MetroWest Daily News: Reps, Southborough seniors chew the issues

by Abby Jordan
4/1/09

SOUTHBOROUGH -The economy, pensions and the gas tax dominated conversation yesterday as seniors shared concerns and asked questions of their local legislators over lunch.

State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, and state Rep. Danielle Gregoire, D-Marlborough, and Rep. Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston, dined casually with about 20 people who attended the Senior Center luncheon, then mingled and spoke informally with individuals and groups.

“The big topic of the day is really the economy,” Gregoire said.

She said meeting with residents is a good way to find out what they think is important, while explaining the work legislators are doing at the state level on transportation reform and government ethics.

“This is what we pledged to do when we ran,” Gregoire said. “Instead of getting caught up in what’s important (on Beacon Hill), there are important things going on here as well.”

While some seniors said they went to the lunch to listen to what the representatives had to say, others wanted to speak their minds on issues like government greed and tax increases.

Betty Soderholm said she is concerned about pensions, and would like to see public transportation improvements, though she understands there is a cost associated with that.

“I don’t expect something for nothing,” she said.

Barbara Barton said she wanted to listen to the representatives’ thoughts on issues like Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposed 19-cent gas tax plan. That is a lot of money, she said, although toll increases on the Mass. Pike aren’t necessarily fair either.

“I honestly think a lot of reform could be done that would save money,” she said, citing the elimination of toll takers in favor of automated collection.

Eldridge told residents why he supports the gas tax.

“I explained that the money goes to improving roads and bridges and public transportation,” he said. “For about $8 more per driver a month, we can start to fix some of the problems and bring better service.”

Dykema said she had a conversation with one group of seniors about casino gambling. They recognized the entertainment associated with resort casinos, but understood the social consequences that come hand in hand, she said.

“Their general sense is that casinos tend to attract those with a problem who are not able to afford as much.”

Dykema said she hears good things from people when she attends events like yesterday’s Southborough luncheon.

“They have really interesting things to say,” she said. “It’s helpful to get reinforcement to know that what I’m working on and the Legislature is working on is important to people.”