Category Archives: Politics

Third District Day in Washington

US Capitol

I just returned from a quick trip to Washington for Third District Day, an event hosted by Congresswomen Niki Tsongas which brought several hundred people from the Congressional District she represents here in Massachusetts to the US Capitol to hear from top elected officials and policy makers from Massachusetts and from around the country. It was an excellent and informative event and will be the basis of a number of blog posts in the coming days as I recount the remarks of each of the speakers who included:

Congressman Adam Smith (Wash. – 9th)
- Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee

Edward Davis
- Former Boston Police Commissioner
- Former Lowell Police Department Superintendent
- WBZ/CBS News Homeland Security Correspondent

Ted Leonsis
- Founder and CEO of Monumental Sports and Entertainment
- Owner of the Washington Capitals, Wizards and Verizon Center
- Lowell (Mass.) High School Alumni Hall of Fame

Holly Petraeus
- Director of Servicemember Affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Congressman Richard Neal (MA – 1ST)
- Senior Member of the House Ways and Means Committee
- Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Self Revenue Measures
- Dean of the Massachusetts House Delegation

Congressman Joseph Kennedy (MA – 4TH)
- Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs
- Member of the House Committee on Science and Technology

Senator Edward Markey (MA)
- Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
- Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
- Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
- Member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA)
- Massachusetts Senior Senator
- Member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
- Member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
- Member of the Senate Committee on Aging

Luke Russert
- Television and Radio Journalist
- Correspondent for NBC News

General James F. Amos
- Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps
- Member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: US Department of Defense

Congressman Mike Turner (R-OH-10TH)
- Member of the House Armed Services Committee
- Chairman of the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee
- Senior Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
- Co-chair of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus

Congressman Michael Capuano (MA-7TH)
- Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
- Member of the House Financial Services Committee

Week in Review, April 6, 2014

Three issues with long term implications arose at last Tuesday’s City Council meeting. The council repurposed an existing public safety grant to help fund five new police officers who will begin work at the end of June. The council ratified the School Committee’s proposal to the state school building assistance agency that the city’s priority is renovating Lowell High School. Council Belanger, when commenting on a report on the amount raised by an increase in the meals’ tax, made it clear that he will advocate an increase in the amount of money the city devotes to marketing. Details of all three of these items are contained in my post about the council meeting. The comments to that post make particularly interesting reading since former City Manager Bernie Lynch clarified a couple of points.

The city seemed to settle down a bit after the Monday night selection of Kevin Murphy as our new city manager. I wrote a post documenting the vote taken on Monday night and another sharing my reasons why the council made the right choice in selecting Murphy.

The new city manager expected to begin work by the middle of this month which also means he will be resigning his seat in the state legislature. I wrote a post reviewing Kevin Murphy’s election to the 18th Middlesex District back in 1996 with a review of the current geographic and demographic make up of the district.

Chris Scott on his Column blog listed all of the announced and rumored candidates, a group which includes (according to Scott):

• Brian Donovan, who is active in St. Margaret’s parish and has already held a fund-raiser at Mt. Pleasant. He is not Nangle’s cousin, but he is close with the representative. He managed Nangle’s first campaign.
• James Leary. Leary was elected to his 5th-term on the School Committee last fall. He said he’s gearing up for the race and will resign from the School Committee if elected.
Those apparently interested in running include
• Mehmed Ali, a former Lowell National Historical Park ranger who is back in the Mill City after working for the U.S. Government in Iraq.
• Fred Bahou, a member of the Greater Lowell Technical High School the last five years.
• Dave Ouellette, a city code enforcement officer.
• Mike Sheehan, who is employed by the city as a custodian at the Wang Middle School.
• Rithy Uong, a former city councilor and currently a guidance counselor at the high school.

That’s it for this week’s review. I’m busy preparing for today’s Moses Greeley Parker Lecture which I’ll be giving at 2 pm at the Lowell National Park Visitor Center at 246 Market Street. The topic is “Lowell and the Law.” Admission is free. Please join us if you can.

“Infiltrating the Democratic City Committee”

Judith Durant, a Lowell resident who was a top grass roots campaigner for the recent U.S. Senate campaigns of Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, decided to get involved in the Lowell Democratic City Committee and attended last night’s “reorganization meeting.” Here’s her report:

I’ve been a registered Democrat living in Lowell’s Highlands for 13 years. During this time I’ve been an active volunteer in presidential and senatorial elections. As a Warren Warrior in 2012, I decided to attend the Lowell Democratic Caucus for the first time.

The caucus process was a mystery to me. I found my ward table and asked how this thing works. I learned that we would be electing a number of delegates, an equal number of men and women, and that any registered Democrat from our ward could run. I asked those who were running if they supported Warren so I could vote for them. As we had fewer participants than slots in our ward, none of the nominations was contested.

I attended the caucus again in 2013. Being that this was not an election year, turnout was even lower than in 2012 and we did not fill the slots. I wondered how these positions would get filled, but didn’t really give it too much thought.

This year I attended once again; there were a lot of people, and many candidates for statewide offices spoke. I put my name in to be a delegate, and as there were more candidates than positions, I feel lucky that I got in. Dick Howe commented that I looked awfully happy for someone who was going to be stuck in a hotel ballroom for hours on end.

Lately I’ve been wondering how that whole caucus thing comes together. I learned that city and town committees, functioning under rules set up by the State Committee, organize and run the caucuses. What surprised me was how difficult it was to learn who comprises the Lowell Committee and how one gets involved. I did a Google search for Lowell Democratic City Committee and found a link for Lowell Republican City Committee, but not a trace of the Dems. This, thought I, is wrong. So when I found out through other activists that the LDCC was planning a reorganization meeting for April 3, I decided to attend.

The agenda for the 7:00 meeting was to reorganize the ward and city committees. By 7:10 I was the only person besides the Chair of my ward at our table, so by agreeing to I became secretary of the ward committee. Eventually two others showed up so we now have a treasurer and an associate member.

All ward chairs remain chairs. All city committee officers in attendance remain officers. Raymond Russell is now Affirmative Action Outreach Adviser (way to go Raymond!). The floor opened for discussion and I mentioned that it may be a good idea to create a web page or a Facebook page for the committee. Lynne Lupien, who was also in attendance, volunteered to create the page. I will try to help in creating and collecting content. Paul Sweeney suggested that we create an ad hoc committee to travel to other towns that have active committees and collect ideas for invigorating the Lowell Committee—we now have such a committee who will report back at a to-be-scheduled meeting in May.

I would love to see a large and active Democratic Committee in Lowell, and to that end I will work with others to communicate and reach out to other Lowell Democrats. There’s a long row to hoe, but I believe we can progress. Each ward can have up to 35 members, with various associate members added as needed. Like the Lowell Democratic City Committee on Facebook–the page was created as I typed this up. We’d love to see you at the next meeting.

St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast: more love-in less roast by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

Southie’s traditional St. Patrick’s Day breakfast was anything but traditional yesterday.  A testament to the new Boston, a majority-minority city, the breakfast was hosted for the first time ever by a woman, a person of color, a Haitian-American, and a resident of Dorchester…all wrapped up in the energetic and charismatic persona of State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry.

Dorchester was well represented among breakfast attendees, reinforcing the sense that the new Boston is on its way to becoming a rainbow coalition.  Dorcena Forry had prepared a few videos to marry her to the Southie part of her First Suffolk Senate district.  They were a success, as was Governor Patrick’s touching farewell ballad, his last St. Patrick’s Day breakfast as Governor. Hugging the Senator, the Governor said, “This is what a Forry and a Patrick look like these days.”

Other high points were Congressman Stephen Lynch, an old hand at this event, with humor on target and effectively delivered, and, relegated to the end of the program, GOP gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker, who was emotional in paying a tribute to the generosity of the Dropkick Murphys but also crisp, funny and off-color in skewering Councilor Bill Linehan, who won the sour grapes award of the day by skulking off for Ireland because he was not hosting the event.

Many of the speakers paid tribute to Tom Menino, announced just hours before to be suffering from metastatic cancer.  But it wasn’t the former mayor’s serious illness that cast a pall on the proceedings.  That was achieved by the singular failure of the majority speakers to be funny. It was as if they didn’t understand the goal of a roast.

There was a dreadful video featuring outgoing Senate President Therese Murray, shown looking for the next step in her career.  It was interminable and  prompted nary a smile.  (Pity its narrator Warren Tolman, obviously included to achieve visibility for his Attorney General campaign, saddled with a bad idea poorly written.)  Another failed video featured Murray’s counterpart in the House, Bob DeLeo, the video highlighting a string of “selfies” showing the Speaker at different ethnic eateries in Southie.  That dog didn’t hunt either.

Gubernatorial candidates Martha Coakley and Steve Grossman and Senator Ed Markey were also flat. The traditional breakfast format requires wit, sometimes pointed, sometimes self-deprecating, but usually good for a laugh.  Throughout, there were few laughs, not even any of the traditional groans that bespeak good-hearted attempts at humor. Slightly more successful than most was Senator Elizabeth Warren, who – in addition to jabs at new New Hampshire Senate candidate Scott Brown -noted that Charlie Baker was known as the heart and soul of the Weld administration, (pause), “which is like being called the smartest Kardashian.”  Baker laughed amiably.

So yesterday’s breakfast had plenty of Kumbaya, and relatively little ha-ha-ha. Not even a mini-cameo video of former Senate President Bill Bulger, longtime star of the event, could evoke its past success.  One wonders if the sharp repartee of the past was put aside, even subconsciously, in the interest of comity in the newly diverse environment.  Perhaps next year, when Dorcena Forry is no longer a first-time emcee, we can be treated to the sharper jabs and inside humor captured this year only in her well produced videos.  As for yesterday, however, I hope the corned beef they served at the Convention Center was tastier than the generally bland corn delivered up at the mic.

I welcome your comments.

Scenes from today’s So. Boston St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast

Screen and Twitter pics from the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast ~

US Senator Elizabeth Warren greets hundreds at the breakfast ~

Photo: Fwd: 4 pictures for you

Head Table with State Senator/ candidate for Treasurer Barry Finegold at the far left, Senate President Therese Murray left of podium, Congressman Stephen Lynch seated to the right ~

Photo: Fwd: 4 pictures for you

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny ~ having the Irish PM a first!

Photo: Fwd: 4 pictures for you

Mayor of the City of Lawrence Dan Rivera with Host State Senator Linda Dorcen-Forry ~ (from the Mayor’s twitter feed…)

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Greater Lowell Area Democrats (GLAD) To Meet Tomorrow ~ Saturday March 15, 2014

Reminder ~ the next GLAD Meeting is tomorrow /  SATURDAY!

                         

The next regular breakfast meeting of Greater Lowell Area  Democrats (GLAD ) will be tomorrow  Saturday March 15, 2014 at 8:00 AM SHARP! in our usual location in the Independence Grill at the Radisson Hotel Rte. 110 in Chelmsford. (Some members may be leaving to attend Paul Sheehy’s funeral in Lowell so we will move the speaking program and agenda expeditiously.)

Four 2014 candidates are scheduled to attend, speak and take questions. For AG Warren Tolman; for Middlesex DA Michael Sullivan: for Lieutentant Governor Jonathan Edwards and James Arena-DeRosa. Other candidates may join us as well.

AGENDA: The regular agenda will include: the report of the Chair; Ad Hoc event committee first report;  delegate caucuses update;  candidate updates for the 2014 Constitutional and other races; activities of Democratic State Committee; 2014 nominating convention updates and other topics on the minds of GLAD members, associates and guests.

Senator Barry Finegold - candidate for State Treasurer – has rescheduled for the March 15 GLAD meeting.
Please join us at this meeting of area Democrats.
For more information: sweeney133@verizon.net

In the Merrimack Valley ~ Mayor Rivera Awards an Ambulance Contract

Ambulance contacts continue to be a  thorny issue in the Merrimack Valley. Some area communities like Andover and my own in Tewksbury have 911 emergency ambulance services covered by the local fire department. Others like Chelmsford and Lowell use a private contractor. In recent years, the Lowell City Manager  has negotiated a fee to be paid to the city. Not so in Lawrence where until a few days ago the city used a private, well-known area contractor. New Mayor Rivera has hired Lawrence General Hospital to provide ambulance services wanting to ”strengthen the hospital’s standing in the region” as it ramps up plans for a $72 million expansion and to end what he describes as the “impropriety’’ that hung over the  service  under the administration of former Mayor William Lantigua. One charge had ambulances being sent out of the country in a tit-for-tat Lantigua arrangement.

Rivera’s transition team recommended that the city would get quicker, better service and a financial benefit from allowing the city’s fire department to do the work. But Rivera has chosen a different path with Lawrence General. The new provider LGH will also not pay a fee to the city. Swirling through this action are recorded political contributions to both Lantigua and Rivera, political connections as a former state rep is hired as the ambulance provider’s lobbyist and the Mayor’s pledge that doing business with the city of Lawrence will be different than in the past.

Patriot Ambulance based in Chelmsford used to provide the ambulance service and owners have recently engaged the lobbying services of former State Rep David Torrisi.  Of note ~ Rivera’s highly respected Chief of Staff is Lisa Torrisi – the new lobbyist’s sister.

Stay tuned -  with “no comment” yet from Lawrence General, Patriot or Torrisi, there may be more to come.

Eagle-Tribune writer Keith Eddings lays out the story … read it here: http://www.eagletribune.com/local/x1387853195/Mayor-drops-Patriot-Ambulance-hires-Lawrence-General

Greater Lowell Area Democrats (GLAD) To Meet ~ Saturday February 15, 2014

Reminder ~ the next GLAD Meeting this coming  SATURDAY!

The next regular breakfast meeting of Greater Lowell Area  Democrats (GLAD ) will be this coming  Saturday February 15, 2014 at 8:00 AM SHARP! back in our usual location in the Independence Grill at the Radisson Hotel Rte. 110 in Chelmsford.

Please join us at this meeting of area Democrats.
For more information: sweeney133@verizon.net

AGENDA: The regular agenda will include: the report of the Chair; the financial report; the delegate caucuses update; report of the By-Laws committee; candidate updates for the 2014 Constitutional and other races; activities of Democratic State Committee; 2014 nominating convention updates and other topics on the minds of GLAD members, associates and guests.

No particular candidates are expected at this meeting – most are attending the town/ward caucuses. There will be five candidates at the March 15 GLAD meeting.
*Note:  The Lowell Democratic ward caucuses are scheduled for 11am this Saturday at the Lowell high School cafeteria – the GLAD meeting will begin on time so members may get to Lowell!
Elected officials, candidates and their representatives are welcome to join us! Please advise the Chair.

Week in Review: February 9, 2014

Special City Council Meeting

On Monday night the city council held a special meeting for the purpose of selecting an acting city manager from the date Bernie Lynch’s resignation takes effect until a new city manager takes office. The council voted unanimously to appoint current city clerk Michael Geary to this post. I wrote a full story about it on Monday night.

City Council Meeting: February 4, 2014

Thanks to Jack Moynihan for taking notes on the meeting and allowing me to post them (I had another commitment that night).

I have since watched the meeting and came up with these highlights:

Motion by CC Rourke to take from table appointment of Salmira Mitchell to Library Board of Trustees. Motion was non-debatable. Five voted to take from the table (Rourke, Samaras, Milinazzo, Martin and Leahy); four voted against doing that (Elliott, Mercier, Kennedy and Belanger). The appointment was taken up. Mayor Elliott read letter from City Manager re the appointment. Her appointment was confirmed by the same five to four vote with no discussion.

Discussion of Tanner Street urban renewal plan. Public hearing on this plan in the next month or two per Adam Baacke.

Public Hearing on Anti-Panhandling Ordinance

Amends existing city ordinance. Several people spoke against it. One was Marty Lorrey, the former city councilor. He’s the one who originally filed the motion because of complaints he received from all over the city. He says it has “gone off the tracks.” He thinks it should be citywide. He also is concerned about the city’s definition of “aggressive.” He basically says “aggression” should be based on the perception of the person solicited. He would expand “aggression” to include repetitive requests in the same location that harms nearby businesses. The council enacts the ordinance unanimously.

State Election Activities

Some news about this fall’s state election: Nomination papers for elected offices on the ballot this fall are now available. On Tuesday night there was a house party in Lowell for Maura Healey who is a candidate for attorney general. Tewksbury held its Democratic caucus on Saturday, February 8, 2014, electing 15 delegates to the Democratic State Convention which will be held on June 13 and 14 in Worcester. The primary significance of the convention is to identify statewide candidates who may proceed to the primary election ballot in September. Besides obtaining the required number of nomination signatures from registered voters – most statewide candidates require 10,000 certified signatures – candidates must also receive the votes of more than 15% of the delegates to the convention. The Democratic caucus in Lowell will be held on Saturday, February 15, 2014 at 11 am at Lowell High School. Anyone who was registered as a Democrat as of January 31, 2014 may participate.

Also on the ballot this fall will be the office of Middlesex District of Attorney. Gerry Leone was elected to the office four years ago but he resigned midterm. Governor Patrick appointed long-time prosecutor Marian Ryan to the post for the balance of Leone’s term. Ryan is now running for the office in her own right but she recently gained a challenger in the Democratic Primary: Michael Sullivan, the current Middlesex County Clerk of Courts. Chris Scott, in his Column Blog, reported the Sullivan recently scored the endorsement of Scott Harsharger, a former Middlesex DA who went on to serve as state Attorney General.

Mill No. 5

Congratulations to Mill Number 5 and its occupants for the successful retail event/party held there last Saturday. Located on Jackson Street in the midst of the Hamilton Canal District, Mill No. 5 still has some renovations to be done, but there are some great retailers and other businesses already in operation there. It’s already a great addition to the city’s creative economy. It will also be the subject of a motion at this Tuesday’s city council meeting. Rita Mercier is seeking an update on future plans for the mill. The motion is stated in general terms but I have a guess about its intent. Mill No. 5 already has plans in place for a yoga studio and a health food-type restaurant. Now a gentleman who is a licensed massage therapist would like to take space in the mill due to the complementary nature of his business with others already there. Apparently someone is concerned that a massage therapist will threaten the health, safety and morals of the neighborhood. That’s just a guess. Maybe the motion is about something completely different. I hope it is. We’ll see on Tuesday.

Lowell Cemetery Tours

We’ve set the dates for this spring’s tour of Lowell Cemetery. They are Friday, May 9, 2014 at 1pm; Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 10am; Friday, May 16 at 1pm; and Saturday May 17 at 10am. All tours begin at the Lawrence Street Gate, take 90 minutes to complete and are free and require no advanced registration.

Lynne on Left in Lowell continues to post multiple times each week about council matters. Jack Mitchell on Lowell Live Feed has a couple of posts about Mike Geary and his task as acting city manager.

That’s it for now . . .

Marty Walsh paints the big picture by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted fromMarjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

marty-walsh-necIf Boston Mayor Marty Walsh can avoid giving away the store in the next rounds of union negotiations,  he’ll save some money to help fund some of his promised initiatives. He avoided discussion of the challenge of union money demands this morning when he laid out his vision to the greater Boston business community, with the New England Council packing the Boston Harbor Hotel’s Wharf Room.  He brought along his freshly appointed top-level administrators, and introduced them all. These, he said, are the “go to” people at City Hall.

In the wake of nine homicides this month, Walsh spoke first to public safety, and talked empathetically about people living with trauma from the violence spawned by a culture of guns and drugs. Turning to his oft-used language, he noted “we are not going to arrest our way out of the problem,” a solution that works  only “for a short period of time.”  Instead, as candidate Walsh had, he spoke of reducing the achievement gap, creating more early childhood education, and creating more opportunities for all residents.  He also addressed the need for more affordable housing and solutions to homelessness (there were 7255 homeless in the city in December.)

Walsh pledged more support for arts and culture (he has created a new cabinet-level head to deal with the creative economy), more sophisticated technology in City Hall, a balanced city budget that reflects his priorities without using reserve funds or one-time revenues, and more certainty and transparency at the BRA (now overseeing $4.8 billion in projects).

He just reorganized his cabinet and delivered some promised consolidation.  He also wants to reorganize intergovernmental relationships with expanded regionalism. He seems open to new ideas, even if they weren’t created here. In short, he has a broad view of the potential to take Boston “to the next level,” building on the work of predecessor Tom Menino.

NEC President Jim Brett reflected that “the new Boston” in the 1950′s was about bricks and mortar. Today “the New Boston” refers to its people.  Boston is a majority minority city, and Walsh was elected with across-the-board support.  His administration is notably diverse and, with a few exceptions, very very young.  There’s an energy level that is breathtaking. When you call City Hall these days, the people answering the phone may not yet be able to connect you to the person you’re trying to reach, but they sound friendly and earnest and, to a person, wrap up the conversation with “have a nice day.”  Wow!  They really project the spirit that you might not have to fight City Hall.

How this evolves in policy terms, especially with leapfrogging and escalating public union contracts, remains to be seen. Out of the box, Walsh is aiming high with stretch goals never before achieved in Boston. But right now, just 26 days into the mayor’s term, there’s reason for cautious optimism.

I welcome your thoughts in the section below.