^Mother from Iran, 5-year-old son reunited after he was detained for several hours at Dulles Airport

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NOTE >>>>> UPDATED 01/31/17 at 11:00 AM

The execution of it was incompetent, the timing insupportable, the wording sloppy, the consequences a total disaster politically, diplomatically, morally.

I refer, of course, to the President’s Executive Order banning entry to the United States by certain classes of people cited in the order itself. I will link you to the Order itself soon enough — below — but first a few additional comments need be said:

First : why needed the order be issued so soon, at, a time when there is yet no Secretary of State confirmed ? When the entire senior management of the State Department was asked to resign, leaving no one in managerial authority to help implement ?

Second: why were the Department of Homeland Security and National Security Council not given opportunity to vet the Order and suggest details of implementation that, as we saw, were utterly lacking ? DHS Secretary John Kelly said that he only learned of the Order’s being signed by watching the President on television ! Kelly said “we were still discussing it” when he saw the signing on TV !

Third : did the President not realize — did no one TELL him ? — that we are currently locked in battle, alongside Iraqi government forces, at the gates of West Mosul, and having the Order bar Iraqis from entering the US was hardly likely to make battlefield co-operation any easier, indeed just the reverse? How could the Order, for example, make no exception for Iraqi translators and other aides who risk their lives (and that of the families) to assist our soldiers on the scene ? The Order made plenty of exceptions; but none for these people at risk.

Fourth : how could the Order appear to ban holders of H-B1 visas, who form the backbone of our technology and scientific innovation industries, and even to prohibit, or impede, travel by “Green Card” holders, who are permanent residents of the US enjoying, by law, all the rights accorded to citizens except those appurtenant to voting ?

I think there’s a ready answer for these questions, but I admit that it is speculation on my part, backed only by more than 40 years of observing politicians at work. I think the haste, the imprecision, and the secrecy of the Order were all intended. More on this subject later.

And now a link to the Order itself in its entirety :

( 1 ) Reading the Order, you find that it makes numerous directions to the Secretary of State and to the Attorney General; yet at present the nominees to each position have not been confirmed and thus the two posts are vacant. Why was this Order issued prior to there being persons in office to execute the directions the Order gives them ?

( 2 ) The Order does not only ban travel to the US by citizens of the seven banned nations. it also purports to change immigration procedures and standards. Yet immigration rules are a matter of substantive law, not of executive pleasure. The laws governing various immigration categories cannot be altered by the President, nor can the procedures established by law for immigrant application.

( 3 ) Because the Order purports to alter the laws governing immigration, Green Card holders — who have permanent residency and are accorded all rights of a citizen other than those appurtenant to voting — were initially caught up in the hectic enforcement of the Order. It took almost two days for the Homeland Security Secretary to direct that the Order did not apply to Green card holders.

( 4 ) lastly, the Order barring refugees in some cases indefinitely appears to violate commitments made in the Geneva Refugee Convention, of which we are a signer. The relevant responsibilities are itemized in the Convention, which I link to here :

Those who cite our nation’s (regrettable) refusal to admit 1938-39 refugees from Nazi Germany as a precedent for Mr. Trump’s refugee ban have it wrong, because the GRC did not exist then. It was signed in 1952.

By this act and the Order’s other provisions, enormous damage was done to the respect in which our nation is held, not to mention the denials of rights to those who were detained by the Customs and Border Patrol acting without any precise direction and often uninformed about the order itself. By no means do I excuse the CBP; many of its agents, especially at Dulles Airport outside Washington, acted with callous cruelty. Reports came of agents pressuring incoming Green Card holders to sign away their status or be detained and deported. There were also reports of agents asking incoming, detained travelers if they “love this country” — doubtless as part of the Order’s directive to the CBP to interview travelers in depth as to their attitudes and interests.

These reports, if true — and I have scant reason to doubt them — equate the US with notorious dictatorships in which the government pressures the beliefs and thoughs of citizens and visitors at all points.

We cannot be this kind of nation. We cannot third-degree interrogate visitors and immigrant applicants. We can certainly vet the biographies of immigrant applicants, but even then, we must accord applicants some measure of dignity. Handcuffing five year old children and holding elderly, medical patients wheelchair bound for almost two days cannot stand . (Even those without ordinarily Constitutional rights, are, if under our control, still entitle to basic human rights, as Justice Frankfurter wrote, of prison inmates, in a landmark 1940s Supreme Court decision.) We cannot be extorting Green Card holders, nor granting visas only to cancel them without warning, or remove people from flights to the US without warning on a CBP supervisor’s whim. People spend good money to buy international air tickets; they set aside vacation time to do so; they plan such trips well ahead. Students make plans to attend university here. Technical and medical people accept contracts to work at clinics and laboratories here. Patients in need of advanced medical care book appointments to our hospitals. Many technology firms depend upon Green Card holders and people with H-B1 visa credentials. We cannot be blanking all of their time, career plans, student entry, and money on the spur of a moment — not if we want to attract any respect at all in parts of the world where our word and reputation are crucial to our battlefield success.

It is reported that the President’s top advisor,m Steve Bannon — who incredibly has been appointed to the security Principals List, while the Joint Armed Forces Chiefs have been removed ! — objects to immigrants and visa holders becoming part of our economy, universities, and hospitals; that he considers them a foreign element (to what ?); it has also been very solidly reported that his world view is a white-supremacist one; and that the Order represents his views pursuant to his having written its purpose portions. Certainly the thrust of this Order is to oppress and intimidate citizens of the seven nations cited (and by implication, those who live in similarly Muslim-majority nations not (yet ?) cited. The anti-Mulsim, far right political cliques with which Bannon seeks American collaboration all want complete expulsion of Muslims from their nations; and if such a view is barred by our Constitution and our nation’s ideals, that seems no problem for a man who regards the Constitution as naive and the system upholding it an obstacle to the white tribe, tribal society he wants.

If these things are true, indeed if simply the white nationalism of it is true, then Bannon must go, and the Order he apparently had a major hand in drafting must be revised — as Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has insisted be done.

Most importantly, the Senate just act upon two bills filed by California Senator Dianne Feinstein, bills that would render almost impossible the confusion and skullduggery that made the current Order a disaster on so many fronts. I doubt we’ll ever fo0rget the sight of a Mom hugging her five year old (!!) daughter freed after hours and hours of detention at Dallas Airport. But we CAN assure that this scene never happens again on US soil.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere





^ Mayor Walsh, backed by Boston’s City Council and several other electeds (with schools Superintendent Tommy Chang) issues his defiance : “we will protect and defend every resident of Boston !”

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The lede says it all. In his defiance of threats made by the new President to immigrants living in America, Mayor Walsh spoke well. We endorse his defiance. We support his resolve.

Walsh made clear that Boston will not assist the President in his harassment of immigrants. Police Superintendent Bill Gross joined Walsh at his press conference. The two men threw down the gauntlet to the President : you will not have our assistance, indeed we will op[pose you in our official capacities and personally.

I have never seen public officials defy and confront a President as Walsh and Gtoss defied this president. To find anything comparable, one has to go back to before the Civil War,m to the 1850s, when free states and their autho9rities defied every power of the law to protect persons of color from being kidnapped pursuant to the notorious Fugitive Slave Act. And the present defiance measures fully to that of the 1850s. The current President has stated his intention to hound every immigrant who lacks full legal protection, to deport who he can and to make life as insecure as possible for the rest. (If you doubt me, read today’s story, at Huffington post, about immigration attorneys advising their clients, who hold legal “green cards,” not to leave the United States because if they do they might not be let back in :

Already, we see that immigrants who aren’t yet full citizens are finding themselves trapped here, their travel rights at risk, their lives curtailed. Just think what is likely to happen once the President issues his actual orders.

Mayor Walsh cannot undo what the President is doing, but he can stand in its way, and this he has done, giving our many thousands of endangered immigrant residents all the security and support that a powerful Mayor has at his command. The President’s immigration police are too few and too lacking in resource to round-ups of immigrants without the assistance of local police; and this assistance they will NOT have in Boston.

Immigrants are all integral to our community and our commerce, no matter what legal papers they have or do not have. Every immigrant is a customer. The more customers a business has, the more it prospers, the more workers it can hire, the more prosperity bit generates for all. Immigrants are the engine of economic growth. Those who want them gone do not understand the negative consequences of what they want.

And thus we stand with Mayor Walsh, we endorse his defiance, we support his resolve to protect and defend — officially and personally — every resident of the City he leads. Remember : Walsh is himself the son of two immigrant parents. This is a fight as personal to him as can be.

The Massachusetts Constitution guarantees to0 every RESIDENT of the State and every VISITOR to it full protection of, and equality before, the law. Citizenship is not the fulcrum of equal rights in our state. Only the right to vote is thus limited. All other civil rights, including jury trial, freedoms, and search and seizure rights, are accorded by our state to EVERY body present within us. Our Constitution was adopted seven years before the Federal Constitution, and it exists independently of it, as do the Constitutions of every state. And though Federal law is, by the Federal Constitution, supreme where there is a conflict, the supremacy is given only to Federal LAW, which is made exclusively by Congress, and not to executive orders or executive arrogations.

Mayor Walsh thus has the full force of law at his side as well as overwhelming public opinion. The current President received only 12.75 percent of Boston’s vote; our rejection of him was no mere whim; it arose from deeply held convictions about justice and ideals. Mayor Walsh speaks for the overwhelming majority of us, and he does so with our full support.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere




^ Governor Baker speaks. Behind him : Speaker of the House DeLeo (L) Senate President Rosenberg (R)

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With these words  — and with others that I’ll quote below — Governor Baker delivered a “State of the State”m speech last night as opposite to what we confront from Washington as opposing it was his intention. As Baker continued, “Our obligation ton the people we serve is too important to place politics and partisanship before progress and results.”

These were concluding sentences — roundly applauded by the dignitaries, legislators, and “Team baker” activists present — in a speech dedicated almost exclusively to Baker’s policy commitments : the challenge, his response, and his estimate of how well he has responded, in some cases (such as the opioid addiction crisis and fixing the MBTA, diligent but far, far from job finished. Baker bluntly admitted that both matters would require years of remedy — no quick fixes on HIS watch.

One by one Baker assessed them all : ( 1 ) restoring DCF to full effectiveness (a job incomplete because the agency’s foster home assessment process remains unready; (2) fixing the T; increasing aid to public education, including a substantial “chapter 70 ” “reimbursement for charter school children; (3) enacting legislation ending the practice of sending drug-addicted women to women’s prison (4) reform of incarceration measures at Bridgewater State Hospital (6) solving the homelessness crisis (7) focusing business development on the growing cyber security industry, in which Baker lauded Massachusetts’ s leadership; (8) municipal law reform, the most comprehensive in 50 years; and several more works that Baker has made part of his “fix it” platform.

He did not mention the failure of last year’s charter school expansion (ballot) initiative, which he backed to the hilt: but why should he have ? That fight is over; yet the struggle to close the achievement gap for kids of color remains, and Baker touted a recent idea : the school district empowerment zone. We’ll see if this idea survives the opposition of teacher unions.

Speaking of unions, notable in Baker’s speech was his lauding union leaders — DCF social workers and the MBTA’s Carmen — by name and leading applause for what he emphasized were co-operative efforts. The Carmen’s leader, Jim O’Brien, looked surprised to be singled out, as well he might. How many Republican Governors praise the president of a public employee union ? Yet it is true: Baker and the Carmen negotiated a contract in which each side got most of what it wanted.

Thus Baker didn’t just talk about co-operation; he demonstrated it, for everyone listening to see.

Granted, that in Massachusetts, a Republican Governor has no choice but to work co-operatively with the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature and interested activists. Yet two things to note : we elect Republican Governors precisely because they have to govern co-operatively, and almost all of them have done it. But that is not the whole story of what baker accomplished last night.

First : he demonstrated that he will not be intimidated, or his policies sidetracked, by opposition from Trump supporters, nor will he take the bait often being thrown his way by partisan Democrats. Both of these oppositions simply make Baker look strong, and he showed that he understood how to use their opposition to his advantage.

Second, he flaunted the power of a political tactic that will surely be imitated for 2018 : it is a major advantage for a politician in the era of Mr. Trump to be as unlike Trump as feasible. As Baker said in his concluding remarks, “Too much of what passes for political dialogue these days…is talking points. Character assassination. And deliberate misrepresentation.”

And in case anyone in attendance missed his meaning, Baker made these his last words: Our jobs remain the same. That is to represent Massachusetts to Washington, not Washington to Masssachusetts.”

He said this same thing another way : “I can report to you that the state of Massachusets today is strong.”

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ in charge and making his plans a reality : Governor Baker visits Keolis’s Commuter Rail system in Ashland

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Nothing in political life better exemplifies the limits of the possible than the present situations of two major public service systems: the MBTA and Public Schools. The MBTA has moved from hopeless bog down to innovation and re-thinking; meanwhile, our public schools have rejected innovation in favor of the tried and not always so true.

Let us examine the difference.

At stake are millions — billions — of taxpayer dollars as well as effective service, or not so effective to the public of which the taxpayers form a major segment.

The MBTA was able to be radically reformed because (1) in the winter of 2015 it crashed, for all to see and deplore and (2) a new Governor took office dedicated to making taxpayer paid services as effective as feasible and within budget. Governor Baker had his opportunity, because the entire public had had enough of the T’s profligate incompetence. The outcry prodded the legislature into granting baker an almost free hand to shape the T as he saw fit; and he has done so, and now here we are:

( 1 ) the T’s support operations — parts ,management, warehousing, and cash counting — have been outsourced to contractors, at substantial cost savings

( 2 ) a new Carmen’s Union contract has been negotiated in which tbe outsourcing decisions have been accepted as well as job movement of union employees from one operation to another, a flexibility previously barred by work rules

( 3 ) Keolis, the contract operator of the T’s Commuter Rail division faces compertritio0n for the operating contract that ends in 2022, and the shape of the new contract is up for rethinking as well. In that regard, read this article in which is discussed Governor Baker’s plan to let Keolis’s current contract exp[ire :

( 4 ) the T’s Fiscal Control Board has taken over every aspect of T operation decisions, and it has made budget efficiency a top priority

( 5 ) new Red Line and Orange Line cars arrive, finally, in 2018 and 2019, putting an end to the down time these lines’ 40-year old cars constantly suffer

( 6 ) wi-fi may even be made available in the new cars.

The new MBTA that will be almost completely re-configured by year 2022 will actually be able to meet the transportatio0n needs of Boston area commuters and do so within budget, with an employee system and budget account oversight process that taxpayers and riders can monitor and opine about. The New T won’t likely surpass the effectiveness of other cities’ public transit operations, but it will achieve at least the norm, maybe better. That is n enormous change from a 2012 T that rated among the worst in almost every measure of performance.

And now to our public schools. attempts have been made to impose innovation methods and purposes on public school operations, but they have all failed, because the schools, while often under-performing, and often wastefully budgeted, have not universally crashed as did the T in 2015. Thus the voting public has not lost all confidence in the present system, nor have local school committees. The defeat of the 2016 ballot initiative seeking to expand the number of allowed charter schools looks quite defihn9ituive; henceforth, for the forseeable future, school operation will be in the hands of teachers unions and the school committees that they control. Which means that nothing will change: not work rules, not school day length, not experiment, not merit hiring and job evaluation by principals. And not the capture of budgets by those with a vested interest in their allocation — in Boston, 86 percent of it to staff salaries.

Yet this decision, to continue the current school operation, flies in the face of huge economic and social change. Taxpayers are called to pay for public education, and they usually do so willingly, because educating our society’s children is crucial for their employment and their ability to be citizens. Unfortunately, education for employment is not a matter of schooling kids as we want to, but of preparing them to perform the actual jobs that they will apply for or be recruited to do. Those jobs are changing all the time, and their skills requirements. My own view is that today’s teachers should be young, the younger the better, and as up to date in their tech skills as feasible : but tenure rules work the opposite. (It is scandalous that so many Boston school graduates need to attend self-help and non profit programs like College Bound, Bottom Line, and Year Up in order to get skills preparation that they ought have acquired in high school.)

Long time teaching works fine for educating kids to citizenship, because the moral and political duties of a citizen do not change; but most of education today must be skills education, and there, long teaching, unless constantly updated, defeats the objective. By the vote taken last November, Massachusetts taxpayers decided that such imperatives mattered less than the continuation of the present system.

Ironically, the charter school cap lift defeat may work for us after all. The incoming President, Mr. Trump, seeks to place in charge of the Federal Department of Education a woman, Betsy DeVos, who seems a sworn enemy of taxpayer-paid education and also prefers that charter schools be for profit (in Massachusetts charters are almost all non-profit). I greatly dislike for profit schooling. It succumbs to all manner of fraud, diversion, and advertising gimmicks. Given the seeming priorities of Mr. Trfump’s Education nominee, we the taxpayer may well want the hard line unionists who defeated last year’s charter cap initiative to pit their stubbornness against Mr. Trump’s education overreach.

But I’m not exactly happy that we need to fight education battles that shouldn’t even be upon us. Education, like the T, should reconfigure for an age of innovation and dversity.

Oh well.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



Real estate, Real estate

Our Roxbury reporter gives us his thoughts on last night’s Town hall hosted by StRep Chynah Tyler

Roxbury Here


^ newly elected 7th Suffolk State Representative Chynah Tyler hosted a town hall last night at the Dudley Branch Library in Roxbury

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Last night, on the day that City Councillor Tito Jackson announced that he will challenge Mayor Marty Walsh, the 7th Suffolk District’s newly elected State Representative, Chynah Tyler, hosted her first Town hall meeting at the Dudley Branch Library. About 75 people showed up; many questions were asked of her, the majority of them real estate related.

The issues voiced — the ubiquity of real estate development, the lack of affordable housing — are not new to Roxbury. No part of the City — except maybe the Seaport District, which didn’t exist until a few years back — has sen a fiercer rise, these past few years, in house prices and rents; and only South Boston can match what has taken place in the neighborhoods…

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U.S. Senator EWarren questions Federal Reserve Vice Chair Yellen during a Senate Banking Committee confirmation hearing in Washington

Last week our state’s senior Senator, Elizabeth Warren, announced that she would seek re-election next year. Her announcement was hardly a surprise.

Should she be re-elected ? And if so, why ? It’s not as simple a question as most of my readers may think.Warren has made herself a polarizing figure, and polarizing figures may not be the most effective advocate that a state sends to Washington. My personal preference is for Senators who get legislation enacted and who bring Federal dollars to our state’s industries and social services commitments. But states have two Senators, not one, and Ed Markey, our junior Senator, does the grunt work very effectively; freeing Warren to pursue forensic tactics.

This ivision of function is not unusual for Senators. While Daniel Webster, Charles Sumner, Henry Cabot Lodge Sr., and Ted Kennedy in his early days played the advocacy card, their colleagues of the time — few of them household names — got the small stuff done. Bifurcation prevails in most other states and always has. Thus Warren’s advocacy path is not sufficient reason to deny her a re-election.

Nor is her polarizing advocacy any such reason. If Warren speaks passionately, holding back nothing, the positions she speaks loudly for enjoy overwhelming support by our state’s voters. Advocating for an overwhelming majority of constituents is pretty basic to an elected politician.

Still, Warren’s advocacy, which exploded nationally during the recent Presidential campaign, has taxed her obligations. Many of her most passionate supporters, here and out of state, want her to be what she became during the campaign :  attack dog against Mr., Trump. He certainly needs to be hounded by attack dogs, but I’m not okay with having one of my two Senators limit herself to a role more appropriate to crusading journalists.

Or is Warren planning a run for President in 2020, in which case Attack Dog is her route to the Democratic nomination ? She certainly has every right to seek the Presidency, and I would be quite onboard her likely agenda were she to be elected. And if she does in fact commit to such candidacy, her playing attack dog would serve our state’s majority interest quite powerfully. But she has not committed to seek the Presidency, and I doubt she will do so until after re-election — if at all. Thus the question remains : should Warren be re-elected, and if so, why ?

On last bit of analysis before I finally answer my question : I do not base my answer on who her eventual opponent will be. A re-election campaign is always a referendum on the incumbent’s job performance and methods. Some Warren supporters tell me that of course she should be re-elected, because the odious Curt Schilling will be her opponent. I am not so sure of that. I’m going to answer my question assuming that Warren’s opponent will be a credible voice for our majority voters and will offer his or her own strong resume and political methodology seeking to accomplish things that Warren likely cannot.

Above all, that means enacting actual legislation concerning her signature issue : regulation of major financial institutions, including student loan lenders. In her first full term, Warren has filed several worthy regulation bills and won bipartisan support for them; yet none has even reached a floor vote. Warren also opposed the Drug Pricing Act supported by every other member of our state’s Washington delegation. She needs to do a better job of legislative follow-through, none of which will be sidelined by her explosive advocacy, as all Senators understand that loud talk is a staple of senatorial politicking.

Now my answer to the question of Warren’s re-election. These are the things she needs to commit to in order to satisfy my vote :

( 1 ) if she is going to seek the Presidency, say so. Otherwise, do not try to be a nationwide presence, concentrate on  our state, the one that elects her

( 2 ) announce three pieces of legislation, respecting her signature issues, make sure she has bipartisan support for them, and follow them through to a floor vote during the coming year

( 3 ) advocate for Massachusetts’s major industries, not against them

( 4 ) participate directly in marshaling the $ 15/hour wage fight, and file legislation to broaden the NLRB’s oversight of wage action and union organizing

( 5 ) focus on one of Mr. Trump’s cabinet nominees and fight him or her all the way to a (hopefully0 non confirmation vote. Warren is doing this,m targeting Betsy DeVos, one of the most radical of Mr. Trump’s cabinet picks.

Warren needn’t be another Ed Markey, nor can she be. It isn’t like her to be the unassuming detail person. Yet she absolutely has to do the desk part of what Senators are tasked to do. The fight against Mr. Trump will take a team effort, one woman’s crusade won’t do it. Unless she is running for President, Warren must resist the temptation to go tweet-o a tweet-o with the master of tweet politics.

Do these things, and her re-election will take care of itself. Do otherwise, and she leaves the door open to an imaginative, credible, non-partisan challenger. Do I hear the names Bill Weld, Juliette Kayyem, Jay Ash, Chris Gabrieli, Paul Grogan, David Gibbons ? If not, why not ?

In any case, I measure Liz Warren’s re-election not by Curt Schilling but by these proven leaders in our City and State. I expect her to measure herself ;likewise.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here ad Sphere




^ towering into the sun’s shadow path : Millenium’s Winthrop Square garage site proposal

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An article by Shirley Leung in Thursday’s Boston Globe put the spot on a public-comment, Boston planning and Development Agency meeting that might otherwise not have drawn many people. Instead, at least 250 came to hear what Millenium Partners has to say now that attention was called by Leung to their project’s violation of our state’s “shadow law.”

What is the “shadow law” ? As is my usual practice when facing laws and public statements, I refer you to the law itself, whose text can be read here : (NOTE : when I clicked on this link, an error message popped up; still  this is the official text online; hopefully the link will work soon)

The intention of the “shadow law” was, by limiting the height of proposed towers in the downtown Boston district, to preserve the entire sunlight afforded naturally to Boston Common and Public Gardens, for the sake of their horticulture and general attractiveness as places of greenery and relaxation. Few would deny the value thereof to the City’s major downtown open space, since early Boston days an icon of public assembly and countryside peace. The current building boom would put an end to that sunlight were it not for the law adopted in 1990. Millenium Partners already has a tower, well over 725 high, that impacts sunlight in its wake, but in that case, not across the Common or Gardens. Many other recent projects loom well higher than the height limits recited in the law.

Building upward is the only option in the downtown area scarce on horizontal space. Besides, upper floors are the more desirable. The view is worth every penny, I guess.

The City also values as much building height a sit can permit. Take a 6000 square foot parcel — or less — put an 850 foot high, 600 unit tower thereon, and you’re talking many millions of dollars in tax revenue for a city whose line budgets fall well short of desired funds. The difference between said millions and what the City treasury could expect from a mere 425 foot high edifice might easily be worth an entire City department.

All this is by way of background to why the City so badly wants — and asked for — a tower 725 feet high that will pay many millions of dollars into the Treasury to fund a tight budget. It also matters, to the Walsh administration, that major project gives plenty of well paying work to Boston’s Building Trades and thus fuels the consumer spending boom that benefits almost the entire city.

It’s also an election year for Mayor Walsh. In this context, he is willing to gamble an act of the legislature carving a height of tower exception for the Winthrop Square Garage project. Downtown residents and business people know all this very well, which is why at least 250 people attended the “public comment”: meeting held on the 29th Floo0r of 101 Federal Street. There, genteel conversation was the tenor of things. Unlike the usual BPDA “public comment” hearing, the format wasn’t question and answer with the entire attendance listening but instead small groups of Millenium staff conversing quietly with small numbers of the “public.” It was a clever arrangement. Coffee and cookies sere served as well; the setting felt more like a realtor’s polite open house than a contentious BPDA “community process” hearing.

Lack of contention, however, left all the basic questions unresolved : ( 1 ) why did the City request a tower height violative of the “shadow law” ? It didn’t have to do that. ( 2 ) will the legislature grant an exception to Millenium, and if so (and it seems that it will), at what cost to future development by way of amendments to the “shadow law” ? ( 3 ) will any such amendment to the law assure that no competitor to Millenium will be able to build a competing project ?

Competing developers understand the intentions of City hall. They have hired, or surely will be hiring, consultants well regarded by Mayor Walsh. Mayor Menino had his favor9ite developers and construct9ion firms — John Fish’s Suffolk first among them. It seems that Mayor Walsh now has his favorite developer as well, even if rivals aren’t ready, or able, to concede the entire field. Boston development has offered enormous returns to real estate investors these past twenty years; who of them is ready to back off, from a City in which residential  construcft8ion remains a top prior9ty, even if supply is beginning to come into line with demand (as recent weakness in rent rates indicate) ?

Millenium seems to have all the upper hands powering the Winthrop square Garage project. It has won this round and seems set to put a major tire spike on the highways of its rivals. How those rivals respond, and what Millenium proposes next — and where : Widett Circle beckons big time — will likely be the most significant consequence of Millenium’s relationship with Mayor Walsh and the law governing Massachusetts development.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere