PARSING CONGRESS’s BIG TAX REFORM

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^ Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (l) and Orrin Hatch (r) : the Senate’s tax reform misses the entire point and cannot be supported

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So : can we support the bill, or not ? Do we endorse all of it or only some of it ? Or can we like any of it ? These questions I will try to answer in this, my first report on a proposal already generating a wave of criticism, as expected.

There are two separate tax reform bills on offer. First is the House’s version, which was adopted by a 227 to 205 vote (13 Republicans joined all 192 Democrats voting No). You can read the details of the House bill here : http://blog.acton.org/archives/98766-explainer-what-you-should-know-about-the-gop-tax-plan.html?gclid=EAIaIQobChMImcfAgMjX1wIVhrbACh26EgZ9EAAYASAAEgI9G_D_BwE

Please note that the final House bill reinstated the adoption tax credit not listed in the above, original version of the House proposal.

It’s hard to fault the bill that the House finally adopted. The mortgage interest deduction is retained, as are deductions for state and local taxes and adoption. The one missing item that matters a lot is the deduction for interest on student debt, and I agree that this deduction should be retained and even expanded. Unfortunately, the Senate’s version of tax reform does no such thing. On many counts, the Senate bill is unacceptable, especially as amended by committee Chairman Orrin  Hatch :

  • The amended bill would slightly cut individual tax rates for multiple brackets and set seven rates: 10 percent, 12 percent, 22 percent, 24 percent, 32 percent, 35 percent and 38.5 percent. Those changes, as well as the near doubling of the standard deduction, would expire after 2025. The reduced corporate tax rate, down to 20 percent from 35 percent, would be permanent.
  • The child tax credit would rise from $1,000 to $2,000. It would start to phase out at $500,000 in household income. The change would also sunset after 2025.
  • As expected, the plan would effectively repeal the Obamacare individual mandate, which requires most Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty. Senators say doing so will save more than $300 billion to give Republicans more budget flexibility. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that it will lead to 13 million more people uninsured by 2027 and increase average Obamacare premiums.
  • The Senate plan would expand proposed tax breaks for pass-through businesses. Those would also expire after 2025.
  • It also gets rid of a provision that would have taxed company stock options when they vest. Silicon Valley had opposed that measure, saying it would suffocate entrepreneurial effort

The Senate’s plan is what it is because the House legislation increases the national debt, which means that the Senate would need 60 “yes” votes to approve it, and 60 voters it cannot get. Senator Hatch’s proposal is said to be “revenue neutral.”

I cannot endorse his proposal, however. Making corporate tax cuts permanent while phasing out individuals’ deductions is bad policy, unfair and exactly wrong. If any tax changes should phase out, it’s the corporate cuts. I also decry Hatch’s lack of a deduction for student debt interest. The entire student debt riddle needs major reform. Student debt hangs over every gradure’s head at dollar levels that only the job-fortunate graduates can ever dispose of.  Student debt is also exempted from bankruptcy relief — an unfairness with zero justification that I can think of. A debtor in bankruptcy can discharge IRS bets, but not student debt ? Give me a break. What does student debt support ? Inflated salaries for university administrators, including those at for-profit colleges — there shouldn’t even BE for-profit education, much less undischargeable debt to support such profits.

Hatch’s proposal also eliminates the “individual mandate ” that is the cornerstone of Obamacare, thus seeking the very undermine that Congress correctly refused ti app0rove in at least two separate votes earlier this year. Given the elimination of the ACA’s basis as well as the refusal to adjust student debt, hatch’s proposal can NOT be supported. It must fail.

Which brings tax reform back to the House version. It needs some Democratic support if it is to get by the Senate’s 60 vote rule. I think that if a deduction for student debt interest is added to the House version, and assuming that its individual deduction reforms are not phased out, it might gain some Democratic support. That it increases the national debt, at a time when interest rates remain historically very low  — barely above one percent — seems to me a nonce. Why not borrow money if the cost of it is practically nothing ?

Let’s see if our Congress can get past its donors’ self seeking demands and onto a policy that benefits almost everybody.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

FIXING THE “T” REMAINS A BIG CHALLENGE

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^ Governor Baker and Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack watch as new Orange Line cars get delivered

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Governor Baker’s office recently announced two significant improvements to our region’s transit services : first, new orange Line cars are starting to arrive for service — much needed to replace cars almost 40 years old and just about finished. Second, the MBTA’s Fiscal Control Board will be asked to approve a $ 720,000,000 installation of an al-electronic fare collection system that will, hopefully, eliminate fare jumping and make collection of fares just about fail safe.

You can read the Baker administration’s full report on “T” improvements here : https://blog.mass.gov/transportation/mbta/baker-polito-administration-mbta-welcome-345-new-buses-as-fmcb-marks-two-years-of-reform-progress/

These are good advances. Same can be said for the recently announced $ 1 billion savings won by Baker’s MBTA administrators for the cost of extending the Green Line. Nonetheless, fixing the “T” remains a challenge, because Boston’s population continues to grow, placing a non-stop burden on “T” service even as improved :

( 1 ) more people living in the City itself mean more “T” riders and more hours of operation. Today, the “T” shuts down between one ABM and five AM. That likely cannot continue. It’s already a large inconvenience.

( 2 ) extending the Green Line and adding more trains means more use of electric power. Yet Eversource’s planned new substations in the City have drawn significant opposition.

( 3 ) the need for added electric power will only grow, as the proposed electronic fare collection system is installed (if approved) and as further transit extensions — connecting Blue Line to Red, extending the Blue Line to Lynn, expanding the Silver Line to Chelsea and connecting it to the Blue Line — win budget allocation and go into service five to ten years from now.

( 4 ) electric power shortages will also increase as the Pilgrim nuclear power plant is shut down in 2019.

( 5 ) strong opposition to increasing our area’s natural gas supply via pipelines portends no relief from that power source either.

( 6 ) as more Boston newcomers opt not to own cars, ridership on the “T” will; increase even more than anticipated, imposing a burden on scarce electric power beyond the impacts I have listed above.

Transit service seems the transportation method that most people will use in the coming decades, more so than bicycles, perhaps as common as cars and trucks. If Boston in year 2030 contains 750,000 to 850,000 people — an increase of 100,000 to 200,000 from our 1970 population — both transit and the electric power that moves it will have to increase accordingly. Cars of the future will also use more electricity and less gas. Where is all of this added power supply to come from, if not from expanded Eversource substations and transmission lines ?

Then there’s the money factor. The State’s budget is already squeezed toward deficit status by the huge health care cost burden left to us by Washington’s refusal to continue subsidizing the State’s largest budget item — some 40 percent of our $ 40 billion total expenditure. How are we going to pay the approximately $ 5 billion to $ 6 billion of upgrades needed to bring the full “T” system up to “state of good repair” ? You might answer : the two-tier tax initiative to be voted at the 2018 election earmarks its revenue to transportation (and education). Perhaps; but the legislature has never carried out voters’ earmarks, and I am skeptical it will do so now.

As I see it, the FY 2019 state budget will need to add at least $ 2,000,000,000 to the usual “T” budget, and the same seems the case for FY 2020, 2021, and 2022 as well. Where will the money come from ? The legislature is not ready to raise voters’ tax burden, nor is the Governor likely to become a tax increaser.

There are two options; but I don’t foresee either of them coming to pass any time soon :

First, we could raise the minimum wage to $ 15/hour, thereby changing 500,000 minimum wage earners from EITC (earned income tax credit) recipients to actual tax payers. Or, we could allocate some of the two-tier tax initiative’s education earmark to transportation instead. Neither option seems likely, which means that the costs of improving “T” service for our expanded population won’t be met; which means that “T” service will not meet commuters’; coming needs. Which means the Boston economic boom bumps up against a bottleneck that can only be by-passed, not resolved, by increasing the amount of “T” operation done by private contractors with every incentive to skimp on quality and to pay their employees skimpy wages: which are the opposite of what we should be doing.

I will be most interested to find out what the legislature’s answer is to these riddles. Also the Governor’s.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sp0here

 

SHOULD EAST BOSTON ACCEPT EVERSOURCE’s PROPOSED SUBSTATION ?

substation

^ opponents of the Eversource substation proposal feel that the site is much too close to inflammable fuel storage. Is this so ?

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About three years ago, Eversource, which provides electric power to East Boston and much of the metropolitan area, filed with state regulators a plan to site an electricity substation on land it owns at Eagle Square. The utility asserts an immediate need for increased and more reliable power supply.

I intend to opine on the upcoming decision, by the Public Utilities Commission, whether to approve the site or not; but first, you may read for yourself the Eversouce proposal, and the firm’s justifications, at two links :

https://www.eversource.com/Content/ema-c/about/major-projects-infrastructure/massachusetts-transmission-projects/mystic—east-eagle—chelsea-reliability-project

and

http://www.transmissionhub.com/articles/2016/05/eversource-files-initial-brief-with-massachusetts-siting-board-for-proposed-115-kv-project.html.

Not surprisingly, Eversource’s proposal sparked a ton of opposition. You can read the o9pposition’s arguments here :

http://www.eastietimes.com/2017/03/03/channel-fish-makes-last-push-to-stop-eversource-substation/

On November 30th, the Public Utilities Commission will hold a hearing at the State House, to determine if it should give final approval to Eversource’s proposal. The opposition intends to fill the hearing room with those who do not favor having an Eversource substation under any circumstances. As the above link reads, Channel Fish Company and its principal, Loulis Silvestro, continue to fight the Eversource proposal all the way, Channel beliveing that Eversource doesn’t give two hoots about the electric company or the neighborhood’ s diverse residents.

My personal opinion is that the Eversource proposal should be approved, unless ( 1 ) it can be shown that additional power supply is not urgently needed or ( 2 ) the overall power supply to East Boston falls far short of expected capacity demand. Here’s why I support the power addition :

That more power supply is needed is indisputable, East Boston’s population having added some 20,000 people since 2009. Right now these folks may in some cases be using unauthorized power, thus putting additional pressure on a system of energy distribution already close to bankruptcy. Unauthorized power is a danger to the entire system.

The substation’s proposed location is troublesome — but not unreasonable. The site at issue lies very close to a major ball field at which the  City’s Park league holds its games. That much is true. Channel Fish’s Silvestro alleges that the proposed pipe line lies much too close to his facility, putting his fish at risk. The area’s residents complain that above ground power lines out their children at risk of lethal electrocution. Lastly, they assert that the substation will stand dangerously close to inflammable fuel storage tanks, so why risk that ?

My view is that these objections can both be met and at no great cost. Regulations regarding the proximity of power lines to ball fields and schools can be drafted and should be. As for the neighbors’ objections, these tear at one’s heart but probably do not predict events. The potential for children wandering into a live transformer wire zone is real, but hardly impossible to prevent. Lastly, the claim of too great a proximity to major fuel storage tanks can be responded to. Those tanks are all attached to their station by electric wiring. It doesn’t seem likely that oil tanks already wired will become more dangerous because the substation that serves them if located nearby.

Eversource must be able to meet all objections and likely can do so. Electricity has always been dangerous to create and transmit. Eversource has decades of experience confronting the dangers of electric power transmission and storage. Of course we cannot allow Eversource to build an unsafe power facility, nor a leaky one; my sense of it is that of all the risks involved in the planned substation,  electricity’s danger is something that Eversource is most well prepared to minimize.

Such is the positive case for approving the Eagle Square substation. The case for disapproving will surely be testified to at the November 30th hearing, complete with evidence and assessments. We will be eager to hear the opposition’s best case.

However : if the entire community needs this power increase, as Eversource asserts it does, why should a few be allowed to inconvenience the many ? Power is essential to everything in modern life. A home can’t run without it, you can’t recharge your smart phone, you can’t refrigerate, you can’t heat your residence. Businesses can’t operate either. It’ll have to be shown me quite conclusively, that Eversource is mistaken about upcoming power needs, before I will oppose the substation entirely — although the safety concerns raised by neighbors and by Channel Fish certainly do merit diligent mitigation.

So, is there in East Boston a grave need for more power locally ? Perhaps the November 30th hearing will answer some of these crucial questions.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

 

 

ANALYZING THE SALEM ELECTION

Driscoll

^ Paul Prevey (l) lost his bid to defeat Mayor Kim Driscoll (r), 4194 to her 7982.

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Last Tuesday the city of Salem’s voters delivered the most definitive electoral verdict, one that forever makes Salem a different city than it had been. More than 12,000 voters cast a ballot — well more than half of all registered — and Mayor Kim Driscoll defeated her challenger, Paul Prevey, by almost two to one, winning every one of Salem’s 1r4 voting precincts.

You can read all of the actual numbers here : http://salem.wickedlocal.com/news/20171108/by-numbers-salem-2017-election-results

Though Driscoll carried every Salem neighborhood, the dynamics of her campaign spoke a different story, one reflected in the location of her largest precinct victories :  she is Downtown Salem’s Mayor, and it is the residents of downtown — most of them newcomers typo the city — who now control its politics, its economy, its social settings.

It is Downtowners who have created Salem’s new voice — the city where there is “no place for hate,” a city open for business in which the symbol of unity is a gorgeously tall drag queen, Gigi Gill, who calls herself — with much justification — “Duchess Gigi. Official Queen of Salem.”

It is these same Downtowners — many of them owners of small businesses and technology start ups — who, supported by Mayor Driscoll, have established the city’s openness to all LGBTQ people, very much in line with the takeover of “pride” events and marches by business progressives — in one city after another.

That story is the same in Salem as in so many American cities : downtown has become the beehive of activity economic, social, industrial, and political. Rents rise, house prices rise, condominiums abound, single people fill bistros with eager and well heeled young faces. They set the tone, mark the tempo, make the music of today’s Salem.

As for long-time residents, living chiefly in neighborhoods away from Downtown, the results of this election made absolutely clear that they have two choices : get with the expansionist program, and move to the techno beat, or be defeated opposing it.

It was also the city’s business community that made significant a proposal offered by City Councillor David Eppley, to declare Salem a Sanctuary City — a movement that has taken hold in many booming American cities, by which the city asserts it will offer no help at all to Federal immigration officers trolling for undocumented residents to arrest. Businesses know well that undocumented residents are potential customers just like everyone else. In keeping with their desire to attract LGBTQ customers, these businesses want undocumented residents to know that their patronage is requested and respected. Thus the Sanctuary ordinance.

No sooner had the ordinance been approved by the City Council, by a seven to four vote at a hearing attended by hundreds of contentious activists, than opponents mounted a successful drive to place a referendum of the ordinance on the election ballot. The heated controversy over the sanctioning of “law breakers” (as an opponent called undocumenteds) stoked the large election day turnout throughout the city. Support for the Sanctuary matter was strongest, however, in Downtown Salem neighborhoods. Long-time Salemites dominate the three outlying precincts that voted “no.”

Sanctuary received 1700 more votes than the “No,” and that vote, plus its location, corroborated the current state of Salem politics : Downtown dominates, its dominance spearheaded by Mayor Driscoll and financed by its businesses and customers. The rest of the city takes on the attributes of a suburb, going about its very different affairs at a much slower and less noisy pace, in streets with outdoor swimming pools and lawns, trees and spacious homes on cul de sacs.

This is a common story in American cities today. I doubt there is any going back, for any of them, to the cities they were barely 30 years ago, with dead or dying downtowns and families moving to the suburbs as fast as they could leave; nor is Salem likely soon to revert to the silent, undynamic burg that was, a Salem as finished and gone as any version in its long and often scandalous history.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

SALEM, DIVIDED

KIM

^ door knocking, as she has been doing all campaign season : Mayor Kim Driscoll locked in a ferocious re-election campaign against challenger Paul Prevey

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Elections in the City of Salem may not rise to the importance of those in Boston, say; yet what has happened this year in Salem’s political annals reminds us that surfaces of calm and friendly conversation do not tell what is really going on.

Just as in the early 1990s the once united Yugoslavia erupted in violent division that descended rapidly into brutality and war, in which neighbors killed neighbors, so the placid, feel-good Salem of 2016, in which every sort of person proclaimed its love of every other sort, became, almost overnight, a city split in two. Here is what happened :

Early this year a City Councillor, David Eppley, proposed that Salem declare itself a Sanctuary City — a refuge for undocumented immigrants facing persecution by the Federal Immigration Police (ICE). The proposal genera5ed almost no pushback. Two years prior, Salem had adopted a similar ordinance, the “No Place for Hate” proclamation, in which Salem guaranteed to businesses and residents alike that there would be no discrimination against LGBT people in housing, employment, service, or facilities. This ordinance aroused no opposition, and an official ceremony hailing it was held in City Hall, featuring “Duchess Gigi,” the city’s now official drag queen. Very quickly, “Gigi” became a visible symbol of the city’s openness to all sorts of people and — just as significantly — a good place to do business.

“Gigi” went on to become one of Salem’s necessary spokespeople. She presided at all sorts of events, hosted others, and gathered a large following of Salemites who treasure the message her centrality in Salem life sends to all Salem visitors. It must have seemed to Eppley and his support group a no-brainer to now establish sanctuary City status. Yet no sooner had the Ci9ty Council begun debating the actual wording of the Sanctuary City act than opposition began to be heard from : the usual nay-sayers at first, but before on, all kinds of people who disliked the ordinance for a variety of reasons. When the much-reworked ordinance came up for a Council vote, 400 people showed up to speak in favor or against — about one third were opposed.

If you’ve read this far, you’re wondering, “when is the drama coming ? I want the drama !” And so it began.

The Council scheduled a hearing on the Sanctuary City ordinance. Hundreds of people showed. Much was said for and against. The Council voted 7 to 4 to approve it.

Within a week, opponents were gathering signatures to place the issue on this election year’s Salem ballot. They amassed over 5,000 signatures — almost a quarter of all voters.

With the issue put to the voters — whether Salem should welcome and shelter undocumented immigrants — all hell has broken loose. Charges and counter charges, plus every cliché argument against undocumenteds, from their being “illegal” to their supposed laziness, their alleged crime, etc. and etc. This would be all to say except that, in response, supporters of the ordinance — the “Yes On One”committee — have in turn attacked opponents as bigots, racists, and the like.

As the conflict heated to boiling, another, entirely separate issue stoked the mess : development. Salem has, in the past 12 years, seen major rebuilding of downtown as one old, beloved firetrap after another has met the demo team soon to e followed by the blandest sorts of five story box buildings a city has ever seen, much less liked. And the development boom continues, in many spots impacting long established residential neighborhoods and vulnerable small businesses run by local people Every development so proposed has generated ferocious conflict.

Did I forget to mention that the Mayor is up for re-election amidst all of this conflict ? As a determined supporter of development — and of the Sanctuary ordinance — Kim Driscoll, now seeking her third term, has had to fight several major battles at once. It is far from certain that shall can defeat her opponent, former Ward Six Councillor Paul Prevey.

Driscoll has campaigned hard from the start. She knew right away what was coming. Of late she has stepped up her campaign and now looks closer to victory than at the end of September. She is pulling out all the stops, using all the powers that a strong mayor city charter accords her. She hasn’t given an inch, either , of her two big commitments : to development and to the LGBT Q and immigrant peoples of Salem. One has to respect such fortitude. Few politicians have it.

She may be undermined, however, by her most fervent supporters. The “no Place for Hate:” committee have, in some quarters, become known as the anti-hate hate group. They themselves insist that the hate comes from their opponents, the “No On One” people. They may well be right: but it looks bad for a “No Place for Hate” team to throw verbal brickbats. The ground shakes beneath the missiles fired on social media by and opponents of the Sanctuary ordinance.

The “No Place for Hate” committee also seems to have an agenda of its won, liking the Mayor only in passing as it seeks to bend the Democratic party to the left on a host of issues. This is a familiar story in today’s America, and if Salem’s politics indicate anything, it’s that the impassioned, Trump-driven left turn of the most dedicated activists alienates a many voters as it wins.

Meanwhile, to the ordinary voters, none of this sounds much. Salem’s regular voters get up, eat breakfast, send the kids to school go to work, come home, eat, go to bed. They’ll vote, though. Whether the activists like it or not. The outcome will be what ? Impossible for me to predict right now.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

WE ARE A SOCIETY OF LAWS

 

Harvey

^ Harvey Weinstein. Until last week I had never heard of him, but in that short time he has become the icon of impulsive’s victory over due process in our once Constitutional democracy

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On two fronts, of late, I see people advocating stuff on social media that has no business in a Constitutional democracy. From the people now hounding one Harvey Weinstein, whoever he is, with judgment about what passed between him and women, to those who oppose gun regulation so that unauthorized citizens can go vigilante, I see explicit disregard for the basic laws that hold our society in peace. Not for them the Constitution that they are always  claiming to support. Not for them such essentials of due process as proof and trial, not accusation. They want their way and to hell with Constitutional precepts.

Constitutional obligations require effort. Outrage does not. Outrage is emotional pornography.

What Mr. Weinstein is accused of is hardly new to Hollywood. The “casting couch” has ruled, so it seems, since the 1920s, when leggy young women became a hot movie item. Generations of movie moguls have been accused of the stuff that Mr. Weinstein is suddenly beyond the pale for doing. So easy it is, now, in 2017, to become high and mighty about stuff that barely yesterday we shrugged our shoulders about. This is the same sort of historical revisionism that we find elsewhere. Francis Sco0tt Key, who penned our national anthem, is suddenly no good because he owned slaves 205 years ago.

So easy it is to blindside those who lived long ago, when different standards ruled. And so our stirring national poem, which became the marching song of the Union Army in our Civil War, now becomes a no-no. Little wonder that our nation’s civic discourse hs descended from principle to poltroonery.

One would think that basic principles of societal order, such as due process, regulation of dangerous instruments, and respect for the equal civil rights of all would be unassailable, and that anyone who suggested ignoring them would find himself outcast. Now anyone who makes that assumption is wrong.

We can’t get serious gun regulation because a very well placed, if very small, subset of voters intimidates legislators by appropriating Constitutional precept for themselves. We  can’t secure due process in sexual harassment cases, the society’s most toxic : which is precisely the locus of Constitutional oversight.

We can’t secure for women the basic right to control her on body and birth.

We can’t secure presumption of innocence, rules of evidence, or objective analysis for those accused of  crimes — such as sexual harassment — that heat up the populace

We can’t guarantee voting rights to citizens who radical governments work to keep from voting,.

At Here and Sphere we reject these willful un-Americanisms. The Second Amendment grants no person an absolute right to carry weapons wherever he wants to. It talks about militias. Today those militias have been taken into the various National Guards.

We reject the notion that accusation of sexual harassment means los of profession. Accusation is not trial. It is not proof. It is not verdict. We try cases because we understand that accusation can arise from vengeance, from ignorance, from bigotry, or all three; or from assumption.

We dismiss the mind blindness that seeks to deny women to terminate a pregnancy

It is no legal business of anyone what another person does with her own body.

Accusation, even of sexual harassment, a wrong potentially criminal, cannot prejudice the rest of the evidence: letters, prior history, a back story, alternative theories — not if we are to remain a society at peace rather than a kettle of vengeance, a field of Bacchae.

Widespread gun ownership — enabling vigilante justice — puts paid to our Constitutional democracy. It’s the last thing that a civilized people should want or tolerate.

All of the above seems so utterly elementary to me that it marvels me to find myself saying them. Yet that is what we have come to in 2017, the 228th year of our Constitution. Impulse has replaced policy, vitriol over calm examination, religion zealotry over the civil rights of women. Lord knows where this torrent of self-centered griping will mislead us.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

 

THE NEW ERA IN BOSTON IS ABOUT CANDIDATE EXCELLENCE — NOT SKIN COLOR

Lydia

^ “new leadership” in Boston : District One candidate Lydia Edwards (l) with her “cm” (campaign manager), Gabriela Coletta, a veteran of several successful local campaigns

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Upon seeing the September 26 vote, my former Boston Phoenix colleague David Bernstein wrote that “women of color are leading the new era” in Boston politics. He has a point; but their leadership is much less about skin and much more about candidates who really know their stuff. Yes, Chyna Tyler, Linda Dorcena Forry, Michelle Wu, Ayanna Pressley, Andrea Campbell, and now Lydia Edwards, a District One candidate, are all “women of color.” But voters are not stupid, nor, in Boston, do they vote for skin. They vote for whom they perceive to be the best candidate.

Long connection does make a difference. The reason why a broad spectrum of “women of color” have only begun to break through in the past five years or so is because they are not connected to the old connections of Irish and Italian-descended voters whose connectivity as formed an habitual electoral winning streak. It takes time for new connections of this profoundly long-term kind tr,o become a bond, and of course the large exodus from Boston of the vast majority of old-connected Irish and Italian-descended voters factors large in the change that Bernstein writes about. The voter list in District One, for example, is barely 20 percent comprised of Irish and Italian-descended people.

Still, many of these voters embraced Lydia Edwards’s candidacy on September 26, just as Councillor at Large Ayanna Pressley has won the votes of West Roxbury and State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry won many voters, in her 2013 campaign, who were not of color. District One has hardly any Black voters and not very many voters who are Latino nor Asian. Skin color clearly played very little part in her September 26 vote, a mere 77 short of the total amassed by the “traditional” candidate, Stephen Passacantilli.

The voters whose votes put Edwards within striking distance of a victory — she already won Charlestown, as “traditional” a neighborhood as any in Boston, and won it by carrying the “traditional” precincts; the new-Charlestown Precinct One, she lost — chose her f or her mastery of the issues, her embrace of several neighborhood wants, and her dogged hard work. She won votes from very conservative voters and from female civic activists, of which Charlestown has many more than a few. As she says, “it’s the coalition you build.”

Easier said than done — but one means of doing it is to be open to every sort of voter and to work hard and personally so those many sorts of voters see that (1) you are open t.o them and (2) willing to work hard to persuade them. This is what Dorcena Forry aimed to do, and did, and it is what Ayanna Pressley has worked for many years to do, and has done. Andrea Campbell’s and Chyna Tyler’s rises were somewhat different. Both ran, and won, in Districts where voters of color are a clear majority. Yet both won the majority of votes cast by Caucasian voters in their districts by being the better candidate, by effort committed and by mastery of the issues their voters care about.

If Lydia Edwards wins the final on November 7th — as right now she looks poised to do — it will not be because of her skin but because of her effort, mastery, and willingness to connect with all kinds of voters. Admittedly, the diminished numbers of long-connected Irish and Italian descended voters has given her that chance; but Stephen Passacantilli — whose family has been well respected in the District for 100 years —  did not fail to win a convincing primary vote because “traditional” voters have lost numbers. Edwards won plenty of such voters in what so far has been a much more broadly based, smarter primary campaign.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere