Ed Markey announcement event

Ed Markey announcement (photos by Paul Sweeney)

Early yesterday morning I headed to Malden for the formal announcement of Ed Markey’s candidacy for U.S. Senate. The event was at the Malden YMCA which is a very impressive facility. I volunteered to help with settup and so arrived two hours before the scheduled start time. This gave me a chance to meet some of the campaign staff and chat with enthusiastic Democrats from around the state. (I was flattered that several from places far from Lowell asked after hearing my name “are you the blogger?” although Left-in-Lowell still has a greater brand identity in state progressive political circles).

I won’t hazard a guess as to attendance other than to say a large gymnasium plus the overhead running track were packed with people. A bunch of elected officials were present to support Markey’s candidacy with the most notable for our purposes being Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian and State Senator Ken Donnelly (whose district includes Billerica).

Markey bounded onto the stage to thunderous applause. Accompanied by his wife, his two brothers and their spouses, he launched into his remarks, pledging to “give all people access to the American Dream” and promising to “advance President Obama’s agenda”, a specific refrain heard repeatedly throughout the speech. He warned of “Tea Party extremists” in Washington trying to “slash Medicare and Medicaid”; of Big Oil trying to stop the clean energy revolution and he promised to beat back the NRA and to ban deadly assault weapons.

He said that Massachusetts has a history of electing Senators who were not afraid to lead on controversial issues. “I will run in that tradition.” he said.

Continuing on to the environment, an issue on which Markey has long been considered a national leader, he used his familiar line: “The planet has a fever; there are no emergency rooms for sick planets; we need a green revolution.” Next, Markey advocated a Constitutional Amendment to reverse the Citizens United decision of the U.S. Supreme Court which allowed unlimited corporate expenditures on elections. Markey wrapped up by reminding everyone that “I helped Barack Obama and Ted Kennedy pass health care reform” (leaving unsaid that his Congressional colleague and opponent in this race, Steve Lynch, voted against the Affordable Care Act) and pledging to help make health care a right and not a privilege.

The speech was met with enthusiastic applause by all in attendance. When it was over, Markey descended the stage and circle the crowd shaking hands. As the crowd thinned out, the Greater Lowell contingent gathered in the back of the room to compare notes. A gentleman wearing a suit and a familiar face sought us out. It was John Markey, the candidate’s brother. John introduced himself to us and shared some great stories about his past involvement with Lowell politics. Most notable was that he himself was a candidate in 1978 for the Fifth Congressional District in the year that Paul Tsongas vacated the seat to run for the very same U.S. Senate seat Ed Markey now seeks. John, who was living in Lawrence at the time, finished fourth in the Democratic primary, partly due to some rough treatment at the hands of the Lowell Sun (the more things change . . .). Below is a relevant excerpt from our Elections Page about that 1978 race – some very familiar names including one recently in the news:

Tsongas’s run for the Senate left the Fifth Congressional District without an incumbent. Some well-known names appeared amongst the candidates to succeed Tsongas:

1. James Shannon of Lawrence – 18,529 – (1076)
2. Ray Rourke of Lowell – 17,743 – (9121)
3. Bob Hatem of Lowell – 16,359 – (4118)
4. John Markey of Lawrence – 14,046 – (1291)
5. Mike McLaughlin of Lowell – 12,644 – (2757)
6. Ronald Burba of Lawrence – 3524 – (242)

In the Republican Primary, John Buckley of Lawrence defeated Nick Rizzo of Andover, 11,772 to 9881. In the general election, Shannon defeated Buckley, 90,256 to 48,685 with Independent Jay Gaffney of Tewksbury receiving 33,835 votes.

We also learned that the Markey connection to Lowell continues to a new generation. We met John’s son (the candidate’s nephew) who is currently a student at UMass Lowell and who no doubt will be active in the coming campaign.

If you are interested in supporting Ed Markey in his run for the U.S. Senate, please visit our Lowell for Ed Markey page and “like” it and send me an email at DickHoweJr[at]gmail.com and I’ll help you get started.

Ed Markey and his spouse, Susan Blumenthal

Jimmy Anderson and Ed Markey

An early speaker at the Ed Markey announcement event who I found quite impressive was a woman named Ann Anderson. She told of how in 1972 her four year old son Jimmy was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. As Jimmy received treatment, Ann discovered that several other kids in their Woburn neighborhood had contracted the same cancer. She knew that the cause had to be either the air or the water and since Woburn’s water was notoriously bad, she focused on it. She spoke to many public officials back then, but their response was uniformly insensitive and uncaring. She was accused of being a hysterical mom. And then she met Ed Markey. He was Congressman Markey by that point and he asked for a meeting with her. At a time when no one talked about “the environment”, this was not a career enhancing move by Markey who asked only “what can I do?” Ann said that Markey’s sincere concern lifted a weight off her shoulders and they have been good friends ever since. Markey held Congressional hearings in Woburn and helped “lift the shroud of darkness from toxic waste in Woburn.” Markey went on to advance the cause of Super Fund legislation in Congress and has been a champion of environmental issues throughout his career. But to Ann Anderson and the families devastated by toxic drinking water, he is a hero. Jimmy Anderson died in 1981 at age 13. For those of you who ride the Lowell line on commuter rail into Boston, you know the familiar refrain from the conductor, “North Billerica . . . Wilmington . . . Anderson . . .” That last one is the Anderson Regional Transportation Center in Woburn. It was built in 2001 on top of a capped Super Fund site. It is named for Jimmy Anderson.

“Keeping the Social in Social Security” by John Edward

This is the second in a series of column’s by John Edward, a resident of Chelmsford who earned his master’s degree at UMass Lowell and who teaches economics at Bentley University and UMass Lowell. John’s earlier column in this series, “A Healthy Budget”, was posted on January 13, 2013 and can be found here. The following is installment number two, this on social security:

President George W. Bush tried to privatize part of Social Security. During fiscal cliff negotiations, House Republicans tried to reduce retiree benefits.

President Reagan and Alan Greenspan had the right idea. We have to secure the program while keeping the social in Social Security.

Social Security should not be part of the budget debate in the first place. The Social Security Trust Fund was “off-budget” until 1968. President Johnson included it in a “unified budget.” Trust fund surpluses made the federal deficit appear smaller.

In 1983, President Reagan formed the National Commission on Social Security Reform. It is also known as the Greenspan Commission, named after the chair, Alan Greenspan.

The Greenspan Commission recommended taking Social Security off budget again. As stated by the commission: “The National Commission believes that changes in the Social Security program should be made only for programmatic reasons, and not for purposes of balancing the budget.” President Reagan approved.

For most of its history, Social Security ran a surplus. Workers contributed more than retirees collected in benefits.

The ratio of workers to retirees was very high when the baby boomers were paying in. Now the baby boomers are retiring. The ratio has dropped significantly and will continue to do so.

Social Security is now running a deficit. The Social Security Administration knew that would happen eventually. The Great Recession made it happen sooner than expected. Many people filed for early retirement or became eligible for other social security programs. Continue reading

Writers Roundup at the Old Court, Feb. 23

The 2nd Annual Lowell Writers and Publishers Winter Roundup is set for Saturday, February 23, 12.30 to 4.00 pm, upstairs at the Old Court Irish pub at Central and Middle streets in downtown Lowell.

Publishers and writers attending include playwright Jack Neary, poet and memoir-writer Judith Dickerman-Nelson, Sweeney-and-Seawell creator Dave Robinson, John Wooding of UMass Lowell and COOL (with his new Vanderbilt Univ. Press book about higher education co-written with Kristin Esterberg, as well as books from Baywood Publishing), Ryan Gallagher and Bootstrap Press, poet and writer Chath PierSath, our own Dick Howe Jr (whose book on Lowell Legends is due in March) Lloyd Corricelli and Sons of Liberty Publishing, Steve O’Connor of two-book fame, Julia Gavin of the Artists League of Lowell, fiction and essay writer Kassie Dickinson-Rubico, Matt Miller (whose prize-winning second book of poems, “Club Icarus,” is now available), and my Loom Press with books by the above-mentioned Judith, Dave, and Matt, as well as Tom Sexton’s new book of Lowell poems and titles by Al Bouchard, Bob Forrant & Christof Strobel, Kate Hanson Foster, Paul Hudon, and other authors with ties to the city and region—with more signing up every day.

2012 Writers and Publisher Roundup at the Old Court [Photograph by Joe Marion]