MAGOV14 : WHY CHARLIE BAKER AS GOVERNOR CAN DO WHAT MAYBE NONE OF THE DEMOCRATS CAN DO

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One of the big reasons why I find a Charlie Baker governorship a positive prospect is that he, as a Republican, can get a lot of things done that probably none of the five Democrats can do. Example : the minimum wage rise bill, which the House voted Yea on just this week.

that bill was going nowhere, because Speaker DeLeo insisted on an unemployment insurance give-back that Speaker DeLeo insisted on but which few of the Democratic party’s core groups wanted to give. then, about two months ago, Baker announced that he supported the DeLeo bill and, what was more, would expand the earned income tax credit.

Two weeks ago Baker won the GOP nomination for Governor. Next thing I knew, DeLeo’s minimum wage bill, with its give back, was on the House agenda and was voted Yea 123 to 24. All but one democrat voted Yea.

Can there be any doubt that the House took up the deleo bill when it did, and voted it yea, because the Democrats did not want to cede the Minimum wage rise issue to Baker ? And so the bill now goes to conference, with the DeLeo bill certain to be the final law, because DeLeo has that power and because Baker is waiting.

As for the Democrats, not one, in anhy Forum, would commit to supporting the DeLeo bill — and as DeLeo said, if the legislation didn’t contain his give back, it “wasn’t going very far.’ (his words) Steve Grossman even said that he would veto a bill that included the DeLeo give-back.

Were Baker not in the fight, and taking the minimum wage issue up, can there be any doubt that we would see years of battle between this Democrat and that one ? After all, that’; how it has been for eight years of Governor Patrick’s administration — sometimes effective, often not effective at all, occasionally a disaster.

All that baker has to do is raise one of the state’s many major issues — education reform, driver’s licenses for immigrabts, crinminal justiuce reform, transportatioon funding, reconfiguring the DCF, redoing state government’s technology — in a progressive way, but in line with what Speaker DeLeo will support, and it gets done. Why ? Simple : the Democratic party cannot allow the Massachusetts Republican party to steal its key issues and, with them, key constituencies.

As long as the State’s major challnges remain a striggle within the Democratic party, with a small GOP entirely on the sidelines, little gets done. Enter Baker as Governor, however, working with the Speaker, and suddenly almost all gets done, very quickly.

This is how Massachusetts has been best governed since 1990 at least. It remains true today. The one Democratic governor candidate whom I haven’t yet discarded, Juliette Kayyem — shrewd and brilliant charisma champion that she is — needs to tell me how she can get done stuff that Baker WILL get done.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

below : the one Democratic governor hopeful left standing : Juliette Kayyem

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WITH THE MINIMUM WAGE NOW RAISED, HERE’S WHAT’S NEXT FOR MASSACHUSETTS

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^ the Democrat with fewest weaknesses : Juliette Kayyem

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^ the best potential governor, on an across-the-board basis : Charlie Baker (with Nightline’s Dan Rea)

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Two days ago, the Massachusetts House passed a big rise in the minimum wage, to $ 10.50 in 2015 and $ 11.00 in 2016. The House legislation included, however, a provision that the Senate bill does not : a give back of five percent, on the unemployment compensation portion that employees pay. That portion will rise from 15 % to 20 %.

Because the two bills do not mesh, a conference wil be held at which the two bills will be reconciled. Almost certainly the reconciliation will adopt the House version: because Senate President Murray is leaving, whole Speaker DeLeo is very much staying.

Such is the way of things in the Massachusetts legislature. The big result, however, is that the base wage for every Massachusetts worker now earning minimum wage will rise by over $ 3.00 an hour. Minimum wage earners will no longer need as much public, taxpayer-paid assistance as before; taxpayers will get some relief; and workers will have some money to spend into the discretionary economy. In Boston, $ 10.50 to 4 11.00 an hour is still nowhere near enough; not with  rentals costing $ 1,600 and up; but in outlying cities such as Worcester, New Bedford, Holyoke, and Fitchburg, the new minimum wage will provide a real boost to many, many families and thus to the economy of those cities.

There were 24 votes against the Raise. Their message was the same : the higher wage would mean fewer jobs.

Businesses that have been able to short-change employees and pass them off to taxpayers will now not have that taxpayer subsidy. Will these businesses close ? To ask the question is to answer it. What then will they do ? Easy. They will change their business model.

These businesses will be operating in a very different economy, one that will grow quite quickly at first as the boost in wage checks gets spent into the economy. And this is good all around. But it is far from being enough. Massachusetts needs much more reform in how it operates ; some of it economic reform, a lot of it structural.

Here’s what we would like to see happen ;

1.economic : expand the earned income credit to childless families who qualify on an income basis.

2.economic : give Boston granting authority over its liquor licenses. A home rule petition, by Councillor Ayanna Pressley now sits in the legislature awaiting action.

3.economic : enable innovation districts in neighborhoods of Boston, and in outlying cities, on the model of those currently operating in Cambridge and Seaport Boston. Local aid funding can help here.

4.structural : reconfigure the website interface and interactivity of every State department, from health connector to DCF to Secretary of State and permitting. Publish the State Budget online. Embed a mobile phone app into the State’s most-used Department websites, such as the DCF, RMV, DOR, and Transitional assistance.

5.encourage and establish the full range of public school reforms now being put in place in Boston by Superintendent John McDonough

6.human rights : eliminate mandatory sentencing; establish a prisoners’ bill of rights that would provide for legal remedies — including assigning public defenders to each state or county lock-up — to prisoners who are abused by incarceration personnel; pay minimum wage to prisoners doing work they are required to do by the institution; assure re-entry procedures that are fair and helpful to the released prisoner; restore voting rights to convicts who have finished their sentences;.

7.civil rights: extend the state’s transgender rights law to include places of public accommodation. grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and pass the Trust Act

8.gun control: require owners of guns (other than antique) to purchase liability insurance, as we now require owners of vehicles; require smart gun technology

9.transportation : review all transit and road budgets and cost-cut administration where feasible; repair and replace MBTA cars and buses, lines,a nd equipment; expand Green Line to West Medford; complete new stations on Fairmount Line; finish the South Coast rail Connector

10.DCF : hire sufficient case workers so that the state-mandated maximum case load is never breached; pay social workers a professional salary; require the DCF chief to circuit-ride from DCF office to office and to use mobile phone and ipad communication as a regular feature.

All of what we’d like to see is more than enough to challenge two governor terms, much less one. Some of this year’s Governor candidates want still more. That’s OK, for a wish list but not for the campaign, which we hope will be about now and the next four years, not times still over the horizon. After all, our list doesn’t even talk about climate change, alternative fuels, conservation, affordable housing, in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant kids, and local aid — any one of which could occupy an entire editorial.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

THE FIRST AMENDMENT PROTECTS SPEECH, NOT PURCHASE

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^ protesting the purchase of our democracy : St Senator Jamie Eldridge and Common Cause chairperson Pam Wilmot (both on right) at the state House yesterday

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Yesterday the Supreme Court, by its usual 5 to 4 vote, decided that “participation in the political process” means allowing the very rich to buy the process. We vigorously disagree,

Money is NOT speech. It only BUYS speech. There is no word in the First Amendment about buying speech. The First Amendment protects such speech as is spoken (with a few exceptions that do not apply here) and that is all.

Anybody is free to speak out, on political matters above all. Anyone is free to publish. Anyone is free to advertise. That is all.
In political campiagns, speech gets printed or it gets broadcast. Printing and broascast, however, are businesses; and businesses have to charge those who buy space or time, because revenue from advertising is how media pay their costs. Obviously if a political campaign cannot pay for print or broadcast, its speech isn’t going to heard by many.

Thus there is room to accord campaigns legal authority to raise enough money to get their speech printed or broadcast. And to grant the same authority to interest groups advocating an issue. The question is, what kind of authority can we grant ?
It seems obvious to us that the authority to raise money cannot be open-ended, because if it is, then those who have lots of money to donate can hugely overtalk those who don’t have a lot of money. And there can never be any reason whatsoever, in a democracy, to permit anyone legal authority to overtalk anyone else. All voices must be accorded equal access to print and broadcast.

To allow otherwise is to sanction oligarchy. this we can never do.

Five justices of the Supreme Court seem not to understand the difference between speech and purchase.

Overturning the McCutcheon decision — and Citizens United as well — by constitutional amendment won’t happen. If it could have been done — and so far it couldn’t — it is impossible now, for the plutocrats now have open season to buy a majority of Congress.

Pushing for an amendment is worthy, as a protest; more doable is to elect a democratic president in 2016, ensure eventually a different Supreme Court majority, and overrule two decisions which, if allowed to stand, will end American democracy as we know it.

Do I alarm you ? i intend to. we have already seen what a plutocratic, purchased Republican party is capable of doing to the economy and society as a minority party. Imagine what the country will be like if the purchased party takes the presidency. There will be oligarchy, or a revolution. Do you want to see either of these happen ? We don’t.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

5TH SUFFOLK DISTRICT : “A VICTORY FOR THE COMMUNITY”

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^ a victory for the community : Evandro Carvalho with John Barros

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Last night the Special Election to choose a new State Representative for a District badly needing a strong one was won by Evandro C. Carvalho. He defeated three other candidates, drawing almost 50 % of the total vote. it was impressive win for the young, former assistant District attorney in his first ever run for elected office.

The numbers (courtesy of local activist Jed Hresko) were: Evandro Carvalho, 960 votes; Karen Charles-Peterson, 521 votes; Barry O. Lawton, 190 votes; Jennifer Johnson, 151 votes; Roy Owens, 89 votes; 46 write-ins and one blank. total ballots cast : 1,957.

The turnout wasn’t as small as my informants had surmised, nor quite as large as my guesstimate. It was barely one-quarter a large as the District’s vote total in last year’s mayor campaign. That said, Carvalho’s numbers, in this context, look even stronger than the raw total. They tell the story of this race : it was, as John Barros said at the victory celebration, “a victory for the community.”

By which he meant, first of all, Boston’s Cape Verdean community. It was he, John Barros, who in last year’s Mayor election, energized and focused Boston’s Cape Verdeans into a serious voting bloc. A community, however, already existed and has grown ever stronger in time — much of that strength drawn from the response by area mothers to the tragic feud that has seen several shooting deaths, among them three members of Isaura Mendes’s family.

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^ “we won !” : Isaura Mendes with Carvalho’s grand-dad, who voted yesterday for the first time as a citizen

On Tuesday, Isaura Mendes, who heads the Bobby Mendes Peace Legacy — named for her son — was a precinct leader, door-knocking in Ward 7 Precinct 10, which Carvalho won by 109, to 25 for Charles-Peterson and 11 for Jen Johnson. It was beautiful to see her face, trouble-lined, smiling fiercely as she announced her precinct “We won ! We won !”

Mendes wasn’t the only person happy at Carvalho headquarters. Hugs abounded, cheers, smiles, tears. It had the feel of a sports victory, a win for Team Carvalho. And beyond that.

Carvalho won the Cape Verdean precincts overwhelmingly. I took the count at the strongest of them, Ward 8 Precinct 5 — Dudley Street from St Patrick’s Chiurch toward Harrison Avenue. There, a steady stream of voters showed up and gave Carvalho 156 votes to Charles-Peterson’s 19 and Jen Johnson’s 2.

The defeated candidates conceded; two of them came to the celebration and embraced the winner. Register of Probate candidates Felix Arroyo and Marty Keogh both chipped in. District Councillor Frank Baker was there. So was State representative Dan Cullinane. And John Barros, at whose Cesaria restaurant the victory was toasted to.

For me, the Carvalho victory was a win for John Barros too — without the 2,071 votes that he gathered, from the District’ 19 precincts in last year’s Mayor campaign, and the effort needed to win them, last night’s result would surely have been different. I told him so. But Barros was having none of it. “it was a victory for the community,” he told me — and said it again in his speech.

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^ The Community at Cesaria

He was right.

For the first time, Boston’s Cape Verdean community has an elected voice — much needed.

And what of the people of the 5th District who are not Cape Verdean ? I saw few of these at Carvalho’s gathering or in his headquarters. Before this campaign began, his name was surely almost unknown to people not of Cape Verdean ancestry. That’s no longer true at all — victory cures all obscure-ness — but there is much talk that Carlo Henriquez, whose expulsion from the House occasioned this election, will seek his old seat back, and soon.

Can he win it ? If the answer lay primarily with the District’s non-Cape Verdean voters, it would be very doable. But my own feeling is that Carvalho’s win is the worst case scenario for a Henriquez comeback. Carvalho’s vote really was a community one. The community is his now, and it will not be denied or broken — and the vote turnout will only increase now that Cape Verdeans know they have something to hold on to. The future of the 5th District is his to lose.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere