Linked In

^^ LinkedIn — a website that suggests vital networking connections but which, after eight years belonging, hasn’t won me a single gig, job, or contract. This actually is a feature, not a bug, as the saying goes.

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The headline is no joke. How DO you actually get a job ? From what I have seen, these past decades of my life, the necessary prerequisite to getting a job is to already have one.

If you have a job, it’s simple to get another one. Your co-workers know people. Headhunters recruit you — because if you have a job, it’s easy for them to fit you into a slot, and headhunters need a slot that can be fit to. Transferring from one slot to another, not so easy; your job-finder has to actually work at it, and headhunters don’t want to work at it, not when their commission isn’t any greater whether they move you from widget painter at Company A to widget painter at Company C, or whether they work to move you from widget painter, first class, to widget packager, third class. But in any case, if you already have a job, you can reasonably expect to move to another one.

And if you don’t have a job ? ( a ) headhunters are really, really glad to get you interviewed for a job selling stuff, especially stuff that nobody will buy. Headhunters have all sorts of such jobs on the shelf — the back shelf in the back room — sent them by recruiters for sales work, recruiters who head-hunters would love to add to their rolo-dex because who knows when these recruiters might actually send Headhunter Joe a job that Joe has dozens of clients ready to fit that slot ? So there you are : Headhunter Joe says, “Mike, I have the greatest job for you, you are SO lucky, it won’t last long. Can I send your resume to my contact ?” And you of course ask, “what is the job about ?” Headhunter Joe : “selling ads for the phone company. Their book is to close in tgwo months and … Mike ? Mike ? Are you there ?”

I hung up. So would you.

I simmer down and call Heady Joe back. “Joe,” I tell him. “I’m looking for a job as an editor. Editing is what I do. Is there an editing job or isn’t there ?”


Joe gets his smile on and finally responds : “Editing jobs don’t come every day, Mike. But you know I am looking. Your resume is on top of my desk.”

Sure it is. Like the turd that I shat yesterday is on top of mine.

So that’s how it goes. You can’t get a job doing what you do unless you already have one, and if you don’t have one, it’s off to sell ads for the phone book.

Straight commission, no less. No salary, no expense money.

Thus it was that led me to the job I now have. Because if you don’t have a job, there actually are jobs that you can get. What jobs are these ? Easy : jobs that few people will do. Those, you can get any time you like. It does help to know someone who has one, as with any job; in my case, my wife got the job for me. One phone call, one on-line application — and tens of forms to fill out — and back came the e mail : we are excited to welcome you to our team…”

EXCITED, no less. You laugh ? So did I. What is this job which the company was EXCITED to give me ? I’ll tell you about it later. But first let me offer some more observations about the job world :

( a ) the best time to get one from point zero is at college or high school graduation. Companies are always happy to hire young folks who don’t know shit, don’t have a network in place, unformed brains whom they can train to do things the company’s way. Every year from then on, it gets harder to be hired. The more experience you have ion a job, the less desirable you are as a hire. If you acquire enough experience to become an expert you are totally fucked. You’ll have to start your own business.

I kid you not. Take my own example. I am an expert political campaign manager, and because I know campaign work cold from top to bottom, I am anathema to consultants. To become a campaign manager these days (not in all cases, but in most) you have to not ever have worked on a  campaign and to know nothing about it. Hired to manage one, and they hand you a “voter file” program and tell you that’s what you will use. Not a voter list, oh no, never. A voter list, for the district in which your candidate is going to campaign ? Heavens no. The rule now is, that if you aren’t on a “super voter”: list — those who have voted in each of the last umpteen elections for the office your campaign seeks —then you do non’t get campaigned to. This is how one arrives at the 11 percent (11) turnout in the recent Queens County District Attorney campaign won by a defense lawyer who intends to dismantle the office. But what do I know ? Answer : I know too much.

You wonder why so many voters think the system crooked, or that nobody in it listens ? Just step into a current campaign and you’ll quickly learn that the voters, as always are right. The system IS crazy. And yes, nobody in it does listen to you unless you are already in it. Capeesh ?

Most insurgent campaigns from the left are just as bad. They too use “super voter” files and avoid anybody who hasn’t voted in the last umpteen elections. The difference is that most insurgent campaigns of the let are run by, and peopled by, students — high school and college — and it’s simply a social fact that everybody who is 18 years old, or 22, knows everybody who is 18, or 22 — because they all go to school, mostly in the same system. And so they tell their friends, and the friends tell friends, and a kind of ad hoc, second campaign develops, large enough to beat the default campaigning opponent.

For the rest of us, thus escape valve isn’t open. Once you move into the adult world, you’re too busy with job and family to maintain those close social ties, and gradually you lose contact with one another. By the time you’re 50, you hardly know anybody any more, and if you are already in office, you’re usually running on habit and a familiar name, the enthusiasm and networking of student years long worn away.

But what do I know ? I know too much. To be hired into the current world of political campaigns I would have to unlearn everything and become an enthusiastic student of bullshit. How else but bullshit would you describe the glossy card stock mailers that every campaign sends out now, usually on the same day ? They look the same because they are the same, and most voters, when they receive this avalanche of picture-color, advertising-lettered fliers, either toss them aside onto the hallway table or throw them into the trash barrel.

They look like ads from the telephone book and are produced by the same mentality that would try to headhunt you for a job selling ads for telephone books.

Which leads me to the job I now have. It pays $ 14.00 an hour, for 30 hours a week,and when added to my social security income, enables me to pay my bills, go out to dinner once in a while, and take the wife on a weekend outing in mid-Coast Maine on Labor Day break. Other than that, I am free to operate my own business — which, as I said, is the fate of those who actually know how to do things — writing and editing, with my partner Heather Cornell, at the website you have now visited, the political and parental advice world of Here and Sphere.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



LyidaCity Councillor Lydia Edwards (District One, Boston) stepped forward recently in support of a proposed real estate transfer tax hike, the money going to help mid-range and lower-range income people buy into the Boston housing market. We also support the proposal. Here’s why :

There are actually two real estate transfer tax hikes before the legislature. The first one, filed by Governor Baker in January, would raise the transfer tax by one-half, the money to be earmarked in support of climate resiliency efforts. Baker’s bill has received plenty of publicity. Less has been given to the second proposal, the transfer tax which is the subject of this column. It would double the transfer tax from the present $ 25 per thousand of value to $ 50 per thousand. Baker, when questioned about this bill, seemed unsure of its details, which is not all that surprising, given the lack of public attention shown this proposal. Would he support it ? We will see.

I would hope that he will do so, and of course that means that Speaker Robert DeLeo will need to support it as well, because neither transfer tax bill will get to Baker’s desk unless Speaker DeLeo brings them to a vote. When Baker first proposed his climate resiliency tax, legislative leaders were shy to sign on. DeLeo and Aaron Michlewitz, the House’s new Budget Chief, opined that they didn’t need the extra money just then. It appears that they have now reconsidered, at least for Baker’s climate resiliency tax. No word yet on the larger transfer tax proposed to fund affordability purchases.

Edwards urges adoption of the second transfer tax, a bill filed by State Representative Mike Connolly of Cambridge, because, so she argues, the affordability crisis is forcing current residents of her District (and others) to have to move, often to far away, in search of housing that they can pay for. This is hardly news. we all know that the Boston real estate market has boomed almost to the breaking point, leaving ordinary earners far behind the wave. Edwards supports the bill’s allocation of its funds to neighborhood housing trusts. I’m not so keen on this specific, but she has mute ideas for battling the housing crusts than that.  Earlier this year she endorsed permitting people to build add–on apartments to their homes, even a small unit in one’s back yard, if need be. She’s got hold of an idea now gathering attention in Boston and other cities.

Alterbatuves to the neighborhood land trust idea are but hard to come up with :

( 1 ) Some Massachusetts cities have had programs granting mortgage money to buyers, with no payback, on condition that they live in the home for at least five years, the money to help pay the buy price of a home. Any funds raised by the proposed transfer tax could allocate to this sort of City program.

( 2 ) Funds might be used to create a kind of city equivalent of the Federal government’s Section 8 certificate program, whereby lower income renters pay market rate, of which they pay only the portion thereof that their income affords, the balance being paid via the certificate.

( 3 ) the transfer tax funds could be applied to the State’s earned income tax credit (EITC), raising eligibility from the present $ 32,000 level (I think that is the amount) to maybe $ 45,000 or even to $ 59,000 — the median earner income in greater Boston — but solely for eligibles upon their applying to buy a home.

i would hope that the Connolly bill, if enacted, might prefer these uses.

It seems that real estate industry lobbyists have spoken in opposition to this transfer tax, saying that it would chill the market. I am not persuaded that a 2 and 1/2 percent tax will turn back a market in which $ 500,000 is below the average sale price and $ 2,000,000 not uncommon even in what used to be working-class neighborhoods of Boston. Presently, if you are a long time homeowner, who bought an East Boston home, for example, in 1980 at $ 35,000, and you now sell for $ 700,000, are you really dissuaded by a tax that docks you $ 35,000 instead of $ 17,500 ? If need be, brokers can absorb some of the tax by accepting a four percent commission rather than the traditional five percent.  When houses in “Eastie” were selling for $ 125,000 — not long ago at all — a five percent commission was $ 6250. Today, at $ 700,000 — not an uncommon price these days — a four percent commission is $ 28,000. Not bad — and let’s note that whereas very few homes sold at the lower price, because fewer people wanted then, today, at $ 700,000, everybody and his cousins want in. Thus a broker who might have sold five houses a year in 2004 might sell 12 houses this year. (Yes, there are many more brokers now; but that’s how it has always been in real estate. Lots of brokers in the boom times, not so many in the bad years.)

Councillor Edwards, I have to say, is not shy about the stuff she supports. I don’t always agree with her stand, but in far more cases than I had expected, I do support what she supports. (Disclosure : I am a donor to her committee.) It’s always smart to listen to her arguments for stuff. In this case, it’s smart to give her transfer tax argument serious thought even if you have doubts about its success. The affordability crisis is real, and very little of what most Boston politicians are offering as a response makes any real world sense. This proposal makes all kind of good sense.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


sumner school

^ recess at the Charles Sumner School on Basile Street in Roslindale

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An article in today’s Boston Globe discusses the $ 1 billion gap between two schools funding bills currently before the legislature. The so-called “Promise Act,” backed by a coalition of public school advocacy groups with support from Mayor Marty Walsh, seeks $ 2.4 billion, over seven years, in additional state funds. Governor Baker’s bill requests $ 1.5 billion over the same seven years. You should now read the article here :

Many questions come to mind about either bill. First, why must the State be the focus of funds for local schools ? If said funds are needed as urgently as the Promise Act advocates say, can’t they seek Proposition 2 1/2 overrides in the towns or cities thus needy ? I am especially unmoved by the Boston situation. Why does a City experiencing a long and propitious economic boom need State school funds at all ? The City’s tax valuation has doubled in the past ten years, yet the school budget has, in that time, increased only by 40 percent. Clearly a 2 1/2 override initiative is in order, so why isn’t one being — hasn’t one yet been — proposed ? And if many 2 1/2 overrides fail because taxpayers don’t see the need, why should the legislature arrogate to legislate school matters — which are locally governed by locally-chosen bodies mostly elected that localities have voted against ? Returning to the Boston question, I find it completely out of order for a City as real estate prosperous as Boston to ask for more State aid, when Massachusetts has so many cities that aren’t prospering at all and which badly need all the funds they can get. Nor am I moved by the argument that Boston educates so many students whose schooling costs much more than the average : English language learners, special need kids, kids with health issues. If a City as booming as Boston can’t meet these costs, we’re in serious incompetence mode.

But back now to the two funding bills. I quote now from the Globe article : “In Boston, where much of the city’s school funding gets diverted to charter schools, aid would jump from $220 million this year to $323.9 million in seven years under the Promise Act, compared to $232.6 million in Baker’s proposal, essentially the same increase the city would receive if the Legislature doesn’t overhaul the funding formula…” 

The $ 91.3 million dollar difference is almost precisely the $ 96,000,000 that Boston’s FY 2020 schools budget allocates for transportation. Most of that transport is required by the desegregation busing order entered 45 years ago by Federal Judge Arthur Garrity. This order should be terminated. No part of the City is segregated today, as many parts were in 1974. Today, most Boston neighborhoods are models of diversity. So why not bring back community schools ? Activists talk much these days about community — rightly so — but you can’t have true community without community schools. No institution binds neighbors together as solidly as they. With community schools, you also get PTAs, which enable parent-student-teacher after-hours interaction; and nothing improves school performance as effectively as teacher-student-parent interaction.

Campaigning door to door with a Council candidate in District Five, hardly a night of it goes by that we do not hear, from voters at the door, a desire for community schooling. Almost every mother we listen to, of school age children, is thinking of moving out because they don’t want their kids transported all over the place (and by a lottery assignment system that adds another layer of absurdity). Yet not a word of this issue is to be found in either of the two funding bills before the legislature.

The other schools issue that we hear at the door is the school system’s failure, even after 30 years of Federal grant availability, to render its utility usage energy-efficient. We hear of classrooms that are too hot in winter, too cold in summer. In this regard, the FY 2020 schools budget allocates $ 42,369,098 to “Property Services.” How much of that is attributable to wasted heating or air conditioning ? Probably not a little. Moreover, the system maintains buildings to serve 92,000 students, yet only about 55,000 attend. Why can’t the City close under-attended school facilities and end their “services” altogether ? One would think that those who advocate dramatic increases to the schools budget would be demanding this sort of saving. (You can read the FY 2020 budget here : )

Again, not a word of this is to be found in either the two funding bills or in the Globe article.

Between the legislating going on on  Beacon Hill and the actual concerns of actual voters, there seems total disconnect. One would think that in a democracy, the concerns of actual voters would come first or at all; yet in schools matters, such concerns seem blocked. Parents of school age have been moving out of District Five, to the suburbs in search of better schools responsive to parents since the 1980s : yet in that time nothing has been done to relieve this exodus. The voters just don’t seem to matter.

This is why I protest as I am now doing and will continue to do until the legislators dealing with schools priorities finally listen.

Which is not to say that I don’t support reforming the 1993 funding formula. If we are top have schools funding by the State at all, the formula for allocating it should, as argued by advocates, favor those districts most in need of outside funds. Districts that in 1993 made that cut may well not be the ones making the cut 26 years later. My only reservation is that if State funds are to be allocated to local school districts, they can’t simply be doled out. Specific improvement priorities should accompany them, as well as a state monitor to assure that said funds do in fact get spent in pursuit of these priorities.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere






^ aligning openly and purposefully with City Democrats : Governor Baker at Boston’s pride flag raising


The header is framed as a question because I’m not sure that he really does mean to seek an unprecedented third term as our state’s Governor. If he DOES mean it, however, significant reasons support his doing this. The Boston Globe article that appeared this morning quotes Baker thus : ““I really want to fight for this approach to governing that’s based on the idea there is such a thing as a bipartisan, pragmatic approach to governing,’’

There was more: Baker said he and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito will be heavy presences on the campaign trail in this year’s municipal elections across the state. They plan to back candidates, including Democrats, most of them incumbents, running for mayor.

“I am going to make sure that I and the lieutenant governor support and help incumbents this year on both sides of the partisan aisle who have helped us and we will also work for folks running for office in 2020.”

Let these two quotes sink in for a minute…

In effect, Baker has become an independent in all but name. To hear a Governor say this is new, but the fact is not. Since 1990, when our state elected Bill Weld as Governor, our Governors have, with the exception of Deval Patrick’s two terms, all been centrist Republicans who have, in effect, governed in partnership with the legislative leadership, non-partisan in policy, bipartisan in action. That said, Baker, by committing to campaign for Massachusetts Mayors who are enrolled Democrats, is going beyond what even he has yet done. Until now, he has always campaigned for only Republicans. Now, by aligning himself on campaign turf with Democratic Mayors, he is setting a level of bipartisan example quite bold for any Governor, much less one as cautious as Baker.

Think also of the context. Nationally, America is divided viciously along party lines. If you’re in a party, you are forced to be in that party and only in that party– the other party is the enemy. Baker told the Globe this : “bipartisan interactions at the State House stand in distinct contrast to what is going on around the country.’’

Baker has avoided critiquing Mr. Trump directly, but from Day One of Mr. Trump’s election, baker has acted in specific contrast to the Trump method; and in his first State of the State speech, he made that explicit :”I represent Massachusetts to Washington,not Washington to Massachusetts.” Baker has, by example, governed the opposite way to Mr. Trump, and by doing so, he has also helped to keep Massachusetts politics free of the partisan zealotry that has made useful Federal governance all but impossible. The move that Baker is now contemplating, and the basis that he has set it to, raise his anti-Trump example to a next level.

As the Globe notes, Baker has also separated his political operation from the state Republican party. The party has its offices on Merrimac Street in Downtown Boston; Baker’s operation uses offices on West Street, two miles away. Nor is Baker making any secret of his opposition to the ultra-conservative new regime at Massachusetts GOP headquarters : “Baker acknowledged he will again wade into the elections for the 80 members of the GOP state committee when Republican presidential primary voters go to the polls next winter,” wrote the Globe reporter.

The same report notes that Baker, by not having control of the state party, lost the cash-raising advantages that control of it accorded him. Yet his commitment to oust the current regime seems just as motivated by policy as b y money. Baker has no problem raising vast sums, whether he controls “Merrimac Street” or not. Policy, however, is another matter. The present right-wing rejectionism being voiced by present GOP leadership rejects almost everything that baker’s politics embrace.This is not without consequences. Canvassing voters door to door, I have found that registered Republicans are far more likely to dislike Baker than are unenrolleds and Democrats.

In this context, Baker’s commitment to campaign for Democratic mayors –and to govern openly in partnership with the legislature’s Democratic leadership — practically gives the finger to the folks at Merrimac Street and those who endorse them. One can almost hear what baker will never say, “You don’t like the initiatives I’m working on ? Don’t like that I’m doing them with Democrats ? Tough ! I have a state to govern, a state to reform, a new era to prepare us for!”

Perhaps in the end he will turn the reins to Lieutenant Governor Polito and take his two terms as the nation’s best-liked Governor home to Swampscott. That’s still the more likely outcome. But if he does decide top seek a third term, he will represent the deepest political desire of the overwhelming majority of voters : let us get things done, Democrats and Republicans together, and stop the insanity !” Don’t bet against it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ a Roslindale parent has a schools decision to make. Will the system allow her the best decision, or not ?

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Is there anything in the new contract agreement fore Boston school teachers that moves the system toward reform ? Not really. Teachers get a two percent pay raise ? Nice, but teacher pay is not a reform item. The system will hire 22 new full time school nurses, and another 22 aides will also be hired : these will be good news for parents of children in need of mental health monitoring and for the kids, too. Still at issue is the request, made by some, that classes for English language learners be staffed by two teachers each.

Yet these small adjustments do not equal school reform. The so-called achievement gap — the disparity between kids of various skin colors and national origins wit.h respect to test results and graduation rates — will likely remain. Nor does the new teacher contract alter, in the slightest, the two fundamental misdirections impacting Boston’s public schools : first, the school committee is appointed by the people; and second, that kids are still being transported all over the city, per school assignment lotteries established under a Federal Court desegregation order issued 45 years ago.

There is much talk about “the community” in various Boston neighborhoods these days, but you cannot have community without community schools. Community schools bring the kids of a community together. They encourage parent-teacher involvement. The Federal Court order destroyed the PTAs that governed Boston schools, that monitored their excellence and required teachers to not just teach their hours and go home. The old PTAs ensured that the local school community would continue after the school day and during school vacations. This was community  for real. The school community powerfully motivated parents to stay in the community. Just the opposite is the case today for parents seeking neighborhood schools. If you’re not lucky enough to get your kid into Boston Latin School or the Latin Academy, and you are not chosen by the charter school lottery, you will almost certainly move to the suburbs, or strongly consider doing it. (The exception that parents make for the Latin and charter schools results from parents’ confidence that at those schools  their kids will be rigorously well educated, diligently enough that they’ll trade  community for excellence. Correctly or not, parents have no such confidence in Boston’s standard public schools despite the City’s  $ 1,270,000,000 FY 2020 schools allocation.)

I think that parents are right to opine that community schools are the only workable alternative for kids who do not get into the Latin or charter schools. Community, at least, assures that the standard school — funded by fully one third of the entire annual City budget — will not settle for a default minimum, or tolerate teacher failure — the new contract “makes it easier” for teachers unassigned because no school will have them to work their way back to being hired. Community PTAs might well be what they once were, a bulwark of teacher diligence.

It is certainly time to move beyond the 1974 Federal Court order. The City’s neighbor hoods are no longer racially segregated. Residential diversity isn’t uniform, but there no more neighborhoods that are 99 percent Caucasian — nor 99 percent people of color. Door knocking in District Five this year, getting past the Federal Court order — and the $ 99,000,000 that it costs to transport kids — is by far the most frequent schools demand that voters make. It is time to do it; to eliminate the assignment lottery and recreate community school districts.

Taking this step would make an even stronger statement of reform if it were accompanied by City charter change re-establishing an elected school committee. I have proposed an elected  committee according to a district election system which gives five  committee seats to the current large assignment district, four seats to the next largest, and three committee seats to the small district. The Superintendent would then be the 13th member, or else the Mayor ex officio. Granted, that an elected school committee would bring political considerations into the mix : but school issues ought to be a major subject of politics and election. The $ 1,270,000,000 budget requires direct citizen involvement, and sol do major school decisions : curriculum, staffing, administrative autonomy for each school. The Mayor, who appoints the present committee, is chargeable, but he is equally charged on every other major City administrative matter. It is almost impossible to make his re-election depend upon his schools decisions, nor is it a best practice to do so. Best is to elect school officers whose focus is solely schools.

It is time to reform our public schools.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere