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Your Tewksbury Today

300 People Pack Merrimack Valley Town Meeting for Audience With State Senate

Feb 27, 2015 12:18PM ● By Kieran Gilman
(Editor's Note: The following information was submitted by State Sen. Barbara L'Italien, D-Andover.)

An estimated 300 people packed a town hall-style meeting Monday night at Sal’s Restaurant Function Facility in Lawrence to press a panel of 13 state senators for help on a range of issues from income equality and health care to public safety and education to challenges facing local honey bees.

Around 30 Merrimack Valley residents took the microphone to speak about local issues such as the region’s heroin epidemic, plans for a new Lawrence police station and regional public safety center, and the need for more jobs, affordable housing and education opportunities in the region.

“I was so proud to bring the senate president and so many of my colleagues to the Merrimack Valley to hear from so many of our constituents,” said L’Italien, whose district includes Lawrence, Andover, Dracut and Tewksbury. “I was very impressed with the large turnout and passion that people spoke about on so many varied issues. It was a great night and one that is going to help guide us as we begin to plan our agenda for the coming legislative session.”

Attendees urged senators to do their part to enforce the minimum wage law, pass legislation to help illegal immigrants obtain driver’s licenses, keep down the cost of attending college and fight the proposed Kinder Morgan fracked-gas pipeline. The pipeline company’s preferred main route runs from Pennsylvania to Dracut, traversing parts of western Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire before ending in Dracut, with smaller lines traveling through Andover along the Tewksbury border.

The pipeline was not the only environmental issue to come up. Boxford resident Marty Jessel warned that certain pesticides are killing honey bees and asked senators to ban neonicotinoids in pesticides.

Several speakers said the region needs more higher-paying jobs and transportation improvements.

Anyone who didn’t get a chance to speak at the public forum or was unable to attend is invited to submit written comments by visiting

“This is the start of a conversation, not the end,” said Sen. L’Italien, D-Andover, who hosted the forum with Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Glouchster.

The Lawrence forum was the third stop on the Senate’s Commonwealth Conversations listening tour of the state. The purpose of the tour is to familiarize senators with different parts of the state and to gather input from residents before setting their agendas and priorities for the coming year.

Every senator is expected to attend at least two of the public forums.

Earlier Monday, the senators visited a number of communities in northeast Massachusetts. A bus carrying the groups made stops at the Massachusetts Hospital Association in Burlington to discuss business and transportation issues; Memorial Hall in Melrose and Eastern Bank in Lynn to discuss local municipal and economic development issues; North Shore Technical High School in Danvers for a tour of the new facility; and Good Day Café in North Andover to discuss the challenges faced by small businesses.

Next, senators will visit business and universities in Middlesex and Norfolk counties and MetroWest onMarch 2. This stop is scheduled to end at Newton High School for another Town Meeting-style public forum.
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