FROM YOUR STATE SENATOR
By John Velis
Happy Halloween, everyone!
I hope you’re all doing well and that you stayed safe during the storms this past week. I want to thank all the public works employees, first responders, and municipal officials who have been working so diligently this week to keep our power on and roads safe.
Important: All eligible Massachusetts residents can access COVID-19 vaccine booster shots in accordance with updated guidance from the CDC. Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson boosters are available near you. Learn more and check on your eligibility status at mass.gov/covid-19-vaccine.
One of my highlights of this week was, without a doubt, reading “House Mouse and Senate Mouse” by Peter Barnes aloud with Mrs. Ward’s fourth grade class at Southampton Road Elementary School in Westfield. It was a pleasure to meet some of the future leaders of our community. I then switched age groups Monday afternoon for a meeting with MassDOT Aeronautics about Counter Unmanned Aircraft Systems (CounterUAS). For anyone that may not know, CounterUAS refers to systems that are used to detect or intercept unmanned aircraft systems while in flight. I have my own experience with UAS from my time in Afghanistan, and know how important it is that we develop strong systems to monitor and patrol their usage. I’m looking forward to strengthening my relationship with MassDOT and working on this issue as chair of the Aviation Caucus.
The Senate’s formal session to finalize redistricting for new districts filled my Wednesday. The reality is that populations in our commonwealth shifted east over the last 10 years. As a result, districts in Western Massachusetts, including mine, now must shift east as well, to gain enough population. It has been a true honor to represent Southwick, Tolland and Granville. I have formed strong and meaningful relationships with so many local officials and residents over my time as senator, and I will continue to zealously advocate for these communities however I can until the end of this session. By moving east, my district will be adding West Springfield, a community I have great personal and professional connections to. I am excited for the opportunity to represent the town and learn from residents about the challenges they face and how I can best support them.
On Thursday, I joined Sen. Gomez and Sen. Lesser’s team in Chicopee to celebrate the ribbon-cutting of the new mobile food pantry at Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen and Pantry! The mobile food pantry will plan to have 12-16 stops in Chicopee per month and is made possible from a generous donation from Theory Wellness. Food insecurity in our communities has only grown during the pandemic, and initiatives like this will help our food pantries meet people struggling where they are at.
I began Friday morning joining Mike Tourville, author of “Voices from the Fallen: True Stories of Addiction, Grief, Recovery, and Courage,” on his podcast, “Healing Voices Project,” to discuss substance use in our communities as well as legislative initiatives to combat the epidemic and support those struggling. Later in the day, I had a call with Mike Tyron of Western Mass. Emergency Medical Services to talk about EMS services in our region and to listen to the needs of our EMS workers. Finally, I joined the Holyoke Chamber of Commerce and the Western Massachusetts Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to discuss supports for Holyoke businesses and the individuals in our community that make them run.
This week, the Massachusetts School Building Authority voted in favor of the Franklin Avenue Elementary School project and moved it into the next phase! This is extremely exciting for Westfield, and I was glad to advocate alongside Rep. Pease and city officials during the MSBA’s meeting this week.
Our county has been filled will spooky events over the past couple of days, like Chicopee’s Spooktacular and Holyoke Community College’s Trunk-or-Treat. In addition, the West Springfield Park and Recreation Department is hosting a trick-or-treat trail today, and Westfield hosted its 28th annual Downtown Merchants Trick-or-Treating this Friday. Be sure to run to the store and fill up on a good assortment of candy for all our trick-or-treaters, and for those with trick-or-treaters of their own, bundle them up!
As always, if there is anything I can do to assist you, please never hesitate to reach out to my office. I can be reached at [email protected] or 413-572-3920, and you can find me online at senatorjohnvelis.com, where you can also sign up for my newsletter.
John Velis, D-Westfield, represents Westfield, Southwick, Montgomery, Russell and all or part of seven other cities and towns in the state Senate.