Friday, June 29, 2007

Question of the Day

If the state's $20 lottery game didn't break even, why is State Treasurer Tim Cahill talking about doing it twice a year?

He says it's because the game "helped boost overall sales at the lottery," but I'd like to see some evidence of that before the state continues pushing a money-loser.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Good News From the North

Via Political Wire, American Research Group released a poll today showing former New Hampshire Governor and current director of the Kennedy School's Institute of Politics Jeanne Shaheen thumping incumbent New Hampshire Senator John Sununu in a rematch of their 2002 race by a margin of 57% to 29% with 14% undecided. Check out the by-party numbers:


Shaheen not only gets virtually every Democrat, but even thirty percent of Republicans are, at this early point, so turned off of Sununu that they plan to vote for his opponent! That's incredible.

Now, the usual caveats apply. It's an early poll and doesn't reflect what's likely to happen over the course of a campaign and furthermore Shaheen has not yet even announced her intention to run, and it's an open question whether she will. Still, seeing these numbers, I'd be surprised if she didn't try to take a little revenge at the guy who beat her (by cheating) five years ago.

Debate Watching Party Tonight

As mentioned elsewhere, Governor Deval Patrick will be doing the candidate introductions at tonight's Democratic Presidential Debate at Howard University on PBS. According to the forum's website, this is the first time that a panel exclusively comprised of journalists of color will be represented in primetime. It's only natural that they'd have the only sitting African-American governor do the introductions. The debate will also be broadcast on for those who prefer streaming video or can't get to a TV.

In addition, the Massachusetts Democratic Party and Mass. Democratic Future/Young Democrats of Massachusetts are sponsoring a debate watching party tonight starting at 8:00PM at Porters Bar & Grill, 173 Portland Street in Boston. State Party Chair John Walsh is scheduled to say a few words before the debate kicks off at 9. I'm planning on heading over there assuming that I can step away from baby duties long enough. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Gov. Mike Dukakis on Grassroots Organizing

Below Boston has some must-see video of former Governor Michael Dukakis speaking at a South Shore Democrats party for former Massachusetts Democratic party chairman Phil Johnston. Dukakis has been talking about the need for precinct-level grassroots organizing to anyone who will listen for a long time now -- years -- and he brings this message to the gathering of Democratic activists. I transcribed some of his speech:

I wish I could tell you that Democrats around the country understand precinct based organizing, but you know they don't. They don't. We've got all these consultants, some of them my dear friends, who never rang a doorbell in their life, and they have no idea what happens when a real human being who lives in the precinct, is part of the precinct, talks like the precinct and looks like the precinct goes out and knocks on doors. You've done it. Deval did it; we all did it for him. Yeah, you raised some bucks in the end, John [Walsh], but I don't know what he was outspent by, overall. It was huge, and he won by twenty-one percentage points. And it had everything to do with that grassroots precinct-based organization.

And folks, we have got to do precisely that nationally beginning now in every one of the 185,000 precincts in the United States of America. All fifty states, 185,000 precincts. No one's going to tell me we can't do it. And I'm depending, Phil, on you and John to go out there and deliver that message nationally. I wish I could tell you the state chairs get it. They don't! I've talked to them and they don't understand. They belittle it. You know "that's yesterday." That's baloney. We have the most dramatic example of the effectiveness of this right hear in the Commonwealth because of what happened last fall.
The speech is short, and it's well worth watching the whole thing.

Mitt Romney and the Dog on the Roof

The Phoenix's Adam Reilly is fascinated by how the Boston Globe took a story about how Mitt Romney hosed dog excrement off his station wagon into some kind of profile in courage. Here's the excerpt from the Globe profile Reilly quotes with his emphasis:

As the oldest son, Tagg Romney commandeered the way-back of the wagon, keeping his eyes fixed out the rear window, where he glimpsed the first sign of trouble. "Dad!" he yelled. "Gross!" A brown liquid was dripping down the back window, payback from an Irish setter who'd been riding on the roof in the wind for hours.

As the rest of the boys joined in the howls of disgust, Romney coolly pulled off the highway and into a service station. There, he borrowed a hose, washed down Seamus and the car, then hopped back onto the highway. It was a tiny preview of a trait he would grow famous for in business: emotion-free crisis management. [emph. added]
It is strange that the Globe would pick this anecdote to highlight Romney's coolness under pressure. Still, what I was more struck by was the act of strapping a dog to the roof of your car in the first place, and I'm not the only one. I've never been a dog owner, but I am a frequent driver, and I've never seen roofbound dogs in my travels. Is this a common practice?

Update: Romney's Dog Speaks!

Did You Know There Was an Election Yesterday?

Chances are, you didn't. The general election for the race to replace former Senate President Robert Travaglini was yesterday in parts of Cambridge, Everett and Boston. Turnout was limited to less than 3% of eligible voters mostly because soon-to-be-Senator Anthony Petruccelli was running unopposed. Petruccelli won last month's primary against Everett City Councilor Dan Rizzo in a race that saw higher, but still light, turnout at around 17% of the electorate or so.

His election creates a vacant seat in his East Boston district, the First Suffolk. The East Boston Sun Transcript and the Hubster Blog have the candidates to replace Petruccelli currently as Carlo Basile, a "political operative", and Jeff Drago, a City Hall employee. The Hubster also mentions local activist Mary Berninger may be interested in running as well.

Update: I found a cached version of an earlier Eastie Watch column that has more information on the candidates:

Basile, a political operative in Eastie who helped Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Kerry Healy, may be the most conservative of the bunch because of his close ties with these two gubernatorial races. Basile’s got support in the neighborhood but whether his ties to conservative issues may hurt his candidacy among the growing population of progressive voters in Eastie is unclear.

Drago, who has worked for several years inside City Hall, might be able to line up the support of Mayor Thomas Menino. However, its unlikely Menino will make any commitments until he sees the field of candidates so Drago can’t bank on the Mayor’s machine just yet.
Beringer’s experience and passion fighting Logan expansion could make her a favorite among Eastie activists long opposed to Logan operations and expansion projects. However, Beringer is not the consummate political insider so big name support from Eastie’s elected officials may be hard to get.
In addition, I noticed today that Felix Arroyo's Organizing Director, Gloribell Mota has set up a fundraising committee for the First Suffolk seat.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Herald Sounding Bitter

In a otherwise positive editorial on the new Charlestown wind technology center in today's Boston Herald, the editors could not resist inserting a little dig at Governor Deval Patrick:

"Hosting a national wind technology testing center will boost the clean energy technology sector already taking root in Massachusetts," Patrick said. (He might want to keep in mind this kind of energy innovation -- centered on job-creation and attracting manufacturers -- before venturing off on the predictable path of government limits on energy profits, a plan he unveiled yesterday in The Boston Globe.)
Frankly, it seems that the Herald is just upset they got scooped by the Globe more than by any ideological differences. In fact, the companies whose profits would be "limited", to use the Herald's words -- namely NStar and National Grid -- are reportedly on board with the Patrick plan at this early stage. Sure, the Devil's always in the details, but if the governor can come up with some way to change the incentive that utility companies have to get us to use as much power as possible, we'd have a real shot at not only saving consumers some money, but also reducing the costs for those who supply our power. It's a win-win situation. Unfortunately, the Herald's parenthetical aside shows that they're more interested in dinging the Governor for choosing the wrong paper to make the announcement in than in actual solutions.

Update: The Herald's parenthetical aside looks even more foolish in light of Jay Fitzgerald's article today in their paper that argues the opposite point -- that the Patrick plan would cause too much profit for energy companies.

Mixed Signals from Romney

I kept hearing over the weekend from former Governor Mitt Romney's spokespeople how well fundraising is going for the presidential candidate during his efforts at Fenway Park and TD Banknorth Garden. But, if his fundraising were as good as his they make it out to be, why then is Romney dumping his own money into his campaign account?

Mitt's explanation is that he's not as well known as the other leading candidates -- after all Rudy Guiliani and John McCain are national figures and lurking in the wings is Fred Thompson with his Law and Order exposure. Because of that, it's necessary for him to spend money to introduce him to the people of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina in a way that the other candidates don't have to.

Of course, it might just be that Mitt's second quarter fundraising isn't living up to his high Q1 numbers. After all, the first quarter is when you get all your friends, relatives and other supporters to max out. The second quarter is a much better test of how you're able to convince people you're worth giving money to. Still, Romney's burn rate remains very high, and he's spending funds as fast as he can raise them. Romney has hundreds of millions of dollars at his disposal; it will be instructive to see how much he's willing to put toward his candidacy.

Either way, we'll find out after Friday, when the second-quarter fund-raising effort ends.

Stick Mosquito Challenges Chinese Ballots

No matter where you come down on the issue of ballots being printed in languages other than English, you have to admit that this is hilarious:

In Mandarin, for instance, [Secretary of State Bill] Galvin said, his own name could be translated either as High Prominent Noble Educated -- or Stick Mosquito.

According to the translators whom Galvin consulted, [Boston Mayor Tom] Menino's name could be read as Imbecile in Chinese. Or Sun Moon Rainbow Farmer. Or, in the worst case scenario for the mayor, Barbarian Mud No Mind of His Own.

[Former Governor Mitt] Romney's name can be seen as Sticky Rice or Uncooked Rice, Galvin said. If former US Senator Fred Thompson jumps into the Republican presidential race, Sticky or Uncooked Rice has the potential of appearing on the March presidential primary ballot in 49 of the Boston's more than 200 precincts, battling with Virtue Soup.
I know there are serious issues about making sure that citizens who are not literate in English are able to vote, while at the same time limiting the potential for shenanigans. Still, I never laughed so hard at a Frank Phillips article.

The obvious solutions are mentioned in the article -- use the transliterations that appear in Chinese-language newspapers or let the candidates pick them themselves (within reason). It seems to me that Stick Mosquito just doesn't want to be bothered with making any accommodations for citizens who only read Chinese.

Monday, June 25, 2007

ActBlue and MA-05

Marie, in her comments to a previous thread writes:

Everyone keeps mentioning who is raising on ActBlue. If you took the time to go a little bit further you would see that Finegold is the only candidate that is using a different online tool for donations on his website.

Not a bad idea since you can tell exactly what everyone else has raised online except for him.
I would add to this that it's certainly true that you should not measure a candidate's fundraising prowess based on what they collect via ActBlue. That amount largely depends on how much that candidate is pushing Internet contributions and does not, as Marie points out, take into account any money not raised through ActBlue. By way of example, Rep. Barry Finegold is showing only $16,250, yet he raised almost 19 times that amount in the first quarter alone through other methods. Relying on ActBlue to draw conclusions on how a candidate's fundraising is going is not likely to give you a full picture.

What I would disagree with, however, is that it's somehow a bad idea to allow the public to see exactly how much you have raised online. On the contrary, it's often a very good thing, particularly if you're stressing your online contributions. ActBlue's Karl-Thomas Musselman notes today in the ActBlue blog that using ActBlue can earn you positive media. He mentions several downballot races in the past few weeks that have had free press in the local media as a result of public fundraising numbers on ActBlue. He elaborates:
Political beat reporters are hungry to have a reason to write. As a former journalist and state-level blogger myself, the public fundraising numbers that are provided by ActBlue are a great hook. This is great for local stories about elections that may not otherwise be generating much news. While politics is more than just about money, smart campaigns can leverage this fact to their advantage. In an environment where earned media is an important component of modern campaigns, the public nature of ActBlue can be a natural ally. Feel free to make use of it!
Of course, the end of the fundraising quarter is coming up. If you support one of these candidates, your contribution will make the most impact if you get it in before Friday. You can see how all of the Massachusetts candidates are doing on Actblue here

Brookline Home One of 11 Most Endangered Places

Via Metafilter, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has listed its 11 most endangered places on 2007. Making the list this year is the H. H. Richardson House, home to the 19th-century American architect Henry Hobson Richardson. Richardson designed such landmarks as the Trinity Church, Sever Hall at Harvard, the New York State Capitol, Albany City Hall and the William Watts Sherman House in Newport. The building is now vacant and the owner has indicated that he may lift preservation restrictions since no buyers have surfaced after several years on the market. Should that happen, it's likely that a developer would buy the property and tear down the house. The NTHP and local groups such as Preservation Massachusetts are looking for a buyer who would preserve the building as a residence or as an office for a nonprofit organization or foundation. Preservation Mass. has more here, including a photo.

The Richardson House joins several other Massachusetts locales that have made the list over the years including the Old Deerfield Historic District (1988, 1989), Walden Pond and Woods (1990, 1991), Cape Cod (1994), Historic Boston Theaters (1995), Nantucket (2000), Minute Man National Historical Park and Environs (2003), and Historic Catholic Churches of Greater Boston (2005).

Legislature Looking to Expand Permitting Power?

Boston Globe Business writer Steve Bailey had an ominous column in Friday's paper that I didn't notice until this morning. The piece is about House Speaker Sal DiMasi's hesitation over a bill that would essentially reverse a Supreme Judicial Court decision that found the Department of Environmental Protection does not have the power to exempt companies from state law that requires public access to property near the water. That ruling had, according to Bailey "raised serious questions about the permits and titles for scores of current and planned buildings and projects." While DiMasi's office explains his hesitation by saying he's just running everything by the lawyers, others think that his reticence means he's interested in more legislative control over the permitting process.

The column ends thusly:

DiMasi tells a story about having lunch years ago at Pier 4 with restaurateur Anthony Athanas. Mike Dukakis, then the governor, was pushing hard to move the permitting from the Legislature. DiMasi was fighting a losing battle. His question to Athanas: Wouldn't you rather be negotiating your deal with Tommy McGee (the House speaker) and Billy Bulger (the Senate president) than some faceless bureaucrat?

No doubt Anthony would. And that is exactly the problem.
Indeed. The permitting process in Massachusetts is an insane web of competing regulations that thanks to Governor Deval Patrick is at least going in the right direction. Under his direction, approval time for development projects has gone from two to three years in some cases to just six months. Inserting the legislature into that process could either upset the apple-cart and stretch out the permitting process, or worse, create even more incentives for developers to grease the palms of politicians to get their permits approved faster.

Update: A Thursday Globe Editorial provides more context on this issue.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Does This Happen Often?

Fifth District Candidate Rep. Barry Finegold has found himself in a bit of controversy after it was discovered that he appeared as a cosponsor of a bill that would require a 24 hour waiting period before a woman would be allowed to have an abortion in Massachusetts. That information came out during last week's debate, and fellow candidate Niki Tsongas used that bit of information in a fundraising appeal that went out through EMILY's List, a pro-choice political organization. Finegold has since claimed that his sponsorship was the result of a mistake on the part of his staff, and has removed his name from that bill. He's also called on Tsongas to stop using his unintentional support of the measure to cast doubt on his pro-choice record.

This comes just about a week or so after the confusion over whether Senator Paul Donato actually meant to cosponsor Senate Bill 123 got to the point where Senator Robert Hedlund, who filed the bill, had to issue a statement explaining how co-sponsors were listed. The confluence of these events makes me wonder how often legislators end up being cosponsors of bills they never either read or meant to lend their support to.

This might seem like a small matter, but I think it actually can affect the race. The differences between the Democratic candidates -- aside from Rep. Jim Micelli, the most conservative of the field -- are actually quite small. Sure Rep. Jamie Eldridge has staked out the territory furthest to the left, but Tsongas, Finegold and Lowell City Councilor Eileen Donoghue occupy a similar center-left space. If the other candidates can convince voters that Finegold is squishy on choice, that might be enough to cause undecideds to rule him out in favor of candidates whose records are unblemished.

Weekend Baby Blogging

Don't interrupt me when I'm reading!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Saturday Evening Links

  • Another candidate has surfaced in the race to replace state Senator Jarrett Barrios (D-Cambridge) as he's slated to leave the legislature next week. The Cambridge Chronicle reports that Jeff Ross has announced his intention to run. Ross once worked with California Senator Dianne Feinstein, and founded the Brockton Civil Rights Task Force to address social justice issues.
  • No sooner did yesterday's Boston Globe say that localities were lobbying for power to levy meals taxes, did I get a letter from the mayor of Revere, Thomas Ambrosino, who also serves as chair of the Metropolitan Mayors' Coalition urging me to take action in favor of the Municipal Partnership Act, part of which would do just that. As I've said before, I'm not sure that meals taxes are a good fit for Watertown, but that doesn't mean that I think I should have any say over whether Revere (or Cambridge, or Boston, or Nantucket, etc) should be able to enact them.
  • Also in yesterday's Globe, Ellen Goodman had a great column responding to the alarmist claim that Massachusets would turn into the gay Las Vegas if the 1913 law prohibiting out-of-state same-sex couples from marrying were repealed. The short version -- even if it did, good! If you missed it, it's well worth a read.
  • State Rep Rachel Kaprielian (D-Watertown) -- a friend of the blog -- had a good week last week. Not only did the bill she filed that would allow municipalities enter into the state's health insurance plan pass the House, but she was also named legislator of the year by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.
  • Just down the street from the .08 Acre homestead, the Watertown Fire Department dedicated a flagpole to the memory of the late Fire Chief Robert O'Reilly, who passed away last year. Here are my pictures from the dedication ceremony. Ed O'Reilly, a former Watertown firefighter himself and one of Chief O'Reilly's sons, was there. He has announced he's running against Senator John Kerry in the 2008 Democratic primary.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Rep. Wallace Explains His Switch

In today's Boston Herald, columnist Peter Gelzinis talks with State Rep. Brian Wallace (D-South Boston) about his vote last week to protect marriage equality in Massachusetts. Wallace was one of the nine legislators who had voted in favor of the marriage ban in January, but changed his mind and voted against it last week. Wallace explains his change of heart:

"Six out 10 people who live in Southie now have been here less than 10 years," he said. "At every community meeting and barbecue I went to, I'd have four, five, six, a dozen people approach me very quietly and politely.

" 'Representative,' they'd say, 'we'd just like you to know we live here, too.' The landscape has changed and it continues to change every day. But it's not just that. You've got thousands of people who've married in the last four years. They raise families. They pay taxes. What are we supposed to say to them? That their marriages are a lie? That the rights we gave them suddenly don't apply to other people? How can we do that?"
Wallace denied rumors that we circulated before the vote that he'd been bought off or promised a job in the administration to get him out of the legislature. He also noted that in the week since the vote, he has been getting "hate-filled e-mails" that prove to him that had the marriage ban been placed on the ballot, it would have been the "ugliest, most divisive election this state has ever seen."

Over at Take Mass Action, Chris has the message that anti-marriage activists sent out to supporters of the ban, which is the likely cause of the email barrage Rep. Wallace and others are experiencing. If you're a support of marriage equality, give those legislators a thank you email to reassure them that they did the right thing.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Patrick-Murray Inaugural Committee Awards 215 Grants

The Patrick-Murray Inaugural Committee announced that it has awarded grants to charitable organizations across Massachusetts using the leftover money raised for the inauguration of Governor Deval Patrick and Lt. Governor Tim Murray. Over 1500 organizations submitted applications, but only 215 grants of $2500 each were given out.

Though I was a member of the 400 person grant committee, as it turns out I was unable to use my considerable clout to bring more grant money home to Watertown. Only one Watertown organization, the Catalogue for Philanthropy made the cut and received one of the grants. Here is the list of other recipients.

Governor Raises Money; Globe Raises Fuss

The front page of today's Boston Globe has an overblown story about a Deval Patrick fundraiser, written by usual suspect Frank Phillips. Phillips admits that such fundraisers are "not uncommon during previous administrations" but they are front page news when they are held for Governor Patrick for some reason anyway. After all, Patrick promised as a candidate that he would never raise any money, and he never held any fundraisers while running for governor. Oh wait, he didn't do that? Well, then, it's front page news because the Globe is still pissed that Patrick chided them months ago for not "getting it".

Here's what I don't understand. Nary a day goes by without some quote in the Globe or the Herald from Michael Widmer of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation complaining about how the Governor's tax loophole plans are bad for business, and now all of a sudden the Globe is upset that Patrick has a "growing relationship" with state's business leaders. Well, which is it? Is he too cozy or too anti-business? Personally, I don't think he's either, but he certainly can't be both.

For more, read Mass. Liberal's take.

Update: Note that while a Frank Phillips article on the Governor's fundraising belongs on the front page with an enormous headline, a Phillips piece on House Speaker Sal DiMasi's fundrasing doesn't make the paper, but lands in the Globe's new "All Politics is Local" blog that no one's heard of. Why is one so important and the other not?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Kerry Touts Watertown Battery-Maker

Watertown company A123 Systems has been all over the news lately promoting their new plug-in hybrid car technology. I have heard of people converting their hybrids to take power from a wall socket for some time now but this is the most attention I've seen the idea get in the news. Senator John Kerry today touted his support for plug-in hybrids after the Senate finance committee approved incentives for the production and purchase of such vehicles. Here's his statement:

"Plug-in car technology offers a blueprint for clean, efficient, affordable driving and it should be widely available to consumers very soon," Kerry said. "I don’t know of anyone who isn’t interested in getting 150 miles to the gallon with their car and that could soon be a reality. The American people are ready for advanced auto technologies, and companies like A123 Systems are ahead of the curve, giving hybrid drivers the option of actually running their cars on battery for the majority of their daily commute. This is exactly the type of technology that we will promote by passing strong CAFE standards this week in the energy bill."
In addition, Google recently announced that it was using A123 System batteries in a $10 million effort to get the company to use plug-in hybrids and NPR did a story on the company last week. Whoever's doing the public relations over there in the Arsenal is sure earning their salary.

Air Wars Start in MA-05

Unless I've missed a previous spot, Democratic Congressional Candidate Niki Tsongas has launched the first television ad in the race to replace Marty Meehan in the fifth district. Check it out here.

The ad is slated to run for a week and a half on cable in the district starting this afternoon. I didn't see it after watching a few hours of NECN, but then again I'm not in the district and I think cable can pinpoint as geography a little better than broadcast, so maybe I won't see any. The ad itself is nothing too spectacular, and the production values don't seem to be that great -- though maybe that's just because I'm viewing it on the web. That said, the message -- let's bring the troops home and treat them right when they get back -- is a good one that will play well in the district.

Being first to the air is a good move for Tsongas, who needs to hold on to her front-runner status if she's going to win the election. At the same time, though, she already has the best name recognition of all the candidates in the race, and paradoxically also has the least to gain by running early ads. Perhaps her campaign also hopes to coax one of the other candidates into spending their money on media buys before they can afford it. I don't think that's likely to happen here, but you never know how a campaign is going to react if they see some unfavorable poll numbers.

I do believe that this race will ultimately be won on the ground, but if a candidate cedes the air, the job of their ground troops will be that much more difficult.

Did I Miss Something?

Tucked away at the bottom of this morning's Boston Globe article about Rep. John Rogers (D-Norwood) and his mysterious consulting fee is this bombshell:

As speculation mounts over DiMasi's future, Rogers has been laying the groundwork for what many on Beacon Hill believe will be a succession fight. His major rival is Representative Ronald Mariano, a Quincy Democrat.
Speculation mounts? Okay, I know that I haven't been quite as plugged-in of late, but this is the first I've heard that House Speaker Sal DiMasi's "future" was in doubt. The only stories about DiMasi that have been in the news lately have been of the "Sal is the one true power on Beacon Hill" type and not the "will he stay or will he go" type -- the latter which preceded former Senate President Robert Travaglini's departure from the statehouse. Does anyone know anything about this? Is he destined to go off and join Trav, hand in hand, in the land of high-paid lobbyists?

As far as Majority Leader Rogers goes, there seem to me to be only three reasons he would not let the Globe see the records of the consultant (and friend and business partner) he paid nearly $200K over the past few election cycles. Either there's something fishy going on that he doesn't want us to see, the records don't actually exist, or he doesn't think that the public has a right to know how he's spending his campaign contributions and he doesn't want to set a precedent. None of those explanations make Rogers look very good.

Update: Ryan does the smart thing and asks Frank Phillips about his story's last sentence. Phillips says there's "no evidence that DiMasi is actively looking to leave."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Today's Boston Herald has a story on a Forbes Magazine poll that shows former Governor Mitt Romney as the fourth "creepiest" presidential candidate and second creepiest among all Republicans. You can read the Forbes story here. I wasn't going to comment on the poll because I've never found Romney all that creepy myself, and a 10% creep-factor for 4th place isn't really all that impressive.

Then I saw this picture.

Clearly Mitt was not satisfied with his showing in this poll and is working overtime to creep out as many people as he can.

Can Eldridge Compete Without Fundraising?

Via Left in Lowell, the Lowell Sun yesterday had an article on Massachusetts Fifth District Congressional candidate and State Rep. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), particularly focused on his efforts to stand out from the rest of the field in that race. There was one quote from Eldridge in that article that irked me. Here it is:

"I'll admit I'm not going to raise the most money in this race, but just ask Gov. Deval Patrick about who raised the most money during that race," Eldridge said. Former gubernatorial candidate Chris Gabrieli had more money than Patrick, but lost in the primary.
Now, as someone who was involved heavily in then-candidate Patrick's campaign, Eldridge knows full well that Patrick raised more money than anyone in last year's gubernatorial contest. He broke monthly fundraising records, and he raised over eight million dollars when all was said and done. Now, Patrick never had very much cash-on-hand compared to his rivals because his campaign spent the money as fast as he raised it, but to imply that he couldn't or wouldn't raise money is untrue. Perhaps I'm being pedantic here, though, because certainly Patrick didn't have as much personal wealth to put into his campaign as did his opponents Chris Gabrieli and Kerry Healey (and for that matter, Christy Mihos) and he was underfunded compared to them. Still, to give the impression that money was not important to Patrick's eventual win is to rewrite history.

I like Rep. Eldridge. I like his politics, and perhaps just as importantly, I like the people who like him. What makes me nervous, however, is that his campaign is frequently sending out messages that imply he's not interested in fundraising. The one that sticks out most in my mind is the statement he put out after he shook up his campaign team in May, that he was "putting people ahead of money". That's a fine sentiment, but when you say that after reorganizing your campaign it makes it sound like there was an internal disagreement about fundraising and the winners decided they didn't think it was important. His message should be, as Patrick's was during his campaign, "we'll have the money we need" not "we don't need to have money."

Don't get me wrong, you certainly can win a campaign on a shoestring budget, and perhaps Eldridge will do just that. It is difficult under normal circumstances, but that difficulty is compounded in a special election that takes place over the summer. While this may guarantee a low-turnout election where field organizations can make the most difference, it also means that volunteers are harder to come by and voters are harder to reach. In addition, since the race is so-far low profile, you can't rely on free media to help get your message out. If you do, voters will learn more about your ability to play basketball than your health care proposal.

Now, Democracy for America's recent endorsement of Eldridge, has the potential to help him raise some money from national progressives. They will often email out appeals to their members, though I have not gotten anything from them yet. Eldridge is also getting strong support from unions, who can spend money on his behalf should that become necessary. And, it might be that I'm reading too much into the statements from the Eldridge camp and that their fundraising is going smoothly -- we'll find out in mid-July when the FEC quarterly reports are due.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ed Markey Vs. Hummers

Congressman Ed Markey (D-Malden) was interviewed today on NPR's All Things Considered by Andrea Seabrook regarding his pending legislation to end the tax breaks on Hummers and large luxury SUVs. That loophole is a remnant from an attempt in the 80's to limit the amount of money could be written off for luxury vehicles used for businesses. Any vehicle weighing more than 6,000 pounds was excluded, however, because at the time, most vehicles that heavy were trucks, tractors or limousines essential for business those businesses that depend on such equipment. Now, of course, many SUVs, weigh more than three tons, and owners are able to claim tax deductions of up to $25,000, even if the large vehicle is not necessary for their business.

Here's some of what Markey had to say:

[The tax credit] was intended for, basically, people who needed it — if you ran a limousine service, for example, or you're a contractor who needed a larger vehicle. But what it morphed into was something that allowed just about anyone to claim the deduction once they said that they were a businessman or woman. So, if the Hummer tax loophole wasn't on the books, and there was an even tax-depreciation schedule across the board for all vehicles, the Congressional Budget Office reckons that the federal budget would save $4 billion. ... It would be a $4 billion tax savings over a five-year period.
What does Markey think eliminating the loophole would accomplish?
If the Hummer tax loophole wasn't on the books, people would not decide, on the recommendations of their accountants, to buy the bigger vehicle because they got a bigger tax break. It would be a level playing field, and all vehicles, including hybrids, would be in a better situation to compete against Hummers, because the tax depreciation schedule would treat every vehicle equally.


There will be much less of a financial incentive to purchase the larger vehicle, since smaller vehicles — the hybrids — will now be on a level playing field. There is a very high likelihood that people will no longer have this extra bias toward the larger vehicle because they're saving money.
This seems perfectly sensible. As long as legitimate businesses are not penalized for having to use heavy equipment, there's no reason that the government should be giving out incentives for people to buy bigger vehicles. The incentives should, if at all, work the other way and encourage the adoption of more fuel-efficient cars. Good for Congressman Markey for addressing this issue.

Guest Post: Health Care Panel Report

Guest post by Mrs. sco

Last week, The Boston Foundation held a panel to discuss the release of its health care report, The Boston Paradox: Lots of Health Care, Not Enough Health. TBF President Paul Grogan began by sounding a warning bell: he forecast a long-term decline in health due to skyrocketing costs, an aging workforce, and a rise in chronic illness.

Wendy Everett, President of New England Healthcare Institute, presented the report. She started out by describing Boston as a healthcare paradise – lots of jobs in the industry, lots of doctors and world-class institutions, average life expectancy of just under eighty years. But she pointed to signs of trouble in paradise, including increases in healthcare costs outpacing income, a decrease in fitness, and an obesity rate of over 20%. (The obesity statistics were the most alarming part of her presentation – go look at the CDC's PowerPoint presentation, which shows the fattening of America from 1985 to 2005. There is currently no state in the Union where less than 15% of the population is obese. 46 states have an obesity rate of 20% or more.)

The rest of the discussion was devoted to ideas for improving the bleak outlook. All of the panelists emphasized public health. Public health spending has dropped by 12.5% over the past six years, while healthcare spending has risen by 25%. Meanwhile, within healthcare spending, we spend 88% of our budget on access to care when only 10% of our health is influenced by access to care. We spend 7% of our budget on behavior and environment, which accounts for 50% of our level of health.

The common theme was that public health isn't just about improving access; it's about improving environment and behavior. And not just in ways that you might think, encouraging people to get preventative medical care and to be physically active.

In fact, Dr. Judy Ann Bigby, the Secretary of Health and Human Services for the Commonwealth, discussed gun violence, the lack of grocery stores in low-income communities, and the impact of race on health outcomes. (Dr. Bigby's alarming statistic: a college-educated black woman with regular prenatal care is likely to have a worse outcome than a high-school educated white woman with minimal prenatal care.) Judith Kurland, Mayor Menino’s Chief on Staff, picked up on some of these points. She talked about programs like urban gardens, bringing farmer's markets to low-income neighborhoods, encouraging use of food stamps – which wouldn't cost Massachusetts a dime because it's federally funded – and making school lunches palatable for kids. She also discussed Mayor Menino's initiative to plant 100,000 trees (actually, she corrected herself and said he would "cause them to be planted") in Boston. That appears to be an environmental issue, but dig just a tiny bit deeper and it's a public health issue too – the rate of asthma has risen dramatically in the past decade or two. Similarly, Dr. Barry Zuckerman, Chief of Pediatrics at Boston Medical Center, talked about a medical-legal partnership that, among other things, helped people resolve disputes with their landlords. Again, it doesn't seem to be related, but if you're living in a dangerous environment because your landlord won't fix the broken window or the rusty water pipes, your health will suffer.

The takeaway message for me was: racial and socioeconomic disparities, environmental problems, issues with public housing, education, and even bureaucracy are obstacles to health. Containing costs is important, but investing now to address all the interrelated issues may pay off more in the future.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Weekend Baby Blogging

I Love Daddy bib
Happy Father's Day to all the other fathers out there!

Friday, June 15, 2007

That Was Then, This Is Now

This morning's Boston Herald editorial on yesterday's defeat of the marriage ban reminded me of something I had been wanting to mention for a while now. Here's what the Herald wrote today:

Yesterday’s defeat of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage represents not just a victory for gay couples, but a loss for those who cynically sought political advantage by favoring the most uncompromising version of such an amendment. The latter, like presidential contender Mitt Romney, got what they deserved.
Indeed, somewhat forgotten in yesterday's events was the fact that in 2005, opponents of marriage almost all voted against a Constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage, but at the same time create civil unions. There was no outcry when that amendment died at the Constitutional Convention that citizens of Massachusetts were being robbed of a chance to vote on marriage. Instead opponents of marriage equality helped engineer the defeat of that amendment, imagining that they could avoid a compromise and stop same-sex marriages without conceding civil unions. It's apparent now that they overreached. If they had put their energy behind the 2005 amendment, it may well have passed and gone to the voters in 2006. Imagine how different the 2006 election might have gone with a marriage ban on the ballot.

Again, if it was okay to stop the 2005 Travaglini-Lees compromise amendment from going to the voters, why is it suddenly an abuse of the democratic process to stop this year's attempt to restrict marriage rights? The answer is that it's not, and anyone who tries to frame what happened yesterday in that way is likely more upset that somewhere in Massachusetts some gay people are happy than they are concerned about the state of our democracy.

Question of the Day

Oh, sure, there's more to talk about regarding yesterday's victory on Beacon Hill for marriage equality, but the question that's running through my head this morning is this: Is it really wise to bring on someone to work on your "political strategy" who bungled her campaign last year all the way to a twenty point loss?

Just Askin'.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Legislature Defeats Marriage Ban

In a resounding victory for those who care equal marriage rights, the Massachusetts Legislature voted 151-45 against a Constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. Today, 75.5% of the legislature voted in support of marriage equality. Everyone who complains about how the original decision was imposed by unelected judges should chew on that for a while. One-hundred-fifty-one legislators representing, by my count, part or all of 339 of Massachusetts' 351 cities and towns voiced their approval of same-sex marriage rights. In the face of those overwhelming numbers, how can anyone claim that marriage equality in Massachusetts is the result of the whims of just four judges? The legislature has had many attempts now to "fix" the Goodridge decision, and each time opponents of marriage could not muster the votes. There has been no backlash against marriage supporters in the legislature thus far, though there have been plenty of opportunities for the opposition to challenge them. To say that there has been no vote and that the people have had no say is pure fantasy.

The Boston Globe has the roll call vote and a list of the nine legislators who switched their votes:

  • Rep. Christine Canavan (D-Brockton)
  • Rep. Paul Kujawski (D-Webster)
  • Rep. Paul Loscocco (R-Holliston)
  • Rep. Robert Nyman (D-Hanover)
  • Rep. Richard Ross (R-Wrentham)
  • Rep. James Valee (D-Franklin)
  • Rep. Brian Wallace (D-South Boston)
  • Sen. Gale Candaras (D-Wilbraham)
  • Sen. Michael Morrissey (D-Quincy)
Sen. Candaras has released a touching statement explaining her change of heart from this January when she was in the House and voted for the amendment. Here's a sample:
I know from listening to my constituents, since I first became Senator this year that this vote, the vote I take today, is the right vote for the people I serve. I have been most impressed by the number of individuals who have called me and asked me to change my vote because they have changed their minds. One grandmother told me she had changed her mind and wanted me to change my vote in case one of her grandchildren grew up to be gay or lesbian. She did not want any of her grandchildren to be denied the right to marry the person they love. This is exactly the legacy we will leave to generations beyond us, and the example we can set for the nation and, I daresay the world, which is certainly paying attention to what we do and say here today.

A great deal of energy and passion has been focused on this issue by both sides. It is my most ardent wish that, with the settlement of this matter, and as we all leave here today, all the energy and passion we have held on this issue be redirected towards solving the crises of child abuse, child neglect, domestic violence, homelessness, hunger, criminalization of the mentally ill and so many more social problems that require our urgent and thoughtful attention.
Many thanks to Senator Candaras, the rest of the legislators who switched their votes, and everyone who worked so hard to make today happen.

Too Close To Call

Today is the day. The Constitutional Convention that could decide the fate of marriage equality in the Commonwealth is today and both the Globe and the Herald are saying that the margin may be down to as little as a single vote. If anyone knows the real whip count, they're not talking, and some legislators are being very coy with the media regarding their final decision.

If you had asked me yesterday, I would have said that I expected today's vote to be postponed, because marriage supporters wouldn't have the numbers to defeat the amendment. Something in today's Boston Herald made me have second thoughts, though:

Some lawmakers said yesterday that they want the matter decided, because they are growing tired of the constant barrage of phone calls, letters and unannounced visits to their offices.
Let's leave aside for a minute how wrong it is for a legislator to tire of hearing from his constituents. If they really want the matter decided, they'll have to vote "no" on the amendment. If they vote "yes", it's all we'll talk about for another year and a half. If opponents succeed in banning marriage, then we'll have to go through this all over again with civil unions in 2009. A "no" vote ends this here with civil rights for all protected. Of course, I still don't expect a vote to be taken unless marriage advocates have the numbers it takes to win.

By the way, Joan, don't try to pin a loss on Governor Patrick. The one who has the real power to sway votes, and who is apparently not using all the weapons in his arsenal, is House Speaker Sal DiMasi. Furthermore, legislators are not "fulfilling their constitutional obligation to petitioners" by voting yes. They may have an obligation to bring the matter to a vote -- opinions differ -- but there is no constitutional guarantee that anything submitted by petitioners go to the voters. If the amendment is voted down on its merits there will be no question that legislators have fulfilled their constitutional obligation. Your co-columnist Scot Lehigh gets that, why don't you?

Update: Heck, even the Herald editorial board gets at least that! From today's editorial page:
[L]egislators who genuinely believe same-sex couples should not have the right to marry are, of course, well within their right to vote for this proposed constitutional amendment. But no one should hide behind the dodge that somehow this is all about democracy.

If this proposal can't win the support of 50 lawmakers, it has no business seeing the light of day again. And the issue of same-sex marriage - which has been the subject of 16 previous Constitutional Conventions dating back to 2002 - should be settled once and for all.
Update 2: Wayne Woodlief wins today's Quote of the Morning:
Marriage is a great institution. I love it. Let's allow all our citizens to keep the right to enjoy it, just like me and many of you.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Galluccio in to Replace Barrios

The Cambridge Chronicle has some new information about the race to replace state Senator Jarrett Barrios (D-Cambridge), who is resigning next month to take a job as the president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation. State Rep. Alice Wolf (D-Cambridge) has announced that she will not seek the seat. Wolf sites her love of her current job as state rep as a reason, though she would not have to give up her seat to run. Cambridge City Councilor Anthony Galluccio, on the other hand has announced he is running to replace Barrios. This does not come as a big surprise since Galluccio nearly ran for this seat last election cycle when it looked like Barrios would not seek another term and would run instead for Middlesex District Attorney. After Barrios changed his mind, Galluccio eventually dropped out.

Other people rumored to be jumping in the race are Chelsea City Council President Roseann Bongiovanni, who introduced herself to Blue Mass. Group in May, state Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty (D-Chelsea), Chelsea City Councilor Paul Nowicki, Cambridge City Councilor Marjorie Decker and Dan Ryan, a legislative aide to Congressman Mike Capuano (D-Somerville).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Loving Day

For those who were unaware, today was Loving Day, the fortieth anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia that guaranteed the rights of interracial couples to marry in the United States. It's too late to do justice to that important event, so I'll just point out Laurel's wonderful post yesterday on BMG on the subject. Laurel quotes then Chief Justice Earl Warren:

Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.
In addition, I encourage everyone to check out this profile of the case from NPR. The story has some quotes from Bernard Cohen, an ACLU attorney who took the case. Here's what he said in front of the Supreme Court forty years ago:
"The Lovings have the right to go to sleep at night knowing that if should they not wake in the morning, their children would have the right to inherit from them. They have the right to be secure in knowing that, if they go to sleep and do not wake in the morning, that one of them, a survivor of them, has the right to Social Security benefits. All of these are denied to them, and they will not be denied to them if the whole anti-miscegenistic scheme of Virginia... [is] found unconstitutional."
I also believe that same-sex couples also deserve those same rights and that those rights are not something that should be in danger of being taken away by a majority vote. I hope that a 3/4 majority of legislators feel the same way at Thursday's Constitutional Convention, or failing that, their vote can be postponed until they can be convinced that marriage equality should be protected in Massachusetts.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Is DiMasi Playing Hardball?

Two articles now have suggested that this week's possible vote on the marriage ban amendment are test of House Speaker Sal DiMasi's political power, first David Bernstein's in the Boston Phoenix and this morning, Frank Phillips' in the Boston Globe. Neither of them gives any indication of what sort of pressure DiMasi is applying. Is this because DiMasi doesn't want it to be known that he's threatening members' chairmanships and committee assignments, or because he's not applying those sorts of hardball tactics his predecessor was known for? Are those options even within his power at this point? Anyone have an answer?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sunday Night Links

We had a house full of company this weekend, and so this is the first chance I've gotten to post anything since Friday, and I apologize for the light content this week. Of course, every time I go a few days without posting, I have to clear off my desktop with another link dump.

  • State Senator Jarrett Barrios (D-Cambridge) has submitted his resignation letter and the dates for the special election have been set. The primary will be on Sept. 11th and the general election will be Oct. 9th. So no one has officially announced their candidacy, but many people have expressed interest. Look for more on this race as the summer progresses.
  • If you still think that opponents of marriage equality have nothing in common with those that were against interracial marriage last century, please read this and see if it changes your mind.
  • Last week Boston Mayor Tom Menino delivered a letter signed by 260 restauranteurs in support of the proposal to allow cities and towns to raise their own meals tax. The mayor has been getting unlikely support from the Boston restaurant owners, telling them that the money the city gets from the meals tax would go toward helping reduce the property tax.
  • Governor Deval Patrick told a tourism group this past week that, if they want to encourage tourism, they should make sure the state promotes a welcoming attitude. With a house full of vistors this weekend, I say the easiest way to do this is to put up street signs at intersections that show the names of both streets. I've always thought that our failure to do this in Massachusetts was our way of saying, "if you don't know where you are, you don't belong here."
  • David Bernstein has an interesting article in this week's Boston Phoenix on the fight to keep the anti-marriage ballot question off the ballot. What does it say, he asks, if the most powerful people on Beacon Hill -- the Governor, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House, and the Attorney General -- all want something, but can't get it accomplished? Why don't they "have the juice?" The article also gives as much detail as anyone outside Beacon Hill has on the efforts to sway legislators into voting against the ban, and concludes wondering where former Governor Mitt Romney has been.
  • In Mississippi, almost every 4th grader can read, but in Massachusetts only half can. Why? Because some states are gaming the No Child Left Behind tests, a study found last week. Massachusetts, it turns out, is not one of them. We have one of the smallest gaps between state assessments and national tests.
  • Last week, lawmakers held a hearing to have the state bail the MBTA out of $2.9 billion of it's $5.1 billion debt. That of course, led to cries that we shouldn't be giving state money to the T until it gets its own fiscal house in order and we can be sure that that money wouldn't be wasted. The problem is that even if you eliminated all of the T's mismanagement and waste, of which there is apparently no shortage, the T would still be in debt -- the T pays as much in debt service as it actually collects in fares. You could shut down all the trains completely, but the T would still have to find some way to pay off its obligations. Is the best way to handle the situation to let the state give the agency a fresh start? I'm not sure, but it's clear that the way we fund the T is broken, and that's one big reason why we're stuck with the system that seemingly keeps getting worse and more expensive every year.

Kerry in Natick on Saturday

Karen Schlosberg, Chair of the Natick Democratic Town Committee, writes in to announce the Metrowest Community Forum on Iraq with Senator John Kerry, this Saturday, June 16, 2007 at the Walnut Hill School in Natick. Senator Kerry will talk about the war and our future in Iraq and take questions from the audience. The doors will open at 3:30 and the program starts promptly at 4:00pm. It's free and open to the public. Unfortunately, I will be out of town on Saturday, but if you plan to go, they'd like it if you RSVP online.

It promises to be an interesting event. I'm sorry to have to miss it.

Weekend Baby Blogging


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Plan for Education Reform Now

The West Roxbury & Roslindale Transcript pens this editorial on Governor Deval Patrick's education proposals so I don't have to. Here's a bit of it:

There are some strong voices in Massachusetts — Barbara Anderson, legislative leaders of both parties and the talk show crowd — whose political vision begins and ends with keeping taxes down. They begrudge even the status quo if it requires new revenue. They have no ideas and they want to hear no ideas that don't involve tax cuts.

Deval Patrick didn't run for governor to do nothing but engage in a constant struggle to maintain current programs. He campaigned on a pledge to launch a new wave of education reform, and Friday he began to define that vision. He called for a longer school day for every student, a universal preschool program, new curriculum requirements in math and English and new teacher training programs. He vowed to make community colleges an engine for economic development as well as educational attainment.
There seems to be this idea that if we can't pay for a project in full right now, we shouldn't even discuss it. I don't get that. There's no reason we can't phase in some of these educational programs, see how much they really cost and look for efficiencies as we implement them. Sure, they won't be free, but saying that we can't afford them because we're currently in mediocre economic times implies that the economy will never improve. Certainly opponents don't believe that. We should be planning for how we want to improve education now, because it's too important to wait around until we have a big pile of money we don't know what to do with. Observers of the Statehouse know that just doesn't happen, and if it did, the legislature would just spend it on so many gazeboes and gaslights. Let's have an aggressive goal for education reform so that we have some sort of direction when funds free up.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Herald Goes Over the Top on Community Colleges

I get that "state employees add to their already generous salaries" is the Boston Herald's bread and butter, but I have to take exception to Dave "I committed libel" Wedge's latest story about community college salaries. Wedge describes the schools as a haven for "perk jobs" for politicians, cops and judges. When he actually gets around to describing these jobs, they turn out to be the few thousand dollars one would get for teaching a course at the school. The largest "perk job" is about $4,000 for teaching a semester-long course. Is the Herald's position that community colleges should not offer courses taught by people in the real world, or do they think that those who teach should not be compensated for their time? And $4,000? I've had week-long training seminars that cost more than that, let alone semester-long courses. The community colleges are getting a deal, as far as I'm concerned!

As for the six-figure salaries for the community college presidents, I couldn't quickly find numbers that were limited to community colleges specifically, but puts the numbers the Herald reported at the low end of the curve for College Chancellors.

I also understand that Governor Patrick's plan to eliminate tuition on community colleges would be expensive, and that's lead some to call him a "dreamer". The point of coming up with these ten and fifteen year plans is so we don't have to pay for all of this all at once. We can phase things in as funds become available and we figure out what works. But if you don't have a goal, you'll never reach it.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Tuesday Night Links

I didn't have a lot of time this morning, and I didn't have a lot of time this evening. So, you loyal readers get another link dump.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Letter to Our State Rep

Earlier today, my wife and I sent the following letter to our state representative:

Representative Rachel Kaprielian
Room 479
State House
Boston, MA 02133

Dear Rachel,

During last month's Democratic Convention, several people asked Steve to sign his name to a post card asking you to support marriage equality and vote against the marriage ban at the upcoming Constitutional Convention. We figured that we know you well enough to be uncomfortable sending you words someone else had written.

We are writing to both thank you for your previous support of marriage equality and to encourage you to continue and redouble your efforts to change the votes needed to keep the marriage ban off of the 2008 ballot. If there are not enough votes to defeat the ban, we ask you to work to stop it in any other way available to you.

This is an issue that is particularly important to us, as a couple in an interracial marriage. There was a time not too long ago when in many states it would have been illegal for the two of us to marry. Opponents of interracial marriage then made many of the same arguments that opponents of marriage equality make today. They claimed that these unions were "unnatural" and violated God’s laws, and that children in such families would have psychological problems. Then, as now, these arguments were mostly justifications for prejudice.

Massachusetts was at the forefront of the movement to allow couples like us to marry, repealing our anti-miscegenation laws in 1843, more than a century ahead of the rest of the country. Yet these laws were not repealed by popular vote, but by a group of abolitionists who pressured the legislature to do the right thing. Once again, members of the legislature should act to keep marriage protected for all couples who want it.

On June 12th, forty years will have passed since the Supreme Court, in Loving v. Virginia, guaranteed the rights of interracial couples to marry. Please do not allow Massachusetts to celebrate that anniversary by taking steps toward limiting marriage rights.

Again, thank you for your unwavering support on this issue,

[sco & Mrs. sco]

Make Verizon Pay for Statewide Franchising

In today's Boston Globe, Nolan Bowie, a senior fellow of the Shorenstein Center, has a guest column calling for the defeat of the cable franchising bill that is before the state legislature. Bowie argues, in part, that the bill would unfairly allow Verizon to become a statewide player in the cable business without having to go through the same process that current cable providers had to complete in each municipality. Local control of cable franchising, Bowie says, doesn't take more than a year to complete, and allows cities and towns to extract concessions, usually in the form of cable access channels. Without that leverage, it would cost municipalities more to produce local content.

In addition, Bowie notes that even with new statewide franchising rules, Verizon still only plans to serve 16% of Massachusetts' 351 cities and towns. The majority of municipalities in the state will see no benefits from this bill. And in fact, those communities further from Boston would suffer because complaints would now have to be registered with a state agency located there, and not at town hall.

Am I just being hopelessly naive in thinking that there's potential for compromise here? If Verizon wants easier, statewide licensing, why shouldn't we tell them that the price tag is for them to pay their property taxes? I suppose if Verizon thinks that they can get what they want without having to give up anything in return, there's no incentive for them to compromise. I'd hate, however, to see our legislature change the rules for Verizon's benefit and have most consumers get little or nothing in return.

Update: Dan Kennedy has much more at Media Nation. He's against the bill, and has a great amount of detail on the coalition working to stop it.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Weekend Baby Blogging


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Liveblogging the Health Care Forum Q&A

I got to today's Health Care Forum for the fifth district congressional candidates a little late. The Pike was shut down for about a half hour, just before the 495 exit, after a deadly SUV rollover. I missed the opening statements, but I was able to transcribe some of the responses to the short question-and-answer period. Other bloggers were there liveblogging, and you can read Charley on the MTA's post at BMG and you can read Ryan's Take at his blog.

My notes from the Q&A session are in the full post. They're a little raw, so forgive any mispellings or bad grammar.

1st question about the prescription drug problem: Fast tracking of new drugs by FDA worth it?

Niki Tsongas: Until the FDA gets its house in order, fast-tracking won't work.

Barry Finegold: Need to streamline FDA, but not at the risk of putting untested drugs on the market.

Eileen Donoghue: If we look at Vioxx, the safety concerns and the harm done by fast-tracking gives me pause. Didn't work, I don't support it.

Jim Micelli: People should still have the availability of experimental drugs, if there's nothing left.

Jamie Eldridge: Concerned about Vioxx and a couple other drugs. We need a Federal Govt that is supporting prescription drugs. FDA is biased toward Pharma.

Is the Federal Govt doing enough to plan for avian flu?

BF: No. Not enough on the state govt level, either. Could kill up to 2 million people. We need to educate people, as well, we're not doing enough.

ED: No. Fed Govt hasn't done enough to stockpile. Not enough room in hospitals, etc. There are other natural disasters that we need to stockpile for.

JM: Look at Katrina, no transparancy of responsibility. Same problem when it comes to preparing for disaster.

JE: Need to stockpile more antiviral. USDA should hire more people to inspect poultry facilities. We need to be proactive to prevent deaths before flu comes to US. MA used to have best public health infrastructure in the US, not so much any more.

NT: It's unfortunate. Past commissioner of public health says they know it's going to come. They need to coordinate with public safety and public health.

Q: Tort reform?

ED: Doesn't attribute rising costs to med. malpractice. There are 100,000 deaths due to avoidable medical error. Doesn't want to shut out families harmed by medical error.

JM: Doctors are practicing defensive medicine. People should be entitled to any justifiable reimbursement, but there are times when people aren't getting the best from their doctor for obvious reasons. We might have a schedule that holds the doctor harmless.

JE: Tort reform is stripping the citizen's legal rights to redress injuries. To reduce medical malpractice premiums, we need universal single payer health care.

NT: In favor in the context of a "team approach" to medical care, that doesn't single out the doctor. Until then, it's not appropriate.

BF: We need to stop frivolous lawsuits. Trying to keep OB/GYN in MA is tough. Why are these rates going up? Related to the stock market.

Why are costs high?

JM: A good part of the cost is due to the way physicians are practicing "defensive medicine". The doctors are inhibited by "what lies around the corner." A good part of the cost is due to the practice of the physician.

JE: Single payer will solve all cost problems.

NT: Look to best-practices institute. Our instinct is to have every test taken, and the doctor's instinct is to offer it. We should analyze what's appropriate.

BF: We had our second child in a blizzard, and doctors and nurses risked their lives for us. We need to fund health care better.

ED: Don't blame the doctors. We need to reform the system. if a patient is in the hospital, the hospital has to eat the days that aren't covered by medicare.

What restrictions on abortion?

JE: Fully support Roe v. Wade. Concerned about anti-choice Supreme Court. We need a Democratic president.

NT: Same. We need to be ever vigilant. Has been endorsed by EMILY's List.

BF: Appalled by Supreme Court's decision. Not the government's place.

ED: "Ditto"

JM: I'm a pro-life candidate. I voted for stem cell research, supports exceptions for the life of the mother.

Do you support medical marijuana?

NT: Yes, and decriminalization for minor amounts.

BF: Yes, depending on distribution system, compared to sudafed and oxycontin.

ED: No. Still issues concerning quality control. There are other drugs.

JM: No. Don't know how you could control it.

JE: Yes. Govt should not be involved in restrictions on how doctors can treat patients.

Do you support needle exchange programs?

ED: Coming from Lowell, I am concerned. I'd explore it.

JM: No.

JE: Yes, I was proud to support over-the-counter hypodermic needles. The science says it reduces diseases like HIV and TB.

NT: There's been one in four different communities for the past ten years and it's been effective. Police think it's good, let's expand the pilot programs.

BF: Yes, it's also a safety issue with first responders and those who deal with drug addicts.

Do you support the importation of drugs from Canada?

JM: Yes.

JE: Yes. Constituents tell him about how they take buses up to Canada.

NT: Yes, as long as they meet safety requirements.

BF: No. We need to make sure our drugs are the same prices as they are in Canada in the first place. No more drug advertising.

ED: Yes. Supports the specific bill before Congress.

Do you support health spending accounts?

JE: This is a GOP tactic that says "you're on your own". We need to support national health care.

NT: No, supports the Edwards-type plan that provides access to affordable health care.

BF: Don't think it can be used as a substitute for health care coverage.

ED: No, you're treating sickness not wellness. How do you know when you're going to get sick and how much it's going to cost?

JM: Absolutely not. It would be an absolute disaster.

Govt administered health care like the VA has been very efficient. Why is the debate around the country focused on the market?

NT: We have to contend with the political realities of the health care issue. We finally have a national consensus based on the Massachusetts "success". We need to address the cost of care, which is tied to the cost of insurance. Can we really move forward? We have an opportunity if we elect a Democratic President.

BF: Through health markets, we'll have a choice between a Medicare system and a market system. The most efficient one will win out. The admin costs in his own business he feels should come down.

ED: No doubt that medicare and VA are efficient, and models toward single payer. If the will were there, she would support single payer. In the meantime, let's solve issues with Medicare.

JM: everything has to be on the table. You can't look at them and say the efficiencies mean that this is the way to go.

JE: We're not going down there to accept political reality. We're going there to show political leadership. Medicare is single payer. Massachusetts health care law does little to reduce costs. Already, people are being exempted because costs are too high. Premiums and copays are also too high.

Medicare says same-sex couples are strangers. Can we change that?

BF: Strong supporter of gay rights.

ED: Strong supporter of marriage equality. Goes beyond marriage to death benefits, medical benefits, etc.

JM: No.

JE: Yes, I have been a leader on gay rights. There are still couples in MA who are not allowed to receive benefits because they are Federal employees, thanks to DOMA.

NT: Once someone embraces marriage equality, you have to embrace all the rights and privledges that go with it.

Do you believe mental health should be treated equally to physical health? What about homeless mentally ill and returning soldiers?

ED: We have a crisis in mental health coverage -- need more beds, etc. it's contributing to homelessness. First act would be to file a GI bill of rights. It's a disgrace that returning soldiers are treated poorly when they return home.

BF: Mental illness affects 26.6% of the American adults. We need to de-stigmatize this. We need to make sure that insurance covers all mental illnesses.

NT: Endorse the need to take care of people with mental illnesses. It creates pressures on people. It's more apparent to us. Bush admin has no plan in taking care of returning veterans. It may be a lifetime commitment.

JE: MA has the mental health parity law, requiring mental health care. On the federal level, but the way to get there is universal single-payer health care. High populations of mentally ill in prisons, costs us a lot.

JM: What faces the veterans as they are returning, particularly Walter Reed, is a disgrace. Been an advocate for the Tewskbury hospital in his district. Not happy with what's been done on a national level.

Here are my notes on the candidates' closing statements:

JM: 16th term in the legislature. Served in many committees, and now a chairman and the highest-ranking legislator running. He's worked very hard for his district. He has town meetings and office hours and been an effective legislator. He can "hit the ground running". He also built a business -- everyone had great health care and profit sharing. Feels that he can do an outstanding job.

JE: Forums allow us to focus on specific issues. At the end of the day, the only proposal that would guarantee health coverage is to move to universal single-payer. It's going to be for the benefit for all of society. Who is going to fight the hardest to make that happen? He is. One candidate wants a market-based system -- that's the problem to begin with. One candidate is concerned about HMO profits -- he doesn't care about profits.

NT: She believes its a time for a change in tone and a change in policy. Health care is about everybody. We have an opportunity to provide coverage for people right now -- not sometime in the future. She believes in shared responsibility. We need to protect community hospitals and health centers. We can't get there until we provide broad-based coverage. Believes in stem-cell research and that we should address the growing nursing shortage.

BF: Starting to see familiar faces at all these debates. Would also have a district office in Hudson -- important that every single city and town is represented. He's voted to make health care a right. Health markets can insure that access to everyone. We need legislation that prohibits discrimination. Benefited from great health care. Major problem with drug advertising, we should ban it and make sure that money goes to R&D. Govt and HMOs should not make decisions between doctors and patients.

ED: Single-payer health care in the real world is the way to go. I would fight for it. Leadership is more than standing for principle, it's about results. Since 1993, we've added 10 million to the rolls of the uninsured and doubled costs to families. We can't wait 15 years. In the meantime, let's get access to universal coverage to as many people as we can while we strive for the single-payer system. Expand Medicare and make coverage mandatory on employers and employees -- can't let employers off the hook. We're spending 75% of health care dollars to treat diabetes, heart disease and obesity -- all treatable, all preventable. We don't have another 15 years to waste while we wait for a "perfect solution".

Friday, June 01, 2007

MA-05 Health Care Forum Reminder

Don't forget -- tomorrow, June 2nd, is the Health Care Forum for the Massachusetts Fifth district Congressional candidates in Hudson. The forum will be moderated by Watertown's own Dolores Mitchell, the executive director of the state's Group Insurance Commission. It's sponsored by the Metrowest Dems and by BlogLeft, the mysterious cabal of Massachusetts-based progressive bloggers. If you have any health-care specific questions for the candidates, feel free to pose them here. Over at Blue Mass Group, Charley has posted his own.

The debate will be from 10 AM to Noon at the Hudson Portuguese Club 13 Port Street in Hudson. All of the Democrats in the race except for Rep. Jim Miceli have confirmed their attendance. The debate which will also be broadcast on Hudson's Cable Access, and we're trying to make sure it's streamed on the web, or at least available for viewing after-the-fact. I'll be there and, if I can manage, I'll be live-blogging.

Also, I got a message from the Mass. Democratic party announcing another MA-05 candidates forum, this one sponsored by the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. It will be on Monday, June 4th at the Little Theatre at Lowell High School, 50 Father Morrissette Blvd., Lowell at 7 p.m (doors open at 6:30). All five democratic nominees are expected to attend.