Archive for Food

Four Questions for MA Voters

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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

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Pressley Home Stretch Podcast

Ayanna PressleyIt’s near impossible to mention Boston At-Large Councilor Ayanna Pressley without the epithet, first woman of color in the body’s 101 years. That’s true enough and important in that she leads on underplayed issues like domestic violence, advancement of women and girls, and protection of children.

As she made plain in today’s podcast, she wants voters to make her gender one factor, her race one factor, but to concentrate on her record and future aims. She also thinks making voters aware of how many micro and macro issues affecting their lives that the Council has a hand in will get people involved.

She admitted that many still see municipal government as the bottom rung of power. Instead, “it the form of government closest to the community,” she said. “The issues we’re working on are things they pray about in math, curse about watching the evening news, and shake their heads about when reading the newspaper.” (By the bye, she advocates a return to civics classes in the BPS to aid awareness.)

After getting about 42,000 votes to win her first term in a large turnout election, including a mayoral race, she expects and is working for getting her supporters out on Nov. 8th. She figures to stay in office if her base — progressives, women, voters of color and her home community — turns out. As Mayor Tom Menino said in her support at a recent Hyde Park visit, she’s only been in office one term and has not built up a machine. She said she is working hard to make sure her people hit the polls.

She had the grace to be our guest despite laryngitis scratching up her voice.

We talked about her joint campaigning with at-large Councilor John Connolly (long-term friend with shared interests, whose greatest benefits are providing an entry by appearing together, not by sharing funds, which have to be matched dollar for dollar). She spoke of her adjustment to the reality that Councilors on two-year terms had to raise money and campaign every day. We got into the issue of identity politics, such as erstwhile and hopeful at-large Councilor Michael Flaherty, trying to mine South Boston’s votes. Pressley noted that Districts 2, 3 and 7 all have contested races, which she expects to bump up the predictions of dismal turnout this time.

She described her sense of accomplishment in getting right to work from the beginning on big areas and granular ones. She is wont to say she doesn’t want to be an historical footnote (as in first woman of color on the Council), rather she wants her record to shine.

On the way, she has found out that unlike when she worked for U.S. Congressmen, “the expectation for a City Councilor is that you are at everything.” She hits as many events and public appearances as she can while still doing her job at City Hall, but there’s “always one place you are not.” She called this expectation “the blessing and the beauty and power of it, but it’s also the burden of it.”

icon for podpress  Ayanna Pressley [30:57m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

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Connolly Back for More Podcast

If you want to see passion, ask John Connolly about schools. The at-large Boston City Councilor heads the body’s education committee and is wired on the subject.

He joined us today to talk about what he does on Council and the pending elections in November and maybe with a preliminary in September if nine or more candidates qualify. The general election puts the top eight on the ballot for the four at-large seats in the 13 member body. This race should have been low-key, even boring, with no statewide, mayoral or national pols up here. However, with former at-large member, ex-Council President, and challenger to Mayor Tom Menino on the ballot for at-large, it is suddenly exciting. Mike Flaherty wants back in.

Connolly said that effectively there are now five incumbents for the four seats. He figures any one of them could lose. Yet he lists the niches the four current ones have:

  • Ayanna Pressley is “a voice that’s been missing” and raises important issues the Council would otherwise not consider. She is also the first woman of color ever.
  • Felix Arroyo “led the charge” on preserving he libraries and for worker’s rights. He is the Council’s sole Latino member.
  • Steve Murphy, current President, “is our fiscal hawk.”
  • Connolly himself leads in education.

Connolly said they all work together well, but that each has earned constituencies for what they emphasize individually.

Click below to listen in as he speaks of the current and pending challenges in budgeting a school system that uses over $1 billion a year. He admits that he has not quite gotten to his goal — “I have not been successful in accounting for every dollar.” He also says he’s still working on convincing the School Committee to push down as much money as possible to the site level. He rues the long-term top-down management style. He doesn’t find the BPS “sordid and unseemly,” rather sometimes “misdirected and mismanaged.

He touches on teacher contracts too. He’d like to see a trade-off whereby Boston pays its teachers more and gets more in return, including a longer school day. He notes that our effective 5.5-hour education day puts us in the nation’s lowest 2%.

Of course, we could not let him away without a discussion of the out-of-date frozen foods he found and investigated. He said here that he did not expect the kind of publicity that engendered. Yet, he described himself as “heartbroken” to find the school serving lower quality, poor tasting food. He noted that 70% of the students qualify for free or reduced-price meals and that their school lunches “may be the best meal a child gets in a day.” He explained what improvements resulted and what is still to happen.

Finally, he described the pending elections. He said that “I never feel secure. That makes for a successful office holder for reelection.”

icon for podpress  John ConnollyConn [32:32m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

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Connolly’s City Council Campaign

The second in our series of at-large Boston City Council candidates will be next Tuesday, May 24th, when incumbent John Connolly joins us. This will be three hours earlier than normal. You can catch the live stream at 11:30 AM here.

After the show, you can listen to or download it there, here at Left Ahead or on iTunes.

He is one of the Young Turks on Council. With school-age kids of his own, he has a particular passion for public schools. He chairs the body’s education committee, with its recessionary budget difficulties, assignment battles and more. For some reason he enjoys that. He also got a high profile from uncovering and leading an investigation into past-date food served in the BPS system.

Connolly has steadily grown in voter popularity to the point of being one of the two top vote getters.

We’ll ask him about his agenda and campaign plans.

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Bob Massie Goes for U.S. Senate Podcast

Bob Massie just announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat from MA coming up next year. He wants to go up against Sen. Scott Brown who has been filling the term of the late Ted Kennedy. He joined us to speak about himself and how he expects to win the seat.

His campaign website is up and getting populated. His more personal blog, with everything from his economic views to his social activism to philosophy is here. Also, he is a regular contributor to BlueMassGroup.

As a social activist from way back, he has a deep and wide record of accomplishments…supported with Princeton, Yale and Harvard degrees and more. He starts off our show with a quick recitation of everything from his professional experience and education to physical challenges he overcame. He also discusses his 1994 race for MA Lt. Gov. and what the legacy is for his current candidacy.

Listen in as we talk about wide ranges of topics from federal funding to what’s right and wrong with Congress as it is to what he offers. He has a few, but only a few areas of agreement with Brown. He tells us what his aims would be in the seat. Massie speaks to how he expects to court voters, raise funds and win next year.

icon for podpress  Bob Massie [53:41m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

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Sustainable Food Podcast

“Chefs who are already on the journey” is how Melissa Kogut speaks of the members of the Chefs Collaborative. As executive director, she coordinates a variety of efforts to bring and spread sustainable agriculture (including seafood) to restaurants — efforts you are more likely to taste than be aware of while you’re doing that.

Listen in while she speaks of what they’re about, including:

They also link to Ocean Friendly Chefs, which is offering an online course on seafood sustainability. That, for the moment, is free.  Another of their connections is to Green Restaurants Association, which certifies and lists eco-friendly eateries.

Kogut did not shy away from the stereotypical criticism of her organization, as well as of Slow Food®.  There is a basis to the complaint that these movements are, for the present at least, much more for the upper classes than the larger public. It is true that most of the Collaborative’s members run high-end restaurants.

Kogut notes that the membership continues to grow and they are getting support now from large food suppliers as well. She sees the effort expanding to a much wider range of restaurants. Meanwhile, click or download to hear what the pro foodies are doing.

icon for podpress  Gentler Food [56:50m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

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Gentler Food Podcast

We may all be ready for a break from months of heavy politics. Join us Tuesday, January 26th at 2:30 Eastern for lighter politics mingled with food talk.

Chefs Collaborative Exec. Dir. Melissa Kogut talks about her group’s drive for local and sustainable food. The Boston-based organization  is staff and chef’s involved in education. Tomatoes:

  • Publicly advocate for sustainable food in the greater culinary community
  • Provide chefs with the information and tools necessary to make sustainable purchasing decisions – through workshops, publications, and events
  • Connect chefs and sustainable food producers

The live stream will be here. As always, you can go there afterward to listen to or download the MP3 file of the show. It will also be available here in its post, in our archives, and on iTunes.

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