A Faith That Does Justice Hosts Inaugural Community Meeting

What is the best way to bring together individuals that live in the same region, but whose lives seem worlds apart?  What can those who have means and influence do to help marginalized populations in their own neighborhoods?  How can people of faith and/or good will assist immigrant communities living in anxiety because of the current political climate?  These were the fundamental questions that nonprofit, A Faith That Does Justice (AFTDJ), addressed at its first Community Meeting on Tuesday, October 10th.

AFTDJ 1Held at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in downtown Boston, AFTDJ brought together more than 150 individuals interested in learning more about the immigrant experience and the damage that has been wrought on immigrant communities facing draconian policies.

Marjean Perhot, Director of Catholic Charities Refugee and Immigration Services and Attorney Jeannie Kain, past Chair of the New England Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), filled in as panelists for Ambassador Ruben Zamora, who was unable to participate in the meeting.  AFTDJ’s founder, Fr. Peter Gyves, MD SJ, conducted a panel discussion with Perhot and Kain, who described the difficult circumstances that so many refugees find themselves in and highlighted ways the people in the room could help.

In addition to Perhot and Kain, attendees heard from AFTDJ volunteer Alba, who described her own harrowing experiences, which led to her immigrating to the United States, and the challenges she has faced since. For many in the room, it was the first time they had interacted directly with an individual who lived such an experience.

Founded by Fr. Peter W. Gyves, a Jesuit priest and doctor who was inspired by the example of the Jesuit priests he observed in El Salvador, AFTDJ seeks to build solidarity in three ways – by hosting workshops that allow people of different faiths to explore their common goals in human rights and social justice; by sponsoring community meetings that will bring speakers to Boston to highlight the challenges facing the poor and vulnerable around the world; and by pursuing a Faith in Action component, one element of which will be English as a Second Language classes.

Fr. Gyves, who is bilingual, is a pediatrician who once worked in poor communities in El Salvador. Two years ago, he piloted the AFTDJ program in Barrio Logan, San Diego. The program focuses on faith lived in action on behalf of the most vulnerable among us. He took this approach to two groups, one that spoke English and the other Spanish. Both urged him to bring the groups together, which he did in January 2015.  From there, the idea of A Faith That Does Justice was born. Fr. Gyves then moved the program to Boston in September 2016 in order to reach out to its diverse population of people, many of whom have recently arrived in the United States.  While drawing on the Catholic Social Justice Tradition, AFTDJ will pursue an ecumenical approach in fulfilling its mission.

AFTDJ’s next Community Meeting will be on December 12th, and will feature MacArthur Fellows Rosanne Haggerty, President and CEO of Community Solutions, and Rev. Bryan Hehir, former advisor to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, discussing housing and homelessness.

If you are interested in learning more about A Faith That Does Justice, please visit their Website at http://www.faith-justice.org/, their Facebook page or follow them at Twitter.

From HKS to Elected Office: The Hows and Whys of People Who Serve

By: Tom O’Neill 

Last week, in the Massachusetts room of the Harvard Club of Boston, surrounded by the names and faces of great politicians and fellow alum, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s famous quote, “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” The panel consisted of New Hampshire State Representative Marilinda Garcia (R), Massachusetts State Representative and Chair of the Ways & Means Committee Jeffrey Sanchez (D), Massachusetts State Representative Marjorie Decker (D), New Hampshire State Representative David Hess (R) and myself with moderator Harvard Professor David King.

The conversation began with each panelist describing their path to running for office. I could not help but notice a recurring theme in our journeys: we never intended to run.  Many of us got involved in an attempt to help our local communities through the support of a candidate we believed in or the promotion of an issue we found important. The desire to give back that is so deeply rooted in all of us led to discussion around a need for humanity in politics. On a national level this is a concept that seems to be lost under the current administration and today we have too many individuals seeking office for all the wrong reasons. We need to step out from behind the screens and away from the social media platforms that shield those who currently perpetuate hatred and division. Representative Decker backed this idea claiming, “right now, the most important thing we can do is connect [on a personal level].” Twitter, Facebook and other social media provide a means of communication but there is not substitution for a face to face conversation.

As the night came to a close, moderator David King, in true professor form, left us all with some homework, “talk to your neighbors.”  It is not enough to simply be friends on Facebook. When you know your neighbors on a deeper, more personal level, it makes for a safer, happier community. With so much division in our country, it is more important now than ever to get involved by backing the candidates looking to better the community and not just themselves, to get out and vote, and to ask what you can do for your country.

CEO’s Corner

220px-Thomas_P_O'Neill_IIIIn times of tragedy, Americans unite in support of those affected. We seek solace in one another and identify ways we might make a difference, even from far away. In this equation of compassion, Americans also expect a similar call to action from their elected leaders. We expect government to do its job. Our hearts are broken for the dead and wounded following the shooting in Las Vegas. Similarly, we again are deeply distressed at the devastation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands by another hurricane. Hurricanes are not unpredictable; mass shootings are. A greater federal response is needed to both.

I visited Haiti following the catastrophic earthquake in 2010. Within two days of the earthquake, 8,000 U.S. troops were on the ground. That number more than doubled over the next two weeks. Puerto Rico – a U.S. territory – experienced no such influx of aid for the first two weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall.  Five days into the crisis President Trump, a rabid user of Twitter, tweeted about Puerto Rico for the first time since the storm made landfall. That followed a weekend of Administration silence, a weekend that he spent at his Bedminster, NJ golf club. Puerto Rico, an already economically challenged U.S. territory, faces a very difficult future. Its residents still struggle for basic necessities such as food, clean drinking water, and power. Puerto Ricans are fellow U.S. citizens and deserve the full support and power of federal assistance.

In Las Vegas, an ongoing investigation has revealed few answers so far. On Monday, President Trump reacted to the shooting rightly saying, “In moments of tragedy and horror, America comes together as one. And it always had.” But when it comes to assault weapons, it shouldn’t take a mass murder to bring us all together. Americans deserve action. The federal government banned military-style semiautomatic assault weapons for 10 years beginning in 1994. Gun deaths from mass shootings fell during that time period. But Congress let that ban expire in 2004, rather than voting to extend it.  We‘ve seen the consequences of that inaction. We‘re proud of the role we played in strengthening Massachusetts gun laws in 2014. In 2015, Massachusetts had the lowest gun death rate of any state in the country according to the Violence Policy Center. Our nation deserves the same protection.

Despite having a President who attempts to distract the nation’s attention from important issues, there is no distracting from the tragedies faced by Puerto Ricans and the victims in Las Vegas. He also cannot take away the fact that he has had no legislative accomplishments. Throughout history there has been a proven path to bring about change in Congress– bipartisanship. Congress must work together on both sides of the aisle to put an end to violence, provide support for our citizens and create a stronger, more united nation. Whether Democrat or Republican, we are all Americans and feel common pain when our people suffer. President Trump ended his remarks Monday by saying “we pray for the day when evil is banished and the innocent are safe from hatred and from fear.” We join in this prayer, but also demand action so that our fellow citizens can live free of fear knowing that their federal government will be there for them.

The Labor Movement: Janus v. AFSCME and the Impact on Unions and Electoral Politics

The United States Supreme Court recently agreed to hear Janus v. AFSCME, again bringing a critical legal issue for the labor movement before the court that could have a sweeping impact on unions and electoral politics. The key legal question in the case centers on enrollment in the public sector union, whether a worker can be signed up for a union without formally indicating consent. With President Trump’s appointment of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, observers believe the court will rule 5-4 against labor’s position in the matter. The court ruled 4-4 on a similar case last session after the passing of Justice Scalia. The decision could be extremely disruptive for unions in states across the U.S., and has the potential to reduce membership in unions across the country.

While the issue has been at the center of legislative struggles in states across the country, this blanket policy change is a significant threat. It is more important than ever for labor unions of all sizes to communicate to their members, not just that this decision is wrong, but reinforcing to members how their union fights for them and how the labor movement has improved conditions for workers of all kinds. Local unions will have to leverage and expand their ability to efficiently communicate and interact with their membership, utilizing the powerful and precise reach of social media and digital capabilities, while also executing the in-person member to member communication that has served as the backbone for labor communications for generations.

Bridge Renamed to Honor Memory of the Arredondo Brothers

Arredondo Family Foundation Logo 1

On Thursday September 28th the Jamaica Way Bridge in Jamaica Plain was renamed the Lance Corporal Alexander Arredondo & Brian Arredondo Memorial Bridge to honor the memory of the brothers. Alex Arredondo was killed on duty in Iraq in 2004 and his brother Brian was lost to suicide in 2011.

Governor Charlie Baker, State Representative Jeffrey Sanchez, parents Carlos Arredondo and Victoria Foley, step-mother Mélida Arredondo, family, friends and several state officials were on hand to celebrate the dedication of the bridge.

“We are honored to dedicate this bridge to the memory of Lance Corporal Alexander Arredondo in recognition of his service to this nation and to his younger brother Brian, who displayed courage and bravery in the face of mental health challenges following his brother’s death,” said Governor Baker.  “This bridge will stand as an important reminder of the sacrifices made by our nation’s veterans and the families who support them in service.”

The bridge is the first in Massachusetts to be named in honor of someone lost to suicide. Carlos Arredondo, President and Co-founder of the Arredondo Family Foundation said, “This is a great honor. The memory of both of our sons continues to inspire us in the work we do today. We are especially grateful that through this bridge dedication, Massachusetts is acknowledging the sacrifice of our soldiers, veterans and their families, and recognizing the fact that suicide is occurring as well among military family members.” The Arredondo Family Foundation was established to provide help to veterans and their families dealing with suicide, grief and depression.

On April 15, 2013, Carlos and Mélida Arredondo were thrust into the global spotlight when Carlos helped to save the life of Jeff Bauman in the immediate moments after the Boston Marathon tragedy.  But their story – and the work they are doing to support the families of the fallen and military veterans – began many years before the Marathon bombing.

The Arredondo Family Foundation was established by Carlos and Mélida Arredondo in 2015.  The mission of the Arredondo Family Foundation is to empower military families in the prevention of military related suicides and to provide support through education, financial relief and support services.  On October 22nd, a number of individuals will run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC on behalf of the Arredondo Family Foundation.

A Faith That Does Justice to Host First Community Meeting Focused on Immigration

A new Boston nonprofit, A Faith That Does Justice Inc., is founded on a powerful idea –connecting people of good will to vulnerable populations will help transform society.

Founded by Fr. Peter W. Gyves, a Jesuit priest and doctor who was inspired by the example of the Jesuit priests he observed in El Salvador, the program seeks to build solidarity in three ways – by hosting workshops that allow people of different faiths to explore their common goals in human rights and social justice; by sponsoring community meetings that will bring speakers to Boston to highlight the challenges facing the poor and vulnerable around the world; and by pursuing a Faith in Action component, one element of which will be English as a Second Language classes.

AFTDJAt the first of the organization’s Community meetings, A Faith That Does Justice will welcome the Honorable Ruben Zamora, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of El Salvador to the United Nations, as its first guest speaker. Zamora will be interviewed by Fr. Gyves, where they will discuss the increase of undocumented immigrants from Latin America into the United States, as seen from the perspective of a UN representative.

Ambassador Zamora has participated in the political sphere within El Salvador for the past 30 years, holding positions as member of the Legislative Assembly, candidate to the Presidency of the Republic (1994 and 2000), and Founder and Vice-President of the Democratic Revolutionary Front (FDR).

Fr. Gyves, who is bilingual, is a retired pediatrician who once worked in poor communities in El Salvador. Two years ago, he piloted AFTDJ in Barrio Logan, San Diego. This program focuses on faith lived in action on behalf of the most vulnerable among us. He took this approach to two groups, one that spoke English and the other Spanish. Both urged him to bring the groups together, which he did in January 2015.  From there, the idea of A Faith That Does Justice was born. It was then moved to Boston in September 2016 in order to reach out to its diverse population of people, many of whom have recently arrived in the United States.

The forum with Ambassador Zamora will take place on Tuesday, October 10th from 6:15 to 8:15 pm at Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston.  If you are interested in attending A Faith That Does Justice’s community meeting with Ambassador Zamora, please rsvp at this link.

Building the Foundations for the Massachusetts Cannabis Industry

Creating a multibillion dollar industry from scratch that is at the intersection of drug policy, medicine, real estate development, technology, agriculture and the Trump Administration is sure to get attention in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) not only has to handle hot political topics, they have a broad range of issues to address, in a short time frame, and in a cultural environment that is always ready to bring scrutiny.

Over the next several months and for years after the CCC will set the framework for the local market of an industry that is growing, innovating and spreading across the country. The CCC will learn from other states and countries that have lifted the cannabis prohibition but will inevitably create a market unique to Massachusetts. With the cannabis industry’s introduction to scale in the state we will see retailers, cultivators, manufacturers and ancillary companies become significant employers, neighbors in our cities and towns and a part of our cultural and economic landscape.

The CCC commissioners have a multitude of decisions in front of them to make that will shape how cannabis businesses function, how consumers interact with these companies and how they will integrate in their communities. As established cannabis businesses introduce operations in the state or local entrepreneurs move to build successful brands in Massachusetts, beginning a relationship and providing input to the CCC and other officials will be critical. In this formative stage, the CCC will establish criteria for those seeking licenses and what the application process will look like. They will also set regulations and make policy decisions on a wide range of topics such as:

  • Cultivation, seed to sale tracking, craft cultivation
  • Manufacturing Edibles, Extraction
  • Product testing and lab standards
  • Transportation/Distribution/Delivery
  • Packaging/Labeling
  • Potency/Serving size
  • Advertising rules and restrictions
  • Social Consumption
  • Integration of Medical Marijuana
  • Social Justice issues

The CCC has a full plate and is receiving input from a wide variety of sources. As a political entity, commissioners are looking for information they can trust and partners they know can deliver in what will be a highly competitive and closely watched process.

Over the last month, the CCC members have met several times, set initial operational goals and taken steps to put interview and hire for the important role of an executive director responsible for building the new regulatory agency. Commissioners have agreed to divide and research administrative and policy topics to inform the body. The CCC website has upcoming meeting dates and commissioners will be holding listening sessions across the state to solicit input from a broad geographic audience over the next month. The CCC is not yet fully funded but will evolve into a robust regulatory body in order to meet its oversight obligations. Additionally, the 25 member CCC advisory board, comprised of a cross section of industry representatives and other related stakeholders meets today to begin their role as a resource to the CCC and a voice for interested parties.

The real estate development obstacles that cannabis businesses face are, perhaps, the most troublesome challenges for the nascent industry. Real estate in Massachusetts is expensive, stock suitable for this use is limited, and our zoning laws and municipal processes will pose complicated political obstacles, especially at the local level. As with the establishment of medical marijuana in Massachusetts, effectively communicating the planned development, partnering with the community and building relationships with local and state officials will be the only way to open an ideally situated cannabis business in Massachusetts. The expansion of the cannabis industry in the state will bring revenue, economic development in rapid fashion, the CCC and municipal officials need to hear from stakeholders during this formative time to make sure their decisions reflect the intent of the statute and the best interests of the Commonwealth.

What It’s Like Being a Cristo Rey Boston High School Corporate Work Study Student at O’Neill and Associates

By: Marina, Sophomore

September 14, 2017

Attending a high school where I was obligated to work as part of the required curriculum seemed like a challenge. I didn’t know what to expect or if I even wanted to attend Cristo Rey Boston High School at all — fortunately, I did. In fact, I quickly started to enjoy and appreciate my job. I work for O’Neill and Associates, a public relations and government relations company. I work every Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and handle a variety of tasks and there’s more to this than meets the eye. Everyone has to work, and as you grow old there is no way of avoiding it. If you approach work with an “I hate my job, why do I have to do all this” attitude then you will never be happy.

Every day is an opportunity for me to learn something new. I’m 16 years old but I have the chance to learn and perform tasks just as the college interns at O’Neill and Associates do. Working for my colleagues and having them rely on me has helped me to be more responsible and to take more initiatives at work. I’m always offering a helping hand, while making sure I accomplish everything small and large that was asked of me. I can pat my back and say I did something well. I can look at myself and know that I am a part of a great community.

In fact I am part of a community that is very involved with the public. Every day at O’Neill and Associates I hear political conversations or discussions about the latest news story and how we are affected. As a result, this has taught me the importance of being informed. These skills and characteristics that are growing in me are all thanks to O’Neill. Not only is everyone at the company interested in the public, but they are also interested in me. The staff is so supportive and mindful. I walk past everyone smiling and they ask how I’m doing, they show an interest in learning more about my classes and my life outside of school. At work I never hesitate to ask for help or fear making a mistake, because at O’Neill and Associates there’s a very supportive environment. There’s mutual support and respect. There is no place like O’Neill and Associates. I am very grateful for my job, and I know that most kids my age don’t have this opportunity. I believe this job is a stepping stone for me — a step that was laid out for me through Cristo Rey Boston’s Corporate Work Study. Thanks to the CWS program and O’Neill and Associates I am learning and growing beyond what I ever expected.

Massport Officially Kicked Off Boston Harbor Dredging Project

On Friday, September 15th, the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) officially kicked off the Boston Harbor Dredging Project – a three-year, $350 million state and federally funded multi-phase project. Governor Baker, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Edward Markey, Congressman Stephen Lynch, local elected officials and representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) were there to highlight the economic impacts the project will have on the Commonwealth and the entire New England region.

The Boston Harbor Dredging Project will continue to support growth at the Conley Container Terminal, which has had three consecutive record breaking years for volume, including over 256,000 Twenty Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 – a 3.9 percent increase over FY 2016. The Port and Terminal generates $4.6 billion in economic activity each year, supports 7,000 direct jobs and services exports and imports for 1,600 businesses across Massachusetts and New England.

The entire project will cost approximately $350 million, with $130 million from Massport and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and $220 million in federal funding, including $18.2 million allocated in the USACE’s FY 2017 work plan and $58 million included in the President’s FY 2018 budget.

Last year Governor Baker signed economic development legislation that permitted $107.5 million for Massport infrastructure investments at Conley Container Terminal that included the construction of a new berth and procurement of three new cranes to accommodate new larger cargo ships.

The project will be completed in two phases. The first phase that will continue through the end of the year consists of maintenance dredging, including the construction of a Confined Aquatic Disposal (CAD) Cell just off the shore of the Autoport in Charlestown, which will safely hold tons of sediment from the floor of the harbor. The second phase of the project, which is scheduled to begin in mid-2018, will deepen the Outer Harbor Channel, from 40 to 51 feet; the Main Shipping Channel, from 40 to 47 feet; and the Reserve Channel, from 40 to 47 feet. When the project is completed Conley Container Terminal will be able to handle up to 12,000 TEU vessels an increase from the 8,500 TEU ships that it can currently handle.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has contracted with Great Lakes Dredge and Dock to perform the work.

The Premiere of In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America

By: Tom O’Neill 

Last night was truly an honor. I had the privilege of sitting beside friends and family and watching the story of my dear friend John Hume play out on the big screen in the U.S. premiere of In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America. The feature documentary was the opening night selection for the Boston Film Festival.

This film is the most succinct narrative on the history of Northern Ireland spanning from Bloody Sunday to the Good Friday Agreement I have seen. It depicts the involvement of each individual in the peace process clearly and precisely. The director, Maurice Fitzpatrick, paints an incredibly accurate picture of Hume, my father, the roles of other key political leaders and the struggles of the North of Ireland.

Following the screening, there was a panel discussion with MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews, The Boston Globe’s Kevin Cullen, director Maurice Fitzpatrick and myself. We were all actively involved in politics or journalism during John Hume’s peace efforts. As such, we were well versed and passionate about John Hume as a person and peace for the North of Ireland.

We discussed Hume’s politics. Chris Matthews describing Hume as being a “down-to-earth” politician who explained his views in a way that anyone could understand. He used an example of John discussing the economic needs of Northern Ireland. He believed that if peace could replace the bombings and violence then tourism would grow, more jobs would be create, and all households would benefit.

We discussed Hume’s party, the Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP). “The SDLP was John Hume” Kevin Cullen said before going on to talk about how John’s actions essentially signed a “death warrant” for the party.

We discussed the future of Ireland. With the Brexit decision taking effect, Ireland’s peace will be put to the test. Given this, Maurice Fitzpatrick believes there is still a need for U.S. involvement in Ireland politically and economically.

I believe the atmosphere of the room last night can be summed up in a single moment. During the audience Q and A, one attendee declared to Maurice, “[Hume’s story] has got to be on the screen and you put it there.” I could not agree more. It was also special that John’s son Aidan joined us with his own son for this premiere. The story of John Hume’s fight for peace in Ireland is one everyone should know. My father used to say he had three role models in life: President Abraham Lincoln, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Hume. Hume is a symbol of peace, civil rights and the effectiveness of international relations. He is truly an inspiration to all.