With Plums as Juicy as Sheriff to Bestow, It's Good to Be the Governor

Monday, December 31, 2012

Sheriff is one of the best jobs in Massachusetts politics for three simple reasons.
One, sheriffs are paid well.  Most collect an annual salary of just over $123,000, an especially heart-warming figure when calculating your state pension.
Two, sheriffs have six-year terms.  They face the voters so rarely that most people cannot tell you who their sheriff is.  To be a sheriff in Massachusetts is to be out of sight, out of mind, and out of the negative headlines.
Three, sheriffs control big budgets and a big number of jobs.  If handled wisely, the power to hire as a Massachusetts sheriff inevitably produces a rich harvest of political fruits. 
(According to a two-year-old State Auditor’s report, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s office has approximately 1,046 employees.)
Having recently named Suffolk Sheriff Andrea Cabral as his new Secretary of Public Safety, Governor Deval Patrick is poised to appoint an interim sheriff to replace her.  The person Patrick chooses will have the job at least until 2014, when he or she must run in an election for what's left of Cabral’s term, which expires at the end of 2016. That’s two years to audition for the permanent job, build a wide political base, and raise the money needed to wage an election campaign.  Only the most inept pol could blow such advantages.
Yes, political plums as juicy as sheriff don’t roll into the governor’s lap often.
While there’s been little mention in the media of who may replace Cabral, you can be sure a lot is being done behind the scenes in the hope of influencing the governor’s choice.
When openings like this occurred in the past, governors usually looked to the legislature.  For example, we saw Patrick appoint longtime Waltham state representative Peter Koutoujian Middlesex County Sheriff in January, 2011, following the death of Jim DiPaola.
This time around, Gov. Patrick could easily break that pattern and give the job to a member of the Boston City Council.  Do not be surprised if Council President Steve Murphy, who has long coveted a higher office, any higher office, gets the nod.
But if the governor limits his options to legislators, at least a few from the 17-member Boston delegation to the House have to be considered serious candidates.  Gene O’Flaherty, Kevin Honan, Marty Walsh, step right up!
Of the four senators in the Boston delegation, you’d expect South Boston’s popular Jack Hart to be a favorite -- were it not for the fact he’s a strong candidate to succeed Senate President Therese Murray when she gives up the gavel after the 2013-14 session.  Senate President beats Suffolk Sheriff any day.  That leaves Mike Rush, Sonia Chang-Diaz and Anthony Petrucelli, all of whom should be seen as legit sheriff contenders until they declare their non-interest.
I have no idea if any of these folks wants to exit the legislature via the sheriff route.  But if I were governor, I’d choose O’Flaherty.
I intend no disparagement or diminishment of any other Boston rep.  It’s just that I know O’Flaherty better than the others.  I know he has the blend of smarts, experience, temperament and toughness to do the job right.  Also, O’Flaherty has publicly stated he does not want to continue as House chair of the Judiciary Committee in 2013-14.  His eyes are open for something new.
The correction officers union can chew up a sheriff if he’s not careful, but there’s no danger of that happening to the Chelsea-bred O’Flaherty.
If I had to guess who from the legislature Patrick will appoint, I’d say Chong-Diaz.  He will have no problem making the case for the senator from the 2nd Suffolk District.

Boston Will Not Be a Bystander as Wynn Rolls the Dice on a Casino in Everett

Friday, December 21, 2012

At first blush, you’d think the biggest obstacle to building a casino in Everett was the site itself, 35 acres of vacant, contaminated land on the Mystic River, across from Charlestown and Somerville.
But it could actually be easier to clean up the site, which reportedly contains chemicals, petroleum byproducts, lead and “tunnel muck” from the Big Dig, than to overcome the certain opposition of Boston to a casino in Everett.
If Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn ends up making a serious bid for the eastern Massachusetts casino license, the powers that be in the Hub will do everything possible to stop him and to promote, instead, a casino at Suffolk Downs in East Boston.
A Suffolk Downs casino means a ton of dough every year for Boston.  A casino in Everett means no casino windfall for Boston.
The beauty part for Boston is that it can raise a slew of legitimate objections because so much of the traffic headed to an Everett casino would have to go through an already overburdened and dysfunctional Sullivan Square.  On top of that, a tiny part of Boston abuts the proposed casino site, meaning Boston would have solid legal standing to fight the casino permits.
Wynn has obviously perceived the potential chokehold Boston has on a casino development at the former Monsanto Chemical Co. site in Everett, and has decided, for the time being, to move ahead anyway.  Two days ago, he signed an option to buy the property. 
However, that doesn’t mean he’s into the deal for a prohibitive sum, and certainly not by Wynn standards of wealth. (What a great name for a gambling kingpin.)
You can assume the owners made it easy for Wynn to take that option.
There are not lot of people lined up to buy land with the environmental complications of the ex-home of Monsanto, even ones as close to downtown Boston as this.
And the owners know that, if Wynn somehow secures the eastern casino license, the profit they’d make on the resulting sale of the property to him would be incredibly higher than they hoped to make when  acquiring it several years ago for a price reported in the vicinity of $8 million.
The option to acquire this site was not the real test of Wynn’s desire to take on the owners of Suffolk Downs and their casino-operator partner, Caesar’s Palace, in a battle for the eastern license.  That will come in mid-January, when bidders for casino licenses will have to file their applications, and a $400,000 non-refundable deposit, with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Interestingly, the two putative casino sites have similar flaws.  Each will be difficult to access quickly by car (Route C-1 in East Boston and Route 99 in Everett are already clogged with traffic a good part of the day), and each is on the fringes of the capital of New England, instead of being in the heart of Boston, the best and truest place for a resort casino.


Tom Menino as Master of Management -- the Proof Shines Bright in His Absence

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Here’s the best definition of a good manager I ever heard: a person whose organization runs as well in his absence as when he’s there.
If you agree with that definition, that premise, you have to admit: Tom Menino is one hell of a manager.
Due to health problems, the longtime mayor of Boston has not been able to work at City Hall for almost two full months.  There have been no serious or unusual problems in how the city government functions during that period.
How many men or women managers do you know who could have been away from their desks since Oct. 26 and not have the roof fall in?  The last managerial job I had, back in 1998, I couldn’t take off a long weekend without something blowing up. 
Maybe that’s why I haven’t been a manager in 14 years.
Menino is close to 70 years old, has been in office since 1993, and is coming to the end of his fifth term next year.  Despite a list of medical problems that would make an insurance underwriter faint, he gives every indication of wanting to run for another term.
A lot of characters in Boston see themselves as future mayors.  You’d think at least one or two of them would be taking advantage of the mayor’s long hiatus to act as if his time on the big stage had finally  come, and that his mayoral announcement was just days away.
Nothing of the sort has happened.
This past Monday, the New York Times took a good look at Menino’s situation, (“Ailing Mayor of Boston Says He’s Still Up to the Job”).  The Times noted that “no politician has called for him to step aside.  Some in the news media have suggested, gently, that he should quit while he is ahead, but no potential challenger has made a peep about running for mayor next year, whether or not Mr. Menino seeks an unprecedented sixth term.”
Asked to explain his political longevity and lack of opposition, Menino said, “How I explain this is, people have to have faith in you.  That’s the key to this whole thing.”
Menino became mayor accidentally: Ray Flynn quit to accept the posting as U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican and then City Council President Menino moved up automatically.  But it’s no accident that Menino went on to become the longest-serving mayor in Boston history.  With the exception of the late Ted Kennedy, Menino has proved to be the best Massachusetts politician of his generation.
Not coincidentally, Menino and Kennedy shared the traits of a classical hard-nosed, hands-on, I-expect-results manager.
I enjoyed every word and turn of phrase in the Times piece.  When the reporter, Katharine Q. Seelye, asked him to “name the best thing he had done for Boston,” I hung on his reply.
“My No. 1 thing is bringing racial harmony to the city,” he said.
Wow. Good answer.
It was also a truthful assessment and a reminder of how good policy making equals good politics more often than not -- and sometimes in ways that make history.
On her first day on the job Monday, Dec. 17, the new general manager of the MBTA, Beverly Scott, described herself to the State House News Service as “a high-impact player.” 
“I’m typically a start-up, fix-it, turn-around, transition manager,” Ms. Scott was quoted.  “My typical lifespan at organizations is about a five-year period of time.  I’m not trying to suggest that a change manager is a better manager than who is a maintenance manager, but you just need to know who you are, and that’s really the essence of who I am, is very much a change manager.  I’m a high-impact player.”
I admire Ms. Scott’s confidence.  I sincerely wish her the best results in all of her bold plans and endeavors.  But as a daily rider of the T beast, I’d say that the union-shackled, dollar-devouring, creaky-infrastructured MBTA is more likely to have a high impact on its general manager than vice versa; further, those impacts are likely to resemble what happens to passengers during Green Line crashes.

Romney's Ticked. You Would Be Too If They Gave You a Lie of the Year 'Award'

Monday, December 17, 2012

PolitiFact just named Mitt Romney’s TV ad on the sale of Chrysler to an Italian company – “Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China” -- the 2012 Lie of the Year.
If you think Romney isn’t bothered by that, I think you’re wrong.
Politicians are like the rest of us: they hate it when people say rotten things about them, although they are reluctant to admit it.
We’ve all seen interviews where a reporter says something like, “Governor, are you bothered that your opponent says you’re a liar and a fraud, someone who can’t be trusted with a piggyback, never mind the state budget,” and the governor smiles and says, “Rolls right off my back!  I never give it a second thought.  Like Harry Truman said, ‘If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.’  I can take the heat.  Don’t worry.”
You’re supposed to say stuff like that when you’re holding a public office or seeking office. 
But every time I hear it, I think, “The governor must hate that guy’s guts.  He’d probably push him down an elevator shaft if he could.”
Running for president, Romney showed no qualms about changing positions, trimming the truth and demonizing opponents.  He apparently considered such behavior a requirement of the task and season, a regrettable but necessary choice to “fight the devil with fire.”
It is unlikely Romney ever considered the compromises of the campaign trail moral lapses or signs of a flawed character.  To the contrary, the former Massachusetts governor had ample reason to regard himself as above the grubby realities of politics. 
Had he not served with distinction as a bishop of his church, a leader sought by members of his faith for moral guidance?
Had he not been the savior -- the reformer -- of a scandal-plagued Winter Olympics?
Had he not headed a gubernatorial administration free of backroom deals, patronage hiring, and, God forbid, law breaking, for all four years?
All of which is to say, you bet Mitt is hurt and angry because his campaign was judged the perpetrator of the 2012 Lie of the Year by a legitimate, long-established news organization.*
On December 12, PolitiFact’s Angie Drobnic Holan wrote:
“It was a lie told in the critical state of Ohio in the final days of a close campaign – that Jeep was moving its U.S. production to China.  It originated with a conservative blogger, who twisted an accurate news story into a falsehood.  Then it picked up steam when the Drudge Report ran with it.  Even though Jeep’s parent company gave a quick and clear denial, Mitt Romney repeated it and his campaign turned it into a TV ad. 
“And they stood by the claim, even as the media and the public expressed collective outrage against something so obviously false.
“People often say that politicians don’t pay a price for deception, but this time was different: A flood of negative press coverage rained down on the Romney campaign, and he failed to turn the tide in Ohio, the most important state in the presidential election.”
PolitiFact gave a spanking to Obama, too.
“It’s not that President Obama and his campaign team were above falsehoods, either,” wrote Drobnic Holan.  “Their TV ads distorted Romney’s positions on abortion and immigration to make them seem more extreme than they actually were.  A pro-Obama super PAC even created an ad suggesting Romney was responsible for a woman’s death when her husband lost his job at a Bain-controlled company.”
But Romney’s Jeep ad “was brazenly false,” she quickly emphasized.
That little bit about Obama’s falsehoods was down in the sixth paragraph, so it won’t stick in a reader’s mind as long and as forcefully as the fact that Romney got the 2012 Lie of the Year “award,” which no doubt only makes Romney’s anger and pain worse.
*PolitiFact is described on its website as “a project of the Tampa Bay Times to help you find the truth in American politics.  Reporters and editors from the Times  fact-check statements by members of Congress, the White House, lobbyists and interest groups and rate them on our Truth-O-Meter.” 
For more info, go to http://www.politifact.com/

Political Influence Fits Suffolk University Like the Golden Dome Fits the State House

Friday, December 7, 2012

What has taken others years of maneuvering and hard work to accomplish, James McCarthy managed in an instant earlier this week.
He became a political figure to be reckoned with in Boston simply by taking office as the new president of Suffolk University during inaugural ceremonies Tuesday, December 5, at Faneuil Hall.
I take nothing away from McCarthy, a distinguished sociologist with a doctorate from Princeton, when I say that anybody who takes the top job at Suffolk gets political stature in the bargain.
It cannot be otherwise when your campus stands literally in the shadow of the Massachusetts State House, on the back side of Beacon Hill, and when your alumni get elected to the legislature in droves and your night school is a mecca for young legislative staffers seeking a brighter future by earning law degrees and master’s degrees there.  (Legislators are famously lenient with their staffers who have to leave a little early to attend a class or prepare for a test next door.)
The list of Suffolk alums who wield power at the State House is topped by House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a graduate of the law school, and Bruce Tarr, the Senate Minority Leader, who holds undergraduate and law degrees from the university. 
Other bold face names in the alumni rolls:
·         Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty, House chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary
·         Rep. John Keenan, House chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy
·         Senator Mark Pacheco, Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, and chair of the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change.  (The Pacheco Bill, which has had a major impact on state policies directing the procurement of goods and services by all governmental entities, is named after him.)
·         Senator Brian Joyce, chair of the Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets
·         Rep Angelo Scaccia, a fixture at the State House for decades and a key ally of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino
No fewer than 36 of the current 200 members of the Massachusetts legislature, 18%, are graduates of Suffolk.
Looking for other signifiers of Suffolk’s political standing and sway?
Consider John Nucci, the former Boston city councilor and Suffolk Superior Court clerk-magistrate who serves as the university’s vice president of external affairs.  James McCarthy’s predecessor, the legendary David Sargent, who retired at the tender age of 82, hired Nucci years ago to improve the university’s relations with Beacon Hill neighbors and to help win city approvals for a slew of construction and relocation projects.  Let’s say Nucci has more than earned his salary.
Consider the Suffolk University Political Research Center, headed by David Paleologos, which went from nowhere in 2002 to become a nationally respected political polling outfit in less than five years.  Paleologos, brother of former state legislator Nick Paleologos, was one of the first pollsters to detect the surge of Scott Brown in his Senate campaign against Martha Coakley.
Consider the Moakley Center (named for the late wizard of the U.S. Congress from South Boston, Joe Moakley), which runs programs to help public service employees do their jobs better.  Its sister organization, the university’s Institute for Public Service, has been granting a master of public administration degree since 1975, and now has more than 2,000 graduates working across the nation.
Consider the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service, founded in 2006 through a $5 million gift from the Rappaports, who helped remake the face of Boston in the redevelopment of the West End.  The Rappaport Center is headquartered in the stately Suffolk Law School building on Tremont Street, a three-minute walk from the State House.  It regularly invites notable office holders and policy gurus to its programs.
Lastly, consider the power emanating from members of Suffolk's board of trustees, who include: Daniel Conley, Suffolk County district attorney; Gerry Doherty, lawyer and former right-hand man to Ted Kennedy; former state senator (and member of Senate leadership) John A. Brennan; James T. Morris, popular lobbyist and protégé of former House Speaker and Attorney General Robert Quinn; Roger Berkowitz, president/CEO, Legal Seafoods; Julie Kahn, VP/New England Market Manager, Entercom New England; Robert Sheridan, recently retired president/CEO, Savings Bank Life Insurance Co. of Massachusetts; Marshall Sloan, chairman of Century Bank; and John Fernandez, president/CEO, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.
Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo did not attend McCarthy’s inauguration because they had nothing else to do.  They were there because they know how important the school is to Boston and the Commonwealth. 

You might also say they were there to welcome Doctor McCarthy to the local power brokers club.
Two other political heavyweights were also on hand to mark the beginning of the McCarthy era:
Peter Meade, who earned his bones way back in the Kevin White administration, was close to Ted Kennedy, was a health insurance exec, a talk radio star, and is the current director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority; and Suffolk grad Robert Caret, the new, indefatigable president of the University of Massachusetts.  The sprawling UMass empire attaches itself to the state’s power matrix at uncountable points.      

Time for Mass. Republicans to Ask, Brad Bailey Won't You Please Come Home?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Woe is the Republican Party of Massachusetts, seemingly sidelined forever to a zone of electoral irrelevance.
Slightly more than 11% of the registered voters in our state are members of the party of Lincoln.
In the upcoming legislative session (2013-14), only four of the 40 members of the Senate and 29 of the 160 representatives in the House will be from the Grand Old Party.  Republicans actually lost four House seats on November 6. 
The biggest blows Republicans suffered this year were the dual defeats of U.S. Senator Scott Brown in a high-profile battle with political newcomer Elizabeth Warren and of Richard Tisei, the former Senate minority leader and former lieutenant governor candidate.  Tisei failed in the Sixth Congressional District to beat an incumbent considered by many people to be eminently beatable, John Tierney. 
“People” were shown once again not to know much.
As Republicans struggle to rebuild, they’re going to have to come up with more candidates in the mold of Tisei and Brown, who, even though they lost this year, are widely regarded as persons of high quality -- good guys and good candidates who simply could not withstand an Obama tide that drove turnout in this state to 73%.
One old party hand they should be giving a look to is a gentleman who last held office 16 years ago and has lately been in the news because of his work as a defense attorney, Brad Bailey of Winchester, who’s from a long line of distinguished Yankee Republicans. 
Bailey is now serving as the lead defense counsel in the ongoing trial of former State Treasurer Tim Cahill, who’s accused of improperly using his authority to order advertising promoting the Massachusetts Lottery, which he was in charge of, while running as an independent for governor in 2010.
Bailey got his undergraduate degree, with honors, from Harvard and his juris doctor from one of the best law schools in the nation, the University of Virginia.  He passed the bar not only in Massachusetts but also New York, which has perhaps the toughest exam of all the states.  His work in the public sector includes illustrious stints as: assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, felony prosecutor for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, assistant district attorney in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, and head of the Massachusetts Governor’s Alliance Against Drugs.
In 1994, then Governor William Weld appointed Bailey to serve the unexpired part of the term of Middlesex Sheriff John McGonigle, who had been convicted of corruption charges.  When running for a full term as sheriff in 1996, Bailey was defeated by then Malden State Rep. Jim DiPaola. 
In 1998, Bailey took on his former boss, Middlesex District Attorney Tom Reilly, in a spirited race for Attorney General, and lost badly.
My guess is Bailey is not at all interested in running for office again.  He’s been away from politics for 14 years and has made a good life for himself and his family (he and his wife have four kids) without politics.
Republican strategists, looking at Bailey’s losses in the sheriff and attorney general elections, may well entertain a new Bailey candidacy for some prominent office – say in the Congress, the state senate, or the executive branch – with some reluctance.
But entertain it they should for the simple reason that Bailey is a man of high intelligence, impeccable character, good judgment and untarnished reputation.  They don’t grow Brad Baileys on every tree in the tiny Republican vineyard. 
Bearing is fate, the Romans believed. 
Bailey has the bearing of a leader. He deserves another shot at office.

Some Who Left Politics Before They Had To Could Do Us a Favor by Returning

Thursday, November 29, 2012

People put up with a lot to get and keep public offices:  nasty elections, sneering reporters, cynical voters, too much time away from their spouses and kids, and a demeaning, never-ending quest for campaign donations.
Most folks put up with that for the fleeting honor of putting mayor, representative, senator, congressman or governor before their names.  The question is why.
Two explanations come to mind:
First, winning a public office is one of the best ways in the world to scratch the itch of ambition -- to be someone.
Second, holding a public office provides opportunities to put your stamp on issues and events that truly matter – to put yourself at the center of the action.
Let’s face it, most occupations are not terribly consequential.  (Mine is Exhibit A.)
But you’d never say a vote on the state budget, a health care reform bill, or a public safety program was inconsequential. 
When you win an election, you get a key to the room where the most salient matters of public life are fought over and decided. 
Nothing else really compares to the thrill and importance of being in that room. 
Years after leaving office, when they are deep into successful and lucrative careers in other fields, men and women will speak yearningly of the days when they were there.
I had a friend who served as a young man in the Massachusetts Senate.  He is a graduate of an Ivy League university, an attorney of notable skill, and an avid student of U.S. history and government.  He loved being a legislator and was good at it.  But the day came when he realized that his family would continue to struggle economically, that his kids would not reach their full potential, education-wise, if he remained in the legislature.
So my friend took a high-paying job as a government relations specialist with a big utility. 
Although he’s changed jobs several times, he’s still in that industry.   He’s earning a healthy six-figure income and his children attend top-notch colleges, where the price of admission easily tops $50,000 a year.
In the early years of his new career, my friend often talked with me and others about getting back into politics one day.  He missed the action at the State House and was nagged by the feeling that he left office before accomplishing as much as he could have, and going as far as his political talents could have taken him.  (Those thoughts were grounded in fact.)
“Are there things I should or could be doing now that would help set me up for a re-entry into politics if the right opportunity came along?” he once asked me.  “How can I keep my name before the public in the right way?”
On the spot, the best answer I could come up with was, “You should get on the board of a high-profile non-profit, an organization that everyone admires, and do an outstanding job. Or maybe you could start a foundation devoted to an important cause, some aspect of child welfare, say.  You could raise a lot of money for it, and serve as its unpaid, part-time chairman while someone else did the day-to-day work.”
Weak, uh? 
Perhaps because of the quality of that advice, we never discussed his possible return to elective office again.  Or maybe my friend just stopped thinking about it.
In any event, there’s no sign that he’s moving toward chucking his remunerative career and returning to the political arena, although he still has a few years ahead of him when he might be able to do that.  Maybe he’s banked enough dough to finance such a move.
Because I believe that our political system could benefit from the return of many of the quality people who voluntarily chose to abandon it, I hope my friend has acquired the means that would allow him to come home to Massachusetts in the not-too-distant future and run again for the Senate.
His time away from office, and the experience he gained in the interim, would only make him a better public servant…and he was no slouch before.
This is a concept I’d like to promote: bringing the good ones back, a la Michael Barrett, to Massachusetts politics. 
So if you have a favorite ex-politician, someone with a lot left in the tank, ask him or her today to please consider making another run.  Remind them how good it was to be in that place where the most salient matters are fought over and decided.

NEXT: Republicans should be looking to this overlooked man of stature.

Resort, Shmesort! Casino at Suffolk Downs Will Get Done Because It's Do-Able

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The folks who own Suffolk Downs are entitled to redevelop the tired, old racetrack in any legal way they see fit.  I say good luck to them with their $1 billion plan to build a “destination resort casino” next to a bunch of stables and fuel storage tanks.
Not that they’re going to need much luck.  Right now they’re the only viable contender for the license to operate a casino in the eastern part of the state, one of three such licenses the gaming commission will be awarding next year or the year after.
Although there have been reports that some big players in the gambling industry are quietly looking at other sites in the area, no one but the owners of Suffolk Downs has come forward with an actual plan.  Each day that passes with no one else stepping up, the odds that Suffolk Downs will be the eastern licensee improve.
That does not mean, of course, that Suffolk Downs will ever be a true destination resort, or that a casino is the best re-use of the racetrack complex, which has been a fixture on the border of working-class East Boston and Revere for 77 years. 
A good case can be made that downtown Boston, with its hotels, restaurants, historic sites, sports teams, art scene, entertainment venues, and multiple modes of transportation, is a better place for a destination resort casino than a distant, congested corner of the city that sits beneath a major flight path to Logan International Airport.  (You can almost see the passengers’ faces as the jets descend.)
But $1 billion projects do not get done in the world of what-ifs and best-case scenarios.  They happen on a piece of ground owned by guys with deep pockets and blessed by favorable politics, zoning and regulations.  Dreamers need not apply.
If we were ruled by philosopher-kings, we’d be talking now about a transit-oriented housing development at Suffolk Downs, not a casino. 
The racetrack, its ancillary facilities and its parking lots take up more than 150 acres.  It is served by its own dedicated station on the Blue Line, built to accommodate a legion of now-extinct Boston bettors, and is very close to another Blue Line station, Beachmont.  It would be a perfect place to house folks who work in Boston and can’t afford, or don’t want to buy, the second family car.
There is no doubt such housing is needed, and would be snapped up quickly if available. 
Just last week, Governor Deval Patrick announced the goal of creating 10,000 new multi-family housing units per year in Massachusetts, emphasizing how housing construction on that scale would be good for workers, employers and the competitive fitness of our economy.
As part of a new Compact Neighborhoods program, Patrick intends to push hard for new multi-family housing, i.e., apartment buildings, near rapid transit stations and town centers.
At a re-purposed Suffolk Downs, what would be best for the long-term growth and health of the Massachusetts economy:  a casino or thousands of apartments?
Since a casino could be built somewhere else and generate the same revenue for the Commonwealth as one at the racetrack, the answer is new housing.
For reasons both practical and legitimate, however, that question is not even at the periphery of the process that will determine who gets the eastern license.

FOOTNOTE: According to a new report by the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University, the metropolitan Boston region will need to produce at least 12,000 new housing units per year for the next decade in order to accommodate projected population growth and economic expansion.  For details, go to http://www.northeastern.edu/dukakiscenter/ and click on The Greater Boston Housing Report Card 2012.


Scott Brown's Loss Could Seal Charlie Baker's Decision on One More Campaign

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Scott Brown’s loss to Elizabeth Warren in the U.S. Senate election is obviously weighing heavily upon Massachusetts Republicans, but on none so heavily, I suppose, as Charlie Baker.
Although he lost a three-way race to incumbent Deval Patrick in 2009, Baker was a strong candidate and an articulate advocate for a different, leaner approach to state government. 
It’s no secret that many in the GOP are urging him to make another gubernatorial run in 2014, believing that, in a two-person face-off with any of the likely Democratic nominees  - a Tim Murray or a Steve Grossman, say – he would have an excellent chance of winning.
That may be true.  However, when Baker looks at what happened to Brown and to another prominent Republican, his former running mate, Richard Tisei, who failed to unseat John Tierney in the Sixth Congressional District, he has to wonder how he would succeed where two talented, likable and energetic peers failed.
Baker looks, I imagine, at the paltry share of Massachusetts voters who are Republicans (just over 11%), the small, low-horsepower band of Republicans in the Massachusetts legislature, the fierce commitment of union members to maintaining the Democratic grip on most elective offices in the state (as evidenced again in the Brown-Warren and Tisei-Tierney fights), the ridiculously high cost of running credibly for statewide office, and the need to be constantly raising money to feed the campaign beast, and wonder:
Why would I get back into that?
Someone I know who’s close to Baker says he’d like to run for governor again because he’s brimming with ideas on how to improve state government, knows he could be a good governor, and would like to obliterate the memory of 2009 with a victory. 
“Charlie is very competitive,” my friend points out.  “He hates to lose, and he’d like very much to win the governorship. But I also think he doesn’t want to lose twice.”
The fundraising demands upon any serious candidate for governor are especially daunting for someone like Baker, who is well off but not wealthy.  He has no personal fortune to sustain his family as he devotes months to campaigning, and to pay a big share of the campaign expenses

Dukakis Was a Model of What to Do the Day After You Lose a Presidential Race

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Twenty-four Novembers ago, on the Wednesday morning after Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis lost the presidential election to Vice President George H.W. Bush, Dukakis got out of bed at his usual time, got dressed, had a light breakfast, walked to the Green Line stop near his Brookline home, took a trolley to Park Street Station, walked up Beacon Hill to the State House, and went to work. 
There was state business to catch up on, and, Dukakis being Dukakis, he was not going to waste time in getting to it.   He was, and remains to this day, an extraordinarily disciplined man.  If he felt any regrets or self-pity on that dreary Wednesday, he showed no signs of it. 
Dukakis’s hope of winning the greatest prize in all of politics had been destroyed, but he was the same level-headed, good-natured guy the day after as he was the day before -- and as he was the day before he announced for president, for that matter. 
You don’t have to admire Dukakis, as I do, to appreciate his emotional balance, his perfectly symmetrical ego, and his fortitude in the face of defeat, of a public devastation. 
One day he’s in an armored limo, protected on all sides by the Secret Service; the next day, he’s in a crowded trolley, rubbing elbows with hospital orderlies, college students and office workers.  And you can’t tell from looking at his face that morning on the T which day it is in the many days of the public life of Mike Dukakis.
Earlier today, I read “What It Feels Like to Lose a Presidential Election,” an article in The Daily Beast, which was subtitled, “Someone will be unhappy on Wednesday. Presidential losers Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, and Bob Dole on getting over the sting of second – and advice for this year’s runner up.” 
This got me thinking, what will another guy from Massachusetts do tomorrow morning if he loses today’s presidential election?
Mitt Romney has been permanently employed in the pursuit of the presidency for years, so if he loses, he will be unemployed.  No job to go to, no need to get up early tomorrow and get on the ball.  If he did have a job, however, you can be fairly certain he wouldn’t be using public transportation to get to it.
Since Romney headquarters tonight is the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in South Boston, he’ll most likely be sleeping tonight in the area.  My guess he'll stay at his place in Belmont. (Mitt is famously careful with a buck, so he won’t spring for a room at a hotel, especially that expensive Westin next to the convention center, even if he can charge it to his campaign committee.)
If Romney does lose tonight, and he does go home to Belmont, I would recommend that, like Dukakis, he do something totally routine tomorrow morning, like go down to Belmont center with his wife, Ann, have breakfast and take a walk around his town.  The former governor should smile and wave to the folks passing by, and he should have a warm word with everyone they bump into. 
Just be Mitt, a member of the crowd of successful, retired Belmont guys. 
“I never needed to go on a vacation or anything like that.  Just getting home and resuming a kind of basic routine and spending time with friends and family was for me always enough,” Dukakis told The Daily Beast.  “You think about it (losing) for a while, but after a while you get tired of it.  And I didn’t have a lot of time to sit around and think about it.”
In that same exchange with the “Beast,” Dukakis said, “If Romney loses, I honestly don’t know what he will do, since he has been running for so long and he doesn’t really have a regular job to go back to.  It probably takes a month or two to be back to normal.  Time is a great healer.  They (Romney and Obama) are both active.  They should just get back to their normal routine and rhythm.”

He's the Answer to the Question, Who's the Shrewdest, Most Charming Guy at the State House?

Friday, November 2, 2012

A long time ago, my boss and I scheduled a meeting with Fred Berry, the state senator from Peabody, for a health care client of ours.
Something came up at the last moment and my boss was unable to make it.  We proceeded without him.
I started the meeting by apologizing for my boss’s absence and explaining why he couldn’t be there.
“He’s very sorry he couldn’t be with us here today, Senator,” I emphasized, “and he wanted you to know that his thoughts and best wishes are with you.”
Berry studied me a bit before responding.  He was giving some thought to how he should react.
“You tell your boss,” he said, “that I am just so pleased that he was thinking of me.  He’s a very busy man.  With all he has to do, I can’t believe he has even a minute to think of me.  Of me!  You just tell him how grateful I am for that.”
Berry was born with cerebral palsy, which affects the way he speaks, in addition to hampering his mobility.  The words tend to come out of his mouth slowly, like individual blows from a muffled drumstick, with a slight pause between each one.
“ You. Tell. Your. Boss.”
The sly glint in his eyes was unnerving. 
At the time, I knew practically nothing about Senator Berry. 
All of a sudden, I felt like I was on thin ice.  “Oh, oh, the senator feels snubbed," I thought.  "He’s going to take it out on me -- or worse, on our client!  What will I do?”
I need not have worried.  Berry was only pulling my leg.  Once the introductions were out of the way, the conversation picked up and moved naturally.  We were there for almost an hour, and as we walked out the door, the client was feeling good.
Fred Berry, currently the longest-serving member of the Massachusetts Senate, is getting ready to exit the State House.  At the end of his term in early January, he will retire from a career in politics that started in 1979 with his election to the Peabody City Council.  Now 62, he entered the Senate in 1983 and has been the majority leader, the Senate President’s right arm, since 2003.
Berry was honored at a testimonial dinner at the Danversport Yacht Club in September.  For weeks in advance, the event was sold out.  Six hundred admirers jammed the club’s cavernous banquet room on a Thursday night to honor him, express their appreciation for all he’d accomplished as a legislator and public servant, and contribute to the Fred Berry Charitable Foundation.  The night’s proceeds, about $70,000, were donated to food pantries in the communities of Beverly, Danvers, Peabody, Salem and Topsfield, which make up his district, the Second Essex.
Governor Deval Patrick escorted Berry and his wife, Gayle, into the room that night, amidst ferocious applause and cheering.
Joe Biden, the Vice President of the United States, sent a letter of tribute, which was read aloud.  “Despite personal obstacles,” Biden wrote, “Senator Berry’s determination and fervent passion has made him a powerful voice for so many in Massachusetts.”
A video tribute was played on a big screen.  Senate President Therese Murray was among those who appeared in it.  “Nobody has been a better role model for people with different abilities than Fred,” she said.  “In all of the personal issues he has faced, he’s faced them head on, and he’s still been able to come to work.  He’s still a trusted advisor, and he is a good friend.”
“I’ve had a magical run,” Berry said that night.
There can be no doubt that Fred Berry has been an outstanding elected official and that he deserves all the bouquets coming his way in the last year or so.  The gap in the Senate created by his departure will be conspicuous and long-lasting.  Men like him don’t often come around.
I have never lived in Berry’s district, and I can count on one hand the times I have spoken with him as a lobbyist or encountered him at one event or another.  One Friday night I bumped into him at a restaurant on Route 1 in Saugus and we had a good conversation about his alma mater, Bishop Fenwick High School in Peabody.  My daughter, Catherine, had recently graduated from Fenwick.
In 15 years, I probably contributed to Berry’s campaign treasury twice.  Though I admire him greatly, we were never buddy-buddy.  Nonetheless, I have a little insight into the nature of his popularity and success.  I think I know why he is so beloved. 
Freddie Berry emerged from a crucible of physical challenges that would have thwarted 99.9% of the people he crosses paths with every day.  For 30 years on Beacon Hill, he has been not just a good political player, but one of the best ever in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  He’s always been as shrewd as Lieutenant Columbo, as funny as Jerry Seinfeld, and as charming as Bill Clinton.  In countless skirmishes, he has come out on top with some maneuver out of the blue -- and has made the folks under him like it. 
When you consider, clear-eyed, what Berry has accomplished, you just about enter a state of awe.  And there is something else there when you are in that state: self-condemnation. 
You regret you have not done a fraction of what he has in developing his God-given talents.

When Bill Weld Gets Back on His Game, We'll All Remember Why We Missed Him

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The second coming of Bill Weld is about to unfold. 
The polymath former governor, now 67, announced recently that he was ending a long career stint in New York City and returning to Massachusetts, where he will work out of the Boston law office of Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo and of Mintz’s government relations (i.e., lobbying) affiliate, ML Strategies.  Reportedly, Weld is on the hunt for a home in his former burgh, Cambridge.
God, it will be good to have the big guy back. 
There’s been a serious humor deficit in the public life of the Commonwealth since Weld decamped for the Big Apple after his attempt to become ambassador to Mexico failed in 1997.
This is a man with a confidence, style and wit all his own, a man who:
·         Jumped fully clothed into the Charles River one hot day in 1996 after signing a rivers protection bill, only to find out later the fecal-coliform level of the water was 300% above normal.  “But I couldn’t very well tell anybody that, could I?” he noted sheepishly.
·         Admitted it was harder for him to get elected governor than to do the job of governor.  “I used to go on vacation for a week at a time and I wouldn’t even call in,” he said.
·         Loved to roam the woods in a private hunting preserve in the Adirondacks, but never hesitated to spoof his image as a great hunter.  In his official portrait at the State House, Weld is pictured outdoors, in a blue work shirt with rolled-up sleeves, an aardvark in the background.
·         Used to play multiple chess matches at the same time, blindfolded.
·         Railed against Bill Bulger, the Democratic president of the Massachusetts Senate when running for governor, and, after taking office, became Bulger’s friend and comedic foil.  Bulger would kid him about his ancestors having arrived on the Mayflower, and Weld would correct him by saying, “Actually, they sent the servants ahead to get the cottage ready for them.”
·         Wrote fiction on the side and came up with weirdly fascinating titles for a couple of his books:  “Mackerel by Moonlight” and “Big Ugly.”  Another of his books, “Stillwater,” is a literary novel based on the destruction of four Central Massachusetts towns in the Thirties to make way for the Quabbin Reservoir. (A New York Times reviewer, Erik Tarloff, once wrote, “Mastery of narrative strategy is not among Weld’s strengths…What Weld possesses – most unexpectedly in a moonlighting politician – is voice…The specificity of his mordant observations about politics, the law and assorted colleagues shows a real writer’s eye and ear at work.”)
·         Took and passed the New York Bar Exam, considered by many the toughest in the nation, in 2007, some four decades after earning a degree from Harvard Law School.
·         Deftly defended himself, during a brief fling for the Republican nomination for governor of New York, against the charge that he was a “carpetbagger.”   Weld, who grew up in an estate on Long Island, told an interviewer, “Yeah, I consider myself a New Yorker.  I consider that I got away with being a carpetbagger in Massachusetts the puny 30 years that I was there.  In Cambridge, if you’ve not been there for six generations, you’re a nouvelle arrivee.  In any case, I think Manhattan belongs not just to the United States, but to the world.”
In a monochrome world, he is a kaleidoscope of color. 
I hope we’ll see him soon on the sidewalks of Boston, towering above the crowd, and in the corridors at the State House, augustly hailing every other lobbyist as “Mr. Leader!” or “Representative!” I hope we’ll be able to buy him a drink in some high-class joint, The Federalist, say.
I hope, also, that Weld’s prediction, offered on the eve of the Republican national convention, that all the undecideds would break Romney’s way at the end, and that Romney would duplicate Reagan’s feat versus Carter, was only spin.

SHORT MEMORY DEPARTMENT: In a recent survey by the MassINC Polling Group, 33% of respondents said they'd never heard of Bill Weld, who, in addition to winning two terms as Massachusetts governor in the Nineties, served as the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts in the Eighties, and challenged U.S. Senator John F. Kerry's 1996 re-election bid in a very aggressive campaign that dominated media coverage in the state for weeks.  As Weld the old Harvard classics major might sigh to the servants, "Sic transit gloria mundi."  

Kudos to Bill Galvin for Putting Regina Quinlan, Retired Judge, on Ethics Commission

Monday, October 22, 2012

Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin is a man of many talents, and one of those talents is the ability to spot talent, as evidenced most recently when he named Regina L. Quinlan, a retired judge, to the five-member State Ethics Commission.
A Brighton native and graduate of Regis College and Suffolk University Law School, Judge Quinlan retired earlier this year after 20 years as an associate justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court.  She continues to hold a visiting professorship at Boston College Law School.
Judge Quinlan was appointed to the bench in the spring of 1992 by former Governor Bill Weld, who, incidentally, signaled his intention last week to return to Massachusetts after a 15-year stint working in law and investment banking in New York City.  (Weld will join his gubernatorial administration’s former economic development director, Steve Tocco, at ML Strategies, the government relations arm of the Mintz Levin law firm.)
Judge Quinlan is widely known and admired for her legal acumen, first-class temperament, and backbone.  As a lawyer specializing in First Amendment cases, and later as a judge, she never hesitated to take an unpopular position, if convinced it was the right thing to do.  There’s no reason to expect that tough-mindedness to soften when Judge Quinlan is sitting on the State Ethics Commission.
On the commission, she will be joining retired federal district court Justice Charles B. Swartwood, III, who chairs the group, and members Paula Finley Mangum, Martin F. Murphy and William J. Trach, all attorneys and individuals with varied backgrounds.
The commission has been in existence since 1978, enforcing the state’s conflict of interest and financial disclosure laws for elected and appointed public officials.  It has 23 employees and an annual budget of approximately $1.8 million.  Commissioners are eligible to received $75 per day for their services, but the majority do not put in for their pay, as I understand it.  
Three ethics commissioners are appointed by the governor, and one commissioner each by the attorney general and the secretary of state.
Here’s a sample of some recent cases, as highlighted on the commission’s web site:
·         Charles F. Fisher, a member of the Somerset Board of Water and Sewer Commission, paid a $25,000 civil penalty for performing paid, private work in Somerset in matters that involved permits issued by the board.
·         Gang Sun, a physics professor at the Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts, paid a $25,000 civil penalty for hiring his wife on numerous occasions as his paid research assistant and paid teaching assistant.
·         The former chairman of the Edgartown Dredge Advisory Committee, Norman Rankow, paid a $5,000 civil penalty for directing town employees to use municipal equipment to dredge the area around his private client’s dock without first obtaining the required town, state and federal permits.
·         Former Avon Assistant Assessor Marjorie Malone paid a $5,000 civil penalty for improperly raising the property assessments of two town officials in apparent retaliation against the town after learning she would be the subject of disciplinary proceedings.
·         Former Attleboro Police Chief Richard Pierce paid a $3,500 civil penalty for participating in an internal investigation involving his police officer son, improperly giving his son an internal investigation report, and allowing his son to submit late reports.

WHOSE HANDS ARE THOSE? Last time I checked, Medicare was a program of the U.S. government.  Therefore, it appears that a group called No Medicare Tax, which is working to defeat the Democratic incumbent, John Tierney, in the Sixth District Congressional race in Massachusetts, is confused.  No Medicare Tax distributed a brochure with this headline shouting on its mail flap: “Congressman John Tierney: Keep the government’s hands off my Medicare drug benefits!”  Isn’t that like telling Bob Kraft to keep his pesky hands off the Patriots?  If you want to see where this group is coming from, go to www.nomedicaretax.com

Catholic Action League 'Out-Catholics' Monks in Protesting Barney Frank's Interfaith Lecture

Friday, October 19, 2012

Because of Congressman Barney Frank, the Catholic Action League (CAL) of Massachusetts staged a protest yesterday outside Our Lady of Glastonbury Abbey, a monastery in Hingham run by the Roman Catholic order of Benedictines.
The CAL was expressing its displeasure with a lecture last night by Frank, who was leading off the 2012-13 series of annual interfaith lectures sponsored by the abbey, a free, public program that goes by the title, “Listening to Other Voices.” 
Frank’s topic for the night was, “Social Responsibility v. the Deficit: The Budget and the Common Good.”
In a press release, the CAL noted Frank’s longtime support of a woman’s right to abort a pregnancy and called the abbey’s invitation to Frank “another scandalous example of the culture of betrayal which afflicts Catholic institutions in America.”
It doesn’t seem that the protest had much effect.  According to an article today in the Patriot Ledger newspaper, Frank’s lecture “was so well attended that a number of people were turned away.”
The Patriot Ledger quoted Frank, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 30 years who is retiring at the end of his current term, as saying, “If we were realistic about what we need to do to protect ourselves and those nations vulnerable to abuse, we could reduce military spending by 25 percent.” 
Presumably, Frank would support spending at least some of the billions sliced from the Pentagon on health and social welfare programs.
The CAL pointed out that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops prohibits Catholic institutions from providing “awards, honors or platforms (emphasis added)” to those who “act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.”
Obviously, that dictum is subject to interpretations that can fairly be called flexible.  Otherwise how could Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York have invited President Obama, an abortion rights protector, to this week’s gigantic Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York City, where some $5 million was raised for programs in New York that benefit the young, the poor, the handicapped, the chronically ill, the vulnerable elderly, and immigrants of all nationalities and faiths?
Cardinal Dolan was criticized by some prominent Catholics and Catholic organizations for inviting Obama to the event, but he shrugged it off pretty well.  Defending the invitation, he wrote, “In the end, I’m encouraged by the example of Jesus, who was blistered by his critics for dining with those some considered sinners; and by the recognition that, if I only sat down with people who agreed with me, and I with them, or with those who were saints, I’d be taking all my meals alone.”
St. Benedict, considered by many historians to be among the founders of Western civilization, started his order of monks more than 1,500 years ago.  I don’t know when the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts was founded, but it is obviously a helpless infant compared to the wise old man of the Benedictines.