In another self-indulgent week, I teed off on the many Americans, plain voters as well as rich pols, who seem to hate and fear big, specific ideas. We see it strongly as many scream for Elizabeth Warren to run in 2016, while many others bellow she is too inexperienced. The latter group foolishly compares her to the current President, who more than showed what a newbie can do.

I ticked down various Presidents. Did they campaign on big ideas, specific ones? Once in, did they act on those or ta da! whip out big concepts hidden before?

I contend we need to get over these irrational fears of the new and different.

icon for podpress  Big Ideas, Oh My [22:45m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

I guess this falls in the rant class, but in a largely pleasant way this time. I was struck most recently by two phenomena centered in my state. Both show the inexplicable tenacity of anti-gay types, even in an allegedly liberal fort.

There is the MA governor having the audacity to promote marriage equality. Then there are the sumbling, lurching advances related to Northeast St. Paddy’s Day parades.

Our governor is a Republican, albeit the MA flavor, fiscally conservative and socially liberal (but not too liberal and not in the progressive way…so there). Well then, in the past few days, Charlie Baker became the only Republican governor to sign the amicus brief presented to the SCOTUS by some in his party, favoring same-sex marriage. It is personal as well as political and moral for him. His gay brother married a man and Charlie is in the gay’s-OK camp.

Thing is, this state GOP platform and the party’s machers are notoriously anti-gay. I discuss whether he’s likely to face more than scowls as a result.

Then to parades. It seems all of Ireland and most US cities are perfectly fine with homosexual groups marching in St. Patrick’s parades, even where there is a separate Pride parade later in the year, as there is in both Boston and New York City. This year Boston’s long-time anti-gay parade organizers voted to let two gay groups, one OUTVETS, as it sounds, march. New York, generally a decade or more ahead of Boston is struggling. A parade sponsor, NBC, wangled an exemption for its gay-employees’ group. NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio called that for the tokenism it is and wouldn’t march.

I talk about who did and didn’t march in Boston and New York and what that may mean.

Honestly, these anti-gay types seem so silly.

icon for podpress  2 Gay MA things [24:46m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Steve Murphy at micBoston Councilor Steve Murphy came on to discuss what the city, the mayor, the council and he have been doing. Individually and collectively, that’s quite a bit.

We’ve had a new mayor (Marty Walsh) for a year following the 20-year tenure of Tom Menino. We’ve had outrageous snow and public transit failings. For pluses, crime hasn’t been terrible and our economy is doing well.

On its face, the Council has one primary legal charge — analyzing, tweaking and approving the multi-billion-dollar budget annually. In that sense, Murphy is THE MAN. He is the money guy, the councilor others turn to to answer can we afford that and if we do this, what will it cost?

Beyond the budget, Boston’s Council really is a legislative body. It studies all big issues, creates and helps direct policies, and works with the mayor’s office to identify, prevent and solve serious problems. That’s where Murphy sees himself adding value. This is an election year for all nine district and four at-large councilors. Murphy has always been at-large, having to be one of four convincing the entire city to elect him.

Listen in as Murphy addresses:

  • The new and previous mayors, how they differ
  • The conflict between council and mayor on a committee to advance Latino and Black men and boys, and who the council ended up having its way
  • Why he and fellow Councilor Michelle Wu are advancing a BYOB option for the many restaurants without any liquor licenses
  • What the Council wants to do about getting the damned snow off the streets, maybe like Toronto does
  • How Boston has handled losses of $200 million in federal and state subsidies
  • Quality-of-life issues only parents of asthmatic kids may think of, like filtering older construction equipment operating in town
  • New technologies in the works, including enhanced 911
  • Adding that pesky Styrofoam™ (a.k.a. polystyrene foam) to single-stream recycling

Even though we know each other pretty well, Murphy wouldn’t bite on my request for more info on his pending reelection campaign. It is true enough that papers aren’t really due and the candidates won’t be set for a couple of months. However, he isn’t showing his hand yet.

icon for podpress  Steve Murphy [30:27m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Next week’s guest will be Boston City Councilor Steve Murphy. He earned stripes on top of stripes, as long-time financial guru of the body along with a couple of terms as its President. While a quiet type, he has always been one of the highest vote-getters among the at-large councilors.

Since he termed-out of the presidency, he seems to have been more active proposing legislation. For example, he has driven a change to update our antiquated liquor licensing structure with BYOB ability for the many restaurants which don’t have a coveted beer/wine license.

We’ll likely have a rambling discussion, including, of course, how he compares and contrasts previous Mayor Tom Menino and current Marty Walsh. Also, this is an election year for Council, so we’ll hit on his platform.

If you want to catch him live, click here at 2:30 PM Tuesday, March 10. As always you can hear the show afterward at that URL, back here at Left Ahead or on our iTunes page.

What’s said and unsaid is rarely as pointed as when money is involved. Add a heavy dose of politics and poof! you have budget proposals.

MA’s newish Gov. Charlie Baker made his first and it was pretty good theater. I hit the highlights and some of the things unsaid.

Look at his whole budget proposal here.

On the face of it, this is level funded. It does grow by 3% to $38 billion, but most parts of government will get effective slashes with no inflation or room to hire. Schools through UMASS level, local aid (state revenue sharing), and the MBTA (our subway, commuter rail, bus and such) get a boost. Numerous small sensible programs like Down syndrome pilot and prostate disease research are gone.

Baker doesn’t go for anything hard here. Most notably, he does not attack the terrible underfunding and debt assigned to the MBTA. That’s not surprise as he was a key player in a previous Republican administration that structured all that. Instead, he fashions and repeatedly presents himself as a turn-around manager, a fixer.

I describe where he expects revenues to come from while he keeps his no-new-or-raised-taxes pledge. Some are questionable sources.

This proposal goes to the legislature for each house to reject, refine or reform before the real negotiations head to a July 1 balanced-budget deadline. I see it as a savvy PR and political program by Baker. He repeated told his press conference announcing the budget he inherited a big deficit. He clearly paints himself as a savior and fixer…sounds like someone setting up to run for VP or even Prez in 2020 or 2024.

icon for podpress  Charlie Baker's First Budget [27:20m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

It’s both fair and unfair that John Connolly will always be known as Boston’s almost Mayor. He came very close in the last election (disclaimer: I endorsed him).

Yet over a year later, he’s immersed in his real passion — education. He joined Left Ahead today to talk about his 1647 pilot program to make public school work, one student at a time.

If you want the background, you can keep checking he 1647 website, but it now is nude, with only contact info. You can get the basics of Connolly’s role in a Boston Globe article here. To see the organization that showed Connolly how to do home visits and other family engagement, replete with numerous research documents, check the Flamboyen Foundation here. Flamboyen ran with the home-visit process and perfected it in Puerto Rico and D.C.

After the mayoral race, Connolly wasn’t up for practicing law or running for public office again. Instead, he settled into Chris Gabrieli’s National Center on Time & Learning in Boston in a small space. He’s launched the 1647 pilot program, with a single paid staffer. He’s been working with teachers in a school in Salem as proof of concept locally. They’ll expand there, then on to another gateway city, and eventually to Boston.

Listen in as he speaks of the concept, at once commonsensical and idealistic. At its rawest, it means a teacher arranging with one or both parents to visit the home to find out how the student studies and learn best. Parents are understandably wary at first, thinking the call is because the kid is in trouble. The next reaction is incredulity; no teacher has ever wanted to know how my child learns.

Of course, done well, this process almost invariably leads to such advances as higher grades, better attendance, and parents knowing what to do to help their kids. The investment up front by teachers is big, with bigger benefits.

I asked the obvious, such as do you have to compensate the teachers (yes), are parents, teachers and students suspicious (yes), and does it make much difference if the home has books, internet, educated parents and other resources (not really as that’s not the point of the home-visit process). Instead, listen in as Connolly speaks about the key factor in the per-student relationship, trust.

He gave an example of the adversarial relationship parents typically had with school before the home visits and how that changed. The teachers did have to put out, but the payback was substantial.


icon for podpress  John Connolly 1647 [33:32m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Is Boston Broken?

February 17, 2015 | Leave a Comment

Snow, even lots of it, in New England is not some wacky act of God, on a par with tornadoes, hurricanes, tidal waves and such. Boston’s inability to clear its streets and the MBTA’s to run its trains, buses and trolleys says bad things about us.

I looked at those and beyond. Let’s recall the inane reactions to the toy LED displays of Mooninites. The other 9 or 10 cities who got a couple of these took ‘em down and went on. We paralyzed roads and waterways. This goes to a silly post-9-11 paranoia that permeates our society even beyond here.

I suggest fixes in several areas, some very hard. Several require both vision and courage of our Mayor and our Governor.

icon for podpress  Is Boston Broken? [28:05m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

John Connolly1647, when Boston opened its first public school, and now 1647 is a nascent organization to change education here. He was the education City Councilor and didn’t give up on it after he lost his race for Mayor. He comes on to explain his theories, methods, aims and results.

If you can listen live, click here on Tuesday, February 24th at 2:30 PM Eastern. You can catch his show anytime afterward at that link, back here at Left Ahead, or on our iTunes page.

Boston City HallSnow is more than a conversation starter in Boston. It’ll be a serious catalyst for fights and changes.

I talk about how our mayor and governor have been forced into facing phalanges primed for battle. Our subways, commuter rail and buses are shut down. I discussed the underlying causes, but the tow bigs will assign blame. We can hope when the political blood dries, we can get to those base causes.

Otherwise, I talked about some of the pending actions and excitement, mostly in city hall. The terrible weather has delayed guest scheduling, but I’ll try to line up some of the most active city councilors — Steve Murphy (BYOB scheme), Josh Zakim (casino referendum for November), and Tit Jackson (commission for Black and Latino men and boys).

If we ever see 32F or higher again, it’ll warm in Boston. Meanwhile, we can be sure the political climate heats up.

icon for podpress  Feb. 2015 Boston Updates [24:08m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Matt O’MalleyA relentless and sincere activist Boston City Councilor, Matt O’Malley keeps his eyes on many prizes. He reaches for and works for them, but never despairs when he can’t grasp one.

He has represented District 6 — West Roxbury, most of Jamaica Plain, and slivers of Roslindale, Mission Hill and Roxbury — for four two-year terms. While young for the job, he earned his way working for or to elect many pols, including Steve Grossman and Tom Menino. He spoke of some of the important lessons. For example, Mayor Menino would see him in City Hall and immediately scold him, saying to get out of the building and go talk to the constituents. He quipped that he judged his success for a weekend when Menino was Mayor by how many times he ran into Tom. If its three or four, he figured he was hitting enough of the right events and locations.

We had a rambling talk, though we never got around to the Pats. Click below to listen to a half hour or so of his views on the Summer Games 2024, casinos, schools and even compost.

O’Malley chairs the Council’s environment committee and is vice chair of its education one. His fingers are in many other pies and he does not hesitate to research a topic and render a judgment. For example, for his main committee, he is proud of having worked with the late Mayor Tom Menino on crafting and passing BERDO, the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance. That pioneering act requires the city’s medium and larger buildings to track and report energy use, and then makes those data public.

It’s likely that his counterparts in many cities don’t do much with environmental responsibilities. O’Malley on the other hand drills down also into such quality-of-life matters as making drinking-water filling stations available for seniors, joggers, everyone. Likewise, he’s driving curbside composting and pushing to up rates of single-stream recycling (WR and JP, two of his district’s neighborhoods lead the city).

On the controversial topic of the bid for the 2024 Summer Games, he’s a believer. He sees it as a real opportunity for the city. However, he is detail oriented enough to demand much greater “sunshine’ in making the process going forward to be truly transparent. He doesn’t believe, despite organizer and promoter claims that there won’t be public funds required. He’ll push for candor and specifics.

On another hot topic, casinos, he is close to my skeptical view. He tried unsuccessfully to get Boston’s citizens a vote in the propose Everett one. Listen in to hear how he thought the approval process should have gone.

He now hopes Gov. Charlie Baker will put a hold on all casinos except Springfield’s. He thinks that city stands to get the greatest benefit from one and wants to see it as a test case before other development goes forward.

He calls himself a skeptic “at best” on casinos. He says Mayor Marty Walsh was right to sue over the Everett one. Listen in to hear what he would have liked to have seen in terms of affected municipalities having a say.

In the main, O’Malley is a Walsh supporter. We both knew and respected Menino. We figure Walsh has some on-the-job learning to pick up more of Menino’s savvy. Yet, O’Malley finds the new mayor competent, open and accessible.

This sow has some of some of this, some of that. Expect more of these as I line up other city councilors.


icon for podpress  Matt O'Malley: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download