Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs
Councilor Leahy apparently is recovering from a mild heart attack.
Our best to the Councilor in his recovery.
Right now, after a few more tries at getting a judicial nominee through and being filibustered, Senator Reid is finally done with the obstructionism and is going nuclear on the filibuster for judicial nominees.
The current vacancy crisis of our judiciary is often unremarked by the media, but it has very big consequences for the justice system we all live under. Republicans want to claim Obama is too slow to nominate, but with them using the filibuster to block so many nominees - qualified, good nominations, we’re not talking about political hacks, and even the Republicans can’t always find a good objection other than it being something Obama initiated - our judicial system has been hampered for years.
The concept of “going nuclear” on the filibuster was, of course, invented by Republicans over the few filibusters of some very shady Bush nominees (people who were not qualified…remember, Bush at first wanted Harriet freaking Miers for the SCOTUS, and even his own party was like, wahhhhh?). But now the media is forgetting their history (shocker) and is saying this is a Democratic idea. Well, no, actually, thanks for playing.
But if this is the only way to fill our judicial vacancies and actually get the people’s work done, let’s do it. If and when Republicans become the majority, these rules will apply to Dems as a minority as well. Let each party own their own damn governing without a filibuster, if the rules are going to be abused in such a manner.
PS - why yes, I am streaming C-SPAN right now, if you must ask…
Update the vote to change the rules just passed. For all judicial nominees except SCOTUS, a simple majority will confirm them! Finally, a Senate that will (somewhat) function.
Update: This has passed the Senate and heads for the state House! Cue the gloom and doom conservatives, or, if you are a realist, cue the celebrations for a stronger economy for all. This bill includes increases in the tipped worker minimum wage.
There’s a reason Massachusetts has a strong economy compared to much of the country. We care more about workers, we care about education, and we want to make sure everyone gets a piece of the growth pie, not just the wealthy.
Today, the state Senate debates raising the minimum wage (as well as considering an amendment to include tipped workers in the increase) and indexing it to inflation.
Here’s why this is a no-brainer:
The top income earners are doing really, really well. While nationwide, the unemployment rate stagnates, and wages adjusted for inflation have gone down over the decades, rich people are doing fabulously great. Many companies are seeing record profits, and the CEO-to-worker pay gap has never been wider. We’re at crazy pre-1929-crash levels. This article on BMG highlights the problem with our minimum wage.
Raising the minimum does not destroy an economy. In fact, in this country, in our years of greatest economic domination in the world, workers at the bottom could live, pay for food and shelter, and raise families. This is not true any more, even in MA, which has a higher minimum wage than the federal level.
Putting money into the hands of the people who have the most need to spend only helps the economy, by creating demand for more widgets, which in turn increases profit. It’s why Henry Ford paid his workers well - if they could afford his cars, he would sell more cars. We seem to have totally forgotten this simple economic principle post-Reagan.
The minimum wage will likely have zero effect on my personal household income. We’re not in the bottom 20th percentile. But a better economy and more demand, and in turn, more tax revenue and more money for our schools, services, and infrastructure, certainly does make us all stronger, from the 1% on downward.
Since the state Senate is debating this today, I strongly suggest you register your views with our state Senator Eileen Donoghue. PS - we’d be INSANE not to include the wages of tipped workers, who have been stuck at a disgusting $2.63 since 1999.
We’re better than that in this state. We’ve shown the world how to prosper - our economy is already better than most states, our unemployment lower, and our wages higher. Isn’t it time to make sure that a minimum wage and the closely-related low wages (which will also adjust themselves accordingly) are wages that don’t force families to starve or go on public assistance? Isn’t it time for the government to stop subsidizing WalMart and other big companies like them with our tax dollars and social safety net?
You can call Senator Donoghue at 617-722-1630. Now is your chance! Time once again for Massachusetts to lead the way!
I find it interesting, this disconnect between the strong opinions of the blogs and a number of the public (if my facebook feed is any indication), and Councilors (and councilor-to-be Belanger, who has not acquitted himself well in my opinion…I’m sad to be right about him) about panhandling.
Dick sums it up pretty nicely - he understands the impulse to push these people into the shadows (or into other parts of the city) but that doesn’t solve any problems nor does it show a blink of compassion for people who might, actually, be down on their luck, and for whom a $50 fine might be insurmountable punishment. The Capt has a new post against the ordinance as well, and remembers how the Council also voted to push out the visible homeless camps - which if the first hand accounts of many folks are true, merely served to push these people deeper and keeps them further from the help that was being offered to them prior. I personally know of a hidden camp of some sort near my house, though I don’t know if it’s currently occupied.
Kad has his say already, twice. He is a downtown resident and customer, and also quite on the other side of the aisle from me politically, so it’s not like we’re all in some sort of echo chamber. Kad and I have had some doozies of disagreements at times.
New bloggers Aurora and Chris already aired their opinions as well (previously linked). So, to count - a long-time townie, myself, a downtown resident, brand new residents - all of us see this ordinance for what it really is.
And what is that? Knee-jerk governing.
This is the same sort of impulse that passed the homeless camp ordinance for which every person involved patted themselves on the back. See? We cleared those camps and solved the problems! Case closed! Except they are not solved. This same impulse passed the breed-specific pit bull ordinance, which subsequently got overruled by a state law banning breed-specific rules, thank goodness. You see this in the perennial “pedophiles in the library!” or “spend down the free cash on more cops because, public safety!” issues that come up.
Mr. Lynne walked by while I was writing this post. He works in Boston, taking the commuter rail in and walking to work from North Station. He walks through the Common and the Public Garden, among other places. He remarked, I probably walk by more panhandlers in one morning than these guys ever see in Lowell. And yet Boston is a pretty prosperous place to which people flock, and patronize their businesses.
Governing by optics, governing by outrage machine, or whatever you want to call it, is one of the worst sorts of governing that exists. Because it takes a serious problem, and proposes bad solutions, or non-solutions, or damaging solutions, in the name of expediency or convenience. This panhandling ordinance is also the worst kind of scapegoating. Let’s face it - our downtown businesses are often struggling. Whether it’s the lack of easy parking, the economy, the general struggles of any downtown, the fact everything closes at 5pm and no one is open on Sundays except restaurants, a lack of disposable income by many of the people who live downtown (elderly and affordable housing), or what have you, we’ve seen a lot of businesses shuttered, or moving, and empty storefronts are a little too common.
But clearing out panhandling won’t fix your lackluster business, Mr. Belanger.
Of course, aggressiveness or harassment by a panhandler is another thing all together - and I would think that existing rules probably prohibit anyone from such aggression (hence why we have the legal term “harassment”). Why we need a special rule for downtown banning it all together - other than as a knee-jerk reaction to a much larger problem of homelessness and addiction and the general, inescapable fact that we’re a city, dammit! - is beyond me.
The current gentrify-du-jour being a no-panhandling ordinance on tonight’s Council agenda, it’s no surprise some bloggers around here are writing about it.
Downtown resident/consumer kad has quite an equitable point of view: fine, cleaning stuff up is great, and we all want successful downtown businesses but…
i think, if anybody’s asking me, the problem is first in perceiving these people as something, like bathroom waste, in need of “clean up”. we often ridicule other people for believing that “their shit don’t stink”, and, i think, here in lowell, we’ve got more than a few people who want to lay in a lifetime supply of febreeze and renuzits and just keep clouding the air with a bunch of sociological perfume in complete denial that we have a significant population of people who are challenged to “make it” in any way, shape or form recognizable to us in our centrally-heated, indoor plumbed luxury accommodations.
He also has a second post. As for my own opinion on the panhandling ordinance, I’m rather of a mind with kad - I sympathize with the downtown businesses and residents, but I worry that we’re shuffling the less fortunate out of our way so we don’t have to see them, and be uncomfortable. And the idea of fining a homeless person $50 for panhandling - whether he buys food, or booze with his proceeds - is patently stupid. Good luck collecting, or making your point. These are already people who are outside of the system and marginalized.
Chris at Learning Lowell is also on the subject of panhandling.
Aurora and I discussed it, and she summarized our opinions thusly:I have a couple of concerns about it. I’m worried about a lack of commitment to outreach about the law and alternative options to panhandlers, creating a larger gulf between police (and social services) and the homeless population, and logistics of paying the fine. I’m also not sure what happens if the perpetrator cannot or will not pay a fine. Is this going to get people thrown in jail? Finally, I worry it will just “push” the problem to other areas of the City without addressing root issues.
A little bit older now, but I haven’t linked to it yet was Dick Howe’s “The ‘Cambodian vote’ in the 2013 city election”. In it, he looks at the numbers and tries to see how last Tuesday’s results for the Cambodian Council candidates happened:
My first theory was that the number of active Cambodian voters may be a fixed number that with the 2011 turnout of 9,946 was sufficient to win a seat but proved insufficient when the 2013 turnout rose to 11,581. Looking at the ward by ward performance by both Nuon and Pech in both 2011 and 2013 disproved that theory. Both made substantial gains in wards that have the most Cambodian voters (Wards 2, 3, 4, and 7). However, that same comparison shows that both Nuon and Pech, but especially Nuon, lost a substantial number of votes from 2011 to 2013 in the wards that have the fewest Cambodian voters (Wards 1, 6, and 9 – both also lost ground in Ward 8 which has a substantial Cambodian population but has other issues that will be a subject of a future post).
There are some great comments there, too.
Dick also has his always-valuable Week in Review. And of course, there are a ton of other posts from this last week on his blog on culture, history, and the arts.
Greg has a quick, but interesting post about the oft-ignored School Committee race. He says, “There will be time later on for more analysis, but for now this may suggest there is a “Challenger Bump” enjoyed by School Committee candidates, followed by a time of great vulnerability (first re-election attempt).”
Finally, there is an awesome Jen Myers post on her Room 50 blog about the recent visit of former, first female President of Ireland, Mary McAleese. Jen always brings events to life with her photography.
(What follows is a very long, comprehensive post filled to the brim with everything I’ve learned about going solar. Our installation is now feeding green energy into the grid, I obsess about cloudy days, and I’m looking forward to our new investment paying us back in both money, and in knowing we’re contributing a great deal towards a green future.)
The flurry of activity in and around my homestead during two days in the week of October 7th was very disturbing to my poor dogs, but exciting for us. After a journey of more than five years in researching and planning (more on that in a bit) the contractors we hired, NuWatt Energy Inc, were on our roof installing our 4.16kWh solar electric system. A system that, it is estimated, will be providing around 80% of our current electricity usage.
Why did it take us so long, and how did we finally decide on the path we did? The answer to that, I’m hoping, will give other people a shortcut to the knowledge we got the hard way, and give you several paths to solar for your own home or business if you think you’ve got the roof for it. (more…)
When it comes to voters’ rights, we have all heard that in many (often regressive) states, young people, women, and minorities are finding it harder to vote. Whether that’s because of voter ID laws so strict as to cause married women not to pass the legal muster (because they have changed their names, and because their state requires their maiden name on a license not a middle name, which they might have used to register to vote), or getting rid of laws intended to allow college students to vote in the state which they’re attending college, we all know - Republicans seem to side on making it harder to vote, under the guise of preventing practically non-existent voter fraud. And Republicans in states previously subject to the Voter Rights Act are proving why that Act was still so sadly, utterly relevant.
These efforts have attracted the attention of this amazing 12-year-old in North Carolina. Her immediate concern? The dissolution in NC of a voter preregistration law, which allowed high school students aged 16 and up to preregister to vote. Since your 16 and 17 year olds are still firmly in high school (hopefully), you can have voter drives and more impressive educational outreach while they are still young, increasing eventual participation at age 18 and beyond. (This is the argument behind the UTEC’s “Vote 17″ movement, to help form the habits of voting early in local elections to increase participation for a lifetime.)
Now that you’ve watched that, think about this: We don’t have youth voter preregistration in Massachusetts. Why not? We’re a progressive state that likes to talk about how great we are with enfranchising voters, but we’re not on the list of states that do this. (We can also talk about our lack of same-day registration, and some other voter enfranchisement laws we could pass to live up to our “progressive” moniker.)
Talk about brain-dead simple things we could do to help young voters get excited to vote. Why, why does Massachusetts not have this sort of law in place? According to this Globe article, it was proposed this year (and in a past session as well, passing the House). It appears that a final bill about voting out of the Joint Committee on Election Laws excludes preregistration. Why our House can pass such a common sense law but it gets stripped out when the Senate gets involved is beyond me.
This would be a great issue on which UTEC could to use its considerable experience with Vote 17…and if they could get youth orgs in other cities and towns on board, imagine what they could do for the 2014 session! We need to lobby our own state Senator Eileen Donoghue to work on this issue on behalf of the future voters of our state!
(Some relevant history on pre-reg bills in the MA legislature: “Why take baby steps for election modernization when we need a giant leap?”, about the Joint Committee on Election laws’ final voting bill in Sept in which “…conspicuously missing are provisions to require post election audits and pre-registration for 16 year olds, two reforms passed by the full House in 2011-2012″…
and “SCOTUS may be rolling back voting rights, but…” about this summer’s lobbying efforts for voting rights, including preregistration.)
(AtB is a designation I just made up, short for Around the Blogs. I’ve made a new category for it as well.)
Some great post-election blog posts you don’t want to miss, if you haven’t seen them. Let’s start with the blogfather, shall we?
Election by the numbers: Dick is posting a series looking at the precinct by precinct turnout. He starts with the post, “Election day gold, silver and bronze“.
This post looks at which candidates finished first, second or third in each of the city’s 33 precincts. The first entry (“1-1″) identifies the ward and precinct. That’s followed by the last name of the candidate who finished first along with that candidate’s vote total within the precinct. The same information is repeated for the second and third place finishers. At the end of each line, the name of the polling place for that precinct is listed. At the very end of the post, I’ll summarize the results:
He also has posted a second in the series, “Precinct by precinct turnout: 2011 v 2013.”
In the 2011 city election, just 9946 people voted. In the 2013 election, that number rose 16% to 11581, an increase of 1635 voters. The following table shows where those additional votes came from
The numbers by precinct and percent increase are quite interesting.
We also have some musings on turnout and winning from kad barma (with some strong words):
inevitably, those who backed losers and are coincidentally frustrated by the identities of the winners are agonizing over the low turnout and teasing themselves with dreams of the fruits of an engaged populace, but it would be worthwhile for such folks to remember that bigger sample sizes tend merely to dial in the sigmas
Greg at the New Englander uses a lot of mathy terms and stuff to look at the results:
There were 71,502 total votes cast in yesterday’s City Council election. With 11,581 unique voters doing the casting, that means the average person voted for 6.17 candidates.
Assume a bell-shaped, normal distribution. Imagine you could insert a candidate into the race with completely random traits, name recognition, likability, etc.
He then goes on to look at the statistical
changes chances of surpassing the various candidates.
Chris of the excellent new blog Learning Lowell has an election wrap up post with some observations, “End of an (Election) Season.”
Secondly, buried in a Sun story with more on-the-street interviews is one voter’s perspective that his friends don’t vote because they don’t know who to vote for–there’s no (D) or (R) next to their name. This is something that I haven’t experienced before, as every city I’ve lived in has had partisan elections.
So go check ‘em out. It’s getting harder and harder to keep up with all the blogging in Lowell (even with the loss of Nutter). I like to say an embarrassment of riches. I’ve seen a lot of political bloggers come and go in the state of Massachusetts (we used to be a tight-knit set, meeting occasionally and doing stuff together!) and we lost a lot of them over the years, but in Lowell, most of the bloggers have stuck around. Either we’re a dedicated crew, or maybe just gluttons for punishment. I think this only bodes well for Lowell’s future!
Derek Mitchell, who as mentioned in my previous post came within 350 votes of a Council seat, a notable accomplishment for a new candidate, gave a speech at Fuse Bistro last night after the returns were in.
I watched Derek run his campaign, from his kickoff to last night, watched various speeches, and witnessed Derek learning to be a really great candidate in a very short timeframe. That is not an easy task. (Speaking in front of crowds by itself is not an easy task!) He was good last night, and what he said was potent and energizing. His campaign volunteers were enthusiastic to the end and I know we’ll be seeing them around too.
I am looking forward to great things from him. I really, really hope he runs again. Here is an excerpt his campaign posted from his speech last night.
Here are some next-day observations I have about yesterday’s election results.
We did see increased turnout. 11,581 is still a pathetic number of registered voters (20.6%) voting to select our local government. I’m not satisfied. Obviously not just on who got elected to Council, but also just on the fact that less than 30% (which is also not a non-pathetic number) are the deciders on who serves on our Council and school committees.
Name recognition, funding, and city connections still win elections. I note that the only first-time candidates who make it on the council (besides Franky who worked hard during what was a huge change election, and Murphy who basically knocked more doors than humanly possible) are longtime city names, generally townies. I think this is bound to change, as the very old demographic which are the “strong city voters” are…well, old. This is going to continue to put downward pressure on turnout, which is a big problem. If we get to the point of 4-6,000 voters turning out in local elections, that will be very disappointing, of course. But that older townie demo consistently pushes the big connected names onto the Council. (I know Rourke worked hard, but did he have the campaign apparatus that Derek did? I tend to doubt it. The hardest-working candidates aren’t always the one to win, if they don’t have those deep personal connections to the strong city voter.)
Newcomers who are “blowins” (as in, no long standing familial and friend connections in Lowell among the strong, older, city voters) did pretty spectacular considering. In particular, Derek should be toutin’ proud of his 12th place finish, precisely 350 votes behind 9th place. If he runs again, with the same vim and vigor and as a seasoned campaigner, he not only makes the Council, he probably gets up higher in the ranks. A strong 12th place can mean a 5th or 6th placement the second time around.
I am heartbroken for the Cambodian community. I hope they, and the engaged younger southeast Asian voters people like Van Pech bring to the table, use this loss to make themselves stronger. Don’t give up. You are a huge demographic in this city, and you are part of this city’s future. A good way to bring this about is to do some voter education and registration in the meantime, before the next election season starts, and keep running candidates!
The same can be said of the younger (what the pundits term “new Lowell”) voters and candidates who back people like Stacie Hargis and Derek Mitchell. Don’t give up, get active! You are the future. The past is just making a last gasp right now, but it can’t sustain itself much longer.
We seem to wave back and forth every single election. The 2005 election which elected Ramirez and ousted Cox. Then the Kaz/Lenzi 2007 Empire Strikes Back election. Then ousting them in favor of Murphy and Descoteaux in 2009. Then a reprieve (I guess Kaz really pissed people off in the previous Council) in 2011. Now we’re seeing The Empire Strikes Back Part II with the Dailey-backed (I cant’t wait to get my hands on the finance reports) Belanger and Rourke. That means in two years we’re due for a flip again - here’s hoping professional city management can survive til then.
Speaking of professional city management, this new Council is not guaranteed going to get rid of Lynch. There are only four definite no’s on a new contract. The rest are all lean-yes (Rita Mercier and John Leahy), or definite yes. They need to hear from constituents that Lynch is doing the job the city wants. Don’t be shy on calling them over the next year (contract is up in August).
Also speaking of contract/no contract, it’s plain to me that voters (who are not attentive to the blogs or other outlets) do not vote based on the core values of city management. On the one hand, it’s plain that the people of Lowell really like Lynch a lot. They’re happy with the direction of the city. They’d be pretty pissed, I think, if the Council gets rid of him. On the other hand, ink-master Elliot gets to rank #2 (the ink, I’m convinced, is why he gets to #2). Voters have not connected the basic issues at stake in these elections - frankly, because the Sun doesn’t want them to, and fails to educate them on this. The voter demo that shows up still gets the paper. This is only going to last so long, as the younger voters (people under age 50) are a whole different animal, but for now, we’re stuck with the awful paper blog of record and its agenda.
And I do think that the most important core issue at stake in our elections lately is legitimately “contract or no contract.” In other words, are we hiring/keeping professional technocrats as City Managers or do we go back to hiring unqualified hack former politicians (often ones with ethics problems) who not only can’t do the job, but also use the position for personal and political gain for their friends? The whole worm turns on what attitude our city council has towards the city manager position. We all know what names are bandied about to replace Lynch every couple of years (state Rep. Murphy, former state Sen Panagiotakos, etc). Those people would be short-lived and disastrous for the city. Is Pangy a fairly smart dude? Sure. Is he qualified to run a freaking city? Hells NO. And his hack history isn’t that great either. (Frankly, our entire House delegation could leave tomorrow and I’d be super happy. Thank goodness we have Sen. Donoghue at least!)
The Mayor selection is a little stickier than the CM contract, in my opinion. I have some thoughts on that but prefer to leave the details to others. Those chips will have to fall where they fall. However, I will state one thing: Can you imagine super-negative Elliot as the Chair of the School Committee? I urge the next Council to seriously consider the damage someone like him can do on the most important job of Mayor, chairing the SC. Also, I don’t think we should reward such negative behavior with a mayorship. It sets a bad precedent. And the worse precedent that if you wait long enough, it becomes “your turn.” Bollocks.
My last thoughts are this: I’m taking serious consideration as to how we engage more voters in these elections. I’m tired of a tiny minority of this city (myself included) deciding for 100,000 people who should run their local government. It’s time for a non-partisan “League of Lowell Voters” to find ways to reach the non-city voter and get them engaged. Again, I have some ideas for that. Unfortunately because this blog is so “partisan” (not just in the liberal sense but in the supporting a certain type of candidate sense) that any effort I make will get a Gerry-Nutter-for-Election-Commission type welcome. I know I’ve made some enemies (fairly and legitimately - by truth telling!) but seriously, I’ve had it up to my eyeballs on the turnout issue. Anyone else feel the same way? If enough people are mad as hell and won’t take it any more, something could be accomplished.
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