Saturday, March 24, 2007

Liveblogging the Relaunch

I'm here at the Boston Latin school at the relauch for I found a wifi network, so I thought I'd liveblog it.

Speaking now is the headmaster of Boston Latin, who welcomed the Governor and the Mayor. I spotted a few state senators -- Walsh and Tolman, and the gymnasium is fairly crowded (the parking lot filled up a half-hour before the event started). Lt Gov Tim Murray is also here. The podium is set up in front of a set of risers that is filled mostly with students, but a couple of ringers, too I notice. Some of them are part of the school's youth climate change group.

A senior from the school whose name I did not catch is now speaking, she's giving the indroduction for Mayor Menino.

Menino starts off acknowledging the other elected officials in the room, thanks the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. He wants to talk about our shared goal of strenthening the partnership between cities and towns and Beacon Hill. Last few years, there have been a lot of cuts in state aid -- Boston lost $80 Million. Boston depends on the property tax for 57% of its revenues, more than twice the rate of any other major city. Homeowners and municpalities need relief.

He wants to close the telecom tax loophole -- telecom should "pay their fair share, that's all." They're trying to scare the public, but "the truth is on our side." Look at how well they're doing in the stock market. They're moving a lot of their property off shore, so they're paying very little in prop. taxes. He calls this the full employment act -- any lobbyist who knows an elected official is working on this.

He also wants a municipal meals tax of 1%. It allows non-residents to pay some of the municpality budget. Boston has the lowest meals tax of the 11 largest cities in the country. It could add $30 Million to the tax stearm, and allow us to continue reducing the commercial tax rate. Addressing the problem with grow the economy and make our state more competitive. If the Governor continues to lead us, we will prevail . He's grateful for the Governor's leadership in this issue, particularly his Municipal Partnership bill.

Together we can make them understand that this is about people -- they've paid an unusual burden in real estate taxes. He urges everyone to talk to their elected officials "eyeball to eyeball".

Now another student is speaking, talking about the Boston Latin School's mission of a "contemporary classical education." Part of their mission statement is to become responsible and engaged citizens. He's now introducing the Governor. He notes that he's a subscriber to his podcast.

His introduction was great -- Governor Patrick notes that, joking "What is he running for? My job? It's taken!"

We're here today to particpate not only in a rally -- the campaign's over -- byut to participate in a vision. He asked us to imagine, during the campaign, a Massachusetts where every child gets a world class education, a place where everyone can afford a home, a place where there are cops on the beat on neighborhood patrols, everyone has decent health care, etc. That's what we brought into the corner office 75 days ago. Govt must reflect our common values and ideals, shared responsiblilty, fairness, etc.

The values don't become real because we won the election. There's still work to do. His top priority is to help business create more jobs -- they cut the average time it takes to get permits from 1-2 years to six months. Business now have one-stop-shopping for dealing with all the permits that state and local regulators make them deal with. They signed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Inititive, because it was a great opening for the kind of economy we're trying to build here -- clean energy technology. They passed a $1.7 billion bond bill. They've proposed to double the investment in extended day programs.

The vision is not enough to govern. He needs us to govern. Passive citizenship doesn't work to make the vision real. He needs to make a daily claim on your citizenship. "You want lower property taxes, come and get them." That means that we have to engage our reps and senators and tell them that we are behind his proposals. "You want more cops, after school programs? Come and get them!" Tell your reps and senators that you support the measures. When there's a hearing, Show Up.

"Governing is about power. My power has never come from insiders with connections. My power comes from you. Own it."

To enable that kind of engagment, our committee is working on two things -- a series of town hall meetings so that people can offer their ideas and put their questions to him. Bring your problems and your solutions. We'll be doing this all over the state, so every community can be heard.

Second, is the redesign of It's not just prettying up the website. It's unlike any other website he's heard of, and it's about to change the way we govern. Gives any MA citizen to engage directly with the governor and vice versa. Everyone should have access to the governor, not just people with insider connections. It's also a way for people to connect with eachother. You can find and create communities of interest -- organize around issues or communites. He needs to know what we care about, and what we're willing to fight for. We need to know when he needs us to show up on Beacon Hill to press our agenda. That's what citizenship is all about, and it's what our government should be all about. Real change begins at the grassroots.

It doesn't matter that we won. What matters is what we leave behind. Let's go to work for that.
I have to say, after listening to this, that this was the governor that I worked for. This was the man I voted for, not the stumbling neophyte that took over his body for the past 75 days. I hope that this is the turning point in his administration. Now he's taking questions, but the wifi died, so I didn't get to blog them.

Q: We don't know how to lobby our legislator to help you, because we don't know who is opposed to closing the loopholes.

A: Not everyone is on the record yet. He hands of to Senator Marian Walsh. Walsh notes that it's a myth that we're the highest taxed state in Massachusetts. Since 1990, the mantra has been, if businesses pay no taxes they can create more jobs. That's not true. Since 1990, we've done about 45 tax breaks. Corporate taxes are now 6% of revenue. It's 2007, and we're still at 2001 revenue levels. They've had more layoffs in state and local govt than any state in the union per capita. People are working more hours than ever. In 1982, a CEO earned 42x the average worker, now the CEo makes 420x the average worker. Part of that is exacerbated by our tax policy.

Update: The wifi connection died before the Q&A session was over, and then we were herded down to the bloggers-only conference. More on that later.