MetroWest Daily News: Months after fall, State Sen. Jamie Eldridge gets back to work

January 31, 2010
By Becki Harrington-Davis

Eating chocolate biscotti at a coffee shop within walking distance from his Acton home, state Sen. Jamie Eldridge talked about the issues he is passionate about and described his lengthy recovery from serious injuries after his seizure last fall.

After months of surgeries and rehabilitation, he is back to a full 80-hour work week – six days a week – at the State House as of Jan. 1. While Eldridge said he is not 100 percent recovered and is currently not allowed to drive because of his seizure risk, he was eager to get back to work.

“It’s nice to have a job you love,” he said.

On Oct. 7, Eldridge suffered a seizure while sleeping, which resulted in a fall that injured his spine, shoulder and ribs, and required three surgeries. He spent several weeks at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital while his staff handled constituent services.

Eldridge, who grew up in Acton, is always thinking and talking about issues facing the state and his community. In an interview at Cafe Ziba last week, he talked about preserving open space, creating a green community and working with the MBTA to build a new train station that fits into the historic South Acton neighborhood.

“I have never met anyone who works as hard as Jamie Eldridge,” Selectmen Chairwoman Paulina Knibbe said.

Eldridge said he feels “very positive” about Acton residents’ efforts to achieve the energy-savings guidelines detailed in the Green Communities Act, which would warrant a share of the state’s $10 million grant fund for green projects. The money could be used to make public buildings more energy-efficient, installing more solar panels, wind turbines and hydro-electric facilities.

He is also hoping to pass an e-waste bill, which would require electronics companies such as Dell and Apple to pay for old computers to be recycled or disposed of safely, rather than consumers paying to recycle them or throwing them in the garbage.

To help preserve open space, Eldridge said he recently filed a “No Net Loss” land bill that would control the location of commercial buildings in hopes to preserve the town’s small-town feel.

“We don’t want Acton to look like Framingham with Rte. 9,” he said.

The senator was scheduled to meet with MBTA officials at the South Acton train station yesterday for a site visit to go over the disputed station renovation plans. Eldridge, who takes the commuter rail to Boston frequently, said he also hopes to make renovations at the Littleton station go more smoothly by having transportation officials meet with residents in advance.

Other issues for the coming year include finding savings in the state budget and making big businesses more accountable for their tax breaks, he said. For example, he described a municipal relief bill that helps towns collaborate to reduce paperwork as a money-saving measure.

Eldridge, a Democrat who represents Marlborough, Hudson, Northborough, Southborough, Westborough, Sudbury, Stow, Maynard, Acton, Boxborough, Littleton, Ayer and Shirley, is running for re-election this fall, as well as campaigning for other Massachusetts Democrats including Gov. Deval Patrick. Eldridge supported Patrick as a campaign co-coordinator in the Senate district when Patrick was elected in 2006, and plans to do so again this year, he said.

Eldridge lauded many of Patrick’s accomplishments, such as funding public education, restoring funding for regional school transportation, investing in public transportation such as the commuter rail, passing the Green Communities Act and working on ethics and pension reform.

However, Eldridge had one criticism: While Patrick ran a successful grassroots campaign for the governor’s seat in 2006, Eldridge said Patrick should have kept supporters more involved in his administration after the election.

Eldridge also campaigned for Attorney General Martha Coakley in the special U.S. Senate election to fill the late Edward Kennedy’s seat. While he attributed her Jan. 19 loss largely to voters who were angry at the current administration, he said Coakley should have taken Patrick’s and President Barack Obama’s grass-roots approach in her campaign.

The senator said Democrats were overconfident in this election, thinking Coakley was a “shoo-in” until it was too late. He also criticized the Democratic platform in general, calling on leaders to be bolder and more progressive.

“If you are too centrist, if you don’t stand up for what you believe in, you’re in trouble,” he said.

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