Archive for June, 2014

Embarrassment of Dem Riches

Come Sept. 9th, MA voters have tough, but great choices. We’ll have three solid gubernatorial candidates, two fantastic would-be types for AG, and solid choices in the other statewide races. This is definitely not a hold-your-nose ballot.

[Left Ahead note: Check our archives for our interviews with the three Gov. (Grossman, Coakley, Berwick) and two AG (Tolman, Healey) leading lights. Listen and get savvy. You have to know, have to vote, and have to decide.]

Ryan and Mike chatted up the unusual Dem Party convention and its implications. We got into what it means that Steve Grossman is the party nominee while Martha Coakley beats everyone Dem and GOP in polls and Don Berwick iw the charmer whose progressive platform is most in line with the large number of Dem and indy lefties.

Ryan explained his view that the requirement that candidates get 15% of delegates on the first ballot may not work best. He’s thinking in a crowded ballot, 12% may make more sense. He also had a harsh view of Worcester’s DCU enter for extremely poor accessibility, thinking the party may have to rethink its site.

Honestly the most charismatic competitor at top is Berwick, who is more avuncular than spellbinder. Ryan notes how candidate Joe Avallone was not sharp in his speech in stressing more big businesses here. Other candidates might agree but would have “the good sense not to go out and say that.”

We spoke a bit about the big platform planks (like Berwick’s single-payer health-care call). Ryan wondered whether any of the three remaining at the top could get any big agendum through a recalcitrant legislature.

Both of us think the head-to-head AG race may be even more exciting than the top spot. Either candidate has great plans. Mike figures both really have an eye on the governor’s office eventually and will do great things as AG to set that run up.

icon for podpress  2014 MA Dem Convention [34:24m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Tolman Wants More Chances to Make Differences

tolman.jpgAnother successful lawyer and former legislator (both MA houses) is eager to “get back in” and make positive differences. Warren Tolman was on to describe his planks, his approaches, and why he thinks he’s the one to be the next MA attorney general.

For one of the sidetracks we dealt with in the other Dem AG candidate, Maura Healey’s show last week, he thought the two campaigns will in fact finalize a people’s pledge to limit outside money. And with a chuckle, he agreed with me that including those annoying robocalls in it would be welcome.

Tolman is very proud of his efforts as legislator in successes fighting the tobacco industry and campaign-finance and ethics reforms. Click below to hear what he intends to do if we gets the office.

Substance abuse and addiction figure in several key ways. He notes how pervasive they are in MA, as well as how few treatment beds and programs are available. He would squeeze health-care providers to give those who want to quit opiates the same weight as someone who has had a heart attack. He cites an example of a 24-year-old woman whose mother begged in vain for a treatment bed. Instead, the young woman OD’ed. “We failed her,” he said. As well as more treatment, he would crack down on physicians who overprescribe opiates.

Moreover, he refers to stats that half of state health-care money is spent on 5% of patients. He said, “I believe the single biggest issue (for MA) will be health care.” He looks to Chapter 224 as a blueprint for cost containment and said that is a key role for the AG in driving it.

Likewise, he would attack criminal-justice reform from several fronts. He wants reform of mandatory-minimums for non-violent crimes. He would prefer to see mental health care, drug-addiction treatment, and job skills training for such convicted folk. He would rather they wear an ankle bracelet and pee into a cup a few times a week than take up prison space and expense, not exiting any better than entering.

Also, he cites his two daughters and one son as partial motivation for wanting big changes to fight campus sexual assaults. For one approach, he says if elected he’ll start even before taking office to hold a campus summit on the subject. Some schools are with the program but many are lagging. He said it’s too pressing to wait.

Otherwise, he noted that among his issues on his site, were ways he’d use the AG office a little differently and some novel use of technology. For example, he’d have anti-cybercrime efforts and call for smart-gun technology on all new sales. Yet, in consumer protection, he called for traditional AG stances, such as being there for the senior who paid $5000 for a roof repair and no one every showed up.

Tolman figures his advantage headed to the primary is that this race “is about leadership versus being a lawyer.” We can check his speech at this weekend’s party convention to see how he pitches himself.

icon for podpress  Warren tolman [27:31m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Healey Goes Deep and Wide for AG Goals

Dem candidate for MA attorney general Maura Healey bears the mark of the progressive — she wants to go to the root of big problems and solve them. Click below to hear how she’d tackle two complex, interrelated areas of criminal-justice reform and gun violence.

Because of the recent dust-ups, in debates on BlueMassGroup and in local media, we did deal with what I see as distractions. Granted she and almost certain Dem primary opponent Warren Tolman do share a lot of lefty values and ideas. They clearly diverge on some, such as he favors casinos and she is against them. Yet, they are in that odd vortex of swirling mini-issues. There are:

  • Dueling People’s Pledge proposals. She offered a more restrictive version with no direct mail included. He countered with one allowing direct mail. Neither excluded robo-calls. She thinks they’ll compromise. Meanwhile it looks a little egocentric all around.
  • Online gambling connection. Tolman has an interest in gambling software. He stepped back from active involvement and says he’ll divest if he wins AG. She sees that as a real issue and conflict.
  • Possible ethics issue for Healey’s partner. Her partner is an Appeals Court judge. Healey used their house, owned on paper by the partner, as campaign HQ for several months. While this possible ethics conflict was checked out in advance by Healey and her partner, we can be sure this will come up in debates and ads.

I had to laugh at myself because I used to complain that the Boston Globe was firing local reporters and not covering politics well. Now they are much heavier into political coverage, but seem to concentrate on getting something, anything, salacious, questionable or scandalous on any statewide candidate for office. Of course, she took it all as just part of seeking office. Here’s hoping these lightweight topics go away so we can stick to big issues.

In that vein, Healey has big visions for what’d she aim to do as AG. You can read them on her site. You can also get more of her background and goals in a ringing endorsement at BlueMassGroup by Sen. Jamie Eldridge.

Today at Left Ahead, we focused on two interrelated areas, criminal-justice and guns.

Healey is decidedly not a throw-away-the-key person. While she has been a prosecutor and has many affiliations with law enforcement, she seems appalled by the devastation to individuals and families by the current court/prison systems, as well as the huge costs to the taxpayer. She says we need to invest instead in:

  • Not unnecessarily going for long, mandatory sentences for non-violent drug offenses for example
  • Recognizing the large percentage of inmates who are substance abusers, and providing them treatment in prison and afterward
  • Enabling high-school and even college online education in prison to help prepare inmates for reentry
  • Similarly, when reasonable, sentences served in lower security facilities nearly inmates homes to get them ready for post-prison life
  • Mental health screening and treatment

Her whole program is on her site.

Gun violence has as similar approach and is of great importance to her. While MA has pretty strict gun laws, there are still about 200 gun-related deaths a year here and many ways guns and bullets arrive legally and illegally. Healey does not see this simply as an issue of gun sales.

Many of these root causes of gun violence overlap with criminal-justice reform. (Her issues page on it with details is here.) Perhaps most obviously, she’d go to mental health and addiction treatment and prevention. Breaking cycles of violence relates to drug trafficking as well as limiting gun sales and smuggling.

Some of her proposals are simpler and in some ways easier to implement. She wants legislation mandating tracking of every gun, and every bullet, sold. As she noted, the bullet stays at the crime scene in many cases.

These two areas are big deals Healey said she’d concentrate on as AG. Each requires considerable investment. She figures she can convince legislators and others fairly easily. Basically, it would be cheaper to do the right things and attack the root causes than continue tossing people in prison without treating the underlying problems. “What we have going on right now isn’t working,” she said.

icon for podpress  Maura Healey [29:37m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download


Cheung Sees Powerful Lt. Gov. Role in MA

Leland Cheung has grand plans for the MA Lt. Gov. office. He’d pick up on the ex-LG mold of Tim Murray and go much farther. He sees himself as being able to complement any of the Dem Gov. candidates. He would run with some of his own projects, plus working behind the scenes with legislators to ease passage of the governor’s agenda.

Note: Cheung calls in around 13:41. I fill in on the office and his background until then.

Click below to hear him describe his vision for the office, and what he sees as unique qualifications for it. He claims to have the best qualifications, skill set and experience for a commonwealth he describes as at a tipping point. As well as his double masters degrees (Kennedy School Public Administration and Sloan MBA), he worked for a high-tech venture capital firm before becoming a Cambridge city councilor five years ago. That and government service is in his bio.

He figures MA can continue and expand Gov. Deval Patrick’s education and infrastructure for growth or go backward. Listen in as he talks about how an “innovation economy” effort would work to bring jobs to all 351 MA municipalities. He pointed to some of the world’s best high-tech schools and development facilities are all within an hour of Boston on a Lowell to Worcester arc. He sees inspiring established companies as well as start-ups to do their development and manufacturing right here instead of overseas or even in other states.

Doing this will require considerable investment in infrastructure — education as well as transportation and communications. These are areas where he feels he can act as lieutenant governor. He noted that a governor’s job is often fixing the broken and coming up with big policies. He sees the LG as being able to focus more on fundamentals and long-term goals. For example, there is that infamous skills gap, where we can’t always provide workers with the specific expertise hiring or expanding companies demand. He sees the LG as helping make sure schools mesh with those requirements.

He faces a solid group of LG competitors for the Dem convention in under two weeks. He figures he will certainly get his 15% to reach the primary ballot although he plays the politicians game of not counting his chickens. In that vein, he says he is in the top group of fundraisers and those getting endorsements, although he started in February, months after several others.

To get to the primary and then general, he sees continuing to convince one staffer, one volunteer, one voter at a time in every contact he has with them. He takes an odd pride in pointing out to all that he puts his personal email and cell number on his literature and website. He was likewise quick to correct and attempt at humor on my part to ask if he had enough minions for his campaign; “partners” he said. He honestly believes that he can convince voters that he is the one who can make a real team out of Gov. and LG.

icon for podpress  Leland Chung [42:52m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download