BOSTON MAYOR RACE : THE SCHOOLS ISSUE GETS DIVISIVE

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^ John Connolly : SFCs $ 500,000 guy

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The cat is out of the bag now. Big-time.

About a week ago we mused, on our Facebook page, that there would soon be huge money entering the Mayor election on behalf of a “major” candidate. As Marty Walsh had already said, “and it won’t be for me,” we concluded that the money at issue would go to John Connolly.

Today’s Boston Globe confirms it. Stand for Children (SFC), a non-profit, school reform advocacy group based in Oregon, will spend at least $ 500,000 to promote John Connolly’s candidacy. And why not ? His schools agenda conforms almost exactly to SFC’s. He, like SFC,supports a longer school day, more stringent teacher performance standards, counseling for all children, and — yes — an increase in the number of charter schools. None of this should have been fire-storm news.

Still, no sooner did the Globe article appear than all hell broke loose. The brother of candidate Felix G. Arroyo attacked SFC on his Facebook page as “anti-teachers union, pro-privatization …group ‘Stand ON Children'” and linked to an article about SFC headlined “profiteering and Union-busting repackaged as school reform.”

Nor is Arroyo the only candidate who supports the Boston Teachers Union in opposing authorizing more charter schools. So do candidates Charles Clemons, Rob Consalvo, and Michael Ross.

Meanwhile, candidates Barros, Conley, Connolly, Walczak, and Walsh support lifting State law’s current limitation on how many there can be of charter schools. Of these five, SFC picked Connolly as its “most aligned with us” candidate. That is what advocacy groups do.

Of course a hue and cry also arose about “outside money” coming into what has paraded itself as a locally funded, “people’s pledge” campaign (the pledge refers to an agreement made between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren in their 2012 Senate race, not to accept outside PAC money.) Candidates opposing SFC’s schools position cried the loudest; Consalvo even asked all Mayor candidates to take that “people’s pledge.”

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^ Rob Consalvo : people’s pledge not to accept SFC money …

It is a given that big money is spent on big elections, and in Boston there’s none bigger than an open election for Mayor — especially now, with the City in the midst of a construction boom and a Downtown revitalizing as a place to shop, work, party, and live. Connolly has latched onto the downtown wave, and his schools agenda hews close not only to SFC’s but also to that of Governor Patrick, to legislation adopted in 20120 and to a schools agreement concluded in 2012. It signals that he absolutely means to see the agreements enacted in 2010 and 2012 adopted throughout the Boston School system. Also that he, if elected, will powerfully push for more charter schools and for a longer school day. Radical ? Not at all. most voters agree with all of it. Anti-union ? only if the Boston Teachers Union (BTU) sees it that way.

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 Marty Walsh : Labor’s guy supports lifting charter schools cap

Fascinating it is, to see how far out of step with voter sentiment the BTU has become. Forty years ago, Boston teachers were being elected to the City’s School Committee simply because they were teachers. the profession had that much respect. The schools of that day were racially segregated, and that was wrong; but to most parents they provided an education that comported well with what parents then expected : preparation to enter the then industrial and public-employee workforce.

Today public employee jobs still exist aplenty, but industrial employment mostly does not. If your child is going to be hireable into the technologically savvy economy — even into public employment — he or she needs more than just to pass an MCAS test or three. He or she needs to become computer fluent, conversant with mobile technology, program languages capable; failure-free in spelling, grammar, technical writing, Windows, Unix, network administration, mathematics, and, yes, current events; as well as able to create an Adobe PDF document, not to overlook all kinds of other forms and formats that today’s businesses create and modify every minute. These skills and arts cannot be mastered in a school that settles for average achievement in a short school day. The children of 40 years ago needed to know mainly how to respond to a boss and to concentrate on tasks repeated over and over. Today’s child needs to master work teams, social graces, how to take and respond to criticism and give it; how to book travel and negotiate airports; to speak and read more than one language; and such like.

That corporations might just have an interest in seeing that Boston’s school graduates can handle strongly all these skills and arts may seem like “corporatism” to some. To us it seems only common sense. Corporations hire a large number of those graduating. If they cannot fill that large number of hires in Boston, why shouldn’t they relocate to cities whose graduates can fill them ? The same is true for start-ups. Boston has far more than its share of these because we care about education. we will not settle for the out of date or the average. Teachers Unions, like all institutions, develop an institutional undertow of their own; the Union is led by those who began in it decades ago and then rose to power inside it, notwithstanding the huge societal and economic changes going on outside. Because Teachers’ Unions leaders must respond to its membership, and because its membership goes by seniority just as it insists on seniority as a job securement, so the Teachers’ leaders fight to hold on to bargains already won — even as these bargains lose their cogency to what is needed of schools. And thus the Teachers; union has lost a great deal of the solid support and respect that it once had among Boston voters.

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^ Felix Arroyo : advocate for Boston Teachers Union

The BTU seems not to understand how cornered it is in the arena of public opinion. While the MTA (Massachusetts Teachers Alliance) has heard the message and opted into the State’s reform process, it is not clear that the BTU has faced the music. Until charter schools, it was the BTU way or no way; public schools, or off to the suburbs or to parochial school. The coming of charter schools, however, which operate something like parochial schools, in which teachers are paid less but have much more input, along with parents, into curriculum and administration, parents now have choices. No wonder that they are exercising those choices.

It is no way a bad thing that Boston school parents now have choices. Heck, they want even more choices ! Why should they not have them ? It is their children who are going to school, after all; and schools exist for their students, not for their employees. School employees only serve. SFC’s backing of John Connolly’s campaign puts the ball of school improvement and school flexibility directly into the Teachers’ court — and to the voters.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE : Because of today’s release, by the BTU, of a poll purporting to show that few voters support more charter schools, we will be posting a follow-up to the above story. This story is likely to grow even bigger as Primary Day approaches.

Autism Awareness — and the Viral Letter of an Abusive nature

Autism Awareness — and The Viral Letter

Coffee or Vodka? Parenting 911

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By now most of you fellow parent’s have at least heard of the outrageous — if in fact real — letter that has gone viral on every site, social media and otherwise, at our fingertips. Below is a copy of this very letter, and we at Here and Sphere as well as Coffee or Vodka? Parenting 911 are very interested in your opinions and feedback. It is Autism Awareness month — and our next advice piece WILL be all about Autism — as we feel it is befitting and something we will try to do with ALL awareness based questions, monthly.

Here is the letter:

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PLEASE COMMENT, INBOX , LIKE,- AS AN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT – AND SHARE….WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? 

Sincerely: Heather Cornell 

 

 

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“SECRET LETTERS TO HOME” One stop-loss soldiers story Part 2

According to Wikipedia, the Stop-loss definition is:

“Stop-loss is a term primarily used in the United States military. In the U.S. military, it is the involuntary extension of a service member’s active duty service under the enlistment contract in order to retain them beyond their initial end of term of service (ETS) date and up to their contractually agreed end of obligated service (EOS). It also applies to the cessation of a permanent change of station (PCS) move for a member still in military service. Stop-loss was used immediately before and during the first Persian Gulf War. Since then, it has been used during deployments to SomaliaHaitiBosniaKosovo and after the September 11 attacks and the subsequent War on Terror.”

The policy has been legally challenged several times. However, Federal courts have consistently found that military service members contractually agree that their term of service may be involuntarily extended until the end of their obligated service.

However, in real life it is much more than that. The term and its definition are minimal at best. Truth be told, even a cynic can not sit back and agree that such an act by OUR government is that of a free country — let alone a “free-man / soldier, who has served his country — and his term.

Through the years stop-loss has become much more “in our faces”, as undeclared “wars” have called many a soldier back to a place to which they barely survived — once, never-mind a forceful twice-go-round. In a 2004 Campaign speech by the then presidential candidate John Kerry — stop-loss was described accurately as a “back-door draft”. At that time, both politicians and war activists insisted and proclaimed its use an abuse of the law. Since Congress had not officially declared a war — the basis for using stop-loss was to them as well as those affected just that : “abuse”……

Much controversy, political agenda, hype, and inaccurate depictions of this “injustice” surround the topic whenever it is brought to our attention in any form. So how do we as Americans differentiate between fact and fiction — media agenda, propaganda, misguided citizens, and hoaxes — and how do we get the real stories, the guts and grit of the truth without literally being in that situation ourselves ?

In a weekly editorial, Here and Sphere will cautiously report one brave, wounded, forgotten, scared for his life, stop-loss soldier’s story. Though we can not completely vouch for it’s full accuracy — we will deliver this soldier’s encrypted letters, each with all its content — and let you, our readers, decide for yourselves. Our job is to report the news, and bring you the stories that matter to you. In “TOP SECRET” Letter to Home — One stop-loss soldier’s story — we will do just that.

LETTER #2

As I sit here contemplating adjusting and calibrating my “weapon”, my stomach feels hollow and my nerves are all edgy-like. I know I’m not hungry or even sick, just disgusted a little — okay maybe a lot, at what I’ve just been ordered to do. I am staring blankly just beyond my target — thoughts are rushing, twisting, and racing. “I am not a man if I can do this and feel nothing” I say to myself over and over like a record on repeat. “I just gave this man water, medical supplies, and other non-existant — virtually impossible to come-by necessities, only days ago — and now he and his family of mostly daughter’s and a young son, ARE A THREAT?” On what grounds? Why the sudden change in opinion? A man who has only a trade, of making clothing from gathered remnants — retrieved from corpses, and invaded, overtaken homes — and wherever else he scrounges. “This cannot be a real order.” So I carefully look behind me to double check — slouched down and hidden in a corner of the old tower, my superior nods, and signals the KILL SHOT ORDER — again I hesitate. Scratching the old wooden blood stained floor — like nails on a chalkboard — at least to me it sounded that way — I am summoned to quietly turn again as to not give away our location, but to be scowled at angrily, and once again commanded to shoot..

With my sniper precision and extensive unwanted training I FIRE. We retreat slowly, carefully and stealthy — as trained — down the back side of what had been my cover and home for the last 24 hours.

Upon returning to our base-camp I am reamed a new asshole, and given a lengthy lecture on the chain of command. But all that echoes in my head is the screeches and cries, of his two oldest daughter’s as they ran out to recover their father’s lifeless body — the body whose soul’s left to haunt me — and his blood is on my hands.

“This is not what I signed on for” — ” I should have been HOME years ago. But because I have no one to notice I am not writing, no one to answer my phone-calls or emails — NO ONE to know something is wrong — I am in this war laiden limbo, never knowing — “will I ever go home?” — “or will I be killed like some of the others, just to insure my silence?”

Please Pray for me if you can — Please ask question’s no one else can, FOR ME — Please DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING they tell you. As I am proof, there is a traitor among us — a thief with only his own agenda — and no clue as to what it’s really like to be ——— A stop-loss soldier

This soldier’s story as told by : Heather Cornell

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BOSTON MAYOR : ROSS, CONNOLLY, ARROYO, AND WALSH IN COMMAND AT MAIN STREETS COALITION FORUM; DAN CONLEY EFFECTIVE TOO

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^ the Twelve : Arroyo, Barros, Clemons, Conley, Connolly, Consalvo, Golar-Richie, Ross, Walczak, Walsh, Wyatt, Yancey

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Supporters of Mike Ross, John Connolly, Felix Arroyo, and Marty Walsh can sleep well tonight.  At the Forum held by the Main Streets coalition of 20 Coalition members, their candidates spoke well informed on every topic asked, indeed eloquently at times. Each seems to have his vision of the mayor’s mission well in place, and each saw the questions — mostly the concerns of small, neighborhood business, because that is what the Main Streets program is about — authoritatively in their particular mission’s terms. Dan Conley spoke effectively too, albeit in detail only — no grand themes did he embrace.

At a Forum, a candidate uses forensic skills. Speaking at a podium or into a microphone isn’t all that matters to a campaign — far from it — but voters do want to know that the candidates they are assessing can speak to the issues on voters’ minds and do so boldly, without resort to talking points. At the main Streets Coalition Forum, held in Upham’s Corner’s Strand Theater, the five candidates so far mentioned aced the test. If only the theater had been more full. It holds easily 1200 people, but most seats were empty. Let’s say that 300 were in the room, many of them supporters of local favorites John Barros, who lives nearby; Charlotte Golar-Richie, who lives almost as close by as Barros; and Felix Arroyo.

The evening had its highlights. Each of the effective speakers chalked up several.

On the question of what to do with the BRA, Marty Walsh and John Connolly answered well. Said Walsh : “Certain things are working, but much is lacking. Costs of construction don’t get figured properly. Main Streets organizations aren’t told where to apply to fill slots on their boards.” Connolly gave this answer : “going into the BRA should be like walking into an apple store : serve the customer. We should utilize technology to make the BRA’s services more user friendly. There should be a time limit on all BRA Board members. we should know how the BRA plans to create jobs and housing.”

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^ John Connolly ; an apple store government, with equity funding for small businesses

Even stronger was Ross’s answer : “Remove all affordable housing plans from the BRA. We shouldn’t decentralize the BRA in the middle of a building boom, but affordable housing must be the first principle of any developer’s plans.” Conley’s answer was also memorable : “the BRA has a lack of predictability, accountability, transparency. I will publish all BRA decisions on my website. Splitting the BRA would hurt its effectiveness.”

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^ Dan Conley : no big vision, but much useful reform

As these answers make clear, the candidates are divided on whether planning should be a separate process from that of BRA approval. The voters will have to decide that one for themselves.

On the permitting and licensing process, all of the effective speakers agreed that it takes far too long to navigate the process and costs far too much to get so many city agencies to sign off a plan. Ross said it best : “We need less bureaucracy ! in this city it should take 30 days — no more — to get a business permitted. No business owner should have to call an elected official to get his business open !” Walsh added this : “27 permits to get an outdoor vending business licensed. That’s just not right !” Arroyo made much the same points, though more gently. You could hear the frustration in Ross’s and Walsh’s words; clearly they have heard horror stories galore from business people in Boston.

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^ Mike Ross : “restaurants are ambassadors for a neighborhood.”

The candidates were asked if they support Councillor Ayanna Pressley’s home rule petition to the State legislature to have all of Boston’s Licensing Board appointed by the mayor; under current law, the Governor appoints a member. All the “major” candidates said yes, but Ross’s answer stood out. It just might have been the best by any candidate to any question posed : “Must say to you that the legislature is very reluctant to give this power up. But restaurants are ambassadors for a neighborhood. If people are visiting a neighborhood in the city and can’t have their hosts take them to a local restaurant because there isn’t one, that hurts the neighborhood.” On which point Arroyo noted that Mattapan, for instance, has almost none of the 1000 liquor licences in Boston, ‘and,” said he, “that’s just plain wrong.”

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^ Arroyo : the people’s candidate. And why not ? it worked for Scott Brown.

Finally, the candidates were asked about funding for small neighborhood businesses. Here Walsh gave the most effective answer : “Small banks need to give back to the community they’re in. The Mayor can make a difference by picking where the City deposits its money.” Arroyo noted that he has legislation filed to require banks to disclose how much and where they lend out money into the neighborhood they serve. Connolly made his own characteristic, tech-savvy point : “We should be talking equity investment, not just lending, to be available to local businesses. Call it a ‘buy Boston’ program.”

So there you have it. Connolly sees the Mayor as the director of an Apple store and maybe the entire Apple business, too. Walsh’s Mayor would bend city agencies to the needs of the construction boom and the businesses it is empowering. Arroyo as Mayor will serve people where they live, informally as they live, and make these living informalities his priority. Dan Conley will work quickly to de-mystify the arcane ways of City Hall and City planning. And Mike Ross will do much the same as Arroyo, but with a broader vision that includes developers as well as informal people.

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^ “traditional” Marty Walsh : authority and command even at a new-Boston Forum

Ross was the evening’s good surprise. I did not expect him to give voice as eloquently as Arroyo to the frustrations that average people have with City Hall: but he did so. Arroyo spoke from the heart; Ross spoke from the heart and the head; his is the true voice of classic urban progressive reform in this campaign, a voice that recalls the great urban reform speakers of a hundred years ago. Unfortunately for Ross, there aren’t all that many 2013 voters who speak, or respond to, the voice of classic urban reform.

The evening also surprised in a bad way :

Rob Consalvo spoke much too quickly and lowered his eyes most of the time. He needs to look up and speak deliberately; say less words, more meaning.

John Barros disappointed. We had heard that he has the most eloquent vision of a city in progress; at this Forum he retreated from boldness to a kind of guy-next-door friendliness. That persona might elect a City Councillor; as a would be Mayor it failed.

Charlotte Golar-Richie continues to see herself as an administrator — more capable than the current, but an administrator most of all. That is not a message to win votes. Voters want an advocate, not a manager. The Mayor can hire managers.

—– Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere