Monday, December 25, 2006

There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays

The .08 Acres household is spending this week out-of-state with family. Expect light posting until the New Year.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Romney Playing Defense

Outgoing governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney has been hard at work trying to counter recent reports that he's shifted hard to the right on conservative bread-and-butter issues like gay rights, abortion and stem cell research. While his right turn is not a surprise to anyone who's lived in Massachusetts for the past four years, people outside the commonwealth are just now learning that the Rommney who is running for president is very different from the Romney who ran for Senate in 1994 and who ran for governor in 2002. He was up in New Hampshire yesterday, defending his conservative evolution. Not everyone was impressed, however:

"When I first heard his answer about his journey of becoming prolife, I began to feel better about the questions being asked of him lately," said Shannon McGinley of Bedford, N.H. "After talking with him in person, though, it is hard to figure out what he does believe."
That's got to be discouraging. Luckily for Romney, he won't get a chance to talk to every potential voter. Still, if he's coming off as disingenuous in person, it will be that much easier for his opponents to paint him as another bona-fide Massachusetts Flip-Flopper.

In his defense, Romney had this to say:
"The proof is in the pudding," he said. "People will have a chance to look at my record as governor of Massachusetts and see what I've done there. Talk is cheap, but action is not."
His record in Massachusetts? I'm sorry, but I don't think that people out of state are going to much care that he got Billy Bulger to resign and that he renamed the DCR.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Keep the Fast Lane Discounts

Tucked in at the end of today's Globe story about Deval Patrick's opposition to toll removal on the MassPike, is this little bit of information about Fast Lane discounts.

The cost of continuing the Fast Lane discounts, estimated at $12.2 million annually, is increasingly viewed as a luxury when the authority faces a number of financial unknowns, including the final cost of repairing the Sumner and Callahan tunnels and the annual cost of maintaining Interstate 93, which the authority has budgeted at $25 million but could go as high as $80 million, according to a board member. The authority would not make public its 2007 operating budget or give the size of its operating deficit.

The one-time cost of repairing the collapsed ceiling in the I-90 connector will be at least $34 million, officials said yesterday.

Patrick offered qualified support for the Fast Lane discount program, which takes 25 cents off the $1 toll on the turnpike extension in Boston, and 50 cents off the $3 toll at the Boston Harbor tunnels.

"If the discount can be sustained, I think it ought to be sustained," Patrick said.
I've mentioned this before. If we're going to have tolls, we should be doing everything in our power to make transponders widespread. More people using transponders reduces the cost of taking tolls and means that more of the money collected goes towards the actual roads, rather than to overhead. Part of that means keeping, and perhaps even expanding the Fast Lane discounts.

I'm also a little confused as to why people are surprised that Patrick is opposing the toll removal. If I recall correctly, he came out against this about a month ago. There needs to be some way to make up the $114 million in yearly revenue, which is required for highway maintenance. Even Republican state Senator Bob Hedlund (R-Weymouth) admitted today on WGBH's Greater Boston that if we took down the tolls, we'd have to raise the gas tax to make up the lost revenue.

Continuing Climate Change Week

Continuing this week's theme of climate change, Congressman Marty Meehan (D-Lowell) and Dr. Paul Epstein, the associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, have an op-ed in today's Boston Globe. The piece is a condensed version of the speeches that both made at Saturday's town meeting, and is a good overview of the dangers of increased carbon in the atmosphere and the inaction thus far from the federal government in combating it. Towards the end of the article, Meehan outlines the next steps that he hopes the government will be able to enact to combat global climate change:

Instead of silencing government climate experts, the federal government should take a cue from states like Massachusetts and become an active leader and partner in efforts to combat global warming. The president, working with Congress, should raise automotive fuel efficiency standards and increase support for public transportation; promote "green buildings" or green homes, schools and businesses; institute a RGGI-style federal program to cap greenhouse gas emissions and encourage trade and cooperation; eliminate "perverse" subsidies for fossil fuels; and institute significant financial incentives for producers and consumers to adopt energy-efficient and green technologies.
Of course, given the current occupant of the White House, none of the above is likely to happen with help from the federal government in the short term. My hope, though, is that with Democrats in control of Congress, we can at least start to have a long-overdue national conversation on renewable energy and efficiency.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Why Ban Trans Fats?

Today's Boston Herald had some fun with Rep. Peter Koutoujian's (D-Waltham) proposal to ban trans fats in Massachusetts. Koutoujian's bill mirrors the one passed in New York City earlier this year, and he claims that since NY paved the way, it would be very easy for local restauranteurs to comply. Personally, I'm unconvinced that we need to ban trans fats in our restaurants. I'd be more sympathetic if they wanted to make sure menu items containing trans fats were labeled as such. That way people could make up their own minds. Restaurants would likely start eliminating the fats by themselves as people became more informed about how bad they were for you. That said, with the undercooked food warning already on menus, one can imagine a day where the health advisories take up more space than the entrees. Generally, I hate slippery-slope arguments, but there are so many unhealthy things that people can buy at restaurants, where do you draw the line?

Speaking of Global Warming

On Saturday, Congressman Meehan noted that the town meeting was carbon neutral. That is the carbon produced by the event -- including the 50 pounds of CO2 from my car, I hope -- was being offset by a donation to some sort of wind power concern. There was a piece in Sunday's Globe Ideas section that I finally got a chance to read outline the problems of carbon neutrality. I admit that I am intrigued by a market-based solution to reducing emissions, but the article gives us reasons to be skeptical. Here's why:

[T]o Robert Stavins, director of Harvard's environmental economics program, if an offset system actually were reducing emissions there'd be no reason to worry about people buying offsets for their Gulfstreams and Hummers. If it's worth the price of an offset to someone to drive their SUV, and the money they're paying actually buys a reduction elsewhere, that's the definition of economic efficiency. "That's the system working," says Stavins. The point, as he sees it, is to reduce emissions, not to reward individual virtue.

The real problem with offsets, for Stavins and other economists, is that they fail to do this. Even if all of the carbon offset companies held themselves to the highest standards -- and in what is still a completely unregulated industry that is a big if -- economists doubt that offset vendors can assure that a certain amount of money paid by an individual will buy a certain amount of greenhouse gas reduction.

"What you have," says Stavins, "is a comparison to an unobserved and unobservable hypothetical." How does an offset company know that a landowner wasn't going to preserve his forest anyway, perhaps because the timber market was weak? Or that an electric utility hadn't decided to build the wind farm long before it got the offset money? In such cases, the offset money is simply allowing the forest owner or utility to make more money for a decision already arrived at.
I did some research into offsets when I first heard that Al Gore used them to make the promotional tour of An Inconvenient Truth carbon neutral. Some of the companies doing this seemed sketchy, and given that this line of business is brand new and completely unregulated, my impressions may have been correct.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Saturday's Climate Change Town Meeting

On Saturday, I attended a Town Meeting on Global Warming hosted by Congressman Marty Meehan (D-Lowell) at UMass Lowell. Around 1000 of us crammed ourselves into an auditorium with only one more Saturday left before Christmas to hear what Bay State leaders and experts had to say on the topic. You can read the Lowell Sun's description of the event, or the one from the Associated Press. Lynne from Left in Lowell was also there, though I don't think she's blogged about it yet.

Meehan told the crowd that a typical car emits about a pound of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per mile. That made me feel a little guilty for making the 25-mile trek each way from Watertown. It reminded me of when my wife and I went to see An Inconvenient Truth because our air conditioner was broken. Meehan's speech cribbed heavily from that film, and he not only played a scene from it, but he got Al Gore himself to shoot a five minute video welcoming us to the event.

One thing that Meehan kept repeating that I thought was interesting was that this should not be a political debate. What debate there is should be a scientific one, and that one has pretty much been decided. In Meehan's words, "the verdict is in." He expressed some optimism that climate change skeptics were no longer in charge of the House and the Senate, but he still expected resistance from the White House.

Following Meehan's remarks was Dr. Paul Epstein from Harvard Medical School, Dr. Ken Geiser and Dr. Amy Cannon from UMass Lowell and Lee Ketelsen from Clean Water Action. The doctors were all heavy on the science, with Epstein reciting a litany of dire consequences should we fail to act to combat global climate change. Geiser and Cannon spoke about the outstanding work on alternative energy that is currently going on at UMass Lowell, particularly in the new field of green chemistry, which I had never heard of before. Ketelsen -- an activist, not a scientist -- gave a political pitch. Rather than preach to the choir, she spoke of the importance of massive citizen pressure to get action from Washington. In order to do that, we need to convince our friends and neighbors that clean energy is not only good for the planet, but it's good for their pocketbook as well.

Deval Patrick spoke after the panel and those familiar with his alternative energy ideas would find his speech familiar. He repeated his desire for Massachusetts to become a center for development of renewable energy because, "if we get that right, the whole world is our customer." He also pledged that he would enter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) which Governor Romney had opposed.

By the way, for anyone worried that Patrick has lost any support from activists over the past month, there was no evidence of this in the auditorium. I think he managed to get three standing ovations -- once when he entered the hall, once when he began his speech and once afterwards.

Meehan promised to use his web page as a portal for more information. As of now, the invitation to this event is all that's there. I'm not sure what they have in mind, but at the very least I hope they make the materials from Saturday available online. There was a lot of energy in that room for a Saturday morning, and it would be a shame if it could not be harnessed.

Friday, December 15, 2006

In Defense of the Inauguration

I was going to write a post on my feelings about the 'controversy' surrounding Deval Patrick's inauguration plans, but this morning I found that George Bachrach has written them for me. He talked about some of the same things he mentioned at the Cambridge forum, Tuesday, and I'm glad to see him making those points to a wider audience. Here's a bit from the piece:

The galas are picked apart as excessive and costly, spread over several days at a cost of more than a million dollars. But this is a damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don't story. No matter what Patrick does, he can't win.

Patrick won the election, in part, based on a huge grass-roots organization. If he seeks to include people, it's a large and costly enterprise. If he limits the event, he looks elitist, or stingy, or ungrateful. If he opens the State House doors to everyone, someone will write about security issues, long lines, lousy food, and poor planning.

[. . .]

Take the issue of funding the inaugural. One day the media encourage public-private partnerships, demanding greater corporate civic participation. The next day they vilify Patrick for seeking contributions to underwrite the inaugural. Should the taxpayer pay for the inaugural festivities?
Deval Patrick will be criticized no matter what he does. If it's a small event, he's a hypocrite for talking about wider participation, but turning his inaugural into an insider's party. As it stands now, it's too big and too expensive and the wrong people are paying for it. Well, more people worked on and donated to and were involved in Deval Patrick's campaign than any other in recent memory. How many of them should be excluded? Inviting 40,000 people to a party is going to be expensive and unless you're going to price them out, there needs to be some other source of funds. The inauguration as planned is the most inclusive the Commonwealth has seen, and that's something that I think should be celebrated.

Let's save the criticism of Patrick until he actually does something that matters. Let's see what his first budget looks like before we get worked up about what message he's sending.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Tolls for Thee

On Monday, Edward L. Glaeser, economics professor at Harvard and director of the the Kennedy School's Rappaport Institute, wrote a Boston Globe op/ed detailing some of the reasons why tolls should not be removed on the Mass. Turnpike. I agree with almost everything in the piece, but I particularly wanted to highlight two ideas Glaeser had for making those tolls work better:

First, we should acknowledge that, because congestion changes from hour to hour, the social cost of driving varies over the day. Time-sensitive tolls can help move drivers from commuting during peak hours to less congested periods. We could double tolls during peak hours and cut them to zero during off-peak hours. Alternatively, the toll could rise slowly from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and then decline as traffic eases off. Since trucks use up the most space, tolls should rise particularly steeply for trucks driving during rush hour.

Second, we should recognize that the administrative costs for cash payments are about three times higher than the same costs for payments made with fast lane devices. Since people who use fast lanes save the system money, their tolls should be reduced. Tolls on those who pay cash should be substantially increased, perhaps even doubled. Already, some tolls are lower for fast lane users, but this effort needs to be expanded. Alternatively, higher tolls on cash-paying drivers can be used to make transponders free.
This is exactly right, I think. The Turnpike Authority should be pushing those fast lane transponders on the public. In my opinion, they've been very slow to move away from toll collectors to electronic payments, and they've really offered very little by way of incentive for drivers to switch. Increasing the use of the transponders would make Glaeser's first point easier to implement. The computerized payment system would allow us to do creative things with the tolls, such as separate peak and off-peak tolls, or discount programs for commuters.

It only makes sense -- roads should be paid for in part if not in total by the people who drive on them. Tolls are the way to accomplish this, and there are ways we should be using them to make them more efficient and more fair.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Notes From "Where Do We Go From Here?" Forum

Last night I attended a public forum sponsored by the Cambridge Democratic City Committee entitled "The Deval Patrick Administration: Where Do We Go From Here?" The forum was moderated by former state Senator and Friend of the Blog, George Bachrach. The panel included Mass. Democratic Superwoman Kate Donaghue, MassINC co-founder Tripp Jones, and Mass. Council of Human Service Providers President Michael Weekes.

Bachrach, who now teaches journalism at Boston University, opened the event with a scathing rebuke of the local media, so much so that Tripp Jones later jokingly suggested that Bachrach be appointed media watchdog for the Patrick administration. He pointed out the latest silliness where the leaked report of the cost of Patrick's inauguration, an event that would be over in the first week of January, on the front page while the announcement that Leslie Kirwan would be the Secretary of Administration and Finance and be responsible for the budget for the next four years was relegated to page 28 (or thereabouts).

The question and answer session covered a variety of topics. There were a couple of themes that came up. First was that there were a lot of unmet needs after four years of neglect under outgoing Governor Mitt Romney. As such, a lot of people are being set up for disappointment that their particular interest may not be the new governor's highest priority. That said, the consensus was that Deval Patrick really means it when he says he wants input from everyone, and wants to include the citizens of Massachusetts in the decision-making process.

The final question of the evening came from Rep. Alice Wolf (D-Cambridge) who was in the audience for the entire meeting. She asked whether ecouraging participation would lead to those who were engaged having "realistic expectations" regarding what the Patrick administration could actually accomplish. Weekes had what I thought was one of the best lines of the night in response: "Democracy doesn't mean we all get what we want at the same time." Of course, that's a small comfort for those who find their pet issue at the bottom of the pile. Jones made a point then that I think nicely intersects with my post from yesterday, but on a macro level. He noted that to accomplish goals, Patrick would have to broaden the vision of how the state tackles problems. We need to take a hard look at what state government can actually do and see how we can leverage the thriving private sector -- both for-profit and not-for-profit -- in Massachusetts. How can we best encourage the private sector to be good corporate citizens and help address the commonwealth's unmet needs? Patrick himself is almost uniquely suited to do this given his knack for bringing people with diverse interests together.

In all, it was a fantastic forum. My thanks go out to the participants and to the Cambridge DCC for organizing it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Thoughts on Civic Engagement

This Sunday, Dave Denison, the former editor of CommonWealth magazine, had a piece in the Boston Globe's Ideas section about what exactly grassroots governing really means. If you haven't yet gotten a chance to read it, I recommend checking it out.

I think he spends a little too much time talking about the ballot initiative process as a grassroots tool in the article. While you could certainly say that the gay marriage ballot is the product of a grassroots movement, I don't think you could say the same about the ballot initiatives we voted on just this past November. Does anyone really think that Question 1, which would have allowed wine to be sold in grocery stores, was the product of a public clamoring for such sales? If it were, I imagine that it would have passed.

In any event, the most important part of the article, in my opinion, comes at the end, where Denison makes the point that there's more to encouraging an engaged grassroots than just getting people to vote.

Nevertheless, [Benjamin] Barber, who directs CivWorld, a New York-based organization that promotes democratic innovation, contends that a governor must take a bold approach if he wants to expand citizen democracy. The answer, Barber says, is in moving beyond "let the people vote."
[ . . . ]
"Part of the point of direct democracy and strong democracy is not just to get citizens to vote on things but to get individuals to turn into citizens," Barber says. "And that's a process that is more than just about voting."
This is particularly relevant in light of the Civic Engagement community meeting I attended last week. Blue Mass Group has posted the transcript of that meeting and Charley has his thoughts on the meeting as well. What struck me was how much of the testimony focused on increasing voter registration or voting machines and how little of it focused on how to get people more involved in their communities. To my recollection, only one person's testimony gave us any examples of what they did to get people involved locally. While certainly voting is an important part of civic engagement, I would argue that it is the bare minimum required of citizens in a democracy and when Patrick talked about a return to civic life, I feel like he was talking about what we as citizens can do for ourselves, not what programs or reforms the government should enact to encourage them to come out on election day. The classic anecdote he would tell was that of Ms. Jones, the neighbor who would whup you just as if you were one of her own children. This was a community where people looked out for each other, not where the government looked out for them.

Denison speaks to this aspect of civic engagement at the end of the annotated version of his article (though, if you're going to annotate something on the web, Dave, you may want to make your footnotes into links):
Patrick's rhetoric was mostly that of a "civic republican." Perhaps he's closer to Harvard government professor Michael Sandel than to Ben Barber in his thinking. As Sandel writes in Democracy's Discontent (1996), "the republican tradition emphasizes the need to cultivate citizenship through particular ties and attachments . . . [which requires] a concern for the whole, an orientation to the common good." That's Patrick's language, too.
This, I think, is that part of civic engagement that can help Patrick deliver on his promises. The more people who are involved in local civic organizations, the more likely that they are to be filling the needs of the community that are currently unmet by the state. If my experience is any indicator, Patrick has already had some success in this area. Previous to my work on the campaign, I was not particularly involved in local issues here in Watertown. Now that I've met so many people in town, I've started not only becoming involved more locally, but also donating to local causes. This is the sort of civic engagement that I imagine the governor-elect is most concerned with.

As an aside, I really do like the idea of authors posting their own annotated work on the web. That's a great use of the Internet! Kudos to Dave Denison for taking advantage of the medium.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Bloggers Should Blog

If there's one thing that I regret about the past election cycle -- and given how everything went, there might just be only one thing -- it's that I wasn't able to fully reconcile my work with the campaign and my writing here on this blog. As it got closer to election day, I was doing more and more interesting things, but writing about them less and less. Even now, with the election a month in the past, it's been hard for me to get back in the swing of things.

The title of this post I stole from one written by kid oakland back in October. He argued that "the best thing any blogger can do as an election approaches is to do what they do best year round." That stuck with me during the time between the primary and the general election. I started this blog because I was vaguely aware that there were a lot of political events happening that were not being covered by the media and that you would never know what had happened unless you were there. I decided that part of my mission would be to go to them and write about it. For the past few months, I've been going to things, but not writing about it, or about much of anything else. All last year, I was in a position to make politics more accessible to people, yet I did not find the time or the energy to do so.

There are only so many hours in a day, and perhaps if I had the ability to stop time, I would have been able to blog more during the campaign. I made the decision to spend my free time on the campaign rather than on the Internet. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure I made the right choice, but it got me thinking about how to blog as part of a campaign. What would be interesting for people to read? Perhaps I should have focused less on documenting whatever atrocities the state GOP had committed that day and written more about what being a town coordinator was like. People might be interested in what we did and how we did it, but I always felt that I shouldn't be giving the strategy away. It's silly, really, given that everyone knew that Deval Patrick's strategy was to get as many people involved as possible and get them to convince their friends and neighbors to do likewise. At the same time, before becoming involved in this campaign, I never really thought about what a campaign's field organization did. Maybe if I had read someone's campaign diary, it wouldn't have been so scary to get involved in the first place.

Does anyone have any examples of really good campaign blogging from this cycle or others? Not simply using a blog to get the message out, but something that goes through what it's actually like to work on a campaign.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Patrick Team Announces Two Community Meetings

The following announcement crossed my inbox today, and somehow I managed to see it amongst the massive spam deluge I've been getting recently. Governor-elect Deval Patrick's transition team is announcing two community meetings this Friday, December 1st:

Higher Education Community Meeting
When: Friday, December 1, 2006, 10:30 am
Where: UMass-Amherst Campus Center
What: Governor-elect Deval Patrick addresses members of the Higher Education Working Group and the public before community meeting

Workforce Development Community Meeting
When: Friday, December 1, 2006, 9:30 am
Where: Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, 41 Berkeley St., Boston
What: Members of the Workforce Development Working Group hear from the public on the issue of workforce development
I'm glad to see that Gov-elect Patrick is continuing to reach out to citizens, as he did during his campaign, but I do have one suggestion/complaint. If the Patrick team really wants to bring people back into civic life, wouldn't it be nice if these events were held at a time when working people could go to them? Not everyone can take a morning off to get to Amherst or Boston. That said, they suggest that people who can't attend should submit their suggestions via the transition team website. That's fine, I suppose, but what about those of us who are interested in what goes on at those meetings? What I'd like to see is a record of these meetings -- agenda, minutes, etc -- posted on the website. Let's all see what kind of suggestions come out of this, so that those who have to work can feel like they're a part of the discussion.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Picture of the Day

Today's Herald had an interesting picture of outgoing Gov Mitt Romney's "Homophobia today, homophobia tomorrow and homophobia forever" rally at the statehouse yesterday. Check it out:

I know it's an illusion, but I can't help but see white pointy hats peeking out from the back row. Fitting, if you ask me.

Friday, November 17, 2006

McGrory: Say it ain't so, Mitt!

Globe columnist Brian McGrory's world has come crashing down around him after he discovered that Mitt Romney has gone back on his word that he wouldn't cut funds for homeless shelters. He has seen the world through Romney-colored glasses for so long now that this is causing him some serious cognitive dissonance. Witness:

I have a hard time believing the guy would so blatantly go back on his word.

I have a hard time believing he even knows these homeless funds were cut. Once he learns, I think he'll put them back.

Either I'm a fool, or our governor is a fraud.
Either? Brian, if it's taken you this long to realize that Mitt Romney is a fraud, I think I have some reading for you to catch up on.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Mitt Romney's Two-Pronged Media Strategy

Outgoing Governor Mitt Romney seems to be adopting a two step media strategy as he runs for President in 2008.

Step 1) Denigrate the local media as hopelessly partisan.

Romney has added a new laugh line to his stump speech recently:

We have two factions of media in Boston. On the one hand, we have the Hillary-loving, Ted Kennedy apologists. And on the other, we have the liberals.
Seth Gitell, former spokesman for Boston Mayor Tom Menino, thinks there's more to it than just another 'cattle rancher in a vegetarian convention' joke. Here's what he had to say:
The governor is getting worried that Deval Patrick will soon takeover the keys of the State House and Patrick's Democratic staffers will have access to all the executive agencies and all their files. This is, in short, a treasure trove for a Democratic opposition research operative. I forsee some of the above mentioned reporters getting those tough, national stories, and Romney is trying to proactively discredit that.
(via Universal Hub)

Step 2) Get together with your buddies and buy a media outlet.

MyDD noted today that Romney's Bain Capital just bought radio giant Clearchannel Communications along with Thomas H Lee Partners. Remember that Romney's business partners at Bain have already been seeding early primary states for Mitt through his Commonwealth PAC. Are they now buying over 1100 radio stations for him?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bad Reasons To Oppose Toll Elimination

There are good reasons to oppose taking the tolls down, most importantly because we use those revenues for maintaining the Turnpike. Today, though, the Associated Press reported on what I consider to be the worst possible objection to the plan. From the article:

On Tuesday the heads of Teamsters Union Local 127 and United Steelworkers of America District 4 pledged to use "every legal tactic" to block the plan, which would cost hundreds of union jobs.
I appreciate that the very purpose of unions is to protect peoples' jobs, but I have to say that the reason that we have tolls is not to provide employment for toll takers. Frankly, my preference is for more dedicated Fast Lanes over staffed toll booths anyway. That said, objecting to the removal of tolls on the Pike because it might cost toll collector jobs is like protecting the income tax because you're worried that the Department of Revenue might go out of business. It's completely missing the point.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What is the Difference Between Springfield, MA and Springfield, MO?

They share the same name and both have roughly 125,000 residents, but the residents of Springfield, Missouri just got a new nanotech research lab, care of Nantero, which is based in Woburn. Why there? Here's what the company's president had to say:

Nantero set up a major research laboratory in Springfield, Mo., in response to an aggressive bid by that state's politicians.

"We didn't see the opportunity to do something similar at the same cost and on the same time scale in Massachusetts," said Nantero's president, Greg Schmergel.
One of my great hopes for the incoming Patrick administration is that they will do more to try to keep businesses from moving out of state. I don't expect them to win every battle, but I do expect them to be able to compete with other parts of the country. When I read things like this article, though, it shows just how much work they'll have to do. Here's another excerpt:
"The welcome mat really isn't out in Massachusetts," said Matthew Nordan, president of Lux Research, a New York company that studies the global nanotech industry.
The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative has a nanotechnology initiative, but it's a pale shadow of the more aggressive efforts in other states, Nordan said.
I do understand that some other states have advantages over Massachusetts -- weather, cost of living, etc -- that we can't control. Still, that's no excuse for not aggressively trying to get businesses that start here to expand in-state. What are these other states doing that we are either not willing or able to do?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Question of the Evening

Why does Blogger go down the very day I come back from hiatus?

I guess I should consider myself lucky it was up at all even this morning.

Who Voted?

One thing that I haven't heard many people talk about in the wake of Deval Patrick's historic victory was the fact that exit polls showed more Democrats voting in Massachusetts than Independents this year. Here are the percentage breakdowns from CNN, with the results from 2002 (PDF) and 1998 for comparison:


As Christy Mihos was quick to remind everyone this campaign season, unenrolled voters make up half of the registered voters in Massachusetts. That only tells part of the story, however, since this chart shows that they have never quite been half of the subset of people who actually make it out to the polls in a gubernatorial year. In fact, what we see now is that the number of independents has been decreasing as a share of the voting population since 1998, to the point now where Democrats outnumber them.

Using that information, and the raw voter registration numbers (PDF) from the Secretary of state, we can estimate turnout in each subgroup for 2006. The number of voters by party should be the percentage from the exit poll multiplied by the total number of voters who voted on Tuesday. If we divide that the number of registered voters, we can come up with our best guess of turnout by party.


I rounded the estimated voters to the nearest thousand to emphasize that these are estimates, and not exact numbers because they're based on polling information. In any case, we don't require that much precision to get the estimated turnout.

Compare those numbers above to what I posted in February for 2002 and 1998. The percentage of independents who turned out this year (44%) was down from the levels in 1998 (45%) and 2002 (47%). In contrast, the number of Democrats shot up from 52% in 1998 to 57% in 2002 to 62% now. It would appear that the number of Democrats who came out to vote for governor has not been higher in at least the last two elections. Note also that year after year, unenrolled voters are the least likely to turn out in a gubernatorial election. Fewer than half of unenrolled voters make it to the polls on election day.

Not only did more Democrats turn out than expected, but they were unusually loyal to the Democratic ticket. Here is the vote by party from those exit polls:


Eighty-five percent of Democrats reported a vote for Deval Patrick. That's ten points higher than the percentage who voted for Scott Harshbarger in 1998. It's amazing to me that only 15% of Democrats crossed party lines, and only 3/5ths of those voters could actually bring themselves to vote for the Republican. Notice also that while independents did break for Patrick, it was not a huge swing, only a four point difference. Deval Patrick's landslide was because more Democrats came out than in years past and those who did stuck with their party.

Late in the campaign, we were asked to stop making voter ID calls to Democrats. The campaign had seen what the exit polls ended up showing -- Democrats were sticking with their candidate at a rate we haven't seen in Massachusetts for many years. When we made get-out-the-vote calls, we were told to assume that every Democrat we hadn't IDed was already with us. Some of us, myself included, were very resistant to this, but it turned out to be a sound strategy. If there was an 85% chance that any given Democrat would fill in the oval for Deval, that would be worth the 15% who would come out for one of the other candidates. Getting Democrats of any kind to the polls became just as important as getting independents we had already identified as supporters.

Back in February, I calculated that if 70% of Democrats, or just about a million, came out to vote, then the Democratic candidate would be guaranteed a victory assuming that turnout and partisanship levels stayed the same as in 2002. The Democrats fell short of that, but because of their unprecedented loyalty to their candidate, Patrick was still able to score a resounding win.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Rally for Change Today!

In case anyone's not aware, Deval Patrick and Tim Murray are holding a huge "Rally for Change" today at 2:30 in Boston Common. It promises to be a big event -- perhaps a defining moment of the Patrick/Murray campaign. If you're in the area, I encourage you to come. You can find more information about the rally at Deval Patrick's website.

If you want to travel to Boston with a Watertown group, there will be a delegation leaving on the 1:30 #71 bus from Watertown Square. Then, we will be waiting in front of the Park Street Church (1 Park St) until around 2:20 if you want to meet up with us in town.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Kerry Healey Snubs Watertown

Yesterday was Watertown's 8th Annual Faire on the Square, an event that brings thousands of people from around the area to Watertown. This was the first year that the Faire organizers allowed political candidates to have booths. Deval Patrick made an appearance around noon and made the rounds accompanied by Rep. Rachel Kaprielian and Senator Steven Tolman. He, of course, was great as always, and the faire-goers who stopped by our booth all seemed really excited to have him there.

Patrick was the only gubernatorial candidate who stopped by the Faire. Christy Mihos had volunteers staff a booth for him where they gave out pins and bumperstickers with that unfortunate light blue/purple/pink color scheme. Kerry Healey, however, was no where to be found. Someone had reserved a booth for her campaign, but it remained empty the entire day. The organizers were also expecting Healey herself to show up at some point during the day, but she never did. We talked to one of the members of the Coordinating Committee afterwards and he again confirmed that they were expecting her during the day and they were mystified as to why not even the people who reserved the booth had bothered to show up.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Deval in Watertown Saturday

I just got confirmation this afternoon that Deval Patrick will be attending the Watertown Faire on the Square, tomorrow, Saturday Sept. 30th sometime around 12 noon. Unless I'm mistaken, this will be the candidate's first public appearance in Watertown since he begain his campaign over a year and a half ago.

I will be at the Deval Patrick booth most of the day, so come on by and say hello!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Why Detainee Treatment Matters

There's plenty to talk about here in Massachusetts, but as the issue of detainee treatment has been revisited in the news lately, I'm reminded of the following story from my family.

During World War II, one of my great uncles flew on missions to drop supplies behind enemy lines for the Belgian Underground. On one such mission, his plane was shot down by Nazis, and he ended up in Belgium, taking cover with the resistance. He was eventually captured by the Germans and sent to a prison camp. The following passage is from the book Someone Will Come for You, which tells the story of the crew of that particular plane. This is what happened to him after he was captured.

He had spent ten months in captivity and wanted to return to normal as soon as possible. Whilst a prisoner he had been fortunate to have one of the guards show a great deal of kindness to him and other POWs. The guard was an old soldier with only one eye and was christened 'Popeye' by the prisoners. 'Popeye' had a son who was a prisoner of the Allies and often wrote to his father saying how well he was being treated. 'Popeye' accordingly looked after his charges, giving them extra food and blankets and trying to make their lives a little more bearable.
That is why how we treat our prisoners affects the lives and safety of our own troops. My uncle was treated well because we treated the Germans well. We won't be able to say the same for those captured in the future.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Cool Kids Hang Out Behind the Risers

I'm liveblogging from the Deval Patrick victory party for Blue Mass Group. Head on over for news from there as it happens.

I even managed to wear my shirt the right way this time.

Primary Day

Today's primary day, so remember to get out and vote! Polls are open from 7AM to 8PM, but vote early because it may get wet in the afternoon. I won't make any predictions, but my hope is that Deval Patrick's grassroots operation (of which I am a cog) will win the day for him. Anything could happen, though, and while the polls have Patrick ahead, we have plenty of experience in Massachusetts with candidates coming from behind at the last minute.

I don't know what an "endorsement" from a blog really even means, so I'm just going to lay out who I'm voting for tomorrow and why.

Governor: Deval Patrick
I've been volunteering for Deval Patrick's campaign for it seems like ages. I've never volunteered for a candidate before. After the 2002 and 2004 elections and the 2005 town council races, I decided that it was time to stop sitting on the sidelines. If a candidate I like loses, it's not going to be because I personally didn't do enough.

Better people than I have described why they think Patrick is the best candidate, so I won't try to duplicate their efforts. I will repeat something I remember him saying during one of the many speeches or interviews he's done over the course of the campaign. He talked about meeting with a group of business leaders who complained to him that every time that politicians set up one of those meetings, the same half-dozen or so faces were there. Unless I'm misremembering, Patrick was the first one to bring a different set of people to the table. That's how I feel about Massachusetts sometimes. We're so focused on looking inward for solutions that we miss out on input from other sources. I feel like that's Patrick's campaign in microcosm. He's the breath of fresh air and injection of energy after staring out at the same faces for far too long.

This is the election to go for it. The way Republicans have won in the past was to woo disaffected Democrats and center-right independents to vote in the Republican bloc. Thanks to Christy Mihos, there is a safety valve this year. Those who have read this blog for a while will know that I've done the math. If even a small percentage of those Democrats and independents who decline to vote for a Democrat end up with Mihos, the Democrat will end up winning. If Mihos runs even a semi-credible campaign, and with Bill Hillsman doing his ads, that is likely to me, Healey will have very little margin for error.

Lieutenant Governor: Tim Murray
I went back and forth on this quite a bit. Andrea Silbert is a great candidate, but I'm not sure that she balances the ticket with Patrick as much as Murray would. At the end of the day, I'm just not comfortable having two candidates on the ticket who are running for their first elective office. Silbert is very good, though, and I would hope that she would find a position somewhere in the Patrick administration (not to count my chickens). I was impressed by Deb Goldberg the first time I saw her, but I have to admit that her full-page ad to the Brookline TAB complaining about their endorsement pretty much closed the door on her for me.

Secretary of the Commonwealth: John Bonifaz
I just had the following conversation with my wife:

Her: I think I'm voting for Bill Galvin.
Me: Why?
Her: Well, I know Bonifaz is good on voting rights and elections issues, but the Secretary of State's job is more than just that. He seems like a one-issue candidate.
Me: I agree. But, he's not going to win the primary. Voting for John is a great way to send a message to Galvin that voting issues are important to you without having to do your due diligence on the other aspects of the Secretary's job.
Her: Good point.
Me: Plus, I don't like how he ducked out of doing any debates.
Her: Okay, maybe I'll vote for Bonifaz after all.
That convinced her. How about you?
Middlesex County Clerk of Courts: Michael Sullivan
I hadn't given a second thought to this race until I saw the fake jury summons Bruce Desmond was sending out to primary voters. That was a big turnoff. Sorry Bruce, you should have stuck with the lit drops.

I will be guest posting today on the esteemed Blue Mass. Group from the Patrick post-primary party. The blogfathers made me an offer I couldn't refuse! Stop by over there to get the bloggers-eye view of primary day, or just to say hi.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Quick Thoughts on Tonight's Debate

Reilly did better than he did on Thursday, but expectations for him were so low that he'd have to. He asked the strongest question of the other two, but Gabrieli punted and Patrick gave an answer Reilly wasn't expecting and sounded completely lost.

Gabrieli did not seem to get the irony in bashing Patrick for wanting to re-think the 1993 compromise on charter school funding and in the next breath talking about how we needed to do-over the health insurance compromise that passed just last year.

Patrick really missed an opportunity by asking his opponents an open-ended question about their negative ads. That was tantamount to flat-out asking them to bash him for five minutes. He's a lawyer. He should know to never ask a question he can't control the answer to.

The hands-down winner of the debate: EdPrisby.

Boston Drinking Liberally Candidates Night Tonight

The folks at Boston Drinking Liberally wanted me to pass on information about tonight's New Members & Candidates Night at Globe Bar & Cafe in Copley Square. Two candidates in the Second Suffolk's write-in primary are planning to drop by. Incumbent Senator Dianne Wilkerson (D) is scheduled to stop in from 6:30 to 7:30, followed by her Democratic challenger Sonia Chang-Diaz at 8:30. They'll also be watching tonight's gubernatorial debate. Sounds like fun!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Evening Tidbits

  • I got polled by SUSA on the gubernatorial primary this afternoon at work. It was a recording of Joe Shortsleeve (favorite newscaster name ever, by the way), who read off the questions, and asked for push-button responses. I imagine the poll results will come out in the next few days.
  • I got a call today from a source saying that Treasurer Tim Cahill is endorsing Deval Patrick for Governor. From the sound of it, Cahill is also going to be offering the Patrick campaign some logistical support, so while the endorsement may not matter much in terms of publicity, it might help get people on the phone for Deval in the next week.
  • Lambda, the Harvard Law GLBT organization, is co-sponsoring a debate between the democratic candidates for governor tomorrow, September 12 from 1:45 pm to 3:00 pm in Ames Courtroom. The debate is free, open to the public and will focus on LGBT issues, though there will be no public Q&A at the end. Both Deval Patrick and Chris Gabrieli have confirmed their attendance.

Thoughts on 9/11

The day before I was born, a man scaled the face of the World Trade Center, tower 2. That event was captured on the front page of the next day's New York Times, a version of which was framed and on the wall of my bedroom from as early as I can remember until I left for college.

The first time I remember going to the top of the World Trade Center, we went with my mother's cousin who was a Port Authority Police officer. We went up in the freight elevator, which was almost as exciting as what awaited at the top. I got two souvenirs from that trip. The first was a brochure with a picture of the towers on them and the legend "The Closest Some of Us Will Get to Heaven." The other, I still have:

Some kids had pennants of their favorite baseball team in their rooms, I had a pennant of the World Trade Center.

We went back years later, before I entered high school. This time we had to wait in line, as our cousin had since retired. On the observation deck, I stared out at Manhattan, straining to see if I could make out my grandmother's house in the Bronx.

The last time I was at the top of the World Trade Center was in 1999. I had started work in IT for an investment bank, and we had several of our orientation sessions at Windows on the World, at the top of the South tower. For some reason I remember the details clearly, the pattern on the carpet, the layout of the rooms. During breaks I would press my face up against the glass and stare North, out at the city, still that kid staring out at the tops of buildings and trying to find that house in the Bronx.

When orientation was over, I ended up in a much smaller building in lower Manhattan, but I had a cubicle next to the window, and I could stare up right at the tops of the two towers. When I worked late, you could see the flashbulbs go off from people taking pictures of the nighttime cityscape, or just of each other.

During the short time I lived in New York, I spent a lot of time in the shadow of those towers. I often ate lunch in the World Trade Center Plaza when the weather was nice; it was a great place to people watch. I used to stand against the buildings and stare straight up at the latticework until I got vertigo. There was a mall under the complex with a Borders, a Warner Bros. Store, a place that sold Swiss Army knives, and a newsstand that would short-change you because "pennies don't count." The first Krispy Kreme I ever saw was in 5 WTC. It's funny what sticks with you. I remember in particular, passing this sculpture between my office and the towers. Like the figure itself, I was always compelled to check the items in his briefcase, knowing full well that they would never change.

Five years ago today, we had just moved to Cambridge. The moving van had come only days earlier, so I was still living out of boxes. I was out of work -- a victim of the tech bust -- and had an interview with a placement agency downtown that morning. I turned on the TV sometime between when the first and second planes hit. I hardly turned it off for the next three weeks. The future Mrs. sco had gone out to get car insurance, and was out of cell range when I tried to call her. I called my father after the towers fell, hysterical, trying to find out if he had heard about my uncle who sometimes worked jobs in lower Manhattan (he ended up walking to the Bronx from Midtown, like so many others that day). A friend of mine called, knowing that I had worked down there recently, to check up on me. I talked gibberish into the phone at him, and he dropped everything and came over from work. I missed my interview, of course. I later found out that the building had been evacuated.

I've been wanting to write this for some time now, but how can you mourn a pair of buildings when so many living people died that day? Is five years long enough to wait? I sometimes think about the people in those buildings -- the office workers, conference goes, bathroom attendants -- just going about their business and suddenly the world ends.

I've been back to Manhattan dozens of times in the past five years, but I've never gone down to Ground Zero. I think it's because I want to preserve the place in my memory without seeing what it turned into. It's like remembering a friend for what he was like in life, and not what he was like on his deathbed. I suppose this post is my way of doing just that, an overdue requiem for the buildings I always felt a connection to.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Notes From our Debate Party

First, I want to apologize for the light blogging over the past month or so. This is, of course, the worst time to reduce my posting output if I want to attract readers, but I made a decision. The work I'm doing here in Watertown for Deval Patrick's campaign is more likely to make a difference in the election than anything I write in the blog. I only have so many free hours in the day, and I've been spending them lately trying to help the campaign here in Watertown. Chances are, if you've seen a Deval Patrick sign here in town, I put it there. (As an aside, while Tom Reilly's street is littered with signs for him, the next street over is a haven for Deval signs -- funny how that worked out). Expect light posting until the primary.

Anyway, last night we had a debate watching party here in town, about a mile from Tom Reilly's home. We had a great turnout -- standing room only -- and generated a lot of momentum going into the final week of the campaign. Thanks to everyone who came!

Obviously, everyone in the room was a partisan, so any report of our debate experience will be hopelessly biased. We all thought that Patrick came off the best, of course, though a few came away with a better opinion of Gabrieli than they had previously held (not enough to sway the vote, sorry Chris). The biggest surprise of the night, though, was how nasty Tom Reilly came across. I don't know if Chris Gabrieli's campaign had anything to do with yesterday's story that Reilly knew about Marie St. Fleur's tax problems, but I'm not sure it was such a great idea to attack Gabrieli right out of the gate. First, it was a complete non sequitur to the question he was asked (always a pet peeve of mine) and second, it keeps the St. Fleurasco in the news for another couple of days. If you could pinpoint the moment Tom Reilly's campaign imploded, it was the day he announced Marie St. Fleur as his running mate and I have no idea why Reilly wants people to be reminded of that. Not only that, but Reilly spent half of the debate talking about how private these tax records are, at the same time he's airing an ad talking about how Gabrieli and Patrick should release their tax returns. It seems like he's trying to have it both ways on this.

Other notes: Janet Wu came out guns-ablazin'; we gasped at how good some of her questions were. Gabrieli had the most laugh lines, but Patrick had some good quips in there, too. When Reilly talked about his street in Watertown being just like anyone else's and his neighbors are just like everyone else, we all rolled our eyes; someone remarked, "We're your neighbors" and we're rooting for the other guy. The stem cell business went on way too long, and Gabrieli turned what should have been his strong point into "I love Harvard!" which may not play the same outside 128 as it does at the Kenndedy School. The other thing that bothered me about Gabrieli -- he said that we're not going to fix the health care system in the next few months. That may be technically true, but we are going to have to implement the health care reforms that were voted in this year. There's a lot for the next administration to fill in, and it will all have to be done in a few short months. He might not be able to 'fix' it, but he is going to have to act quickly.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Last Day to Register for Primary

Today is the last day to register to be eligible to vote in the primary election on September 19th. It's also the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot. If you haven't registered, or you're going to be away on election day, get yourself down to your town hall before it's too late!

For more information on how to register and who qualifies, check out this excellent post from Blue Mass Group.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Strange Robo-Poll

I just got a strange robo poll on the Massachusetts governor's race. It was a woman's recorded voice asking if I support Deval Patrick to press one; Chris Gabrieli, press two; Tom Reilly, three; undecided four. I pressed one and got a "thank you" and a dial tone. No demographic questions at all. No real survey would omit those.

I'm wondering what would have happened if I had chosen another candidate. Is someone testing their own messages or would I have heard something negative about one of the candidates?

Anyone else get one of these and try something different?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Auto Insurance Lessons from New Jersey

On Thursday, there was a big article in the New York Times detailing how New Jersey drivers are saving a lot of money under the auto insurance reforms enacted in 2003 under then Governor James McGreevey (yes, that Governor). I was out of state all week and did not get a chance to blog about this, but it looks like no one else caught the article aside from Jon Keller, who asked "Why Can't We Be Like New Jersey?", quite possibly the first time those words have ever been put together in that order. The article is particularly relevant here in Massachusetts because since New Jersey enacted its reforms to the auto insurance industry, we are now the most heavily regulated state in the union. Opponents of insurance reform had previously used the example of New Jersey as a cautionary tale, saying that NJ drivers now had to pay more under their new system. The Times, however, says otherwise. From the article (emphasis added):

Insurance regulators say more than 75 percent of New Jersey's drivers are now paying less for auto insurance and that further reductions are expected.

Auto insurance prices have been declining around the country, as fewer accidents have been reported and big inroads have been made against fraudulent auto insurance claims. But nowhere are prices falling as sharply as in New Jersey. And insurance experts say that the easing of regulation in New Jersey has been by far the most important factor.

Some of New Jersey's worst drivers are paying more than before and some drivers have experienced little, if any, change in their premium costs. But agents around the state say costs have fallen for most of their customers and many are paying as much as 30 percent to 40 percent less.

Even some drivers with poor records are saving money. Over all, state regulators say, drivers have saved more than $500 million since the regulatory controls were relaxed.
Of course, what the article unhelpfully fails to point out is exactly what sort of reforms New Jersey enacted to get to this point. Yes, they loosened restrictions, but that could mean anything. Finding this information turned out to be more difficult than I expected, but you can find some information here and here.

One important thing they did was to try to reduce the number of uninsured drivers by having the state offer low-cost plans -- the most basic of which costs 'a dollar a day' -- under their assigned risk program. This has kept costs down for drivers that the insurance companies might be wary of covering. Eligibility for these low-cost programs is the same as for Medicaid.

In addition, the state is cracking down on fraud to cut costs for insurers. Here in Massachusetts, we've started to do this and some places, notably Lawrence, have had a lot of success in exposing insurance fraud. The New Jersey laws force fraudsters into the more expensive high-risk pool when exposed, revokes medical licenses for providers who commit fraud, and offers rewards of up to $25,000 for reporting fraud.

The New Jersey law also provides for some consumer protections. Under the law, insurance agents are apparently required to give drivers at least three coverage scenarios with different prices, with the intent of increasing the choices available to consumers. Carriers are also required to notify policyholders when they ask for a rate increase, and they are not allowed to cancel coverage for a customer whose bill is mailed on time but received by the company a few days late.

Here in Massachusetts, I had originally dismissed the group pushing for auto insurance reform in Massachusetts because they were fronted not by consumer advocates, but by large insurance companies looking to get into the Massachusetts market. I also did not appreciate their misleading ads, which seemed to imply that bad drivers are paying less than good drivers in Massachusetts (this is not the case). Then, of course, came the group opposing these reforms, which was headed up by the state's current insurers -- most notably Commerce Insurance -- who obviously do not relish the thought of large insurance companies coming into the commonwealth and forcing more competition. Interestingly enough, this group's "Auto Insurance Truth" website still has the message "Don't make the same mistake that New Jersey did" in its header. Of course, they don't tell you that this mistake saved New Jersey drivers more than 500 million dollars.

I will admit that we still don't know what the long-term effects of New Jersey's insurance reform will be. It's not impossible that their prices will rise as sharply as they've declined at some point. Still, the early returns look very promising, and perhaps we can take advantage of their experience and start taking measures that will save drivers some money here in Massachusetts.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

TV or .TV

Starting Friday, the Deval Patrick campaign will begin airing its first television ads, both on the air and on its new multimedia website While it is certainly not the first campaign to put multimedia content online, the new site is perhaps the cleanest one I've seen yet. It takes their lightly used audio-visual blog to the next level, and I would hope that they continue to add content to it.

I've been continually impressed with the Patrick campaign's use of the Internet over the past year or so, and their multimedia stuff is just the tip of the iceberg. On the fundraising side, they announced this week that they've raised a million dollars online and through their fundraising pages.

At first it was not clear that they were going to use the web that much, particularly after they abandoned meetup-style social networking tools early in the campaign. Instead, they made their voter file available to organizers in advance of the caucuses to make it easy to reach out to potential supporters. From there, they've continually upgraded their tools to the point where every single volunteer has enough information to act as their own campaign manager. As someone who is very interested in the intersection of the web and politics, I hope that more candidates will see the value in using the Internet not only as a way to get their message out, but also as an organizing tool. Too many candidates see their web page as nothing but a pamphlet that they put online. With a little creativity, it can go from a brochure to a virtual campaign headquarters or a full-fledged online community.

Of course, you can't do all of your organizing over the Internet. There is still a large segment of the population that does not have (or in some cases want) regular Internet access. An email is also a poor substitute for a face-to-face meeting, or even a phone call. The power of the Internet as a campaign tool is not that it lets you skip these interactions, but that it can facilitate them. That, I think, is something that more local campaigns need to start taking advantage of.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Who's Minding the Store at MassPike?

The Boston Globe reported today that several Amorello loyalists left the Turnpike Authority today as chairman Matt Amorello's resignation took effect. I'm wondering if anyone's minding the store over at the Turnpike offices during the transition period. After all, let's not forget what happened the last time a Mass Pike Chairman was ousted:

[The Inspector General's] Office's investigation has determined that thousands of pages of documents are missing. When asked by an investigator from this Office about the whereabouts of the missing documents, the Turnpike Chairman stated that after his arrival at the Turnpike, in April 2000, file cabinets had been emptied and computer hard drives had been "sand blasted so data could never be recovered from them, and so that the computers wouldn't even turn on." According to the Communications Security Systems Directorate of the U.S. Army, computer hard drives are "sand blasted" for data security reasons as follows: "[the] equipment is taken completely apart and the hard drive disk is literally sandblasted with a sandblaster so as to render the disk permanently unreadable."

The Chairman also informed an investigator from this Office that after the Chairman's arrival at the Turnpike, a former MassHighway staff person was caught on video surveillance tapes removing boxes of material from Turnpike offices at Ten Park Plaza in Boston. This removal of material occurred during four trespasses or break-ins over a three-day period. The purpose of the trespass was presumably to remove files from Turnpike offices.
The last thing we need is a repeat of these shenanigans in the chaos of employee turnover.

Tuesday Morning Catchup

  • Patrick Private Sector Profile: There was a very fair profile of Deval Patrick's private sector experience in Sunday's Globe. If you haven't gotten a chance to read it, it supports Patrick's contention that he was someone inside these big companies trying to make them better places.
  • Republican on Reilly: The Springfield Republican had a article on Tom Reilly on Sunday. Nothing new there if you've been following the race, but if you haven't it's a good introduction to Reilly the candidate.
  • Gabrieli Spending Freely: The Herald reported yesterday that Chris Gabrieli has broken the record for spending on any campaign before August of an election year. He's also poised to exceed the current record for most personal funds spent, currently held by Governor Mitt Romney with $6.3 million for the 2002 election.
  • Patrick on TV this Week: The Globe reported today that Deval Patrick will begin airing ads at the end of this week. Ads aired by the other gubernatorial candidates earlier this month have not moved the polls dramatically, so perhaps keeping his powder dry until close to the election was a good move.
  • Lege Pondering Special Session: The Legislature is likely to be called into a special formal session next month so they can act on a bond bill that must be passed before January. I wonder if this would also be a good time to ratchet up pressure to consider Senator Marion Walsh's Big Dig Review Board proposal.
  • Question of the Week: Do you think that Governor Romney cancelled his trip to Wisconsin last week because he could no longer bring his hair gel?
  • Thursday, August 10, 2006

    Tuesday's Less Talked About Primary

    While gallons of ink have already been spilled over Ned Lamont's defeat of Senator Joe Lieberman in Connecticut, there was at least one other race that day where a moderate incumbent was defeated that is getting much less attention. On Tuesday, moderate Republican Congressman Joe Schwarz was unseated by conservative challenger Tim Walberg in Michigan. Schwarz was under constant attack from Walberg for being too liberal. Among his sins were supporting reproductive rights and stem cell research. Grover Norquist (buddy to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff) and his Club for Growth organization spent $1.1 million on behalf of Walberg, and they buried Schwarz in accusations that he was not a conservative. Walberg won 53% to 47%.

    That primary also has relevance here in New England because it marks the first time that a Club for Growth backed challenger actually defeated an incumbent at the federal level (also on Tuesday, a Club backed candidate won a primary for an open seat in Colorado). In Rhode Island's Republican primary, Senator Lincoln Chafee faces a similar challenge from the right from Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey, who is also backed by the Club for Growth, on September 12th. While the state of Rhode Island is much different from Michigan's 7th Congressional District, there is a palpable anti-incumbent mood in the country as a whole. The Washington post released a poll on Monday showing that only 55% of respondents approved of the way their own representative's job performance, the lowest that poll has measured since 1994 (at 51%). Even if Chafee does manage to survive his Republican primary, a Rassmussen poll has him trailing Democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse by a margin of 38% to 44%.

    Wednesday, August 09, 2006

    Mass Dems Chair Cheers Lamont

    The Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman Phil Johnston released the following statement today:

    "I congratulate Ned Lamont on his win and encourage all Massachusetts Democrats to support him. It's clear from the vote yesterday in Connecticut that the voters this year want to go in a new direction.

    That bodes well for Democrats in Massachusetts and around the country. As state chairman, I will be encouraging Democratic Party activists and contributors in Massachusetts to support Ned Lamont in the general election.

    It is crucial that we do everything possible to elect members of Congress who will fight Bush/Cheney's misguided international and domestic policies during the last two years of their administration."
    I'm not sure why the chairman of the Massachusetts Democrats feels he has to weigh in on a Connecticut race, but it does bring up an interesting question. Does the ban in the Mass. Dems charter on endorsing non-Democratic candidates apply to out of state races? Will any MA party officials face sanctions at the next convention should they weigh in on the Connecticut race in Lieberman's favor? I haven't looked at the language carefully enough to know the answer.

    Tuesday, August 08, 2006

    Healey Hiding From Women's Groups

    Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey is reportedly refusing to answer questions from women's rights groups as she makes her run for Governor. From the Boston Globe:

    Healey, a Republican who has repeatedly cast herself as a supporter of abortion rights, declined to answer written questions or be interviewed by the local chapters of the National Organization for Women, the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund, and the National Abortion Rights Action League.
    Healey's campaign claims that they get hundreds of questionnaires and can't possibly answer all of them. That hardly seems like a good enough excuse. It's not like the National Organization for Women is just some chump with a blog. If I sent the Healey campaign a questionnaire, I would expect to be ignored, but these are long standing, well respected groups who would not be openly hostile to a Healey endorsement (the way a group like MoveOn or Democracy for America would be).

    Now, it's true that these groups are more closely aligned with Democrats than Republicans in general, but if Healey wants to escape from Governor Mitt Romney's conservative shadow, wouldn't it be prudent to at least try for their endorsement? Endorsements from these types of interest groups wouldn't make or break her candidacy, but at least answering their questions would go a long way toward assuring the public that her pro-choice views are not going to 'evolve' the way the Governor's have. If she supports reproductive rights, then what does she have to fear by answering a questionnaire? Is she worried about alienating the few conservative Republicans left in Massachusetts?

    The Supreme Court is becoming more conservative. It is not inconceivable that the legality of abortions could be tossed back to the states under the next Governor's term. Whether you agree with abortion or not, the public deserves to know the candidates full stances, beyond just "I'm prochoice".

    Monday, August 07, 2006

    Who Supports the Big Dig Review Board?

    On Friday, I posted some details about Senator Marion Walsh's proposed Emergency Investigative Review Board for the Big Dig. To my mind, this is an extremely important bit of legislation that will be very difficult to pass during an informal session this year. Several legislators have already shown their support by cosponsoring Walsh's bill. If your Senator or Representative is on this list, call or write to thank them. If not, then call or write to ask whether they support an independent review for the Big Dig and this bill in particular. If you get a response, let me know and I'll either update this list or put other supporters in a separate post.


    • Sen. Robert Antonioni (D-Leominster)
    • Sen. Edward Augustus, Jr. (D-Worcester)
    • Sen. Jarett Barrios (D-Cambridge)
    • Sen. Robert Creedon (D-Brockton)
    • Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville)
    • Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford)
    • Sen. Robert O’Leary (D-Barnstable)
    • Sen. Pamela Resor (D-Acton)
    • Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester)
    • Sen. James Timilty (D-Walpole)
    • Sen. Susan Tucker (D-Andover)
    • Rep. Deborah Blumer (D-Framingham)
    • Rep. Gale Candaras (D-Wilbraham)
    • Rep. Mark Carron (D-Southbridge)
    • Rep. Frank Hynes (D-Marshfield)
    • Rep. John Keenan (D-Salem)
    • Rep. Barbara A L'Italien (D-Andover)
    • Rep. Marie J. Parente (D-Milford)
    • Rep. Matthew Patrick (D-Falmouth)
    • Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley)
    • Rep. Smitty Pignatelli (D-Lenox)
    • Rep. Denise Provost (D-Somerville)
    • Rep. John Scibak (D-South Hadley)
    • Rep. Theodore Speliotis (D-Danvers)
    • Rep. Kathleen Teahan (D-Whitman)
    • Rep. Phillip Travis (D-Rehoboth)
    • Rep. Anthony Verga (D-Gloucester)

    Remember, just because your legislator is not a cosponsor, that doesn't mean they don't support the legislation. Let's try to find out who does.

    Friday, August 04, 2006

    Demand Action on Big Dig Review Board

    About two weeks ago, I posted about Senator Marian Walsh's (D-West Roxbury) call for public hearings on the CA/Tastrophe. I believe so strongly that an independent accounting of all the problems with the Big Dig is so long overdue that I contacted her office for more information. The Senator is calling for the creation of what she's calling the "Emergency Investigative Review Board" to oversee the entire Central Artery/Tunnel Project, modeled after the Ward Commission. Her office sent me a fact sheet with more information that I'd like to share with both of my readers.

    Before that, though, I'd like to give my take on why this board is necessary, even though the Big Dig has been subject to countless audits and the Attorney General and Governor are both conducting their own ongoing investigation. The first and most important difference, at least with the criminal investigation, is that this will be conducted in public. If the Attorney General's office finds no one to charge, or decides that they can't make anything stick, we may never get the whole story. Ideally, the proceedings of the Review Board will not only be public, but videotaped and freely available on the Internet. In addition, the Governor's task force contains people hand-picked by Romney from his administration. Will they have the courage to point fingers at their colleagues if necessary? Even if they could promise neutrality, they will not have subpoena power and their main focus seems to be on streamlining and 'reforming' the Turnpike Authority.

    As far as previous audits are concerned, I'm hardly a Big Dig historian, but it seems to me that the whole program was never under a stem-to-stern review. There were, most recently, investigations into the leaks and who would pay for repairs. There have also been earlier inquiries to specific cost overruns, but I don't think anyone has woven all these discrete scandals into one overarching narrative, allowing us to identify the villains and try to institute mechanisms to avoid these sorts of problems in future public works projects.

    Here's the information I got from Senator Walsh's office regarding the Review Board.

    1. Creates a seven member board to investigate unsafe and corrupt practices by contractors and government officials in regard to the construction of the Central Artery Project.
    2. Board will be chaired by a retired justice of the SJC, Superior or Appeals Court and include a lay person, a Certified Public Accountant or other person with appropriate financial expertise, a registered professional engineer or person with requisite engineering expertise, an architect or similarly qualified individual, a former prosecutor or investigator and a person with significant high level experience in managing large scale public construction projects. The retired justice will chair the Board.
    3. Persons directly or indirectly associated with the Central Artery Project and immediate family members will not be eligible to serve on or be employed by the Board.
    4. Board members will not be compensated, but will be reimbursed for expenses.
    5. The Board may request and can compel the cooperation of other state officers and entities.
    6. The Board will have subpoena power.
    7. Persons behaving in a disorderly or contemptuous manner before the Board shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
    8. The Board may apply to the Supreme Judicial Court for an order granting immunity to witnesses that refuse to testify or produce evidence on the basis of his or her privilege against self incrimination. Whoever falsely or misleadingly testifies before the Board may be found guilty of perjury and subjected to the penalties associated with that crime.
    9. Hearings of the Board shall be public unless a majority of the Board votes otherwise.
    10. The Board shall submit evidence to appropriate authorities where warranted.
    11. All other government entities shall make reports to the Board regarding their investigations and provide all relevant records to the Board.
    12. The Board shall file an interim report on or before December 18th 2006 and a final report and recommendations on or before July 18th 2007. The report will include a review of all instances of unsafe or corrupt practices regarding the planning, design, construction, inspection and monitoring of the Central Artery Project.
    13. The Board's investigation will cease upon the filing of its final report and all records will be forwarded to the Secretary of the Commonwealth. In order to preserve the integrity of the Board's evidence and because documents from private parties will not be public records within the meaning of M.G.L. Chapter 4 Section 7 they will not be available to the public without a court order. Cessation of the Boards investigation will not effect ongoing investigations or actions pursuant to evidence or information generated by the Board.
    14. This legislation will not preclude an individual from cooperating with any investigation into matters covered by the provisions of this Act.
    15. Coercion, harassment or discrimination against any person or entity for cooperation with this investigation will be punishable by a fine of not more than five-hundred thousand dollars or imprisonment for not more than two years or both, and any person or entity that takes such action may be liable to the wronged employee or entity for treble damages, costs and attorney's fees.
    It seems to me that there is no reason to oppose the creation of this board. I would encourage everyone to contact their legislators to make this investigation happen. How can we ever ask Massachusetts to support a public works project again if we can't reasonably claim that the mistakes of the Big Dig are understood and won't be repeated?

    Thursday, August 03, 2006

    SUSA Poll Trend Lines

    Blue Mass. Group points to the August SUSA poll, the first one of its kind since the tragic ceiling collapse in the I-90 tunnel. Deval Patrick still leads with 35%, followed by Chris Gabrieli with 30% and Tom Reilly with 27%. The race appears to be tightening slightly from last month. Here are the trendlines:

    One interesting thing to note about the SUSA poll: aside for the month of May, shortly after Gabrieli went on the air, Deval Patrick has stayed at almost the same level of support since March -- between 35 and 37 percent. That is not completely surprising to me, but you would think after all this time there would be some movement in one direction or the other. As for the other candidates, Chris Gabrieli has to be happy with his continued upward trend, and Attorney General Tom Reilly's downward slide seems to have leveled off for the time being.

    By the way, CBS4's Jon Keller makes the following statement on his blog:
    In the last few days, I've had the chance to discuss the Democratic gubernatorial primary with two experienced political operatives, one a liberal Democrat, the other a conservative Republican, whose opinions I respect. Both have said the same thing -- they think Deval Patrick may already have the votes in hand to win this race. Even a math idiot such as yours truly can do the arithmetic -- in a three-way race, 33% plus one vote wins. Today's CBS4 Fast Track is just the latest in a series of polls to show Patrick at or over the 33% mark, and the man has yet to spend a dime on TV ads.
    It's not quite that simple; just getting a third of the vote does not guarantee a win. No matter how big the field is, the only way to be absolutely certain of victory is with 50% + 1. For example, let's say that Patrick gets his 33.4% of the vote, the remaining 66.6% need not be distributed equally -- Gabrieli might get 35.3% with Reilly getting 31.3%. In a race this tight, those numbers are not far fetched, either.

    Put another way, the general is going to be a three way race. Does anyone really think that the winner in November will only need 33% of the vote?

    Wednesday, August 02, 2006

    Sad News for Gabrieli Family

    The Associated Press is reporting that gubernatorial candidate Chris Gabrieli's mother, Lilla Gabrieli, passed away this afternoon.

    It's never easy when a loved one dies, and I can't imagine what it would be like while you're under the microscope of a campaign. My condolences go out to the entire Gabrieli family.

    Some Republicans Ready to Give Up Already?

    Earlier today, GOP News suggested that Kerry Healey should throw the Governor's race and spread her vast fortune around to legislative candidates instead. The idea is that we Democrats will screw things up so badly in four years that a GOP legislative victory would be near assured in 2008, and Republicans could easily reclaim the corner office in 2010. Local blogger John Daley is waiting for someone at Blue Mass. Group to respond, but for now he'll have to settle for a third stringer of Massachusetts progressive blogospheric discourse. Herald Reporter Jay Fitzgerald also also posts his thoughts which are worth reading. The consensus seems to be that this would be a monumentally foolish idea.

    As an unrepentant supporter of one of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates, I'm tempted to cry "Don't throw us in the briar patch, Brer Fox!" but I think we've had enough of Uncle Remus for the time being. Look at it this way, without the governor, the highest elected Republican official in 2007 would be State Senator Richard Tisei (R-Wakefield) assuming he succeeds the retiring Senate Minority Leader Brian Lees (R-East Longmeadow). Who will be the advocate for the Republican point of view in the absence of any statewide officeholder? They risk being completely shut out of the public discourse.

    Let's forget for a moment that the GOP tried something similar in 2004 and was stingingly rebuked, losing a total of three seats in their effort. Forget even that 2008, the year that the GOP blog expects to make legislative gains, will be a presidential election year and hordes of Massachusetts voters will be coming out to vote for the Democratic candidate. Forget also that this year Massachusetts is poised to have the fewest percentage of contested races this year of any state in the union. If the Democrats were as hopelessly out of power as the Republicans are, I would also call for a renewed focus on the Legislature -- though I would never suggest abandoning the chances of winning an open seat. In fact, there are tales of repentant Nader supporters from 2000 who thought that teaching the Democrats a lesson and casting a protest vote for Ralph would do the same thing that the GOP News folks suggest, namely if Bush ended up winning he'd screw things up so bad (he did) that people would be begging for progressive leadership (how'd that work out in 2004?).

    One thing that no one mentions is apart from the wisdom of this strategy, the very idea that Kerry Healey would take a dive for the state GOP is ridiculous. The Massachusetts Republican party is a wholly owned and operated subsidiary of Affiliated Managers Group, and its CEO Sean Healey. Electing Kerry Healey governor is now its sole purpose, just ask Christy Mihos who had to leave the party because he could not count on them being honest brokers. He's not the only one to be frustrated by the Healey takeover, either.

    The other thing is the fallacy that it's easier to win an election without media attention. Dan Kennedy noted this as well. In the absence of other information, people are more likely to vote for the party than the candidate. While it's true that voters unenrolled in any party make up the plurality of voters in the Commonwealth, that doesn't really tell the whole story. In January, I took note of a Gallup survey on party identification which found that the majority of voters in Massachusetts lean Democratic (big surprise, right?). While unenrolled Democratic leaners may be swing voters in a gubernatorial election, in the absence of other information, they may be more likely to vote for a Democrat. This jives with the electoral experience of Massachusetts -- low profile races almost always go to the Democrat, unless they're legislative seats in highly Republican areas.

    That all said, I think some of our Democratic legislatures could use some competition, if only to remind them that they still have to earn our votes. It's never good for politicians to get too comfortable.

    Tuesday, August 01, 2006

    Deadline Today For Minor Party Signatures

    Today at 5:00PM was the deadline for independent and minor party candidates to submit their signature petitions to town and city clerks to be checked against the local voter rolls and certified. There are (at least) two candidates this year who are affected by this deadline.

    Christy Mihos and lieutenant governor candidate John Sullivan likely will have the signatures needed to get on the ballot, having paid Spoonworks Inc. a total of $85,000. Fellow gubernatorial candidate Chris Gabrieli paid Spoonworks $82,500 in May, and the state Republican party paid them around $70,000 for a number of their candidates.

    Grace Ross of the Green-Rainbow party, however, does not have the luxury of paying for signatures. Last week, the party sounded the alarm as they feared they would come up short. Now, according to Ross, the Greens have already had 3,760 signatures certified by town clerks and as of yesterday they planned to submit an additional 9,400 by today's deadline. I don't know if they made their target, but even if they did, they would still require about 2/3 of those 9,400 signatures to be certified. That's not impossible, but it's certainly cutting it close. If they fell short of their goal or if too many of those signatures are invalid, the Green Party will not have a candidate for governor on the ballot.

    Thursday, July 27, 2006

    Ruminations on Campaign Advertising

    In the original Manchurian Candidate, Raymond Shaw, played by Laurence Harvey, says:

    "Have you noticed that the human race is divided into two distinct, irreconcilable groups? Those who walk into rooms and automatically turn television sets on, and those who walk into rooms and automatically turn them off. You know, the problem is, they usually marry each other."
    This has certainly proven true in my life. I am the former, while my wife is the latter. I'm trying to moderate my viewing habits, but more often than not the television ends up on in our house, if only as background noise.

    You would think that with the TV on so frequently, I would be inundated with campaign ads from Kerry Healey, Tom Reilly, and Chris Gabrieli, the three candidates for governor who have gone on the air. Certainly, in May it felt like I couldn't turn my head without seeing Gabrieli on TV. Still, the thing of it is, I've hardly seen any of them. I think I've seen them more often on the news being discussed than when they actually paid for them to be shown.

    Maybe it's because it's summer and I'm going outside more, or because there's absolutely nothing worth watching. I think that's part of it. It's harder to predict what people are going to be watching when everything on is crap. (Again, my wife disagrees.) Still, it got me thinking about the future of campaign advertising.

    It used to be that there were only a handful of channels, so buying ads was easy. Now, there are hundreds of channels, so the audience is more diluted. While most individual network shows beat any individual cable show in the ratings, when taken as a whole, cable is a significant portion of the viewing audience. The advantage, of course, of this dilution is that you can target your ads to specific groups by advertising on a station that caters to them. This was something that President Bush did in 2004, but I don't think any of the gubernatorial candidates have attempted in Massachusetts.

    The other thing that may change political advertisements is the change in the way we get our TV. For instance, as Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) like TiVo or on-demand services become more popular or more people start getting their TV shows over the Internet or on their iPods, it's going to become more difficult for candidates to reach viewers. Product advertisers don't necessarily have the same difficulties, because they can always partner with content providers. For instance, The Apprentice is just an hour long commercial for Donald Trump and whatever sponsor the contestants have to shill for that week. A candidate does not have the luxury of product placement, unless he or she goes on talk shows. The way to stop people from fast-forwarding through your ad is to make it more interesting. From what I've seen so far, the candidates here have a lot to work on in that regard.

    One of the more innovative things a candidate has done with media so far this year was when Democratic Lieutenant Governor Candidate Andrea Silbert posted her campaign video on Comcast's On Demand in July. I'm curious as to how many people actually watched it. It reportedly only cost the campaign $3,900 -- a tiny fraction of what a real media buy would cost -- and I wonder what the final cost-per-viewer ratio turned out to be. My hunch is that few people bothered to watch, but perhaps as on-demand services become more widespread more candidates will turn to this method.

    Don't get me wrong, TV ad buys are still a huge part of any political campaign. In the future, though, the candidates who first adapt to technology changes will have the advantage.