THERE IS NO WORKABLE SOLUTION FOR BOSTON’s NUTTY HOUSING PRICES

WU

^^ Mayor Wu : lots of government activity, none of it of the least effect and some of it aggravating to the problem. What else is new ?

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This week a Commonwealth Magazine column proposed doubling the State’s transfer deed excise tax. The writers claimed this would raise $ 600 million, which — so they said — could be used, in part, to build “affordable” housing.

Who they kidding ? Themselves ?

I don’t care if you raise $ 60 billion. As long as Boston is the hub for bio-technology, and for the vastly over-priced educational behemoths that school the bio industry’s gluttonous salaries, housing in Boston will be way, way out of price reach for ordinary grunts — which comprises at least 80 percent of us. For us, there is no future except to leave.

As long as the bio boom goes on — and who would even think of wanting it to stop ? it brings to our City money so vast that even Long John Silver and his pirates would stop dancing on dead men’s chests and start buying leather yachts, $ 800 tomahawk steaks, $ 500 concert ticket goers, casino guests with unlimited credit, and buyers of grapefruit-colored designer sneakers — the cost of having a place to live will be veddy veddy pricey, mate.

That these instagram influencers and “content creators” of whom I speak — singles all, of course — might only stay here for a couple of years till they transfer to the next G start up, or to a trendy application shop of the moment, is no bar to $ 4000 to $ 8000 apartments: because as one class of glamor smarties leaves, another class comes to town. Call it the university-ization of Boston : move to town, earn barrels of money, live in dormitory-sized “units,” rent out another to air bnb, and then sail on — heck, even I, a local stiff who can barely pay my bills, know several lovelies who have done exactly this, or who will be doing it.

Perish forbid that our city might be governede by those who were born here, want to work here and stay here. that’s old fogey, man ! No one does that any more, only those biased old ethnics who micro-aggress people of color; who are glued to the old ways (such as honoring the murderer, Christopher Columbus); who are all racists anyway, right ? So why not price them out of the city they and their forbears came to, worked to exhaustion in, but could at least call home ? They’re obsolete, man ! So buy them out if you can, price them out if you can’t. See ya !

(Fun fact : it isn’t only the old ethnics who are being pushed or bought out. Most Bostonians of color also cannot afford the new prices. Many of these folks also have families, and the parents aren’t very happy, to say the least, with Boston’s schools. If they can’t get a kid into “Latin,” or a charter school, the suburban schools, with their better reputations, look most appealing; and so families of color — lots of them — are leaving Boston as well.)

But back to my main point:

As long as the university lifestyle– here for a couple, party and shop and live “off campus” : for what is a “unit” but an off-campus room, the “campus” being the app shop or bio lab in which the $ 250 k-a-year kids do their post-Ph.D researching ? — continues, real estate guys with banked money looking for action will buy up our old fashioned homes, and either renovate and condo them at vast profit, or else demolish them and erect “units” made of featureless crap. And as long as these real estate guys have impatient money — often using greed-sized lines of credit — to bet, sellers, being no fools, will demand insane prices — and get them. Wouldn’t you do the same ? I sure would.

So the land acquisition cost, which has quadruped since 2010, goes up more. likewise the cost of buying a working family’s house and demolishing it. And then ? Do you suppose that the developer will now build ordinary housing ? Hell no ! He’ll build for the most expensive audience he can afford to target. Heck, even in the suburbs, where actual families still live, the builders build elephant-size houses with twice the room space any ordinary family would ever want. You see them everywhere : vast piles with zero style devoid of grace but plump with gabled avoirdupois.

Meanwhile, the small homes — complete with lawn and driveway — built after World War II have passed into history. No one builds them any more. The only small houses that get built today are the micro-apartments favored by zoning reformers.

Climate zealots love the micro-apartments. They use little fossil fuel energy, and in keeping with the climate folks’ abhorrence of cars, they don’t have driveways.

Zoning codes ? No problemo, man ! Zoning rules were devised in the small home era, Not for us, right? We are PROGRESSIVE ! So city zoning boards dismiss zoning rules out of hand. Besides, how could you honor a zoning code that no builder will build to ?

But I digress.

What, then, could the $ 600 million excise tax revenue build ? The Commonwealth writers don’t explicitly say — though I can guess what they are thinking of — but it’s not hard to figure : they would channel that money through City and town governments to allot to builders via some sort of building permit covenant, such as what already are in place, where a builder would be required to offer a percentage of his “units” at ‘affordable” prices, whatever that night be. The current requirements range from 13 percent of units to 20 percent. I would imagine that the $ 600 million would push cities to require maybe 33 percent.

(Or we could hve “rent stabilization,” if Mayor Wu can fool enough legislators, who ought to know better.)

But back to my point.

Either that or cities would build entire quadrants of subsidized housing. Being subsidized, these units would be rentals only — or, if available for purchase, how would the City do so without bestowing upon the buyer a huge immediate value profit ? I have heard that some cities are offering buyers only a portion of the equity so as to negate the prospect of an immediate value profit at taxpayer expense. But how can such a device be legal ? And if it is legal, by what right does a city have the authority to own private, for sale housing and to withhold from a buyer value to which she is entitled ?

But let’s not go further down this guessing game road. I’ll tell you what’s going to happen, whether planners and reformers like it or not. The ordinary working stiffs of Boston — and cities as captured as ours — are going to do one of the following : ( 1 ) double and triple up in what’s left of wring class housing ( 2 ) move far far away, like to Fall River or Holyoke, where housing costs one-third to one-fifth of Boston prices or ( 3 ) demand much, much higher hourly wages for the exhausting, vital grunt work that they do and without which the university researchers and instagram dolls could not exist for more than 24 hours.

My own guess is that there’ll be a little of all three. And that the concerns and living arrangements of those of us who must decide between these three options will be of no account to the politicians who cannot fund their increasingly overpriced campaigns except from those who have it (and we now now who they are, don’t we ?); but what we WILL get from the politicians who want our votes is a blizzard of tipsy promises and contradictory devices.

It ain’t pretty, and it ain’t going away.

I’ll also make another prediction : rents and buy prices will continue to get MORE expensive. Why ? Because they can.

—- Mike Freedberg

MONEY FLOWS POINT TO THE END OF AMERICA’s DEMOCRACY

George Soros

George Soros, international investor and bugaboo of Trumpist autocrats because he funds liberal causes. But he is hardly the only political billionaire, and big money people and institutions now buy all of our nation’s successful politics.

This will be a rather distressing column by me. I am a pessimist these days when contemplating the future of American democracy. But please hear me out :

You can’t have a democracy if the voters who actually democratize have no money in the game. As things go in the age of Citizens United, almost all the money in political campaigns comes from the well off and institutions. Ordinary wage workers cam barely pay their bills. They don’t have money to donate; or, if they do donate, its small beer. Meanwhile, vast pools of parked money form PACs with millions of dollars that flood the field.

Ordinary wage workers earn better pay now than ever before, but even the current $ 15/hour to $ 17/hour pay that’s available pales before the costs of housing, food, car loans, kids’ clothes, utilities, and credit card debt. I mention credit cards because in America these past 50 years, credit cards have enabled consumers to spend forward — spend money before they actually have it — thus expanding the economy beyond what actual money in it would otherwise permit. The use of forwarded money has turned once free people into indebted servants whose waking hours become lashed to the need to pay debts: and yes, you pay that carded debt because in our economy, if your credit is taken away, you are truly screwed. It’s bad enough that a wage earner can’t save a dime. And if his access to loans is lost, he is the helpless if a bill comes due before he gets his next paycheck. (I speak of paychecks here because at least those who work can foresee a payday. Those who live on public assistance are even worse off and an entirely different condition beyond the scope of this column. We are here discussing those who at least do generate money.)

The higher-paid can save at least a retirement account — against which they can borrow, of course; those who generate money in our economy are always able to borrow their futures — and of course can obtain much larger borrowings than can the average wage earner. Yet even they are not fully free. If they ca take on larger dollar forwards, their obligations likewise become bigger. The monkey on their backs is a gorilla. We like to think that the buyer of a $ 750,000 home is a very lucky person. But in our economy, with a good credit score he or she need pay in actual money as little as $ 37,500 of that $ 750,000; the rest is borrowed i what usually these days is a 40 year mortgage — a lifelong indebtedness which becomes a financial death sentence if the borrower loses his or her job. And if that job requires a 70 or 75 hour work week — because the pressures of venture capitalized start ups create almost unbearable competition ? Well, you grab hold of your cubicle ad you work those 70 or 75 hours.

This doesn’t feel a whole lot like freedom, at least not to me.

But there is worse to tell. The lender of that $ 712,250 forty-year debt servitude doesn’t have to wait for his money to be repaid. In today’s America he sells the promissory note to a investor — actually, he packages the $ 712,250 note with hundreds or even thousand more like it and sells the bundle to a huge hedge fund or other owner of uselessly parked money who earns a “management” fee for buying and selling 440-year promissory notes. Such fee can tally a billion dollars or more, out of which the recipient can fund one of those vast PACs which control what is said, and to who, by our big political campaigns. Which campaigns thus become mouthpieces not for the ordinary worker — barely even for the borrower of a $ 712,250 mortgage — but for the buyers of hundreds of huge promissory notes.

It works both sides of the campaigns, by the way. Investment managers have differing views, and they buy the political purveyors of each such view. Said buyers spend vast amounts of campaign time begging for this sort of money — much, much more time than they spend campaigning to ordinary voters. Oh sure, they’ll film a scene at a wage earners; diner, maybe, just to show that they do care about voters, but though we used to be fooled by these, we no longer are. We know the deal now. We know that we do not count.

Which is why voter turnout has trended downward. Recently this has changed, but the reason is different. In the past six years or so, culminating with the rise of Trump, a bitter, angry, and increasingly intolerant opposition as arisen to the above scenario, a movement of the left out, of those who do not share the corporate, institutional view of what our politics should be doing. We choose to call the arisen situation “culture wars” because the new angry opposition tends to focus on the libertine preferences of those who back he corporate wish lists: but actually the left out are, mostly, being left out of the money trends. The views espoused by the corporate, and mostly urban money elite come with actual changes fueled by money. : development and demolition in the name of “housing crisis”; billions for public transportation and vast new impediments for the autonomous automobile — the most vital instrument of personal liberty to come along in the last 200 years — in the name of climate crisis”; and “diversity, equity and inclusion” demands, in the name of “marginalized” people, assumed to be people of color, when the actual marginalizeds are the old line, mostly ethnic (but also of color) wage earners who stocked the old, pre-credit card economy.

The authoritarian tactics of this angry opposition, and its antipathy to our old Constitutional order, are intended to threaten the bases of the big money, urban “progress” interests. It would be a true people’s movement, of a kind our nation has seen before, except that it isn’t. Big money fuels this autocracy too. Why ? Simple : it’s a ;profit opportunity for media moguls who have grabbed (and helped voice) a customer base. That the means by which these “hate profiteers” (as my cousin Chris Mugglebee calls them) put our Constitution in jeopardy doesn’t seem to worry them. Maybe they know something we should know about the power of big money to override political devices meant to protect the average voter ?

Let me add one more observation. The angry autocrats of Trump world often view people of color as their enemy because people of color overwhelmingly vote for those whom the rump world hates. But the angry opposition is more and more attracting wage earners of color who see that the well off and corporate demolishers and developers, new economy industries and work from home consultants are coming for them as well as for the old ethnics. We would be celebrating this gathering coalition of the financially crushed, a coalition envisioned by Bobby Kennedy 60 years ago, except that those who fund the movement’s candidates (and its media) want only the angry people’s votes. As for money, they want it all. They envision, even openly propose, draconian decreases in wages and benefits including the phasing out of social security. Under their autocratic rule, where bought legislators overrule popular votes in elections, the ordinary wage voter has even less chance than she has under progressive crisis rule. At least the progressives have yet to propose overriding popular votes or to stymie the installation of duly elected Presidents. Yet what comfort is this seeming adherence to Constitutional order, when the progressive crisis coalition has the money to buy campaigns which employ racial fears, climate doomsdays, and housing chimeras — not to mention the profit opportunities in each — as a sure means of marshalling urban votes even from the financially crushed ?

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UKRAINE WILL WIN THIS WAR

Ukraine-Flag

Count on it. The 40,000,000 Ukranian people will not be defeated by Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked attack.

As Kristina Berdynskykh, a Ukranian journalist, put it : “Ukraine will break Putin. Our country might have to suffer greatly for it, but this is definitely the end for him.”

President Zelkenskyy sounded the same defiant note. He broke off diplomatic relations with Putin, called up all the nation’s military reserves, declared martial law, and had his foreign minister appeal openly for all assistance from NATO and from anywhere.

The Ukranians will fight.

They will fight for their homeland, their neighbors, their freedom to be a nation of their choice. Meanwhile, what are Putin’s 190,000 troops fighting for ?

Just as in Afghanistan — as we ourselves learned the hard way — the Russians will not defeat a people fighting on its own turf for its right to be, to exist, to be a nation.

It will be painful. It is a tragedy that a war of aggression on European soil has ben unleashed for the first time since World War II. We are now at war, all of the West. This is a moment that we created NATO to prevent, or if not prevent, to defeat. For 77 years this moment did not come to pass. Perhaps we grew comfortable about it. Doubtless we imagined that aggression in the heart of Europe was a thing of the pasty, a bogeyman of old boneyards. But we were wrong. Now what ?

Putin claims that his attack is righting wrongs wreaked on Russia, that Ukraine was a creation of Russia and belongs to Russia. If he believes that, he is a fool. Almost the reverse is true :

In the 900s, Viking adventurers founded the principality of Kyiv. It was a very prosperous trading kingdom lying astride the main trade routes from the Baltic Sea to Constantinople. Kyivan “Russia” — those Vikings called themselves “‘rus” — prospered mightily for over 2509 years, until the great Mongol invasions of the 12009s put an end to it all and then some.

The principalities that sprang up in northern “Russia” in the 1400s arose entirely separately from the Kyivans. The men of Nizhny Novograd, Veliki Luki, Yaroslavl and Tver, who established satrpies under Petcheng rule (the Petchengs were descendants of the Mongols) … were in no way descendants of, nor related to, the men of Kyivan “Rus.” Far from it. At the time that these small dukedoms held sway, the lands of Kyiv were ruled by Lithuanian first, then Poland, then Sweden. It wasn’t until the armies of Peter the Great defeated the last major Swedish army at Poltava (in what is now central Ukraine) in 1707 that the peoples of what is now Ukraine began to recover something of the glories of 10th century Kyiv.

But not for long. The armies of Tsar Alexander, after defeating Napoleon’s 1812 attack on Russia, swept through the Ukranian lands, occupied what was left of Poland, and besought borders with the rising Prussian state. Well until the collapse of the Soviet Union, this was the men of the Kremlin’s plan (with one exception which I will discuss below) , and they carried it out with all the repession at their command, including, in Stalin’s time, an imposed famine that killed millions of Ukranians.

So much for Putin’s theories of who created whom.

I mentioned that there was an exception to the Moscow men’s repressions of the Ukranian peoples. By which I refer to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (a city in what was then Poland), by which Vladimir Lenin, newly installed as the Bolshevik boss of revolutionary Russia, accepted the creation of an independent Ukraine, as demanded by the then victorious German Army (eastern front, World War I) in exchange for Germany agreeing not to contest Bolshevik rule in Moscow. By that treaty an independent Ukraine was established, and it proceeded until crushed by Bolshevik armies during the 1920s, the protecting German Army having eventually been itself defeated in November 1918.

Putin referred to the Brest-Litovsk treaty in his speech justifying his attempt to conquer Ukraine. He excoriated Lenin for having “given Ukraine away.” Maybe Lenin did “give Ukraine away” : but the Ukranians were no less real and distinct, speaking a distinct language and with a distinct history much older than that of the Moscow regime.

Thus it was that when the Soviet empire collapsed in 1990, the people of Ukraine formed themselves a nation, much along the lines of the Brest-Litovsk creation. And thus it has been, these 32 years, that Ukraine has enjoyed sovereignty over its ancient lands with a bustling capital at Kyiv just as it was 1000 years ago, long before there was any sort of regime in Moscow — indeed, long before Moscow even existed.

Putin’s history is a mistake, just as his war is a mistake, as he will find out. Because the people of all NATO countries will not stand by and watch their neighbor be swallowed. Because we of the United States know a thing or two about freedom and fighting for our right to exist. Because, as the UN ambassador of Kenya so eloquently spoke at the recent Security Council meeting, the world cannot go back to old, dead empires.

But most of all, because fighting for one’s liberty — one’s nation, and its right to be sovereign — is a fight that all of us have a life stake in.

I stand with the people of Ukraine. I stand with Ukraine. As do you, and you, and you. Ukraine will win.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BEAUTY, JOHN KEATS, and THE ART OF CROSSDRESSING

Laura Lipton

^^ Laura Lipton, a seriously accomplished crossdresser, walks down a street in central Paris

What is it about crossdressing that animates in every culture or society I am aware of, today in particular but also back through much history ? What is it ? What moves those who do it, to do it ? I refer here not to entertainments, though much of what I am about to opine applies to those who use crossdress to amuse, make money, or otherwise perplex one’s attention. What fascinates me is those crossdressers who dress for ordinary life in ordinary (though not so ordinary, actually — the crossdresser whom I have in mind dresses smartly and with great care) clothing and makeup. Why do they do it ? How did the ide of crossdressing come to them ? Here one finds every sort of personal recall, reason, and inspiration, because people are different even when they do the same thing. These engage one’s heart as a fellow human, but I am much more interested in the pleasure that crossdressers get — and that they give to those who like to see it. I am no psychologist and approach this subject the way I approach all art : as a lover of beauty.

When I think the noun “beauty” I think always of John Keats and “Ode Upon a Grecian urn,” in which he marvels at the living immortalized by the artist who crafted it 2400 years before. Summing up what the figures and actions on the urn meant to him, Keats wrote, in the voice of the urn itself, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty — that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” Those words stick to my soul. They urge me to love the beautiful and rely on the truth in it. Hard to parse a more optimistic message ! Yet even as beauty is our doorway into the house of truth, it is, for Keats something more, it is the path of immortality. As he wrote just before the sentence I quoted : “when old age shall this generation waste, Thou doth remain, in midst of other woe Than ours…”

Keats

“when old age shall this generation waste” –there you have it. Beauty within us may brighten the skies of a society for a while, but the beauty in art knows no death. It conquers what another poet, Dylan Thomas, called “the dying of the light.” It defats doubt,. It withstands and triumphs and, says Keats, bestows divine meaning upon our otherwise wasting life. To who among us would such beauty not endear ?

And so to the art of crossdressing, which, I must say, proudly actually, has ben a passion in my own life for many decades. As a kid I had no idea why i wanted to do it. I doubt many crossdressers even as adults know why they love to do it. Yet is it not likely that profound love of beauty is a key ? Many societies accord women a second place, and even those in which women enjoy more or less equality in the business of living sometimes devalue women’s worth. yet almost none of us think women anything less than beautiful, attractive, loveable. And if imitation is, as Oscar Wilde said, the sincerest form of flattery, then the serious crossdresser is as sincere as it gets. And I think that this desire to be beautiful, to feel “girly,” and to feel what it is like to be beautiful, is, if not the whole story — of no human activity do we know the whole story — a very, very important part of why crossdressers crossdress.

Let us remember that even in our own supposedly “liberated’ society, and almost tragically repressive in others, there are crossdressers crossdressing. In some societies for a man to dress as a woman is beyond the pale and actually dangerous yet they do it. In Lebanon, in Egypt, In Pakistan, in Russia, in China, in Mongolia and probably in Iran too. You name the country, there are crossdressers there crossdressing despite. This is the power of the beautiful. This is the power that it holds over some men.

Sophie, bambi, Ophelia

By beauty I do not necessarily mean pleasure. Women’s clothes are not always easy to wear. High heels hurt to walk in. Most women’s clothes fit close on the body (which is what fashionistas have in mind when they call themselves “pulled together”). After a full day out one wants to take off the art and just let the body go, artlessly free. (Though pretty soon the desire to be girly rushes back upon one, and one gets dressed again.) Doing one’s make up takes a ton of time and an almost snivelling attention to detail. Yet crossdressers do it — most of us love doing makeup. it validates our passion. It is the magic of our transformation. And maybe that’s it, the transformative : if beauty is like nothing else — which is my entire point in this article — then whoever you are — women too — if you are make yourself a thing of beauty, you TRANSFORM. Of course girls learn the transformative from early on; boys do not. Yet some boys take to it anyway. Despite rejection by family and or friends. despite the threat of taunting and worse by classmates were they to “find out.” In spite of all, boys who take to crossdressing DO IT. In almost every society — which fact offers some powerful proof that beauty is a universal.

Which is my final point. Keats writes that beauty is truth, truth beauty. He EQUATES the two. With no qualifications of time or place — and as I have shown, crossdressers prove it. They exist in every phase of history and almost everywhere. Indeed, it would take an oppression even more totalitarian than Stalin’s to repress crossdressing out of existence., At last, beauty cannot be denied, will not. Any more than what he think of as “true’ can be denied. As Spock would say, it’s not logical. We also today talk of “my truth.’ I find the phrase peculiar and self-centered and a shutting out of one person by another; yet one can say about the serious crossdresser that he is acting out his truth.

Fortunately for all of us, the truth that a crossdresser acts out is no mere theory. Crossdressers are as real as it gets, as significant, and, yes, as beautiful. Pleasing to the eye and, hopefully, to the soul.

Many will also tell you that it’s just fun to do. That I will “dress the ay i want.” That there is no deeper meaning in dressing in women’s clothes. I can’t dispute anyone who says this. Life isn’t always (usually ?) lived to consciously held ideal. Yet even if cross dressing is fun — which it is– and even if doing it is to act the rebel (which it is — David Bowie caught that d rift back in 1973’s “Rebel Rebel”), I’d submit that it is not ONLY fun or an act of rebellion. I am amaze, too, by the numbers of guys who have just begun to cross dress, within the past five years or even the past year, and become part of a truly momentous instagram community of guys dressing up as girls and doing so with fashion skills, make up cleverness, and a ready hand for insightful and playful photo-post captions. These are almost all “straight” guys, many of them married to supportive wives; I’ve seen several instagram [photos of crossdressers and their wives and even some with the kids. can cross dressing be a family adventure ? Seems it can.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

WRITER’s NOTE : the photos I have collaged come from friends on Instagram, a crossdressers’ community like no other. The photos shown are a mere selection, even an unfair one. But the level of beauty flaunted here is no rarity. I could just as easily have chosen 8 different people, or 16, or 60, to flaunt upon this column.

Juliette

4 cds

4 more

A PLATFORM FOR DISTRICT ONE’s NEXT CITY COUNCILLOR

SAL

^^ Could Sal LaMattina be making a comeback ? (here, kayaking on Boston harbor — a very East Boston adventure by a very East Boston guy)

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Now that Lydia Edwards is on her way to representing the First Suffolk and Middlesex Senate District, the voters of East Boston, Charlestown, and the North End will be electing a new District Councillor. Whoever seeks this office — and at least four are talking about it — he or she will want a platform to run on.

I propose one now.

The job of a District Councillor, as opposed to those who serve city-wide, is to voice concerns specific to the DISTRICT.

For East Boston, those concerns are not hard to figure; First, over-development. I propose that the City cease granting zoning variances to all and sundry, by which all manner of neighborhood-undermining projects get approved and built. Enforce the zoning code. Variances should be allowed only in case of actual hardship. No exceptions. East Boston is a community that works, a place for families and large group social connection. Such are difficult to realize, if at all, when the residential preference is for hotel-like or college dormitory “units” in 20 to 200 “unit” mammoths. These should never, ever be permitted anywhere in East Boston. Second, public safety. East Boston is losing several veteran officers. Citywide the police force is about 500 short of optimum numbers. I propose hiring the 500, accepting the State’s $ 850,000 training grant, and prioritizing the gang unit. Third, city services. East Boston is under-served by Inspectional Services, by the city’s ambulances, and by monitors for speeding traffic on Bennington Street. Time to deploy the needed vehicles and manpower.

Charlestown : increase City support for local drug addiction support groups, of which the neighborhood has several and excellent; increase the City’s arts allocations for entertainments in City Square Park; oversee the massive One Charlestown project to a successful build-out.

North End : remove bureaucratic impediments to easy outdoor dining at the neighborhood’s many restaurants; restore to its rightful place in St Leonard’s Park the statue of Christopher Columbus vandalized last year and then ordered removed by Mayor Walsh; open up waterfront parcels to light industry as well as houseboat piers.

Overall, District One’s next Councillor must tackle the vast problem of Boston’s public schools : the inefficiency, the over-capacity, the incompetence, the lack of safety for teachers and staff. Every school building should have security personnel present. The $ 135,000,000 busing allocation should be ended and repurposed. Under-utilized schools should be closed and the remaining schools be brought closer to capacity. The next superintendent should be in-house, not a stranger hired for a few years until the next stranger is hired. Look : Boston is rapidly becoming a playpen for young, well heeled singles. If the City hopes to once again be a place for families, it cannot accept a school system in which potential parents have scant confidence. If this fundamental disconnect cannot be righted, Boston as we know it is finished, and I would hope that no future District One Councillor would settle for that.

Good luck to all who seek this office now. I shall be holding your feet to the fires lit in this platform. Count on it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

THE LEGACY OF GOVERNOR BAKER

Groundbreaking for the new Norwood Hospital

^^ a Governor accessible to everybody and liked by almost everybody.

When, over 200 years ago, our Founders took the risk of submitting public office holding to the choice of voters, it was not yet a given that that method of choosing would best serve the needs of a State or nation. After all, the ideals of what public service should be had been bruited since the days of Periclean Athens, since Plato wrote his Republic, and since Aristotle, in his Politics, examined several methods of arranging a state, without settling upon any one as best. Few States and nations in the 1780s were thus arranged; yet our Founders took the risk that voters would exercise diligence and duty and elect the best men available.

In 2014, electing Charlie Baker Governor, and re-electing him two to one in 2018, the voters of Massachusetts proved our Founders right. They elected the best candidate available, and they re-elected him because he was in fact the best.

That will be his chief legacy : an exemplar of what the best voter-chosen candidate should be.

Baker from the outset declared his purpose : “at the end of the day, people want their State services delivered without fuss and as effectively as possible.” (I am paraphrasing, but in his inauguration speech he did say almost this.) It was criticized as a not very ambitious mission, or bold; but Baker did not care for dram then, nor has he since (until his dramatic announcement two days ago that he would not seek a third term). Drama and noise may be the norm in Washington, but Baker intended to govern a State : a polity with almost 7,000,000 residents dependent on State offices for their driving matters, court appearances, public safety, tax collection, civil rights, children and families interventions, business development, hunting licenses, boating safety, transportation and roads, 100s of State-administered parks and trails, safe water, higher education a workable energy mix.

Merely to enumerate the various pubic commitments demonstrates the breadth thereof and the immensity of the task entrusted to a Massachusetts Governor. Baker let it be known early that that breadth was task enough for a governor and that he would avoid anything, of whatever source, that would compromise his attending to the State’s business.

Never once did he take the baits dangled his way by constituencies that urged, even demanded, his taking up their causes, rhetorically. He scorned Trump, but rarely by name : even to name Trump would be a distraction from the job at hand. He did not take the stage at protests, not even when called out by name at them. There was enough to do, and doing these things would become divisive were he to take a side in our various street-level embroilments. How could he, as Governor, divide, when all 7,000,000 of us are united in being potential users, and equally, as contemplated in State laws, of this or that State agency ?

Baker was lucky in one regard : he is very tall, with college boy towhead looks even at age 65. When he enters a room, you notice him. He has a physical presence that everyone who comes near to it feels — and likes, because almost always that presence comes with a smile, or an aw-shucks face, and twinkly eyes which say that there’s a good guy seeing by them. Because he has this presence — and not surprisingly became known everywhere as “The Big Guy” — he can speak on this or that matter knowing he will be very closely listened to. I have seen it time and again : when baker speaks ex cathedra, as it were, people LISTEN.

Yet so does he. In one of his State of the State speeches, he said “if there’s more than one opinion in a room, you may learn something.” He listens to many; and thereby has managed to forge new policies and laws which he maybe hadn’t realized he would embrace. In his eight years in the corner office, State policy has moved forward on almost every front, from child care to energy, justice administration to schools funding, civil rights to transportation innovations. The T, for example, is almost an entirely different system than it was in 2014, and as many snags and setbacks as have befallen it, so there have been s many overcomings and expansions.

Moreover,. the reforms achieved during Baker’s eight years have stuck. they will never be repealed or reversed. Why ?> Because they have been established by consensus. hardly any reform, since 2014 has taken place with less than unanimous legislative consent. When everybody buys into a reform the chance of it being reversed are almost nil. isn’t that how we want reform to be done ?

Admittedly Baker has had the absolutely best legislative partner on this reform road. Speaker Robert DeLeo and Baker rarely clashed on anything; and if each man understood that partnership between them was the sine qua non of reforms that would stick, it is to Baker’s credit as well as DeLeo’s that each accepted what they understood they ought to do.

He has not satisfied the “progressives” and he has often alienated the die hard conservatives; yet few even of them have moved to unseat him. Here, however, we find Baker’s one failure : he has never been able to convince the Massachusetts Republican party’s state committee to make his priorities its priorities as well. You might think that a party committee that has a hugely popular, effective governor — for Baker is a Republican by birth and inclination — on its side would become 100 percent Baker; yet that is not what the “magop” has done. it has, instead, operated more like a one-issue, radical insurgency than like a broad party committed to electing those who seek Republican nominations. Disconnect was already there long before Baker took off ice, but the coming of Trump, and the insistence of Baker to do the public’s business innovatively made the breach irresolvable. Baker leaves office disliked by at least half the “magop.”

Perhaps that too is as exemplary as the rest of his service. Our Founders distrusted “faction” and set up what they could to impede the establishment of political partisanship. Yet where public policy is at issue, people will of necessity disagree : and disagreement readily becomes a system that all too often takes us away from reform, or onto wrong pathways. Baker has asked our State to work together on the matters we can agree on, and leave those on which we disagree until more propitious times — by which time perhaps we might come to agree after all ? It is a path that not many electeds take these days, in which single issue pressure groups torture the decisions of public people. Yet we are the better for it.

The great Athenian magistrate Solon was asked, after his years in office, “did you give the Athenians the best laws ?”

Solon answered “I gave them the best laws that they would accept.”

That, in one sentence, is Charlie Baker as Governor.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

AFTER THE BIG ELECTION, CLIMATE MADNESS RUNS AMOK

BOSTON PLANNING

Boston continues to build vast chunks of crappy overpriced “units’ — to what end but to push ordinary people out of the City, especially if they have the effrontery to own and even use a CAR

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Michelle Wu said some really commendable stuff in her inaugural speech after being sworn in as Boston’s new mayor. She said that we must do the “small things” as well as the big. Correct : getting the “small things” right is what makes a city government effective. “The City” must fill the potholes, repair the sidewalks, remove overgrown tree roots, keep street signs clean and upright, fix the water leaks. These and more. The snow — if we get any — must be plowed and removed.

I have no doubt that Wu will see that these details are well attended to.

I am less sanguine about the “big things.” These too she will work like hell to get done, and that is precisely what worries me : because her biggest big thing is to move Boston in the direction of climate obsessed hysterics. First among these is banishment of personal, private vehicles — call them “cars” — in favor of bicycles, a wonderful hobby for those who pursue them but hardly a transportation for all seasons; in favor of the T, which serves a purpose, but not well, and which should never, ever be embraced as a top movement option. I have written at length in these pages about why public transportation is an extremely uncool mode of movement and have no intention of importing those writings into this column. Suffice to say that we ask the taxapyers to subidize a portion of the T’s costs because there are people who have no other option for getting to where they have to go. We have a community obligation, in my view, to contribute to the T’s costs for the sake of our otherwise immobilized fellows. but by no means should we be asked to foot even part of the bill for those who can move by their own transport device. To ask us to do that is bad enough; but Mayor Wu and her most active backers want us to be forced onto the T, or onto bicycles, because in their view CARS ARE EVIL.

Why are cars evil ? Because they cause pollution, and pollution is poison, and we are being poisoned as the planet is being poisoned. By us.

Or so we are told. Constantly. You see it on twitter, the arena where crazy folks overdose on political angel dust. There Wu is being celebrated for her move to make certain T bus lines free to the user — which of course means more costly for the City taxpayer — and for what the crazies hope will be her full embrace of “traffic calming” and various other ways of snuffing out the roadways that serve the 90 percent of us who use cars and refuse to be shoveled into control transportation.

I doubt that Mayor Wu will attempt anything so drastic, but my doubts are undercut, somewhat, by what is going on in the zoning arena, where the deservedly loathed Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) has adopted a zoning change : projects will no longer have a minimum car parking requirement. Granted that the big push for such an order comes from those who think that vast blocks of cheaply made, overpriced “units” should be built right next to bus lines and commuter rails because “transit oriented” housing is good in its own right, much less as a remedy to climate poisons. Read the report of it here : https://www.universalhub.com/2021/boston-comes-closer-eliminating-street-parking

Parking is already hard enough to come by, without the addition of hundreds , even thousands, of parking-less “units” in the already densely populated parts of Boston. But that’s the point. The planners and their climate crazy allies WANT it to be hard to park — as hard as they can make it, so that we will either finally give up our cars or move out of the City. (Moving you out of the City has long been a policy by Boston Mayors to get rid of politically inconvenient populations. It used to be never admitted to. Now, on twitter, you see all the time zealots who cry “move out of the City ” to those who don’t buy the present head cleaner.)

One hopes the Zoning Board will refuse the new BPDA rule and continue to insist on parking minimums for developers planning their megaliths of junky “units.”

Will Mayor Wu openly adopt the push-them-out strategy for remaking Boston as a climate obsessed bicyclist and car-less, dense pack of crappy “units” hard by rail and bus lines ? She might not have to. She can just let the crazies wash their waves of whatever over the old sea walls of what Boston has been, themselves a kind of climate gone haywire.

You can chose your poison, i guess. if it isn’t one cyanogen, it’ll be another.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

IN BOSTON, THERE WILL BE NO “AFFORDABLE” HOUSING

Canal Street

^^ One Canal Street : succulent and enticing, but not at all affordable, and guaranteed to be Boston’s present and future.

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Spare me the mouth bleeds of candidates — and current office holders — who promise we the people “affordable” housing any time soon. It isn’t happening. Frankly, I’m losing my patience for hearing such horse smoke emit from the throats of those — including my friends — who seek my vote.

Here’s why I call BS on the whole “affordable” housing layer cake :

( 1 ) what gets built these days is either huge megaliths of overpriced, miserably made “units” or go-for-it luxury condo blocks with every hotel-like amenity and a price to set the hearts of trip-advisor a-flutter.

( 2 ) new-era McMansions continue to be built in the outlying neighborhoods of our wedding party city. Leonard DeCaprio and Kate Blanchett — and there’s plenty of them right now with fat wallets — would fit right in to these million-dollar, even two million dollar Titanics.

( 3 ) land costs doubled when, in his 2013 campaign Marty Walsh announced his intention to build 53,000 housing “units,” a number which, as Mayor, he later raise to 69,000, at which point land costs doubled again. That initial mistake has never been made good. Its impossible to buy a lot of buildable land in Boston for less than half a million. Just ask the Ascolillos of East Boston who acquired the old Lynn and Boston railway right of way for about $ 50,000 sixty years ago and who today are asking a developer to pay at least $ 2,000,000 — a price which is actually a bargain now, given the size of the four plots.

( 4 ) As Tom O’Brien of HYM, the developer building out the 10,000-dwelling Suffolk Downs colossus notes, it now costs at least $ 500,000 to build a “unit.” That’s the bare minimum. Add in the price of union labor and some better-than-basic fixtuers, and you’re north of $ 600,000. Now add in broker fees, advertising, inspection and closing, and a ten percent profit, and your “unit” probably costs $ 700,000. Minimum.

( 5 ) the City’s “affordability” covenant, by which builders of more than a nine-unit project must offer one unit, of every ten, at an “affordable” price, worsens the problem, because the money that the developer loses on the “affordable” unit must be made up by jacking the price higher of his market-rate units. Yet some candidates and office holders think it just ducky to demand that big develoipers offer one “affordable” uhit for every five they build: which of course raises the price of the other four even higher !

( 6 ) rent control, now touted by candidate Michelle Wu — and which is illegal in Massachusetts for very good reason — does not change the market but merely impedes it, deflecting its values from owner to tenant (and thus constitutes a taking of property without proper compensation or pursuant to eminent domain laws, which require a public purpose anyway), a situation which, when rent control was last tried., saw tenants renting out rooms in their apartments for more money than they were paying in rent ! And of course owners, unable to acquire the rise in values which the market created, simply stopped doing any upgrades to their buildings and no repairs except under Court order. At its worst, rent control led to owners burning their loss-leader properties for the insurance money. Lastly, rent control required an entire City bureaucracy, a burden to every taxpayer – who, in our City, is the property owner !

( 7 ) We are told, by the painted warblers seeking our vote, that the answer to the “housing crisis” (more about that later) is to build more housing. Yet fact is that the more housing that has been built, the higher that rents and buy prices go.

( 8 ) “affordability” will only come when the housing market tanks. Yet who the heck wants that ? Economic hard times are hardly the solution to the present real estate bubble. Nor is such a burst to happen any time soon. The salaries of high tech folks, education bureaucrats, financial whizzes, and health care executives continue to rise, and the rush by them to live in center-City shows no signs of reversing — even the onset of Covid and working from home couldn’t stop it.

( 9 ) lastly, what does “affordable” even mean ? Affordable for whom ? When I was younger,. living in a more rational world, we used to opine that a family’s housing costs shouldn’t be more than one-third of their take home income. Today, the median family income in Boston is about $ 95,000; which means a take-home income of about $ 68,000 and thus a monthly rent or mortgage payment of no more than $ 1900 a month. Good luck finding an aprtment6 for that cheap, or a mortgage payment that low ! And that is for a median income family. What of the families that take home less, even much less ? Apartments for $ 1600, $ 1400, and $ 1200 don’t exist except in Federally subsidized housing.

( 10 ) even if we continue to use the absurd “affordability covenant,” an “affordable” home is available for only one of ten, or one of five dwellers. yet there are at least 200,000 families living in Boston whose take home incomes fall below the median.

The situation gets worse every day. In East Boston, where demolition of the entire community in favor of megaliths and condo blocks has touched almost every street, long time owners are selling their small houses for $ 600,000 to $ 750,000 and their triple-deckers for $ 1,200,00 to $ 1,800,000 ! I do not begrudge these sellers their great luck; they stuck it out through horrible real estate times and some community dysfunction. Yet the result is that the new dwellings that will be built, or the condos that will be converted to, out of such huge buy prices are NOT going to be anywhere near affordable. They are going to be very, very pricey.

One answer that might mitigate the present real estate bubble would be to raise the wages of “affordable” families’ workers by at least 50 percent if not more. And why should not a merchandiser, an airport worker, a hotel room keeper, an office attendant, waiter, cook, or outreach worker earn more than $ 16 to $ 19 an hour ? In Boston that level of wage requires families to double up in order to pay even a minimum rent — and many families are doing exactly that. Granted that $ 16 to $ 19 an hour is a lot higher than people were earning as recently as six years ago; yet rents and buy prices have risen much more in those six years than wages. So where are the candidates who call for a $ 21/hour minimum wage ? Nowhere that I can find, at least not among those who have any chance of winning. And I understand why. Candidates for office today must raise a ton of money. An at-large Council race costs at least $ 200,000; a Mayor candidate needs about twelve times as much., Where to get such money if not from the business community, which views an enormous line worker wage as economic collapse.

As for the so-called “housing crisis,” what is it, really, but a debt crisis ? 60 years ago, homes sold for $ 12,00 to $ 20,000. Buyers took a mortgage for 80 percent of the purchase price nd put down the other 20 percent. Those mortgages were issued by a community bank with which one had a personal relationship. Banks kept, their mortgages; there was no such thing as “selling a mortgage in the secondary market.” Owners paid off their mortgages and owned their house outright. Payoff day used to be a big day in those days ! I well recall my own parents;’ payoff day. We celebrated !

But now what ? You buy a $ 700,000 house putting down maybe five percent — $ 35,000 — if you have a 720 credit score (If you have a lesser score, you’re screwed) and the remaining $ 665,000 is borrowed, maybe in two mortgages. Guess who profits from that borrower borrowing $ 665,000 ? Not the borrower, that’s for sure. Lose her job and foreclosure awaits; and so she is at the mercy of her boss, whose “evaluation” of her job performance spells the difference between making a $ 4000 mortgage payment and…not making it. Then who DOES profit from the debt indenturing of thousands of borrowers of overpriced buys ? You might say the lending bank: but you would be mostly wrong. Yes, that bank gets an “origination fee”; and maybe some interest, but as soon as at the very closing, that $ 665,000 mortgage is sold to an “investor” — usually a hedge fund or pension fund or even a huge commercial bank, which then bundles it with 10,000 similar mortgages and submits them to trading in the bond and stock market, where “sovereign wealth” funds owned by Mideastern sheiks (including the murderous MBS) and similar autocrats can bank some arbitrage or finance some weapons purchases for terrorists, or perhaps fund a few Chinese and Indonesian sweatshops.

Nice going, America.

Thus we see that the “housing crisis” is, as I said, a debt crisis. Of course those who were lucky enough to own a home from 1990 or earlier can now sell out at a vast price and receive actual cash money. But what of the buyers today ? What do they get after paying $ 875,000 for a fairly decent 1960’s house in the City but decades of debt — mortgages are no longer twenty years, they’re 30 or even 40 years — a working lifetime — lashing them to a career which had better not fall afoul of a bad business or employment event. No wonder that linkedin is filled with people who are “open to work” seeking this bureaucratic “job” or that “good fit.”

Given the indentured life of $ 665,000 mortgage borrowers, it’s no wonder that they have little understanding of the freedom that America used to mean : because in the truest sense, they are NOT free. Not free and likely won’t BE until they’re 70 years old.

In addition to a debt crisis, we have an employment crisis. Linkedin is filled — as is indeed — with paper pushing, Microsoft Office-requiring, “jobs” which produce nothing, not even actual service, but which do satisfy “:equity and inclusion” politics or university pig-lipstick; human resource staffs policing sexual conduct in the office and overseeing speech; online application magicians who post corporate aerosol out to potential customers, etc. Naturally, the majority of such instagram influencers, corporate gaslighters, and internal affairs spies want to live as close to their paychecks’ gleaming skyscraper as possible, right ? Because a 75 hour work week makes commuting to a suburb or exurb hell to pay.

Meanwhile, actual skill jobs go socially unappreciated, and in any case, most such workers don’t live in Titanic City.

The candidate for Mayor who I am supporting, Annissa Essaibi George, says this about housing in her current hand-out card : “

Make it possible for everyone to call Boston home. Annissa will create better pathways to homeownership, relieve pressure in the market that lead to higher rents, and build more affordable housing.”

I love Annissa; I think she has a more masterful, realistic handle on Boston’s big issues than any others who sought this year to be Mayor. Yet I can’t see any way that even her very measured statement can do what it seeks and many ways in which it will worsen the problem. I think the pathways to ownership of which she seeks are very few; that there is no way to relieve the rental; pressure; and that building more “affordable” housing is a paradox at best. And if Boston’s most realistic current candidate has good words but no real answer, how worse the blather and doodle-bugging one reads from her rivals and from various City Councillors and would-be’s.

We are lashed to the masts of economic prosperity as tightly as Ahab was lashed to his Moby Dick obsession. Ahab at least had Starbuck to warn him; who is warning us ? The future of our Pequod at sea is as a high-income playpen and 75 hour work weeks serviced by a host of helots living sardine-packed while the playpenners bask in amenity heaven where a $ 5,000 rent or a $ 4,000 mortgage is no problem at all because all the money in the City economy goes to those who can parse the technology systems and to those who educate them, care for their health, and invest their 401(k)s.

And I am Ishmael.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

THE END OF MODERN CONSERVATISM… AND OF MUCH MORE

Liz and Adam

Governments, no matter how beneficial or enlightened, do end. So do the intellectual movements that underwrite such governments. Thus we see, in today’s America, that modern conservatism, a theory of government which arose largely from the writings of the late William Buckley, has reached its end. Limited government; personal liberties; low taxation and a reluctance to borrow upon the credit of the national treasury; an interventionist foreign policy based upon opposition to communism — all these have lost their hold upon the advocates, donors, and political parties which helped make the America of the past 50 years what it was.

Recently we have taken to naming this political stance “principled conservatism.” Which implies that the movements that now profess to be “conservative” are un-principled. This is a mistake. Today’s “conservatives” are fully committed to a principle : the end of our Constitution and of the liberal democracy which it details. Consider what the current Republican faction insist upon every day : ( 1 ) insurrection and sedition ( 2 ) falsehoods about elections ( 3 ) overturning election results if they go against the Republicans ( 4 ) an end to the separation of church and State guaranteed in the First Amendment ( 5 ) an end to free speech guarantees in said Amendment ( 6 ) an end to the equal protection and due process guarantees in the Fourteenth Amendment ( 7 ) isolationism ( 8 ) the President as absolute monarch and the un-personing if all who do not swear him a loyalty oath ( 8 ) Presidential control of the Federal Courts ( 9 ) disinformation via Republican-minded media ( 10 ) the application of vigilantism, including bullying of voters and harassment of officials, to enforce its agenda and ( 11 ) a love of death by whatever means those who support the Constitution do not support.

Nothing political could be less like principled, modern conservatism than these. The current Republican faction is a radical, illiberal, sometimes fascist, sometimes obscurantist, often delusional, bone-sawed hallucination funded by cynical money men and women who bamboozle working class supporters and foment a political epidemic in the course of which they can free their money purposes from regulation, oversight, and consequence.

We like to think that Trump made this happen, but that too is a mistake. He gave it permission, and has since then played up to it and allowed it to think itself good and right; and he has shown his troupe the ways to destroy; but the impulses were there already. They harken back to long traditions in American life — minority positions always., but of long persistence. All of the actual agendas espoused by today’s illiberals have made the scene many times : in 1787, against ratification of the Constitution; in 1794, the whiskey rebellion; after the Civil Wart, in Jim Crow laws and lynchings; many occasions when immigrants were hounded, harassed, and even murdered;. after World war I and II, in “red scares”; before World war II, the existence of Nazi sympathizers and anti-semites (these led by Father Coughlin and Gerald L K Smith); and for two decades, from 1894 to 1914, the William Jennings Bryan movement, which was racist, religiously intolerant, rural, and economically populist.

What was NOT present, however, in any of these movements, was ( 1 ) a willingness to resort to sedition. 1787’s anti-Constitution people, who might have led a rebellion, instead accepted the ratification; ( 2 ) movements led by liars broadcasting disinformation and fake bugotry ( 3 ) a readiness to chose death over public safety.

The utter falsity of the present illiberalism is scary. A political refusal to accept what is, is absolutely lethal to any kind of ratio0nal government. That today lies and falsity direct the politics of a major political party is a novel phenomenon for our natioin, one whose consequences will likely be fatal to our 234 years of rational governance.

And what of the Democratic party ? For decades beginning with the rise of Woodrow Wilson, it stood for utilitarian reforms that would make the Constitution’s guarantees more available and supported. All of the great democratic reforms since 1912 owe their enactments to Democrats (and, to be fair, to the reformist segment of the old Republican party as well). All of these reforms were achieved by legislative compromise, some of them rapid, some not so rapid, but in every case the consequence of deliberation and campaigning. Which is not to say that they were not accompanied by sometimes outrageous street actions — the antics of some suffragettes cannot be forgotten. Nor were the victories of labor won without violence. Yet if at street level the great reforms of 1913-1968 were often occasion for civil disobedience, often painful, in the halls of Congress, legislation was debated, crafted, redrafted, and enacted in the manner accorded by our Coinstitution as practiced.

Today that is less and less the case. The Democratic party has responded poorly to the current Republican menace. It is off balance at best. It can’t decide whether to become as cultish as the Republicans or to remain Constitutional. Much of its working class base has left the tent. The Democrats of today are, more and more every month, led by outlandish ultras who want it all and want it now; by mega-rich, technology donors and corporate human resource zealots; by academics who have turned universities into inquisitions; by racially obsessed biology nuts who divide the electorate into skin color or ethnic origin apartheids; and by consultants and campaign managers who have intentionally excised a huge part of the nation’s registered voters from their campaign lists. I have some advice for the Democrats : elections are won by addition, not subtraction. An act-blue campaign only to a “vote builder”: voterfile list is by definition a vote suppression, an oligarchic structure.

By campaigning thus, the current Democratic party is sticking its head in the Republican lion’s mouth, doing exactly to the voters what the Republicans want Democrats to do and verifying, for Republican voters, all the lies that Republican manipulators tell their voters about the other party and its activists. If that were all, it would be scary enough. There is more, however. Today’s Democratic party has almost given up on the deliberative Congressional process and on the independence of our Federal Courts. The party is dangerously close to trying to impose its priorities rather than negotiate them, to seek tinkering with the Constitution rather than accepting its skeptical, centuries-wise limitations. Nor should this surprise us. just as the Democrats’ academics and administrators tell students (and professors) what to think, say, and learn, and just as the party’s corporate managers tell employee what to think and say (much of it being skin-color and national origin diktats), so these same folks see no reason why in the political sphere they should not impose rather than discuss with their opponents. Nor is the Constitution any precept to them; after all, the Democrats’ favorite academics and advocates consider the Constitution illegitimate because crafted by slave holders in defense of slavery. Indeed, some Democratic zealots consider the entire history of our nation illegitimate.

The Democratic party hasn’t slid as far down the slope to illiberal as its political opposite — after all, Joe Biden is President, not AOC — but the clock is ticking. If the modern conservative movement is already dead, the modern liberal movement is maybe two election cycles away. All of the great Democratic leaders — Hoyer, Clyburn, Pelosi, Schumer — are 80 years old or almost. They have no successors. We are watching the constitutional Democratic party move into death’s waiting room.

We are so screwed.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON’S SCHOOLS MUST BE DRASTICALLY REFORMED

Brenda-Cassellius

A recent report by the State’s Department of Education makes clear that Boston’s Public School system isn’t doing the job. Of course this is not news. Boston’s schools administration has failed across the board for decades. Its finances are a hot mess. Its school performance varies from superb to unacceptable. It follows a busing order, almost 50 years old, that no longer relates at all to present residential facts. It maintains facility capacity, at needless cost, for 92,000 students when barely 54,000 are enrolled. Principals cannot choose their own staff. The exam schools have just adopted a racial quota admission rule that reminds one of 1950s apartheid in South Africa. Lack of trade and technology curriculum remains a problem. School bus timeliness seems hard to secure. The safety of school lunches has sometimes been questioned. Three years ago, the system was fined about $ 1,800,000 by the IRs for filing its reports late or not at all. Some members of the appointed school committee have succumbed to racial gossip.

I’d better stop right here before this column is reduced to a list.

So what, then, are we to do about a system that for fiscal 2021 eats up $ 1,250,000,000 of taxpayer’s money — one third of Boston’s entire City budget ? $ 135,000,000 of which is allocated to “transportation” ? About $ 15,000,000 to pay the salaries of system teachers who have no assignment because no principal will have them ? Maybe $ 20,000,000 in unnecessary maintenance costs for vastly under-utilized buildings ?

Why do we continue to hire superintendents from out of town who then pass through a rapidly. revolving door as their inability to manage a system out of sync becomes too obvious to be glossed away ? Is there no one in Boston schools administration who can do the job — who knows the failures first hand and can crack the whip of radical reform ?

Why did Mayor Walsh not reappoint John McDonough, who as interim superintendent from 2012 to 2015 had begun the reform process before system failures became this publicly scandalous ?

But enough questions and accusations. Below I set forth the radical reforms I beg us to consider urgent and to get busy at making it so :

( 1 ) change the City charter to institute a mostly elected school committee, of 13 members, eleven elected by district and two appointed by the Mayor. Parents MUST be brought in to school decision making. As voters, parents will have a direct say by electing whom they will. The same goes for taxpayers who foot the bill even if their own kids attend private schools or are homeschooled. As for the Districts, they should NOT be co-extensive with our City Council Districts, to prevent, or at least lessen, the rise of political rivalry. (My own suggestion is that we use the current busing assignment districts, electing five members from the large district, four from the next one in size, and two from the small district.)

( 2 ) divide the system into those three election districts, with a superintendent for each and a budget for each. Each District would be separately managed and would be required by the State to compete with each other on performance standards monitored by the state through the Mayor’s two appointed members. As separate districts, the central administrative staff would be reduced accordingly.

( 3 ) enact a City ordinance that the school principals in each District have hiring and firing power for ALL of their staff.

( 4 ) Each District budget will be separately subject to annual approval by the Mayor.

( 5 ) Establish parent-teacher associations, thus reviving the institutions which crucially oversaw and directed the operation of schools prior to 1974 and had the full confidence of the city’s voters, teachers and taxapers.

( 6 ) The exam schools will not be subject to any of the three district superintendents but will be operated and regulated directly by the mayor through his Education Advisor and staff. The ONLY schools issue on which the City’s most important elected official is accountable will thus be the success or not success of the City’s most sought-after schools. The exam schools will also have a separate budget overseen by the Mayor’s city comptroller, subject to approval by the Council. (the budgets for the three districts would not be subject to Council approval, as is the case in most Massachusetts communities, where school committees have budget autonomy.) As for exam standards, test scores shall be the ultimate arbiter of admission, but the school’s managers shall have discretion to consider the neighborhood status of a student seeking admission.

( 7 ) the City’s teachers union will bargain with each District Committee separately.

( 8 ) Budget performance will be overseen by the Boston Finance Commission and appropriate legislation shall be filed and enacted. These annual reports shall be published prominently in the City’s newspaper of record and on the City’s website in a separately accessible file.

( 9 ) End the 1974 busing order and the transportation if students all over the City. Boston’s students must be able to attired school with their neighbors.

In no way does the above list exhaust suggestions for major reform. Nonetheless, these certainly generate discussion and set the parameters of what can be devised to attack head on and utterly the comprehensive irrelevancy of much BPS administration, performance, and purposing. Nothing by way of reform should be off the table when we tackle 50 years of maladministration and misdirection. If we are to have a taxpayer-paid school system at all, we owe it to those taxpayers — and to school parents, potential school parents, and all students –to do the best we can and not ever again settle for a mish-mash inside a Rube Goldberg on behalf of kicking 1,000 inconvenient cans down the road.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere