Friday, July 29, 2005

State House News Poll: Now With Charts!

The July numbers for the bi-monthly State House News Poll are out and they're quite interesting. The big story is that Governor Romney really is out of step with the majority of Massachusetts residents on stem cell research and emergency contraception. In addition, Romney's favorability ratings continue to outpace support for re-election. That is, his favorability rating stands at 55%, but the highest he polls against any challenger is 49.9% (against Deval Patrick).

Here are the head-to-head poll results, with the May results in parentheses.

If the candidates in next year's general election for governor were Mitt Romney / [CHALLENGER] and the election were being held tomorrow, for whom would you vote??
ChallengerRomneyDon't KnowNeither
Bill Galvin40.2%(41.91%)48.8%(40.7%)7.3%%(11.2%)3.4%(6.2%)
Deval Patrick35.1%(33.6%)49.9%(45.8%)9.5%(12.9%)5.4%(7.6%)
Tom Reilly47.1%(48.3%)44.0%(37.8%)6.2%(7.7%)2.7%(6.3%)
The bad news is that Mitt Romney's numbers have gone up across the board while the Democratic challengers' numbers have stayed roughly the same. Tom Reilly is still ahead, but his lead is now within the margin of error. Bill Galvin doesn't do quite as well as Reilly, and where he was beating, or at least tied with Romney, he now does measurably worse. Deval Patrick's own numbers remain roughly the same as in past polls, but here Romney gets his highest percentage of any of the head-to-head matchups. Here's a graph of how the Democrats have been doing against Romney:
I'm not sure why Reilly's numbers would have gone down in May. It might just be a blip or it might have been because that was around the time that he was getting a lot of criticism for his odd stance on Mitt's death penalty bill (I'm against it but I'd sign it). In any case, If his July numbers are accurate, it looks like he's recovered from this.

The most troubling thing that I see in this poll is the Democratic poll numbers for Deval Patrick, Mike Capuano and even Bill Galvin. Here's the breakdown of the percentage of Democrats voting for the candidate:
Tom Reilly76.2%
Bill Galvin61.4%
Deval Patrick55.4%
Mike Capuano54.5%
I have to imagine that a lot of this is a function of name recognition at this point, but if the Democratic candidate can't convince more than three out of four Democrats to vote for him, we may as well hand over the keys to the corner office right now and save ourselves a lot of time and money.

Of course, the above numbers may become meaningless if, as looks likely, Governor Romney declines to run in 2006. So, here are the poll results for the Democratic primary, along with the time series results for March and May:
Tom Reilly43.8%32.6%41.5%
Deval Patrick10.2%5.8%3.2%
Bill Galvin8.1%7.0%10.5%
Mike Capuano5.5%NANA
Chris GabrieliNA5.8%5.1%
Don't Know30.2%44.2%36.4%
Some of the names have changed, but here's a chart with the three expected candidates:
These numbers still look relatively flat, although if the trends continue with a few more data points it will be bad news for Galvin and good news for Patrick. That being said, this continues to be Tom Reilly's race to lose and, as he is quick to remind us, he hasn't lost one yet.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Blog Blitz Part III

Lynne from Left in Lowell has posted her interview with Deval Patrick. She's offered up the entire transcript of her conversation, and it's very definitely worth checking out. Here's what she has to say about it:

Deval Patrick is nothing if not ambitious. From health care to public education, job creation and public transit, he has a lot of sound ideas on how to reverse some of the negative trends in this state. Make no mistake, it’ll take some doing. He advocates, for instance, smaller class sizes and longer school days (not just classroom, but other school-related activities). He wants to move towards universal health care coverage, whether that’s privately or publicly funded or both. He has some ambitious ideas about investing in transit infrastructure to help ease housing costs (and presumably, attract some of those fleeing businesses).

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Mass Dems Call for Volunteers

The Massachusetts Democratic Party has put out the call for volunteers for their "Victory '06 Campaign Team". They describe the campaign thusly:

As the great Massachusetts Congressman Tip O'Neil was famous for saying, “All politics is local.” Nothing is more important to a successful campaign than personal voter-to-voter contact, and no single person is more persuasive with voters than local neighbors like you! You know your neighborhood better than anyone because you live there, and voters will value your opinion more when they find out you are from their area. You, your neighbors, and others like you around Massachusetts will win this important election by building the real relationships with voters that are needed to persuade them, get them involved, and turn out their vote on Election Day.

We do have our work cut out for us though. Democrats have not elected a governor here in two decades. However, you will be part of one thing with the Victory '06 Campaign that every campaign since then has lacked: a full-time, dedicated grassroots machine!

We would like to give you the first opportunity to get involved in the Victory '06 Campaign--the largest Democratic grassroots campaign ever in Massachusetts and the first since Michael Dukakis won the Corner Office in 1986.
This effort to recruit Precinct and Block Captains is probably the most important thing the state party can do in preparation for 2006 -- more important, in my opinion, than selecting the candidate. Electing a Democrat in Massachusetts should be a simple matter of numbers. There are, last I checked, 1.4 million Democrats in the Commonwealth. Governor Romney received just under 1.1 million votes. That represents, if nothing else, a serious manpower advantage over Republicans. Really the only thing that's stopping Democrats from taking back the corner office is Democratic turnout. If you're interested in helping out, see their volunteer page.

Speaking of the Mass Dems, I know that their attempt at a blog didn't really go as planned, but there's another way for them to leverage the blogosphere which might be more their speed. The Maryland Democratic Party has taken Matt Stoller's advice and created their own "Blog Network". Basically, all that consists of is a list of Dem friendly blogs in Maryland that bloggers can sign up to join for regular updates from the state party. In it's simplest form, it's a mailing list that the state Dems can use to contact bloggers. The bloggers would, of course, be under no obligation to use any provided content, but this is a low-cost way for the party to both get its message out to more people and look like it's including the netroots in the conversation.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Romney's Bitter Pill

Partly in an effort to reduce speculation that he's playing to an audience outside of Massachusetts, Governor Mitt Romney has graced us with the reasons he came back from his vacation in New Hampshire to veto the emergency contraception bill in a Boston Globe Editorial.

I believe that the states, through the democratic process, should determine their own abortion laws and not have them dictated by judicial mandate.

Because Massachusetts is decidedly prochoice, I have respected the state's democratically held view. I have not attempted to impose my own views on the prochoice majority.
Not attempted to impose his own views? What was vetoing the emergency contraception bill, then? His veto is an attempt to halt the very democratic process he says he respects, particularly since the bill passed by
veto-proof majorities in both houses. Sure, governor Romney is himself part of that process too, but during his campaign he said he favored emergency contraception, so if anyone voted for him on the basis of this issue, they were misled.

The only thing that this veto accomplishes, as far as I can tell, is that it gives Romney the chance to highlight how he's different from most people in Massachusetts. While this may play well to a national Republican audience, it certainly can't be good for his re-election chances. With the makeup of the Supreme Court tilting more to the right, the position of the governor on reproductive rights is more and more important. "I won't change existing law" only goes so far with voters on either side for whom this is an important issue.

Kerry Healey once said that there wasn't "a dime of difference" between then-candidate Romney and his 2002 Democratic opponent Shannon O'Brien when talking about reproductive rights. I guess Yogi Berra had it backwards; a dime ain't worth a nickel anymore.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Healey's Pre-Campaign Campaigning

Battle-lines are already being drawn for an election that might not ever happen. Today's Globe reported that Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey is quietly gathering up support for a gubernatorial run of her own, should Mitt Romney bail in 2006, as many expect. Healey has collected public support from party insiders including Romney himself, former treasurer Joe Malone, and various GOP donors and consultants. Healey has already raised over a quarter of a million dollars and will have no problem matching either Charlie Baker in the primary or her Democratic opponent if she taps into her and her husband's vast personal fortune.

On the topic of Massachusetts Republican Lieutenant Governors, USA Today had a great anecdote today:

Once, at an official dinner in Massachusetts, a woman sitting next to Calvin Coolidge asked him what he did for a living.

"I'm the lieutenant governor," the future 30th president said.

"That's wonderful," the woman said. "Tell me all about it."

"I just did," Coolidge replied.
It seems like little has changed in 90 years. Healey is able to use the connections she's made in her largely ceremonial role. This is an advantage that her competition does not have. Her job is, near as I can tell, to go around chatting up state and local leaders -- the perfect way to campaign without campaigning. All on our dime, of course.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Romney on the MTA

Governor Romney again proves that he cannot stage manage public events, despite his expensive image team. As reported in the Globe and the Herald, Romney yesterday rode the T the shortest possible distance -- from Park St. to Goverment Center on the Red Line -- as a "Thank you" to T employees and proof that the system is secure. During that time, Romney was told to "get a job" by the infamous "Cat Lady", harrassed by a homeless man who asked if he was running for president, and flubbed the obvious question of how much a T token costs. He guessed that the $1.25 fare cost "a buck". Nice try, but the fare was raised last year with nary a peep from his office. Now you know why, he didn't even know it was going on.

Personally, I'd really like to see Mitt commute from his palatial Belmont estate to Beacon Hill at least once. I doubt he has ever taken the bus in his life, and it would be helpful if someone important saw just how lousy bus service was in the inner suburbs. I'm not holding my breath for that, though, a guy with Romney's money would probably end up taking the commuter rail from Belmont Center anyway.

Now some people might say that since Romney doesn't take the T to work daily, it's unfair of us to assume he should know the price of a token. I disagree. The Governor's office is roughly a football field's distance from the nearest T stop, and I wager that a large percentage of his staff takes the T in to work. Just by going places in Boston, where Romney works, it is almost impossible not to pick these things up almost by osmosis -- particularly when the fare hike was being discussed early last year. Most importantly, though, he is the Governor. He should know these things to make informed decisions on transportation policy, and heck tourism policy. If he can't be bothered to even look up this information when he's actually riding the T, how do we know he'll take the time to learn about the issue when bills that effect fares cross his desk? Don't forget, too, as of now he still has an election coming up next year. Don't you think it would behoove him to know a little bit about the concerns of Boston area commuters?

Blue Mass Group, Chimes at Midnight, Bostonist and fellow Watertown blogger Paul Day all have their own takes.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Mitt's DOA Death Penalty Bill

The Boston Phoenix has a great rundown of the political fallout from Governor Romney's so-called 'foolproof' death penalty bill. Apparently, Mitt is fooling no one with his transparent ploy to shore up his conservative credentials. Here are a couple of the best bits:

The Massachusetts citizenry apparently doesn't care about the measure: although polls show a majority favoring the bill, legislators and their aides say they are receiving no calls about it.
The New York Times Magazine mocked Romney in its most recent "Year in Ideas" issue, calling his "foolproof death penalty" "the first effort to write a purely symbolic criminal statute." No prominent Republicans from out of state have spoken up for the plan.
Romney's plan can best be described as a right-wing parody of a liberal's perfect death-penalty bill: an expensive and complicated new bureaucracy that would execute nobody. The bill calls for layers and layers of new processes and legal requirements, while restricting death-penalty eligibility so narrowly that it's hard to find any real case to which it would ever apply.
[The bill] has become a focal point for discussion of what his administration has not done to improve public safety and criminal prosecution. Why not add police, increase prosecutorial budgets, improve crime labs, raise pay for court-appointed defense attorneys? "Why is this the best way to spend money?" asks State Senator Cynthia Creem (D-Newton), a member of the judiciary committee. "There was no answer to that."
And Romney thinks he has the political acumen to be President? He singlehandedly managed to turn a slam-dunk "tough on crime" wedge issue into a showcase of how he's let our criminal justice system here in the Commonwealth stagnate.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Deval's Blog Blitz Part II

Deval Patrick again shows that he's willing to engage the blogosphere, this time in an Interview with David Eisenthal. Check it out -- David gets the candidate to talk some specifics about his ideas for Springfield.

I think Patrick's reaching out to us here on the Internet is a reflection of his campaign's focus on youth outreach -- after all, Internet users taken as a whole tend to be younger than the general population. Wayne Woodlief wrote about it in the Herald last week (mirrored at and the Patrick campaign sent out an announcement touting the fact that their college outreach program is "reaching out to almost 200,000 students". The impression is that young people are the engine that makes his candidacy possible. I wonder, though, if he has learned the lessons of Howard Dean's campaign in Iowa. Dean imported hordes of college kids to knock on the doors of unsuspecting Iowans who were naturally skeptical of the outsiders. John Kerry suffered a similar fate in Ohio during the general election. While he had to import canvassers from the Northeast, the Republicans generally had neighbors talking to neighbors.

Kennedy Statement on John Roberts

Senator Ted Kennedy, who according to the Boston Globe has been tapped to be the "point person for strategy and messaging" for the Supreme Court confirmation hearings, has released this statement regarding the president's nomination of John Roberts:

“This is a critical moment for this country’s future. If John Roberts is confirmed, he will have a vital role in setting the direction of the country for generations to come.

The Supreme Court is often the last line of defense for the freedoms and liberties for hundreds of millions of Americans. Few responsibilities of the Senate are more important than reviewing the qualifications of nominees for the Supreme Court. Every Senator, Republican or Democrats, has a responsibility to determine whether Mr. Roberts deserves to join the currently closely divided court when so much is at stake. It’s wrong for any Senator to be a rubberstamp.

All of us in the Senate who have been through this process know the importance of this process. Every American ought to be asking some tough questions right now about whether Mr. Roberts is fit to serve on the highest court in the land.

Will he protect average Americans when their rights are abused by powerful corporations?

Will he ensure that private companies aren’t allowed to pollute our rivers and lakes and our air?

Will he protect and preserve the progress we’ve made on equal opportunity and fairness for all Americans?

Will he separate his personal ideology from the rule of law and protect the rights and freedoms of all Americans, not just the powerful or the wealthy.
You can read the rest of the statement at

From what I've read in the past few hours it seems to me like Roberts is an unremarkable Republican hack who in the worst case turns out to be a less belligerent Scalia and in the best case turns into another Souter. I'm willing to roll the dice on this guy unless something disturbing turns up in the course of his confirmation hearings. Check out Blue Mass Group for a great rundown of the nominee.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Mitt Romney Has a Posse

"Mitt's $350G Image Team" screams the Herald's front page, "It takes 13 people to make our gov look good!". Of course, what follows is a mostly overblown article about Governor Romney's advance team, albeit one typical of the Boston tabloid. There is, however, an unintentionally hilarious response from Romney spokeswoman Julie Teer, who shows that she may not be up to the task of dueling with the Herald. Here's the relevant section:

"This operation is not larger than any previous governor's," [Teer] said, denying staff members were engaged in "event production."
Former Gov. Michael S. Dukakis said he had one advance person, who also drove him to events.
"We didn't have a bunch of folks running around the State House with earpieces," he said. "My advance guy would inform the local police we were coming and basically we tried to use the resources that were already available."
After being informed of Dukakis's comments, Teer said she was referring to Republican governors.
Now, if I didn't know better, I'd think Teer just said that Republican governors waste your money on expensive advance teams. Good thing I know better, right?

Monday, July 18, 2005

Reilly Vs the EPA

Tom Reilly made the news this past weekend as one of the Attorneys General who brought suit to the Environmental Protection Agency under the Bush administration for refusing to regulate greenhouse gasses. The EPA had earlier rejected a petition from a nonprofit group who had requested new controls on carbon dioxide. A US Court of Appeals panel rejected the suit, but Reilly plans to bring it before the full appeals court.

"With each day of inaction, the problem of global warming worsens," Reilly said. "We will continue to fight to compel the federal government to use its legal authority to address this serious problem."
Reilly said the states were disappointed by the ruling but "heartened" that Tatel, the only judge to look at the issue of EPA's legal authority on greenhouse gases, "firmly rejected EPA's claim."
Now, I know Reilly hasn't really begun campaigning for governor in earnest, but when he does, he'd do well to emphasize these cases where he's fought against the Bush administration, particularly on something as important as global warming. This is an easy way to shore up some support with active Democrats and scientific-minded Independents who are tired of the Bush administrations repeated denials of global warming. After all, Reilly won't lose any votes in Massachusetts by opposing the president, and he could use that as a signal to those Democrats on his left that he's willing to fight for them. If the race for the nomination tightens up, this could convince some progressives not to jump on the Deval Patrick bandwagon.

The Turnpike Authority Has Gone Rogue!

It's news like this that makes me inclined to go with Romney's plan to scrap the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority all together and absorb it into MassHighway. Apparently, Matt Amorello may be ready to contest the term length of one of his allies on the board which, barring legal action, would be up later this year. From the Globe:

[T]he Turnpike Authority asserts that legislation passed last year extends the terms of certain board members, including the Amorello ally, Richard K. Anderson, for six more years. That would mean that Anderson, who has been on the board since 2002, would not step down until 2011.

"Over the past months there have been media reports that there would be a vacancy in the board," Turnpike lawyer Michael D. Powers wrote in the letter to Jack Cline, Romney's appointments secretary, dated June 29. "To avoid confusion about this matter, I thought it would be prudent to write to you. None of the current members' terms expires this year."
You know, I can understand why you would want the Turnpike Authority to be semi-independent, but this kind of petty political maneuvering is beyond even the Beacon Hill back-benchers and big-money political donors that populate the board. Amorello's claim is completely ridiculous. Are we really to believe that the Legislature tacked on six years to every Board member's term just so Matt Amorello can keep the Authority as his private fiefdom? State Senator Steven Baddour (D-Methuen) says "even a first-year law student could see" that the provision that extends the terms of board members doesn't take effect until July 2007. It's particularly galling that the Board would attempt this blatant exercise in avoiding accountability while the Central Artery Tunnel has more holes than the plot of a Matrix sequel.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Friday Local News Snippets

The Daily News Tribune reports that the Legislature has overridden Governor Romney's veto of the Nonantum Road study. This comes shortly after a two car collision on the road which caused minor injuries and property damage.

H2Otown points us to a thorough Globe Article outlining the current and expected candidates for Watertown Town Council, School Committee and Library Board of Trustees. In addition, she has invited any and all candidates to sign up for an account and plead their cases directly. I would be thrilled if a candidate took her up on her offer, but I'm not holding my breath.

Speaking of the Town Council, there's a bizarre story in today's Tab about how longtime councilor Marilyn Petitto Devaney is being investigated by the police on charges that she forged council president Pam Piantedosi's signature on a proclamation that went up on the town's website. Devaney claims to have gotten Piantedosi's permission to use her name so that the proclamation, which congratulated Sacred Heart Church for being allowed to stay open, would be able to be uploaded to the town's site before it was "too late". Frankly, I have no idea what that even means. I know Devaney has been on the Town Council forever, and that she has the respect of a lot of people in Watertown, and throughout the state, but this, coupled with her other recent actions, makes me think she's a little nuts.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Could Romney Duck Emergency Contraception?

There's an interesting tidbit at the end of a Boston Globe Article about Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey's coming out in favor of the emergency contraception bill (hat tip to Cape Cod Works)

Some advocates speculated that the [Emergency Contraception] bill could reach the governor's desk during his vacation, which is scheduled for the last week of July and into the first week of August, meaning that Healey would be acting governor and could sign or veto the bill.
This would seem to me to be the best of both worlds for Romney/Healey. Romney gets to maintain his vague status quo on reproductive rights without the nasty business of actually supporting or opposing a controversial issue. Healey, on the other hand, gets to play the hero in a state that is majority pro-choice (and certainly pro-emergency contraception) in case she ends up as the GOP nominee for governor in 2006 without worrying about how it would play nationally.

Now, of course, there's no guarantee that this is the way it will play out, but if it does, I have to wonder what effect it will have on the Romney for President fan club. In 2008, Romney's competition may include people like John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Bill Frist, George Allen and Rick Santorum. These are people who are not afraid to stake out a firm position on issues -- particularly one as sticky as reproductive rights. Is Romney, who is famously vague on policy and position details, really going to be able to compete with a group of people who, whether you agree or disagree with them, at least have the political courage to stake out firm positions?

Portrait of Mitt With Stick

There was something about Scot Lehigh's column yesterday (pointed out by Chimes at Midnight) that bothered me, but I couldn't put my finger on it until I saw walking GOP talking point Charley Manning on Monday's Greater Boston (which I had on Tivo). Lehigh, as it turns out was echoing Manning, who I then recalled said something similar to the following (from Lehigh's column) when Governor Romney's self-progress report came out a few weeks ago.

Meanwhile, lawmakers who have groused that Romney is a CEO who won't share credit should be pleased to see that the glossy "progress report" he recently released features both Senate President Robert Travaglini and House Speaker Sal DiMasi on the cover.
Now Lehigh, as did Manning, failed to mention that Romney is also in both of those pictures. In fact, there is only one picture in the whole 23 page report that contains a politician unaccompanied by either Governor Mitt Romney or his lieutenant, Kerry Healey. Still, the presence of a Manning talking point (and near as I can tell, every word that Manning utters is a talking point) in a Lehigh column confirms to me that Lehigh is getting faxes from state GOP hacks and is proudly disseminating them to the public as his own thoughts.

Of course, it could just be a coincidence. Still, I have to think that if you're going to talk about a picture in that progress report, the one to talk about is this one:
Portait of Romney With Stick
I don't know what it is about this photo that I find so compelling. Maybe it's that we're supposed to get the impression that Romney was cleaning up the river all by himself, without messing up his perfectly coifed hair or designer jeans. Maybe it's that his attention is not on the errant stick he rescued from the banks of the Charles but rather he is staring vacantly in the distance, trying in vain to make out the promised land of conservative voters who live beyond Massachusetts' borders. Of course, what it looks like to me is that he's ready to play fetch with his lapdog, Eric Fehrnstrom.

Care to share your thoughts?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

More On Santorum

Blue Mass Group and Fred Clarkson have much better stories than I could write about Senator Rick Santorum's recent announcement that he stands by comments he made a few years ago about Boston's culture of liberalism being to blame for the Catholic Church abuse scandals (although, I appreciate the terseness of this post). I do, however, want to point out Tom Reilly's response, as reported by the AP:

[Attorney General] Reilly, a Democratic candidate for governor, also criticized Santorum on Wednesday. "For him to equate liberalism with child abuse is disgraceful," he said. "It's embarrassing for him and embarrassing to his party and his party should disown him."
Compare that to what's coming from the Romney Administration:
“Senator Santorum is a fine person, and we’re all entitled to make a mistake once in a while,” [Romney spokesman] Fehrnstrom said.
You have to wonder, does Mitt need the support of Santorum-fans so much for his presidential run that he can't do better than that? You'd think that he'd be more than willing to help take down a potential 2008 rival.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Deval Patrick Reaches Out

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was invited to interview Democratic gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick one-on-one for a few minutes this afternoon. A representative from Patrick's campaign contacted me about two weeks ago and explained that he had "really taken an interest in the blog community" and asked if I would be interested in talking to him for a few minutes. He also contacted at least one other blog; Bob Neer over there at Blue Mass Group has already posted his thoughts about their call [UPDATE]: as has one of his co-bloggers, Charley.

I've seen enough of Patrick to know that he often talks about "vision," so the first thing I wanted to hear was his vision for Massachusetts. Since the best way to learn about candidates is to listen to them, I'd like to present as much direct quotations as I can. Here is his response:

I want an ambitious agenda for state government because I want Massachusetts to be the best there is. I want it to be the best place to live, I want it to be the best place to work. I want it to be the best place to go to school. I want it to be the best place where, God forbid, you should get sick, or more importantly be healthy. I want to be innovative around all of those issues that affect the way people live their lives and enable them to live their lives as fully as possible. So I want us to take some calculated risks -- I want us to take some chances. And I want to do that by linking arms as a statewide citizenship and saying, in fact, we are all in this together.
Now, there may be some people who are skeptical of any Massachusetts politician who promises an ambitious agenda; after all, burying the Central Artery was, if nothing else, an ambitious project. Still, if the alternative is a disinterested governor who measures leadership in terms of the number of Powerpoint presentations he's told his advisors to put out, I'll take ambition. It's one thing, though, to talk about what you want the state to be and another to talk about how you're going to get there, so I mentioned to him that one of the criticisms of him that I've seen online (and occasionally made myself) was that it was difficult to find out where Patrick actually stands on a particular issue. He said that he didn't think such a characterization was fair, but that he understood it.
We are spending the summer developing a more substantive set of policy positions which we will put up on the web and start to roll out after Labor Day. I don't see them coming from any other candidate, for that matter, this far from the election.
More From the Phone Call Inside...
On Health Care:
I think probably health care for all is the most ambitious of the proposals, and the one that I have been spending the most time digesting. Universal health care, I think, has got to be the endgame. Access is one of the issues; there are also issues around cost control and around quality. And in various ways, each of the proposals addresses at least two of those issues. Quality, none of them seem to [address], but we're going to be looking at that as well.
On Education:
I think we have to get back in the game in public higher education, which means more spending. But we want to be more specific than that: we want to talk about rebuilding public university campuses, talk about how it is we get some resources into the research facilities of public universities. I have a couple of ideas developing on primary and secondary education, things like better access to early childhood education and all-day kindergarten, smaller class size, and a longer school day, with after-school enrichment programs are all things we're working on.
On the housing crisis, Patrick pointed out that it is more pronounced in the 128 area than it is in other parts of the state. He mentioned two ways to deal with that: smoothing out our permitting process -- so that it would be easier to do higher-density development, both in Boston and the suburbs -- and improving our public transportation system.
[F]or example, if we had a speed train to Fall River, New Bedford, and you could get out of the Boston area in 45 minutes at the end of the workday, you'd be in a completely different housing market. 45 minutes is a reasonable length of time for people to commute in this area. But we can't do that right now, and if you tried to drive to Fall River or New Bedford, particularly at rush hour, you'd be on the road at least twice that long. The same is true about getting up to Lynn and other parts of the North Shore.
I also asked Patrick what he would say to someone who is skeptical of electing any Democrat as governor, given that the Conventional Wisdom here is that we elect Republican governors as a check on the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature.

In response, he mentioned that this was less of a problem now than under previous leadership. He did not name names, but we all know who he's talking about. He disagreed with the notion of electing a Democrat just for the sake of electing a Democrat. "If all you want is a Democrat who is going to continue the same policies that we have currently, I'm not your candidate." While he did not emphasize his independence as much as Tom Reilly did in a May Interview, he made sure to mention that he has no intention of being a rubber stamp for the legislature, and he has told the leadership as much, though he is certainly willing to work with them on important issues.

Regarding the use of the Internet, Patrick told me that "the most important way to use the Internet is to try to get information to people -- to let them know policy and political direction we're heading in and let them influence those policies."

He also mentioned that the campaign blog was planned to be launched by Labor Day. Patrick seemed to get that the purpose of these blogs was to let people feel they have a stake in a candidacy and that for such things to be useful, communication needed to be two-way. He noted also that he had been criticized in some circles for asking voters' opinions on issues (as if a politician could have too much input from the public) and told me that he wanted "to accord the voters of MA the respect of asking people for their insight, and their common sense."

I think it's this last point that really draws people to Patrick's candidacy in a way that other politicians can't, or won't. While other candidates may try to pick out the center and hope that's where the votes are, Patrick is actually asking people what's important to them, and taking what he hears into account. Even the very fact that he contacted a number of Massachusetts blogs to talk about issues shows that he's interested in hearing from a variety of people.

Deval Patrick's Blog Blitz

This time when Deval Patrick called, it was really him on the line and not just a machine. Patrick has been spending the morning chatting local bloggers including myself and the Blue Mass Group, and perhaps others. Unfortunately, my tape recorder ran out halfway through, so you'll have to rely on my dubious note-taking ability, rather than on exact quotes. In any event, I'll post portions of the interview later this evening.

One thing I will say now, though, is that as far as I know, this is the first time a serious gubernatorial candidate has reached out to the blogs in Massachusetts. With the way the Internet is changing politics, I am positive that it won't be the last.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Mitt Recycles Some Hacks

Last week, Governor Mitt Romney appointed some familiar faces to three open cabinet positions. The Boston Herald has the story of our new Secretary of Administration and Finance, Thomas Trimarco. Those with long memories will recall that Trimarco was Joe Malone's top aide at the same time Treasury Department workers under him were stealing nearly $10 million from the Massachusetts State Treasury. While Trimarco was never charged with any wrongdoing, he was ostensibly one of the people involved in minding the proverbial hen-house. Team Romney had this to say about the appointment (from the Herald):

Romney spokeswoman Julie Teer said Trimarco's past position played no role in the governor's decision to appoint him to run Administration and Finance, replacing outgoing chief Eric Kriss.
That sounds like a pretty good racket to me. I'm sure there are a lot of other people in Massachusetts who would love it if they could apply for new jobs without any consideration for their performance in past positions. Heck, Romney himself would probably rather people didn't consider his performance as governor when America decides whether or not to hire him as President in 2008.

In addition to Trimarco, Romney appointed Tim Murphy, his current policy director, to be the new state Secretary of Health and Human Services. You may remember Murphy from the controversy he stirred up in May where he implied that the solution to the healthcare crisis was to have hospitals be more aggressive when collecting payments. He is widely considered the architect behind Romney's new "Insure yourself or else!" health care proposal. At least with this appointment we can expect job growth in the repo and bill collection fields.

Along with those two, Acting Department of Conservation and Recreation Stephen Pritchard got a promotion to Secretary of Environmental Affairs a few months after donating the maximum amount to Romney's reelection fund. Remember folks, correlation does not imply causation!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Romney: No to Nonantum

Rep. Peter Koutoujian (D-Waltham) is leading a group of legislators to try and override Mitt Romney's veto of a study of Nonantum Road from the 2006 Department of Conservation and Recreation budget. This was the only DCR spending the governor vetoed, representing a whopping 0.17% of the DCR's $23.6 million budget.

For those of you not familiar with it, Nonantum Road snakes along the south side of the Charles River through Brighton, Watertown and Newton. To the east, it turns into Soldiers Field Road. Since it is so close to the river, the DCR actually has the bulk of the responsibility for maintaining it. There have been several fatal accidents along the road in the past few years, according to the Watertown Tab. One of the biggest problems, I think, is that there are all these weirdly shaped intersections where it's very difficult to see oncoming traffic. Not to mention that the intersection of Nonantum and Galen, just south of Watertown Square is frequently gridlocked thanks to the long lights at the Square. Pedestrian traffic is often heavy there as well, as that intersection lies between two bus stations.

So, why veto this one study, out of all of the millions of dollars in the DCR budget? Joe O'Keefe, spokesman for the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, explains:

"The concern was that $40,000 would be far less than what would be needed to administer a study of that magnitude, with the types of consultants we'd have to hire and the models we'd have to run," O'Keefe said.
But O'Keefe said the DCR would be "more than happy" to work with local and municipal officials to improve the road's safety without a study.
So, in other words, they're not willing to shell out any money to actually try to figure out how to make Nonantum Road safer, but they'll help the towns try to make the road safer anyway. Maybe they'll put up a new stop sign or something and pray that no one else gets killed. Let's call it faith-based traffic planning.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Media Log Shuffle

New and former Boston Phoenix Media Critic Mark Jurkowitz has officially taken the reins at the Phoenix's Media Log. I've always enjoyed his appearances on WGBH's Greater Boston, and I'm looking forward to seeing his thoughts in his new electronic medium. Dan Kennedy, who Jurkowitz replaced (and who, in turn, replaced Jurkowitz years ago) has, as promised, re-started his own media-related blog at Dan's new blog is a little raw, but I don't think he's 'officially' launched it yet.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Reducing Our Vulnerability

There's not much left for me to say about this morning's horrible attack in London. The thoughts and prayers of the entire .08 Acre Homestead go out to the victims and their families. It goes without saying that I hope that the perpetrators of this act of terrorism are quickly found and brought to justice before they can destroy any more innocent lives.

Are we vulnerable to a similar attack here? I don't think that anyone realistically thinks that raising the MBTA Security level is going to suddenly make us immune to attacks on the T. The problem that any public transportation system has is that it has to be open to work. Can you imagine going through metal detectors, bag searches and having to take off your shoes every time you take the T? I don't care how expensive gas gets or how bad traffic or parking is, no one would tolerate that for long.

There are other ways, though, we are vulnerable here in Massachusetts that we can prevent. Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved plans for a $250-million LNG facility in Fall River. Fall River Mayor Edward M. Lambert Jr. had this to say about that development:

"By its decision today, FERC has jeopardized the safety of the citizens of my city by authorizing, for the first time in 30 years, the construction of an LNG terminal in the heart of a densely populated urban area."

Lambert, who vowed to appeal the decision, claimed that FERC has ignored warnings of counter-terrorism experts that the project would present "an invitation to terrorism."
Lambert vowed to kill the project by a thousand paper cuts if necessary, and Attorney General Tom Reilly is also asking FERC to reconsider. Reilly's counterpart, Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch, was more forceful in his opposition, saying that the Fall River vote "puts a kill zone in the heart of a densely populated New England city". It makes little sense to me to create more potential targets if we can avoid it by just putting the facility off shore, or in a more sparsely populated area.

While the Fall River facility might be moved or stopped, according to a Report Commissioned by Congressman Ed Markey, there are as many as 27 other chemical facilities where a worst-case incident would effect more than 10,000 people. While moving these facilities is likely not realistic, one simple thing we can do to prevent a catastrophe in Massachusetts is to make sure that they have proper security.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Swift-Mihos Tax

Yesterday, the state settled a federal lawsuit former Massachusetts Turnpike Authority board member Christy Mihos brought against then acting governor Jane Swift in 2002. Mihos alleged that the governor violated his civil rights by firing him shortly after he voted to delay a toll increase -- which would have gone to fund the Big Dig -- by six months. The Boston Globe has the story.

"I think any elected official will think twice about an appointee's right to make a decision and vote, as opposed to waylaying someone's First Amendment rights," Mihos said after a settlement conference in US District Court in Boston.

Swift, who also attended the settlement conference, disputed Mihos's claims of victory, noting that she didn't admit to any liability. She stood by her decision to fire Mihos.

"I have always contended the actions I took were in the best financial interest of the state," she said.
Best financial interests? Apparently Swift is not counting the interests of taxpayers who she can now force to pick up the tab for her legal fees thanks to a law that Swift signed, practically in secret, towards the end of her term. That bill, which the Legislature's leadership snuck into an appropriations bill and passed with no debate, required the state to pay legal costs and damages up to $1 million for constitutional officers -- even if they've intentionally violated someone's civil rights. That means that Massachusetts taxpayers are not only going to have to pay the independently wealthy Mihos $197,500 as part of the settlement but, the state may end up having to foot the bill for Swift's own legal fees, a sum totalling $360,000. That adds up to over half a million dollars, or 8.6 cents for every man, woman and child in Massachusetts. Let's call it the Swift-Mihos Tax.

Mihos, by the way, told Boston Magazine in May that he wanted to run for John Kerry's Senate seat in 2008. By then, of course, the Big Dig will be long finished and forgotten. Right? Right?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

CPA Followup

As a followup to my post last month on the exploration of the Community Preservation Act here in Watertown, I'd like to point out former State Senator and 2002 Gubernatorial candidate Warren Tolman's Letter to the Editor in Friday's Watertown Tab. Here's an excerpt:

It should be noted that the State matches 100 percent of the monies raised in the 100 communities that have passed CPA. Initial estimates are that we will generate in the area of $750,000 per year with the same amount coming from the state. Imagine what we could do with approximately $1.5 million per year for open space, historic preservation, affordable housing and recreational facilities!

In other words, we in Watertown are subsidizing with our state tax dollars the other communities that have shown the foresight to adopt this bill. I am sure we are all for affordable housing in Agawam or Needham, recreational facilities in Cambridge or Braintree, historic preservation in Newton or Peabody and open space acquisition in Acton or Ashland, but I hate to see those communities, which have all adopted the CPA, benefit from our collective state tax dollars only to have my community lose out on this opportunity.
Now, compare Tolman's letter to this screed that compares the CPA to "rape" and those that support it to Communists. It's good to see that reasoned discourse is alive and well in Watertown...

Personally, my view is that the CPA is like a membership fee for someplace like Costco. Yes, you have to pay some money up front, but everything the town gets under the CPA is at a deep discount. Some of that, we're probably going to buy anyway. We've already slated to upgrade our playgrounds -- it would be nice to have the state chip in for that. Storm damage and hoodlum damage to what little open space we have is going to happen; if we can use CPA funds for cleanup, we're actually saving the Town money. Don't forget, town money that we don't have to spend on these projects can go to the schools or the roads, or, heck, to prevent another tax increase.

Blue Mass Group on O'Connor's Retirement

While I'm sure that both of my regular readers also regularly check out the excellent Blue Mass Group, David has an amazing post on Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement. It is a particularly helpful read for those of us, like myself, who spent the July 4th weekend on a self-imposed news blackout. If you read nothing else on the blogs about O'Connor, read this.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Reilly and Patrick on TV

This week, we had an opportunity to see two of the 2006 Democratic candidates for governor on television in separate interviews. On Tuesday, Attorney General Tom Reilly appeared on Greater Boston with Emily Rooney and on Wednesday, Deval Patrick was interviewed by Jim Braude on NECN's Newsnight. You can see the NECN video clip here, and the website for Greater Boston is here, but they are much slower to put content up on their site. While there wasn't nearly as much overlap as I had hoped, both candidates touched on themes that are going to be important in 2006, the economy, education, and of course, gay marriage.

First, a couple of observations. Neither Reilly or Patrick really wanted to talk about marriage equality, and I can't say as I blame them. I think the best message from here on out is that whether you agree or disagree with the SJC, now that there are couples who are legally married it would be a tragedy to take that away from them. Other than that, there's nothing much to talk about. Both of them also mentioned that property taxes are through the roof. It will be interesting to see if a Democrat can pull off a message of lower property taxes, but certainly that's an issue that will resonate with every property owner in the Commonwealth. Patrick was particularly deft at shifting the conversation from taxes to the responsibilities that government has to its citizens, fixing bridges, roads, sewers, trains and schools. When people think of government programs, that is what we want them to think of, but Republicans have been very good at equating government spending with waste and entitlement programs.

Interview Excerpts Inside...
Here's Attorney General Tom Reilly on the new MCAS Science requirement:

I thought that was a very good move, that vote by the board of education, to include science. There's enough time. We know how to do it, we know how to do it right. We've done it before. The world that our kids are growing up in has changed. Math and science are even more important than they've ever been and they're competing against kids not just in Massachusetts and not just in our country, but throughout the world. And the quicker we get our kids on the track to a world class excellence in math and science the better our kids are going to be able to participate in the global economy and succeed and have the same opportunities -- different opportunities than we had, but math and science are absolutely critical to the future of these kids. So, we know how to do it. Is it going to take extra work? Is it going to take some emphasis on hiring good teachers, training good teachers? Yes it is. Is it going to take resources? Yes it is. But we can do it and get these kids on that track and they'll be better for it.
Reilly on the 1913 law banning couples from marrying in Massachusetts if their union would be illegal in their home states:
Actually that 1913 law has absolutely nothing to do the rights of Massachusetts residents to marry. It applies to out-of-state residents. It makes sense to me. Massachusetts should respect the rights of other states to make their own decisions on this issue if we expect them to respect our rights. ... There are other situations, for instance, someone underage from another state -- a state that has different types of parental consent laws. We should respect that, particularly on an issue like this, we should respect them. Things have gone very well in this state and I'm very proud of the way Massachusetts has handled this. I think we've done a magnificent job. I think people have realized that the world didn't end, things have gone really well.
And on marriage equality in general:
I understand that, but I think people have moved on. Certainly I know that I've moved on. It's time to focus on issues that affect us all. You know people are caught in the middle of this now, gay people that have gotten married. I can't imagine the state, and I certainly hope it doesn't happen, to tell someone that's been lawfully married in this state that they're no longer married. It doesn't seem right to me. It doesn't seem right to me and I don't think people in this state will go along with it. they want the focus and the energies and the direction of this state to be on issues that affect all of us.
Reilly on the Big Dig:
My focus is on recovery. Number one, fixing the problems and the leaks that exist today. We've made some progress. The Turnpike Authority will be announcing today or tomorrow on a proposed fix for that panel that you see the rupture. So, I insisted on that from the very beginning, that we either get a solution on a permanent solution on the problem of the leaks or we're not going to go far in cost recovery. So that's progress, we've got a ways to go. My job is to recover as much money as I possibly can for the taxpayers of this state and bring this project to a completion and fix those leaks.
Now, here's what Deval Patrick had to say on Romney's Health Care plan:
Well, it's a step in the right direction. It's not a far enough step in the right direction. There are a lot of good ideas out there and I'm looking at them this summer. I think that the good news here is that he's acknowledged that we have a very serious problem. We have a half-million people here who have no health care at all. We have many many more who are underinsured, who are just one serious illness away from financial catastrophe. And nobody is satisfied that the system we have is working well enough, so I think good thing that the governor is acknowledging how serious this problem is.
Patrick on Gay Marriage:
What I'd prefer is if we'd move past gay marriage, which is now the law of the land, which has not caused the sky to fall or the Earth to rotate off its axis, and back onto the issues that make a difference in most people's lives that have to do with getting and keeping good jobs and fixing the health care system and getting the public schools consistently excellent throughout the state.
Patrick on Tom Reilly:
Well, you know Tom and I disagree on a couple of the more electric public policy issues. I think he is in favor of the death penalty, although I think he's occupied more than one position on that. I am against the death penalty, having worked on it. I think he is today in favor of the SJC's decision on marriage equality. I have supported it all along, so I don't know if that is still a difference. Listen, the principle differences between us are our leadership experience and vision. My leadership experience is considerably broader than his. I respect his decisions, his choices to serve in public office for most of his career; I have not. And in terms of vision, I want an ambitious agenda for our schools, for our economy and for our health care.