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Westfield students stand up to nation's legislators

Date: 2/3/2009

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD Westfield State College (WSC) students want members of Congress to know that they're closely watching the development of the stimulus plan.

Last week, Massachusetts Student Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG) members and other WSC students spent three hours flooding Congressman John Olver's offices with calls commending his efforts in the passage of the H.R.1, the American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act, on Jan. 28. Students were particularly concerned with the $12 billion appropriation to modernize public transportation to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

"Cars and trucks are the second largest source of global pollution in this country, and account for 60 percent of our oil consumption," Heather Bulis, MASSPIRG student at WSC, said. "By including more funding for public transportation in the stimulus package, Congress has the chance to help the economy and stop global warming."

Olver noted that over $1 billion has been earmarked for infrastructure investment in Massachusetts.

"In responding to the economic crisis, we have been presented with an opportunity," Olver told Reminder Publications. "It's really quite remarkable. Just one week into Barack Obama's presidency we are making a significant down payment on a long-neglected investment in clean energy and green jobs."

Gary Kalman, director of MASSPIRG's Federal Legislative Office, said, "This legislation will spark immediate economic growth and lay the foundation for continued prosperity in a quickly changing global economy. This investment is an important first step, and it sends a strong message that this Congress will move us toward a modernized, 21st century transportation system."

Olver said he appreciated the students' input on his efforts.

"For the health of our economy, our environment and our natural security we have got to take serious steps to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels," he said. "Investing in public transit is a really smart way to do that. I will do my part be ensure that the well-being of our environment is always strongly considered when crafting our nation's transportation policies."

Sarah Mitnick, campus organizer for MASSPIRG, noted that students will participate in another campus campaign this week phoning local senators prior to the Senate's vote on S.1, its version of the American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

"We just really want to get students involved in social issues," she explained. "Our legislators do care what college students think because they are the next generation [of world leaders]."

The Senate must approve their version of the bill before President Obama can consider a collective legislation.