^ proposing quarry reclamation laws : State Senator Mike Rush (in black sweater)

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Like a candidate seeking election, the West Roxbury Quarry held a kind of meet and greet last night at St. Stephen’s Church on Washington Street. Into the church’s downstairs meeting room, where posters for the parish’s AA meetings hang on the wall, two Quarry people — including Laura Lorusso Peterson, of the long-owning Lorusso family — spoke to members of the West Roxbury Civic association (with old friend Larry Boran at the head table) and took questions from about 75 people, standing room only.

The message : the Lorussos want to drill for another 20 years, and they want to fill the Quarry’s huge hole even as they continue to drill. And to fill it, so it seems, with dirt that many local residents consider contaminated, even if recently changed state regulations don’t.

The Quarry people talked reclamation; but local State Senator Mike Rush, hard as a cinder block, noted that “what I’m hearing isn’t about reclamation, it’s about extra operations.”

Was he right ? It wasn’t easy to tell. Most of the conversation was about fill ; lines of dump trucks trafficking Centre Street, unregulated fill, noise, dust, pedestrians at risk.

At this point State Representative Angelo Scaccia, elected from the District immediately to the Quarry’s east, entered the room and took his seat. Scaccia said not a word; his colleague Ed Coppinger, did the talking, Mike Rush and City Councillor Matt O’Malley too; both constantly nodded toward Scaccia as they spoke, as if seeking his blessing on the content of their conversations. (Perhaps justly, because Scaccia has sat in the House for over 40 years and has seen it all.)

Among the stuff Scaccia has seen all of is the Quarry. Noise from Quarry blasting has been an issue since both he and I had a full head of black hair. Dust from the quarry has been an issue that long too. An end to quarry operations has been spoken of since Bobby Orr played hockey. Yet the quarry does not end. It goes on. Today it commands a huge hole in the ground covering about 50 acres of what would have been prime West Roxbury land. If filled in — with dirt that doesn’t harbor chemical contraband — it would command huge money from housing developers who gladly pay $ 200,000 for a buildable house lot.

All of the above was mentioned with cold specificity by Steve Smith, of the West Roxbury Community Council.

Much else was said, with icy specificity, by people who face the Quarry up front : that the trees along Centre Street have all died of dust; that the blasting draws ever nearer to houses along its perimeter; that the Lorussos can’t be trusted because all of their previous promises haven’t been kept; and so on. Someone even suggested that there would be fill brought in from the Everett casino project, fill very contaminated indeed.

That was scary and raised all kinds of issues that none of the elected officials in the room chose to touch.


^ the Quarry’s Laura Lorusso Peterson meets and greets

Laura Lorusso Peterson offered to pay $ 50,000 a year to “the community” as mitigation. Some scoffed ; asked one man standing on the opposite side of the hall, “are we really ready to sell West Roxbury that cheaply ?”

Peterson offered a “90 day moratorium” on bringing in new fill. “We can bring in fill whenever we like,” she said, ‘but we don ‘t want to do that. We want to give the community a chance to work out an agreement with us.”


^ proposals to slow the fill : State Rep ed Coppinger and City Councillor Matt O’Malley

City Councillor Matt O’Malley wasn’t having it. “I’ve sponsored an amendment to our zoning code,’ he said, “All twelve of my colleagues have signed it. It will require that you seek community approval, then full neighborhood approval, then a zoning board of appeal hearing.” He then added : “i’m not trying to stop what you’re doing, just to assure a proper process.”

Many Americans complain of bureaucracy and red tape as it is, much less of new red tape. Not the people in the St Stephen’s room, however. This was a night to celebrate red tape.

Sensing the theme, Senator Rush took the floor to deliver an almost five minute speech on Massachusetts’s lack of laws governing quarry reclamation. He said that he would introduce extensive legislation to govern it and outlined his proposals. Applause was his, and more applause.

There was no mention in Rush’s speech of the taxpayer cost to hire people to monitor and enforce the new laws; but it sounded good, especially when Rush noted that “other states have quarry reclamation laws, so should we !”

As the cliche has it : “there oughta be a law.”

The meeting continued well past two hours long, but the theme of it was fully established in its first hour. There would be a new law, maybe or maybe not enforceable. City Zoning would acquire an additional layer of obstacle. The neighbors would continue to live with the Quarry, like it or not. New fill would be withheld for a time — but maybe not. And the blasting and drilling would continue for another twenty years.

And there would be a study committee formed.

Perhaps Angelo Scaccia summed it up best : “Michael, they talk fill, but they want to drill. This isn’t about reclamation at all. Same old.”

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


^ “impaired judgment” ? the 5th Suffolk’s Carlos Henriquez addressing the Massachusetts house during debate on expelling him

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Not very often do you see a Legislature vote to expel a member. It hasn’t happened in Massachusetts since the late 1970s, when State Senator Joseph DiCarlo was booted for taking bribes. I well remember that day. DiCarlo was a boisterous, dominant presence, the Senate’s majority leader. His crime was a felony, a high crime by any legislature’s definition. Expelling him was a big deal, a giant of politics crashing and burning.

In contrast, yesterdays 146 to 5 vote — to accept the House Ethics Committee’s unanimous resolution to expel the 5th Suffolk District’s Carlos Henriquez — seemed like small potatoes. Yes, his conviction on two misdemeanor counts of assault and battery on a woman was serious. He should have resigned. Had he any concern for the well-being of his 40,000 constituents, many of them needing a full-time legislative voice, he WOULD have resigned. Of this affair he has made many statements. He is innocent, he says — again and again. Not once has he grasped that that isn’t the point ; that the point is his 40,000 constituents. Not once, in his “I am innocent” statement on the floor of the house yesterday did he address a bigger picture. Indeed, he had the temerity to say that domestic violence is a serious crime and cannot be tolerated !

Having delivered this message, he then walked out of the House, an insult to every member and, I suppose, intended as such.

Debate on the Ethics Resolution — H. 3894 — lasted more than an hour. Speaker DeLeo, on whose complaint the Ethics Committee was acting — seemed ready to let his members speak as long as they liked. Several did. Most supported the committee recommendation, some sadly, a few angrily. Over the top was Malden’s Chris Fallon, who shouted his disapproval of domestic violence, very much the candidate — as he is — seeking a state Senate seat, the one vacated by newly elected Congresswowman Katherine Clark.


^ cogently arguing for censure, not expulsion : Russell Holmes of the 6th Suffolk District

Representative Russell Holmes, of the 6th Suffolk District bordering Henriquez’s 5th, offered an amendment to the Ethics Committee’s resolution. He asked that the House censure Henriquez, not expel him. Holmes’s amendment made two strong points : that with parole, Henriquez will be out of jail by mid April, well before a special election to replace him occurs; and that his crime did not explicitly violate the House Rules and thus could not warrant expulsion.


^ “this is a sad day for us all, i don;t enjoy this task at all” : Ethics Committee Acting  Chairman David Nangle of Lowell

The Ethics Committee’s finding, that Henriquez had violated Rule 16A, which addresses a member’s impaired judgment, did seem strained. Arguing the point, Reps. Garrett Bradley and David Nangle (acting Ethics Chairman) asserted that, being convicted of a crime of domestic violence, Henriquez’s ability to judge domestic violence legislation was impaired. Really ? if anything, his judgment on such legislation has probably become more acute. As for Henriquez being free of jail by mid-April, Bradley and Nangle argued that that was not the point; that Henriquez is quite free to seek re-election to his seat and to be allowed to take his seat if elected.

They’re right on this. It has happened in other legislatures, including Congress.

Yet even if the Ethics Committee’s Rule 16A argument stretched things, there was a general sense in the House that Henriquez no longer had any credibility to address domestic violence matters and that, by his continued insistence on innocence and not resigning, Henriquez had impaired his own judgment on the matter. Representative Ted Speliotis of Danvers voiced the feelings of many when he noted that, by walking out before the end of debate, Henriquez had insulted the “institution.”

No one, not even Russell Holmes, argued with the Ethics Committee’s finding that domestic violence is a serious matter and cannot be taken lightly by the House. Accepting this argument, the House now deems expulsion no longer limited to felonies; that a misdemeanor conviction of domestic violence is full grounds for expelling a member. As Representative Bradley said, “we’ve never faced this situation before, this is a case of first impression.”

But to return to Russell Holmes’s amendment : it was defeated with only 10 members voting “Yes.” Among the Yeas were Representatives Gloria Fox, Byron Rushing, Carl Sciortino, Denise Provost, Holmes himself, Benjamin Swan, John Rogers, and Angelo Scaccia.

Holmes himself said that Henriquez should have resigned. Little wonder that the actual expulsion vote was even more one sided. Voting not to expel were only Carl Sciortino, Denise Provost, Gloria Fox, Benjamin Swan and, after some hesitation, Holmes too.

A special election for the 5th Suffolk District has been called.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ Boston’s new Mayor : Marty Walsh of Dorchester

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Yesterday at about 10 pm the result was in : Marty Walsh is the new Mayor of Boston.

John Connolly conceded at about that time and, in his final speech to about 500 supporters at the Westin Hotel, said “I know Marty wants to do good things for Boston. He WILL do good things for Boston. He has my full support.”

And so the long campaign ended.

Unofficial City results give Walsh 72,514 votes to John Connolly’s 67,606. The margin of victory for Walsh was 3.49 % : a small margin but a telling one.

John Connolly won only the following :  the reform-minded “new Boston” Wards — 3, 4, 5, 9, and 21 plus Fort Hill (Ward 11, Precinct 1) and the Seaport Precinct in Ward 6 ; his home Wards 19 and 20; and his special, personal bastion in Charlestown (Ward 2). The City map of results suggests that he also won Ward 22. Everywhere else it was Walsh’s day.

Walsh won large in South Boston and huge in Dorchester, took about a 15 to 20 point majority in Wards 12 and 14, carried Wards 8, 10 and 11, held Connolly’s margin down in some parts of Roslindale west of Washington Street; and then defeated Connolly in the decisive Wards : very narrowly in East Boston (Ward 1 — by 3803 to Connolly’s 3739) and strongly in Hyde Park-Mattapan (ward 18). Walsh did especially well in the Readville part of ward 18, where Tom Menino lives but also Angelo Scaccia, the long-time State representative whose endorsement of Walsh may well have proved the most significant of all. Next most significant was surely the quiet blessing given to Walsh by Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, who won twice yesterday : he helped Walsh carry Ward 1 (albeit narrowly) and he now gets Walsh out of the House, where he has been a thorn in the side of the last two speakers.

This result is no surprise. it has been in the cards for three weeks at least.

Walsh won because :

1.he had almost unanimous support in his “traditional Irish” base

2.vast money and people support from Labor (although not from all Unions; Local 103 stayed neutral)

3.even vaster national Labor PAC support in money

4.endorsements by three of the Primary season’s major mayoral candidates — all of them of color, and thus significant to the City’s voters of color; but also all of them tremendously beholden to labor unions, SEIU 1199 especially. Charlotte Golar-Richie, Felix G. Arroyo, and John Fl. Barros together gave the Walsh campaign an air of racial inclusiveness. Who will ever forget that iconic picture of them and Walsh walking together up a Dorchester street ?

5.endorsements by State Legislators , several community groups, and two (2) Congressmen, also answering to Labor constituencies, one who cam aboard early (Stephen Lynch) and the other (Mike Capuano), who saw the above endorsements happening and calculated that they had better get on board too

6.the decision by many people on the margins of work that they need a better job first, better schools later

7.institutional and money support from developers and contractors whose profits depend on the Boston building boom which requires building trades workers in order to build

8.even more entrenched institutional support from the colleges, zoning lawyers, BRA administrators, and lobbyists whose profits, epansion plans, and just plain connections and co-operation in planning and zoning matters help each other to do their do’s

9.endorsement by about 22 “progressive” Legislators, whose support allowed Walsh to magnify his limited, albeit genuinely heroic, “progressive” credentials

10.his own, low key personality and confidence in his authenticity, which stands out maybe best when  he doesn’t have a ready answer for a question — moments that happened a lot in his campaign.

11.the campaign’s 40 position papers, written with contributions from (says the Walsh campaign) 600 people, who thus became invested in their success and so part of Walsh’s GOTV army. These position papers, unleashed in the last two weeks, made Walsh look authentically Mayoral.


^ conceding : John Connolly speaks

Against this vast array of established support, John Connolly could muster only (1) a citizen reform movement, one that had barely existed until his campaign coalesced it (2) his two personal neighborhood bases, West Roxbury-Roslindale and Charlestown (3) demonstrable mastery of the City budget and (4) his opponent’s binding arbitration bill, which almost derailed the Walsh campaign and gave Connolly a major issue.

Connolly also raised big money. He actually raised a bit more than Walsh did, though less in the campaign’s “crunch time.” He obviously looked a winner to many.

But it was not to be.

The newness of the citizen reform movement begun by Connolly’s campaign, its vulnerablity to entrenched push back, its untested status, and Connolly’s own air of high-mindedness — so long unheard in Boston’s municipal politics that many voters, likely, did not know what to make of it — all put Connolly on the shade side of the election sundial as soon as the Primary was over and voters started to look closely at what was what.

Frankly, that Connolly came so close to actually winning yesterday sends a strong message, i think, to Marty Walsh that he has a lot to prove; and to entrenched Boston power that while its strength remains barely good enough to win, its days are almost surely numbered as we move forward into the new era of non-union work ; of nightlife and nerdy ways ; of  schools that either do their best or see themselves lose all public conscience (and rightly so); and of  small innovative units collaborating competitively via conferencing and social media — as un-institutional a life as one can possibly imagine.

The break-up of entrenched power is coming. The power knows it. This time, it has held on — just barely. Next time, the liberation.

—- Michael Freedberg / here and Sphere

STORY UPDATED 11/06/13 at 7:55 PM