Archive for Cambridge

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.

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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


What Is It About Drivers v. Cyclists?

Want conflict? Just mention urban cyclists! Liveable Street’s blogger Steve Miller joins us to talk safety, the likelihood of jolly coexistence and more. He works for the Harvard School of Public Health and is known in transit as the founder of Hub on Wheels as well as on Boston and Cambridge’s bike advisory boards.

Fair warning: Mike is a cyclist, who often walks and occasional drives, but a cyclist first.

Miller has considerable knowledge in this area. He’ll talk about the turmoil and outlook.

If you can catch the show live, do it Tuesday, October 2nd at 2:30 PM here. Afterward, you can listen to or download the whole show back here, at the show URL or on our iTunes page.


Mike Barrett Podcast

The technology-and-business oriented candidate for 3rd Middlesex MA Senate puts himself out there. Lexington’s Mike Barrett has strong ideas and is as plain spoken as it comes.

He is one of the four Dems running for that nomination to go in November against one of the two Republicans who also want Sen. Susan Fargo’s seat. He was the candidate who announced even before she decided not to run for reelection.

Listen is as Barrett describes his visions for a revitalized Massachusetts, particularly from Worcester East. He had been a state legislator from his Cambridge years (6 in the House and 8 in the Senate). Since, he has run a high-tech related consultancy, with a particular emphasis on health care. He dovetails his sundry experiences into a future that supports our local innovators.

He speaks to how he sees our companies replicating a modern form of boom from the mini-computer era. This would turn our focus from business-to-business (B2B) to more business-to-consumers (B2C), with advances in health care related to IT, computers and even robots. He explains what he sees as growth paths and what the role of government should be.

Barrett is plain also about money. He says he is the candidate not afraid to say where taxes need to go up, and where fees for public services do. He said that waffling on taxes are not good positions for progressives to take.

Listen in as he describes how he thinks he can accomplish is myriad goals. He reminded me several times that he’s an optimist and that he accomplished his goals the last time he was in the General Court.

icon for podpress  Mike Barrett [34:31m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


GOP Who Couldn’t Spit Straight

flames.jpgThe clichéd 15 minutes of fame seemed to have been 1,500 pages of infamy instead. A huge number of right-wing media, including blogs, jumped on Elizabeth Warren, Left Ahead and me following last Friday’s show and podcast. A search for “elizabeth warren” “hick” will turn up tens of thousands of fresh (in every sense) hits.

For anyone who hasn’t yet heard the very widely disseminated clips of her and me, it starts near the beginning of the 40-minute show. Click the player below to start it.

She and I share a few traits unusual and remarkable in these parts. We were both born in Oklahoma (I also spent much of my youth in West Virginia where my mother’s family was) and since moving to the Boston area (32 years ago for me and 17 for her), we’ve heard repeatedly that we were hicks for our backgrounds. I have also heard assertions that everyone in WV is a hick, hillbilly, toothless, dumb and likely the product of incest. Way to stay classy, Boston. On her part, I have been reading and hearing the no-win vise — she’s “not one of us” because she’s not a lifelong resident as well as from a hick state, and on the other hand, she and her husband have taught at Harvard for 17 years, so they are elitist snobs.

I opened the conversation with that dichotomy. She responded jovially, noting that she was aware of that Catch-22 game. She said that she must be a new category, “an elite hick.” Shortly after, she said to one of my comments about my background, “I’m going for the hick vote here. I just want you to know. Maybe we could start wearing stickers that say ‘HICKS FOR ELIZABETH’. Could we do that?”

After the absurd MA GOP and conservative responses, I might order up some of those shirt and bumper stickers. Feel free to beat me to doing that.

Surely no one is surprised that FOXnews and the like tried to hurt Warren with this. They are, after all, the same sources that excused Sen. Scott Brown’s denigration of her and even his daughters publicly as just humor. They don’t understand the fundamental difference between mild self-depreciation and knocking someone else down to appear clever.

Some of us were surprised though by the MA GOP’s effort to blow this into a big deal. Chair Jennifer Nassour is leaving. The release on it came from Communications Manager Tim Buckley, who had the unenviable task of playing the jerk in the release they emailed (not on the site yet). His paragraph before a link to a Politico piece on the podcast quotes himself as:

“Professor Warren’s insulting use of the word ‘hick’ offers a revealing prism into her elitist and arrogant worldview. Massachusetts voters deserve an explanation about just who Professor Warren was referring to when she spoke of winning the ‘hick vote.'”

Disclaimer: I have invited MA GOP head Jennifer Nassour on our show by email, voice mail, and twice face to face. Both times we chatted in person over the past year and one half, she pressed her card on me, took mine, said she’d love to do the show and to contact her office to arrange it. She or a handler seemed to have decided that was not a good idea, even knowing we’d had John Walsh, her Dem counterpart, on a couple of times. Now she’s announced she’s stepping down. I tried.

Elizabeth WarrenSensible folk are ridiculing the winger/MassGOP efforts, as in Mediaite calling them humor-challenged and NECN’s Jim Braude saying their bluster was pathetic.

Lynne, Ryan and I have been kicking around the spasm of coverage. We each figure the craziness only helps her. I see a lot of traffic going to the show both on BlogTalkRadio and here. Anyone who listens knows quickly that she was cool about the hick talk, reflecting on her and me only. Moreover with the many, many extra listens, people who otherwise were not aware of the show or her strong set of problem ID/solutions are now. As Lynne said, it looks like the MA GOP wants to help Warren as much a possible.

Being an anal-retentive, research-oriented type, I also went through even the right-wing news-like sites and blogs for comments. There, many said they’d never vote for her, but nothing lost. They typically indicated they hated Dems, progressives and liberals, and some even had harsh comments relating to women, lesbians and some coarse lingo for female body parts. Plus, quite a few made the point they were not from Massachusetts (with the thank God implied).

This appears to be a bungled effort from the right to smear Warren and likely do balancing damage control for Brown’s numerous public errors. Net, I figure they failed. A couple thousand extra MA voters and possible contributors here and elsewhere know Warren’s priorities. They can contrast an incumbent who says he doesn’t know the solutions to joblessness and such, with one providing solid proposals.

I still expect her presence in the Dem primary process and, should she advance the 2012 Senate race, will put ideas and solutions on the table and elevate the dialog. People here will get a choice.


icon for podpress  Elizabeth Warren [40:17m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


No to Illegal Handguns

The founder and coordinator of a coalition fighting illegal handguns joins us this week. The head of the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center pointed us the Nancy Robinson of Citizens for Safety (a.k.a. Where Did the Gun Come From?), saying the coalition’s effort could offer the best ROI right here, right now.

Robinson’s will discuss efforts to get illegal handguns out of the hands of youth and criminals. They work to identify where the guns original, who the straw purchasers are and how the weapons get here. They aim to hold dealers accountable as well as tweaking related laws.

If you can catch the show live, listen in here at 2:30 PM Eastern Tuesday, July 5th. After the show, you can get it on demand at that URL, here at Left Ahead or on iTunes.


Musical House Seats Podcast

MA grew since the previous census, but not fast enough to keep all 10 U.S. House seats. We’ll lose one and the whining, pleading, dickering and posturing are on.

Listen in as we talk about all the considerations in this decision. We have our own predictions. We also figure after a dozen or so public hearings by the joint legislative redistricting committee finishes, this will be far less painful than in some other states with their big Dem/GOP fights.

We talk about the slowest growing areas (Berkshires in the West and Cape Cod) and the fastest, as well as the growing Latino population in a state with no one in the house of color and only one woman.

Ryan also noted that you can hop in yourself with a redraw-it-yourself app, like this one. He’s also pretty confident that at least one Rep will step aside to run for Senate or that one of the two District 1 Reps will retire if they have to run against each other.

icon for podpress  Musical House Seats [27:46m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Boston Cycling on the Brink Podcast

Pete Stidman, co-founder of the Boston Cyclists Union, spoke about his group’s aims, and the delights and perils of two-wheeling Beantown. While we are well on the way to the mayor’s vision of being a prime cycling city, we have quite a ways to go.

Disclaimer: Mike is a BCU member and will be volunteering for them.

Pete differentiated his group from the more formal lobbying organization, MassBike, as well as from recreational bike clubs.  BCU will work with them, as well as Livable Streets Alliance, when goals overlap. Listen in as he describes some of BCU’s goals, including:

  • Cycletracks around town
  • Bike lanes the length of Mass Avenue
  • Improved and expanded police crash data collection and procedures
  • Upgraded training for MBTA bus drivers

We spoke of the animosity and misunderstandings among cyclists, motorists and pedestrians. Stidman addressed the most common dangers in cycling and the outlook for getting more commuters and recreational bikers on the streets. Right now, Boston lags cycling centers such as Portland Oregon, Minneapolis, and San Francisco in both percentage of citizens who bike and number of full-time cycling staff per capita.

Seasonal note: Over the summer, BCU promotes both cycling and itself with a long list of free tuneups and farmers’ markets. The BCU offers memberships there, but its website does not yet have online enrollment (coming soon). You can get the newsletter for free here.

As a bonus, we had a caller from Mesa, Arizona, who compared and contrasted the cycling experiences there.

icon for podpress  Boston Cycling on the Brink [51:41m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Crosstown Tobin

John TobinTomorrow, we chat with Boston City Councilor John Tobin, who has the town abuzz. He abruptly quit to take a VP spot at Northeastern U handling community relations.

As the most prolific and innovative councilor, his absence is likely to cause power shifts. Already, the scramble to replace him is filling the media here. Moreover, NU isn’t the only area school with troubled community and town relations. How he handles that role could have big impacts in Boston, Cambridge and beyond.

Join us Tuesday, July 13th at 2:30 p.m. Eastern to explore all that and more.  Join us on BlogTalkRadio for the live stream here,  or come to Left Ahead!, the show URL or iTunes later to listen or download the show.


Trashing or Tweaking 40B

Lowell’s City Manager Bernard (Bernie) Lynch joined us to lead a discussion of the 40B law and affordable housing. Midway in the show, a 40B advocate joined us. It was a lively session that did not lead to totally solid conclusions.

This issue is almost certain to be on the November ballot and has far-reaching effects. Listen to the show and let us know whether you’d like more on this little covered topic.

Lynch has dealt with 40B requirements that have let developers go ahead with projects, so long as they include certain percentages of affordable units. This has worked differently in different places. Lowell for one has increased its affordable housing stock since the law passed way back in 1969. Many tonier towns have been far less eager for higher density and mixed housing.

Speaking for the Protect Affordable Housing group,  Francy Ronayne puts out some strong numbers in support of keeping 40B. She and Lynch agreed that this 41 year old law is due for some tweaking, but the ballot question put up by Repeal40B does not offer that option, rather dumping it entirely.

Listen as they and we discuss the underlying issues and problems. Unfortunately, no one seems to have a clear path to more affordable housing in Massachusetts. We pioneered this type of law but now may face the outcome of doing away with it.

icon for podpress  40B or not 40B [46:24m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download