3RD CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT : MEEHAN OUT, RICK GREEN IN

Donoghue

^ 3rd District leading contender right now : State Senator Eileen Donoghue

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The announcement by Ellen Murphy Meehan that she will not be a candidate for Congress has blown the entire race into small bits. Meehan was, by my reckoning, clearly the consensus favorite : former wife (and still good friend) of former Congressman Marty Meehan, with a base in Lowell, the city upon which the 3rd District centers, plenty of money to do the campaign the right way : she had it all.

State Senator Eileen Donoghue, who represents Lowell and towns west, now becomes the clear favorite. She was a Lowell City Councillor and then its Mayor before winning the city’s State Senate seat. Probably not even Meehan can match Donoghue’s reach at street level in Lowell. The only issue she faces personally is that at age 63 she comes late to a Congress seat in a state that usually elects Congress people for life.

Yet Lowell is not promised to Donoghue. It appears that a Meehan connected Lowell area candidate, Chelmsford resident Kathleen Trahan, will also enter the lists. Meanwhile Lawrence’s State Senator, Barbara L’Italien — who at age 56 isn’t exactly young politically — currently has that city, almost as large a vote as Lowell to herself. There has been talk of another Lawrence candidate getting into the contest, one with significant appeal in and around the city; but that candidacy has yet to materialize, leaving L’Italien to command the District’s second largest block of votes.

I am inclined to restrict the “top tier” to these two, Donoghue and L’Italien. Daniel Artrigg Koh, whom I know personally from his Boston work as Mayor Walsh’s chief of staff, has yet to demonstrate to me how he, rather than the two State Senators, can marshal many votes. Mayor Walsh has endorsed Koh, of course; but Boston is 25 miles from the District’s edge and 60 miles from its western communities. Koh is going to need local support, but whose ? He lives in Andover, a large town: but Andover is also part of Barbara L’Italien’s Senate District.

Then there’s Steve Kerrigan, who impressed many as Martha Coakley’s Lieutenant Governor campaign in 2014. I was hardly the only observer who thought that he, not Coakley, should have been the Democratic Party’s Governor candidate. (Note : I say that even though I am fully a member of Governor Baker’s team.) Kerrigan has the connections and probably the money to mount a big campaign, and he likely has an attractive message as a moderate progressive. Yet he lives in Lancaster, a small town near the western edge of the District, and in Massachusetts — where our 351 towns and cities retain a strong local impact that hasn’t changed much since the 1787 Constitution Ratification convention — a race like this one tends to be first of all a matter of where you are from. Kerrigan rises above his Lancaster location only if some issue that he can credibly speak for overrides locational considerations. I have no idea right now what such issue could be. Perhaps I have overlooked stuff, but as of today I cannot see much issues disagreement between the major candidates.

Thus right now I count Eileen Donoghue and Barbara L’Italien first and second — each with about 22,000 votes in hand — and Steve Kerrigan third at 15,000; Kathleen Trahan, if she gets into the race, at 14,000, and Daniel, Koh at 9,000. That’s 82,000 votes, which leaves maybe 40,000 votes unaccounted for (a primary turnout of 122,000 seems a good bet). Who will they go for ? Possibly other candidates — a State Representative or two, maybe. Will Methuen’s Dian DiZoglio run ? Might Rady Mom from Lowell ? We might also see former legislators enter the race: there are two prior Lowell state Senators in the stands and one from the Lawrence area, as well as former Mayors.

So far I have said nothing about Republicans. There is now a credible Republican, auto parts executive Rick Green of Pepperrell. Green chaired John Kasich’s campaign here in Massachusetts, and there is hardly a single Presidential connection more admirable right now than John Kasich. If Green campaigns on a Kasich platform — full bipartisanship in Congress, unwavering support for DACA kids, reform (but not repeal) of Obamacare — he can appeal to a clear majority of voters in our State’s most Republican-inclined Congressional District. He also has the money to make his voice heard District-wide and in depth. He is part of the Baker majority of the local GOP and has the support of its major fund-raisers and activists.

If the Democratic primary becomes nasty, even slightly, or if it veers too far to the basal left, Green can win. You might not think that any Republican has a chance to win a “blue” seat in the age of President Trump, but (1) Trump’s go-it-alone ways have made the Republican party look good in comparison, and (2) Green, as a Kasich guy, epitomizes the GOP’s good look.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

A COMPLICATED ROAD FOR DACA KIDS

DACA

The President’s forthcoming decision, which appears to end the “DACA” program in six  months, forces an issue that shouldn’t be an issue at all but is one because Congress failed to enact legislation when it had the chance seven years ago. So what does our nation do now ?

Hopefully, Congress enacts the provisions of President Obama’s Executive Order, or a close approximation, into law.

Thus the first question : what Is “DACA” ? I reprint this from the University of California’s website :

“Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a kind of administrative relief from deportation. The purpose of DACA is to protect eligible immigrant youth who came to the United States when they were children from deportation. DACA gives young undocumented immigrants: 1) protection from deportation, and 2) a work permit. The program expires after two years, subject to renewal.”

It is said that the “DACA” rule affects 800,000 kids, but the actual number may be

much larger, as many eligibles probably decided not to “come out of the shadows.” The

President’s likely decision affects them, too.

The six month window presents Congress with time to do what it so far has failed to do :

enact the rule into law. It was one thing for Congress to defer when the Rule was fully in

place; nothing would go wrong meanwhile. Not so now. Plenty will go wrong if Congress

cannot act.

Why are we at this juncture ? Here’s my take :

The President is right that the DACA Rule should not rely on executive order, because

such purely administrative act and can be changed, or abandoned, depending on the

whim of whoever occupies the office of President. “DACA” kids deserve greater security

than that.  Worse, the State of Texas contests the rule’s legality, and as it appears to make

law, which by Article 2 of the Constitution, the President cannot do, it is likely to be

overturned by Federal Courts.

We’re also here because the issue divides President Trump’s base. No politician wants

that, not even a miserable one like Mr. Trump. . Whereas his nativist/nationalist

supporters want all immigrants gone, his Evangelical supporters have never seen

immigration as a negative; indeed, as manyimmigrants from the south of us are

evangelicals themselves, many Evangelicalcongregations support their being in America.

In my opinion, it’s this factor that haspressured Mr. Trump to avoid saying Yes or No and

to give the issue to Congress.

Meanwhile, as many have pointed out, all “DACA” kids who entered the program freely

gave the Federal government all of their relevant personal information, assured by its

Rule that these could never be used against them. Very likely the Fifth Amendment to the

Constitution supports this outcome, but why should 800,000 “DACA” kids have to take

that chance ?

Lastly, the “DACA” kids enjoy overwhelming support from the voters, including a strong

majority of Republicans. Why shouldn’t they ? “DACA” kids were brought here as very

young children, not by their own decision. Why should they now have to suffer for

moves made for them by others ? Especially when their record as residents is exemplary,

even heroic.

“DACA” kids should have their residency in America legalized as fully as Congress can

agree to. The bare minimum would  seem to be this : a path to citizenship within at

most ten additional years, and, in the menatime, continuation of their current status as

legal applicants for deferred deportation action on a two year basis.

Let’s do this. We must do it. We CAN do it. A nationwide, full-tilt lobbying effort, by

business above all, may be needed, and probably is needed, to overcome the objections

of anti-immigrant factions in Congress; and of course business would rather not have to

undertake such an extended pensive lobbying effort when it has so many other priorities

on offer, including tax reform. But I don’t think business has a choice. It successfully

deflected “bathroom bills” and all sorts of other discriminations against LGBT people. It

can and should do the same for “DACA” kids. Like the LGBT people who business

supports, “DACA” kids too are customers, employees, and more.

 

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

THE “AFFORDABLE HOUSING” PARADOX

^ ugly and hasty and nowhere near enough : new housing construction in Boston

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Every politician in Boston today wants the City to enable “affordable housing.” Wouldn’t we all ? Nobody I know wants to pay 50 percent of her income for rent. We’d all want to find an apartment with a rent of, say, $ 1,200 a month. Why not $ 800 ? After all, an apartment isn’t a golden Cadillac, it’s just space into which we can snuggle and relax. No big deal. Why not then ?

Let us take a look at “affordable” and its curiosity :

Boston would be very “affordable” if we could cancel the building boom, evict all the businesses that have located here, and go back to the 1970s, in which the downtown, and the close-in neighborhoods of our City attracted nobody and nothing. Those who lived in South Boston, Charlestown, East Boston and even the North End, 45 years ago, paid very little rent, or paid very small amounts to purchase. Incomes were much smaller then, to be sure, but rents and sale prices were many times smaller. Paying 12 percent of one’s income was standard for rents, and homes cost less than one year’s income. Houses cost so little — and hardly ever came onto the market — because almost everyone wanted to move to the suburbs, and almost no one wanted to move into the city. Why so ? Crime mobs controlled many neighborhoods, jobs were for life — which meant that newcomers could not break in — and those who owned houses rarely renovated them because they couldn’t recoup the cost of doing so. No wonder that by the late 1980s vacant lots abounded; that many decayed dwellings had been condemned and eventually demolished.

The laws of economics cannot be evaded. If people want something — want more of it than exists — the price of it goes up. Boston in the 1970s tried to dent the first blip of rising house prices by installing rent control. All that did was to displace value, not abate it. Landlords stopped repairing apartments whose rents could only be raised a little at a time — and that only with the City’s permission — and more than one rent control tenant rented out a room or two for more money than she was paying in rent. Eventually the City had no choice but no end rent control, and the legislature made it illegal statewide.

That was the beginning of economic acceptance, and of the City’s attraction as a place to move into.

So much for the curious facts of property economics. We are NOT going back to funky, dilapidated Boston into which no one wanted to move. Rents are not going to backslide any time soon, and house prices aren’t headed for the dustbin either. $ 600,000 to $ 800,000 is now the standard for purchasing a home in the close neighborhoods to downtown, and few condominium units can be bought for less $ 400,000. You’ll pay $ 2,100 to $ 3,000 a month to rent a two-bedroom apartment, and in some cases, more. I doubt these prices will rise much higher — they’ve already priced more than two thirds of families out; our medium, family income is about $ 44,700, and to afford a $ 2,500 a month rent you ought to be earning about $ 90,000 — but they aren’t headed downward much either. Meanwhile, Mayor Walsh wants the City to have 53,000 units of new housing by the year 2030, and his Planning and Development authority, which oversees all new construction, is approving almost every proposal submitted to it.

Into most residential proposals is built the City’s “affordability covenant,” by which ordinance a development of more than a few units must set aside a particular percentage of those units at a price determined to be “affordable” the other units can be offered at “market rate”). (You can read the City’s Affordablity Rules and income restriction guidelines here : http://www.bostonplans.org/getattachment/91c30f77-6836-43f9-85b9-f0ad73df9f7c )

It’s a useful policy, but the need for housing that costs twenty to forty percent less than market — as indicated by the median income figures that I identified earlier in this article — is far more widespread than the affordability number required by the City of its 53,000 unit plan. So what can we do ?

Actually, there are four means that might help:

First : why not adopt the $ 15.00 an hour minimum wage that some progressives have proposed ? Minimum wage workers perforce require affordable housing. Increasing their paychecks by 30 percent would enable them to pay the current rents in most Boston neighborhoods without having to live five to seven adults to an apartment, as is common in many bull market-impacted pars of the city.

Second : build more so-called “micro” units : very small apartments, good for single people — of which there are a great many, come into Boston to work in our booming technology industry — and rentable at $ 1,200.00 or some such.

Third, require universities based in Boston to build dormitories, thereby removing from the ordinary rental market many thousands of students who now compete with regular residents for scarce Boston living space.

Fourth, apply City occupancy and zoning ;laws to prevent the purchase by investors of residential buildings for air bnb rentals and such like.

Every one of these suggestions generates its own difficulties. Still, these can be met, and it is not acceptable to do nothing because actions to mitigate the high costs of housing have consequences. Activists and policy makers are already working the last three of my four suggestions. Why not also the minimum income rise ? Yes, it may generate difficulties for marginal businesses, and the other three moves may create logjams at college budgets, zoning and occupancy administrators, and construction projects. Yet I think our City has the authority and our people have the ingenuity to find ways around the obstacles posed by too high housing costs. There might even be ways other than those I have listed, and these might surpass the effectiveness of my list. Why not propose some ?

We want the current economic boom to continue. People want to live here, work here, shop here and socialize here, innovate here and produce here. These are good things. They’re why cities exist at all. Yet no one can sit on the laurels of a vibrant city. Always the city pushes us to keep moving, and moving faster than the difficulties which, if we do not move fast, can set us back to the dark ages of funk, dilapidation, and silence.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

 

CIVIL RIGHTS FOR ALL

Texas

^ defending the Constitution’s guarantee of civil rights for everyone : Texas small business significantly helped to defeat a proposed transgender discrimination bill

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What is so controversial about saying the words of today’s headline ? “Civil rights for all” seems to me the most basic social commitment that our nation has made, the bedrock of our Constitution. We fought a civil war, in which some 600,000 of our forbears died, to ensure that civil rights for all would never be questioned :

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

So speaks Section 1 of the great 14th Amendment, in which we the people committed every state in the Union to abide by the commitments made in the 1790s by the Federal government.

Therefrom derives all the sweeping enactments that protect all manner of voting rights, forbid discrimination by any entity that does business with the public, ensure public respect for all people.

That should be an end to the matter. To question the principle is to question the Constitution itself, to disapprove of the nation that it has created. Those who do not accept that all should have civil rights should admit that they do not support the Comnstitution, do not accept the social compact that we are all charged with accepting.

There are many countries where those who do not approve of our Constitution can practice their exclusions; .the United Stares is not one of them. As for those who take the oath of office, their non-acceptance of the pact that they swear to uphold and defend betray their sacred word. They are free to enjoy the favoritisms adduced by nations that do not accept the equality of all, but they should never be allowed to continue in an office whose oath they lie to.

So much for them. I wish now to speak of the matter at hand : civil rights for all. There can be no grounds whatsoever for abating a person’s basic civil rights other than conviction of a crime the penalty for which is imprisonment. In Massachusetts, by our state Constitution, all residents and all visitors are guaranteed basic civil rights: please note that immigrants without papers are not excluded. I fail to see how our Commonwealth’s daily life has suffered in the slightest thereby. If anything, our sweeping guarantee promotes the economic life of Massachusetts.

This is the surprising message, i think, in “civil rights for all.” It’s good for business. have no doubt at all, that “business progressivism” is the bedrock of social justice and government reform. We’ve seen “business progressivism” at work in Indiana in 2015 and recently in North Carolina and Texas, where legislators attempted to restrict the civil rights of LGBT people on the basis of ‘sincerely held religious belief.” Certainly many many activists other than those in business helped turn back these attempts, but business was prominent in the lead . After all, business means the economy, and the economy means all of us. Whoever we may be.

N o business wants to operate in a jurisdiction where its employees do not feel safe or respected, and where its customer base can be restricted. Large businesses care about their nationwide reputation, and if they accept the discriminations of one jurisdiction, they send an immoral message to potential customers in other jurisdictions. No business wants to do that.

I rest my case.

Every immigrant who is deported by the administration in Washington is one less customer for our businesses, and in many cases, one less entrepreneur. The persecution of paperless immigrants is bad for business.

Business progressivism funds and promotes the cause of civil rights for all, wherever that cause needs promotion. Our Constitution was created by a merchant class, and it has always expanded its commitments when business insists upon it. Businesses owe the society at large a large moral duty — and business as we know it was first enabled by religiously motivated urban enterprisers as focused on morals as on profit. The two go together, and our Constitution remains the finest achievement of economic moralists.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

COUNCIL DISTRICT 1 : DEBATE REPORT BY MARY BERNINGER

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^ the three Council District 1 candidates : Lydia Edwards, Margaret Farmer, Stephen Passacantilli
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TO ALL OUR READERS : We are pleased to reprint the following report made on facebook by Here and Sphere reader Mary Berninger, an activist in East Boston who is both well informed about political happenings and knowledgeable of campaigns.

Last night’s debate, organized and facilitated by the Harbor View Neighborhood Association, was well run and informative.

To begin, each candidate was given time for personal remarks. Those comments gave a sense of how they approach public service. Lydia Edwards (LE) focused on her path of service and record of advocacy. Margaret Farmer (MF) detailed her community-based volunteerism and the need for the city to “plan for changes.” Stephen Passacantilli (SP) referenced his “passion for public service” that began after he reached a turning point in his life and he felt that the councilor position is about helping people who are down and out.

The “tough questions,” as they were described by moderators, began the Q&A portion of the event. Each candidate was given one “tough question” and there was time allowed for the others to speak briefly to questions posed to their opponents. As referenced in an earlier post, SP was asked to weigh in on his OCPF filings, specifically the perception that he has accepted donations from developers and others involved in the building boom in the district. He felt that there are 200 or more donations under $100.00 from people in the district, too. Acknowledging the $1000.00 donations from others, he wanted the gathering to know those donors “can’t buy” him because his integrity means a great deal to him. He explained that he has helped abutters and neighborhorhood groups go against developers. His final comment in that segment was “I’m fiesty and don’t let people push me around.” (LE responded that the issues of the campaign should be the focus.)

LE was asked about her position on the the Jim Brooks Stabilization Act in light of her being appointed to the Housing Department of the City of Boston by Mayor Walsh. It was interesting that she acknowledged that she is a homeowner and it is for her retirement, which is a stance taken by many in this community who have sold their homes to others or to developers. LE is concerned with speculative land and property owners and she worked to tell tenants their rights. She advocated for a “balanced approach to housing.” (MF stated our neighborhood is in danger due to Airbnb and large luxury development. “We need more workforce development.) (SP felt fortunate to rent from a family member; doesn’t support Jim Brooks Stabilization Act and not a fan of Airbnb.)

MF’s tough question from Mr. Marcella was more of a statement, i.e., that her Jefferies Point neighborhood was ground zero for large development and no city hall experience made her the least qualified candidate. Her answer was pointed and direct: she has worked with the community and neighbors, with no pay, to push city departments to do their jobs. She stated she knows she doesn’t have the special connections, but she doesn’t owe anyone anything (in city hall.) MF offered an example of her advocacy for East Boston: The city doesn’t tow cars in Charlestown for street cleaning, why do East Boston cars get towed? She suggested that a $90.00 ticket was a better idea to get residents to see the need for street cleaning and to move their cars. (SP: feels he can get things done and can help people navigate city hall.) (LE: worried that the people who planned the tunnel situation will be planning the ferries. Instead of hearings, she will have listening sessions.)

Next came the questions written by audience members. These are some of the responses to a mix of questions.

SP: Development in East Boston is out of control.

LE: City Hall should be giving free legal advice to small business owners.

MF: Wants to create a working harbor ferry system that will move people, not cars.

SP: Admitted he didn’t know a great deal about Massport issues. Felt City Hall lacked in the way Zoning Board of Appeals hearings, etc., are handled. “Pace of process” is too fast, in his opinion. He would revisit the timelines to give people time to prepare for their input to the ZBA. He would be more deliberative.

Closing statements were given by all three candidates.
MF: “We’re not preparing for change, (but) not against change.”

SP: Doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed as old Boston because he has worked at City Hall.

LE: Stated she is passionate about helping East Boston as a neighborhood within a city.

Mary Berninger / a loyal Here and Sphere reader

 

OF FREE SPEECH AND ITS CONSEQUENCES

winston churchill

^ freedom of speech includes the duty to accept being outraged

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We support the principle commonly referred to as free speech. As a publication devoted to opinion, including on controversial, political matters, it’s part of our mission to speak freely. That’s a given. Now it’s time to explain to you what we at Here and Sphere mean by “free speech.”

The phrase excerpts from the Constitution’s First Amendment, which includes the following : Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Few of us do not know these words. Most of us also know that the Fourteenth Amendment applies the First’s precepts (and others) to the States as well, so that no jurisdiction in our nation is permitted to abridge “the freedom of speech or of the press.”

The question then arises: “Granted that no governmental body in America can restrict freedom of speech or of the press, but what about private individuals, or corporations, or any other entity ? Can these abridge free speech ?” To which we say the following:

( 1 ) everyone is guaranteed the right to speak freely, or to publish to the public, whatever opinion he or she likes. It makes no d9iffrerence whether we who hear the speech or read the writing like what we hear or read. We may be offended by it : no matter. It may anger us : that too makes no difference. The answer to speech we do not like is to speak in  opposition.

( 2 ) we oppose all manner of abridgement of speaking or publishing freely. Those who seek to shut down a speech or condemn a publication cannot be allowed to do so. We can think of no exceptions other than the extremely limited ones set forth in libel law and slander — and such cases must be proved in a court of law — or incitement to a criminal act (and that incitement must be explicit, immediate, and intentional).

( 3 ) we oppose the concept of “safe spaces” by which an institution or organization accords certain people a zone within which no one is allowed to speak or publish matters which the space seeker finds offensive. People must accept that being offended is a regular part of living in a diverse society in which a multitude of competing opinions is said and printed.

Recently we have seen so-called “free speech rallies” organized by groups of people on the political far right who hold extremely unpopular opinions. I’m not convinced that the organizers’ purpose is to promote freedom of speech — more likely they seek to attract attention, from the media first of all — but their purpose does not matter. Their right to speak is fully protected, as is their right to assemble, to march, to carry flags and torches and to shout.

Our right to oppose such speech, marching, shouting, etc. is equally protected by the First Amendment and the 14th. We too can speak, march, carry flags and shout. What we CANNOT do — not can they — is to intimidate, threaten, or attack the speakers, etc. who we oppose. There has certain been some of that recently. We are not cool with any of that.

Far too often today the dishonest example of talk show radio dominates public speech. we must remember that talk show hosts say outrageous stuff, offensive stuff, to evoke a reaction and thus to increase their listenership and thereby generate ad revenue. The talk show shtick is nothing but a con, a money fraud induced by network owners who want their talk shows to become ever more outrageous because that is what generates the most ad dollars. But if these networks’ purpose is patent, the readiness of some to accept the stuff being said as truth, or as worthy for its own sake is as unworthy as it gets. Peopled must grasp that what is freely said or published is not true, or even half true, simply because it is said on the radio.

In other words, the freedom with which what is said is said has nothing at all to tell us about how true it is.

People are free to lie. The consequences of lying are, or should be, enormous : but these are social sanctions, not legal ones except in the case of false accusation.

I believe it was John Adams who said that the participatory democracy he and his fellows were creating required a morally disciplined, informed public if it was to live long. He was right. The freedom of speech is not only a right protected, it imposes on us  a duty, or, should I say, a host of duties : to restrain our passions; to defend our opponents’ rights; to deliberate — is what is being said to us true or worthy ? or not? — before we respond; to understand that our primary mission as speakers of free speech is to defend the right itself. Because what we speak freely is here and gone: but the right to speak it, freely and without fear of intimidation or sanction, is forever — is not merely about ourselves and what makes us feel good today.

The freedoms protected by the First Amendment and the 14th are personal to each one of us and at the same time universal to the nation as a whole, today, tomorrow, and into the future, to which we who speak and publish owe a responsibility that has a name of its own : citizenship.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here nad Sphere

 

A STATE REPRESENTATIVE LEAVES THE #MAGOP

101014-susannah-whipps-leejpg-2bd338fbfb2486dd

Yesterday, at precisely high noon, two hours before maximum solar eclipse, State Representative Susannah Whipps announced that she is leaving the Massachusetts Republican party.

She provided the following, very lengthy statement to me before announcing it publicly :

Whipps chooses “People Over Party”

2nd Franklin District Rep. Susannah Whipps of Athol has officially changed her voter registration from republican to unenrolled (independent).  “I represent a district where nearly 2/3 of the voters are unaffiliated with any major political party” explained Whipps.   Public records show that 65% of voters in the 2nd Franklin District are unenrolled, 22% are registered as members of the Democratic Party, and 12% are registered as members of the Republican Party. 

 “Serving as state representative while not affiliating with either major political party will allow me to more effectively utilize the relationships I have developed with the members and leadership on both sides of the aisle, and will allow me to better serve all of the people of my district, without the obligation of towing any particular party line,” Whipps continued.  “I want my party affiliation to reflect my position as an independent voice for the people of my district.”

The second-term representative, whose district includes Athol, Belchertown – precinct A, Erving, Gill, New Salem, Orange, Petersham, Phillipston, Royalston, Templeton, Warwick and Wendell, currently serves on the Joint Committee on Higher Education, the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use & Recovery, and has been a republican member of the House Ethics Committee.  “Leadership has the authority to change my committee assignments,” said Whipps, “however, I have requested to remain on the Higher Education Committee and the Mental Health, Substance Use & Recovery Committee, which is particularly relevant to me as it is a topic I feel very passionately about and is also very important and helpful to the people of my district.”
“I often say that the federal government could look at Massachusetts as a model, in regards to the way our legislature and state government operates,” said Whipps.

“That contrasts sharply with politics at the national level, where the current political atmosphere has become unpalatable for me and many other folks I know.  The once healthy, lively debate of issues has turned to almost constant partisan attacks.”  Whipps continued, “This is a decision that I have spent a great deal of time making.   I look forward to having the freedom to support colleagues and candidates regardless of their party affiliation, and I look forward to continuing to work hard for the great people of this district and the Commonwealth.”

Whipps spent some time reaching out to her neighboring colleagues as well as legislative and party leadership last week to make this transition as smooth and undisruptive as possible.   “I just want to do my job and that being said, I don’t intend to make any further comments on this change,” she said.  “The purpose of this change is to avoid partisan bickering and politics as usual, and accordingly I will not engage in any commentary that suggests blame, reaction to any particular person or incident, or anything other than professional growth and a desire to best align with and serve the people of my district.”

This is a huge loss for the Republican party in our state. Whipps has total electoral command of her district; her voting record is as uncompromising on civil rights issues as any legislator’s in this state — on women’s health care rights too. As she once commented on a facebook post (I am paraphrasing, I do not have her exact words at hand) : “you say the Republican party opposes big government, but until it gets out of the bedroom, stops telling people who they can and can’t love, and stops interfering with women’s health care rights, I say it is indeed a party of big government.”

BOOM.

Our state’s GOP needs voices like Whipps’s. Heck, the entire GOP nationally needs such voices. The Republican party must become, again, a voice of rational reform. Our politics need two such parties, because neither party has all the answers.

The GOP must cease being the party of vengeance; of undoing 130 years of social progress; of deconstruction; of fear and rage, directed at all sorts of Americans and soon to become Americans. Whipps’s leaving does not help that to happen.

Maybe the national GOP is too far gone to recover its historic mission ? Certainly the GOP’s brightest and most generous cadres are dropping their party enrollment with increas8ing frequency. They’ve have had enough of the madness, the political slapstick, the reactionary wastage.

In our state the GOP is so small that one elected legislator leaving it hurts plenty. There were only 35 in the House, six (6) in the Senate, in each case less than a quarter of all members. One less makes the party that palpably smaller.

The more minuscule our state’s GOP, the less important it becomes, no matter what this or that it happens to talk about. As Whipps shows, only one out of eight — 12 percent — of her District’s voters are Republican. Why should she have to fight a primary, against the usual brand of pissy zealot, in a primary that involves such a small portion of those she is responsible to ? When by running in the general — the November election — most likely in a three way race against a Republican and a Democrat, she almost cannot lose ? (An incumbent who can’t win a three-way race is either under indictment or dead.) And if the sentences I just wrote sound cold calculating, most facts are just that.

I feel sorry, nonetheless, for Whipps’s progressive GOP colleagues : in the House, Hannah Kane, Kim Ferguson, Sheila Harrington, Jim Kelcourse, Randy Hunt, David Muradian, Shawn Dooley, Paul Frost; in the Senate, Richard Ross. All voted “yes” on last year’s transgender civil rights bill, as did Whipps. These civil rights Republicans will miss their colleague.

Governor Baker, too, will need to work even harder. Though Whipps assures me she is solidly, “100 percent for Charlie” — and I know she is — Baker is trying to establish centrist reform as the #magop brand. It does not help his cause to lose a voice as importnat in that direction as Whipps’s.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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