^ it costs money to assure equal justice to all : from the Sentencing Project article cited below : Chris Poulos with Glenn Martin of Just Leadership, USA

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Well-intentioned activists talk these days about the need for criminal justice reform. Some are even working on specific proposals, legislation, objectives. I approve it all; but we cannot kid ourselves : criminal justice reform will; cost money. A lot of money. I doubt we as a society are ready to hear it, much less to commit to it; nonetheless, here I go:

1.A story that I found on my facebook wall this morning makes painfully clear that criminal justice is all about the money. Read how Chris Poulos, who could afford a private lawyer won a decidedly much better outcome than if he had had t9 use bar-appointed counsel : http://www.sentencingproject.org/stories/christopher-poulos

Had Poulos stuck with bar-appointed counsel, he would have sunk into prison life — an eight year sentence as opposed to three — and probably that would have been it. Whereas today he is about to graduate from law school and take his place as a n attorney. Which is the sort of outcome we should want for drug offenders (and others not heinous) who fall afoul of criminal justice. But who will pay for bar-appointed counsel, sufficiently that he or she devotes serious effort to cases they take on ? Today, in MA at least, bar-appointed lawyers are pay little and have to wait for almost a year — sometimes longer — to receive even that little.

The 14th Amendment to our Constitution guarantees equal protection of the laws to all residents of this nation; but Constitutional guarantees are only as good as the credit given them by the guarantors : we the citizens who live by that Constitution. Plenty of people, on the political right especially, talk about the Constitution a lot, but usually such talk is of rights and limitation : almost none of the obligations that the Constitution imposes on us who live by it. We must begin to have that talk.

Criminal justice reform will cost a ton of money. If you read my list of basic and essential reforms, as itemized next, you’ll figure that out petty quickly :

1.The Constitution guarantees counsel to all accused, of offenses that impose imprisonment punishments. This guarantee doesn’t mean much if said counsel is ineffective, or so poorly paid that he or she can’t devote the necessary time to a case, or whose appointed case load is so heavy that the same inadequacy results. Courts are already releasing accused because they can’t get effective or timely counsel. Is that the result that we want ? I doubt it. We need to fund the counsel guarantee we have made, in writing, in the Constitution, because the obligation was one we freely took on and for very good reason. Doing so might add as much as $ 35 million per year to our State budget.

2.Imprisonment is punishment enough. No prison should be administered by guards and wardens who rule by terror. Nor should there ever be privately-run, for profit prisons. Granted that it’s default easy for prison administrators to rule by violence and terror. They re dealing with often violent men maddened by prison confinements to an unbearable degree, men who do horrifying things to one another in the blink of an eye. Still, there is no justification for prison rule to tolerate intentional cruelty, denial of medical services, solitary confinements, bribes, extortion, informants, and beatings. Diligence on duty — interactions that can be trusted — should be prison administration’s first priority; next comes proper classification of inmates, and small cell blocks, so that imprisoned people have less opportunity, or occasion, to harm, one another.

3.Prisoners often go out on work details. Other are hired for jobs within the prison. Can somebody tell me by what legal theory they are not entitled to the benefits of minimum wage laws ?

4.No municipality should ever be allowed to fund its budget by way of traffic fines, bail bonds, and other costs imposed upon those it treats as offenders. Civil rights prosecutions of officials who use such shakedowns must be vigorous and ongoing, so that a heinous practice, the very opposite of “equal protection,” and deeply embedded in our nation’s ways of screwing poor people,. can be driven out.

5.In Germany, so I have read, the principle governing prison administration is that if the prisoner doesn’t make it, back into society, it is the administration’s fault, not the prisoner’s. Why can’t that principle govern our prisons here in America ?

6.Why do we keep in prison people who are elderly and often in need of 24 hour care (which many do not get) ? The cost of keeping 70 to 95 year old prisoners is enormous. Can’t that money be better used to pay Constitutionally guaranteed counsel ? Better trained and schooled prison guards ? In-prison education for inmates ? Accepting minimum wage laws for prisoner work ? Paying bail bondsmen, so that the person being bailed — who likely hasn’t the money — doesn’t have to pay ? (All too often, the person being bailed has to ask his family, if he has one ready, or a friend, to use the week’s food money, or the electric bill, to pay the bondsman’s fee.)

Too much of our criminal justice action arises from revenge, from anger. I understand the emotions of both; but anger does not make whole the injured victim, nor does revenge do any good except, maybe, to the soul of the avenger — and that I doubt strongly. This is why forgiveness is a basic principle of our great religions : the crime must be expunged from one’s heart, and by the community at large, rather than being the starting point for payback. Forgiveness does not mean no culpability. But it do0es mean that the society will not ingest the crime into its future duties.

I doubt that the above principle will ever be fully embraced by the good versus evil gunfight culture whose kept oaths hold us in thrall.

Life is about the future. If it is about oaths, may they be oaths to do better, not to make a right out of two wrongs.

Have we the courage to live up to the Constitutional commitments we have made in this regard ? I hope that pretty soon we will find out.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



MBTA card

^ changing the way MBTA fares are paid, so that $ 42 million a year doesn’t disappear

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If there’s anything about Governor Baker that frustrates many people, it’s his caution. Impulsive, he is not. In a hurry, never. In the matter of the transgender rights public accommodations bill now pending, caution has buffeted him — has irked me too. Yet caution usually serves Baker well. He plays the long game, which is the only game that outlasts the dogged resistance of vested interests needing major reform. One thinks of public schools budgets.

Fixing the MBTA will be a long game. This we already knew. Every month seems to uncover yet another money sinkhole. Add fare collection misfeasance to the rest. One problem after another — for the Fiscal Control board, the day to day process management, the T employees’ Pension fund directors. What will be next ?

If the reports are true — that fare collection failure costs the T about $ 42 million — it’s obviously a crisis as serious as management failures highlighted at DCF. How does $ 42 million of rider fares go uncollected ? If I recall, in the Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans,” the solution to the crime turns on the impossibility of a rider entering  London subway carriage without a ticket. That was more than 100 years ago. How is it that in 2016, in Boston, $ 42 million of fares can enter a bus, subway, or commuter rail without a paid ticket ?

On the commuter rail, conductors collect — or do not collect — fares. Why do we depend on on-board fare collectors ? Why can’t it be as difficult to enter a commuter train without paying first as it is for the subway ? Same goes for the buses. The driver collects fares. Why should he or she have to do this ? it’s hard enough to drive a big bus through Boston traffic without one’s having to monitor the fare payment of every passenger boarding.

Why can’t the T expand its “Charlie card” program to embrace all T fares ? Make “Add value” to your card the only way to pay. Enter train, bus or subway, swipe your card. If there’s “no enough value” on it, you do not board.

It seems actually that this reform is on the way. Read the story I have linked here : https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2016/03/28/the-way-you-pay-to-ride-the-mbta-could-change-pretty-quickly

The “conductors” on board commuter trains can be put to work caring for passengers’ needs and comfort. Install free wi-fi in every commuter car, school the “conductors” to be basic tech support people. Let the “conductors” keep the wi-fi online. That would be a far more useful application of their work time than fare collection.

It will doubtless take a long time to establish this work rule change, not to mention the systems installations required. There will surely be opposition every step of the way — because change is difficult, as said John McDonough, Boston’s excellent interim schools superintendent. McDonough played the long game : radical reform, taken one seemingly simple step at a time. That is Governor baker’s method, too. It’s the only way. Bring about huge change in steps so small that one hardly notices the difference in each. They add up, though ! Continents change enormously, don ‘t they ? It takes millions of years, but they alter completely. That is how the baker tactic approaches reform. It may seem sleepy, or boring; but over the extent of its time, it isn’t boring at all. It is enormous transformation.

And now to fix the MBTA Employees’ pension fund, which seemingly over-promises, only to fall prey to disappointments that cost the taxpayer. The reports say the shortfall, is $ 8 million a year. Of taxpayer money., required because T employees contribute a mere five and a half percent (5.5 %) of the required pension fund pay-ins.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe yesterday issued an executive order restoring the right to vote to all his state’s felons who have completed their sentences. 200,000 appear to be eligible pursuant to the order.

McAuliffe said that his order would finish the work begun by President Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation; that Virginia especially had lagged in this regard. He is right to so say; but that is far from the entire story as I see it.

Voting rights are fundamental to our democracy. Every citizen adult should have them, and safeguarded zealously. And voting rights have importance well beyond the duties of citizenship.

Nothing in our nation’s life more surely commits immigrants to our values than the right to vote. Not language, not religion (or lack thereof), not headscarves or no headscarves, not cuisine or national origin : none of these commit a person to our national soul the way the right to vote does.

When you possess the right to vote, and have actually registered as a voter, candidates seek you out, talk to you, visit you and shake your hand. Your opinion is asked. Your vote is asked for. You become important to the body politic and the entire community that elects it and which it serves. Active in campaigns for decades, I have seen close up the difference in  connection, attitude, and awareness between people who vote and those who aren’t even registered. Long ago, I coached youth sports. We liked to say that engagement in organized sports kept kids from trouble. That was mostly true; and to an even larger degree, participation in voting keeps residents of o0ur nation committed to its laws and ways.

I therefore congratulate Governor McAuliffe. Let his act be a model for Governors everywhere in our nation; and for all of us who make and administer the laws and organizations that create our nation. Let us extend the right to vote to all citizens and see that they register to exercise a right more basic to what we are than anything else you can think of.

—- Mike Freedbrerg / Here and Sphere





Yes indeed, dear readers. Today, there it is : the statement by Governor Baker relative to bathroom usage, that so many of us have waited so long to hear, the waiting whereof has given rise to much froth and growling, a bit of Alinsky, and a plunk of partisan plonk.

Said Baker via his spokesgal Lizzie Guyton : “people should use the restroom they feel comfortable using.”

And with that simple statement, the “#TransBillMA” now becomes the legislature’s work to pass., and pass with all due speed. So that an issue that should never have become an issue can once again not be an issue any longer.

Thank you, Governor Baker !

The flap about where this or that sort of person should pee has definitely puzzled me. How did it become an issue ? In the 13 Massachusetts communities where Baker’s nine word statement are already the law, where a person chooses to pee has given rise to exactly nothing at all. Or, as one county Sheriff in North Carolina — which state adopted a law telling people which bathroom to pee in — said, “:in my 40 years as Sheriff I’ve never heard of an assault in a bathroom by a transgender. It is a non issue.”

So0 how did this non-issue become an issue ? I do not know. I do know that various media and assorted attention-grabbers have taken to warning us about predators masquerading as transgender in order to assault, little girls in bathrooms. How did this illusion gain traction ? Probably by the same route that horror movies grab : by presenting a kind of narrative hypothetical, backed by imagery, that creates a rhetorical reality overtopping the real reality. Nor is this device new. The 1692 witchcraft scare in Salem, that led to the death by hanging of 20 innocents and the imprisonment of hundreds, grew upon a similar hypothetical narrative bolstered by rhetorical imagery. More recently, in the 1980s, the day care child abuse hysteria exhibited the same devices.

People sometimes want to believe the worst. In times of insecurity, all manner of threats take on a life unjustified by facts. Possibility is all that is needed to be heard; facts get pushed aside. And so the spectre of predators masquerading to assault little girls has haunted much of the nation.

A ridiculous spectre it is ! Impersonate a transgender ? Really ? Stop for a while and ponder just how difficult it is to impersonate a transgender person. Those who would attempt it have first to get to know real transgender people. Presumably, the impersonator would have to be able to “pass,” otherwise he’d never get near a girl’s bathroom. But how is someone who knows nothing about how transpeople transition even begin to grasp how to pretend it ? Of course, merely to ask such questions is to go too far; .the people who believe the transgender impersonator bogeyman have no idea what a transgender person is actually like. Thus any spectre will do, no matter how impossible.

Eventually, hypothetical realities are seen for the fakes they are. Witchcraft trials ended in apology, the day care child abuse hysteria made prosecutors look dangerous; the same will be true of the bathroom assault bogeymen. Transgender people will be able to pee where they feel comfortable doing so, and life will go on as it does do despite all the hassle some of us want to tattoo into it.

In the fight to beat back this latest hysteria there have been many heroes besides Governor Baker. Big business has played a key role; so have District Attorneys, police chiefs, sports teams, parents of transgender children. Especially brave and persuasive have been transgender spokespeople themselves; Attorney General Maura Healey made their cause hers, personally as well as politically. And now, the Governor.

This is a good day in Massachusetts.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



Our “Feelin’ the Music” critic writes this appraisal of the music of Prince, who died yesterday aged 57.

FEELIN' THE MUSIC------------


^ the entire planet and all of its region were Prince’s musical playground

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It was in 1979 that I first saw Prince, at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. He was barely 21 years old but had already made a second album, epoynymously Prince, following a first LP named For You, whose sound I had already taken intensely to heart thanks to tracks like “Soft and Wet,” “Crazy for You,m” “Baby,” and “Just As Long As We’re Together.” The second LP was just as fierce — we all know its hits, “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” “Sexy Dancer,” “Why You Wanna Treat Me So bad” — and that night at the Paradise he performed them. And never again was music the same for me. He had footprint and a walk, as an R & B master must, and he had a voice all his own too…

View original post 467 more words



^ Register of Deeds candidate Paul Nutting seeking nomination paper signatures : can’t get them from non voters …

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In local elections here in Massachusetts, hardly anyone votes. Even for Governor, or for Mayor of Boston, only about 37.5 percent of registered voters cast ballots; and not very eligible adult is registered. In the recent special election, to choose a new State Senator for the District I vote in, with no less than seven (7) candidates seeking, barely 17 percent of registered voters participated. The turnout in the Town of Winthrop was about 45 percent, in the rest of the District, barely 12 percent. Add the unregistered, and the actual participating portion might be fewer than one adult in ten.

That so few people vote has major consequences : vested interests almost completely control the outcome. Yet people do not seem to mind, even though they constantly complain about how the system is “rigged.” It is not rigged; but if people do not vote, rigging has an easy path.

For those whose work is politics, or government, those who do not vote do not exist. Same for eligibles who do not register. Candidates go to voters who actually vote : why should they NOT do that ? If you do not vote, you can’t help a candidate win. Campaigns have limited time; it’s hard enough to get to the 12 percent of Boston voters — about 50,000 — who actually do vote all the time — so-called “super voters” — much less trying to reach voters who don’t vote much or at all. The result is that campaigns as a matter of course stick to “super voters” and avoid everyone else; and the more campaigns in which only “super voters” are reached, the less everyone else feels connected to the entire election system. No wonder that, at the local level, we are becoming less a democracy and more an oligarchy.

Non-participation by most voters even affects Presidential elections. Two generations ago, 80 to 90 percent (sometimes even more) of voters balloted for President; today the figure is more like two-thirds. No wonder that so many voters — and all who don’t register at all — feel that our government is not ours.

Yet the dynamics of voting and of government run on paradox, or, should I say, a series of paradoxes, by the divergences of which non-voters find themselves torn :

First : “my one vote doesn’t count.” Not by itself it doesn’t, but in community with the 10,000s of citizens like you, it counts for everything. Politicians don’t only attend to one “super voter” at a time; they are well aware of which communities have many “super voters”: and which do not. Communities with many “super voters” have a whole lot more collective influence than communities with few such.

Second : “the lobbyists decide everything, so why bother ?” Lobbyists do decide a lot of what is done in City Halls and in the legislature. But those who get lobbied are well aware of the “super voter” communities in their Districts and how they will react to this or that lobbed point of view.

Third : voting is not as easy as the civics books tell us it is. You have to register, which means that you have to know here and how to do so, including knowing what identification you will need to produce. Second, once registered, you have to know WHERE to vote, and when. Third, you need to be familiar with the type of ballot used in your voting place. Fourth, you have to feel comfortable about registering, voting, and ball0ting. and about the various officials you will answer to do at each step of the process : officials who you probably do not know and in many cases do not look like you or speak your native language. The opportunities are many for feeling not quite at ease with, or belonging to, the voting system.

Fourth : if your vote counts, as all those wonderful public service posters tell you, how come no one ever asks you to vote for him or her ? If you’re a sometime voter, or newly registered, you are not on a “super voter” list and thus — from a campaign point of view — are a second priority at best. Long ago, local campaigns used to acquire the “supplementary” list, of newly registered voters, and send them a special  mailing welcoming them to the voting process and asking for a vote. Today, few campaigns have the money for such a mailing, and even fewer have a volunteer force available to get such a mailing ready. Most campaigns mailings today are done by professional mail companies. Forty years ago, volunteers did them all : hundreds of volunteers would gather in a huge room and spend hours and hours “doing a mailing.” Volunteers who did that became very, very committed, physically, to the campaign; it was almost a necessity for them to go around their neighborhood talking about the campaign they were in. Today, people do not do that because they work twelve hours a day to pay their bills, or because they aren’t asked, or both. And as the degree of bodily campaign participation has fallen, so has the degree of voting. Forty years ago, most campaign vo0lunteers were adults. Today, most are students : because the adults are out working two jobs, or overtime, and haven’t time to campaign for anyone, maybe not even to vote.

Today, campaigns rely not on staff but on consultants. Campaign specialists know a great deal about micro-targeting voting preferences and about how to frame  campaign messages visually, about opposition research, about design and polling; and yes, all of these are helpful; but the first weapons a candidate needs are staff to do the basic record keeping and outreach, supporters to hold “meet and greets” and to help door-knock, a personal aide to drive the candidate to places and to accompany him or her in all that he or she does, and a solid presence among influential people in the district. It takes years to assemble all these; no consultant can wave a wand and gather it. Consultants are a kind of short cut; and in campaigns there are no short cuts : every voter has one vote to give, and every voter needs to be asked, separately, for his or her vote.

Short cuts are the bane of voter participation. About 20 years ago one of the laziest of short cuts, the “stand out,” became de rigeur. There isn’t much physical effort involved in standing at an intersection holding a sign; but somehow candidates have come to feel that stand-outs are an apple pie thing : waving at drivers who are trying to pay attention to the road, not at you, and who probably don’t live in the district anyway. But “standing out” is easier than door knocking house to house , or than phone-banking, and so stand-outs become the big thing even though to my mind they are almost complete waste of signs and of people. Stand-outs also send the the wrong message to maybe-voters. To vote, you have, physically, to GO TO a voting place and DO the act of balloting. Standing out symbolizes nothing of the kind. If anything, it sends a negative message to voters : ‘we’re here, and you are not. We belong; you don’t.”

To sum up : if only a small percent of adults register AND vote, the people who constitute a special interest group control the outcome : almost always to the detriment of the average voter. Democracy is supposed to be the voice of ALL the people, not just of a special few. Not voting – and perforce, not registering — assures that democracy will look like something you and I and Tom, Dick, Jane and Lisa down the street do not belong to and probably should be very suspicious of. We are at that point now.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


1 Baker Booed

^ Governor Baker booed at Spirit’s LGBT Networking event : refusing to lead, you get led. But why did he let this happen to him ?

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Governor Baker’s basic governing strategy is caution. Take no step without knowing all the likely consequences. Be prepared.

It’s a wise principle, prevents Baker from stepping into all kinds of quicksand. But on the matter of public accommodations protection for transgender people, caution has landed Baker in a quagmire.

I have no idea why he has ended up here. I thought I understood his reasons for waiting to take a position. I figured that he did not want to raise a social issue during the long months that he took to battle, and defeat, the social conservative, special interest group whose consultant took over the state’s GOP back in 2012. I assumed, too,  that having won this battle, Baker intended to speak at Spirit magazine’s LGBT Networking gala for the specific purpose of proclaiming support for that “Trans Bill.” I was wrong.

Baker might easily have chosen to fight his GOP state committee control battle on the social issues. There was an entire army of Massachusetts Republican activists, committed to Baker’s team, who were ready and even anxious to fight that fight on the actual matters dividing Baker from his opponents, and not on the anodyne “teamwork” rubric that euphemized what was really going on. It would have beem much, much better for him had he taken that route. He would have won a clear victory, ON THE ISSUES, rather than a merely tactical success, and he would not now be in the squeeze.

Instead, he played it safe.

So what Is going on here ? What IS Governor Baker’s thinking ? Did he really think that, given what is happening to trans people’s rights in Southern states, and his refusal to take a poisition on our own “trans bill,” that transpeople at the Spirit gathering would not voice displeasure ? If he thought that, he — who famously states that he discusses major issues with his staff — is not being well advised. Or else he himself does not understand what being a transperson is all about.

Transgender is a fact and a mystery about both of which many people find themselves bewildered. Discovering that one is transgendered is bewildering to many transgender people too. The ordinary practices of social custom have never prepared a transperson for dealing with his or her gender. Our society is still working out how to represent transgender  in social interactions. Even the pronouns of it are in flux. Still, the fact of transgender stands, for people who are it and those who meet up with it; and that social learning is well along now and cannot, dare not, be reversed.

All of the main arguments opposing transgender people’s civil rights amount to denying that transgender people exist. The argument most mistaken, it seems to me, is the claim that a person is not transgender unless he or she has had sex reassignemt surgery (commonly called “SRS”). Gender is not sex, is not one’s chromosomes, is not physical at all. It is of the mind and of the soul, it is of identity. SRS cannot change a person’s gender, only their bodies; transgender is not about the body. Many transpeople choose not to go through SRS. Why should they ? If you are a woman, your body is a woman’s body. And vice versa.

It would be quite understandable to know that Governor Baker hasn’t figured out transgender. Nor would I expect him to say that if that is the case. But grasping a situation is not the same as the politics of it. The politics of the “Trans Bill,” I DO expect Governor Baker to master, and to lead. I have no idea why on the “trans bill” he has made himself a kind of hermit.

The booing that stopped Baker’s Spirit speech ws not spontaneous. In the midst of the protestors were hyper-partisan, Democratic operatives looking for pounds of Baker’s political flesh. They have been carping at Baker all along, have done so on MBTA reform, and on charter schools cap lift; but until now, nothing they did or said bruised Baker at all. That has changed. And that is his faiult. Caution may have much to recommed it, but about the “trans bill” the time for caution has ended.

It ended when police chiefs, the Suffolk County District attpoery, and the state’s Attorney General all testified in favor of the Trans Bill. It ended when every Boston sports team said Yes to the Trans Bill; when 150 major busineses joined in, and 350 faith leaders; when the Boston City Council voted unaimously to support the bill.

Governor Baker’s silence on the issue has also stopped House Speaker DeLeo. DeLeo supports the bill; but he is clearly chary to bring it forward only to be embarrassed by a reluctant Governor. Until now, DeLeo and Baker have worked hand in hand on every significant legislative matter, including the “no new taxes, no new fees” state budget. DeLeo does ot want that partnership to weaken, given that the State Senate under Stanley Rosenberg’s leadership has gone its own way. Yet the DeLeo and Baker relationship may loosen, given that the Trans Bill will now be voted by the Senate. Even the all powerful Speaker dares not table a bill that has become a symbol for the entire State of social progress.

It need not have come to this. hyper-partisanship, in particular, is the enemy of common sense goverment, of reasonable reform. it is a political sin to allow partisanship, beaten down so successfully, to rise from its well-deserved grave.

—- Mike Freederg / Here and Sphere

1st Suffolk & Middlesex : Turf, Turf, Turf


^ State Senator – Elect : Joe Boncore of Winthrop won last night’s primary

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We congratulate the winner of yesterday’s State Senate primary, Joe Boncore of Winthrop. Boncore had a huge and enthusiastic following from the beginning, and it only increased as primary day approached. But he did not win it by being just the good guy that he is. There was a shape to his win, one that drove this contest from the very beginning : turf.

Yes, turf. Where the candidate came from made all the difference. The winner, Joe Boncore, won three-quarters of his hometown of Winthrop’s massive vote; at the same time he received almost nothing in the Cambridge and Downtown Boston precincts. The candidates who won those precincts won few votes in Winthrop and barely registered in Revere — whose former Mayor, Dan Rizzo, overwhelmed everybody in his own city while fading to almost zero in Downtown and Cambridge parts. Rizzo slaughtered Boncore in Revere, Boncore trounced Rizzo in Winthrop. And so it went.

Turf determined turnout, too. There was much talk about “traditional” voters versus “new Boston”; but the East Boston precinct that borders Winthrop is as “traditional” as it gets : yet only 286 voters cast a ballot there, while in the Winthrop precincts immediately adjacent, close to 700 voters voted in each.

Winthrop, which totals about 12 percent of the District’s population, saw about 4100 ballots. Boston, whose precincts take up moire than 50 percent of the District, registered barely 5,420. A town of 18,000 people almost equaled the vote of Boston wards home to about 110,000 folks !

As primary day approached, it seemed that the charter schools cap lift dispute would decide who won. It did not. Boncore had the endorsement of those most opposed to charter schools, Rizzo the endorsement of charter school advocates. Yet I did not see any evidence, on the ground or in mailings, that troops of Teacher Union members or of charter school enthusiasts were knocking doors or filling up the audience seats at candidate Forums. The charter schools furor is fiercest in Boston; yet as I have detailed, hardly any Boston voters beyond the usual political junkies (of which I am one) cast a ballot.

Then there was the “Progressives.” At campaign’s outset, it seemed a wise strategy, for some, to position oneself as “the Progressive candidate”; and indeed, there was a “progressive” vote in yesterday’s numbers. Yet the three candidates who split the “progressive” vote found themselves turf candidates despite. All live in Boston; only one garnered more than a token vote beyond it, except in Cambridge, whose seven precincts were home to no candidate and thus could not vote turf.

To my thesis of “turf” there was one, partial exception : State Representative jay Livingstone, of Beacon Hill, had an additional obstacle to overcome, and could not : income. It was clear from the beginning that Livingstone would find it difficult to interest his very high-earning neighbors in a State Senate race, and so it proved. Turnout in his core precincts was among the smallest. How else ? Not many people earning $ 200,000 to $ 500,000 — a common income in a neighborhood of homes and condos fetching one to ten million dollars — care much who their State Senator is, even if the candidate seeking is their neighbor and friend.

Not all campaigns are equal; and of all the five who placed well, Dan Rizzo confronted the most obstacles. Last November he lost a bitter contest for re-election as Revere Mayor; some of that animus continued : Joe Boncore won 869 Revere votes to Rizzo’s 2643. He was not the sole Revere candidate : a City Councillor, Steve Morabito, competed for Revere votes; he took 549 votes that Rizzo badly needed — his campaign told me they needed 3,100 votes to win, and they were exactly right about that. Rizzo fell 457 votes short of his goal; he lost the contest by 399. Nor did it help Rizzo that Jay Livingstone won 753 votes in a city quite unlike his Beacon Hill home base.

Livingstone’s Revere result — he also won a respectable Winthrop vote — shows that turf could have been surmounted. Beacon Hill’s State Representative put together a following not lashed to zip code. But in a District as diverse as ours, the obstacles of turf and difference cannot be assuaged in brief time; and brief time was all that was available.

Elections are about the future; campaigns create the future’s political shape. But campaigns need time to gestate. There was scant of it in this contest, and so the result had as much to do with yesterday as with tomorrow. The shape of our tomorrow did develop during this brief contest; Diana Hwang to some extent, but Paul Roger, and Lydia Edwards above all — gave it voice, but so did Boncore, who brought a new generation– at least 15 years younger than Rizzo’s — of “traditional” voters onto the battlefield. For the time being, Joe Boncore and his following occupy the front lines of what our District is and will be.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



1st Suffolk & Middlesex endorsements : Livingstone, Rizzo, Edwards


^ our number two endorsee, Dan Rizzo of Revere, has been the object of all manner of ambush campaigning. Why him ?

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With strong emphasis, we repeat our endorsements, for tomorrows’ vote in East Boston, Revere, Winthrop, North End, Chinatown, Beacon Hill, and Cambridgeport : because this contest has turned ugly in a big way, on many fronts, nasty and manipulative; a backsliding to the ways of local Boston elections 50 years ago.

We at Here and Sphere decry this development.

I personally have been accused of decrying it because the candidate recipient of most if it is one that Here and Sphere has endorsed. Some folks might believe that — and in fact one person, well known in political circles, thus accused me. In fact, we object to it whedrever it occurs:

( 1 ) last minute anonymous smears, usually from PACs,. often in language of insult and ferocity typically found in literature sent out by old line unions (but also common in right-wing screeds). Vested interests do not like the prospect of becoming un-vested, and they are fighting back without scruple. Unfortunately, old line unions are often terrible at reform and resort to vilification and lies where a readiness to embrace reform would be far wiser.

Rizzo has been targeted for smear — and for lawn sign vandalism and late night phone call dirty tricks — because he supports charter cap lift : an increase in the allowed number of charter schools, earmarked to districts designated as “underperforming”; the Boston Teachers Union, which has endorsed a major Rizzo opponent, doggedly rejects charter schools very existence. It has much to protect : a $ 1.03 billion Boston schools  budget bloated with almost 4 100 million in duplication costs, under utilization, feather bedding, and administrative wobble, not to mention a school day shorter than that of any other major school district in our state. Boston’s Schools Budget needs a Fiscal Control board, similar to the one enacted by the legislature to discipline the MBTA’s fat splatter spending; the last thing Boston’s Schools Budget needs is to continue growing as it has. This is of crucial significance right now because a new BTU contract is up for negotiation.

Thus the smear, the vandalism, the late night phone call caper. For the major union opposing Rizzo, the stakes are seven figures long.

It is possible that the instigator of ambushing Rizzo is not a union. But the fact is that he alone has made support for charter schools cap lift a major issue, as other candidates in the race have not.

We at Here and Sphere object– as vigorously as we can — to the last minute PAC smear, which in the name of unreforming, stubborn unions, accuse their target of some sort of class treason. That was the punch in the face given to John Connolly by the AFL CIO in the 2013 Mayor race, and it is the message of the present smear of Dan Rizzo: that someone who runs for office has done something damnable if he or she voted for, or endorsed, people from both parties.

In Massachusetts we vote the person. And endorse the person. Never the party. Given what partisan stubbornness has done to this nation, we in Massachusetts are right to do as we do.

I applaud candidate Rizzo — whom we have endorsed — for endorsing some Republicans. The ones he endorsed are damn good people. I voted for all three. I also voted for Obama in 2012, and for Maura Healey and Deb Goldberg in 2014, along with Governor Baker.  As did at least 400,000 of our voters who elected a superb diverse team of reformers.

That is how democracy delivers. PACs should be abolished, and their bigoted zealotry dispersed to harmless corners of hell.

One way that our District’s voters can do that is to vote for jay Livingstone, our top endorsee; or for Dan Rizzo, our second; or for Lydia Edwards, our third endorsee. Please vote wisely tomorrow. Good citizenship asks it of us all.


—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


Our intention at Here and Sphere was to NOT write again about the 1st Suffolk & Middlesex State Senate primary that takes place two days from now. We made our endorsements; that was that — so we intended.

That intention has now gone by the boards, thanks to a last minute, anonymous PAC smear sent by mail and received by many of our readers this morning. I wanted to post a photo of it below, but the facebook people who posted it have all removed it.

The mailer came from something called “MASS VALUES PAC. Like all such PACs, it hides under the skirts of cynical laws allowing ambush money into campaigns.

The mailing was red bordered and had photos of the three Republicans — Mitt Romney for Governor in 2002 (!), John McCain for President in 2008, and Scott Brown for Senator in 2012 — whom the candidate is condemned for having endorsed. The flier asserts that these endorsements mean that the candidate is not a “real” Democrat and “does not share our values.” This, folks, is garbage.

We condemn this smear, as we do all such. Unsigned last minute vomit has no place in a campaign, and we trust that the voters of our District know this and will reject the puke that someone has barfed into our mailboxes. The interesting question is, which candidate was it intended to help ? And who ordered it ?

Beats me. I know of no one in this seven candudate race insecure enough in his or her skin to okay an ambush. Who okayed it ? Maybe no one. Maybe it came on its own from a vested interest that does not like the prospect of our electing a State Senator who does not lick their butt.

The content of the smear also offends us. The anonymous voice wants to tell us that its targeted candidate is to be rejected because he supported three candidates running in three different, past elections — candidates who happened to have a different political party label attached to their names than the person herein smeared; that somehow he has committed an objectionable sin by choosing to endorse the three named other party candidates. Whereas in fact, all that he has done is to exercise a right basic to all of us : to support the candidates of his choice. (Disclosure : the smeared candidate is one o the three that we endorsed.)

The suggestion is made, in this same smear, that because the targeted candidate has exercised that right, that somehow he is less worthy of running in the Democratic primary that votes tomorrow. I ail to see the connection, and I reject its implication.

In Massachusetts, almost all voters, thank goodness, vote the person, not his or her party label,. as a result, we enjoy the overwhelmingly supported state reforms going on right now, most of them voted unanimously by the legislature. Is there anyone who would want otherwise ?

Our District also happens to be very much a “swing district” in which Republican candidates sometimes win and Democrats sometimes win. In most seriously contested elections, our District votes about 42 peecent Republican and 58 percent Democrat. As there are almost no registered Republicans in the District, its clear that the 42 percent that most credible GOP candidates get comes mostly from voters who identify as Democrats. It has been this way for at least the past 25 years, maybe since the 19th Century.

It’s so because in our District, registering as a Democrat, and voting in a Democratic primary, says nothing about the party platform, or party identity, of the voters who do so. Almost everyone in our District votes in the Democratic primary because that’s where the winner is chosen. Thus those who vote for many state-wide Republicans vote in the local Democratic primary just as do most Democratic voters.

Thus we see that the smear tossed at candidate Rizzo is as ignorant of history and of our District’s basic voting facts at it is contemptuous of the inclinations of our voters.

There’s no surprise in that. Unsigned last minute smears are always the work of ignorant, contemptuous minds. They’re to citizenship what ebola is to the body : a death stink that deserves to be shown the door by every voter who values democracy.

Reject this smear. Send its makers a strong message : you aren’t wanted in these parts, buddy; get lost !

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere