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Winchester’s state legislators to talk climate solutions at Jenks

In photo from left to right, town Sustainability Director Ken Pruitt, Rep. Mike Day, Rep. Michelle Ciccolo, and Senator Jason Lewis (missing is Senator Pat Jehlen)

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By Rachel Whitehouse

As Americans, Winchester residents that know voting is a fundamental way to have a say in government and to choose elected officials who will address their priorities. And that once they’ve voted, sharing their thoughts directly with elected representatives is an important way to further influence policy decisions. 

Winchester residents will have that opportunity next Tuesday, Sept. 26, as part of Climate Solutions Week, when invited participants Massachusetts State Senators Jason Lewis and Pat Jehlen, and legislative aides to State Representatives Mike Day and Michelle Ciccolo participate in a panel discussion on recent and upcoming climate legislation.

Asked about climate priorities, Senator Lewis said, “We are focused in the State House on the strong implementation of the two major climate bills passed by the Legislature in recent years to set emissions limits and support clean energy, and on passing new legislation to reduce and eliminate single-use plastics in our communities.”

Senator Jehlen said, “We should continue to build on successful legislation to reduce fossil fuel use, increase renewables, and promote efficiency.” Jehlen continued, “We need to promote public transit by making it safe, fast, and reliable, which means a lot of investment in infrastructure and staff salaries and training. Bus users don’t have as strong a voice as other constituencies, but buses are extremely important, especially for low-income essential workers. Free fares have been shown to increase timeliness, reliability and ridership with relatively small cost due to eliminating fare collection.” 

Here in Winchester there are residents who not only attend events like this, but they actively lobby their legislators year-round on climate-related issues. Edward Drive resident Alan Field is one. A long-time member of 350 Mass MetroNorth, a citizens lobby group that works to combat climate change and advance renewable energy in Massachusetts, Field says 350 Mass is currently focused on seven bills in the areas of buildings, transportation, environmental justice and climate adaptation. 

Of those, Field identified top priority bills as The Housing Environment and Revenue Opportunities (HERO) legislation and the Zero Carbon Renovation Fund (ZCRF) legislation. Field says these will fund investments in the Mass affordable housing and building sectors by creating funding that will support Mass decarbonization and climate adaptation plans while making housing more available, affordable, and healthy. A third bill would create a Climate Change Adaptation Superfund of $75 billion over 25 years for climate change adaptation projects across the state. The Superfund would be funded by payments made from profits of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters, proportional to their contributing share of emissions from 2000-2019.

At the panel, he plans to ask legislators what they think of these priorities, but says he’s learned from experience how to interpret the response. 

“For legislators to say nice things about bills or agree to co-sponsor them does not actually mean they will work on behalf of them or even vote for them,” says Field. “What is more important is if they will emphasize to their House or Senate leadership that they consider certain bills very important and also by contacting the committees the bills are “sitting in” to move them forward favorably.”

Other Winchester residents agree on the importance of establishing connections with their elected officials. “I like lobbying in-person in the office of state and federal legislators,” says Wainwright Road resident John Brown, member of 350 Mass MetroNorth and Citizens’ Climate Lobby Boston-Metro West Chapter. “You can talk with them about the issues and what might actually work, and hear what the legislator’s thoughts on it are. You feel like you’re having a direct role.”

Moderated by Ken Pruitt, Winchester’s Sustainability Director, the panel is Tuesday, Sept. 26, 7-8 p.m., at The Jenks Center, 109 Skillings Road. The event is free.

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