WE ENDORSE : MAURA HEALEY FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL

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^ activist with spark and verve : Maura Healey addressing voters at a meet and greet in Jamaica Plain three months ago

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The 2014 election campaign has reached the point where endorsements are in order. We’ve seen all the candidates, measured their positions and their level of support among the voters, and what we have done, so have almost all the voters.

Our first endorsement is for Attorney General. There are two candidates, Republican John Miller and Democrat Maura Healey. Both have distinguished resumes, Miller as attorney in private practice, Healey as chief of the Civil Rights division in the current Attorney General’s office. But the Attorney General isn’t only a lawyer. He or she is a significant maker of public policy — overseeing non-profit organizations and trusts, protecting consumers, choosing which civil rights battles to prioritize, weighing in on criminal justice matters, reading and opining on major state contracts.

Attorney General is also a political office. The voters elect him or her. Maura Healey is spot on when she calls the ofice “the people’s lawyer.” She walks the walk, too. Few candidates for any office connect to people — all sorts of people — with anything like Healey’s verce and spark. .

Healey promises to establish in the AG’s office a division specifically charged with child protection ; and as we all know, DCF failures, and the enormity of family dysfunction among those who live in crisis, requires no less than a pro-active Attorney General on this front.

Healey vows to be a lawyer for those whose civil rights are compromised, including transgender people, immigrants, and people of color generally. It was Healey who was the lead attorney arguing, and winning, the landmark 2004 case by which Massachusetts became the first state to sanction what we now call “marriage equality.” Healey’s commitment in this area of the law is strong and certain.

Healey speaks eloquently about criminal justice reform; about remedying drug addiction by treatment first of all; and about enforcing the state’s labor and wage laws. As she says, “combatting wage theft and overtime pay violations is a core responsibility” of the office.

In contrast, John Miller takes a reticent view of the office. His campaign has focused on the health care connector disaster, epecially the incompetent manner in which the software contract was negotiated. “40 hours of lawyering could have saved us 200 million,” he has said. That is true; and the next Attorney General needs to be a lot smarter about technology contracts entered into by the Governor. But the role — “lawyering” a contract — that Miller outlines is one for a Chief of Division. The AG herself must embrace a larger role, a values role, because so much of her core responsibilities are values issues : economic fairness, civil rights, child protection, consumer protection.

Miller talks also about “keeping politics out of the (Attorney General’s) office.” I’m not sure what that means, considering that, as a statewide elected office, our Attorney General is perforce and fundamentally a political office. If on the other hand Miller means that as “AG” he will not take the politics of a matter into consideration, he badly misses the point of what the people want their “AG” to do — and is quite unrealistic about the AG’s influence plays out in actual events of state governance, where “politics” is how you get things done.

Supporters of Miller say that they don’t want an ‘activist AG.” Will, they wonder, an “activist” AG be merely a tool of public sentiment, which always changes ? Can an “activist” AG take unpopular stands if a vital principle is at stake ? The Maura Healey whom I have seen has the backbone to do that, and enjoys enough good will from Massachusetts voters that she’ll have plenty of room to take an unpopular stand without risking defeat.

But that is a caution for another day. Right now, a positivist, active “AG” is what the state needs, as its people find themselves confronted by entrenched institutional powers at large — many of them money powers — and by sentiments among some people that put other people, especially people of color or ethnicity, at risk. Maura Healey is ideally suited to be the Attorney General now needed. We are proud to endorse her.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

MAGOV14 : U-MASS DEBATE — BAKER FORCEULLY PRECISE, COAKLEY PLEASANTLY VAGUE

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^ precise vs. pleasant : Charlie Baker answers, Martha Coakley listens at U-Mass South Coast campus debate

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Because Charlie Baker remains a bit less well known by the voters than Martha Coakley, he won the debate simply by showing up and expressing his views precisely and clearly.

That’s a given. The lesser known candidate always wins the first big debate.

But now to the debate itself, which took place at University of Massachusetts’s Dartmouth campus, on the South Coast. Whom you think won depends on what you want from the next governor. If you think that state administration is doing OK and has the right priorities, you probably liked Martha Coakley’s mostly content-free, conversational ramble. If you think that state government is not doing OK, or has its priorities wrong, you certainly liked charlie Baker’s passionate, clear statements of what is wrong on Beacon Hill, and throughout Massachusetts as a result, and what he will do about it.

Which of these two vastly opposite presentations was liked by more debate watchers, I cannot tell. i can only speak for myself, as one who has journo’d state administration matters constantly all year long and attended more than two dozen governor candidate Forums, starting last January. For me, the debate was a knockout by Baker.

On clarity of presentation, it was all Baker.

On knowledge of the issues, and on what has gone wrong, or right, regarding them, it was all Baker.

On political tune, it was mostly Baker. Who advised Coakley to call Baker “my Republican opponent,” as a bad thing, on stage in a part of Massachusetts that is rapidly trending toward a Republican voting majority ? Martha, listen to me : New Bedford and Bristol County are NOT Watertown and Cambridge…

On debate points, Baker simply blew Coakley away. She attacked his administration of the Big Dig, saying that its cost overruns were the reason that the long-delayed South Coast Rail project can’t get funded. Baker’s response ? “Those overruns resulted from a large shortfall of Federal funding during the Clinton administration, for which we had to make up the difference.”

Pow….

Coakley also didn’t seem to realize — if so, she never said it — that much of the delay holding back the South Coast rail line comes from stalled environmental impact examination of the project, by both Beacon Hill and the Federal government, as a result of which the permits to build it can’t be granted. Baker did know, and cited them.

Pow…

Having been knocked out twice, Coakley wisely gave up attacking Baker, shifting instead to the conversational ramble in which she feels most comfortable, seeming to answer the moderator’s specific question by not answering; instead, chatting generalities about “focusing on people.”

It worked for Coakley in the primary, where she defeated — barely — Steve Grossman, a candidate even more knowledgeable than Baker, and with plenty of excellent policy proposals. But Grossman was unknown, three weeks before primary, by a full 25 percent of voters. Baker is unknown only by ten percent, and by election day he will be unknown by very few. Grossman, quite less known as he was, came within six points of beating Coakley on primary day.

Like Coakley, Baker smartly shifted his debate ground. Coakley began with her strongest suit : citing the local, South Coast’s economy in keeping with her “16 economic regions” policy. The debate audience liked what they heard. Before long Baker also began to answer the moderator’s questions with a South Coast, regional focus, and his command of them proved stronger than Coakley’s. She must have noticed, because during the hour-long debate’s second half, regional examples disappeared from her answers.

At least 500 people filled the U-Mass auditorium. Not long ago, the governor campaign engaged only activists. Today, it engages almost everyone. We’ll know the result of it soon enough.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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MAGOV14 : A DEAD HEAT, BUT ADVANTAGE BAKER

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^ polls show an absolute dead heat, but the advantage going forward is very much Baker’s

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Three new polls of the Governor campaign say the race is a dead heat. In one poll, Baker leads 48 to 46; in another, he’s behind, 41 to 39; and in today’s Boston Globe poll, he and Martha Coakley are tied at 41.

If you add the numbers in all three polls and then divide, you get Baker 43, Coakley 43, with about 6 percent choosing one of the minor candidates. That leaves eight percent — about 160,000 voters — still undecided.

Today, these voters appear to lean to Martha Coakley by about three to two : but that’s because Coakley even now has slightly better name recognition than Baker. He remains unknown by ten percent, Coakley only by three percent. By election day, that recognition gap will surely close, leaving Coakley probably no advantage at all among these 160,000 voters.

But that’s how things look right now. In fact, things won’t look like that by election day. Baker, say these polls, has recovered smartly from his bad last week and now enjoys, again, all of the favorable voter rating that he lost because of the outside, DCF-critical ad dumped on him by Children’s Defense Fund. When a candidate can recover all that he has lost, and do it so quickly — something rare in campaigns — he is in very good shape to increase his numbers a lot more.

Baker has on his side one huge positive and one equally big negative.

The negative is the multiple failures in state administration these past two years — and which the voters are very much aware of, as the new Boston Globe poll indicates. They attribute them to Deval Patrick — well meaning though he is, but, in many voters’ opinion, ineffectual.

The positive for Baker is his strong reputation for effective management — the precise reverse of how voters see the Patrick governorship. Together, these factors constitute Baker’s key argument : he can do the job and has already proven, in his business management record, that he can do it.

My feeling is that this argument will win the day unless Baker stumbles, or an outside pressure group muddies the race, as the Children’s Defense fund did, or both. Barring these disruptions, I think Baker’s “the job hasn’t been done, and I can do it” argument beats Martha Coakley’s remarkably content-free campaign.

So far, Martha Coakley’s campaign appears to rely on one task only : bringing back to her side the many Democrats who currently aren’t there. If she could do that, she would definitely win : Democrats total 36 percent of the state’s voters, much larger than the mere eleven percent that Baker can count on as a Republican. But right now, a full 25 percent of Democrats choose Baker. That too arises from a positive and a negative. the negative is that less than a quarter of activist Democrats wanted Coakley as their nominee. The positive is that Baker, like all recently successful Republican candidates for governor, isn’t really a party spokesman. Because the Massachusetts GOP is so small — because a full 82 percent of a Baker majority woUld come from voters who are not Republican, those Democrats who don’t like Coakley are quite free to vote Baker — like Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci before him (and even Mitt Romney, then), he’s a sort of non-party “Mr. Fix It” — because of what he is good at, without compromising their position as Democrats.

I’m sticking to my October 1st prediction : Baker wins by 2.5 to 3 points.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

WEST ROXBURY : HUNDREDS AT MEETING EXPRESS THEIR DISTRUST OF THE QUARRY OWNERS

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^ (left) Mike McCann, suffering a debilitating respiratory illness, addressing the meeting; (center) Mayor Walsh spoke (right) Senator Mike rush set forth the legislation governing quarry reclamation

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Even if the owners of the huge quarry that the LoRusso family operates in the midst of West Roxbury had the neighbors’ trust, their present proposal — to fill the quarry hole with construction-site soils — would generate opposition. And West Roxbury people don’t trust the qauarry owners at all.

That was the message at last night’s meeting at Elks Hall. At least 400 people showed up, standing room only, to express their intense opposition to the quarry owners’ landfiull proposal.

The meting was called by Mayor Marty Walsh, who was present at it, as was Congressman Stephen Lynch. One doesn’t nornally see Congressman Lynch at a local meeting on a local issue, and he said so. Mayor Walsh said the saem thing. But, said both men, this was different. The landfill proposal is a major community issue and one that they will take an active role in resolving in West Roxbury residents’ favor.

The facts of the quarry proposal were explained clearly in detail by State Senator mike rush, who in the process of fighting the quarry — the proposal was fitst bruited last year — has become perhaps the legislature’s top expert on quarry reclamation matters. Rush outlined legsialtion that has been enacted with respect to quarry landfills, truck transport, and contamination matters. Rush also made clear to the large gathering that the state’s top environmental regulator is aware of the quarry issue and will not sign off on any landfill proposal that the community does not support.

Also on hand were State Representatives Ed Coppinher and Angelo Scaccia and City Councillor Matt O’Malley, who announced that his proposed otdinance regarding zoning oversight of the quarry wa adopred unanimously and signed by Mayor Walsh — and that it now awaits BRA approval. It was not said whether that approval would be given.

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^ at least 400 people crowded into the Elks Hall

The quarry, which occupies 55 acres of prime real estate in the southeast quarter of West Roxbury, has been digging and blasting rock into gravel since 1893 — so said Mayor walsh. it has long been a given; and the people who have bought homes situated near it have known that the quarry was their neighbor. But they probably did not know, when they voluntarily accepted the quarrty as a presence, that blasting dust might lead yo respiratory diseases — one such man (Mike McCann, I think) spoke to the gathered crowd and was an eloquent presence, carrying his breathing apparatus and his tearful declaration that he wanted to work — badly wanted, always had worked — but now could not.

Nor did the people who have bought homes near the quarry thereby accepted that it would seek to do a landfill that includes very contaminated soil. Just how contaminated that soil might be, and with what, was set forth in a slide show that also made clear that the quarry owners’ statement did not accord with waht they claimed it said on the contamination issue.
Thus the distrust, and the justice of it.

Nor was there any support for the qaurry owners’ proposl to truck the landfill in at a rate of maybe 600 trucks — huge dump trucks — a day. The number seems almost unbelievable. No residential community can accept that kind of disruption.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

MAGOV14 : FUNDRAISING AS A ROUTE TO UNITY — THE BAKER APPROACH

1 Jack Connors1 Mitt Romney 2013

^ Jack Connors raised big money in 2012 to defeat mitt Romney. Now they’re united for Team Baker

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Tonight, Jack Connors, the legendary powerful finance guy who bundled huge sums for President Obama in 2012, will co-host a Big dollar Affair on behalf of Charlie baker, the Republican candidate for Governor. his co-host ? Mitt Romney, the man who in 2012 Connors worked to defeat.

You read correctly. Jack Connors and Mitt Romney are co-hosting tonight’s big Charlie Baker fundraiser.

I have attended several Baker fundraisers — at least two dozen, beginning late in May. At all of them, Baker has been hosted by men and women of both parties. The talk that baker gives at these affairs is always about his plans for state government; his vision, his method, his readiness to do what works regardless of which party –or no party — originates it. Baker’s fundraiuders are almost part of bhis message. They symbolize it, exemplify it in human presence.

This is far from the usual. Most campaign fundraiders I have been to — tons of them, by hundreds lof candidates — in my longish career in local politics draw only upon the candidate’s close personal supporters. They draw lines between the candidate and opponents. They have an edge, an opposition in mind. Not so baker’s fundraisers. For him, the opponent is an idea, a mindset : resistance to change.

Most people who care about how Massachusetts state government is run want change, big change. They see the need. But in the usual course, the competing impetus of party politics — and almost all the activists belong to a party — draw them in opposite directions, to serving party interests rather than the interests of all of us. that is not how Baker’s fundraising events work. Party interests just don’t get talked about. Ther public interest is what Baker speaks to, and the people who hear him — at least when I’ve witnessed — respond to that, want it, applaud it.

Baker can take this route as a practical matter because the Republican party in Massachusetts, whose nomination he runs on, is so small that it has very little pulling power. If baker wins 52 percent of the major candidate vote on November 4th — that’;s my prediction — at least 82 percent of it will come from voters who are not Republican. Think aboiut that. Less than one out of five Baker voters will be Republicans. The overwhelmingly majority of his voters will be “everybody else.” That’s a lot of pull.

Unity is thus not only the thene of baker’s campaiyn but also its structure, its math, its reality. Because most of us want unity in state administration, rather than gridlock or disunity, the Baker message — the Baker fact — has enormous power to persuade.

Even many of those who, as Massachusetts Democrats representing a bit more than one-third of us — but more than three quarters of those who currently govern us — want the unity that Baker brings. But they are pulled in the opposite direction, toward the generic Democratic campaign passively offered by martha coakley because Democratic party dynamics cannot, in their mind or interest, be set aside : not with the 2016 Presidential campaign so near at hand. In 2016 there will be no incumbent President seeking re-election, not to mention a Democratic President inevitably re-nominated. Thus every democratic party component is jockdeying for influence : public employee unions, environmental activists, advocatesof banking reform, social service workers, the AFL-CIO, Mayors. this jockeying enormously shaped last year’s mayor races in boston and New York : union-backed candidates won both. The same factor works in the goverbor race, even more strongly, to keep many supporters of unified state administration from joining the unity team.

To these Democrats it doesn’t really matter if Martha Coakley wins. Most of them didn’t want her as their nominee in the first place. But her campaign requires their participation as each seeks to win the pole position as the Presidential nominating process begins a scant three months from now.

If Charlie Baker does become governor, these interests will work with the fact, as they always have, both from the outside and through the legislature, in which the Democrats will have veto-proof majorities. With the legislature and their control of Boston politics to safeguard their interests, they’ll devote their major energy to the Presidential nomination without much regret at all of a Baker win. After all, though few can say it, Baker will be very ready to work with the Boston building trades unions, the Hotel and Hospitality Workers who staff the building boom, the IBEW who staff the industrial recovery that Baker seeks. Evenh the service workers of SEIU might find Baker a friend, not the enemy that their ads now picture him.

It happened often during the Weld and Cellucci adminstrations. It can happen again and probably will.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

MAGOV14 : CAN BOLD PLANS BEAT THE STATUS QUO ?

1 Baker and Coakley 1

status quo versus bold reform : that’s what it comes down to between these two

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In a campaign, as in war, it’s easier to play defense than offense. thus we find Charlie Baker marching boldly into the cities and offering forward-looking plans for empowering urban communities; while Martha Coakley represents those whose vested interests are, or think themselves, threatened by Baker’s bold.

“Keep things exactly as they are” is the Coakley theme. Malfunctions in state administration ? Whatever ARE you talking about ? Coakley notes no missteps in policy, smells nothing wrong with which interest groups get the prizes and which get the silent treatment. For the politically Panglossian Coakley, all is just ducky in the best of all possible worlds.

Such a passive, and palpably false, narrative works because it’s a political truth that (1) not everyone who stands to benefit from bold plans will vote for them and (2) everyone who is, or feels, threatened by them will vote against them.

I have yet to hear Coakley, after a year of candidate Forums, commit to anything not apple=-pie. She converses easily now, but her words of smile and affable there are, when you listen past the soft touch, feature no nouns, few verbs, less adjectives than a $ 100 trendy meal has food. In Coakley-speak there’s only a cilantro-dip crumble.

Meanwhile, Charlie Baker offers plans as pointed as pine needles, as hefty as a barroom steak. You know what he’s for, you can weigh what he will do, the where he wants to take the state slaps you five.

Much the same dynamic dominated last year’s Mayor race in Boston. Connolly did the bold; Marty walsh, the “everything is just fine. I oversimplify a bit. Walsh offered what Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham called “incremental change.” (And did so with multi-tentacled outreach and all the good guy persona that he has, and he has a lot). But Walsh’s incremental looked like all-is-just-fine compared to Connolly’s Teddy Rooseveltian charge up the hills of entrenched Boston interest groups.

Walsh edged Connolly by three points on election day. Can Coakley edge Baker ? Right now the polls say it’s 50-50. But they also claim that 12 to 15 percent of voters remain undecided. Baker needs only a slight break among these voters to take the corner office. To do so, he will have to convince the “undecideds” — and maybe persuade a few currently Coakley votes — that his bold plans will actually get implemented and, if implemented, will actually make things better. Because so many voters in today’s America distrust government altogether, that’s going to be a difficult sell.

Still, i have heard Baker speak, eloquently almost always, to groups that he chooses to campaign to. (Other groups, he avoids. i suppose that shunning is no worse, really, than Coakley’s way of attending lots of Forums but saying nothing at them. Baker avoids Forums whose attendees won’t likely approve of what he has to say to them. It’s probably best, thus, that he simply bot step on a stage and say them.) If presence and articulation can symbolize accomplishment, Baker’s an easy winner. But…

But Coakley’s campaign is doing everything it can to derogate Baker’s stellar resume — the Harvard Pilgrim turnaround, and the huge money that , under his administration, the Big Dig paid into the wallets of 1000s of Building trades unionists — and turn him into “the bad guy.” It’s a smart campaign plan on Coakley’s part. as the candidate of the status quo, all she has to do is tune into the voters skepticism about reform, their distrust that any reforms will work, much less bold ones.

If you don’t believe me, just look at what happened to high-minded, passionately good will Deval Patrick. If Patrick is anything, he’s a bold reformer. How’d that work out for him ? DCF, the health connector boondoggle, the Transpo bill confusion, the huge electric rate hike…

In a healthy political climate, the failures of the Patrick administration would call for baker’s bold reforms — across the board — to state administration. But we don’;t rigyt now enjpoy a healthy political climate. we suffer one in which special interests defend their interests willy-nilly, where insiders talk onloy to each other and defecate on taxpayer money, where lobbyists and advocates talk loudly to bulk up thrit donor lists. we inhbait a forest of selfish trees, through which pioneer baker is trying to cut a trail of betterment. I hope it works. It might.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

LIFE AFTER HORSE RACING : THE FUTURE OF SUFFOLK DOWNS

1 East boston people

1 East boston today

The new East boston looks to the new Boston but also loves the old : EastBoston2020’s vision enclompasses both

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Suffolk Downs’s owners warned us. If the site was ot granted the coveted boston-area casino liocebnse, horse racing at Suffolk would end. The license was not granhted, and horse racing will end.

So what becomes of the dite now ? A group called “Eastie 2020” has a plan. They have smartly framed it, avoiding specific development suggestions, focusing on principles to guide development of Boston’s most singular section.

Singular because only East Boston is divided from the rest of the vity by a bridge, or tunnels, with a toll attached. Singular because East Boston — like Charlestown — has no land connection to any other part of the city.

Singular, lastly, because East Boston’s separation from the rest of the city — from Charlestown too; it’s extremely difficult to get from East Boston to Charlestown by land — cleaves it to the North Shore, of which it’s really a part, more readily than to the city itself. Yet East Boston, like it or not, is politically a Boston neighborhood and is governed from City Hall, for whose occupant its voters have often made the difference on election day.

East Boston is no stranger to plans. It’s perhaps the most planned nd re-planned part of Boston. In 1830 it was a pleasant getaway for Bostonians seeking a summer weekend; on the part of East boston known aas “the Fitrst section” — facing the City barely a mile across the harbor — resiort hotels wited day-trippers. Then came Donald mckay nd his clipper sips : wharves were built, and for the n ext 90 years or so east boston waa Boston’s shipyard and its import haven. Soon enough whole areas of East Boston back from the “First Section” were built over with “three deckers’ along streets named after Revolutionary war battles, then, farther away, for poets; and finally, along the steep glacial moraine known (in classic developer style) as “Orient Heights.”

McLellan Highway, paved during the 1930s, cut East boston’s Mystic River frontage off from everyone as it beckoned North Sbore commuters into the city, by-passing “Eastie”and all that it had to offer. Soon enough the Harbor Ferry stopped running, and so did the trolleys that used to make Chelsea Street shake bebeath them.

Lastly, within my own lifetime, Logan Airport claimed at least half of East Boston’s capacious waterfront and leaned its jet engine noise on the entire neighborhood.

That was fity years ago. Since then, no plan has disturbed the peace of East Boston. The neighborhood still looks almost exactly as it did in 1960, even, in many parts, like 1900. When my Aunt Liz Mugglebee came back to East Boston for my Mother’s funeral — our family were East Boston folk; the second floor of 184 Bennington Street was our manse — in 1969, having left in 1925, she recognised almost every building, even the pharmacy at the corner of Brooks and Trenton Streets, not to mention Doctor Morrison’s house — he who as the neighborhood obstetrician had delivered all the Mugglebee babbes — on Princeton Street a block away.

Eastie2020 will change nothing in that central part of East Boston that isn’t changing already : its ethinicity and what rssults therefrom. Today, as Eastie2020’s Jim Aloisi points out, one savors restaurants of all nations in downtown Eastie, and not just these. Many cultures (even i predominantly Latino) flourish where not so long ago only Italian could be visited. One even finds young, gentrifying professionals in the area, with their signature boites : artists’ lofts and art shows, DJ music, zaza clothing shops, and pricey bistros serving very small meals.

It’s these folk, Aloisi tells me, whose presence in the neighborhood — a growing presence that he likes very much — requires a “new direction,” as he calls it.

This new direction gains impetus from Suffolk Downs’s closing but is hardly limited thereto. Aloisi envisons several zones of development — and much natuaral preservation, too. He lauds the beauties of Belle Isle Marsh, sited directly across upper Bennington Street from the downs, and the river that feeds it. Multi-cultural culinary offerings and natural beauty, in East Boston ? Aloisi has a point.

But mostly, to Aloisi, the 161 acres o Suffolk Downs offer future development o East Boston a model : close to public transportation, so that vehicle traffic won;t impede East Boston more than it already does.

Transit and natural poreservation are Eastie2020’s first two principles. Aloisi lists iuve. the others are : community engagement — development going forward must do what residents want it to odo; economic feasibility — yes, says Aloisi, “we recognize that developers have to make a profit. we don’t want unprofitable plans to leave scars on the neighborhood” ; and, lastly, job creation and training (as Aloisi points out, “Boston has been good at attracting 21st century upwardly mobile jobs : technology, innovation, research, academic. Why not here in East Boston too ?”

It’s all right there at EastBoston2020’s website :

http://www.eastboston2020.com/the-principles.html

and also images of what east boston used to be, at many stages, in its long history of game-changing development :

http://www.eastboston2020.com/images.html

Aloisi’s hopes represent something quite new in Boston devlopment. the rebuilding that we have watched arise in the City has almost always been initiated by the developer, not the community, and approved behind doors more or less closed to anyone but the Mayor and his plan approval team. Now comes EastBoston2020 with an opposite process : a community plan which it invites — maybe requires — developers to buy into before seeking mayoral approval.

Is it good for East Boston ? Almost certainly. The site is large, and so are the other plats the committee wants to build on. Projects so large cannot help bt sound a major new tone for “the Island.”

But will East Boston2020 be allowed its community-first process ? That’s more iffy. The group was part of the committee that opposed an East Boston casino and defeated the 2013 referendum on the matter. Mayor Walsh is singularly unhappy that that casino project was beaten that day and again, after Suffolk Downs’s owners rebuilt the plan, on Revere land only and with a new partner, by the Gaming commission, which warded the casino to Steve Wynn and the City of Everett,

Mayor Walsh had negotiated a significant mitigvation package from the Revere casino devloper, lonly to see its money and jobs denied. He was not happy.

How willing is Mayor Walsh going to be about adopting a plan advocated by people who defeated him ? Who cost the City big money and many jobs ? Stay tuned.

—- Mike Freedbeerg / Here and Sphere

ANNALS OF ONE PARTY GOVERNMENT : THE ELECTRICITY RATE HIKE

1 Gov Ptrick announces new electric rates

^ Governor Patrick to the people : “Pay for elctricity or twist in the wind !”

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Electricity rates are going up by a whopping 37 percent. For almost all Massachusetts after the residents. The new rates were announced on October 1st and go into effect in November — after the election.

Of course.

It need not have been thus. Governor Patrick had plenty of warning of the problem : a shortage of natural gas. Because Massachusetts’ s economy is doing well — booming in Boston, at least — much more natural gas has been needed to power electric plants. The gas is there. Gas suppliers very much want to bring it into Massachusetts and are ready to do so ; except that none of the proposed nnew pipelines needed have won Governor Patrick’s OK.

Instead, Patrick has pushed the development of alternative energy : solar and wind. I have no problem with alternative energy, none at all. By all means let’s develop it. But making solar power cost-effective for the vast majority of people, especially in the cities, is a task encompassing an entire generation. Meanwhile, only natural gas can bring us electricity affordably and now.

So could coal power, but environmental activists have successfully made the case that coal power burdens the atmosphere. All of our state’s coal-powered electric plants are converting to gas. And doing so even though there isn’t enough gas for even current needs, much less conversion’s demands.

Two months ago I opined that Kinder Morgan, a major gas supplier, could expand its existing gas pipeline that parallels, more or less, Route 20 along our state’s southern tier. Doing so would set aside the company’s proposed pipeline along the state’s northern border. a route which aroused opposition in all 27 towns through which it would pass. Why wasn’t this southern addition approved ? Why did Governor Patrick do nothing ?

Because Massachusetts is the crux of all New England’s utility lines, Patrick’s inaction affects the entire region’s electricity rates. What was he thinking ?

Patrick’s inaction could not have happened if Massachusetts had a strong opposition political party to hold him accountable. He was able to get away with passing the huge political cost of this rate hike to his successor only because no such opposition exists on Beacon Hill. There are far too few Republicans in the legislature to force anything, annd none in the administration.

Some have asked, ‘where was Martha Caokley when this inaction was bruited ?” The answer : she was nowhere.

Coakely won only 23 percent of votes at her party’s nominating convention. Less than a quarter of the dominant political party’s activists wanted her. That the electricity hike occasioned by Patrick’s inaction might negatively impact Martha Coakley’s campaign was in no one’s thinking. Most of the people who matter on Beacon Hill were with Steve Grossman. That Coakley might end up the nominee was either not likely to the administration’s deciders or not a problem, because, so their thinking probably went, Massachusetts is now so democratic that she’d win anyway.

And so here we are, we the people, facing a huge increase in our electric bill that could not have — would not have — happened had we a strong two-party government in which the deciders had to take major objections into account, or else.

For me, the rate hike means $ 800 a year that I now cannot spend into the consumer economy : and i badly need a new iPhone, but don’t have the $ 300, much less $ 800. And you ? I suspect you’re in much the same boat.

What are we to think of the signal being sent ? That Martha Coakley’s political prospects were so lightly regarded by the Beacon Hill deciders that they saddled her with this stink bomb tells us just what she will be like as governor : disregarded by almost everyone, in office only to keep the Republicans out, and for no other, bigger purpose.

We deserve beter. We deserve two-party government. The deciders must be confronted before the decisions are made — or avoided — not afterwards, when it’s too late for anybody to do anything about it.

Meanwhile, get ready for November’s electric bill.

—- ike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

MAGOV14 : “I SEE PEOPLE, NOT NUMBERS”

1 Baker and Coakley 1

^ Coakley : “I see people, not numbers.” It’s a line powerfully reminiscent of Scott Brown’s “it’;s the people’s seat,’ a line which clearly taught Coakley a ;lesson

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With this line, given to her by Governor Patrick, whose persona it is, Martha Coakley has taken her campaign to the high ground, the vision ground, upon which the governor election will be decided.

Meanwhile, Charlie Baker, whose campaign all summer long and for a month after, occupied, even defined, the vision ground, has lost his message and finds his campaign hogtied by charges and counter charges about stuff that has nothing at all to do with his message — or should i say, what his message ought to be.

I’m not sure, the more I see of Baker’s actual campaign on the ground — who he talks to most readily, who he draws to his events, how he sees the state, his bartender stints, the Cellucci-like ethnic appeal of running mate Karyn Polito, that Baker doesn’t live, politically, in the early 1990s; doesn’t understand that Massachusetts has changed enormously since. Baker’s message of low taxes, small business tax breaks, and welfare reform carried the day.

For the past eight years at least, the GOP brand has lost whatever force it had for most Massachusetts voters and is today a non-starter. the only way for a Republican nominee to run is to cast the party’s distrust of people entirely aside and go for broke on high-minded reform : “I see people, not numbers.”

It’s also a strong connection to the female voters who are Coakley’s base. just saying…

Baker — or his advisers — do not seem to understand that today, Massachusetts is a values voter state above all, and that our values have developed a passionate core formed in opposition ton the values enunciated by the national GOP.

I read in today’s Globe that baker has amassed a superb, state of the art data bank to arouse Republican-minded voters on election day; a data bank which, he resolves, will get him the votes that didn’t come to the polls ifor his 2010 run. that’s all well and good; a candidate needs have aground game.” B8t if baker’s bottom line is to ra8ise his vote total rather than expand his message to encompass forward-looking reformers, he disappoints the hopes of those who see him as a man of the future, not a return to the past.

Yet Baker’s ┬ápotentially winning message — of bold transformation of state administration — can carry Massachusetts values very well indeed as long as he makes all-in clear his dedication to people, people, people. He says that he doesn’t have a “compassion deficit,” and often during this campaign he has proved his caring about people. But there’s plenty in his campaign plan, and in his talk about taxes going down, to let voters think that he is indeed the “numbers guy” that coakley says he is.

Only if voters feel confident that Baker won’t cut state agency budgets to the bone — as Bill Weld did in the years that formed Baker’s political life; won’t blame public assistance recipients for monies handed out by agency incompetence; won’t give workers seeking better wage packages half a loaf when they want, and — as I see it — deserve the whole loaf — only then will Baker win the political room to talk about budget numbers.

Perhaps I’m leaning too hard on Baker. his campaign has always had huge obstacles to overcome — barriers far bigger than the ones facing Coakley. She has only to convince people that she isn’t the vague, even passive place-seeker that she appears to be, and that she can be as charming as charlie. baker, on the other hand, has had to — felt the need to — appease a Republican electorate half of which haters everything that Massachusetts is and to convince “independent” voters — our state’s majority — that he will stand up the entire apparatus of Massachusetts party politics, even as he works to win the votes of many who prosper by party politics. And he has to do it while carrying a party label that most Massachusetts voters viscerally dislike. Maybe only a miracle man can accomplish the mission that Baker has accepted.

He can still win it. Martha Coakley remains greatly distrusted by many activists, disliked by even more. the state’s Democratic party is, as we all know, far too satisfied with itself, deaf, on Beacon Hill, to opinions other than its own. Inefficiency and incompetence go unaddressed by one-party rule of everything; and because of it, the people of Massachusetts lose out. yes, the people, even more than the numbers.

Baker should make that point. If the campaign is going to talk about people, people let it be : not only what people ant state government to do but also what state government does not do that hurts people. On that ground, Baker can win, and should. Whether he will take this message up or not, we shall soon see.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

MAGOV14 : CAMPAIGN WILL LIKELY BE DECIDED THIS WEEK

1 Baker and Coakley 1

^ Coakley or Baker / Most voters will decide during the next week

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By the end of next week — October 18th — almost all voters will have made up their mionds whether they’ll pick Charlie Baker or Martha Coakley. After that, whoever finds him or herself behind will have very few voters to win a strong majority of.

Charlie Baker looks in second place as we go into this crucial week. His campaign, so strong all summer long and after, so full of reformist optimism and powerful command, has lost its duende. Not all of that is his doing. the Children’s Defense Fund, anti-caokley ad knocked baker off message and, somehow, sucked him intlo iyts current. He should have known better. The ad completely misjudges how Massachusetts government operates,and it draws the opposite conclusion to the truth about what Martha Coakley is not. (Her problem is narrow zealotry, not reticence.) But Baker, instead of spurning the ad altogether — decrying, even, its ignorance — tried to have it both ways : “I don’t like the ad, but it has a point.’ Something like that is what he said.

Baker’s biggest mistake in this whole campaign has been his attempt to stand on both sides of controversial issues. That’s OK — maybe — if you’re already elected. it’s disastrous when you’re still a candidate. as a candidate you must — MUST — take a stand all-in on one side of a major issue ; that’s how you demonstrate to the voters that you are committed to policies that most of them (hopefully most of them) want.

Baker wants to be a centrist candidate ? Good; but the “center” does not lie in Straddle Country.

It took Baker all the way to the end of September to go all-in on values issues that the overwhelming majority of Massachusetts voters want : women’s health care rights and equality for LGBTQ people. That was good, and true : Baker has always been committed to these positions, but until he SAID it, his campaign rhetoric sent an opposite signal.

Baker now has only a few days in which to go all-in on committing his administration to the needs of people living in crisis, or receiving public assistance, and to the most effective, job-improving school policy.

So far, his campaign plan’s welfare policy reads like blaming welfare recipients for being recipients. He seems to blame recipients for the “fraud” found in welfare administration ; whereas the actual “fraud” — which doesn’t amount to much in dollar terms — arises almost all from poor administration.

Baker’s early education plan, which calls for different school projects for different needs — a sensible policy — sounds as if he doesn’t see the need for it except in a few cases. Meanwhile Martha Coakley is all-in on universal pre-kindergarten. Her position may be too sweeping : but voters embrace the commitment. Baker’s “I don’t like one size its all’ reads like straddle.

Baker’s straddle campaign almost certainly arises from his desire to keep the rejectionist half of tour state’s Republican voters from bolting. The stench of the crypt has hung around Baker’s campaign almost from its start. it’s why he chose Karyn Polito, rather than a more progressive figure, such as Gabe Gomez, as a running mate. (That Polito turned out to be the campaigning surprise, a powerful and caring presence — a Paul Cellucci twin — could not have been foreseen at the time.) The rejectionist threat is why Baker worked so hard to keep the toxic Mark Fisher out of his hair; it’s why Baker missed the bus on Paid Sick Leave. it’s why he imposes a job search requirement on welfare recipients.

The rejectionist Republicans count maybe six percent of Massachusetts voters. Their presence, as a crucial component of a Baker victory now threatens to make that victory unlikely. Baker made a pact with the devil when he gave these voters space in his campaign message. He should have cut them loose long ago and gone all-in on compassionate reform.

Martha Coakley, meanwhile, has become masterful at saying nothing — generalities ‘r’ us — in a very pleasing, conversational, fireside chat way. She does it at debates and looks — and sounds — like the most reasonble person in the room. She speaks in a voice that listens. That’s a marvelous gift.

During the Primary campaign, Coakley was able to finesse the passionate Steve Grossman; all of his comprehensive knowledge of every important state governance issue, and all of his often brilliant policy initiatives, didn’t triumph over Coakley’s easy-going conversation.

Coakley right now is a formidable opponent who has been handed several issues by Baker’s wrong-footing and straddle. Because Democrats outnumber all Republicans in Massachusets by three to one, she will win this election — that Baker leads among independents, the majority of voters, can’t counter this math — unless Baker very quickly finds a way to steer his message back to what he seemed to represent all summer long : positive reform that works for everybody, and an all-in commitment to the needs and aspirations of every part of diverse Massachusetts, from communities of color to immigrants to working families being left behind, and to single moms overtaxed by family crises every day.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere