thing when it comes to providing our firefighters with the support they need should they be diagnosed with this disease.”

State Approves $2 Million to Combat Combined Sewage Overflow Along Merrimack River

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has announced it will release $2 million to the Greater Lawrence Sanitary District (GLSD) for the purchase of an emergency generator for the Riverside Pump Station.

Located in North Andover, the Riverside Pump Station treats more than 10 billion gallons of wastewater annually and serves about 250,000 residents in the cities of Lawrence and Methuen, as well as the towns of Andover, Dracut, North Andover and Salem, New Hampshire.

With the release of the $2 million for the emergency generator, residents of these communities — and other communities downriver — will be protected from a potential spill of raw sewage into the Merrimack River in the event of a power outage.

These funds were previously secured in the Senate’s 2018 Environmental Bond Bill but may not be released without the approval of the Governor’s Office through the Department of Environmental Protection. State Senator Diana DiZoglio, (D-Methuen), has in recent months strongly advocated for the release of these funds and met recently with DEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg to make the case for the generator.

“I am grateful the Commissioner and his team were willing to meet with me so early in this session regarding this issue, that they heard our concerns loud and clear, and have agreed that we need to take immediate action on the issue of combined sewer overflows,” said DiZoglio. “This generator will contribute to the overall health of the Merrimack River, from Lawrence and North Andover, all the way up to Newburyport.

“This funding benefits so many communities who, without this generator, could expect millions of gallons of sewage to potentially be dumped into the river during a power outage,” said DiZoglio. “There is, of course, much more work to be done but this is a huge, tangible win for the Merrimack Valley.”

“The Greater Lawrence Sanitary District wishes to thank Governor Baker, the Massachusetts DEP, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, all current and former senators, representatives, mayors and town managers who worked to make this possible,” said Cheri Cousens, executive director of the GLSD. “This was a huge collaborative effort and it shows what we can do when everyone works together for one common goal. Hopefully this can continue in resolving long-term concerns related to combined sewer overflow”

CREST Collaborative Students Visit State House

Students from the Methuen-based CREST Collaborative recently visited the State House for a tour and a firsthand glimpse of the legislative process.

Serving students from 25 communities in northeastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, the Collaborative for Regional Education Services and Training (CREST) serves students and adults with social, emotional and physical disabilities on three campuses in Methuen.

The organization’s mission is to empower all learners by “maximizing strengths, removing barriers, forming relationships, seeking innovative solutions to create a lasting positive impact into their adult lives.”

CREST also looks to equip adults with tools to succeed in a “safe and supportive learning environment and within the greater community.”

The visit was sponsored by the office of State Senator Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen.

Students from grades 6, 7 and 8 took part in the State House tour before eating lunch and meeting with Senator DiZoglio.

This is our next generation of leaders, so it is important that we encourage them to be actively involved in the democratic process early on

“I am proud to have such an innovative school in Methuen educating students and helping people from all over our region,” said DiZoglio. “ It was an honor to host these students – our next generation of leaders – for a visit to the State House and encourage them to become actively involved in the democratic process early on in their lives.”

“For each of these students, it was their first time visiting the State House and they were just in awe of the building,” said Peter Silverman, a special education teacher at CREST who chaperoned the trip. “We’ve been studying the three branches of government and how bills become laws. To share the pageantry of this building with them is special.”

North Andover High Kicks Off Women’s History Month with Empowerment Day

NAHS Women 4State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) recently kicked off Women’s History Month by hosting Young Women Empowerment Day for female juniors and seniors at North Andover High School.

The two-hour program, held on March 1, featured a roster of more than 20 women from North Andover and neighboring cities and towns who work in a variety of career fields, including a police officer, fire fighter, small business owner, journalist, attorney, realtor, nurse and more. Participants discussed their personal journeys, difficult challenges and successes, and what it took to get to where they are now. Students then had the opportunity to personally engage with each panelist.

The event marked the fifth consecutive year DiZoglio has hosted Young Women Empowerment Day, having previously organized them at Haverhill High, Lawrence High and Methuen High.

“Typically, these girls learn so much about successful women who have made history in the past,” said DiZoglio. “Rarely, however, do they have the opportunity to connect with the incredible women who are making history right now and glean insight and wisdom from them. I’m incredibly thankful that so many amazing women joined me in empowering our next generation of leaders at North Andover High.”

“Thank you especially to Kaitlyn Parks, a North Andover High senior, for leading the charge and organizing this event alongside my office,” DiZoglio added. “She’s been interning with me for a few years and is one of the most determined, dedicated and intelligent young women I know. I am so proud of the way she is already making a difference in the lives of her peers.”

“I am so excited and proud that North Andover High held this successful Empowerment Day,” said Parks.

“We were excited to connect with Senator DiZoglio and our community partners to kick off Women’s History Month,” said North Andover High Principal Chet Jackson. “It was very special to have our senior student Kaitlyn Parks plan and coordinate the event for our school. More than 110 young women from our junior and senior classes were able to connect with female leaders and professionals from across the Merrimack Valley. It was great to see our young women have an opportunity to have small group, extended conversations with professionals of their choice. It was a chance for our students to learn about some career paths and to just talk about life with worthy mentors. Our students had a great time and left empowered to continue their journey beyond high school. We look forward to a continued partnership and to bringing the event back to North Andover High. All of our guests were extremely kind and motivating to our students.”

“What a fantastic morning,” said educator and former North Andover School Committee member Zora Warren. “It was inspiring to be in the company of and engage with so many successful women and motivated students.”

“I want to go into business management, which I know is a very male-dominated field,” said Riva Chatsman, North Andover High junior. “It was so great to hear from women who have made a strong presence in this workforce.”

“It was awesome to see women in careers I’m interested in, like business and law,” said Eisha Haroon, North Andover High junior.

“It is so exciting to see the community come together,” said Izabel Ferrao, North Andover High senior. “This was a great chance to hear and see how women got to where they are.”