reason to smile

^ smiles, but “paint free” vote yesterday opposition deepens between Senate President Stan Rosenberg (r) and Governor Baker

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For a while now it’s been quite clear that Senate President Stan Rosenberg wants his body to be an institutional base for the “progressive” agenda he espouses. Every day now, the opposition inherent in Rosenberg’s intent looms larger. We saw it yesterday in a vote to impose a “paint fee” on the disposal of used paint cans. The House’s leader, Speaker DeLeo, has joined Governor baker in proclaiming “no new fees or taxes” for the second budget year in a row; thus the Senate’s “paint free” — vote was 25 yes, 11 no — will likely fail.

As I have written a few months ago, Rosenberg doesn’t mind losing theses votes. His game is a long one. His most vocal members criticize Governor Baker’s moves, speak with spite and grumble, pursue the opposite of what the Governor and Speaker have agreed upon. This tactic surely has Rosenberg’s back. It helps clarify his Senate stance on issues and to make it recognized; victories can come later.

My own feeling is that Rosenberg cannot win — the House is four times larger, dominates joint legislative conferences, and will likely be led by a moderate, even conservative Democrat for as many years as I can see ahead — but what if the House does, at some point, become led by a “progressive” ? Then Rosenberg wins. Doubtless such a coalition will incline Massachusetts voters to elect non-Democratic Governors even more surely than they do now; at which point only a Governor’s veto will offer non-“progressives” a defense line.

All of that is for the future. The immediate question that I see in Rosenberg’s stance is one for my Senate District, which is now in the hands of a special election to choose a successor to Anthony Petrucelli. What sort of political agenda will, in the Senate, represent the voters of East Boston, Winthrop, Revere, the North End, Chinatown, and Beacon Hill going forward ? Will our Senator be a Rosenberg ally, or will he or she adhere to the more centrist principles espoused by Speaker DeLeo, who lives in our District and represents one fourth of it ?

As readers of Here and Sphere know, I had every intention of supporting, even working for, an independent candidate, who would on May 10th oppose the winner of the April 12th primary; a candidate who would espouse Governor Baker’s reforms and derive much support from Team-Baker. That candidacy would have assured our District its own voice in the Senate, one as powerfully supported, and grounded, as Rosenberg’s. That candidate would, if successful, have given Speaker DeLeo a presence In the Senate as well as looming over it and would have had the backing, probably, of Governor Baker as well. To me, this candidacy mattered at least in part for its prospects of helping to unite the legislature rather than dfivid9ing it, as Rosenberg’s game does, into opposed camps.

That candidacy did not happen, and what remains to us is six people, of whom maybe one has some sort of direct line to Governor Baker (Dan Rizzo of Revere, the city’s former Mayor, is said to have been liked by members of the Governor’s administration). Do any have links to Speaker DeLeo ? Joe Boncore of Winthrop, the other leading candidate, seems to have them, but who knows ? Boncore does enjoy the support of one or two Baker activists — as does Diane Hwang, whose candidacy at this moment seems more about presence than victory.

Meanwhile Jay Livingstone, the only State Representative in the primary, has as his campaign purpose winning the votes of “progressives.” (Candidate Lydia Edwards seems also to practice the same strategy.) Livingstone will, if successful, almost certainly be a Rosenberg ally. As Livingstone is seen, probably correctly, as the leading contender, those of us who want a Senator allied with the dominant powers on Beacon Hill are likely to be disappointed.

My view is that our District has economic needs that require us to ally with dominant powers. Livingstone’s base, however, is in top-income precincts (Beacon Hill) that do not have such need.

This has been one of the strangest elections I have ever been part of. The District was created to send an East Boston leader to the Senate, and for 60 years it has done so. Now, not one East Boston first-rank leader is running, and all who I speak to, including every one of our non-candidate State Representatives, are staying far, far away from the contest.

I like Jay Livingstone. He is a dedicated citizen, a Boston leader. But I do not see how he can possibly represent a District so different from the precincts that elect him to the House, precincts that were added to our District, cynically by a redistricting committee, for the sole purpose of filling up our population requirement.

Maybe 15 percent of our voters will cast a ballot in the primary. This is not acceptable, but why should anyone but an insider or activist become interested in an election that is about only insiders or activists ? The candidacy I envisioned, for the May 10th election, would have given a much larger voter number — maybe 33 percent — reason to take an interest. As it should be.

For this primary, we are out of it; we feel it, we know it. This primary is not about us.

How out of it are we ? Last night I spoke with Livingstone, who attended the Orient Heights Civic Association’s monthly meeting — the only candidate to do so. I asked him if he had campaigned yet at Adriana’s, Rino’s place, and the Jack Satter House. He had not — indeed, he seemed unsure of Adriana’s importance, or of what the Satter House is. If a candidate as hard-working and aware as Livingstone is — I can attest to this — shows such unfamiliarity with our core of the District, we are going to have a difficult time being understood by a Senator with an agenda most of us don’t share.

Just the way Stan Rosenberg wants it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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