Fully Baked Baker Budget

baker4With an ostensible liberal Democratic-controlled General Court, MA remains traditionally fiscally conservative. That’s fertile ground for GOP Gov. Charlie Baker to plant his no-new taxes seeds. Thus, most of his first budget proposal likely didn’t surprise BMG sorts.

And yet, let us consider what he didn’t say.

[I'll tuck my 27-minute Left Ahead ramble on the budget at the bottom...for your consideration, if you have indulgence in your heart and perhaps a pint in hand.]

Sure, it’s largely level funded. Most line items on page after page of his proposal are identical to last fiscal year’s dollar amounts. Yet unstated is that doing this is really an inflation-reduction per department and function, maybe 3% or more in reduced funds and effectively frozen human and physical resources.

Most obviously, at Baker’s press conference announcing his proposed budget, he iterated and reiterated inherited to the point of a drinking game card. There was no sympathy much less empathy for previous Gov. Deval Patrick who balanced 8 years of budgets with various shortfalls and nasty surprises. Instead it was, “Woe is me having to correct the blunders and incompetence of a profligate predecessor.” It was $700 million plus, then $1.5 or $1.8 billion deficit. “Let us thank the fiscal gods that a responsible adult is finally in charge here.”

I find that the biggest takeaway from his proposal and press conference. Charlie Baker has always been a canny self-promoter, savvy in both politics and PR. Here he is setting up first a terrible situation so that even small accomplishments seem grand.

Longer term, Baker seems setting himself up as a savior, a fixer, a turn-around manager. He has plenty of ego and vanity. He doesn’t need to do this setup for his internals. Instead, I figure he is already aiming at a VP or even Prez shot it 2020 or 2024. Like Mitt Romney trying to ride his two horses of Olympics success and Red guy winning in a Blue state, Baker seems ready to rescue us, even if that’s really just doing the balanced-budget legal mandate.

Otherwise, as noted in other BMG posts, like this one, there’s likely trouble coming from mass-transit haters in the legislature. Baker’s proposal does include a nod to MBTA funding with grant increases. However, he doesn’t even try to correct the huge blunders in dumping Big Dig debt on the MBTA and then demanding forward-funding based on a failed fantasy of never-ending growth spiral of sales-tax revenue.

We need leadership to admit the problem, then propose real fixes. I can’t see that coming from either house on Beacon Hill. Baker promises findings from a task force to report by the end of the month. I don’t anticipate keen insight from that and we’d still need a champion in Baker.

Otherwise, this is a very cautious budget proposal. Sure, Baker’s magic wand of cost savings from muscled retirements and trying to kick Medicaid and other health program beneficiaries off the rolls are questionable. It may be the commonwealth pressures those who “re-determine” eligibility take the hardest line possible to accomplish that. TBD.

Overall, the legislature is likely to be pretty positive. This budget proposal gives them freedom to avoid many big problems. It doesn’t allow for traditional per-district pork, although such earmarks manage to wiggle through. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t demand that they tackle the hardest problems.

At its core, this budget proposal does not show a leader with big ideas and a keen vision.


No More Prizes for Predicting Rain, Only Prizes for Building Arks.

Time for action on Beacon Hill: Pick your cause, and keep at it

Mar. 5, 2015 By Judy Meredith, Special to the Reporter

Gov. Charlie Baker presented his first budget yesterday, and now it is prime time for action.

Dozens of special interest groups are already asking people to lobby our legislators and ask them to pay attention to a specific line item that funds a specific program that strengthens our neighbors’ and friends’ access to public health, public education, public safety, public sanitation, public housing, public transportation – all the programs that make our neighborhoods healthy and strong.

Often dismissed as advocating for “crumbs” from our limited local, state, and federal revenues, hundreds of special interest groups have been advocating for a wide range of innovative public programs serving the poor, the disabled, the elderly for years, all year round.

And not for “crumbs,” but to support and strengthen a public program that was created last year or 10, 20, 30 years ago. Remember Gov. Dukakis announcing a new program to address homelessness in 1984?
The House Ways and Means Committee has already filed the governor’s budget alongside budgets produced by the last couple of governors and is getting down to the business of building its own version. The same thing is happening in the Senate.

Both the House and the Senate build their budgets by listening to their own members. Since early February, the chairs of Ways and Means in the both chambers have been meeting one-on-one with each of their members to collect personal budget priorities Of course, they keep track of everybody’s wishes, probably on a 20-foot-wide Excel spread sheet.

Meanwhile, the legislators themselves have been meeting with individual constituents, and delegations from special interest advocacy organizations who often bring in disabled kids or senior citizens or small businesses owners to help makes their cases. The goal of these meetings is, of course, to get their programs on the legislator’s priority list.

It’s not a complicated formula: Document a sympathetic and compelling problem in the district, offer a reasonable first-step solution, and organize as many neighbors and friends as you can to call or email or use snail mail or have a face-to-face conversation with their own legislators to give the same message: Save our program!

The plea will be scripted like this: “We’re not predicting a flood of broken minds or bodies, but we want to suggest a plan that will hold this program together until we can find the revenue somehow, somewhere, to build an ark big enough to hold this and other public programs that keep us healthy, safe and strong.”

Of course, we will hear that an ark that big is going to take a lot of work, and a lot of (cough, cough) revenue – maybe even new (choke choke) taxes. And we will hear that the fiscal impact of Snowmaggedon and the broken MBTA, exacerbated by the political impact of the Speaker-for-life drama and the blame game around the exploding budget deficit have diminished the public’s confidence in government so badly that there is no public support at all for new taxes.

Nothing new here: different emergencies, different dramas. We’ve been hearing that song for years and years.

And we will hear, too, that the governor’s and the speaker’s pledges of no new taxes, no going into the rainy day fund, and the reform-before-revenues approach guarantees that the final budget is going to make the recent 9-C cuts [reductions made by governors to bring a budget into balance] look reasonable.

Meanwhile there will be a lot of difficult decisions to make – and some bodies and minds will be left unrepaired. Nothing new here, either.
So what are we supposed to do? Keep on keeping on is what. Educate yourself about the problems of a public program or two or three that you and your family depend on and ask yourself how you think they should or could be repaired or reformed. Ask your legislator for advice, ask your city councillor, ask your congressman – they have staff with access to experts, research, and informed opinions.

Now there are only a few problems that can be solved by throwing money at them, by hiring more people (lawyers), and by buying better equipment (snow plows), but one of the root causes of all of the problems we face in our public programs is, simply, a lack of resources.

And we have our own difficult decision to consider: Support new taxes and build an ark that will accommodate the programs we need; or leave the public programs unable to repair bodies and minds.

Published first at the Dorchester Reporter

It's on: liberal Republican governor vs. conservaDem state reps

So this is what our politics is going to look like for the foreseeable future.  Could be entertaining.

You might recall that Governor Baker is proposing, as part of his budget, to give the MBTA a 50% bump next fiscal year, up to almost $200 million, in direct state aid.  Because, you know, it’s broken, and it has to be fixed.

Stephanie Pollack, Baker’s transportation secretary, said the transit agency’s disastrous winter — marked by days of system-wide closures, shuttered rail lines and fuming commuters — made it clear some investment was necessary, even as Baker has pledged not to raise taxes or fees.

“We need to get a handle on the structural deficit, and there needs to be a sustainable long-term plan so that the T can operate in the revenue it has available to it. This fiscal year was not the year to tackle that type of challenge,” Pollack said in an interview.

And what was the reaction from our friends in the legislature?

“Well, giving the T more money right now is kind of crazy,” [House Majority Leader Ron] Mariano told reporters after a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce breakfast, where Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo delivered a speech. “I think they have to begin to demonstrate that they can use that money effectively. … There seems to be no one looking at long-term maintenance or any maintenance. So until we can figure out what’s going on over there … I think it might be a little crazy to be spending money.” …

Speaking to reporters after­ward, DeLeo was cool to Baker’s initial plan to boost state funding.

“I think we have to try to make sure the house is in order, in terms of the T structure and whatnot, before we talk about additional funds,” he said.

Oh for the love of Pete.  You know what’s “crazy”?  What’s crazy is that the T doesn’t work, and that the legislature doesn’t really seem to care.  That’s crazy.  DeLeo, Mariano and the rest of them can natter on all they want about a long-term maintenance plan and the T structure “and whatnot,” blah blah blah.  But meanwhile, maybe somebody should make sure that the trains don’t catch fire.

So let’s be clear: Charlie Baker is right about this (and about this too, for that matter), and the House Democrats are wrong.  If this keeps up, things could get pretty interesting around these parts.

Boston 2024: Dispatch From High Up Mount Olympus

I’m up here on Mount Olympus to check in on the gods who are behind the effort to bring the 2024 Olympic games to Boston. The air is a little thin for those of us who are oxygen breathers, but the ambrosia is quite fine.

From up here, you can spot Massachusetts in the distance as an “international beacon for drawing the best and brightest around the globe each year and as a cradle of innovation where you assemble to dream of, and plan for, a better future for all of us.”  Each day, these gods busy themselves  working “closely and collaboratively to better understand the intersection of our city and its citizens in planning a better tomorrow.” The gods say this job starts with “our greatest asset — our people,” so I thought it would be interesting to see the esteem with which some of them have held “our people” of late.

First up, Joseph “Jay” Hooley of State Street Corporation, who is the co-chair of the Boston 2024 Innovation and Technology Committee.

State Street Corporation, a large financial services company with headquarters in Boston, might be familiar to you from the Congressional debate on the Dodd-Frank financial services reform bill in 2010. State Street and other banks persuaded Senator Scott Brown, whose vote was critical to the bill’s passage, to champion a successful effort to loosen the so-called Volcker Rule, which prohibited banks from gambling in the market for their own profit (where the winnings might come, say, from the pockets of their own clients). Senator Brown said at the time that his advocacy on behalf of State Street and other banks would “protect Mass. jobs.” In the years since that statement, State Street has eliminated 2,960 jobs, including many from its Boston headquarters. Meanwhile, the compensation package for CEO Hooley has risen to $15.5 million.

Lest you think that Mr. Hooley’s company has not been responsible for creating any jobs, remember that the city of Boston granted State Street a tax break of $11.5 million, which led to Mr. Hooley’s decision to construct a new waterfront office building in South Boston. That construction project gave temporary employment to about 800 construction workers. Those workers were the employees of Suffolk Construction, whose president, John Fish, also happens to be the Chairman of Boston 2024.

Please pass the ambrosia back.

(Cross-posted at hesterprynne.net)

Dodd Frank- - anyone who uses personal email for work is fired

Dodd Frank regulations ,in an effort to improve the financial system, have created a group of rules which are ridiculous.

anyone at a bank who uses their gmail account for work is grounds for firing. So hopefully Dodd and Frank will withdraw any support for Hilary.  For that matter everyone who signed the bill.

The idea that you could use gmail to communicate the affairs of state shows horrible judgment

Hoorah for "Hollywood"


A lot has been said recently about the so-called “Hollywood’ film credit. BMG’s own esteemed ryepower12 has even gone so far as to posit the choice as between “hollywood” and the MBTA. Rather stark that. I had begun to formulate a reply to that post, but decided to table it in an effort to be pickier about the battles…. Now, however, it seems the idea is gaining some measure of traction. This post is an iteration of that earlier, aborted, reply.

Without being strictly convinced that the tax credit itself is particularly a good or a bad idea, there are some aspects of the credit that aren’t discussed that I think, with all my contrarian charm, are elided in favor of the above pictured ‘Bluebird of get the hell off my lawn’… I’d rather like to think we can discuss these things before dismissing the credit out of hand.

First of all, there’s nothing that I know of in the tax credit that limits the tax credit to out-of-staters only: yes, “Hollywood” is the biggest player and probably certain to be a beneficiary of the credit, but there’s nothing stopping any resident of the CommonWealth, or nearby states, from filming here and reaping the benefit of the credit. (I’m looking at you Matt Damon: open a Mass Based production company already… oh, and by the way, I just happen to have an idea for a film set in Boston…) Is anyone doing that? I don’t know. Is the nurturing of a CommonWealth centric film industry a central purpose of the law? Again, I don’t know. But I certainly think it ought to be… There’s a lot of money in celluloid. Maybe that’s not enough of a reason to keep the credit. Fine. But it is a reason to avoid calling it the ‘Hollywood tax credit” and treating it as though it’s for outsiders only. It is, I think, for this very reason that Gov Baker pits the EITC against the film industry: it’s rank class warfare maybe possible by the bitter antagonisms towards Hollywood.

Secondly, Massachusetts already has a thriving tourism industry. From the point of view of dollars and cents, in an economy tourism dollars are some of the best dollars there are: if, as Paul Krugman oft states “your spending is my income and my spending is your income” then somebody who takes their income from one place and spends it on another is, strictly speaking, only adding to the dollars in that other place. It’s not quite free money but it is close: in a CommonWealth where tourism is the third largest industry — and we’re talking between 13 and 16 billion dollars annually — and where a little promotional money is spent with a very big return, anything that gets the images of the CommonWealth out there can only add to that. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. But let’s not pretend this isn’t a part of it. How much more would the Office of Travel and Tourism have to spend to get comparable exposure for the CommonWealth? How many movies are about Boston and/or the CommonWealth that would be filmed elsewhere — substituting some other city for the location — but for the film credit?

This isn’t necessarily a defense of the tax credit. I tend to think that it is, absent a deliberate push to make film a vital component of the CommonWealths economy, overall a wash. As such, tossing the credit will require some funding increases or resource allocation elsewhere. I’m fine with that. It might be better to directly target any nascent film industry in the CommonWealth. And if we want more tourism maybe we should directly appeal for more tourism, rather than hope that tax breaks for movies tickle the travel fancy of moviegoers. I don’t know. Let us discuss it.

It is, however, an appeal to have a better debate on the subject. Simply saying MBTA v Hollywood or Hollywood v EITC, isn’t actually all that much better than giving Charlie Baker another wedge with which to divide us.

Ok, I'll say it ..great idea Governor Baker - kill film tax credit to fund another tax credit for working families.

Now I haven’t seen the legislation, and I’m sure there are a few bugs that need to be removed, but this, is a good idea, and will be a very difficult fight to win. Are you ready?

Governor Charlie Baker is proposing that the state kill a controversial tax credit for the film industry and expand one for thousands of low-income workers.

Baker’s proposed state budget, to be released Wednesday, will call for doubling the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit, which currently adds as much as $937 to the tax returns of low-income working families with three or more children. Within three years, that figure would increase to $1,873.

To pay for it, Baker calls for phasing out the state’s film tax credit.

“I think it’s an important opportunity for us to both do something real and also send a signal that we believe in supporting people who are working real hard to get ahead,” the governor said in an interview Monday. “This is one way, in addition to increasing the minimum wage and some others, to provide them with more bang for their buck.”

Warren, Clark, McGovern skip GOP's Netanyahu exhibition: good for them


Senator Elizabeth Warren and two other members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation plan to skip Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress Tuesday, saying they are protesting the invitation made by House Speaker John Boehner.

Representatives Katherine Clark, a Melrose Democrat, and Jim McGovern, a Democrat of Worcester, also are planning to miss the event.

The Israeli Prime Minister has decided to align Israel with the Republican Party and jab two stiff fingers in President Obama’s eye and, by extension, the 65 million Americans who voted for him, and the Democratic Party in general. That’s his decision but there is no reason Obama’s supporters should be complicit in his effort to puff up John Boehner and attack Barack Obama.

Well done Senator Warren and Representatives Clark and McGovern. Ed Markey, Richard Neal, Niki Tsongas, Joe Kennedy, Seth Moulton, Mike Capuano, Steve Lynch and Bill Keating should follow their smart politics.


Fox continues to lose ground on O'Reilly

Not that it is likely to have much impact on the fabulists at Fox 25, who wisely claim only a number rather than the ludicrous “News” of their big brother. Guardian:

O’Reilly claimed in a broadcast to have taken part in “a raid” in Ireland, and in a 2013 book, Keep It Pithy, wrote that he had seen “Irish terrorists kill and maim their fellow citizens in Belfast with bombs”.

O’Reilly did not see any bombings or injuries but only saw photographs provided to reporters by police, a Fox spokesperson told the Post.

Last week, O’Reilly qualified his claims of having seen four nuns murdered in El Salvador in 1980, during that country’s civil war. O’Reilly had said he saw “guys gun down nuns in El Salvador” and “nuns get shot in the back of the head”. He now says he was among “reporters [who were] shown horrendous images of violence that were never broadcast”.

O’Reilly was forced to concede that point to the liberal media watchdog Mediaite, which pointed out that the nuns were murdered in December 1980 and that O’Reilly did not travel to El Salvador until he became a CBS correspondent in 1981.

Keeping Talent and Jobs in Mass - A Call to Action

Today FWD.us, a national advocacy organization fighting to pass commonsense, comprehensive immigration reform legislation, is holding a day of action. They are working with Representative McGovern and highlighting the story of Hanlin, an immigrant who graduated from WPI, raised angel funding, started a robotics company, and is about to pack up his bags and the jobs he’s creating to head for home. Not because he doesn’t want to stay in Worcester – he does – but because of our nation’s broken immigration policies.

His struggle, and the fight of FWD.us, affects all of us. Massachusetts awards more Post-Secondary degrees to immigrants per capita than any other state in the nation. So  policies that force talent to leave after graduation disproportionately harm the Commonwealth’s economy.  We educate them, we train them, we invest in them, and then when they get their company off the ground, we ask them to leave. Essentially, our broken immigration policies are exporting jobs overseas and whole companies to China.

Hanlin’s story represents how America’s broken immigration policies are hurting the Massachusetts’ economy. During my campaign for Lt Governor I talked about expanding the innovation economy in Massachusetts by connecting the many hubs of innovation across the state – from Boston to the Berkshires – with each other and with state government. It is still something I believe in, and a few months ago I joined with other entrepreneurs, innovators, activists, and thought leaders to create a grassroots advocacy organization for start-ups and the innovation economy – InnovateMA. The premise of InnovateMA is to better advocate for policies that will help Massachusetts create jobs, train residents, and better compete in the global economy.

We launched InnovateMA with a tour of incubator and innovation spaces across the Commonwealth. At our stop at RunningStart in Worcester, we met Hanlin for the first time, and he asked us for help. So we are asking you to join us in helping him, by amplifying his story and that of other aspiring immigrants.

First, sign a petition http://InnovateMA.com/ee to restore funding to the Global Entrepreneurs in Residence program, which would allow people like Hanlin, who have graduated and are trying to start companies here, to stay. (Read more about it here: http://fortune.com/2014/04/14/massachusetts-clever-immigration-reform-workaround/)

Second, join FWD.us in pushing for comprehensive federal immigration reform by taking action here: http://blog.fwd.us/progress-h-4-visa-holders


(Hanlin telling his story at a FWD.us monthly meeting)

Diversity isn’t a noun describing who we are; it’s a verb describing the continuous creation and defense of our values. It’s not a word describing something we’ve achieved; it’s a call to action for who we want to be. I hope you’ll join me in that.



Just Fund the T, Governor Baker

March 2, 2015
Just fund the T, Governor Baker

It’s time for Governor Baker to stand up in front of the voters and ask them to fund the T. Yes, it will be difficult. Yes, it will require the expense of political capital. But it must be done, and without the governor’s leadership there will be no change to a system that desperately needs it. This is not just Charlie Baker’s problem: administrations and legislatures have kicked the can down the road for decades, but with this historic snowstorm, the can landed here.

At what point will Governor Baker own the MBTA? This is different from owning the problems at the T. The unprecedented failure of the T is not his fault, although as Administration and Finance Secretary to Governor Weld he played a role by saddling the T with debt that has prevented major investment in the last twenty years. But then none of us is entirely innocent. This is our public transit system, and as taxpayers and voters, we all have a say and a slice of the responsibility.

But by ownership, I mean leadership. He didn’t create the problem, but when the decision was made to shut the public transit system down entirely, stranding hundreds of thousands of workers dependent on it, he was sitting in the corner office (or the little one next to it). It is political calculus that cautions a leader to stay away from problems he or she inherits from previous administrations in the same way that leaders are advised to push thorny budgetary issues down the road. Systemic change is hard, and requires spending political capital, but Governor Baker must ignore political calculus and tackle this problem head-on.

Joke Revue: "Republicans Unlearning Facts Learned in Third Grade to Compete in Primary"

(Continue over the fold for a Vine of Fox at its finest.)


Republicans Unlearning Facts Learned in Third Grade to Compete in Primary

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In the hopes of appealing to Republican primary voters, candidates for the 2016 Presidential nomination are working around the clock to unlearn everything that they have learned since the third grade, aides to the candidates have confirmed.

With the Iowa caucuses less than a year away, the hopefuls are busy scrubbing their brains of basic facts of math, science, and geography in an attempt to resemble the semi-sentient beings that Republican primary voters prize.

An aide to Jeb Bush acknowledged that, for the former Florida governor, “The unlearning curve has been daunting.”

“The biggest strike against Jeb is that he graduated from college Phi Beta Kappa,” the aide said. “It’s going to take a lot of work to get his brain back to its factory settings.”

At the campaign of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, the mood was considerably more upbeat, as aides indicated that Walker’s ironclad façade of ignorance is being polished to a high sheen.

“The fact that Scott instinctively says that he doesn’t know the answers to even the easiest questions gives him an enormous leg up,” an aide said.

But while some G.O.P. candidates are pulling all-nighters to rid themselves of knowledge acquired when they were eight, the campaign of Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, is exuding a quiet confidence.

“I don’t want to sound too cocky about Rick,” said one Perry aide. “But what little he knows, he’s shown he can forget.”


Keystone Veto Buys Environment At Least 3 Or 4 More Hours

WASHINGTON—Emphasizing the numerous ecological benefits of blocking the proposed legislation, experts confirmed Wednesday that President Obama’s decision to veto the Keystone XL pipeline bill should buy the environment an additional three or four hours of viability. “Given the negative impact that this project could have had on the planet, we believe that the president’s efforts have successfully pushed back the complete breakdown of global ecosystems from about 3 p.m. to possibly 6:30 p.m. on the final day of ecological stability,” said Peter Grant of the Brookings Institution, adding that, by forestalling the construction of an oil pipeline that threatened to degrade air quality, interrupt species migration, and contribute to global warming, the White House had extended the era in which the earth can sustain life by as many as 300 minutes. “While the suspension of this project will do little to reverse the current damage to our environment, we can say with confidence that we’ve definitely delayed the complete destruction of nature by about the length of an afternoon.” At press time, Grant confirmed that the announcement of a new plastics manufacturing plant in Shanghai had cut their estimate in half.

Last Line Of Obama’s Military Force Request Briefly Mentions Possibility Of 25-Year Quagmire

WASHINGTON—Following pages of subsections that would officially authorize continued airstrikes, rescue operations, and the deployment of U.S. Special Forces in the fight against ISIS, the final line of the military force proposal that President Obama delivered to Congress Wednesday is said to briefly mention the possibility of a 25-year-long quagmire. “There is also a chance that we may become embroiled in a geopolitical nightmare until 2040,” reads the last sentence of the draft, immediately beneath a clause repealing the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq and a stipulation that Obama regularly provide Congress with updated reports on the offensive. “And the cost of such an entanglement could amount to several trillion dollars and tens of thousands of lives, too.” Legal scholars noted that the proposal’s language intentionally leaves the door open for a future president to extend the authorization by one or more generations as necessary.

Daniel Kurtzman:

“Alaska today officially legalized marijuana for recreational use. I think they did this years ago. That’s how the Palin kids ended up with those names, right?” –Jimmy Kimmel

“New research shows marijuana is by far the least dangerous recreational drug. Studies have shown again and again that it leads to virtually no recreation. That’s how safe it is.” –Seth Meyers

“A new CBS News poll shows Chris Christie is ranked ninth out of all Republican presidential candidates. He’s just behind Bobby Jindal and just ahead of a gun wearing a cowboy hat.” –Seth Meyers

“All I could think of all day yesterday while watching all of the Oscar-related shows was how much I miss football.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“The ratings for last night’s Academy Awards hit a six-year low. So few people saw the Oscars that it’s been nominated for an Oscar.” –Seth Meyers

“The Academy Awards are passed out on Sunday. It’s voted by members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Or as I call them, 50 shades of white.” –David Letterman

“Jeb Bush gave a speech yesterday. He had a pretty rough time. He accidentally said that ISIS has 200,000 men instead of 20,000, and then he mispronounced the name of the terrorist group Boko Haram. So if history has taught us anything, Jeb is well on his way to winning the White House.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Yesterday during a speech on national security, Jeb Bush mispronounced Boko Haram and got confused between Iran and Iraq. When reached for comment, his brother George W. said, ‘He sure sounds presidentiary to me.’” –Conan O’Brien

“The Oscars are this Sunday. Host Neil Patrick Harris said he hopes the broadcast will include a ‘Kanye moment.’ Unfortunately a Kanye moment may not be possible because that would require a black person to be at the Oscars.” –Conan O’Brien

An icon passes: Leonard Nimoy has died at 83

Spock — Leonard Nimoy — has died at 83.

For much of my early life, “Spock” was an icon and a character to emulate. He was the first celebrity that let me feel as though nerdiness and geekiness was cool. I still tend to use “Fascinating” in day-to-day conversations.

Thank you, Mr. Nimoy, for all you did for generations of us. You will be missed.

DeLeo strips Hecht of Vice Chairmanship

As clear evidence of the undue amount of power held by the speaker, Speaker DeLeo has removed Representative Jonathan Hecht for the Vice Chairmanship of the Committee on Elder Affairs. This was likely due to the fact that Hecht spoke out against removing the term limits for the Speakership. Representatives should be able to speak their minds without recourse. The speakers actions go against the very ideals of the democratic process, the ideals that every representative has an equal say. I hope the next speaker will be true to the the ideals of the democratic process. (I wish we could get Rep Hecht in there)

House Committee Assignments

Click this link for the Committee Assignments ratified by the Democratic Caucus in the House. 

I hope you find this helpful!



House reorganization?

My Twitter feed contained a reference to the new House leadership positions and committee assignments. This post is from a very learned and reliable politial wizard, but it isn’t floating around the Internets anywhere else (except maybe behind the State House News paywall).

Anyone out there with details?

Turn your back

Rep. Jim McGovern is the most recent member of Congress and the first in the Massachusetts delegation to announce that he will not attend the circus that Speaker Boehner and Israeli PM Netnayahu have concocted to bring Netanyahu in front of the Congress to push his opposition to a treaty to keep Iran from joining the world nuclear armed powers. Boehner betrays the long standing recognition that the Executive branch implements our foreign policy within the legal framework established by Congress. He betrays the consensus that the US should not help one party party in elections in our allied nations.

Netanyahu betrays democracy in his own nation by bringing his campaign to the US. He betrays the taxpayers of the US, without whose support life in Israel would be more difficult and dangerous. He betrays humanity by trying to torpedo the negotiations at keeping nuclear weapons out of Iran. He makes it clear that he is the the instigator of the bad blood between himself and Obama, failing to consult with the President of the US before appearing before the Congress.

During Netanyahu’s speech in front of Congress before his last election, he received the usual polite standing ovations from the Members. He  turned that appearance into campaign TV ads implying that he had the unanimous support of the US Congress.

Boycotting his appearance is not a bad tactic but there is a stronger one available: attend and turn your back on him. The Israeli public will not hear much about a boycott. They will hear about a public shaming and Netanyahu deserves it. Leave a copy of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, which Israel refuses to sign, on the rostrum before he speaks.

MassBudget Infographic: Expanding Opportunity & Child Poverty in MA

The number of children living in poverty in Massachusetts would be twice as high as it is if low income families did not receive help from effective anti-poverty programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps), WIC nutrition programs, and the Child Tax Credit. Together these programs help lift 1 in 7 children in Massachusetts out of poverty. Yet, another 1 in 7 children still live in poverty in Massachusetts. These findings are detailed in a study released today, Measuring Access to Opportunity in the United States, by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s national KIDS COUNT project of which MassBudget and the KIDS COUNT Advisory Council is the state affiliate.

To provide an overview of what’s working, what’s holding back progress, and how to fix what’s broken, MassBudget created the infographic below. For a more in-depth discussions of these issues, see our reports and resources on expanding economic opportunity, support for kids, jobs and the economy, education, and taxes.


Economic Opportunity & Child Poverty Infographic

A warning about privatizing the T

Read this account of the privatization of London, and maybe let’s think again about privatizing the MBTA in Boston.

First, as only a Brit could put it about the overall privatization of Britain since 1982:

It was a free-market frenzy. Everything we owned was being flogged off by pinstriped bastards reeking of lunch.

And this about London’s privatized skyline:

The utter capitulation of London’s planning system in the face of serious money is detectable right there in that infantile, random collection of improbable sex toys poking gormlessly into the privatised air. Public access? Yeah, we’ll definitely put a public park at the top (by appointment only).

In sum, one hundred years from now, historians:

…will wonder why people tolerated this transfer of collective wealth from taxpayers to shareholders.



Cities Scale: Boston Living with Water

Cities scale is where real climate change adaptation is taking place, now, whether or not we have national or international agreements on greenhouse gases. Cities and regions have to deal with weather emergencies and, it turns out, preparing for weather emergencies and other natural disasters is very much like adapting to climate change. The best of it can be climate mitigation, too.

One way cities are climbing the learning curve is by holding design competitions. In Boston, the city, the Harbor Association, the Redevelopment Authority, and the Society of Architects are hosting Boston Living with Water, an international call for design solutions that create a “more resilient, more sustainable, and more beautiful Boston adapted for end-of-the-century climate conditions and rising sea levels.” They will be announcing the finalist on Thursday, February 26 but you can vote on which of the 49 different plans you like until 12 pm (EST) on Wednesday, February 25 at http://www.bostonlivingwithwater.org/submission-gallery

The contest is based upon the recent reports by the Harbor Association on sea level rise and the Building Resilience in Boston study by the Green Ribbon Commission. Supporting documentation also includes “Designing with Water: Creative Solutions from Around the Globe” which presents twelve case studies from around the world [pdf alert]:


World-wide networks and best practices case studies can be very helpful.

Design proposals were for three different sites and at three different scales: building, neighborhood, and infrastructure.

The building is the Prince Building, a typical historic urban waterfront fabric of Boston, multi-owner residential buildings in the North End.

The neighborhood is the Fort Point Channel District The 100 Acres section, representative of the large urban mixed-use redevelopment opportunities across Boston, including “development sites, green and blue open spaces, multi-level infrastructure, and existing historic buildings.”

The infrastructure is Morrissey Boulevard, near the outer harbor and mouth of the Neponset River, the access to Columbia Point peninsula, where UMass Boston is, and “a range of residential, commercial, institutional, and open space areas,” exemplifying “the critical transportation infrastructure connecting Boston’s neighborhoods.”

The “Principal Challenges” for the designs were

End-of-century Sea Level Rise: Adapting to a five foot increase in sea level in Boston Harbor, elevation 18.5 feet BCB.
End-of-century Climate Conditions: Adapting to increased temperatures, heat waves, precipitation and storm severity.
Incremental Adaptation: Adapting to a continuously changing environment and incremental sea level rise.

The most popular proposals as I write are
Reconnect – Resist – Slow – Collect
Living Threshold
A Life Aquatic: A Celebration of Living with Water
Open Circuit: Traveling Water
Each of them has over a thousand votes

East of the Sun, West of the Moon and Why Not Flooding? have the least votes, less than 30 each.

Preparing Buildings for Rising Seas and Severe Weather Events
Thursday February 26,
8:30 AM to 10:30 AM EST
Atlantic Wharf, 290 Congress Street, Fort Point Room, Boston
RSVP at https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07eadc14h371675a81&oseq=&c=&ch=

Climate projections for Boston indicate that the City will experience rising temperatures, increased storm intensity and higher sea-levels. Boston’s built infrastructure is at risk from these climate stressors, but there are technologies currently available to help asset owners increase the adaptability of both existing and new buildings.

Join A Better City at the release of their new report: Enhancing Resilience in Boston: A Guide for Large Buildings and Institutions; and its compendium online resiliency toolkit. The report and its associated online toolkit provide building owners with information on 33 available resilience actions and technologies. It also provides a preliminary assessment of potential regulatory touch points within the City and state for resilience actions and considers initial ideas for district-level resilience strategies for the Boston area.

Come and learn about: strategies for reducing risks to facilities located inside or outside the floodplain and current technologies used for flooding / sea level rise, storm water management, and urban heat island; and understand the costs and policy implications associated with the resiliency technologies.

8:00-8:30 Breakfast & Networking
8:30-9:00 Key Notes & Special Address
Rob de Vos, Consul General, Dutch Consolate
Rick Dimino, President & CEO, ABC
9:00 – 10:00 Report Presentation & Panel Discussion
Panel themes and questions to be addressed:
How to make the decision to install resilience technology at your building.
How does resiliency work into building economics?
What is the role of tenants?
How do we look to improve/streamline our local regulatory policies to facilitate resiliency investments within the private sector?
What are the lessons Boston learned from Superstorm Sandy?
10:00 – 10:30 Viewing of Boston Properties’ Aqua Fence
Register Now!

Contact Name: tdinkel@abettercity.org

More at: http://environment.harvard.edu/events/2015-02-26-133000-2015-02-26-153000/preparing-buildings-rising-seas-and-severe-weather-events#sthash.kkg4NlSr.dpuf

These kinds of city scale design contests and projects are happening all around the world. The Climate CoLab at MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence has been running such climate design and proposal contests for years now. Currently, there are 22 contests listed there and Cambridge, MA just finished a Climate CoLab Contest on the Urban Heat Island Effect