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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Call-in Day Inspires UMB Students to Take Action

On October 2, students from MASSPIRG launched a call-in day on campus concerning the preservation of open space and public lands in Massachusetts. Over sixty students called their local senators to urge them to support the Senate bill 1109, commonly known as the Public Lands Preservation Bill, which would protect state forests and public parks from being turned into parking lots and luxury condominiums. Many students, for the first time, had the chance to call their local politicians and voice their important opinions. In total, nine legislators were targeted. Among these legislators was Senator Birmingham, who received a total of seventeen calls. Another legislator, Senator Lynch, who has not openly stated support for the bill, received eight calls from UMass Boston students.

The call-in day in UMASS Boston was actually part of a statewide effort. Twenty-four other campuses called in their senators and representatives, including UMASS Amherst and UMASS Lowell, UMASS Boston’s sister schools. All the call-in days were organized by MASSPIRG interns and volunteers devoted in raising awareness about issues concerning open spaces.

Every day, Massachusetts is losing over 44 acres of open space to special interests and big commercialists. These lands are open to the public, yet the government continues to give away thousands and thousands of acres every year. The Public Lands Preservation Bill would enforce protection of open spaces threatened by developers. Many groups, in the form of a coalition, have already pledged their support in protecting open spaces. Such open spaces include the Charles River and the Kennedy Playgrounds, places that many local students grew up around. It would be a shame if the public lost such areas to billion-dollar corporations.

“Many people didn’t want to make the call at first until we brought it closer to home. Is there a beach or a forest near your home that you would walk in as a child? Now imagine it becoming a mall,” said Rebecca Small, one of the campaign coordinators. Such words convinced dozens and dozens of students to take action against the daily loss of open space by making phone calls.

“Phone calls or letters to our legislators are an effective way of communicating our point of view on issues,” stated Iris Vicencio, Masspirg’s advocate for open space. “Generally, I’ve found that most legislators are responsive to their constituents, replying to letters or even speaking directly to constituents on the phone. Unfortunately, it’s rare that people actually take the time to contact their legislators, so when we do, most legislators pay attention.”

As of now, the bill is currently stuck in the Ways and Means Committee of the Senate house. By calling and pressuring their local senators and representatives to support the bill, UMASS Boston students hoped that the pressure would convince legislators like Birmingham and Lynch that saving our public lands is an important and urgent issue that we must focus on. Currently, the Public Lands Preservation B ill is stuck on the floor of the Ways and Means Committee. Governor Swift promised to sign the bill once it reaches her desk, but getting it to her desk will require direct pressure on local politicians. Already supported by numerous organizations, the bill still needs the approval of several key legislators.

Rejecting or ignoring the bill would result in a devastating blow to the environment and our personal lives. Hopefully, our local senators and representatives will support and pass Senate bill 1109, protecting our cherished and beloved public parks and lands.