My Priorities are YOUR Priorities!
Before I begin, I want to thank the readers of The Valley Patriot. I met so many of you throughout the campaign in Methuen and Lawrence, and your support for me and this newspaper is very much appreciated. You were all a big part of the reason I am now a State Representative for Methuen and Lawrence. I also want to thank Tom Duggan and the Valley Patriot team for giving me this opportunity to write a column every month to inform the public about what is going on in your state legislature.
Having just been sworn into office, I want to focus on the issues you told me that you care about the most.
During the campaign many of you told me that your primary concern is increasing state funding for police and firefighters in Methuen and Lawrence.
Over the next month I will be assessing the amount of money both communities get from the state as well as the formula used to calculate how much money each community gets for public safety. Right now, local taxpayers in Lawrence and Methuen are footing the bill for public safety training. I intend to submit a bill to increase state funding for police and fire training to make sure all state-mandated training is paid for by the state government instead of you at the local level.
HOMELESS AND ADDICTION
One thing that I made really clear during the last election was my determination to address the addiction and homeless crisis in Lawrence and Methuen without making the problem worse. What you told me over and over during the campaign is that to address the addiction and homeless problem three things need to happen:
1) Create a mandatory 30-day commitment for anyone who has overdosed more than once and treated by police, fire, EMTs or medical professionals. As it stands right now, police and medical professionals NARCAN someone who overdoses over and over, only to have them sign themselves out of rehab or a medical facility. This has caused countless deaths.
2) Increase funding and availability of beds for detox centers that can prove a successful track record with long term recovery. This would include funding for our jails and prisons to make sure those who are released back into our community have a support system to stay clean on the outside.
3) Establish an ad hoc committee of those who directly service the addicted and homeless, so that our leaders in Boston have firsthand knowledge of what the needs are, and what current programs are making the problem worse.
MERRIMACK RIVER AND CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS
Of particular interest to the people of Methuen is better funding for infrastructure projects. The capital improvement needs in our schools and public buildings have long been ignored by state and it is my intention to focus on steering more state dollars to improve our roads, buildings, bridges and particularly, I want to secure funding for Rocky Morrison’s Clean River Project.
As you may know, The Clean River Project has pulled more than 100 cars and other items out of the river and they have done so with almost no help at all from state and local officials. While other non-profits are being funded to have meetings about meetings, Rocky Morrison’s Clean River Project is making noticeable difference in cleaning up the river.
THE LAWRENCE SCHOOLS
Of greatest concern in Lawrence is the control of our Lawrence Public Schools. It is very clear that the state has done a substandard job of educating our children. As bad as the school system was under local control, the facts now show that children were getting a better education under local control than they are right now under state control. I plan to do everything in my power at the state house to force state officials to turn control of the schools back to the people of Lawrence.
To do that, we will need to make some difficult decisions about the way children are educated in Lawrence. We will need to make compromises, and raise standards and expectations for students AND teachers, as well as administrators and those who support a curriculum designed to make our children fail.
Finally, I want everyone in Lawrence and Methuen to know that my priorities are always going to be based on your priorities. To do that, I need to hear from you on a regular basis so that I know what the needs are in your neighborhoods. I want you to feel free to email me or call my office with any concern you have about upcoming legislation, funding for community projects and ideas for improving our way of life here in the Merrimack Valley.
Estela Reyes was elected as a state Representative for Methuen and Lawrence in 2022 and is a District City Councilor in the City of Lawrence. You can reach her at Estelaareyes17@gmail.com. ◊