Thursday, May 31, 2007

Crystal Ball Says Meehan's Seat Safe

Via Daily Kos, Larry J. Sabato, the Director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics looked into his Crystal Ball for the 2007 scheduled special Congressional elections today, including the race to replace Marty Meehan (D-Lowell) in Massachusetts' fifth district. The Crystal Ball team has the race's outlook as "Safe Democratic" and right now a contest between Middlesex Community College Dean Niki Tsongas and Lowell City Councilor and former mayor Eileen Donoghue. Here's how they view the race from afar:

Although three male state Representatives are also in the race, we guess that 2007 will be the year Massachusetts finally sends a woman back to the House, ending the drought of female representation that has endured since Republican Margaret Heckler left office a quarter of a century ago. Democratic PAC EMILY's List has jumped at the opportunity and endorsed Tsongas over Donoghue, as have many others in the district, including the outgoing Meehan's wife. ...

Only one poll has been made public so far, and it showed Tsongas with a large 36 percent-13 percent lead over Donoghue, with State Rep. Barry Finegold close behind at 10 percent. As the district voted 57 percent for the Democratic presidential nominee in both 2004 and 2000, and since no credible Republican challenger has yet surfaced, there is virtually no chance this district could switch parties this year.
I think that is pretty much the conventional wisdom on this race, and it's very interesting to see what political analysts from Washington are thinking. I was curious, though, as to why they had said that there was "no credible republican challenger" in the race, considering that Dracut's Jim Ogonowski, brother of September 11th pilot John Ogonowski is running. While I believe that the Democratic candidate will eventually win the fifth district seat, I would consider Ogonowski to certainly be a more credible candidate than some of the nobodies the Mass GOP has had on the ballot in recent elections. He has some name-recognition and I suspect that he may be able to raise money from Republicans nationally due to his backstory. So, I emailed the folks at the Crystal Ball and asked them why they omitted him. Isaac Wood wrote back to me, clarifying:
You bring up a good point. Lt. Col. Ogonowski is indeed a credible candidate. Unfortunately for him, and Republicans in the House that are looking for some reinforcements, he does not stand a chance in the district. While his backstory is touching and he does possess some forceful credentials, it would still be hard to convince national Republicans to donate the hundreds of thousands of dollars he would need to be at all competitive. We do not mean to be questioning his credibility as a candidate, as he would be very competitive in many other districts, but in MA-5, it will take a lot bigger fish before the Republicans can hope to swim as far upstream as they have to. We should have mentioned Ogonowski, but our feeling is still that the Democrats will easily retain the district.

Donato Defends Anti-Marriage Stance

Representative Paul Donato (D-Medford) has a dozen reasons justifying his vote in favor of the anti-marriage amendment at this and last year's Constitutional Convention. He displayed all of them in a meeting with Medford High School students last week. He has surveys, he said, proving to him that people in his district don't want it. He supports of various other equal rights laws including civil unions. Besides, he says, if it passes, the students will always have a chance to overturn it sometime in the future. The biggest reason, though, was that he had to vote yes in order to protect democracy. From the Medford Transcript:

"First of all, I’m not a homophobe, I’ve had the opportunity to be friends with many gay individuals," Donato said. "But this is a government issue and the question isn’t gay marriage, but do people have the right to change the constitution."
Of course, in saying this, Donato seems to be abdicating his own role in the process to change the Constitution, as if he's a rubber stamp, powerless to block amendments regardless of what he thinks of them. That, of course, ignores the fact that Donato seemed to have absolutely no problem denying the people the "right" to vote on the Health Care amendment, by voting to adjourn before that vote was taken at the last ConCon. If he believes so strongly that people have "the right to change the constitution" why did he vote down that amendment? The end of the article tells us exactly why:
"At this point in my life, I just believe that marriage exists between a man and a woman," Donato said.
Fine. If that's why you're voting against the amendment, then just say that. Don't try to hide your rationale by inventing elaborate justifications for your position, and don't pretend that you're not voting based on your personal beliefs rather than some imagined defense of the democratic process -- particularly when your previous actions show otherwise.

His most hilarious comment, in my opinion, was when he claimed that if the SJC had ruled the opposite way, marriage equality advocates would have the opposite opinion -- they'd be asking for a vote on a marriage amendment. Never mind that marriage advocates would not have needed a Constitutional amendment; had the opposite happened, they'd only need the legislature to pass a law allowing same-sex unions. Donato expects us to believe, despite what he says above, that he would not also have the opposite opinion in his imaginary scenario.

(Via Bay Windows)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fourth Time's a Charm for Tierney?

Both Dick Howe and the Lowell Sun noted today that a new face has entered the race to replace Marty Meehan (D-Lowell) in the fifth district. Perhaps, however, "new face" is not entirely accurate. Framingham Republican Tom Tierney has already run for this seat on three separate unsuccessful occasions, as a Democrat in 2000, losing the Republican primary in 2002 and losing to Meehan in the general in 2004. Dick witnessed him collecting signatures in Chelmsford for a fourth run, and the Sun caught up with him to confirm his entry. It had been thought that the Republican field would be cleared for candidate Jim Ogonowski, particularly after Lawrence Mayor Michael Sullivan and former New England Patriot Fred Smerlas dropped out shortly after Ogonowski announced his intentions. That no longer seems to be the case, although one wonders how much impact a three-time loser from outside the district will really have on the primary. If nothing else, he should be able to force Ogonowski to clearly define his positions on issues.

Tierney should not expect much support from institutional Republicans. The Lowell Sun explains one reason why:

After losing the 2004 election, Tierney sued the Massachusetts Republican State Congressional Committee and the Federal Election Commission for their lack of support.

He contends, in the ongoing suit, that the party violated federal campaign statutes by using its money and influence to back then-Gov. Mitt Romney's state Republican candidates instead of Massachusetts Republicans running for federal office.
I noticed the squirrely use of federal campaign dollars over two years ago when I pointed out that while the Massachusetts Republican State Congressional Committee spent over 3.6 million dollars in the 2004 election cycle only $385 managed to find its way to actual Republican Congressional Candidates. I'm glad I'm not the only one who found this curious.

Wednesday Morning Links

Not much time this morning, but here are a few items worth pointing out:

  • I spent about 45 minutes on yesterday's Left Ahead! podcast talking about the MA-05 race. Give it a listen. I magically appear around the halfway point and pretend to be an expert.
  • After reading this comment at BMG asking what would happen if "Joe Sixpack ever puts his entertainment interest into politics?", I was reminded of this Washington Post piece by William Arkin lamenting that War reporting was not enough like sports reporting. "[T]here are more reporters covering the Sox, just one baseball team, than cover the Pentagon."
  • Is former Governor Mitt Romney's campaign surging? Not so fast! says a recent ARG poll.
  • Somehow, Governor Deval Patrick managed to give the commencement address at his daughter's high school without completely embarrassing her. As a new parent myself, I'm not sure how he resisted!
  • Seth Geitel has a strange article in Boston Magazine (via David Bernstein and BMG) telling supporters of the Governor to not be so concerned that he's hired insiders, because insiders know how to get things done. Who exactly is he writing to? A couple disgruntled bloggers? From my conversations with fellow supporters, I haven't talked to anyone who's unhappy with the shakeup of his senior staff, and in fact I had more conversations when he first hired his "outsider" team with people who didn't think it was such a great move Frankly, I've heard more complaints about Patrick hiring so-called insiders from his political opponents than from his grassroots supporters.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

.08 on Left Ahead!

This evening, around 8PM, I will be a guest on the Left Ahead! podcast put together by Lynne, Mike and Ryan. The main topic will be the Massachusetts Fifth District Congressional race to replace outgoing Marty Meehan (D-Lowell), though I imagine we'll meander into other subjects.

You can stream it live here and find general info about the series here. If you like what you hear, check out the archives there on the "archived segments" tab or at Left Ahead! Podcast Archive page. They tell me that BlogTalkRadio has had the segments up for listening or download within 30 minutes of the show close, and you can stream or download the segment from either place at any time.

Another Special Election Today

Those just returning to town following the Memorial Day long weekend may be surprised to know that there's another special election today for those living in East Boston, East Cambridge, Winthrop, most of Revere and parts of Boston's North End and West End. The Boston Globe predicts that turnout will be 'minuscule' in the First Suffolk and Middlesex Senate district's primary election today to replace former Senate President Robert Travaglini. Facing off are Rep. Anthony Petruccelli and Revere City Councilor Dan Rizzo in the Democratic primary. They are the only candidates running -- there is no Republican primary -- so barring any write-in campaigns, whoever wins today will be the next state Senator.

Update: The Boston Globe calls the race for Petruccelli with 59% to Rizzo's 41%, with all but two precincts reporting.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Weekend Baby Blogging

"Where are we going and why am I so dressed up?"

Friday, May 25, 2007

Telecoms Want to Change "Outdated" Laws

I saw a web-ad today for the Massachusetts Consumers for Technology and Cable Choice, a nonprofit set up by Verizon and rest of the telecom industry to shill for their "Massachusetts Cable Choice and Competition Act", a bill that would take cable permitting power away from cities and towns and hand it to the state. The ad asks:

How come 21st century Massachusetts is stuck with cable tv franchise laws from the 1970s?
That's a good question. Also a good question is: why is Massachusetts stuck with telecommunications property tax exemptions from 1915? If old regulations for new technologies are bad just because they're old, then let's get rid of that outdated exemption. For some reason, I'm not so sure that Verizon would agree.

I'm neutral on the Cable bill -- I'm lucky enough to live someplace where I can choose between two Cable companies. I've said it before, though, if they want this expedited permitting so bad, let's see if they'll give up their exemption for it. They're taking the power to regulate cable away from cities and towns, the least they can do is start paying their property taxes.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

195 Years of Gerrymandering

The Original Gerrymander turned 195 years old this year, and to celebrate that notorious occasion, the Bostonian Society has placed an historical marker at the site where it was concieved. In 1812, then-Governor Elbridge Gerry and state Senator Isreal Thorndike collaborated to redesign a Gerry's own north shore district. The marker's unveiling will take place on Wednesday, May 30th at 11:30am on the corner of Arch and Summer Streets in Boston, where Thorndike's house stood and where the district lines were re-drawn.

Here is the text of the marker:

Near this site stood the home of state senator Israel Thorndike, a merchant and privateer. During a visit here in 1812 by Governor Elbridge Gerry, an electoral district was oddly redrawn to provide advantage to the party in office. Shaped by political intent rather than any natural boundaries, its appearance resembled a salamander. A frustrated member of the opposition party called it a gerrymander, a term still in use today.
For more information on Boston's Historic markers, visit the Boston Historical Society's website. For more information on how to drive the fearsome Gerrymander extinct, see Common Cause's Fair Districts Campaign.

Update: The Boston Globe has an article with details on the unveiling.

Fifth District Candidates Debate the War

I was not able to attend, but last night featured a debate on the Iraq War attended by all the Democratic candidates vying to replace Marty Meehan (D-Lowell) in the fifth district Congressional race. Lynne from Left in Lowell posted a long report early this morning and promises to have video from the event online. She has a lot of detail about the candidate's positions, particularly Representative Jim Miceli's, who was the only candidate who seemed to support keeping the troops in Iraq. Her opinion was that Rep. Jamie Eldridge and Lowell Councilor Eileen Donoghue had the strongest positions, both of whom support "getting our troops out of Iraq immediately" (Lynne's words). Lynne is not high on Barry Finegold's support of the Biden plan to partition Iraq into three states, nor is she impressed by what she considers Niki Tsongas' inability to take firm stands. She also points out this Lowell Sun article from earlier in the week which has quotes from all of the candidates about the war. Lowell Registrar of Deeds Dick Howe also attended the debate and summarized the candidates' positions on his blog.

In addition, New England Cable News was there, and had this report.

Update: See also, Charley's post at Blue Mass. Group, and Dick Howe's pictures and video.

Update 2: The Acton Beacon just reported on the event, a week after the fact.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Patrick Announces New Appointments

Today Governor Deval Patrick announced several high-level appointments to his leadership team. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Angelo McLain of ValueOptions New Jersey replaces Harry Spence as the Commissioner of the Department of Social Services.
  • Elin Howe formerly of the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, and currently at the Columbus Organization replaces Gerald Morrissey as the Commissioner of the Department of Mental Retardation
  • Richard Sullivan, the Mayor of Westfield, replaces Stephen Burrington as the Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Recreation.
  • Laura M. Marlin from the Attorney General's office replaces acting Commissioner Ernest Kelley at the Division of Occupational Safety.
The Governor also made seven other appointments, both to fill positions he created in his cabinet re-organization and to replace holdovers from the past 16 years of Republican administrations. Despite the breathless claims of GOP operatives and anonymous sources, none of the appointments came from the legislature.

Update: Here's the rundown from the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe.

The Unspoken Word

Former Governor Mitt Romney has a brand new TV ad where he claims he's "done the toughest things" as governor of "the most liberal state." One word does not appear at all in the ad. That word is 'Massachusetts'. Sure, Romney flashes pictures of John Kerry and Mike Dukakis as a newspaper headline blasts Ted Kennedy's name in the background. Still, one would think that he'd deign to mention the name of the "tough state" he governed.

Last week the New York Times noticed that Mitt avoids saying 'Massachusetts' in an article detailing the the subjects that the 2008 candidates prefer to avoid. Here's how that article describes the phenomenon:

In campaign ads running in early primary states, Mr. Romney boasts that he was "the Republican governor who turned around a Democratic state" and "vetoed hundreds of spending appropriations." But you would never know where.
"Romney is trying to say that he foiled a robbery in a brothel, the brothel being Massachusetts," said Ralph Whitehead, a political analyst at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. "But the question people will ask is, what was he doing in the brothel in the first place?"
To counter this, Romney's opponents, I've noticed, are constantly mentioning Massachusetts. Check out the statements from John McCain's spokesman in the Chicago Tribune profile on Romney from yesterday:
"The question for voters is: Does a one-term governor from Massachusetts have the foreign policy experience necessary to deal with the challenges of today's world?" said Brian Jones, McCain's spokesman.
"Mitt Romney has been consistent in one regard: that nearly every position he holds now is opposite of what it was when he was governor of Massachusetts," Jones said.
Romney Ad via the Herald's Daily Briefing. See also Universal Hub, Mass. Liberal and Blue Mass. Group.

Globe Lists Potential Barrios Replacements

Today's Boston Globe list some of the candidates who are considering -- or rumored to be anyway -- running to replace the outgoing state Senator Jarrett Barrios (D-Cambridge) in the insanely gerrymandered Middlesex, Suffolk and Essex district. That district includes parts of eight communities running from Allston/Brighton to Saugus with bits of Cambridge, Somerville, Charlestown, Chelsea, Everett and Revere in between. With Barrios not set to leave until July, the special election to replace him would likely not be until the end of the year. Here's who the Globe lists as potential candidates on the Democratic side:

  • Dan Ryan of Charlestown, legislative aide to US Representative Michael Capuano and former candidate for Boston City Council.
  • Cambridge city councilor Anthony Galluccio
  • Representative Alice Wolf (D-Cambridge)
  • Representative Eugene O'Flaherty (D-Chelsea)
The Globe does not mention anyone from Everett, however, which is a little surprising given that the two largest population centers in the district are that city and Cambridge.

The article also quotes State GOP chair Peter Torkildsen who says he will try to scrounge up some Republican to carry the flag in this traditionally liberal district. Given that they couldn't get anyone to replace Robert Travaglini in the neighboring First Middlesex and Suffolk district, I'm not sure how much success he's going to have.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Belated 2007 Mass. Democratic Convention Report

On Monday, I noted that press coverage of this weekend's convention was sparse. To be honest, that's really what I expected for an off-year. The point of the event was not necessarily to make news, but to share ideas about how to grow the Massachusetts Democratic Party. There was some convention business to take care of, however, and the party made two charter amendments, including one very similar to the amendment that was voted down last year. We also passed three of four resolutions, the first asking our congressional delegation to put a moratorium on foreclosures, one to ask them to begin impeachment proceedings on President Bush and Vice President Cheney, and the last to end the Iraq War (the one that didn't pass was only because it was an impeachment resolution that was replaced by another one).

I thought it was amusing how seriously some people were taking the debate on these resolutions, particularly the details. On impeachment, one speaker opposed the resolution because he didn't want to see the Democrats make the same mistake that the Republicans made in the 90's and experience blow-back from impeachment proceedings. I happen to agree, but the fact is that impeachment of the President is unlikely to happen whether or not the Massachusetts Democratic Party passes a resolution. It's completely non-binding and besides that, the point is not to start proceedings, but to express a no-confidence vote in the President and Vice President. The same thing came up with the Iraq War resolution. The resolution we voted on urged our congressional delegation to bring the troops home within three months. Someone spoke about how that was too soon. It may be too soon, but that's beside the point. The resolution was not going to bring the troops home, but it's a way for us to express our desire to see the war come to an end. We're not making laws here, we're making statements. The details will go unreported, and therefore are unimportant.

The highlight of the day for me was John Walsh's presentation after the party's business was completed. There were a number of afternoon sessions, including one lead by BMG's Charley on the MTA, but Walsh's stood out. Earlier in the day he had told the convention to change the party's culture from one of debate or one of meeting and complaining to a culture of action and this session he talked about how the state party was going to support that. Here was the Chair of the Massachusetts Democrats telling us how he wanted our Democratic Town and Ward Committees to open up and share ideas with each other. And he did so in plain language. "If your idea is to keep people out" of the local Democratic Committee, "you need to change," he told the crowd. "Want to have more people come to your meetings?" He asked, "then stop having them suck." He gave some examples of things committees can do, such as voter registration drives or community outreach, but ultimately he said that the party's 600 or so local committees need to share ideas with each other and build on each other's successes. If someone has a great idea or did something that really worked, he wants to know about it so we can try to replicate it across the state. In addition, Walsh told us that he no longer wants to see Republican candidates go unopposed in races. Even if our candidate doesn't win, we'll at least force the Republican to campaign.

One more thing: I had a long conversation with someone from Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts who was trying to convince me to start up a branch in Watertown. I think there could be a market in town for a Progressive Dems group, and this is not the first time someone has suggested we start one up. Still, given John Walsh's comments earlier in the day, I'm still not sure that setting up a parallel institution to the Democratic Town Committee is the way to go, particularly since the Watertown Dems are very welcoming of new members. One thing, however, that a PDM chapter would be able to do, however, would be to endorse pre-primary and meddle in non-partisan town elections. That might make forming one worthwhile.

Other observations:

  • Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin got a standing ovation for saying that we have to end the war. All in all he got a much better response than the tepid applause he got two years ago in Lowell.
  • Mass. AFL-CIO president Robert Haynes gave a barnburner of a speech where he served notice to New England's remaining Republican Senators, John Sununu (R-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME).
  • Of all of the Democratic candidates to replace Marty Meehan (D-Lowell) the only one with no presence that I could detect was Rep. Jim Micelli. I saw Rep. Barry Finegold from across the convention floor, though he did not have a table there. Eileen Donaghue wasn't there, but she had a table with literature and supporters. Niki Tsongas and Rep. Jamie Eldridge both had receptions and Eldridge in particular seemed omnipresent during the day (or maybe I just noticed him more because he's tall).
  • The Larouchies were out in full force. It seems that they're starting to deny Global Warming now that it's no longer fashionable anymore.
  • There was an afternoon session about how to become a delegate for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. I didn't attend because there's no way I'm going to be able to get to Denver next year, but those interested in becoming a delegate should start getting involved now.

AP: Barrios to Leave Senate

The Associated Press is reporting that state Senator Jarrett Barrios (D-Cambridge) has been offered the presidency of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation. He will confirm whether he plans to accept the job later today, but at this point his departure from the Senate seems likely. Barrios' office had previously denied rumors that he was leaving the Senate.

The article describes the Foundation as such:

Since its creation in 2001, the foundation has issued grants totaling $19 million to 199 organizations. It also was key player in developing the Massachusetts universal health care law enacted last year.

The foundation is governed by its own 17-member board of directors. Although it operates separately from Blue Cross Blue Shield, the corporation contributed an initial endowment of $55 million to the foundation.
Interestingly enough, the chairman of the foundation's board is former Massachusetts Democratic Party Chair Phil Johnston.

Update: The Cambridge Chronicle has the official word from Barrios, saying he'll accept the offer. The Chronicle also notes that Cambridge City Councilors Marjorie Decker and Anthony Galluccio had both planned to run for this seat last year when Barrios was running for Middlesex County DA. After Barrios changed his mind and ran instead for reelection, both of them dropped out, but now they might be interested again in replacing the Senator. One complication, however, would be that a special election would likely be around the same time as the Cambridge City elections. It could be potentially difficult for either of them to run for both offices at the same time.

Update 2: I have the text of the letter Senator Barrios has sent to his supporters in the full post. He writes that he will not step down until July, after the Senate budget season and the Constitutional Convention.
Dear friend,

I have been honored to represent you in the state legislature, and I wanted you to know personally about my decision to leave the Senate for an important, new opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people who need a strong voice.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, one of the largest private health philanthropies in the state, has named me to serve as its president. Through grants and policy initiatives, the Foundation works to broaden health coverage and reduce barriers to health care for uninsured, vulnerable and low-income individuals and families. The Foundation played a leading role in the development of the state's universal health care plan, which has become a model for the nation.

I am humbled by the opportunity to lead this prestigious Foundation as we continue working to make universal health care a reality. The Foundation has been a leader in health care policy, and I am excited to join the team at this important time. The implementation of the Commonwealth's new health care law remains a daunting, but exciting, job of the Foundation. The next challenge will be to answer the question, "After these reforms, who has been left out?" We will need to work hard to increase enrollment in low-income communities, improve the delivery of culturally competent care, and address disturbing trends in health disparities based on race, ethnic background and economic class.

It has been a pleasure to serve on the Foundation board since its inception in 2001, along with the national health care advocacy organization Families U.S.A. and other, local efforts to expand access to quality health care. I believe the challenge of public service is to find the highest, best use of one's abilities to serve the common good. Today, the changed politics and policy landscape of health care -- with so much progress being made and so much work yet to be done -- make this arena an amazing, productive place for me to devote my (admittedly frenetic) energies.

Health care has always been a priority for me. The very first bill I sponsored in the legislature expanded emergency room care by requiring hospitals to provide interpreter services for people who don't speak English. In the Senate, I served as vice chair of the Health Care Committee, focusing on disparities between rich and poor in health access and outcomes, pushing for more affordable prescription drugs and fighting for environmental justice. I'm proud to lead efforts in the Senate on a measure to address health care disparities.

I also chaired the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee and made this area my other primary focus. With your support, we've made great progress: Creating a state witness protection program, redesigning the state's fire code, serving on an oversight commission to reform the correction system, instituting a ban on assault weapons and passing the first-of-its kind grant program to stop youth violence.

I was drawn to politics ten years ago, in part, because I felt important viewpoints were missing from the debate on Beacon Hill. For those who have known me, the voices I have most passionately sought to represent are the voices of poor and working people of whatever color, nation of origin or creed. For them, state government has a unique ability to make a positive difference in their lives. Public safety, credit and consumer issues, housing, and education are all areas in which those who are less well-off rely on effective and compassionate leadership in state government. Of these issues, none is impacted more by competent state policy than health care. My new role will enable me to focus on ensuring that all individuals and families in Massachusetts have the peace of mind of knowing that they can get high-quality, affordable health care for themselves and their loved ones.

Of course, there are important things left undone. I will not leave until after the Constitutional Convention concludes and the Senate budget process is completed in June. I anticipate a July end date for my term of service, and have so informed Senate President Therese Murray.

A special election will be held to select a new Senator to represent you. In the meantime, my office will remain open and ready to serve you. Please do not hesitate to call with any questions or concerns about state government.

It truly has been a privilege to work for you in the state legislature. I will never forget the opportunity you gave me to serve. Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers.

State Health Insurance Should be Optional

There's one small problem with the healthcare compromise that Scot Lehigh proposes in his column today. Here's how the Lehigh proposal would work:

Cities and towns would be allowed to raise meal and lodging taxes, subject to two conditions. First: Before they did so, the locality would have to enroll in the state [health] insurance program.
Second: Local voters would have the final say on the proposed tax increases, voting on them just the way they currently do on proposed Proposition 2 1/2 overrides.
So, in order to raise any meal or lodging taxes, communities would be forced into the GIC. The only problem with this, is that some communities may already be in insurance programs that are slightly lower-cost than the state's. In order for them to be able to raise revenue through the meals tax, they'd end up with a more expensive health plan for their employees. That does not seem like a good deal. Communities should not be forced to join the GIC if they're already doing better for themselves. It may be true that the GIC's rates will grow more slowly, so that eventually it will be lower cost than any program a municipality might have, but there's no reason to force adoption of the state plan now if it's not going to be cheaper until some point in the future.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Upcoming Fifth District Debates

There are two debates that I know of coming up in the Fifth District race to replace Congressman Marty Meehan (D-Lowell). The first is this Wednesday, May 23rd from 7-9 PM at the Chelmsford Police Station Training Room 2 Olde North Road in Chelmsford. That forum will focus on the Iraq War, Middle East Foreign Policy and Military Issues. It's sponsored by the Chelmsford Democratic Committee, the Greater Lowell Area Democrats and the 3rd Middlesex Democratic Committee. I've been told that all remaining Democrats in the race have confirmed their attendance, and the Republican candidate has also been invited and is expected to be there but will not attend.

The next is being billed as a Health Care Forum, moderated by Watertown's own Dolores Mitchell, the executive director of the state's Group Insurance Commission. That debate will be held on Saturday June 2nd from 10 AM to Noon at the Hudson Portuguese Club 13 Port Street in Hudson. All of the Democrats in the race except for Rep. Jim Miceli have confirmed their presence at this debate which will also be broadcast on Hudson's Cable Access. This one is being sponsored by the Metrowest Dems and by BlogLeft, the shadowy group of Massachusetts-based progressive bloggers. As such, if you have any health-care specific questions, feel free to pose them here (or on any of the other blogs involved in this event) and we'll try to submit them to the candidates.

Update: Lynne from Left in Lowell made up this sweet graphic for the June 2nd Debate:

Blogger Coverage of Mass Dems Convention

I'll post more thoughts on this weekend's Democratic State Convention in Amherst later today. I did want to point out how blogger coverage of the event really outdid anything from the professional media. The only press coverage of the convention that I've seen has been an article in the Springfield Republican, one in the Worcester T&G, and this account from the AP. If Sunday's Globe or Herald had any news on the event, I didn't see it.

On the other hand, over at BMG, Charley on the MTA had the whole day covered. He liveblogged the morning session, posted his own afternoon presentation, and got the audio files of Governor Patrick and Senator Kerry speaking at the evening reception. Mark Bail also has his thoughts on Charley's presentation as well as the morning events. Personally, I had intended to liveblog the floor speakers, but I did not have the password to get wireless access.

Also covering the convention so far were Lowell School Committee member Jackie Doherty, and the author of this Daily Kos diary. In addtion, Below Boston has photos from the convention. Also, via the Dish, on Flikr there is a sampling of convention goers' bumper stickers.

Update: Mimi from Left in Lowell weighs in there.

Update 2: Marie Sweeney from Greater Lowell Area Democrats chimes in on Dick Howe's blog.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Post-Convention Baby Blogging

Daddy brought home stickers!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Harvard Law Classmates Call Out Gonzales

Back in April, embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales attended his 25th reunion at Harvard Law School. At that time, a group of current HLS students protested his attendance. This week, a group of fifty-six of his old Harvard Law classmates took out an ad in the Washington Post condemning Gonzales for his "failure to stand for the rule of law," among other complaints. They did not go so far as to call for the Attorney General's resignation, but rather call for him and the President to "relent from this reckless path." The purpose of the letter was not only to express their displeasure at the administration, but also to encourage others to feel comfortable enough to do the same.

One of the letter's authors, David Abromowitz of Boston, told me that this was not the typical group one might imagine taking out advocacy ads and openly criticizing the sitting Attorney General and President. Many of the signatories are currently working in large, corporate law firms or are very senior in business and financial institutions. Some were editors of the Harvard Law Review. Abromowitz also noted that while some classmates they approached declined to sign because they held public office or had some other conflict, none expressed support for the current administration's policies.

Wednesday's Harvard Crimson has the story as well.

You can see the letter as it appeared in the Washington Post here (PDF), or read the full text after the jump.

Dear Attorney General Gonzales:

Twenty-five years ago we, like you, graduated from Harvard Law School. While we arrived via many different paths and held many different views, we were united in our deep respect for the Constitution and the rights it guaranteed. As members of the post-Watergate generation who chose careers in law, we understood the strong connection between our liberties as Americans and the adherence of public officials to the law of the land. We knew that the choice to abide by the law was even more critical when public officials were tempted to take legal shortcuts. Nowhere were we taught that the ends justified the means, or that freedoms for which Americans had fought and died should be set aside when inconvenient or challenging. To the contrary: our most precious freedoms, we learned, need defending most in times of crisis.

So it has been with dismay that we have watched your cavalier handling of our freedoms time and again. When it has been important that legal boundaries hold unbridled government power in check, you have instead used pretextual rationales and strained readings to justify an ever-expanding executive authority. Witness your White House memos sweeping aside the Geneva Conventions to justify torture, endangering our own servicemen and women; witness your advice to the President effectively reading Habeas Corpus out of our constitutional protections; witness your support of presidential statements claiming inherent power to wiretap American citizens without warrants (and the Administration’s stepped-up wiretapping campaign, taking advantage of those statements, which continues on your watch to this day); and witness your dismissive explanation of the troubling firings of numerous U.S. Attorneys, and their replacement with others more "loyal" to the President's politics, as merely "an overblown personnel matter." In these and other actions, we see a pattern. As a recent editorial put it, your approach has come to symbolize "disdain for the separation of powers, civil liberties and the rule of law."

As lawyers, and as a matter of principle, we can no longer be silent about this Administration's consistent disdain for the liberties we hold dear. Your failure to stand for the rule of law, particularly when faced with a President who makes the aggrandized claim of being a unitary executive, takes this country down a dangerous path.

Your country and your President are in dire need of an attorney who will do the tough job of providing independent counsel, especially when the advice runs counter to political expediency. Now more than ever, our country needs a President, and an Attorney General, who remember the apt observation attributed to Benjamin Franklin: "Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." We call on you and the President to relent from this reckless path, and begin to restore respect for the rule of law we all learned to love many years ago.

Watertown Native Challenging Kerry in '08

Yesterday's Boston Herald reported that Gloucester attorney Edward O’Reilly, a Watertown native, is planning to challenge Senator John Kerry in the 2008 Democratic primary for his Senate seat. O'Reilly's complaint about the Senator is his 2002 vote in favor of the Iraq War resolution, a vote that Kerry himself now even admits was a mistake.

O'Reilly described himself to the Herald as "no flash in the pan," but he faces high hurdles to even get on the 2008 ballot. He not only needs 10,000 signatures, but he'll need the vote of 15% of the delegates at the 2008 state convention. The latter is a feat that gubernatorial candidate Chris Gabrieli only barely pulled off last year. O'Reilly would likely have to accomplish that without the support of any institutional Democrat and without the benefit of a pre-convention advertising blitz. It seems doubtful that O'Reilly will make the ballot.

The article notes that O'Reilly will be at tomorrow's Democratic convention in Amherst. I'm also going, and perhaps I'll try to track him down and find out more.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

New Yorkers Get Taste of Marriage Equality

Yesterday, on the eve of the third anniversary of marriage equality here in Massachusetts, the New York Times reported that those rights had been extended to a small group of New York couples. Anyone from New York who was married in a small window of time between when same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts and a New York court ruling forbidding those marriages is legally married as far as Massachusetts is concerned. After that New York ruling banned same-sex marriage, our infamous "1913 law" here in Massachusetts -- which prevents the state from recognizing marriages that would not be legal in the home state of the couple to be wed -- kicked in and Empire State couples were legally excluded. Here's how the Times described the process:

The New York decision [against marriage equality] had been issued on July 6, 2006, more than two years after same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts. What about those New York couples who had married in Massachusetts before July 2006?

"Those couples should be able to be legally married," said Michele Granda, a lawyer for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, who represented the plaintiffs.

It turned out that the Massachusetts attorney general's office, the defendant in the lawsuit, did not object to that interpretation. In an interview Tuesday, Attorney General Martha Coakley said, "We agreed that for the period between May 17, 2004, when same-sex marriage was legalized, to July 6, 2006, marriages of couples from New York are fully valid and did not and do not violate our general laws."
Coakley was also quoted in today's Boston Globe as saying "It's an appropriate resolution, and I think it affects a relatively small and discrete number of people." I can't help but wonder whether the former Attorney General, Tom Reilly, would have felt the same way given his vigorous defense of the 1913 law. While he eventually came around and supported marriage equality in Massachusetts, he was against exporting it. Since New York has said it will not challenge the status of the couples, I'd like to think that Reilly would have done the same as his successor.

Speaking of Martha Coakley, the Boston Phoenix's David Bernstein has a long profile of her in this week's issue.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

McGovern on $3 a Day

I had heard that Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Worcester) and his wife were living off food stamps this week to bring attention to how little the $3-a-day average stipend actually buys recipients. The McGoverns, along with US Representatives Tim Ryan (D-OH), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) are each limiting themselves to $21 in groceries as part of a "Food Stamp Challenge" to raise awareness of hunger.

What I didn't know is that Rep. McGovern is also blogging his experience. The intersection of his life as a Washington politician and his self-imposed food budget lead to some pretty amusing situations. For example, here is how he describes a banquet he attended last night:

I was extremely hungry. The hors d'oeuvres looked terrific -- so did the red wine. I settled for a glass of tap water.

Thankfully, my wife, Lisa, arrived at the beginning of the dinner with an egg and cheese sandwich on a tortilla. I ate it in 3 seconds (people looked at me as if I were crazy).
This morning I attended a fundraiser in my honor at Bistro Bis restaurant at the Hotel George. I brought a banana for breakfast. Others were served eggs, bacon, potatoes, sweet rolls, butter, jam and great smelling coffee. I had water with my banana. I would have killed for one slice of bacon (too many people watching).
I think it's great that McGovern is doing this, and I'm a little disappointed that only three other members of Congress joined in. Congressman Ryan is also blogging his experience.

Fall River LNG Still Snagged

About 13 months ago, I noted in this blog that the plan to build an LNG terminal in Fall River was not quite dead, despite the Coast Guard's concerns over the use of narrow LNG ships to pass under the Brightman Street Bridge spanning the Taunton River. As of last week, surprisingly little has changed. The Coast Guard issued a highly critical assessment of the plan again last week. Captain Roy A. Nash of the Port of Southeastern New England was quoted in South Coast Today:

In blunt language, Capt. Nash states that it is doubtful the maneuvers could be done safely every time, and that the passageway up the river could be made safe for such hazardous cargo.

"[...] The sum of measures, mitigations and precautions described in the Weaver's Cove proposal do not appear to sufficiently reduce risks to a point where the waterway could be declared suitable for the proposed cargo transit," Capt. Nash wrote in a letter to Weaver's Cove CEO Gordon Shearer.

Additionally, he wrote, Weaver's Cove made no inroads in addressing Coast Guard criticisms expressed more than a year ago. "The concerns I expressed in my letter to Weaver's Cove of March 13, 2006, remain."
The assessment is not final, and Weaver's Cove has a chance to answer the Coast Guard's concerns. Still, I have to imagine that if they haven't been able to supply convincing answers in the past year, it seems unlikely that they would be able to allay the Coast Guard's fears over safety.

The Herald News has more, including much reaction from the state's Congressional delegation -- all of whom are opposed to putting the LNG terminal in Fall River.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

MBPC: Mass. is 32nd in Local Tax Burden

Yesterday, the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center issued a release that showed their analysis of fiscal year 2005 tax collections for each of the fifty states, as recorded by the US Census. What they found is that Massachusetts' state and local tax level is among the lowest 40% (PDF). Here in Massachusetts we pay, according to the MBPC's figures, about 10.5% of our income to state and local taxes, compared with 11% nationally and a whopping 15% in New York. That figure puts us at 32nd in the nation, meaning that only 18 states send a lower share of income to their state and local governments. Once again, the "Taxachusetts" myth crumbles when exposed to any kind of scrutiny.

Last year, around this time, The MBPC put out a similar statement (PDF) comparing the tax rates of all fifty states for fiscal year 2002. For that year, Massachusetts ranked 38th out of fifty with a rate of 9.6%, well below the national average of 10.3%. So, from FY2002 to FY2005, the share of income in Massachusetts paid in state and local taxes went up faster than the national share (from 9.6% to 10.5% for MA vs. 10.3% to 11%).

So here's my question -- how does this information jive with then-governor Mitt Romney's claim that he "kept taxes down" in Massachusetts?

Special Elections Today

Today is election day in the 11th Norfolk state rep district which includes Dedham, Westwood and Precinct 8 in Walpole. Democrat Steve Bilafer is battling independent Paul McMurtry and Republican Doug Obey for the seat that opened when former Rep. Bob Coughlin resigned to join the Patrick administration. My prediction is that Bilafer wins it, but my fear is that he and McMurtry split the Democratic vote -- McMurtry has pledged to re-enroll as Democrat after the election -- clearing the way for Obey. I'm not sure how likely that scenario is, but in a special election anything's possible.

Also today is the special election to replace Jimmy Kelly on the Boston City Council's District 2. That district includes Chinatown, the South End and South Boston and the race is between South End resident Susan Passoni -- interviewed here -- and South Boston resident Bill Linehan. While Passoni has been endorsed by the Boston Globe, Herald and Phoenix, the conventional wisdom is that this seat belongs to South Boston. Still, today's Globe notes that without Kelly on the ballot, some Southie residents plan to stay home.

And the winners are: In Boston, Bill Linehan (52.57%) over Susan Passoni (46.49%).
In the 11th Norfolk, Paul McMurtry (37.6%) over Doug Obey (31.4%) and Stephen Bilafer (30.9%).

Monday, May 14, 2007

DiMasi Demands his Due

MetroWest Daily News opinion editor Rick Holmes quotes Governor Deval Patrick speaking about his recent dinner with House Speaker Sal DiMasi in his column yesterday:

"I told the speaker I would be calling on some of his members to talk about the Municipal Partnership Act," Patrick told the editors Wednesday. "He said 'you should be talking to me instead."'
This is pretty much the statehouse in a nutshell -- the majority of state legislators are largely irrelevant to the way laws are made. I'm not sure what bothers me more about this, the fact that DiMasi is brazenly saying that he controls the votes of House members, so don't bother talking to them, or the fact that it's true. DiMasi is clearly upset with the way the Governor is trying to circumvent him on this issue by appealing to the public, to individual legislators, to municipal leaders, and so on.

The larger point of the column, though, was to advocate for the passage for the Municipal Partnership Act, and particularly the ability for cities and towns to levy their own meals taxes. Holmes notes that since DiMasi represents the restaurant-rich North End, he's unlikely to allow that to pass. Even so, that's not a battle DiMasi should be having with the Governor. He should, Holmes argues, allow other municipalities to control their own revenue streams and fight out the particulars of Boston's restaurant tax with Mayor Tom Menino. I agree. Why should the Speaker stop Framingham, for example, from enacting a meals tax simply to ensure that his North End constituents never have to be subject to one?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Weekend Baby Blogging

Here he is in his "Mommy's Little Monster" bib for Mother's Day.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Question of the Day

How bad do you have to screw up to be fired from a ship that only sets sail (literally so) once or twice a year and where all of the sailors under you double as tour guides?

I actually happened to visit the USS Constitution last week. Everything looked fine to me -- no Tailhook-style shenanigans. I wonder what the full story is.

Biotech Worth State Investment

There's a talking point going around in opposition to Governor Deval Patrick's $1 billion plan to invest in biotechnology that is embodied by this Boston Herald editorial. The argument is that while it's all well and good the Patrick wants to lure biotech jobs here, it's not the state's job to invest directly in companies because there are venture capital firms for that. Meanwhile, the Herald adds that no venture capital firm is going to repair Storrow Drive, so the state shouldn't spend money on encouraging biotech while there are other priorities.

Never mind that that editorial occurred in the same newspaper that reported the Governor's push to end neglect of the Storrow Drive tunnel on that same day. It seems to me that this argument ignores the long history of government grants to scientific research, and the fact that the state has investments in all sorts of companies -- unless you think the state pension board socks all of its money under mattresses. It also overestimates the amount of money that venture capitalists are willing to gamble on an emerging field, as detailed by today's Globe. But, even apart from that, it also does not take into account the fact that decisions made by California, New Jersey and Connecticut already rendered any discussion of whether the state should encourage stem cell research entirely academic. The fact is, other states are funding this research and if we don't get in on the action, Massachusetts is the state that stands to lose the most. After all, one out of seven jobs in biotech worldwide is here in the Commonwealth. Any expansion of this research outside of the state hurts us more than anyone else. As the biotech convention showed, there are many many other localities just waiting to lure away our companies. California is not threatening to take Storrow Drive away.

Of course, the other thing that these critics never seem to mention is the part of the proposal which would create, in effect, a lending-library for stem cell lines at UMass Medical School. This is an amazing opportunity for UMass and for the Worcester area and it does not seem at all likely that it would be something the private sector could be able to duplicate given the way it brought together researchers who don't generally work together.

It seems to me that with this plan, the Governor is killing three birds with one stone. He's investing in UMass, and growing the economy by luring jobs here, which in turn will raise state revenues. It of course is not risk-free, there's always the possibility that the biotech industry will cool off, but the risk of inaction -- of other states and countries stealing our current crop of biotech firms away -- is much more serious.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Fire Trucks vs Marriage Equality

Yesterday was the first session of the Constitutional Convention, and while all that happened was to recess, we now know that the next date will be June 14th. There's no guarantee that there will be a vote on the proposed marriage ban on that date, but supporters and opponents are gearing up just in case. Today's Boston Globe had a short article on this, and I found something I'd been waiting to see:

Supporters of same-sex marriage said privately that they believe that legislative leaders will have an easier time persuading some lawmakers to switch their votes during the give-and-take of June budget negotiations, when lawmakers traditionally seek money for pet projects.
There are enough supporters of marriage equality in the legislature to kill every pet project of the fifty-plus members who would advance the ban to the ballot. I am all for them doing so. Make them choose between bringing home that new library or skating rink or fire truck and voting to put an end to something that really hasn't changed life in the Commonwealth for most people one bit. Legislators are forgiven a variety of sins if they bring money to their district, or if they can point to something and say "without me, that wouldn't exist." While the marriage vote may be the most visible and controversial one of many of their careers, I have to imagine that there are at least eight legislators who would change their votes if it meant that they could ensure support for local projects.

Update: Meanwhile, the Boston Herald has its own article, which notes that Governor Deval Patrick may be trading jobs in the administration for votes against the marriage ban. Patrick's people deny this, and frankly I think it's a little silly. He should be offering marriage opponents jobs anyway, if only to get them out of the legislature. His administration has already triggered two special elections. If he can get these legislators to resign, it's just as good as switching their vote.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

More Special Election News

This morning, I posted my interview with Susan Passoni, candidate in the special election to replace Boston City Councilor Jimmy Kelly, but that is not the only special election ocurring in the near future. Here's a quick rundown of the ones I've been following.

Today Marty Meehan (D-Lowell) officially announces that he's resigning from the House of Representatives. The special election has been set for October 16th, as expected, with the primary coming on September 4th, the day after Labor Day. Now that things have been set in motion, the candidates have to garner 2000 signatures to appear on the ballot. It will be interesting to me to see who gets the most from which region. That may give us some indication of where they're best organized.

In other special election news, the race to replace Rep. Robert Coughlin (D-Dedham) ends with the election on Tuesday, May 15th. The Daily News Transcript has a rundown of the candidates' finances. It looks like Democrat Stephen Bilafer is continuing to outpace his Republican and Unenrolled rivals in raising money. Hopefully that will be enough to put him over the top in the three-way race.

Also, the Boston Globe this weekend had a profile on the special election in the First Middlesex and Suffolk senatorial district, to replace former Senate President Robert Travaglini. The article notes that the race has been "low-key" and I'm inclined to agree. I've seen very little about this race in the news, and though the candidates did have a debate last night, I've found nothing online -- either in blogs or news accounts -- describing the event.

Update: Susan Ryan-Vollmar writes in to report that Bay Windows has coverage of the Middlesex and Suffolk debate in Cambridge (second-to-last item). It contains the hilarious description of the two candidates trying to come up with wildlife species living in their urban districts.

Interview with Susan Passoni - Candidate for Boston City Council

On Monday evening, I got the chance to talk with Susan Passoni, a resident of Boston's South End who is running for Boston City Council Seat formerly occupied by the late Jimmy Kelly. Since then, Passoni has been endorsed by the Boston Globe. The election will be this Tuesday, May 15th where she will face South Boston resident Bill Linehan.

Passoni told me that she's running for the City Council because she's frustrated by the high cost of living in Boston, the continued rise in crime and the need for continued improvement in the public schools. She noted that she would like to see more police officers on the street, and a return to community policing. She'd also like to see more predictable funding for programs that target at-risk youth.

We chatted at length particularly on various ways the City of Boston could relieve some of the pressure off the property tax. Passoni noted that Boston currently collects 57% of all its revenue from real estate taxes, and 42% of that is borne by residents. She suggested that Boston raise the cap on high-value commercial property and ask large non-profits, particularly universities, to pay their fair share for the services they take advantage of. She was not ready support a potential meals tax in Boston, though she agreed that cities and towns should have the ability to levy these taxes. She noted that her experience in finance makes her particularly suited to make sure Boston is making the most out of the money it collects.

One of her more intriguing ideas was to work with local universities in trying to bolster underperforming schools. In addition, I asked her about the proposed BU Biolab in the South End; she said that she is "not a fan."

If you're interested in supporting Susan Passoni's campaign, you can call her campaign office, which is 617-262-6626, visit her website or drop by 59 Dartmouth St in the South End and they'll put you to work.

Read the full interview inside
Q: I'll start with the obvious question: Why are you running for Boston City Council?

It's pretty simple. I ran for this same seat in 2005 and the reason I chose to run then was because I was frustrated by the fact that many of the people that were living in the city of Boston – families, working middle class – were leaving the city because of the high cost of living here in terms of housing, whether they were renters or owners, and the continued rise in crime and the need for continued improvement in our public schools.

I'm running again because, if anything those issues have only worsened. When I ran in 2005 the city of Boston was in the top ten most expensive cities to live in, now it's in the top five. I don't need to tell you what's happened with our murder rate. So, I think we need different solutions, different approaches, better ways to understand the problems and that is something I would like to bring to the table in terms of my background.
Q: Well, let's talk about some of your ideas for some of those solutions. What do you think the city can do to lower the murder rate?
I think first and foremost one of the things we have is our unsolved murder rate is one of the worst in the country. Whether it's bringing in better technology, more police on the street, we need to resolve some of those unsolved murders because many times they're repeat offenders. So that would be one thing. We definitely need to ensure that monies that were committed by the Mayor -- when Commissioner Davis came on board he promised them additional funding -- make sure again that money was spent wisely, bring back more community policing, programs that are targeting our most at-risk youth, a lot of those programs have been cut drastically. We're seeing the consequences of that and so I think we need to focus on bringing back some more funding to these programs so they can have a more positive impact. Also, hiring more police.

So those are some of the things I would ensure that not only the money was spent wisely and effectively, but that it was continually budgeted year after year so that we saw improvement. Just because you throw whatever the number is, five or twenty or thirty million incremental dollars into our public safety budget doesn't necessarily mean that that's going to be the fix-all. So, we need to make sure that the methods we're deploying in terms of trying to bring murder rates down, aggravated assault rates down, that we continue to build on that, and I think that's really key.
Q: Now, in terms of funding, I read a Brian McGrory Column last week where Councilor Sam Yoon introduced the idea of a half-percent sales tax in Boston that would be earmarked specifically for public safety. Is that something you'd be interested in supporting?
It's definitely a step in the right direction, but it's not enough. I don't have the article in front of me, but if I'm not mistaken they were talking about generating maybe $30 million a year in doing so? That's not an insignificant amount of money, but how is that going to be divided? It's one thing to say you're going to give it to public safety, but does that mean it's going to go directly to police? Is it going to go some to fire? Is it going to go to programs I was talking about like some of these youth programs that are very instrumental in bringing down a lot of the youth violence that we've seen in recent years? So, I don't know how it's going to get allocated, that's going to be one thing.

I think we need to look at a bigger picture solution in terms of generating incremental in order to make a huge difference because we're talking about $30 million on a $2 billion budget. I think you need to be looking in the hundreds of millions, especially when you think about all the other areas in the city that we're seeing challenges in. Again, the real estate tax problem we have here.
Q: I think that something that's on the minds of not just everybody in Boston, but also everybody in Massachusetts, is the heavy reliance on that real estate tax. What do you think the city in particular can to take the pressure off of that?
I think there are a variety of things you can do. First and foremost, right now if you look at the city of Boston, it gets about 57% of its revenue from real estate taxes. However, where the real bite comes from, the shift is being borne more and more by the residents. In the past five years the percentage of real estate taxes for residential property has gone from 30% to 42%. In five years. That's a big swing.

I think if you were to talk to residents throughout the district or throughout the city I know in the conversations I've had it is the same thing over and over: "I've had this house in my family for three generations, my kids can't afford to live in this town. It kills me that I can't see them that often, but what's killing me even more is that I'm on a fixed income and I'd love to be able to pass this home onto them, but I'm not sure I can do that." Or, "I bought my apartment in the 1970s in the South End and I thought it was great, but now I'm paying a third of what I paid for the apartment in real estate taxes. I can't afford that anymore." A lot of these people are the fabric of the community. They're really important to embrace and try to make that pressure less intense, because it really has intensified in the last several years.

So one of the things I would look at is if residential rates are going up, that means commercial's going down. The way it's structured in the city of Boston is there's a cap on how high commercial taxes can go. I'm not talking about small businesses, I'm talking about the large, multi-story office towers that we have in the downtown area, etc. These buildings are getting taxed on assessed values that are pretty much 50% of what they would be assessed at whereas residents' taxes are based on roughly 90% of their assessed value. So I think we need to have a better balance there. That's number one.

Number two is that over half our land is occupied by tax-exempt organizations. Collectively, these organizations contribute 1% of revenues. Now, granted it's completely arbitrary payment, it's not required, but the problem with that is that we need to get more in return for the services we provide to these organizations. I recognize that a lot of these institutions are fledgling; they're barely surviving. But for those that are more financially sound --
Q: Some of the larger universities, I don't think anybody's going to argue that they're going out of business any time soon.
Or that they're going to move. Especially if they continue to expand as well. I think if you were to walk around the city of Boston 20 years ago, and left and came back and saw how much these universities have expanded, I think it would be shocking to anyone just in terms of the sheer density that they have commanded in terms of their property.

So I would argue that if these institutions are going to sit on half our land and collectively are only contributing 1% of our revenue, that we need to get more in return for the services we're providing, whether it's emergency medical, fire, police, snow removal, in some cases trash removal. I would be a proponent of pushing that, and having worked in the corporate world and private sector for 20 years, I'm very accustomed to negotiating and dealing with CEOs and COOs and people of that level. That's effectively what it would be like negotiating with the university. That's something that I would really like to work on, to see if we can have a better balance, to get something in return for the land that they're sitting on.

If they can't, if an institution isn't willing to step up to the plate, maybe they could do something in kind. We have a lot of schools in the City of Boston that are not doing well, and if they can take some of these schools under their wing or maybe bring in programs that have been cut, like arts, music, physical education, mentoring programs, special education. As I'm sure you know, a lot of these colleges and universities have fabulous education departments and they have students who would love to practice in an environment. I think it would be a mutually beneficial relationship that we can build, and I would love to see that happen as well.

When you're looking at a university like Harvard University that's got a 30 billion dollar endowment, that's probably generating between $150M+ in interest, and they're contributing $1.5M to the City of Boston a year, I really struggle with that. Especially now that they sit on more land in Boston than they do in Cambridge.

The other issue is, BRA has a number of parcels of land in the city, thousands of acres, that's probably worth, I don't know, maybe $2 billion give or take. If we were to remove those tax waivers, that would probably bring in about $50M+.

Then we have a lot of tax breaks for developers. That's another significant nut. So when you talk about trying to diversify revenues and trying to generate incremental revenues to fund programs and add more funding to our public safety or our public works or whatever the division is, you can't just rely on one thing. You need to have a multifaceted approach to ensure that you have this continual stream, because you can't just rely on one thing, and that's something that I would really try to work hard on because of my finance background.
Q: One other potential source of revenue that I know the Mayor and Governor are pushing, is to allow cities and towns to raise their own meal and hotel taxes. Would you support that if the legislature would allow it?
I would definitely look at it. I don't want to do it to the detriment of our travel and tourism business, but at the same time the real key of that legislation to me is the home rule that exists in Massachusetts. It's effectively legislation that allows municipalities to self-govern. However, there is a complete oxymoron in that because the one thing they're not allowed to do as municipalities is really control their revenue. They're not allowed to underwrite a bond. They're not allowed to raise fees or taxes unless they go back to the state legislature.

To me, I don't know how you can be a self-governing institution, or organization, or municipality, or township, if you don't have the ability to do that. The analogy I always use is, say you have a 12-year old kid and you say, it's time for you to go out on your own and I'm really supportive of that, and they're completely dependent on you for money because they're too young too work, and then you're like, "See ya!" You can't do that. You really need, in order to be able to do the things to make a city thrive, more often than not it requires funding of one sort or another. That, to me, is the most important part of that legislation, breaking that financial stronghold that the Commonwealth has.
Q: You're on the board of the Excel Academy Charter School. Would you like to see more charter schools in Boston?
Personally, I would like to see improvement in our public school system. I really would. I am a huge advocate for education and to me, what's so important about it is that I know what a good education did for me, and the opportunities it provided. I think every child in the City of Boston should have those same opportunities. If you have a good education, it gives you choice. You may not want to go to college. You may not want to go to business school, or graduate school. But at least if you have a really good education, you can make decisions like that. You can say, I'd rather be a tradesman, or I'd rather be a fireman, or maybe I'll get an associates degree. But it gives you choice, and to me that's so powerful. To be able to put that in a child's hands, the sooner we get to them the better.

Like I was saying earlier with some of the universities, if they could step up and work with some of our most challenged schools, where a large percentage of kids are failing the MCAS and we could really turn that around. Again, not that I think the MCAS is the be-all and end-all of measurement, because it's not. Nevertheless, it is a guide. If we could give these kids the ability to pass an exam and give them encouragement and support and involve their parents, it gives them an incredibly powerful effect, I've seen it happen in Excel as an example, and it can be done. Just because these kids don't have the means, it doesn't mean they don't have the minds. I really think we need to focus on what it's going to take to get these schools, to get our kids to have the best education possible. To me that's a priority. And in some communities, unfortunately, you don't have schools.

So in the meantime, as we're working towards improving them, let's do give some parents choice, so their kids have a chance. But I don't think it's one or the other, and that's too often the argument. We have to do it concurrently. We have to work on improving our public schools, making sure they're the best they can be, giving teachers the flexibility and the curriculum so they can have an impact, and getting parental involvement, because that's such a critical part of it as well, and I think you can really see a change.

What I would advocate for is, let's look at best practices. Whether it's a public school, a pilot school, a parochial, a charter, whatever it is, why do these schools succeed? What have they done to ensure that these kids can move on to higher education? And let's apply them to our most challenged schools, to see. Not all of these solutions are going to work, because a lot of it could be cultural, but you know what, at least you're trying to take a different strategy and trying to take what's continuing to be a problem with our achievement gap. That, to me, is very important.
Q: Today was the first day of the Biotech Conference in Boston, and there were protests regarding the BU Level 4 Biolab. Do you have an opinion on the construction of that lab? That would be in your district, if I'm not mistaken.
It's in my neighborhood. It's probably half a mile away from where I live. I've never been a fan. The one thing I am totally, completely supportive of is bringing new businesses to our city. We need an economic revival, and that's how you're going to do it, by bringing business and industry to the city of Boston.

With the Biolevel 4, the concern I have is that first and foremost, it's in a very densely populated area, not to mention the fact that it's abutting a major access in and out of the city. If anything were to happen, and I'm not even talking conspiracy theory, let's just be pragmatic and say it could be 4:00 Friday afternoon in July, and everybody knows what 93 looks like, it is bumper to bumper and moves maybe at 5 or 10 miles an hour, and if you had a situation, let's say like a traffic helicopter could lose control and crash into the biolab, what's going to happen? How do these people get evacuated?

The other issue that I also think is critical is, do we have the right legislation in place for oversight? I know Representative Gloria Fox has underwritten some legislation. I think it's critical that that gets passed, because we don't have the legislation in place that would oversee a facility of that type, because we've never had one before.

In addition to that, my other concern is that our police and our fire and all our other public safety officials, are they well-equipped, well-educated, well-trained, for haz-mat removal, evacuation procedures, the proper uniforms and garments they have to wear to ensure their own safety. These are things that I still don't believe have been fully covered, and that's a concern. If you're going to put something in, these to me are very critical things to get done. What's an alternative evacuation route? If it happens and 93 is jammed, where do people go? Where do they get out, in the South End and lower Roxbury? How does that happen? I don't know, it just seems that we don't have enough options in terms of getting in and out of the city that are big enough, that are going to allow people to get out efficiently, quickly, and with no casualties. That's my concern. I hope that Representative Fox moves forward on her legislation and others will follow in her footsteps.
Q: How can people get involved in your campaign, even though there's not much time left?
We would love help, and they can either call our office, which is 617-262-6626, or they can visit our website, which is There's a link there or they can email us at One of those three ways will either get you in touch with Reuben Kantor or Ed Marin, who works as our field director, and we would love to put you to work. We're at 59 Dartmouth Street in the South End between Warren Avenue and Appleton.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Romney Boosted By Ads, Not Debate

Via BMG, I see that local pundit Jon Keller has attributed Mitt Romney's jump in the New Hampshire polls to his performance in the GOP debate last week, and more specifically to the former governor's response to a question about embryonic stem cells. Keller, I think, has fallen victim to the fallacy common to those of us who follow politics closely -- namely that any one else is paying a lick of attention. That Republican debate was watched by about 1.7 million viewers. If we assume a proportional number of those were from New Hampshire (spare me the pabulum about NH voters taking their responsibility so seriously that they'll be disproportionately paying attention at this stage in the GOP primary) then we can estimate, based on Census data that about 7500, or the about population of the NH town of Pembroke (or West Boylston, MA) of those viewers watched from the Granite State. Sure, that's a good chunk of people, but not so much that would cause Romney's poll numbers to jump dramatically.

I think what's really happening here is that Romney is getting the benefit of being on television since February. The last poll from SurveyUSA/WBZ was taken in January, before Romney's big ad buy in the early primary states. Unless I'm mistaken, Romney is the only Republican candidate running spots in New Hampshire this early, and as such you'd expect to see his numbers go up since he's not yet being challenged by anyone. Couple that with the fact that he was the governor of the state next door and owns property on Lake Winnipesaukee, and any result other than a Romney lead would be extremely surprising and potentially devastating to his 2008 hopes.

Electing Women in Massachusetts

Scot Lehigh has a column in today's Globe that's half on the commonwealth's poor record electing women to high offices and half on the Fifth District congressional race to replace Marty Meehan (D-Lowell). The first part of the piece is fair, though I think Lehigh overstates how much more advanced our neighbors in New England are at electing women. For example, there are now only two women from the entire region in the US House of Representatives out of twenty-two total (9%). The US Senate fairs better, but the total is still two women out of twelve (17%). It's clear that Massachusetts is not the only state where women have trouble getting elected.

I think more than the obvious charge of Massachusetts sexism that Lehigh carefully avoids levying the reason for the absence of women in the Massachusetts delegation is the low-turnover of the seats. The average Massachusetts congressman was elected nearly 16 years ago. If you add in the two Senators, it becomes just under 19 years ago, thanks to the long-serving Ted Kennedy. Massachusetts doesn't elect women, in part because it doesn't elect anybody other than the incumbent very often.

Also, there's one minor factual error in the column. Early on, Lehigh notes the following:

The same question can nag when in Maine, which shares with California and Oregon the distinction of having two women as its US senators.
I think Senators Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith of Oregon will be surprised to read that they are women. I think Lehigh has gotten his Pacific Northwest states confused. It's Washington that has two women senators -- Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.

As far as Lehigh's discussion of the fifth district race, I think he's accurately captured the conventional wisdom, mainly that Niki Tsongas is the frontrunner. I personally have not seen any empirical evidence proving to me that this is the case, but neither have I seen any reason to disbelieve it. One point that Lehigh does omit in his discussion of Tsongas and rival candidate Eileen Donoghue is the possibility that two women from the same part of the district, namely Lowell, could split the vote and allow one of the other candidates to win. This does not seem like an unlikely scenario, particularly given the crowded field.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Interview with Dean Niki Tsongas

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to talk with Middlesex Community College Dean Niki Tsongas, widow of former Senator Paul Tsongas and candidate for Congressman Marty Meehan's (D-Lowell) seat in Massachusetts' Fifth District. She counts her work at Middlesex, along with her work on the Arena Commission in Lowell and on the board of Fallon Community Health Plan as giving her a wide and unique range of public sector experience. She notes that the war in Iraq is the most important issue right now to the district and that she favors a withdrawal date, but additionally wants to ensure that the returning troops are cared for adequately when they come home. On education, she supports fully funding both Head Start and No Child Left Behind and expanding the Pell Grant and Stafford Loan programs.

On health care, she favors a Massachusetts-style multi-payer system as the fastest way to get to universal coverage. She would address global climate change by instituting a "cap-and-trade" system to regulate carbon emissions, siting how well that worked in curbing acid rain. In addition, she favors increased funding for research and development of alternative energy. The immigration policy she'd like to see is similar to Senator Ted Kennedy's bill from last year that created an avenue to citizenship for undocumented workers already here, but also took steps to secure the borders, and would make it more difficult for employers to employ undocumented workers.

Dean Tsongas is the fifth candidate for MA-05 that I have spoken with. In March, I posted my interviews with Rep. Jamie Eldridge and David O'Brien (who has since withdrawn his candidacy), and in April I posted interviews with Rep. Barry Finegold and Lowell City Councilor Eileen Donoghue.

To get involved with Niki Tsongas' campaign, you can check out her website, or stop by her campaign office at 26 Market Street in Lowell.

Update: Charley over at BMG posted a response to this interview there which has garnered some interesting comments.

Read excerpts from the full interview inside
Q: Of all the Democratic candidates still in the race, you're the only one with no experience as an elected official. Do you think that will be an impediment if you're elected to Congress?

I believe that my long-term involvement, while not as an elected official but definitely in elective politics as well as virtually everything I've done has been in the public sector, I think those two together give me a unique perspective on the issues of the day.
Q: Of that public sector experience, what was the most important to you and the most valuable to the public?

I don't know that I can isolate one thing. I definitely think my past 9 ½ years at Middlesex Community College, where I've seen up close how important higher education is in this economy that we have, as well as to the long-term ability of an individual to thrive in society. I think I've learned a lot just from being a part of the largest community college in Massachusetts.

That isn't the only thing I've been doing. I've been on the board of the Arena Commission, where we've overseen the construction of two projects that really have been key to the revitalization of an old industrial city. I think that serving on the board of a small health plan has given me an interesting perspective on some of the challenges around health care. In the many nonprofit activities that I've engaged in, it's no one thing in itself. It's really a constellation of work that I've done that I think gives me a different perspective on, as I've said, the issues of the day.
Q: Which issues do you think are top on the minds of the voters of the Fifth District?
It's no surprise that the war in Iraq and the treatment of our veterans are foremost in everybody's mind. I favor setting a date for withdrawal of our troops and seeking a political solution to stabilizing Iraq and the region, but additionally I think caring for our returning veterans is an absolute obligation. These principles really are at the core of my beliefs on Iraq.

You may not know, but I'm a product of the military in that my father was a career military officer. He survived the bombing of Pearl Harbor and went on to serve in the South Pacific, and then was out briefly and went back in, and finally retired as a colonel when I was going to college. As a result I traveled all over the world and went to high school in Japan. I really do feel that we have an obligation to take care of those who are willing to serve on our behalf, whatever we may feel about the war in and of itself.
Q: Just this week, the president vetoed the supplemental war funding budget. What would you hope to see happen at this point?
I applaud Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Congress for putting this issue front and center with the President. The Congress has to continue to do that. It's clear that tying the supplemental appropriations to it, the timeline is not going to pass, so I think the Democratic leadership is looking at other ways to continue to bring that pressure to bear. While I am in favor of setting a timeline, a firm date for withdrawal, at this point I think John Murtha's proposal to provide the funding on a two-month cycle continues to bring that pressure and the discourse forward.
Q: To go back a little bit, you mentioned your work at Middlesex County Community College. What do you think that has taught you about what the federal government should do in terms of education policy?
I think the federal government has to be very strategic. First of all, we have to come to an agreement that educating our citizenry is key to the long-term competitiveness of this country. It also is important to having a population that is engaged in the civic discourse on the issues of the day. So, on two levels, it's fundamentally important.

Education is traditionally the responsibility of the states and local government, but I think federal government can be very strategic in the use of its funds. I am in favor of fully funding Head Start and expanding that program so that we have access to that kind of early education. I think No Child Left Behind has become a huge burden on local communities, and yet I think it's important to create these benchmarks. I think we have to work to fully fund it so that it isn't such a burden on communities, and yet it is important long-term educationally.

My experience at a community college, where we labor very hard to keep tuition and fees low, is that it's still very difficult for many young people to pay for the cost of higher education. So at the federal level, we really have to expand the Pell Grant and Stafford Loan program. We have to continue to look at ways to upgrade the quality of our education and make sure that we have a system that is accessible to all.
Q: You also mentioned you're on the board of a health plan, is it –
It's Fallon Health Plan, a small health plan based in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Q: What would you like to see Congress do to help lower health care costs for Americans?
First and foremost, my family was the beneficiary of some of the most tremendous health care this country has to offer. It actually gave my husband year of life that he might not otherwise have had, so I have a very strong feeling that we have to have universal health care access for all. I would work in Congress for a system that guarantees a choice of physicians, the kind of excellence that we experienced, affordability -- we were fortunate to have most of those costs covered -- and timeliness of care.

Every other industrialized nation in the world provides that health care for all of its citizens. The crisis is real and growing. Over 47 million are uninsured, and approximately 16 million Americans are underinsured. So for me the issue is, which universal health care system can be put in place most quickly?
Q: What do you think that would be?
At this point, I think it's a multi-payer system, such as we have here in Massachusetts. I think it's great that Massachusetts is the first state in the nation to develop a universal health care plan, which is already being carefully watched by other states as well as at the federal level. The federal system was created so that the states could serve as laboratories, so you could experiment and iron out the kinks and find out what works and what doesn't before you implement a huge plan nationwide, and then it becomes so much more difficult to adjust. So I think we have an important model here, it's very promising, it deserves our attention.

But in the end, the real issue is, we've been talking about this for as long as I can remember. Finally we have an opportunity to do something about it. The real key is, how do we do it quickly, so we're not talking about another ten years? It seems to me that the kind of model Massachusetts is engaged in has the promise of being enacted. All the presidential candidates are talking about similar things as well. Clearly there's a consensus around this kind of system.

In the long run, if we work our way through this and we say, well, it doesn't work, that's another thing, but at least we're on a path and universal health care is in place in this form. Let's just see what happens. So at this point, I think the Massachusetts model deserves our attention. It's interesting to see a lot of proposals coming out of the Senate right now, that are somewhat reflective of our model.
Q: Congressman Meehan is known for championing campaign finance reform. What solutions do you favor, if any, on that issue?
One thing that I really do notice, being in this campaign, even since the presidential election of '92, is how much more important, how much more front and center this whole issue of raising funds has become. It's quite a process. It's clear to me that we have to address campaign finance reform. We've tried so many different things, at this point I'm not clear what the best direction to go is. There is this process in which we have to sort of vet the viability of candidates, so it's not an unimportant thing that we have to get out there and raise some funds. On the other hand, the sheer cost of it is really indefensible. What I would look at is ways to just control the cost of running a viable campaign.
Q: What solutions or ideas do you favor to reduce the amount of energy we use and the amount of carbon emissions we produce?
I think failure to address global warming is one of the great travesties of the Bush administration. Their sheer ignorance of the emerging science on the fact that this was real has put us in a place where we have very little time to address it seriously. So I don't think it's any longer a political issue, I think it's a critical generational issue at this point. Congress has to provide leadership, and we have an opportunity with a Democratic Congress. So, as a member of Congress, I'd work to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions, put an absolute cap on greenhouse gas emissions.
Q: Would that include a trade mechanism also?
Cap and trade, yes. It's proven to be very effective in acid rain, so I think it's a model that works very efficiently. I know that in acid rain, it worked quicker than people thought. That's where I would head. We have to be a real leader in our district in the development of alternative technologies. It's an opportunity in terms of economic development, but it's also a necessity in terms of our need for alternative energy sources. Again, this is an issue we've been talking about for years, and now it's time to do something about it. We have an opportunity with a Democratic Congress and the consensus now that global warming is a fact, not a theory.
Q: What would you like to see happen in your district regarding alternative energy?
I recently signed on -- the Democrats are considering the 'Innovative Agenda' in Washington, which I'm fully supportive of, in fact I recently issued a press release on it. They're looking at lots of different ways, and one of the things is doubling the National Science Foundation funding, but also the small business innovation research program, there's a lot of funding in there for research and development.

As a nation, we have to provide pots of money for companies or universities to access to begin to develop alternative energy sources. There are companies in the district now, I think Ballard is one of them, where this kind of research is going on. As a district we have to be very opportunistic about all of that. A member of Congress can actually play a key role and can monitor it and help direct companies to funding opportunities, and be proactive about all of that. Rather than waiting for people to come to you, you can go out to them.
Q: What do you think America should do in regard to immigration policy?
It's clear we have a problem with undocumented immigrants, but I start with the notion that my husband was a first-generation American. His father came here when he was three years old, so Paul was actually the first in the family to be born here. When you can be a first-generation American and rise to run for President of the United States, it does tell you what a remarkable country this is. No wonder we are a magnet for people who are coming from countries where there is political turmoil, economic turmoil, very few opportunities.

That being said, the era when my husband's family came here, we had an open immigration system. You came through Ellis Island, but that was only to monitor any kind of health issue. We were really fueling an economy here, and we just didn't have the numbers of people here at the time either. Nevertheless, the politics and dynamics of the world still make us a magnet for people who want opportunity.

So, we have a problem, we have to get a handle on it, and the Kennedy bill really does provide some solutions by trying to secure the borders, giving an avenue to citizenship for those who are here, beginning to make it more difficult for employers to employ undocumented workers, some disincentives to doing that. But we have twelve million people here. We have to find a path to citizenship, and at the same time we have to get a handle and discourage the continuation of this kind of situation.

Overall, I think there are about 38 or 39 million foreign-born immigrants here. I think only 12 million of them are undocumented. So, we're always going to be accepting people from other countries. It's the legacy – Look at Lowell, Massachusetts. I went to the Cambodian opera this past weekend. It was fabulous, and actually I was very involved in bringing it to Lowell. And I thought, this is really the opportunity provided by the fact that we are such a diverse nation, and particularly the Fifth Congressional District, is such a diverse district. While we have to take seriously this problem, and I do, I also embrace the sort of opportunities that our diversity provides for us.
Q: If you're elected, it will be some time in October and there's just another year until the next election. If you can accomplish just one thing in that time, what would you like to make sure gets done, either for your district or more generally?
I think any one of us has to be part of the continued voice around bringing the war in Iraq to an end, and just continuing to press that agenda forward because it's coloring our ability to deal with anything else, in terms of the funding that it is absorbing, the energy it is absorbing, our position in the world. So fundamentally, there's that issue. Again, you're one of many in that capacity, but nevertheless I think it's key. Absolutely key.

I do think we have to address global warming. I think it's our responsibility generationally. Can you do it by yourself? No, but you become part of the majority that seriously attempts to address that.
Q: How can people get involved with your campaign?
Our headquarters is at 26 Market Street in Lowell, and our website is We welcome people just coming in.

I come out of a tradition of a grassroots campaign. My first campaign was with -- this was way before your time -- with Eugene McCarthy, who was the antiwar candidate in the Vietnam War in 1968. I traveled through New Hampshire and all over the States with thousands of students throwing attention to that issue and trying to change the dynamic around the war. I went on to be part of a campaign to reform Middlesex County, which has since been reformed, and every campaign, even our presidential campaign, was very grassroots. I will continue in that tradition. So we will be doing a lot of voter IDing, getting out and meeting as many people as possible. My 24-hour announcement tour is part of that. But the Internet is actually a new way of reaching out to people at a grassroots level, and we will use the Internet to do that.
Q: Anything else you'd like people to know about?
I think the other thing that's really important is all the issues around economic development in the Fifth Congressional District. Marty Meehan has been an activist member of Congress around that, and it has become the tradition of the seat, that apart from all the research and development dollars I talked about that whoever is a member of Congress becomes very engaged with the local communities and working with them as they identify projects that they think are key to their progress and finding ways for the federal government to be supportive to the extent it's possible.

One of the things I've come to appreciate in the course of this campaign is how the position of member of Congress is very unique in that it creates an opportunity to discuss important national and international issues on a very local scale. There's no other position that does that. The Senate tends to be too big, you have too much geography to deal with, and the Presidency takes place at a much higher level. As a Member of Congress, if I'm successful, I'm going to look at ways to continue the discussion. I think most do, but it really has struck me what an opportunity there is. And actually, a necessity, because these issues are so complex, they can't be addressed in two or three sentences. There has to be a discussion around them, and people who want to need to have an opportunity to be heard. This is the level of office at which that can really take place.