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Barrett Named to Leadership Post

Bedford Minuteman

Senate President Karen Spilka has named Sen. Michael Barrett, Democrat of Lexington, as Assistant Majority Leader of the Democrats in the chamber.


Waltham nonprofits seek protection for UMass-owned farmland

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To get to 100% renewable power, we need hard-headed assessments like this one, and the stomach to accept the necessary tradeoffs.

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Dear Friend,
Samuel D. Warren II grew up on Cedar Hill, his family's estate in Waltham.  He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1877, started his own firm with wicked smart classmate Louis Brandeis, and teamed up with Brandeis to co-author "The Right to Privacy," the journal article that launched a revolution in American  constitutional law .
Sam's younger sister Cornelia was no slouch, either.  While he married after law school and took up residence in Boston, she lived by herself in Waltham, emerging as a formidable force in some of the great movements of her day: women's education (early trustee of Wellesley College), social justice (chief benefactor of Denison House, a center for poor immigrant women in Boston's South End), and progressive agriculture (tested in the fields of Cedar Hill).
In her will, executed upon her death in 1921, Cornelia divvied up the Hill's sprawling expanse.  A portion went to the Girl Scouts, a portion went to Harvard University, and -- fortunately for many of us -- 60 acres went to the Massachusetts Agricultural College, later UMass Amherst, so that the institution could offer extension services -- advisory services -- to eastern Massachusetts residents interested in effective farming.
Through a near-century of ups and downs for farms in Greater Boston, Cornelia's vision has held fast. Today, UMass's Waltham Field Station on Beaver Street serves as shared work space and headquarters for  eight nonprofits involved in sustainable agriculture, local produce, and educating urban residents about healthy eating.  The honor roll: Massachusetts Farmers Markets, Grow Native Massachusetts, Waltham Land Trust, Massachusetts 4-H, Waltham Fields Community Farm, Boston Area Gleaners, Waltham Community Gardens, and the  Boston Area Climate Experiment.  
Then, last summer, came a jolt.  When it became clear the Baker administration would not sign off on a modernized Center for Urban Sustainability at the site, despite $20 million authorized for the purpose by the Legislature, some UMass officials decided to evict the tenants at the end of the year and shutter the buildings.
Whoa.  A bad development for Massachusetts residents who have a craving for good food, locally grown.  An even worse call for the University itself, as anger mounted over the prospect  of a public institution evicting nonprofit tenants working in the public interest.
Today, nine months after the evictions were first announced, I am happy to report that cooler heads and kinder hearts may yet prevail at UMass.  Leaders have had recent talks with Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy, to discuss a possible sale to the city and preservation of Cornelia Warren's intentions for the property.  The mayor is a friend of the tenants and an unabashed Warren fan, so this may work.  I've become involved to help move things along, as has State Rep. John Lawn and members of the Waltham City Council.  
This isn't over yet, but I want to offer provisional thanks to UMass for reconsidering its options.  Kudos to the tenants for organizing so well in their self-defense.  Special tip of the hat to State Senate President Karen Spilka and Senate Ways & Means Chair Michael Rodrigues for giving the cause a helpful boost.
Dear reader, you may want to drop a line to UMass Dean Steve Goodwin at and ask him to stop the evictions.   You just might make the difference.  Stay tuned.  
Senator Mike Barrett

  Umbrella Center for the Arts 

This is big: Jerry Wedge, Executive Director of The Umbrella Community Arts Center in Concord, unfurled impressive details of the Center's dramatic makeover.  Recent listeners included me (eyes closed, visualizing), my colleague State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, Mass. Cultural Council Director Anita Walker, and State Rep. Tami Gouveia, the only one savvy enough to look at the camera.  Due to re-open in September, the Center is a major addition to the region's portfolio of venues for the visual and performing arts. 
Commemorating Lowell's famous "Mill Girls" 

Earlier this year, the United States Mint issued Lowell its own American quarter, commemorating the city's famous "mill girls" of the 19th Century. (Warm thanks to my colleague Senator Ed Kennedy, Lowell's own, for sharing the news, and handing out samples). The women who drove Lowell's economic growth lived independently, fought for their rights, and pioneered the emergence of organized labor. Lowell itself was carved out of territory originally belonging to neighboring Chelmsford, part of my Senate district. Since Lowell has proven to be such a highly successful spinoff, it seems to me it would only be fair to reconsider Chelmsford's cut....