Fewer local lawmakers keeping district offices
South Shore residents who want to meet with their state legislators are more likely to see them at a local coffee shop than at a district office.
Fewer local lawmakers are keeping district offices, with most of them citing the expense and the South Shore’s proximity to the State House in Boston.
Seventeen of the South Shore’s 27 legislators no longer maintain district offices, choosing instead to meet with constituents at town halls, coffee shops, or even at the lawmaker’s home or place of business.
“If people need to see me, all they need to do is call and set up a meeting place at Starbucks or French Memories or any local coffee shop and I’ll meet them. There’s no need for (a district office),” said Rep. Louis Kafka, D- Stoughton.
Kafka said the extra expense of maintaining a district office wasn’t justified considering the proximity of his district to Boston and his practice of holding office hours at town halls and libraries within his district.
Legislators are not required to keep a district office, according to David Falcone, spokesman for Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth.
District offices are not paid for with taxpayer money, Falcone said, and are usually funded by the legislator’s private funds or campaign money.
Several lawmakers said finances played a role in their decision to forgo a district office, saying other venues are adequate to meet constituents.
Money was a factor in Rep. Vinny deMacedo’s decision to coordinate meetings at libraries and coffee shops instead of a district office.
“It was an expense issue,” said Emily Romano, a spokeswoman for the Plymouth Republican. “It just didn’t make sense.”
Other representatives said their district’s proximity to Boston made district offices less necessary.
“I’m near enough to that State House that constituents can come in,” said Sen. Michael Morrissey, D-Quincy, who said he uses local town office hours and his cell phone to stay in touch with voters.
Other legislators said they occasionally use their place of business to meet with constituents. Rep. Stephen Tobin, D-Quincy, and Sen. Brian Joyce, D-Milton, occasionally meet with constituents at their law offices. Rep. William Galvin, D-Canton, does the same at his insurance office.
Several lawmakers list their homes as their district office on their official state Web page, though most said they take calls and not visitors at home.
“I have a listed phone number, people see me around town and call me on the phone, so it doesn’t make sense to have a district office,” said Rep. Joseph Nyman, D-Hanover.
Still, some lawmakers think a district office is worth the expense. Sen. Robert Hedlund, R-Weymouth, said a district office “reached the level of being necessary” because of the convenience to himself and his constituents.
Rep. James Cantwell, D-Marshfield, said people who are shy about their issue prefer to meet by appointment at his Marshfield district office. He also holds meetings with fishermen and other local groups at his office.
Cantwell said few people seem to know that district offices are operated at the expense of the legislator, with private funds covering rent, phone lines and other costs.
The Patriot Ledger