WITH THE MINIMUM WAGE NOW RAISED, HERE’S WHAT’S NEXT FOR MASSACHUSETTS

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^ the Democrat with fewest weaknesses : Juliette Kayyem

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^ the best potential governor, on an across-the-board basis : Charlie Baker (with Nightline’s Dan Rea)

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Two days ago, the Massachusetts House passed a big rise in the minimum wage, to $ 10.50 in 2015 and $ 11.00 in 2016. The House legislation included, however, a provision that the Senate bill does not : a give back of five percent, on the unemployment compensation portion that employees pay. That portion will rise from 15 % to 20 %.

Because the two bills do not mesh, a conference wil be held at which the two bills will be reconciled. Almost certainly the reconciliation will adopt the House version: because Senate President Murray is leaving, whole Speaker DeLeo is very much staying.

Such is the way of things in the Massachusetts legislature. The big result, however, is that the base wage for every Massachusetts worker now earning minimum wage will rise by over $ 3.00 an hour. Minimum wage earners will no longer need as much public, taxpayer-paid assistance as before; taxpayers will get some relief; and workers will have some money to spend into the discretionary economy. In Boston, $ 10.50 to 4 11.00 an hour is still nowhere near enough; not with  rentals costing $ 1,600 and up; but in outlying cities such as Worcester, New Bedford, Holyoke, and Fitchburg, the new minimum wage will provide a real boost to many, many families and thus to the economy of those cities.

There were 24 votes against the Raise. Their message was the same : the higher wage would mean fewer jobs.

Businesses that have been able to short-change employees and pass them off to taxpayers will now not have that taxpayer subsidy. Will these businesses close ? To ask the question is to answer it. What then will they do ? Easy. They will change their business model.

These businesses will be operating in a very different economy, one that will grow quite quickly at first as the boost in wage checks gets spent into the economy. And this is good all around. But it is far from being enough. Massachusetts needs much more reform in how it operates ; some of it economic reform, a lot of it structural.

Here’s what we would like to see happen ;

1.economic : expand the earned income credit to childless families who qualify on an income basis.

2.economic : give Boston granting authority over its liquor licenses. A home rule petition, by Councillor Ayanna Pressley now sits in the legislature awaiting action.

3.economic : enable innovation districts in neighborhoods of Boston, and in outlying cities, on the model of those currently operating in Cambridge and Seaport Boston. Local aid funding can help here.

4.structural : reconfigure the website interface and interactivity of every State department, from health connector to DCF to Secretary of State and permitting. Publish the State Budget online. Embed a mobile phone app into the State’s most-used Department websites, such as the DCF, RMV, DOR, and Transitional assistance.

5.encourage and establish the full range of public school reforms now being put in place in Boston by Superintendent John McDonough

6.human rights : eliminate mandatory sentencing; establish a prisoners’ bill of rights that would provide for legal remedies — including assigning public defenders to each state or county lock-up — to prisoners who are abused by incarceration personnel; pay minimum wage to prisoners doing work they are required to do by the institution; assure re-entry procedures that are fair and helpful to the released prisoner; restore voting rights to convicts who have finished their sentences;.

7.civil rights: extend the state’s transgender rights law to include places of public accommodation. grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and pass the Trust Act

8.gun control: require owners of guns (other than antique) to purchase liability insurance, as we now require owners of vehicles; require smart gun technology

9.transportation : review all transit and road budgets and cost-cut administration where feasible; repair and replace MBTA cars and buses, lines,a nd equipment; expand Green Line to West Medford; complete new stations on Fairmount Line; finish the South Coast rail Connector

10.DCF : hire sufficient case workers so that the state-mandated maximum case load is never breached; pay social workers a professional salary; require the DCF chief to circuit-ride from DCF office to office and to use mobile phone and ipad communication as a regular feature.

All of what we’d like to see is more than enough to challenge two governor terms, much less one. Some of this year’s Governor candidates want still more. That’s OK, for a wish list but not for the campaign, which we hope will be about now and the next four years, not times still over the horizon. After all, our list doesn’t even talk about climate change, alternative fuels, conservation, affordable housing, in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant kids, and local aid — any one of which could occupy an entire editorial.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

5TH SUFFOLK DISTRICT : FOUR VISIONS AT CANDIDATES FORUM

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^ 4 visions 4 : from Left : Evandro C. Carvalho; Karen Charles-Peterson; Jennifer Johnson; Barry Lawton. (a fifth candidate, Roy Owens, did not participate in the Forum)

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Yesterday afternoon voters of the 5th District had this campaign’s only opportunity to see, on one platform answering questions, four of the five candidates who seek to represent them. About 100 of the District’s residents showed up. There was plenty of enthusiasm among them — which was a good thing, because every one of the four needs to up his or her speaking craft.

That’s OK; I don’t expect candidates for State Representative, in a special election hurriedly called after the February 5th expulsion of Carlos Henriquez following his domestic violence conviction, to be silver tongued orators or think tank masters. This was a neighborhood event, and its candidates sounded like neighbors.

Moderated diligently by Boston Neighborhood News’s Chris Lovett, all four candidates — Evandro C. Carvalho, Karen Charles-Peterson, Jennifer Johnson, and Barry Lawton — managed to give Forum attendees a pretty fair impression of who they are, why they are running, and what they are likely to work on as the District’s State House representative. Still, all had some difficulty focusing on State legislation matters rather than concerns more appropriate for a City Councillor.

This was true even of Barry Lawton, who in his opening remarks said “i am the only candidate on this stage who has written legislation” — which he likely did as a staffer to former State Representative Royal Bolling, Jr. — but then proceeded not to mention even one piece of legislation that he would sponsor if elected. Lawton did have plenty to say, however, about vacant city lots, jobs, and his long experience as an activist.

Evandro C. Carvalho did make at least one potential legislative point — to include expansion of vocational education in state school reform bills — but, curiously, given his history as a Suffolk County prosecutor of gun crimes, failed to mention the very detailed gun control legislation now before the legislature’s Public safety committee.

In fairness to Carvalho, neither did any of the other three candidates mention, much less discuss, this legislation. it was a curious omission considering the urgency, in neighborhoods of the 5th District, of curbing gun violence.

Karen Charles-Peterson at first spoke in the quiet voiced generalities that anyone who heard her chief political backer, Charlotte Golar-Richie, during lat year’s mayor election is quite familiar with. But half way through the Forum she suddenly became a different Peterson. She had sat; now she stood up. as Barry Lawton spoke loudly, with hand gestures like a preacher, so now did  Charles-Peterson. She ended strongly, announcing that “I will take all 40,000 residents of this District with me to the State House” and “I will give everyone my personal cell phone number, call me any time.” Charles-Peterson also discussed aid for the small businesses that string the length of Bowdoin and Hancock Streets, in the center of the District. that said, neither she nor any of the four, except Jennifer Johnson, uttered the place name “Uphams Corner” — despite its being the major crossroads of the District.

And now I come to Jennifer Johnson. Ostensibly she’s an unlikely candidate ; Caucasian in a District largely of color and an authentic issues voice among candidates unclear about which issues matter, and in what way, to a legislator. Johnson’s far from  being the polished, focused speaker she will need to be if she’s to make issues heard and understood; but she spoke in some detail about the formal, even bureaucratic, task that small businesses face as they seek loans; about how and why business development matters to a District among the lowest income of all; about how to frame affordable housing agreements with developers; about raising the minimum wage (strangely, this initiative, so vital to the District, was hardly mentioned by the other three candidates)and, most fascinating of all, about technology : connecting technology enterprises to the District and to schools, and the District to technology jobs.

Johnson could easily have delivered her remarks to the chamber of commerce or a Business round table. Odd it felt to hear a 5th District candidate talking enterprise and cutting edge innovation. But why not ? She called herself a  “Kennedy liberal,” a phrase as attuned to business success as to social justice. Would it be too much a reach to say that the two reinforce each other ? (It was shrewd of Johnson to talk so much about business. Business development was John Barros’s signature, and by talking it, Johnson sought to take up the banner of a man who was given 2,071 votes — first place — from the District in last year’s mayor race.)

There was plenty of applause for Johnson, and for Charles-Peterson; but the day’s noise prize was won by Carvalho, who, with John Barros unavailable, has picked up the banner of Boston’s Cape Verdean community. It dominates the 5th District, and if Carvalho spoke softly, seemed to be thinking out loud, and often rambled, he could afford to do so; his vote is energized and likely will be the largest bloc on the April 1st Primary day. Alone of the four, his vision seems to be : who i am. Or to phrase it another way, If I win, all Cape Verdeans win.

At the Forum, it worked. And though I think that the District’s Cape Verdeans could as well as any other District residents use the technology advocacy that Johnson would surely put in play, getting to that may well take much more time than the one week that remains for voters to consider who best can be their political clout — to the City or at the State House. Nor will there be another Forum to help them. Yesterday was it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere