New Rep from Merrimack Valley Typifies a Welcome Breed: the Political Wunderkind

Friday, March 29, 2013

I wonder where Diana DiZoglio, the new state rep from the 14th Essex District in the Merrimack Valley, will be in ten years.
At age 39, she could still be in the legislature.  Or she could be long gone from the State House, having capitalized on her good education, interpersonal skills and time on the Hill to land a good job somewhere else.
If DiZoglio stays in politics, it would not surprise me if she has moved up to the Senate by 2023. At the least, I’d say, she’ll be the chair of a House committee of middling importance by then.
We see DiZoglios fairly often in public life.  They are the wunderkinds:  political phenoms who triumph in highly competitive and difficult races at an early age.
In her first run ever for office this past fall, DiZoglio toppled an entrenched, six-term incumbent in the Democratic primary, David Torrisi.  And she won the final going away.
The Eagle Tribune newspaper has said that DiZoglio, in beating Torrisi, “pulled off what might have been the biggest political upset in the state.”  I would not disagree.
DiZoglio is a lifelong resident of Methuen and a graduate of Methuen High School.  She earned a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College in 2010.  In high school and college, DiZoglio studied languages and achieved fluency in Spanish, a skill she put to great use when campaigning in the two precincts of her district in Lawrence, which has a large Latino population.
(The district also includes parts of Haverhill, Methuen and North Andover.)
Because it sprawls over a large area and is quite diverse, the 14th Essex presents certain physical challenges to anyone running there.  DiZoglio showed herself to be more than equal to the difficulties she encountered on the campaign trail.
It is reported that she knocked on approximately 4,400 doors, and that if she found no one at home, she’d quickly write a personalized note on stationery she carried with her and leave it wedged in the door.
“Money talks, Diana walks,” the Eagle Tribune quoted her as saying.  
Traditionally, voters everywhere like to give a leg up to promising young folks who seem to embody the best traits of their generation -- ambitious kids who look like advertisements for the local schools and the local way of life. 
We look at a handsome, accomplished, charismatic young candidate and say to ourselves, “She’d be a good representative of our community.  We need fresh faces like that on Beacon Hill.” 
Generally, we feel better about politics when good young people are eager to join the fray.
Being a good representative of a community does not necessarily mean you’ll be a good member of a representative body.  Nor does it mean you’ll enjoy, or find rewarding, the work of a representative.
Many fresh-faced youngsters have learned the ropes in the Massachusetts legislature and moved deliberately up the leadership ladder.  They’ve enjoyed long careers and retired in their late-middle years with the plaudits of their townspeople ringing in their ears, one of the greatest comforts known to man.
But for every legislator like that, there are probably 10 or 20 more who tired rather quickly of the life and work of a legislator.  These are the folks who drop from the scene after two, three or four terms.  Most, I’d say, are at least mildly disillusioned when they drop.  “It wasn’t what I thought it would be when I first ran for office,” I’ve heard so many of them say.
One I know well who left the legislature voluntarily in his mid-thirties put it to me this way:
“I looked around the building (the State House) and saw a lot of guys who had been there for 20 or even 30 years.  They were good guys, most of them, but I really didn’t want to be like them when I got to be that age.  It seemed like, after a certain point, they got stuck there and just kept running because they didn’t know what else they could do.  I decided I had to leave when I was still young or I might never be able to go and do something else.”
Whether Diana DiZoglio chooses to make a career of the legislature or not, she’ll do just fine, of course.  She’s got the stuff of a real competitor.

Hailing Anniversary of Obamacare, Markey Reminds Us of Lynch's No

Monday, March 25, 2013

It’s official: Obamacare will be at the center of Ed Markey’s campaign for U.S. Senate.
Markey issued a press release Friday, March 22, saying his vote for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the ACA, or Obamacare) was “the most important vote I’ve taken in Congress.”  Friday was the third anniversary of the enactment of the ACA.
The release did not once mention Markey’s opponent in the April 30th Democratic primary, his fellow congressman Steve Lynch, but was obviously intended to draw attention to Lynch’s no vote on the ACA.
You hear Markey talk about the most important issue he’s voted on during 36 years in Congress and you’re bound either to wonder how Lynch voted on it or to recall that Lynch was a conspicuous “no” on the ACA.
And if you remember that Lynch voted no, you also remember he rejected vein-popping, eleventh-hour pleas for his vote from President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Ted Kennedy’s widow, Vicki Kennedy.
Thus does a seemingly innocuous, all-positive-sounding, 154-word release with the vanilla headline “Ed Markey Statement Commemorating Third Anniversary of Affordable Care Act” serve as a cherry bomb in Lynch’s mailbox.
Universal health coverage in Massachusetts, which predated the national system brought about by the ACA, remains very popular here.  Healthy majorities (pun irresistible) have supported it in statewide opinion polls since its adoption in 2006.  Only one statewide office holder, former Treasurer Tim Cahill, has ever publicly called for its repeal.
The chances are good that Markey can make universal coverage an effective weapon in his primary fight with Lynch.   It looks that way on paper any way.
But campaigns aren’t decided on paper, any more than wars or sporting events are.  Remember how the Patriots were a lock to stomp the Giants in their first Super Bowl match?
There’s a reason we have campaigns that culminate with election days.  Unexpected  things happen on the trail (John Silber savages Natalie Jacobson); voters confound pundits (Scott Brown whips Martha Coakley).
Markey’s a heavy favorite today.   He can hold that lead if he remains disciplined.  He'll win if he stays positive and avoids stupid mistakes and comments that set off long, weird echoes. 
The primary is one short month away.  That’s one long gauntlet for a frontrunner to run.
If I had any advice to give Markey, it would be to find a trusted old friend, someone who has nothing to gain from your victory, and designate him the campaign’s official inside Truth Teller.  Meet with Truth Teller first thing every morning and last thing every night.  Insist that he tell you how you’re actually doing at every campaign stop, as opposed to how your hopelessly optimistic staffers and volunteers say you’re doing.  Insist that he tell you where you screwed up and how to do better.

Casino Giant Doesn't Need My Advice. Naturally, I Want to Give It to Him

Friday, March 22, 2013

Memo to Steve Wynn, Chairman/CEO, Wynn Resorts:
Go to web site of American Public Transportation Association (APTA):
Click on “Resource Library.”  Move to “Policy Development and Research.”  Open report titled “The New Real Estate Mantra: Location Near Public Transportation.”
Print complete report on high-end printer, hand to flunkies.  Order enough copies for mailing to every household in East Boston, Revere, and Winthrop, Massachusetts.
Ask secretary to come to your office.  Dictate the following for inclusion in mailing:
Dear Resident,
Kindly read this report from the American Public Transportation Association at your convenience.  I believe it has bearing on (a) the value of your home, and (b) a question that may soon be put to a vote in your community: Should a casino be allowed at Suffolk Downs?
The report shows that housing located near public transportation with high-frequency service was much more likely to increase in value during the Great Recession than similar properties away from transit links.  This was especially true around Boston. 
Here’s an explanatory quote from a recent APTA press release:
“While residential property values declined substantially between 2006 to 2011, properties close to public transit showed significantly stronger resiliency.  The following are a few examples from the study: In Boston, residential property in the rapid transit area outperformed other properties in the region by an incredible 129 percent.  In the Chicago public transit area, home values performed 30 percent better than the region; in San Francisco, 37 percent; Minneapolis-St. Paul, 48 percent; and in Phoenix, 37 percent.”
I’m against a casino at Suffolk Downs because I have a competing plan to build a casino in Everett.  Suffolk Downs’s loss would be my gain.
My selfish interests should not prevent you, however, from carefully considering what a casino would actually do for your community and the future value of your home.  My bias should not prevent you from asking if, in the long run, a residential redevelopment of Suffolk Downs, with its superb access to not one but two stations on the MBTA's Blue Line, would not be a better option. 
If a transit-oriented residential development were built at Suffolk Downs, instead of a casino,  it would obviously be very valuable.  And it would certainly strengthen the residential character of your community while enhancing the individual value of your home.
A casino at Suffolk Downs would be a nine-iron shot from some pretty good neighborhoods.  My casino in Everett, by contrast, would adjoin a catch basin sludge treatment facility, a state highway, a power plant, railroad tracks, and some old industrial and commercial properties.
Should you accept it when someone says a casino at Suffolk Downs is the best way now to help Revere, Winthrop and East Boston?  I say no, housing could be an equal or better way to go. 
Please read “The New Real Estate Mantra: Location Near Public Transportation.”  Thank you.
Mail report and cover letter in oversized white envelope. 
Print in red on outside of envelope:  Public Service Message from Wynn Resorts, Ltd.
Sit back. Smile.
Wait for Boston newspapers and TV stations to call.

Pushcart Vendors in Need of Upgrade Face Eviction. I Could Be Next.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

You are a political heavyweight in the City of Boston when the business group you represent kicks in more than $3 million a year for civic improvements.
That status will not protect you, however, from one of life’s most common failings: political miscalculation.
Just ask Rosemarie Sansone, a former Boston city councilor and president, since 2010, of the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District (BID).  Her group gave the 26 pushcart vendors in Downtown Crossing an eviction notice late last week and all hell broke loose.
In serving notice to the vendors, the BID told them they would have to depart when their licenses expire on March 31. The BID subsequently softened on that deadline a bit. 
I read about the eviction decree this past Saturday and my first thought was, “The mayor must not have known about this in advance.  He never would have OK’d it. ”
Tom Menino is always with the little guy.  It’s his stock in trade.  Remember how he allowed the union representing those fired hotel workers at the downtown Hyatt to set up a command post in a trailer directly across the street from the main hotel entrance, and to keep the trailer parked there for months?  (I wonder how much rent the union paid on that parking space?)
Sure enough, Tom Menino was blasting the BID before the weekend was over.
“Why are we displacing these vendors, some who have been there for 30 years?” Menino asked during an interview Sunday with the Boston Business Journal.
“These guys,” the mayor said, “have been struggling, and now the good days are coming and the association wants to bring in other vendors from elsewhere?  I want to take care of the vendors who kept Downtown Crossing alive in the difficult times.”
Sansone reportedly told, “Vendors have always been a staple of the Downtown Crossing area for many years, but many of the carts and merchandise need to be upgraded as the area is revived.”
I’m in need of a serious upgrade, too.  I guess I could soon be barred from spending time there with my fellow malingerers.  Well before it was named Downtown Crossing, Washington, Summer and Winter was one of my favorite spots.
The Globe reported today that Menino has arranged a 60-day extension on those licenses, meaning the pushcarts, in all their funkiness, will be around at least until May 31.  Thinking of that union trailer near the Hyatt, I won’t be surprised if that 60-day extension lasts until February 28, 2014.

For His Gratitude to Hugo Chavez, Joe Kennedy II Takes the First 'Fearless Comment' Award

Monday, March 4, 2013

I like it when our leaders plainly speak their minds, when they don’t hold their tongues, when they don’t weigh their words oh so carefully.
I like it, in other words, when they act like normal human beings with normal human emotions, like anger, resentment and scorn, as opposed to poll-obsessed Caspar Milquetoasts.
A good example:
Barney Frank, the recently retired Congressman, was once asked by a reporter if he thought the members of the Boston City Council should be elected at-large, meaning by voters across the entire city.
“The question isn’t whether they should be allowed to run at large,” Frank immediately responded, “the question is whether they should be allowed to remain at large.”
In the interest of promoting outspokenness by elected officials, I have decided today to institute a Fearless Comment awards program.
To win, all someone has to do is say something gutsy and at least a little bit controversial in public.
Awards will be made not on an annual basis but rather whenever a leader says something I consider a Fearless Comment.   I want to encourage such behavior as much as possible.
I am chronically strapped for cash, so there will be no prize money attached to these awards.  I’ve had to rule out fancy looking citations, too.
Winners will get only the weirdly fulfilling satisfaction that comes from seeing their names in bold face and their words immortalized in the Massachusetts Politics Blog.
Of course, if some wealthy benefactor were to take a shine to the Fearless Comments program and donate a large sum in order to establish a cash awards component, I’d welcome him like a brother -- as long as he’s OK with my charging a reasonable administrative overhead fee (80%).  Blogging is surprisingly expensive.
The first Fearless Comment award recipient is Joseph P. Kennedy, II, son of the late Robert F. Kennedy and father of our state’s newest member of the Congress, Joseph P. Kennedy, III.
Since quitting the U.S. House of Representatives many years ago, Joe the Second has devoted himself to Citizens Energy Corp., which provides free and discounted home heating oil to low-income folks in 16 states and the District of Columbia.  Hugo Chavez, the leftist President of Venezuela and close friend of Fidel Castro, donates roughly half a billion dollars’ worth of that oil yearly to Citizens Energy.  Not surprisingly, Kennedy has often been criticized for his business relationship with a man widely perceived as an enemy of America.  Chavez is infamous for, among other things, calling former President George W. Bush “the devil” during a speech at the United Nations.
This past Friday, March 1, the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams broadcast a story on the Citizens Energy-Hugo Chavez link. 
In a clip taken from one of the long-running “Joe 4 Oil” TV commercials for Citizens Energy, Kennedy explained, “When we asked the biggest oil companies for help, only Citgo and the people of Venezuela, and Hugo Chavez responded.”
A retired oil company executive, who worked for one of the companies that rejected Kennedy’s request, complained that Chavez’s oil donations were the “height of hypocrisy” because Chavez does not worry one bit “about the price all Americans are paying for oil.”
An exasperated Kennedy was shown exclaiming, “Don’t you think if he (Chavez) gives us half a billion in help, we should say thank you?”
At the end of the segment, a combative, fiery-eyed Kennedy dismissed his critics thusly:
“It’s all happy horse manure.  That’s what they sell.  I don’t like it.  I don’t buy it.  I’ll fight ‘em every time.”
I think you can have serious objections to President Chavez and still appreciate the wonderfully direct way Joe Kennedy defended himself.  That’s why he’s a Fearless Comment award winner.