^ entertaining the Seniors ; Josh Monahan, Linda Rosa, Roselee Vincent

—- —- —

At least 150 Revere senior citizens (as we nicely entitle the old) got lots of entertainment last night from the three Democrats running for State Representative in the least publicized of Tuesday’s three Suffolk County special elections. At the Jack Satter House — a senior digs more luxe than many hotels — Roselee Vincent, Linda Rosa, and Josh Monahan explained their candidacies and answered questions — some way too snarky — from folks who have already seen a heckuva lot of candidates say their thing.

The three sounded as differently lethal as rock, paper, and scissors in that child’s game we all played, except that this was no game. The Representative from Revere (parts of Chelsea and Saugus are included as well) can’t play games, except for keeps, because Revere is a smallish place alongside huge Boston. Playing Mr. Nice Guy, it would get no attention.

Given the likely small number of voters who will cast ballots on Tuesday — Revere had its big voting night this past Tuesday, when close to 10,000 voted a big “Yes !” to the Mohegan Sun/Suffolk Downs casino proposal — the Jack Satter House Forum was practically the entire show. Thus the exaggerations, the differences, the almost attacks made by each upon the others. Forums I’ve attended in the Dorchester district holding a “special” have all been respectful affairs, no candidate going mano a man o with any other. Not so the Jack Satter Forum.

Roselee Vincent presented herself pretty much as already ON the job, so why not just vote to confirm it ? “For 25 years I have worked in the office that I now seek to hold,” she said, citing her service for both Kathi Reinstein — whose resignation to become Boston beer’s PR gal sparked this Special election — and her Dad, Bill Reinstein. Vincent listed her major endorsements too : Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo, School Committee Member Carol Tye, and of course Kathi Reinstein. Much applause confirmed that many in the room already support her; dark blue “Vincent” stick-ons could be seen on many attendees’ shirts.

Vincent then left for “a previous engagement, scheduled weeks ago” — she had already told me, in a conversation several nights ago, that this was the case — and her Revere rival, Linda Rosa, spoke next. “I’m the first woman ever elected a Revere Councillor City Wide,” said she, aggressive, very much the firebrand who one often hears in local government meetings. “We need a voice !”

It was her theme and she was sticking to it. Asked, quite snidely — by a Vincent person — what her first priority would be if elected, she said “making sure there’s no more Special elections like this one that cost the taxpayer. Make them serve their full term, or return the salary !”

For this response there was some approval from the attendees. I’ve heard many ordinary people — not only in the 16th District — voice similar sentiments.

It was hard to tell if the Vincent supporter was more surprised by Rosa’s answer or gleeful of it; in any case, he pressed his bet : “That’s your first priority ? OK, what’s your second ?

Rosa was ready. “We don’t need this Obamacare,” she said, sounding like a Tea party gal.” (This, said to 150 seniors !) The Vincent supporter grinned — he’d hit the jackpot. But the Forum moderator wasn’t having this battle of the two women. “What,” he asked young candidate Josh Monahan, a Chelsea resident, “is YOUR first priority ?


^ a Tea Party democrat ? Linda Rosa : ‘we don’t need this Obamacare !”


^  young man with future ideas : Josh Monahan

Monahan had already given his why-i-am-running speech. In it, he challenged the two women. “It’s well and good to talk about what you have done these past 26 years, but how about what you’re going to do next ? I’m 29 years old; I look to the future.” This had been exactly the speech that needed to be made after Vincent’s and Rosa’s recounting of past deeds; I could hardly wait to hear what first priority he would announce.

“Local aid,” he said. “It’s been cut back by 100 million over the past four years, cuts that have impacted local services to the bone. we need to increase local aid.”

Applause. And there was more. As Rosa was asked a second priority, so was Monahan. “Raising the minimum wage,” he said. And that was that; Forum complete.

The likely very few who vote on Tuesday must now know that they face three completely different candidacies. Monahan has a future agenda; Vincent equals continuation; Rosa will be the big, did-she-really-say-that ? voice. If you’re handicapping a result, look to the money raised. Vincent has outraised Monahan and Rosa combined several times over. Advantage, continuation.

In other words, Roselee Vincent wins. I would be surprised if she didn’t. Which is not to say that Josh Monahan, especially, isn’t an impressive candidate. He is.

But the Democratic primary is NOT the whole story. There is a Republican candidate running, Todd Taylor of Chelsea. he wasn’t included, evidently, in the Satter House Forum, which was a big mistake: whatever his candidacy may be about, he gets to announce it with less than three weeks before the April 1st election day. There will be little time for the Democratic nominee to respond — and, if her presentation at the Satter House was any indication, it would not surprise me one bit if Linda Rosa, assuming she isn’t nominated, ends up endorsing Taylor. The game in Revere is not over.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ Revere says “Yes”

—- —-

At first blush there seems not much linkage between last night’s casino approval vote in Revere and the Republican state committee’s vote making opposition to marriage equality an official stand in the party platform. But look again. in Revere, religion interests led the opposition to approval of the Mohegan Sun/Suffolk Downs casino plan. At the GOP state committee, it was religion interests that forced the vote to discriminate against gay people.

What is it about religion — those who profess it — that makes it and them try to tell other people how to live their lives ? Tell you what : you profess a religion, fine; go live it; and leave my life alone.

There was a time — about a century and a half of time — when religion led the fight for civil rights, personal liberty, and the dignity of all people of whatever lifestyle. From about 1795, when the anti-slavery movement was first advanced by religion, in England (it had for some time been advanced by secular leaders) until the 1970s, when the Civil Rights movement crested in America, pastors, ministers, priests, rabbis, and manhy of their congregations took the cause of rights for all — of whatever religion, or of none –as their chiefest calling. Today we like to think of that era in the history of reliigion in action as the norm. The opposite is true. Mostly in the history of the West, and oftener in that of the Middle east, religion has caused the torture of millions and the deaths of millions, often cruelly. On balance religion has been a personal and communal disaster for those societies afflicted by it.

Such a time seems returning now, and not only in America. The will to demand of people that they be governed by other people’s religion has all but captured — and killed — the GOP in America; it has place in Europe (though there the bigotries of today seem mostly godless, fascist, mere racism), and, as we see all too much, completely dominates societies in the Middle East, Iran, Pakistan, India. As for places like North Korea — fortunately they are rare — what we seem to see is not religion politics but politics as a religion. It ain’t pretty.

I am no prophet of doom. I do not see America returning to the days of religious oppression. Most of us still call the secular, skeptical Constitution home, divided government the norm, separation of religion from state a must. Indeed, most religion groups in today’s America feel the same. They understand that for a religion to try to impose its commands on states’ laws simply makes religion a political enemy. Still, in some states, as we see, the practitioners of religion politics have managed to get their stonings enacted into law. (the current eruption in Arizona is only one of dozens of such initiatives.) My guess is that none will stand. All are unconstitutional and will almost surely be found to be such; and so will die a legal death.

No such legal death can undo the action taken by the Republican State Committee last night. By a vote —  opined by a Republican not present but well informed of the vote — of 52 to 16, the GOP platform now includes language opposing our state’s marriage equality. Of course a party platform is not a law; no one need obey it or give it a damn. Still, the vote puts one of Massachusetts’s two chief political parties at odds with civil rights and human freedom; and as Massachusetts has always been first among polities to seek and secure civil rights and human freedom, the state committee’s vote is an affront to 250 years of our history. We were also the first state to recognize that gay people have just as much right to marry as do any of us.

I am no psychologist. I have no idea what mindset propels citizens of Massachusetts to reject the last 10 generations of our history; to downgrade our gay citizens; to impose on a political party such a burden. Political parties are supposed to win elections. The state committee’s vote loses them.

Of course the party’s leading candidates, Charlie Baker for Governor and Richard Tisei in the 6th Congress District, immediately rejected the vote. Both men stand four-square for gay rights, marriage equality, women’s health rights — even for economic fairness — and are well known to be unshakably committed to these positions. Their campaigns will suffer no harm from a vote whose only goal is to harm. Still, it looks odd for the leading GOP candidates to be running on themes rejected by the party’s formal organization (as the state committee is).

Gabe Gomez, too, who in the past few months has become the most outspoken Massachusetts voice of Republican progressivism, tweeted a passionate denunciation of the state committee vote. I joined his call. I am glad that I did, sad that the need arose.


^ next to Dan Winslow, Gabe Gomez is now Massachusetts’s man of progressive conscience

Meanwhile, in Revere, 63 % of voters, in a large voter turnout of almost 50 percent, rejected the moralizing “no casino” side, saying “yes, bring it on” to the Mohegan Sun/Suffolk downs casino plan. Mayor Dan Rizzo can now go mano a mano with Mayor deMaria of Everett. That one I look forward to.


^ Mayor Dan Rizzo is a winnah tonight

I personally think the Revere plan somewhat unattractive and largely compromised by geography and brand; I doubt it will win the Gaming Commission’s license. Steve Wynn’s far more glamorous, better located, Everett plan will likely win it. But it is a step ahead to see Revere put its cards on the table (ha) on the side of entertainment, drama, people dressing up and having a good time, even — yes — people spending money at a roulette wheel. As we have every right to do.

Let the last word here be St Rep Kathi Reinstein’s : “Raising a big, fat Sam Adams pint to Revere tonight,” she tweeted. “63/37 victory ! I’m so proud of my city and its people…”

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ big money winner in the 13th Suffolk : Dan Hunt campaigning on a wintry night

—- —- —-

If you want to know what’s likely to happen in the four (4) Special state legislature elections now reaching climax day in the Boston area, it’s well worth looking at the money.

Always when I talk money, I have to offer this disclaimer, so here it is : yes, money isn’t everything in politics; people do the voting. They count too.

Yet Massachusetts’ $ 500 limit on donations, and the almost complete absence of secret conspiracy money in special elections, allows the greenback trail to say a lot about how many people are walking that trail to the voting booth. Here’s the OCPF for all four races :

13th Suffolk district (much of Dorchester and one precinct of North Quincy)

Liam Curran —- raised 22,387.53
spent 13,197.92
balance 9,189.71
Gene Gorman — raised 9,795.00
spent 4,878.37
balance 4,916.63
Dan Hunt ——- started with about 45,000.00
raised 49,615.00
spent 61,297.06
balance 43,371.11
PJ McCann —- raised 15,070.00
spent 3,180.52
balance 11,809.42
John O’Toole — no report filed as of this morning

2nd Suffolk District (Charlestown and three-quarters of Chelsea)

Roy Avellaneda — raised 28,460.00
spent 5,884.49
balance 22,575.51
Chris Remmes —- started with 23,560.00
raised 26,460.00
spent 30,476.36
balance 19,420.85
Dan Ryan ———- started with 2,500.00
raised 4,039.18
spent 29,990.43
balance 17,370.11

16th Suffolk District (most of Revere; one-quarter of Chelsea; two precincts of Saugus)

Josh Monahan — raised 6,455.18
spent 2,772.17
balance 3,682.01
Linda S Rosa —– raised 5,100.00
spent 2,596.76
balance 2,503.24
Todd Taylor (R) — raised 7,115.00
spent 2,551.06
balance 4,563.94
Roselee Vincent – raised 42,598.92
spent 27,257.19
balance 15,344.73

5th Middlesex Senate (Malden, Melrose, Stoneham, Wakefield, Reading, most of Winchester)

Chris Fallon — started with 8,400.00
raised 52,947.00
spent 52,284.01
balance 9,566.59
Anthony Guardia — started with 2,550.00
raised 19,245.00
spent 11,284.42
balance 10,510.58
Jason Lewis — started with 109,723.25
raised 37,185.00
spent 89,242.69
balance 57,665.56
Monica Medeiros (R) — started with 2,443.60
raised 4,275.00
spent 2,101.78
balance 4,516.87

As you can read, in two of the three State Representative races there’s a clear donor winner. Dan Hunt, in the Dorchester-Quincy District, has raised more money than all his rivals combined (leaving out John O’Toole, who has yet to report.) Roselee Vincent, of the Revere-centered District, holds an even larger advantage over her combined opponents. Even before I researched the money, Hunt and Vincent looked like winners on March 4th Primary day. Their dollar results certainly don’t wrongfoot me.


^ overall money leader in the 2nd Suffolk : Chris Remmes


^ 2nd Suffolk money leader in this reporting period : Dan  Ryan

Things are less clear in the Charlestown and Chelsea District. All three men have raised credible money. Question is, will this race’;s dominant money raiser, Chris Remmes, dominate the vote ? On the ground, he looks like 3rd place, but the money says otherwise. The bulk of it comes from donors living outside the district, but that isn’t a disqualification. Perhaps the decider is how much money the three have raised in this reporting period. Dan Ryan is the clear leader — but not by a number overwhelming. My conclusion : these three men are very, very dissimilar, and in a district with many different voter strains, there’s money to support those dissimilarities. Primary day may tabulate a very, very close result.


^ scant money raised, in a District arguably Republican : Monica Medeiros of Melrose

The State Senate special election taking place along Route 28 north of Everett, from Malden to Reading, offers surprises of its own. For 22 years this was Republican Ricard Tisei’s seat almost uncontestably; yet now, the lone Republican candidate, a Melrose City Alderman, has raised almost no money at all. There are three Democrats running; two have raised large money. The big name, Chris Fallon, has, however, been significantly beaten in the money game by Winchester state representative Jason Lewis. I haven’t covered this race at all and have no opinion on who will likely win the Democratic nomination — though the twitter-verse has recently talked up Lewis.

If he wins, he will face the Republican, who in a District quite competitively two-party ought to be a serious opponent and even, given the disconnect going on right now between suburbs and Beacon Hill, the favorite. But the money record tells a much different story. Why Monica Medeiros shows so weakly, I don’t know, but given the anti-voter turn being taken by right wing activists — who have all but sharked our State’s local-level GOP — I can think of a reason : there’s no constituency, outside of right-wing cocoons, for anti-voter politics, and hopefully there never will be. Whether Medeiros shares this anti-voter bent I will try to find out during the run-up to an april 1st Final.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ hush hush meets its opponent — until Avellaneda met her, this well informed Chelsea voter hadn’t known there was an election

—- —- —-

PREFACE : On January 6th, Gene O’Flaherty, said to be Mayor Marty Walsh’s best legislator friend, at last accepted the offer to become Boston’s Corporations Counsel. He resigned this seat in the legislature, giving up a powerful committee chairmanship and thus setting up the Charlestown versus Chelsea fight here chronicled. — MF

A week ago, Roy Avellaneda, five-term Chelsea City Councillor and one of the three men seeking to take the State Representative seat that had been Gene O’Flaherty’s, told me, after a discouraging day of voter shrugs, that he would wake up the voters of his city. That he would overcome the Charlestown side of things and win the seat. I was skeptical and told him so. “Come tomorrow night to Crest Avenue and you’ll see,” he said.

Of course I was there. So were about 35 “Roy” supporters. We heard Avellaneda’s election day warrior, Michael Albano, sound the warning : “Either we win this seat his time or there’ll never be another Chelsea State Rep. Never,” Albano yowled. “They’re already planning to cut up Chelsea three ways,’ Albano roared, his sandstone voice piqued. The room trembled with vigor and joy. “Roy ! Roy ! Roy !”

I have seen this sort of thing before. Campaign people always cheer and roar, or they wouldn’t be in a campaign, they’d be at home watching TV reruns. So I remained skeptical. I’d seen what was going on across the Mystic River, in Charlestown, which outvotes the Chelsea portion of “the 2nd” by about six to five. I’d seen the campaign of Dan Ryan, 16 years an aide to powerful Congressman Mike Capuano. Ryan, who with his perfectly parted black hair and chiseled face looks like Tyrone Power, seemed to have every political Townie on his team. Ryan had run for office once before — District One City Council, in a Special Election, no less — nad had won 94 percent of the Ward 2 vote, barely losing the race to Sal LaMattina from much larger East Boston. If Ryan wins 94 percent of the Charlestown vote this time, the seat is his.

Avellaneda can count just as well as Ryan. He wasn’t angry that I seemed skeptical of his wake up calls. He just smiled that chin to eye smile that makes him look like a high school prom king. “We delivered Chelsea for Elizabeth Warren,” he reminded me. “We’ll do it again.”

He has spent the past week doing exactly that. Though it’s not clear to me that he will arouse enough Chelsea for Avellaneda votes to win — Ryan has plenty of Chelsea votes himself — he has definitely upped the noise. The race had been as quiet as a well behaved high school study hall. Now it was brimming with huzzahs, as Avellaneda challenged his two C Town rivals — for there are, indeed, two Townie candidates running — to declare themselves on issues vital to his Latino vote base : did Ryan and Chris Remmes support the DREAM Act ? Did they favor driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants ? In-state tuition for undocumenteds ? The Massachusetts Trust Act ?


^ an issues candidacy ? Chris Remmes welcomes it. (at Durty Harry with supporters three nights ago)

For Chris Remmes, a new-Boston issues guy, this was manna from heaven, a chance for him to prove his progressive platform; and he did so on all the points that Avellaneda listed. Dan Ryan then stated his support, too, for every one of Roy’s points and with common sense arguments.

One might be tempted to tag this play a loss for Avellaneda; but it was a gain, because merely by forcing Remmes and Ryan to respond to him, he accrued much voter attention. Albano had told me, at that first campaign rally, that he wanted to see 2,000 votes cast in Chelsea; and Roy had, by his gambit, given them reason to vote on March 4th.

And then Roy turned up the heat again. At his father’s shop — Tito’s Bakery, a Chelsea institution — he held a Latino Chelsea rally; Felix D. Arroyo — who is running for Suffolk County Register of Probate — was there, and Gabriel Gomez, who ran against Ed Markey last year for US Senate, tweeted his support. Next day, Dan Ryan announced that Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins endorsed him, as did three labor unions; but Ryan’s announcement, given so quickly, helped Avellaneda’s cause too by showing, to a still mostly disconnected people, that there was an election coming and that competition in it was intensifying.

Until that first Avellaneda ally the race had been far too quiet for it to be an accident. Nobody in Charlestown wants to lose this race — the Town hasn’t had a State Representative of its own since 1974 — and if that meant campaigning hush-hush, hush hush it would be. The fewer Chelsea votes the better, especially with two Town candidates running hard. And now — I am speaking of last Friday — the hush hush was going away. By now, it’s almost gone. Avellaneda has mounted yet another issues challenge — cleaning up the Mystic River waterway for use as commuter transport and shipping, and he has forced the casino issue as well, advocating for the Mohegan Sun Revere casino plan even as Chris Remmes opposes all casinos.

The casino issue is a dangerous one for Dan Ryan. Many of his solidest Town supporters intensely oppose the Steve Wynn, Everett casino that is almost certain to win gaming Commission approval. Mayor DeMaria of Everett has given Charlestown no choice. “If you don’t go for this plan, that land will be a stadium, with more people and more traffic and no mitigation,” DeMaria told 400 Townies at a recent casino plan meeting. For Ryan to support the Mohegan Sun casino plays into Avellaneda’s hands; for him to say nothing makes him seem to duck.

Yet the Dan Ryan I have come to know doesn’t duck any issue at all. He will probably first see what happens in tomorrow’s Revere casino vote and then make his statement. and then return to the phone banking, meet and greets, and senior citizens election day networking of the message that, after all the issues have been fought to a conclusion, is probably worth a 2500 vote Ward 2 turnout and thus cannot fail him : “after 40 years, this time it is Charlestown’s turn.”

Voting day is March 4th, eight days away.


^ forty years waiting — and if C Town has anything to say about it, now is the time. Candidate Dan Ryan with C town’s last state Rep, Jim Collins

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


photo (11)

^ probably the 16th Suffolk candidate to beat : Roselee Vincent, chairing the Revere Democratic caucus yesterday

—- —- —-

A Special Election, called when an officer holder leaves in the middle of his or her term, gives the communities involved unique opportunity to draw attention to themselves. For the 16th Suffolk State Representative District, from which office Kathi Reinstein resigned to become a voice for Boston Beer Company, that means Revere, the northernmost city in Suffolk County.

In general elections, Revere goes largely unnoticed; the hugeness of nearby Boston all but blocks it. Even now, with two Boston-based Special Elections taking place on the same March 4th Primary Day, Revere’s election lags behind. Every Boston news medium wants to know who will win the Dorchester state representative seat which now Mayor Walsh gave up. Many media are beginning to look at the donnybrook going on in Charlestown and Chelsea, the 2nd Suffolk district. In contrast, the Revere race goes wallflower.

Even the four candidates running seem hushed. None has even 100 twitter followers; two lack facebook pages. Compare that to the hundreds of twitter followers amassed in the 2nd Suffolk or the 1500 twitter accounts and hourly-active Facebook pages attuned to the Dorchester race.photo (12)

^ Chelsea’s Josh Monahan : well-informed with a city-management resume

Yet surely the question “what d0es Revere want ?” must have an answer. Waiting on one, I’ll mention a Revere issue already in play : the Mohegan sun / Suffolk Downs casino. On Tuesday, Revere people will vote whether to approve the plan or not. (Why this election is not taking place on Primary day, I will never figure. Truly our state is run by clown-eyes.) The Mohegan sun plan, which I find hugely inferior to Steve Wynn’s Everett proposal, seems likely to elicit a divided vote. Narrowly “Yes” looks to be the outcome. Do the four 16th Suffolk candidates support that outcome ? What plans do they propose for using the large mitigation money accruing to Revere if the State Gaming Commission awards Mohegan the Boston zone casino license ?

Of course there are other issues that face Massachusetts cities and towns this year : shall we expand pre-school education, and how to pay for it ? What level of Local aid money will Revere need in order to establish dual-language education in its public schools attended by so many newly resident children of Hispanic or Moroccan origin ? How strongly can — will — Revere push for state aid that Blue Line infrastructure repair calls upon, not to overlook purchases of new trains to replace cars that always break down ? What measures will the State take to alleviate the effects of rising sea levels that already threaten to flood almost every home along North Shore Road and its side streets ?

It will be interesting to hear what Roselee Vincent and Linda S. Rosa — the two Revere candidates — have to say. (I have already interviewed the other Democrat, Chelsea’s Josh Monahan, and he has plenty to say, most of it well informed and envisioned.) And that’s not all. This race has the distinction, unique in Suffolk County, of featuring a Republican candidate, Chelsea’s Todd Taylor, who appears to have significant support. I have yet to hear one word of issues from him, but he seems to belong to the Charlie Baker, reasonable GOP middle and is running in by far the most Republican-voting city in Suffolk County. Taylor faces the Democratic nominee on an April 1st election day. Debate seems assured. Hopefully Revere will benefit by having its concerns thus spotlighted.

A first candidates’ Forum takes place this Thursday evening at 420 Revere beach Boulevard.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

below : GOP candidate Todd Taylor and family

1 Todd Taylor candidacy



Many Americans have watched the violence and fury afoot in Kyiv, capital of the Ukraine, and thought : “another people seeking freedom ! This is a good thing ! We stand with you, people of the Ukraine !” And it is a good thing, if the very significant political deal that was reached a few days ago holds. By this agreement, there will be new elections; the popular ex prime minister, Yulia Timoshenko, will be freed from jail; and the Ukraine economy will develop connections with the European Union.

If only it were that simple; but it isn’t. The Ukraine economy, much unreformed from the heavy communist industrialism left behind as the Soviet Union collapsed 20-odd years ago, depends utterly on natural gas supplies sent by treaty from Russia. And Russia, ruled by Vladimir Putin, has no more intention of releasing the current Ukraine nation from that commercial treaty than any other Russia of the past 300 years has had. In addition, the Ukraine economy, basket-cased as it has been by reliance on outmoded industrialism, reportedly verges on complete bankruptcy, from which rescue is most likely to come from Russia only with major strings attached.

The Ukranians who look to Europe ties know this full well. Yet they insist. Why do they do this ? Would it not be far simpler for them to remarry Russia, which wants the Ukraine so badly and whose language is so close cousin to the Ukranian language ?

It would be simpler. But Europe-leaning Ukranians are fully aware of heavy handed Russian governance — of which they have a long and unpleasant memory — and of how, in both Soviet and Tsarist times, the Ukraine was a region for Russians to rob, not enrich.

The history here still lives. It’s really not history at all; it is present reality. Let us look at six dates and six events :

Image< Prince Helgi (845-914), founder of “Konugard” (Kyiv)

882 A.D. : Konugard (Kyiv) becomes the capital of Prince Helgi’s Varangian (Russian) trading State of fortresses and cities — the very heart of today’s Ukraine — controlling the water routes from ther Baltic Sea to the Black Sea to Constantinople, then one of the biggest and most prosperous few cities in the world. For three hundred years the Kyivan Princedom prospers.

1709 A.D. : Peter the Great, of the Duchy of Moscow (soon to be named the Russian Empire as Peter expanded it) builds his new capital, Saint Petersburg, in Swedish territory and then destroys the invading Swedish army at Poltava, deep in the eastern Ukraine. Peter’s armies also wipe out an independent Ukrainian principality.

1918 : At the First Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, a rebellious Ukraine agrees to supply food and supplies to the victorious Germans, and the two then drive the newly established Russian Bolshevik government out of the Uktraine. Independence is then confirmed at the second treaty of Brest-Litovsk, signed by Germany and Lenin’s Russia.

1921 : This independent Ukraine is crushed by a resurgent Russian Bolshevik army.

October 15, 1959 : Stepan Bandera, leader in World War II of yet another Ukraine independence army, is assassinated in Germany by agents of the Soviet KGB. He was just 50 years old.


Such is the history, and every one of thee six dates is a vivid present reality to all Ukranian freedom activists. In them we see the reasons : ( 1 ) trade, from the first days of Varangian “Konugard,” between the European west and a huge cosmopolitan city, and all the confidence and prosperity that profitable trade brings to a trading people; and ( 2 ) the language and culture that Ukranians have held dear ever since.

The Ukraine existed powerfully long before Russian Moscow was founded, and in the decades that it was ruled from the outside, each of those outside powers, until after Poltava, was a European one : Poland, Lithuania, Sweden. Subjection of the Ukraine to Russia is the exception, not the rule. And no Russian overlord was a trading nation. Peter the Great wanted to develop his empire along European lines, but it didn’t work. His Russia and that of all his Tsarist successors were overwhelmingly manorial, agricultural societies ruled by lords who owned their peasants as serfs (until 1863) and little better than serfs thereafter. Bolshevik Russia did industrialize, but not in the Ukraine, which to them was always and only farmland for export to Russia and (though this was rarely admitted) a sacrificial buffer zone between the Russian heartland and invading forces — Germany again.


One major change the Soviets did make : the region immediately to the east of Kyivan Ukraine, where the Dnipro River bends way east — beyond Kharkiv to Zaporoshia — before bending back southwest to the Black Sea — a region Russian speaking, heavily industrial — was incorporated into the Soviet Ukraine province. When today’s Ukraine finally achieved current independence in 1991, this region was taken along, reducing Russia to an inland Eurasian state, almost as sidelined as the Duchy of Moscow was in the 1600s.

And this is the problem today, the reason why it took violence and fury to break the Ukraine government of its political ties to Russia, because the population of east Ukraine wants those ties, does not share the Ukrainian heartland’s history with Europe, and has numbers large enough to have elected the very Russia-friendly Viktor Yanukovych. His election greatly displeased Kyivan Ukranians who want close economic ties to Europe, including European investment in Ukraine businesses, infrastructure, tourism, shops, culture. Why wouldn’t a Europe-inclined generation want that ? They insist on it.


^ “Poison” is what the protesters call Viktor Yanukovych.

Below ; the curvaceous fashionista Yulia walks with Vladimir Putin, no less.


The Yanukovych government had already alienated Kyivan Ukranians by using force against opponents, corrupting ministries, and sending Europe-oriented (and glamorous) prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko to jail, when, a few months ago, he rejected the European Union’s negotiations for incorporating Ukraine into the EU and, instead, strengthened economic ties to Putin’s Moscow. Protest arose; Yanukovych responded with force, his interior ministry faced Kyiv’s Maidan Square protesters with snipers on rooftops, and the results thereof we have all seen on You Tube and television.

Today, a new Ukranian government takes power, with new elections. But nothing major has been resolved except that Yanukovych and his murderous interior minister have resigned. eastern Ukraine still has its millions oF Russian speaking Russia friendlies. Kyiv still has its 1000-year-old inclination to Europe and trade. the Ukraine economy still needs Russia’s natural gas and still verges on bankruptcy — the EU has yet to guarantee Ukranian government bonds — and Russia still wants the Ukraine back within Moscow’s orbit as it had been from 1709 to 1991.

Perhaps the answer will be to split the Russian-speaking eastern part of today’s Ukraine off and return it to Russia, letting the Kyivan heartland join Europe. No one has yet suggested it. Maybe the Russian-speaking east Ukraine doesn’t want to rejoin Russia all that completely. Still, the Ukranian future now rests with the Rusianist east. What does it want ? What can it accept ? What will its leaders allow it to accept ? It needs to find a workable answer to these questions very quickly, or the year 2014 will join the six Ukraine dates I’ve listed above — and perhaps not in a happy way.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE : Viktor Yanukovych has reported left the Ukraine altogether. Failing to find support even in the Russian-oriented East, he has evidently decamped to Russia itself. Tymoshenko ally Oleksandr Turchynov has been installed as interim President, Tymoshenko as prime minister.


Is it February? Is it March? Or is it still January, the month with a heavy tread. My editor requested a blog post a while ago, and then it snowed, and the kids were home and then I had a bug and then it snowed… And on it goes. Living in the north central portion of the state is a very different proposition than living further east. If you look at Massachusetts as a miniature version of the map of the US, yes, we’re in the midwest where people are cranky, vs. Bostonian pissed-offedness. And geographically, we’d be somewhere around North Dakota, among the frozen chosen.

So January, February…it’s all a blur. There’s Groundhog Day which means we get an extra 60 days of winter, vs. 6 weeks; and then Valentine’s Day — which as I keep reminding single-gal friends is a HOLIDAY FOR CHILDREN, and really only meaningful on February 15, when the chocolates go on half-price, and then there’s my wedding anniversary to Chuck, somewhere around February twenty….first? No — it’s 26th. That’s when it was.

See? a blur….

So what do we do to survive this mentally? I cross-country ski at Saima Park. Here’s the thing — skis are generally cheap; it’s the bindings and boots that cost. I have the skates in the car, but haven’t gotten to our local rink, the Carmelita Landry. She was a national champion in outdoor speed skating! look it up!) http://fmcicesports.com/2012/01/04/whats-in-a-name-fitchburg/
X-c at Saima Park (saimapark.org) is free on Saturdays in February from 10 am to 3 pm. They open the clubhouse, and there are lots of friendly Finns there to advise, or to help you borrow (not rent — this is FREE) skis to set you up. Some years, the snow is terrible, but this was a great year, and I’ve been several times a week. Yes, it helps to drive the momavan which can fit skis and a lot of the clothes my children discard in the car because they’re “too hot.”

Indoor activities are what most people like. This year, I started a venue at Fitchburg Library, “Author’s Night.” We have published authors come and read from work and talk about writing and publishing. Dunkin Donuts supplies refreshments and it’s fun. If you’re a published author, email me at sallycragin@verizon.net. We’re also planning a May event that will focus on Fitchburg History, as the city is 250 years old this year.

And, I’m working on a few things politically — getting signatures for Senator Jen Flanagan, evaluating Democratic candidates for governor. We had our caucus last week and several people came out to speak, including Mary Ellen Grossman, Steve’s sister. She’s a dynamo and I’ve sent information to her to give to the Treasurer about the woefully skewed standards applied to urban districts like Fitchburg in terms of standardized test scores. We’ll never get ahead, because we have lower BEGINNING scores and higher poverty. We are expected to close wider gaps, which less-challenged districts (also less culturally diverse) aren’t expected to do. Senator Pat Jehlen of Somerville is working on this issue, and I and other members of our school committee will help. This is an issue that Mayor Lisa Wong, who helped start the Gateway Initiative to organize the leadership of urban Massachusetts is very concerned with.
So, I guess we are doing a lot, besides living whole days in a cloud-inflected color free twilight. We really notice that extra minute of daylight out here. For more, visit fitchburgfun.blogspot.com. And thanks to my editor for reminding me. You’ll have to keep doing that you know…



Sally Cragin
mother of two
Fitchburg School Committee vice-chair
Editor of Button, New England’s tiniest magazine of poetry, fiction and gracious living
astrology columnist for the Portland and Providence Phoenix
winter survivor


Yesterday I wrote about the Left-ward momentum in the Massachusetts Democratic party and how it was confounding the party’s ability to pick a best Governor nominee. My story felt incomplete, more notion than news. Today I had in mind to dig deeper; to discuss the tremendous surge of activity going on, outside the Boston area Core, under the rubric of the GOP, that confirms, in the opposite direction, the Democrats’ Leftward momentum story. In short, polarization, as we have come to see it in national politics these past six years and more.

Such was my design when, an hour ago, I sat down to read today’s Boston Globe and found on the front page, the following story : http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/02/20/proposal-would-add-planks-about-abortion-gay-marriage-state-gop-platform/n3wDwD1SxePriF8eHVHpON/story.html

It is not a pleasant story. News that discrimination is invading the political scene never is pleasant. But it supports — gives a sad cast to — my own column, today, about the polarization that bids to take over our state’s politics.

Perhaps it’s a battle we have to fight. We cannot allow the voices of darkness to gain traction. They have already gained plenty. The charlatan talk show hosts, who say outrageous things to get attention and thus ad dollars, have given discrimination and hate legitimacy — with those who either do not see that they’re being had, or who actually believe that their darkest thoughts should become political policy. I suppose that most of us have road rage moments; but most of us also recognize that such squalls of anger augur no good. So it would be, were it not for the talk show thing. But we now have talk show politics; it is not going away, as I — many of us — used to imagine it would. As the economy continues to struggle; as wages for most of us lag while huge money accrues to the very few; as life becomes more diverse and all of that diversity confronts us via social media, a politics has come of age that rejects a future it feels not a part of; a politics of deep pessimism and profound alienation, politics of naked personal fear.

This is the turbine that drives the train of political intensity across Massachusetts’s towns and cities. But the polarization isn’t simply of value judgments. It has a geography. From the outer suburbs of Boston along Route 495 and close inside it and throughout central Massachusetts all the way to the exurbs of Springfield there has arisen a wide swath of towns whose voters reject the politics of the Boston area, reject Boston values, Boston diversity, Boston inclusion and experiment. This circle of towns — maybe 100 in all — is the heartland of the “Tank the Tax’ referendum; of Tea party sentiment; of Republican votes in recent elections. There are towns in this Circle of rejection that gave 20 and 30 point victories to Gabriel Gomez even as he lost last year’s US Senate race to Ed Markey by 10 points. These same towns gave Scott Brown 30 and 40 point victories in his 2010 special election win. And today these towns are generating a large number of Republican candidates for the Beacon Hill legislature — many more such candidates than we’ve usually seen in Massachusetts, with much better funding and a much deeper bench of activist support.

This last development makes the polarization story significant. US Senate elections have their own dynamic. Massachusetts has elected Senators from each party, all the way back to the late 1800s and ever since. But not since the GOP lost majorities in our State legislature some 60 years ago has there been, except in a few upper income places, any kind of Republican activity at the local level. Today almost all of those upper income communities have become Democratic. The most Republican active communities today are middle income, even low income, places : tract house suburbs, low-density exurbs, and sparsely populated rural places. think Billerica, Bellingham, and Tewksbury; Grafton, Mansfield and Whitman; Douglas, Monson, and Charlton.


^ Bush – Kerry in MA, 2004. Note Charlton, in the middle of the map towards the bottom.

Charlton — a pass-through stop on Route 20 southwest of Worcester — exemplifies the new, hard right Massachusetts GOP. In 2004, when John Kerry, then our US Senator, was winning 62 % of the Massachusetts vote for President, Charlton gave its 60 % to George Bush.

Not that long ago, party divisions in Massachusetts had more to do with ethnic histories and 1920s-1930s Labor radicalism than with city versus rural, diversity against the old way. (And then, the Democratic party was culturally much more conservative than the socially liberal, WASP GOP establishment.) We can mark each step in the change thus : in 1970, Arlington, filled with prosperous Raytheon workers, was a bellwether town — as it voted, so did the State. Today Arlington. an academic community, is a guaranteed 20 to 40 point Democratic victory. By the 1980s, the bellwether vote town was Framingham — farther from boston than Arlington but definitely a commuting place. Today, Framingham votes 15 to 30 points Democratic. Conversely, in the late 1990s, the bellwether community was Peabody, a town filling up with culturally conservative Italians. Today, Peabody gives the GOP a 10 to 20 point victory and has a Republican state legislator, Leah Cole.

Today the bellwether city in our state is Waltham : the front line between Boston diversity and old-line factory city passes right through it. Quincy shares much the same mix. Yet these few exceptions aside, there really is no bellwether community today in Massachusetts. Most towns and cities are now all GOP or all Democratic. That is why we see the current surge of GOP activity at the state legislature level. It’s when a community moves from swing voting to being all one thing or all another that low level, neighbor to neighbor elections take on a partisan color.


^ how it was in 1978, when Senator Ed Brooke was narrowly defeated by follow progressive Paul Tsongas. — a campaign of nuance, not polarization

Fortunately for those of us who live by Boston, city values — diversity, inclusion, welcome to immigrants, and government working to serve all the people — the polarization taking shape on both ends claims a clear city values majority. Democrats running state wide can pretty much count on winning by 6 to 20 points. That’s because about 25 % of Massachusetts voters live in the Boston core area — and another 15 % in the academic bastion Connecticut Valley and points West, and these areas (Amherst, Lee, Springfield, Cambridge, Brookline, Dorchester) vote overwhelmingly Democratic : 30 to 70 points ! No Democrat is likely to lose a statewide election with that kind of wind at his or her back.

For despite the surge of GOP energy out beyond the City core, its roar represents an interest distinctly minority and one that is dwindling — and knows it. It is fighting a rear guard battle and seems energized to fight to the last man standing. It is Alamo politics : dramatic, fascinating while it is going on, but, in the end, complete defeat. Those of us who move with the blossoming majority — the flowers of tomorrow, no matter the huge challenges looming– can take heart in knowing that Alamo politics do not end with an Alamo victory.


^ the shape of polarization — and its limits : Patrick / Baker / Cahill, 2010

And what of the 2014 Governor race ? There I predict a Charlie Baker victory. He is running as a city values candidate, has credibility as a city values guy, and almost certainly has the GOP surge vote on his side simply because it dislikes the Democratic tone of voice so profoundly. Though the Democratic party is moving Leftward by the same dynamic that has the GOP moving Right, many more Democrats than Republicans remain pragmatic centrists : because .the Democrats own the legislature and run the State. These Democtrats cannot throw aside their investment in state policy and governance. The most practical team to get things done, that they care about, is Charlie Baker as governor and Robert DeLeo as Speaker — because, ultimately, it is easier for them to stand — loyal Democrats ! — behind a Democratic Speaker as he pacts with a Republican Governor than to find themselves ripped in two directions by constituents here and a Democratic Governor there.  These go-along Democrats represent a significant vote, especially in the suburbs that lie between the GOP outer ring and the innermost Boston core. Think Winchester, Salem, Braintree, Norwood, Wilmington, Woburn, Natick.

It would seem a paradox to find a centrist progressive like Charlie Baker elected by a state whose politics are polarizing so momentously. But life is complicated, and not every mind moves to the flavor of the moment. Those who take the long view also matter.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ the center can be a lonely place : Steve Grossman with officials of SEIU Local 888

—- —- —-

Every report that I hear, or read, says that the Democratic party is having a hard time settling on a Governor nominee — and not just because it has five contenders. Massachusetts’s Democratic party has long been a roil of rival interests; but the current division doesn’t folow traditional splits. Ethnicity used to be the Democtrats’ curse. Today, the division arises from policy first, personality next. What are the differences between juliette kayyem, Don Berwick, and Steve Grossman ? Policy plans, policy advocacy. Steve Grossman talks of hobs and businesses, almost like Charlie Baker. Juliette Kayyem hints at a progressive agenda — a coy version of Senator Warren — without sounding like a purist. Don Berwick has no such reluctance. He’s pure Left, a Massachusetts Bernie Sanders (and even looks like Sanders).

Policy also determines the evident failure of Attorney General Martha Coakley, who dominates the polls, to sweep up caucus goers. They fault her for a host of sins : losing badly to Scott Brown, prosecuting office holders too aggressively, even the 1980s Fells Acres Case, an injustice which she had the opportunity to resolve — but did not.

Only Joe Avellone, who trails badly, seems to garner Democratic delegates for old-line, factional reasons — the Worcester area’s unhappiness with being left behind by the current Democratic governor.

Grossman would seem the ideal Democratic nominee : steadfast, sure of his positions, a business-friendly centrist who also supports minimum wage reform and an overhaul of the scandal-damaged DCF. Grossman has a long record both as businessman, Democratic activist, and state Treasurer. He is “safe,’ a Charlie Baker without the baggage that impedes the Republican brand. And Grossman will probably win the largest share of delegates at the Democratic convention.

I say “probably,” because a large number of delegates rest uncommitted — waiting to be inspired, waiting for a voice they can believe in. These folks want to win; but they also want to know why a win matters. That won’t be an easy question for these five to answer. The purists — who have much momentum on their side, with Elizabeth Warren as an icon — want to elect a statement maker. But what good is a statement maker, when the person who runs the state, Speaker DeLeo, can render the statement maker foolish ? Kayyem people want a human think tank, and Kayyem is that, hip to today, with charm and chic to boot. She’d be our State’s first elected female governor, a strong point for almost everybody in Massachusetts, and lives in the actual modern world, the social media world with all of its language and connectivity.


^ chic and hip and most appealing to just enough caucus goers : Juliette kayyem

She’d have the Left move to herself but for two problems : Berwick is more advanced — he favors a single payer health care system — and Kayyem has that unfortunate connection, well documented, though several years back, to Bush-era “enhanced interrogation” justifications.

Kayyem is drawing huge support via social media; if she makes it onto the Primary ballot, she could easily win the nomination were it not for her torture link. Thus the Berwick surge : he has no such emabrrassments in his resume. But Berwick is quite avuncular. Hip and chic, he isn’t. Which leaves the action — if not the momentum in the party — to Steve Grossman. And Grossman has his won problem : because Charlie Baker has moved smartly to claim the mantle of accom plishment that is Grossman’s core rationale. Baker, with his support for minimumw age lehsiualtion and expansion of the earned income tax credit, and can campaign as the current voice of Massachusetts’s best-working government ; moderate GOP governor, moderate Democtratic Speaker. Grossman cannot do this. And many Democrats who would otherwise be Grossman supporters — pragmatic centrists — see Baker’s point and actually prefer it, for many reasons besides policy effectiveness.

Which brings the Democrats back to the Left. It’s the only Democratic faction that Baker’s move does not command. Yet the Left doesn’t seem to mind. The polichy Left has eyed the 2016 presidential election most of all, at least since last year’s Boston Mayor race. It funded and elected Mayor Walsh, and the split continues, because the Left intensely opposes centrist education policy, Obama’s immigration policies, its inaction on Labor issues, the drone war, and (in fact if not yet voiced) the muddled ACA. The policy Left wants Elizabeth Warren, or someone like her, not Hillary Clinton, as its nominee. It wants its policy written into the platform. These are its priorities, well ahead of electing a Democratic Governor.

We have already had an inspiring Governor, and look now at where he is : at the mercy of the Speaker for whatever legislation he seeks, administering state agencies which seem to have come apart at the seams, and clinging narrowly to sufficient tax revenue to fund needed transportation improvements : funding which will decrease even more if the “Tank the Tax” referendum gets a Yes vote in November (and it well might, given the large following it’s amassing in Boston’s outer, long-commute suburbs and central Massachusetts).

Steve Grossman’s very lack of inspiring speech capability makes him a stronger candidate for election. Those who support him see the point. But the rest of the Democratic activists want something else. and they intend to have it. Election of a Governor seems almost beside their point.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

the cards are aligning toward a Governor Baker



Image ^ the heart and soul of the 5th Suffolk District : Uphams Corner, where Dudley and Stoughton Streets meet Columbia Road  —- —- —-

It’s sad that the 5th Suffolk State Representative District should draw attention only because of the ouster of Carlos Henriquez. Uphams Corner, Bowdoin-Geneva, Meeting House Hill, Cherry Valley, Jones Hill, and Stanwood Street-Lawrence Avenue need a strong voice, an elite voice; none needs disgrace and expulsion. Million dollar homes do exist in the “5th,” on Jones Hill in particular; but most of the District’s neighborhoods are only now emerging — some not yet — from decades of blight, poverty, and urban violence. The 13th District, which borders the 5th to the East, is about to elect a new Representative who from Day one will have big clout on Beacon Hill. The 2nd District, Charlestown and Chelsea, seems ready to do the same.

Will voters of the 5th follow suit ? Will they even have the opportunity ? So far four candidates have made the decision. Evandro C. Carvalho, a local activist — we used to call them “citizen” — moved first. Then Jenny Johnson, who lives hard by Ronan Park on Meeting House Hill. Karen Charles-Peterson, of WGBH, has joined them. Today, even as I write, Barry Lawton has entered the list. (Lawton ran in 2010, losing to Carlos Henriquez.) Of the four, only Charles-Peterson was already known to me (and I knew her before I joined WGBH’s correspondent team). Even she is known chiefly to citizens; the general voting public, not so much.

Three of the four reside in Ward 15. John Barros, who ran for Mayor and wowed many with his articulation and knowledge, lives in the Uphams Corner heart of the District. He would have been exactly the All-Star voice the District’s all too overlooked voters need; but no sooner had his possible candidacy become general talk than Mayor Walsh claimed him to be Boston’s Chief of economic Development. As such, Barros will earn more than twice as much as a State Representative; and Barros may well need the money. Same could be said for just about every voter of the 5th District. Image ^ first in, and maybe the man : Evandro C. Carvalho

Image distinguished and active : Karen Charles-Peterson

1 Barry Lawton

^ almost won  the Democratic Primary 4 years ago : Barry Lawton is running again

Somehow the current 5th District contenders fall short of what this District needs. I may be wrong to think so; not one have I met in person as of yet. All may well merit prominence, respect, votes. But this District needs more than supposition.

Charles-Peterson, by her connection to WGBH, and married to Kevin Peterson, one of Boston’s most visible leaders on civil rights and Black community issues, might claim the “more” that the 5th needs. But for me, the heart and soul of the 5th is Uphams Corner, whence, decades ago, then state Representative Jim Hart oversaw recovery of the Strand theater — once vacant and derelict — and the creation of Jones Hill, as a neighborhood and a community. (Disclosure : I worked in Hart’s Columbia Road office as a go-fer.) Not since Hart has Uphams Corner been home to an elected State House voice. It needs be again. Uphams Corner is the crossroads of Cape Verdean Dorchester, old Irish Dorchester, Black community Dorchester. Uphams Corner is home to banks, insurance offices, funeral homes, restaurants, traffic. (My goodness yes, traffic.) To each side of Uphams Corner sit gorgeous Victorian homes — take a look at Chamblet Street some day, upper Hartford Street, or Virginia Street, Wendover Street, Cushing Avenue.) The people who own these homes toady are not poor or unmortgage-able, as all area home-owners were, back in the day. The people of Uphams Corner can fund much innovation and many centers of activity. At the Bird Street Community Center they already do.

1 Strand Theater No Uphams Corner person has yet stepped up, and, chatting with my old Jim Hart office mate Linda Webster (who now runs Pacific insurance), she could think of no local thinking of the race. I hope she’s wrong. Really, really I am hoping to see an Uphams Corner candidate step forward and claim the 5th Suffolk District with a new Boston vision of diversity, innovation, reform, and attention — of the right kind. Let the light of tomorrow shine — now !


UPDATE 02.19.14 8 PM : at an important community meeting, at the Strand theater jn Uphams Corner, not one of the four announced candidates in the upcoming Special election appeared. Not one.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere Image