Daniel in the lion's den

^ drug-addicted and drug dealer, con men of vulnerable girl addicts : Daniel is both hero, villain, and living symbol of drugs as living death in documentary “Heroin : Cape Cod USA”

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Last night I attended a screening of a documentary, “Heroin : Cape Cod, USA.” Governor Baker and his wife hosted the screening; almost his entire administrative team saw the same movie that I saw, 75 minutes of camera focus on drug addicts, dealers, parents, town officials, health workers — but mostly the addicts, young people, as they ingest or shoot up the drugs that could very well kill them — and sometimes do kill them.

One sees the broken smiles, the bony torsos, the bruised fingers, the resignation, the coolness with which they feed a hunger whose ravages they know only too well. Many are handsome or beautiful, which makes all the harder watching them self destruct.

One also sees the tears in their parents eyes, the hopeless sad stare, the quiet re-tellings of good times — long past — between parent and child.

One sees the gurneys on which the overdosed die despite vigorous CPR.

Almost the entire documentary takes place at night. Many scenes, of cars rushing along fogged-out streets, or sandwiched by glaring neon, feel more like Amityville Horror, or Silence of the Lambs, than like Cape Cod of an evening. The comparison isn’t merely visual. Most drug assignations take place at night. So does the 160-mile round trip into Boston that one Daniel, an addict and dealer, takes every night to see his supplier.

Daniel is the hero and the villain of the film. He is its symbol, its hopelessness, its sufferer and its instrument of others’ suffering. It is very, very hard to watch him.

No one injects a drug during Daniel’s trip into Boston, yet for me it’s the most painful, most hopeless part of the film.  By what possession does Daniel drive all that distance at a time when most of us are regenerated by sleep ? What control makes him degenerate his health, his body, his soul even, rather than regenerate ?

We see Daniel imploring his girlfriend Colie not to go to detox, not to do what Marissa — as skeletal, spasmodic, and broken-faced as anyone in the film –says an addict seeking recover must do : separate yourself from all that you have been and from everyone you know, and walk through that detox door.

It is a very hard to do, says Marissa. We learn at film’s end that she later died of a drug overdose, at age 23.

Colie walks through that door, however, carrying all of her possessions, like an emigrant, going to another country.

At film’s end we meet her a year later, in full recovery, smiling and working two jobs, grateful — but not boastful at all. Next we see Daniel, now with a new girlfriend, Cassie, broken face ready to cry. She knows where she is : in the valley of the shadow of death. One wants to wring Daniel’s neck; but how can we, when we know that he is just as trapped, helplessly a con man, as any of his girlfriends ?

Daniel is the film’s angel of death, diseased through and through with the dying he brings to broken girls with a gentle smile. He is the film’s symbol for drug use itself : the substance with a smooth smile, a twinkled eye, a kind voice, all of it in pill form, or smoke, or injectible liquid.

To recover from addiction, an addict must leave Daniel far, far away, alone, as he is alone even when accompanied by a drug-weak girl he has conned. Daniel must have the door shut on him. He knows it perhaps more desperately than any of his girlfriends.

The film forced me to ask the question : why them, and not me ? Fifteen years ago I had surgery to fix an umbilical hernia. The hospital pharmacy gave me 40 percoset pills. I used two — later returned the other 38 to the pharmacy; indeed, let nobody know I even had them, because they are worth mucho on the street and I had no intention of seeing them stolen from me. Why was I given 40 ? Pain from a ripped stomach muscle required ,me to use two, but after that, I used ibuprofen : it did not remove the pain, but it eased it enough.

And again : how come the percosets that i did take did not addict me ? Why the people in the film, but not me ? I found nothing in the percoset effect to make me want more of it. I didn’t miss it at all. Why then do addicts come to need painkillers ? What pain do they think they are killing ?

I have no answers for these questions. All I know, from my own life and from the film, is that painkiller drugs act on some people the way a deadly virus acts on others. Until a body is invaded by a virus and becomes victim to it, who knew ? Same for painkillers. There’s nothing at all to distinguish the young people in the Heroin film from any bother young people, except that, a painkiller once taken, they were from then on owned by the need for more of it.

From then on, it’s a race between death and life to see which one will win. The Heroin film suggests that in most cases, death wins, and that even for those who life rescues, it’s thereafter a constant, everyday struggle — just as it is for people afflicted by AIDS, or diabetes, or drug-resistant tuberculosis.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere







^ Revere’s Jessica Giannino : cannot run for the First Suffolk & Middlesex Senate seat because she hasn’t been a “Democrat” long enough ? Crazy

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Soon to be vacant, the First Suffolk and Middlesex Senate seat may be vacant for quite a while. Or it may be taken by the most temporary of aspirants. The situation has gone from crazy to crazier.

An entire beehive of aspirants has buzzed around the seat ever since Anthony Petrucelli announced his forthcoming resignation. The big bees were in, then not in, or not declared, then in. Behind them has trailed an ever increasing conga line of hopefuls, some quite credible, some less likely. And then, last night, came news truly stunning : Byron Hefner, the betrothed (but not yet wedded) of Senate President Stan Rosenberg, announced his interest in running.

This news came barely an hour after Beacon Hill’s State Representative, Jay Livingstone, announced that he’s “IN.” I’m sure that Livingstone people groaned at having the spotlight diverted thus.

There is precedent for affianced couples representing different legislative seats, but it’s far from common. How must Senator Rosenberg feel, at having his love interest put him in a tight spot ? The last thing that Rosenberg — who represents a District bordering the Quabbin Reservoir, 100 miles west of Boston but lives during the week in a Beacon Hill; condo — needs is to have himself thrust into a Senate race that cannot help but be an intense turf battle ?

Presumably Hefner will be taken to the woodshed; but his exit hardly ends the craziness gripping our Senate District.

Jessica Giannino, who topped the Revere City Council ticket in November’s election, and has enough charisma to fuel five candidacies, cannot run in the Democratic primary because she hasn’t been a Democrat for the required period of time. (Note : being a “Democrat” has little significance beyond the requirements of MGL c. 55 because every activist in this District is a Democrat, no matter of what political persuasion. The term thus means absolutely nothing.) Giannino would have been a very strong contender, Revere comprising about 38 percent of the District’s likely turnout.

There might not be a special election at all. Petrucelli’s resignation is scheduled for mid January. That puts election day in May. Secretary of State Bill Galvin is questioning the reasonableness of holding a May election, given that only four months later there would be a regular primary, followed by November’s normal election.

If there is no special election, and the seat goes vacant until the regular election, Jay Livingstone would have to give up his House seat. Would he do that ? Maybe, but in a regular state primary, with a large turnout, he would be a decided underdog in a District designed to elect an East Boston-Winthrop candidate. The same choice would probably keep East Boston’s Representative, Adrian Madaro, on the sidelines.

Madaro would have good reason to defer. He will be completing a first term won in a special election of his own. The 2020 census will almost certainly occasion a significant reshaping of the Senate District, one that will go in his favor. Downtown Boston’s population has grown by at least 25,000 people since the 2011 redistricting. I can easily see this Senate District losing its non-North End Boston precincts; that, or exchanging Revere for Chelsea. This redistricting would solidify our District’s Hispanic character, a community that supports Madaro str0ngly and would love to see him move up.

Putting Revere into the Senate District now centered on Everett has precedent. The two cities formed a Senate District in the 1970s and 1980s, when Joseph DiCarlo, Frank Conte, and then Tom Birmingham represented it. (That seat also included Chelsea.) Beacon Hill, too, has no business being part of a  District centered on the ethnic working class communities north of Boston Harbor. It belongs with Cambridge in a seat that makes ideological and economic sense.

Whichever way the 2011 redistricting goes, it is unlikely to strengthen the position of a Beacon Hill contender were he to win the seat now. If it is Livingstone, he’ll either end up with a Cambridge – Beacon Hill – Back Bay seat, or he will be very much an underdog in a seat almost entirely north of the Harbor.

For all of these reasons, I have to think that if there is no special election, Livingstone will stay put, and a North End or East Boston-Winthrop candidate of strength will run and win. That would solve the absolute craziness now buzzing through a District easily fractured by faction, by the harbor, and by ambition to rise up from the area’s gritty three-deckers, wooden bungalows, tumbledown Victorian mansions, chock-a-block condos, and flat-roofed row boxes.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere








Mario Umana

^ Mario Umana, iconic voice for an iconic Senate District, way back when.

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Does anyone want the State Senate seat — First Suffolk and Middlesex — that will become vacant sometime next month ? The seat that once claimed as its voice Mario Umana, Bob Travaglini, Mike LoPresti Sr and Jr ?

So far the list of possibles is growing large enough to fill Spinelli’s, yet of actual applicants, none.

Not sure I’ve ever seen a situation like this, much less in an emblematic Senate District such as ours. One can easily see a classified ad blazing in the newspaper :

“on offer : one State Senate seat with a prestigious history, original and unrenovated, all applicants considered. Ready for occupancy in the Spring. Apply at Boston City Hall during normal working hours.”

The list of coy aspirants grows : Joe Boncore, Jessica Giannino, Dan Rizzo, Lydia Edwards, Max Tassinari, Jay Livingstone, Aaron Michlewitz, Ed Deveau, Ernani DeAraujo, Philip Frattaroli. Adrian Madaro ? He isn’t saying. I’m not sure the list hasn’t a long way to grow. Why not Paul Rogers ? Jason Aluia ? Pat Moscaritolo ? Veronica Robles ?  Daniel Cordon ? Carlos Rosales ? Francisco Urena ? Frank Conte ? Mary Ellen Welch or Evelyn Morash ? Phil Giffee ? Alice Christopher ? Margaret Farmer ? Celeste Myers ? All well qualified, all admirable activists.

And Cambridge, several precincts of which stand within the district : surely there must be six or seven activists in Cambridgeport ready to rock and roll ?

Only three names seem not to be on offer : Winthrop School Committeeman Tino Capobianco, who tells me he has decided not to run, Joe Ruggiero, who has said the same, and District Councillor Sal LaMattina, who would take a pay cut if he were to move from Council to the Senate and who proclaims himself a city-issues guy. But hey — their deferral is YOUR OPPORTUNITY, dear reader.

You know what ? Maybe I should run. I know the District as well as anyone, and for a much longer time than most (back to 1969), I’m Team Baker, I need a paycheck, my roots in Eastie go back 120 years. (I don’t live in the District yet, but the rules say only that a State Senator must live in the District on election day.)

I’m kidding, of course; I enjoy far too much being an operative to ever do anything as crazy as being a candidate. In fact, I’m all in for Adrian Madaro — if he runs. If not ? I’ll probably have 65 hopefuls calling me up to seek my support. This could get very interesting.

The word I get all day long is “everybody is waiting on Aaron.” That’s Aaron  Michlewitz, who represents the North End, Chinatown, Leather District, and much of the South End, the seat held previously by Sal DiMasi. Michlewitz is universally respected as a nice guy (by me too). Supposedly Michlewitz is “struggling with the decision” to run, knowing that victory would mean giving up a powerful House committee chairmanship (Financial Services) leading perhaps — according to one observer — to being House Speaker; giving all that up to become … a freshman Senator ?

Really ? If Michlewitz is on a path to becoming House Speaker, his decision is no “struggle” at all : he doesn’t run.

So why is he taking long to figure out his future ? I dunno.

And why are the obvious other candidates waiting ? The answer is money. By the most recent OCPF report, Michlewitz has $ 177,254.70 on hand, while Adrain Madaro reports $ 16,745.15 and Jay Livingstone claims $ 35,072.05. Michlewitz’s dollar advantage is larger still : his District includes some of Boston’s highest-income census tracks, while Madaro’s East Boston remains essentially a working class community; the political money in it c0mes chiefly from Massport circles. There’s also Michlewitz’s committee chairmanship and four-term experience versus Madaro the special election freshman.

Money talks and effluent walks. It is unfair, perhaps, to Michlewitz to decry the possibility that a District designed to elect an East Boston person, and which has done so for eons of time, might be purchased from Downtown; but that’s right now the prospect that has so many aspirants hesitating to plunge and others reluctant even to aspire. I hope that that will change.

Meanwhile, an historic, iconic State Senate seat goes on offer, unclaimed.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




new NU logo

^ Northeastern University’s new logo ?

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Northeastern University administrators recently announced that its police would add rifles to their arsenal of arms used in policing the campus. We deplore this decision and ask that it be rescinded.

The last thing that private security cadres should be doing is upping their arms race. All police forces need to de-escalate, not ramp up. In that regard, read the following story by Kevin Cullen in today’s Boston Globe :

We read there the Boston Police Department practicing its restraint philosophy. “Don’t take it up a notch,” says Commissioner Bill Evans. “If you need to retreat, do it… you don’t have to shoot even when you have the right to shoot.”

Such words ! “retreat.” “don’t have to shoot.” “don’t take it up a notch.” We have not heard the like from armed authority in — how long has it been ? Yet these were once the legal rule, before the days of “stand your ground,” before the militarization of police, before the NRA was taken over by gun manufacturers and their open-carry addicts. Instead, today the first move is to reach for the most powerful guns available

As City Councillor Matt O’Malley tweeted, upon reading Northeastern’s police move, ‘absurdity.”

Why should university campus police be armed at all ? No vote of the public constitutes them as a law-keeping authority, much less an authority armed with weapons of life or death. How can students go about the mission of learning, of study, of quiet and thought, if their campus is a kettle of armed gunmen ? It’s bad enough that the city’s police carry weapons of death, much less private security cohorts. (not all city police have done so. London’s “Bobbies” mostly do not go armed with anything but a nightstick.)

The decision to go to rifles arises, of course, from the occurrence recently of mass shootings on campuses. I find the move as unconvincing as disastrous. Will Northeaster station a rifleman in every classroom ? every study hall ? every laboratory cubicle ? every cafeteria ? Will it place riflemen at every campus entrance ? Of course not.

The university says that rifles will only be deployed during times of high threat and will be placed in campus police vehicles. Of course the term of art is “times of high threat.” Who is to make THAT decision ? To whom is that decider answerable ?

It’s also an assumption, and a bad one, that mass shooters will be deterred, or stopped, by the presence of 100 rifles in police cars. If a shooter can’t get past 100 SUV riflemen, he or she can always drop a backpack filled with nail bombs. That is what the Tsarnaev Brothers did. Or the terrorist can park a truck bomb at campus entrance, or enter wearing a suicide vest.

Far better for Northeastern, if it really does care about student safety, to create paths of retreat, and to drill students on how and where to find and  use them. Evans is right : “retreat if you can.”

Retreat was always the common law rule, even for persons assaulted in their home. The basis for the rule was common sense : he who retreats saves life without aggravating the breach of peace. As we have seen, not all home “invaders” have evil in mind. Some come looking or help. Retreat prevents the accidental shootings that occur more often than a wise policy allows. “Stand your ground,” too, leads too often to the use of excessive force — another rule of the old common law that made sense : keep the peace to the full extent feasible.

Northeastern students do have a security issue, but it takes place well outside the campus, on the street toward Ruggles MBTA stop. One recalls the horrific killing of a Northeastern student several decades ago, accosted by two muggers in precisely that zone. There, however, campus police have no jurisdiction. The Boston Police Department (BPD) controls; and today, the BPD headquarters building sits right there, almost astride the Ruggles T stop.

For all of the above reasons, Northeastern’s decision to equip campus police cruisers with rifles should be taken back.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ the now legendary Red Line, a driverless service haunted by a real-life ghost

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Yesterday Bostonians were treated to the fact of a driverless Red Line train rumbling through four stations before having its power snuffed — and the emergency presser Governor Baker called to explain what seems to have caused it. The day before, many Bostonians took part in a conference, hosted by Lieutenant Governor Polito, on sexual assault and domestic violence crime.

Two days before that, Governor Baker led a large rally of municipal officials in support of his landmark bill to reform city and town administration. At the same time, Baker had to decide whether to terminate, or merely admonish, the DCF social worker who failed to follow procedure when overseeing the mother of Baby Bella. Meanwhile, Polito spoke to hundreds attending Massachusetts Conference for, Women.

Sometimes, administering state government looks a lot like CEO-ing a huge conglomerate of very dissimilar parts cobbled together. It’s dizzying for us, the public, to keep up with the various segments — the DCF, the RFMV, the T, DOR, Energy, Conservation, Public Safety, Economic Development, etc. — yet somehow we expect Governor Baker to command the hubbub — no sweat, baby ! After all, he campaigned as the expert manager, Mr. Fix It, who had fixed big knots and could whiz through a whole kettle of state government wigglies.

To do this — to fix all  of what needs fixing — Baker has to rely on the state’s 85,000 employees (including the Red Line conductor whose “multiple errors” seem to have enabled the ghost train); and to oversee then, he has to hope that the 2,000 or so higher-ups who he has appointed share his diligence, caution, and foresight. None is perfect at this, not Baker even; and we see just what even a slight crease in the wave gives rise to.

Meanwhile, the Baker team moves forward on matters not yet reduced to practice, policies still in the conversation stage. Baker and Polito have no peer at initiating ideas from conversation; I’ll discuss their latest after I tell of the runaway Red train.

If what we read is correct, the Red Line conductor who tied off the train’s accelerator control and failed to set the safety brake did not have evil in mind. He had readied the train to begin its trip, only to find that the signal system at Braintree terminal wasn’t working. This required him to request by-pass. T conductors request by-pass all the time; if they had no such option, trains would wait forever, stuck by signals on the fritz — an every hour occurrence somewhere in the T. Unfortunately, in order to enable by-pass the driver had to get out of his cab and flip a toggle attached to the outside of his car. So he did it, kind of in a hurry probably, forgetting to set the brake. Just an error,  can happen to anyone.

Haste does in fact make waste.

What is the T’s manager to do about this mistake ? is there ANY good response ? Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack says that henceforth a driver will not be allowed to use by-pass except in the presence of a senior T official. That would be  a huge mistake. Without driver by-pass discretion,  trains will sit forever at broken signals, and as I said above, these happen all the time. Does the T then fire the forgetful driver ? That seems a hard penalty to assess. After all, everyone forgets at some time or other.

My own feeling is that the ghost train has aroused so much attention that no one will ever forget it, least of all T conductors. The solution thus has already occurred.

And now to Lieutenant Governor Polito and the matter of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, addressed by Chapter 260 of the acts  of 2014. A link to chapter 260 provides the full language of the law :

The law calls itself an “emergency act,” and its language suggests the emergency is to get court and law enforcement personnel up to speed on how to recognize domestic and sexual assault; how to best respond to it; and, notably, to recognize that much of such violence is visited upon gay, lesbian, and transgender people.

I find it significant, considering that, in the minds of those who oppose the transgender public accommodatio0ns bill currently before the House, transgender people do not exist, to read the first paragraph of Polito’s press release : “Polito presented a report from the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence on the implementation status of Chapter 260.  In April, the council was re-launched and elevated to the Governor’s Office to improve the administration’s ability to address the important issues involving domestic violence and sexual assault.  Per Executive Order 563, the council was first tasked with the assessment and implementation of Chapter 260.”

Only the Governor can issue an Executive Order. Baker thus agreed that the emergency nature written into chapter 260 is indeed such; that said emergency includes violence against gay, lesbian, and transgender people; and that court and law enforcement personnel need, in the process of learning, to comprehend all three communities.

Polito’s press release continues : “…The report includes status updates on numerous provisions related to newly implemented trainings and reporting requirements for members of law enforcement and district attorneys.  The Trial Court will also provide biannual domestic violence training to trial court personnel and enforce a series of stricter laws for offenders, such as tougher penalties for domestic assault and limited visitations for a parent convicted of rape.  Additional support services for survivors have been enacted through the Attorney General’s Office to establish employment leave for domestic violence victims.  

“…At their first meeting in June, the Governor’s Council reviewed each provision of the legislation and created work groups whose charge included an analysis of the provisions of Chapter 260 implementation across the Commonwealth and provide recommendations.  Today …the Council reported on the substantial accomplishments by agencies in the areas of training, guidance to law enforcement and courts, and development of materials and resources for victims and perpetrators.  It also notes areas for improvement and contains recommendations.  The section summaries were developed with assistance from Jane Doe Inc. and the Attorney General’s Office, and the section statuses and recommendations were developed by the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.”

Much, if not most, domestic violence and sexual assault occurs in private places, or in social gathering spots — the most difficult loci to monitor without overreaching by police persons. Almost all violence against transgender people occurs in such locations. The energy being devoted to this urgency by Polito, by Attorney General Healey and by the entire legislature — chapter 260 was enacted unanimously — makes it all the more inexplicable that the legislature has not yet seen fit to enact transgender public accommodations protection for fear of a small number of persons who deny that transgender is even a thing.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ Governor baker with medical students committing to study addiction medicine. Now if he could only get them (and 200 like them) to run for office as Baker Republicans…

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Notice to readers : this article is Part 3 in a series that I have been posting for the past two weeks or so. To have my entire overview, you should to visit and read the prior two postings.

Because Governor baker has moved to take full control of the Massachusetts Republican state committee, it is appropriate to consider a long term campaign to remake the entire Massachusetts GOP, top to bottom, purpose and personnel. Whether Baker has such an ambitious climb in mind, I do not know. Yet Baker is not one for half measures. Once he decides that an institution of governance needs reform, he pursues reform from roof to basement and every flo0r in between; and because the Massachusetts GOP is small — only 11 percent of voters –those who might avoid a Baker reform don’t have many nooks in which to hide.

One might think that the local GOP’s smallness would offer Baker a clear field. Many party positions haven’t been filled in decades. Local GOP clubs long ago surrendered their charters. Party organization in general matters far less than it did 50 years ago — a majority of Massachusetts voters belongs to no party. Yet smallness has its difficulties too. A recent flap involving a former, briefly Polito operative who signed onto the Donald Trump campaign, thereby entangling Baker and his Lieutenant Governor in the Trump mess, exemplifies the challenge of smallness. It’s almost impossible for Baker or Lieutenant Governor Polito to have not encountered many operatives whose political bent, we now find out, is for the untouchable. After all, during the years 2007 to 2013, when the local GOP faced near extinction, activists and potential candidates reached out to whoever was there, just to survive. The politics of it was left for later.

That GOP politics was toxic already, was shown to all voters when at the beginning of 2014 the party’s state committee, whose members had been elected in 2012 at the nadir of the recent lean years, adopted a platf0rm rejecting marriage equality, spurning women’s reproductive rights, and asserting many economic positions anathema to a solid majority of Massachusetts voters.

Thus the decision by Baker to elect a much more representative state committee at next March’s primary.

“Much more representative means “elected by many more voters,” and at the level of a state committee election, the increase is achievable. Less so at the next level : actual candidacies for publicly elected office.

Everywhere I go, in eastern and central Massachusetts, the folks who turn out for events given by legislative candidates make clear just how far back our state’s GOP sits. Those who attend GOP candidates’ events are much older than those I see at Democratic candidates’ times, and almost exclusively 1960-ish white-bread, the squarest of the square, some of them touting fringe causes (fringe even in this year of GOP fringe fever).

From what I see, the typical GOP campaigner is at least 60 years old; whereas Democratic activists — multiple times more numerous — tend to be young, even very young. Many successful Democratic legislative campaigns are peopled by activists still in college, even in high school. And what a difference culturally ! At Democratic candidates’ headquarters you see lots of folks of all colors, hairstyles, genders — everything from dreadlocks and hardhats to suits and grunge. Meanwhile, at most GOP candidates’ headquarters — when there even IS a GOP candidate — I see clean-Gene, crew cut guys who look almost military; a handful of earnest girls; some very well-heeled, clubby women; and a ton of older — much older — true believers working their 20th losing campaign in a state of mind you’d expect of a 20th losing effort.

That’s what I see because that’s all there is. In Massachusetts, almost every young person who wants to get into politics signs onto a Democratic campaign, because they want to win — quite naturally. (Not always : the Susannah Whipps Lee campaign, in the 2nd Franklin State Representative District, was almost all young people. Good reason why she defeated her incumbent opponent by ten points. More about Whipps Lee later)

The few young people our state GOP does get come top it by way of the national GOP and its “conservative” ideology. They’re ill prepared for the realities of Massachusetts elections and oftener kill a campaign than help it. Baker, for all his power as a charismatic Governor, can do little, by himself, to change the population of new GOP voters. The national GOP overwhelms local messages, even a Governor’s. There is, however, one way that Baker can direct the composition of Massachusetts GOP voters : he can encourage young people to run for office and to do so as Baker Republicans.

He is popular enough to do that. If the young people he encourages do likewise, and recruit their friends, and friends of friends, as well as their district’s baker activists, they can, if there’s enough of them — 100 to 200 at least — assemble maybe 20,000 activists statewide (100 to 200 per campaign) : a number more than sufficient to create an entirely new, Baker GOP far outnumbering the present party and aged to outlast it.

20,000 is all that it takes. That’s about the same number as Elizabeth warren energized in her 2012 Senate campaign. It’s doable, by the nation’s most popular Governor, if he chooses to work it.

The Susannah Whipps Lee campaign I mentioned above is an example. Her cadre of “interns for Whipps Lee” was very young and — probably for that reason — waged a campaign effective energy par with the strongest Democratic platoons. Add Whipps Lee’s mainstream message 9at times even progressive), and the result was victory.

Jaclyn Corriveau, of Peabody’s 12th Essex District special election, appears to have a following similarly young and mainstream, supporting her because they like her, not t.o prove some ideological point.

Other than finding 100 to 200 campaigns like these, I do not see how the Massachusetts GOP can prolong its long streak of Governor wins or sustain its current legislative numbers, small as they are. 2016 is going to be a terribly difficult year for the 37 GOP legislators and 6 state GOP Senators having to win re-election in  the teeth of Hillary Clinton winning Massachusetts by 23 to 30 points. Given the outrageous venom of the national GOP: campaign so far, how many Massachusetts voters are going to “split tickets” to re-elect their local GOP legislator ? In the six to ten districts I see as vulnerable, maybe one third will have to do so. That’s hard to do even in polite election years.

If that sort of setback does cut the number of Massachusetts GOP legislators, how would Baker, even if he goes all in on the project, recruit win-oriented, ambitious young candidates who aren’t idelo0gically unelectable ? I do not know. Meanwhile, several associations of activist oriented to the national GOP’s toxic issue positions are gathering their own, in PACs and think tanks, to render undoable any such Baker mission as I have predicated. Meanwhile, the Democratic party is loaded with terrific down-ticket office holders looking to “move up” and excellently positioned to do so.

The Massachusetts GOP can probably continue to elect Governors, because the structure of o0ur state government, and the composition of its legislature, makes it far wiser to have a Governor who is not a Democrat. But other than Governor, the obstacles to creating a viable, populous, culturally representative GOP seem almost insurmountable. Baker has his hands full just shaping a GOP that can improve his own re-election rather than hinder it.

No Democratic candidate for high office wastes any effort on state committee elections. He or she doesn’t have to. Baker has to. That in itself should tell you just how daunting are the party-politics difficuolt8es that even he faces.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ Politically, the two most important facts about the First Middlesex and Suffolk senate seat : East Boston and the Airport

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What if NONE of the obvious candidates decides to run for the First Suffolk and Middlesex State Senate seat ? It could happen. Then what ?

Nobody will tell me who is, or is not, going to seek the State senate seat being vacated by Anthony Petrucelli. I suppose that’s how it should be. I’m not certain that anybody even knows what he or she will do. Consider the many obstacles resulting from Petrucelli resigning at the most inopportune of times :

(1) there’ll be a special election, probably in April, folllowed almost immedately by a primary in September. Whoever seeks the seat has to raise enough money, and volunteers, to run not one but TWO campaigns. Basically, whoever wins will be campiagning all the way through to mid-September, hardly having time to actually represent the District.

(2) none of the five State Representatives in the District has an easy path to the election, or else is in no position to run it :

* Speaker Robert DeLeo, who represents Winthrop and beachside Revere, is obvioiusly not running.
* Representative Roselee Vincent represents the rest of Revere plus precincts in two other communities that lie outside the District. She backed the loser in revere’s recent mayor contest, hardly a path to winning the senate nomination.
* Adrian Madaro, who representseadt boston, the community for which this Senate seat was designed, is still finishing up his own first term won in a special election. (Disclosure : if Madaro runs, I am all in supportiung him.)
* Aaron Michlewitz, who represents the North End, Chinatown, and some of the South End, has a constituency not known for great percentage turnout in local elections (except for the four North End ones). Almost certainly he’d be an underdog to a serious East Boston – Winthrop candidate. (and there is one. More later.)
* Jay Livingstone, who represents  Beacon Hill, Bay Village, and some of Cambridge, has an even less likely constituency as ar as voter turn out.

It may thus be that none of the five representative runs, at least not in the spoecial election.

If that happens, the District’s new State senator may be only temporary, if one of the five Representatives decides to pass on the “special” to run in September. Or the new senator may survive that test. Who might be in the running for such a scenario ? there are several.

* Revere City Councillor Jessica Giannino is being touted by some supporters of the city’s new mayor, Brian Arrigo. Giannino topped the ticket in the recent election. She is chariamatic and has an Italian last name, as do at least 30 percent of the District’s voters (probably 50 pecenht of those who will actually vote).
* North End restauranteur Philip Frattaroli, who ran for Boston City Council in 2013, has the same ethnic attribiute and can raise the big bucks. He also now has an East Boston restaurant and probably has the most District-wide reach of any likely candidate not currently holding office.
* no one is mentioning Winthrop school committeeman Tino Capobianco, who would probably back Adrian Madaro if he runs. but if Madaro does not, why not Capobianco ? He has the youth, the respect, the Italian last name, and the following.
* a new name entirely. And there are some. What of Francisco Urena, Hispanic in a District increasingly so, an East Boston resident, recently Governor Baker’s Veterans affairs Secretary, and before that, City of Boston veterans affairs commissioner ?

UPDATE 12/11/15 at 10 AM : Capobianco informs me that is not running. However, the East Boston Times reports two additional names : Winthrop Housing Authority’s Joe Boncore, and East Boston activist Ernest DeAraujo.

Of all the likely candidates, it’s interesting to note that none, not even Urena, is especially allied to Boston Mayor Walsh. (Joe Ruggiero, Walsh’s candidate in the recent State Representative special election, is evidently not running for this seat.) Petrucelli was a Walsh supporter in the crucial 2013 race. His leaving office is not at all good news for a Mayor who has struggled to solidify a constituency in a senate District most of whose Boston precincts he lost badly.

Meanwhile, almost all the likely candidates have strong ties to Governor Baker. That should hardly be a surprise given that Baker won more than half the District’s Boston precincts and was beaten badly in none. Petrucelli, on the other hand, was on the other side of the Governor battle. His leaving office is a big plus for the Governor’s political strength in Boston’s most tradition-bound Senate district. It’s also a huge plus for Carlo Basile, East Boston’s former representative, who has outlasted all rivals, now directs Baker’s appointments office, and of all East Bostonians, enjoys unrivaled influence in the halls of state decsion making.

Next : what role, if any, will Speaker DeLeo play in this selection ?

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




^ Governor baker leading rally in support of his municipal finance and administration reform. Lt Governor Polito on left, Secretary of Administration and Finance Kristen Lepore on the right.

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Yesterday about 150 prominent municipal leaders from across Massachusetts gathered on the State House’s Grand Staircase to rally for a reform of municipal finance and administration proposed by Governor Baker. If I read its provisions correctly — follow this link to the Governor’s press release : — it’s the most comprehensive reform of our state’s town and city governance in decades, since the creation n of the Lottery “cherry sheet” at least and maybe since the creation of municipal zoning law in 1956.

Geoff Beckwith, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, says “The Act to Modernize Municipal Fimnance and Government is history-making in itys deo0th and breadth.” He should know, having once been a State Representative himself. Baker’s proposed bill scraps outdated laws, smooths state oversight, allows cities and towns greater leeway in procurement, taxation, and debt restrictions, and steps back from the micro-management of municipal finance that has frustrated city and town executives for so long.

Baker’s bill bears his signature attention to detail. Among its provisions : (a) updating boat evaluations to allow more accurate boat excise taxes (b) permits towns and cities top enforce removal of “double (telephone) poles” (c) gives cities and towns right of first refusal when a property owned by a charity is to be sold or developed for a non-exempt purpose.

In addition, the bill enacts more sweeping reforms : (a) electronic advertising of required notices and Civil Motor vehicle infarctions (b) creates a statutory formula for evaluating State-owned land and (c) allows cities and towns to borrow funds for up to ten years from the present five.

Beyond its specifics, Baker’s municipal reform bill broadcasts his policy of empowering our state’s most local governments, supporting their discretion to make decisions, and signaling them to work efficiently above all.

Credit Lieutenant Governor, Karyn Polito, for the grunt work that enabled this bill. All year long she has traveled all across Massachusetts to sign “best practices community compacts’ with towns and cities. To date, about 68 of our 351 municipalities have signed onto. Now comes Baker’s bill incorporating much of what Polito has worked out with local governments. It was appropriate for baker to allow Polito the spotlight at yesterday’s rally.

Two days ago I saw a comment on a facebook page top the effect that Governor Baker appoints panels, smiles a lot, then does nothing. Really — has this person been travelling in Mongolia all year long ? Baker has accomplished more in his first eleven months than our last Governor got done in his full eight years — and, so far, without a flaw. And if many of Baker’s initiatives remain stuck in legislative disputes, that is hardly his fault, except to the extent that reform of any vested interest is difficult and contentious.

Keep the reforms coming, Governor !

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




Boston Area

^ in apple green : First Suffolk/Muddkesex Senate District, covering  very different communities & neighborhoods, but centered on East Boston & Winthrop

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The resignation of Anthony Petrucelli, the First Suffolk/Middlesex’s State Senator, comes at an inopportune moment for potential successors. The District’s shape has a lot to do with why. Centered on East Boston, it includes all of Winthrop and Revere, the North End, Beacon Hill, parts of the South End,and a slice of Cambridge along the Charles River from Western Avenue east to Kendall Square. There’s not much to connect these disparate neighborhoods, several of which appear to be tacked onto an East Boston – North End – Winthrop core.

Thirty years ago, the previous alignment of this District included only East Boston, the North End, and Winthrop. It wasn’t difficult to see it as the state’s premier Italian-American Senate seat, and in the hands of Bob Travaglini, it was exactly that. “Trav” eventually became Senate President and remains a local hero to long-time voters in the present First Suffolk.

Prior to “Trav,” the First Suffolk/Muddkesex was fought over, back and forth, between Mario Umana and Michael LoPresti, whose son represented the seat after Umana’s last term and before “Trav.”

Much of that history no longer applies. Italian-Americans dominate only in Revere. Winthrop is less than 50 percent Italian name, East Boston maybe only 30 percent. The North End has long since become an upscale, young professionals’ neighborhood. Italian name people own tons of North End boutiques and restaurants, and the street action does a good job of pretending to be Bologna or Naples;  but their proprietors mostly live elsewhere. maybe 15 percent of North End voters have an Italian last name. As for Beacon Hill, the South End, and Cambridge. Italian was never part of their heritage and isn’t today. My guess is that voters with an Italian last name barely amount to 30 percent of this year’s First Suffolk/Middlesex.

Which makes it difficult, this time, for an East Boston candidate of Italian heritage to assume victory in what promises to be a multi-candidate primary. Nor does the obvious East Boston choice, Adrian Madaro, clear the field : barely nine months ago he was elected State Representative in a special election occasioned by Carlo Basile’s joining the Charlie Baker administration as Appointments Secretary. Given the condition of today’s First Suffolk/Middlesex, Madaro would be in a much stronger position to “clear the field” if he had won a November re-election; that won’t happen until 2016. (Disclosure : Madaro would be my choice, and I have committed to him if he runs. It’s also my neighborhood, my Mother’s family having come to “Eastie” in the late 19th Century.)

Three candidates so far seem to have decided to run : Revere City Councillor Jessica Giannino, who easily won the most votes in that city’s municipal election last month; defeated Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo; and State Representative Aaron Michlewitz, who has represented the District’s North End and South End precincts for two full terms. And what of East Boston, the presumptive core community ? So far, no obvious candidate.

UPDATE : Philip Frattaroli, of the North End, who ran very credibly for Boston City Council in 2013, has let me know that the race interests him. Frattaroli comes from a prominent North End restaurant family (Filippo’s), owns one himself (Ducali), and has recently opened an East Boston eatery, Cunard. Frattaroli’s entry would almost certainly end any chance that Aaron Michlewitz might have.

If no East Boston candidate of note runs, it will signal the end of this neighborhood’s dominance of a Senate District that, in one form or another, has provided Boston-area voters of Italian heritage a powerful voice. Granted that ethnic politics are fading away, to be replaced by ideological alignments — hardly an unmixed blessing. How likely is this outcome ? We’ll soon find out. Myself, I cannot imagine, yet, that East Boston and Winthrop do not still form the First Suffolk/Middlesex’s power center.  Many East Boston voters actually live in Winthrop; many Winthrop voters once lived in East Boston. The two might as well be one; and — do not forget — Winthrop’s State Representative is Speaker Robert DeLeo, the state’s most powerful elected official. DeLeo may well avoid involvement in this scramble; but if he chooses to, he can — so I see it — dictate the winner.

Even if he does not involve, there are plenty of Winthrop leaders for a quality East Boston candidate to link up with. I have one such leader in mind.

In a special election, the very populous Beacon Hill, South End, and Cambridge precincts aren’t very likely to turn out as intensely as the District’s core community. There’s still lots of life in East Boston’s dominance of the First Suffolk/Middlesex.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ State Representative Sheila Harrington : her decision to support of H 1577 is likely a positive effect of the Baker campaign to take control of the GOP State Committee

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Yesterday I wrote about Governor Baker’s campaign to take full control of the State Committee, the 80-person body charged, by law, with directing a political party in Massachusetts. I stated that Baker’s move is limited to the state GOP only; that the national GOP is an entirely separate matter related but tangentially to the GOP of Massachusetts and what is happening to it — subject to one big “if”  which I will discuss below.

Baker’s state committee campaign has been undeer way for some time. Much money is being deployed to fight it and win. Baker is publicly endorsing a list of state committee member candidates and opposing others.

I mentioned in yesterday’s story that Baker seeks control of a body that is his power platform in dealings with the Speaker of the House and Senate President, whose absolute control of their legislative bodies Baker hopes to match. Full state committee control assures him maximum power to command a legislative agenda of his own. Governors haven’t often commanded that power. Consequently the legislative leaders bulldoze everything.

Because the Massachusetts GOP is so small, control of the state committee matters, as the Democratic state committee, overseeing a party three times as sprawling, does not.

Baker’s move already is having an effect. State Representative Sheila Harrington (of Groton), who in 2012 voted against that session’s transgender rights bill, now reportedly supports adding public accommodations protection to it. (the House Bill is H 1577.) Harrington’s support is significant for a bill that Baker has avoided positioning upon so as not to give his state committee opposition a hot button issue to rally behind. My sense is that Harrington’s support for H 1577 portends (1) that many of the 36 other GOP members of the House will join her (2) that she expects Baker will lead the fight for its enactment once he takes the state committee and (3) Harrington, who ran for GOP National Committeewoman in 2012 and lost narrowly, will seek that office again, with Baker’s blessing.

Even if my read of Harrington’s support for H 1577 goes too far, Baker’s state committee surge suggests he will be able to support a fiscal year 2017 State Budget more advanced, by way of revenue, than the “no new taxes” budget enacted in fiscal year 2016. This, he will have to do, as (1) the MBTA and Commuter rail will require substantial additional funds for working down a $ 7.6 billion infrastructure and equipment backlog and (2) expansion of early education cannot be further delayed. Baker also owns a full queue of forward legislation — criminal justice reforms, charter school cap lifts, a clean energy proposal more progressive than the House version, and what he calls “the second part” of an initiative to assist low-wage workers, the first part of which was EITC expansion.

Might Baker even support the $15/hour minimum wage now being passionately advocated by the SEIU and others ? It is not impossible.

Doubtless he could secure most of these, as House Speaker DeLeo backs them; but Baker would like these enactments to include provisions of his choosing rather than a DeLeo alternative. Being able to command the votes of, say, 30 out of 37 House GOP members would help Baker’s negotiations enormously.

Will it be that simple ? Baker surely wins control of the GOP state committee, but he has absolutely no sway with the national GOP , which holds positions, on just about every issue, hugely at odds with Baker’s. So far, the national GOP has let Massachusetts alone, because it knows it cannot win any elections here. Its donors know that as well.

At the level of individual voters, a significant number newly registered for this year’s dramatic, angry Presidential campaign weighs upon the rolls of Massachusetts Republicans’ mere 11 percent. These new voters, and those who have enrolled during the last seven years of angry national political strife, cannot be ignored forever. To the extent that they know anything about the Baker agenda, they oppose it. Money PACs minded like theirs are also popping up. The field does not belong entirely to Baker and his party soldiers.

The oppositionist habits of the newly enrolling, nationally oriented Republican voters would also, if these voters knew about it, extend to the tactics of GOP Governor campaigns. Since 1970 at least, the election of GOP Governors in Massachusetts has depended upon Boston-area Democratic activists. We have elected GOP Governors for most of these 45 years because Democratic activists prefer the political independence of a GOP Governor to the factional weakness of a Democrat. Further, large numbers of Boston activists can back Baker because his agenda has the support of an overwhelming majority of city voters. That would not be the case were Baker a national Republican taking positions anathema to almost every activist in sight.

Will the Republican electorate of eight to twelve years from now be as sophisticated ? As willing as Massachusetts GOP voters are now to back a Governor candidate who supports political Massachusetts majority sentiment, utterly at odds with the national GOP ? Knowing that given their small number, and politically isolated, they cannot win any statewide election ever ? Or will we, like so many other states, become a society of “red” versus “blue” ? Because these voters — “red” versus “blue” to the core — will populate the future Massachusetts GOP, the current Massachusetts GOP rank ad file being well over age 60 on average.

Upon a positive answer to that question rests the entire success or complete failure of the Baker Republican iitiative.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere