Blogster's Miscellany: Eight Items Just Begging for More Attention, Comment

Monday, April 18, 2016

1.) Ben deRuyter, a Democrat from Brewster announced this past Friday (April 15) he was withdrawing from the race to succeed Cape Cod state senator Dan Wolf because he wants to spend more time with his family.  I’m sure his family wants to spend more time with DeRuyter, which I can assure you would not be the case if I were engaged in a demanding campaign for public office.  Still waiting am I for the candidate who quits a race because he wants to spend more time contemplating the mysteries of the universe, learning to tie a bow tie, catching up on back editions of The Sunday New York Times, etc.   Hey, suddenly disillusioned candidates, it’s time for more novel excuses.

2.) Speaking of novelty, I thought Noah Berger, President of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, had an interesting take on the state budget for FY 2017 proposed by Governor Charlie Baker.  Stated Berger, once a top aide to ex-Senate President Tom Birmingham, in a Jan. 27 press release, “This budget continues a pattern that has  been in place since the state cut taxes by over $3 billion between 1998 and 2002: deep budget  cuts in bad times and very little progress in good times.  We continue to put off making the kinds of long-term investments in our people and our transportation systems that would make life better for Massachusetts families and improve the long-term strength of our state economy.”  If Berger is right, our kids and grandkids will pay for our failures to think big.
3.) Speaking of Birmingham, let’s hear it for him and former Governor Mike Dukakis for the Boston Globe op-ed piece (March 14) they co-wrote, calling upon the Baker administration to re-instate the requirement that public high school seniors pass an MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) test on U.S. history before graduating.  That requirement was in the 1993 Education Reform Act, Birmingham’s crowning legislative achievement, but it was scrapped by the Governor Patrick administration just before it was to take effect in 2009.  “When we both were in public service on Beacon Hill,” the Birmingham-Dukakis piece concluded, “we were acutely aware that state budgets are more than line items and spread sheets; they are expressions of our values and priorities as a commonwealth.  Similarly, public education is not just a way to prepare students to be part of the workforce; it must also prepare them to be active civic participants in America’s great experiment in democracy.”

4.) Steve Wynn is what he is: a sharp player in the high-end art market.  Adam Vaccaro, a senior writer at, penned a good piece last month about the one-ton sculpture of cartoon character Popeye by Jeff Koons, which Wynn has owned for a while and intends to install in the lobby of the casino he’s planning in Everett, “Wynn Boston Harbor.”  The headline on Vacarro’s article was: “Why on earth is Popeye the Sailor Man the centerpiece of Wynn’s Everett casino lobby?”  Bob DeSalvo, Wynn’s top guy in Massachusetts, answered, in part, as follows:  “It fits well with the lobby design and what we wanted for the entrance design.  I don’t think all art has to be serious.  This is fun.  This is just a great piece.”  A seriously expensive piece, too.  Wynn paid $28 million for it at auction in 2014.  It was a steal.  According to a 2015 report in the Las Vegas Sun cited by Vaccaro, Wynn turned down a $60 million offer for Koons’s Popeye not long after acquiring it.
5.) Speaking of characters, there were many no doubt who would’ve qualified for their own comic strips among the hundreds cited for boozing during the latest St. Patrick’s Day parade in South Boston.  The Boston Globe reported that public drinking citations “were up dramatically this year, with hundreds more people ticketed for imbibing amid the revelry,” even as drinking-related arrests at the parade were down this year.  “Issuing nearly double the amount of Public Drinking citations compared to last year evidences the challenges we faced in keeping public order at this family event,” said Boston Police Commissioner William Evans.   Sounds like my family’s kind of event, super-sized.

6.) I’m pretty sure Lou Mandarini, president of the Greater Boston Labor Council, will not be invited to the next DeLeo family event.  House Speaker Bob DeLeo did not attend the Council's annual breakfast on April 4.  According to the State House News Service, DeLeo’s absence caused Mandarini to declare from the podium: “I think he (DeLeo) lost his way in the snow, sorta screwed him up.  No loss.  Trust me on that, no goddamn loss.”  When some in the audience groaned at such bluntness, Mandarini said, “Well, let’s set the tone.  Can’t make it, take the hit.”   
7.) Speaking of frontal assaults on politicians, did you see the news on the press conference conducted this past Friday (April 15) outside the State House by the folks running the Campaign to Regulate Alcohol Like Marijuana?  The Campaign is for a referendum on the November, 2016, ballot to legalize the recreational use of pot, and it had a big poster at the event featuring side-by-side photos of Governor Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, with a speech bubble over them saying: “Our health policy: Drink more alcohol!”  Campaign spokespersons were hoping to show Baker and Walsh as hypocritical for staunchly opposing legalization while simultaneously favoring more liquor licenses for restaurants and clubs. Even allowing for normal political theatrics, a line was crossed here.  The mayor is a recovering alcoholic who has personally helped hundreds of others beat the bottle; the governor occasionally has maybe one beer at an end-of-day event or weekend get-together.  Both are the definition of sobriety.  Baker’s director of communication, Tim Buckley, later tweeted that the press conference was “pretty much what you’d expect from a few guys looking to get rich selling drug-laced lollipops.”  (I for one hope those pops will be reasonably priced.)

8.) The days could come when they have to slap “Closed for the Winter” posters atop the “Welcome to Provincetown” signs.  According to an article in The New York Times (“Welcome to Provincetown. Winter Population: Dwindling,” 12-20-15), Provincetown, “like many summer havens, is caught in a vicious cycle of economic and demographic change, with a widening divide between the haves and the have-nots that is threatening its future.”  The Times found that “Provincetown is hollowing out” because housing for the non-wealthy and year-round jobs are “increasingly scarce.”  The article continued, “The winter population dropped 14 percent between 2000 and 2010.  Families have left or have avoided settling here in the first place.  The high school closed a few years ago.  And the dwindling population is graying.  The median age of 54.3 is far above the national median of 37.4.  And Provincetown is not even the oldest town on the Cape; that distinction belongs to nearby Wellfleet, where the median age is 62.2.”  Michael Goodman, executive director of the Public Policy Center at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, is quoted as saying, “Cape Cod is running a social experiment about whether you can have a society without children.  While the jury is still out, I’m skeptical.  The sustainability of these communities is a major challenge.”  Note: Ninety-nine out of a hundred times when an academic opines that your community is running a "social experiment," that is not a good thing.




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