The high drama and low comedy of Boston politics surely plays out most publicly with its mayors. Yet since 1909, much of the real action and strongest personalities have been in the City Council. That’s when Boston revised from a board of aldermen and common council. They are the legislative body, who go far beyond their main duty of voting up or down the annual city budget.
With no staggered terms, the 9 district councilors and 4 at-large ones run every two years. In theory, citizens could throw the bums out two years.
In my decades here, I have seen, heard and dealt with various iterations of the Council. I have met and even confronted some real lulus and loons. Those alter kakers are gone and in recent years egos have been in check and responsibility much higher.
We’ve recently lost some of the most active, smartest and overall best councilors. Some stepped down to run for mayor. Some burned out. At least one left for more money.
In this election year, I’ll set up future shows with incumbents and the few challengers. I’ll talk about the shifts and possibilities.
Simple enough and it should be a nine-to-zip decision affirming marriage equality. However, the right-leaning, idealogue Supreme Court will most likely be a five-to-four vote.
Last week’s arguments and a flood of amicus briefs was not a battle of equals on either of the two flavors on the table — 1) should homosexual couples have the right nationwide to marry and 2) if not, must all states recognize legal same-sex marriages performed in other states and nations? Of course if the Court finds 1, then 2 is moot. Decisions should appear in mid- to late June.
The yes-to-equality side had the legal arguments down, as well as logic and compassion. The no side really didn’t have anything. They dealt in extra-legal humbug, cliché and vague forecasts of doom. Yet the three most conservative, really reactionary, justices took several of the most absurd claims from the no side seriously, judging by their questions and comments. Fortunately, the lefties at the banc burnished away the smutch.
I expect a yes-to-equality decision.
Of course, that won’t stop the plug nasties. My word, they are still trying to undermine a woman’s right to choose four decades later. Expect attempted tricks at the state level to prevent having to recognize such marriages (comity anyone?). Expect local pols to pander to anti-gay sorts by proposing all manner of unnecessary, redundant alleged protections to protect the clergy from the horror of being asked to solemnize a gay wedding. Yes yes, they already have such protections nationwide in statute and case law, but that won’t stop the dummies from dumbing down. Oh, and expect too more prophesies of ministers being thrown in jail and churches litigated to penury. Again, they are overly protected, those things haven’t happened and won’t, but that won’t stop the anti-gay liars and slanderers.
Take a moment to chuckle at the Chicken-Little predictions of doom following Massachusetts starting same-sex marriage. The poor, bemused anti-gay sorts have been reduced to muttering, “None of that happened yet. Just you wait!”
The listing and the shuffling of Presidential candidates are great theater. We all figured Republicans to dance and change stage positions. Far more fascinating has been the quick and deep Elizabeth Warren-ization of Democrat hers-to-lose nominee Hillary Clinton.
Pardon the parochialism, but Sen. Warren is hot stuff…and he’s ours in Massachusetts. Well, my favorite ex-hick became a Harvard Law professor (likewise her non-hick husband) and wealthy. Yet, she emerged as a major voice for the new populism. She’s even more outspoken than Sen. Bernie Sanders.(I-VT).
Having had to tell supporters, worshipers and the media that she definitely won’t run for POTUS, Warren is still in the race — as the touchstone for liberals, progressives, and well, sensible folk.
I hit on how Hillary as cannibalized Warren’s policy, to good effect. After all, it’s her one chance to sway lefties and indies who have been indifferent at best to her candidacy.. Meanwhile, poor Republicans run hither and yon putting on the various costumes of different troupes of right-wingers.
Meanwhile, Hillary portrays herself as a middle-class and aspiring middle-class champion. She wants to appeal to the independents and lefties who will swing this election. She needs to be Warren-like. In that vein, we’ll see even more tweaks, such as naming Garry Gensler as her campaign CFO. Sure he has a Goldman Sach background, but he also was key in creating Warren’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He has pinko cred.
I’m betting Hillary can’t fully kick the Trans-Pacific Partnership as Warren does. After all, her hubby and herself as Secretary of State were a full-throated TPP claque. I’m betting she’ll lobby for changes in the proposal and emerge claiming victory as an excuse to support it.
Look for more Warren-izing of the Clinton campaign.
Two big developments this week will show the nature of Boston and Massachusetts. Now convicted terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will shortly be sentenced to life without parole or death. For something completely different, newish Gov. Charlie Baker got his Special Panel report on how to fix mass transit in MA.
MA law has forbidden executions for over 60 years. Polling shows only a quarter to a third of citizens would ever consider the death penalty. Yet the 12 jurors are starting the penalty phase for the Boston Maraton bomber and if unanimous, they could condemn him to death at some distant federal facility out of state.
I discussed the likelihood of the sentence options.
For that something different, the rushed task force to define the T’s problems and present remedies almost met it deadline to product Back on Track: An action Plan to Transform the MBTA. Click the link for a 49-page Power Point PDF file.
The panel listed under the weight of the former exec of NY’s MTA and a Harvard prof who writes books on the likes of privatizing mass transit. While there are insightful and useful judgments, it falls short in many ways, such as any vision at all of what the MBTA should do and be. It does, however, manage to whitewash Baker’s role in creating the T’s troubles in a previous MA administration.
I talk about what I see as good and bad in the report.
Among my punchlines is that the huge hole in the report was a lack of vision — the august panel seemed to have no sense of where the T should head. Yeah, yeah, a 5 or 20-year plan, but the assumption clearly is that we want the same T, just more cost effective. Triple, “No!” on that.
Instead, there are achievable visions of a T that is too good not to take. You leave your car at home or in a station lot because the T is fast, inexpensive, clean, frequent and reliable. You know, like most of Europe’s as well as the West Coast BART and such. To get to the future with far fewer noisy, dangerous, polluting, congestion-making cars, you need to define that destination and design the system that gets us there.
Yes, indeed, we can be too clever for our own ends. We’re seeing it now in Indiana, where the poorly drafted and worse defined Religious Freedom Restoration Act has blown up. The Republican legislature should be embarrassed but is not. The Republican Gov. Mike Pence (a POTUS hopeful) should claw back the openly discriminatory law, but won’t.
Foolish attempts at cleverness constantly backfire, and not only at dinner parties. The most common and to the worst effects must be politically. In this case, numerous major companies and non-profits are pulling back on investments there. I also predict that this debacle ends Pence’s shot at being the GOP POTUS nominee. He has been pitching himself as the guy who can appeal to moderates, independents and conservative Dems, as well as his own party. Forget it, Mikey.
I talked about the winger media lie that the IN law is the same as the Federal version and those in many other red states. I noted the major differences, and which made it unacceptable to so many people and businesses.
I also predicted that wingers in and beyond IN won’t stop, even after what should be a most obvious failure. They did this with marriage equality and continue to do so, even with the wide, dark shadow of the pending SCOTUS ruling making all their anti-gay paranoia and lies moot. They shall continue until there is no legal option for deceit…and cleverness.
In another self-indulgent week, I teed off on the many Americans, plain voters as well as rich pols, who seem to hate and fear big, specific ideas. We see it strongly as many scream for Elizabeth Warren to run in 2016, while many others bellow she is too inexperienced. The latter group foolishly compares her to the current President, who more than showed what a newbie can do.
I ticked down various Presidents. Did they campaign on big ideas, specific ones? Once in, did they act on those or ta da! whip out big concepts hidden before?
I contend we need to get over these irrational fears of the new and different.
I guess this falls in the rant class, but in a largely pleasant way this time. I was struck most recently by two phenomena centered in my state. Both show the inexplicable tenacity of anti-gay types, even in an allegedly liberal fort.
There is the MA governor having the audacity to promote marriage equality. Then there are the sumbling, lurching advances related to Northeast St. Paddy’s Day parades.
Our governor is a Republican, albeit the MA flavor, fiscally conservative and socially liberal (but not too liberal and not in the progressive way…so there). Well then, in the past few days, Charlie Baker became the only Republican governor to sign the amicus brief presented to the SCOTUS by some in his party, favoring same-sex marriage. It is personal as well as political and moral for him. His gay brother married a man and Charlie is in the gay’s-OK camp.
Thing is, this state GOP platform and the party’s machers are notoriously anti-gay. I discuss whether he’s likely to face more than scowls as a result.
Then to parades. It seems all of Ireland and most US cities are perfectly fine with homosexual groups marching in St. Patrick’s parades, even where there is a separate Pride parade later in the year, as there is in both Boston and New York City. This year Boston’s long-time anti-gay parade organizers voted to let two gay groups, one OUTVETS, as it sounds, march. New York, generally a decade or more ahead of Boston is struggling. A parade sponsor, NBC, wangled an exemption for its gay-employees’ group. NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio called that for the tokenism it is and wouldn’t march.
I talk about who did and didn’t march in Boston and New York and what that may mean.
Honestly, these anti-gay types seem so silly.
We’ve had a new mayor (Marty Walsh) for a year following the 20-year tenure of Tom Menino. We’ve had outrageous snow and public transit failings. For pluses, crime hasn’t been terrible and our economy is doing well.
On its face, the Council has one primary legal charge — analyzing, tweaking and approving the multi-billion-dollar budget annually. In that sense, Murphy is THE MAN. He is the money guy, the councilor others turn to to answer can we afford that and if we do this, what will it cost?
Beyond the budget, Boston’s Council really is a legislative body. It studies all big issues, creates and helps direct policies, and works with the mayor’s office to identify, prevent and solve serious problems. That’s where Murphy sees himself adding value. This is an election year for all nine district and four at-large councilors. Murphy has always been at-large, having to be one of four convincing the entire city to elect him.
Listen in as Murphy addresses:
- The new and previous mayors, how they differ
- The conflict between council and mayor on a committee to advance Latino and Black men and boys, and who the council ended up having its way
- Why he and fellow Councilor Michelle Wu are advancing a BYOB option for the many restaurants without any liquor licenses
- What the Council wants to do about getting the damned snow off the streets, maybe like Toronto does
- How Boston has handled losses of $200 million in federal and state subsidies
- Quality-of-life issues only parents of asthmatic kids may think of, like filtering older construction equipment operating in town
- New technologies in the works, including enhanced 911
- Adding that pesky Styrofoam™ (a.k.a. polystyrene foam) to single-stream recycling
Even though we know each other pretty well, Murphy wouldn’t bite on my request for more info on his pending reelection campaign. It is true enough that papers aren’t really due and the candidates won’t be set for a couple of months. However, he isn’t showing his hand yet.
Next week’s guest will be Boston City Councilor Steve Murphy. He earned stripes on top of stripes, as long-time financial guru of the body along with a couple of terms as its President. While a quiet type, he has always been one of the highest vote-getters among the at-large councilors.
Since he termed-out of the presidency, he seems to have been more active proposing legislation. For example, he has driven a change to update our antiquated liquor licensing structure with BYOB ability for the many restaurants which don’t have a coveted beer/wine license.
We’ll likely have a rambling discussion, including, of course, how he compares and contrasts previous Mayor Tom Menino and current Marty Walsh. Also, this is an election year for Council, so we’ll hit on his platform.
What’s said and unsaid is rarely as pointed as when money is involved. Add a heavy dose of politics and poof! you have budget proposals.
MA’s newish Gov. Charlie Baker made his first and it was pretty good theater. I hit the highlights and some of the things unsaid.
Look at his whole budget proposal here.
On the face of it, this is level funded. It does grow by 3% to $38 billion, but most parts of government will get effective slashes with no inflation or room to hire. Schools through UMASS level, local aid (state revenue sharing), and the MBTA (our subway, commuter rail, bus and such) get a boost. Numerous small sensible programs like Down syndrome pilot and prostate disease research are gone.
Baker doesn’t go for anything hard here. Most notably, he does not attack the terrible underfunding and debt assigned to the MBTA. That’s not surprise as he was a key player in a previous Republican administration that structured all that. Instead, he fashions and repeatedly presents himself as a turn-around manager, a fixer.
I describe where he expects revenues to come from while he keeps his no-new-or-raised-taxes pledge. Some are questionable sources.
This proposal goes to the legislature for each house to reject, refine or reform before the real negotiations head to a July 1 balanced-budget deadline. I see it as a savvy PR and political program by Baker. He repeated told his press conference announcing the budget he inherited a big deficit. He clearly paints himself as a savior and fixer…sounds like someone setting up to run for VP or even Prez in 2020 or 2024.