Some Random Thoughts on a Warm Friday Before Presidents Day

Friday, February 17, 2012

There must be something a little crazy about a 50-degree day in February, something that brings out the Andy Rooney in me, that makes me think the blogosphere is in need of my random observations and pronouncements:
  • Back in January, Denise Andrews, a freshman state rep from the town of Orange, went to the podium during a formal House session expressly to complain that so many of her colleagues were chatting among themselves during the debate on an education collaborative reform bill that no one could hear what was being said. "We wonder in today's society why in the classroom teachers are not listened to," Andrews lamented. "Yet, we sit here on Beacon Hill and do not listen to each other." Her point was driven home later when State House News Service reporter Colleen Quinn asked several legislators what they thought of Andrews's complaint. Each replied that he had been unable to hear her because there was so much noise in the House at the time, so they could not comment on what she said.
  • Young Joe Kennedy the Third heard enough during his recent listening tour of the Fourth Massachusetts Congressional District to persuade him he had to run for Barney Frank's seat. I've never kept score on these listening tours, but I can't recall anyone completing one and announcing he could find no good reason to run and was swearing off the idea of ever seeking elective office. I should go on a listening tour simply to capture the distinction of being the first "tourist" to declare, "I ain't running. The people don't want me." (Trust me, they would not.)
  • Nurses are pushing once again for a mandatory staffing bill, meaning the ratio of nurses to patients in hospitals would be set by law. In previous sessions, bills like this have been enacted in the House, only to die in the Senate. When opposing these bills, hospital administrators always say they need flexibility when making staffing decisions, which may be true. (It's also better than saying their institutions cannot afford to pay for the ideal number of nurses on a patient floor and, besides, the public is not willing to pay for the highest and best levels of nursing care.) As the son of a registered nurse, (one of the best ever, she was), I can't help but believe that, if most front-line nurses in Massachusetts are convinced that mandatory staff ratios are needed to ensure good, safe, thorough care, this bill should pass.
  • I was glad to hear that Boston Mayor Tom Menino has dropped the idea of building a new city hall in South Boston. (He told WBZ radio in January, "I have no plans at this time to move city hall down to the waterfront.") It's not that I want to preserve the unique but stubbornly inhumane edifice in Government Center. I just think it's neat that the State House, the old State House, City Hall, and the old City Hall are all within a short walk of one another in downtown Boston. Convenient, yes, but more important is the statement it makes that the business of Boston is fundamentally governmental. We see a concentration of action there that explains the pulse of our capital city, a small metropolis powered by a big political heart. Yank city hall from the center of Boston and you damage the body politic in unexpected ways.
  • With a smile, I noted that a voter interviewed in New Hampshire by the New York Times before the presidential primary said he was going to vote for Romney because Mitt and his sons had once rescued a family whose boat was sinking on Lake Winnipesaukee, several hundred feet from the Romney's lake-front home. "It tells me he (Romney) would get done what needs to be done at any moment," said Harry Spain, age 85, of Belmont, N.H. I laughed not because Spain was unfairly crediting Romney -- the rescue story is true, and it reflects well on Mitt and those perfect boys of his -- but rather because it reminded me that the rescue had taken place late on a Sunday afternoon at a time when Romney was serving as governor of Massachusetts, and that many people at the State House subsequently marveled at Romney's ability to perform such deeds after a weekend of summer fun and relaxation. As one wag on The Hill put it at the time, "You gotta give it to Mitt. Most people in this building would have been in no shape to rescue anybody after a weekend of partying at the lake. That's when it pays to be a Mormon."
  • It's been known for a very long time that it's better for elderly folks to stay in their homes, and receive care in their homes if they need it, than to go into nursing homes, where the care can get expensive and impersonal. That's why freshman Quincy rep Tackey Chan, who was the star of the staff of former State Senator Michael Morrissey before running for office himself, deserves high praise for a bill he's filed, An Act to Provide an Income Tax Exemption for Families Caring for Their Elderly Relatives at Home, which is now before the Joint Committee on Children and Families. Anybody caring full time for an elderly relative deserves a tax cut. They're saving the health care system a bundle.
  • Sure every city and town official in Massachusetts is happy now to be saving shovelfuls of money on snow removal during this eerily warm and snowless and rainless winter. But these are some of the same folks who'll be telling us in August we have to support tax overrides to pay for drilling new municipal wells because aquifers were not replenished by the usual winter precipitation.
Sorry. I feel better now.

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