You're Not Mistaken. That Man on the Eastie Barricades Is Mr. Secretary Aloisi

Friday, January 31, 2014

You can be sure the folks who want to put a casino at Suffolk Downs are not happy to see Jim Aloisi in the opposing camp.  He’s what you’d call a worthy adversary.

Only someone who doesn’t know Aloisi, a lifelong resident of East Boston, would take him lightly.  Here are some of the things you’ll find on his curriculum vitae:
  • Former Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation

  • Former member, board of directors, Massachusetts Port Authority

  • Former member and chairman, Massachusetts Turnpike Authority

  • Former Massachusetts assistant attorney general

  • Graduate, Boston College and Boston College Law School

  • Holder of graduate degree in history from Harvard University

  • Former chief legal counsel to Massachusetts Department of Revenue

  • Former director, Goulston & Storrs, a Boston law firm

  • Author of three well-received books on Boston history and politics

  • Senior vice president, Kanaan Consulting US (KCUS, Inc.)

This is not on his CV because you don’t talk this way about yourself unless you suffer from terminal egomania, but I can say it about him: Aloisi is a public intellectual of the first rank.

In a recent opinion piece published online by Commonwealth Magazine, Aloisi said his support for those trying to stop the Suffolk Downs casino “has everything to do with my view that the process surrounding gaming on this site has been rigged, that the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box is being ignored or given short shrift, and that the people of East Boston are once again being dealt a bad hand by those who would put profit before people.”

Ouch.  When Aloisi shed a younger man’s clothes, he must have dropped the diction of diplomacy, too.  I have to wonder how many current and former members of the legislature reached for their Valium after reading that.  (“Jimmy, how could you?”)

In Commonwealth Magazine, Aloisi described the progress East Boston has made in recent decades and said that that part of Boston, in many ways, has become “a model of what a multi-ethnic, mixed-income, urban environment ought to be.”  He then lamented:

“This progress is being directly jeopardized by the prospect of a casino at Suffolk Downs.  What’s worse, when East Boston voters resoundingly voted against the casino, the immediate response (of doubtful legality) was to fashion an electoral bait-and-switch by offering a supposedly ‘Revere-only’ casino site.  The Revere-only proposal is an insult to East Boston’s intelligence, not simply because such an outcome is not practically feasible (unless the owners are prepared to accept a perpetual restriction on the use of their East Boston land for non-casino uses), but also because it proposes to relocate horse stables and highways on the East Boston side of their site.  Imagine that you are the mayor of Boston, and you have a 100-acre, largely undeveloped site in your city that is two minutes away from an international airport and adjacent to two MBTA stations and an urban wetland.  And the owner tells you he wants to use the land for horse stables and a roadway system to feed into another city.  You might throw that person out of your office, or at least question his sanity.  But that is exactly what Suffolk Downs is proposing to do on this site.”

If you want to read the entire article by Aloisi, go to:

Woe is the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.  When it grants the single available casino license for Eastern Massachusetts, the commission will have to choose between two cities, Revere and Everett, which badly need the cash and prizes a casino will bring -- two cities enamored of their respective, proposed casino operators, Mohegan Sun and Wynn Resorts.  This is a fight card with two underdogs on it.

For a long time, Suffolk Downs was the only site in the running for the eastern license.  It looked like a sure thing.  Then Steve Wynn arrived like Patton’s army in Germany.  He grabbed an option on the old Monsanto chemical factory site on the Mystic River in Everett and captured the hearts Everett’s elected officials and citizens in less time than it takes to get married in Vegas.

East Boston surprised most of the pundits, not to mention the legislators who crafted the casino-enabling legislation, when it voted this past November against a casino at Suffolk Downs on the same day that Revere voted for it. 

With its back to the wall, Suffolk Downs quickly redesigned its proposal and put the casino entirely on the Revere side of the property.  Revere embraced the concept because it would mean millions more for it than the original deal, which had the casino straddling the East Boston-Revere site and tilting heavily toward East Boston’s favor, revenue-wise. 

Of course, the new plan enraged East Boston.  The “No Eastie Casino” forces quickly massed again on the battlefield of public opinion, where they remain today, defiant and spoiling for more action.  One sees in them the kind of spirit that only an upset victory over better equipped forces unleashes.  Jim Aloisi embodies that spirit in its most articulate form.  This is like 1941 and he’s their Winston Churchill.

I don’t envy the members of the Gaming Commission: Steve Crosby, Gayle Cameron, Enrique Zuniga, Jim McHugh and Bruce Stebbins.  No matter which way they vote on the eastern license, they’re going to make a lot of people angry.  For a very long time.  Maybe permanently. 

Not that I’m in favor of people ducking their responsibilities, but the commissioners could always decide this thing on two cuts of the deck.  Suffolk gets the first cut because it was the first in the competition; Wynn gets the second; high card wins.  Makes sense for officials in a gambling-friendly jurisdiction, no?

From My Frozen Lips to Your Warm Eyes: Thoughts of a Semi-Coherent Nature

Thursday, January 23, 2014

There’s something about the brutal cold that further limits my limited ability to express myself.

When my teeth are chattering, I can only voice short, barely coherent thoughts.

Below is a sample of what I’ve been muttering to myself while waiting for the bus after work on a frozen sidewalk, the wind-chill at 20 below.  Don’t knock muttering.  It keeps people from bothering you…

“Like that Don Berwick.  Said he would have plan to house any newly homeless person in state if he’s elected governor.”   

“Berwick said it’s disgrace so many veterans are homeless.”

“Like that Richard Tisei.” 

“Don’t like Tisei’s new campaign theme dissing Obamacare.” 

“Tisei one of best elected officials I ever saw.  Not a fake or insincere bone in body.” 

“Can Richard beat John Tierney this time?  Don't bet against it.”

“Steve Grossman hoping Juliette Kayyem gets on Dem primary ballot for governor.”

“Can split women vote with Martha Coakley.”

“Makes Grossman’s task easier, much easier.”

“Grossman has big brain.  Savvy tactician.  Don’t underestimate.”

“Sad to see Steve Brewer quitting Senate when current term up.  Sixty-five.  Survived cancer.  Probably  good time to go.  Time to smell flowers.  Learn banjo.” 

“Great guy, Brewer.  Superb public servant.  Big loss for Western Mass. More water for Rosenberg to carry now.”

“Steve Walsh leaving House to run Mass. Council of Community Hospitals.” 

“Good man. Wish him best.” 

“Walshes dropping like flies in House.  First Marty, then Steve.” 

“Only one left: Chris Walsh, Framingham.” 

“Interesting guy, Chris.” 

“Graduate of world-beating Rhode Island School of Design.” 

“Only architect in legislature.”

“Get your kid a summer job, design you a summer home.”

“Good to see legendary Gerry Doherty, prince of Charlestown, sticking up for Gene O’Flaherty in letter to Globe.” 

“Doherty pushed against Globe column saying O’Flaherty a ‘Chelsea politician known for dead-of-night budget amendments and political payback.’ ”

“Paper ticked O’Flaherty got appointed corporation counsel, Boston’s top lawyer.”     

“Globe can’t forgive Geno for wanting to kick Brian McGrory’s ass.” 

“You’re supposed to take newspaper  guff, keep smiling like Budha.” 

“Doherty has ‘full faith and confidence’ in O’Flaherty.” 

“Good lawyer, good politician, Doherty.” 

“Was Dem Party chair in Mass, trusted friend of Ted Kennedy, Chub Peabody, Jimmy Carter, many others.”

“Boston institution, Doherty.”

“Most at Globe today wouldn’t know that.  Not like old days.”

“Doherty not needing anything, not looking for anything.”

“Folks around state working hard to put repeal of casino legislation on November ballot.”

“What if they succeed?”

“What if voters actually repealed casino deal?”

“State -- taxpayers, yikes! -- would have to pay big bucks to casino moguls.  Reimburse them for millions spent chasing licenses, going through all our new legal hoops.”

“Six months ago, would not have thought this could happen.  Not so sure now.”

“Casino fight should have been about where to site in downtown Boston.”

“My idea best: near convention center.”

“Has come down to Everett versus Revere.  Two great communities.”

“Love Revere.  My city.”

“Vacant industrial site versus nearly vacant horse racing site.”

“Everett, Revere can’t wait to grab casino gold.”

"Money makes everybody crazy.  I'd like my chance at that kind of crazy."

“Neither city can imagine becoming Atlantic City.” 

“Gamblers there advised:  Don’t go outdoors at night.”

“Upside: Casino revenue will pay for lots of cops.”

“We far down road, don’t know destination.”

“Glow from City on Hill could be all neon.”

For Convicted Rep, a Case Can Be Made for Courting Expulsion from the House

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Powers That Be, including the Governor, Speaker of the House, Mayor of Boston and the Boston Globe, are urging Carlos Henriquez to resign from the Massachusetts House.  I don’t think he will.

A second-term rep from Dorchester, Henriquez was found guilty Wednesday on two counts of assault and battery on a young woman he had a romantic/sexual interest in.  Henriquez was found innocent of three other charges in the case, which stems from an encounter in a car parked on a quiet street in Arlington late one summer night in 2012.

From the outset, Henriquez, 37, has vigorously asserted his innocence.  He’s holding to that position now that he’s begun serving a six-month sentence in the house of correction.

“None of this happened,” declared Stephanie Soriano-Mills, Henriquez’s lawyer, soon after her client was led from the courtroom in cuffs.  The verdict will absolutely be appealed, she said.

Henriquez’s accuser took the witness stand, testified in detail as to what Henriquez did in that car, withstood a scorching cross-examination by Atty. Soriano-Mills, and convinced the jury that she had, in fact, been assaulted.  She alone deserves our compassion at this point.

After he was arrested in July, 2012, Henriquez said in a formal statement:

“Putting my hands on a woman is contradictory to my upbringing and my own morals.  As both a community activist prior to getting elected and as an elected official, I have spoken with hundreds of youth and adults about the problem of violence against women.  I have worked tirelessly with multiple agencies and organizations who champion against the issue of domestic violence.  It is a mission I am committed to in my personal and public life.”

The State House News Service reported that, when Judge Michele Hogan sentenced Henriquez on Wednesday, she told him:

“You’re a successful, charismatic young man.  You’re a pillar in the community.  People admire you.  They voted for you.  They trust you.  They trust your judgment.  You’re a leader in that community and beyond.

“There’s much too much domestic violence in this country, in this community.  A woman and her word are to be respected.  When a woman tells you she does not want to have sex, that means, ‘ I do not want to have sex.’  And after she says that you don’t hit her, you don’t punch her, you don’t take her on a ride she doesn’t want to go on.”

The House of Representatives has the legal authority to expel Henriquez if he does not resign.  There’s a formal process for the House to follow in a case like this.  It must be initiated by the House Ethics Committee, which was chaired until very recently by Boston’s new mayor, Marty Walsh, a former legislator.  The process would culminate with a vote on expulsion by the entire body. 

It’s hard to see how Henriquez could win such a vote.  Who in the House is crazy enough to vote for a convicted batterer?

Most reps would obviously prefer not to have to deal with this because expulsion  would keep the case in the public eye.  There could be Henriquez stories in the media for weeks.  He can spare his colleagues that trouble by falling on his sword.

If you are sitting in a jail cell in Billerica, though, how much can you worry about your co-workers who are free to go about their lives?  And do you want to take the chance of under-cutting your claim of total innocence, even a bit, by resigning?  Then there’s the potential that the expulsion proceedings could become a high-profile forum to re-argue your innocence.

That’s why I think Henriquez will wait to be expelled.

Getting thrown out of the House will not add much to the embarrassment he’s already suffered.  Should he be exonerated on appeal, he can claim he was doubly victimized: first by the court system, then by the legislative system.

It’s not inconceivable that Henriquez, now justifiably scorned as a woman abuser, could one day become an object of sympathy.  The day could even come when sympathy helps put him back in the legislature.  Stranger things have happened in Massachusetts politics.

Fortunately, I Don't Need the Boston Herald to Offer My Two Cents to Marty Walsh

Friday, January 10, 2014

The day after New Year’s, a bunch of prominent folks offered advice to incoming Boston Mayor Marty Walsh in an article featured prominently in the Boston Herald.

The headline on the article had two lines or “decks,” as they are sometimes called in the newspaper business.  The top deck said, “The Reshaping of City Hall,” the bottom, “Hub Power Brokers Offer Plan of Action.” 

Fifteen power brokers -- 14 men and one woman -- were allotted space in the Herald to give some advice to Walsh in their own words.  There were thus 15 separate mini-chapters in the story, each with its own sub-headline, the purpose of which was to describe the kernel of each broker’s advice.  Here’s what those sub-headlines said:

Eugene Rivers: Address Boston’s ‘soft apartheid’

Emmett Folgert: Be a champion for teens

Mike Ross: Nurture old and new neighborhoods

Jack Kelly: Find leaders that share vision

George Regan: Define yourself

Joe Slavet: Don’t try to be another Menino

Doug Rubin: Compassion is key to success

Scott Ferson: Develop your own identity

Matthew Cahill: Transparency key

John Dunlap: All about balance

John Fish: Easy does it

Joe Fallon: Build on development

Paul Levy: Focus on health centers

Dusty Rhodes: Embrace business

Robert Beal: Keep talent in Boston

I must have been out of the office the day the Herald called to see if I had any pearls of wisdom for Mayor Walsh, which of course I do.  I’m bummed about that.  But fortunately I have this blog thing going.

Blogs were invented to give everybody, no matter how little they know or how poorly they express themselves, the opportunity to get a word in, regardless of whether anybody wants to hear it or not.   How I love the blogosphere.

If the Herald had caught up with me, this is what my headlined mini-chapter would have looked like:

John Hahesy: Beware sycophantectis!

There is a Roman proverb that says, There is no remedy for the bite of the sycophant.  You’re an educated man, so I know you know what a sycophant is.  But, for my enemies and other nitwits, I’m providing the dictionary definition: “a servile, self-seeking flatterer.”  Big-city mayors attract sycophants the way popcorn attracts pigeons.  This is not news to you.  However, knowing that sycophants lurk around every corner will not necessarily protect you from the incurable infection that almost always results from their repeated and prolonged biting. Once infected, a mayor or any other elected leader for that matter will suffer from impaired perception and judgment.  Those impairments ultimately result in detachment from the voters who once admired you and inevitable defeat at the polls.  There’s a story, perhaps apocryphal, about Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York.  The cardinal had just been installed and was showing an old friend of his, a brother priest, around his palatial residence next to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  “Look at this! Isn’t it amazing,” Spellman supposedly said. His friend, who was visibly unimpressed, shook his head and replied, “Don’t you realize: No one is going to tell you the truth ever again.”  (By the way his cardinal-ship developed, Spellman obviously did not take this warning to heart.)  You need someone around you now, preferably an old and trusted friend, someone who knew you when few could have imagined that you’d be Mayor of Boston one day, a person who can look you in the eye, tell you the plain truth, and not worry, or care, that you might get pissed off.  That’s why I’m glad you chose Gene O’Flaherty to be your Corporation Counsel, the city’s top lawyer.  Gene has known you for a very long time.  You two are like brothers. He loves you.  He loves you enough to tell you the truth.  You love him enough to see that you need the truth, the whole Geno truth, every day.