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^ Speaker Robert DeLeo (D) has won his right to be re-elected as Speaker for as long as the members like. This is a good decision for all concerned.

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By a vote of 110 no to 45 yes, the Massachusetts House voted not to reinstate the House erule that had limited the number of terms a member could serve as Speaker.  Robert DeLeo has been Speaker since 2009 and will now be able to continue as such beyond the next state election. it was he who proposed the change.

Much editorial opinion was published opposing DeLeo’s motion. We disagree with it. We think DeLeo was wise to ask his members to eliminate a rule that he himself proposed, successfully. Here is why we think so :

1.The Speaker is the most important legislator of all. Because he appoints all members of all House committees, he controls all legislation. Even Governors can’t get bills passed that the Speaker opposes. Speaker after Speaker has shown this power to one Governor after another.

2.Newly elected Governor Charlie Baker campaigned, in part, on his ability to work with the Speaker on legislation, saying, with plenty of political evidence at hand, that he, as a Republican governor, is better positioned to work on an equal basis with the Speaker than a Democratic Governor. Since his election, Baker has worked tirelessly to forge a working partnership with Speaker DeLeo, and Deleo appears to have responded in kind.

3.It would be no benefit at all to Baker to see, in 2017, a different person chosen Speaker. Who knows if that person would embrace the partnership that DeLeo and Baker have forged ? The last thing that Baker needs, heading into his 2018 re-election, would have been a Speaker more interested in going his or her own way than in co-operating with Baker. The House’s vote forestalls that prospect.

4.It is also good policy for the House. Co-operation with a popular Governor who attends rigorously to details and who knows his limitations benefits the state. Better to get many reforms done, even while leaving other, larger reforms for later, than to raise up conflict and gridlock. We’ve had about enough of that in Washington.

Sure, it would be an ideal thing for the Massachusetts House to not have a limitlessly electable Speaker. But getting from here to there isn’t as simple to do as to say. Massachusetts’s state government is a delicate mechanism that works only if all its parts are fitted seamlessly; and there is scant tolerance built into the engine. Before we redesign the engine, no matter how civically optimal the redesign may seem, let’s be sure that it will work better than what our politicians have worked out already. Heck : it might not even work at all.

Some editorialists opposing the DeLeo motion said that a new Speaker would bring “fresh ideas.” Frankly, we’d like to see the ideas already in process enacted and working, or not, before we start debating “fresh” ones. The state Budget seems intractable; same for the transportation system, and schools reform. I think there’s quite enough on the plate to satisfy hunger for ideas.

Sometimes we get lucky in spite of ourselves. That Speaker DeLeo presented his motion, knowing he would face the criticism he in fact got, was a very lucky break for effective Massachusetts government.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


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^ today, no unions better exemplify “doing what the public interest asks: than Boston’s building trades. That’s why they have the political wind at their backs, and deserve what it will win them

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As we at Here and Sphere observed way back in 2013, the emergence of Unions as a spearhead political force has divided the Democratic party. The new Union advocacy has also found, in some cases, a foothold in the GOP. This, too, we noted last year. What does it all portend ?

The new aggressiveness by unions arises, I think, from their stubborn adherence to long-standing objectives and agreements at a time when the economy to which unions have accommodated is transforming. The transformation has also had political consequences. Ten to twenty years ago the Democratic party embraced almost all the priorities of organized labor, the GOP almost none. Today that isn’t true.

Labor itself is divided on the issues, and those divisions assure that rank and file unionists vary greatly by union in how much support they give to Democratic candidates. Immigration, for example, has become a priority for the national Democratic party; but many unions oppose immigration reforms. A like divergence exists on two other major issues : schools reform and trade treaties. The Democratic leaadership supports both; the affected unions oppose both. Teachers’ unions align with the GOP on curriculum reform but oppose the GOP on charter school expansion. Building trades and major industrial unions strongly support the Democratic party’s business and government partnership but oppose immigration reform.

On the other hand, the service worker unions (SEIU), who have become the most effective campaigners of all, strongly support most Democratic party initiatives and nothing of the GOP. SEIU locals concentrate on labor’s basics — wage improvement, better benefits and working conditions. They also support pay equity, immigration reform, and women’s health care rights. If 40 to 45 percent of building trades and craft union members now vote GOP, hardly any SEU rank and file does so.

Why the differences ? Curioiusly for a movement that prides itsel on solidarity, unions take the shape of the industry or enterpriuse that they are part of. Industrial unions, utility workers, service employees, teachers unions, firefighters and police patrolmen are, curiously, members of their profession first, unionists second. as the professions they belong to have shifted fortunes, so have the fortunes of the unions within them.

As a result, the wisest choice for policymakers is, as I see it, to address the situations of these professions first. Let each union then adjust its fortunes accordingly.

All professions exist to serve customers. No customers, no enterprise. It follows that no worker is entitled to his or her job. If a particular job doesn’t benefit the customer, it can’t be allowed to continue. It must change.

The smartest unions are those that actively abet their profession meeting customer demand. Right now, in Boston, the unions doing the best by that measure are the building trades, whose strong support for the Boston building boom — and for the City’s 2024 Olympics bid as well as gas pipeline expansion — aligns powerfully with what investors want because the public wants them too.

Great credit goes to Mayor Walsh for moving the building trades unions (and himself) away from bad support decisions made in the 2014  election into an entrepreneurial partnership that can only benefit both parties as it brings progress to the entire City. It is easy — or should be easy — or policy makers to support high wages for workers who commit to voters’ priorities. Is this not exactly what wde as a society want from workers ? That they make what we want to have and do it effectively and gladly ?

Service workers — including hotel and hospitality employees and those who work at fast food businesses — also make a compelling case for the much higher hourly wage they’re now seeking. If we don’t accord them a wage high enough for them to not need public assistance, we the taxpayerss will have to pay it,. Why should we subsidize the low wage practices of some service businesses ?

Conversely, it is difficult or policy makers to grant the demands of unions working in professions that are changing or need to change. First among these is public schools. They day of the one-size-fits-all school is over ; because the world of work is no longer mass employment, it is fragmented in the extreme, diversely experimental, individual trips into research — not armies of production. Schools must do the same if they’re to graduate young people into this new world of work. teachers must be selected by capability, not seniority, ad by effectiveness first.

Just who becomes a teacher, anyway ? Our society — like all advanced societies — hires teachers to teach what students need to learn. Most teachers get this. Teachets should be the first to call for transformation of our schools. It is in their interest to do so as, and because, it is in the public interest.

Meanwhile, the various labor unions find themselves politically at odds with the new political alignments resulting from the new economic fragmentation, global reach, and experimentalism. Those unions best aligned deserve the strongest support. Those least well aligned need — if they want to regain the public’s support and their own relevance– to be pressured, by all concerned, to shape up.

—- Mikie reedberg / Here and Sphere


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^ three smart reformers, surprisingly aligned, are moving Massachusetts — and Boston itself — into an entirely new political and public policy era : Mayor Marty Walsh; Suffolk Construction CEO John Fish; and Governor Charlie Baker

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Scarcely one year into his term, Mayor Marty Walsh has found his mission. He will, in partnership with consttuction magnate John Fish, plan, create, and build an almost entirely new Boston. To make it happen, he is bringing to his side both labor and entrepreneurs, those who build and those who profit, making the point explicitly, that he will be a business mayor because — as he said often in his 2013 campiagn — labor, who are Walsh’s core support, can’t have good jobs if business doesn’t want to spend and build.

Even more quickly — beginning in the campaign itself — Governor Charlie Baker has outlined, explained, and followed a course notably unlike that of any recent Governor. He will be boldly urban, performance-oriented, strictly candid about the state of the state, willing and even eager to raise everyone’s expec ations against the state’s most intractbale problems.

Both men are building a political structure that goes against decades-long perceptions. Baker’s non-ideological governance restores to the Republican tradition a “process liberalism” the party once thrived by and embraces a governmental pragmatism contradicting recent anti-government GOP rhetoric. Walsh’s partnership with John Fish takes the Democratic party back to its Dukakis-era business-labor teamwork called into question by the emergence of plutocratic money PACs and pay-equity populism.

The Marty Walsh who has gone all-in on Boston’s 2024 Olympics bid, and just as all-in on the vast changes that John Fish’s team envision for the City’;s transportation, housing, entertainment, and technology economy seems more like a Republican mayor than a current Democrat. Equally, Governor Baker’s social progressives and environmental reformism speak a political language that people associate with Democrats, not Republicans.

Both men are governing outside their respective boxes, making decsions free of the public’s preconception, moving both conversation and decision rapidly onto new ground — beckoning the public to catch up. This is what leadership does, that talking points cannot, that sound bites don’t even attempt. Baker and Walsh are governing by surprise — explorers on voyages of discovery.

Their bold and credible determination is welcome. Right now both state and city face societal dysfunctions that damage us and civic obstacles that prevent progress. It is easy to list many : transport infrastructure too often failing, more often ill fitted to our needs ; schools either poorly performing, wrongly administered, ineffectively systemic, or all three ; a huge shortage of affordable housing ; lingering racial and tribal disconnects ; obsolete government.

The two political parties seem to respond chiefly to their own internal arrangements — which is not how parties should be used. The tasks of political parties are to nominate candidates and to forge an agenda, for the voters to vote on. But the need to raise vast sums of money has forced parties to become the plaything of donor interest groups, and the end of patronage politics has dried up parties’ sources of volunteers, leaving only single-issue activists available; and these spend more time fighting for control of their party than planning policies that a majority of voters can accept. All of this hotch-potch of politcal irrelevance, Walsh and Baker have cast aside. Walsh is not governing as a Democrat, Baker not as a Republican.

Together, Walsh and Baker are creating a constituency we haven’t seen politically for many decades ; a public interest in which actual plans are being drawn up, actual projects going forward, structures and systems that will underpin the lives that everyone will live, come 2020 and 2030,  a statewide interest that discusses actual state budgets, not just pie in the sky, and which finds effective delivery of state services more interesting than imagining services that for the time being, feel beside the point. As for idealism, there’s all you could ask for in Baker’s transformational reforms of our school set-up, and at least that much idealoism in Walsh’s dedication to ending Boston’s lack of city worker diversity. But walsh is as focused on first things first as is Baker. The building boom, Metro Boston plans that he and John Fish have crafted assures good times for the Mayor’s building trades labor supporters. And why not ? Walsh wants a prosperous and dynamic city. That begins with a prosperous and dynamic work force — and prosperous and dynamic entrepreneurship.

Walsh’s business big-think has forced the non-labor Left somewhat to the siddelines into a politics of “no” — never a winning message. It is curious to note just how many of the people in the “no Boston Olympics’ camp were John Connolly supporters in the 2013 Mayor campaign. (The same was true of the “no casino” people, most of whom are now “no Boston Olympics” people.) It was not evident to me, back then, that the Connolly reform message might have a non-union Left component. The Connolly message sounded even more business-entrepreneurial than Walsh’s, more transforming; his school program was almost exactly that of Charlie Baker today : charter schools and school innovation. But the Connolly voters have since splintered. His charter school followers have their advocate in Baker, even as Walsh has, for the time being, set his own education agenda on hold, even as Connolly’s green-agenda followers and neighborhood NIMBY-ists find themselves wrong-footed by the powerful partnership that Mayor Walsh and executive John Fish have forged, a conjoint to which many prominent out-of-city Democrats — Juliette Kayyem, Steve Kerrigan, Doug Rubin, for example — are attaching.

It is not easy right now to see a route back to power for the non-union Left.

As for the Massachusetts GOP, Baker’s win has routed its social conservatives, rendered its disike of government purposeless, quieted its contempt for Hispanic immigrants, and forced GOP legislators to enter into coalitions as they think about priorities rather than vote a knee-jerked, isolated “no” on every proposed legislation.

Elections do indeed have consequences. especially when we elect consequential people.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


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^ the proposed stadium : can’t the 2024 committee at least talk to those who own the land ? And do it now ?

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In northern Syria, the Kurdish city of Kobane, two armies are fighting for control of every block, almost every house, stubborn, resistant. Looking at the lines drawn by proponents and opponents of bringing the 2024 summer Olympics to Boston, I almost see the same battle blooming.

To both sides — the Boston2024 committee and the “no Boston Olympics” group — the conflict seems a fight for control of the land, the ground upon which Boston is built. Land use is, and for my entire adult lifetime has been, with the exception only of the years of school segregation and busing, the city’s single most contentious issue. One side wants no change at all, as if we lived in a museum stuck in a time warp; the other side wants all the change it can dream of, knowing that what is, is far from ideal and that we can do better. Between the two sides there is no overlap, only uneasy compromise never fully accepted. And so it is as we move toward hosting the 2024 summer Olympics.

It being a battle, the two sides do not scruple to steal an advantage. Much has been said, with justice, about the Boston2024 committee’s haste, its unreadiness to open up extended public discussion or even private, landowner talks. (For example, today’s Boston Globe reports that the 2024 committee has not made known its plans to owners of land on which it proposes to erect some Olympic sites.) This is not smart.

The “noBostonOlympics” people too want to game the process. They charge, without any evidence, that the games will cost Boston taxpayers billions of dollars. they opine that the city should improve its schools, not “host a three week party: — as if an A-list City cannot do both. They also want to be bringing of the Games to Boston to be yes’d or no’d by citywide referendum — as if the election of Mayor Walsh, whose full commitment to the Games has brought Boston2024 this far, were not referendum enough.

Unfortunately, the “noBoston” demand arises from a ready precedent : the State’s new casino law provided for community approval by referendum. Who could have gusssed that that provision would have a shelf life ? Undermining the power of elected government to govern empowered by that election ? Yet here we are. there will now probably be a referendum on whether or not Boston should pursue the 2024 Olympic games. An argument opposite is hard to make, given the casino law.

As for who are the people of ‘NoBoston,’ should it surprise anyone that it overlaps notably with the “no casino” people ? Opposing the casino law were two interest groups : first, those who objected to casinos on moral grounds and felt that they had a right to tell the rest of us how we can or cannot spend our money, and, second, people who disliked the added traffic, commotion, and public safety costs that casinos seemed to portend. Almost the identical objections are being adduced to spurn the 2024 Games.

After much to-do and no fewer than two referenda, the casino law was upheld and the Boston region license awarded. Big change will poroceed, tall buildings will be built, many jobs will be filled, much traffic, commotion, and entertainment will make Boston a very busy busy place.

All of the above will arise in Boston on a much, much larger scale if Boston 2024’s plan succeeds. Think stadium, housing, visitor accommodation, transportation infrastructure, pedestrian walkways, games and activities all over the Metro Boston area and beyond, an Olympic village, and thousands of security people on site during the Games’ three weeks and probably well before them. The plan itself creates huge change. Not since the 1950s has Boston been given over to such an extended urban plan.

The 1950s plan had many features that unjustly overrode neighborhoods, with bad consequences for some, and unhelpful impacts on most others. The plan never amended and thus became obsolete long before its completion; as a result, it wasn’t completed — thank goodness.

That the Boston2024 committee includes two of Boston’s wealthiest and most politically astute entrepreneurs provides opponents a separate line of attack : plutocrats versus the people. Never mind, I guess, that John Fish and Dan O’cvonnell are, to me, role modles of what successful, city-progressive entrepreneurship must be if a city is to thrive and throb with life rather than calcify.

The 2024 Olympics plan must confront as well as inspire. It needs to flex, divert, alter itself as needed. We’re nine years away from the games. In that time Boston will change enormously. The population will be quite different, too. So will the technology. For that reason alone, extended public discussion may flourish. The City must encourage it. But with two caveats : first, there should not be a referendum on the fact itself; and, second, both committee members and attendees at public discussion should b e open to adjusting the plan in line with changes in Boston’s population, economy, and social life.

Public discussion must operate as a species of diplomatic talks in which those who want to change every neighborhood of Boston block by block negotiate with those who want no change. Between stability and dynamism there’s scant common ground. Everything that already is has supporters vested economically or habitually — or both — in its continuing to be. That is why “change is difficult,” as Bboston school superintendent John McDonough says so cogently at every meeting in which his reorm o the Boston school district edges ahead — without referenda, please note.

Boston2024 needs a John McDonough somehwere in its mix : a voice as gentle as his or her reforms are momentous and as patient as the proposed changes hurry us into the future.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


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The media wants to make controversy of the bid to bring the 2024 summer Olympics to Boston, but I see no such. opponents there are, but i have yet to hear a single credible reason why our city shouldn’t welcome the games to Boston and all that they are.

Nor am I distracted by the occasional public relations missteps the 2024 Committee may (or may not) have stumbled at. Chiefest of these is the pact by which, evidently, Mayor Walsh agreed that city employees would say nothing negative about the Olympics — a gag order, the media calls it. This was an unfortunate request,m as it allows undecided people to assume that the 2024 Committee has something to hide ; whereas, as it turns out, the mire one learns about the bid, the stronger it proves, and the better one likes it.

Here’s a link to the Boston 2024 plan online :

The public is now at bat on this. Because of the missteps, some members of the public, including a few inluential activists, doubt the Games presence in Boston. Much will need be done, by the Committee and by Mayor Walsh to convince doubters — about 35 % of voters according to recent polls — that this enterprise is a winner, not a booondoggle.

Last night at the Boston Convention Center, the Committee hosted its first Citizes’ Advisory baord meeting. As I am a member thereof — proudly and honored — i was present, along with at least 400 other members. If I had had any doubts — I did not — that Boston should win the bid, my certainty only solidified upon hearing Committee members Dan O’Connell and John Fish — especially them — explain their plan.

The Plan details, one already knew, even prior to its being publicly released online earlier in the day : no public funds other than for transportation infrastructure, which the City needs in any case, and for security, the funds for which will be furnished by Washington; all games sites within easy walking distance of public transit; the use of college campus dormitories to house athletes; and temporary structures readily recyclable. All of these were patiently explained by the Committee leaders on stage.

What had not been known proved quite revelatory, and exciting, in the fact and in the telling. Without notes at all, O’Connell and Fish set forth a Games and Sites Plan much larger in scope than just the games sites and housing. The two business leaders presented a vision almost as huge as the 1950s Master plan by which Boston and the State reconfigured almost every aspect of the entire city back then, the Plan whose shapes we have lived by these past 60 years. Fish and O’Connell envisioned transportation, accomodation, housing, public venues, and state-wide connectivity, a massive rethink of almost all of Massachusetts inn which the games themselves seem but a small part — albeit the catalyst for it all.

As I see it, this is how the 2024 Boston bid should be made. Because the Games aren’t just an event, they’re an opportunity.

To focus only on the Games is to move one domino on the board of dominoes called “Boston/Massachustts.” move that domino and the other dominoes will fall. But why allow them to fall helter skelter ? Why cannot plan them all, so that we can build the domino board’s future configuration all at once ?

When we were creating Boston’s Coiuncil Districts 32 years ago after charter change was enacted, dozens of interest groups presented plans for their particular district. But I — yes, me — as map aide to Terry McDermott, the Councillor who was tasked to create a plan, prepared an entire, City-wide plan for all nine districts. No one else did that except Councillor Larry DiCara. Is it any wonder that my plan, modfiied by his input, became the plan we elect by now ? You have to thing big about big things, the bigger the surer.

There will be eight more Citizens advisory board meetings, one per month, in eight different Boston neighborhoods. You should try to attend at least one. You’ll be inspired by Reverend Jeff Brown of 12th Baptist Church, charmed by the Committee’s athletes, gladdened by the prospect of our sports City hosting the biggest sport event in the world.

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^ Suffolk Construction’s john Fish spoke with persuasive authority and vast vision : exactly as this Plan should be conceived as

Can I also say that you will be stunned by how authoritatively Fish and O’Connell explain the 2024 bid, the plan, and every pat thereof ? Listen to fish and O’Connell, and you’ll know why they are two of Boston’s most successful entrepreneurs. You’ll also discover that great entrepreneurs are terrific social, civic, and community leaders as well. we are sometimes tempted to think of big business as evil annd of wealthy businessmen as selfish autocrats. John Fish, of Suffolk Construction, and Dan O’Connell, of Suffolk Downs, showed me last night that they’re the exact opposite of such misimpressions.

Doubtless, ish and O’Connell see good financial opportunity from Boston hosting the 2024 games. Is that a negative ? To me it’s a positive. For the 2024 games mean a huge infusion of commerce for the entire region, many construction jobs, and all the excited noise and hurry one wants to feel going on in an A-list city.

And as the saying goes : “if you want to get rich, make everyone your partner.” I’m good with that.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


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Charlie Baker has won the people’s trust and admiration. How will he keep it, now that state budgets must be cut by $ 765 million ?

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So now we know the actual number : our state budget owes $ 765,000,000 that it doesn’t have.

Governor Baker has completed the numbers review that he ordered eveery state agency to do, and it’s not good news. Granted that $ 765 million is six percent less than the 4 813 million giuess-timated recently by the Massachusetts Taxpayers’ Foundation; I suppose we should be grateful ?

Governor Baker says that the main culprit is costs associated with the state’s Health connector. Why these costs were not anticipated by the prior Governor, who can say. Why the $ 200-plus million of cost overruns wasn’t capped much earlier, it’s also hard to answer. Governor Patrick knew very well, and several years ago, that the Health connector needed to be established. Assessing its costs and monitoring the website’s launch woiuld seem to have been a priority of his administration. It was bungled.

Governor Patrick could have requested that the Federal government grant Massachusetts a waiver from the ACA (Affordable care Act). fter all, our state already had universal helath care. But Patrick didn’t ask,and so here we are.

How is Governor Baker going to make good the $ 765 million abyss ?

This is crunch time. Governor Baker has raised enormously high epectations with his idealism, his obvious competence — mastery — of state administration, his outreach to the voters who need effective state services most of all. how will the people whose expectations baker has stoked react to seeing the already underfunded state budget cut by such a large number ?

Baker needs to change his tone — right now. He needs to say that the $ 765 million deficit humbles him; challlenges even his superb capabilities.

He needs to acknowledge that people will be disappointed — frustrated — disillusioned to see big cuts to agencies that clamor for increase : transportation, aid to schools, affpordable housing aid, business development, pay increases for lawyers in the justice system (this last, a matter that today’s Boston Globe editorialized about).

Baker has sworn not to cut the local aid fund. That’s a bottom line worth protectying. The last thing he needs to do is anger those who govern the 351 cities and towns into which Massachusetts is segmented. But if not there, what accounts will Baker cut ? He can probably glean funds by implementing management eficiencies; but a detailed look at the state’s disparate agency budgets doesn’t find allocations looking suspiciously generous : just the opposite. In particular, the DCF budget looks threadbare. So do the court system accounts.

The Health connector can certainly be reconfigured. Why should it cost any more at all than the already established MassHealth system ? Still, the Connector won’t likely yield $ 765 million saved.

Baker does not want to order user fee increases, but I would be very surprised not to see increases at various state services which already use fees : registries of deeds, the Registry of Motor vehicles (and Motor Baots), state park fees, fish and game licenses, turnpike tolls. The legislature is also likely to pursue a usage fee for state highways, to replace the revenue lost when the voters nixed the gas tax’s cost-of-living indexing feature.

Let’s be honest : it will not be enough to close the budget deficit. Massachusetts people expect better schooling and expanded pre-kindergarten schooling. They expect impriovements in public transprtation. They want a working DCF. The state’s opiate addiction epidemic requires much intervention, all of it costing taxpayer money. All of these, the voters of Massachusetts now look to Charlie Baker to accomplish. He has invited them to look to him fior it. Invited, encouraged, assured them of it. That was the easy part. now comes the much harder part : realness. I ope that Baker is ready to change the disciussion in that direction without losing the confidence taht almost everyone in Massachustts now has in him.

—- Mike freedberg / Here and Sphere


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^ routing the Spectra pipeline into West Roxbury : the current favored route (in yellow) alongside the Quarry and an alternative route, seemingly much better, ruled out (in red)

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Land issues are never far from the front burner on Boston’s stove. How could it be otherwise, when every plot of Boston land matters intimately to its neighb0ors and beyond ? In West Roxbury, the neighborhood of Boston most committed to stability, every shake-up of land use becomes cause for concern. None more so than the Quarry, which occupies 55 acres in the very heart of West Roxbury and impact all the land bounding it.

So we come to the Spectra pipeline proposal, which the Boston Globe wrote about today, via a front page story. That Spectra wants to run a natural gas pipeline spur to connect to National Grid’s main gas line along West Roxbury’s LaGrange Street is not news. The proposal has been working its regulatory process for years. Until recently, however, th process has attarcted little notice. that all changed when the Quarry’s owners announced — arousing great outcry at several well-attended public meetings — that it would be land-filling its site with contaminated soils removed from other Massachusstts locations and that the fill would be hauled via West Roxbury’s streets, to the Quarry by forty or more trucks a day.

Meetings of great urgency — including all West Roxbury’s state and Federal legislators and Boston’s Mayor and local City Councillor –saw lengthy testifying by worried residents who decried almost every feature of the Quarry landfill plan. And during the course of these meetings, the pipeline issue was also raised. The two issues coincide, because the most likely proposed route lies alongside Grove Street, abutting the Quarry’s southwest boundary.

How could such a route possibly fly ? It seemed to the complaining neighbors — and to me — that because blasting of rock goes on all the time at the Quarry, a pipeline running alongside it would be constantly at risk of damage. Quarry blasting already shakes the houses across Grove Street and nearby. How could that blasting not endanger the proposed gas line ?

So it made sense that there should be alternative routes available; and it turns out, according to the Globe, that one such route, much talked of at meetings, has been ruled out. Why so ?

Spectra insists that its pipeline will be sheathed in reinforced steel and that its proposed metering station — placed almost at the Quarry’s front gate — would cause no difficulty either. Neighbors aren’t so sure. They have good reason : big news was made, last year, that thousands of gas pipeline leaks exist in Massachusetts, wasting gas and potentially catastrophic. Spectra, it turns out, has been fined oftenh by Federal safety inspectors monitoring pipeline conditions.

Still, the Spectra pipeline is badly needed. The expanding Boston economy is already suffering from gas shortages. Even residential gas supplies sometimes fail. What gas we do get, costs too much. Definitely the supply of gas has to expand.

But where ? From the proposed line’s start, in the eastern end of the town of Westwood, can a route not be found through more or less industrial east Dedham, Readville, and the Reservation, along the road that joins up with LaGrange Street at St John’s Church on Washington Street ? Or perhaps the pipeline can be laid deeper underground than the proposed five feet ? One would also like to know why the Spring Street route, along Baker Street to the old, now abandoned rail line that runs into Dedham thence to Dedham centre, was ruled out.

Regulatory approvals for the proposed pipeline are almost completed. there is little time left to choose aa workable route. Once built, the gas pipeline will point the landscape of West Roxbury toward an outcome useful or not so useful. Let’s get this decision right.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


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^ three bodies hang over a road in ISIS-controlled Raqqa in Syria, proof to this clique of self-appointed gods that they matter — and you don’t

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As the news from France moves from initial shock to ineradicable reality, the Western world faces what we now know will be a terrifying era of horrible ambush, unexpectable death, and suffering wherever it lashes.

This era of terror is not going to end soon. it is going to worsen, to aggravate, to change the way Europe lives. For us in America, the prospect of Arabic terror isn’t as grim — yet — because are so very inaccessible, protected by the oceans that have always been our moat and berm. Yet the terror will occasionally reach even us — when we travel overeseas, as many of us do occasionally or, in some cases, often.

As the war in Syria grinds on, and as insurgencies in Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Nigeria, Chechnya, and Sudan wreak their pains, fighters will go there to kill and return home to kill some more. European nations can be vigilant 24-7, and it won’t be enough to stop every terror attack.

This we know. the question is, why is this happening ?

Many want to attribute it to Islam. I disagree. Yes, the terrorists whom we see the most talk loudly about the Quran this, the Quran that. So what ? Anyone can quote a book for anything. Not do all of today’s terror killers talk the Quran. Every week in America sees a mall shooting, every few months a school shoot-up, and often enough, killings here, killings there, by selves armed to kill those who get in ego’s way,.

What all of today’s terrorists, Arabic or mall-grown, do have in common is a fanatic smell of self. As Pope Francis has said, they assume the role of God himself.

As God, the terrorist is the ultimate tyrant. He ior she decides the fate of the entire world. Other people ? They don’t exist, or are inconveniences merely, obstacles to the self’s monopoly of all power.

Community ? That’s a “western” concept. What god needs community ? Gods reign supreme. Community means not one opinion but many. To the self-made god, there can be no ‘many.’ there is only the One — “I am the Lord the God” as the commandment put it. And if you are, in your own mind, the only one who matters, why not be god ?

Nothing proves a self to be god more than killing “others.” Killing a person is the ultimate establishment of power. To murder someone is a kind of ritual by which one grabs hold of one’s status as a god.

That is why ISIS has huge attraction to so many. ISIS invites selfed-up people to become god, all of them god, the same god, identical god twins, as it were.

In the selfie age, with the internet and social media according every selfie person a gallows on which to hang mere mortals (see the photo above again), is it any wonder that selfies from all over are taking on the beards, costumes flag, names, and rituals of an ostensibly Arabic/Islamic god cult in which what really matters is the ability to be god, the Arabic/Islamic details being a kind of kinship code in which 10,000 identical self-gods serenade each other ?

One thinks of Beowulf and of the “heroic” age in which warriors led followers on booty hunts and slaving sprees. Those warrior bands were no more ethnically unified than today’s ISIS. Attila the Hun’s “hordes,” for example, included Goths, Vandals, Celts, Scythians, even renegade Romans as well as Asiatics. How did these disparate men who couldn’t even understand each other’s languages come together ? The answer is the same as for ISIS or Al Qaida : they came together as self-gods.

It seems a pardox to advance the self as god as an organizing principle. But a paradox it is, as is so much of human nature. Only in a horde of killer self-gods can an individual self god wreak his uttermost. On his own, nothing. In the horde, he has it all.

Human nature doesn’t change. We all want to matter. Most of us, in the modern world, have accepted that we can matter most, and most effectively, by allowing others into our mattering. Thus we are able tn matter for a lifetime, and maybe our posterity as well. The self god, however, refuses this compromise. He or she wants the whole godhood, and he wants it now. We of civilisation share power with community; the self-god shares nothing. He has comrades, not community.

These are profound matters. The grievances that today’s self-gods of terror talk of are nothing but pretexts for what really matters to them. Pretexts : all of us in the West are that now. We are to the self-gods of terror millions of excuses — ready at hand ! — to slay and rape, burn and behead, as they bellow, inside their coccon of ego, their bloody importance.

We are at war with the most dangerous evil mankind has in it. and we will be at war with it for a long, long time.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


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^ alone in the magnificence of Being Mayor : Marty Walsh talks accomplishment

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Last night Marty Walsh spoke his first State of the City speech on a large stage in a large hall illed with a large assembly of people important and very important. Well-dressed people, well fed, beaming, confident and stepping, came to celebrate what was sure to be a speech of afirmation and high spirits — including their own. They were not disappointed, not in themsleves and certainly not by the speech spoken at them by Mayor Walsh.

With his family seated in the front row left and the City Council seated to the front row right, and with Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito directly in front — the Governor had to cancel, afflicted by seriously flu-like pains — and, in the row behind her, soon to be sworn in AG Maura Healey and Treasurer Deb Goldberg, Walsh could be forgiven for feeling his oats and saying so.

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^ Lieutenant Governor karyn Polito attended the speech; Governor baker was sick with “flu-like symptoms”

It has certainly been his year. Even as he said, “I’m the same guy from the neighborhood of Dorchester,” he was, on the Boston Symphony hall stage, not the same guy at all. Applauded by easily 1500 people of great sighificance, he was The Mayor. Mayor of a very significant city that is basking in the milk of very good times.

So what did The Mayor of a Very Significant City say ? He talked of his accomplishments, a long list : the most diverse Mayor’s cabinet ever, the most dive5s4 Poloice department ever, two major city worker union contracts accomplished; the most technologically advanced mayor’s office ever, the smoothest permitting process, an administration that has reached out to every corner of every neigborhood; an administration dedicasted tyo btransparency, a school superintendent search involving neighborhood participation as never before. amd so on and on, and all of it quite true.

Boston is booming, the 2024 Olympics loom as a goal well within reach, innovation is everywhere — and will, said The Mayor, be brought to every neighborhood — and so is the most ambitious school construction initiative in recent boston history.

Applause bore iup every parapgraph, danced on each sentence, dotted every i and crossed every T of walsh'[s speech. and why not ? the 1500 people on hand are the Walsh army of progress’s boots on the ground. It is they who are staking his claims to the Boston that is not yet but will eventually be : “Walsh-ton.”

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^ boots on the ground for The Mayor heading toward and ever closer to a battlefield called “2017”

Walsh took the long view. He spoke of 2024, of 2030 — when the City will celebrate its 400th birthday — and of years beyond, decades in which, if all gets done, Boston will be as much Walsh’s as today the city is Mayor Menino’s. Walsh mentioned Menino, as he had to, reverently ; but also as a man whose 20-year reign is a challenge to be matched, maybe surpassed.

The one important year Walsh did not mention is 2017, when he will face re-election. Yet 2017 was much on my mind as I listened to him and was probably first on the minds of most people in Symphony Hall. For them, and likely for Walsh, the evening’s message was “I am powerful, my coffers are full, i have big accomplishments to boast of; you really want to run against me ?”

One could almost hear the war drums beating.

Victory songs will be sung — in the key of Yes.

We are optimists here, and we have very solid, demonstrable reasons to be optimistic.

Not much, therefore, was said about the down notes that Walsh will have to deal with this next year : a budget cut for almost every department; a still contentious Boston 2024 Olympics process; house prices and rents that continue to soar, making city life ever more for the well-heeled only; a school achievement gap doggedly resistent to remedy; school funding that cannot meet all needs; tarnsportation difficulties; the Everett casino, which Walsh is fighting rather pointlessly; housing for the homeless.

Housing indeed, and not just for the homeless, Walsh did mention. He asked the legislature to enact tax breaks or developers of middle-income housing and sales of state-owned land for low income housing.

Walsh will need that from the state and more. He seems well-equipped, diplomatically, to enter the battle. He enjoys excellent relations with Governor Baker, even better relations with Lieutenant Governor Polito, who was his colleague in the legislature. The City’s House and senate delegation is — so far — entirely on board with Walsh’s priorities. Nor could anyone in the hall not feel, hear, and see the powerful symbiosis between Walsh words and what the City’s powers that be want to see happen. But will it ?

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


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We like the prospect of Boston hosting the 2024 Summer Olympic games. We’re excited about it. There are legitimate concerns — and I will discuss those — but first let me itemize why we’re rooting for Boston to be the Olympic host city.

Preparation for the Olympics will assure that our public transit — and roadway — infrastructures get the massive upgrade that they need.

Housing the athletes and other attendees will require the City to build maybe all of the 53,000 units of “affordable” housing Mayor Walsh has called for. We need all of that and more, and it probably will take a huge event like the Olympics to force our city to actually build them, rather than just talk about it while doing very little.

The 2024 Olympics will require a stadium. The Patriots’ Robert Kraft wanted to build one years ago but was NIMBY’d out of doing so (by political and citizen pressure that included a nasty streak of anti-Semitism). Now the City will; get that stadium, bringing tons of business back into Downtown that now takes its dollars way out to Foxboro, because that’s where Kraft built after the Boston door was slammed in his face.

The entire city will revel and excite itself, as Boston has much rteas9on to celebrate these past ten years of ec0onomic boom, community diversity,and governmental progress. We aren’t the dark-side necropolis that we used to be; the new generation of Boston leaders has its eyes wide open and its vision cosmopolitanm; it belongs to the world, not narrowly to islands of ethnic cling,and the 2024 Olympics — summing up 25 years of boom and re-population, and a culture completely transformed — will give us all an occasion for partying hardy. There will be traffic and there will be noise, and these are good things. If quiet and emptiness were the objective, we could all mover to Caribou, Maine.

Some of us have voiced concerns that focusing on the Olympics will take energy and maybe money away from improving the City;’s schools. i find this concern unwarranted. The Olympics will be a privately funded, building boom thing. We have a huge building boom now. Has it detracted from improving Boston schools ” Just the opposite : it has brought into the city thousands of people who are accustomed to succeeding, people who will not settle for under-performing schools.

Granted, that most of Boston’s newcomers want school choice. One size fits all won’t do. Many of the skeptics about Boston 2024 are also people opposed to increasing the number of charter schools and, in general, to innovative educational ventures. These folks — many are my friends, I applaud their passion and their knowledge of public school budgets — want things to c9ontinue that cannot continue. The transformation of work requires transformation of education, and much of that transformation will happen, sooner rather than alter., Skepticism about bringing the 2024 Olympics to Boston arising from worries about public school funding is both misplaced and counter-productive.

Others simply don’t want the vast excitement and economic change that a Boston Olympics will bring; others fear the Games will suck up taxpayer funds. The second objection has been answered : no State or City taxpayer funds. The first objection is being bulldozed by economic facts. Boston IS changing, faster and faster; neighborhoods are being re-priced, re-imagined, re-configured by people new to living there and importing new ideas, new ways, new energy. I applaud it all. The past is being bought out, the future bought in.

Cities mean ,money. They mean commerce. Cities originate change. That’;s what they are for. Boston is a City once again after having been an ex-city. 30 years we could barely host a First Night. 10 years from now we will manage to host the biggest event in all sports and do it the right way. That, dear reader, is growth. Put Boston on the A list, because we’re going to deserve it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere