MBTA: Getting it right requires getting it right.

The Globe’s transit columnist Robin Washington has a pretty blistering opinion piece, ironically about things that are not opinions.  (“No excuse for MBTA report’s faulty math”). He systematically demonstrates that the Baker panel played either. a.) fast, loose and inflammatory, or b.) unacceptably sloppy with the facts, specifically regarding absenteeism and fares/operating expense ratio.

Faulty math is one thing, but the biggest disappointment of all this is there’s no reason mislead anyone. After last winter, who doesn’t know the T is broken, and broke, and has to raise fares? Every day your train didn’t come was convincing enough, regardless of what any other system was doing.

You didn’t need a panel to tell you that. But at least they could have gotten their facts right.

Let’s keep in mind that the Baker folks have tried hard to shift the focus from the amount of new money that’s going to be required (which none of this information contradicts), to issues of mis-management and misuse or non-use of resources. I’m certainly 100% for a thorough, reputable, and transparent audit. Put me down for reform and revenue.

But I’d say there’s an even bigger disappointment, and a warning: The whole point of the exercise was to identify areas that need to be fixed. But if you can’t measure the problem properly, then you can’t be trusted to fix it. And that’s exactly what the Baker administration is asking the legislature to do: Trust us. We’re smart and we’ll get it right.

Methodology = credibility. It matters — in fact, at this point it’s the only thing that matters. And it’s a darned good thing that Commonwealth Mag, the Globe, and others have been paying attention and riding herd on this thing.

I understand that Stephanie Pollock is a bona-fide transit supporter. Good on her. But to get this right she needs some empirical, skeptical eyes working on the data — not just those looking for a good story.

Do you trust the Mr. Fix-It administration to get this right? Right now, I don’t. They’ve got to earn it.


Boston 2024 doubles down on the 0.1%

Bumped, for glory. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Steve Pagliuca at the 2015 World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland. Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images

Out with the old rich guy telling ordinary folks what is good for them with a scowl, in with the new rich boss ready to repeat the same marching orders with a smile? Globe: “Pagliuca takes the reins of struggling Olympic bid.”

This is going to be a very, very tough row to hoe for Boston 2024 which has, impressively — although with help from the IOC — converted a global celebration of youth, excellence, and international goodwill into a synonym in the minds of millions of Massachusetts voters for crony capitalism, foreign corruption, and bulldozers for billionaires. Clearcutting the Common, trampling the property rights of small businesses, dictatorial rules to gag critics — none if it fully accurate, but all elements of current discourse that have built a decisive majority of opposition in Boston and tepid state-wide support for what everyone acknowledges will be a very expensive proposition that requires overwhelming community support.

A common thread links much contemporary skepticism: economic inequality. Boston 2024, from John Fish to, now, Steve Pagliuca, has been led by the 0.1%, and the 0.1% is likely to profit from the bid by capturing a slice of the billions to be spent and gaining prestige (i.e., cocktail parties in luxury boxes). If things go wrong, however, just as with the 2008 Wall Street collapse, the multi-billion-dollar bill will be left to the public. More than 30 years of stagnant wages, from Reagan’s election to the present, has undermined faith in any community of interest between the economic elite and everyone else. No Boston Olympics not coincidentally lists as its #1 reason to oppose the Games: “Olympics do not boost local economies.” Thus, outrage at populist “together we can” hero Deval Patrick’s 0.1%-ish $7,500 per day lobbying fee, and deep skepticism at the lack of detail in promises of public infrastructure benefits from the Games — quite apart from fury at John Fish’s belittling invective.

Perhaps Pagliuca can rise above the 0.1%, as it were, and turn things around. But a narrative has been set that Boston 2024′s new head seems to confirm more than change.

MA Senate Shoots Down Amendment Prohibiting the Use of Public Funds for the Olympics

Oops. Take another few percentage points off that Boston 2024 referendum vote, whenever it happens. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Budget season has been upon us, and the MA Senate has been going through a long list of amendments.

Yesterday, the Senate took on Bob Hedlund (R-Weymouth)’s amendment to prohibit the use of public funding for the Olympics.

SECTION XX. (a) Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, and except as provided in subsection (b), no state agency, authority, or other entity created by the General Court, shall expend any state funds, incur any liability, indebtedness or obligation, directly or indirectly, by guaranty, indemnification agreement, bond undertaking or otherwise to procure, host, aid, further or remediate the effects of, the 2024 Olympics.

(b) Because efficient transportation is essential to the economy of the state, and because efficient transportation is essential to the success of the 2024 Olympics, nothing in this section shall prevent any state agency, authority, or other entity created by the General Court, from spending state funds, incurring liabilities and obligations, or entering into other agreements for the purpose of the repair, maintenance, construction and operation of the state’s transportation system including, without limitation, roads, bridges, tunnels, rail lines, buses, boats and other means of transportation, even if such expenditures may also facilitate procuring, hosting, aiding, furthering, or remediating the effects of, the 2024 Olympics.

(c) Nothing in this section shall prohibit any state agency, authority, or other entity created by the General Court, from expending the proceeds of, or servicing the debt created by, bonds authorized and issued, or performing contracts entered into, before the effective date of this section, even if they relate to procuring, hosting, aiding, furthering or remediating the effects of the 2024 Olympics.

(d) The term “authority,” as used in this section, shall have the meaning given to it in section 39 of chapter 3 of the General Laws.

The amendment mimics the text of Evan Falchuk’s statewide ballot initiative.

MA legislators have said again and again that there will be no public funds used for the Olympics. They had the chance to put that in writing yesterday. But, instead, the Senate voted the amendment down: 17 yes vs. 22 no.

How Not to Write a Column: the Olympic Edition

Long on hyperbole, very worrisomely short, for any Olympics supporters out there, on specifics. - promoted by Bob_Neer

Shirley Leung provides a great example today, with her piece headlined, “Dear USOC: We really do want to host the Games.”

So, how about it, BMG? Anyone subconsciously harboring deep Olympic desires?


Fare or Unfare

Sorting out the Baker MBTA proposal is tricky – the news reports have been trying to cover everything all at once without much specificity or detail. Commonwealth Magazine seems to be the best place to get decent wonkery from a politically neutral perspective.

Will Brownsberger basically supports most of Baker’s proposal. The Conservation Law Foundation is against it. The Senate leadership can’t seem to figure it out yet. It’s complicated.

Here’s where I come down on a handful of issues:

  • The T should be in the executive branch. The experiment of the “quasi-public” agency has failed in this regard. The political system, flawed as it may be, is the way to provide accountability. (Cf Big Dig Culture, Turnpike Authority, etc.) Bill Straus agrees.
  • How you can cut some $581 million over six years from the T and expect good results is beyond me. I don’t get it. Someone explain to me why that’s necessary or a good idea.
  • There isn’t $2.2 billion lying around, and there isn’t 11% absenteeism. There might still be too much absenteeism, but again, it was a crappy, inflammatory stunt by the Baker people to put that number out there. Trust has to be earned and zealously protected. “Pollack was wrong”, and she should know better. Start again.
  • A control board with limited powers seems necessary. Simply having the effect of a continuous audit and relayer of information to the public, would indeed be useful. But the power to institute draconian measures should be closely circumscribed … see below
  • Fare increases should be resisted, and remain capped. Especially onerous is eliminating free mode-transfer between bus and train: That’s a gigantic fare increase for many people – one that punishes the poor and will surely price people out of the system. It’s a non-starter, an idea that should be rejected with extreme prejudice. One wonders how we got from a discussion of mismanagement and frozen train tracks and contract oversight, to how to squeeze more blood from this particular stone. No, no, no.
  • Things I Do Not Understand: What is the point of arbitration if one of the parties can just reject it and implement what they wanted to do anyway?
  • Brownsberger has some interesting ideas about private-sector contracting for non-core routes. I could envision a system where private carriers (Joseph’s, eg) would examine travel patterns and propose new routes, perhaps using MBTA bus stops and infrastructure, receive a baseline revenue stream to operate, and make profit if it’s successful. It would be interesting to see some innovation at the margins. For example, perhaps the T could facilitate a private carrier for a bus line from homes in Medford and Arlington to jobs in Waltham or Watertown — approximating the Urban Ring. If that replaced some car travel, that would be most welcome. We should make space to allow this trend to take its course.
  • Which brings us to the Pacheco law … Is this really the thing that prevents partnering on the margins with private contractors? Can a compromise be met? Can more union jobs be created by the MBTA partnering with the private sector? Is this just another opportunity for the usual suspects to ride the anti-Pacheco hobbyhorse? Yes and yes?

    For corporations and unions both: When you align your own interests with the broad public interest, you will win political battles. When you are seen to be extracting value at the public expense, the political system will turn against you. Adjustments may be necessary. And you might even gain from making such adjustments. Look for win-win scenarios.

    Privatization is, to say the least, not a panacea. Evidence of private-sector extraction of public tax dollars to minimal public benefit are not exactly difficult to find: It’s actually a gigantic part of our federal budget. Saying that gosh, it’s just so hard to do the math to actually justify going to a private contractor … Sounds fishy. If you can’t justify doing something, you shouldn’t do it.

    That being said, I wonder how central Pacheco is to general MBTA dysfunction. A control board could perhaps shine some light on this: Exactly what contracts could have been farmed out, and at what savings? Precisely what improvements could be realized? And please show your work.

    Baker’s two-month PowerPoint board didn’t have the time to do that. Without a lot of very specific evidence of how the Pacheco functions with regard to the central challenges the T faces, I’m inclined to think of this as yet another skirmish in a longer debate.

Stop corporate welfare: the living wage should be the minimum wage

Government should stop subsidizing the labor costs of corporations and raise the minimum wage in Massachusetts to at least the current Boston living wage of $13.89 an hour (MIT lays out relevant data in its “Living Wage Calculation for Suffolk County, Massachusetts.”)

The gap between the minimum wage and the living wage is a rough indication of the subsidy local minimum wage employers extract from us taxpayers.

Minimum wage in Massachusetts is currently $9. It is scheduled to rise to $11 in January 2017. That still leaves us subsidizing minimum wage employers by $5 an hour this year, $4 next year, and $3 an hour in 2017: almost 20 percent, assuming no inflation. Why? If we are going to subsidize anything (an arguable proposition, but one for a different discussion) it should be high-paying jobs that will raise our standard of living. That’s not minimum wage jobs in general, especially in our globalizing world where access to labor through improved communications is ever easier — and workers in Ireland, Indonesia, India, and the rest of the alphabet ever closer. Los Angeles legislated a $15/hour minimum wage by 2020 yesterday, which is in the same economic neighborhood as the Boston living wage.

As the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, “There is no state in the country where someone earning either the state or federal minimum wage can afford a market-rate one-bedroom apartment,” citing a report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (hat tip, WBUR). That is especially true here, where housing costs are high relative to other parts of the country. Workers paid minimum wage in Massachusetts have difficulties obtaining food, clothing, and other necessities. Public and private programs provide assistance in some cases with affordable housing, food, medical care, and other necessities — famously, to Wal Mart employees — but are less efficient than raising wages and letting workers spend the money for themselves would be. In the meantime, by shielding employers from the true costs of labor, we provide a public subsidy to business profits. A higher minimum wage will place the cost of labor where it should be: on employers.


Hey Look: State Senate Takes a Step for Revenues and Tax Progressivity

Senate 1, House 0. - promoted by Bob_Neer

The State Senate began debate on the annual budget today, and lo — it came to pass that the Senators voted (29-11) to adopt an amendment that will raise additional revenues and will do so in a progressive way!

The amendment freezes the state income tax rate at the current 5.15 percent, repealing a formula enacted in 2002 that automatically reduces the income tax rate when certain fiscal benchmarks are met. This formula has reduced the income tax from 5.3 percent to 5.15 percent since 2002. (Our friends at MassBudget have prepared this excellent analysis of the reasons that this formula compounds the problems of recent declines in state revenue.)

The amendment allocates some of the new revenue resulting from the income tax freeze to increasing the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit program, which helps low-income individuals and families meet the high cost of living in Massachusetts. The amendment also increases the personal income tax exemption, which benefits all taxpayers. Pending some more number crunching, I’ll speculate that for most taxpayers, the increase in the exemption will offset the freeze in the tax rate. The taxpayers for whom the increase in the exemption is least likely to offset the freeze in the tax rate are those at the upper part of the income spectrum.

So, good on the Senate. Will the House go along when the Senate and House meet to reconcile their respective budgets? As of now, the signs are not so good. Speaker DeLeo is vexed at the Senate for even debating tax policy when, in his view, the House did not relinquish its sole power to originate what our State Constitution calls “money bills.” He’s even threatening to go to court over the whole thing. For real. Details here.

In any event, it’s a sure thing that the Speaker won’t go along unless his members convince him to do so.

(Cross-posted here).

Not That Bad Is Not Good Enough: More Reasons to Oppose TPP

An interesting issue. And in a related story, check out the Globe piece on Elizabeth Warren's increasing influence - at the expense of the president. TPP figures heavily. - promoted by david

Noah Smith, an economist I’m accustomed to considering not crazy, says the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal is no big deal. Although he writes enough about liberals and conservatives to make me think he’s some sort of moderate, but he’s generally readable and typically sensible. He’s in favor of the TPP. His defense of TPP is interesting:

[The TPP] is mostly about trade with Japan and South Korea, which has asked to join the pact. These are rich countries, with tons of capital and very high labor costs. In fact, Japan’s labor costs are so high that Japanese auto manufacturers now build a lot of factories in the U.S. American workers are not going to lose out to the Japanese and South Koreans.

Yes, TPP might include a few poor countries, such as Indonesia, which has expressed interest in joining the accord. But compared with China, those countries are small potatoes. Very few manufacturing jobs will be lost to low-productivity Indonesia that haven’t already been lost to medium-productivity China….

There is one type of activity that is very hard for U.S. companies to send offshore: innovation. But when Asian countries can just ignore U.S. patents, innovation becomes less profitable. Stronger international IP protection will help U.S. companies export more, which makes them hire more American workers, which increases the amount that those workers spend on the local economy. Yes, there are many problems with the U.S.’s intellectual property laws. But international harmonization of IP wouldn’t exacerbate these problems.

According to Smith, TPP isn’t a big deal because the damage of globalization has already been done. Economically, it’s easy enough to brush aside this job loss. But how many jobs are “very few’ to an economist? There are approximately 12 million manufacturing jobs left in the United States. What’s a few? 100,000? 1,000,00? 15? What of his claim that intellectual property protection will help U.S. companies export more? Perhaps this is true. My hero Paul Krugman, who is a “lukewarm opponent” of the TPP, sees it less as a trade deal than a deal about intellectual property and dispute settlement (the ISDS that Elizabeth Warren keeps talking about). some provisions would lead to the even stronger, government-granted monopolies called patents. As Krugman writes,

we should never forget that in a direct sense, protecting intellectual property means creating a monopoly – letting the holders of a patent or copyright charge a price for something (the use of knowledge) that has a zero social marginal cost. In that direct sense this introduces a distortion that makes the world a bit poorer.

There is, of course, an offset in the form of an increased incentive to create knowledge, which is why we have patents and copyright in the first place. But do we really think that inadequate incentive to create new drugs or new movies is a major problem right now?

Even if the TPP weren’t a threat to American workers, the beneficiaries aren’t average Americans, but rather corporations. In the 1950s, Dwight Eisenhower might have been able to say without irony, what’s good for General Motors is good for America. Few of us would say that today. As Dean Baker notes, the regulatory structures being developed in the agreement would “largely benefit U.S. corporations, since they would get more money for the patents and copyrights.” Does that help the rest of us? Not much.

The corporations that stand to benefit have few, if any, organic ties to the U.S. economy—most have outsourced a large share of production jobs to other countries. The primary beneficiaries will be people from the United States who happen to own stock in these companies. And the greatest benefits will flow to those who own the most stocks, primarily those in the top 1, 5, and 10 percent of the income distribution. So, the TPP and similar agreements will only serve to worsen U.S. income inequality.

Not that bad is not good enough. The Trans-Pacific Partnership has nothing to offer average Americans. We must continue to oppose it.

Full MA House Delegation Voted Against the Budget-Busting NDAA

Military spending is the #1 discretionary item in the federal budget: we spend more on war than the next 10 nations combined. A key line from this excellent post: "Only Katherine Clark and Joe Kennedy voted for Jared Polis’s amendment to reduce the statutory requirement for the number of operational aircraft carriers the Navy must maintain from 11 to 10. The rest of the delegation voted against it." - promoted by Bob_Neer

Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted for the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The NDAA usually wins over the majority of the Democratic caucus. Last year, Democrats voted for it 109 to 85. However, this year, the Democratic leadership encouraged its members to vote against it. The full MA delegation rightfully voted against it. (Most of them typically do so anyway.)

There are a few reasons for that. First, the bill puts money into the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) slush fund in order to bypass sequestration level spending limits. House Republicans, as we know, want to eliminate the sequester on the military but leave it in place for social spending. The House Democratic leadership also opposed it because of its restrictions on closing Gitmo and a provision that bans DREAMers from serving in the military.

The bill would provide for the authorization of funding for the Department of Defense and other related agencies, programs, and operations for Fiscal Year 2016. It authorizes approximately $605.6 billion in discretionary budget authority in total. This includes $495.8 billion for the Department of Defense base budget and $17.6 billion for the defense-related activities of the Department of Energy.

The bill also includes $89.2 billion in discretionary budget authority for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), shifting $38 billion in funding from the President’s base defense request into the OCO war funding account. This gimmick goes around the sequester-level defense spending cap, while leaving the non-defense sequester-level cap in place……

The legislation maintains the current restriction on domestic transfers of Guantanamo detainees and prevents the use of funds for construction or modification of U.S. facilities to house Guantánamo detainees. The bill reverts to a more onerous certification standard for the transfer of Gitmo detainees and prohibits transfers to any country in which a previously transferred detainee was confirmed to have re-engaged in armed conflict.  It also includes a further restriction on transferring detainees to a “combat zone,” which is defined broadly by an IRS statute.

House Republicans adopted an anti-immigrant amendment, stripping out language that was adopted on a bipartisan vote by the Armed Services Committee related to the consideration of allowing “DREAMers” to enlist and serve in the Armed Forces.  This amendment, which only further damages our broken immigration system, is just another in a long line of Republican efforts to demagogue “DREAMers” – the hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and know no other home than the U.S. Members are urged to VOTE NO.

The MA delegation unanimously voted against most of the heinous GOP amendments:

  • Jackie Walorski (IN-02)’s amendment to extend the constraints on closing Gitmo for two years (beyond the FY 2016 period covered by the bill), bar transfers to Yemen, and bar use of the Defense secretary’s national security waiver authority to transfer prisoners to combat zones.
  • Doug Lamborn (CO-05)’s amendment to limit funding for implementing the New START treaty, the nuclear arms reduction treaty between the US and Russia signed in 2010.
  • Frank Lucas (OK-03)’s amendment to reverse and prohibit the further listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken as a threatened or endangered species until 2021 and to de-list the American Burying Beetle as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.
  • Mo Brooks (AL-05)’s amendment to strip out the provision of the bill that would have allowed DREAMers to serve in the military.

And they voted unanimously in favor of two good Democratic amendments (which, unfortunately, were shot down by the House as a whole):

  • Adam Smith (WA-09)’s amendment provide a framework for closing Gitmo by the end of 2017.
  • Jerry Nadler (NY-10)’s amendment to strike the section of the bill that places limits on funding for the dismantlement of nuclear weapons.

However, on three amendments, the caucus split.

Bill Keating and Stephen Lynch voted for Mike McCaul (TX-10)’s amendment to amend 10 USC 2576a to include border security activities to the list of preferred applications the Department of Defense considers when transferring excess property to other federal agencies. 10 USC 2576a currently gives preference to counter-drug or counter-terrorism activities for small arms and ammunition (as well as other military property) transfer. The rest of the delegation rightfully voted against it.

Only Katherine Clark and Joe Kennedy voted for Jared Polis’s amendment to reduce the statutory requirement for the number of operational aircraft carriers the Navy must maintain from 11 to 10. The rest of the delegation voted against it.

Only Katherine Clark and Mike Capuano voted for Earl Blumenauer (OR-03)’s amendment to end the budget gimmickry of the Sea-Based Deterrence Fund (explained here). The rest of the delegation voted against it.

Joke Revue: Anthropologists Discover Ancient Greek Super PAC That Helped Shape First Democracy


Anthropologists Discover Ancient Greek Super PAC That Helped Shape First Democracy

ATHENS, GREECE—In a finding that provides new insight into the roots of Western civilization, a team of anthropologists from Cambridge University announced Monday the discovery of an ancient Greek super PAC that helped shape the world’s first democracy. “At the same time Cleisthenes first instituted a representative form of government in Athens, it appears that a group of wealthy citizens and merchants created an organization to influence these new voters by bombarding them with around-the-clock political messages,” lead researcher Daniel Rogers said of the early political action committee, named Athenians for a Better City-State, which is said to have received millions of drachmas’ worth of funding in gold, lambs, dates, loaves of bread, and slaves from Athens’ largest and most influential trade groups. “While the committee was prohibited from coordinating directly with candidates seeking public office, AFBCS nevertheless spent astonishing sums on orators hired to stand in the Agora and recite the negative traits of politicians that the super PAC opposed, as well as on writers who were hired to pen slanderous epic poems.” Researchers also reportedly found evidence that the early super PAC’s influence extended beyond elections, noting that it was the driving force behind a number of laws that lowered business taxes, protected the worship of the gods in schools, and authorized war against Sparta in an effort to plunder their geographic rival’s large olive oil reserves.


Bush Says Iraq Question Unimportant Since He Clearly Will Never Be President

TEMPE, ARIZONA (The Borowitz Report)—After several days of controversy over whether he would have authorized an invasion of Iraq, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said on Thursday that the question was unimportant since it is now painfully clear that he will never be President.

“Look, I can understand people wanting to know where I stand on this Iraq business if I actually had a chance of being elected,” he told an audience in Arizona. “But since I’ve pretty much pissed that away, what’s the point, really?”

Bush urged those who sought out his opinion on policy matters to take a look at how poorly his campaign is going “and get a reality check about the odds of me ever being President, which are hovering in the vicinity of zero.”

“I’m tied with Ben Carson in the polls, folks,” he said. “You heard me. Ben-freaking-Carson. A neurosurgeon. If you’re running in a Republican primary and can’t beat a scientist, you might as well put a fork in it.”

When asked by a reporter what he would do to grow the economy, Bush laughed ruefully and said, “Well, I guess if I said that I’d do exactly what my brother did and drive the whole thing straight into the crapper, you folks would have a field day with that, wouldn’t you? But let’s get serious. You want an answer to that question, ask someone who actually has a chance at winning this damn thing. I’m sure Scott Walker would love to talk to you good people.”

Daniel Kurtzman:

“Happy Mother’s Day. Yesterday, President Obama personally called three mothers who had written him letters recently. Man, do I feel sorry for any of their kids who forgot to call.” –Seth Meyers

“The mother would say, ‘Oh, you didn’t have time to call. Do you know who did have time? The president — of the United States of America — yeah, that president. So no, flowers on Wednesday does not make it OK.’” –Seth Meyers

“A house panel in Texas has approved full marijuana legalization for the state. Yeah, meaning Texas could go from having dude ranches to ‘Dude, ranches.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“A new poll finds that the majority of GOP voters say they can’t see themselves supporting Chris Christie. The trick is to lift with your legs, not your back.” –Seth Meyers

The Prosecution Betrayed Our Commonwealth's Values

Here's the thing for me: Dzokhar Tsarnaev doesn't *deserve* any better, nothing better than Timothy McVeigh, say. But that's the wrong question. It's what we do as a community to demonstrate our sense that life is not cheap. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

The verdict is in. Tsarnaev is sentenced to death.

It’s hard to oppose the death penalty. Harder still as a member of a community that knew so many victims and sadly, knew the assailants as well. Harder still as someone who never knew his grandpa because of a violent crime. But, I will always oppose it because it runs counter to my faith and my values, is a colossal waste of money and time, and does nothing to deter crime or terrorism. At the end of the day, we are making a martyr out of someone who would’ve been forgotten behind bars. The people of the Commonwealth and the victims families overwhelmingly understand this, I wish our leaders did.

Going Solar: A Massachusetts Journey

I'm re-promoting this terrific post for its relevance to the solar cap issue right now. I gather from Lynne's experience is that it's pretty much a financial slam-dunk currently to go solar. The Baker administration's position is that the subsidies are more generous than they need to be in order to keep the solar wave going -- that you could get more bang for the buck even with less generous incentives. I'm open to that -- you need to find the right point on the cost-benefit curve. But consider a few things: 1. It's absolutely a critical interest of the state to move to a post-carbon economy, as quickly as possible. 2. Economic development thrives on stability and predictability. 3. We don't really know how difficult this is for utilities, but generally they don't have a good track record of transparency and openness to this potentially disruptive development. Are these technical problems, or business model problems? Scrutiny is in order. In any event, we need actual leadership from the Baker administration, not stalling. - promoted by charley-on-the-mta

(What follows is a very long, comprehensive post filled to the brim with everything I’ve learned about going solar. Our installation is now feeding green energy into the grid, I obsess about cloudy days, and I’m looking forward to our new investment paying us back in both money, and in knowing we’re contributing a great deal towards a green future. Cross-posted on my blog, Left in Lowell.)

The flurry of activity in and around my homestead during two days in the week of October 7th was very disturbing to my poor dogs, but exciting for us. After a journey of more than five years in researching and planning (more on that in a bit) the contractors we hired, NuWatt Energy Inc, were on our roof installing our 4.16kWh solar electric system. A system that, it is estimated, will be providing around 80% of our current electricity usage.

Why did it take us so long, and how did we finally decide on the path we did? The answer to that, I’m hoping, will give other people a shortcut to the knowledge we got the hard way, and give you several paths to solar for your own home or business if you think you’ve got the roof for it.