Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

So far the biggest hit of the holiday season has been a tupperware container full of synthetic wine corks. I hope you and yours have a happy holiday.

Post Christmas Update: Other big hits included: a full box of tissues, an empty box of tissues, a pratice golf ball, the letter "I" from a wooden puzzle of his name, my in-law's cable box, and his godmother's Roomba.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mihos/UMass Pollster Violated Ethics Laws

When I first heard about the UMass-Lowell pollster Louis DiNatale having violated conflict of interest laws by conducting polls for UMass at the same time he was conducting polls on behalf of then gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos, I immediately thought of this poll, which I noted at the time was a big wet kiss to Mihos. That poll, however, was a Suffolk University poll, not a UMass poll. The UMass poll DiNatale conducted while he was on Mihos' payroll was this one, which was of the candidate vs. candidate variety.

Looking over the poll results, it's hard to conclude that DiNatale let his connection with Mihos bias his results at all, so it's probably just as well that his only punishment for the conflict of interest was publicizing that he'd violated the law. Still, one wonders what conflict of interest laws are for if there's no penalty for breaking them.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Mayor of Chicopee Must Really Want Casinos

Now that I've been to a number of Democratic State Conventions, it's not uncommon for me to get all sorts of political mail. Today, when I came home, I found that between my wife and myself, we had gotten not one but four brochures from the Mayor of Chicopee, Michael Bissonnette, with the header: "Resort-Style Casinos: For our Towns. For our towns. For our cities. For a better Massachusetts." Now, I understand that it's a hassle to go through your database and make sure you're only sending one piece of mail to a household -- I did this myself during Susan Falkoff's campaign -- but unless Mayor Bissonnette thinks that the number of mail pieces we get will reflect just how much he wants to be able to have a casino in Chicopee, there's really no reason we should be getting four.

The piece itself describes resort casinos as "a predictable and reliable source of local aid" and details just how much our cities and towns need revenue. It claims that resort-style casinos would "create upwards of $500 million in new annual tax revenues" -- above and beyond the revenue generated through job creation -- and notes that we "can't keep paying for schools, public safety, and roads and bridges in Connecticut." All in all, it makes a good case for increased local aid, but it really avoids the question of whether resort-style casinos are the best way to go about increasing such aid.

If anyone wants a copy, let me know. I have plenty of extras.

[UPDATE]: wbennet over at BMG called the mayor's office to find out who was behind the mailing. The answer was, of course, a lobbying firm: The Dewey Square Group.

Preview of Grove Street Condos

Last week I trudged out in the storm to try to go to a hearing on the condo complex being proposed for the Grove St. Aggregate site by the Hanover Company. The meeting was canceled -- which was the right move given the road conditions -- but thanks to Chris over at the TAB's blog, I was able to find this artist's rendition of what the new property may look like:

You can find the picture on Hanover's website. I think this would be looking at the building from Grove Street, with Coolidge Hill Road going up the side. The complex as pictured is certainly more appealing than the Aggregate site is now -- largely piles of dirt and rock -- but I remain concerned about the trend in Watertown of turning commericial property into residential.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Weekend Baby Blogging

I've seen two seperate comments to the Watertown Tab blog attributing Susan Falkoff's victory in Tuesday's Town Council election to some kind of Watertown liberal "machine". Having been involved in that campaign, I can show the world an exclusive picture of the machine most responsible for her win:

As you can see, it's clearly fallen into the wrong hands.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Susan Falkoff Campaign Video

[Cross posted to H2OTown]

Part of the reason that I have been absent frm this blog lately is because I've been working overtime on friend-of-the-blog Susan Falkoff's campaign to return to the Watertown Town Council. It's just under a week until the election and the campaign has released this video on Youtube. Check it out:

It's a little long, but it's a great way to see why Susan is running for Town Councilor-at-Large and it features testimonials from Don Levy at the Town Diner and some other families in town. I think Susan's really the only candidate who has much of a website, and if you haven't seen it yet, click over to www.susanfalkoff.com right now. There is great information about who she is and why she is running for Town Councilor-at-Large.  Susan even has a  campaign blog.

Election Day is next Tuesday, November 6.  If you contact the Susan Falkoff campaign at falkoff2007@aol.com, they can help you get to the polls.

Happy Halloween

Dressed up as tigers for Halloween.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Election Day in MA-05

I feel a bit bad that after I paid such loving attention to the Democratic primary race in Massachusetts' fifth district I've gone missing for the entire stretch of the general election. Unfortunately, the triple pressures of a baby, a full-time job, and yet another campaign have left me with little time for blogging.

In any case, today is the day that voters of the fifth finally decide who will replace former Congressman Marty Meehan. Democrat Niki Tsongas (interviewed here) is favored to win over Republican Jim Ogonowski, though the race has been close by Massachusetts standards. Really, though, nine points is a comfortable margin in a competitive race. I can't see Ogonowski winning for three reasons -- he has been incomprehensible on SCHIP, I don't think he can match the Democratic Party's GOTV operation, and Unenrolled voters don't tend to vote in special elections at the rate he would need them to. There's always a chance that enough Democrats would cross party lines because of immigration or some other reason, but I have yet to see evidence of that in a Federal-level race in Massachusetts. Historically, Democrats are much loyal to their party's nominee for Federal office than for state or local office.

In any case, if you're able to volunteer for Tsongas today, Blue Mass Group has some ways to help.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Upcoming Watertown Events

There are a couple of interesting events over the next couple days here in Watertown. First, on Thursday (tomorrow), Sept 27th, the Watertown Democratic Town Committee will be meeting at 8PM in the lower hearing room of the Town Hall. Senatorial candidate and former Watertown resident Ed O'Reilly is scheduled to speak at that meeting. O'Reilly is challenging current Senator John Kerry for the 2008 Democratic nomination. I met him briefly during the unveiling of a memorial to his father, the late Watertown Fire Chief Robert O'Reilly, and I'm interested to hear why he's decided to take up such a seemingly impossible task.

On Friday, frequent guest blogger Susan Falkoff is having her campaign kickoff party. The event will be held from 7 to 9PM at the home of Barbara & Jeremy Ruskin, 140 Spring Street in Watertown. Susan is running to return to the Town Council where she served from 2004 to the end of 2005. For more information on the event, see her website, and be sure to check out her campaign blog.

On Saturday, from 10AM-4PM in Watertown's Saltonstall Park, the town will hold its annual Faire on the Square. Last year, then-gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick, fresh off of his primary victory, came and was a big hit (Kerry Healey was scheduled to attend as well, but stood the town up). This year, the Watertown Democratic Town Committee is conducting its first presidential primary straw poll at the Faire. I will be manning the booth for most of the day, so if you're attending, stop by, cast your vote, and say hello.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Weekend Baby Blogging

The Honorary Ringbearer, looking sharp.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tonight's Sawins Pond Community Meeting

Tonight I went to a presentation of the results of an initial Phase II Comprehensive Site Assessment of the Sawins and Williams Pond property located at Arlington Street and Coolidge Avenue here in Watertown. Sawins Pond is privately owned and the assessment was carried out on behalf of the property owner. Both ponds are currently contaminated and fenced off. They're filled with muck, barrels, and a lot of old rubber from the former BF Goodrich site which used the pond as a landfill. Any potential cleanup would not be financed by the town. The assessment was tasked with finding the potential sources of contaminants. Their scope was limited to PCBs, metals, petroleum products, etc, and they did not look at any biological contaminants such as human or animal waste. There were about a dozen people in attendance.

The company doing the assessment, Vineyard Engineering, took 17 sediment samples, six soil samples, surface water from five locations and groundwater from 14 onsite wells. The water in the ponds is only a few inches deep on top of several feet of muck and during the sampling, Vineyard did not get the sense that there was any current dumping going on.

Fifteen of the sediment samples had high levels of PCBs, particularly in the western part of Williams Pond, close to Elm St. There was not as much where the water's deeper, but PCBs were found in the sediment throughout both ponds. Metals found in the sediment followed the same profile as PCBs. The found higher than acceptable amounts of six metals: Cadmium, Copper, Lead, Mercury, Nickel and Zinc. EPH (petroleum) and SVOC (semi-volatiles) concentrations were found in Williams Pond and under the Arlington street culvert. Ten volatile organic compounds were also found, with acetone most prevalent (though thismay be caused by natural anaerobic fermentation processes). Gasoline leakage from motor vehicles may be a primary source of some of these compounds.

So, while the sediment seems to be extremely contaminated, the surface water was a different story. There were no PCBs detected in the surface water. This was mostly expected, as they don't tend to enter the water body very easily. Only five metals were detected in the water, with nickel the most common at low levels. A little bit of arsenic was also present, but not mre that would be expected in an urban environment. There was no apparent source of either, however. In addition, the surface water contained no petroleums, only small SVOCs at very low levels. No volatile Petroleums or Organic Compounds apart from Xylene at low levels.

The soil tests revealed no soil PCBs apart from one boring with a very small amount. There were slightly elevated levels of Beryllium, Chromium and Nickel (with no explanation). There were surprisingly low levels of Lead and Mercury in the soil, considering the high levels in the sediments. One soil sample smelled of gasoline and had high levels of VOCs. There was so much rubber on the site, it's impossible to not get any rubber in your sample, but that was outside of the scope of the project.

As for the groundwater, no PCBs were found. There were only trace levels of Arsenic and Zinc, well below the standard. Only Xylene was detected above the risk standard.

The study concluded that the North bank of Sawins Pond needs further evaluation, as does the source of Petroleum-related hydrocarbons. That may be reflective of garbage that fills the pond, or it may be runoff from the road. The representative from Vineyard noted that a likely source of the PCBs was a 1983 release of about 500 gallons of PCBs into the ponds from a nearby Boston Edison (now NStar) facility. They did a cleanup then, the levels they found after the cleanup are consistent with what we have today. In addition, in 1979, there was an oil spill in Sawins pond. There have apparently been many releases on the NStar property. NStar may be responsible for cleanup of the sediments.

I spoke briefly with the presenter after the meeting, and he noted that any such cleanup of the sediment would cost millions of dollars, and he couldn't speculate on what the end result would look like. After all, the woods around the area would have to be cleared for roads so that trucks can be loaded with the toxic muck and cart it away. He imagined two craters where the ponds once stood after all was said and done. Alternatively, they could "cap" the sediment and divert the water into culverts that would lead to the Charles River. In any event, it may take another century to return Sawins Pond back to the condition it was when a fancy hotel sat on its banks over 100 years ago.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

So This is How it Ends

I've seen enough movies to know that this can't be good:

Villagers in southern Peru were struck by a mysterious illness after a meteorite made a fiery crash to Earth in their area...

Seven policemen who went to check on the reports also became ill and had to be given oxygen before being hospitalized.
When we're all dying of some space flu, or turned into zombies, or fighting off the blob, casinos will be the least of our problems.

Rolling the Dice

Yesterday, I returned from out-of-state to find that the Governor has submitted a plan to allow three casinos in Massachusetts. I'm not particularly bothered by gambling, though I will admit that if opening a casino in the Boston area ends up closing down the Keno parlors in my neighborhood, I will not shed a tear. Anything that causes fewer discarded scratch-off tickets to end up in my driveway can't be all bad. Indeed, I think in the short term these casinos would be a boon -- there's the up-front licensing fees, the construction jobs, and once they're built, the casino jobs themselves. I'm less convinced of the ongoing revenue that the casinos would provide the state, these large companies all seem to have a way of cheating the state out of taxes, but on balance the plan the Governor has put forward is a sensible way to bring casino gambling to the state.

The bigger question is whether we even want to bring gaming to Massachusetts. A majority of residents polled usually support it (58% percent most recently). That said, I imagine that the results would be different if residents were asked whether they wanted a casino in their own town. I do think, however, that those who say that casinos would "change the character" of Massachusetts for the worse are engaging in a bit of hyperbole. A couple of resort casinos aren't going to turn Massachusetts into Nevada. Inevitably, the places that host the casinos will change, but the impact of any resorts on the state as a whole will be small. The bigger question is whether you can control the genie once it's out of the bottle.

Of course, it would be silly to ignore the social ills that seem to come hand-in-hand with casino gambling. The advantage of the resort-style casinos that the Governor is proposing is that many of the tourists coming to these resorts will take the cost of these ills and costs back home with them. That would not generally be the case if the state just, for example, let Suffolk Downs put up slot machines. The big disadvantage of a resort-style casino, however, is that the economic benefits are not generally felt in the surrounding area. A casino's interest is to keep you on their property, close to the gambling floor, and never more than a few feet away from a slot machine. If you leave the grounds to go to a neighborhood restaurant, they've lost that potential revenue. So, while a resort casino may bring more tourists to an area, the number of visitors to local businesses is likely to decrease. This is what makes me very skeptical of any plan to revitalize New Bedford with a casino.

It seems to me that if someone fritters all of their money away on gambling, it's no different than if they had maxed out all their credit cards on designer clothes, electronics, or Faberge eggs. Is sitting in front of a slot machine all day really any different than sitting in a Keno parlor (now legal) or the track (also legal) or day trading on the stock market? So, yes, while I'm sympathetic to the idea that compulsive gambling will increase if we have casinos, it seems to me that anyone with a bus pass or an Internet connection can already do all the gambling they want. Frankly, I'm more concerned about the side industries that flourish along with casinos -- loan sharking, prostitution, money laundering, and other crimes -- not to mention the inevitable corruption that accompanies large sums of money changing hands. I think the Governor is being a little naive when he says that we're going to tackle those problems better than anyone else ever has.

What bothers me is the pattern the Governor seems to be following on these big decisions. For both his casino proposal and the budget, Gov. Patrick went into seclusion for weeks and then emerged with a fully-formed policy. Sure, he sought council from legislative leaders, from advisors and commissions, etc, but I never thought that they were the "We" in "Together we can". It's worrisome to me that the Governor had more inauguration parties than public meetings on expanded gaming. In the time after his election, Patrick often talked about how he wanted to convert his grassroots organization into a vehicle for grassroots governing. One way to do that would have been to include the grassroots in his decision-making process.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Middlesex, Suffolk & Essex Primary Day

Today is the primary for the Middlesex, Suffolk & Essex Senate seat formerly held by Sen. Jarrett Barrios. The race features four Democrats competing for that position: Cambridge City Councilor Anthony Galluccio, former assistant district attorney Tim Flaherty of Cambridge, Chelsea City Councilor Paul Nowicki and Cambridge civil rights attorney Jeff Ross. For more information you can read my interview with Ross or my reports of the debate in Charlestown last month and the debate in Cambridge last week. Galluccio is seen to be the favorite by many because he's run this race twice before and should have the highest name recognition throughout the district. That said, in a low-turnout special election anything can happen.

There are no unenrolled or Republican candidates in the race, so barring a massive last-minute write-in campaign, the winner of the Democratic primary will be the next Senator from that district.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Weekend Baby Blogging


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Liveblogging the Middlesex, Suffolk & Essex Debate

I'm at Lesley University for the last debate in the race to replace former Senator Jarrett Barrios in the Middlesex, Suffolk and Essex state Senate district. The debate is sponsored by the Cambridge Democratic City Committe, and it's about to begin. The candidates are Cambridge City Councilor Anthony Galluccio, Chelsea City Councilor Paul Nowicki, Cambridge attorney Tim Flaherty and Cambridge attorney Jeff Ross. Former Mass. Attorney General Scott Harshbarger is moderating, and it looks like questions will be submitted from the floor. The election will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 11th.

The debate is in the Porter Exchange in Cambridge. Outside the building, Flaherty and Galluccio seemed to have the biggest sign presence, and with the traffic in Porter Square, they got a lot of visibility. I recognize a number of familiar Cambridge activists in the crowd, which is quickly reaching the capacity of the small auditorium.

Harshbarger kicks off the proceedings with thanks to the University and the audience and gives a few brief remarks and compliments the candidates for their committment to serve by being an elected official. He asks how each member of the audience is going to get out the vote, noting that it's not the candidates' responsibility, but that of all of us to encourage our friends and neighbors to go out to vote.

The debate will be three parts -- opening statements, candidate-to-candidate questions (personal or general), audience submitted questions. Rebuttals are not allowed unless Harshbarger deems them necessary.

Opening statements
Anthony Galluccio: First, thanks to Scott Harshbarger. Tonight is about "you being sure" about who to vote for. He's given most of his adult life to public service, elected official, coach, mentor, etc. Reflect back on his service in Cambridge. The city deserves a resident state Senator.

Tim Flaherty: Harshbarger is correct when he says the "election is about you." He's a lifelong resident of Cambridge from a family with a tradition of public service. He's also a former prosecutor and talks about his work in the Norfolk DA's office. He's worked in Govt and outside of Govt. Three priorities: Not letting Harvard overrun Alston/Brighton, fully fund promis to put 1000 officers on the street, fund life science initiative.

Paul Nowicki: Thanks to everyone. The only candidate not from Cambridge, suggests that everyone should stay home on election day (in jest). He's be honored to earn the votes of Cambridge voters. The Senate position requires someone with experience with diverse communities and diverse interests. Chelsea is the most diverse community in MA. He's been on the City Council for 15 years, president for four terms. District needs someone who can unite a diverse community.

Jeff Ross: Thanks to everyone. It's the most diverse group we've seen. We have a new opportunity for Govt to "reflect our shared values". He spent three years at the Kennedy School. He sued the Romney administration when they tried to change the RMV rules. That's the type of leadership he will provide.

Candidate Questions
Tim Flaherty to all candidates: He's been endorsed by the Globe, the Chronicle, the Somerville News, etc etc. His question, is there anything in his personal or professional life that would cause embarassment to those who endorsed him?
PN: His whole life has been about integrity and character. There's nothing anyone would be embarassed about.
JR: No. He told the Globe that if they endorsed him, it would improve the reputation of the Globe. He talked about some immigration case in Texas he helped with.
AG: He's proud of his life experience. Thanks to voters for making the campaign about issues. His life has been a "complete life experience". He's shared his successes and mistakes. His misteps have made him a stronger person and a better elected official. His life has been "far better documented" than others.

Paul Nowicki to everyone: He's not running for re-election to Chelsea City Council and will be a full-time state senator. Will wou stop practicing law if you win? Will you withdraw from the Cambridge City Council?
JR: He's an attorney in Boston, and has been working full time on this race and his practice is running itself. He will continue to be involved in the practice, but he will be a full-time state Senator. He's been very engaged as a lawyer, so he has time to do these things.
AG: He will not hold two jobs. He will fill out the rest of his City Council term, but if elected to the senate, will not accept a nomination to another term on the City Council.
TF: He hasn't made any business decision. "Practicing law isn't a profession, it's who you become. It's how you live your live." All of his time will be consumed by the Senate. If there's time left over, he'd like to practice law, but if he can't he won't.

Jeff Ross to everyone: Casinos. He'd vote no if there was a vote today and he was a Senator. Do the other candidate support it?
AG: No. He is not supported by gambling interests. The jury's not out on this issue. He has no opposition, but he's not a supporter. The "where, when and how" have to be looked at. He'd work with the admin to find the real cost/benefits. He will watch it very closely, but is not currently a supporter.
TF: Comes at the issue from a law enforcement background. He knows about the dangers of gambling. He belives that gambling is coming to Massachusetts eventually. How do we be smart about it? How to we minimize the social harms and maximize the benefits? Need education and traffic studies. Need to link revenues to education.
PN: Chelsea has been the "hotbed" of economic development. He says "yes" until negative impact has been proven. He doesn't gamble. He says it will bring jobs, improve capital assets. This is one way to relieve burden on taxpayers.

Anthony Galluccio to everyone: Today he met with biotech leaders. He's called for a forum in each community to support after-school education with young people and families. How would you get to know young people across this district?
TF: he's knocked on doors all across the district. In Charlestown, he said he'd get the drugs out of Charlestown. There's not a single treatment bed available in Charlestown, he'll change that if he's elected.
PN: He's already invested in the public school system. He has two kids in public schools. That will be a focus for him. He's in favor of extended school days. He's done work with community-based after school programs in Chelsea. He's been a youth volunteer adn a sports coordinator in Chelsea.
JR: He was in Bellingham Square in Chelsea, and he saw the promise of the future in the kids crossing the street who came up to him. He wrote a letter to the lege for overrides of funding line-item vetos. Towns and cities need resources for after-school programs.

Audience Questions
Q: Follow-up on casino gambling. How many believe they are supported by people who support casino gambling? Why has each independent study shown that in Massachusetts there are no benefits?
PN: No casino interests have donated to his campaign. Rep. Bosley says we will lose our historical and educational character. He doesn't believe that. We have to know the answers to how many police officers we need, how much traffic we can expect. We need to knoew the answers to this.
JR: He will be an independent voice. He doesn't owe any political favors. In 1971, the lottery was supposed to bring money back to cities and towns, but that didn't happen. He doesn't support casinos and is not supported by casino intersts.
AG: He's more interested in seeing the life sciences expand, working on literacy, etc. He's upset about the focus on hot-button issues. Casino gambling is not a priority, housing, education are priorites.
TF: He doesn't have any casino entities supporting him. He's raised some money, but there isn't anyone who can contribute $500 that will change his mind about anything. he doesn't need this job. He's happy with who he is, but he wants the job so he can impact the state in a positive way. We need to be smart now to protect our interests and prevent harm. He'll be beholden to no one.

Q: Education reform. What changes need to be made? What is wrong with MCAS for urban public education? How does change further provide quality education?

JR: He has two kids in the public school system. They lose interest in repetitive MCAS studying. We need to value teachers. Doesn't support ending MCAS. It has good points, students who score highly get scholarships. He supports giving incentives to teachers for after school programs.
AG: Having chaired a school committee, he's come a long way from supporting MCAS. It should not be the sole criterion. A standardized test is not the answer. How far has a student advanced over the course of a year? Those are the types of evaulations we should be looking at.
TF: MCAS is a good minimum standard. It's not the way to measure a child. Curriculum directed toward passing a test is not the way to educate a child. People on Brattle street and in Charlestown care about the same things. People in urban districts love the MCAS.
PN: MCAS should not be the sole provider. Administrators, educators should be held accountable. People who are in the school system have an advantage over transitional students who come in mid-year.

Q: Would you favor moving the cap for charter schools? How would you address inequities in the charter school funding formula. Is the agenda dictated too much by the teachers unions?

AG: One of my faults is my honesty with interest groups -- this cost him endorsements. He's not in support of extension of charter schools. He wants to see energy spent improving public schools. He'll be honest with you.
TF: Charter schools are problematic because the dollars leave the public schools. If a private company comes, they can run a for-profit school. Where are the overages going? They're public dollars.
PN: We should keep the cap until we figure out the funding system. They should be a seperate line item. Teachers should be held to the same standard as public schools. there should be open information. What does well in each school, they should share information? It's about improving education for all children, regardless of public or charter school.
JR: This is a question that effects real families. He's met a family with children in both types of schools. There should be a moratrium on charter schools. We should continue to reinvest in public schools.

Q: We spend more money on corrections than public education. How would you make the choice between these two? How would we raise revenue?

TF: When he ran for DA, he opposed capital punishment and mandatory mimums for drug offenses. Dollars should be spent on diversion, full day kindergarten, after school. We need to spend money on education to catch problems before they occur. If he's elected, the first thing he's going to do is fund a study commission to see how much it costs educate a student in Massachusetts.
PN: We need to close corp. loopholes. We need to look at gambling. We should have local options for meals & hotels. In Chelsea, the community was on fire, under siege by gangs. They put more cops on the street, firefighters, hazmat. They reduced homeowners insurance. They focused on alcohol & drug rehab, etc.
JR: We need to increase funding for higher ed. We should create a muni. bond for stem cell research. We need to look at the root of crime and reduce it at the begining. 85% of people who are released are repeat offenders and drug abusers. if we create a broader approach, we can reduce the burden on prisons.
AG: Crime is a local issue. health care is a local issue, affordable housing, etc. We have a responsibility to support young people in our communites. A state senator should get to know the young people of the community. he will intercede on behalf of at-risk young people.

Q: The last two state senators had "contrasting styles". What is going to be your style? Which of these two would you emulate most?

PN: He's not one to draw attention to himself. He's a street worker. He sits with people, solves problems with community input. He'll have community advisory groups made up of residents. He will be in the communities day-in and day-out.
JR: Both Senators have brought unique styles. he will be an independent voice and create a more inclusive legislative process. He speaks four languages so he can serve the entire district.
AG: He's going to be just like Jarrett. He'll be a liberal in Cambridge, and be "Italian as hell" in Everett. There's only one candidate endorsed by papers in Everett and by the Mass Alliance.
TF: He will emulate the best of each of them. They were both committed. He hopes to emulate someone like Alice Wolf (who is present) or Tip O'Neil. That's what the Boston Globe was saying when they endorsed him.

Q: You have focused on programs, but some of you have rejected casino gambling. How will you find the revenue? What positions will you take on increasing taxes in interest of progams you support.
JR: We need to close corporate loopholes, like the telecom loophole. We need to look at ways for communities to raise their own sales and meals taxes. Would support raising the income tax on high-income individuals.
AG: there are families in this district who are very nervous about tax increases, on fixed incomes, etc. Mass. does not have a progressive real estate tax structure. We have to address those on fixed incomes. We can do that if we stand up to wealthy intersts.
TF: He would begin the argument about a progressive income tax. There are people who are impoverished. People in Everett are concerned about taxes. He'd close the telecom loophole.
PN: He would support closing the loopholes, it would give us about half a billion dollars. He need more economic development -- set higher environmental standards. Job training programs in exchange for tax breaks. When you hire, people should come from the community.

Q: Businesses feel like they do not get a fair shake in Massachusetts. Our Universities in particular. How do you see the expansion of Harvard into Allston?

AG: As co-chair of the Riverside development committee, he got consessions from Harvard. There is a way to put Harvard's feet to the fire and to link Allston to the University. He's the only candidate who has experience doing this.
TF: With all due respect to Harvard, he's not worried about their future. They're paying the City of Cambridge very little. People aren't opposed to Harvard, they just want to save their neighborhood. Hopefully the University will understand they can coexist.
PN: He has 15 years experience dealing with urban development in densely populated areas. He takes credit for building 15,000 units of housing in Chelsea. He would work to stop the expansion until the concerns of the neighbors are met.
JR: The neighborhood is not opposed to the expansion, but opposed to the procedure that the University has not been following. The University violated the trust of the community. They need to follow the proper procedures.

Closing Statements
AG: Good speeches don't get things done in Government. He helped create the best affordable housing program in the state. They made literacy a priority. that happened through tenacious advocacy. This is everything he's ever done in his life. It would be an honor to represent Cambridge in the Senate.
TF: This is about your communities, your future. The protagonist in the Greek tragedy that is American politics is you.
PN: Integrity, courage does matter. You want a leader who rebuilt a community from the ground up. He was a leader in restoring Chelsea from where it couldn't get any lower to someplace good for families.
JR: Elections are about choices. He's running for the people of the district who have problems. He'll be there for you.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Who Won Where?

The Boston Globe has a list of the Fifth District election results by city and town, and I thought it might be instructive to see what that looked like on a map:

The results make sense. Barry Finegold won his hometown of Andover, and Jim Miceli won Tewksbury, which he represents. Jamie Eldridge won a group of small towns that overlap with his state rep. district. Eileen Donoghue won Lowell and the surrounding towns, including Methuen where she had the support of Sen. Steven Baddour (D-Methuen). Niki Tsongas was able to take the primary by racking up victories in Lawrence, Haverhill and Concord and coming in second in almost every community she didn't win (except Boxborough).

The general election for the seat will be October 16th, where Tsongas will face Republican Jim Ogonowski and three third-party and independent candidates. Tsongas will likely be the heavy favorite in that contest give the district's typical Democratic swing in Federal elections. Given that, it will be interesting to see how much the national parties get involved. Neither, I'm sure, wants to spend much money on a sure-win or a sure-lossm, and in particular Ogonowski must be careful that he doesn't get too heavily linked with President Bush or the national Republicans, neither of which are particularly popular in Massachusetts as a whole or the Fifth District in particular.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Niki Tsongas Wins MA-05 Dem. Primary

The results are in and Niki Tsongas, widow of former Senator Paul Tsongas, has won the special election to replace former Congressman Marty Meehan. Tsongas managed to hold on despite a late surge from Eileen Donoghue, who closed what had been a double-digit gap in the polls to just five points on primary day. Here are the results from the Boston Globe.

What's interesting to me how close the actual results were to the most recent SUSA poll, despite all the disclaimers that polling for a day-after Labor Day primary would be mostly meaningless. Here they are lined up:

 9/4 Result8/30 Poll
Niki Tsongas36%40%
Eileen Donoghue31%29%
Jamie Eldridge14%15%
Barry Finegold13%9%
Jim Miceli6%3%

Every candidate was within four points of where they polled, and they finished in the predicted order.

Primary Day in MA-05

Today is primary election day for the Fifth Congressional district. There are two certainties today: one, that turnout will be very small, and two that Jim Ogonowski will win the Republican primary against challenger Tom Tierney.

Regular readers of this blog (if there are any left after my unscheduled two-week hiatus) will know that the real race is in the Democratic primary, where recent polls show Niki Tsongas with a healthy, but shrinking lead over Lowell City Councilor Eileen Donoghue, with the rest of the field a distant third, fourth and fifth. The low turnout, however, would seem to work against the frontrunner Tsongas if her opponents' supporters are more motivated to come out. Presumably, every supporter of another candidate has been contacted by one of the campaigns or is at least interested enough to follow the race. The same cannot necessarily be said of those who support the candidate with the highest name recognition. I expect, though, that Tsongas will will today's election, but perhaps by a smaller margin than predicted.

Update: Dick Howe has some preliminary information about turnout, and the unsurprising consensus is that it's going to be low. The city of Haverhill reported a total of eight absentee ballots!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Interview with Jeff Ross - Candidate for State Senate

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk with Jeff Ross, a Cambridge human rights attorney who is running in the Sept. 11th special election to replace former Senator Jarrett Barrios in the Middlesex, Suffolk and Essex state senate district. Ross is up against Cambridge City Councilor Anthony Galluccio, Chelsea City Councilor Paul Nowicki, and Cambridge attorney Tim Flaherty. I contacted all four candidates, but Ross is the only one so far who responded to my request for an interview.

Ross touted himself as an independent progressive voice for the legislature, one with fewer ties to the political establishment. He noted that environmental problems were among the most important that the district, and that bringing clean energy jobs and technology to the area would be a priority. To that end, he supports Governor Deval Patrick's plan to invest a billion dollars in high-tech and would consider tax incentives for companies looking to set up shop in Massachusetts. That said, he also favors closing corporate tax loopholes.

While Ross does not favor deregulation of the auto insurance industry in the Commonwealth, he would like to see more competition and more companies moving into Massachusetts. He also spoke of the need to fully fund our health care system, particularly our public hospitals, and the expansion of state immunization programs.

One of his more unique suggestions was the idea of setting up issue-based councils of advisors so that the various communities in the district could share information and collaborate on solutions to similar problems.

In addition, Ross noted his support for the Urban Ring and North/South Rail Link projects and favors raising the bond cap for infrastructure repairs. He notes that apathy among youth is a pervasive problem and would like to see more after-school community programs, a Boys and Girls Club in Everett, on demand treatment facilities for substance abuse, CORI reform and job training and development programs. While he told me that he supports merit pay for teachers, he is not in favor of lifting the cap on charter schools until the funding formula can be fixed.

If you're interested in supporting Jeff Ross' campaign, his website can be found at www.ross4senate.org and his campaign email is info@ross4senate.org.

Read the full interview inside
Q: Your website touts you as the progressive Democrat in the race. What makes you the progressive choice, as opposed to the other candidates?

I think being the progressive choice means that I bring a unique combination of real-life experience coupled with legislative writing, drafting, and advocacy. I'm not supported by any special interest groups. I don't owe any political favors, so I will be an independent voice for the will of the people in the legislature. I've also got years of pragmatic consensus-building experience, working on legislative issues and meeting with advocacy groups, and drafting and whatnot. I feel like a progressive democrat is somebody who has fewer ties to the political establishment and who's a consensus builder and who has a unique ability to look at social problems in the course of life and try to figure out how to solve them if it requires a legislative issue or to be involved in unlawful rule-making and to try to stop that, like the Registry of Motor Vehicles in the previous governor's administration.

For me, and for the people I've spoken to in the community, a progressive is somebody whose politics looks forward, who's young, fresh, new, and who tries to realize solutions. And to keep these solutions moving forward, and try to build consensus. So that for me puts the progress in progressive. Also, advocacy on behalf of those who are most at risk for injustice.
Q: You said that you wanted to seek out solutions. What are the most important problems in this district that require solutions?
Well, I think that we're looking at serious environmental problems in the world today and in this district, and I think the solution would be real clean energy solutions like the wind project, which is a real clean energy solution. Once that's built there's little maintenance, no pollution, and long-term effects.
Q: Do you support Cape Wind?
I support Cape Wind, and I think that it's a real clean energy solution, unlike some other alternative energy solutions that may use solar energy, may have short term panel or chemicals in them have, in the long term, it's uncertain how other forms of energy will affect the environment, and I think that Cape Wind is a real clean energy solution, and I like it, and I think that the question is where.
Q: Do you see any opportunities for wind or solar energy in your district?
I do, because off the coast of Charlestown there is. Massachusetts is one of only two states that have an alternative wind project, and it's a wind turbine that will be developed off the shore of Charlestown, and that's right in the district. So I'm excited that we'll have the opportunity to do that, to develop it, and I think that Massachusetts can be a leader in product services and technology worldwide, and something like that will bring interest and investment into Massachusetts, and the technology sector has a great tax base for growing the economy, so I support the governor's interest in investing a billion dollars in technology.

I think that partnerships with technology companies are not something that requires legislative rulemaking, but requires outreach to companies and incentives for companies to come to Massachusetts. I think we're on the verge of an era in politics where we have the opportunity for the government to reflect our shared values and I think that developing technology is around the corner in terms of the future.
Q: What would you do to encourage technology companies to come to Massachusetts in general and in particular, to locate in your district?
If possible, I think that tax incentives can be provided, and I think that building relationships with companies that might be considering moving here. Part of it is tax incentives, which is a state issue. Part of it is reaching out and building relationships with companies and bringing them to Massachusetts and introducing them to people in the community and talking about our intellectual capital base and facilitating those relationships to deepen interest in development in Massachusetts.
Q: Do you have experience doing that sort of thing?
I've spent years reaching out to different communities and trying to build relationships in communities. I worked at the US Embassy, at the training program in 1994 which was developing relationships between US companies and French distributors so that we could help the United States businesses export technology to Europe -- trade shows and making introductions and advocating on behalf of US companies. I've also written articles on export licensing controls to help keep United States businesses from exporting technology by hiring foreign national workers and keep jobs in the United States, and educate the companies about the HR requirements and licensing controls that exist, and as they're amended, so it's something I've been interested in for a long period of time. Also, I think that I could be quite useful in that area in the district.
Q: You mentioned tax incentives, and the governor has proposed closing corporate loopholes. But he's also proposed lowering corporate tax rates in exchange for that, so it would be revenue-neutral. What do you think about that?
I think we need incentives for companies to come to Massachusetts and to create jobs. I think that some of the exemptions, like the telephone company exemption, are arcane, outdated, and the quality of service we're getting in Massachusetts from broadband providers is very low compared to the cost to the state and cost to end users. I think we need to close those loopholes. Now, in terms of getting companies to come to the state and create jobs and help grow our economy, we need to have incentives for those companies to come here.
Q: One group of companies that has wanted to come here for a long time is out-of-state auto insurance companies. Now the issue of auto insurance reform is being revisited. Do you have any thoughts about those reforms?
I think that more companies would provide more competition, in terms of the rates.
Q: So you would be in favor of letting companies set their rates with fewer restrictions than we currently have?
No, because that would mean an increase in rates. I think we could let more companies come in and sell more affordable insurance and compete for services in the community. I think people in the community are feeling overwhelmed with the cost of insurance and rising prices, so I think bringing in more competition in that area. I don't think that we need to lift price restrictions because I think that will let companies charge more and buy each other out. When we're looking at insurance reform we need to be mindful of the end user and people in our communities that are struggling with the cost of insurance.
Q: Of course, the big cost of insurance that people are concerned about is not auto insurance, but health insurance.
We need to fully fund our health care system.
Q: Do you think our state's new health care law is working?
I think it's a good place to start. It needs additional analysis, additional legislation. I think that one of the problems with the way the health care system is set up now is that we have one remaining public health care system in Massachusetts and that's Cambridge Health Alliance. It's in financial jeopardy -- the state owes it $150M and the MassHealth pool is not fully funded, so I support fully funding it.

I think the state has made strides in raising the requirement of poverty up to 300% of the poverty level, because it includes additional families. A family of 4 needs to make $60K a year to participate in the MassHealth program, which I think is good because it will cover more people, but it needs to be funded so that the public hospitals don't bear the burden of absorbing those costs. That puts the whole system in jeopardy and I would be in favor of protecting the system and creating access to health care and preventative care so that people don't end up in the emergency room. I think that we should have immunization programs from children and seniors more readily available.

Part of the problem with the way the law is written now is that companies are penalized $295 for not providing health care to their employees, and $295 sounds like an incentive because the cost of providing health care for employees when you have more than 11 would presumably be higher than $295. It's written so that companies who opt out pay a penalty, and I think that large companies should pay into a pool so that companies that are right on the cusp of being required to cover their employees and are struggling have a pool to draw from so they don't end up closing and so the state doesn't lose jobs.
Q: Does that conflict with what we were talking about earlier -- trying to provide incentives for companies to come here, if we're increasing their costs?
No, that's going to be a cost, but in the larger balance of equity maybe people would locate here and get set up and get access to state resources to set up their business here, so I'm not sure they should get exemptions for health care. They could get exemptions for setup, other tax exemptions. We have to balance out our interest in creating jobs and providing incentives for companies to come here with workers' rights. That would be a question I would focus on as a state senator.

I don't have all the answers. There are going to be new issues that come up all the time. I feel that it's important for a state senator to be able to get communities involved and create dialogue around the issues, and that's a skill that I provide, bringing consensus and building relationships so that people can work together to find solutions. To me, progressive is a nice liberal label, but to me it means getting to the end result.
Q: It seems like a difficult job getting communities together in this district particularly because it's so spread out -- going from Brighton all the way up to Saugus. In fact, I found out the district is in the Massachusetts Common Cause's Gerrymander Hall of Shame because of its shape. Would you support legislation to move redistricting out of the hands of the legislature?
A: I would support the appointment of a council for redistricting. I would also, if elected, create a council of advisors across the district on health care, education, technology, art, human rights...
Q: What would those advisors do?
They would meet and talk about what's going on in their district. There are seven cities and they can learn from each other. Saugus is struggling with their budget, and they have a diverse body of new residents and Everett has taken great time and effort to count and keep accurate records of the new residents that are moving in and what the language needs are, and what special needs are. Because of that, Everett got $4M back this year for some of their education programs, for some of their ESL and special needs work that they need to do. If Saugus reached out to its community that it could benefit in a similar way.

Creating a council of people who share their experiences about what's going in other areas of the district could be enlightening and beneficial for residents and help build a sense of community in a district that's ethnically and economically diverse. I'm very excited about the prospect of working with the challenges that such a spread-out district presents.

Chelsea needs to be brought into transportation planning in a way that's equitable and would help create an infrastructure. I support the Urban Ring project, I think it should be underground and should be done right the first time, it should go to all of the communities and serve them all equally, and that will help develop the economies of all the communities.
Q: You also support the North-South Station rail link. In light of the Big Dig and all the problems we've had with the large public works projects, do you think there's an appetite for more of that in Massachusetts?
I think that the federal government and the state and local governments are struggling right now because the federal money is being drained off the states so I don't think it's a realistic project in the short term. I think it would be optimal, and public works projects create jobs, they create tax revenue, they create economy, they keep people working, they keep people in their homes, so I'm not opposed to public works projects.

We got a lot of federal money that would not have come to Massachusetts, for the Big Dig, that we otherwise wouldn't have gotten. I certainly think that public works projects could be better managed than the Big Dig was. A public works project doesn't have to be poorly run and poorly managed. There was a time in this country when public works projects got us out of the Depression and created some of our greatest assets, the Hoover Dam, etc., so I don't think that public works projects are necessarily the big evil. I think [apathy] and lack of interest in our youth are the big evil out there.
Q: Do you support lifting the state bond cap to pay for infrastructure repairs?
Absolutely. We have an urgent need to repair our roads and bridges, and I think that building infrastructure helps to grow the economy and improve the transportation system. The Tobin Bridge is falling down and residents are worried about crossing the Longfellow. We desperately need to look for revenue to keep our infrastructure. We need to continue to invest in maintaining the infrastructure and not wait until projects are desperately in need of repair because the cost is greatly increased by prolonging investment.

The previous governor's administration talked ad nauseum about maintaining our bridges and our roads, and we're still in the same position that we were, four years later. We need somebody in there who is not divisive, who's going to continue to build relationships and work to build consensus to move things forward.
Q: Earlier you said the great evil was apathy among youth. What can be done about that?
Well, in Everett, they need a Boys and Girls Club, and a place for kids to go recreate with supervision. We need on demand treatment facilities for substance abuse. We need CORI reform and job training and development programs, so that youth are occupied during the summer. In Chelsea, Central Latino recently got $200M slashed from its budget, line-itemed by the governor's office. Those are funds that keep kids involved in community projects, give them something to do, and build a sense of community responsibility and belonging to a community like Chelsea that has a huge problem with gang violence. Slashing those funds -- in summer, we're going to have more kids on the street with working and struggling parents and less to do. We need to have workforce training and development programs, we need to have youth centers and keep kids involved.
Q: What would you like to see the schools themselves do, if anything?
I'd like to see longer school days and stipend incentives for teachers -- merit pay -- to stay after school and get kids involved in science and technology. There's a great program statewide, the Massachusetts Science and Engineering Fair, that's a great opportunity for kids from communities to get involved in something that will help them go to college.
Q: Do you also support raising the cap on charter schools?
I think until we can find funding charter schools without draining public school resources, we should have a moratorium on expanding the charter school system. I've met parents who are very happy who have children in both. Some children don't function well in the public school environment, so I think the charter schools we have are a good alternative, but I don't think that we should be draining resources off our public education system. I'm product of the public education system, my children are in the public school system, and I think that we need to continue to invest in our future and invest in our children.
Q: Lastly, what's your stance on Marshmallow Fluff?
We did a study on my campaign team, with the fluffernutters, and we took a poll, and we all agree that we like fluffernutters and that we value the jobs that the Fluff company creates in the district. Everyone agreed that we should also look at school lunches and make sure that school lunches provide our children with the nutrients they need to succeed.
Q: How can people get involved in your campaign?
They can email us at info@ross4senate.org, or visit our website at www.ross4senate.org.

Another Special Election in the Cards

It had been widely rumored, but now it's confirmed. State Senator Bob Havern (D-Arlington) is resigning to take a position with a lobbying firm. Havern represents the The Fourth Middlesex District, which includes the towns of Arlington, Billerica, Burlington, two thirds of Lexington, and all but one ward of Woburn. This means another special legislative election will have to be held over the winter. He's also the third high-profile state Senator to leave before his term is up this session. The other vacancies so far this year alone have been:

  • Rep. Jim Leary resigned to become then-newly elected Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray's chief of staff.
  • Rep. Bob Coughlin resigned to become the undersecretary for business development in the Patrick administration, a job he's now leaving to become president of the Mass. Biotech Council.
  • Senate President Robert Travaglini left his post to become a lobbyist.
  • Senator Jarrett Barrios resigned to become the head of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation.
  • Rep. Anthony Petruccelli had to step down from his seat in the House after he won the election to replace Trav in the Senate.
And of course, that doesn't include former Congressman Marty Meehan, who announced his resignation early this year and who formally resigned from the Congress over the summer to become Chancellor of UMass Lowell. If one of the three state reps looking to replace Meehan happens to win that election, there will be another special election early next year to fill that vacancy.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

ADL Recognizes Armenian Genocide (Mostly)

One week ago today, the Watertown Town Council broke off ties with the Anti-Defamation League's No Place for Hate program due to the refusal of the ADL to call what refer to the massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire as genocide and reports of the League's lobbying efforts to defeat a Congressional resolution that would recognize the Armenian Genocide. Since that time, this amazing chain of events has occurred:

Of course the ADL has not changed its stance on the Congressional resolution that would recognize the genocide as such. They still oppose it as something that would endanger Turkish relations with the US and Israel, as well as Jews living in Turkey. I understand these concerns, but isn't it somewhat worse to acknowledge the genocide but then claim that we shouldn't do anything about it because it's too contraversial? This strikes me as a half-measure, though it is at least a step in the right direction. The ADL's credibility has really suffered during the course of this controversy, and while they claimed that it was not one of their own making, every response they made to critics seemed to be formulated to generate the maximum amount of outrage, miring them deeper. One would expect more sensitivity from an organization created to combat bigotry and promote understanding.

On the other hand, former regional director Andrew Tarsy managed to come out of this looking like a hero. He did the right thing by refusing to wait for the national group to recognize the genocide, and he lost his job because of it. He took a lot of criticism here in Watertown for toeing the ADL line, and I'd like to think that part of the reason he changed course was because he came to town and met with the people the ADL's stance was affecting. If he had not called on the national ADL to change, it's unlikely that they would have done anything.

There's a lesson in this, and I think it's the opposite of the one from last week's Watertown Tab editorial. The Tab's editors looked at the situation as of last week and decided that it was evidence that Watertown should not get involved in "national or international issues". Leaving aside whether fighting bias is not a local issue (my personal experience in Watertown says that it is), I think that sentiment is exactly backwards. What this episode proves is that the measures we take in local government can, in fact, change the world. A 94-year old organization referred to the killings of Armenians during World War I as a genocide for the first time today in large part because our town council stood up to them.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Weekend Baby Blogging

I can hold the spoon all by myself!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Globe Discovers Fifth District Race

Yesterday, the Boston Globe had a front page article on the race to replace former Congressman Marty Meehan in the state's fifth district. The piece focused on some of the methods that the candidates are resorting to in order to get people's attention over the course of a special election that no one seems to be following. I thought it was particularly ironic for the Globe because part of the reason that no one is following this race is that the Globe just hasn't been covering it. Sure, there have been occasional articles, and some columns (mostly about candidate Niki Tsongas), but the Globe's coverage of the race has been substandard when compared with in-district papers like the Lowell Sun and Lawrence Eagle-Tribune.

That may be changing. After yesterday's article, five stories about the race appeared on the Boston.com local politics blog -- the first posts to that blog in more than two weeks. In addition, the Globe had a story today covering yesterday's fifth district debate in Haverhill. The Demcoratic candidates for this seat have had what seems like hundreds of these local debates across the district and it's rare that the Globe even sends someone to cover them, let alone prints an article afterward. I hope this is a sign that the race will be getting the attention it deserves from the region's largest paper.

Now, if we can only get the Globe to cover the special legislative elections...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

SUSA Poll of MA-05

Via Jon Keller comes the latest WBZ4/SUSA Fifth Congressional District poll. This, I believe, is the first poll done by an independant firm for the race to replace former Congressman Marty Meehan (D-Lowell). The results showed candidate Niki Tsongas as the frontrunner, as expected, while Eileen Donoghue, Barry Finegold and Jamie Eldridge are roughly tied for second place. Barely registering (in fact, below "other" and "undecided") is Jim Miceli. Here are the numbers:


Now, some may find it surprising that the number of undecided voters is so small in the SUSA poll. I've discussed this about SUSA before, but the reason for that is two-fold. Part of it is the question that's asked: "If the Democratic Primary for U.S. House of Representatives were today, and you were standing in the voting booth right now, who would you vote for?" That question encourages the respondent to make a choice. This is appropriate, in my opinion, because if people are undecided on election day, they're likely to stay home. This is particularly true of a special election where only one race will be on the ballot. It's also important to remember that these respondents are those SUSA considers likely voters. People who support a candidate are certainly more likely to vote than those who do not.

Of course, since this is a special election the day after Labor Day, any likely voter model is practically guesswork. The only people who I expect to come out to vote in the primary are people who have been contacted by a campaign. The winner of the race is likely to be the candidate who has done the best voter ID and is able to drag their supporters out on the first day of school.

Also interesting in this poll was the fact that 66% of the respondents disapproved of the job Congress is currently doing and 82% said the country is going in the wrong direction. These opinions, however, had no bearing on their choice for Congressional representation.

In other MA-05 polling news, I just got a notice from Eileen Donoghue's campaign touting the fact that their internal tracking poll shows them just six points behind Niki Tsongas. Their own polling also has Donoghue winning Lowell by a better than two-to-one margin and winning among "voters who have made a final decision on a candidate". Given how different this is from the public poll, I'm skeptical. The timing suggests that the internal poll was released to counter the SUSA poll, so take these numbers with a grain of salt.

Question of the Day

How badly do you have to screw up an election cycle to not get hired as a Washington lobbyist?

I guess if there's hope for Brian Dodge, the now-former director of the Mass GOP who oversaw last year's devestating losses for state Republicans, there's hope for anyone. I wonder if his search for a way out is the reason that so many Democrats have gone unopposed in special elections this year.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I am Not a Lawyer

If I were, I might have known this:

1819. That’s the year state lawmakers last updated penalties for corporations convicted of involuntary manslaughter, the charge now facing a Big Dig epoxy supplier. Consequently, the maximum penalty is $1,000. Lawmakers want to stiffen the law, but it won’t matter in this case, because the attorney general is bound to the law on the books at the time of the tunnel collapse.
And taken it into account in the post I wrote Friday. It makes sense, but it also means that if Martha Coakley comes down with involuntary manslaughter charges for any of the other Big Dig companies, she'll be stuck with the $1,000.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Weekend Baby Blogging

Daddy and Grandpa prove incapable of putting the Exersaucer together correctly.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Another Blow to Fall River LNG

Weaver's Cove Energy, the group attempting to put a liquified natural gas terminal in Fall River, has been dealt another setback. This time, it's the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, which rejected the company's request to dredge Mount Hope Bay. Weaver's Cove needs the bay dredged because it's currently not deep enough for the huge LNG ships that would need to travel the channel. This is apparently even after the company agreed to use the smaller ships necessary to travel under the Brightman Street Bridge -- necessary after the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation prohibited federal funds from being used in the bridge's destruction. From the Providence Journal:

Along with denying the application because it was incomplete, the DEM said it also found the scope of the project "had substantially changed" and that Weaver's Cove "had failed to provide adequate information to enable the department to determine the exact nature of its project or how the project is viable" following a May 9 U.S. Coast Guard letter "effectively denying the project."
While the company has gotten approval from the Federal Government for the project, state and local officials have consistently opposed the project and the Coast Guard has also expressed skepticism. So far, however, Weaver's Cove has pushed forward despite all the opposition. I can't help but wonder, however, if the company had started the siting process for a different location years ago, when it was apparent that Rhode Island and Massachusetts officials would try to kill this project by any means necessary, that they would be ready to build at a different site. At what point does it become not worth it anymore for Weaver's Cove to keep fighting? LNG opponents will certainly be trying to delay the project until that time.

Friday, August 10, 2007

First Things First

Yesterday, the Boston Phoenix's David Bernstein had this to say about the $1,000 criminal indictment faced by Big Dig epoxy supplier Powers Fasteners:

[I]t was pretty clear at yesterday afternoon's press conference that AG Martha Coakley wanted to use the indictment of Powers Fasteners as an impetus to spur the state to change its ridiculous cap on criminal penalties for corporations. Good for her.
Today, it looks like that's exactly what's happening. From the Boston Herald:
With an angry public demanding justice in the tunnel disaster, top state lawmakers vowed yesterday to stiffen an ancient 1819 manslaughter law that could let a Big Dig company get off with a meager $1,000 fine if found guilty in the death of Milena Del Valle.

"Clearly, we've got to take action," said State Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), who vowed to file legislation within days. "If we're going to have criminal sanctions, they need to mean something and they must match the seriousness of this situation."
While some may be clamoring for Coakley to take down the major players in the Big Dig investigation like Bechtel/Parsons Brinkerhoff, Gannett Fleming, or Modern Continental, it makes perfect sense to me for her to wait for the legislature to raise the absurdly low cap before going public with any charges against those firms. Can you imagine the outcry if Bechtel were the company facing just a $1,000 fine? Hopefully the legislature will act quickly to update the manslaughter penalties for corporations.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Media Coverage of Senate Debate

While the big Boston dailies completely ignored this past Monday's State Senate debate in Charlestown between candidates looking to replace former Senator Jarrett Barrios, some of the area's weeklies came through with reports on the event.

The Charlestown Patriot-Bridge has a good synopsis of the event, though they did not manage to include information about which candidates actually made the ballot. In addition Bay Windows has a long profile of the race, including the candidates' support of LGBT issues. That did not end up being much of a topic in the Charlestown debate, but it promises to come up in next week's debate in Cambridge on August 16th.

Unsaid Word Speaks Volumes

Guess what word is missing from the letter to the editor in yesterday's Boston Globe by Anti-Defamation League New England Regional director Andrew Tarsy and Regional chairman James Rudolph?

Give up? It's "Genocide".

Not to belabor a point I made earlier this month, but if I had been accused of Holocaust Denial by the ADL and then came back and said "many groups have experienced horrific atrocities" as a way of explaining myself, I'm not sure that anyone would find that answer satisfactory. I'm sure that Tarsy was surprised by the controversy, but he keeps digging himself and his organization deeper into it with each statement he makes to the local paper. It would have gone a long way toward quieting the uproar if he had simply used the word "genocide" to describe what happened to the Armenians under the Ottoman Empire instead of dancing around it with "massacre" and "suffering".

Governor Holding Cards Close to his Chest

Governor Patrick, you don't need to show your cards yet, but we're going to have to see your hand before you get any payoff. People already think that the process is rigged in favor of casino gambling -- and in some cases, they're probably right -- that you need to be sure that everything you do is completely transparent. You can hold on to the casino study until you make your final decision, but if you don't release it people are always going to wonder what was so awful in there that the public wasn't allowed to read.

[Update]: Now that I've had some time to think about it, there is one scenario where it makes sense to keep the casino report private. If the report recommends allowing casinos and also lists concessions that the state must seek from Indian tribes and casino developers, it does make sense to keep those under wraps until such time as the Governor gives his Yay or Nay. There's no sense in giving casino proponents extra time to prepare for the eventual negotiations. Still, this report should be released when Governor Patrick makes his decision on whether to allow gaming in Massachusetts -- even if his eventual position is at odds with the study's recommendations.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

How to Dislodge an Appointee

Today, the Boston Globe noted that John Moscardelli, a member of the Turnpike Board, has resigned, giving Governor Deval Patrick free reign to appoint a majority of the board. Why did Moscardelli resign? He wasn't speaking to the media, but this says it all:

Moscardelli, who was appointed to the board in 2002, resigned a month after a change in state law stripped board members of several perks, including health insurance and a $25,800 annual stipend. It was the only state board that paid benefits, state officials said.
Coincidence? You decide.

Question of the Day

What crumbling infrastructure?

Four Candidates Left in Race for Barrios' Seat

Yesterday the Cambridge Chronicle reported that four candidates remain in the special election to replace former Senator Jarrett Barrios. Here is the final list of candidates, all of them Democrats:

I exchanged an email with Laurie Leyshon, the only other candidate who had submitted signatures, to find out why she was not on the ballot. She told me that she had collected enough signatures -- more than 700 -- but one of the sheets was disqualified because of an incomplete address. She said that she is "absolutely devastated" and is currently considering her options. I'm not sure there's anything left she can do, however. To my knowledge, the SJC has already upheld the seemingly capricious rules regarding signature petitions (one stray mark and the whole sheet is disqualified!?). Frankly, I'm a little disappointed. While I did not expect Leyshon to win the election, I did think that Monday's debate was better for her presence in it.

[Meta-Update]: I'd just like to note that according to Blogger this is my 756th post. And I did it all without any blogging-enhancement drugs, too.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Senate Candidates Debate in Charlestown

Last night, I attended the state senate debate between candidates vying for former Senator Jarrett Barrios' seat in the Middlesex, Suffolk and Essex District. The debate was held in Charlestown and was sponsored by three local organizations, Friends of the Charlestown Navy Yard, Charlestown Business Association, Charlestown Waterfront Coalition. As you might imagine, local issues dominated the discussion. The candidates, as mentioned previously, are Chelsea City Councilor Paul Nowicki, Cambridge attorney Tim Flaherty, Cambridge attorney Jeff Ross, Cambridge City Councilor Anthony Galluccio, and Cambridge teacher and activist Laurie Leyshon. The debate was moderated by Michael Jonas of MassINC's CommonWealth Magazine.

The debate, I thought, was well attended for a special state-senate election debate. I estimated at least 80 spectators, most of whom seemed to be Charlestown residents. Outside the debate, Ross had the biggest presence early; his (mostly young) supporters carrying signs and wearing matching T-Shirts. Flaherty supporters were also out, but I didn't notice anyone for the other three candidates (I got there a little early to get a seat by an outlet!). I did notice that Leyshon and Ross seemed to be the ones who worked the crowd inside before the debate began.

The debate was largely cordial, with the candidates agreeing on many of the questions asked, particularly on the need for community involvement in development issues. Nowicki was the most forceful in his support for casino gambling in Massachusetts, and Ross was the only one who said he would not seek state funds to match city funds for Charlestown Navy Yard, but all were skeptical of MCAS as a graduation requirement to varying degrees. None of the candidates had anything particularly nice to say about the Boston Redevelopment Authority. There were only a couple of pointed moments during the two-plus hours. Earlier in the debate, Flaherty had mentioned that he wanted the seat because now was "a new and exciting time in Massachusetts politics." Galluccio countered later that he "wanted this job when it wasn't a new and exciting time in Massachusetts politics" and that he'd had the most time to think about the needs of the whole district. Also, having the last word in the debate was Paul Nowicki, who in his closing statement noted that he is proving his commitment to the district by declining to run again for his safe seat on the Chelsea city council. Unspoken, of course, was that this is in contrast to Galluccio, who is running for re-election as a Cambridge City Councilor at the same time he's running for the special election.

On style issues, I thought Galluccio, Nowicki and Flaherty were the most polished, though the two city councilors had more to say on their specific accomplishments in their respective cities and I felt like they could relate better to the problems of Charlestown residents. Galluccio noted that he wants to be "like a City Councilor, but with more power' and that he'd go to every community meeting in the district. Frankly, I don't see how that's possible given the insanely gerrymandered district comprising nine communities spanning three counties -- is he really going to go to every meeting from Brighton to Saugus? If he can't, he shouldn't promise it. Leyshon came off as very approachable, and I felt afterwards that she must have talked to half the neighborhood in preparation for the debate. She also, however, came off as very "Cambridge" and I'm not sure how that plays in the rest of the district. Ross has an interesting and varied resume, but he seemed much more comfortable when the conversation turned to statewide issues rather than the minutia of city planning.

Blow by blow below the fold
(anything in quotes should be accurate, consider anything else paraphrased)

QUESTION: Do you support the bill establishing a director of Tidelands and Great Ponds? How can MA ensure waterfront access?

Laurie Leyshon: Says she has a strong interest in environmental issues. It's important to designate tidal areas. The people of Charlestown should have the ultimate say in what happens to their access. She's heard over and over -- you're not represented by someone who lives in Charlestown. [Of course, none of these candidates in Charlestown, either -- sco] It's important for people to have ownership in their community. We need to have a sustainable approach.

Anthony Galluccio: It's crucial that legislature maintain power over the coastal areas. Chapter 91 has should be strengthened. This is an opportunity to elect someone who follows Barrios. He's cautious in delegating away authority. Main charge to protect Chapter 91.

Jeff Ross: Supports designation of a director. He will be involved in the future of the waterfront & what the development will be. We need to make sure the waters aren't becoming polluted. He supports the expansion of green space in Charlestown. He will work with the community.

Tim Flaherty: Chapter 91 was watered down during the Dukakis years. DEP allowed buildings to take place. Need to have clarity on that issue. The legislature has intended to 'seek clarity' after the SJC decision. Waterfront is greatest natural resource. Supports the legislation.

Paul Nowicki: Also would support the legislation. Chelsea waterfront is dilapidated. We've worked hard to bring it back. Proponent of open dialogue. He demanded to open process when a power plant wanted to move to Chelsea waterfront and has a history of dealing with waterfront development. Salt piles -- DEP has failed to regulate them. We've worked to bring them 'under the umbrella'.

QUESTION: Business health is not good in Charlestown. They're losing storefronts. Parking is always an issue. How to balance residential parking needs with commercial parking needs?

PN: We face that in Chelsea -- it's densely populated. To deal with existing businesses, you need to open up dialogue. For new development -- minimum of 1.5 parking spots for each person that goes in. They did a study in 1995 in Chelsea. He talked about a new development with 90 units, but spots for 36 cars. Supports requirements for parking for all new developments.

TF: We have to balance Quality of Life issues. He lives in Harvard Square, so he understands parking issues. Having neighborhood restaurants is a benefit. Supports a requirement for densely populated districts that valets be available during certain hours so business will have to provide parking.

JR: There's a study coming out that is going to look at best use of Charlestown along Main Street. The question lies with the community. What types of mixed-use buildings should there be? He would be an advocate for residents.

AG: He brought Zipcar into Cambridge. No one has gone to more meetings around development. Harvard, MIT, these are routine issues. Senator would be very similar to a city councilor in seven communities. Show up to meetings, etc. Neighborhood has to decide on development vs parking.

LL: Ultimately the citizens of Charlestown need to decide these. Residents need support from Representatives & Senators. Need to 'look outside the box' for solutions. Residential parking and parking for residents are different. A lot of residents may need to walk to the restaurants. She doesn't drive and would look into having better municipal transit. What about shuttle buses that run frequently at times when people want to go to dinner? A lot of unused space under Rt 99 and the highways where you might put in parking spaces. Study what other cities do for parking. "Make it fun for people" to take transit.

QUESTION: MA is 47th in spending on state parks. DCR merger has been done in name only, hasn't worked well. All parks are suffering. How would you change this?

AG: Worked for Sen Robert Wetmore, who had a reputation for protecting state parks. GOP administrations were not very supportive of open spaces across the state. He initiated an open-space fund in Cambridge. Would like to eliminate MBTA storage spaces. He would be a strong advocate for reinvesting in public spaces.

JR: Charlestown has one of the most important parks in MA. Lately there have been many crimes in the park and the surrounding area. The challenge is funding so rangers and police can make the parks safe.

TF: The DCR is symptomatic of 16 years of GOP governorship. Across the board things have been underfunded. Open space is important -- that's a quality of life issue. We need to reinvest in state park system. Not just the DCR, all across the board. The crime lab -- 16,000 pieces of evidence not processed because they're underfunded? Where to get the money? We need to prioritize.

PN: In Chelsea, they made a requirement that open space be provided with new developments. He got funding for the Chelsea Soldier's Home because he made it a priority. The GOP admin have depleted everything. He's not in favor of privatization. Prices will skyrocket and the people who need / want it the most are going to be priced out. He would work with municipalities to make sure the state property is taken care of, finished being built, etc.

LL: The park is the heart of the community. Parks everywhere in the state are in trouble. We have to take care of them. They reflect how we feel about people's lives. It's a matter of pride. The state should close corporate loopholes to pay for them. 1,100 corps that earn $100M and only pay $456 a year in taxes. Wal-Mart doesn't pay taxes here. "Wal-Mart is not a church. It should not be tax exempt." Combined revenue is at least $340M. That pays for a lot of things.

QUESTION: Education -- it's five years since MCAS became a grad requirement. Supporters say it boosts achievement. Critics say it's an impediment. What's your position on MCAS?

JR: Has two kids who go to public school. Son studying for MCAS (5th grade). He's bored by the repetition and not learning. As a parent, he doesn't like it. Teachers need to have more discretion. There are benefits. Kids at the highest levels get benefits. We don't need to eliminate it. Supports bill to scrap it as a grad requirement.

TF: Don't know that he would support bill. Know a little bit about it. Education "changed my life". Is MCAS the best way to test a kid? He's not sure. Teachers are penalized if their teachers don't grade well, so of course the curriculum is geared toward teaching to the test. There's a place for music, arts, PE. The State Constitution is "a very interesting document" -- says that MA must, for the "preservation of rights and liberties", provide for public education.

PN: Does not believe in test as soul requirement. He has two daughters in Chelsea public schools. It's imperative to focus on broader scope of what schools do. Education is important. He would work to make sure that anything that comes out of Beacon Hill is fully funded. He'd also like to expand the school system -- early childhood education, after school programs.

LL: "I am actually a teacher." She would support the legislation. A child's entire portfolio should be taken into consideration. She started an art school in California because art was eliminated in the public schools when she lived there. As a teacher, the way you connect with children is to cater the lesson plan to each child. Kids should be excited to go to school. MCAS kids are not excited. She worked on the achievement gap task force with Boston Public Schools. You have to have freedom -- if children need more time on one subject, you have to take that time.

AG: Spent 13 years on public schools -- he's "obsessed with public schools", and at-risk kids. He's been endorsed by Mass. Federation of Teachers. Portfolios are a better determinant. However, MCAS did improve public schools in Cambridge. He's the only candidate that has chaired a school committee and negotiated a teachers' contract. The MCAS is not as important as things like extended school days, bullying, etc. Let's move on to real-important issues.

QUESTION: Infrastructure -- Do you support prioritizing renovations in Charlestown? How do you prioritize as a legislator?

TF: Look at the netting under the Tobin Bridge. It's to catch lead paint chips. Do we want to suffer a tragedy here? This is an emergency situation. Romney improved the cape commute so people could get to their beach houses. What about Charlestown? There should be a capital bond immediately for Sullivan Square. There should be mitigation for building a stadium.

PN: Back in 1994, he sat on the charter commission in Chelsea. Chelsea went into receivership. Capital improvement was very important -- they put 5 year capital improvement plans in the charter. Legislature needs to make sure that there is a process that there is prioritization of infrastructure improvements. Make sure there is community input and that improvements are done by needs, and not by who's the loudest voice. There should be a comprehensive plan, not piecemeal.

LL: We don't have a choice but to make sure our bridges are kept up. Look at the Big Dig. We have old bridges where no one is accountable, but with the Big Dig there was a lack of accountability in the construction. There's a lot of money that's still due the state. We should close the corporate loopholes so there are more funds. We can't afford to take the risk. Sullivan Station needs a lot of work. It's not a pleasant place to go to, but it could be a vital center.

AG: Not only would he fight for funding, but he'll be at every neighborhood meeting. He recognizes the "whole picture". He is not going to be a senator that spends a lot of time on Beacon Hill -- but will be a neighborhood senator. Roadways are a disgrace. Long term planning is a disgrace. This is true of Charlestown, Everett, Chelsea, Somerville. Look at pedestrian crossings. The district needs development that makes sense -- residential housing density, low-level retail, etc. There need to be long-term plans. That has to be the charge of this senator.

JR: The state needs to look for ways to reinforce the infrastructure. Federal money is being drained off. We should look at public-private partnerships for funds. We should have mixed-use zoning planning.

QUESTION: Boston Redevelopment Authority - What do you think of its dual role as development agency and planning agency?

PN: In Chelsea, the city had no checks and balances. This caused problems in Chelsea. Those are two areas that should be separate. Look in the navy yard. It's important to have separate entities. When you're changing the landscape of the community, the process has to be open, accessible, inclusive so everyone respects the end product.

LL: She's been in the area for six years and never seen anything like the BRA anywhere else. She's never seen a city where you have a planning commission where there's no oversight. The BRA is astonishing in that it just does "whatever the heck it wants to do" She's heard this over and over again and would work to get that changed. People have to have the ability to control what happens to their communities. Where does the BRA money come from? They deal with this all over the city -- Roxbury, etc. City needs to also look at green building.

AG: Cambridge has an independent planning board. It was shocking to see the difference in Charlestown. He wouldn't pretend to be able to overhaul the Boston City Charter as a State Senator. Still, folks need to look to a state senator who can "exert influence over the process". He will be tenacious, relentless.

JR: The problem with the BRA is how development is approached. What needs to happen is the community should take more of a role and band together and work with councilors, legislators. etc. Communities could use some leadership in coming up with a vision and changing the perspective.

TF: The BRA has an inherent conflict. It's an inside ballgame. We need transparency in government. Why does the BRA share dual roles? He's not afraid to stand up to BRA, Mayor Menino or anyone. There's a sea change happening across the commonwealth and he wants to have a chance to take part in that. "I don't need this job. I want it"

QUESTION: Casino gambling may be on its way in MA. Is gaming the easy way out?

LL: At the heart of that question is "Why did it take us 400 years to recognize the Wampanoag nation?" We are obligated to allow them to have a casino. Whether we want to have everyone else come in, that's a "tricky issue". One casino is one thing, five is something else. She would like to study it further. On one hand are issues of gambling addictions, but the real issues are traffic, the effect on the infrastructure. Given how much the Wampanoags lost when we came here, we need to give back.

AG: "I have no horse in this race." He doesn't have any objection. Gov. Patrick has the potential to be a great Governor. He thinks we should have slot machines first, then casinos. He will take a hard look and keep an open mind, but he's not sold.

JR: State needs to look at the environmental impact. It's not clear how much money would actually come back to the state. We need to look at it as a community. What's the detriment versus the revenue?

TF: He comes to the issue from a law enforcement perspective and says he understands the social ills surrounding this issue. It's not a moral issue. Gambling is on the way in Massachusetts, but it's not going to happen overnight. This is a 4-5 year process. We need to be smart about it. We need to be able to reap the benefit of it. There are measures we can place to limit social ills. How are we going to pay for it? Expand the economy. Create real paying jobs. If gambling comes, he will make sure that the district gets their fair share.

PN: We should adopt the slots at dog tracks. Casinos should absolutely be allowed. Before you have the process of addressing the questions, you need to say yes. He has the endorsement of Rep. Kathy-Anne Reinstein (D-Revere) who has Wonderland dog track in her district. He will make sure there is community input. Let's open the doors so that we can do this in a smart way.

QUESTION: Healthcare costs are soaring. Municipalities now have the option to opt into the GIC. The law requires approval of unions, so few will. What can we do to reign in health care costs?

AG: He supports the Governor's. plan. Increasing purchasing power is one way to fight back. This is an example of middle class vs working class vs unions. He's proud at how well Cambridge pays employees. State should transition to single-payer health care. We're robbing Peter to pay Paul. We need to look globally at health care. Stop pitting people against one another.

JR: State needs to continue on working on universal health care system. The GIC bill is a good start. Everybody needs coverage.

TF: This is a divisive issue. This district is wonderful because of the diversity. Universal health care / single payer should be available for everyone. GIC process is good but a complicated process. One third of our budget is spent on health care costs. It's a budget buster and this is not going to change -- people are living longer. Paying for it is a complicated issue. Municipal partnership act is a good idea. GIC is good in the short term.

PN: He has the experience of uniting people on divisive issues. He's in favor of entering into GIC -- it would save Chelsea $1M. It's the same across the district. We should work to restore this money back to the municipalities. He created & chaired Labor Relations committee in Chelsea. They've gone from 90-10 to 85-15. That's leadership. He's in favor of Universal Health Care / Single Payer. We need to review programs on a year-by-year basis.

LL: Cambridge Health Alliance has done a good job. MGH has been providing free care. We're just beginning to get the health care situation right. We tried to get health insurance through the health care website for daughter. We couldn't find the right plan! She supports the Municipal Partnership act and doesn't want to pit private sector against public sector. Michael Moore's Sicko should be required watching for Americans. We could be so much better. We need to study what other countries are doing.

QUESTION: Do you support use of state funds to augment city funds for Charlestown Navy Yard?

JR: It's "hard to find community in the Navy Yard" because of how it's been developed. He would try to create public-private partnerships instead. It's difficult to appropriate funds so directly.

TF: Yes. The Navy Yard is a beautiful place to live.

PN: Yes. We have a history of doing similar in Chelsea.

LL: Yes. Definitely work on partnerships between the state and the city. She did get a sense of community in the Navy Yard. The walkway along the waterfront was frequently blocked. We're going to have to deal with the BRA.

AG: Sure. The next Senator should fight for state funds. A little goes a long way. The reality is we have to make the developer pay through zoning. We reduced densities in Cambridge, increased open spaces.

QUESTION: What is the most important issue facing Charlestown, and how would you help resolve this issue?

TF: The prevalence of drug use among young children. He was a prosecutor in charge of a drug unit. It's very easy to talk about being tough on crime. That's not being smart on crime. There's no intake facility in Charlestown. In 2003, the state lost more people to ODs than car accidents. There is a problem in Charlestown, Cambridge, Somerville. Let's get the drugs out of Charlestown.

PN: The drug & alcohol problem. It's the same in Chelsea, Everett, Somerville. He has a history of dealing with this for 15 years. He sponsored a Weed & Seed program in Chelsea. We need more Police officers on the street. They assist in prevention, and can act as social workers. He's worked with re-entry programs. We need funding for those programs so when people come out they have a sense of where to go.

LL: Crime. She talked to kids in the projects. They're just as worried as the wealthy people. This goes across economic lines. As a teacher, the first thing is to make sure we have mentors, after school programs, support groups, social workers for parents. More programs are critical. She did a green jobs forum with Sen. Downing, Rep. Festa. When people have jobs, they're less likely to do drugs. "Green Collar jobs, not drugs."

AG: He sees what everyone else sees. This is a pervasive problem. Where are the drugs coming from? It's not just more beds and more counseling. Charlestown has very effective programs. Every kid in Charlestown should know who their senator is. Building that relationship is the first step. He supports diversionary justice. "We're turning kids who don't think they're thugs into thugs by treating them like thugs."

JR: The problem is more broad based than just drugs. We need more first responders. In Brockton, there are similar problems. There needs to be a broad-based approach to reducing crime. You need to have counseling centers. We need transitional assistance. We need CORI reform so people can get jobs. There isn't just state money.

QUESTION: The LNG deliveries put the neighborhood at risk. Also, we are overbuilding our Waterfront in Charlestown. What are your thoughts?

PN: LNG? Get it out of here. You can't, for the sake of money, change the character of our neighborhoods. We put all those oil tanks along our waterfront. We sold out to get the quick buck.

TF: The LNG freighter is a disaster -- 3 feet on either side. We were reduced in federal homeland security funding. Other non-urban areas get more funding. The harbor pilots are not even government regulated.

JR: Charlestown & Chelsea need more advocacy to keep things out of town. There's a proposal to put LNG off the coast. The community needs to be involved.

AG: The Tobin Bridge, Oil Tanks, Rt. 99 as a dumping ground all shouldn't have happened. There are risk assessments that the public should be able to see. The Waterfont is our most valuable resource. We should be moving to residential T-Stops, not putting density toward the waterfront. He has a legacy of taking on institutions.

LL: The LNG situation is crazy. There's no such thing as an acceptable risk. Lloyds of London has insured the LNG. No one's allowed to see these assessment. We don't need to spend money on a risk assessment. They've already been done.

LL: She loves the Navy Yard and was particularly impressed with the Korean War memorial. Her father was a West Point grad, killed in action in Korea. She feels an obligation to make the country a place worth dying for. Her main interest is in the environment. He put together the Green Jobs forum in Cambridge. She's always worked as a public servant -- trying to help people, bring people together. People came to the forum because there was a desire for change. Everyone wanted to create a better place. We will have a green jobs policy for Massachusetts. She's also the Cambridge coordinator for CORI reform.

AG: Thanks to everyone. "I wanted this job when it wasn't a new and exciting time in Massachusetts politics." He's had a lot of time to think about the issues brought up today. How do we unify the town? How do we protect the skating rink? The community has become near and dear to him. Picture him when the bridge gets closed down, etc. He wants to act like a city councilor but with more power.

JR: Thanks everybody. Each area in the district has needs. He's suited to meet those needs. He's sued the RMV to stop them from implementing REALID. He's been working on civil liberty issues, particularly his work in Brockton. He cares about all the towns and districts.

TF: We've all got varied experience. We're all "progressive democrats" but he admits that he's not sure what that means. He has experience is in trying cases. "Don't vote for me because of the cases I've tried. It's not about me. It's about you, the voters." Politics is going to be done differently. We have to create real, affordable jobs. This district is a microcosm of Massachusetts. It's about where we're going.

PN: These issues are the issues he's been working on in Chelsea. It's important to look at the past. In five of eight terms, he's been the top vote getter in the most diverse community in MA. A leader brings people together and does it the right way. That's what he's done. That's what he'll do. Four terms as president of the city council. Chelsea's image is catching up to reality because of the progress. Drug relates to crime prevention. Weed & Seed. Make sure we have programs for nonviolent offenders. Money should be available for immigration programs. He's not seeking reelection to city council seat.