Archive for Local government

Dems, what is best in life?

Apropos dialog from the 1982 flick Conan the Barbarian:

Mongol General: Conan! What is best in life?
Conan: Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.
Mongol General: That is good! That is good.

Consider the Democratic Party’s plight and tasks and think back to the 2012 Republican autopsy, a.k.a. the 100-page Growth and Opportunity Project report. Conan’s methods and goals fit with neither the Dem modus operandi nor with the GOP’s G.O.P. report. Don’t expect heads and machers of either party to change soon. There in lies the huge opportunity for lefties.

First be very aware that under the Trump campaign, both he and the party ignored the report. That called for being inclusive and considerate of the likes of Latinos and women. Ha!

Instead and likely to their long-term detriment, the GOP rode a national bronco bucking for change. They lost a little in the Senate and the House, but kept control of both as well as winning the White House. A sharp irony in that is that Trump/change supporters hated the establishment insiders but largely kept them in office. The do-nothing wastrels in Congress are headed back. Huh?

So, a non-Republican, non-conservative Donald Trump becomes POTUS. The GOP has a huge disincentive to really change for future elections, demographic trends, and a nation increasingly out of sync with both old-style Republicans and the current pseudo-populism of Trump.

Now the Dems take their turn at rending their garments and watering their Merlot with losers’ tears. They too are choosing new party functionaries and will certainly produce a report and plan.

Same. Same. Right? No, when it’s the Dems’ turn, expect:

  • Explicit acknowledgement of failure to counter the 2010-11 GOP REDMAP strategy to control the governorships and legislatures in the 32 states that directly control redistricting following the decennial Census. The GOP gerrymandered the crap out of America.
  • Belated plans to turn the tables for the 2020 Census.
  • A much less Conan attitude toward gerrymandering. Specifically the Dems’ nature would have them return a fairly proportioned set of electoral maps in those 32 states instead of a crush-you-enemy one as the GOP did.
  • A coordinated Party response to the resulting report, rather than the GOP’s circular-file one.
  • Cleaning house at the Democratic National Committee to broom out the incompetent insiders who scuttled Bernie Sanders and otherwise played dirty pool throughout the campaign.

High-speed catch-up

To use the phrase of the year, Republicans rigged the House in their gerrymandering effort. Dems will have to trifurcate. They need to do all necessary to replicate the GOP state-level successes. They simultaneously need snag a dozen or more House seats in the 2018 mid-terms. Meanwhile, a separate group has to ID several top-notch 2020 POTUS possibles.

Unfortunately for Dems, their counterparts were ahead of them in realizing the potential of the internet and social media. The lefties caught up and learned how to link those technologies with voter data to leapfrog. Fortunately for Dems, they tend to be smarter. I would look for rapid advances to outdo REDMAP in the next foru years. They may not totally dominate state governors, and they may only get a narrow majority in the House, but then again, they are not crush-your-enemy sorts.

They’ll have to focus and develop big and small strategies and tactics. I suspect they’ll be up for it.

Their other advantage that should emerge in the first year of the Age of Trump will almost surely be the combined patterns of history and crackpot plans of the administration. We know going back to at least Harding that Republican administrations tank the ecoomy or at least deliver weakened tangibles — job growth, GDP growth, debt levels and more.

The millions who deluded themselves that if only Trump and the GOP had control the economy would soar, are certain to turn on him and his state-level pols.







Four Questions for MA Voters


MA, thanks to the legislative gods, is not at the head of ballot initiatives. That onerous crown still belongs to CA. There, virtually any crackpot with a loony fetish can get it on the statewide ballot, given enough petition signatures. Here at least, all proposals go through that process, then a stringent screen by the Attorney General for legal stuff like constitutionality, and then legislative action in one or two sessions.

For fun, look at the AG’s filings here and Ballotopedia’s who-made-the-cut table.

Eventually the laggard Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office will mail a booklet to registered voters listing the details of the four questions on November’s sheet. I’m a warden at a Boston polling place and I suspect that 90% or more of voters won’t read the booklet and arrive ignorant.

Pity, there are some goodies that made the cut. I deal with:

Q1: Expanding slot machine gaming.

Q2: Charter School Expansion.

Q3: Conditions for farm animals.

Q4: Legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana.

I give an example or two of what didn’t make the ballot and why.

If you’re like most of my precinct’s voters what you want is the word. I can’t say on election day, but my call, just for you, is N, N, Y and Y.

icon for podpress  2016 MA Ballot Questions [29:37m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


No! Town, Boston

You want to do something exciting and edgy? Boston will watch from a distance.

Let’s not talk about the old Banned-in-Boston literature and performance. Let’s not talk about Blue Laws. Let’s come to recent times, the past few years

The mayor, other pols, and citizens have defeated:

  • Summer Olympics
  • More, easy-to-get liquor licenses
  • A single F1 car race
  • In town casino
  • 24-hour mass transit
  • Late-night mass transit

What gives in a city, town really, that loves to brag it is world class? Alas, Adam Gaffin over at is like spot on when it call this the city that always sleeps.

A few centuries ago, Boston and Charleston SC were seen as sister cities. Their social conservatism accounted for much of the zeitgeist. They did develop stifling Blue Laws together. Boston also hid behind Puritans, then and still it ducks behind its Roman Catholicism. Those were supposed to account for and excuse the petty and nasty limits on human behavior, speech and even thought.

I’ve lived in Boston for 36 years, after a decade in Manhattan. I draw my conclusions on why this town will live vicariously through its huge student population and asthenic arts life, as though that was plenty of vitality and creativity for everyone. Harrumph.

icon for podpress  No! Town: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Rep. Liz Malia Dec. 11th

Join us tomorrow, Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 2:30 PM Eastern when MA Rep. Liz Malia is the guest. She is co-chair of the Joint Substance Abuse and Mental Health Committee. We’ll talk her recent big bill on prescription and other drug abuse. She also advocates for mental health parity.

If you can listen in live, go here then. Afterward to can hear the show or download it at that URL, back here at Left Ahead or on our iTunes page.


MA Without the Usual Suspects Podcast

Mild apology up front, as our service cut off the podcast just at 30 minutes with no grace. We were still holding forth, but there’s some beef in the bun. Ryan and Mike looked to the strong possibility that Boston mayor may not run and the term-limit certainty that the governor can’t.

We never got to speculating about a possible special election for US Senate if John Kerry gets sucked into an Obama cabinet post.

We had plenty to consider and pontificate about with possible replacements for Mayor Tom Menino and Gov. Deval Patrick. Ryan’s hoping for a Boston dark horse, but Mike figures on a city councilor. They name names. Likewise for governor, we went through some prime suspects and wild cards.

Listen in as we play what-if and who.

icon for podpress  MA Usual Suspects [30:04m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


2013-14 What Ifs

We’ll speculate tomorrow. Boston’s mayor might well not run again. MA’s governor can’t by term limits. We’ll muse on those and maybe throw in some punditry on the US Senate seat here.

Join us if you can Tuesday, December 4th at 2:30 Eastern for Without the Usual Suspects. You can always catch the show later at that URL or back here.


Reset of Public Schools Podcast

This is the moment, a second chance for change in a short time, for foundering Boston Public Schools, according to John Connolly. He joined came on today to talk about the Quality Choice Plan.

The first chance was what he called “a swing and a miss,” that brought a pretty reactionary teachers-union contract.

That new plan is either a sweeping vision for much needed reform or a renegade assault on business as usual replete with incremental efforts at the edges. He and the Globe and I among many others think of it as the former. He and I share a devotion to public education, including putting our kids in BPS. No one I know of matches his passion for the schools, fitting as he has chaired the City Council’s Education Committee for over three years.

He’s the point man for this plan, which he fine tuned with another Councilor (Matt O’Malley) and four MA Reps (Linda Dorcena Forry, Nick Collins, Ed Coppinger, and Russell Holmes). As he has in Council, he doesn’t mind taking any heat, sharing any plaudits, and meeting with everyone who can and wants to make big improvements.

Listen in as we describe the plan’s big ideas. Do check the link up top for the 10-page plan. It is unlike the typical timid proposals for upgrading urban school systems. He does touch on such high points as 16 citywide schools with dual-language and other concentrations, guaranteed K2 seats on one of the four schools closest to home, annual teacher and principal evaluations, and most of all, a strong push for innovation status schools. Those would follow the model of the successful turnarounds like the Trotter. John describes the components.

Of course, the talks about some of the pending conflicts. When I attended the press conference announcing the plan, he alluded to such essentials as longer school days — an anathema to the local teachers’ union, which just set a four-year contract. We didn’t really get into another broad area, the not-invented-here syndrome. He did mention that the School Committee leans toward its incremental, modest student-assignment proposal. He’d rather see the Quality Choice Plan or at least a hybrid with its key features.

Listen in to hear him on the plan.

icon for podpress  Connolly on BPS [30:36m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Bikes v. Cars Podcast

A pedals-on scholar of transportation and cycling, Steven Miller, joined us to talk cyclists versus drivers, past, present and future. Among his many related credentials (check the link for a sketch) he founded Hub on Wheels, sits on the MBTA and Cambridge bicycle advisory boards, and is on the board of Livable Streets, where he also writes the related blog.

We spoke of the in-progress transformation of Boston from a bike-hostile city toward a friendlier, safer, quieter, healthier one. On the way has been considerable culture shock. Despite the history of bikes being on the streets before cars, cyclists are seen as the interlopers.

Listen in as Miller suggests who is really bike hostile. He also addresses such changes as decreases in miles driven annually, in age at first acquiring a car, as well as increases in number of cyclists. He’s been involved in and observed the myriad changes in the Boston area.

He discusses the E’s that will make travel more pleasant and safer for everyone — Encouraging more cycling (health, noise, pollution, congestion benefits), Engineering (bike lanes, cycle tracks and more), Enforcement (of traffic rules for everyone), Education (down to public schools), and Equity (making sure low-income areas also have affordable access to cycles and cycling). Click below to hear the details.

Miller believes as did the Boston and Cambridge cycling program managers of Boston and Cambridge that the more cyclists on the road the better and safer conditions will be. Drivers will be aware of sharing the road, at a minimum.

To the question of whether cyclists tend to be renegades and crazy folk, Miller, a cyclist as well as driver, says they tend not to be any better or worse than motorists. He says it’s always easier to blame other people, so drivers do that as well.

Listen in as we talk futures, including possible legislation to speed traffic while keeping cyclists safe and maybe even requirements that all cyclists use flashing front and back lights as well as side-view mirrors.

icon for podpress  Cyclists v. Drivers [32:49m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Tobin on Boston and Northeastern Podcast

John Tobin says he can’t really miss being a Boston City Councilor. In his new role, he deals constantly with the same officials, including Councilors, the Mayor and legislators that he did in City Hall. As Northeastern University’s VP for Community and City Affairs, he jokes that his office is still on the fifth floor, but across town.

He joined us to say what that entails and to talk about the challenges big and small. Listen in as he discusses PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) that NEU recently increased. He also stresses the many community volunteer projects his students and staff participate. Less visible but at least as important is support of public schools, particularly the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers right on the NEU campus, but also in numerous other Boston public schools. “I think the best payment-in-lieu-of-taxes we can make is to help those kids,” he said.

Many of the interactions the larger community has with colleges and universities are less pleasant, such as rowdy parties. Click below to hear how his and other universities address those, including ride-arounds every weekend.

Tobin also discusses NEU’s master plan that it will file with the city by the end of December. That will start a large and long set of community meetings, beginning tomorrow night.

icon for podpress  John Tobin [35:59m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Tobin Talks Town and Gown

John Tobin joins us to discuss the interplay of universities and cities. A self-defined political junkie, he has acted and observed, both as a Boston City Councilor and more recently as Northeastern University’s VP for City & Community Affairs. He’s represented the city and the school. He brings a unique perspective to how both sides can work well or poorly with the other.

To catch him live, go here Tuesday, April 24th at 2:30 PM Eastern. Afterward the show will be available on demand to hear or download at that URL, back here at Left Ahead and on our iTunes page.