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The coming New Year’s resolution should be pretty obvious, particularly when it comes to diet: 2017 will go down in history as the year when plant-based meats have revolutionized the food industry.

A dozen start-ups are creating plant-based burgers and other meats that are more delicious, convenient and healthy than the old-fashioned animal-based variety. They are backed by tech-industry pioneers like Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Google principals Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt, and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.

Even animal-meat behemoth Tyson Foods has announced a $150 million venture capital fund to explore and invest in these products.

The plant-based food revolution is going mainstream. Hundreds of school, college, hospital and corporate cafeterias have embraced Meatless Monday. Fast-food chains Chipotle, Panera, Subway and Taco Bell are rolling out plant-based dinner options.

And American consumers are responding, with fully one-third reducing their intake of animal-based meats, milks, and other food products.

Let’s make this New Year’s resolution about exploring the rich variety of delicious, convenient, healthy plant-based dinners, lunch meats, cheeses, milks and ice creams available in every supermarket. The Internet offers tons of recipes and transition tips.

Hector Bagley


Mass Audubon will continue the fight

As we’re deep into the presidential transition, it’s time for many to let go of denial and anger and accept the reality of a Donald Trump White House.

For the environmental community, there are three things we’re going to do.

First, with conservation partners across the country, we’re going to fight to hold on to what we have.

For almost half a century and until most recently, we’ve had environmental success coming from Congress. Starting in 1969, GOP President Richard Nixon cooperated with bi-partisan lawmakers to pass the National Environmental Protection Act, followed by the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

Congress later enacted legislation to conserve the nation’s forests and parks, historic sites, wildlife and wetlands, coasts and oceans. Encouraged by the White House, the upcoming 115th Congress, with 239 Republicans and 193 Democrats in the House of Representatives, may try to weaken or do away with some of these provisions.

To prevent a roll-back of progress, we’ll work in the House but focus on the Senate. Although Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Upper Chamber, we’ll call on Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey to lead a stop-the-repeal campaign.

We’ll watch what goes on behind-the-scenes in the Oval Office. So often, bureaucratic actions fly under the radar screen. The executive branch is mandated by the Constitution, courts and Congress to implement, enforce and execute the nation’s laws. This is done largely through administrative rule-making. However, the president can unilaterally weaken or repeal regulations. He can also cut funds for existing programs, fail to enforce the law, make hostile political appointments, reduce the workforce and simply drag his feet. We’ll go to court to require that the law be enforced.

Second, we’re going to support state and local governments in stepping up protections.

On Nov. 8, there was a huge success for Massachusetts when the Community Preservation Act passed in 11 towns, bringing the state adoption to 172 cities and towns or 49 percent of the Commonwealth. Almost $2 billion has been raised for community preservation projects.

It’s in the city and town halls where local officials make some of the most important decisions that directly affect our families. We will increase our efforts to support and enhance their work.

Finally, we remain committed to our aspirations, goals and vision and for a clean, healthy and vibrant environment.We will continue to advocate for a progressive environmental agenda in our nation’s capital — an agenda that provides for the health, safety and natural security of all Americans while protecting the nature of this great land for all generations.

Jack Clarke,

director of public policy and government relations

Mass Audubon Society

ASRHS renovation gave false hope for education gains

In 2013 the Ayer Shirley School District began a renovation of the high school that all tolled has cost a staggering $45 million. At the time, the Ayer Shirley Regional School Board promised the public that despite it’s heavy tax burden, this project would be worth it. We were told that the school would help give our kids a better education and provide teachers a better place to teach. Both of these promises now appear to be false.

Since the project’s inception, the MCAS Math test scores at the high school have plummeted. In 2014, 81 percent of the kids were at least proficient in math. By 2015, 78 percent scored proficient in math and finally last year an abysmal 74 percent of the students scored proficient on the state test. The MCAS test scores in English have also have gone off a cliff. From a high of 97 percent proficiency in 2014, the scores dipped to 92 percent in 2015 and crated below state average at 89 percent last year. This is simply unacceptable to the taxpayers in Ayer and Shirley.

One cause of poor student test scores is the revolving door of teachers coming and going at the school. The teacher turn over rate at the high school is astronomical. In the last two years the Special Education Department at the school has a turnover rate of over 100 percent. Teachers are coming for one year (or less) and leaving. The Math Department at the high school also has a turnover rate of over 100 percent in the last two years. How are our kids supposed to learn when they don’t know who will be teaching their class from day to day? Meanwhile, the Ayer-Shirley Regional School Committee has put their heads in the sand. They chose to ignore the fact that they have wasted taxpayer money and stuck the citizens of Ayer and Shirley with a huge tax bill for a building project that has done nothing to improve public education in the towns.


Dore and Whittier Project Management Architecture profile Ayer Shirley Regional High School

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Ayer-Shirley Regional School Committee Agendas and Minutes

Thank you for your attention.

Mary Ann Johnson