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^ first into the race, and looking like the man to beat : Dan Hunt, at the Dorchester Board of Trade’s B2B event last night

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Having seen their State Representative elected Mayor, 24,286 voters (numbers from City of Boston Election department website) of the 13th Suffolk State Representative District are looking for the next Marty Walsh. Or at least the 11,358 voters who cast a ballot in the November Mayor election are looking. On March 4th they’ll find out just who that man will be.

They will be choosing among Liam P. Curran, Tony Dang, Gene Gorman, Dan Hunt, Paul L. “PJ” McCann Jr, and John K. O’Toole.

It isn’t quite that simple, and none of the six candidates says it, but the thought is there on everyone’s mind. Most of the six worked actively in Marty Walsh’s mayor campaign; most of their supporters worked in it too. And if there really can’t be another Marty Walsh, these activists definitely want their new Representative to command attention as Walsh did.

Most of these 11,358 voters would like the new Representative to be, like Walsh, a people person; always there to help; to knock on doors and meet voters one to one; to hang out locally in a favorite cafe or other eatery; and, almost certainly, to be a Union member or, if not that, very attentive to Union Labor matters. They would like the new Representative’s priorities to mirror Walsh’s : curbing urban violence, helping schools to close the achievement gap, advocating “transparency” in governance.

I say “most of these voters” because the race is somewhat complicated by the presence in this District of Quincy’s Ward 3, Precinct 3 (the North Quincy T station area) and because in the November election 2,727 of the District’s Boston voters chose John Connolly. In a close race –and I think the result will be close — these odd-men out voters, who are not looking for the next Marty Walsh, could make the difference. If they vote at all.

But now it’s time to asses the six. Which of them fits the bill best ?

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^ very like Marty Walsh : Liam Curran

Most like Marty Walsh : Liam P. Curran. He has a union Labor background, grew up in Walsh’s Little House neighborhood and St. Margaret Parish, and even looks a lot like how Walsh appeared at the time of his first campaign 17 years ago.

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^ his campaign is picking up and so is his speaking : John K. Toole at last night’s Dorchester Board of Trade event

Best speaker : three of the six rate highly. Liam P. Curran spoke eloquently and in detail at his campaign kick-off last night. But John K. O’Toole also spoke passionately and in detail, about local aid funding, at the Dorchester Board of Trade B2B night. and Gene Gorman, at his kickoff two weeks ago, spoke eloquently about being “Dorchester by choice’; and knowledgeably about housing and school transformation issues.

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^ John Connolly-type appeal in a Marty Walsh District : “PJ” McCann at his campaign kick off

Biggest visible support : John K. O’Toole had over 250 supporters — he says 283 — at his campaign kick off last week. “P J” McCann drew well over 200 supporters, as well, to his kick off on Tuesday night.

Most political clout : (1 ) Dan Hunt. He’s chairman of the ward 16 Democratic committee, was a State House aide, worked a significant role in the Walsh Mayor campaign, and has the support of City Clerk (and former Dorchester City Councillor) Maureen Feeney as well as many other activists well known to the political community. He’s also the son of Jim Hunt, who has for over 40 years been a political and neighborhood activist in Dorchester’s Pope’s Hill section. (2) Liam P. Curran, as a lawyer, worked in Boston City government as an Assistant Corporation Counsel, and ‘s brother in law is Chief of staff to Boston city Council President Bill Linehan. (3) “PJ” McCann’s Dad is a veteran BRA executive.

Union Labor support : ( 1 ) Liam P. Curran is a Local 223 laborers Union member. ( 2 ) John K. O’Toole is a member of the Plumbers Union and has the support of Harry Brett, its long time business agent. (3) Tony Dang, an MBTA Police officer, is probably a memeber of one of the several MBTA Unions.

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^ enthusiasm of the Marty Walsh kind : Liam Curran mobbed by supporters at his campaign kick-off at. the Blarney stone last night

Most enthusiasm : of course all six candidates command enthusiastic support, or they couldn’t be running. But I was struck by the intensity of Liam Curran’s support at his kick off last night. He drew only about 130 people, but they cheered his speech loudly and constantly, spirited like the go-get-’em, sports-fan crowds that I saw at Marty Walsh’s events. And sure enough, Mayor Walsh’s brother was there, very visible and very much a fan.

Geography : Advantage to “PJ” McCann the only candidate with an address in the Ward 13 part of the District, its spiritual core and the home base for each of the District’s last five representatives. Four of the candidates live in Ward 16 and will likely split its admittedly large vote. Gene Gorman lives in the larger of the District’s two Ward 17 Precincts, the Melville park neighborhood close by Codman Square.

The race grows intense now. Door-knocking has been going on all month, through snow and extreme cold. Nobody is at all tired. If anything, the young people who are doing most of the grunt work are warming to the tasks ahead : house signs, house parties, stand outs, phone calls, meet and greets, more door knocking — after all, they did all this for Marty Walsh, and they have the can-do, will-do feel of confident winners.

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^ probably behind in numbers, but an eloquent “new Bostonian” : Gene Gorman at the harp & Bard two weeks ago

So who do I think it will be ? I’ve done no polls, knocked on no doors, but from what I have seen — and reported to you in this column — I rate the six in this order as of today :

1. Dan Hunt — he has clout and longevity; also, he started by far the earliest, and that matters
2. PJ McCann — he has Ward 13 next to his name and a great resume
3. John K. O’Toole — has run before and is well known, but he hasn’t Ward 16 to himself and also waited a long time to decide to run
4. Liam P. Curran — he is maybe too much like Marty Walsh to build his own identity; still, he has the spirit behind him, a well-connected brother in law, and it will surely be known that Walsh’s brother supports him (and Walsh’s Mom, as reported by Dorchester News journo Gin Dumcius). Curran can rise, maybe a lot.
5. Gene Gorman — he isn’t native to Dorchester and lives in a corner of the District
6. Tony Dang — is running a sticker campaign, almost an impossibility

There’s a lot beginning to happen in this race that everybody politically attuned is watching. In two weeks I will update this report.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

NOTE : The presence of one Quincy voting precinct in the District boggles the mind. It’s also a very low turnout area. Of 1186 voters in the precinct, only 159 voted in Quincy’s Mayor election last year. Will even that few show up in this special election ? It’s absurd.

CORRECTION : An earlier version of ,my story identified Tony Dang as a Boston Police officer. He is in fact an MBTA Police officer.



^ a meal and a weekend, but it doesn’t digest ; Kate Winslet, Gattlin Griffith, and Jason Brolin in “Labor Day”

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A good meal can solve a lot of things, and the leftovers too, mixed with canned goods from the pantry can sate as well, but not so much in Jason Reitman’s uneven romantic hash that’s chockfull of disparate parts, stock elements and daubs of cliche.
Reitman, who once served notice as a quirky indie director along the lines of Wes Anderson, with his acerbically big tobacco satire “Thank You for Smoking” (2005), held the line steadfast with “Juno” (2007) and “Up in the Air” (2009). Even “Young Adult” (2011) bore his droll punchy fingerprint, which is why “Labor Day” is such a puzzler, a change-up royale and by-the-numbers affair that lacks air, style or wit.

All of Reitman’s previous works were carefully hung on the framework of a situational dark comedy infused with varying degrees of romance. “Labor Day,” of all things, is a dark romance with a deep vein of crime drama to propel it. Perhaps Reitman saw the project as something new to challenge his skills, or maybe he simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, two of film’s most complete and capable thespians of the moment.

Those two performers become the film’s saving grace. Brolin recently clocked a yeoman effort that gave legs to Spike Lee’s remake of Chan-wook Park’s “Old Boy.” He delivers this time as well, assuredly with simmer, compassion and just the right amount of intimidation as Frank, an escaped con who, at a thrift store in a deep New Hampshire enclave, takes a woman and her son captive. It’s the mid 80s, so Frank doesn’t have to contend with a texting adolescent to give him away or a viral internet trend to alert folks of his wanted status.

TV news flashes do provide a bit of an obstacle, but they’re also a means to inform viewers that Frank is serving eighteen years for murder–the details and complicated nuance of which are meted out sparsely by intermingled flashbacks that infuriate as much as they enlighten. Frank gains his freedom by jumping out a second story window of a hospital following an appendectomy. As a result he’s got a weeping wound in his side, while Adele (Winslet), the woman he takes captive, has a hole in her heart, lazing around her house, too inert to do anything. Her twelve-year-old son Henry (an effective Gattlin Griffith) pretty much sees after himself, but the sleepy old Victorian they share, as evidenced by the overgrown lawn and general state of disrepair, isn’t so lucky.

So there you have it, Frank’s physically damaged and Adele’s emotionally scarred (she had several miscarriages after Henry, became depressed and her marriage dissolved) and in that, the one can heal the other if the lurking police don’t intercede first. Following the carjacking, Frank ends up back at Adele’s house where holing up becomes hanging out. Besides fixing the front porch and dry wall, he proves pretty good in the kitchen, whipping up a tangy chili out of nothing, and pie? Boy can he bake a pie.

The film’s peach pie scene is one for the ages. Never before, not since “Ghost,” have hands on hands taken center stage with such inflamed hyperbole. In “Ghost,” it played to the texture of the film. Here, with such fine actors so debased, it feels soft-core cheesy and wrong. “Let’s put a roof on this house,” Frank growls as a trembling Adele fumbles with a pancake of thick dough. Reitman, who penned the script from Joyce Maynard’s novel, must have thought the scene smart and leaven with innuendo and metaphor, but as is, it has the sensory effect of chocolate mousse made from a package of stale Hersey Kisses.

Food becomes a reoccurring yet unbridled motif, and a point of bonding for Frank and Henry. Frank even teaches the boy to throw a baseball, and there’s a touching scene with the handicap kid from around the corner who’s allowed to play third base, but of course, the police loom and the film, as the title tells us, is limited to a long weekend.

The good news is that as the film sails into its final chapter, the pace, as well as Reitman’s directorial skills, pick up. Winslet too, who is so shell shocked and unkempt for so long, seizes the opportunity to blossom and fills the screen with her fully ripe, yet restrained sexuality. She and Brolin, like Frank in the kitchen, take what’s there, and with sweat, integrity and resolve, make the best of meager makings that have been dealt to them.

— Tom Meek / Meek at the Movies



^ Just DO it : Charlie baker with Karyn Polito supporters in Leominster (photo by Baker campaign)

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The contest for Massachusetts Governor has taken on a definite shape during the past three days. The biggest shaping force has been Charlie Baker’s, given as his response to Governor Patrick’s state of the Commonwealth speech. Baker used the occasion to announce his support for raising the state’s minimum wage and for expanding the earned income credit. The news surprised almost everyone. It contradicted recent GOP orthodoxy — you know, the whole “job creators,” no ACA, no minimum wage legislation mantra — and also went beyond what most of the Democratic candidates have suggested. Baker also accepted Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo’s minimum wage raise requirement, that there be some give-back on umployment insurance contributions.

I wrote yesterday about Baker’s announcement and its implications ; these merit repeating. First, Baker established that he will join with Speaker DeLeo on minimum wage legislation. No Democratic candidate has yet done so; when specifically asked what they would do if the Speaker rdejected their legislation, all avoided answering. Second, by embracing doable (and very popular) legislation to relieve income inequity, Baker has vetoed all those GOP-ish advocacy groups (such as Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance) that oppose “using government to make people’s lives better” (as Mayor Walsh has stated his mission). And this may actually be the hugest consequence of Baker’s announcement. Right now I cannot think of a single Republican Governor, Senator, Congress person — or GOP candidate for these offices — who embraces minimum wage hikes and expanding the earned income credit. Whether Baker’s announcement has national GOP implications I can’t yet say; but for Massachusetts its consequence could not be weightier. He has taken the Massachusetts GOP back not just to Weld-Cellucci — whose administrations Baker was part of and mentioned in his talk — but (as my old colleague Peter Kadzis mentioned to me) to the days of John Volpe, Eliot Richardson, Frank Sargent, and Ed Brooke — almost 50 years ago — when the Massachusetts GOP was the reform party, the advance guard of using government to benefit people.

Granted, that Baker is free to take this stand because the Tea Party has never had much ground in Massachusetts — in 2010, Tea candidates didn’t even get the 15 % of votes at the Republican convention needed to get their names on the ballot — and because the huge right-wing greedPACs that have all but kidnapped the national GOP, knowing how un-Tea this state is, don’t involve themselves here. Baker needs no greedPAC money. He has almost out-raised the five Democratic governor candidates combined. T

Baker’s move all but assures that he will have significant Democratic support in the November election. That is how it used to be for the Massachusetts GOP in state elections, Why not again ?

And here is where my headline for today’s column comes into play : “wish list” candidates versus “do list.” Most of Massachusetts’s 166 Democratic legislators and State Senators are realists — do list people, not wish listers. Their voters want stuff done first, talk stuff later. Massachusetts voters are quite common sensed about this. We send our inspirational wish listers to Washington — none more arch-typal than Elizabeth Warren — to voice our noblest wishes, ideals, hopes for a juster social future. To Beacon Hill, we send our grubs and drones to do the grub and drone work. Nor is our thinking wrong. Deval Patrick’s entire two terms has shown just how powerless wish list eloquence is to move the Speaker of the house — no matter who he was or now is — to support legislation. To cite just two examples ; Governor Patrick wanted casino legislation badly. When Sal DiMasi was Speaker and opposed, no casino.. Then came Robert DeLeo, supportive, and lo and behold, casino legislation, no problemo ! Second example : Governor Patrick wanted an enormous, $ 2 billion transportation bill; Speaker DeLeo wanted a much smaller bill. Guess whose “transpo bill” got enacted ?

We like to think of today’s GOP as missing the point of governance, but the Massachusetts Democratic party misses the point too. In its rush to speak nobly of social justice and the higher purposes of civic life, the Democrats of Massachusetts talk just as unrealistically about governing as do the GOP right-wingers. Yes, there is a “progessive caucus” in the Massachusetts Democratic party, and there’s one in the legislature too. What have they recently achieved ? CORI reform, maybe. But every other advance enacted by the legislature belongs entirely to the realists : charter schools, an $ 800 million “transpo bill,” casino legislation — vigorously opposed by “progressives” and right-wingers alike (Ha!)– electronic toll taking, divorce law reform, mandatory sentencing amendments. I often get the impression that the social justice focus of many Massachusetts Democrats arises as a reaction to GOP right-wing talk rather than for its own sake. A genuine progressive movement would be far more broadly based, out among the people — as was the Progressive movement of 110 years ago — broad enough to affect, even command, both political parties, not just one.

The five Democrats running for Governor cannot break free of these conditions, and only one has really tried : Steve Grossman. In forums he talks real talk about realistic goals. Even he has yet to admit that only in sync with the Speaker can he accomplish anything. Even he has yet to tailor his policy suggestions to the Speaker’s — and just yesterday, the Speaker made clear that the coming year’s State budget would include no tax hikes or fee increases. Still, Grossman talks the business-climate, innovation talk that, until two days ago, was Baker’s core message. He also of course supports minimum age legislation though not the Speaker’s conditions). At Forums, Grossman swims in a sea of words : perfume from Don Berwick, chatty niceties from Juliette Kayyem, and quiet sarcasm from Martha Coakley, and often gains a measure of respect thereby : surely the Forum attendees, most of whom will vote in the coming caucuses, understand that Grossman is climbing the mountain, not paragliding onto it. Yet the impulse to high-minded wish lists runs strong in the souls of our Democratic activists; strong enough that Grossman, even if he becomes the Democratic nominee, will be forced to divide his campaign between talking dreams and picking priorities. Baker right now faces no such division. His party’s angry philosophers have been put to bed, freeing him to focus on a do list that the Speaker can agree with and which thus can actually be enacted into state law. That’s a winning message in a Governor election.

Especially with do-nothing gridlock gripping Washington so completely, voters want state government to get good stuff done. Baker has beaten Steve Gossman to the get-good-stuff-done milepost.

—- Mike Freedberg / here and Sphere


Baker Jan 13th 2014

^ bold to the front of the discussion : Charlie Baker on income inequity

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Yesterday Charlie Baker, Republican candidate for Governor, made a bold move: he did the right thing. Bold, because doing the right thing doesn’t happen often in Republican campaigns these days.

This is what Baker said : “I agree with Governor Patrick that Massachusetts is a remarkable state with limitless potential, but also a place where far too many are struggling and others are falling behind.

But I believe we can grow our economy, improve our education system, and strengthen our communities without raising taxes again and depleting the Rainy Day fund. We did it during the Weld-Cellucci Administration, and it can be done again.

I also believe we should make work pay for struggling families by raising the minimum wage while also enacting pro-growth reforms like unemployment insurance reforms, and by expanding the earned income tax credit for Massachusetts workers.

Lastly, I think we need real focus on fixing our healthcare problems. Too many Massachusetts families are stuck in healthcare limbo – having been dropped from their health plan and unable to sign up because of a bungled transition to an inadequate federal law. We had a great state system that was working, and we should fight to preserve and protect it.”

Baker’s statement — first reported by my old Boston Phoenix colleague David Bernstein, now an editor at Boston Magazine — hit almost every mark that it aimed at. He supports raising the minimum wage, as does almost everyone : but unlike any of his Democratic rivals, he also accepts Speaker DeLeo demand for adjusting unemployment insurance.

That’s the way for a Massachusetts Governor — of any party — to get his legislation enacted. It’s the only way. The Speaker rules. It’s been that way in Massachusetts for decades. The Democratic candidates for Governor either don’t understand this or are unwilling to admit it. Asked by State Representative Jay Kaufman, at his Lexington Governor Forum recently, “what will you do if the Speaker declines to support your legislation ?” Every single one of the five Democrats — including both the flamboyant Don Berwick and the earnest Steve Grossman, ducked or evaded the question. They looked weak, weak candidates for a weak office.

Baker has beaten them all here. By endorsing the minimum wage, he supports a pressing issue that almost everyone in the state wants. By endorsing Speaker DeLeo’s version of the minimum wage legislation, he ensures its enactment. Game and set, Baker.

He did more. In the words that I quoted, Baker also advocated raising the earned income credit. Not one of the Democratic candidates — only Berwick has mentioned it — has put support for an increase in the earned income credit forward in a context of and on a path to enactment. Game, set AND match, Baker.

Baker both congratulated Deval Patrick and gave one critique — of Massachusetts’s flawed health care connector. For most Republicans, a criticism of how the ACA has been implemented would just sound same old, same old. Not with Baker. By stepping up to the income inequity issue as he has, and by congratulating Patrick for his achievements, Baker has given his one critique a context of fairness that will garner attention, not a shrug.

Three weeks ago Baker released a Homelessness Crisis Paper that was a model of thorough and benefit. No Democrat has even now offered anything close, although some have said fine words, Berwick especially. Indeed, Baker looks more like a governor right now than any of the Democrats except Steve Grossman. If they’re the two who make it to the November election, Massachusetts will have two solid choices, with Baker perhaps the bolder and more progressive. I would not, quite frankly, have guessed this outcome as recently as six weeks ago. And I am glad to have been wrong.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


We are re-blogging our story from yesterday, on the Massachusetts DCF Scandal regarding neglect of 5-year old Jeremiah Oliver, in light of Governor Patrick’s speech today in which he made the revelation that the supervisor of the social worker who missed mandated visits made false entry in her files that the missed visits were made. This cannot happen, and if it does, there must be severe consequences. — The Editors

Here and Sphere


^ answering questions from legislators justifiably angry : DCF Commissioner Olga Roche

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The unfortunate and wholly inexcusable matter of 5-year old Jeremiah Oliver — a Fitchburg child under Department of Families and Children monitoring, whose disappearance was not known by the department for months because of missed visits — has now made the DCF a major issue in this year’s Governor campaign. In which case his plight — no good outcome is expected — will have at least some good consequences.

Right now, however, the DCF and its Commissioner, Olga Roche, are on the very hot seat of inflamed public scruitiny. How could this have happened ? The very first sentence at the DCF’s website says “The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is the Massachusetts state agency charged with the responsibility of protecting children from child abuse and neglect.” How can an agency  set up to…

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^ answering questions from legislators justifiably angry : DCF Commissioner Olga Roche

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The unfortunate and wholly inexcusable matter of 5-year old Jeremiah Oliver — a Fitchburg child under Department of Families and Children monitoring, whose disappearance was not known by the department for months because of missed visits — has now made the DCF a major issue in this year’s Governor campaign. In which case his plight — no good outcome is expected — will have at least some good consequences.

Right now, however, the DCF and its Commissioner, Olga Roche, are on the very hot seat of inflamed public scruitiny. How could this have happened ? The very first sentence at the DCF’s website says “The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is the Massachusetts state agency charged with the responsibility of protecting children from child abuse and neglect.” How can an agency  set up to prevent neglect do neglect ?

But it did. as we all now know, the social worker whose caseload included Jeremiah Oliver missed several obligatory house visits. She also noted the fact in the ccase record. Her supervisors knew, or were charged with knowing, that Jeremiah Oliver was not receiving the monitoring that DCF must give to children in its work-load.

Of course for Massachusetts people with long memory, case neglect practically defines the agency. We used to joke about news stories so cliched — “dog bites man” stories — they made you laugh. Well, “Children under DCF care abused in home, parents arrested” was such a story. It happened all the time. The DCF has probably undergone more system reviews and policy changes than the entire rest of state government combined; yet here we are, once again, faced with the trope headline : “DCF worker missed visits, child is missing.”

So yes, DCF failure is a big issue in the Governor race. It should be. Other state departments have come under criticism, for good reason, in the past two years. Who can forget the Department of Public Safety hiring, as a Road safety supervisor, a political appointee with an egregiously bad driving record including a DUI ? The Department of Public welfare was also found lax in overseeing the state’s EBT program — not that EBT fraud was widespread (the fraud rate was quite minor, in fact) but that the Department’s procedures for monitoring EBT cards was lax enough to enable fraud to occur. Of course the patronage hire was something that occurs in every administration. People aren’t perfect. Even elected officials aren’t flawless. As for the EBT procedures situation, agency regulations aren’t perfect either and require adjustment to actual practice. Which takes time. But the events at DCF occurred in an administration already shown to be not running smoothly. This time, big change is needed. Kids’ well-being is at stake.

The DCF is set up pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws c. 119, the language of which you can read in this link : https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXVII/Chapter119 . It is helpful to read the mission assigned. The DCF also has its own regulations and procedures, a link to which you can follow here : http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/laws-regs/dcf/regulations-and-policies.html . All the major candidates for Governor are likely now reading these links and devising their response to the Jeremiah Oliver neglect event from what the law and regulations state. Yet these are not the entire story. What did not happen in the DCF Fitchburg office is not merely a matter of egregious failure. it’s also a budget matter. As a recent story in the Boson Globe wrote, “As the department’s lapses have come under scrutiny, its budget has become a focal point. In the five years prior to Jeremiah’s disappearance, the department sustained deep cuts. This week, Governor Deval Patrick proposed restoring some of that funding, but even his proposal would leave the agency with less than it had in 2008, child advocates said.”

So it’s a budget matter ! Imagine that. Who’d have guessed ?

In the Globe story we learn that the DCF’s social worker caseloads have increased from 15 to an average of 19 — this despite a contract — DCF’s social workers are represented by the SEIU — limiting caseloads to 15 per worker. With larger caseloads come increased monitoring, but the money hasn’t been there to budget it. The truth is that we cannot have effective state government if we do not pay for it. State work isn’t charity. State workers aren’t volunteers. Even the DCF workers who neglected Jeremiah Oliver — and were fired for neglecting him — can’t readily work an increased case load without added compensation. Nor should they be asked to do so. The answer is to hire additional case workers, so that none has to work 15 cases at a time, but of course without budget funds the DCF can’t hire the added workers.

The State budget is failing on many fronts. Look at how difficult it was for Massachusetts to enact an $ 800 million transportation bill that included tax increases — being fought now by referendum — without which our public transit and roads can barely be repaired, much less upgraded. Large increases will be needed if our state is to meet its educational reform goals, revise the justice and sentencing system, enable undocumented immigrants, provide for a homeless population that has more than doubled since 2008, add funds to EBT because more families now need it, and, yes, give the DCF what it needs for its increased caseloads.

Is it too rhetorical for me to say that the real neglect story here isn’t the DCF — though neglect at the DCF there surely was and is — but state Government itself ? Our State right now is a neglect adventure. We have given the State several vital communal missions but not the funds to carry them out. The neglect lies with us.

It will be interesting to see what answers Steve Grossman, Charlie baker, Juliette Kayyem, Martha Coakley, and Don Berwick have for the neglect in us. With Democratic caucuses beginning as early as next week — and on the Republican side already under way — we will soon be hearing. I hope.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE Jan 27 2014 at 9.45 AM : The Boston Globe reports that Governor Patrick will make a pubic address today on the “systemic” failure of DCF workers to do all of their mandated monthly visits to children in their caseloads. He will, I suppose, also address that these expanded caseloads violate the Social Worker contract; and will also likely mention that his FY 2015 state budget adds $ 9 million for the hiring of additional social workers. — MF



^ seeking answers to the challenge that charter schools pose to standard public schools : at the Citizens for Public Schools Forum

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For those who believe that competition among educational systems and methods is preferable to one-size-fits-all, the Forum held this morning by Citizens for Public Schools at Madison park High School made for painful listening. For three hours non-stop, two panels of speakers — ten in all — laid out multiple criticisms of charter schools : their performance, their selectivity, discipline, low pay for teachers, lack of community accountability. You name it : if there’s a schools issue, the ten speakers accused charter schools of failing it, and they detaile their indictment with statistics and power point charts.

The Forum attendees, who included State Representrative Liz Malia of Jamaica Plain and State Senator Pat Jehlen of Somerville, attacked charter schools for

1.not accepting their fair share of studebts with behavioral or learning disabkiloities

2.accepting a percehtate of English language Learhers (“ELL”s) far lower than that of the community each serves

3.using teachers who do not meet state certificastyion staheards for public school teachers, and not granting them collective bargaining vrights

4.performing no better, on tests and in graduation rates, than the standard public schools

5.violating, in their governance, the State’s open meeting law

6.imposing rigid discipline and dress codes upon studehts to the point of damaging studebts’ self-confidence and for the purpose of weeding out studehts who do not “fit the model.”

7.drawing millions of dollars away from standard public schools, leaving them under-equipped and lacking vital curriculum components such as arts, language, and technology

8.too great a focus on “teaching to the test” — the State’s MCAS exams, which public school teachers hate.


“millions of dollars are being drained !” — the BTU’s Ed Doherty speaks at the CPS Forum

Ed Doherty, a past president of the Boston Teachers Union, held back nothing. “85 million dollars are being drained,” aid Doherty, “from the Boston schools budget” — perhaps forgetting that mayor Walsh’s projected school budget will be 39.6 million dollars larger than last year. “Charters send back to public schools misbehaving and underperforming students,” Doherty added, and “Teachers at charter schools should be teacher certified in the usual manner.”


Roger Rice of META delivered the most effective criticism of charter schools ; that most of them enormously under-serve English language earner students

Of the other speakers, Roger Rice of META convincingly demonstrated that charter schools srve a portion of ELL’s far less than the percentage of ELL’s in the public school system. CPS’s Dr. Alain Jehlen illustrated charter schools’ discipline codes. Jerry Mogul, executive directory of an advocacy group, showed that charter schools sometimes fail special eduaction requuremebtrs. Roy Belson, Superintendent of Medford Public Schools, asked, “if the reason for charter schools is to close the achievement gap, shouldn’t they take kids who ARE the achievement gap ?” School Committeeman Charles Gallo of Lynn — who mentioned twice that he is running for the State Representative seat that Steve Walsh is leaving this month — simply said “we on the Lynn school committeeman signed a letter to the Governor saying, ‘no more charter schools. If only other school committees would do that.”


^ Lynn school committeeman Charles Gallo : running for State Rep on a “no more charter schools” platform


Daniella Cook : somebody wins and somebody loses should never be an education result.

One speaker, Daniella Cook, a University of South Carolina educator, complained that with charter schools, “somebody wins and somebody loses” and “schools should not be market based.” She also played the race card : “We cannot talk about the proliferation of charter schools without talking race,” said Cook. “Charters are a racially based political economy.”

Less than 100 people attended the Forum. Many of these were part of the presentation. Does this mean that the anti-charter schools argument hasn’t much of a constituency ? Perhaps so. Charter schools were established in Massachusetts some 20 years ago not because they lacked support but because they have lots of it; nor do charters appear to be losing ground. Both of the final candidates for Boston Mayor were friends of charter school expansion. Those candidates who were not friends of charters finished back in the pack. Clearly the anti-charter argument is a minority view.

I have now attended four Forums since the Mayor election in which anti-charter school forces have convened their numbers and their arguments. Some of their points hit home : Charter schools should accept many more ELL’s. Charters should be slower to dismiss kids with behavioral issues. Charters should establish paent-teacher associations and encoyrage parents to participate.

For the rest of the critique, however, I have scant patience. (1 ) how is it racist to demand students be held to account by strict discipline and dress standards ? that kind of indelible, constant focus is exactly what kids — OK, let’s assume the stereotype for argument’s sake — from homes often anarchic or dysfunctional need. The parents know it and insist on it; the kids mostly agree, if not when they are kids, then long after, as adults. ( 2 ) why should public schools have first dibs on taxpayers’ education money ? The whole idea of charter schools — of school technique diversity in general — is that the standard public school model often does not work. ( 3 ) Why need teachers in schools other than standard public have to be certified “in the usual manner” ? Teaching is an art; many people have the art. Why not ask people beyond the standard to reach in their non-standard way ? ( 4 ) And what was former charter school teacher Barrett Smith, calling for when he said that “we must educate the whole child” ? This is one of those school-argot phrases that sounds good but rankles when a definition is attempted. To me it means that we educate kids to citizenship as well as employment. Obviously schools should do that.

But the “whole child” does not even COME to school. MOST of “the child” lives at home. Kids spend far more of their school years at home than in a school. Schools do not educate the “whole” child, only the part of a child that schools attend for about eight hours, five days a week, about nine months a year.

this is why I find the phrase “educate the whole child” most unhelpful.

I noted above that Mayor Walsh’s Boston Public Schools budget will be 39.6 million larger than last year’s. Yet almost all of this increase is going to pay for BPS teachers’ pay raises. Can there be any doubt that the many speakers who emphasized today the money that charters “draw away’ from standard public schiools are thinking — a lot — of the NEXT teachers’ unions contracts ?

The Boston Teachers Union — several of whose leaders were at this morning’s Forum — would be well advised to step back from its immovable wall of funding and work rules and try to figure out how to accommodate itself to an education world in which many systems and methods are encouraged; in which choice is essential to state education law; and in which innovation, of curriculum, school organization, and principalship, is sure to increase, not retreat ? Some good points were made today; but they’re as likely as not to be overwhelmed by anti-charter arguments fighting a losing battle.

One excellent suggestion was made by Lawrence school committeeman Jim Blatchford, who noted that in his city, some schools were setting up a teacher-management way of doing things. “we will see,’ he said with a smile, “if they’re ready to lead like that.”

Innovation there will more of; standard issue, less of. Yet as Daniella Cook said, quoting John Dewey : “what the best parent wants for his child, that’s what she should want for all children.” Dewey spoke in support of his innovation, that students should learn by  doing — that rote memorization of dates or speeches wasn’t enough, or practical, and too standardized for the varieties of childhood perceptions of the world. As Cook used the phrase, however, it seemed tio me to hang helplessly on the paradox of life and community. We want all children to have the best education, but we also want the ablest kids to receive an education geared to their ableness. And if we do that, we accentuate the “achievement gap” that the Forum participants claim to dislike. How can there not be an achievement gap if we abet the ablest to harness their abilities ? If we do that, the ablest kids will excel more and more and widen the achievement gap. But how can a society progressive, reformist, and innovation-bound — as ours is — not abet the ablest kids the best we can ? We cannot lead an innovation society with average kids alone. Indeed, if kids of average ability — or less than average — are our concentration, they will end up in a society falling behind others more dedicated to innovation : think Germany; think China. And that will have negative economic consequences for those kids and for their kids; and so forth.

There is no way to avoid the innovation challenge. John Connolly staked his entire campaign on facing the innovation world candidly, forthrightly. He refused to temporize. It cost him the election; a majority of voters looked at the education and workplace future that Connolly spoke of and recoiled from it. It’s a daunting prospect. And real it is. No amount of skepticism about —  no matter how many Forums protest against — education innovation, school competition, and system transformation will stop what is coming.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


John Connolly at Raynise’s house party : his stark vision of what innovation will mean to education method and organization scared many



^ John Tierney / Rich Tisei : will this be another campaign of generic GOP (Tisei) versus dumb attacks (John Tierney) ?

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The fight for who will be my Congressman next term has already begun. It would be nice if the candidates chose to voice issues that matter to a large number of actual people, but that’s not how campaigns for Congress usually play out these days. The issues that get voiced are those that big-money PACs and single issue pressure groups want voiced. Most of us do not belong — thank goodness — to single issue advocacy groups. Lives are not lived in a single isssue thimble. Lives face many issues, many that matter quite a lot. It’s hard to carve one issue without mutilating oneself, but many Congress candidates prefer to mutilate than to take up a whole person. As for big-money PACs, they have zero interest in you in me. Politics for them is all about them. Theirs is a Me, Myself, and I world.

That’s the context in which I, as a voter in the 6th Congressional District in Massachusetts, am asked now to vote whether John Tierney should be re-elected or if one of three challengers should re-place him. As it happens, I’m no ordinary voter; I’m also a journalist covering politics as my beat. I get to know a lot more about a lot of politicians than most voters have time to find out. Still, I’m not free of my own agendas, stuff that matters to me and which i think matters quite a bit to most of you. So let’s start with the agendas — the issues that I think really matter right now :

1. the income gap is growing, the opportunity gap expanding. It hurts the economy, and it hurts many of our fellow citizens living in the economy. If our Federal politics has any mission, it is to use Federal powers to abet opportunity and promote the income of everyone. Doesn’t the Constitution say, in its Preamble, that it aims to promote the general welfare ? An economy is everyone of us. If many of us can’t participate, the economy suffers just as much as the people who can’t participate.

2. student debt has become a huge impediment to economic growth. Yes we want to educate young people; that’s how they get the jobs of tomorrow; but education costs so much that only the wealthy can graduate free of debt. Student debt repayment commands a large part of young workers’ take home income. Student debt can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. Deferring payments only increases the interest accruing. We are growing an entire generation of young workers indentured to student debt. If they’re lucky, they can pay it off by the time they reach age 40. If they aren’t lucky, they can never repay it. Indentured service was, in our nation’s early days, a way forward for a growing nation, yet it was only legally different from slavery, because indentured people in the early 1800s were shackled financially to individuals. Today, student indebted people are shackled to student lender corporations. Less personal, perhaps, definitely less confining, but no less burdensome.

3. Many states are enacting laws to suppress or discourage voting rather than easing access and encouraging. Many states are also trying to enact laws so restricting of women’s access to abortion and contraception that in effect they are taking access away. The people being hurt by such laws are those with very little access to income and for whom increased stress means even less likelihood of stable employment.

4. Some states are enacting laws taking away public workers’ rights to organize unions. Some states refuse to grant undocumented immigrants drivers’ licenses, in-state tuition fees for their children, or access to health care. Thereby the people targeted by these laws become less able to participate in the economy.

You will notice that all four of the situations that I think most significant in the nation today involve the economy, either directly or by consequence. We say we want to grow the economy, but how can we grow it best if we make it harder for many people to participate in the economy to their best potential ?

That said, how do the four candidates seeking to be my next Congressman respond ?

1. John Tierney just sent out a district wide mailing in which five (5) of his top six initiatives address the problem of student debt. (The sixth initiative calls for all kids to have access to early childhood education.)

2. Rich Tisei, who will be the GOP nominee and who came within 1100 votes of beating Tierney in 2012, sent out a mailing whose big point was that Massachusetts’s universal health care law should prevail over the ACA. His other point was that taxes on business should be lowered.

3. Seth Moulton, who is challenging John Tierney in the Democratic primary, calls upon Tierney to reinstate the veterans retirement pay cut that he voted for as part of the $ 1.1 trillion budget deal recently enacted in Congress. A bill to do exactly that is now making its way through Congress. He also calls the mild-mannered, pro-choice, pro marriage equality Tisei “too extreme for the families of this district.”


^ Seth Moulton :  not much to say so far that merits attention

4. Marisa DeFranco, who is also challenging Tierney in the Primary, has this to say : “It is time for real talk about solutions and substance, not more of the same empty cliches. You are the real heroes and the real people who make a difference, and you deserve someone who knows you and will fight for the people of the Sixth District.”


^ “real talk” redefined : Marisa DeFranco

I would hope that the above paragraphs speak for themselves.

Tierney has addressed one major issue that really matters. The other folks address less significant issues, issues given to them by PACs, a generalized negativity, or no issues at all. Early advantage, then, goes all to Tierney.

Advantage, too, in facing not one but two primary challengers, one (Moulton) unknown, the other (DeFranco) barely known.

But early advantages, terrific for the Primary, mean not much in the final election. Tisei is well known and liked, clearly perceived, an unique figure even in Massachusetts’s reasonably useful GOP. Tierney has badly injured his case against Tisei by allowing a spokesman to say that Tisei is “simply another vote for John Boehner and the Tea Party Republicans.”

The remark insults the intelligence of our district’s voters. Does John Tierney really think we’re that dumb, that blind, that dismissive of an opponent who has a long record of bipartisan accomplishment ? Tierney tried this attack last time, and it almost cost him his seat. (He would clearly have lost had not an independent candidate taken a full 5 % of the final vote). This time it’s a joke stale as well as bad.

But it won’t seem so much a joke if, darn soon, Tisei doesn’t address the issue overriding all : gaps in income and opportunity, inequality on the increase, and massive student debt. Many solutions are now on offer in Congress, in particular raising the minimum wage, increasing the earned income credit, or a compromise combination of the two. Last time, Tisei ran a generic GOP campaign with no local flair and not even a soupcon of originality. Even when prodded — by me at a couple of Town halls — he stuck to the same old same old.

Tisei needs to THINK. To speak to our District, not the GOP playbook. Yes it will cost him some PAC money : so what ? It’s time for PAC money to go take a hike anyway; it’s done nothing but distort and damage the nation’s governance. Tisei is well advised to run his own campaign, on his own turf — lose the same old — and to make income inequality issues his top mantra. if he does not do that, he’ll give Tierney’s stale bad joke a second life.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ your host in Everett ?  Steve Wynn looking large

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It’s no secret that we have long preferred the Steve Wynn casino to the Mohegan Sun/Suffolk Downs casino. Nothing that either team has issued recently by ay of publicity, or testified to at the gaming Commission, changes our mind. We continue to favor the Steve Wynn casino and its Everett location. These are our reasons ;

1. location. advantage Wynn, big time. The Boston casino must attract high rollers and tourists. A Downtown Boston location would have been the right choice ; if it were up to us, we’d put the Boston casino in the present State Transportation Building in Park Square. As that won’t happen, the next best choice is Wynn’s Everett because his casino and hotel will front on the Mystic River at its widest. That’s a much better setting than Mohegan Sun’s Suffolk Downs, located inland amidst oil tanks, truck terminals, airport parking lots, marsh, and middle-class and working-class residences densely set already. The Suffolk Downs acreage is already bounded by heavy traffic; putting a casino on it can only magnify the congestion, with no great offsetting benefit.

2. transportation. no advantage to either. Rapid transit and highways run directly to both casino locations. Granted that Wynn’s Everett is less convenient to travelers arriving by logan Airport. Two subway lines are needed rather than Suffolk Downs’s one. But how many casino goers arrive by subway in any case ? An effective casino wants high rollers and big spending tourists. These will much more likely taxi to the casino than come by rapidv transit.

3. jobs. advantage Wynn. Though both casino proposals envision thousands of jobs, and certainly Boston can use the number and variety of positions that will be filled, a job seeker wants some assurance that his job will last for a good while. Wynn’s pockets are hugely deep, his staying power unquestioned, his location likely to be a hit with customers. Mohegan Sun’s pockets are deep too, but we question how many of its casino jobs will truly be available to the public rather than taken by tribe members.

4. the plan itself. advantage Wynn. Though the Mohegan Sun proposal dazzles the eye, we agree with Wynn that a vertical hotel services its guests far more efficiently than one built horizontally. Were Suffolk Downs’s proposal truly a seaside resort — on Revere Beach, for instance — the verticality of Wynn’s competing hotel would count for less. But the Mohegan Sun building is not a seaside one; a seaside motif somehow doesn’t get there.

5. ego; the personal. big advantage Wynn. Whatever an inn, hotel, or casino may be, it arises from the host and guest relationship, one of the most fundamental in all human societies. People coming to a casino and hotel baren’t just shoppers; they are guests and see themsleves as such, and as guests, they want to be hosted by a host; a person striking, memorable. Steve Wynn is that. He has an ego ? Yes; that’s what a great host should have. His voice of welcome should be a big one, a loud one, larger than life, as his hotel / casino is large. Mohegan Sun has only its architecture and its amenities. Attractive they will surely be; but where is the big ego, the master host welcoming his guests with stories of hanging out with Frank Sinatra ?

6. local support. huge advantage Wynn. Revere voted narrowly for a Revere casino; East Boston voted against participating. Meanwhile, Everett voted 11 to one in favor of an Everett casino. Everett may be a small city, but it swung a big bat in this game.


^ Mayor Carlo DeMaria of Everett with his guy. Who says that little guys can’t win ?

Finally, we also find Steve Wynn’s suggestion persuasive, that Mohegan Sun has every incentive to steer its high-rolling customers to its Connecticut casino complex because, there, it doesn’t have to share revenue with the State as radically as Massachsetts’s gaming laws require. Its very plan implies favoring Connecticut. A seaside motif but no actual seaside. a setting in the middle of industrial muddle and highway blah. The Suffolk downs proposal looks and feels like junior varsity compared to Mohegan Sun’s brilliant Connecticut locus.

I understand that Boston stands to gain more advantageous mitigation money (and jobs, maybe) from the Suffolk Downs proposal than from Wynn’s. I also understand that Wynn’s casino will dramatically impact traffic congestion in Charlestown Neck and along Rutherford Avenue. But plans are already on the table — worthy plans — to re-purpose Charlestown Neck completely; the Wynn casino might render these plans more urgent and get them built more quickly. Nor will the Wynn casino lack for jobs available to Boston people. After the Mohegan sun project finishes hiring tribal members, there might actually be more jobs publicly availble at Wynn. Lastly, I understand that Suffolk Downs’s race track is hurting, as horse racing loses a changing public, and that the Mohegan Sun casino would hugely revive Suffolk Downs’s economic power. Yet the Downs does not lack for profitable options. For one thing, it can be developed for housing, even as a mini city like Co-op City in the Bronx, New York.

We may yet learn things about Steve Wynn’s proposal that would require we change our mind. Absent that, we’re on Steve Wynn’s team.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



Performing in Boston for the first time since Spring 2012, Florence, Italy’s Stefano Noferini dropped a two hour set on a dance floor less than full but more than devoted to his sound. Using a pc program running two channels only, swiping the mixboard’s knobs up and down constantly, Noferini pumped out two separate one-hour sets : the first, clanking dark techno almost 1980s industrial in texture; the second, a brighter tone plus a peppy step done in a major key. Noferini’s first hour sounded like giant robots growling amidst various kinds of jawbone booming — fantastical and seductive; his second sounded lithe and joyous, unexpected by the dancers but convincing enough to those who gave it a chance.

But back, for the moment, to the gargantuan. No techno master sports a construct as roomy as Noferini. Big and heavy, his signature sound surrounds, from underneath and all sides. His first hour featured Noferini at his rumbly biggest : “Giocotto” and “Oula” and portions of “That Sound,” his collaboration with the UK’s Mark Knight, as well as tracks by the techno DJs who he likes (and these are many; few track makers with a sound as headstrong as Noferini collaborate with as diverse musicians). He pushed and pulled textures and sound spreads, now squeezing the music narrowly, now ballooning it out, always of knife-edge shapes with cavernous interiors. Psychedelic it was. Smooth the flow, rough the content. Part of Noferini’s first hour spilled only the basics of clank and reverb; at other times tiny chips of percussion sparkled in the mix, echo-effected like sequins glinting in a dance floor light show; and all of it segued segment to segment as if changes of shape were the natural order of things.

Many DJs change key and texture as Noferini did, in mid set. For most, it’s a risky move ; why deviate from what’s already working ? So it was with Noferini. Not everybody at RISE followed his turn from boomy choogle to high steps — from drama to drone, if you will. But with a screamy break, a kind of fireworks effect, he made the leap to a sound brighter and nimbler than what fans are used to. This was the Noferini of “You Can Do It’ and his current number one download, “The End,” tracks internally complex in which sound patterns face off with one another — a kind of texture tone repartee. Voice plays scant part in Noferini’s signature sound, but there was lots of talk in his set’s second hour. “Where are all the Lakers fans ?” went one tool-in; “it’s nothing” and “who’s in my house ?” went two others. And though only about half the RISE Club dancers decided to stay in Noferini’s house, there was no stopping thus remnant. They found that this veteran of more than 30 years as a DJ can twist and shuffle, juggle and jiggle the mix all he likes without stubbing his toe — or yours. Few DJs can play against type without sounding at least partially fake; Noferini showed that he can house things up just fine — when he wants to.

—- Deedee Freedberg / Feelin’ the Music