Bikers Who Love that 'Wind-in-My-Hair Feeling' Still Hoping for Legislative Relief

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

When I was 18 and a freshman at Northeastern, my sister-in-law, Sue, was a recent graduate of the Mt. Auburn Hospital school of nursing (Cambridge) and working as an operating room nurse at that hospital. 

One day she asked me to promise I would never ride a motorcycle.  I asked why.
“Because,” she said, “I’ve already seen too many people in the O.R. who were permanently damaged in motorcycle crashes or did not survive those crashes.  Some of them weren’t much older than you.”

She added, “Do you know what some people call motorcycles?”  I did not know.
“Donorcycles,” she said.  “They make organ donors.”

A recent article in STAT, an online product of Boston Globe Media, brought me back to that conversation with Sue. Headlined, “Pro-helmet activists are notching wins against motorcyclists shouting ‘freedom,’ ” it said:

“Pro-helmet activists have launched aggressive efforts in state legislatures across the nation to fend off motorcyclists demanding the right to ride bareheaded.
“For two decades, the riders – and their rallying cry of freedom – have often had the upper hand in these battles.  Now, though, the public health advocates are gaining traction as more and more evidence emerges that mandating helmet use saves lives.”

Around 4,500 motorcyclists are killed every year in the U.S., STAT reported.
STAT cited an academic research paper recently submitted for peer review that posited a 20 percent increase in the supply of donated organs in jurisdictions where motorcycle helmet laws had been repealed.  The paper is titled, “Allocating Scarce Organs: How a Change in Supply Affects Transplant Waiting Lists.”  Here’s an excerpt:

“…we hypothesize that the repeal of a universal helmet law, which requires all motorcyclists to wear helmets, increases the number of helmetless motorcycle riders. [Blogger’s note: Duh?]  This in turn increases the probability of brain death – the principal criteria for becoming a deceased organ donor in most cases.”
In each of the two previous legislative sessions, 2013-14 and 2015-16, at least one bill that would have weakened the Massachusetts statute requiring universal helmet use by motorcyclists has been introduced in the legislature.

This session, there’s House Bill 1862, An Act Relative to Motorcycle Helmet Choice, and Senate Bill 1932, An Act Relative to Standards for Protective Headgear for Operators or Passengers on Motorcycles.
H.1862 would change the existing law to mandate that only persons under 18 who are driving or riding on a motorcycle wear a helmet, while S.1932 would eliminate the section of a state law (Chapter 90, Section 7) requiring everyone on a motorcycle to wear a helmet.

In previous sessions, all anti-helmet bills died in committee.  There’s no reason to believe H.1862 and S.1932 will do any better this session.
On Thursday, May 18, a convoy of motorcyclists arrived on Beacon Hill to demonstrate support for S.1932.   According to the State House News Service, Rick Gleason, legislative director of the Massachusetts Motorcycle Association, said that day that one reason bikers want to be able to ride helmet-free is to experience the feel of the wind in their hair.

I wrote a post, back in April of 2014, on an earlier version of a helmet-free bill, one of those that later died in committee.  What I wrote then I write now:  I would endorse the enactment of a helmet-free law for motorcyclists if it included a section stipulating that anyone on a motorcycle not wearing a helmet who suffers a head and/or spinal injury leading to permanent disability agrees to forego permanently any public assistance, as through Medicaid or Medicare. 
If you don’t want the government meddling in your open-road experience and ordering you to protect your own brain in the most effective way possible, you can’t expect the government, i.e., taxpayers, to pay for the long-term care you may need after you’ve been badly hurt in a motorcycle crash.



Complainants Mostly Strike Out at Commission on Judicial Conduct

Friday, June 16, 2017

Except for one judge who made a racially insensitive comment to a colleague and was forced to resign (see previous post), Massachusetts judges, in the judgment of their watchdogs, pretty much behaved themselves in 2016.

That’s an obvious take-away from the recently issued 2016 annual report of the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct, which has been keeping tabs on judges for nearly 40 years.  The unpaid, nine-member commission has a threefold mission: to enforce the standards set forth in detail in a written code of conduct; to promote public confidence in the judicial branch of government; and, to preserve the integrity of the judicial process
In 2016, the commission received a total of 252 complaints; of that number, 62 were “docketed for investigation or preliminary inquiry.”

Overall in 2016, the commission officially looked into 75 complaints and disposed of 61 of them.  And 59 of the 61 disposed cases were dismissed with a finding of no misconduct.  Judges had a success rating of nearly 97%!

In four of the 59 no-misconduct dismissals, however, the commission “expressed concern to the judge regarding future conduct.” If I understand, this meant that each of the four had messed up, but not so badly that they crossed the line to misconduct land.  The commission basically warned them and said we’ll be watching you.

The remaining two among the 61 disposed cases were ones the commission had subjected to “Informal Adjustment or Agreed Disposition,” had been monitoring, and had decided to close. 

Here’s the excerpt from the report explaining what that means:

“An Agreed Disposition may take the form of an Informal Adjustment in which the Commission informs or admonishes the judge that certain conduct is or may be cause for discipline.  This form of disposition requires agreement by the judge to the terms of Informal Adjustment.  In most cases, this type of disposition has a valuable, favorable effect on a judge’s conduct.  [Blogger comment: As do near-death experiences.]

“The terms for such a disposition usually include a period of monitoring by the Commission and conditions imposed on the judge that are designed to prevent a repetition of the misconduct.  The conditions may include counseling, education, assignment of a mentor judge, monitoring by the Commission for a specified period of time, voluntary retirement, or other appropriate conditions.”

Of the 252 total complaints against judges in 2016, the most frequent complaint was that a judge had denied someone a full opportunity to be heard.  That was alleged in 42 instances.  The most frequent complaints after that were inappropriate demeanor (39), bias or prejudice (35), and disagreement with decisions and rulings (24).

The most complaints, 30, were filed against judges in the Probate and Family Court, not surprising when you consider that’s where people fight relentlessly over divorces, properties and wills.  The second highest number of complaints, 17, was inspired by district court judges – not really high, considering there are more district court judges, 158, than any other kind. 

The second largest contingent of judges is found in our superior courts, where there are 82.  And, all told, we have 411 judges serving in nine separate court divisions, headed by the seven justices of the supreme judicial court.

In his introduction to the 2016 report, Howard V. Neff, III, Executive Director of the Commission on Judicial Conduct, said, “Many complaints are filed with the Commission by parties who are disappointed with how their cases came out and believe the judge was not ‘fair’ or that his or decision was wrong.”

Neff continued, “Hardly a judge in Massachusetts escapes such claims over the course of his or her career on the bench, and the Commission’s examination of complaints regarding a judge’s decision is limited to allegations that a judge clearly violated the Code, or made a legal decision in ‘bad faith’ or based on a corrupt motive.  If a party alleges that a judge has misinterpreted the law or evidence, the proper forum for a remedy includes the appellate court but does not include the Commission.”

FOOTNOTE:  You may find the annual reports of the Commission on Judicial Conduct at, and the Code of Judicial Conduct at








Official Report Leaves One Eager to Know More about 'Racially Insensitive' Judge

Thursday, June 15, 2017

There’s one intriguing item, and one only, in the latest annual report of the Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct, which fills some 90 pages of text.  (I read these things so you don’t have to.)

It concerns a judge who made “insensitive racial comments” to another judge.  The second judge filed a complaint with the commission, after which the first judge retired, citing “family health reasons.”
Here’s the item, excerpted in its entirety from the report:

“A judge was alleged to have made insensitive racial comments to another judge while in the judges’ lobby of the court in which he served, in violation of Rules 1.2, 2.2, 2.3(A), 2.3(B), and 2.8(B) of the Code of Judicial Conduct.  Because of this complaint and for family health reasons, the judge retired as a judge and agreed not to seek appointment as a recall justice.” 
Editor’s Note: Above-cited rules may be found at bottom of this post.

The names of both the offending and offended judge are omitted from the report.  Also missing is the name, category and location of the court where the conversation occurred and the races and genders of the two judges.
One’s imagination naturally rushes in to fill the vacuum. 

Your guess is as good as mine as to how far over the line the offending judge went.  To use a word that lawyers love, how “egregious” was the judge’s racially insensitive behavior?  Off the top of my head, I’d say quite.  “Family health reasons,” in the public realm, is akin to patriotism: the last refuge of scoundrels.
It would seem from reading its annual reports, which may be found at, that the Commission on Judicial Conduct has pondered the concept of public information the way Medieval scholars did original sin and has come to the firm conclusion that extreme caution and reluctance are almost always called for.

Under the heading of Confidentiality in its latest report, the commission states, “The statute and the rules that govern the Commission on Judicial Conduct require that the complaint and all Commission proceedings remain confidential, unless and until the Commission files Formal Charges with the Supreme Judicial Court. (There are certain limited exceptions to this requirement.)  This strict confidentiality includes all communications made to and by the Commission or its staff; it protects complainants, witnesses and judges.” 
Editor’s Notes: 1. Commission actually capitalizes the “F” and “C” in Formal Charges, apparently to distinguish Formal Charges, i.e., serious shit, from formal charges, i.e., less serious but still problematical. 2. Question: Do you think anyone complaining about a judge perceives the commission's confidentiality policy as something that exists primarily to protect them?

The Supreme Judicial Court is the forum where Formal Charges against judges are adjudicated.  If one of these cases gets to the SJC, the proceedings "are nearly always public," the commission says.  That means a judicial misconduct case has to have substance before the public may learn anything about the judge and how he has come to grief.

Contrast that situation to what would happen to you if you became ensnared in a mistaken identity case where the police arrested you and charged you with, say, rape, armed robbery, or assault and battery on an elderly person.  Do you think there's any chance your name, age and address would not quickly appear in your local newspaper?

Or consider what would happen if you were named in a civil lawsuit by a mentally imbalanced neighbor or ex-friend who was desperate for money.  That person could state in court-filed documents all kinds of outrageously false things about you that would immediately become a matter of public record, a record upon which your local newspaper could feast at will.

Howard V. Neff, III, the commission’s executive director, in the introduction to the 2016 annual report (published April 28) relates that “One understandable frustration sometimes expressed about the Commission is that the bulk of the Commission’s work and decision-making is behind closed doors and is never made known to the public.”  Imagine.

“Some would have everything ‘out in the open,’ ” Neff continued, “but for very good reasons, the law does not go that far.”
Although the commission has “limited authority” to make information public, Neff explained, “the experienced membership of the Commission must carefully weigh whether, given the facts and circumstances of a particular complaint, public disclosure would serve or undermine the Commission’s mission to preserve the integrity of the judicial process and promote public confidence in the judiciary.”

We simply have to trust the judgment of Mr. Neff…and the commissioners to whom he reported during the period covered by the 2016 annual report:
Julie J. Bernard, John J. Carroll, Jr., John D. Casey, Quinton B. Dale, Susan M. Finegan, Kathleen M. O’Donnell, Jacqueline A. O’Neill, Edward P. Ryan, Robert N. Tochka and Felicia P. Wiltz.

FOOTNOTES, re: Pertinent Rules, MA Code of Judicial Conduct
Rule 1.2  A judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

Rule 2.2  A judge shall uphold the law, and shall perform all duties of judicial office fairly and impartially.

Rule 2.3(A)  A judge shall perform the duties of judicial  office, including administrative duties, without bias, prejudice, or harassment.

Rule 2.3(B)  A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice or engage in harassment, including bias, prejudice, or harassment based upon a person’s status or condition.  A judge also shall not permit court personnel or others subject to the judge’s direction and control to engage in such prohibited behavior.

Rule 2.8(B)  A judge shall be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, court personnel, and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity, and shall require similar conduct of lawyers, court personnel, and others subject to the judge’s direction and control.





This Month in Corruption: Bilking of Disabled Veterans a Notable Low

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Ex-Cop Guilty of Misusing Funds for Disabled Veterans.  On May 16, Glenn P. Pearson, a former sergeant in the Whitman Police Department, pleaded guilty in connection with the misappropriation of funds from accounts owned by disabled veterans, the Office of Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb announced. 

According to Weinreb, Pearson crossed the line while serving as a fiduciary of the accounts.  From 2007 to 2012, he was a federally authorized fiduciary for eight disabled veterans.
A press release from Weinreb says that Pearson, age 60, admitted guilt to wire fraud, misappropriation by a federal fiduciary, preparation of fraudulent tax returns, and obstruction of the Internal Revenue Services.  He’s scheduled for sentencing on September 19, at which time he faces up to 20 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

 “Mr. Pearson abused his position as a fiduciary and took advantage of vulnerable members of our society,” Weinreb said.
Acting Deputy U.S. Assistant Attorney General Stuart Goldberg commented, “Glenn Pearson took advantage of disabled military veterans who could not manage their own financial affairs by diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars in VA (Veterans Administration) payments to his personal benefit.  He then used his tax preparation business to generate more than $1.5 million in bogus refunds and obstructed IRS audits looking into the fraudulent returns he prepared.”

“Mr. Pearson,” said Harold H. Shaw, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston field division, “now finds himself on the opposite end of the very laws he was once sworn to uphold,”
Former Police Officer Accused of False Statements on Gun Buys.  Adarbaad Karani, a former Boston police officer, was arrested on May 1 and charged in connection with illegally purchasing two firearms on behalf of acquaintances.

Karani, who is 37 and resides in West Roxbury, was charged in an indictment with two counts of making a false statement during the purchase of firearms and two counts of making a false statement in a record, according to a press release from the Office of the Acting U.S. Attorney, William D. Weinreb.

The indictment in the case states that, in November 2014 and September 2015, Karani acted as the “straw purchaser” of two firearms, acquiring them on behalf of acquaintances while falsely claiming the guns were for his official police use and not for re-sale.  One of the weapons, however, was found in the possession of an alleged member of the Columbia Point Dawgs when that person was arrested in November 2015, Weinreb’s office said.
If convicted of the charges, Karani faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Companies Cited for Underpaying Workers on Public Projects.  Three Massachusetts construction companies have, collectively, been cited more than $600,000 in restitution and penalties for failing to pay the proper prevailing wage rates to employees for work performed on public projects, as well as other violations of state wage laws, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced on May 15. 
The parties cited by Healey’s office in the case are: Ronan Jarvis, former owner of MC Starr Companies, Inc.; DANCO Management, Inc., and its owner, Daniel Tremblay; and R&A Drywall and its owner, Allan S. Vitale.

The restitution and penalties in each case were: Ronan Jarvis, $325,053; DANCO Management and Daniel Tremblay, $293,812; and R&A Drywall and Allan S. Vitale, $62,359.
“Our prevailing wage laws ensure a level playing field for contractors who perform work for public entities, including municipalities, schools, libraries and housing authorities,” said Healey.  “When contractors skirt these laws, they not only cheat employees out of their wages, they undermine the competitive business environment of Massachusetts.”

With Eye on Legislative Purse Strings, Public University Board Promotes Former Rep

The board of trustees of Salem State University voted 7-3 on May 24 to elevate John Keenan, a lifelong resident of Salem, former state rep and former House chair of a powerful legislative committee, to the presidency of the university.  The job pays around a quarter-of-a-million dollars a year. Since leaving the legislature in 2014, Keenan has been serving as the university’s general counsel and vice president for administration. 

Before Keenan can assume the presidency, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education must vote to confirm his election, a vote that may take place at the board’s next monthly meeting.
Keenan served in the legislature for 10 years and was a force to be reckoned with.  He was a smart, strategic and at times audacious lawmaker.  Friendly, direct, and never tricky or pompous, he was an easy person to like and get along with on Beacon Hill.   

I admire Keenan for the political vision and touch he displayed as House chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications and Energy on a number of issues -- and never more so than when he engineered the legislative approvals for a legal mechanism by which the City of Salem is receiving millions of dollars in state funding over a multi-year period to cushion the loss of property tax revenue occasioned by the closing of an ancient coal-burning power plant.  I shamelessly suggest that you read a post I wrote on how that arrangement came to be in the summer of 2012:

Keenan, age 52, has been blessed with considerable brainpower.  He’s an honor’s graduate of Harvard and Suffolk University Law School, where he served on the law review.  What Keenan is not is a professional scholar or a career college administrator.  Salem State is the first and only university he’s worked at.  
In choosing Keenan, the school’s trustees acknowledged the institution’s ultimately defining and inescapable dependence upon the Massachusetts legislature for the dollars it needs to stay afloat and to make continuous improvements.  Here’s what they must have been thinking when they bypassed female and minority presidential finalists with deeper and wider experience in higher ed:

No money, no mission.
The pro-Keenan vote of May 24 pointed to an unspoken board consensus that he’s the best available person to bring the bacon home from Boston. Public university trustees are practical souls.

The trustees were breaking no new ground when they prioritized political heft in their presidential search.   Think David Bartley, the former House speaker who became president of Holyoke Community College.  Think Senate President William Bulger and Congressman Marty Meehan who became presidents of the UMass system. 
The Boston Globe’s Michael Levenson reported yesterday that, of the 29 public higher education institutions in Massachusetts, only eight are headed by women, and that only seven of the 29 are minorities, [“Salem St. selection sparks debate. White male tapped to be president,” 5-30-17]. 

Sadly, the Globe article stated that the 10 Salem trustees voting on the new president were divided along racial lines: the seven Caucasian trustees voted for Keenan; the three trustees of color voted for Anny Morrobel-Sosa, a native of the Dominican Republic who’s worked in the top administrative tier at several prominent universities.   In the world of higher education or anywhere else, this is always disturbing.

The odds favor Keenan when the Board of Higher Education votes on confirming him.   Over time, I think the controversy in Salem surrounding his election will fade as he works sincerely and open-heartedly and indefatigably to be a champion of every student, faculty and staff member.  But it will take years – decades! -- to address and put to rest the justifiable concerns expressed about the gender and racial make-up of the state university presidents’ group.
Equality with a capital “E” is the great unfinished task of this state and nation. 

The energy evoked by the pursuit of Equality has the potential to renew Massachusetts and the United States.  There will be no new lease on the life of America if that pursuit is unsuccessful.
ADDENDUM:  The leadership of Salem State University must have anticipated at least some of the opposition and controversy generated by the selection of Keenan as the institution’s 14th president.  The university press release on the selection (dated May 24) included a lengthy section at its end under the subheading “About John D. Keenan, JD.”  Seeing it as both a legitimate tribute to the man and an exemplary product of public relations, I am reprinting that section in its entirety:

“A lifelong resident of Salem and former Massachusetts state representative, John Keenan was one of the lead proponents in gaining ‘university’ status for Salem State in 2010.  John was also the lead sponsor of the bill providing sabbatical parity for all state university faculty.  A proud product of Salem Public Schools and first-generation-to-college, John is a cum laude graduate of Harvard College (Economics) and Suffolk University Law School where he served as Lead Articles Editor on the Law Review.  Suffolk faculty recognized John with the prestigious Leo J. Memorial Award as the student who most advanced the civic and professional responsibilities of a lawyer.  In 2015, John attended the Harvard Graduate School of Education Institute for Educational Management.
“As state representative John developed extensive expertise in public construction projects helping to deliver $290 million in capital funding for Salem projects, including the SSU Frederick E. Berry Library and Learning Commons, J. Michael Ruane Judicial Center, Salem MBTA Station and the Thaddeus Buczko Probate Court.  He was also the leading proponent of the billion dollar Footprint Power redevelopment of Salem Harbor Station, the largest project in Salem’s almost 400-year history.  At Salem State, John utilized this expertise to help fund and recently complete the magnificent Sophia Gordon Center for the Creative and Performing Arts.

“Prior to his election as state representative, John served as an assistant district attorney in Essex County and was a member of that office’s first Domestic Violence Unit.  John served in the administration of Mayor Neil Harrington and Mayor Stanley Usovicz as Salem city solicitor.  John joined Salem State in 2014, and as the university’s inaugural General Counsel, he is responsible for oversight of all legal matters.  With his background in domestic violence, John helps lead SSU’s Title IX team that deals with both the prevention and investigation of sexual assaults on campus.  As a result of John’s efforts, in January 2017, Salem State hosted the National Center for Campus Public Safety’s Training on Trauma-Informed Sexual Assault Investigation and Adjudication.  Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey also participated to bring attention to this national problem.
“At SSU, John is responsible for the university’s day-to-day operations in support of its academic mission.  He has oversight of capital planning and facilities, human resources and equal opportunity, information technology, risk and asset management, and university police.  Under John’s leadership the university just completed the North Campus Precinct Study, which provides a blueprint for SSU’s next decade of capital projects.  Lastly, he oversees the maintenance of appropriate internal controls consistent with the rules and regulations of the state and the board of trustees.  John is an active participant on campus, being a panelist on issues such as climate change and freedom of speech.  John welcomes the opportunity to advise aspiring public servants and students interested in pursuing law school.  John is also a member and active participant in both the New England Council of Counsel and the National Association of College and University Attorneys.

“John resides in Salem with his wife, Kara McLaughlin, and their two children, Aidan and Erin.  John’s community service includes being past president of the Salem Education Foundation.  He presently serves both on the Salem Award Foundation and on the advisory board of the Anti-Defamation League.  An avid bike rider in the summer, John has participated in the Pan Mass Challenge for the last quarter century, raising over $160,000 for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.”

ADDENDUM: The Board of Higher Education voted unanimously on Tuesday, June 20, to approve John Keenan's appointment as president of Salem State.

War Hero Moulton's Authenticity Will Keep Fueling Hope about a Presidential Run

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

It’s outlandish of course that people were talking not so long ago about Seth Moulton, a two-term member of the Congress from Massachusetts, as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, and yet another sign how poorly we select presidential candidates since the emasculation of political parties half a century ago.  In any case, Moulton has repeatedly stated that he will not run for president; however, one must still acknowledge that speculation regarding a Moulton White House run is not at all unreasonable or delusional, and that, were he to run and be nominated by his party in the summer of 2020, and were he to face President Trump in the final, assuming Trump stays in office for four years and is able to obtain the Republican nomination a second time, Trump could well have a hard time beating Moulton.

In a blog post of February 1, Lauren Johnson of the Washington, D.C. firm Speak Strategic, laid out the reasonable case for Moulton as Democratic presidential nominee thusly:  “Though somewhat new to politics, Moulton found great success in his first term.  In his first two years, he introduced 10 bills – 3 of which passed the House, 2 which were signed into law – including the Essex River Dredging and Faster Care for Veterans bills which drew bipartisan support.  In this time he also co-sponsored 270 bills.  After retaining his seat in the 2016 election, in which he ran unopposed, he has expressed opinions of Democrats changing the ‘status quo’ in order to win back seats in 2018 and 2020, pledging to ‘continue to work with both Republicans and Democrats to ensure Massachusetts remains at the forefront of progress and opportunity.’ ”

Johnson continued, “In looking to 2020 and no clear frontrunner on the Democratic side, a young, charismatic Marine Corps veteran with the ability to reach across the aisle who is willing to stand up to President Trump may be just what Democrats are looking for. So, why not Seth Moulton?”

Moulton, Johnson was saying, is at least as good as any other prominent Democrat now being mentioned as a possible candidate.  She was right.  You have not heard anyone say, for example, that Moulton would have a terrible time in a match-up against former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.  Nor have you heard anyone say this or that incumbent Democrat governor would be an obviously stronger candidate.  (Only 16 governorships are currently held by Democrats.  Those governors are, in alphabetical order: John Bel Edwards, Louisiana; Jerry Brown, California; Kate Brown, Oregon; Steve Bullock, Montana; John Carney, Delaware; Roy Cooper, North Carolina; Andrew Cuomo, New York; Mark Dayton, Minnesota; David Ige, Hawaii; Jay Inslee, Washington; Jim Justice, West Virginia; Dan Malloy, Connecticut; Terry McAuliffe, Virginia Gina Raimondo, Rhode Island; Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania.)  In recent decades, governors seem to do better than U.S. senators in presidential elections. 

What you have heard people say about Moulton is they like that he had the gumption to call for Nancy Pelosi to step aside as the House minority leader and for the minority party to give new, younger leaders more chances.  If Moulton did run for president, and if Moulton wedded this JFK-like call for new leadership to a Sandersesque populism, he could become a powerhouse.

There is no instance in modern times of a U.S. representative, like Moulton, even winning his party’s nomination for president, and you have to go back to the election of 1880 to find the last time a House member, James Garfield, went from the House to the White House.  Notably, Garfield was like Moulton in that Garfield served with distinction during war, the Civil War, although not as distinctively as Moulton, an active duty Marine officer for five years who fought on the front lines in both Iraq and Afghanistan and was awarded a Bronze Star for valor and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal for valor.  According to citations accompanying the medals, Lieutenant Moulton “fearlessly exposed himself to enemy fire” while leading his platoon during several pitched battles.

That war record immunizes Moulton permanently against reflexive Republican assertions that lefty Democrats are weak on national defense and cannot be entrusted with the presidency at a time when terrorists want to destroy America.  Such claims would have seriously hurt Bernie Sanders had he been the Democrat nominee last year.  Similarly, strength on national defense is a glaring weakness for Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat whose star power and money-raising ability outshine Moulton’s, at this point in the game at least.

It would be amazing if someone who grew up in Salem, MA and earned three degrees from Harvard (a bachelor’s, a master’s in business, and a master’s in public administration) became the first member of the House to be elected president in 140 years.  The unique historical chance to become that person is certainly reason enough to encourage Moulton to run compared to why Trump was initially encouraged, i.e., he was good at kicking butt on reality TV, ergo, he would straighten things out in D.C. in no time.

Too bad Seth Moulton has sworn off running for president.  I think he’d do fine against either Trump or Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, should Trump quit one night in a fit of rage and frustration or be impeached for any number of good reasons already on the table, first and foremost, violations of the constitution’s emoluments clause. 

Moulton’s no actor.  He never played up his medals when running for the Congress.  His parents did not even know he’d won those medals until a week before the Boston Globe’s Walter Robinson wrote an article on Moulton’s war record, “Seth Moulton underplays military service,” 10-18-14.  At that point, Moulton had been out of the Marine Corps for six years.  In an interview with the Globe prior to the article’s publication, Moulton asked Robinson not to describe him as a hero. 

When a guy who’s no act goes against a guy who’s all act, the voting public almost always sorts it out correctly.













GOP in D.C. Shaping Up as the Major Problem for Charlie Baker

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Charlie Baker sent a letter to key members of the U.S. Senate this past Friday, an ominous document concerning matters with the potential to cause enormous harm in Massachusetts: federal cost sharing reduction payments, and the effort by the Republican majority in both branches of Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare. 

Anybody who cares about the financial health and stability of the Commonwealth should read this letter.  It may be the most alarming document Gov. Baker has signed during his two-and-a-half years in office.  Here’s a link to the text:

Cost Sharing Reduction Payments.  After the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a.k.a. Obamacare, became law, hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents gained health coverage because the feds pumped new subsidies into the states, like ours, that agreed to expand their Medicaid programs -- subsidies that made health insurance premiums affordable for new enrollees for the first time.  New federal dollars for health care were packaged, in part, as cost sharing reduction payments, or CSRs.

Some of the many Republicans in the U.S. House who hate the ACA filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration challenging the legality of CSRs, a suit now coming to a head.  If that suit is not somehow resolved or averted, the Massachusetts health insurance market will be seriously disrupted, Baker warned in last Friday’s letter.

“Most immediately, federal cost sharing reduction payments (CSR) must be resolved affirmatively for FY2017 (the current fiscal year) and 2018 (the next fiscal year, beginning July 1, 2017) in order to maintain market stability and to constrain rate increases,” Baker wrote. (The governor’s letter was sent to, among others, Orrin Hatch, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Ron Wyden, the committee’s top-ranking Republican.)

For Massachusetts, Baker continued,  “…the market is filing its rates for Plan Year 2018 imminently.  If CSR payments were to be halted (as a result of the lawsuit), Massachusetts insurers specifically could be immediately liable for an estimated $63 million in unreimbursed costs for the remainder of calendar year 2017 and approximately $123 million in 2018.”

This, Baker warned, could "dramatically" increase 2018 insurance premiums in Massachusetts and force insurers to withdraw plans from the market, an outcome that would restrict access to health coverage for lower-income residents.      

Obamacare Replacement. Baker has seen the future of health care in America as dreamed of by the most powerful members of his party and he is terrified. 

In his letter this past Friday, when opining on the Obamacare replacement bill enacted in the Republican-dominated U.S. House, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), Baker said the bill “poses a significant threat to Massachusetts, from both fiscal and health care coverage perspectives.”

The Congressional Budget Office  had not yet issued a fiscal scorecard on the AHCA, Baker noted, but “there is no question that this bill would result in a substantial loss of federal revenues to the state and loss of health coverage for thousands of currently insured individuals.”

If the AHCA becomes law, Baker wrote, “thousands will lose their health coverage in the first year, and Massachusetts will lose approximately $1 billion in (annual) revenues, starting in 2020.”  He pointed out, “The loss of federal dollars increases annually thereafter.”

Putting such a loss in context, consider that the millionaire’s surtax proposal now wending its way to the 2018 Massachusetts ballot would yield an estimated $2 billion per year.  We could need all of that money one day just to cover federal shortfalls in MassHealth!

To recap: 

Our fiscally conservative, socially liberal Republican governor is certain that a lawsuit by his fellow Republicans, if successful, will severely damage his state’s insurance marketplace, harming people he's sworn to protect, and that the U.S. Senate should reject the House-approved American Health Care Act because it would blast a $1-billion-dollar-sized hole in the Massachusetts state budget the very first year it takes effect.

If these feared and predicted outcomes occur, they’ll start appearing in 2018, just as the governor is beginning his re-election campaign in earnest.  

One does not have to be pundit to foresee these problems colliding with Baker's hopes for a second term.

Part of Charlie Baker has to be wondering if a second term is really such a good idea in a world where health care has been reshaped in the image of today's Republican Party, the ancestral home of Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, who, don’t forget, was once willing to entertain seriously a national health care plan.

ADDENDUM: A few hours after the Baker administration made public the above referenced letter, the Massachusetts Democratic Party issued a statement, which said, in part, "It's beyond time for Governor Baker to do more than send another anemic letter to be filed away in a drawer down in D.C.  He must do everything in his power to convince the members of his own party that Trumpcare is a deadly bill for Massachusetts and residents across the nation." 



This Month in Corruption: Trash Scam, Hidden Funds, Medicare Data Breach, etc.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Not Nice to Bamboozle Landfill Operators.  Stephen P. Aguiar, Jr., age 47, the owner of a trash company, pleaded guilty on April 11 in federal court in Boston in connection with defrauding the operator of the Fall River Landfill out of approximately $473,000 in disposal fees.  According to the Office of Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb of the District of Massachusetts, "Aguiar was one of the owners and operators of Cleanway Disposal & Recycling, Inc., a trash removal and recycling company, and JS Aguiar Enterprises, Inc., a construction and equipment rental company, which were both located in Westport.  Aguiar contracted with the company operating the Fall River Landfill to dispose of trash collected from his private clients outside of Fall River for one rate, and to dispose of trash collected from his private clients outside of Fall River for a higher rate...Between 2009 and 2014, Aguiar misrepresented the origin of a significant portion of the trash he disposed of at the landfill.  Aguiar claimed he was disposing trash from the Fall River Housing Authority when in fact he was disposing trash collected from his private clients, thereby defrauding Fall River Landfill of approximately $473,000 in revenue."  Aguiar, who faces up to 20 years in prison, is scheduled to be sentenced in Boston on July 17.

Feds Not Happy When You Don' Come Clean with Them.  A former member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, John George, Jr., of Dartmouth, was indicted on April 13 on one count of obstruction of justice in connection with concealing approximately $2.5 million in cash from the U.S. District Court of Boston following his sentencing proceedings in 2015.  According to the Office of Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb, George, age 70, was sentenced to 70 months in prison and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $688,772 and forfeiture of $1.38 million for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority.  "George, however, reported to the Court that he only possessed approximately $28,000 in cash.  In late 2015 and early 2016, the U.S. Attorney's Office, working with the U.S. Marshalls Service and the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigations, recovered more than $2.5 million in cash, as well as Rolex watches and jewelry that George had concealed in safe deposit  boxes in New Bedford and Fairhaven."

Victims of Medicare Data Breach Number in the Thousands.  Lynrolte Cezaire, age 29, a resident of Medford, and a former employee of the Tufts Health Plan, was convicted on April 12 by a federal jury in Boston of stealing the identifying information of more than three thousand Medicare customers.  According to the Office of Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb, Cezaire worked in the Medicare enrollment department at Tufts Health Plan in Watertown from 2011 to 2014.  "During her employment, Cezaire helped a coworker, Emeline Lubin, photograph Cezaire's computer screen while it displayed lists of Medicare customers' names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers," a release from Weinreb's office states.  "Lubin then gave the information to Sniders Jean-Jacques, a Florida man, who, along with Lubin's brother, Marvin Lubin, was involved in a scheme to use stolen identities to steal Social Security benefits and to file false tax returns to collect the refunds."  Cezaire is scheduled for sentencing on July 13.

Little Thefts at Post Office Add Up to Big Number.  Carlitos Molina, age 36, the former postmaster of the U.S. Postal Services Post Offices in Blackstone and Jefferson (MA), pleaded guilty on April 26 in federal court in Worcester to stealing approximately $31,000 from the Postal Services. According to the Office of Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb, Molina, while he served as postmaster, "stole 65 postal money orders and used them to obtain cash for personal use, to pay for personal services, and to pay personal debts.  Specifically, Molina used stolen money orders to pay his home mortgage, water, cable and electricity bills, back taxes, a collections agency to which he owed money, and for car repairs.  In total, Molina embezzled approximately $31,000.  In addition, when confronted by postal management, Molina lied and stated that he had used certain money orders to pay for repairs to the post office facility."  Molina, who faces up to 10 years in prison, is due to be sentenced on July 20.

Blogster's Miscellany: a Bromance and Other Jarring Realities of Political Life

Friday, April 28, 2017

ONE WAY IN WHICH KRAFT’S ARE LIKE BELICHICK’S: The Kraft-Trump bromance is a jarring reality of political life today in Massachusetts.  Why does Bob love Donald is right up there with why does Massachusetts still have a Governor’s Council?  Yes, I know, we all have friends and relationships that are improbable, if not a little weird.  There is, for example, the guy I met 51 years ago in Revere while walking home in a thunderstorm late one summer afternoon.  Shirtless, he was using the torrent from a broken downspout on a three-family house to take a shower, shampoo and all.  I just had to strike up a conversation. Trying hard lately not to be so hard on Kraft, I seized upon the transcript of the proceedings on the south lawn of the White House on Wednesday, April 19, the day the President greeted the Super Bowl champions. It caused me to admire Kraft for having the stones to speak glowingly, and obviously genuinely, about a controversy-spewing egomaniac like Trump.   Kraft is not oblivious to Trump being detested by a large segment of the Massachusetts population.  He knows that he risks turning off at least some of the people who buy tickets to his football and soccer games and lots of other stuff, too, at that temple of consumerism, Patriot Place, not to mention a sizable portion of his own team, every time a picture pops up of him with the president at Mar-a-Lago, yet Kraft refuses to distance himself from his old friend.  (One has to wonder, if Myra Kraft were alive, would he be so public about all this.)  On the south lawn, Kraft said, “This year’s championship was achieved after falling behind by 25 points – a deficit so great that in the 97-year history of the NFL – over 25,000 games – that deficit has only been overcome seven times.  In that same year, a very good friend of mine for over 25 years, a man who is as mentally tough and as hardworking as anybody I know, launched a campaign for the presidency against 16 career politicians, facing odds almost as long as we faced in the fourth quarter.  He persevered to become the 45th President of the United States.  It’s a distinct honor for us to celebrate what was unequivocally our sweetest championship with a very good friend and somebody whose mental toughness and strength I greatly admire.”  Could this Massachusetts institution have said it any louder: “All you Elizabeth Warrens of the world, kiss this!”

BUT MAYBE KRAFT’S NOT THAT COURAGEOUS:  File this under, We're Not as Blue as We Think We Are...There were 50 communities in central Massachusetts where Trump beat Hillary Clinton.  In those towns, Trump today is viewed by more voters unfavorably than favorably, although his favorability rating in those towns, which stands at 42 percent, is still significantly higher than it is in most of America.  The Trumpster’s favorability has dipped into the mid-thirties of late nationwide, the lowest of any modern president at this early point in their presidencies.  The Massachusetts figures come from a poll conducted in early April for WBUR by the impeccable MassINC Polling Group.
MOVED PORTRAIT MOVES HER TO CROCODILE TEARS: Democrat Marilyn Petitto Devaney of Watertown, a perfect fit for the mold of the Massachusetts Governor’s Council, that overly-ripe-for-replacement/judge-nominee-vetting relic of colonial era government, is no fan of Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, the regularly presiding officer at council meetings.  During the council’s April 12 session, Devaney, apropos of no piece of pending council business, questioned why the portrait of the late Governor Paul Cellucci was taken from a wall in the  public foyer of the governor’s office on the third floor of the State House and hung in Polito’s office.   Cellucci, like Polito, was a Republican from the far western suburbs of Boston who climbed from the House of Representatives to the lieutenant governor’s office. “I say this respectfully,” said Devaney that day, immediately signaling the opposite. “We all know your relationship with our late so-beloved Governor Cellucci, and I’m asking you on behalf of hundreds of people who have been talking about this in the last couple of years to return his portrait in the vaunted place with all of the other recent governors.  People come in (to the governor’s office) and think, ‘Where’s Governor Cellucci?’ ”  Polito dismissed the distress of those supposedly pining for a peek at Paul’s pic.  Said she, “Anyone that would like to see Governor Cellucci’s portrait can go and see it in my office.”

THIS ‘ICON’ WILL NOT GO INVISIBLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT: I don’t know about you but I’m definitely not breathing a sigh of relief because the famous, humongous Citgo sign in Boston’s Kenmore Square has been saved.  Recall that, back in February, there was talk of the sign going dark and being demolished because the new owners of the building on which it stands were raising the rent on that valuable rooftop space.  The mayor and other officials stepped in to drive an agreement between the parties, which will apparently keep this inescapable monster doing its stationary electric dance every night for the foreseeable future.  Sad to say, I’m old enough to remember when Kenmore Square was old and run-down and the Citgo sign was new and snazzy.  How generations of Boston liberals have come to embrace this massive, energy-gulping advertisement for big petro as a priceless piece of urban art and a special example of our capital city's individuality is something I've never understood, much less bought into, even when I was pretending to be an intellectual.  It’s not the Bunker Hill Monument.  It's a damn billboard.






I'm Feeling Right Now that 'Senator Shortsleeve' Has a Certain Duende to It

Friday, April 21, 2017

Joe Shortsleeve, who achieved New England fame as a TV newsman, is seriously considering running for the Massachusetts Senate.

As a former newsman of the (glamor-challenged) print variety, I hope Joe runs for the Bristol-Norfolk District seat to be vacated soon (May 2) by Jim Timilty. 
My advice is he should adopt a campaign slogan once used by another newsman, Jimmy Breslin, when he ran in 1968 for city council president in New York City on a ticket headed by novelist/journalist Norman Mailer:  “Throw the rascals in!”

Counter-intuitive is working today in U.S. politics.  Just ask Donald “I-like-guys-who-don’t-get captured” Trump.  And people always like a guy who can poke fun at himself and have a little fun on the campaign trail.
Shortsleeve, 59, had a long career at WBZ-TV News in Boston before linking up in 2014 with the Liberty Square group, a communications/political consulting firm headed by Scott Ferson, who made his bones as a javelin-catching press spokesman for Ted Kennedy.

I have never met Joe Shortsleeve.  I can’t say what might be fueling his late-blooming interest in public office. If I had to guess, I’d say it has to do with the typical candidate’s desire to attain power, recognition and a voice in weighty matters, coupled with the feeling of, “Why shouldn’t I run? I can do at least as good as the pols I’ve been covering for years.”
Here I am no doubt projecting my own tiny temperament onto the poor Mr. Shortsleeve.  Sorry, Joe.

As someone who long ago covered city government and state government for a daily newspaper, I can identify with the spectator who thinks he’s cut out to be a player.  While witnessing a speech by a long-winded mayor or legislator, I confess that I sometimes dreamt of being in that person’s shoes.  I’d think, “Damn, I could do this! I’d look good up there.” 
Fortunately, I never put that hypothesis to the test; else the embarrassment of defeat at the polls, an experience likened by many losing candidates to “a public death,” would have been added to my bulging book of life regrets.  (The old Latin proverb comes to mind: Nemo sui iudex.  No man can judge himself.)

In any event, a member of a distinguished Massachusetts political family, a true gentleman who has served in the state senate for 13 years, Jim Timilty, Democrat of Walpole, is leaving the upper branch to take the post of Norfolk County Treasurer, and someone will be chosen relatively soon in a special election to succeed him.
“I’ve got to make a decision (to run or not) within the next week or so,” said Shortsleeve, a resident of Medfield and uncle of quintessential man-on-the-hot-seat Brian Shortsleeve, who serves in the Baker administration as the MBTA’s chief administrator.

If Joe Shortsleeve gives it a go – and I sincerely hope he does -- he’ll be joining two persons already with both feet in the race, Ted Philips, staff director for Stoughton representative Lou Kafka, and Paul Feeney, a former chief of staff to Senator Timilty, a former majordomo in the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign apparatus, and the current legislative director (lobbyist) for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 2222.
If Shortsleeve runs, he’ll have the widest name recognition by far throughout the race.  That’s the kind of thing that comes from having been the chief news correspondent for a TV station with a powerful broadcast signal and a vast, loyal viewership.

Pondering that name today, on the spur I did an Internet search, asking omniscient Lord Google, “What is the derivation of the surname Shortsleeve?”  The most plausible answer was, it’s an anglicized version of the French-Canadian name Courtemanche.  (Court means short in French, manche sleeve.)  
Following the Google-proffered thread, I found there are Shortsleeves residing in towns across New York State and New England, which brought to mind something an older colleague of mine in newspapering used to remind us greenhorns of.  “Well into the 1970s,” Loring Swaim was wont to say, “more residents of Massachusetts traced their ancestry to French Canada than to any other country, including England, Ireland and Italy.”

Speaking of persons who should run for office, I am hoping Rep. Christopher Walsh goes for mayor of Framingham, as he's thinking of doing when that community transitions next year from a town meeting form of government to the more conventional system for cities of its size, mayor and city council.
A four-term Democrat and licensed professional architect, Walsh is smart and easygoing, with a good grasp of policy and legislating -- someone who takes his job seriously and himself lightly.  Plus, he gave a great sound bite to the State House News Service when it asked him this past Tuesday why’s he’s interested in becoming Framingham’s first-ever elected chief executive.

“I love my job as a state rep,” said Walsh.  “It’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.  But the ability to effect things at this local level as the first mayor, I think, is wildly interesting and I’m going to pursue that a little bit and see how possible it is.”
Anyone who can ingenuously declare that being a mayor today of a city of 68,000 souls is a “wildly interesting” proposition, and can describe the chance to be that mayor as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” has my vote.  






Kudos to Charlie Baker for Wanting Michael Ricciuti on Superior Court

Monday, April 10, 2017

Michael Ricciuti’s is an American success story. He clearly merits the superior court judgeship he’s been nominated for by the governor.

But do not be surprised if one or even two members of the Governor’s Council vote against confirming him.  A relic of Colonial Era government, the Council provides a haven for some of the most unpredictable and inexplicable politicians in Massachusetts.
The hearing on Ricciuti’s nomination was held before the eight-member Council this past Thursday.  Former Middlesex District Attorney Gerard Leone testified that he’d seen "no better lawyer" in his decades of practice than Ricciuti.

If confirmed, Ricciuti will fill a vacancy left by the recent elevation of Judge Kimberly Budd to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
Ricciuti grew up in Quincy, attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point for two years, transferred to Harvard College, and went straight to Harvard Law School.  After law school, he clerked for the late A. David Mazzone, a federal judge who grew up in Everett, went to Harvard, and was renowned as much for his brains as for his courage. 

It was Mazzone who ordered the clean-up of Boston Harbor in 1985, a very costly and controversial undertaking that turned the harbor into Exhibit A of the value of large-scale, multi-year environmental remediation projects. 
Ricciuti told the Governor’s Council he came to the understanding that justice was administered properly in Mazzone's courtroom and asked him how to become a judge. "You need to experience the law fully," Mazzone told Ricciuti, recommending that he work in turn as a prosecutor, criminal defense lawyer and civil litigant. Ricciuti said, "I took all that to heart."

After clerking for Mazzone, Ricciuti worked for the Norfolk County District Attorney's Office and then as a trial lawyer for the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division.
Ricciuti was a federal prosecutor for a decade ending in 2005 and was chief of anti-terrorism and national security in the office for a long spell.

The case that stood out for him the most during that period, according to a State House News Service account of Ricciuti’s nomination hearing, was a Drug Enforcement Administration crackdown on a drug-dealing operation that had overrun a public housing complex in Fitchburg.  At the end, Ricciuti said, residents of the complex thanked law enforcement agents for their intervention.
At 55, Ricciuti is a partner at K&L Gates, the eighth largest law firm in the U.S., and teaches on the side at Suffolk University Law School, which has undoubtedly produced more members of the Massachusetts legislature than any other law school through the years.

Ricciuti’s grandfather was an Italian immigrant -- a stonecutter who started a business “quarrying stone from the hills of Quincy and making it into monuments,” he said Thursday.
Having inherited his grandfather’s work ethic and determination, he could have a monumental career on the bench.

The Governor’s Council is expected to vote on Ricciuti’s nomination later this week.

Footnote: My skepticism was off base.  The Governor's Council voted unanimously earlier today (April 12) to confirm Atty. Michael Ricciuti's appointment to the Superior Court bench.


This Month in Corruption: Smuggled Drugs, Bogus Billing, Tampered Equipment

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Wrong Way to Keep Prisoners in Line.  The office of William D. Weinreb, acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, announced March 3 that two former corrections officers at the Essex County Correctional facility in Middleton had been sentenced for their involvement in getting a drug used to treat opioid addiction into the jail and conveying it to inmates.  

The Weinreb announcement said that Katherine Sullivan, 32, of Londonderry, NH., was sentenced to 36 months of probation, 120 hours of community service, and was ordered to pay a fine of $5,000, after having pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring with inmates to distribute Suboxone, and that John S. Weir, 34, of Danvers, received the same sentence as Sullivan after a guilty plea on an identical charge.
Inmates who received Suboxone from Sullivan and Weir reportedly sold the drug to other prisoners.

Wrong Way to Fund Big Lifestyle. On March 15, a pain management physician pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston in connection with a scheme to defraud Medicare and other health insurers, and then using the proceeds of his illegal activity to support “his extravagant lifestyle.”
Fathallah Mashali, 62, pleaded guilty to 27 counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and 16 counts of money laundering, according to the office of Acting U.S. Attorney Weinreb.  Judge Rya W. Zobel set June 21 as Dr. Mashali’s sentencing date.

In describing Dr. Mashali’s lifestyle, federal authorities pointed out that “he ordered the construction of a carriage house, outfitted with a squash court and movie theater, at his Dover home.”

Wrong Way to Steward the Environment.  On March 22, Berkshire Power Company and Power Plant Management Services were sentenced in federal court in Springfield for tampering with air pollution emissions equipment. 
Power Plant Management Services was also sentenced for submitting false information to both environmental and energy regulators relating to the Berkshire Power Plant in Agawam.

Judge Mark G. Mastrioanni ordered Berkshire Power to pay $2.75 million in criminal fines for violations of the Clean Air Act and to make a $750,000 community service payment to the American Lung Association to fund a program for the replacement of polluting wood-burning stoves in western Massachusetts. 
Judge Mastrioanni ordered Power Plant Management Services to pay $500,000 in criminal fines for violations of the Clean Air Act and the Federal Power Act and to make a $250,000 community service payment to the lung association’s wood stove change-out program.

In addition to the criminal fines outlined above, the two companies have agreed to pay $3,042,563 in civil penalties and disgorgement, plus interest, to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for their misrepresentations to the operator of the New England power grid regarding the Agawam plant’s availability to produce power, according to federal authorities.

Hey, Tree Huggers, Where Are Those Odes to Our Roads of Rail?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

I’ve been working for the railroad.  And not just to pass the time away. 

No, I’ve been lobbying, which is undoubtedly easier than working on the railroad, involving as it does heavy, outdoor work in all kinds of weather.

I am a registered lobbyist for the Massachusetts Railroad Association, the trade group for the state’s freight-hauling railroads. My colleagues at Preti Strategies and I have had this account for almost 10 years.

It’s good work, advocating for things such as state funding for industrial rail access projects, which create jobs and stimulate the economy.

And it’s good to work with the people who run the freight railroads.  They know their stuff, they tell you the truth, and they have the right touch in meetings with legislators.  They never break the furniture, if you know what I mean.

I feel good about our freight railroads. And not just because they send us a check every month. 

I feel good about the goods they keep flowing to Massachusetts and the trucks they keep off our roads. 

It would take about 300 trucks to haul what the typical freight train does.  Our highways would be much more congested than they already are – hard as they may be to imagine -- if we didn’t have the 11 freight railroads we have operating in the Commonwealth.

I feel good about the energy freight railroads conserve and the greenhouse gases they keep out of our already overheated atmosphere. 

Railroads can move one ton of cargo 476 miles on one gallon of diesel fuel.  For every ton of cargo moved on rail and not on truck, there’s a 75% reduction in greenhouse gases.

I feel good that railroads have continually invested a lot of their own money in maintaining and improving the critically-important-but-never-noticed rail infrastructure of Massachusetts – tracks and bridges, ties and roadbeds, switches and sidings, etc.

Result: Said infrastructure is now, generally, in far better shape than our highways and bridges for motor vehicles.

In a March 22nd op-ed piece in The Republican/MassLive (Springfield, MA), Ian Jefferies of the Association of American Railroads, noted that America’s freight railroads have collectively spent some $26 billion on upkeep and improvements in recent years. 

CSX, for example, spent close to $8 million in Massachusetts in 2015 alone. 

“Freight rail makes the tall task of fixing America’s infrastructure a little less steep,” Jefferies correctly observed.

Here’s just a partial list of items shipped regularly into Massachusetts by our freight railroads: automobiles, lumber and other building materials, propane, plastics and resins (vital to the medical instruments and high-tech industries), food (mostly canned goods and bulk products, such as flour and edible oils), fertilizer, petroleum products (lube oils and waxes), and animal feeds (agriculture and horse breeding remain important to our economy).

So here’s to you, Bay Colony and CSX, and here’s to you, East Brookfield & Spencer, and Fore River!   

Here’s to you, oh Housatonic, and to all the rest – the Massachusetts Central, Massachusetts Coastal, New England Central, Pan Am, Pioneer Valley and Providence and Worcester railroads!

Without you, our economy would rot from the inside, our highways would go into constant gridlock, and our climate would change for the worse even sooner.