Friday, March 25, 2005

Topic: Politics -- State.

Your feedback:

143 Comments:

Blogger pfennell said...

Is there democracy in the Commonwealth?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005 4:02:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

I think that Governor Mitt Romney is one of the biggest political failures in state government history. He really could care less about the state of the commonwealth of Massachusetts; his real ambitions are higher political office in Downtown Washington, D.C.--i.e. The White House. I believe the people should be protesting Governor Romney's opportunism at the expense of the commonwealth's progress.

Friday, May 13, 2005 8:59:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

September 27, 2004

To the People, News Media, Politicians:

I attended Dawn Taylor Thompson’s two (2) political events in Pittsfield, Massachusetts on Thursday, September 23rd, 2004. I was impressed by her advocacy for public safety and the guest speaker’s similar comments. As a long-term vocal critic of state Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo II, I must disagree with the UNETHICAL eight (8) year Boston corporate banking lawyer/lobbyist’s – under the false pretense of a Berkshire Senator — negating criticisms of his opponent’s efficacious advocacy for public safety and likewise criticism of Nuciforo’s poor record on these life and death issues.

First, Dawn’s accurate criticisms of Nuciforo’s sole opposition to the all felon DNA Database in the Spring and Summer of 2003 must be put in the framework of a human perspective on the issue. A young 16-year old woman named Molly Bish was brutally raped and murdered in late June 2000. Her grieving parents went to Beacon Hill in the name of their late daughter and other victimized youth to ask lawmakers to put into law the proper public safety apparatuses to catch rapist, murders and perpetrators of violence against our youth, especially young woman.

Second, in the midst of the Bish family’s requests for legal reforms for public safety, there was an inhumane state Senator from nowhere else than Pittsfield, Massachusetts who stood up against their every request. This person was none other than Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. While other lawmakers rushed to the Bish family’s side, including Pittsfield State Rep. Peter Larkin and newly elected Lenox State Rep. “Smitty” Pignatelli, Nuciforo decided to make a stand for “civil liberties” without apologies or any empathy whatsoever to the Bish family.

Third, while I agree with people like Nuciforo that we live in the age of a FASCIST U.S. Attorney General who has nullified the U.S. Constitution in terms of the First Amendment’s Freedoms of Speech and Religion and also the Double Jeopardy clause in the same Bill of Rights, I personally have been a victim of Nuciforo’s own authoritarian actions (and so has my father, but I promised him I would leave his story to him to either not speak of or to speak of).

My story about Nuciforo, which I hope to tell for years upon years, decades upon decades, and I hope someday will be told for eternity, is that he secretly tried to have me arrested by the Pittsfield Police in the Spring of 1998 without Nuciforo telling either me or my father, whom he had communicated with at that time on an almost weekly basis. Nuciforo lied to the police by telling them that I was threatening him.

Moreover, as the Fall Foliage Parade will take place again this upcoming weekend in North Adams, it was Nuciforo with his former aide Sara Hathaway at his side who confronted me in a hostile manner in the Fall of 1997. Luckily, I had my cousin and Uncle, who was visiting North Adams from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., at my two sides and after he sized the three (3) of us up (even though I looked down at the ground in panic), he with Hathaway quickly walked away from us in fear for himself (as my family members protected me against Nuciforo by stepping in front of me. I felt like I was the President with Secret Service protection). I could not believe what had taken place. Here, the state Senator was marching in a parade with many potential witnesses, and he tried to get in my face without cause.

At this point in the story, I think it is important to note that my dad, Bob Melle of Becket, was elected to the then Berkshire County Commission along side with then Berkshire County Commissioners William “Smitty” Pignatelli of Lenox and Ronald Kitterman of Pittsfield. My dad and I, among others, took a stand against then Governor William F. Weld’s ultimately successful proposal to abolish Berkshire County Government and for the state to take over its functions under the premise that centralization in government or business makes for a bigger economy of scale, reduces waste and increases economic efficiency. Nuciforo, as state Senator, concurred with then Governor Weld’s arguments that economic efficiency under the model of corporate governance is the end all of big government initiatives and that an abolished rural county government under the administrative prowess of the state would serve the People best as a “1-8-hundred” number to the citizens instead of actual human beings and representatives. Indeed, centralized bureaucracy won the day under Bill Weld, Andrea Nuciforo and other top-down state government officials. My dad and I, together and respectively, had a more organic view of government. We believed that we are a government “Of the People, By the People and For the People.” We believed that this process needed to include a lot more input by Berkshire County residents and the thirty-two (32) cities and towns. My dad and I wanted more representation, not less, and we did not want government in any way, shape or form that represented “bureaucracy” in the form of a “1-8-hundred” number in the name of corporate styled economic efficiency model. I still believe in the position that my dad and I took. Now, back to the story at hand…

Earlier that summer in August of 1997, I attended a promotional ceremony at the Berkshire County Court House for now Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) Justice Francis X. Spina, who is a native of Pittsfield, Massachusetts (like my dad and I and many other proud Pittsfield natives). My dad and I were socializing with the public after the ceremony, and Nuciforo looked over at me with a stare that would have intimidated the President himself, nonetheless myself.

But little did Nuciforo know during those times that I have the deepest love of my country and devotion to God, and Nuciforo also did not know that I do know and believe that I am an American Citizen with U.S. Constitutional Rights and Civil Liberties and that I will always speak my good conscience as long as I live: GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH!

At the time, Nuciforo thought that there were coercive ways that he could intimidate me. But because of my strong beliefs in the USA (my country), Freedom and Liberty, I would not respond in kind to his intimidation. Therefore, Nuciforo decided that he would get to me through the system. Nuciforo decided to bad mouth me to other politicians, namely U.S. Congressman John Olver, State Senator Stan Rosenberg, State Representatives Dan Bosley and Peter Larkin, among others, including North Adams Mayor John Barrett III, who told me that people said that I am “flaky” and that I did not have what it takes to make it in the real world (I still think Mayor Barrett is a good man, however). Most importantly, Nuciforo tried to get to me through the system via false reports to the police, which I understand made him look real bad to the police.

Nuciforo tries to act cocky around me when I see him at events. But what Nuciforo may not yet realize is that I do indeed love my country and I believe in God. No amount of coercion, ostracism, money or false morality will change my views, beliefs or actions. I know who I am and whom I support.

Fourth, I have made the final decision to support Dawn Taylor Thompson for State Senator. On public safety, I do know and believe that she would have taken a human look at the issues the Bish family was fighting for last year. Dawn would have told Molly Bish’s parents, siblings and community members that she cares about their situation and is sorry that such a crime took place against a 16-year old girl with her whole life still ahead of her. Dawn may have taken alternative points of view different from the Bish’s, but I know Dawn and I know she would have done so with compassion and for the public good.

Fifth, given the situations that I have been through with Nuciforo and the unspoken ones only I know that my father has been through with him where I will say both our rights and civil liberties were respectively nullified via Nuciforo’s intimidation and corruption of the system against my dad and I during the same time period, I see Nuciforo as disingenuous, malicious and unfair.

Sixth, Artificial politicians such as Nuciforo and states such as the former-U.S.S.R. do not last forever. Alluding to John Ashcroft is a point where I am in concurrence with Nuciforo, but that is where we meet and diverge. For Nuciforo is just as fake as Ashcroft, and the more and more the People see authoritarian politicians and states that corrupt other people and systems, the weaker and weaker those bad guys and evil states become.

I believe that someday that Stan Rosenberg and I will have a beer together. That Denis Guyer and I will work for forward looking reforms together. That Mayor Barrett and I will celebrate North Adams together. But I know that that day will come when Nuciforo is a private citizen and no longer exercises his all-or-nothing corrupting influence for his own UNETHICAL personal gain.

When the time is right, I will work to solidly oppose Nuciforo and other corrupt politicians and immoral states like him. I will work in an ETHICAL way with the People, News Media and Politicians for the good goals of truth, justice and the American way! My work will not be for my own personal gain, but as a member of team that collectively works under Liberty and God for the common good of humanity.

In truth,
Jonathan
~Former resident of Berkshire County, Massachusetts~
For Publication

Friday, May 13, 2005 9:27:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Concerned Citizens:

The following editorial appeared on p. 22 of the Boston Herald:

Those felon protectors-Sen. Robert Creedon, Jr. (D-Brockton), Sen. Cynthia Creem (D-Newton) and Sen Andrea Nuciforo (D-Pittsfield)- out to be ashamed of themselves.

A bill to require DNA samples from all felons was on a fast track, backed by John and Magdalen Bish, until 3 senators tried to weaken it.

Creedon's alternative, adding 31 specified crimes to felonies already covered by the database, falls far short by excluding more than 150 crimes, including all drug and gun felonies.

In Virginia, 10 felons previously convicted of forgery were subsequently tied to violent crimes by DNA matches. The all-felon database works. The 3 senators should withdraw their amendment and the entire body out to approve the bill in Molly Bish's name.

-Boston Herald, Tuesday, June 17, 2003.

Sincerely,
Jonathan A. Melle

Monday, May 16, 2005 8:21:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

NOTE: MONEY RULES THE DAY IN POLITICS!

The Berkshire Eagle

Speranzo outspent Kinnas by 2-1
By Jack Dew
Berkshire Eagle Staff

Monday, May 16, 2005 -

PITTSFIELD -- For Terry M. Kinnas, the Republican nomination for state representative was worth thousands.

In the weeks before the March 15 primary, Kinnas raised a mere $1,075, and $200 of that was his own money. After he won the nomination, he raised almost $11,000 -- much of it from donors outside of Pittsfield -- and nearly kept pace with the eventual victor, Christopher N. Speranzo, a Democrat who raised $13,190 during the same span.

The candidates filed their final campaign finance reports last week with the state's Office of Campaign and Political Finance. The reports cover the period from March 26 to May 2 and disclose how much Kinnas and Speranzo raised and spent as they competed to replace Peter J. Larkin, who resigned from the state House of Representatives in January to take a job with high-powered lobbying firm ML Strategies.

Surprise winner in primary
Kinnas was the surprise winner in the Republican primary, beating better-known opponent Matthew M. Kerwood, a three-term city councilor a large, by just 10 votes. Despite his increased fund raising and a campaign budget that jumped from $220 in the primary to $5,500 in the election, Kinnas was defeated easily by Speranzo in the ensuing April 12 election.

Speranzo had the backing of deep-pocketed labor unions and the city's large and powerful Democratic machine. Whereas Kinnas' donations came from the state party and a handful of Republicans across the commonwealth, Speranzo had a deeper pool of support that included more donors overall and far more in Pittsfield.

The campaign was expensive for both candidates. Along with the funds they raised, each invested heavily from his own savings. Both said the money was essential as they fought to win the attention of an electorate that seemed not to notice the out-of-season election; in the end, fewer than 20 percent of voters cast ballots.

Speranzo used almost $4,300 of his own cash. In the primary and the election, he spent about $24,000 total, including about $4,000 on radio, more than any other advertising medium.

'Saturation radio'

"The primary was a different approach, and I did a lot of saturation radio," Speranzo said. "I didn't do that in the general election. Late in the campaign, I focused my radio buys on drive time and in targeted spots to go after people when they were sitting in their car."

Kinnas used about $3,300 of his own and spent about $12,000 total. He estimates that he has about $3,000 left over that he could use to make a run in November for either City Council or mayor.

Kinnas said he would have spent all his cash, but that much of it arrived too close to the election, a delay he blamed on a Republican fund-raising letter that was mailed to the state party's members just two weeks before the election. Although it brought an outpouring of contributions, he said, he didn't have time to spend it.

"I don't think [the state Republican Party] is organized well enough. I think it's coming, but it isn't there yet," Kinnas said. "If we got the dollars two weeks earlier, I don't know if it would have changed the outcome [of the election], but it would have made the race a lot closer."

Higher spending in Boston

Though the spending might seem high by local standards, it is dwarfed by the war chests that candidates in the eastern part of the state go through. Pamela Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, noted that some candidates for the House of Representatives in Greater Boston spent $150,000 in 2004, nearly five times what Speranzo spent.

In one Senate race, the candidates spent a combined $800,000, Wilmot added. Still, he said that even in Western Massachusetts, where legislative races tend to be cheaper, campaign operations are becoming more sophisticated.

"The spending in legislative races is growing, and it's significantly outpacing inflation," Wilmot said. "It used to be that you won elections by walking the district three times. There is a higher level of expectations for candidates. They are doing more glossy mailings, doing more media buys. There is a growing professionalization of politics."

The most effective tool for Speranzo might have been one he didn't even pay for: An automated phone call that went out to registered Democrats from U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was paid for by the state Democratic Party and heightened the buzz in the last few days before the election. "[Kennedy] is an icon in politics, and to have someone like that supporting me really turned people's heads, Speranzo said.

Kinnas had success among the party's frequent donors, such as Darrell Crate, chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, who contributed $200.

And he received contributions from donors like Mary Harrison of Stockbridge, who gave $500 to Kinnas largely because he was a Republican and opposed to gay marriage.

"It was his party affiliation, and that he supported the idea that we as citizens of the state of Massachusetts should be able to vote on gay marriage and it shouldn't just be dictated to us. This is a government by the people, for the people and of the people, supposedly," Harrison said in a telephone interview.

Speranzo supported gay marriage and said it was a matter of civil rights that shouldn't be decided by a popular vote. The Legislature is expected to convene a constitutional convention in the fall and to decide whether to hold the statewide referendum.

--------------------------------

Campaign spending

Democrat Christopher Speranzo outspent Republican challenger Terry Kinnas in the special election for 3rd Berkshire District state representative. Here's the tale of the money for the period from March 26 to May 2:

Christopher N. Speranzo
Campaign funds on March 26 -- $2,356.15
Money raised from March 26 to May 2 -- $13,190
Spent from March 26 to May 2 -- $11,736
Unspent funds as of May 2 -- $3,810

Terry M. Kinnas
Campaign funds on March 26 -- $917
Money raised from March 26 to May 2 -- $10,761
Spent from March 26 to May 2 -- $5,472
Unspent funds as of May 2 -- $6,206

Tuesday, May 17, 2005 9:25:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Healey rapped on senior tax issue

Remarks called 'out of touch'

By Scott S. Greenberger and Janette Neuwahl, [The Boston] Globe Staff and [The Boston] Globe Correspondent

March 22, 2005

The Romney administration distanced itself yesterday from Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey's assertion that many senior citizens are living in suburban houses that are too large and expensive for them and that they should move into city and town centers to avoid rising property taxes.

Healey told a reporter that senior citizens who move could free up large houses for families struggling in the state's hot housing market. Her remarks appeared to contradict Romney's stated support for property tax relief for senior citizens.

"My opinion is that to extend tax breaks to seniors in order to keep them overhoused and isolated in the suburbs is not necessarily the right answer," Healey told a State House News Service reporter two weeks ago, in an interview that was made public yesterday. "It's an answer, but the best answer would be to bring them into our city and town centers, into more appropriate housing, and free up those properties to get back on the tax rolls of the community."

Governor Mitt Romney's spokeswoman, Shawn Feddeman, said yesterday that Healey's remarks had been misunderstood and that the governor plans to propose a property tax break for seniors in coming weeks. Feddeman pointed to Romney's State of the State address in January, in which he said, "Our parents and grandparents should be able to live their remaining years in the comforting surroundings of their homes and communities."

Feddeman said Healey was referring to the administration's efforts to fight sprawl by encouraging housing construction near transit stops in city and town centers. Feddeman said Healey was not available to elaborate last night.

Critics jumped on the lieutenant governor's comments, portraying her as out of touch.

"We're stuck in a bind," said Anita McCandless, 71, who said that she and her husband could not afford a condominium with what they could earn by selling their four-bedroom house in Chelsea. "Her ideas may be all right, but is she going to build places to live? How many years is it going to take, and how many cities are going to be willing to do it? Cities are already fighting affordable housing. . . . Where does she plan on putting the seniors?" Representative Kathleen Teahan, a Whitman Democrat who serves on the Legislature's new Elder Affairs Committee, said Healey's description of the senior citizens who are having trouble affording their property taxes doesn't apply to her constituents.

"Overhoused?" Teahan said.

"She's right about them not being able to keep up with real estate taxes on fixed incomes. But she should come down to my district, where people's homes are not that big. They have basic, decent housing, and they've worked hard to support our community all their lives. The least we can do for them is allow them to remain in their homes and neighborhoods."

Because senior citizens tend to vote in high numbers, the issue is a politically potent one: At the beginning of the legislative session in January, Romney, Senate President Robert E. Travaglini, and House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi all pointed to senior tax relief as a top priority. Many seniors say they are straining under property taxes that are rising rapidly as residential property values continue to explode across the state.

Though she aired her concerns about seniors' property tax relief, Healey was also quoted as saying Romney is "open to different proposals about how to alleviate some of the tax burden on seniors."

"Right now, the situation that's causing an imbalance in our suburban communities is that many of our seniors are aging in their homes, which is a wonderful thing," Healey said. "We want them to age independently in their community, but they're probably aging in homes that are too expensive or difficult for them to maintain and where the property taxes are larger than their fixed incomes.

Plus, they may have three or four bedrooms and only be using one of them. There are families that need that housing."

Feddeman said Romney's proposal to lower property taxes will probably be based on recommendations by the Department of Revenue, which argued in a recent report that it is time to increase the value of existing property tax exemptions for older residents and make them available to more people.

The report says income and asset restrictions haven't kept up with inflation and rising property values, leading to a decline in the number of exemptions granted, from 33,203 in 1992 to only 20,359 in 2003.

The agency proposes raising the current property tax exemption for low-income seniors who are 70 or older from $500 to $1,400 and raising the income restrictions so that more people are eligible. Under current law, a single taxpayer must have assets worth $28,000 or less, excluding his or her home, and an annual income of $13,000 to qualify for the exemption, although cities and towns can raise those limits to $40,000 and $20,000.

Last year Romney rejected a senior tax relief plan approved by the Legislature because it included a provision that would have allowed cities and towns to exempt seniors from tax increases brought on by Proposition 2½ overrides.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005 9:27:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

June 09, 2005

Dear Berkshire Bloggers:

In 3 weeks from today’s date (June 9, 2005), Berkshire County Government will have been abolished for 5 years, and the legislation to abolish this regional body will be 7 years old. Indeed, this news article, enclosed below, interests me greatly.

I never fully understood how State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., D—Pittsfield, made it his mission in life to take the state’s wrecking ball to his district’s county government. From the beginning, I communicated with this delegate to Beacon Hill, and he never wavered in his commitment to destroy the county’s long-standing government. Also, there was deep-rooted support by the third-rate Editors of the Eagle for the state to takeover the functions of county government. Then, almost out of insolence against my outspokenness in local government, state Rep. Dan Bosley of North Adams, where I was residing with my paternal grandparents at the time (July 01, 1997 to August 31, 1998), joined Nuciforo in the fight to abolish Berkshire County Government. However, to Bosley’s credit, he has recently become my friend and I think he is a human being first before a state government official. I now admire Dan Bosley’s commitment to the people he serves in the State House.

My dad, Bob, who is a former-Berkshire County Commissioner from Becket, receives the Eagle in the U.S. Mail in Amherst, N.H. and then I receive his old copies of the Eagle by hand several weeks later. I did not get to read this news article until this week. My thoughts about the past, current and future issues concerning Berkshire County Government contrast around one major issue in Boston, Massachusetts: THE BIG DIG. (See the enclosed news article in today’s Boston Globe, below).

From the beginning of the Nuciforo campaign, when I first met him in May of 1996, local, county, state and federal candidates spoke out about the mess in Boston that was and still is THE BIG DIG. An impressive group had assembled at the Central Berkshire Democratic Candidate’s Forum in Dalton on that Spring day, from then-Pittsfield Mayor Ed Reilly, who gave me a mean-spirited look as sat subdued in the audience; Reilly was running for the open state Senate Seat that Republican Jane Swift had left to run against John Olver for U.S. Congress. Reilly had later dropped out of the race, leaving Nuciforo to face either Peter Abair or Paul Babeu on the Republican side. Peter Abair later would lose to Paul Babeu, whom he would later tell me was “the Prince of Darkness.” Abair would later challenge and lose to John Olver in the 2000 1st District Massachusetts Congressional race. Abair remains a political machine hack for the state Republican Party. However, I think Abair is a good guy. He has my acquaintance. My dad spoke, as did Lee’s Patricia Carlino, who challenged him in the primary that year. I thought Pat Carlino’s speech was the best of this refreshing Spring Day 9-years ago. She really advocated for local government. Ms. Carlino has my respect. John Olver also spoke that lovely Spring day to the crowd of Democratic Party supporters.

THE BIG DIG was back then and still is the most expensive and wasteful public works project in the history of the United States of America. In the near decade that has passed from the aforementioned candidate’s forum, THE BIG DIG has only gotten worse and worse. During the last full year of the Weld Administration, 1996, the price of the Big Dig had shot up to over $11 Billion, up from $5 Billion when he took office in 1991—a double in cost! Now, Bill Weld wants to run for the Governorship of the State of New York. He doesn’t exactly have a stellar record. What interested me back in the mid-1990s was the Berkshire Democratic Machine Support for Weld, including then Mayor Ed Reilly and always Mayor John Barrett III, and even the always-nefarious Berkshire Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., who seems to be my enemy in the political world and probably would like nothing more than for me to be his tenant in his house of pain otherwise known as the county jail. Of course, that was not the first time Massimiano backed a Republican governor for political reasons. I view Carmen as the biggest machine politician in the entire Berkshires! He has no principles or integrity. I guess I am really alienated by this machine politician’s insolence towards me.

The focus of the Weld Administration and the state Legislature was NOT on THE BIG DIG, where it should have been, but on county governments. The reform measures from on high under the Golden Dome were to make local governments more efficient. This was absurdly ironic given the state’s own mess. Nuciforo, who I view in much similarity with Massimiano and other machine Pittsfield Politicians who dislike my outspokenness on local issues, took up the cause of the Weld Administration and worked to abolish Berkshire County Government both in 1997 (the first year he was in political office) and 1998, where he successfully abolished Berkshire County Government with Rep. Bosley’s help via a post-midnight rider the FY1999 state budget. As county governments are unmentioned in the state’s constitution, the Legislature was able to repeal them via any legal method, including a budget rider.

Given the methods and tactics employed by Nuciforo & Bosley, the state did not have a plan to comprehensively take care of the duties and functions of county governments. That is why there was a gap of 2-years between the act of abolition and the implementation of the state’s takeover of Berkshire County Government. As always, politicians say more than they do, which leads to the Eagle news article enclosed below.

Sincerely,

Jonathan

THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE

BILL CLARIFIES CONTROL OF COUNTY LAKES, ROADS

By Erik Arvidson, Eagle Statehouse Bureau

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

BOSTON—Nearly 5 years after (Berkshire) county government was dismantled (by State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., D—Pittsfield), it is still not clear who is in charge of many of the county-owned properties such as Hoosac Lake(/Reservoir) in Cheshire and Pontoosuc Lake in Pittsfield.

On Pontoosuc Lake, the city of Pittsfield has been responsible for eradicating the weeds that have plagued the lake for years, while the state has been responsible for operating the Hancock Road dam, which fell into disrepair.

HEARING TODAY

State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., D—Pittsfield, is sponsoring legislation that would put Pontoosuc and Hoosac lakes and several other properties in the Berkshires under the control of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The bill, which is the subject of a hearing by the Legislature’s Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government today, would also make it clear that the DCR would assume control of 3 access roads to the Mount Greylock reservation.

A handful of other Berkshire County properties would be placed under the control of the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Environmental Law Enforcement.

While the state has owned all of the properties since (July 01,) 2000, control of the properties was given to the Division of Capital Asset Management, an obscure state agency that is the real estate manager for many state buildings.

State Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, a former (Berkshire) county commissioner who was critical (but also complicit with Tom McCann) of the state’s takeover of former county (government) properties, said that what is needed is a commitment from DCR that lakes would be adequately maintained.

“I had reservations about just turning a great pond over to a state agency without a real clear lake management plan. I still share those concerns today, not only for the lake but also for several of the boat ramps,” Pignatelli said.

He added, “If we’re going to convey that property over to the state, we need to make a concerted effort to make some investments toward a lake management plan for all the lakes to control the weeds and any infiltration that is going on with the sewer.”

Pignatelli said he thinks that the state has done “a great job” in keeping weeds under control on other lakes in Massachusetts. He added that the DCR should have more funding for its Lakes and Ponds program, particularly to repair boat ramps that are in “deplorable shape.”

AGENCY CHANGE

The existing bill will also have to be amended because it gives control of the properties to the Department of Environmental Management, which has been replaced by the DCR.

Michelle Rivers Murphy of Pittsfield, vice president of the Friends of Pontoosuc Lake, said her group has been lobbying for years to obtain clarification as to who controlled the 480-acre lake.

“When Berkshire County Government was dismantled, it was like Pontoosuc Lake was orphaned on Paper,” she said. “On paper, nobody has ownership. We want the paperwork to say the state has ownership. It is just been in limbo.”

Neither the city of Pittsfield nor the town of Lanesborough has expressed interest in taking custody of the lake. Murphy’s association could not assume the cost and liability of maintaining the dam (lake) (?).

Murphy agreed it was a good idea for the DCR to take over, despite the fact that the agency’s overall staffing has been reduced in recent years.

Hoosac Lake is also owned by the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, but the weed harvesting is the responsibility of the state. Berkshire County government took responsibility for controlling the weeds after the lake was purchased from a private (and negligent) owner in 2000 (thanks to then Berkshire County Commissioners Tom Stokes, Bob Melle and Ron Kitternman!).

State Representative Daniel E. Bosley, D—North Adams, (who pushed for this mess by helping state Senator Nuciforo II abolish county government in the state House chamber), said he supported the DCR taking control of the 3 access roads on the Mount Greylock Reservation: Notch Road, Summit Access Road & Rockwell Road.

“I don’t think it is fair for the town of Adams or North Adams to repair these roads, which that state has always done,” Bosley said.

The bill would also give the DCR authority over a .92-acre access road to Geese Pond in Lee & Tyringham.

In addition, the legislation gives the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife & Environmental Law Enforcement control over a handful of access roads leading to several ponds.

Those access roads to be taken over include Simons Pond in Sandisfield, Stockbridge Bowl, Center Pond in Becket, Richmond Pond, the Great Lake & Parish Pond in Otis, & Goodrich Pond in Pittsfield.

THE BOSTON GLOBE
$37m OK'd for Big Dig repairs
Final price tag for fixing leaks undetermined
By Sean P. Murphy and Raphael Lewis, (The Boston) Globe Staff | June 9, 2005

Big Dig officials have already authorized $37 million to repair and prevent leaks in the Interstate 93 tunnels, an audit has found, according to two government officials and a construction industry official briefed on the report.

The expenditures are more than twice what the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority previously estimated the repairs would cost.

The report, commissioned by the Turnpike and written by Deloitte & Touche, focuses on the money that has been spent or appropriated to address the hundreds of small leaks around the tunnels' roof joints.

It does not include the cost of any future leak-related maintenance of the tunnels.

It also excludes the price of fixing about a dozen seriously flawed sections of tunnel wall that are either leaking or in danger of sprouting leaks, costs that will probably be picked up mainly by project contractors.

The preliminary audit has also found that the $14.625 billion official cost estimate of the Big Dig has not been affected by the leak expenditures because those costs were absorbed in various contingency accounts, one of the government officials said.

That finding is significant because the US Department of Transportation's Inspector General, Kenneth M. Mead, earlier this year questioned whether the $14.6 billion price tag would rise as a result of the leaks and whether the state's financing plan for the project was adequate.

The extensive report details for the first time the specific costs of repair and prevention of leaks by independent auditors who were provided complete access to project records. It was first reported by Fox-25 News Tuesday.

It's not clear what period of time the report covers, but Turnpike Authority officials began discovering the leaks in the late 1990s.

The officials briefed on the report said that $14 million in expenditures that the Deloitte auditors included in the total may not be included in the final audit, because some officials involved in the project argue that that spending was due to design changes that were largely unrelated to the leaks.

Officials at the Turnpike Authority, which oversees the Big Dig, have provided no public estimate of the cost of the leaks. But last April, Mead testified before a congressional committee that Turnpike Authority officials said the cost of repairs would total about $17 million.

A preliminary review in November by State Auditor A. Joseph DeNucci and state Inspector General Gregory W. Sullivan determined that the Turnpike Authority had already authorized $35 million in leak-related payments that they termed ''only the tip of the iceberg."

Turnpike Authority officials declined to be interviewed yesterday, but a spokeswoman released a statement saying ''the final review is not complete, but we expect to have it in the coming weeks, and as we committed to do, once finalized, the report will be made public."

The Turnpike Authority chairman, Matthew J. Amorello commissioned the Deloitte investigation in December at the insistence of Mead, who said he would not sign off on the release of $81 million in federal funds for the Big Dig until he was assured that the Turnpike Authority had a handle on the leaks.

The leaks have at times numbered nearly 1,000 and continue to allow water into the tunnel through fissures in the roof and in some sections of wall.

The $37 million figure cited by the Deloitte audit includes installation of a special hose system that the Turnpike Authority uses to inject grout into the many small fissures at the roof-wall joint, the construction industry official said.

Among the expenditures detailed in the report, according to the construction industry official, are $11 million for construction workers to inject the grout into leaky areas in the walls and roof; $2.8 million for the hose system; around $600,000 for rust and stain removal.

Another $300,000 was authorized for debris removal and cleanup related to water flow; $1.6 million for the repair of water-damaged fireproofing material on the tunnel roof; and another $1.3 million for a special tape that was supposed to keep concrete seams waterproofed but largely failed to do so.

One official who has seen the investigation's findings said there is intense discussion among state and federal officials on how to interpret that data.

''Deloitte has identified everything" that could be construed as leaks-related, the official said.
''Now it comes down to how you count it. That's a matter of interpretation."

No agreement has been reached on how much it will cost to fix all of the flawed tunnel wall sections.

Repairing the breach that sent water gushing into the northbound lanes of the Interstate 93 tunnel on Sept. 15 will probably cost at least $750,000, according to previous estimates by the Turnpike Authority.

Turnpike Authority officials and top representatives of the authority's management consultant, Bechtel Parsons/Brinckerhoff, have repeatedly said the cost of repairing the Sept. 15 breach and the dozen other significant wall defects will be underwritten by Bechtel Parsons/Brinckerhoff or construction contractors, primarily Modern Continental Construction Co. of Cambridge.

Thursday, June 09, 2005 4:02:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Romney bill aims to rebate 2002 capital gains taxes
Governor's move sparks debate

THE BOSTON GLOBE
By Raphael Lewis, Globe Staff | June 11, 2005

Governor Mitt Romney yesterday filed legislation to return approximately $250 million in 2002 state capital gains taxes to 145,000 investors, leading several strategists to suggest the Republican governor was aiming his antitax message at presidential primary voters as much as Massachusetts taxpayers.

Beacon Hill Democrats have shown little appetite to rebate the 2002 capital gains taxes, which are at the center of a Supreme Judicial Court decision earlier this year. As a result, Democrats and Republicans alike yesterday speculated that the governor, who is weighing a run for the White House in 2008, was sending a signal to conservatives beyond the Bay State.

''Primary voters and general election voters want to know, 'Do you cut taxes when you have the chance, [and] have you fought for that hard?"' said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, a politically influential antitax advocacy group based in Washington. ''If you've tried, you've signaled your intentions. It tells you, given a Republican House and Senate [in Washington], these are the sorts of things I'd be doing."

Norquist earlier this year was sharply critical of Romney's proposal to close $170 million in corporate tax loopholes, saying the package was tantamount to imposing ''stupid tax laws in a Draconian way." Less than a month later, Romney backed off his plan, saying it would hurt the state's efforts to attract new employers.

In an interview yesterday, Norquist said Romney's staff has kept in much closer contact with Americans for Tax Reform since then, and a month ago, Romney took part in a nationwide conference call with the group's members to discuss tax policy.

Romney's proposal comes nearly two months after the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a 2002 change to the state's capital gains tax rate was unconstitutional because it took effect on May 1, 2002, almost halfway into the tax year. The court said the Legislature had two options: roll back the effective date of the rate change to Jan. 1, 2002, which would mean collecting an additional $150 million from 120,000 taxpayers who saw capital gains between Jan. 1, 2002, and April 30, 2002; or push the effective date forward to Jan. 1, 2003, and return between $225 million and $275 million in capital gains taxes the state has already collected.

Romney argues that pushing the date back to Jan. 1, 2002, which will happen automatically under the terms of the SJC decision, would be unfair because it would tax gains retroactively, to a period when investors could not have been aware of the tax impact of their transactions.

''It is fundamentally unfair to tax people retroactively," Romney said in a news release yesterday. ''If we are to keep faith with the taxpayers of Massachusetts, we need to correct the constitutional error that occurred here."

Democrats and a liberal watchdog group, however, said Romney's response to the SJC ruling is even more unfair because it would wipe out any taxes on a wide array of capital gains from 2002, even though low- and middle-income wage earners paid 5.3 percent on their wages at that same time. Under the old capital gains tax rate structure, gains on assets held six years or more were not subject to any taxes, and gains on other investments ranged from 1 percent to 5 percent.

''There's nothing unfair about saying our highest-earning taxpayers should pay at the same rate on their capital gains income that ordinary taxpayers pay on their wages," said Noah Berger, executive director of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a liberal watchdog group.

Berger's organization, in analyzing 2001 state tax data, has determined that three-quarters of the tax money that would be returned by Romney's bill would go to households that averaged $1.5 million in annual income.

Some legislative Democrats view Romney's filing of the tax rebate bill in purely political terms, and not as a bid to pad the wallets of the rich in Massachusetts.

''The truth is, this is another example of Mitt Romney selling out the people of Massachusetts in order to boost his credentials as a hard-liner on the national stage as he gets ready for a presidential run," said state Representative J. James Marzilli Jr., an Arlington Democrat who took part in an unsuccessful effort to strike a compromise solution to the capital gains dilemma.

''We don't have a quarter of a billion dollars to burn, and this money belongs to the taxpayers of Massachusetts, and not a handful of millionaires."

A Republican strategist with close ties to the Romney administration said yesterday that he also tended to view Romney's tax-rebate bill as more of a symbolic gesture than an earnest attempt to push though legislation.

''It builds a record even if it goes nowhere," the strategist said of the bill. ''Tax cutting is certainly popular in Republican primaries, and they got knocked around pretty good by Grover Norquist on the tax loopholes. There's some sensitivity there."

Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney's communications director, said the governor was only doing what he believes is right.

''This has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with treating our taxpayers with the respect they deserve and maintaining a system of taxation that is fair, honest, and transparent," Fehrnstrom said.

Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-backed watchdog group, agreed that rolling the effective date of the capital gains rate change to Jan. 1, 2002, was ''unfair." He said that Romney's plan, however, would do damage to the fiscal health of the state and that the money would have to come from reserve accounts.

Widmer added that he has strong doubts Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have any intention or desire to go in the same direction as Romney in response to the SJC ruling.

''There's talk of [higher funding for] early childhood education, higher education fund restoration, and healthcare coverage expansion," Widmer said. ''There's enormous pressure and a lot of important needs to be addressed."

Barbara Anderson, executive director of the antitax group Citizens for Limited Taxation, saw it differently.

''Massachusetts voters don't elect Republican governors to get things done: We choose them to defend ourselves against things being done to us!" Anderson said yesterday in an e-mail. ''This cap gains issue is a perfect example of that."

Saturday, June 11, 2005 1:20:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Code forces older residents to sweat it out
Switching heat off unlawful, owners say

THE BOSTON GLOBE
By Maria Cramer and April Simpson, Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent | June 11, 2005

Elderly tenants of the Cheverus School Apartments in East Boston are steaming. Light clothing is no help in the stuffy apartment building. One 65-year-old said his friend won't visit because it's too hot. The building's outdoor patio seems to be the only refuge for many seniors who live in the complex.

True relief -- the cool drafts of the central air conditioner -- won't come until June 15, according to notices plastered on the walls of the three-story elderly housing complex in East Boston. But with the National Weather Service calling for a high of 86 degrees today and a high of 91 tomorrow, several tenants are anxious for cooler air now.

''I have all the windows open," said Karl Ticha, 65. ''I keep them open all night. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to breathe. There's no air circulating in there."

Management officials say there is nothing they can do. The state's sanitary code, enforced by the city, orders property owners to provide heat until Wednesday.

At the complex, the building's air conditioning and heater run on the same system. To turn on the air conditioning, managers must turn off the heat, a tedious switch that normally takes all day, said Erin Nanstad of Metro Management Co., a division of the East Boston Community Development Corp., which controls two other low-income elderly housing buildings in East Boston and one in the North End.

''It's unfortunate," said Nanstad, who said she received dozens of complaints about the heat. ''I don't want them to be hot. Our hands are pretty tied."

The city is calling the managers of roughly 100 privately owned elderly housing complexes to tell them that the priority should not be following the code, but keeping their tenants comfortable.

''Our expectation is that they just be reasonable and mindful of what the temperature is," said Eliza Greenberg, the city's commissioner on Affairs of the Elderly. ''We want you to use your common sense."

Greenberg said she received calls from seniors in other parts of the city complaining that their property managers told them they could not turn on the air conditioner because it would mean turning off the heat, a violation of the code.

''From a people perspective, from a human-being perspective, why would I care what's on or not on?" she said. ''What I care about is that someone is healthy."

The code makes sense, said Albert Caldarelli, executive director of the East Boston corporation. New England weather is unpredictable, and temperatures can easily dip after days of hot weather, he said.

''If we turn the heat off and we get temperatures at 60 degrees, we'll be putting more elderly in more danger," he said. ''I know there is some discomfort, but discomfort is better than danger."

Rita Tritto, a 72-year-old tenant, said she understood the dilemma.

''Being a senior citizen isn't easy, because you have some that are always sweaty and you have some that are freezing," she said.

''You can't please everybody."

Saturday, June 11, 2005 1:21:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Honorable Denis Guyer,

I am in dissent over your comments concerning you sympathy for former-House Speaker Tom Finneran, as well as your worries that the State House Chamber will suffer if he is found guilty of "whitening" several state House district seats in minority areas. What Finneran did was wrong!

When I travelled far (back to the Berkshires) last summer to personally wish you well in your state Rep. campaign last summer, you made fun of me for being a disabled Veteran. You had no sympathy for my ordeals with the VA. You made unfair sexual comments about me in front of women and children. You did not know what I went through and the specifics of my case for Veterans benefits, nor did you take the time to ask me about them. You made me feel very uncomfortable and awkward. You are a mean-spirited son of a bitch! Go ahead and press charges. I have some to press against you, too, Denis Guyer--the biggest phony ever to come into the political world!

In very strong dislike,

Jonathan

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 9:13:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

THE BOSTON GLOBE

CAROL ROSE AND CHIP BERLET

Romney's spy center

By Carol Rose and Chip Berlet | June 14, 2005

HOMELAND SECURITY experts from around the nation are gathering in Boston today to compare notes and to hear from members of the public about data privacy concerns and homeland security. At the top of their agenda should be Mitt Romney's so-called Fusion Center, which promises to ''fuse" intelligence from state, local, and federal sources into a single database.

What's wrong with this idea?

It could be that it provides one-stop shopping for identity theft. Or that it diverts millions from community policing, while Boston struggles with a rising homicide rate and 239 fewer cops on the beat than six years ago.

Or maybe that history and the 9/11 Commission showed that gathering piles of data don't equal sound law enforcement.

No, the biggest problem with the Commonwealth Fusion Center is that Romney's system has no accountability, at a time the feds are abusing their power by spying on progressive US activists.

Accountability is already a problem with the FBI-led Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Forces, which deputize local police to do the work of the FBI. Inaugurated in 1996, four years after the first World Trade Center bombing, there are now more than 100 task forces around the country, including one here in Massachusetts. Some, like the one in Fresno, Calif., have already been caught spying on antiwar activists.

In fact, a now-forgotten New York Times exposé revealed that the FBI sent a memo to the task forces just before the big antiwar marches of 2003 detailing how to use antiterrorism tactics to spy on home-grown activists.

There are so few checks on the task forces that in April, Portland, Ore., became the first municipality to opt out of one. Mayor Tom Potter said there just wasn't enough civilian oversight for him to guarantee that police officers weren't investigating people for their religious or political ties. In fact, the task force would not discuss intelligence gathered by local officers with the city's mayor!

Meanwhile, Boston's police chief proudly announced the creation of neighborhood watch groups and the placement of 24/7 surveillance cameras around the city. Will the information generated through increased surveillance by task forces, neighborhood watch groups, and cameras be channeled to the Fusion Center at Framingham?

That's a secret. While the government is increasing its power to watch you, it is diminishing your power to watch the government.

Here's another mystery. What accountability is there when law enforcement works with private sector data mining companies, as it is doing with LocatePLUS in Beverly? LocatePLUS says it has information on 98 percent of the American population. How can we be sure that the Fusion Center is not streaming in junk information from private services?

We know that Romney thinks such private services enhance law enforcement's own spy machines. As chairman of Homeland Security's Advisory Council on Intelligence and Information Sharing, Romney last December called for a nationwide network of fusion centers fed by government agencies and big business tipsters, as well as EMS drivers and other private citizens in a position to spy on their neighbors.

He mimics the worst of former Attorney General John Ashcroft's notorious Terrorist Information and Prevention System proposal to get neighbors to spy on one another, and Admiral John Poindexter's discredited Total Information Awareness program, which promised to create a computerized dossier on every American. The Bush administration scrapped them both in the face of public opposition, but the Fusion Center brings them back to life.

Accountability and civilian oversight lies at the heart of our democracy. In the 1970s, a Senate committee led by Senator Frank Church investigated the FBI's secret ''vigilante operation" against dissent called COINTELPRO. It concluded it was ''aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence."

Public outcry forced the government to adopt the Levy Guidelines, safeguards gradually repealed since the Reagan administration.

The Fusion Centers, with their secret partnerships with the Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Forces, are tailor-made for reviving government abuses of our vital First Amendment rights to free speech and association, and of the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search. It wastes resources and, by overwhelming the system with useless information, does not make us safer.

The State House should assert its democratic responsibility to oversee and audit this dangerous new institution or, better still, pull the plug on it before it's too late.

Carol Rose is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. Chip Berlet is senior analyst with Political Research Associates.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 9:13:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

June 22, 2005

Re: Kinnaman’s flawed logic on rollback of state income tax

Dear Berkshire Bloggers,

As I am on a delay in reading the Berkshire’s news, and this response is probably several weeks old. I have a lot of respect for Matt Kinnaman. Although I am a Democrat, I am an American Citizen first and foremost. I support all of my country’s citizens and leaders who wish to participate in a civil fashion in American politics. However, while I respect Mr. Kinnaman, I must dissent against his position in rolling back the state income tax to 5-percent.

My reasons for dissent are as follows. Just like the federal government, the Massachusetts government is very deep in debt, and most of this debt is attributable to the “Big Dig” in Boston, which, of course, short changes western towns like Lee. I am in dissent with the federal and state governments position on cutting and not raising taxes because both governments are big-time borrowers. Having huge debts is irresponsible and incautious politics.

On the federal level, the Bush Administration and his Republican allies in U.S. Congress have blamed the excessive borrowing on the events caused by the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center Buildings in New York City, the downed plane in Pennsylvania, and the attack on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. I do, indeed, concur with their position that terrorist attacks on our homeland were both tragic and costly, but I do not believe the Republican Party is being honest in their explanations about our nation’s $8.1 Trillion and rising national debt.

For Massachusetts, if taxes are cut, and her debts are among the top-5 for state governments (out of 50), the economic situation would become much worse for the state. The state’s share of the debt financing would increase because she would have fewer revenues to fund her current commitments.

Also, Mr. Kinnaman points to the state referendum, which I believe was voted on in the 2000 election, whereby a majority of Massachusetts’ voters voted to rollback the state’s income tax. This referendum was very manipulative and unfair. The same year that then-Gov. Cellucci put this issue before the voters, it was made public that the “Big Dig” had a $2 Billion Cost Overrun! What kind of cost overrun is $2 Billion? If then-Gov. Cellucci really cared about the state taxpayer, which he didn’t because he lied to them about the “Big Dig,” he would not have allowed a $2 Billion “Big Dig” Cost Overrun, sending the state into an economic tailspin to where it is today.

The voters were lied to, Mr. Kinnaman, and your logic and ignorance of recent history, is very discouraging. I believe Mr. Kinnaman is off-base in his position that the state should rollback its income taxes to 5%.

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

Monday, June 27, 2005 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers:

Re: The Boston Globe (JAMES A. ALOISI JR.: Let's bring Springfield back from the doldrums, July 11th, 2005): I read this news article this morning while on vacation. I became very upset with the Boston Globe because they did NOT acknowledge that the state Legislature had a bailout plan for Springfield's financial bankruptcy, but one bad apple stopped this plan from being passed into law. This man is none other than Peter J. Larkin, the former 3rd Berkshire State Representative from Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Because the state Legislature was in informal session, Larkin was able to kill the bill through his objection. The Boston Globe lost its shine today because it published a letter on its op-ed page as if no one has ever tried to help this beautiful city of Springfield, Massachusetts make its eventual comeback. I hope The Boston Globe does a story on Peter Larkin and how he made a community continue to needlessly suffer due to his self-serving public record. Now, Peter Larkin is paid lobbyist who reports to V.P. Cheney's former Chief of Staff at ML Strategies. Moreover, he will also be on the payroll of the Biotech Council headed by former-Speaker Finneran. Talk about a selfish man! I hope The Boston Globe regains its shine and stops Peter J. Larkin from ruining more than the quality of life in Springfield, Massachusetts!

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

Monday, July 11, 2005 4:17:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Healey backs civil unions

Differs with Romney on 2d key social issue

By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff | September 10, 2005

For the second time in two months, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey is breaking with Governor Mitt Romney over a controversial social issue, this time voicing her support for civil unions for gay couples as she positions herself for a potential run for governor.

Healey told the Globe yesterday that she still opposes same-sex marriages, but that she now backs a civil union system that would extend benefits and obligations of marriages to same-sex couples. The stance puts her to the left of Romney, who opposes both same-sex marriage and civil unions.

In July, Healey took another position that put her at odds with Romney when she told reporters she backed a bill that would expand access to emergency contraception and said she was ''a strong advocate for prochoice." Romney vetoed the bill and declared himself firmly antiabortion.

Healey's endorsement of civil unions would appear to have little immediate effect on a proposed amendment that the state Legislature will take up Wednesday. That amendment, aimed at the 2006 ballot, would ban same-sex marriages but allow civil unions. Most lawmakers, including its chief co-sponsor, Senate President Robert E. Travaglini, are predicting that the 2006 amendment will be defeated. Healey said she backs it.

''I am maintaining my position that the current amendment before the Legislature would be preferable," Healey said. ''I have consistently supported the current amendment . . . because I think it strikes a good balance. It recognizes that marriage is between one man and one woman, but also provides a legal framework for the protection of same-sex couples."

Gay marriage opponents are pushing an alternative, for the 2008 ballot, that would ban same-sex marriages and not allow a civil unions alternative. Healey said that if she were governor and the initiative was approved by voters, she would support a bill to create civil unions for same-sex couples. She would not commit to campaigning for the 2008 petition, however, saying she was holding out hope the 2006 amendment would pass.

''I want to make sure that the people of Massachusetts have the opportunity to vote on this issue," Healey said. ''I think that is extremely important. I don't think judicial activism is the right way to make these very large social changes. I would like to see the Legislature act on behalf of the people. I would like see the people act directly to institute this change."

Romney, while promoting tolerance and domestic benefits for gay couples, has been a strong opponent of both same-sex marriages and civil unions, positions that he touts as he tests the presidential waters. He has said he only supported the Travaglini amendment as a last-ditch effort to block the Supreme Judicial Court ruling that legalized gay marriage.

Romney and Healey both ran on a platform in 2002 that called for domestic protections for gay couples, but that opposed same-sex marriages and civil unions. But Healey said her support of the Travaglini amendment last year marked the beginning of her support for civil unions. She said she had informed Romney of her position, but did not offer details of any conversations and when they took place.

Healey's comments clearly set her apart from the governor -- her chief political mentor -- on a major issue that has confronted Romney and his administration since the 2003 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that legalized gay marriage. The controversy has rocked Beacon Hill, played an influential role in the 2004 presidential election, and allowed Romney to burnish his conservative credentials in national Republican circles.

''He respects the fact the lieutenant governor has her own views," said Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney's director of communications. ''We all agree that the people should be the ones to decide."

Arline Isaacson, the cochairwoman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, said Healey's decision to break with Romney is ''not all surprising." Saying the gay community rejects civil unions because they are ''only a small fraction of the legal protections offered by marriage," Isaacson said gay community leaders have sensed that Healey has always been closer to their position.

''We have always known that Kerry Healey is much more comfortable with gay people than Romney," Isaacson said. ''We have always had a strong sense we would do much better with Healey than him. She can deal with gay people. She is not uncomfortable with them."

Kris Mineau, the president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, which is leading the new antigay marriage petition drive for the 2008 amendment, declined to comment on Healey's move. But he noted the governor supports the drive. ''I listen to the governor and he is the leader of the administration," Mineau said.

As speculation continues that Romney will not seek a second term to prepare for a presidential run in 2008, Healey has moved aggressively on several fronts to establish her political position as the GOP gubernatorial choice for next year. She lined up support of Republican activists, leaders, and the party's major financial contributors, and Romney has made it known he would support her in a GOP primary.

Since May, her husband, Sean Healey, has cashed in his stock options in his asset management firm, Affiliated Managers Group, generating almost $13 million in cash for the couple. Healey's strategists have made it clear she will use her personal funds to help finance her campaign.

Her strategy has so far cleared the field of potentially tough opposition for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. Harvard Pilgrim Health chief executive Charles D. Baker opted out of running, citing family issues. He also acknowledged that Healey's wealth was a factor.

Saturday, September 10, 2005 9:02:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

09/14/2005

Dear People, News Media, Politicians,

Governor Mitt Romney will never win the presidency. Yes, Romney was able to defeat Shannon O’Brien by significantly outspending her in the race for Governor, but going against a major Democratic Party presidential candidate is quite another issue.

I just love (sarcasm) Mitt Romney’s priorities. Instead of working on providing social services and programs for the poor and middle class, Governor Romney is going to “kiss ass” in New York City with “Wall Street heavy weights”, among other corporate elite conservative Republican Party insiders. When Romney returns to Massachusetts with his aristocratic smelling big brown nose, I hope he brings some of Wall Street's investment capital back with him along with his over-tired perched lips.

What a joke Mitt Romney is as Massachusetts’ Governor!

-Jonathan A. Melle

Governor To Attend Conservative Events In Big Apple
Will he or won't he?

Governor Romney continues to keep the political world guessing about his future plans.

He's been testing the waters for a possible presidential bid in 2008 and has yet to say whether he'll be a candidate for re-election in Massachusetts next year.

Romney is scheduled to be in New York City tonight for a monthly gathering of high-powered conservative Republicans, known as the "Monday Meeting." The Boston Globe reports that Wall Street heavyweights and representatives of top New York law firms will be among those on hand, as will former G-O-P presidential candidate Steve Forbes.
Earlier Monday, Romney will speak at a luncheon sponsored by the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005 9:21:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers:

Re: “Governor [Romney] leases pricey office at top of Hancock Tower” (September 15, 2005, The Boston Globe): Please read the following quotes.

“…[Massachusetts Governor Mitt] Romney will not make public what he is paying to rent the 1,354-square-foot space [on the top floor of the Hancock Tower] from the insurance company [Manulife Financial Corp. of Toronto, Canada], which has regular business before the state [of Massachusetts]. The governor will pay for it with personal funds…

“…[It is estimated that Governor] Romney will be paying more than $75,000 a year in rent [unless her received a special discount]…

I dissent against Governor Mitt Romney’s decision to lease this aristocratic office space for the following reasons:

(1) The average citizen of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will not be able to visit Governor Romney at this space. The structure of this office space is to cater to the very rich, both statewide and nationally, which is unfair to the vast majority of the citizenry. This shows Governor Romney to be both elitist and superior.

(2) The insurance company Governor Romney is dealing with has regular business before the state government. This is a BLATANT conflict of interest by the Governor.

(3) Governor Romney has a job to do, which is to govern the state of Massachusetts. The state government has so many problems that are not being sufficiently addressed by the Governor, among others, which include:

(a) The Big Dig! The Big Dig is the single most expensive and wasteful public works project in the history of the U.S.A.! The Big Dig was, is and will be managed by the Governor and State Legislature, which since 1997 delegated their authority, but not responsibility, to the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. The Big Dig, under the MTA has seen cost overruns of over $2 Billion! The Big Dig is structurally unsound in the City of Boston’s North End and South End where the tunnel runs 90 feet below ground in both places! The leaks and structural unsoundness of the Big Dig may someday lead to the deaths of motorists inside of the Big Dig. THE TIME IS NOW TO FIX THESE STRUCTURAL PROBLEMS!

(b) Western Massachusetts! When big financial companies, such as banks and insurance companies, want a piece of Massachusetts’ business, they always cite the rich suburbs outside of Boston, which are called golf course and corporate communities. Homes in these suburbs cost between $500,000 & $1,000,000. The average family can’t buy into these wealthy communities. Then, you have Western Massachusetts, where I was born and raised. The inequity of power and wealth from the east to the west is enormous. Moreover, in Eastern Massachusetts, you have very poor inner cities such as Lawrence and Lowell. Moreover, there is the isolation of Cape Cod from the rest of the state, among other issues. Shouldn’t state government leaders like Mitt Romney be investing more in the poorer cities and regions of the Commonwealth? The answer is yes, but the reality is no. Governor Romney is investing in the big insurance companies and banks, and the result will be their investments in Mitt Romney’s political future. Romney is NOT an equitable leader!

(c) Health insurance. You hear your state government leaders give LIP SERVICE to expanding health insurance, but they don’t do anything about it. Instead of Governor Romney giving his time to the super-rich and corporate elite, he should be covering every citizen with quality healthcare insurance. THE RANKS OF THE UNINSURED KEEP GROWING LARGER AND LARGER EVERY YEAR!

(d) Public Education. Unless you live in a million dollar home in a rich Boston metro area regional suburb, your child is not receiving the best public education the state has to offer. While Romney is associating himself with the super-rich and corporate elite, the average family is receiving a substandard public education.

(e) Aid to municipalities. Since the Governor took office, cities and towns have received less and less state funds while their costs have dramatically risen out of control. My friendship with Mayor Jim Ruberto of Pittsfield, my native hometown, has allowed me to see that he is dealing with shrinking state revenues in comparison with higher costs with healthcare, public schools and pension obligations, among other areas. Pittsfield, Massachusetts has a good Mayor, but an inequitable Governor! If Mayor Ruberto was a Town Manager of a rich Boston metro area regional suburb, he would have more revenues than costs, and his excess revenues would be investments in better schools, healthcare for employees, and municipal services. Instead, the poor communities, such as the one that Mayor Ruberto is managing, are subsidizing sunk of fixed costs with little to no money for public investments in public and business resources. It is just so unfair and unconscionable to see Mayor Ruberto with so little positive choices for Pittsfield when all that the Governor and the Legislature need to do is to appropriate more money to his beautiful city.

The list goes on and on. Governor Romney is wrong to use Massachusetts as a stepping-stone to higher office while being negligent to the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts and her beautiful and promising cities and towns!

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

Thursday, September 15, 2005 1:45:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Wiretap mosques, Romney suggests
Pushes gathering of intelligence

By Scott Helman, Globe Staff | September 15, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Governor Mitt Romney raised the prospect of wiretapping mosques and conducting surveillance of foreign students in Massachusetts, as he issued a broad call yesterday for the federal government to devote far more money and attention to domestic intelligence gathering.

In remarks that caused alarm among civil libertarians and advocates for immigrants rights, Romney said in a speech to the Heritage Foundation that the United States needs to radically rethink how it guards itself against terrorism.

''How many individuals are coming to our state and going to those institutions who have come from terrorist-sponsored states?" he said, referring to foreign students who attend universities in Massachusetts. ''Do we know where they are? Are we tracking them?"

''How about people who are in settings -- mosques, for instance -- that may be teaching doctrines of hate and terror," Romney continued. ''Are we monitoring that? Are we wiretapping? Are we following what's going on?"

As he ponders a potential run for president in 2008, Romney has positioned himself as a homeland security expert: He sits on a federal homeland security advisory council, is active on the issue with the National Governors Association, and repeatedly speaks about the lessons the country has learned from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and, more recently, from Hurricane Katrina.

Romney, who referred to himself yesterday as ''red-state folk," has also struck more conservative postures on social issues that may alienate voters in Massachusetts but endear him to the Republican electorate nationwide; his tough talk on antiterrorism measures could also earn him support among conservatives.

His latest message is that the United States needs to shift its focus from response to prevention: Instead of spending billions on training and equipment to react to an attack, he argues, the country ought to work on stopping one.

''It is virtually impossible to have a homeland security system based upon the principles only of protecting key assets and response," he told an audience of about 100. ''The key to a multilayered strategy begins with effective prevention, and, for me, prevention begins with intelligence and counterterror activity."

But that activity is deeply troubling to civil rights groups. Ali Noorani, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrants and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, called the methods Romney suggested misguided and ineffective. Tracking people based on their ethnicity, he said, will only sow resentment among immigrant communities and prevent their cooperation with authorities.

''Blanket eavesdropping and blanket profiling only erodes the safety and security of our country," Noorani said. ''People who really know what national security is and what intelligence is realize that we need to build trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities."

Elyes Yaich, president of the Islamic Society of Northeastern University, said that foreign students, especially those from Islamic countries, already face unfair scrutiny coming to the United States and that subjecting them to specialized monitoring would further invade their right to privacy.

''It's something that shouldn't happen," Yaich said. ''If they're going to do surveillance, why not do it for synagogues and churches, too?"

Nancy Murray, director of education for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, said international students are already forced to submit personal data to a federal database designed to let the government closely track them. Keeping closer tabs would only cause a greater chilling effect on scholars coming here from other countries.

''Now they're beginning to think, 'Well, why don't we just go somewhere else?' " Murray said. ''We are really going to fall behind. It's very shortsighted."

Asked to respond to that criticism, Romney spokeswoman Julie Teer said last night that the governor has a ''realistic view" of what it takes to fight terrorism.

''The governor believes we can strike a balance between what is necessary to protect our homeland while respecting individual freedom and liberty," Teer said.

Romney said he believes that both state and federal governments have a role in intelligence-gathering. It is the FBI's job to do wiretapping and surveillance, he said, but Massachusetts has a responsibility to collect any useful information it can.

Central to that is a facility opened last year at the State Police headquarters in Framingham designed to be the clearinghouse for a variety of intelligence gathered in the state. At the facility, which state officials call ''the fusion center," analysts armed with tips and information from residents, police, water-meter readers, and others, will pore through the data, look for patterns, and contact Washington about anything noteworthy.

Romney wants to see every state have such a system, which allows it to easily send intelligence to Washington and easily get intelligence back.

''It's the state's responsibility to figure out how to gather that information and fuse it together . . . to determine where the real threats exist," Romney said.

The ACLU has been critical of the fusion center. The group has asked whether collecting loads of data, much of which is sure to prove useless, is the most effective way to prevent a terrorist attack.

''It just seems like we're getting more and more driven by the need to fight the war on terrorism in a very counterproductive way," Murray said.

Romney stressed in his address at the Heritage Foundation that the country's antiterrorism and military operations have to be ''nimble, agile, and fast-moving." He said the distribution of antiterrorism money after 9/11 was haphazard and ineffective.

Cities and towns in Massachusetts and nationwide seized the opportunity to buy new fire trucks and unnecessary equipment, he said. ''It was everybody grabbing money as fast as we could."

If the response to Hurricane Katrina was any indication, the extra funds did not appear to have helped, he said.

Romney was one of the first high-profile Republicans to criticize the federal government's response to the hurricane, calling it ''an embarrassment." But in the two weeks since, he has reserved most of his criticism for state and local governments, in particular Louisiana's Democratic governor, Kathleen Blanco.

Yesterday, Romney did not criticize Blanco by name, though he did so implicitly a few times. At one point, he said that one clear failure in the response to Katrina was a lack of ''fast-moving decision-making and clear authority." He said there would be no such leadership vacuum if a disaster hit Massachusetts.

''In my state, it's me," he said. ''The governor's in charge. I got it."

Answering a question yesterday about the National Guard, Romney said he believes there is no need for a military draft, calling it ''totally unnecessary."

The Heritage audience was highly receptive to Romney yesterday, giving him a rousing welcome and lengthy applause as he concluded his remarks. The foundation promotes study of issues important to conservatives.

Friday, September 16, 2005 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

GLOBE EDITORIAL

Romney's slip

September 16, 2005

TO MORE THAN a billion Muslims around the world, mosques are centers of prayer and religious instruction. They should not be casually mentioned as targets for law enforcement wiretapping, as Governor Romney did this week.

Romney was speaking at the Heritage Foundation, in his capacity of governor, on the topic ''Homeland Security: Status of Federal, State, and Local Efforts." He also was auditioning before a Washington audience for a potential national candidacy. A would-be president should know better than to slight Muslims, a vital foreign policy constituency.

Romney made the remark as he discussed his reactions to the Sept. 11 attacks. ''Prevention begins with intelligence . . . How about people in settings, mosques for instance, that maybe are teaching doctrines of hate, are we monitoring that, wiretapping . . . ?"

Romney said he concluded this kind of intelligence gathering is a federal responsibility. In the absence of evidence that mosques are terrorist havens in the United States, government officials need to avoid suggesting these revered institutions are targets of surveillance. And federal agents should not wiretap any one without a court order based on strong suspicion of wrongdoing.

Romney also mentioned his fears about foreign students in the 120 colleges and universities of Massachusetts who come from terrorist-sponsoring states. ''Are we tracking them?" he asked. Again he concluded that this is a federal responsibility. Few students come from those few nations clearly linked to terrorists. Students from friendly nations such as Saudi Arabia, with influential extremist elements, need to be treated as potential allies and intelligence sources unless they show themselves to be adversaries.

Romney said he did conclude after the Sept. 11 attacks that the state should establish a ''fusion center" to collate information coming from ''lot of eyes and ears . . . the private sector, local police departments, water and meter readers . . . and send it to Washington." The center opened last year. Let's hope no one is putting credence in uncorroborated tips from private citizens. But his statement shows a danger of the initial reaction to the Sept. 11 attacks: the accumulation of vast amounts of information that can harm innocent people without doing anything to prevent terrorism.

Romney backtracked on his statements yesterday. He would have done better to focus on the part of his speech in which, drawing on his business experience, he stressed the importance of analysis and research. These should be based on solid intelligence. In terrorism investigations such intelligence often comes from Muslim sources. Political leaders need to avoid giving offense to the very people who can help them prevent an atrocity.

Friday, September 16, 2005 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

State shelved critique of tax credit

Healey husband gained from plan

By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff |

September 16, 2005

Governor Mitt Romney's tax agency last year shelved a sharply critical report on an economic development program for ''blighted" properties that had awarded a $1 million tax credit to a wealthy company headed by Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey's husband.

The commissioner of the Department of Revenue, Alan LeBovidge, filed the nine-page report with the Legislature on Oct. 1.

But LeBovidge unexpectedly withdrew it five days later, saying in a letter that he had ''inadvertently presented" what he described as ''a draft document."

The Department of Revenue report, which was made available to the Globe, may present a political problem for Kerry Healey as she prepares for a possible campaign for governor in 2006.

Since May, Healey's husband, Sean M. Healey, has netted $13 million by cashing in stock options in his firm, Affiliated Managers Group Inc. The money is widely expected to help finance his wife's potential campaign.

The Department of Revenue report confirmed many of the criticisms outlined last year by Inspector General Gregory Sullivan, who said the tax credits, including those to Affiliated Managers Group, had been ''handed out as favors" to companies and should be returned to the state.

The Department of Revenue report did not single out Healey's company, but questioned whether the credits should go to developers of individual parcels, such as the one developed by Healey's firm.

It said the tax credits are meant to encourage development of entire neighborhoods or regions that are designated as blighted or decadent.

Nothing in the department's report indicated that it was a draft, despite LeBovidge's assertion.

In an interview, LeBovidge said that staff members of Romney's Executive Office of Economic Affairs, which oversees the tax credit program, had contacted his office after he submitted the report in October. But he insisted that he had not been not pressured by superiors in the administration to pull back the report.

''They talked to my staff," LeBovidge said, declining to identify who contacted him.

He said that they did not object to his critical conclusions, but that they wanted a broader discussion of reforming the tax credit program. ''They were not concerned with what we were doing, but the legislation was too cumbersome," he said.

Affiliated Managers Group, an asset management firm that manages billions of dollars, received a $1-million tax credit for developing a single, 88-acre estate in Beverly's Prides Crossing neighborhood as its headquarters. The tax credit was awarded two years before Kerry Healey became lieutenant governor.

Sean Healey is president and chief executive officer of the firm. The chief financial officer and executive vice president is Darrell W. Crate, whom Romney picked as chairman of the state Republican Party in 2003. Governor William F. Weld, who created the tax incentive program in 1993, sat on the Affiliated Managers Group board from 1998 to 2004.

In an interview, Crate strongly defended the Affiliated Managers Group's tax credit, saying that it had been awarded in ''full compliance of the law" and that it had generated a significant number of jobs in Beverly. He also said the availability of the tax credit figured into the company's decision to relocate to the parcel.

''This swayed us," he said. ''It was part of the constellation of factors that went into our decision."

Crate also rejected Sullivan's demand that the company return the tax credit. He said that political connections had played no role in the administration's dismissal of the inspector general's call for a reimbursement of the tax credit or the delay of the Department of Revenue report.

''There is no reason we should be unfairly penalized because we are in public service," Crate said.

Through an aide, Kerry Healey declined last week to respond to Sullivan's demands that the state seek a return of the $1 million tax credit. The aide indicated that Healey was waiting for the final Department of Revenue report.

''We do not have any comment until the final report is issued in the next couple of weeks," said Julie Teer, the Romney administration's press secretary.

A month after Sullivan's report, the state Economic Assistance Coordinating Council issued a spirited defense of the project, asserting that Sullivan's report contained ''inaccurate, incomplete, and misleading information" and that he had ''unfairly and without factual and legal support" criticized the Affiliated Managers Group project and a separate tax credit to Manulife, in South Boston's Seaport district.

That state report called the Affiliated Managers Group project an ''unqualified success."

Nonetheless, Sullivan renewed his call for the Department of Revenue to revoke $10.5 million in ''questionable" credits.

''The report that LeBovidge submitted made it clear that these are illegal tax breaks and the money should be paid back," said Sullivan, who added that he had not seen the report until the Globe asked him about the findings.

A key component of the program is a 5 percent state corporate tax credit, which Affiliated Managers Group received. It also got a property tax break from Beverly.

Based on the company's application and the city of Beverly's support, the state's Economic Assistance Coordinating Council had declared the estate a decadent area, although it is in one of the state's wealthiest neighborhoods. It had been owned by the late William Loeb, the publisher of the Union Leader of Manchester. His mansion burned down in 1987; the land has been vacant since.

The recently discovered Department of Revenue report agreed with Sullivan's very sharp criticism that certain tax credit projects do not meet the legal criteria for the program, designed to attract firms to locate in an ''open blighted area" or a ''distressed area" that cannot be developed without tax incentives.

Seizing on the practice of giving tax breaks to developers of individual parcels, the Department of Revenue report said: ''It is not clear that [a parcel-specific] designation is acting as an incentive to attract development."

It said a designation should include at least several properties, to meet the intent of the law. The report states further that a parcel-specific designation ''may instead be a benefit that a developer seeks when it already has a specific parcel and project in mind." Affiliated Managers Group was well into completing its development in 2001 when it got its tax credit.

LeBovidge told the Globe this month that the Revenue Department would release a final report on the tax credit program shortly. Last Nov. 9, he told legislators that it would be ready in six to nine months; that deadline passed last month. LeBovidge said his agency received an extension of time from the Legislature because more time was needed to work on the study.

Renee Fry, undersecretary of economic development and cochairwoman of the economic council administering the tax credit program, did not reply directly when asked whether she or others in her office were aware of the initial report and if any staff members had contacted the Department of Revenue about it.

''All I know is that we are still waiting for that report," Fry said. Fry was not on the Economic Assistance Coordinating Council when the tax credit was given to Affiliated Managers Group under the administration of Acting Governor Jane Swift.

''This project is a success story," Fry said. ''As of June 30, 2004, it created 51 jobs, 21 more than the company had projected. The project has already exceeded its job commitment by 70 percent in just three years."

Friday, September 16, 2005 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

washingtonpost.com

Next, Massachusetts

Friday, September 16, 2005; A30

FOR THE SECOND time in as many weeks, a state legislature has bucked the ugly trend of writing discrimination against gays into state law. Last week, the California Assembly voted to allow same-sex marriage. This week, lawmakers in Massachusetts decisively rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn the state's Supreme Judicial Court decision acknowledging gay marriage rights. The lopsided vote, 157 to 39, provides a kind of backhanded legislative validation of the court's ruling, which had been much derided for usurping the legislative function. Lawmakers have not voted to create same-sex-marriage rights, but they have decided not to take them away. The vote shows that as people grow used to gay marriages, which have been taking place in Massachusetts for more than a year, their discomfort -- and the political impetus for banning them -- diminishes.

The vote certainly overstates support for same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, for the fiercest opponents of gay marriage also opposed the specific amendment under consideration. The amendment would replace full marriage equality with civil unions, and some opponents have thrown their support instead behind a proposal not to recognize same-sex relationships at all. Still, the tide is clearly turning, and minds are changing. Only last year, after all, the Massachusetts legislature passed this amendment. This year, even excluding those who voted against it because they favor something harsher, a clear majority opposed it on the grounds that they affirmatively support marriage equality.

Work remains to be done. Under the Massachusetts constitution, lawmakers are likely to confront the more draconian version of the constitutional amendment, and, even with relatively scant legislative support, it could go before the voters in 2008. But public opinion is moving in the right direction, and the reason is not hard to discern: Since the high court's ruling went into effect, a lot of couples have tied the knot in Massachusetts, and, somehow, the sun has continued to rise in the east. Many people are realizing that it costs heterosexual marriage nothing for same-sex marriage also to exist. The longer people have to absorb that lesson, the more support for banning marriages between committed couples is likely to erode.

Friday, September 16, 2005 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Lawmakers seek to crack down on school bullies

By Erik Arvidson

Saturday, September 17

Transcript Statehouse Bureau

BOSTON — State lawmakers want to get tough on schoolyard and classroom bullies, and have proposed that the state mandate schools to adopt policies that create consequences for bullies.

State Sen. Jarrett T. Barrios, D-Cambridge, wants schools to take a more direct approach to confronting bullying among students. He has proposed legislation re-quiring schools to collect data, define bullying in the student manual, and adopt specific disciplinary measures for bullies.

"Bullying can become a gateway to more negative and more violent activities," Barrios told the Legislature's Education Committee, which is reviewing the bill. "Bullying ruins the school experience of victims."

Barrios said that many school districts currently "have refused to or are somehow are unable to respond to violence."

Supporters say that bullying often leads to poor academic performance by both the victims and aggressors, and that schools often trivialize the complaints of students who have been targeted.

"The issue of bullying is largely a hidden drama. Children are afraid to report it," said Dr. Elizabeth Englander, a psychologist and director of the Massachusetts Aggression-Reduction Partnership at Bridgewater State College. "Typically, schools have no set policy for what to do when a bully report comes in."

However, critics said that the legislation could lead to a "slippery slope" in which many other types of behaviors, such as a student giggling at a peer, would be considered bullying.

"Almost anything has the potential to be defined as bullying, including raising an eyebrow," said Nan Stein, a senior research scientist at Wellesley College.

She added that in some cases, a school could determine that an incident was bullying when it could be more serious, such as sexual harassment.

Michael Gregory, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Advocates for Children, said bullying in schools is part of a larger societal problem, in which the bullies are often victims of violence at home. He said the bill doesn't address "the underlying causes of bullying," and that often it's the overall school climate that's the problem.

"Often, these children have not been taught the skills they need to cope with a traumatic experience," Gregory said.

Lowell School Superintendent Karla Brooks Baehr said she did not think a mandated state policy to deal with bullying would address the problem.

"It's hard work with the school staff in cooperation with parents, teaching social and citizenship skills. Families need to be involved in the solution. We also have to have effective approaches to teaching kids how to resist bullying, and how to confront classmates who are bullying," Baehr said.

State Sen. Robert A. Antonioni, D-Leominster, the Senate chairman of the Education Committee, said he'd likely support legislation to create a special commission which would conduct a study of bullying and talk to experts.

"It doesn't do a whole heck of a lot to tell districts they've got to have a policy without giving them some guidance and some best practices. Otherwise, we're trying to create a feel-good thing without any real impact," Antonioni said.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 9:18:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Re: BOSLEY's HYPOCRISY!

Dear Berkshire Bloggers:

Why is State Representative Dan Bosley, who is the Chair of the House Economic Development Committee, defeating the push to bring thousands of slot machines to the state's horse and dog tracks when the state is already running a very lucrative lottery business enterprise that exploits the disadvantaged?

Gambling, including state lotteries, is just a regressive tax on poor people. Why does not Dan Bosley stand up for the poor by also opposing the state lottery, too?

The Answer to all of Dan Bosley’s hypocritical riddles is MONEY! Dan Bosley wants big campaign dollars to keep rolling into his coffers. A former-Speaker Tom Finneran loyalist, State House insider and power broker, Dan Bosley is bought and paid for by big business and government! What a shame!

-Jonathan A. Melle
30 Hanover St., Apt. # 209
Manchester, NH 03101-2227
Home-(603) 232-5538

All bets off on casino, slot machine bills in House

By Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press Writer | September 28, 2005

BOSTON --The push to bring thousands of slot machines to the state's horse and dog tracks seems headed for defeat, the chairman of a key House committee said Wednesday.
Owners and workers at the tracks say the extra slot machine revenue is crucial to save the struggling industry, and could bring in an extra $500 million in tax dollars.
But critics, including Rep. Daniel Bosley, D-North Adams, say slot machines and casinos are fiscally dubious and socially costly.
Bosley, chairman of the House Economic Development Committee, is charged with reviewing the slot machine and casino bills. He said he didn't think any of the bills would win the backing of the committee.
"I have never had anyone come off the street, just John Q. Public, who has come to my hearing and said 'I don't really have a horse in this race, but I want casinos in Massachusetts,'" Bosley said. "I don't think the House is going to vote for it."
Gov. Mitt Romney said he is also opposed to slot machines and casinos.
Despite the opposition, gambling supporters packed a Statehouse hearing room to plead for slot machines, casinos and an extension of the state's simulcasting law which allows race tracks to broadcast races from other tracks.
Jim Hardy has owned and trained race horses for 25 years, but the North Attleborough resident, who races his horses at the Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville, said he's worried about the future of the industry.
Hardy said the racing profits have dropped even as the cost to feed and care for a horse has steadily increased.
"A lot of people have gotten out of the business," he said.
State Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein, D-Revere, said the state's four race tracks are more than just entertainment. Reinstein, whose district includes Suffolk Downs and Wonderland Greyhound Park, said thousands of people have relied on the tracks to make a living -- including herself.
"Working at Wonderland helped me pay for college," she said. "We should not be in the business of destroying lives and shutting down businesses."
Reinstein was speaking before a packed hearing by the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee. There were no bills about slot machines or casinos on the agenda, but the committee said it would hear testimony on the gaming industry.
Bosley said he would hold a hearing on slot machines and casinos in late October.
Critics say there are hidden costs associated with slot machines and casinos -- including the toll they take on those who may become addicted to gambling.
Bob Breen, head of the Rhode Island Gambling Treatment Program, said lawmakers have to ask themselves if they are willing to prey on those vulnerable to the promise of quick money.
"The message is we don't care if you lose the rent money in a casino, we just want to you to lose it in our casino," he said.
Gambling foes are also not convinced that casinos and slot machines will produce the promised tax windfall. Some of that will come at the cost of shutting down smaller, local businesses. The rest could be absorbed by the cost of treating those who become addicted to gambling.
"There's no money for us to make," Bosley said. "The numbers just aren't there."
But for those who rely on the tracks, the threat of losing their livelihood is a real cost, they say. About 4,000 rely on the tracks for their jobs, supporters said.
"I would ask everyone here to think about the social cost of everyone who will lose a job," said Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, whose district includes the Raynham-Taunton track in Raynham.

Web Link: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2005/09/28/all_bets_off_on_casino_slot_machine_bills_in_house/

For Publication

Wednesday, September 28, 2005 7:21:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Re: In concurrence with Rep. Bosley

October 6, 2005

Dear Berkshire Bloggers:

State Representative Dan Bosley, D-North Adams, Mass., is one of the most interesting yet unethical politicians I have ever witnessed on a first-hand basis. While I don’t at all understand Bosley’s skewed vision of big government, and I find myself dissenting against many of his top-down bureaucratic approaches to government, I also find myself concurring with many of his choices for political candidates and heartfelt views on helping the disadvantaged and middle class. If there is one politician I most identify with in terms of public policy choices, it is Dan Bosley. However, that does not mean that I at all understand his points of views. I do, however, find myself agreeing with the outcomes of his government work much more than his ethics or lack thereof.

On future presidential candidate / Governor Mitt Romney’s continual call for lowering taxes, Bosley is right on with his look at the big picture. Bosley opposes the tax rollback for good reason, which is that it would hurt the poor and middle class communities that he represents. Bosley, however, does not include the fact of the Big Dig in his explanation for not lowering taxes. Because of the Big Dig, which is the most expensive and wasteful public works project in the history of the U.S.A., Massachusetts is among the highest debtor states in the nation. Since the colossal Big Dig cost overruns, the Legislature has raised many revenues by borrowing, and now a tax cut is unsound for this very reason more so than any other. Instead of addressing the realities of the Big Dig, Bosley is dishonest by defending the status quo in the Legislature by only opposing Romney’s tax cut proposal instead of calling for higher state revenues via an increase in the state’s income tax. The only way Bosley and the Legislature can keep Massachusetts solvent is eventually raise state income taxes. Bosley ethics are dishonest, but his outcomes mostly make sense. I am in concurrence with Rep. Bosley’s opposition to Governor Romney’s call to cut state income taxes.

-Jonathan A. Melle

Cited:

The Berkshire Eagle

House to debate economic bill today

By Rebecca Deusser, Eagle Boston Bureau

October 6, 2005

BOSTON —… State Rep. Daniel Bosley, D-North Adams, also opposes the tax roll back. …

Thursday, October 06, 2005 3:57:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Cellucci memoir isn't a tell-all
Former governor, US ambassador offers some political revelations

By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff | October 7, 2005

In a just-released book, former governor Paul Cellucci gives a stinging rebuke to his onetime political protege, former acting governor Jane Swift, for firing Cellucci confidante Virginia Buckingham as executive director of the Massachusetts Port Authority after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

It is the first public display of anger from Cellucci at the removal of Buckingham, whom he appointed to the Massport post in 1999. Buckingham's supporters said then that she was being scapegoated.

''I was . . . quite surprised and very disappointed by Governor Swift's lack of leadership after 9/11 when she played politics and forced Buckingham to step down as CEO of Massport and Logan Airport," Cellucci writes in ''Unquiet Diplomacy," which mostly focuses on his four years as US ambassador to Canada.

Cellucci's 230-page memoir lacks a flair for language but offers some gossipy gems for political junkies and personal observations about well-known figures with whom Cellucci interacted. Among them are:

Cellucci writes that he was ''quite surprised" when Supreme Judicial Court Justice Judith Cowin sided with the majority in the 4-to-3 decision in 2003 that legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. He said that he believed after interviewing her before her appointment to the court that she would not dictate social policy from the bench.

Still, Cellucci, who has been a Bush family political insider for years, appeared to take satisfaction that the gay marriage decision played what he called a key role in the defeat of Senator John F. Kerry in the 2004 presidential election.

Cellucci reveals how he landed his ambassadorial job, a slightly different version from his official line that President Bush asked him to serve in his administration. In fact, Cellucci aggressively pursued the job. With the Florida votes still being recounted in 2000 and the presidential election hanging in the balance, Cellucci first made a strong pitch in a telephone call to Bush that he wanted the appointment as US ambassador to Canada.

Bush, said Cellucci, said that the two would have to ''find something that was good for him and good for me."

''I think I have something," Cellucci said. ''I would like to be appointed the United States Ambassador to Canada."

Cellucci writes that he made another pitch for the job several weeks later, when he and other Republican governors visited the then president-elect at his Texas ranch. Bush was noncommittal, but at the Jan. 20 inauguration, the president told him he had the appointment.

Cellucci, who resigned his diplomatic post last spring and now works for the Canadian firm Magna Entertainment Corp, North America's largest owner and operator of horse racetracks and off-track betting facilities, has kind words for James Kerasiotes, the former Massachusetts Turnpike Authority chairman, whom he fired in a bitter frenzy over Big Dig cost overruns in early 2000. He said Kerasiotes would be remembered as the ''The Builder of the Big Dig."

These days, Cellucci and Swift appear cordial but not close. Cellucci is scheduled to appear and serve as one of two guest speakers Oct. 24 at the State House where Swift is unveiling her official portrait.

Cellucci had selected Swift to be his lieutenant governor running mate in 1998. Swift is also hosting an Oct. 19 reception at her house in Williamstown for Cellucci, who is donating part of his campaign funds to her favorite project, the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams.

Yesterday Swift expressed no bitterness over the book's criticism of her firing of Buckingham.

''The weeks and months after the Sept. 11 attacks were challenging times when we overhauled public safety and transportation systems to meet the new reality of the terrorist threat," she said in a statement sent to the Globe. ''While Paul and I had a personal disagreement over Ginny's resignation, I agreed with Ginny's statement at the time that it was in the best interest of Massport."

The first two chapters of the book, published by Key Porter Books, is a recounting of Cellucci's early life and his State House years, first as lieutenant governor under Governor William F. Weld and later as governor. He became acting governor in July 1997 and then won a four-year term in 1998. He resigned in April 2001, when Bush appointed him to the diplomatic post in Ottawa.

The only detailed mention of Weld comes in an amusing anecdote which many would say captures the redhead's often laissez-faire style of governing. Cellucci describes a staff meeting at a time when the state was facing an approaching blizzard. One aide told Weld that he would call him at 5 a.m. the next morning to see whether he should declare a state of emergency.

''Governor Weld simply looked up and said, 'Call Paul.' And the next morning at five, I did get a call and I did declare a state of emergency -- while Governor Weld slept comfortably in his Cambridge home," he writes.

But Cellucci holds back on some other details, such as the time when his Massachusetts political pals, who had rallied around the Bush campaigns -- Andy Card, Andrew Natsios, Ron Kaufman and Leon Lombardi -- attended his daughter's wedding at the ambassador's mansion in 2003. ''We all smoked a celebratory cigar that day," Cellucci writes. ''Reflecting on where life had taken each of us, we had a lot to celebrate."

What he didn't reveal: the cigars were Habana Cohibas, a serious contraband in the Bush Administration, and that the straight-laced Natsios, now Bush's USAID director, who is known for his simple and austere lifestyle, was overcome by the strong smoke and fainted flat on his face on the driveway pavement, breaking his jaw, according to two people who attended the gathering.

Friday, October 07, 2005 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Re: In dissent against Sheriff Massimiano's proposed 21% pay raise

Dear Berkshire Bloggers,

Please read the following news article:

http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2005/11/17/senate_oks_big_increase_in_salaries_for_sheriffs/

Please click on the following web link, "Cashing In."

http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2005/11/17/Cashing_in/

As you can see, Berkshire Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., among his 13 counterparts throughout the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts, are in line for substantial pay raises if the State Senate proposal passes into law.

I liken Sheriff Massimiano to an authoritarian bureaucratic leader (such as John Ashcroft) who serves only the powerful for pay offs like receiving a 21% pay raise. When I was interested in running for Berkshire State Senate early in 2004, no one was more intimidating and negative towards me than Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. Repeatedly, Massimiano would not sign my nomination papers at local events. Moreover, Massimiano spoke to me in a very put down tone of voice. On top of that, an employee of his told me that if he helped me in my campaign, Massimiano would fire him.

Massimiano is a hard nosed Sheriff. When the Gt. Barrington 1st time drug offenders were charged, he supported D.A. Capeless' heavy handedness in pursuing a mandatory 2-year jail sentence with no other alternatives on the table.

When Massimiano was on the school committee, he supported Mayor Jim Ruberto in not agreeing to a progressive public teacher union contract. Mayor Ruberto's public teacher union contract now puts increasing liabilities on public educators who teach the city's children how to read, write, add and subtract. Massimiano was a stalwart proponent of Ruberto's disincentives for good teachers to come and teach in Pittsfield.

If I was in the State Legislature, which I am not because I dropped out of the 2004 Democratic Primaries in early-April of 2004 and moved to southern New Hampshire to be with my family, I would have by now proposed the impeachment of Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. from the position of Berkshire Sheriff. Massimiano is intimidating and bullying to citizens who participate in government. Moreover, he is too harsh on first time offenders of nonviolent crimes. Lastly, he is a disservice to the public educators of the community he serves as Chair of the School Committee that now provides incentives for third-rate public educators to stay in Pittsfield, while giving disincentives for good teachers to come and teach in Pittsfield.

What is Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. all about? Read the 11/17/2005 Boston Globe news article and find out.

Please stop the proposed 21% pay raise for Berkshire Sheriff Massimiano and his 13 counterparts throughout the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts!

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

Friday, November 18, 2005 4:59:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

November 30, 2005

Dear Berkshire Bloggers:

Re: “State squabbles over spare cash” (The Berkshire Eagle, November 25, 2005): Public Lotteries are a really bad form of regressive taxation and should be used only to help the most disadvantaged citizens, such as homeless families, uninsured medical patients, malnourished students, and the like.

The following news statement from the above noted Eagle news article is really very unconscionable: “And with the state Lottery posting the best sales in its 33-year history, lawmakers are under increasing pressure to divvy up some of that money to communities.”

The oppressed poor public citizen just does not get it. The uneducated and unaware public consumer of public lottery products does not see the wool being pulled over their eyes. It is analogous to MASS MoCA’s underlying commentary on North Adams, or some of the subversive artwork placed in high visibility areas of Pittsfield. The contemporary art is a complement to the post industrial waste on exhibit in both communities, such as the rotting “GE” buildings or rundown mill housing structures. Much the same, the lottery is really an ivy-league-esque intellectual farce that is really poking fun at the poor guy who voluntarily contributes more of his very finite amount of personal money to the state’s fiscal coffers, while the rich public consumers know that the lottery is really a scam and they now get to contribute less of their less finite amount of personal money to taxes.

Why doesn’t the average person ever see that which is so apparent to me? I am no more intelligent than anyone else. I do, however, take the time to think for myself, and that seems to scare some people, especially the politicians who know just who and how they exploit, instead of serving the same people they are really taking advantage of.

You see, in a democracy, such as in the great United States of America, it is the government that serves the people. By the government, I mean elected and appointed public officials, such as President George W. Bush, Senator John F. Kerry, Representative John W. Olver, State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., State Representative Dan Bosley, Mayor John Barrett III, and the like. When each and every one of these aforementioned elected public officials took their respective oaths of office, they committed themselves to the service of the American people. Anyone of these politicians, among many others, who would believe that the Massachusetts State Lottery’s most recent and historic peak in sales is a good thing for the government should tender their resignation or rewrite the oath of office from one of serving the American people to that of exploiting them.

For shame, state and local government “leaders” of the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts! Please find a more progressive means to raise public revenues than exploiting the poor! And my statement goes for every local, state or federal government public program that is in the business of regressive taxation.

I defend the weak because I am a good man who lives in the spirit of Jesus Christ, who sat with lepers and outcasts, fed the poor and forgave the sinners. I believe in righteousness and good will. I believe that those who are told by governments that they have no rights do indeed have rights. Human Rights are given to humankind by God. We the People means that we are free and equal because God made us free, and from our freedom, we are born equal. Whether one is black or white, man or woman, child or adult or senior, Jewish or Muslim or Christian or any other faith, or any other sociological ascriptions, we are all free and equal, and we all have rights and liberties! I will always speak my good conscience as long as I live!

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 7:35:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers:

I have been reading with surprise the undue praise that all of the sycophantic Berkshire County business and top-down political "leaders" give to Peter Larkin for the state funded middle school computer program in Pittsfield and North Adams when this same miserable failure of a former State Representative from Pittsfield was the sole Legislator responsible for feeding the great City of Springfield, Massachusetts to the wolves! Sure, Larkin has spurred state programs and state investment dollars for the top down city governments of Pittsfield and North Adams, who cast-off free thinkers such as myself, and kiss up to cut-throat politicians such as Peter Larkin, but at what cost? The answer is the children, students, taxpayers, businesses and elderly of Springfield, Massachusetts. We must remember what originally happened to Springfield. The State Legislature was in Informal Session when it was going to pass a feasible bail-out package for the poor City, but then one and only one State Legislator objected to the bail-out package and killed the bill. This led to the Legislature to pass a more restrictive and impractible plan, which is explained in the news article below. FOR SHAME, PETER LARKIN! For Shame, state government leaders who have bailed out the Big Dig many times the cost of what it would take to bail-out the great City of Springfield!

-Jonathan A. Melle

Highlighted Excerpts:

"The City of Springfield, Massachusetts needs at least $20 million more from the state annually to survive....[BUT, Massachusetts Legislative Leaders believe that] Springfield's request for more money is a nonstarter; legislative leaders believe that providing more money would set a bad precedent for other cities in dire financial straits."

My response:
WELL, WHAT ABOUT THE BILLIONS UPON BILLIONS OF DOLLARS THESE SAME LEGISLATORS HAVE BEEN APPROPRIATING IN ORDER FOR THEM TO BAIL OUT THE BIG DIG?

The Boston Globe

Springfield edges toward fiscal abyss

Blame is passed as debts mount

By Stephanie Ebbert, Globe Staff

January 17, 2006

SPRINGFIELD -- Eighteen months after Governor Mitt Romney signed a bailout package to rescue this city, Springfield is teetering close to the edge of bankruptcy, with new estimates that municipal debt could grow to $100 million within six years.

The financial picture worsened last month when a judge ordered Springfield to fund increases for teachers' salaries, which had been frozen in 2003 to avoid layoffs. Officials are now anxiously awaiting the judge's decision on how much back pay the city owes.

If city police and fire unions prevail in similar court challenges, and if the city is also required to pay back wages from more recent years, the debt could climb to $100 million, said Alan LeBovidge, commissioner of the state Department of Revenue and chairman of Springfield Finance Control Board, which was formed to oversee the city's troubled finances.

The situation in the state's third-largest city is bleak. And the bitter blame game among state, city, and union offiicials is casting a pall over Springfield, which has struggled for decades since losing its industrial base. While officials dread the specter of receivership or bankruptcy, some residents are beginning to embrace the prospect, if only to write a decisive ending to this difficult civic drama.

''Just get it over with," said Casey Sorrell, 23, a forklift operator who is frustrated with the current climate and considering leaving. ''To know your city is going broke -- it's time to move out of here. There's no opportunity here."

The battle has become intensely charged as Romney, who created the control board and appointed three members to it, mulls a run for president.

Labor leaders in Springfield suspect the Republican governor is exploiting their city's crisis to impose radical conservative changes they say undermine workers' rights. And they contend that Democratic legislative leaders are content to have Springfield be Romney's problem.

''These political leaders have starved this city into this situation, so they could put forward their Draconian agenda," said Timothy Collins, the president of the Springfield Education Association. ''And the leadership in the Legislature is letting the city falter because they want to give Romney a black eye as he runs for president."

The Romney administration intends this week to develop cost-cutting and revenue-boosting options for the city and submit them to the Legislature. Among the ideas, LeBovidge said, are charging fees for trash disposal; asking nonprofit, nontaxable institutions for payments in lieu of taxes; closing libraries; selling golf courses; and transferring Springfield employees onto the state employees' healthcare plan.

Romney is not yet willing to agree to receivership or bankruptcy, said Secretary Thomas Trimarco of the state's Executive Office for Administration and Finance.

''That's failure, and none of us are involved in this problem to admit to failure," Trimarco said.

The control board is even talking about disbanding Springfield's City Council and School Committee to streamline the control board's decision-making, said LeBovidge, a step the city's mayor says would be highly unpopular.

But none of the alternatives would tackle the entire problem. Wiping out the huge projected debt would require massive layoffs, which would cripple the struggling city, officials say. Timothy Rooke, a city councilor who served a term on the control board last year, estimates that the worst-case scenario in court judgments would require ''apocalyptic" layoffs of 450 teachers and 850 city employees. The city has an estimated 2,500 teachers and 1,620 employees.

Mayor Charles V. Ryan is making a last-ditch appeal to the Legislature, contending that his city needs at least $20 million more from the state annually to survive. Ryan says the control board has done what it could but needs the state's help to finish the job.

Yet spokeswomen for the House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi and Senate President Robert E. Travaglini said last week that Springfield's request for more money is a nonstarter; legislative leaders believe that providing more money would set a bad precedent for other cities in dire financial straits. Springfield has tapped roughly half of the $52 million loan the state approved in 2004. But as 2005 drew to a close, the state halted payments because the latest debt projections made it clear the city would have no hope of meeting its obligations for repayment on time, Trimarco said.

Others question why the control board -- launched by the governor, known for his acumen in turning around businesses and as head of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics -- has been unable to rein in the financial problem.

''We're trying to get to the bottom of that right now," said state Senator Stephen J. Buoniconti, a Democrat who represents parts of Springfield.

He noted that the control board initially focused its efforts on taking on labor unions and trying to rewrite contract provisions, including what he called a ''radical proposal" to tie teachers' raises to their performance; that effort has been bogged down in difficult contract negotiations. Labor leaders reacted angrily to the board's efforts, saying the Romney administration was pouncing on Springfield's problems to experiment with union-busting efforts.

Such suspicions and charges have only increased the animus between the unions and politicians over the cause of the city's problems -- and the potential cures. Teachers have been working without a contract for two years and sued to force the city to pay for contractual salary increases that they say were illegally halted so that the city could cut costs. They blame the city's continuing problems on the intransigence of Romney's appointees on the control board and the Legislature.

But some in local politics say that Springfield had for years been living beyond its means, dishing out contracts that its tax base could not support. ''Unfortunately, with the elected officials in place, some of them lack the leadership and strength to let people know what we can and cannot afford," Rooke said. ''I think everyone wants to be everyone's best friend."

In lieu of a massive bailout, city officials are beseeching legislators to pour more money into existing programs. A state-mandated school busing program, for instance, was once supported with state funds, which locals would like revived. Buoniconti is proposing a ''distressed cities fund" and more money for fixing potholes.

But that won't save the city from its long-term problems -- which some blame on enduring poverty, not mismanagement. The real estate boom of Eastern Massachusetts never reached this city 89 miles west of Boston, where the per capita crime rate far exceeds Boston's. Between the 1990 Census and the 2004 Census update, Springfield's population declined from 157,000 to an estimated 144,000, while the proportion of individuals living in poverty rose from 20 percent to 27 percent.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 2:33:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Former lawmakers take turn at second career of lobbying

By Erik Arvidson, [The North Adams] Transcript Statehouse Bureau

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

BOSTON — When former state representatives Peter J. Larkin and Christopher J. Hodgkins served together in the House, they shared a common interest of ensuring that Berkshire County wasn't overlooked by the politicians in Boston.
In 2005, Larkin and Hodgkins had something else in common: Both men were lobbyists.

Hodgkins, 48, has lobbied the Legislature on behalf of the owners of a Brockton fairgrounds who have been seeking legislative permission to run thoroughbred racing and simultaneous broadcasting of races. Larkin, 52, resigned last January to take a job with a Boston lobbying firm before becoming chief operating officer of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council in Cambridge, which represents companies in the life sciences industry.

Registered lobbyist

Hodgkins last year registered as a lobbyist with the Secretary of State's office, representing George Carney, owner of the Raynham-Taunton Greyhound Park and the Brockton Fair, which was seeking to run thoroughbred racing last summer. "Lobbying is a small part of what I do," Hodgkins said yesterday in an interview. "It's not an integral part of my business and it's not the focus of my company."

Hodgkins said he has started a consulting firm called Berkshire Resources, and his clients include wastewater engineering firms, energy firms, the Silverleaf Resorts, property casualty insurers, and even the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Once known by his colleagues in the Legislature as a scrappy maverick who was not afraid to challenge the leadership of former House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, Hodgkins said he is settling nicely into his new role.

"My days as a warrior are over," Hodgkins said. "I've retired the sword and shield. Right now, I'm a communicator and a facilitator. I do business strategies and crisis management. When a company is in trouble, they call me and I work with folks to try to work things out."

Hodgkins said he has known Carney for about 15 years, and he was approached to do some lobbying work at the Statehouse, where Hodgkins represented the 4th Berkshire District for 20 years. Carney had applied to the state Racing Commission for 20 dates of live thoroughbred racing on dates when Suffolk Downs — currently the only track in Massachusetts that races thoroughbreds — was not running races.

In addition, Carney was pressuring lawmakers to allow him to expand his rights to simulcast races at other tracks at both the Raynham-Taunton track and the Brockton Fair, and to legalize slot machines at the Raynham-Taunton track.

Hodgkins said his lobbying was focused on the thoroughbred racing at the Brockton Fair, and not the simulcasting or slot machines. Hodgkins said his Massachusetts clients are a small part of his business, and many of his clients are national and multinational.

Last year, Hodgkins represented Veolia Water North American its bid to privatize the town of Lee's water and sewer systems, and he took flak from town officials in that role.

He resigned his job of vice president of Veolia last fall, but the company retained him as a consultant. Hodgkins said he recently introduced Olivier Barbaroux, chairman of Dalkia, a large energy services provider to, of all people, Finneran, who now is president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. "I like the private sector. I'm very successful," Hodgkins said. "I help companies negotiate the labyrinth of state and federal bureaucracies. I love dealing with cities and towns across the country. My goal is not to be a lobbyist, but at the same time, nothing is better than having an opportunity to work with your friends."

Politically active

He said he is primarily Boston-based, but he and his wife, Debbie, still own a home in Lee, and he is registered to vote there. Larkin, meanwhile, is not registered as a lobbyist, but he remained politically active in 2005, donating $2,834 to various political figures in Massachusetts.

Among the people he contributed to were Boston Mayor Thomas Menino ($250), Treasurer Timothy Cahill ($125), Boston City Councilor Stephen Murphy ($250), lieutenant governor candidate Andrea Silbert ($500), Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley ($200) and Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley ($150). Larkin could not be reached for comment yesterday, but he said when he took the biotechnology council job last July that he didn't want to primarily be a lobbyist.

However, some political insiders saw the biotechnology council's hiring of both Larkin and Finneran as a bid to strengthen its influence on Beacon Hill, where biotech companies have a stake on legislation pertaining to stem cell research and drug price controls.

Pamela Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, said it's always been a "steady trend" of former lawmakers taking lobbying jobs. "The motivation is money. It's a lucrative business," Wilmot said.

"These are people who know the game, know the players, and have unparalleled access. Connections are a commodity in this culture." She noted that both former speaker Charles Flaherty and David Bartley have had successful careers as lobbyists.

Monday, January 23, 2006 5:58:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

State skims off half of head injury fee

By Rebecca Deusser, [The Berkshire]Eagle Boston Bureau

Thursday, March 09, 2006

BOSTON — The state's general till has been quietly collecting millions from speeders for three years.

The Registry of Motor Vehicles issued 295,059 speeding tickets in 2005, raking in roughly $14.8 million from a little-known $50 "head injury" surcharge. That fee is bumped up to $250 on citations for drunken or reckless drivers.

Half that money goes into the Head Injury Treatment Services Trust Fund — an account set up to pay for services that help head injury victims.

But the rest, upward of $7 million a year, gets funneled into state's general fund, where money can be spent on anything.

"It's the best kept secret in town. ... The ticket says it goes to head injuries, but it's very misleading," said Arlene Korab, executive director of the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts. "The money should be ours."

The Legislature voted to double the fee in 2003, taking half the money for its own spending, as a way to tackle the budget crisis.

Some lawmakers agree, and they say it may be time to make a change.

"Revenues are increasing, and it could be time to relook at (the fee)," said state Rep. Chris Speranzo, D-Pittsfield. "Especially if that's what people believe the money is going to."

The trust fund's ending balance for fiscal 2005 was $7.9 million.

That money goes to the state's head injury program operated by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, along with some additional money from the state budget.

The Legislature level-funded the MRC at roughly $6 million from 1991 until last year, when the commission received $8.2 million.

Korab said at least 2,000 residents with brain injuries are on a waiting list, in spite of that money, to get "quality of life" services in their communities, such as day programs that help patients relearn lost skills or job training.

Roughly 40,000 state residents suffer a traumatic brain injury each year, according to the state Department of Public Health.

Lawmakers backed away from calling the head injury fund fee misleading, because part of the money does go to that account. But others say the fee is a scam.

"We shouldn't have (the fee) in the first place, but if you do, (lawmakers) should be doing what they said they would do," said Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

---

» Other odd fees

Completing official state business usually comes with a price. Gov. Mitt Romney and the Legislature approved hikes for dozens of fees in 2003 rather than raise taxes.

Some new fees were so unpopular lawmakers repealed them, such as a $10 annual charge to get a certificate of blindness and anniversary fees for civil court cases.

Below is a sample of those fee increases that are still in effect:

Court/records fees

Civil case filing: was $160, now $195

Application to change name: was $70, now $150 (plus a $15 surcharge)

Divorce filing: was $140, now $200 (plus a $15 surcharge)

Probate of will: was $70, now $150 (plus a $50 bond and a $15 surcharge)

Copies of birth, death and marriage certificates at the counter of the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics: was $12, now $18

Fees at the Registry of Motor Vehicles

Learner's permit: was $15, now $30

Driver's license renewal: was $33.75, now $40

Lost driver's license: was $15, now $20

Out-of-state driver's license converted to Massachusetts: was $68.75, now $90

Fees for professional licenses

Marriage and family therapist: was $90, now $135

Barber: was 45, now $68

Manicurist: was $38, now $57

Registered nurse and practical nurse: was $60, now $80

Permit for a drug store: was $263, now $351

Certified public accountant (CPA): was $93, now $140

Real estate broker: was $93, now $127

Renewal for lobbyist: was $65, now $1,000

Thursday, March 09, 2006 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Sen. Rosenberg, Reps. Bosley, Pignatelli, Guyer, the News Media, Politicians, & the People, & Berkshire Bloggers:

I am in 100% concurrence with The Boston Globe's Editorial "The wages of poverty" (3/27/06): Massachusetts is NOT a very ethical and equitable place to live if you are a poor single mother working at or near the minimum wage. You, as state Legislators, are all to be credited for your commitment to the state's disadvantaged citizens.

Despite the mean-spiritedness and viciousness Denis Guyer has shown to me over the past two years, I admire his compliments to his single mother for bringing up himself and his siblings as a low-income worker. Please, support the increasing of the minimum wage in the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts so that working single mothers can raise their children with dignity (which is something Denis Guyer should learn to appreciate instead of slandering, sexually harassing, and discriminating against me in front of women and children). Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Jonathan A. Melle

[The Boston] GLOBE EDITORIAL
The wages of poverty
March 27, 2006

MASSACHUSETTS is an expensive state; housing, transportation, fuel, and healthcare all drive up the cost of living. Luckily, Massachusetts is also a wealthy state; the second wealthiest in the nation, with a median income of more than $52,000, or about $25 an hour.
Unless you happen to be making the $6.75 minimum wage in Massachusetts, in which case you are not so lucky.
The idea that a person can be working full time and still be living under the poverty line -- a reality for millions of Americans -- is a national shame. But for workers in wealthy Massachusetts to be earning sub-poverty wages is a sin. Today's minimum wage, which has not been adjusted since 2001, leaves a full-time worker $2,560 below the $16,600 annual poverty line for a family of three.
A bill to raise the minimum wage by $1.50 an hour over two years has been stalled in the Legislature, where discredited old arguments about negative effects on job growth are heard. Earlier this month a House committee watered down the proposal so that the wage would rise by just $1 and, importantly, not be indexed to inflation. Obviously, purchasing power is eroded by inflation. If the minimum wage set in 1968 had been properly indexed it would be $9.23 by now, well above the $8.25 in the original bill.
James Marzilli, the Arlington Democrat who sponsored the original House bill, is right to call the new version ''entirely inadequate." If the committee bill is enacted without indexing, the value of the new wage will already be below the current level by the time it is implemented in 2007. It is hard to see the point of going through this exercise only to have workers fall behind again. Other economic measures society considers important -- Social Security payments, most tax brackets, even the poverty line -- are automatically indexed; why should low-wage workers have to beg for increases every few years?
There is no evidence that the last four increases in the minimum wage led to large job losses. Unemployment has gone up recently in Massachusetts, but the economic sectors most affected by the minimum wage -- hospitality, leisure, and health services -- are growing, and few economists project a reversal due to wage increases.
Contrary to the claims of opponents, the minimum wage is not confined to teenagers with after-school jobs. According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank, 154,000 people in the state are earning less than the proposed $8.25 right now. Another 329,000 would also benefit from an increase because of ripple effects. Many of them are the sole breadwinners in their families, and 59 percent are women.
The poor are forever being lectured about the dignity of work as an alternative to welfare. A state as rich as Massachusetts ought to be able to make work pay.

Friday, March 31, 2006 5:16:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Honorable Representative Dan Bosley:

Your record of hypocrisy in public policy is astonishing. First, you vote both ways on the issue of Clean Elections. Now, you support the state's Lottery, which is a very bad and regressive tax/fee on both the poorest of the poor and most uneducated citizens, but oppose slot machines at the state's 4 racetracks.

What's up? Is or is not GAMBLING good public policy?

Correct me if I am wrong, Rep. Bosley, but I view your voting record on public policy in two parts:

Part One, That which is good for Dan Bosley's political gain (i.e., your long-time support for former-Speaker Finneran),

...and Part Two: That which is good for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' state government fiscal coffers, regardless of what demographic group has the highest burden of paying the taxes and/or fees.

If I am right, then you voted for and then against Clean Elections for political gain with then-Speaker Finneran, and you support the Lottery but oppose slot machines because the state will reach optimal surpluses (profits) by hurting the poorest of the poor and uneducated citizens with this immoral system of regressive taxation/fees.

If I am wrong, then you voted for and then against Clean Elections because you had a high calling to change your mind on only the most principled of reasons, and also you support the Lottery because it helps the state to fund regional districts and municipalities, while slot machines would benefit only private interests.

Rep. Bosley, you can play it either way. You can take the easy way out and continue to put me down and say I am wrong for whatever reasons you will state. You can point to studies and statistics, funding for communities, and the like, to (falsely) justify the Lottery's propaganda machine publications for the ill-informed citizen consumer.

OR, you can put aside the politics and have one ounce of integrity and state once and for all that public lotteries were designed to prey on the poor and uneducated citizens of the state of Massachusetts. ...That the Lottery, just like slot machines, has no net social benefits. ...That the Lottery irreparably hurts the poorest of the poor and is a very bad form of regressive taxation, if not the worst fee or tax in all of state government.

You, Representative Bosley, can stop being such a politician about your very recent defeat of the slot machine measure, and you should own up to your immoral support of the very similar state Lottery!

It is a 50/50 choice, Rep. Bosley, but I have a feeling you're going to hedge your bets.

Sincerely, my best regards, and my friendship,

Jonathan A. Melle

Cited:

"House rejects bill on slot machines", Th., April 06, 2006, AP, The North Adams Transcript Online:

Rep. Daniel Bosley, D-North Adams, said slot machines won't protect racetrack jobs like horse trainers and groomers, won't produce the promised economic windfall for the state, and won't recoup gambling dollars lost to neighboring states with casinos, such as Connecticut.

''We're not going to recreate those jobs,'' he said. ''If it doesn't bring back our money from Connecticut, if it doesn't save the jobs it is purporting to save, we shouldn't do it.'

Thursday, April 06, 2006 7:59:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Kinnaman sets sights on Senate

By Jack Dew, Berkshire Eagle Staff
The Berkshire Eagle

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

PITTSFIELD — Republican Matthew W. Kinnaman, who lost a congressional race in 2002, said yesterday that he will run for the state Senate seat being vacated by Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.

Kinnaman, 45, announced his plans on the steps of City Hall in Pittsfield in front of two dozen supporters. The Lee Republican has never won an elected office, but said he is prepared to raise thousands of dollars and run a vigorous campaign as he tries to reclaim a seat with a long Republican history.

"Politics is not about the party label, it is about the right ideas," Kinnaman said. "It's about the ideas that give families and people who are struggling to get their businesses to grow ... a chance to succeed."

Kinnaman is chairman of the Berkshire County Republican Association and headmaster of Berkshire Christian School in Lenox. He ran against incumbent U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, in 2002, garnering 32 percent of the vote.

He had been publicly considering a run for office since January and initially appeared to be targeting Olver's seat. With Nuciforo stepping aside to run for register in the Middle Berkshire Registry of Deeds, however, Kinnaman has a rare chance at an open seat.

"The people of Berkshire County and Western Massachusetts have the first really good choice they have had in a long time, because an open seat is a democratic opportunity," Kinnaman said.

He pledged to make his campaign "about the people," and to champion the causes of families and small businesses.

Despite the predominance of registered Democrats in the district, the Senate seat was held by Republicans for almost 20 years.

John H. Fitzpatrick, a Stockbridge Republican, wrested the seat from the Democrats in 1973. He was succeeded in 1981 by Peter C. Webber, who passed the baton to Jane Swift in 1991.

When Swift left the seat and became lieutenant governor, Nuciforo won it back for the Democrats in 1997 and has held it since.

Since Swift's tenure, the district appears to have shifted to the left. There are no county Republicans holding statewide office, and Republican Gov. Mitt Romney failed to win a single city or town in the Berkshires in 2002.

The party has been trying to reinvigorate itself, with the Berkshire County Republican Association leading a charge to rebuild its political machinery and organize town committees that could provide a foundation for countywide candidacies.

North Adams Mayor John Barrett III, a Democrat, said the Republican Party is still not large enough or organized enough to win a major election in Berkshire County.

Unlike Fitzpatrick, Webber (to whom Barrett lost in the 1981 Senate race) and Swift, Kinnaman has not been able to campaign across party lines and lacks a countywide machine, Barrett said.

"While (the Senate district) is Democratic in nature, I think the right Republican could win this seat because of the small towns that are out there and are still Republican," Barrett said, but it will take someone more moderate to do it.

Though the party machine may be small, it appears more unified than the Democrats, which could be a boon to Kinnaman.

Peter Giftos, the BCRA's executive director, said he believes other Republican candidates for Senate will drop out, giving Kinnaman a clear path to November while his Democratic rivals compete in a September primary.

Yesterday, Jay Lukkarila of Adams said he will withdraw from the Senate race and instead challenge Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, for state representative. Giftos said other potential candidates have indicated they will do the same.

There may be a half-dozen Democrats in the primary. Getting noticed in such a crowded field could empty the candidates' coffers, and several political observers predict it will cost at least $100,000 to run in the sprawling district that includes all of Berkshire County and parts of Hampshire and Franklin counties.

Kinnaman has proved himself a fundraiser: In his 2002 race against Olver, he raised more than $190,000. He said he is prepared to do the same this year.

"We don't have any faucet we can turn on to get this money. This is going to be grass-roots money. We are going to have to work hard at it," Kinnaman said.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 2:24:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers:

I endorse Matt Kinnaman for State Senator. The following are my reasons:

1) I got to know Matt during Dawn Thompson's 2004 campaign for State Senator. Matt is a very friendly and responsive politician. While I am a Democrat, and Matt is a Republican, we both believe that there is only one true political party: The American People. Matt is able to respectfully disagree with me on my personal and political views, and come to a common ground of agreement on public policy. I really respect that in a person and politician.

2) Matt Kinnaman believes in grassroots causes. Unlike all of the predecessors that the Berkshire Eagle noted in today's news article, Matt does not belong to a political machine. I love to read and watch about the Revolutionary Era Generation of American Political Leaders. Many of our Founding Fathers had differences in opinion, as I noted above between Matt and I, but they were not about political machines and partisan issues at first. Matt's values are very much in line with those of Presidents George Washington and John Adams. In short, Matt believes in the cause of a strong and free United States of America. How can one not support such a candidate for political office?

3) Matt will be a voice of good conscience in Boston for all of his Berkshire constituents. He won't get caught up in machine politics and insider Boston interests like Nuciforo did. Matt will work hard for every resident of Berkshire County to provide quality representation and public services.

I must also dissent against N.A. Mayor Barrett's comments about machine politics. In my longstanding opinion of the man, I believe wholeheartedly that Mayor Barrett is a total disgrace to place the insidious political machine above the needs of the people. It is high time that the people stand up against the insidious political machine and machine politicians like John Barrett III and take back the government for the people! Please support Matt Kinnaman--A GOOD MAN AGAINST the Insidious Political Machine!

Sincerely and In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 2:59:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Healey takes torch
Scorches Democratic rivals at GOP convention

By Glen Johnson, Associated Press
Berkshire Eagle

Sunday, April 30, 2006

LOWELL — Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey attacked her Democratic rivals as she accepted the 2006 Republican gubernatorial nomination yesterday, branding Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly as "a political chameleon" and Deval Patrick as "a committed liberal."

Replacing Gov. Mitt Romney as her party's standard-bearer, Healey told delegates at the Republican State Convention, "The people do not want a yes-man in the governor's office — someone to fill the chair and eagerly sign off on every bad bill or tax increase that hits the desk."

Healey, trying to win election in a state dominated by Democrats, said: "I can promise the majority leadership right now that, if I'm elected, all of the reforms they have resisted — and more — are headed right back to their desk in a Healey administration."

She pledged to fight for tax reductions, an increase from age 16 to 18 for mandatory school attendance and spending 70 cents of every education dollar on classroom instruction.

Healey, who is derided by opponents for her multimillion-dollar fortune and home in ritzy Beverly Farms, displayed some political backbone as she sought to contrast herself with Reilly and Patrick. She did not mention Christopher Gabrieli, the third Democrat running for governor, or Christy Mihos, a former Republican supporter now mounting an independent campaign.

Healey depicted Reilly as a servant of special interests, saying, "I suppose you can get pretty far in politics by following this approach: making all the right insider connections, pandering to all the right groups and waiting in line for your turn. But after a while, that act wears pretty thin."

Turning to Patrick, Healey chastised the former Justice Department official for saying he would refuse to roll back the state's income tax rate from 5.3. percent to 5 percent, while also saying he wanted to "grow" state government.

"I guess you could say that candor from a committed liberal like Deval Patrick is better than the flip-flopping of a political chameleon like Tom Reilly," the lieutenant governor told the delegates.

Both Democrats dismissed the criticism.

"It's pathetic, actually, that all the Republicans can do is mislead voters and attack, because they can't run on Kerry Healey's failed record of lost jobs, lost population and skyrocketing costs for average families," said Reilly spokesman Corey Welford.

Libby DeVecchi, Patrick's spokeswoman, said: "After four years of failed policies from the Romney-Healey administration, we need a leader like Deval Patrick with the vision and the experience to get Massachusetts moving forward again."

Reaching out to political moderates, Healey portrayed the GOP as a necessary check on a Legislature dominated by Democrats. The GOP has employed the theme repeatedly to hold on to the governor's office since 1991.

In his own comments to reporters before he spoke to the delegates, Romney said:

"The commonwealth of Massachusetts would make a huge mistake and a big step backward by not having two parties on Beacon Hill."

Festive music, red, white and blue bunting and anti-Democrat signs greeted the delegates as they assembled in the Tsongas Arena on the banks of the Merrimack River in this one-time mill city.

"Gabrieli, Patrick, Reilly: Putting the 'spend' back in tax-and-spend," read one banner.

Banners also highlighted the ticket of Healey and former Rep. Reed Hillman, a Sturbridge Republican whom Healey tapped to be her running mate and who is the GOP's lone candidate for lieutenant governor.

Besides Healey, Hillman and Romney, Andrew H. Card Jr., the former White House chief of staff, and former U.S. Sen. Edward W. Brooke addressed the delegates. The party gave Card its first Brooke Award, an honor for long-standing commitment to the state GOP.

Brooke, 86, pleaded with the delegates to resurrect the GOP in Massachusetts. "We've got to go back to the grassroots where we started from and rebuild this party," he said.

Card offered a lengthy speech about the importance of defending the Constitution. He also celebrated contributions to the national government from the Massachusetts Republican Party.

Some 2,500 delegates from across Massachusetts attended the convention. The event was largely a pep rally rather than a ratification event, because the relatively weak party fielded only one candidate for most major elective offices.

The only real question confronting the delegates was whether to allow the two candidates vying to be this year's GOP Senate nominee onto the party's September primary ballot.

Kevin Scott, a former Wakefield selectman, and Kenneth Chase, a language teacher from Belmont, both needed the vote of 15 percent of the delegates to qualify for the ballot.

The state also requires them to collect the signatures of 10,000 registered voters.

In a speech to the delegates, Chase attacked Kennedy, saying he wanted to lift the state from "the heavy burden" of the senator's leadership. Scott, a Democrat until five years ago, asked for Republican support as a slide show clipped behind him showing campaign photos.

He said he had been a Democrat "who always voted Republican."

In the end, the delegates endorsed Chase with 54 percent of the vote but Scott also qualified for the primary ballot.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006 1:19:00 PM  
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Thursday, June 29, 2006 12:11:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Honorable State Senator Stan Rosenberg, Honorable State Representative Dan Bosley, & Berkshire Bloggers,

Thank you, Senator Rosenberg and Representative Bosley for passing a state (fiscal year 2007) budget that substantially increases local aid to Massachusetts Cities, Towns and other like entities.

While I have been very critical of your bureaucratic-esque brand of Legislators for about a decade now; since my dad began his campaign for Berkshire County Commissioner in the Spring of 1996: I believe today that you are finally doing the right thing under the almighty Golden Dome on Beacon Hill. Overall, I think your public record for Western Massachusetts and beyond is deficient and your only true successes have been self-service and insider politics. But today is a day that I must pause to say, "Good Job, Stan and Dan, for substantially increasing local aid to the cities and towns!"

My very best regards,

Jonathan A. Melle
7/10/2006

Monday, July 10, 2006 1:11:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Honorable Representative Daniel Bosley:

I read the following news article: "Payback for Slots Guy" by Scott Van Voorhis, Boston Herald Business Reporter dated June 28, 2006. He states that a Gary Piontkowski unsuccessfully lobbied for the state to grant permission for thousands of slot machines at Massachusetts horse and dog tracks, but that you came up with a hack report arguing that the state would lose money regulating the gaming industry. Just like you were a hack bureaucrat by being a loyal supporter of the former corrupt House Speaker Tom Finneran for many consecutive years, the news article points out that you have assumed the same status under the new House Speaker Sal DiMasi. You are the point man on gambling issues in the Massachusetts House and you have the power to make or break public and private proposals on gaming due to being an unethical insider power broker on Beacon Hill. The news article states that you have concluded that the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues from this form of private gaming would be exceeded by the state expenditures dealing with the negative consequences of gambling. Moreover, Dan, you emailed me a propaganda report about how superior the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission is to private gambling establishments when I have debated you on this issue in the recent past.

Well, Bosley, here I go again in my DISSENT against your hypocritical leadership in state government:

#1 - You were a solid supporter of the former House Speaker Tom Finneran, who violated the civil rights of minority citizens with his self-serving redistricting plan and had to resign his post in shame when taken to court for his discriminatory actions. Moreover, you support more of the same top down and closed door leadership by standing by the current insider Speaker, Sal DiMasi. Your choices in leadership shows you to be an insider!

#2 - You took trips to resort locations such as the Caribbean and other vacation spots using all of the special interest money you raise as a Chairman of past and present regulatory committees that public agencies and private businesses must reports to in order to be in compliance with state laws and regulations. You even held a $100 a plate fundraiser at the Pier 4 in Boston when your legislative district in many miles west in the Northern Berkshire region of the Commonwealth. You are a special interest lawmaker who only represents your own pay raises, benefits, compensation, pension, campaign coffers, and the insider politicians who play to your power. When the power of democracy is at issue, Dan Bosley, you are a failure. The people are but a mere pawn in your self-serving grabs for power, privilege and domination as a top down state government insider Boston Pol! Indeed, you are really just a bureaucrat impostering as a Legislator, but you don't fool me at all. Your actions speak louder than any of your facetious words.

#3- You voted for and against Clean Elections. Talk about flip-flops. You rank right up there with so many other phony politicians who speak out of both sides of their mouths. In the end, your final decision to kill Clean Elections after your prior vote to take one of your pay raises by voting for the measure was to please the almighty Finneran. You want to stay powerful so all that you do is please your special interest constituents and House Leadership. That is why you voted for and then against Clean Elections; to take a pay raise and act like you cared about the 1998 referendum of your constituents, and then to please the almighty Finneran who ended up not only killing campaign finance reform efforts, but also discriminating against a vast number of minority citizens by marginalizing their power in his voter redistricting measures. You really love your power, special interest money and playing into the hand of those who bolster your status on Beacon Hill. What a shame!

#4- Your support for the state's Lottery and opposition to the private sector's gambling proposals are nothing short of HYPOCRITICAL and you know if full well. Last year, the news media reported that Massachusetts had record Lottery profits and you did not say a word against it. Bosley, you know what a Lottery is: REGRESSIVE TAXATION or a poor tax. Now, you and your fellow Legislators are going to increase local aid to cities and towns by almost 8% after 6 years on net cuts to municipalities in local aid by the state Legislature. How did you and your legislative cohorts balance the state's fiscal sheets? On the backs of the cities and towns by 3 straight years of cuts in state aid to local governments from FY02-04 and then paltry 3% increases in local aid funding from FY05-06. Moreover, you raised revenues for this year's nearly 8% increase in state funding for municipalities through the regressive taxation of the state Lottery on the backs of the poor. Lastly, you use the state Lottery's propaganda against competition by private gaming industries to falsely justify your hypocrisy in on the one hand supporting the state's gambling industry but on the other hand opposing the private sector's gambling industry.

IN CLOSING:

Rep. Dan Bosley: Why is it more important for the state to make money than the people you are supposed to be serving?

My very best regards,
Jonathan A. Melle
~Former resident of North Adams, Massachusetts~
7/11/06

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 4:56:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

7-14-2006

Dear Matt Kinnaman & Berkshire
Bloggers,

I still give my 100% endorsement to you, Matt Kinnaman, for the State Senator seat for the Berkshire, Franklin, & Hampshire, Massachusetts Legislative District. The reason why I endorse you is the very misleading point that Ray Warner of the Democratic Party political machine is making in his Letter to the Editor that is pasted below my letter to you. I support your candidacy and dissent against Ray Warner's letter because you, Matt Kinnaman, stand for the American People and not the political machine that has made the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and many of her political subdivisions the biggest examples of political CORRUPTION in the free World.

The real reason why Ray Warner is slamming Margie Ware and praising Chris Hodgkins is because Ware has the support of the incestuous political machine: Mary O'Brien, Sherwood Guernsey II, Lee Harrisson, Joe Engwer (who was Nuciforo's campaign henchman boss), and the like. The insider Democratic Political Machine that has ruined Massachusetts with such high levels of political corruption and incompetency has now marginalized Chris Hodgkins. This makes Hodgkins resentful and retaliatory against his own political party. Hodgkins figures that he will fight Ware's fire with his own fire. BUT, fire is fire, not reform!

You, Matt Kinnaman stand for reform. You have listened to the people of Berkshire County in an attempt to provide real leadership and grassroots advocacy. You, Matt Kinnaman, have my respect and endorsement because you, unlike Ware or Hodgkins, will use your political office and power to represent the people, not yourself or a self-serving and corrupt political machine. I really hope you win and I hope to follow your political career for many years to come. I see such a bright future for you, Matt Kinnaman, in American Politics! Maybe someday you will be our nation's future President.

At times, I also have believed that Pittsfield Mayor Jim Ruberto would make a good future U.S. President, too. But unlike Ruberto, who sometimes seems like a machine politician, you, Matt Kinnaman, truly only want to represent the American People to live up to President Abraham Lincoln's ideal of a Government OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, and FOR THE PEOPLE!

Politicians often forget who they are working for, but there is one good man who will always be there to remind any and all politicians who they work for: The American People. I, Jonathan Alan Melle, will always speak my good conscience for as long as I shall live; Give me Liberty of give me Death! I, Jonathan A. Melle, endorse Matt Kinnaman for State Senator because he believes in serving the American People as an elected public servant in sincere service to the American People.

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle
-----
Hodgkins is easy choice over Ware

Letters

Friday, July 14, 2006

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:-

I remember Chris Hodgkins as a state representative from the Lee area, his hometown. Hodgkins regularly opposed Tom Finneran, the dictatorial boss of the House, knowing full well that he would suffer Finneran's penalties while the Finneran favorites got do-nothing promotions with salary bonuses.

Hodgkins supported the Clean Elections campaign that the voters put into law and he strenuously fought the repeal that was approved with the support of Daniel Bosley, my own state representative, and Andrea Nuciforo, the departing state senator. And Hodgkins regularly ranked at the top in an annual compilation of votes on issues backed by Citizens for Participation in Political Action (CPPAX).

I also remember Margaret Ware, the chairman of the Board of Selectmen , leading Williamstown into what must have been the ugliest and most tumultuous period in our governmental history. Ware and her successor, Charles Schlesinger, fought to keep secret all details of the Department of Public Works labor problems, the David Leja health insurance scandal and the mysterious departure of our town treasurer. After Ware got the secrecy period started, she joined Schlesinger in regular 3 to 2 Selectmen votes that supported our former town manager, Stephen Patch, in his attempts to make all major decisions in executive session.

Hodgkins or Ware? There is no comparison in their qualifications (among five candidates) to be nominated by Democrats on Sept. 19 in the race to succeed Nuciforo. There are only two reasons to choose Ware: You are a woman and will vote for any woman or you are from Williamstown and will support any hometown candidate.

Years ago I remember meeting Hodgkins in some function at the Williams Inn and telling him that I was so impressed with his legislative record that I would be an active volunteer on his behalf if he lived in my district.

I remember Ware mostly from the turmoil that followed my appearance at a Selectmen's meeting to ask about the DPW situation. Ware stonewalled me and that position was kept by the board on 3 to 2 votes until after the final solution. Glenn Drohan, then editor of The Transcript, used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information that he could not get from Town Hall. League of Women Voters officials, including Catherine Yamamoto, then the president, appeared at one Selectmen's meeting to criticize the board's policies, and Anita Barker, a former Selectmen, said, "there is a perception of things being done in secret" and "it appears to the public that a lot of business is being done in executive session." (Transcript, Jan. 26, 1999).

Ware, of course, is a long-time Democratic official. In step with the rest of us? Well, in the last race for governor, town Democrats overwhelmingly supported Robert Reich. Ware presumably was for Steve Grossman — definitely not for Reich. And in political philosophy? At one town Democratic meeting she gave her example of a really good Democrat. It was Anne Skinner, her colleague on the Board of Selectmen in the days of turmoil. But Skinner was not a registered Democrat. She was a Ware Democrat.

No, Hodgkins will have the support of labor and the people who supported the Clean Elections Law and who were disgusted with Tom Finneran and anyone who yielded to his will. He will have my support.

RAY WARNER

Williamstown July 12, 2006

Friday, July 14, 2006 1:53:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Boston Globe & Berkshire Bloggers:

I dissent against The Boston Globe's Editorial, below, entitled, "Springfield's medicine" on 7/16/06. The Globe makes a monthly mockery of the great Western Massachusetts City of Springfield for its municipal mismanagement, corruption and criminal cases that have pushed a once thriving community into insolvency.

The reasons for my dissent against The Boston Globe are:

#1 - THE BIG DIG! What is more mismanaged, corrupt and criminal: The 15+ Billion Dollar Big Dig Public Works Project or the many tens of millions of dollars the City of Springfield is in arrears to the state and bond holders? If I had to choose the worst of the two, I would choose to reform the City of Springfield because at least Springfield is savable while the Big Dig is a lost cause and has been a loser's paradise for over ten sorry years!

#2 - The successive Massachusetts State Legislatures and Governors CUT STATE AID for 3 consecutive years to local governments from FY2002-2004! Meanwhile, these same bureaucratic elected officials voted themselves at least 3 legislative pay raises. It was the state's fiscal mismanagement that put the local government's at risk of insolvency. Unfortunately for Springfield, the state's drastic cuts to local governments sent Springfield into the ground.

#3 - The Boston Globe sits there and points its elitist finger at Western Massachusetts, specifically Springfield, when local governments petition for support and assistance from Boston. BUT, God forbid Boston has similar problems, which it does on a much larger scale than any community outside of the metro region, because the Globe will fail to point its finger at itself and self-examine the roots of Springfield's, et al, problems, which is corrupt and insider Boston Pols!

Lastly, it was none other than the sell-out corporate Pittsfield Pol, Peter J. Larkin, that fed Springfield, Massachusetts to the Wolves by solely blocking a bail out reform package in informal Legislative session in 2003. If anyone is to blame for Springfield's bankruptcy it is none other than PETER J. LARKIN of "Pittsfield", Massachusetts!

Sincerely,
Jonathan A. Melle

[The Boston] GLOBE EDITORIAL
Springfield's medicine
July 16, 2006

DESPITE RESUSCITATION efforts by the Romney administration, some elected officials in the financially-struggling city of Springfield seem eager to put their vital systems in jeopardy once again. Any city fresh from the brink of bankruptcy with an abysmal bond rating, ongoing corruption probe, and $28 million debt to the state should be more cautious.

In 2004, the Legislature established a Finance Control Board to oversee fiscal operations in Springfield after corruption and mismanagement had wormed into City Hall, the public housing authority, job training sites, and the police department. The board quickly undertook a series of effective reforms aimed at reducing a staggering $41 million budget deficit, including consolidations of city departments, increased revenue collections, and tough collective bargaining measures. Business confidence is slowly returning. In June, the control board voted to implement a $90 fee for trash pickup that would raise an additional $4 million and put the city within reach of a balanced budget. But members of the City Council are unwisely seeking to rescind the fee. And State Representative Cheryl Coakley-Rivera, Democrat of Springfield , is even urging residents to ignore the trash bills when they arrive in October.

Local politicians chafe at the control board's oversight. Some may be putting their own popularity above fiscal accountability. Others accuse the control board of undermining the ability of Springfield teachers to achieve a fair contract. But the overriding issue is still solvency and Thomas Trimarco, the state secretary of administration and finance and former control board member, says that Springfield could find itself buried under a cumulative $154 million deficit within six years unless it follows a careful path.

That path is laid out clearly in a bill proposed by Governor Romney. It would extend the authority of the control board until 2010; allow for collective bargaining agrreements of up to seven years to assure payroll stability; and make way for municipal employees to be placed in a cost-effective health insurance plan that now covers state workers.

The bill requires some concessions from municipal workers. But it also puts forth a $50 million bond authorization to begin the city's major reconstruction. The only false note in the bill is one that could strip city boards of their zoning and permitting authority, which seems more a provocation than a remedy.

It is likely that some of the bill's provisions could be implemented without legislative approval. But the Romney administration is well within reason to seek an unambiguous bipartisan endorsement of the accountability measures that must be expected when cities or towns go astray.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 5:25:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Session closes; laws left behind
Higher education bill, others are unresolved
By Erik Arvidson, Eagle Boston Bureau
Berkshire Eagle

Tuesday, August 01
BOSTON — The Legislature is done making laws until January, and as the Berkshire legislators head home to spend the next five months in their districts or running for re-elections, they leave some unfinished business at the Statehouse.
Although momentum seemed strong for a proposed bill that would dramatically expand funding for the state's higher education system, lawmakers gaveled out of session without coming to an agreement on the legislation.

The proposal would have pumped $400 million in additional funding for the University of Massachusetts and the state and community college system over the next seven years, and the campuses would be allowed to set their own tuition and fees.

House and Senate lawmakers reached an impasse over how much flexibility the colleges would have to raise tuition without seeking a waiver from the Board of Higher Education, and as a result, the bill died.

State Rep. Daniel D. Bosley, D-North Adams, said that the higher education bill was "extremely important," not only for the two public colleges in the Berkshires, but also for the Legislature's economic development efforts.

"We always talk about our work force as being the number one asset we have in the commonwealth," Bosley said. "In order for us to continue to keep that work force very important, we need to train people for our new technologies and the new industries that are coming down the road. In order to do that we need to put a boatload more money into higher education."

State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, said he, too, was disappointed that the higher education bill was not enacted this session.

"We really need to make an investment in higher education. (The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts) would like a new science building. At (Berkshire Community College), the infrastructure is in deplorable shape," Pignatelli said.

Auto insurance reform is another key issue on which the Legislature adjourned without taking any major action. Gov. Mitt Romney proposed his own legislation that would have scrapped the current system in which the state regulates the rates and allows competition to drive the market.

A similar proposal was advanced by House lawmakers, but state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., D-Pittsfield, strongly opposed it. Nuciforo, the chairman of the Financial Services Committee, said both proposals to deregulate the auto insurance market would lead to sharply higher rates for young drivers in urban areas.

However, state Rep. Denis E. Guyer, D-Dalton, said he wants to see auto insurance on the agenda when lawmakers reconvene next year and address inequities between rural and urban drivers.

"Drivers in our region are subsidizing the auto insurance rates of drivers in Boston, and I don't think it's fair. My constituents deserve the same types of rates and deals as drivers in Boston," Guyer said.

Much of Bosley's time over the final weeks of the session was spent trying to pass legislation that would change the state's policy for distributing surplus land.

The proposed legislation would allow for an expedited process for selling of surplus state land, which produces revenue for the state's Smart Growth Housing Fund.

However, Senate and House lawmakers reportedly disagree over whether the Legislature should have the final approval on any sale of surplus land and whether parcels of land over 25 acres should be exempt from the policy.

Bosley negotiated with state Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, over the differences between the House and Senate versions, and they were unable to come to a compromise.

Bosley added that he thought the bill could still be approved during an informal session over the next five months when routine legislation typically comes up for review.

Still, Bosley called the 2005-2006 legislative session a "banner year" for him, citing his own work in shepherding through a bill promoting embryonic stem cell research and a $700 million economic stimulus bill.

"If you look at the number of things that we did this year, I've never been this busy before. It's a year when a lot of good things went through," he said.

Gambling proponents were once again disappointed by Bosley's opposition to any bill that would legalize Las Vegas-style gambling in Massachusetts. The Senate approved a measure allowing 2,000 slot machines at each of the state's four racetracks, but it didn't get that far in the House.

Asked whether he thought slot machines would ever come to Massachusetts, Bosley said, "Not as long as I'm here, or as long as the speaker is here. It's just not going to happen."

Tuesday, August 01, 2006 2:09:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Re: New Hampshire & Massachusetts should share the prize for being DIRTBAGS!

8/14/06

Attn: Letters to the Editor

Re: "Hot new tickets push NH lottery to record sales" (Union Leader, 8/13/06): This bad news is completely reprehensible because all that the NH Lottery boils down to is a system of regressive taxation or a tax on the poor. Massachusetts also had record profits last year, too. The recent trend in Lottery record sales only shows that state governments such as Massachusetts and New Hampshire are feeding on the poor to raise revenues instead of having a fair and balanced system of progressive taxation.

What is not reported in all of these news articles about record Lottery sales are the malnourished children of poor families whose public schools are receiving the bulk of their poor parent's incomes instead of the malnourished poor child's basic needs being met with equitable state programs that should be empowering poor people to earn their incomes through higher education and effective job training.

The political system is surely broken both in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the State of New Hampshire. My only hope is for the people of these two great states to rise up and speak out against and then ultimately vote out the greedy state politicians who support this inequitable system of regressive taxation and like exploitative state funded programs at the expense of those poor citizens who must make a daily struggle to meet the basic needs of their disadvantaged families!

-Jonathan A. Melle

Monday, August 14, 2006 5:57:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

8/16/2006

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, Sen. Prez. Bob Trav., State Rep. Dan Bosley, Political hopeful Matt Kinnaman, U.S. Prez. Bush II, Mayor Jim Ruberto, Congressman Olver's District Aide Richard Delmasto, State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, Sen. Stan Rosenberg, State Rep. Denis Guyer, Governor's Council political hopeful Rinaldo Del Gallo III, the News Media, & the People:

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ALL OF YOU?

The newest head of the state government's life-threatening and fatal, most expensive publics works project in the history of the great U.S.A., and textbook case study of fraud, waste, corruption and abuse "BIG DIG" project is John Cogliano, who is an established long-standing Republican Party Beacon Hill political HACK who has no competency in engineering and its applied project management!

IS THIS ANOTHER BAD JOKE?

From the President of the United States of America, George W. Bush, to the United States Senate, Sens. Kennedy & Kerry, and U.S. House of Representatives, to the germane federal agencies overseeing public works projects, to the GOVERNOR of the COMMONWEALTH of MASSACHUSETTS--MITT ROMNEY, to the STATE LEGISLATURE, to the germane state agencies overseeing public works projects, to CITY and TOWN Halls, local elected and appointed officials, to common CITIZENS, WE the PEOPLE have ALL FAILED in reforming this life-threatening tragedy called the "Big Dig."

I AM ASHAMED OF BOTH THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND THE ENTIRE COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS, SPECIFICALLY GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY, FOR PLACING ANOTHER REPUBLICAN PARTY BEACON HILL POLITICAL HACK WITH NO ENGINEERING DEGREE IN CHARGE OF THE FATAL, COSTLY, WASTEFUL & CORRUPT "BIG DIG" PROJECT! WHAT A TRAGEDY AND A SHAME!

-JONATHAN A. MELLE

Wednesday, August 16, 2006 1:43:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

JONATHAN's correspondences with the great STAN Rosenberg!
----------------

Thanks. I'll do my very best!
Stan

----------------
From: Jonathan A. Melle [mailto:jonathan_a_melle@yahoo.com]
Sent: Tuesday, August 22, 2006 11:35 AM

To: Rosenberg, Stan (SEN)

Cc: Bob Travaglini; Mike O'Brien; kramsdell@tams.com; Judi Loeb; Lew Markham; Joan Kaiser; Matt Kerwood; Mike Franco; Matt Barron; Alan; Bosley Daniel Rep HOU; Matt Kinnaman; The Berkshire Eagle; Bill Everhart; U.S. President George W. Bush; The Honorable Mayor Jim M. Ruberto; Richard Delmasto; The North Adams Transcript; The Pittsfield Gazette; Mary Carey; Joan Vennochi; bray@globe.com; Big Dave Vallette; Larry Kratka; Rep. Smitty Pignatelli; jew@berkshireeagle.com; Ned McGlynn; The Boston Globe; The Boston Globe; The Berkshire Record; The Springfield Republican; The Women’s Times; The Advocate; jlcooney@yahoo.com; Wanda Boeke; Astrid Hagenguth; ejspencelaw@yahoo.com; Mike Castronova; Common Cause; Glenn Heller; Patrick Fennell; fires4@vgernet.net; Charles Garivaltis; Lou Costi; Rinaldo Del Gallo III; Denis E. Guyer

Subject: RE: The Rosenberg Report - Vol. 43

Dear Honorable State Senator Stan Rosenberg:

It seems that you are doing a good job. I hope that you will continue to find ways to improve access to state and local services to every citizen throughout the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts!

My regards,
Jonathan A. Melle

"Rosenberg, Stan (SEN)" -- Stan <.> Rosenberg at state.ma.us -- wrote:

Thanks for your email and your questions. Your list is quite large and comprehensive so I will have to answer as many as I can off the top of my head rather briefly.

I do not think that we have rebuilt local aid to the '01 level yet, but we made a huge leap forward this year taking advantage of the significant growth in revenues. I think we will soon catch up to the '01 number and exceed it. In addition to increases from lottery funds and the general fund, I think that the ability to join the State's Group Insurance Commission would help many communities an awful lot. In addition, I think that we should be trying to find a way to prevent large cuts in local aid during recessions which has now happened a few times resulting in draining local reserves, reduction in services and some fiscal instability. During the bad times we also end up capping the lottery which then requires a lot of catch up later. After the recession I am thinking about this problem generally and I hope to come up with some ideas to propose so we can have greater stability.

I didn't mention the BIG DIG because it is very well covered in the newspapers and I didn't have anything to add to what is available there. I also try to focus on things that may have not been reported, underreported or that would be helpful to my constituents to know about generally. I have limited space and I have to make choices so a lot of things get left out that I would otherwise include. Finally, this issue is intended to be a wrap up for the session cataloguing many of the highlights of the session. During this session no significant legislation was approved relating the big dig.

I don't remember seeing much in the newsletter about individual communities except for those I in the district I represent.

Yes, the University is doing better and better. Large institutions like that improve year by year but the improvement is best seen when you look at it over a 5-10 year period. Mr.......Lombardi has really moved the campus forward rather significantly in the years he has been here. There are now significant improvements being made to the physical plant including a number of new buildings that are badly needed. The Chancellor has launched a 5year program to recruit and fill 250 new faculty positions in addition to filling most vacancies created by resignations and retirements. There are many other signs of improvement but I can't catalogue them all here.

The energy crisis is a national problem which can only minimally be addressed at the state level. that said we have been taking small steps to try to help the Massachusetts consumers. This includes the legislation described here, some other legislation that is still in process. That said, we are nibbling around the edges and need federal action. finally, I am concerned that although consumers saved a bundle during the first seven years following the deregulation of the electric utilities, the expected competition that was suppose to help with energy costs has not materialized as promised. I think we will have to revisit this question in the next few years and consider possible strong action to get the problem addressed.

With regard to the NCSL conference in Nashville Any travel that a legislator does is always termed a junket without regard to what the trip is actually about. The state has to spend money to attract and encourage conventions to come to Massachusetts to capture the tourism dollars that come with them. There were 6,000 delegates at the conference in Nashville and Boston is to be the site of the conference next year. Massachusetts was obligated to hold a reception to preview Massachusetts to the delegates and legislative leaders and staff had to be there to speak, run a booth promoting next year's conference in Boston and general represent the state. Although there were 6,000 people in Nashville for the conference they are predicting 7,000-8,000 for Boston s a result of the promotion and interest in our historic and beautiful state. The economic impact of the conference in Nashville according the press out there was $14 million. Given hat we are a higher cost state and there will be between 1,000-2,000 more people here than there we can expect an even bigger impact. That State works hard and spends a lot to get conferences of this size in all kinds of professions to come to Massachusetts for the economic benefit. It is a reality of the business and if we want the conferences to come here and get the money we have to do the promotion.By the way some of the legislators paid for their own trip there and some were funded by the state.

Our state debt is well within the norm for states across the country. We have to balance our annual budget so we can't borrow for operating costs. In fact during the last two fiscal crisis while many states were borrowing for operating costs in addition to deeply cutting their budgets and raising taxes, we did not borrow for operating costs. We do borrow, as would be expected for capital investments(roads, bridges, schools, etc.) but our debt is low compared many states and in line with most. We have $1.250 billion a year in the annual operating budget to make annual bond payments. Because of our overall approach and success in the fiscal management of our state we have one of the best bond ratings in the country. This was accomplished (and is maintained ) by the good work of both the last 5 Republican Governor's and the Democratic legislature's . This is a good example of the benefit and the result of bipartisan cooperation.

It is true that Massachusetts (along with every other state ) had huge pension liabilities at both the local and state levels. The good news is that in 1987-88 the Legislature and Governor agreed to a 40 year plan to get these pension funds fully funded. We are about half way through the period and we are right on track according to the Pension Board. I check with them every year or two to see how we are doing . I do so for 2 reasons. First, I have the largest number of state employees and retirees in the state and they are very interested in the health of the system, as you can imagine. Second, I was on he Committee that wrote the legislation back then and I want to make sure it is working and we are making the progress we need to make. Again, this is contributing to our excellent bond rating.

Well, out of time so I'll have to sign off.

Stan Rosenberg

----------
From: Jonathan A. Melle [mailto:jonathan_a_melle@yahoo.com]
Sent: Monday, August 21, 2006 8:09 PM

To: Rosenberg, Stan (SEN); Tom Mitchell; Bob Travaglini; Mike O'Brien; kramsdell@tams.com; Judi Loeb; Lew Markham; Joan Kaiser; Matt Kerwood; Mike Franco; Matt Barron; Alan; Bosley, Daniel - Rep. (HOU); Matt Kinnaman; The Berkshire Eagle; Bill Everhart; U.S. President George W. Bush; The Honorable Mayor Jim M. Ruberto; Richard Delmasto; The North Adams Transcript; The Pittsfield Gazette; Mary Carey; Joan Vennochi; bray@globe.com; Big Dave Vallette; Larry Kratka; Rep. Smitty Pignatelli; jdew@berkshireeagle.com; Ned McGlynn; The Boston Globe; The Boston Globe; The Berkshire Record; The Springfield Republican; The "Women’s" Times; The Advocate; jlcooney@yahoo.com; Wanda Boeke; Astrid Hagenguth; ejspencelaw@yahoo.com; Mike Castronova; Common Cause; Glenn Heller; Patrick Fennell; fires4@vgernet.net; Charles Garivaltis; Lou Costi; Rinaldo Del Gallo III; Denis E. Guyer

Subject: Re: The Rosenberg Report - Vol. 43

Dear Honorable State Senator Stan Rosenberg:

Keep up your good work on Beacon Hill by finally substantially increasing state aid to municipalities!

However, I have some questions on some of the issues both noted and omitted in your report on the business of state government.

Question # 1 - State Aid to munipalities was cut for 3 straight consecutive years from FY02 - FY04, then increased by small margins in FY05-FY06, and now it is being increased by a large margin in FY07: With the newest increase in state aid to municipalities, is the state funding her cities, towns and other local public entities at a rate equivalent to state aid funding in FY01?

Question # 2 - Why did not you mention the Big Dig in your report?

Question # 3 - You mention the City of Boston many times, but what about the Western Massachusetts City of Springfield and its insolvent status?

Question # 4 - Is the University of Massachusetts educational system improving, especially in Amherst?

Question # 5 - Will Massachusetts' Energy Crisis be resolved on the state level in any way, shape or form?

I think the state Legislature is doing a deficient job for the 351 municipalities and accompanying local public entities. Question # 6 - What can be done differently next year to ensure that all citizens of the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts have access to the best and most effective state and local governmental services?

I believe the state represents the state government and not the cities and towns! I believe many Legislators should be voted out of political office this year. Question # 7 - State Representative Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, recently accompanied your Senate President and his Speaker of the House, among 7 others, to Dollywood in Nashville, Tennessee all on the tab of the taxpayers, SO do you think Dan Bosley and his cohorts are using the public taxpayers money wisely to provide better governmental services to all citizens or do you think Dan Bosley, et al, likes to waste taxpayers money on junkets to Dollywood?

Question # 8 - Just how deep in debt is the State Government in Massachusetts? The Big Dig's cost is around $15 Billion with most of the money borrowed with bonds issued to big Wall Street Investment Firms. The state and local pensions all have huge unfunded liabilities. The state and local governments cannot keep up with healthcare and energy spending and public policies.

The last I heard, Massachusetts was among the top 3 highest debtor states along side of California. Question # 9 - Is the state government really solvent and, if so, how soon will it become like Springfield and other soon to be bankrupt municipalities?

My last question is that through painful cuts and joyful surpluses, you and your Legislative "Leaders" have always pushed through many aristocratic legislative pay raises for yourselves. Question # 10 - How much more taxpayer money do you and your cohorts plan to grab for your own pay and benefits next year? With more revenues, I am sure the number one priority under Beacon Hill's almighty Golden Dome will be for you and your Legislative Pals to get another whoppingly big pay raise!

Thank you,
Jonathan A. Melle
------------

Tom Mitchell -- tumitch at sprynet . com -- wrote:

The Rosenberg Report

Vol. XLIII
August 21, 2006

-----------

Hello!

The 184th session of the Massachusetts Legislature has come to a close, at least for now, and it was one of the most active and productive sessions in recent memory. Thanks to a rebounding economy, were able to make many important investments in virtually all areas where government is involved -- education, human services, the environment, etc. In addition, we enacted some landmark legislation, most notably the health care reform law and the Commonwealth Investment Plan, that will help improve the lives and livelihoods of our citizens.

The following is a summary of the past session's highlights.

Thanks again to everyone who has wished me well during my recovery. Everything is going according to plan and my doctors have cleared me for light duty.

I hope everybody is having a wonderful summer!

Yours,
STAN
Stan's hits

Here are some of the session highlights that I played an especially prominent role in passing. Items that were
approved over the governor's veto are labeled "over veto."

Integrated Sciences Building — The Commonwealth Investment Plan includes $20 million in bonding for the
Integrated Science Building at UMass-Amherst.

Cultural Facilities Fund—invests $13 million in the state’s second largest industry (Tourism) to strengthen cultural
resources across the state. (over veto)

Food Science -- $200,000 for a public/private program of matching funds between the food science department
of UMass-Amherst and private food industry businesses. The purpose of this program will be to establish research,
scientific and regulatory frameworks to help create jobs and high-value products in the state’s food producing industries.

2006 Deficiency Budget--$218.5 supplemental appropriation to fund retroactive pay raises for higher education
and UMASS employees. (over certain vetoes)

Equal Choice/Long Term Care- allows senior citizens and the disabled to choose where they receive long-term care.
The bill promotes at-home care when appropriate, and would save the state $134 million during the first five years of implementation.

Higher Education Investment & Restructuring—invests $430 million over seven years to increase affordability, caps tuition and fees to the inflation rate and increases financial aid for students. (Passed the Senate, currently in House Ways & Means)

H.E.A.T.— because citizens faced soaring utility costs, legislators enacted this $80 million bill to provide homeowners with a tax deduction of up to $800 in home heating oil and natural gas expenses, credit residents with up to $600 in costs to make homes more energy efficient and boost the federal low income heating energy assistance program by $20 million.

Senior Property Tax Relief--expands tax cuts for senior homeowners by increasing property assessment limits eligible for tax credits. This builds on my successful Circuit Breaker legislation and will help increase the number of seniors who are eligible and the amount they can receive.

Increase Minimum Wage—increases minimum wage from $6.75 to $8.00 over two years. Impacts 315,000 low-income workers giving Massachusetts the third highest minimum wage in the country. (re-enacted) (over veto)

Ed Connolly Bill— formally known as the Massachusetts Military Enhanced Relief Individual Tax (MERIT), this law is named after the late Representative Ed Connolly, extends a variety of tax exemptions to disabled veterans and the families of soldiers killed in action since Sept. 11, 2001. For example, for disabled veterans, the property tax exemptions will rise from a range of $250 to $950 to a range of $400 to $1,500 annually. Under the new law, the municipalities would see state reimbursements for such exemptions also rise, with the lowest spiking from $75 to $400 and the highest rising from $775 to $1,325. Surviving spouses of soldiers killed or missing in action since the 2001 terrorist attacks will be fully exempted from property taxes for five years, after which they will receive $2,500 annual breaks. The bill also allows all disabled veterans qualifying for a special license plate to receive sales and vehicle tax exemptions.

Long-Term Care Insurance Standards—provides tax exemption of up to $5000 of the annual premiums paid for long-term care policies and establishes long term care insurance plan for state employees with premiums to be paid by employees.

Voting Fraud Protections—provides public safeguards for people who sign state initiative and referendum petitions and imposes regulations on paid signature gathering campaigns. (Passed Senate, currently in House Ways & Means)

Agricultural Procurement Program -- The Commonwealth Investment Plan includes this program, something I've been working on for several years with colleagues like State Representative Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington) and State Senator Stephen Brewer (D-Barre). This program will help ensure the continued availability of fresh local food, and the stewardship of some 570,000 acres of open space, by improving market connections between farmers and consumers, helping farmers succeed in the marketplace, providing incentives to preserve farmland for future generations and making Massachusetts a leader in family farm-oriented agricultural economic development.

Massachusetts Senate 184th Session Major Legislation

Health Care

Health Care Reform—lowers costs on insurance coverage by promoting market reforms and investments in Medicaid reimbursement and preventative care. The bill also recognizes employer responsibility with a fair share assessment and individual duty by mandating coverage. (over certain vetoes)
Stem Cell and Life Sciences—Legalizes and promotes stem cell research in an effort to save lives and safeguard one of the driving sectors of our economy. The bill sets up a multi-stage oversight process, forbids experimentation on human fetuses and requires informed consent for egg donors. (re-enacted; over veto)
Emergency Contraception--allows pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception and requires hospitals to provide the “morning after” pill to rape victims. (over veto)
Pharmacy Access Initiative-allows consumers over the age of 18 to purchase hypodermic needles without a prescription at pharmacies in an effort to reduce the risk of spreading diseases such as HIV and AIDS. (over veto)

Taxes

Sales Tax Holiday 05-06—with over $500 million in sales during last summer’s sales tax holiday, the legislature again designated two days this year, August 12-13, to give shoppers a tax free weekend.
Alternative Fuels Efficiency--encourages alternative fuels and alternative-fuel vehicles with tax credits for consumers and mandating the use of alternative fuel vehicles by state agencies. (Passed Senate, currently in House Rules Committee)
Senior Property Tax Relief--expands tax cuts for senior homeowners by increasing property assessment limits eligible for tax credits. This builds on my successful Circuit Breaker legislation and will help increase the number of seniors who are eligible and the amount they can receive.
Ed Connolly Bill—formally known as the Massachusetts Military Enhanced Relief Individual Tax (MERIT), this law is named after the late Representative Ed Connolly, extends a variety of tax exemptions to disabled veterans and the families of soldiers killed in action since Sept. 11, 2001. For example, for disabled veterans, the property tax exemptions will rise from a range of $250 to $950 to a range of $400 to $1,500 annually. Under the new law, the municipalities would see state reimbursements for such exemptions also rise, with the lowest spiking from $75 to $400 and the highest rising from $775 to $1,325. Surviving spouses of soldiers killed or missing in action since the 2001 terrorist attacks will be fully exempted from property taxes for five years, after which they will receive $2,500 annual breaks. The bill also allows all disabled veterans qualifying for a special license plate to receive sales and vehicle tax exemptions.

Local Aid to Cities and Towns


2007 Budget---the $25.7 billion general appropriation bill for fiscal year 2007 builds on the municipal investments of the previous budget with a 21% increase in local aid and 7% more for local school districts. This bill also includes more funds for sewer rate relief, community policing and pilot payments.
PILOT -- the Legislature increased funding for the Payment In Lieu of Taxes program, but we are still short of full funding. I am continuing to work with my western Mass. colleagues to fully fund the program.
Regional School Transportation --the Legislature increased funding for regional school transportation, but we are still short of full funding. I am continuing to work with my western Mass. colleagues to fully fund the program.

Public Safety


Anti-gang initiative--with Boston’s homicide rate at a ten-year high, the Legislature, in emergency action, appropriated $11 million for community intervention and prevention programs targeting gang violence. A comprehensive anti-gang initiative followed that provided $750,000 for witness protection and tougher court penalties to combat witness intimidation.
Melanie’s Bill—provides additional penalties and remedies for repeat drunk driving.
Child Sex Crime Statute—increases the statute of limitations for prosecuting child sex crimes from 15 to 27 years and stops clock from ticking for any victim who doesn’t come forward because of physical threats or psychological injuries suffered in the attack. The bill also mandates the use of GPS monitoring devices for all probationers convicted of sex offenses. (awaiting House action)
Sex-Offender Registry—authorizes Commonwealth to join Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision
Nicole’s Law—joins ten other states in requiring carbon monoxide detectors in oil or gas-heated homes to aid in the prevention of poisonings stemming from thousands of leaks reported every year.
Fire-Safe Cigarettes— Massachusetts is the second state to require “fire-safe” cigarettes that self-extinguish when not smoked because of the paper they are wrapped in. Cigarettes are the leading cause of fire deaths, so it’s estimated the requirement will save hundreds of lives and millions of dollars in property damage.
Public Defender Pay--increases compensation for bar advocates from $30 to $60 an hour and adds public defender staff.
Volunteer Firefighter Benefits--requires municipalities to provide death benefits for firefighters’ survivors to encourage more participation in volunteer forces.
Environment

Regulate Mercury Use—bans the sale of products containing mercury such as button cell batteries, cell phones, thermometers and mercury switches in automobiles. It also sets up mechanisms to exchange products to reduce mercury waste. Regulated use of mercury will protect the public health.
Toxics Reduction Act- directs state environmental agencies to initiate programs and regulations to reduce toxins in the environment.
Energy Efficiency Ratings-- imposes stricter standards for energy-efficient appliances.

Economic Development & Job Creation


Commonwealth Investment Plan--$457 million investment in five sectors to bolster the Commonwealth’s economy—development and public infrastructure, life sciences and technology, workforce development and training and tourism and cultural initiatives using tax incentives, credits and start up funds. Creates Life Sciences Center to attract private funding and coordinate all life science activities. (over certain vetoes)
2006 Capitol Supplemental Appropriation--$302 million of investments in historic buildings, parks, beaches, pools, streets and town centers, roads and bridges.
Streamlining Permitting—allows Massachusetts to compete with other states by encouraging communities to expedite the permitting process to 180 days, streamlines the appeals process and creates new Land Court session for speedier hearings on land-use issues.
Film Tax Credit—grants film producers a 20% tax credit on payrolls for Massachusetts hires and a 25% credit for production costs and equipment on films largely shot in-state. One of the most aggressive tax incentives in the nation.

Education


Early Education and Care—complements the $3 million continuing early childhood education pilot program in the FY07 budget. This bill creates a database of early child care professionals to facilitate professional development and calls for studying the potential capacity of exiting child care networks. (H. 4755) (Gov vetoed)
Chapter 70 -- increased aid to local school districts by 7 % for fiscal '07.
Higher Education Investment & Restructuring—invests $430 million over seven years to increase affordability, caps tuition and fees to the inflation rate and increases financial aid for students. (Passed the Senate, currently in House Ways & Means)
Endowment Incentive Program -- $13 million for the endowment incentive program to help the state’s colleges and universities improve private fundraising and for capital outlays.
Reserve Fund -- $50 million for a reserve to fund capital projects at state and community colleges.
UMass Capital Improvements -- $50 million for capital costs at University of Massachusetts campuses.
Educational Rewards Grant Program -- a program that will provide grants to part-time students in accredited post-secondary certificate or vocational technology programs or associate degree programs in targeted high-demand occupations.


Human Services


Salary reserve -- both the 2006 and 2007 budgets included salary reserves for human services and childcare workers.
Substance Abuse—these appropriations in the FY07 Budget and FY06 Supplemental budget provide $90 million for a variety of substance abuse programs and beds, treatment coordinators, recovery homes and programs, House of Correction-based substance abuse programs, residential women’s programs and educational awareness programs.
General rebuilding -- as the state has emerged from the fiscal crisis, the Legislature has worked steadily to rebuild the operating budgets for a range of human services programs, especially programs for the mentally retarded and the disabled.


Consumer Initiatives


Interstate Wine Shipments—allows for direct shipping of wine to consumers with certain restrictions for large size wineries, allows consumers to take re-corked wine bottles home from restaurants. (over veto)
Child Labor Laws—strengthens protections for teenage workers in the first comprehensive overhaul of child labor laws in 70 years. Includes provisions to clarify protections for minors employed in entertainment productions. (awaiting House action)

Veterans


Welcome Home Bill—provides awards between $500 and $1,000 for returning Massachusetts veterans and free tuition and fees for National Guardsmen as well as additional benefits for service members and their families.
Public Employees in Service-extends salary benefits for public employees in armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Noteworthy

Earlier this month I joined major municipal organizations, public employee unions, and municipal retiree groups in support of creating a local option for municipalities to join the Group Insurance Commission (GIC). The coalition of organizations is asking the Legislature to consider and pass this critical reform in the next several months, during the current legislative session.


I’m pleased to be working with this outstanding coalition of dedicated public servants. It is my hope that a spirit of partnership will continue to guide this process toward our mutual goal.


The organizations supporting the proposal include the Metro Mayors Coalition, Massachusetts Municipal Association, Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), Massachusetts Teachers Association, AFT-Massachusetts, AFSCME Council 93, the Retired State, County & Municipal Employees of Massachusetts, and the Essex County Retirement Board. MAPC, the regional planning agency for Greater Boston, provided staff support for the coalition.

Highlights of the proposal:

It would create a local option for cities and towns to purchase health insurance through the GIC. Analysis shows that the GIC’s high quality plans are generally significantly less expensive and provide more choices to employees and retirees than typical municipal options. Under the proposal, no community would be mandated to join the GIC.
A decision to join the GIC would be made collectively among municipal leaders, public employee labor representatives, and retiree representatives. The proposal uses the existing mechanism called “coalition bargaining” to bring stakeholders together to make health care decisions.
All decisions about contribution ratios – i.e., the percentage of health insurance costs that are borne by employees or retirees – would continue to be made at the local level. The GIC, however, would have responsibility for contracting with health care insurers and making plan design decisions. Municipal employees would be in the same insurance pool as all state employees, which currently covers more than 265,000 people in the Commonwealth.
Municipalities would pay all costs associated with purchasing health insurance through the GIC, including a small administrative fee to the Commission. The proposal is structured to be self-financing and start-up costs for the Commonwealth would be nominal.
As part of the proposal, the coalition seeks to expand the Commission by adding representatives of municipal management and public employee unions. These new additions would not change the balance of the Commission

For a complete copy of the recommendations, see

http://www.mapc.org/Municipal_Finance_Task_Force.html



Round-up
Home rule petitions

Here are the local home rule petitions that were approved during the last 18 months

Chapter 1
An Act authorizing the late filing of a certain application for classification of land in the town of Wendell (see Senate, No. 2155). Approved by the Governor, January 12, 2006

Chapter 24
An Act establishing a sick leave bank for Samuel Russell, an employee of the Trial Court (see House, No. 4569). Approved by the Governor, February 15, 2006

Chapter 30
An Act authorizing the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance to convey certain land in the town of Erving (see House, No. 1433). Approved by the Governor, February 24, 2006

Chapter 52
An Act relative to the membership of the Hampshire County Housing Authority (see Senate, No. 2283). Approved by the Governor, March 31, 2006

Chapter 61
An Act releasing certain land in the city of Northampton from the operation of an agricultural preservation restriction (see House, No. 1270). Approved by the Governor, April 13, 2006

Chapter 121
An Act relative to the historic Lucius Crain Tavern in the town of Hadley (see Senate, No. 2127). Approved by the Governor, June 21, 2006

Chapter 181
An Act providing for a partial release of certain land in the town of Hatfield from the operation of an agricultural preservation restriction (see House, No. 4472). Approved by the Governor, July 27, 2006

Chapter 263
An Act further regulating voting hours in the town of Amherst (see Senate, No. 2154). Approved by the Governor, August 16, 2006


Chapter 48
An Act authorizing the town of Greenfield to grant an additional license for the sale of all alcoholic beverages not to be drunk on the premises (see House, No. 3843). Approved by the Governor, July 7, 2005

Chapter 67
An Act exempting certain positions in the police department in the city of Northampton from the civil service law (see Senate, No. 2074, amended). Approved by the Governor, August 11, 2005

Chapter 68
An Act exempting certain positions in the fire department in the city of Northampton from the civil service law (see Senate, No. 2069, amended). Approved by the Governor, August 11, 2005

Chapter 166
An Act establishing the office of finance director in the city of Northampton (see House, No. 4186, changed). Approved by the Governor, December 15, 2005

Broadband Update

For the past several years, Representative Steve Kulik (D-Worthington) and I have been working to bring broadband access to rural western Mass. communities. Recently, we had the opportunity to write an update for the town newsletters in Shutesbury and Leverett. This is a version of that article.

We often hear from constituents who are concerned about the lack of high-speed broadband internet service in some of the smaller communities that we represent. This is especially true of Leverett and Shutesbury, thanks in part to the interest generated by the work of the two- town Broadband Committee during the past few years. We are pleased that Wendell has also joined this effort, as we believe that the solution to this problem will require the active involvement of citizens, along with state, regional, and local governments. In our opinion, the need to deliver high speed telecommunications service to every community in Massachusetts is analogous to the efforts more than a century ago to bring electricity to rural America. Now, as then, the private sector cannot be relied upon to make the investment in infrastructure that is needed to serve people living in more sparsely populated towns. In today’s economy, our homes and businesses require modern telecommunications technology as a basic necessity. It is frustrating to see utilities such as Verizon market DSL in communities where it has no intention of providing that service in the foreseeable future. That is why it is why we are working in a number of ways to develop and support a public/private partnership approach to achieving technological equity for each and every community.

In 2003, when the Massachusetts Senate finished and released its report on the impact that the lack of broadband internet services was having on underserved communities, like Shutesbury and Leverett, we began working on specific legislation to implement the solutions outlined in the report. We had been working for many years with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, and its efforts to organize Pioneer Valley Connect, and with other local broadband advocacy groups like the Leverett-Shutesbury Broadband Committee, so we were well versed in the basic problem facing rural western Massachusetts communities: No reliable, affordable broadband access meant no chance to compete in the high-tech economy. With the 2003 Senate report outlining the statewide scope of the problem of underserved communities, Senator Rosenberg filed a bill to create a Broadband Development Council to bring broadband to all corners of the state.

So for us, one of the highlights of the 2006 legislative session was contained in the so-called Economic Stimulus Bill (H.5057), a $457 million package designed to create jobs and help make Massachusetts more competitive in the global, high-tech economy. This new law addresses several important elements of our economy, including making affordable and reliable broadband service available to all Massachusetts communities.

To achieve this goal, we have created the Wireless and Broadband Development Council within the Executive Office of Economic Development. The Council will consist of 13 members, including a member selected by Franklin-Hampshire Connect, and will be charged with developing strategies for achieving universal wireless internet, cellular and broadband coverage to every community in the Commonwealth. To start with, the Council will have at its disposal a $1 million Wireless and Broadband Development Fund for investments designed to increase broadband services.

We expect that the Council will build on the work of Pioneer Valley Connect, and further develop the findings of the Underserved Communities Pilot Project that was completed earlier this year. This project, overseen by the Franklin Regional Council of Governments and funded by a state Regional Competitiveness grant, studied three rural communities in western Massachusetts (Egremont, Leverett and Worthington) to determine the best way to build a high speed system with universal access in different types of rural communities. The results of the study provide a promising, though very challenging, guide for the next steps. As a follow up, Pioneer Valley Connect has just been awarded a two-year $300,000 grant from the state’s John Adams Innovation Institute to build on the recommendations of the Underserved Communities study. This will include some technology testing, and further exploration of the enormous infrastructure and financing needs to build and sustain the service we envision. This fall, we will be working with Pioneer Valley Connect to sponsor a forum or series of workshops to lay the groundwork for this next phase. While this is going on, we will be exploring other legislative initiatives to advance the cause.

This is where we are today, and it is a long way from where we were a mere three years ago when the Senate study laid out the problem that economic prosperity was being jeopardized, especially in rural western Massachusetts towns like Shutesbury, Leverett, and Wendell by the lack of broadband access. The Legislature took that information seriously, and by working in partnership with such local groups as Franklin-Hampshire Connect and Berkshire Connect, we now have a state agency dedicated to the sole purpose of making broadband access universal.

There is no doubt that many obstacles remain. But with this commitment by the state government, and with the ongoing partnership between legislators and local broadband advocacy groups, we are confident that we will continue to make steady progress toward our mutual goal. We encourage you to follow the progress already made (including the Underserved Communities report), and the upcoming developments, by checking in with pioneervalleyconnect.org


State Grants

The following state grants came our way during the last couple of months.

Community Development Block Grants

Amherst -- $600,000
Greenfield -- $600,000
Leyden -- $659,804
Montague/Ashfield -- $1 million
Northfield -- $800,000
Shelburne/Buckland -- $950,000

Department of Housing and Community Development HOME low-interest loan

Greenfield -- $451,523, for The Arbors
South Hadley -- $300,000, for Western Mass Elder Care

Department of Housing and Community Development Housing Innovations Fund Program low-interest loan

South Hadley -- $500,000, for Western Mass Elder Care

Trivia

Now for the answer to our previous question:

Who is the state's official heroine?

The answer is: Deborah Samson, who fought in the Revolutionary War dressed as a man.

And our winner is Phoebe from somewhere in cyberspace. We'll send Phoebe information on who to contact in my Boston office and we'll look forward to seeing Phoebe at the State House. Congratulations! And thanks to everybody who played along!

Now to this month's question and another chance to win lunch and a State House tour:

Who was the first person killed in the American Revolution?

Submit your answer to tumitch@sprynet.com and watch this space for the correct answer and the prize winner.

Links

Here are a few links. Until next time . . .

Join TeamRosenberg! http://www.stanrosenberg.com/teamrosenberg.php

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Click here for our on-line feedback form www.stanrosenberg.com/
form.html

Forward this link to a friend www.stanrosenberg.com/
issues/rosenreportreg.html

Guide to Lawmaking -- http://www.state.ma.us/
legis/lawmkng.htm

Massachusetts State Government Home Page – http://mass.gov/

The Legislature’s web page – http://www.state.ma.us/
legis/

Senate’s Bill Text System – http://www.state.ma.us/
legis/billsrch.htm

Legislative Tracking System – http://www.state.ma.us/
legis/ltsform.htm

My personal website – http://www.stanrosenberg.com/

The Rosenberg Report (June, 2006, edition) -- http://www.stanrosenberg.com/
issues/june2006.html

Tuesday, August 22, 2006 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Honorable State Senator Stan Rosenberg:



You want to be Western Massachusetts next U.S. Congressman after U.S. House of Representative John W. Olver someday retires from this post more than anyone in the entire 1st Massachusetts Congressional District. In truth, you are the hand-picked successor to Olver's seat after he retires some time in the future. You are one really lucky guy to have such an advantage over so many wanna-be's.



But, the problem for you, Stan "the man", is that you are in the here and now. So let us review the following news article: "Pols' junket with lobbyists stalls vote" (Boston Herald, 8/25/2006). You and two state Senate cohorts scheduled to depart for Russia on September 4th with lobbyists while (a) funding for crucial projects will be delayed, and (b) the Massachusetts Legislative Schedule remains in chaos. The state's criminal database on the Mass Gov web-site will remain unfunded, 27 state workers have already been laid off, and several other state Information Technology Division have been cancelled due to the Legislature's incompetence. Moreover, the state is losing federal funding due to the Legislature not taking up the crucial bond bill this news article mentions.



So, Stan, on September 4th, 2006, you, 2 other state Senator cohorts, and lobbyists are all going to leave behind the people you are supposed to be representing in the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts in order to take a JUNKET to Russia in the name of tourism and "humanitarian" ideals.



Let us all mark this event on our political memories so that when Stan becomes "the man" when he eventually runs for U.S. Congress after John W. Olver retires from his seat someday in the future, we can ask us why he neglected the needs of the people of Massachusetts in order to tour Russia with corrupt state Senate cohorts and lobbyists!



What a shame, Stan Rosenberg! What a shame!



Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

Thursday, August 31, 2006 6:10:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, Politicians, News Media, & the People:

As a former lifelong citizen of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a nearby citizen of the state of New Hampshire, I watched the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government Democratic Party Gubernatorial Debates on Television last night and I am so impressed by Tom Reilly's candidacy and platform for Governor of Massachusetts! In one word, Reilly is an ADVOCATE for the PEOPLE of Massachusetts, not a phony ideological "liberal" such as Deval Patrick, nor a souped up statistical performance business number hack such as Chris Gabrieli.

I loved it when Tom Reilly said that he is just the kid from SPRINGFIELD! What a great statement! Springfield, Massachusetts in the example of neglect by Beacon Hill Boston Pols! All Springfield needs is some assistance by the state -- even 1% of what the Legislature has thrown into the black hole known as the "Big Dig" -- and this great Western Massachusetts city will get back on her feet once again.

Tom Reilly has worked hard to defend and meet the needs of all constituents. He will be the only candidate for Governor who will actually invest in and build the middle class in Massachusetts. Tom Reilly is real and he will make Massachusetts a better state to live in on all issues and political fronts.

Please vote for Tom Reilly for Governor of Massachusetts on September 19th!

Sincerely and In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

~Former lifelong resident of Massachusetts from 1975 - 2004 & a friendly next door neighbor now living in Southern New Hampshire~

PLEASE PUBLISH MY LETTERS NEWS MEDIA OUTLETS! THANK YOU!

Friday, September 08, 2006 2:38:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Turnpike Authority's finances in shambles, report says

By Mac Daniel, Globe Staff

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority's finances are in dire shape with more than $2 billion in debt and a previous "top management driven by a political patronage culture that implicitly permitted petty theft and poor performance," a former state finance secretary told its board today.

The authority has a frightening lack of control over its finances, said Eric Kriss, Governor Mitt Romney's former secretary of administration and finance who began a review of the agency's books last month. One example: a toll taker allegedly stole $750 in one week with no accounting. He has since been fired.

The fallout from Kriss's report seeped into the Turnpike Authority board's agenda. The board delayed a vote on whether to extend FastLane discounts until more is known about the authority's budget.

The board also spent $1.23 million to extend key insurance programs only through the end of the year because of insurance companies' hesitancy to write new policies that would have to consider claims from the death of Milena Del Valle in the July 10 ceiling collapse in the Interstate 90 connector tunnel.

"Now that the veil of secrecy has been lifted, you can see what's been going on," Kriss said in an interview after his presentation. The authority "suffered from a lack of top management attention...and there were many errors piled up over a long period of time."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006 6:19:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Lawmakers avoiding Statehouse

By Rick Heller, Transcript Statehouse Bureau

Friday, September 29, 2006

BOSTON — After months of debate and backroom conversations, the Legislature seems no closer to deciding on a special session to tie up last-minute business this fall.

Both Senate President Robert Travaglini and House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi have expressed a willingness to recall the Legislature into a special session to consider a bond bill that provides $250 million for information technology projects, but wrangling over what else might appear on the agenda has prevented them from setting a date.

Several key projects could be delayed if the bill is not passed, say officials. They include a statewide educator database necessary to meet provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, and an improved system for detecting Medicaid fraud.

Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., D-Pittsfield, warned that if the Legislature took up any controversial legislation at all, it had to be prepared to overturn a veto by the governor, which would likely require an additional special session.

"We need to come back twice or not at all," Nuciforo said.

The sticking point among legislative leaders is whether to open up the special session to consider other legislation, as preferred by Travaglini, or to limit the agenda to the bond bill, a condition favored by DiMasi.

"The Senate president would love to see the higher education bill advanced," said Ann Dufresne, a spokeswoman for Travaglini, referring to a bill that would provide $400 million to the state's public colleges and universities over a seven-year period. "Higher education is very important — it is a campaign issue. We have a vehicle that addresses many of the concerns."

A spokeswoman for the speaker declined to comment.

Student fees

One of the key points of dispute is capping the growth of student fees. Many members of the House do not support the cap in the Senate's bill.

Sen. Steve Panagiotakos, D-Lowell, chaired a Senate task force that came up with many of the recommendations that found their way into the Senate legislation.

"Over a three-year period, fees at UMass went up over 120 percent," Panagiotakos said. "Fees are now $8,000."

Even without a special session, a higher education bill could be passed if a consensus is reached among legislators. Since formal sessions ended in July, some bills, like the recently signed sex-offenders law, have made it through the Legislature in informal sessions. It only takes a single opposing lawmaker, however, to stop a bill's progress in informal session.

The bond bill requires a formal session because of a provision in the state constitution that requires a roll call vote to authorize borrowing.

Legislators have, however, already agreed to a formal session on Thursday, Nov. 9 — the continuation of this year's constitutional convention. Lawmakers recessed the convention last July without voting whether to support a ballot question to repeal the legality of same-sex marriage.

"The Senate president is scheduled to gavel in the joint session of House and Senate on Nov. 9," said Dufresne. She said it would be up to the membership to determine whether the measure would move forward to a vote.

Monday, October 02, 2006 1:13:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

10-16-2006

Dear Honorable State Representative Dan Bosley:

Please take the time to read the following opinion piece in support of increased PRIVATE gambling businesses in the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Since you know how much I love public policy and conveying my thoughts to you since we both end up coming to many of the same conclusions on such matters (which also amazes me because I find myself also lecturing you most of the time on your decisions under the almighty Golden Dome on Beacon Hill), please allow me to pick apart why you are right to limit gambling in Massachusetts, but wrong to only limit gambling in the private sector while growing every single year in the public domain.

Issue # 1. Slot-machines and casinos would bring increased revenues to the Bay State, but would also further burden the poor, disadvantaged, uneducated and addicted people who live within her borders. For a rich person or even middle class family in control of his or her spending and yearly and long-term budgets, gambling would be a blessing to the commonwealth. BUT, for a poor person, meaning one like me who lives on a negative income (economically forced to spend more than he earns and/or receives), a middle class family who is not in rational control of one's spending, meaning addictions, legal matters, job insecurity, long-term budgeting (colossal student loans to become or have became a nurse, doctor, lawyer, etc.), an innocent child captive to such limited financial constraints, an uneducated public citizen who does not understand that the state lottery is a scam paying them back 70 cents on the dollar and also much less and that they are being regressively taxed by such a system (that you, Dan Bosley, strongly support), growing gambling in Massachusetts would be a doomed burden on the "Haves" who would have to pay the costs of the social problems of the "Have NOTs". Oh, the horror! Rich people would have to further increase their limited contributions to the poor and the like. Now, we cannot have social responsibility because the system limits its liabilities through personal responsibility or INEQUITY and INJUSTICE!

ISSUE #2. DEVAL PATRICK. Dan, I was so excited to receive a personally signed letter from Deval wishing me "All the best!" after I sent him the Spring of 2005 news article in The Boston Globe about Kerry Healey wanting to economically force fixed-income Senior Citizens out of their suburban homes rather than support the Legislature and even Gov. Romney on increased state aid to municipalities to support the circuit breaker laws that help senior citizens keep their homes without further strapping the cities and towns financial budgets and tight constraints. Deval Patrick, like you, Dan, and me, is an advocate of the poor. Like you, Dan, Deval does not want to further screw the poor out of their received or earned monies by growing gambling the state. However, every single year you, Dan Bosley, have been in the Legislature, the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission has GROWN! How about that! I know you hate the word, but I am going to say in anyway: H-Y-O-C-R-I-S-Y! What a bunch of crap! While it is O.K. for the state government to increase its system of regressive taxation a.k.a. the state lottery, it is morally wrong and corporately reprehensible for the private sector to want to do the same. This, Dan, is what I have called and continue to call: "BOSLEY's HYPOCRISY!"

ISSUE #3. LAS VEGAS. Living in New Hampshire, I have witnessed another political hypocrite named HOWARD DEAN. When I first moved here in the Spring of 2004, I naively went to one of Dean's political events telling me to support U.S. Senator John Forbes Kerry for U.S. President. During this time period, Dean was quoted, which is played over and over again up in the Granite State, as saying the Democratic Primary for U.S. President should stay in N.H. NOW, Howard Dean and the DNC have shoved aside my new home state for Las Vegas a.k.a. Nevada, the home of exploiting the poor, legitimizing organized crime, and good old fashioned GREED! Economic Development has come to Las Vegas through gambling, but at what cost? Would anyone in New Hampshire or Berkshire County, Massachusetts, for that matter, want to see our way of life turn into adrenaline rushes and cheap thrills? I think not. Economic growth is important for every geographic location, but it is not the end all of our great American society. I would rather see people be invested in then the building of the economic scale when people are divested in and exploited. Growing the economy by growing gambling, even publicly, Dan, is wrong because it divests in the people and exploits the poor.

ISSUE #4. You, Dan, and your special interest Legislature mandate that the state Lottery pay out only about 23 percent of its revenue to the Local Aid Fund. That right there says to me that the state has raised its money in recent years by exploiting the poor. You, Dan, like me, know full well that the Lottery is a system of regressive taxation (or a poor tax) that exploits people in order to raise revenues for the state government. Given that you and your fellow Legislative cohorts have grown the lottery to continuing record levels of state government profits, you, Dan, now take a hypocritical stand for the poor by opposing slot machines and casinos. Why? I will tell you the answer: Because the Legislature is taking in these poor tax revenues at record high levels and private competition would break your public monopoly on exploiting the people you are supposed to be representing (as this is your false title, which truthfully and alliteritively should be "Bureaucrat Bosley, who imposters as a representative". If slot machines and casinos opened in Massachusetts, the laws of economics would displace the public's regressive tax dollars away from the state's scratch and online tickets (to being scammed) and would lessen the state's gambling revenues.

In conclusion, your, Dan Bosley's, arguments for limiting gambling in Massachusetts are also limited only to the private sector. Last fiscal year, Massachusetts reported its highest yet growth of public gambling revenues, meaning record profits for the state. The reason why you are opposed to growing gambling in Massachusetts is because private sector gambling growth would cut into public sector gambling growth and profits. Bosley, your stand for defending the poor, which I admire most of the time, is not sincere in this case. If you, Bosley, really wanted to defend the poor from the growth of gambling in Massachusetts, you would (a) oppose the continuing growth of the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission year after year after year..., (b) educate the people that the Lottery is a scam paying back 70 cents and much less on the dollar, (c) increase the percentage of lottery revenues back to local communities, and (d) disavow the gambling monopoly that you and your legislative cohorts have in place by limiting the public lottery's continual growth, increasing lottery dollars to cities and towns, and keeping an open mind on private sector gambling competition if it does, indeed, have merit to job creation and economic development for the state and people you are supposed to be representing instead of exploiting.

Lastly, I ask you, Dan Bosley, to tune into PBS' show NOW this coming Friday evening. It will be an hour long episode about the positive impacts that CLEAN ELECTIONS has had in our great nation. Seeing how you, Dan Bosley, have voted for clean elections when one of your many pay raises was attached to the bill, and then ultimately voted against Clean Elections to override the will of the people, especially in Berkshire County, and killed this campaign finance reform program several years ago in the FY04 Massachusetts State Budget, you may stand to learn something new about how Representatives and other elected officials are all supposed to be representing the will and interests of the people instead of special interests.

Until next time, Dan, I send you my regards,

Jonathan A. Melle

-----

THE DAILY FREE PRESS

The Independent Free Newspaper at Boston University

EDITORIAL

Massachusetts should take a gamble

Issue date: 10/11/06

Section: Opinion

Slot machines and casinos would bring some much-needed cash to Massachusetts, if allowed to open shop in the Bay State.

Massachusetts's gubernatorial candidates were split on whether allowing gambling would be beneficial to the state or would increase crime and addiction.

Democrat Deval Patrick opposes allowing gambling, specifically slot machines at racetracks, in the state because he fears that it would ruin communities and drive problem gamblers into poverty.

But Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey and Independent Christy Mihos both think bringing slot machines to the state would boost state revenue. Healey, though, has spoken out against opening full casinos in the state.

Undoubtedly, there are many benefits to allowing slot machines and casinos to operate in the state -- most importantly a spike in tax revenue and new job creation.

In fact, according to a study on the economic impact of gambling conducted by the California State Library, "Las Vegas is a testament of the powerful ability of gambling to foster economic development.

"Because of gambling, Las Vegas has shown impressive job growth, developed into a major city with a low tax burden that many state and local governments look at with envy, and has spawned significant private and public sector investment."

Closer to home, Mohegan Sun in Connecticut employs about 10,000 workers.

While Massachusetts shouldn't expect results to the same degree, more revenue and job growth would help lower the already heavy tax burden on residents.

If lawmakers do want to consider legalizing casinos and slot machines during the next legislative session, they must greatly monitor the scope and prevalence of gambling in the state.

First, legislators should make sure that some tax revenue is used to mitigate the negative impact of gambling. A percentage of new revenue should go to a well-thought-out gambling prevention and awareness program, as well as to schools and other public services.

The Lottery in Massachusetts already returns about 23 percent of its revenue to the Local Aid Fund, which gives money to local cities and towns. Non-state gambling establishments should be no different.

While the verdict is still out as to whether casinos and slot machines will some day dot the Massachusetts landscape, with a carefully thought out program and strict law enforcement, gambling would pay hefty dividends to the state.

Monday, October 16, 2006 3:18:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, Dan Bosley & co., News Media, Politicians, & the People:

I recently took the time to watch PBS' NOW recent airing about Clean Elections. This is what I learned. A political science graduate, like myself, found Maine politics to be corrupted. There was a public policy issue about big rigs and gas (I can't quite remember off the top of my head) and many of the people were opposed to it in Maine. BUT, Maine's special interests influenced Maine's Legislature and the measure passed. So, the p.s. grad. came up with the idea of Clean Elections, which is a voluntary campaign finance reform measure that allows people to collect small donations for several hundred people to make their candidacy legitimate and then use public funds to publicly finance their campaigns. In Maine, and later in Arizona, Clean Elections is the law and is very popular among the people.

During PBS' show, they showed a picture of the almighty Golden Dome atop Beacon Hill's Massachusetts State House. PBS apprised the viewers that Massachusetts Politics is ran by a large majority of "Democratic" Legislators. (As a side note, that is not true at all. Massachusetts Legislators say they are Democratic, but they are anything but Liberal, Progressive, Forward Looking, and the like banal terminology. In Massachusetts, City Councilors, Mayors, State Reps and Senators, all say they are Democrats so that they can get into political power and public office, but many of them are really right-wingers and phonies, and they all know that I love to tell them so when their actions speak louder than their initial words. Anyways...) PBS went onto say that the vested interests under the almighty Golden Dome did not want Clean Elections in Massachusetts despite the fact that a great majority of the people of Massachusetts voted for the measure in 1998, which goes to further prove my point that the Democratic Party in Massachusetts is really a fraud on the people of Massachusetts, who are becoming increasingly Independent Voters -- Yeah! So in the FY04 state budget, which was effective on July 1, 2003, House Speaker Tom Finneran and his minions such as DAN BOSLEY included the abolition of Clean Elections as a budget rider so when the FY04 state budget was approved, so was the end of Clean Elections in Massachusetts.

What is important to note for all of you Berkshire County and Massachusetts citizens is the phony behavior of the long-standing North Adams State Legislator, Dan Bosley. Before the demise of Clean Elections, State Representative Dan Bosley was once upset with Speaker Finneran after long supporting him since 1996 for the Speaker's post. Dan Bosley is even smarter than I am about public policy, and I can see right through him and he knows it. For example, Bosley's contentions with Finneran were for good causes the people support. From FY02-FY04, Finneran dramatically cut state aid funding to cities and towns, ratcheted up the state lottery, which was placing more tax burdens on the poor, and allowed special interests and closed door public business to flourish in Massachusetts politics like never before. Bosley did not want any of this.

The bad news for the people of Massachusetts had really sharply impacted Bosley enough for him to take a stand against the political machine known to us as Boston Politics. Bosley was to be admired. BUT, BOSLEY CAVED to the power in order for him to save himself and his political career and he then allowed everything bad to happen like it did instead of becoming Speaker of the House. I don't understand Dan Bosley! He is so intelligent and knows so much that I bet he'd woop my butt in a public policy debate with both one hand tied behind his back and one foot up in the air. Bosley should have put it all on the line and kicked Finneran's ass out of the Speaker's Chair and assumed to the Speaker's position to give power back to the people of Massachusetts. But, NO!

What is important here is that Bosley is really another phony in politics because he talks the talk of the Democratic Party, which is leveraging public power and money to assist the poor and cities and towns to be able to provide optimal public services such as a quality public education, BUT when it comes time to walk the walk, Bosley always caves to the powers that are in place to promote his own trivial political career so that someday he may have a cushy state legislative pension paid in full by the people he is supposed to be representing in public office. When it came to Clean Elections, Bosley had earlier supported and voted for the measure. This was around the time when Bosley saw Speaker Finneran's aforementioned corrupt and inequitable public policies and wanted a change so badly that he was going to run for the Speaker-ship and save Massachusetts from the sorry state of where it is today in 2006. Then, in 2003, Bosley re-pledged his support to Speaker Finneran and voted to abolish Clean Elections in Massachusetts. Just like John Kerry's flip-flops on public policy issues, Dan Bosley voted for Clean Elections before he voted against it. Dan Bosley caved to power and became a perfect Bureaucrat for "power for money and money for power". What ashame!

Dan Bosley is the most intelligent State Legislator I have ever at once met but many times became disappointed in. Because I am not as smart as Bosley and hold no titles to class and status, I am sure Bosley would not hesitate to kick my ass in politics if and/or when I speak out as an American Citizen with U.S. Constitutional Rights and Civil Liberties. Nonetheless, I will always speak my good conscience as long as I live; Give me Liberty of Give me Death!

Back to PBS. The point PBS made about Clean Elections is that while one would think that the Democratic Party in our country would be the ones to support campaign finance reform, the reality is anything but. In Maine and in Arizona, where Clean Elections is a success, many Republican Party candidates are both supporting Clean Elections and disavowing special interests by running as Clean Elections candidates. While some Democratic Party candidates show an interest in Clean Elections, the recent political trends have shown Republican Party candidates and voters to be the strongest supporters of campaign finance reform. In Massachusetts, it was the "Democratic Party" state Legislators who ultimately abolished Clean Elections and kept the vested special interests strong and powerful under the almighty Golden Dome.

My conclusions are: (a) Clean Elections should be the law of the land from City Halls to State Houses to Capitol Hill and the White House, (b) the "Democratic Party" in Massachusetts is the biggest fraud going in politics today. From Mayors to Legislators to Governors, many politicians lie about being Democrats in order to get into power and then go onto represent right-wing issues and special interest causes, (c) Dan Bosley is really intelligent on public policies, knows the differences on taxes, state aid, the state lottery, public education, and the like, but he is really just another phony and a perfect bureaucrat because he always caves into power to save his own trivial political career so he will have nice publicly financed pension as an old man in the future, and (d) public policy reform issues don't necessarily fall with the Democratic Party candidates and politicians. When reforms for the people are proposed, those who champion them can be Republicans like John McCain or Democrats like Ted Kennedy. When Democrats are fraudulent, they should be dissented against and voted out of office. When Republicans are fraudelent, they should be likewise stopped and kicked out of power, too. We need a government that represents the people and the people only. For this mandate, I will always be there speaking, writing, and someday campaigning to represent the people in government for the benefit of the people who comprise this great nation we cherish and love: The United States of America!

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

Thursday, November 02, 2006 4:31:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

A governor, not a politician
Letters

Article Launched:11/03/2006

Friday, November 03, 2006

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:

I have followed the gubernatorial debates, starting with the National Teachers Association debate in Williamstown and the South Berkshire Chamber of Commerce debate in Great Barrington. Both audiences heard Grace Ross, Christy Mihos, and Deval Patrick; Kerry Healey did not attend either debate.

In Great Barrington, Patrick said, "I don't think I'm ready for single-payer health care," even though it is one of the planks of the state Democratic platform. Ross won applause for her support of a single-payer system. Patrick later listed elements he did favor, to which Ross responded, "It sounds to me like you support single-payer," a comment that was not lost on the audience.

Attentive citizens will have realized that Ross is not only more closely aligned with the Democratic Party platform than the Democratic candidate himself, but that Ross has been leading Patrick on many issues where he is either lagging or vague.

A Sept. 27 Eagle editorial "Four's A Crowd" stated, "Green-Rainbow Party candidate Grace Ross proved to be uninformed and did little more than parrot the positions of Mr. Patrick." Had the editorial writer attended the debates in Berkshire County, he would have heard quite the opposite. In fact, each time Ross makes a point, you can see Patrick furiously taking notes. Then, at the next debate, you'll hear Ross' thoughts coming out of his mouth.

Is it "smart politics" to parrot what voters want to hear before a primary and whatever would play well to a big business cabinet after? No, it's what has given politics and politicians a bad name. Are voters ready for a breath of fresh air on Beacon Hill? I think they are. I know I am.

I am voting for Grace Ross for governor on Nov. 7 because she has no ties to big business, is not a career politician or a multimillionaire, and because her values not only support the Democratic Party platform, but bring even more to the people in terms of tax relief, health care reform, education, small business support, election reform, and environmental oversight.

Value your voice and voice your values on Nov. 7 and vote for Grace Ross for governor.

WANDA BOEKE

Pittsfield, Oct. 28, 2006

Monday, November 06, 2006 8:16:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Pat,

Why doesn't the state Legislature simply place two proposed state Constitutional Amendments on the ballot: Either (a) the people of Massachusetts vote for same sex marriage (or civil unions), or (b) the people of Massachusetts vote against same sex marriage (or civil unions)? Moreover, why doesn't the state Legislature even simply place a proposed state law on their docket either for or against either same sex marriage and/or civil unions? The State's Supreme Court had every right to make its 2003 decision on the issue of same sex marriage, but so doesn't the state Legislature and the People of Massachusetts! Democracy should be practiced by the State Legislature and the People of Massachusetts, too!

I truly believe that democracy is dead in the Massachusetts State Legislature. The people are disenfranchised by these autocrats who do all of their business behind closed doors and intimidate people from calling them on their sorry and pathetic game of power brokering.

BUT I WILL ALWAYS SPEAK MY GOOD CONSCIENCE AS LONG AS I LIVE! GIVE JONATHAN ALAN MELLE LIBERTY OR GIVE JONATHAN ALAN MELLE DEATH! MY GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS WILL ALWAYS HEAR FROM ONE GOOD MAN AS LONG AS I LIVE!

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle
----------
Patrick Pennell letmepaintpf at yahoo dot com wrote:
Jonathan;
I totally disagree with the Governor's push for a constitutitional amendment for two reasons:
1) Simply put it is shameless bigotry
2) Much to my dismay all the incumbents were re-elected and sat on the amendment before, and since the voters put them back in, they are stuck with their political cowards, who should simply vote against the amendment.
Happy Holidays
Always read your letters and admire your courage.
Pat Fennell

Thursday, November 30, 2006 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dear Berkshire Eagle Editors, BERKSHIRE BLOGGERS, the news media, Politicians, & the People:

I am in awe by your recent editorials! First, Tom Reilly's "Big Dig" lawsuit; Second, Deval Patrick's picks of Berkshire County Mayors Ruberto and Barrett to shape his new Beacon Hill Administration.

My concurrence with your praise for Mr. Reilly, who was Mr. Patrick's Democratic Party opponent for Massachusetts Governor earlier this year, is in support of the fact that the "Big Dig" is the worst of the worst in terms of political corruption and public administration! The outgoing Massachusetts Attorney General --Tom Reilly-- is a true leader for taking on the big businesses that have mismanaged the state government's most expensive, wasteful, dangerous and fatal pork barrel public works project in the history of the United States of America. In the city I currently live in, which is Manchester, New Hampshire, the "Union Leader" newspaper had another excellent editorial about the "Big Dig" today, but they came down hard on Tom Reilly with serious criticisms. I believe the "Union Leader" newspaper is correct in their editorial today that Tom Reilly is wrong to not include the state inspectors, MTA and its former Chairman Matt Amorello his lawsuit. (As an aside, the "Union Leader" newspaper published my "Letter to the Editor" to them on Friday, 11/24/2006, on page B3. My mom, who is a cancer patient and is suffering through chemo-therapy right now, told me that she was so proud of my published letter that she photocopied it for her to save. My letter was in support of New Hampshire adopting a broad based tax to fund public education, which has been an issue in the state's --NH's-- highest courts for many years now.)

My concurrence with your praise for Governor Elect Deval Patrick's picking of Berkshire Mayors Ruberto and Barrett to help him shape his leadership team for his upcoming gubernatorial administration is the fact that since Jane Swift was Massachusetts Governor and through the terrible regime of the phony Mitt Romney, Berkshire County cities and towns have received less state aid funding every year since the peak of state aid funding to municipalities in the FY2001 Massachusetts State Budget, which was effective from July 1, 2000 through around the Thanksgiving state budget of 2001. From the Thanksgiving state budget of 2001, which was FY02, until today, the Massachusetts State Legislature(s) and Governor(s) have gutted state aid funding to cities and towns, including then Governor JANE SWIFT!

While I find your continual praise for Ms. Swift to be without merit and any factual backing, I do think that North Adams Mayor John Barrett III will show no hesitation in telling Governor-Elect Deval Patrick that his city needs state aid to provide a quality level of public services to his residents and businesses who continue to make North Adams progress forward toward a liveable quality of life. Furthermore, I am sure Pittsfield Mayor Jim Ruberto will not hesitate to tell Governor-Elect Deval Patrick that with Beacon Hill's financial support, he will be better able to induce more and more businesses to invest in the community: The City of Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

The cold and cruel reality, however, is that Deval Patrick is not going to be able to restore state aid funding to either Pittsfield or North Adams anytime soon next year. The incompetent and idiotic state Legislature on Beacon Hill placed another huge bill on both the state government and poor residents, which is, of course, mandated "universal" health insurance through costly private insurance companies -- NOT SINGLE PAYER, which is the economically efficient way!

Next year, it will be Governor Deval Patrick who will have to IMPLEMENT this STUPID "universal" health insurance program that has NO real and comprehensive state government funding mechanism. WHERE IS THE MONEY FOR THE INSURANCE COMPANIES to provide healthcare insurance policies for the poor and uninsured state residents GOING TO COME FROM? The cold and cruel answer is that the state Legislature is going to, ONCE AGAIN, balance their books off of the backs of both the municipalities by (a) slashing state aid to cities and towns (a recurring theme in the 21st Century's poor legacy of the current state of Massachusetts Politics!) and by (b) increasing taxes and fees on the poor by continuing to ratchet up the state lottery sales (a poor tax) and incrementally increasing the unfair, inequitable and discriminatory mandated fees that poor and currently uninsured people will be required to pay the state for their privately provided but state subsidized (with no funding mechanism) mandatory healthcare insurance (another recurring theme in the 21st Century's poor legacy of the current state of Massachusetts Politics!).

In other words, MAYORS Jim Ruberto and John Barrett III, you are going to get screwed over once again by the state government, but at least you have a naive Governor-Elect on your side this time around. The sorry reality and truth is that Deval Patrick's hands are tied down by the incompetency of the past and incoming Massachusetts Legislature(s) and his two predecessor failed Governors: Jane Swift & Mitt Romney. At least Berkshire County has an excellent Mayor in Jim Ruberto and a good institutional Mayor in John Barrett III. These two Mayors may be all that saves Berkshire County from the incompetencies of the state government.

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

Thursday, November 30, 2006 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Honorable State Representative Daniel Bosley:

As usual, I know you are more intelligent than I am on government issues and I always find it very difficult to present any and all arguments to you because you are like an "Einstein" on public policy matters. Both North Adams and Berkshire County SHOULD be fortunate to have you as their "Representative" on Beacon Hill due to your business acumen and institutional knowledge of matters that, as you have pointed out, matter most to your constituents, which I was once one.

You are right, Dan Bosley, that I was wrong to label Sen. Nuciforo and Rep. Speranzo as "Cowards" in my support of the language used by the pertinent published letter in yesterday's "The Berkshire Eagle" (Online). I am sorry to Nuciforo and Speranzo for calling you that banal name that only an overjudgmental finger pointer would use out of frustration. I still dislike Nuciforo for his persecution of my father, Bob Melle, in the Spring of 1998, however. I still, indeed, admire the accomplishments and intelligence of Speranzo over all of the years I have known this good man.

Dan Bosley, you are still my friend even though I have dissented against your bureaucratic-style of "leadership" for so many consecutive years now. You were right when you told me that on Beacon Hill, you had disagreements with your fellow Legislators and then were able to have dinner together as friends. Politics should not be taken so personally that two good people cannot still be good friends.

The point I still dissent to you about, Dan Bosley, is that many --if not all-- laws concerning stopping discrimination and conscience in the name of social justice have been codified by state and federal legislatures and governors and presidents. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Lyndon Johnson codified the tenets of state and federal court decisions to provide equality to all American Citizens. Abortion laws have been passed by the like governmental bodies to further protect the reproductive rights of American Women. Legislatures throughout America have both passed laws and placed before voters ballot questions on same sex marriage. Your arguments for Beacon Hill to not allow any state laws or Constitutional Amendments on the matter may end up in the long run doing more harm to homosexual American Citizens residing in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts than providing the current and probably short-lived broad brush strokes of protections for these people.

Dan Bosley, I went on the local radio station while I still lived in Berkshire County in the Spring of 2004 and I said what I have said all along. I support the rights of same sex couples to marry and I agree with 4 majority state Supreme Court Justice's decision. However, I also believe that, as was written by these Justices, the Legislature has a duty to define marriage in Massachusetts -- something that has NOT been done by the Founding Fathers through the present day! The state Supreme Court Justices pointed out that the reason why they had to make such a decision of same sex marriage was because the Legislature never defined marriage. Moreover, these Justices gave the Legislature 6 months to define same sex marriage, and you and your fellow Legislators never complied with their requests and the law. Indeed, the Legislature has not yet defined marriage in Massachusetts and that is all that the people really want - REPRESENTATION!

I see right through you, Dan Bosley, and while a lot of what goes on in big business and government goes over Nuciforo, Guyer, (not so much) Speranzo and (much more so) Pignatelli's limited intellects does not go over your head. While Nuciforo and Guyer use the strong arm of the state to achieve their ends of money for power and power for money, and while Speranzo and Pignatelli place the political machine above elementary reason and constitutional governance, you, Dan Bosley, are able to see public policies and their impacts on people for what they really are. Dan Bosley, you are even more intelligent than I am on public policies. I see through everything, but when you speak, are quoted in news articles, and write letters to the Editor or to me, you are able to put everything together for the people to understand. While my intellect ends with understanding public policies, you are able to relate that knowledge concisely and accurately. You are my superior in intellect and synthesizing public policy to produce constructive outcomes!

Dan Bosley, if you really were a man of conscience, you would have ran for the House Speakership several years ago and saved the state government and her communities from the trouble Massachusetts is in today. You knew that Speaker Finneran and Governors Jane Swift and then Mitt Romney were going to cut deeply into social service, public works, communal programs such as roads and public schools, in order to through away state money for special interests and the "Big Dig." You knew that Speaker Finneran's closed door policies meant less power, representation and public monies for the common man.

You, Dan Bosley, were so incensed with Finneran and Swift (then Romney) that you were going to depose of Finneran and save Massachusetts by becoming Massachusetts Speaker. Then, conscience and compassion...went out the window and you caved to their merciless tenure on Beacon Hill. Governor Jane Swift took part in the worst of the worst phases of the "Big Dig" public works project and now a then 38 year old women is dead because of the incompetencies of the state government and big businesses. If you had become Speaker, you would have instituted proper legislative oversight over Governor Jane Swift and the MTA, and the lady's life would have been spared. If you had become Speaker, the state would not have cut its aid to municipalities for 3 straight fiscal years from FY02 - FY04, and then made paltry increases of 3% in FY05 - FY06, which amounted to further net cuts to cities and towns, and then made the 8% increase in FY07 that still puts state aid to local governments at a lower level than the FY01 state budget. You, Dan Bosley, saw through everything that would and then did happen on Beacon Hill, and you did NOT follow your conscience to stop any of it. So don't lecture me on conscience, Dan Bosley, when the outcomes of your own leadership had been the worsening of state governance for (a) the "Big Dig" and (b) municipal governments!

In conclusion, I am not as smart as you, Dan Bosley, but I am certainly more of a man of conscience than the indefensible Legislators you defend on Beacon Hill. If I was a state Representative representing Western Massachusetts, I would invoke the good name of Daniel Shays to describe the social injustices that Beacon Hill has done to places like the bankrupt City of Springfield (see "Pittsfield's" Peter Larkin's summer of 2003 lone vote to stop the state's bail out package), diminishing achievements by public school students due to drastic cuts in state education funding, roads and bridges falling into disrepair as the "Big Dig" eats up increasingly higher amounts of state dollars, and the like. If I was a State Representative, Dan Bosley, representing Pittsfield, North Adams, Springfield, Holyoke, or the like, I would open up the closed door Beacon Hill government and start advocating for the needs of Western Massachusetts over the special interests in and around Boston, such as Nuciforo's beloved big banks and insurance companies, which are the only winners when Governor Deval Patrick implements the STUPID "universal" healthcare insurance law you and your legislative cronies passed last year.

Say, Dan Bosley, how is the state going to subsidize the over 500,000 uninsured Massachusetts resident's (non-single payer) INSURANCE COMPANIES HMO's for the working poor when you and your legislative cronies did not provide a funding mechanism beyond your myopic and unrealistic forecasts of increased federal HHS dollars for Medicaid? Where is the money going to come from, Dan Bosley? More cuts to the cities and towns? Increased lottery sales (that are really a tax on the poor)? Where are you going to raise the money to pay for this, in theory, "universal" health care plan that makes no more sense than the "Big Dig", which took billions of dollars away from Massachusetts social services and cities and towns!

For all of your intelligence, Dan Bosley, you sure did one hell of job screwing the common people that you have spoken for over so many years and decades. Why don't you become a man of conscience and become Speaker of the State House of Massachusetts in 2007. If you do, I will apply to work for your administration and will stay on with you until Massachusetts becomes the state we both share a vision for of equality, fairness and quality public services for the common man (& woman).

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

-----

"Bosley, Daniel - Rep. (HOU)" wrote:

Jonathan,

It is not an act of cowardice to take the vote that these gentlemen took. It is an act of conscience. The easy thing to do would be to just pass this on to the voters and wash their hands of it. But instead they stood up against discrimination and took a tough vote.

I have a suggestion for you. Get a copy of the Massachusetts Constitution and read Section 48. Despite the wailings of our Governor, I have read the Constitution very carefully as I take my duties very seriously. Article 48 reads, "Final legislative action in the joint session upon any amendment shall be taken only by call of yeas and nays, which shall be entered upon the journals of the two houses." This means that if a final vote is taken it is taken by a roll call and not a voice vote. Similar language is found in land takings by Constitutional dictates and in our rules for various votes. In our rules, all votes are voice votes unless other wise specified. There is nothing in the section that states a final vote must be taken.

I realize that there are people who believe that the people have the right to vote on this since they collected signatures. I respectfully disagree. If getting signatures was all that was required for a constitutional question to be placed on the ballot, the founding fathers would not have given the legislature a role to play. We are part of the checks and balance in the system and if a majority of us decide not to vote, or take a vote to recess or adjourn, that is the action we have taken.

Two other considerations: First, if 170,000 people signed a petition on same sex marriage, over 5,000,000 people did not. This does not rise to the level of concern for most people who I talk to in the course of the day around my district. Most people are more interested in keeping their job, getting health care, affording a mortgage, etc. These are the things they want us working on. Second, we are a representative democracy and we are elected to make decisions such as these based on our research, knowledge, and sense of what we believe is the right course for the state. This is something we take seriously. Do we take the easy way out and throw every controversial issue on the ballot, or do we vote as we think we should?

I know that there are people who disagree and feel that they should be allowed to vote on this issue as it is one of those issues that combine a sense of one's moral, religious, family value system as well as a legal or statutory consideration. We, however, cannot break our duties down to reflect others religious or personal views. We have a duty to consider and give our judgment on each issue that comes before us. That is what these two gentlemen did.

The Governor has spouted off a lot recently about our constitutional duty. He sent us copies of our state Constitution in case we did not have a copy. I am glad he did that. I have a copy but it gave me an opportunity to read over this document once again. I find that if I am to uphold my constitutional duties, I must vote this down. Our constitution documents what our freedoms are in a positive manner. It is not a prohibitive document. In other words, it expresses our freedoms, not what we are not free to do. To place an amendment in that expressly prohibits same sex marriage would go against this. And the Constitution in several places refers to the fact that we are all equal and are given the same rights on all the things that we can do in our society. Since marriage between two people is a legal activity in our state, we need to keep out an amendment that would expressly forbid that people be treated equally only because they are of the same sex.

Finally on a personal note, I believe that one of our greatest documents is our Declaration of Independence. It talks about unalienable rights. These rights are to be protected at all costs regardless of how we personally feel on the issue. That makes the vote that these gentlemen took the right vote. You may disagree on the issue, but please stop calling them cowards. They voted their conscience.

Dan Bosley

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Blogger jonathan said...

Dear BERKSHIRE BLOGGERS, News Media, People, & Pols:

There is still no response from Rep. Bosley to my question about where the state money is going to be coming from to fund the state's "universal" healthcare program that Gov. Patrick will have to implement next month, and that will be another special interest giveaway to the insurance companies in and around Boston that Nuciforo illegally represents as a corporate Attorney for Boston's Berman & Dowell law firm while at the same time serving in "elected" state government positions.

Is Bosley a man of "conscience"? The answer is, "Hell, NO!"

Sincerely,
Jonathan A. Melle

Thursday, December 07, 2006 2:20:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Ware tapped for panel
Former selectwoman joins Patrick group
By Christopher Marcisz, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Berkshire Eagle
Article Launched:12/07/2006
Thursday, December 07, 2006

WILLIAMSTOWN — In an effort to increase representation from smaller towns and cities, Gov.-elect Deval Patrick's transition team has chosen former Williamstown selectwoman and state Senate candidate Margaret Johnson Ware to serve on the local government transition working group.
Ware was one of five current and former selectmen and town managers added to the 15-member group last week.

As originally constituted, the group had consisted solely of mayors, including Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto and North Adams Mayor John Barrett III.

Ware said she received the call asking her to participate last Thursday.

"The only people in the working group were mayors," she said. "There are many incredible people there who are bright and wise, but the needs of cities are sometimes exactly the same as suburban and rural communities, but other times they aren't."

Open meetings scheduled

The group's work had already begun when she got the call, with conference calls and meetings, but it will have a busy week and a half. The group will hold open meetings in Westfield, New Bedford and Boston before releasing a report on Dec. 15 to the governor-elect.

Ware said she sees her contribution as "talking about things that wouldn't be brought up otherwise."

In particular, she said that is likely to include regional school transportation funding, and payments in lieu of taxes by the state to municipal governments for state-owned land. Both are major budget issues for suburban and rural communities.

Professional history

Ware is the regional director of the SHINE (Serving Health Information Needs of Elders) program in Pittsfield. She served as a member of the Williamstown Board of Selectmen from 1995 to 2004, and was elected to the Democratic State Committee in 2000.

She was one of five Democrats who ran for the party's nomination for state Senate in November, a race eventually won by Benjamin B. Downing.

Patrick spokesman Libby DeVecchi said Ware was added at the request of the members of the working group. She said the most important part of their work is to gather as much public feedback as possible for their reports.

"We have what I believe is the broadest, deepest and most diverse transition committee that we've seen in Massachusetts in recent memory," she said. "We have people from across the state and from all backgrounds, professional and personal. That's something we're all proud of."

Ware is now among the 210 Commonwealth residents Patrick has tapped serve on 15 transition working groups set up to discuss policy on issues like health care, public safety and transportation.

In addition to mayors Ruberto and Barrett, Alford resident Michael Forbes Wilcox, who is president of Alford Associates, a research and consulting firm specializing on foreign-exchange analysis, serves on the economic development working group. Mass MoCA Director Joseph Thompson serves on the "creative economy" working group.

Also, Barrington Stage Company Artistic Director and founder Julianne Boyd is serving on Patrick's 23-member transition committee.

Thursday, December 07, 2006 2:21:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

RE: Open letter to Dan Bosley - Protesters mob Statehouse over budget cuts

Dear Honorable State "Representative" aka BUREAUCRAT Bosley:

I don't understand why the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are so snowed in about what you state legislative BUREAUCRATS have done to the social service agencies along with the municipalities: STATE BUDGET CUTS! They are all blaming Gov. Mitt Romney for all of Massachusetts' problems. Your corrupt political machinery on Beacon Hill has vilified Romney as a scapegoat. To do so is to show yourselves as totalitarian government officials. For example, the Allie powers of the West defeated Germany, Italy, and the like in World War One. When the Nazi Government took total command of Germany, they blamed the Jewish People for undermining the Axis Powers instead of blaming the Allie forces that defeated their homelands. Due to both the vilification of and racism against Jewish People in Europe at that time, they (the Jewish People) became scapegoats for the problems of Germany in the 1920s - 1930s. Tragically, such vile propaganda by the Nazi regime led to the worst genocide and evil of human history. While that is an extreme example of the parallels of propaganda and scapegoating, its relevance lies in the fact that Governor Mitt Romney's is only a small part of the problem when it comes to Massachusetts' failing political economy.

Indeed, it is you and your legislative cohorts that have CUT into the BUDGETS of the social service agencies and municipalities moreso than any other political body or special interest group. I have followed Massachusetts politics for over 10 solid years now, and I am shocked at how you and your legislative cohorts run such a devious propaganda machine against anyone who dissents and/or opposes your terrible legislative public policy record. From Nuciforo trying to Jail me and strong-arm my dad out of his livelihood in the Spring of 1998 to Denis E. Guyer spreading the most ruthless and damaging slanderous rumors against me from the Summer of 2004 through the Fall of 2006, you guys are BASTARDS when citizens disagree and expose your awful public policy records. WELL, BOSLEY, HERE I GO AGAIN, DISSENTING AGAINST YOU AND YOUR BUREAUCRATIC BRETHEREN IN THE MASSACHUSETTS LEGISLATURE:

(A) THE MASSACHUSETTS LEGISLATURE's 3 straight years of state budget cuts to social service agencies and municipalities was from the "Thanksgiving" FY02 state budget to the FY04 state budget. DURING THIS TIME, BOSLEY, et al, VOTED THEMSELVES 3 PAY RAISES.

(B) What were these pay raises? In the Fall of 1998, Bosley, et al, passed an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution for the automatic legislative pay raise (and possibly a cut in pay -- never happened) every 2 years. Bosley, et al, tied their pay raises to the state's median income. What is the kicker? Bosley, et al, placed no socially scientific means to gauge the state's median income. What does that mean? Bosley, et al, can arbitrarily pick a number out of magic hat and say the state's median income rose by a whopping $5,000; therefore, my pay raise should increase by $5,000. In the FY03 state budget, Bosley's hero, Speaker Finneran, made a deal that if he kept Clean Elections on the books, then he could double the BUREAUCRATS (legislatures) per diem travel pay. The progressives made the deal with the Devil, but lost their collective souls the following year when Bosley's hero abolished Clean Elections in the FY04 Massachusetts state budget. (Bosley did the deals, and like John Kerry or Mitt Romney, flip-flopped, taking his per diem raise in 2002 and then voting to abolish Clean Elections in 2003 while keeping his per diem pay raise!) Then, in the Spring of 2003 -- amidst 3 straight years of the BUREAUCRATS (aka the Legislature) cutting deeply into social service and municipal coffers, BOSLEY, et al, voted themselves a 3rd pay raise!, but this measure was defeated by a Gov. Romney veto. This 3rd pay raise for the BUREAUCRATS on BEACON HILL was for the Speaker and Senate President to have the sole power to increase the pay of Committee Chairs. ERGO, DURING 3 STRAIGHT YEARS OF BUDGET CUTS, DANIEL E. BOSLEY, ET AL, VOTED THEMSELVES 3 STRAIGHT PAY RAISES!

(C) How does this have anything to do with Gov. Romney. Well, Bosley, Gov. Romney took political office in January of 2003. The "Thanksgiving" state budget was passed near Thanksgiving of 2001 by the state Legislature and Acting Gov. Jane Swift. THIS WAS THE FIRST OF 3 YEARS OF STATE BUDGET CUTS TO SOCIAL SERVICE AGENCIES AND MUNICIPALITIES! The FY03 state budget was passed in July of 2002 by the state Legislature and Acting Gov. Jane Swift. THIS WAS THE SECOND OF 3 YEARS OF STATE BUDGET CUTS! Then, Bosley, the FY04 state budget was passed the the state Legislature and Governor Mitt Romney. THIS WAS THE THIRD OF 3 YEARS OF STATE BUDGET CUTS!

(D) What did Governor Romney do right the Bosley, et al, did wrong? During 3 consecutive years of state budget cuts, Gov. Mitt Romney vetoed the 3rd of 3 pay raises the state Legislature passed for themselves! Therefore, while Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, cut away at social service agencies and municipalities for 3 straight years, Gov. Romney stopped Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, from receiving their 3rd straight pay raise they voted for themselves in the same time period of so many straight years of budget cuts to social service agencies and municipalities!

In conclusion, Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, run a propaganda machine that may only have been outdone by the extremes of human history. Bureaucrat Bosley's, et al, propaganda machine parallels that of a TOTALITARIAN government. For the people to believe that they are being represented by a democratic body on Beacon Hill is akin to people believing that Pigs have Wings and Fly! I am happy to be a voice of dissent against Bureaucrat Bosley, et al! I speak the truth, do my homework, and know my history. I WILL ALWAYS SPEAK MY GOOD CONSCIENCE AS LONG AS I LIVE! I am an American Citizen with U.S. Constitutional Rights and Civil Liberties, and I have nothing to fear but fear itself. If Bureaucrat Bosley, Gold-Digger Denis E. Guyer, or Strong-Armed Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. and Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. ever do me harm, I will yell to the people at the top of my lungs, "GIVE JONATHAN ALAN MELLE LIBERTY OR GIVE JONATHAN ALAN MELLE DEATH!" -- in the spirit of Virginia's Patrick Henry, who proclaimed at the signing of the Declaration of Independence that he was not just a Virginian, but also an American!

God Bless Liberty, Freedom, Justice, and the United States of America!

In truth, yours very truly, Dan Bosley, in forever friendship despite our differences in politics,

Jonathan A. Melle

Friday, December 08, 2006 1:51:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

THE MASSACHUSETTS CONSTITUTION's Article XLVIII (# 48).

I. Definition.

Legislative power shall continue to be vested in the general court; but the people reserve to themselves the popular initiative, which is the power of a specified number of voters to submit constitutional amendments and laws to the people for approval or rejection; and the popular referendum, which is the power of a specified number of voters to submit laws, enacted by the general court, to the people for their ratification or rejection.


The Initiative.
II. Initiative Petitions.

Section 1. Contents. - An initiative petition shall set forth the full text of the constitutional amendment or law, hereinafter designated as the measure, which is proposed by the petition.



Section 2. Excluded Matters. - No measure that relates to religion, religious practices or religious institutions; or to the appointment, qualification, tenure, removal, recall or compensation of judges; or to the reversal of a judicial decision; or to the powers, creation or abolition of courts; or the operation of which is restricted to a particular town, city or other political division or to particular districts or localities of the commonwealth; or that makes a specific appropriation of money from the treasury of the commonwealth, shall be proposed by an initiative petition; but if a law approved by the people is not repealed, the general court shall raise by taxation or otherwise and shall appropriate such money as may be necessary to carry such law into effect.

Neither the eighteenth amendment of the constitution, as approved and ratified to take effect on the first day of October in the year nineteen hundred and eighteen, nor this provision for its protection, shall be the subject of an initiative amendment.

No proposition inconsistent with any one of the following rights of the individual, as at present declared in the declaration of rights, shall be the subject of an initiative or referendum petition: The right to receive compensation for private property appropriated to public use; the right of access to and protection in courts of justice; the right of trial by jury; protection from unreasonable search, unreasonable bail and the law martial; freedom of the press; freedom of speech; freedom of elections; and the right of peaceable assembly.

No part of the constitution specifically excluding any matter from the operation of the popular initiative and referendum shall be the subject of an initiative petition; nor shall this section be the subject of such a petition.

The limitations on the legislative power of the general court in the constitution shall extend to the legislative power of the people as exercised hereunder.



[Section 3. Mode of Originating. - Such petition shall first be signed by ten qualified voters of the commonwealth and shall then be submitted to the attorney-general, and if he shall certify that the measure is in proper form for submission to the people, and that it is not, either affirmatively or negatively, substantially the same as any measure which has been qualified for submission or submitted to the people within three years of the succeeding first Wednesday in December and that it contains only subjects not excluded from the popular initiative and which are related or which are mutually dependent, it may then be filed with the secretary of the commonwealth. The secretary of the commonwealth shall provide blanks for the use of subsequent signers, and shall print at the top of each blank a description of the proposed measure as such description will appear on the ballot together with the names and residences of the first ten signers. All initiative petitions, with the first ten signatures attached, shall be filed with the secretary of the commonwealth not earlier than the first Wednesday of the September before the assembling of the general court into which they are to be introduced, and the remainder of the required signatures shall be filed not later than the first Wednesday of the following December.] [Section 3 superseded by section 1 of Amendments, Art. LXXIV.]



Section 4. Transmission to the General Court. - If an initiative petition, signed by the required number of qualified voters, has been filed as aforesaid, the secretary of the commonwealth shall, upon the assembling of the general court, transmit it to the clerk of the house of representatives, and the proposed measure shall then be deemed to be introduced and pending.


III. Legislative Action. General Provisions.

Section 1. Reference to Committee. - If a measure is introduced into the general court by initiative petition, it shall be referred to a committee thereof, and the petitioners and all parties in interest shall be heard, and the measure shall be considered and reported upon to the general court with the committee's recommendations, and the reasons therefor, in writing. Majority and minority reports shall be signed by the members of said committee.



Section 2. Legislative Substitutes. - The general court may, by resolution passed by yea and nay vote, either by the two houses separately, or in the case of a constitutional amendment by a majority of those voting thereon in joint session in each of two years as hereinafter provided, submit to the people a substitute for any measure introduced by initiative petition, such substitute to be designated on the ballot as the legislative substitute for such an initiative measure and to be grouped with it as an alternative therefor.



IV. Legislative Action on Proposed
Constitutional Amendments.

[Section 1. Definition. - A proposal for amendment to the constitution introduced into the general court by initiative petition shall be designated an initiative amendment, and an amendment introduced by a member of either house shall be designated a legislative substitute or a legislative amendment.



Section 2. Joint Session. - If a proposal for a specific amendment of the constitution is introduced into the general court by initiative petition signed by not less than twenty-five thousand qualified voters, or if in case of a proposal for amendment introduced into the general court by a member of either house, consideration thereof in joint session is called for by vote of either house, such proposal shall, not later than the second Wednesday in June, be laid before a joint session of the two houses, at which the president of the senate shall preside; and if the two houses fail to agree upon a time for holding any joint session hereby required, or fail to continue the same from time to time until final action has been taken upon all amendments pending, the governor shall call such joint session or continuance thereof.] [Section 2 superseded by section 1 of Amendments, Art. LXXXI.]



Section 3. Amendment of Proposed Amendments. - A proposal for an amendment to the constitution introduced by initiative petition shall be voted upon in the form in which it was introduced, unless such amendment is amended by vote of three-fourths of the members voting thereon in joint session, which vote shall be taken by call of the yeas and nays if called for by any member.



Section 4. Legislative Action. - Final legislative action in the joint session upon any amendment shall be taken only by call of the yeas and nays, which shall be entered upon the journals of the two houses; and an unfavorable vote at any stage preceding final action shall be verified by call of the yeas and nays, to be entered in like manner. At such joint session a legislative amendment receiving the affirmative votes of a majority of all the members elected, or an initiative amendment receiving the affirmative votes of not less than one-fourth of all the members elected, shall be referred to the next general court.



Section 5. Submission to the People. - If in the next general court a legislative amendment shall again be agreed to in joint session by a majority of all the members elected, or if an initiative amendment or a legislative substitute shall again receive the affirmative votes of a least one-fourth of all the members elected, such fact shall be certified by the clerk of such joint session to the secretary of the commonwealth, who shall submit the amendment to the people at the next state election. Such amendment shall become part of the constitution if approved, in the case of a legislative amendment, by a majority of the voters voting thereon, or if approved, in the case of an initiative amendment or a legislative substitute, by voters equal in number to at least thirty per cent of the total number of ballots cast at such state election and also by a majority of the voters voting on such amendment.


Legislative Action on Proposed Laws.

[Section 1. Legislative Procedure. - If an initiative petition for a law is introduced into the general court, signed by not less than twenty thousand qualified voters, a vote shall be taken by yeas and nays in both houses before the first Wednesday of June upon the enactment of such law in the form in which it stands in such petition. If the general court fails to enact such law before the first Wednesday of June, and if such petition is completed by filing with the secretary of the commonwealth, not earlier than the first Wednesday of the following July nor later than the first Wednesday of the following August, not less than five thousand signatures of qualified voters, in addition to those signing such initiative petition, which signatures must have been obtained after the first Wednesday of June aforesaid, then the secretary of the commonwealth shall submit such proposed law to the people at the next state election. If it shall be approved by voters equal in number to at least thirty per cent of the total number of ballots cast at such state election and also by a majority of the voters voting on such law, it shall become law, and shall take effect in thirty days after such state election or at such time after such election as may be provided in such law.] [Section 1 superseded by section 2 of Amendments, Art. LXXXI.]



[Section 2. Amendment by Petitioners. - If the general court fails to pass a proposed law before the first Wednesday of June, a majority of the first ten signers of the initiative petition therefor shall have the right, subject to certification by the attorney-general filed as hereinafter provided, to amend the measure which is the subject of such petition. An amendment so made shall not invalidate any signature attached to the petition. If the measure so amended, signed by a majority of the first ten signers, is filed with the secretary of the commonwealth before the first Wednesday of the following July, together with a certificate signed by the attorney-general to the effect that the amendment made by such proposers is in his opinion perfecting in its nature and does not materially change the substance of the measure, and if such petition is completed by filing with the secretary of the commonwealth, not earlier than the first Wednesday of the following July nor later than the first Wednesday of the following August, not less than five thousand signatures of qualified voters, in addition to those signing such initiative petition, which signatures must have been obtained after the first Wednesday of June aforesaid, then the secretary of the commonwealth shall submit the measure to the people in its amended form.] [Section 2 superseded by section 3 of Amendments, Art. LXXXI.]


VI. Conflicting and Alternative Measures.

If in any judicial proceeding, provisions of constitutional amendments or of laws approved by the people at the same election are held to be in conflict, then the provisions contained in the measure that received the largest number of affirmative votes at such election shall govern.

A constitutional amendment approved at any election shall govern any law approved at the same election.

The general court, by resolution passed as hereinbefore set forth, may provide for grouping and designating upon the ballot as conflicting measures or as alternative measures, only one of which is to be adopted, any two or more proposed constitutional amendments or laws which have been or may be passed or qualified for submission to the people at any one election: provided, that a proposed constitutional amendment and a proposed law shall not be so grouped, and that the ballot shall afford an opportunity to the voter to vote for each of the measures or for only one of the measures, as may be provided in said resolution, or against each of the measures so grouped as conflicting or as alternative. In case more than one of the measures so grouped shall receive the vote required for its approval as herein provided, only that one for which the largest affirmative vote was cast shall be deemed to be approved.


The Referendum.
I. When Statutes shall take Effect.

No law passed by the general court shall take effect earlier than ninety days after it has become a law, excepting laws declared to be emergency laws and laws which may not be made the subject of a referendum petition, as herein provided.


II. Emergency Measures.

A law declared to be an emergency law shall contain a preamble setting forth the facts constituting the emergency, and shall contain the statement that such law is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, safety or convenience. [A separate vote shall be taken on the preamble by call of the yeas and nays, which shall be recorded, and unless the preamble is adopted by two-thirds of the members of each house voting thereon, the law shall not be an emergency law; but] if the governor, at any time before the election at which it is to be submitted to the people on referendum, files with the secretary of the commonwealth a statement declaring that in his opinion the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, safety or convenience requires that such law should take effect forthwith and that it is an emergency law and setting forth the facts constituting the emergency, then such law, if not previously suspended as hereinafter provided, shall take effect without suspension, or if such law has been so suspended such suspension shall thereupon terminate and such law shall thereupon take effect: but no grant of any franchise or amendment thereof, or renewal or extension thereof for more than one year shall be declared to be an emergency law. [See Amendments, Art. LXVII.]


III. Referendum Petitions.

Section 1. Contents. - A referendum petition may ask for a referendum to the people upon any law enacted by the general court which is not herein expressly excluded.



Section 2. Excluded Matters. - No law that relates to religion, religious practices or religious institutions; or to the appointment, qualification, tenure, removal or compensation of judges; or to the powers, creation or abolition of courts; or the operation of which is restricted to a particular town, city or other political division or to particular districts or localities of the commonwealth; or that appropriates money for the current or ordinary expenses of the commonwealth or for any of its departments, boards, commissions or institutions shall be the subject of a referendum petition.



Section 3. Mode of Petitioning for the Suspension of a Law and a Referendum Thereon. - A petition asking for a referendum on a law, and requesting that the operation of such law be suspended, shall first be signed by ten qualified voters and shall then be filed with the secretary of the commonwealth not later than thirty days after the law that is the subject of the petition has become law. [The secretary of the commonwealth shall provide blanks for the use of subsequent signers, and shall print at the top of each blank a description of the proposed law as such description will appear on the ballot together with the names and residences of the first ten signers. If such petition is completed by filing with the secretary of the commonwealth not later than ninety days after the law which is the subject of the petition has become law the signatures of not less than fifteen thousand qualified voters of the commonwealth, then the operation of such law shall be suspended, and the secretary of the commonwealth shall submit such law to the people at the next state election, if thirty days intervene between the date when such petition is filed with the secretary of the commonwealth and the date for holding such state election; if thirty days do not so intervene, then such law shall be submitted to the people at the next following state election, unless in the meantime it shall have been repealed; and if it shall be approved by a majority of the qualified voters voting thereon, such law shall, subject to the provisions of the constitution, take effect in thirty days after such election, or at such time after such election as may be provided in such law; if not so approved such law shall be null and void; but no such law shall be held to be disapproved if the negative vote is less than thirty per cent of the total number of ballots cast at such state election.] [Section 3 amended by section 2 of Amendments, Art. LXXIV and section 4 of Amendments, Art. LXXXI]



Section 4. Petitions for Referendum on an Emergency Law or a Law the Suspension of Which is Not Asked for. - A referendum petition may ask for the repeal of an emergency law or of a law which takes effect because the referendum petition does not contain a request for suspension, as aforesaid. Such petition shall first be signed by ten qualified voters of the commonwealth, and shall then be filed with the secretary of the commonwealth not later than thirty days after the law which is the subject of the petition has become law. [The secretary of the commonwealth shall provide blanks for the use of subsequent signers, and shall print at the top of each blank a description of the proposed law as such description will appear on the ballot together with the names and residences of the first ten signers. If such petition filed as aforesaid is completed by filing with the secretary of the commonwealth not later than ninety days after the law which is the subject of the petition has become law the signatures of not less than ten thousand qualified voters of the commonwealth protesting against such law and asking for a referendum thereon, then the secretary of the commonwealth shall submit such law to the people at the next state election, if thirty days intervene between the date when such petition is filed with the secretary of the commonwealth and the date for holding such state election. If thirty days do not so intervene, then it shall be submitted to the people at the next following state election, unless in the meantime it shall have been repealed; and if it shall not be approved by a majority of the qualified voters voting thereon, it shall, at the expiration of thirty days after such election, be thereby repealed; but no such law shall be held to be disapproved if the negative vote is less than thirty per cent of the total number of ballots cast at such state election.] [Section 4 superseded by section 3 of Amendments, Art. LXXIV and section 5 of Amendments, Art. LXXXI.]


General Provisions.
I. Identification and Certification of Signatures.

Provision shall be made by law for the proper identification and certification of signatures to the petitions hereinbefore referred to, and for penalties for signing any such petition, or refusing to sign it, for money or other valuable consideration, and for the forgery of signatures thereto. Pending the passage of such legislation all provisions of law relating to the identification and certification of signatures to petitions for the nomination of candidates for state offices or to penalties for the forgery of such signatures shall apply to the signatures to the petitions herein referred to. The general court may provide by law that no co-partnership or corporation shall undertake for hire or reward to circulate petitions, may require individuals who circulate petitions for hire or reward to be licensed, and may make other reasonable regulations to prevent abuses arising from the circulation of petitions for hire or reward.


II. Limitation on Signatures.

Not more than one-fourth of the certified signatures on any petition shall be those of registered voters of any one county.


[III. Form of Ballot.


Each proposed amendment to the constitution, and each law submitted to the people, shall be described on the ballots by a description to be determined by the attorney-general, subject to such provision as may be made by law, and the secretary of the commonwealth shall give each question a number and cause such question, except as otherwise authorized herein, to be printed on the ballot in the following form:-

In the case of an amendment to the constitution: Shall an amendment to the constitution (here insert description, and state, in distinctive type, whether approved or disapproved by the general court, and by what vote thereon) be approved?

In the case of a law: Shall a law (here insert description, and state, in distinctive type, whether approved or disapproved by the general court, and by what vote thereon) be approved?


IV. Information for Voters.

The secretary of the commonwealth shall cause to be printed and sent to each registered voter in the commonwealth the full text of every measure to be submitted to the people, together with a copy of the legislative committee's majority and minority reports, if there be such, with the names of the majority and minority members thereon, a statement of the votes of the general court on the measure, and a description of the measure as such description will appear on the ballot; and shall, in such manner as may be provided by law, cause to be prepared and sent to the voters other information and arguments for and against the measure.] [Subheadings III and IV superseded by section 4 of Amendments, Art. LXXIV.] [Subheading IV superseded by Amendments,Art. CVIII.]


V. The Veto Power of the Governor.

The veto power of the governor shall not extend to measures approved by the people.


VI. The General Court's Power of Repeal.

Subject to the veto power of the governor and to the right of referendum by petition as herein provided, the general court may amend or repeal a law approved by the people.


VII. Amendment Declared to be Self-executing.

This article of amendment to the constitution is self-executing, but legislation not inconsistent with anything herein contained may be enacted to facilitate the operation of its provisions.


VIII. Articles IX and XLII of Amendments of the Constitution Annulled.

Article IX and Article XLII of the amendments of the constitution are hereby annulled.

Sunday, December 10, 2006 9:21:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear News Media, Politicians, the People:



The reasons I believe Dan Bosley will bring positive changes to Massachusetts are as follows:



(a) He is the most intelligent person whom I have personally known on a first hand basis when it comes to public policy.



(b) He cares about politics from the bottom and up perspective and is a human being first and foremost. Furthermore, Dan Bosley uses his brain instead of his political muscle to achieve positive goals for the common people.



(c) His legacy is one of amazing achievements and outstanding accomplishments. Mass. MoCA and the revitalization of North Adams from a post-industrial wasteland to a liveable community with promises for common people are awesome outcomes.



(d) In the past decade, Berkshire County and the Western Massachusetts region at large has seen a divestment in state dollars from Beacon Hill due to the "Big Dig" and budget crises of FY02 - FY04. To have a man like Dan Bosley running the Economic Development agency will be an asset and a guarantee of valuable investments in places like Great Barrington, Holyoke, Pittsfield, Northampton, North Adams, Springfield, and the like.



In conclusion, I am proud of Dan Bosley's deserved spot in the incoming Deval Patrick administration! However, if Bosley is to put an honest face on Economic Development for all of Massachusetts, both Governor-Elect Deval Patrick and Economic Development Director Dan Bosley are going to have to level with the people of Massachusetts about the flawed and costly "universal" healthcare plan / insurance company's HMO tax dollars giveaway with no funding mechanism that will be implemented in 2007. When all of the state's money is going to go to the state's private insurance companies to pay for the working poor's mandated HMO's, the Deval and Dan aren't going to be able to invest in the communities and people's economic development programs and this good news is all going to be for naught! I hope Deval and Dan will do the right thing and abolish this flawed mandated universal healthcare plan with no funding mechanism before Massachusetts and her municipalities and people all go BANKRUPT, which is the opposite of "economic development"!

-Jonathan A. Melle

Tuesday, December 19, 2006 5:20:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

RE: Rep. Denis Guyer earns nearly three times what his constituents make...; Open Letter to Denis E. Guyer.

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

Dear Denis E. Guyer:

Re: "Gap between locals, legislators: County lawmakers' salaries higher than average residents'" (The Berkshire Eagle: 12/24/2006): You, Denis E. GUYER, are a GOLD-DIGGER! The only reason why you are making so much money in both the public & private sectors is because you married one of the wealthiest women in the Pittsfield area (& the World for the matter). You married Allison CRANE of "Crane & Company" and then you went from a working poor common citizen to an aristocratic elite politician and businessman. The only reason why you married Allison CRANE was because she was WEALTHY. You have taken all of her wealth and power for your own selfish interests. Moreover, instead of helping the Pittsfield area, you have only distinguished yourself for your own selfish ends.

Denis GUYER, you are one of the most mean-spirited son's of bitches/politicians whom I have ever met! You take personal attacks and slander to a whole new level of indecency, hate, racism and violence. You used your power to both hurt people and put yourself above everyone else.

WELL Denis GUYER, you have messed with the wrong man in me: Jonathan A. Melle. I will always be there to hold you into strong account for your acts of HATE, FASCISM, SLANDER, ABUSE, DISCRIMINATION, and the like. When you make fun of Jews, I will be there to tell the world that you are anti-semetic. When you sport your skin-head physical appearance with the accompanying anti-semetic slanderous rumors against people, I will be there to tell the world you are a neo-Nazi and follow the hateful and racist tenets of 1930's European FASCISM! When you abuse your political power and hurt people, I will be there to protect those you have and will hurt.

The things you have said and done with Allison Crane's wealth and power are terrible, Denis GUYER! In all of the time you have demeaned me to the Pittsfield area, you have yet to issue any sort of apology to me or anyone else you have hurt, including to the Jews! Moreover, Jewish people, including those whom you have made comments against, have all remained silent against your fascistic HATE-filled rumors and allowed you to get away with racism and violence. Denis E. Guyer, you can have all of the money and power in all the World, but to me, you are nothing more than an opportunistic fascist who digs for Gold to further your "Hitler-esque" political career that I, Jonathan A. Melle, will end before you rise into a "dictatorship" and then consequentially more and more people than me and a select group of others would then get hurt by your HATRED and RACISM!

I will always speak my good conscience as long as I live! Denis E. Guyer doesn't stand a snow ball's chance in hell against the outspoken voice of Jonathan Alan Melle. Give me Liberty or give me Death! I will stop Denis E. Guyer's hate-filled political career! If I were alive during Hitler's rise to power, he would have suffered the same sorry fate that his wretched 21st Century follower -- Denis E. Guyer -- will soon face, which would be an abrupt end to a hate-filled political career in order to save and protect innocent people from getting hurt by illegal and immoral acts of fascism and racism. Denis Guyer will never rise in politics because he HATES instead of LOVES all of God's Children, who are all of the World's diverse Peoples and Nations. I love all of God's Children, while Denis Guyer hates peoples based on their ethnicity. END HATE and RACISM and VOTE GUYER OUT NOW!

In truth,

Jonathan A. Melle
-----
Gap between locals, legislators
County lawmakers' salaries higher than average residents'

By Hillary Chabot, Eagle Boston Bureau
Berkshire Eagle

Article Launched:12/24/2006

Sunday, December 24, 2006

BOSTON — Residents in the Berkshires earn less each year than the majority of their state legislators, leading to what some believe is a lack of understanding about the difficulties their working-class constituents face.

More than half of the legislators boast an income of $70,000 or higher, putting them in an income range shared by about 35 percent of Berkshire County, according to a study conducted by The Eagle.

Lawmakers who earn more than their constituents don't face the same hardships in terms of paying off their mortgages and putting their children through college, leaving them less sympathetic with the plight of their constituents, said Tufts political professor Jeff Berry.

"Not having gone through the same experiences, they lack a greater understanding of what their constituents face," Berry said. "The Legislature would benefit by having more members who have been on welfare or have been unemployed or faced discrimination."

Two local legislators have much higher incomes than the median income of their constituents, and three have only slightly higher incomes, according to The Eagle study.

The median household income is the middle point in the communities' salary, with half of residents falling above the median and half below. The lowest median income in the region is North Adams, where households have a $27,601 median income. The highest is Richmond, at $60,917.

Rep. Denis Guyer, D-Dalton, earns nearly three times what his constituents make in Peru, joining the elite ranks of the 21 households in the town that earn between $100,000 and $149,000. He said his income has no effect on his ability to represent his constituents.

"It doesn't matter if I'm making $5,000 or $50,000. Being in touch with constituents isn't about how much money you make, it's about how much you listen to them," Guyer said.

The other half of lawmakers earn only slightly higher or about equal to the people they represent. Their salaries are largely the result of a constitutional amendment passed in 1998 that ties lawmakers' earnings to the state median salary, which is $54,888.

The base legislative salary is slightly higher, at $55,570, and a lawmaker can earn more if he or she is the chairman of a committee. The salary grows according to the median income every two years. Lawmakers earned $53,380 three years ago, and the salary could rise again this year, said a spokeswoman for Treasurer Thomas Cahill.

Massachusetts legislators earn more than legislators in at least 36 other states, but far less than states such as New York ($79,500 a year) and California ($110,000 a year). Legislators in New Hampshire, however, get just $100 a year, and in Rhode Island, they get $12,646 a year.

Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, earns only slightly more than the median household income of most of the communities he represents. He takes in $55,570 a year, while the median household income in Great Barrington is $45,490 and $51,488 in Otis. But Pignatelli agreed that income has little bearing on his ability to help the people he represents.

"I am here to give something back to people," Pignatelli said. "It's never been about the money for me."

Some legislators have higher salaries because they hold second jobs, such as working at a law firm. Rep. Christopher N. Speranzo, for example, earns an extra $5,000 as city solicitor for Pittsfield.

Pam Wilmont, executive director of the legislative watchdog group Common Cause, said that holding two jobs can be tricky for lawmakers because it can take their focus away from representing their constituents.

"We are kind of stuck between whether this is a full-time Legislature or a part-time one. Lawmaking is very time-consuming, but at the same time, it isn't a salary that families can easily live on alone," Wilmont said. "There are benefits to having a part-time Legislature and benefits to having a full-time one, but we have half one and half the other, and we don't necessarily get the benefits of either."

In the end, it's perfectly legitimate for legislators to make more than those they represent because they have many responsibilities, said Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

But not too much, added Wilmont.

"I don't think anyone should get rich in public service or even be wealthy, but I don't think we're in danger of that," Wilmont said.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006 2:11:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Property tax bills rising across state
Average hike is 5.3%; Hub much higher
By Matt Viser, Globe Staff
January 2, 2007

Massachusetts property owners will again see substantial increases in their property tax bills this year, even as home sales have cooled.

The average tax bill for a single-family home will rise to $4,003 in 2007, 5.3 percent more than last year and up 49 percent from the 2000 tax bills, according to a Globe examination of 298 of the state's 351 cities and towns. Most of the new tax rates go into effect in bills that are going out this week .

Homeowners in Boston, Fall River, and Wayland will see double-digit percentage increases this year, while several communities near Boston will see average increases of 3.6 percent or less, including Brookline, Lincoln, Newton, Salem, and Somerville.

The state's highest average bill is in Weston, at $13,739, up 6.8 percent over 2006. The lowest is in Florida, a small town in the Berkshires, where the average tax bill will be $1,014, 2.5 percent more than in 2006.

Of the 298 cities and towns examined, the Globe found that 281 of them are increasing their average tax bills in 2007. The increase continues a trend of recent years, when property taxes rose by about 5 percent annually. The biggest recent increase was in 2002, when taxes rose by 6.7 percent.

"The problem is that it's so consistent," said Michael J. Widmer , president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. "It's like college tuition. It's year upon year upon year upon year. Over a period of time, it really adds up."

The average tax bill on a single-family home in Boston will jump 12.3 percent to $3,093 in 2007. That's on top of a 9.6 percent jump between 2005 and 2006.

Many of the communities hit hardest are fast-growing suburbs, where expectations for quality schools are high and budgets are growing at a rapid clip. Some property owners in such areas say they are increasingly being squeezed.

"We're definitely a family stretched to the limits," said Sheri Norred , who lives in Hopkinton with her husband and 3-year-old son. "I kind of have it in my head that it's going to hit us every couple of years, and we're going to have to find ways to deal with it."

Norred, who said the tax bill on her $308,700 home is going up nearly $700 this year, said she has started shopping at Market Basket, a discount chain, instead of her regular grocery store, and now takes back roads to get to her Cambridge office to avoid paying tolls. "There are things that you have to do because of a strain on the taxes," she said.

Property tax specialists point to a variety of causes for the steady increases, including rising health care costs, which have soared in most cities and towns. The statewide increases are also due in part to many communities doing large-scale property reassessments. O f 351 communities, 136 completed their first comprehensive revaluation since 2003, which "is a huge number," according Lydia Hill , spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.

Communities set property values annually, but every third year the assessing departments use a more comprehensive process that typically includes physical inspections of some homes and takes into account physical improvements.

Tax bills are rising as home values in many areas are declining; this year's assessments reflect values as of Jan. 1, 2006, and were calculated based on 2005 activity, when the real estate market was much more active. Since then, sales of single-family homes in Massachusetts have fallen dramatically.

Governor-elect Deval Patrick made the state's tax situation a major campaign theme, saying he would find ways to help cities and towns reduce property taxes by providing more local aid and allowing communities to raise revenue through such means as local meals taxes.

"We've got to give cities and towns a more reliable source of income so that they can provide services to their residents," Patrick spokeswoman Cyndi Roy said last week. "The property tax is a regressive tax and [Patrick] feels that it is very important to help cities and towns stabilize that."

Cities and towns have become more reliant on property taxes. This year, property taxes accounted for 53 percent of local revenues, the highest level since 1982, according to a report released in November by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. Local fees and charges also went up by 7.9 percent statewide in 2006, according to the report.

In some places, taxpayers have gotten used to the increases, expecting significant yearly increases in their property tax bills.

"A great number of people understand that this is just the situation," said Peter S. Barney, administrative assistant to the board of assessors in New Bedford, where tax bills increased 8.8 percent this year to $2,552. The town put out press releases and appeared on local radio stations to let people know about the increase, but Barney said he has not heard grumbling from residents.

"It's not outrageous if you look at what things have been like in past years, but taxpayers tend to have short memories," said Peter Caron , director of assessing in Lynn, where taxes are going up 8.4 percent, to $2,974. "It's all about what have you done for me lately, or, I guess, what are you doing to me lately?"

The Globe's analysis examined the tax bills for single-family homes, which make up the largest portion of property tax bills and are generally use d to gauge tax trends.

According to the Globe's examination, the state's largest percentage tax increase was a 26.9 percent hike in Everett, where the average homeowner's bill in 2007 will be $2,836.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007 4:03:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Patrick hedges pledge on police, tax

Defends restoring funds, plans volunteer corps

By Andrea Estes, Globe Staff | January 9, 2007

Governor Deval Patrick, faced with a surprisingly tight budget situation, is tempering some of his campaign promises, saying yesterday that he may have to stretch his much touted plan for 1,000 new police officers over several years and stabilize, rather than cut, property taxes.

"We can definitely start, and we will start down the path of adding more cops on the beat, because I think that's critical," Patrick said yesterday.

Last month, he said on a radio station that "we may not need 1,000 cops" all at once.

He also made it clear that property tax cuts, a recurring campaign theme, are not going to be implemented anytime soon.

"What we can do is stabilize property taxes to be sure," he said yesterday. "We've got to start there."

Last week he also told a radio interviewer that investments in transportation might have to be deferred, though he did not name specific projects.

Patrick has said a budget deficit could exceed $1 billion in the fiscal year that starts July 1. Despite that prediction, he restored $383 million in budget cuts last week made by former governor Mitt Romney in November.

Yesterday, Patrick also proposed the Commonwealth Corps, an agency that would place volunteers in nonprofit jobs across the state. That program will cost $3 million, he said.

Patrick conducted his first weekly meeting yesterday with Senate President Robert E. Travaglini, House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, and House and Senate budget aides. The budget was one of the items on the agenda of the closed-door meeting.

Before the meeting, Patrick defended restoring the Romney cuts, saying the money is available to pay for the programs and services this year, if not into the future. "I think that we have what we need to meet those expectations this year," he said during a brief encounter with reporters yesterday morning. "I think you have many cases of agencies and individuals who have relied on those appropriations, in some cases had spent against these appropriations. I think the right thing to do is make good on those promises."

But he warned that next fiscal year will be different. "I think going forward we're going to have a very tough and tight time, and there are some tough decisions we're going to have to make and choices we're going to have to make."

When asked whether he was attempting to lower expectations of voters and politicians on Beacon Hill by painting a grim financial picture as previous governors have done, Patrick smiled and said, "You've never seen a governor like me."

Asked how he can justify spending $3 million on Commonwealth Corps given the financial forecast, Patrick said: "No one is interested in wasting money or spending money frivolously."

Patrick is expected this weekend to address the Massachusetts Municipal Association, whose members are hoping for financial relief from the new governor.

According to the group's executive director, Geoff Beckwith, cities and towns are looking for more local aid and more police officers. They still have questions about Patrick's pledge to hire 1,000 police officers, including which communities would receive the officers and who would bear the ongoing costs, including their yearly salaries and benefits.

"There are ancillary costs that come with any employee, from training, equipment, staffing, cruisers," he said. "We would want to make sure [the costs] are sustainable on a state and local level."

Patrick pledged during the campaign "to cut the property tax by reinvesting in cities and towns" and to provide other property tax relief for certain elderly residents. He proposed that a portion of local aid be dedicated to "direct property tax relief," a pledge that even then budget specialists doubted could be kept.

Even if property taxes can't be reduced, Beckwith said, their rate of growth can be slowed if the administration takes two steps: restoring local aid and setting aside a specific percentage of the state budget for cities and towns.

Meanwhile, Patrick said after meeting with legislative leaders that they share many priorities. He specified only one: "updating our energy policy and our approach to energy."

"We are all of us committed to coming together as much as possible to advance that agenda," Patrick said. "I see that as a real opening for us in terms of job creation."

Travaglini and DiMasi called Patrick's openness a "refreshing" change of style from Romney's approach.

"The tone of the discussion and the degree of detail was a refreshing change from the historical conversations we've had in this office, and what we're trying to do now is to again find common ground in all three legislative agendas," Travaglini said.

Asked specifically what was different from the relationship with the Romney administration, DiMasi said lawmakers frequently learned about Romney initiatives only after he held a news conference to announce them.

"It's very nice to find out what the governor is proposing, thinking about what his ideas are, in a frank discussion on the issues and whether or not they can be accomplished in a manner in which we can agree to, as opposed to learning what the proposals are after the former governor would have a press conference like this and then let us know after," DiMasi said.

Patrick said that before unveiling the Commonwealth Corps initiative, he notified the Senate president and the House speaker -- both of whom said they like the idea.

"I think the concept is noble and worthy of support," said Travaglini. "It seemed to be in a controlled state and in a limited form. . . . We've given an indication to the administration that we can be supportive of the concept."

Tuesday, January 09, 2007 3:35:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

High-speed Internet is here

Letters

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:

Am I missing something or is the rest of the county not aware of the high-speed Internet providers and options available to those areas not served by cable or DSL?

For more than seven years, Internet service via satellite has been available to the consumer. Just like any young technology, it's had its woes — still needed a phone line for upload, did not have ethernet connections, could not network easily, wasn't much faster that dial-up. But it's been a number of years now since the introduction of satellite Internet and it's come a long way.

The previously mentioned woes no longer exist. A few of the providers include HughesNet, WildBlue and Starband. They offer services ranging from $50/ month for upload/download speeds of up to 128k/512k to $80/ month for speeds of up to 200k/1.5M. Other business packages are also available with speeds up to 500k/ 2.0M and beyond.

The equipment and standard installation costs range from $299 to $599. Many people using dial-up subscribe to a second phone line at an average cost of $30/ month. Add the cost of an ISP (Internet Service Provider) of about $20/month and already they're paying as much as they would for satellite Internet if they had it.

So, why is there public outcry that high-speed Internet is not available in the "un-served" areas of Berkshire County when in fact it is? And why is it being considered that the public help pay for an infrastructure that would be owned and operated by a private company? Not only that, but the government (public) would be supplementing costs for some businesses while under-cutting existing businesses and creating unfair competition. Again I ask ... am I missing something?

DAVE NICKUM

Cheshire, Jan. 3, 2007

The writer has been in the cable, phone and satellite business for more than 26 years with positions ranging from lineman to regional engineer. For the past 13 years, he has owned and operated Nickum Telecom Services offering services in video, voice, data and audio throughout Berkshire County.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007 3:36:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Editors of The Boston Globe:

Although I don't live in Massachusetts anymore, I still follow some of the local and state politics there. Having grown up and lived in the commonwealth for the first 28-1/2 years of my life, I am 100% disgusted with State House politics from the perspective of a local resident or government's duties.

Most municipal governments and the like political subdivisions of the commonwealth are greatly underfunded by the state government. Moreover, the only means for the state to invest in the entire commonwealth is to at least level fund or better yet increase state funds to cities and towns. While I concur with your narrow criticisms concerning pork barrel/ earmark state spending -- local largesse, what about public policy issues such as providing adequate state funds for public education, or public safety, or financial protections for elderly senior citizens and other poor, disadvantaged and vulnerable state and local residents?

If a family cannot be self-sufficient, then the state government should be subsidizing these poor people until their children are well nourished, medically supervised, adequately housed, and the like. Instead of the "Big Dig," or blowing up buildings in Iraq, the state and federal government should be protecting the poor and retaining the middle class so that all of God's children may live a life of dignity and self-sufficiency!

The state has not equitably funded the municipalities in the commonwealth for many consecutive years in a row now -- not since the FY2001 state budget. As my political friend Pat Fennell of Great Barrington frequently points out in his political writings, Boston Pols don't care about the rest of the commonwealth. I at once agree with Fennell's perspectives, while also voicing my dissent against your diminishing newspaper that shares the similar sentiments of those self-serving idiots and fools ruling the state government under the almighty Golden Dome in the State House on Beacon Hill, Boston!

Lastly, Governor Deval Patrick's nickname is apt: "The Deval-uator"! How can a man run for office promising to increase state spending for municipalities throughout the commonwealth and is already turning away from that promise? Under "The Deval-uator", the commonwealth's public education, safety and financial security will continue to diminish in quality via cuts in state funding -- "The Deval-uator" will then ultimately put the blame "Trav" & Co., of course. The common man will continue to get less from the state government because all that he (or she) hold dear will continued to be DEVAL-UED! What a goddamned shame; and terrible liar "The Deval-uator" has already proved to be. If I was a Massachusetts Citizen and/or Politician, I would call for the resignation of Governor Deval Patrick until he put his money where his mouth was during his campaign for Governor. Ergo, I would be calling for "The Devaluator's" resignation for at least the next 4 years!

-Jonathan A. Melle

Thursday, January 11, 2007 7:26:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Re: Economically perverse Lawmakers...BOSLEY tops the list!...Gold-Digger Guyer loves his money!...Pignatelli's back at it again, too!

NEWS ITEM:

The official list from the state treasurer's office of "per diems" collected by 157 state representatives in 2006 for "mileage, meals and lodging" expenses reveals that through December 31, these lawmakers have collected a total of $469,128. Per diems are paid by the state to representatives "for each day for travel from his place of residence to the Statehouse and return therefrom, while in the performance of his official duties, upon certification to the state treasurer that he was present at the Statehouse."

These per diems are paid to representatives above and beyond their annual salaries which at the beginning of this year were raised 4.8 percent from $55,569.41 to $58,236.74. The $2667.33 hike was implemented by former Gov. Mitt Romney under the terms of a constitutional amendment approved by the voters in 1998. The amendment requires legislative salaries to be increased or decreased biennially at the same rate as the state's median household income for the preceding two-year period - as ascertained by the governor. Many representatives also receive additional stipends ranging from $7,500 to $25,000 if they serve as committee chairs or in other leadership positions.

The 2006 statistics indicate that representatives received annual per diem payments ranging from $280 to $15,300 and 26 representatives have so far chosen not to apply for any money. These figures are not necessarily the final ones for 2006. State law does not establish a deadline that representatives must meet in order to collect the per diems. Critics say that some representatives will wait several more months into 2007 before they file for additional per diems from 2006 in order to avoid having their full payments appear on the initial list released by the state treasurer's office.

The amount of the per diem varies and is based on the city or town in which a representative resides and its distance from the Statehouse. These payments are not taxable and range from $10 per day for representatives who reside in the Greater Boston area to $90 for some Western Massachusetts lawmakers and $100 for those in Nantucket. Representatives who are from areas that are a long distance from Boston's Statehouse often are the ones who collect the highest total of annual per diems.

The Legislature approved, as part of the state budget in 2000, a provision doubling these per diems to the current amounts. Supporters of the hikes said that the per diems had not been raised for many years despite the rising costs of travel, food and lodging. Some opponents said that the hikes were excessive while others argued that the very idea of paying any per diem is outrageous. They noted that other state workers and most private workers are not paid additional money for commuting. The House and Senate did not hold a separate roll call vote directly on the doubling of the per diem. The hike was included as a small section of the comprehensive $21.5 billion fiscal 2001 state budget that was approved on roll call votes by both branches.

The representative who received the most money in 2006 was Rep. Daniel Bosley (D-North Adams) with $15,300. The other top ten recipients include Reps. William Pignatelli (D-Lenox) $10,890; Denis Guyer (D-Dalton) $9,676; John Binienda (D-Worcester) $8,352; Robert Correia (D-Fall River) $7,596; John Scibak (D-South Hadley) $7,320; Demetrius Atsalis (D-Barnstable) $7,250; Christopher Speranzo (D-Pittsfield) $7,020; Ellen Story (D-Amherst) $6,780 and Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport) $6,705. Six of this year's top ten recipients also made last year's top ten list including Bosley, Pignatelli, Guyer, Binienda, Scibak and Story.

Friday, January 19, 2007 5:19:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Sticker shock for state care plan
Average premium of $380 outlined
By Alice Dembner, Globe Staff January 20, 2007

A state panel yesterday outlined for the first time the minimum requirements for coverage under the state's new health insurance law, a package estimated to cost $380 a month on average for an individual, more than $100 above recent estimates.

Panel members struggled yesterday to balance affordability with protection from catastrophic medical bills and remained divided on many issues.

"If we're going to mandate this, people need to see that they're getting some value," said panel member Jonathan Gruber, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But, he added, the premium is "bad news."

"I'm trying to think of something to get this number down," he said.

The minimum plan would limit annual out-of-pocket expenses to $5,000 for an individual and $7,500 for a family and include prescription drug coverage, according to the proposal by a subcommittee of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector board, which is implementing the new law. The full board will vote on the proposal Monday.

As proposed, deductibles would run no higher than $2,000 per individual and $4,000 per family. Before the deductible kicks in, the plan would have to cover some medical visits and generic drugs to encourage preventive care. Insurers could not set limits on coverage per sickness, year, or lifetime, nor could they set a dollar maximum of coverage for any medical service.

Immediate reaction to the requirements was negative. Advocates for the uninsured were stunned at the price, considerably higher than the $200 estimated by Mitt Romney when he was governor and first proposed universal coverage. A spokesman for insurers said the requirements were too prescriptive and could undermine the goal of universal coverage.

Under the state's universal health insurance law, all adults must obtain insurance coverage by July 1 or pay a penalty, unless they secure a waiver by proving they can't afford insurance. Individuals earning less than 300 percent of the poverty level , or $29,400, are eligible for a separate, state-subsidized insurance package. Young adults, ages 19 to 26, must get some insurance, but will be eligible for less comprehensive and less expensive plans.

For the uninsured who do not qualify for the state-subsidized plans, an estimated 160,000 to 200,000 people, the minimum plan probably would be the least expensive they could buy. Some of the premiums probably would be subsidized by employers.

The estimate of $380 a month in premiums came from a summary of initial bids by insurance companies. Actual premiums will not be set for months.

To meet the state mandate, at least 40,000 people who now have insurance probably would have to buy additional coverage since their plans do not meet the proposed new standard, Connector staff members said. In addition, some employers who now provide more extensive coverage could cut back to the minimum.

The five members of the policy committee argued yesterday about how prescriptive the rules should be. After the 10-member board votes on the requirements Monday, there will be a public hearing on Feb. 16, and then the rules could be revised. However, the board needs to move quickly if new health plans are to be ready for the public by July.

Until Monday's meeting, groups representing residents, insurers, hospitals, and others will be lobbying board members.

"For a large proportion of the folks not eligible for subsidized care, the bare minimum plan is flat-out unaffordable, not only because of the premiums, but the deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses," said John McDonough, executive director of Health Care for All, an advocacy group that supports the health law. "This is a significant disappointment. We think the Connector and particularly the insurers need to go back to the drawing board."

Health Care for All had suggested that the minimum plan cover prescription drugs, and that the drugs not be subject to a deductible. In addition, they suggested a cap of $3,000 on out-of-pocket expenses, and a maximum deductible of $1,100.

Eric Linzer, vice president of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, said the Connector committee's recommendations were boxing insurers into a corner.

"There's really a limited number of ways you can make premiums affordable," he said. "If the minimum credible coverage is too high and coverage is unaffordable, it runs the risk of not achieving universal coverage." Linzer said there might also be thousands of people satisfied with their coverage whose plans do not meet the proposed standard.

Based on information from actuaries reviewed by the board last fall, the panel had expected to get plans with a premium of about $260.

But most of the insurers' bids, the details of which have not been made public, came in much higher , according to Connector board staff.

For one group of HMO-type plans, the premiums ranged from $250 for a 28-year-old to $500 for a 56-year-old.

In deciding on the proposed minimums, panel members debated how best to serve individuals with high medical expenses, as well as those who are healthy.

"We've got to protect the people" with high costs, said Bruce Butler, an actuarial consultant who chairs the policy committee. "But it's a balancing issue with affordability." Later, he added, "There's no one part of it you feel good about, but it's the best overall."

Panel members were reluctant to strip the plan of benefits to bring down the cost to consumers. "There's not only the issue of affordability, but also what provides legitimate protection," said panel member Dolores Mitchell, executive director of the Group Insurance Commission.

Another member, Celia Wcislo, assistant division director of labor union 1199 SEIU, argued for more preventive coverage, including doctors' visits and drug coverage before the deductible applies, and for a lower deductible, saying that high initial costs could prevent people from getting care.

The board's executive director, Jon Kingsdale, who does not vote, urged the panel to consider what rules could be enforced and suggested they not specify every detail of coverage.

"I feel very, very nervous about that," he said. "There's going to be a court challenge" to whatever the board decides, he predicted.

Under the law, anyone without insurance who meets the minimal standard would forfeit their personal tax exemption for 2007, costing them about $200.

In 2008, they would be fined half of the average premium for the minimal plan.
----------

Health reform plan is springing leaks

Editorial

The Berkshire Eagle

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The state's new mandated health insurance plan has gotten favorable reviews in the early going, in particular from people earning 100 percent or less of the poverty level ($9,800 a year). As the program expands, however, unanticipated glitches are emerging, and the results of a study on the method many Americans are employing to deal with increasing health care costs testifies to the myriad problems of a system that requires an overhaul, not tinkering.

Massachusetts' goal of insuring all of its roughly 200,000 uninsured residents is admirable and other states intend to emulate the plan, but acknowledgment last week by the Commonwealth Health Insurance Collector, the group charged with administering the plan, that the plan will cost $100 more a month than expected for some residents, was the first sign of difficulty. The board Monday postponed a vote to set minimal requirements for coverage on the recommendation of Governor Patrick and legislative leaders because the cost for those at 300 percent of the poverty level ($29,400 a year) would be as much as $380 a month. This is simply not affordable, and if the state is forced to grant too many waivers, the new system will break down.

The board has requested new bids, but judging from the critical comments of the board, and by extension the plan, from a spokesman for the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, those new bids are unlikely to be any lower. The insurance industry, with its bloated bureaucracy and need for a substantial profit, is part of the problem, and the state's new plan to help the uninsured has already run squarely into that problem.

Last week, Access Project, a nonprofit medical consumer advocacy group, and Demos, a public policy research organization, revealed a study concluding that Americans are now resorting to credit cards to pay health care costs that are increasing as employers shift more expenses to workers. Households that use credit cards to pay medical bills have on average $3,700 higher balances than households that don't use credit cards for that purpose.

If the "health care safety net is made of plastic," as Access Project Director Mark Rukavina concludes, the insurance system is making America even more of a debtor nation. What will it take for Washington to acknowledge the need for major reform in the form of a single-payer, government-run system?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, News Media, Politicians, & the People:

Re: "Governor weighing deal on pay hikes: Lawmakers' raises tied to support, sources say" (The Boston Globe, 1/28/2007): These Globe excerpts state the following facts:

(a) This is a time when the commonwealth is facing a budget deficit of more than $1 billion;

(b) Such a deal would fan public fears that one-party rule on Beacon Hill -- after 16 years of Republican leadership in the corner office -- could lead to uncontrolled spending.

(c) Lawmakers who lead committees or serve as top deputies to the House speaker and Senate president are paid $7,500 to $15,000 on top of their annual salaries of $55,569. The leaders of the two Ways and Means committees receive an additional $25,000.

(d) The deal under negotiation would allow DiMasi and Senate President Robert E. Travaglini to beef up the stipends and give them to more lawmakers, according to sources. In so doing, they can expand their influence, creating a stronger band of loyalists.

(e) Patrick's attempts to gain control of the authorities would run counter to the long standing legislative rationale for creating the independent authorities: that it insulates them from the state budget process and the volatility of state politics.

(f) Bondholders, along with many companies that deal with the agencies, may raise concerns over the upheaval that would ensue.

Why do I believe Governor Deval-uator Patrick is so WRONG to pursue these aforementioned methods to consolidate and strengthen the power of the Executive Branch in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' state government?

Here are the following reasons:

(a) The state Legislature(s), Governor Swift and Governor Romney, respectively together, balanced the state's fiscal books by dramatically cutting into state aid dollars to cities in towns, and the like political subdivision legal entities. From FY02 (The "Thanksgiving Budget" of 2001) through FY04, the state government faced huge state budget deficits and filled the gap by screwing the federally funded, state administered aid to public schools, police departments, roads and bridges, and the like. That was sleazy and unethical of Jane Swift, Willard "Mitt" Romney, and the Legislature(s).

(b) When the Deval-uator ran for Massachusetts Governor, he criticized the poor leadership of the past Governors, their administrations, and the hack Legislative leaders for their drastic cuts to state aid for cities and towns. Moreover, the Deval-uator said he was not only going to dramatically increase state aid to cities and towns, but he was also going to find ways to lower the regressive property tax increases of on average 33% that forced seniors and other low and/or fixed income citizens out of their homes. Then, earlier this month in his first week or two of being Governor, the Deval-uator rescinded his campaign promises by citing a billion dollar state budget deficit.

(c) The Deval-uator loves to play the race card. Well, Governor Devalu-uator Patrick: What is the content of your character, not just the color of your skin? The answer is that you, Deval-uator Laurdine Patrick, are an OPERATOR, LIAR, and another SLICK BOSTON POL that does not even come close to caring about and/or representing the poor urban public school student in the bankrupted City of Springfield, and/or the poor rural family in the beautiful Berkshire Hills that cannot afford their rising property tax rates in a region where there is little to no economic opportunities for getting and/or retaining living wage jobs and family self sufficiency.

(d) The consolidation and strengthening of Executive Power is a fascistic trend that is going on in every level of American Government. In the 21st Century, politicians from localities onto state capitals, and definitively at The White House all want more and more control, power, money and authority than ever before in our nation's history, barring the Civil War and other extenuating circumstances. I believe that the Founding Fathers and many successive generations of American Leaders have worked together through our democratic and constitutional system of checks and balances in order to make the American Enterprise one of growth and prosperity, fairness and justice, equality and tolerance, and freedom and liberty. Deval-uator Patrick: You are a Governor, not a tyrant (like our current U.S. President; George Walker Bush -- "The (not so) Great Usurper of democratic and constitutional powers"!

(e) The entire Massachusetts Legislature needs to be voted out of office in 2008, and you, Deval-uator Patrick, need to be voted out of office in 2010, too! All of the Legislative pay, benefits, compensations, pension plans, etc., need to be garnished by the City of Springfield so that the poor urban children will be able to use the money for quality public schools, safe neighborhoods via the increased state aid and police officers you once promised to communities like this sinking place that still holds so much potential. Any corrupt politicians and independent board members must be prosecuted for their illegal activities, starting with Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., who you are considering as your next Insurance Commissioner despite the fact that The Globe exposed his illegal activities and monies he both publicly and privately took from the insurance companies and the Boston Law Firm "Berman & Dowell" since he first chaired the legislative committees setting public policies for such large financial institution that are clustered in and around Boston.

(f) During the Legislature's 3 straight years of cuts to the cities and towns from FY02 - FY04, Legislative Hacks such as Dan Bosley, Stan Rosenberg and Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. either voted themselves or supported 3 straight legislative pay raises. When Springfield went bankrupt, Peter J. Larkin, a former state Rep. from Pittsfield, was the sole vote against the defeated informal legislative session's bail out package in the summer of 2003. Then in the Winter of 2005 -- 6 days after taking the oath of office -- Peter J. Larkin resigned his seat and left Pittsfield without state government political representation for about 3 months, but increased the amount of his future legislative pension while at the same time sticking city and state taxpayers with a bill estimated at about $25,000 in order for a special election to be held to anoint the Good Old Boy Network's Chris Speranzo against two competing women candidates in the Democratic Primary and then a Republican candidate in the general special election.

In conclusion and short, those "Son's of Bitches" state Legislative "Leaders" and their hack legislative underlings deserve to be voted out of office, not given anymore aristocratic buy outs via yet another meritless pay raise! Governor Deval-uator Patrick: You have Deval-ued the people of Massachusetts! I openly dissent against yet another demonstrable example of your poor leadership that you once criticized as a candidate for Governor last year, 2006.

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

-----

Governor weighing deal on pay hikes
Lawmakers' raises tied to support, sources say
By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff | January 28, 2007

Governor Deval Patrick, in a significant departure from former governor Mitt Romney, is contemplating a deal with Democratic legislative leaders that would grant significant pay raises to their top lieutenants in return for their support in implementing his plans for sweeping government changes, according to sources involved in the discussions.

No agreement has been struck, but in behind-the-scenes conversations, sources said, Patrick has signaled that he may be willing to take the inevitable public criticism about the pay raises, but he wants significant payback: broad cooperation on his proposals to overhaul the state's quasi-public authorities and boards.

House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, the driving force in the Legislature for pay raises, has not been persuaded that that is a fair deal, sources say. The pay raises would cost about $40,000 for each branch, while Patrick is asking for a far more expansive and complex change in government operations and philosophy.

"That's a quid pro quo?" asked one lawmaker who is aware of the proposed deal.

Patrick, on the other hand, is facing the potential political consequences of granting a legislative pay hike, an issue that often creates a public furor and can politically damage a governor -- especially at a time when the state is facing a budget deficit of more than $1 billion.

The negotiations provide a glimpse into the evolving relationship between legislative leaders and the new Democratic governor. One consequence that Patrick's advisers must consider is whether such a deal would fan public fears that one-party rule on Beacon Hill -- after 16 years of Republican leadership in the corner office -- could lead to uncontrolled spending.

The discussions also provide the first hint of how Patrick, a political newcomer, will try to negotiate in pursuit of legislative victories. Patrick has demonstrated a more engaged style than Romney, who rarely lobbied lawmakers to support his agenda.

During his first weeks in office, it has not been unusual to see Patrick roam the State House corridors, popping into legislative offices, even, as he did several weeks ago, at one point dropping unannounced into a Republican leader's office.

For now, Patrick and legislative leaders are at an impasse.

"They need to work it out," said one source, who asked to remain anonymous because negotiations are ongoing. "The governor is not going to roll. He feels he is going to take the heat for it, so he wants something for it." The source noted that Patrick took a political risk when he restored $383 million in emergency budget cuts that Romney made in his final days in office.

Lawmakers who lead committees or serve as top deputies to the House speaker and Senate president are paid $7,500 to $15,000 on top of their annual salaries of $55,569. The leaders of the two Ways and Means committees receive an additional $25,000.

The deal under negotiation would allow DiMasi and Senate President Robert E. Travaglini to beef up the stipends and give them to more lawmakers, according to sources. In so doing, they can expand their influence, creating a stronger band of loyalists.

The leaders argue that the stipends are the same as they were three decades ago -- when the legislative base salary was not much more than $20,000 a year. It is only right, they said, that those doing much of the committee's work are adequately compensated

"These committee chairs work very hard on very important and complicated issues," said one legislator who is aware of the effort.

An aide to DiMasi said the speaker will announce his committee assignments for the 2007-2008 legislative session tomorrow and that they would not include extra pay for leadership posts.

"There are absolutely no plans to increase stipends for chairmen," said Kimberly Haberlin, DiMasi's spokeswoman.

Aides to Travaglini and Patrick did not respond to requests for comment.

In a 2003 standoff with lawmakers, Romney used his veto powers to block an effort by then-House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran to pass a bill that would have stripped the governor of his role in approving the legislative salary perks. After a prolonged political battle between the new Republican governor and the powerful Democrat, the Legislature could not muster the needed two-thirds majority to override his veto.

Romney ultimately approved a bill that gave bonuses to top lawmakers, while retaining the right for the executive branch to review future requests.

Much is at stake for Patrick, who needs the cooperation of the Legislature to approve plans to streamline some of the quasi-public authorities and independent boards that control -- and often conflict -- with the policies that governors want to put in place. Patrick is said to be focused on education, transportation, and economic development. He has not released the details of his proposal.

On the target list are such high-profile agencies as the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, the MBTA's governing board of directors, the various boards that oversee the state's education policies, and the authorities that control and finance economic development projects for the state. Patrick is not expected to include the Massachusetts Port Authority on his initial list.

In his first full day in office this month, Patrick told reporters that control of the state's independent agencies would be key to creating an effective and streamlined administration. He said he needed the control in order to be able drive his agenda.

Like past governors, Patrick would have to wait until the end of his term before his appointees capture a majority on the boards that control the agencies, which operate some of the most important projects and operations in Massachusetts. The agencies are now controlled by Romney appointees.

Patrick's attempts to gain control of the authorities would run counter to the long standing legislative rationale for creating the independent authorities: that it insulates them from the state budget process and the volatility of state politics.

Patrick would need the strong backing of DiMasi and Travaglini if he hopes to accomplish his goal. A takeover would require complex legislation for each agency, requiring the governor and his legislative allies to work closely to keep a tight rein on the process.

Bondholders, along with many companies that deal with the agencies, may raise concerns over the upheaval that would ensue.

Monday, January 29, 2007 1:45:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

THE BOSTON GLOBE Online

Patrick leaves door open for casinos, lawmaker leaders pay raises

By Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press Writer
January 29, 2007

BOSTON --Gov. Deval Patrick said Monday he's continuing to explore casinos as a way to boost the state's revenues and would be open to agreeing to a hike in pay for members of House and Senate leadership teams, but would want something in return.

Patrick, leaving a 90-minute private meeting with House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi and Senate President Robert Travaglini, also said the state should be able to make it through the rest of the fiscal year without dipping into its rainy day fund.

The question of casinos has been a perennial issue on Beacon Hill with supporters saying it could bring in hundreds of millions in revenue lost to neighboring states while foes say the social ills associated with gambling aren't worth the price.

Patrick said Monday that he's still weighing the issue and won't add any potential casino revenues in his version of the state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. He said he's asking his secretary of housing and economic development to study the issue.

"We may well put together a study group so I can get some learning from other states as well, not just Connecticut, but Mississippi and Louisiana to get a more complete sense of what the experience of other states has been," he said.

Patrick also he's "sensitive" to leaders in the House and Senate wanting to boost the pay of committee chairman and other members of legislative leadership teams.

"It's not a pay raise, by the way, it's increases in the stipends for the committee chairs and some reorganization that they want to do and that's their side of the house and I understand that," Patrick said.

Travaglini and DiMasi decide who to appoint to the leadership positions and the higher pay is seen as one way to encourage loyalty.

Asked if he would want anything in return for agreeing to the higher pay, Patrick said, "I'm here to get stuff done so sure, you bet."

But Patrick also added that "we all feel that there's work to do yet on that issue and that to some extent circumstances may have overtaken the subject for the time being."

Travaglini on Monday announced Senate committee assignments and his leadership team. DiMasi was expected to announce his leadership team on Tuesday. The moves appeared to preclude a pay hike this year.

Kimberly Haberlin, a spokeswoman for DiMasi, declined comment. A spokeswoman for Travaglini did not immediately return a call.

By law, hikes in the base pay of lawmakers is tied to increases in the median household income for the state every two years.

The most recent increase came earlier this month when the base pay for a state lawmaker jumped from $55,569 to $58,236, a raise of $2,667 or 4.8 percent. Lawmakers who hold leadership positions earn more than the base pay.

Monday, January 29, 2007 8:08:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

NEWS ARTICLES from The Boston Globe:

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200,000 may need to get more insurance

State healthcare law sets higher minimums

By Alice Dembner, [The Boston]Globe Staff

January 30, 2007

More than 200,000 people with health insurance would have to buy additional coverage to meet proposed minimum standards under the state's new health insurance law, according to a count completed by insurers yesterday.

Most of the individuals do not have coverage for prescription drugs or have drug coverage that is more restrictive than the minimum proposed by the state board implementing the law. The Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector board is scheduled to vote on the standards in March. Individuals would face a fine of about $200 next year and more in future years, if they do not have insurance that meets the standards.

"It's very troubling," said Richard Lord, president of Associated Industries of Massachusetts and a member of the Connector board. "The new law was about expanding access for people without any health insurance. I don't think we should be forcing people who do have some coverage to spend more."

The number of residents whose insurance would not meet the minimum standards is more than four times the estimate made by the board's staff earlier this month before the board altered the proposed standards. And the new number includes only those covered by the five largest Massachusetts insurers. It does not include tens of thousands more who have policies that set dollar limits on coverage, policies that the board also said were inadequate.

The minimum standards are still very much in flux. The board postponed a final decision last week because of concern about the cost of the basic plans. Many of the initial bids from insurers who hope to offer the plans carried premiums that the board considered unaffordable. Based on bids from insurers, the board estimated that a rough average premium would total $380 a month, far above the $200 cited by Governor Mitt Romney, before the health law was passed. The board added more requirements and then asked insurers to submit new bids with lower price tags.

Under the law, adults must obtain coverage that meets the minimum standards by July 1 or pay a penalty, unless they get a waiver by proving they can't afford insurance. The first-year penalty, a loss of the personal tax exemption, wouldn't kick in until after people file their 2007 taxes.

The proposed standards would require insurance plans to provide "reasonably comprehensive coverage," including primary care, emergency services, hospitalization benefits, mental health services, and prescription drugs. The proposed standards would limit annual out-of-pocket expenses to $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a family and hold deductibles to no higher than $2,000 per individual and $4,000 per family. The board also proposed that the plans cover generic drugs and three medical visits per individual before the deductible kicks in. Insurers would not be allowed to set limits on coverage per sickness, year, or lifetime, nor could they set a dollar maximum for any medical service.

Jon Kingsdale, executive director of the Connector, said the new estimate of underinsured individuals would be useful when the board revisits the issue of minimum standards.

Another board member, Jonathan Gruber, said: "It's a hard issue. There's a trade-off between making sure we have real coverage and minimizing disruption to the market."

Gruber, an MIT economics professor, said he was pleased with the board's proposal on drug coverage. But "we're very far away from finalizing this," he added. "My mind is still open."

The figures were compiled by the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, based on a survey of five Massachusetts insurers, who control about 90 percent of the insurance market, according to the association: Blue Cross Blue Shield, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Fallon Community Health Plan, Health New England, and Tufts Health Plan. The survey focused on drug coverage and on plans with health savings accounts.

Federal tax rules governing health savings accounts set limits on out-of-pocket expenses and deductibles that are different from those suggested by the Connector, the association said.

The numbers do not include individuals insured by national companies such as United HealthCare Insurance Co., Aetna, and CIGNA or by other companies that offer policies with limits per sickness or per hospital visit.

"We think this is taking healthcare reform backwards," said Dr. Marylou Buyse, president of the association. "These are products that people have had for years. People who buy them think they're good plans."

She likened the board's proposed minimum requirements to "forcing everybody to buy a Cadillac. There are a lot of people who don't pay for high-benefit plans. They don't want them, and they don't want to pay for them."

Lord said he was also worried that the proposed standards might lead businesses to drop insurance coverage, rather than offer their employees more extensive and expensive plans.

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Patrick faces deadline, politics on state budget

By Lisa Wangsness, Globe Staff

January 30, 2007

Governor Deval Patrick, speaking publicly for the first time about increasing bonuses for legislative leaders, said yesterday that he is sensitive to their concerns about compensation and confirmed that he would expect some political cooperation in return.

"Listen, I'm here to get stuff done," Patrick said in response to a question about whether he would expect a quid pro quo. "So sure, you bet."

But the new governor said that a deal was not imminent.

"We all feel that there's work to do yet on that issue," he said. Patrick added that House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi and Senate President Robert E. Travaglini are appointing committees and committee chairmen this week "faster than we could settle the questions about . . . stipend changes."

The Globe reported on Sunday that Patrick and the legislative leaders were discussing a deal that would give DiMasi and Travaglini about $80,000 to increase stipends for their deputies and chairmen, in exchange for their support on his proposals to restructure state government. Patrick has said he would like to take control of some of the state's powerful quasi-public boards, such as the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which are now run by boards dominated by Romney appointees.

Patrick is facing a late February deadline as he works to translate his campaign promises into a budget proposal for the 2008 fiscal year. Speaking to reporters yesterday after his weekly meeting with legislative leaders, Patrick said he would not include any new revenue from slot machines at the racetracks or casinos in that proposal. Patrick said he needs more time to study the policy implications of expanded gambling.

"I'm not going to go down that path until I've finished the homework that I've talked about, and I'm not sure that homework's going to get done in time for" the budget bill, Patrick said.

Gambling is one of the few options available to Patrick to help close a large deficit in next year's budget that could top $1 billion. Patrick has less than a month to decide how to balance the budget while also beginning to pay for the agenda he put forward in his campaign, including new police officers and a property tax cut.

As a candidate, Patrick expressed reservations about gambling, but has since said he wanted to examine the issue more closely. He said yesterday that he has asked his secretary of housing and economic development, Daniel O'Connell, to research how slots and casinos have affected other states, such as Mississippi and Louisiana. The governor added that he may put together a group to study the issue.

Senator Michael W. Morrissey, a Quincy Democrat who favors expanded gambling, said he was not discouraged by Patrick's comments, particularly given the time pressure the governor faces in assembling a budget.

"He may say in three months' time . . . 'If you guys want to consider gaming, good luck to you -- we need the revenue,' " he said.

In a poll conducted by the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and released yesterday, 53 percent of those surveyed supported slot machines at racetracks, and 57 percent backed authorization of a casino.

Whatever its mainstream popularity, however, expanded gaming faces considerable opposition in the Legislature, which has repeatedly rejected gambling legislation in the past.

The challenge would be especially tough in the House because DiMasi strongly opposes expanded gambling.

But legislative leaders have also thrown cold water on other ideas for raising revenue this year. Travaglini has said that raising taxes is off the table, and DiMasi cast doubt on Patrick's proposal to let local communities raise money by opting to increase the state's meals tax by up to 3 percent.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 2:49:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Coakley's office spends $100,000 on severance
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
February 3, 2007

BOSTON — New Attorney General Martha Coakley handed out more than $100,000 in severance packages to 18 office employees she let go after taking over from Tom Reilly.
In addition to the $103,750 in severance payments, the employees were paid a combined $43,000 for their unused vacation time.
The amount of severance was based on each employee's job and length of service.
"We devised a formula that was fair across the board," said Coakley, like Reilly, a Democrat. "This was obviously a smooth transition, not a hostile takeover. Some people had been here eight or more years."
Reilly did not run for re-election, instead opting to chase the Democratic nomination for governor. He lost to Deval Patrick.
The severance formula provided lawyers with 10 or more years of service 12 weeks of pay. Lawyers with five to nine years of service received eight weeks of pay, while lawyers with less than five months service got four weeks of pay.
Other staff members were given eight weeks of pay if they had worked in the office for at least 10 years, while those with less than 10 years of service received one month's severance.
About 10 percent of the 463 people who worked under Reilly have left or will soon leave, Coakley said. Most of the rest were asked to remain for at least six months, and most of those employees will probably be reappointed at the end of the six-month period.
None of the members of former-Gov. Mitt Romney's administration forced out after Deval Patrick became governor received severance pay, said Patrick spokesman Kyle Sullivan.
Coakley is also using a Ford Escape, a hybrid sport utility vehicle, as opposed to the Ford Crown Victoria used by Reilly, which was outfitted with a police package.
She also assigned cars to her chief of staff, press secretary, and first assistant, who often must travel all over the state.
Under Reilly, most staff could use office pool cars.

Saturday, February 03, 2007 8:31:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Kerry’s continued mincing just proves he’s not so Swift
By Howie Carr
Boston Herald Columnist

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sen. John Kerry could learn something from ex-Gov. Jane Swift.

Namely, shut up! When you’re yesterday’s news and you couldn’t get elected dogcatcher and nobody expects you to do anything, keep your big trap shut and just order another drink - or cruller, as the case may be.

Notice the different ways these two political has-beens have been behaving this week. First, Kerry - he’s in Davos, with the Beautiful People, and he just can’t help himself, can he?

The United States he says, is an “international pariah,” apparently because of the war, which, as we all know, he was for before he was against it.

Then he throws on for good measure, “When we walk away from global warming.”

That would be the Kyoto protocols, a proposed treaty that was defeated in the Senate in 1995 on a 95-0 vote. And one of those 95 no votes came from - this is just too easy, isn’t it? I guess you could say John Kerry was for global warming before he was against it.

What’s the old saying? Sometimes it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.

On the other hand, we have Jane Swift. It comes out this week that on Nov. 7 - Election Day - she grabbed another $275,000 from the commonwealth to pay her legal bills in the suit filed by her archnemesis, Christy Mihos.

The only reason she got this reimbursement is because of a bill that she herself signed in the final moments of her squalid term as acting governor in late 2002. Not that her preoccupation with feathering her own nest was all that terrible, you understand.

If she hadn’t been obsessing over that bill to cover her legal expenses, how else might she have been spending her time? Maybe appointing more cronies of Billy Bulger to judgeships, not to mention lawyers of Stevie Flemmi.

So, four years after her involuntary retirement from politics, Jane Swift is busted this week on the 275-large reimbursement. But guess what? She was “unavailable for comment.”

The fact is, why should Jane Swift explain herself? She grabbed the dough, it’s not illegal, and guess what, she’s never running for anything again.

John Kerry, on the other hand, has learned nothing from the implosion of his political career. As somebody noted, Liveshot is always fighting the last war - he remembers Vietnam, so in 1991 he votes against the first Gulf War, and gets it wrong. So then when it’s time for the second Gulf War in 2003, he recalls how wrong he got it in ’91, so he changes his vote and gets it wrong again.

But he still refuses to hand the manager the ball and head for the showers. He’s Marlon Brando in “On the Waterfront.” He coulda been a contender.

Just because you jet off to Davos and you’re from Massachusetts doesn’t mean you have to act like a moonbat. Two years ago, Rep. Barney Frank called out the then-president of CNN when he claimed, falsely, that U.S. troops in Iraq were targeting journalists.

John “International Pariah” Kerry didn’t need to be in Switzerland for the skiing. He could have gone to his second wife’s first husband’s mansion in Ketchum, Idaho.

Somebody has to sit down with Liveshot and tell him what Jane Swift long since figured out for herself. It’s over. No need to spit on your own country overseas anymore, John, especially when you voted for the policies you now claim you’re so appalled by. He’s been doing it since the Paris peace talks of the early 70’s, but sometimes an old dog does have to learn new tricks.

Maybe Jane Swift draws the short straw to fill Kerry in on the new reality. They could have dinner together, even bring their spouses. I’m sure Mama T and Chuck Hunt could find plenty to talk about.

Saturday, February 03, 2007 8:40:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Holding officials accountable
By Boston Herald editorial staff
Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Well, it looks like former acting Gov. Jane. Swift can kiss whatever was left of her political future goodbye. Yes, there’s nothing like having the taxpayers cut you a big fat check - in this case one for $275,000 - to make them remember you, shall we say, less than fondly.

The check was to reimburse Swift for legal expenses incurred as a result of Christy Mihos’ successful suit charging the then acting governor had illegally fired him from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority Board. (Mihos walked off with $197,000 in state money, but the voters have already told him what they think of him.)

In the waning days of her administration Swift signed into law a bill designed to hold her (and future elected officials) harmless for what amounted to intentional civil rights violations. And while it is surely a closing-the-barn-door move, the law needs to be repealed. Not just because it’s a burden to the taxpayers, but even more importantly because it sends the message to public officials that they are not responsible for their own wrongdoing.

Swift is history - and likely to remain so. But this sorry part of her legacy needs to be undone.

Saturday, February 03, 2007 8:42:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Swift move gives state legal bill: Passed law to bypa$$ Pike suit
By Dave Wedge
Boston Herald Chief Enterprise Reporter

Tuesday, January 30, 2007 -

The taxpayer tab for the bitter battle between former acting Gov. Jane Swift and gubernatorial washout Christy Mihos has gone up again as the state footed the bill for a large chunk of Swift’s legal expenses, thanks to a law she passed during her final days in office.

Taxpayers had already shelled out $197,000 to Mihos to settle his claim that Swift illegally fired him from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority in 2001 after he blocked a toll hike.

Now the state has reimbursed Swift $188,000 to help with her $471,000 legal tab, which she paid out of her campaign funds.

A Swift spokesman said the state cut a $275,000 check Nov. 7 to the law firm of Brown Rudnick, which defended Swift in Mihos’ suit. Roughly $87,000 was used to pay off Swift’s outstanding legal bill, while the rest was deposited into her campaign account.

The door was opened for the taxpayer-funded reimbursement thanks to a law Swift signed as one of her final duties in December 2002. The legislation, passed while the suit was pending, requires taxpayers to pick up legal tabs up to $1 million for top state officials, even if they intentionally violate someone’s civil rights.

Before the law was passed, officials had to pay their own legal bills for intentional civil rights violations.

“That law should never have passed,” said Barbara Anderson, spokeswoman for the taxpayer watchdog group Citizens for Limited Taxation. “There was something really seedy that this was one of her last acts in office and there’s something wrong with the legislators who passed it.”

But Swift spokesman Jason Kauppi said the law protects governors from personal attacks connected to official acts.

“All governors run the risk of being personally targeted by frivolous lawsuits filed by disgruntled appointees,” Kauppi said. “Indemnification will stand to protect all future governors, who will be free to make important decisions without fear of personal retribution.”

Mihos, who did not return calls seeking comment, claimed Swift violated his civil rights because she did not have the authority to remove him from the Pike board. In addition to the settlement, Mihos was reinstated to the board.

Mihos, who was not reappointed to the Pike board by former Gov. Mitt Romney, mounted a failed campaign for governor last year.

Swift, meanwhile, has $287,858 in her campaign war chest, in addition to $150,000 she recently transferred into savings. State law permits campaign accounts to remain open as long as the person hasn’t ruled out a future political run.

Swift was unavailable for comment, Kauppi said.

Saturday, February 03, 2007 8:44:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

For Patrick, health care woes multiplying as deadline nears
By Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press Writer | February 2, 2007

BOSTON --It wasn't his plan, but he's stuck with it -- and like it or not the first few years of Gov. Deval Patrick's term may be judged in large part by the success or failure of the state's landmark health care law.

Turning the law into a reality is proving tough, so it's hardly surprising if Patrick has sounded a bit ambivalent to the initiative, signed by former Gov. Mitt Romney nine months before leaving office and dumping the new law on Patrick's lap.

Still, Patrick says he's committed to giving the law a chance to work, saying "it's too soon to proclaim it either an unqualified success or an unqualified failure," although he's not ruling out tinkering with it as needed.

"We aren't far enough along yet to know whether to try a totally different course than the one we're on," he said this week. "There are going to be bumps, there are going to be disappointments as we go along ... but we've got to stick with this."

The law has been sailing into rough waters.

Last week, the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector board, charged with overseeing the new law, sent insurers back to the drawing board after being told the average price for the new plans could be $380 a month, almost twice what Romney had predicted.

This week, insurers warned that more than 200,000 Massachusetts residents who already have health insurance would be forced to buy additional coverage to meet the proposed minimum standards under the law.

That prompted Sen. Richard Moore, D-Uxbridge, co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing, to suggest the state may have to step in and regulate health care rates directly if insurers can't come up with less expensive plans.

At the center of the latest troubles is the most contentious part of the law -- how to pressure insurers to come up with lower-cost, good quality health care plans for those who make more than three times the federal poverty level.

Those who make less than that have access to state-subsidized plans or free care, but everyone else will have to get health care on their own. By July 1, everyone in Massachusetts is required to be insured or face tax penalties.

Connector board members -- and Patrick -- want insurers to drive down the cost of the proposed new plans, but insurers say they can't keep costs down if the state sets too high a bar, like requiring all health care plans to carry drug coverage.

"One size doesn't fit all," Marylou Buyse, president of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, said this week. "We don't all want to live in the same house or drive the same car. We don't all need the same health insurance."

Insurers aren't the only ones with advice for the Connector board and Patrick.

The Rev. Hurmon Hamilton, Jr., pastor of Roxbury Presbyterian Church in Boston, said nearly half of 600 families interviewed by the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization say they won't be able to afford health insurance under the law.

He said he agrees with Patrick that the law has to be given a chance to work, but added that Patrick should consider changes -- such as waiving the tax penalties for anyone making less than five times the federal poverty level during the law's first year or increasing the per-employee fee businesses that don't offer insurance must pay.

"He is in a very tough situation but I'm confident," Hamilton said. "He'd got to be open to the fact that there are going to be some potential changes once the law is implemented."

The biggest challenge to the law is money.

The cost of the health care law has been pegged at $316 million in the first year, rising to more than a $1 billion in the third year, with much of that money coming from federal reimbursements and existing state spending.

Beyond that, the cost is anyone's guess.

One key to guaranteeing the law works in the long run is making sure that the delivery of health care in Massachusetts is as cost-efficient as possible, according to Alan Sager, professor of health care finance at Boston University's School of Public Health.

That's something the law hasn't done enough to address, he said.

"The law includes no cost controls," he said. "The solution is to step back and say how do we squeeze out ways to capture the savings and use the savings to provide insurance for those without insurance or the underinsured."

Patrick can expect to hear more free advice as July 1 approaches. On Wednesday, the connector board was forced to push back by one week a deadline for insurance companies to come back with new proposed low-cost plans.

Patrick said he's not worried about hitting deadlines as much as he's concerned about making sure the new law works.

"Do I think we'll keep to the deadlines? I think it's too soon to say. I'd like to, but I want to do it right, not just fast," he said.

Saturday, February 03, 2007 8:46:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, Honorable Dan Bosley, Smitty Pignatelli, Politicians, News Media, & the People:

Charles D. Chieppo's column in yesterday's Globe (pasted below) is an example of economic irrationalism and its perverse incentives in public policies. The author is a senior fellow at the Pioneer Institute, a Massachusetts public policy think tank, which makes me feel sorry for whatever the Pioneer Institute is to the people of the commonwealth. The reason why Mr. Chieppo is a total idiot is because liablities are not supposed to be the focus of any institution, but rather a statement of how effective the management of the institution was and is able to be.

Why are liabilities important? For the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the answer simply is that if the past public management has accrued large measures of liabilities, which are "financial obligations" most commonly known as debts, then the past Governors and Legislatures did a poor job living within their fiscal constrainst due to their mismanagement of taxpayer dollars.

But to then state that the current Governor and Legislature can solve the issue of the state's fiscal obligations by administering policies to pay down the liabilities shows just how ignorant the author really is. To illustrate: If I owe $100 on my credit card bill, and adminster a policy to pay down the liability starting on March 1st and by July 1st, 2007 I have succeeded, this does not mean that I have managed my entire budget and life in an effective and efficient way. Say I took away from paying for my phone bill and grocery orders to pay off my credit card. Now, I don't have phone service and I have to eat, so I probably ate out more, which is more expensive than eating in, so I have spent more money paying off my smaller credit card debt in four months than I would have with a more realistic plan that would have been more economical in the long-term.

In conclusion, the recurring mistakes that the state and local governments make under slick Governors and Mayors, et al, is to promise to cut spending, not raise taxes, and address fiscal discipline by keeping liabilities lower than they should otherwise be. If all that Governor Patrick or Mayor McCheese does is keep down the tax burden for the people of the commonwealth and her municipalities then many critical services will be left unmet. Massachusetts will start to rank #50 in public safety, public education, business growth, and the like. Most importantly, the best means of limiting liabilities in government is through electing effective politicians who will ensure the use of public taxdollars goes to the services needed to improve the lives, not just the short-term bottom line, of the people.

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

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CHARLES D. CHIEPPO
Address past liabilities to achieve fiscal health
By Charles D. Chieppo | February 4, 2007

FACED WITH THE realities of a tight budget, Governor Deval Patrick has repeatedly said he will make tough decisions with an eye toward the Commonwealth's long-term interests. Converting those words into action requires addressing massive pension and retiree health care liabilities, and focusing on maintaining our crumbling infrastructure.

Throughout his campaign, Patrick talked about priorities such as putting 1,000 new police on the streets, universal early childhood education, and funding the Commonwealth's ambitious health care reform legislation. But these priorities have run head-on into a shortfall of up to $1 billion for the next fiscal year.

To address the problem, Patrick has ordered his department heads to find ways to cut their budgets by 5 percent to 10 percent. As Administration and Finance Secretary Leslie Kirwan said, "There isn't going to be a magic bullet."

Doing what's in the Commonwealth's long-term interests begins with addressing massive liabilities that have built up over years.

Massachusetts currently has more than $13 billion in unfunded pension liability for current and future state retirees. During past fiscal crises, early retirement programs have been used to help bridge the gap. These programs save money in the short term, but exacerbate the long-term problem. Three early retirement programs enacted between 2000 and 2003 added more than $1.7 billion to the unfunded pension liability. Massachusetts taxpayers will pay more than $1 billion in the coming year -- more than the projected budget shortfall -- toward retiring this liability.

Patrick also pledged during the campaign to get spiraling local property tax bills under control, but the budget picture leaves him without the luxury of trying to address the problem by dramatically increasing state aid to municipalities. Another way to take the pressure off municipal budgets is for the Commonwealth's 104 local pension funds to consolidate their assets under the state's Pension Reserve Investment Trust.

According to a 2006 Pioneer Institute study, only six of the local funds have outpaced the trust's performance over the past 20 years. Local funds are currently allowed to pool all or part of their funds with the trust, but just over 20 take full advantage of the opportunity. Over the past decade, under-performance of local pension funds has cost taxpayers about $1.6 billion.

To comply with a federal regulatory change, the Commonwealth recently disclosed that it faces another liability of more than $13 billion for post-retirement employee benefits (mostly healthcare). While it's unrealistic to expect Patrick to solve this on his watch, thinking long term means creating a mechanism to begin addressing it, such as the fund established in 1987 to pay down pension liability.

Acting in the Commonwealth's long-term interests is often a political liability. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the conflict between building new infrastructure and maintaining what we have. Maintenance spending can hardly compete with the allure of photo ops and ribbon cuttings.

But like so many bad habits, it eventually catches up with you. The Transportation Finance Commission, charged with developing strategies for financing the Commonwealth's long-term transportation needs, estimates that over the next 20 years, the state faces a $9 billion highway shortfall, and a $4-$8 billion transit funding gap. As if the numbers are not sobering enough, they assume that not a single new road or transit line will be built beyond those already in service or under construction.

Among the promises Patrick has made is the development of a schedule for construction of a commuter rail line to New Bedford and Fall River within the first 90 days of his administration. A better approach would be to develop a plan to address the Commonwealth's $13-$17 billion transportation infrastructure shortfall before adding to it.

Patrick should be applauded for his focus on the Commonwealth's long-term interests. But political realities will make it a tall order to translate that focus into policy. If he's willing to go forward and take the heat, he deserves our support.

Charles D. Chieppo is a senior fellow at the Pioneer Institute, a Massachusetts public policy think tank.

Monday, February 05, 2007 8:01:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Health insurance requirement might drop drug coverage
By Alice Dembner, Globe Staff | February 9, 2007

A state board decided yesterday to reconsider whether prescription drug coverage should be part of the basic health insurance everyone in the state must have by July 1.

Members of the board, which is overseeing the state's universal health insurance law, agree that medicines are an essential part of any comprehensive coverage, but they are seeking ways to keep insurance premiums affordable. In addition, they are concerned that a prescription drug requirement could force as many as 210,000 people who are already insured to buy more coverage.

Yesterday, the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector board asked insurance companies to price two new plans, one with drug coverage and one without. The board is expected to review the new bids at its March 8 meeting and decide on March 20 what level of coverage will satisfy the new state mandate.

Some board members suggested imposing a drug requirement, but waiving it for a year or two for people who already have insurance that doesn't include prescription drugs.

"Hopefully, what we're doing is insuring more and more people and not throwing people off," said board chairwoman Leslie Kirwan, in response to those suggestions. "If that means a phased approach, we should consider that."

However, she said she had not made up her mind about which approach to take.

Under the new law, all adults must obtain at least minimal coverage by July 1 or pay a penalty, unless they secure a waiver by proving they can't afford insurance. Individuals earning less than 300 percent of the poverty level, or $29,400 a year, are eligible for a separate, state-subsidized insurance plan.

Insurers' first proposals for basic insurance plans including prescription drug coverage carried an average monthly premium of about $380, according to board staff members. Board members balked at the price and asked for new bids about two weeks ago. But they added proposed requirements for drug coverage that insurers said were impossible to implement quickly and would create problems for 163,000 people whose insurance does not include any drug coverage and 46,000 people with more restrictive drug coverage than the board proposed.

The board revised those suggested requirements again yesterday. The new bids are supposed to provide coverage that includes primary care, emergency services, hospitalization benefits, and mental health service. The plans must not include limits on coverage per sickness, year, or lifetime. Deductibles for in-network care must not exceed $2,000 for an individual, and at least three preventive-care office visits must be provided before the deductible applies.

In addition, out-of-pocket spending for an individual is limited to $5,000, which includes the deductible and copayments of $100 or more, but not necessarily prescription copayments. If prescription drugs are covered by the plan, there must be a separate drug deductible of no more than $250 for an individual.

The new plans, once approved, will be marketed to between 160,000 and 200,000 state residents without insurance who have incomes over $29,400 a year. The board is also reviewing more comprehensive and expensive plans that could also be offered to those individuals, starting May 1.

Before the board decides on drug coverage for the basic plan, board member Dolores Mitchell -- executive director of the Group Insurance Commission, which manages insurance for state employees -- asked for detailed information about "the medical implications of not covering drugs."

One board member was adamant about including prescriptions. "I'm not going to vote for something without drug coverage," said Celia Wcislo, assistant division director of the Service Employees International Union Local 1199, the largest healthcare union on the East Coast .

Louis Malzone -- a board member who is executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition of Taft-Hartley Funds, a group of private health plans jointly managed by unions and management -- said he supported Wcislo's position in principle, but added, "We might have to take a modest step first."

Others -- including Richard Lord, president of Associated Industries of Massachusetts -- were leaning against requiring prescription drug coverage unless the premiums are nearly equal. In the first round of bids, premiums for plans without drug coverage were about 15 percent lower.

Advocates have told the board that they consider any coverage that excludes prescription drugs inadequate.

The state's largest insurers have said they could provide minimal plans for less than $300, including drug coverage. Yesterday, Kirwan said Governor Deval Patrick had asked insurers to try to pare back premiums to help the insurance mandate work. In an earlier round of bidding for subsidized plans, costs dropped 15 percent from the initial bids, according to the board's executive director, Jon Kingsdale.

Premiums from those plans range from $18 to $180 a month, depending on the subsidy and the plan.

Friday, February 09, 2007 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Joan Vennochi:

The answer to your question is "No!" Deval-uator Patrick is an OPERATOR who told the people what they wanted to hear to get elected Governor of Massachusetts. His attempt to BRIBE the state Legislature with the 2nd of two pay raises this year was terrible. Please answer my question: How come the Deval-uator has the $ to hand out more legislative pay raises, but does not have the money to fulfill his campaign promises of more police officers, better public schools, safer streets, more local aid, and property tax relief for seniors and other low income property owners?

Thank you,

Jonathan A. Melle

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JOAN VENNOCHI
Can Patrick see his visibility problem?
By Joan Vennochi | February 15, 2007

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK'S so-called "visibility problem" threatens to become an invisibility problem.

At critical times, he is choosing invisibility on important matters that cry out for gubernatorial attention and outrage.

It's great that Patrick is in his office, hard at work on the budget.

But when a 4-year-old girl dies and the state Department of Social Services is called to answer for it, the governor's voice should be loud and clear. So far, this governor's voice is low and equivocating when it comes to addressing the sorry story of Rebecca Riley's death. She died in December of an overdose of powerful drugs administered by troubled parents under DSS supervision. The parents are now charged with first-degree murder.

On WTKK-FM , Patrick called the child's death a "terrible, terrible case." But then he went on to say that DSS manages other tough cases well and "I want to be careful not to attack the agency." While it isn't necessary to attack the agency, or its commissioner, how about attacking the status quo that for so long marginalized their work? Will he make DSS a priority? Will he look at the needs of a system charged with protecting victims like this little girl with as much passion as he directs to his plan to limit employers' access to the criminal records of potential employees?

" The governor is very concerned about the tragic loss this young girl," said spokesman Kyle Sullivan, when asked what Patrick is doing about this case. "He is awaiting the results of an internal investigation and has also asked Secretary [JudyAnn] Bigby to report to him on what recommendations that were brought forward after the Haleigh Poutre case have actually been implemented. In addition, Secretary Bigby will shortly be appointing a physician to provide medical consultation to DSS as an interim strategy while the agency develops longer-term, comprehensive systems for medical review and oversight."

The answer is adequate from a strictly bureaucratic standpoint. But where's the urgency a governor brings when he chooses to speak directly to the people about Rebecca Riley's sad fate? Will he eventually address it via podcast? If he does, only a narrow audience will be listening, which is also part of Patrick's "visibility problem."

Is Patrick so determined to keep the dreaded mainstream media from setting the agenda, he is willing to ignore news, not to mention a desperate constituency -- children like Rebecca Riley?

In another matter, Patrick seems willing to look beholden to powerful interests, rather than let the media frame an issue. Patrick's people are scouring the budget for potential savings, but state policy allowing officers to collect tens of thousands of dollars each year to watch construction sites remains sacrosanct. "It's not at the top of my list, to be perfectly candid," the new governor said, when pressed about this money-wasting practice.

Meanwhile, Patrick is much too visible when it comes to a remarkably blatant effort to seal a deal with legislative leaders. The deal goes like this: You give me what I want -- control over state authorities, such as the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority -- and I give you want you want -- $80,000 worth of stipends. If there's anything new about this quid pro quo, it's the chutzpah.

During his first weeks in office, the new governor immersed himself in fiscal matters, and that's understandable. The fruits of those behind-the-scenes efforts will become clearer with his first budget submission.

In these first weeks, the Patrick administration looks like it's playing defense. It isn't getting its message out; it is responding to messages shaped by others. Is there any doubt that Patrick's proposed deal with legislative leaders was leaked to the press by a legislative leader, most likely the one who presides over the Senate? Once leaked, a key part of the deal got shaky. Yesterday, the Legislature rejected the governor's effort to gain more control of Big Dig oversight, striking language in Patrick's supplemental budget that would extend his authority to cost recovery, management, and project finances.

Massachusetts lived with a self-promoting, grandstanding governor for four years and doesn't need another.

But there's nothing wrong with wanting a governor who is eager to showcase what he was elected to do: speak up for the weak, take on the powerful and stand up to politics as usual -- as he puts together a budget.

Patrick won the bully pulpit. Use it or lose it.

Thursday, February 15, 2007 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear NH Union Leader "Write Us", Honorable Daniel E. Bosley, News Media, Politicians, & the People:

Talk about perverse incentives! Just move to New Hampshire from Massachusetts and watch the NH state government make Massachusetts state politics look rational, which would be the biggest illusion of all time. I have annotated the NH Governor's state budget proposal below my letter.

Time for explanation, but the only one who does not need a response to these perversities of state government perversities is Dan Bosley. So, for the rest of you who could stand to learn a thing or two about why respective State Houses really upset me, please read on.

First, of the $10.2 billion two-year state budget covering the current term of the current NH Governor, about $3.5 billion in state revenues will be raised by state taxpayers. That leaves about $6.7 billion in revenues coming from other sources, most notably the federal government. Second, just like the Massachusetts Governor and state Legislature, the NH Governor and state Legislature uses perverse incentives to plan around its own state financial liabilities (or fiscal obligations). Third, just like Massachusetts state government, NH state government receives a lot of federal funds for public schools, roads and bridges, healthcare, social service programs, and the like. Fourth, just like Massachusetts state government, NH state government is mandate to appropriate a lot of that federal money to the state's political subdivisions, or counties, cities and towns. Fifth, just like Massachusetts state government, NH state government then uses perverse incentives instead of ration incentives when transferring the federally funded, state administered money to the counties, cities and towns. To illustrate, the NH state government would rationally give its counties, cities and town $1 out of every $3 federal dollars in order to have opitmally running public schools, roads and bridges, healthcare, social service programs, and the like. However, state politicians, including the NH Governor, then get greedy with all of the billions of dollars of federal monies, and perversely find ways to complement the federal funds with their state funds, and in reality give its counties, cities and towns $0.50 out of every $3 federal dollars.

Sixth, like Massachusetts, NH state government does not give a single care about a baby in need, a malnourished 8 year old public school student, a homeless man, or an uninsured elderly resident on a fixed-income. If the respective state governments actually gave a damn about the common man & woman & child, they would find ways to spend as much money as possible on public services that would make their respective states more livable. Seventh, the method NH and Massachusetts uses to reduce their liabilities to public services is from an economics term called "COMPLEMENTING." To illustrate, in my personal life, if I have 10 good friends who help me in one way or another, and I view them perversely instead of rationally, I am going to complement my income against their income. For friend one, I am going to do my laundry at her house and save money. For friend two, I am going to eat a couple meals a week at his house and save money. For friend three, I am going to dump all of my personal problems on her and save mental health money. For friend four, I am going (if I had kids) dump my children at his house and save money on day care. For friend five, I am going to go the bars and drink, and cry poverty, and have him pick up most of the tab. For friend six, I am going to borrow his clothes and save money. For friend seven, I am going to borrow money without ever wanting to pay her back, and save money. For friend eight, I am going to borrow his car once and a while and save money. For friend nine, I am going to watch my TV shows with her and save money on not having buy cable. For friend ten, I am going to borrow her vacuum, lawn mower, and take her old furniture and other resources, and save money. Well folks, that is exactly the perverse behavior of state governments on complementing their economic resources with the federal funds they receive. What would my perverse incentive be? To make 10 more friends (in addition to my 10 current friends) and "play them all" in order to complement my income for their income. What is the state's perverse incentive? To keep cutting away at funding public education, roads and bridges, social service programs, healthcare, and the like in order for the state to limit its financial liabilities and receive more and more federal funds for their substandard public services.

Eighth, public lotteries and the expansion of gaming or privatized gambling operations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. In Massachusetts, you have North Adams state Representative Dan Bosley who fully supports public gambling, but fully opposes private gambling. Why? The answer is because Bosley wants the state to collect as much "regressive taxation" public gambling money as it is able to at record breaking higher levels each fiscal year. Bosley knows that expanded privatized gambling would be rational, but would perversely harm the Massachusetts State Government's public gambling revenues. Therefore, as intelligent as Bosley is on public policies, he is going to use perverse incentives to expand only the Massachusetts State Lottery at the expense of the common good of the entire Massachusetts economy where such rational benefits as job creation, new revenues for local economies, and less money leaving the commonwealth and flowing into Connecticut's private gambling establishments.

Ninth, as for NH Governor John Lynch's proposed $30 scratch ticket, he is, once again, using perverse incentives via regressive taxation in order to raise state revenues to complement federal funds for NH's substandard public services. I would bet that if Dan Bosley was a state Representative in NH instead of Massachusetts, he would vote in the favor of the $30 dollar scratch ticket! Tenth, all of the complementations of state revenues to federal funds are perversities in our nations political system. By proposing a $30 scratch ticket, NH Governor John Lych is saying that he is going to find regressive means to raise state revenues in order to complement federal dollars for public services. Lynch is going to harm the poor, who mostly play the lottery, while providing substandard social services that were meant for the poor, while the state gets rich.

In conclusion, NH Governor John Lynch, like Massachusetts state Representative Dan Bosley, use perverse incentives instead of rational ones, in order to benefit the state government at the expense of the public services that our public tax dollars are meant to be funding at an optimal level.

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

----------

News Items from the Union Leader from February 15th, 2007:

NH Governor John Lynch proposed a $10.2 billion budget package that increases overall spending over the next two years by 9 percent, and spending of state general funds by 15 percent. The NH state government adds $17 million to its rainy day fund, bring its balance to $80 million.

Here is how NH Governor Lynch will INEQUITABLY raise revenues on state taxpayers:

(a) a net cut in forecasted public education dollars, which the NH state Supreme Court has recurringly ruled unconstitutional

(b) another tax increase on tobacco products

(c) a fee increase on annually registering one's car

(d) state government downsizing of state agencies and bureaucrats

(e)a new record breaking NH state lottery $30 scratch ticket, or better stated a veiled system of "regressive taxation."

...And the list goes on and on.

Saturday, February 17, 2007 2:17:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, News Media, Politicians, & the People:

Boston's Channel 5 asks: "Gov. Deval[-uator] Patrick has asked state agencies to cut spending but upgraded his state-provided transportation from a Ford Crown Victoria to a Cadillac DTS. What do you think?"

My answer: "Deval[-uator] Patrick says one thing that has value, but then does another to "deval-ue" the first thing he said."

The multiple choice answers are:
( ) I think he should get whatever car he needs.
( ) I think he should get the cheapest car he can
( ) I think he should get a moderately-priced car
( ) I don't care what he drives

I am checking: ( X ) I think he should get a moderately-priced car.

I live in Southern NH, but I get all of the Boston area news channels. Last night, I watched Channel 5's Janet Wu's story on the unopposed Massachusetts State House of Representatives' campaign account spending. She focused on Luciforo's state House counterpart, who chairs the House Financial Service Committee. This hack attack state Rep. committee chair gets $100,000's in campaign contributions from Boston's big banks and insurance companies. Despite running unopposed, he spends just about the same amount of money he is receiving from the financial industry's corporate executives and lobbying firms.

So why does Massachusetts' campaign finance laws so loose, impractical, and cater only to special interests instead of the people these hack attack state Representatives are, in theory, representing?

The answer was: INCUMBENCY. According to News Center 5 in Boston, Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Legislature has codified only the campaign finance laws that will give them access to so much campaign largesse from special interest groups that it shuts out any and all grassroots challengers to the 2-year "elected" legislative seats.

The interesting fact that Channel 5 reported was that Massachusetts ranks 3rd out of 50 for unopposed state legislative "elections". South Carolina and Arkansas rank above the commonwealth for the suppression of democratic state government legislative "elections".

Way to go STAN ROSENBERG, DAN BOSLEY, SMITTY PIGNATELLI, DENIS GUYER, BOB TRAV., et al. Keep up your screwball work under the almighty Golden Dome on Beacon Hill's State House.

I dissent against South Carolina, Arkansas and Massachusetts for suppressing grassroots democracy in their respective State Houses. Who the hell do these kinds of top-down, fascist Pols think they are anyway? This is the U.S.A., not Communist China!

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

Thursday, February 22, 2007 1:50:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Honorable Dan Bosley, Berkshire Bloggers, News Media, Pols, & the People:

Well, Bosley, here we are again...another email from me dissenting against your never-ending legacy of INEQUITY and perverse incentives in public policy. I just cannot believe that you would criticize Governor Patrick's proposal to expand an income-tax break currently available for seniors to include all homeowners!

----------

DAN BOSLEY states:

(a) "I know we need property tax relief and I applaud the governor for doing that. I like the fact that he's doing something. I just think there's a better way to do it"

Instead of expanding the Senior Circuit Breaker, Bosley said Patrick should build upon the earned-income tax credit, which he described as "wildly successful" in providing help to those on small incomes who may not be able to afford a home.

The current earned-income tax credit provides an average of $700 to individuals earning less that $36,000 and families earning less than $38,000. The state offers 15 percent of the federal earned-income credit, according to Bosley.

"He's more targeted to tax relief," Bosley said of Patrick's plan. "If you really want to be fair, help the people on the lower end of the income spectrum."

(b) "These are things we've decided over the years. The reasons why those tax advantages are there is because it makes Massachusetts more competitive," Bosley said.

New taxes on businesses will discourage investment and decrease the predictability of costs that companies weigh when choosing where to locate, he said.

----------

What DAN BOSLEY means:

(c) Income-Tax Credit v. Earned-Income Tax Credit.

As Bosley's legislative district's primary industry is the municipality's expoitation of poor people receiving federally funded, state adminstered welfare programs and other poor families, Bosley would rather see PERVERSE INCENTIVES used instead of RATIONAL INCENTIVES in order for the state to assist the poor in meeting their basic needs. Like Pittsfield, North Adams is one of the teen pregnancy capitals of the World, and hunger and homelessness fuel the inputs for local public assistance programs and public education state administered, federally funded dollars. The perverse incentive for Bosley is for the state to only reward those poor people who chose welfare over being independent of the system to meet their basic needs. By attaching property tax relief state monies to welfare recipients and other poor families via the earned-income tax credit, Bosley would perversely bring in more state dollars into North Adams than through the proposed Income-Tax Credit.

Rather than helping the poor to be independent of state assistance programs, Bosley is perversely attaching dependency to property tax relief. Bosley is doing so to help perversely incentivized communities like North Adams compete with rationally incentived communities like Williamstown for state administered, federally funded dollars. Bosley is perversely rewarding only those poor people who qualify for the earned-income tax credit, while he wants to exclude many poor people who would otherwise only qualify for the income tax credit.

Rinaldo Del Gallo's recent letter to the Editor of the Eagle about "Eliminat[ing] 'perverse incentives'" concerning Pittsfield's recent record breaking teen pregnancy numbers attacks politicians such as Dan Bosley who choose only to reward welfare recipients instead of providing rational incentives for all poor people out of poverty. What Bosley is doing here is saying, "If you want the state's help to get out of poverty, be a teen mom in need of welfare services or else take a hike!" In short, Bosley only supports perversely incentivized public policies, while dissenting against rationally incentivized public policies (like the one Gov. Patrick proposed for all homeowners). Bosley does so in order for North Adams to be rewarded for its annually high levels of welfare caseloads. In conclusion, the city of Pittsfield, especially North Street's "Social Services Alley", would be proud of Dan Bosley's work for the continued strengthening of "The Banality of Social Injustice".

God, Bosley's public policies, like the city of Pittsfield's, make my skin crawl. Disgusting! Terrible! Awful! ...

(d) Rationally incentivized tax breaks for the poor v. Irrational tax break loopholes for wealthy businesses.

Unbelievably, Bosley sides with the irrational tax break loopholes for wealthy businesses! Here is a "Representative" (really a "Bureaucrat" who imposters as a Legislator) who, in theory, represents predominately poor people residing in North Adams and the surrounding Northern Berkshire region. Bosley works with the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition's Al Bashevkin, who inputs all of the welfare recipients into North Adams' system of social service programs for the perverse profit of North Adams municipal government, and other somewhat superficial humanitarian groups in order to provide constituent services to people in need, while at the same time Bosley hypocritically defends only the Boston area wealthy Corporate Executives' demands for the retention and new business tax breaks!

----------

IN CONCLUSION, Representative (a.k.a. Bureaucrat) Dan Bosley only supports PERVERSE ECONOMIC INCENTIVES for state assistance programs for poor people, uses these perversities to profit North Adams' municipal government instead of the poor people in the North Adams area, and advocates only for the wealthy corporate executives in the Boston area instead of his many poor constituents in the North Adams area.

This has been another one of Jonathan A. Melle's explanations of Dan Bosley's INEQUITY in public policy. As Bosley continues his journey in the Massachusetts State House of Representatives, I will continue to explain to you why Bosley chooses perversities against rational incentives, and inequities against social justice.

Foreover Friendship despite our differences, & In Dissent, & In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

P.S. I WILL ALWAYS SPEAK MY GOOD CONSCIENCE AS LONG AS I LIVE!

--------------------
SOURCE:

Patrick unveils tax cut
By Matt Murphy, Transcript Statehouse Bureau

The North Adams Transcript

Friday, February 23, 2007

BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick wants to expand an income-tax break currently available for seniors to include all homeowners, a move he said would provide direct property tax relief and make good on one of his key campaign promises.

The new program would provide about 100,000 new individuals and families with up to $870 in income-tax credit to relieve the pressure put on middle-income residents by skyrocketing property taxes. The amount of assistance would depend on the amount of the property taxes.

The plan, however, got a tepid response from some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle Thursday. They criticized the governor's plan to pay for the $75 million program by closing certain corporate tax "loopholes" they said would discourage big businesses from locating or expanding in Massachusetts.

State Rep. Daniel Bosley, D-North Adams, gave Patrick credit for trying to reduce the property-tax burden, but was also quick to criticize the governor's plan.

"I know we need property tax relief and I applaud the governor for doing that. I like the fact that he's doing something. I just think there's a better way to do it," he said.

Bosley, chairman of the House Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee, was slated to become Patrick's chief economic development adviser before backing out of the job after its influence was greatly reduced. Since then, Bosley's ideas for the direction of Massachusetts have been several times in stark contrast to those of Patrick.

Instead of expanding the Senior Circuit Breaker, Bosley said Patrick should build upon the earned-income tax credit, which he described as "wildly successful" in providing help to those on small incomes who may not be able to afford a home.

The current earned-income tax credit provides an average of $700 to individuals earning less that $36,000 and families earning less than $38,000. The state offers 15 percent of the federal earned-income credit, according to Bosley.

"He's more targeted to tax relief," Bosley said of Patrick's plan. "If you really want to be fair, help the people on the lower end of the income spectrum."

Patrick announced his tax relief package six days before he is scheduled to deliver his first budget.

"This relief will help the people who are in the greatest need, including many homeowner's that are concerned they might lose their homes because of escalating property taxes, working families trying to make ends meet, and young homeowners just getting a start," Patrick said.

The governor's Homeowner Circuit Breaker measure would expand on the existing Senior Circuit Breaker to include residents of all ages who own their own home valued up to $684,000.

Single individuals earning up to $46,000, heads of household earning up to $58,000, or married couples filing jointly earning up to $70,000 would qualify.

The tax break would cover the cost of property taxes plus water and sewer charges that exceed 10 percent of the household income up to $870.

The average state property tax bill totals $3,800, according to the governor's office.

Patrick has proposed to pay for the expanded tax break by closing what he described as seven corporate tax loopholes that give corporations unfair and unintended tax breaks.

By closing these "loopholes," Patrick estimates the state can generate $295 million in additional revenue over the second half of fiscal 2008 and $500 million in fiscal 2009.

But what Patrick considers unfair loopholes, others called an increased burden on business in the state.

"The $500 million in new taxes on corporations is a very high price to pay for limited tax relief," said Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

Patrick said the changes would bring Massachusetts in line with many of the states it competes with for business. Widmer disagreed, arguing that the 13 states that enforce combined reporting — one of the so-called loopholes that allows companies to avoid state taxes by shifting revenue to out-of-state subsidiaries — are located west of the Mississippi River and in northern New England and are not direct competition.

Facing a impressive budget deficit early in his term, former Gov. Mitt Romney took a similar approach to Patrick, looking to close so-called tax loopholes and raise fees and fines to generate millions.

Just as Romney had to abandon some of his proposals, legislative leaders Thursday predicted Patrick will face a similar fight with the Legislature to get his plan approved.

"These are things we've decided over the years. The reasons why those tax advantages are there is because it makes Massachusetts more competitive," Bosley said.

New taxes on businesses will discourage investment and decrease the predictability of costs that companies weigh when choosing where to locate, he said.

Patrick said he understood the concern, but insisted the taxes targeted were unfair loopholes exploited by big corporations, not incentives such as the research and development credit put in place by the Legislature to attract business.

The new legislation to be filed next week comes a week after the governor announced a slate of initiatives to help cities and towns generate more revenue, including optional local meals and hotel taxes, pension reform and the elimination of a near-century-old tax property tax exemption worth $78 million that would require telecommunication companies to pay taxes on telephone polls and wires.

Patrick said he planned to spend the remained of the $295 million in new tax revenue to help close the deficit, hire more police officers and move forward with other initiatives to be included in his budget, scheduled to be released next Wednesday.

"We have plans. You'll hear more about them next week," Patrick said.

--------------------

Friday, February 23, 2007 2:45:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

NEWS ARTICLE:

Patrick won't name gambling policymakers

over 2 legs: Reports on budget cuts also withheld

By Hillary Chabot, Eagle Boston Bureau

The Berkshire Eagle

Saturday, February 24, 2007

BOSTON — Gov. Deval L. Patrick made a grand gesture of removing the velvet ropes outside his corner office last month, preaching a new, inclusive governance of transparency.

But recent decisions to keep government reports and members of a study group private have led critics to question whether Patrick is already backtracking on the promise.

"This is not in character with the expectations raised by the campaign," said Common Cause Executive Director Pamela Wilmot, who added that many new governors realize that being transparent is harder once they take office. "These things are always more difficult in practice, but there are laws on the books that need to be upheld and there are also principals which we believe in."

At issue is a Patrick-appointed study group looking into expanded gambling.

The 12-member group, made up of internal staffers, has been charged with studying the possibility of slots and casinos in Massachusetts and with reporting back to the governor.

Patrick spokeswoman Cyndi Roy, however, said that the only members who will be made public are Economic Development Director Daniel O'Connell, Health and Human Services Director Judy Anne Bigby and Public Safety head Kevin Burke.

"We're not naming the members because it's not our policy to name internal people working on policy for us," Roy said, adding that staff members are tapped to study all sorts of policy matters often.

The group has met once on Feb. 6 and is expected to hold public hearings, but Roy said the group has not been formalized.

Wilmot said it's "jaw-droppingly strange" that the names have been withheld.

"If you've already had a meeting, then by definition the group is working, and then it's incumbent on the administration to tell people who is meeting and why they are meeting," Wilmot said.

Another issue are the reports from Patrick's department heads detailing 5 to 10 percent cuts he asked them to make to help narrow the $1.3 billion deficit.

Patrick announced the requests publicly and said they'd be in at the end of January. He has refused several Freedom of Information Act requests filed to review the reports, saying the reports are internal documents not subject to the law.

Barbara Anderson, executive director for Citizens for Limited Taxation, filed one of the requests.

"What everyone has to understand is if the media isn't getting information, the people don't get information, and when you say, 'No' to media you're saying, 'No' to the voters," Anderson said. "That's bad for any governor, but for one who was preaching openness then the issue of hypocrisy comes in."

Saturday, February 24, 2007 3:37:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Re: Open letter to Deval-uator Patrick: Your FY08 state budget proposal sucks ASS!

Dear Deval-uator Patrick:

Your FY2008 Massachusetts state budget proposal sucks ASS! Why? Because the increases you want to give the cities and towns still do not: (a) live up to your campaign promises, AND (b) equal the state aid amounts (adjusted for inflation) from the FY2001 state budget, which was effective July 1, 2000 -- OR 7 years ago!

With healthcare insurance cost going up 60% - 80% in the past 7 years, among other critical issues facing municipalities and specific regions of the commonwealth, your increases in state aid to local governments really amount to NET CUTS!

You may have the support of some Mayors and state Reps., but the bottom line is that the "Beacon Hill" establishment state government produces a negative impact on the local governments and regions of the commonwealth. You promised positive change, but all you have delivered so far is the same old negative outcomes and insider deals.

I am glad I no longer live in the commonwealth anymore, although your counterpart in NH is much, much worse than you, because Pols like you always made me angry and financially deval-ued at the end of the business day.

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

Thursday, March 01, 2007 2:03:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Joan Vennochi:

What "HOPE?" Governor Deval-uator Patrick's proposed FY2008 changes nothing for the better for the people of Massachusetts! Springfield will still be bankrupt. The "Big Dig" will still be irreparable and costly! The new healthcare plan will still be without an effective funding mechanism. Cities and Towns will receive incremental increases that amount to NET CUTS in state aid benchmarked from the FY01 state budget. The list goes on and on. Now, businesses will be the next of a long line of victims of "Beacon Hill" mismanagement and special interest, insider, hardball politics under the new governor of the commonwealth.

If I was Governor of Massachusetts, I would garnish every state official's pay and benefits package and redistribute it back to the taxpayers, cities and towns, and business community. Only then would I be able to victimize the people, municipalities and corporations of the commonwealth with tax increases and cuts to public education, safety and public works projects.

Please replace "HOPE" with the victimized groups all being "Deval-ued"!

Thank you,

Jonathan A. Melle

-----------

JOAN VENNOCHI
Hope isn't a strategy
By Joan Vennochi, [Boston] Globe Columnist
March 1, 2007

THE POLITICS of hope helped Governor Deval Patrick win election, but hope alone won't win support for his first budget.

The governor needs a sharp, tough political strategy to sell his $26.7 billion spending plan to Beacon Hill. So far, he doesn't have one.

How is the Patrick team going to convince Senate President Robert Travaglini and House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi to embrace key parts of the new administration's budget proposal? "I don't know," replied Joe Landolfi, spokesman for the executive office of Administration and Finance, which put the plan together.

On Tuesday night, Patrick delivered a televised budget speech that was warmly received by a live audience of average citizens in Melrose. Yet Patrick, the master of grassroots campaigning, did not seize the moment to rally the same grassroots forces behind his budget proposal.

Finally, a woman in the audience posed this question during the town hall segment of the program: "How do we develop the support and pressure on the outside to help you on the inside?" To that, the governor responded, "Tell somebody this matters. . . . Talk to legislators. They need our encouragement. . . I need your encouragement."

Patrick delivered virtually the same budget speech yesterday morning to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. By the end, it was clear this crowd is not on board his budget train. Some 800 movers and shakers welcomed Patrick with a standing ovation. But once he uttered the words "closing tax loopholes," the packed ballroom at the Park Plaza Hotel got quiet and stayed that way. The first question from chamber president Paul Guzzi asked Patrick to reconcile a commitment to job creation with the "additional cost of doing business" that results from closing said loopholes.

Companies don't invest in communities solely because of tax codes, Patrick replied; they are looking for environments that offer affordable housing, quality education, and assorted factors that make a destination "interesting and exciting."

Asked afterward for reaction to Patrick's plan, chamber chairman Ralph C. Martin said, "I've adopted a wait-and-see attitude. As a former prosecutor, I don't have enough forensic proof to make up my mind one way or the other." Others in his organization already have. Guzzi put out a statement when Patrick's loophole-closing proposal was first aired, which bluntly said, "Imposing business tax increases is wrong for the people of Massachusetts."

Patrick's staff distributed a handout to the media illustrating the governor's argument that other states with which Massachusetts competes have adopted the corporate tax reforms he is proposing. But the business community has already framed this fight as "tax increases" not "tax reform" -- and the business community knows how to get what it wants from Beacon Hill.

What leverage does Patrick have to convince Travaglini and DiMasi to go along with his definition? From a Beacon Hill perspective, he is an interloper, not much different from his predecessor, except for party affiliation. Patrick also lost some precious political capital during the recent brouhaha over his leased Cadillac and pricey office redecorating.

The new governor is still trying to charm and cajole his audience, whether he is addressing average voters or the Boston power elite. In Melrose, he could have framed his proposal crisply as us-vs.-them, reformer-vs.-status-quo, and challenged the audience to let Beacon Hill power brokers know where the people stand -- behind Deval Patrick. He could have gone to the chamber with a fresh speech, making the controversial tax policy the one and only issue of the morning, and challenging the business community to put aside its selfish interests for the good of the Commonwealth. Instead, he stuck with a warm and fuzzy campaign approach.

It makes you wonder. Does Patrick understand the entrenched power of the political and corporate establishment and what it takes to shake it?

The land of the status quo is cold, stubborn, and treacherous. It is inhabited by business executives who don't want to give up tax breaks and legislators who don't want to give up anything. They understand political hardball, not the politics of hope.

Thursday, March 01, 2007 3:21:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Coakley tabs law firm partner to lead Big Dig criminal probe

By David Weber, Associated Press Writer | March 1, 2007

BOSTON --Attorney General Martha Coakley, who earlier cast doubt on bringing criminal charges in the fatal Big Dig ceiling collapse, on Thursday appointed a special investigator to lead her criminal probe of the July accident.

Paul Ware, a partner at the Boston law firm Goodwin Procter, will oversee the investigation into whether there is criminal culpability in the July 10 ceiling collapse that killed Milena Del Valle, 38. Ware was sworn-in as a special assistant attorney general.

"He is eminently qualified to take on this task," Coakley said. "He has extensive experience in civil and criminal litigation. His judgment, I believe, is impeccable."

Del Valle died when concrete ceiling panels fell on her car as she and her husband rode through the Interstate 90 connector tunnel. Inspectors have uncovered problems with the bolt and epoxy system that held up the ceiling panels.

"I think the importance of this task is unequaled," Ware said at a news conference Thursday. "This investigation is informed by a tragedy that happened last sumnmer."

Ware, who heads his law firm's litigation department, also served as the prosecutor in the Commission on Judicial Conduct investigation of Superior Court Judge Maria Lopez, who resigned from the bench in 2003.

Before taking office, Coakley told The Associated Press in a Dec. 21 interview that it could be difficult to bring criminal charges in such a complex case that involves multiple corporations involved in the design, construction and oversight of the massive construction project.

"This is a situation where everybody is responsible for this so maybe nobody is responsible for this," Coakley said in the interview with the AP. "I hope that's not true. I don't think that's true, but who and in what level of responsibility becomes a factual question. Until we determine why that tunnel collapsed, we can't start to say whether it's criminal or not, or whether someone is civilly responsible."

Coakley's predecessor, former Attorney General Tom Reilly, repeatedly characterized the fatal collapse as a crime said he would try to pursue charges all the way up to manslaughter against those who are found responsible.

Thursday, March 01, 2007 8:34:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Honorable State Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg:

Thank you for your Massachusetts State Government report on Governor Deval"-uator" Patrick's proposed FY2008 state budget. I read your report and have the following comments to impart to you:

(a) Governor Patrick's keynote speech at the Municipal Conference at the Clarion Hotel in Northampton on Saturday, April 7th with opening remarks by U.S. Congressman John W. Olver shows that the new governor is listening to the economic needs of Western Massachusetts. It is also cool that Governor Patrick will have members of his cabinent there too. AWESOME!

(I know that I don't live in the area anymore, but will you please mail me an invitation? If so, please send it to: Jonathan A. Melle/... If possible, can you include another one for my dad, too, please. If not, I understand your negative feelings about me because I dissent against some of your public policies. No matter what, I hope the best for you despite some of my dissenting views).

(b) I think the FY2008 Massachusetts state budget's $1.3 billion deficit is a sign of the terrible mismanagement of state and local government finances in Massachusetts. Moreover, this next year's fiscal year deficit will be smaller than next year's because you have NOT found an effective means to fund the commonwealth's new mandatory state subsidized healthcare law. When all of the commonwealth's working poor residents are receiving state subsidized mandatory healthcare later this year, there is no revenue source for the state to pay the healthcare insurance companies! Moreover, Stan, you failed to mention the "Big Dig", once again, and the negative impact it has had on the commonwealth's finances. If "Beacon Hill" did a better job with public management, the commonwealth's finances would not be in such disrepair!

(c) When there are more focused deliberations on the Governor's proposed budget in the State House of Representatives, how will that impact what Governor Patrick wants? Who are the State House members who will be deliberating? Only the Finance Comittee? I am unclear on what the House is going to do to the Governor's proposed budget.

(d) Then after the House gets through with the Governor's proposed budget, the State Senate gets to make it own changes to it. How will the State Senate impact what the Governor and then the House wants? Who are the State Senate members who will be deliberating? Only the Finance Committee? I am unclear on what the Senate is going to do to the Governor and House's proposed budget.

(e) Stan, you then go on to state, "Given the reality, this is not going to be easy." What do you mean by this statement? Are "the common man citizens of the commonwealth" going to get screwed at the end of this process? Is that what you mean to say?

(f) Stan, both you and "the Deval-uator", support local options meals and hotel taxes, the expansion of the circuit breaker tax credit for the working poor, allowing the municipalities to join the Group Insurance Commission, and the requirement of corporations subject to the corporate excise tax in Massachusetts to engage in what is known as "combined reporting", which would generate tens of millions of dollars in new state revenues. If the entire Legislature approves of these new taxes, reforms and efficiency initiatives, will these revenues and savings be enough to cover the recurring billion dollar-plus state budget deficits? I do not believe so, but I could be wrong.

IN CONCLUSION, I believe that you -- State Senator Stan Rosenberg -- are doing the right things for Western Massachusetts by bringing Governor Deval L. Patrick to Northampton's April 7th Municipal Conference to give the keynote address to the Mayors and other local officials of Franklin and Hampshire Counties and the surrounding Western and Central Massachusetts region. I am impressed that Governor Patrick is bring many members of his cabinent to speak to local officials! I am also heartened to hear the U.S. Congressman John W. Olver will be opening the Municipal Conference with news from Capitol Hill. HOWEVER, I am upset to read about the impending $1.3 billion FY08 state budget deficit! MOREOVER, in the proposed FY08 state budget, there is still NO funding mechanism to pay for the mandatory, state subsidized (with no revenue source) healthcare insurance law. ERGO, next year's FY09 state budget will have an even larger budget deficit then this year's proposed FY08 state budget. ON TOP OF THAT, you -- Stan -- NEVER mention the negative impacts the "Big Dig" had on all of these recurring years of state budget deficits in Massachusetts State Government. To omit the "Big Dig" from your comments shows that you have allowed the "Big Dig" to go on eating up too many state taxpayer dollars than should have ever been allowed to have been appropriated to this most expensive in the nation single public works project. You -- Stan -- then have an apprehensive statement about the whole budget process and leave it very unclear as to what will happen as the Governor's proposal enters the House and then the Senate. I concluded that in the end, when the FY08 state budget is passed, the common man demographic is going to be out more money than ever before. In closing, you -- Stan -- come up with some new local taxes, tax reforms and efficiency initiatives that do NOT seem to come close to meeting the expenditures and deficits listed in the new Governor's proposed state budget. Lastly, I am happy that you have brought political representation back to Western Massachusetts, but saddened that more "lip service" than "real solutions" will be all that happens there.

Your Very Truly,

Jonathan A. Melle

-----------------

The Rosenberg Report
Vol. XLVII

March 2, 2007

Hello!

For all you municipal officials out there, I am pleased to announce that Governor Patrick has agreed to be our featured speaker at this year's Municipal Conference.

The conference will be held Saturday, April 7th at The Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Northampton. Once again, I have teamed up with the Franklin and Hampshire Councils of Governments to bring you this year's program, which will also include opening remarks from Congressman John Olver and panel discussions on Education, Transportation, Public Safety, and Planning and Development. Several members of the governor's cabinet, including Education Adviser Dr. Dana Mohler-Faria, Secretary of Public Safety Kevin Burke and Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Dan O'Connell have also agreed to participate, so we are looking forward to a day of lively discussion. And, of course, we'll have a sandwich buffet lunch to top things off.

Invitations will be in the mail soon, but if you have any questions, call Tom in my district office at 413-587-6289.
Yours,
STAN
March Focus

Governor's Fiscal '08 Budget

Nothing takes the fun out of a budget like a $1.3 billion deficit.

Now, we can complain about the deficit, point fingers of blame and bemoan the fact that many of our progressive goals are going to be put on hold, at least for awhile. But the reality is that we will start fiscal '08 in a fairly deep hole and the only pertinent question is what are we going to do about it.

Governor Patrick has told us what he wants to do and the following link will take you to the governor's budget page where you can find out everything you want to know about his plan.

Governor's Budget Page...

Over the next few weeks the Legislature, and citizens alike, will analyze and debate the governor's proposal before more focused deliberations begin in the House of Representatives. From there, budget preparation will move to the Senate where I will work for education -- K-12 and higher education -- regional transportation, PILOT, human services and the environment. Given the reality, this is not going to be easy. But we have to do our best, and we have to be creative. I'm encouraged by the fact that the governor's budget also includes several initiatives I've been pushing , some for many years, including local option meals and hotel taxes, the expansion of the circuit breaker tax credit to include low- and middle-income residents, and a new proposal I've been promoting with Northampton Mayor Clare Higgins to allow municipalities to join the group insurance commission. The governor is also recommending another of my longstanding proposals to require corporations subject to the corporate excise tax in Massachusetts to engage in what is known as "combined reporting."

Under combined reporting, all entities subject to the corporate excise tax in the Commonwealth would be required to report on their tax returns all of the profits realized by all of their related subsidiaries in the United States, regardless of where those subsidiaries are located and regardless of where their accountants deem those profits to be earned. The Massachusetts apportionment formula would then be applied to the full amount of profits listed in the combined report in order to determine how much of those profits were generated, and are therefore taxable in Massachusetts. Combined reporting would affect only a handful of businesses, large, profitable businesses that have the ability to move their profits out of state, but could generate tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue. This is a question of fairness and I'm pleased to see that Governor Patrick has placed this, and other initiatives I've championed over the years, on the table for further discussion.

This is first phase of a long process. There's still a lot to do before the fiscal '08 budget is finally in place. I'll keep you informed along the way.

Governor's Reorganization Plan

Governor Patrick filed, and the House and Senate unanimously approved, a government reorganization plan that restructures a large part of the cabinet and many state agencies in a way that he believes will increase government efficiency and accountability. The complete text of the plan is available here...

Noteworthy

Higher Education Savings Plan

I have filed a bill that would encourage low- and middle-income families to save for college by offering a state tax deduction on top of the federal tax deduction already available.

Currently, investments made to the Massachusetts U.Fund, a federal 529 program administered by the Massachusetts Education Finance Authority that allows families to set aside money for the cost of college, are exempt from federal taxes, but subject to the state income tax. My plan eliminates the state tax on U.Fund investments for income eligible families while preserving the federal tax credit.

Only 10 states, including Massachusetts , do not offer a state tax deduction on these federal savings programs.

The U.Fund, and its federal tax deduction, would remain available for all Massachusetts families regardless of income. But my proposal would extend the state tax deduction only to low- and middle-income families that meet certain income guidelines, a segment of the state population that has not taken full advantage of the U.Fund program.

By offering this additional tax incentive, I hope to encourage more low- and middle-income families to save for college and help put a college education within reach for more and more people.

Roundup

On the Governor's Desk -- Amherst Kimball House

I wanted to let Amherst resident know that the bill that would allow for an APR land transfer on North East Street has been passed by both the House and Senate and is now on the governor's desk.

This matter has been before Amherst Town Meeting on several occasions. At issue is the preservation of the Kimball House, a Civil War-era structure. My office has worked with local officials, my legislative colleagues, most notably Rep. Ellen Story, and the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture Resources over the past year and a half to reach this solution. If and when the governor signs the bill, it will immediately become law because of the emergency preamble attached to it.

On the Governor's Desk -- Montague Brickhouse Community Center

The Montague Brickhouse Community Center bill is also on the governor's desk. The bill reimburses the Community Center $991.12 for the second half of fiscal '04 property taxes that the Center paid when moving to a new location.

Art Contest for Senior Citizens

The Secretary of State's office recently announced the 11th Annual Senior Citizen Artistic Interpretation of the State House Holiday Card Contest. This contest is open to all citizens age 62 and over and the theme for 2007 is "The State House in Winter."

Entries will be accepted from both amateur and professional artists and the artwork will be exhibited at the Commonwealth Museum. The date of the exhibit will be determined later due to museum renovation. Professional artists will judge the entries.

All medium of art is acceptable -- oil, watercolor, ink, pastels, etc. -- and the size requirements are a minimum of 5" X 7" and a maximum of 18" X 24". Please be sure to print your name, address, telephone number and medium on the back of the artwork.

The deadline for entries is June 15, 2007. Entries must be mailed or delivered to the attention of Dolores McCray, Massachusetts Archives Building, Commonwealth Museum at Columbia Point, 220 Morrissey Blvd., Boston, MA 02125.

This year three winning cards will be chosen to be reproduced and sold at the State House Gift Cart with the artist's name printed on the card. An Affirmation of Award will be presented to the winning artist at a date to be announced.

Trivia

Now for the answer to our previous question:

We all know that The Mayflower landed in Plymouth on Nov. 11th, 1620. Name the ship that landed in Salem in 1630, delivering the charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company from England.

The answer is: The Arbella

Saturday, March 03, 2007 3:35:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Hello Jonathan,

Thank you for your interest in Senator Rosenberg's Municipal Conference. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the event, and the expected high turnout, we must limit attendance to municipal officials from the Franklin-Hampshire county area.

Thanks again for your interest.

Tom Mitchell
Communications Director
State Senator Stan Rosenberg
--------------

Hello, Stan Rosenberg & Tom Mitchell,

The Rosenberg Reports and the 4/7 municipal conference only for the municipal officials from the Franklin-Hampshire county area leaves out: (a) BERKSHIRE COUNTY, which leads the commonwealth in job losses and whose only area of economic growth are perversely incentivized, ever-increasing welfare caseloads, and (b) SPRINGFIELD, which is the most fiscally insolvent, bankrupted municipality in the commonwealth, making up the third largest city in Massachusetts without quality and effective public services for so many thousands of poor, urban and minority children!

I cannot believe that Stan Rosenberg is the presumptive successor to John Olver's Congressional seat (or what may become of it after the 2010 census), while at the same time hosting a municipal conference that leaves out so many Western Massachusetts communities in desperate need of state assistance. In 2010 or 2012, when Stan Rosenberg becomes Western Massachusetts' Congressman after Olver retires, how will Berkshire County, Springfield, and the like, look back at the 4/7/2007 Municipal Conference only forthe municipal officials in Franklin and Hampshire Counties?

Finally, I think Stan Rosenberg's reports always miss the obvious: THE STATE GOVERNMENT IS A NEGATIVE, NOT A POSITIVE, TO THE MUNICIPALITIES! The Big Dig is the single most expensive and wasteful public works project in U.S. History, which drained BILLIONS from local and regional road and bridges projects. The State Legislature voted to cut state aid to municipalities for 3 straight fiscal years from FY02 - FY04! The focus of Stan Rosenberg's conference is on the FY08 state budget, which will not yet match the state's aid to municipalities from 7 years ago. THE STATE IS THE PROBLEM, STAN ROSENBERG! And you, who will most likely be the next U.S. Representative after Olver retires, are part of that problem.

I hope that both Stan Rosenberg and Deval Patrick are booed off of the stage by the select few Western Massachusetts municipal officials who hear their sale of the Brooklyn Bridge!

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle
--------------

Jonathan;

Why does this surprise you. Berkshire County is the ugly redheaded stepchild to the elected politicians (notice I never call them leaders) in Boston. Yet in spite of poor choices, bad elected officials, Springfield and Lawrence, get extra money and are treated much better than well run towns and cities.

Keep up the good work and digging.

Sincerely,
Pat Fennell
--------------

Dear Patrick Fennell:

Thank you for your response to my email assailing Stan Rosenberg for holding an exclusive municipal conference without representation from BERKSHIRE County, SPRINGFIELD, and the like! Remember, Pat, Stan Rosenberg openly wants John Olver's Congressional Seat after Olver someday retires or loses his seat due to the 2010 census. In any case, Rosenberg would go from an Amherst, Massachusetts State Senator to Western Massachusetts' Congressman. Of course, we are in the year 2007! Ergo, within the next decade, Stan Rosenberg is the next presumptive Congressman from Western Massachusetts. WHAT SURPRISES ME IS THAT STAN ROSENBERG OPENLY WANTS TO REPRESENT WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS IN CONGRESS, BUT HE IS CURRENTLY EXCLUDING BERKSHIRE County and SPRINGFIELD FROM NEXT MONTH's MUNICIPAL CONFERENCE!

Do you -- Pat -- now see the irony in Stan's double standard?

I agree with you -- Pat -- that Berkshire County gets screwed every single goddamned year by the "elected" politicians in Boston! As Rinaldo Del Gallo III points out to me when I correspond with him, The Berkshire Eagle makes it all look good when most of its appallingly bad. Moreover, Alan Chartock is no help with his undue praises for Deval-uator Patrick, Luciforo, and the like state government power brokers. There is this utter void of reality and truth that only you -- Patrick Fennell -- Rinaldo, and I respectively fill with our letters and other writings.

How can you say Springfield and Lawrence are treated better than well run towns and cities by the state government? If either poor community received 1% of the "Big Dig" revenues, they would be the model for economic development and business performance throughout the nation, nonetheless the commonwealth. I disagree with you -- Pat -- because I think Springfield got screwed over by the state government, especially by Peter J. Larkin in the Summer of 2003, and any extra money that Springfield now receives goes through state controlled boards and bureaucrats, never making it to improving the living conditions of a once great, and hopefully future great, city.

In Friendship,

Jonathan A. Melle
--------------

Monday, March 05, 2007 8:11:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Honorable State Senator Stan Rosenberg:

First, we all know that you are the presumptive successor to Western Massachusetts' Congressional seat now held by John W. Olver. In some ways, I, too, hope you do a good job in U.S. Congress for the people, communities and sub-regions of the Western Massachusetts region after your good friend in politics, John W. Olver, retires from the post someday in the near future. If Luciforo challenges you in the Democratic Primary, I would help you defeat him each and every day of the campaign.

Second, I think it is good that you recently added Berkshire County to your annual Municipal Conferences. Working with Luciforo to include the Berkshire communities in your political gathering had good intentions, but the results have been disasterous -- due to Luciforo's terrible public record -- for the western most region of the commonwealth -- Berkshire County -- with the highest rate of job losses, along with ever-increasing welfare caseloads caused by record breaking teen pregnancy rates, among a laundry list of other negative political impacts of society due to Luciforo's poor "leadership" on Beacon Hill from 1997 - 2006!

Third, I think it is with good intentions that you are partnering with Luciforo's successor, State Senator Ben Downing, to invite elected and appointed officials from his Berkshire district to the Saturday, April 7th, 2007, Municipal Conference at the Clarion Hotel in Northampton, Massachusetts. Perhaps Downing will be able to convince the state power brokers to invest in the needs of poor and rural Berkshire County just like you have been doing the same for the marginally better off Hampshire County and more struggling Franklin County.

Fourth, I believe the problems of Springfield dwarf any and all problems by the collective rural communities of Western Massachusetts. Springfield is fiscally insolvent and bankrupt! There are literally thousands of poor, urban, and minority children who are being victimized by the city and state because they are living in unsafe neighborhoods with high crime with little police presence and drugs and violence with no public policy solutions in sight, substandard public schools with an exodus of quality public school teachers, and the list goes on and on. For this reason alone, I hope that Springfield elects Western Massachusetts' next member of Congress after the 2010 census so that at least one good man (or woman) can put a once great city back on her feet again.

Fifth, once again, you -- Stan -- are so going to run for U.S. Congress after Olver retires! You do, indeed, have many motivations for all the politicking you are doing to set yourself up for that coveted political seat on Capitol Hill! Hell, maybe I would even work for you -- both in your campaign and political office -- if we could ever put aside our political differences. Nonetheless, you will be the next Congressman from Western Massachusetts when Olver someday retires with a 99.9% certainty!

Lastly, I am happy you would like more people to attend than the maximum amount of people already attending the 4/7 Municipal Conference. You always have good intentions, but not always good outcomes. If you and Deval Patrick really want to help all of Western Massachusetts' rural communities then start by restoring state aid to cities and towns to the FY2001 levels before the 3 straight years of state aid cuts from FY2002-FY2004, then 2 straight years of paltry 3% state aid increases from FY2005-FY2006, and last year's FY2007 8% state aid increase. Seven years ago from Governor Patrick's FY2008 proposed state budget, the state gave more state aid to cities and towns than the state does now! In short, "Show the cities and towns the state aid MONEY!"

Yours Very Truly,

Jonathan A. Melle

-------------------

"Rosenberg, Stan (SEN)" wrote:

Thanks for the follow up regarding the Municipal Officials Conference which I sponsor with he Hampshire and Franklin county Councils of Government.

You are mistaken. The conference has historically been for Franklin and Hampshire counties. For years I was organizing it for my district and the few towns in those counties not in the district. I then added Berkshire county. For the last several years I asked Sen.. Nuciforo to invite elected and appointed officials from Berkshire County. Happily some attended each of those years despite the distance.I have asked Sen.. Downing to do the same and he says he intends to do so, we are printing enough brochures for him to mail.

We don't extend initiations to Hampden County officials for a number of reasons. First , capacity-- the conference can only accommodate so many people and we have been full up or near to it for years. Second, the conference focuses on small towns and small cities. While there are some small towns in Hampden County it is a county with many larger and large cities . The problems and needs of small towns are often by larger communities when they are together so it is the opportunity for smaller communities to have a dialogue with state policy makers without fighting for attention from their larger neighbors.

As to the my alleged motivation regarding the Congressional District, let me assure you that there is no connection between the conference and a possible congressional run someday. As you may recall that there are a number of sizeable communities in Hampden County in the congressional district so if that was my motivation in holding the conference you might think that I would invite them. I do not for the reasons stated above.

I am sorry that I cannot accommodate everyone who would like to come to the event but it is just not practical as much as I would like to do so. We put a lot of work and resources into organizing it so there would be no reason not to maximize attendance, which we do already.

Thanks for your interest in the program.

Stan

Tuesday, March 06, 2007 4:36:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Honorable Governor "Deval-uator" Patrick:

First, you wanted to buy off the Legislature with the second of two legislative pay raises if they would rubber stamp your legislative agenda and grant you direct control of independent agencies. Now, you call Robert E. Rubin of Citigroup to advocate for Ameriquest (Predatory) Mortgage company while knowing full well Rubin's Citigroup has billions upon billions of dollars of business interests before the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

My conclusion about you, Deval-uator Patrick, is that you are nothing more than an OPERATOR! You are a typical Pol who wheels and deals for his own agenda and special interests. I cannot believe that I ever supported your candidacy for governor after the September, 2006, primaries when you challenged Kerry Healey, Christy Mihos and Grace Ross in the November, 2006 general election. YOU -- DEVAL-UATOR PATRICK -- ARE THE WORST GOVERNOR EVER!

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

----------

Governor made call on behalf of lender
Troubled Ameriquest sought infusion of cash
By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff | March 6, 2007

Governor Deval Patrick, who was criticized during the gubernatorial campaign for his involvement with a controversial subprime mortgage lender, called a top official at Citigroup, former US Treasury secretary Robert E. Rubin, two weeks ago to intercede on behalf of the owners of Ameriquest Mortgage as they sought urgent financial assistance from the global financial giant.

In a statement to the Globe, Patrick said he made the Feb. 20 call to Citigroup not in his role as governor but after a personal request to him from a top official at ACC Capital Holdings, the firm that owns Ameriquest Mortgage, which has frequently been accused of predatory lending.

Citigroup, the world's largest financial company, has a host of business interests in Massachusetts, many of which are regulated by the state. A key Citigroup subsidiary handles lucrative bond work for state agencies. In addition, Ameriquest is licensed by the state Division of Banks.

In the conversation, Patrick vouched for the "current management and the character of the company," said Kyle Sullivan, his spokesman. Sullivan said Patrick told Rubin that he was serving as a personal reference for ACC as its owners pushed for the quick cash infusion from Citigroup that would stabilize their struggling lending firm.

"They had a very short phone conversation lasting only a couple of minutes," Sullivan said. "He did not advocate in any way for a deal between Citigroup and ACC Capital. He simply offered himself as a reference."

Sullivan would not elaborate further on what Patrick said. Patrick was asked to make the phone call by Adam Bass, senior executive and legal counsel to ACC Capital, Sullivan said.

Patrick resigned last year from the ACC board after serving nearly two years as a director, for which he was paid $360,000 a year. Sullivan said that Patrick received no compensation for making the call and that the governor has no financial interest in ACC Capital.

But the call to Rubin is highly unusual, in part because of the political sensitivity over his past involvement with the controversial mortgage lender. In addition, if a sitting governor reaches out personally to a top corporate executive, it is typically on behalf of state interests, such as a desire to preserve jobs in Massachusetts.

Pam Wilmot, executive director of the watchdog group Common Cause/Massachusetts, questioned what role Patrick was playing in placing such a call to a corporation with extensive interests before the state. The implied message of Patrick's call, Wilmot said, is that he wants Citigroup to go ahead with the deal.

Wilmot said the governor "must represent the Commonwealth and only the Commonwealth" in such circumstances, rather than private interests.

"When a governor calls a company, particularly one that does business with the state, and asks it to do something, the company is going to feel pressure to act," said Wilmot. "They are going to ask, 'If I do this, will I get a favor?' and, 'If I don't, will there be any penalty?' Those questions should not be on the table at all, and, regardless of the answer, the very questions themselves create an appearance of conflict of interest."

Wilmot said the call puts a company in an "uncomfortable and untenable position."

On Feb. 28, ACC Capital announced it had reached a deal with Citigroup, under which Citigroup would give a much needed cash infusion and credit line to the struggling mortgage firm, which provides high-interest mortgages to high-risk buyers.

In turn, the agreement gives Citigroup an option to buy companies owned by ACC Capital, but not Ameriquest. Patrick, who joined the five-member board in 2004, resigned from the board last July as his candidacy for governor gained momentum.

A spokesperson for Rubin, who is chairman of Citicorp's executive committee, confirmed that the short conversation took place, echoing Sullivan's statement that Patrick offered himself as a character reference for the company. ACC Capital did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the financial press that covered the negotiations, the deal with Citigroup, which has $1.8 trillion in assets, was critical for ACC owner Roland E. Arnall, as Ameriquest confronts dramatic declines in earnings because of increasingly difficult conditions in the subprime lending market.

Delinquencies and foreclosures have jumped in recent months after a hot housing boom, including in Massachusetts where many subprime borrowers, including those with loans from ACC capital's mortgage operations, are losing their homes. In the final quarter of last year, California-based Ameriquest launched foreclosure proceedings on 54 homes in Massachusetts, according to an analysis by Banker and Tradesman.

In making the call, Patrick drew on his ties to Rubin, which developed when both served in the Clinton administration. Patrick was assistant attorney general in charge of the US Justice Department's civil rights division. As treasury secretary, Rubin oversaw the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and worked with Patrick on the investigations into Southern church arson cases in the mid-1990s.

Citigroup, through its subsidiaries, is heavily involved in the state's very lucrative public financing system. For example, it was the lead manager for $4.9 billion in bond issuances in 2004 and 2005 in Massachusetts, much of it for work for some of the quasi-public authorities that Patrick now controls or will at some point during the course of his term.

Those agencies include the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, the MBTA, MassDevelopment, the Massachusetts Port Authority, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, and the Massachusetts Health and Educational Facilities Authority.

The public authorities create a list of qualified private financing teams, which would include such firms as Citibank, to use when they issue bonds. It is the authorities' sole discretion to make the selection.

Citigroup's interests also are focused on Beacon Hill, where it employs a well-connected Democratic lobbying firm, Dewey Square Group, to look after its interests.

Citibank, with its huge credit card division, is particularly interested in identify-theft legislation that has been stalled at the State House. The proposal is opposed by the credit companies because, advocates say, it would undercut their efforts to sell identity-theft protection.

Primerica, Citigroup's life insurance company, is licensed and regulated by the state's Insurance Division. Citibank, its banking division, is aggressively expanding in Massachusetts in retail banking, for which the company will face additional state consumer laws and regulations. Citigroup also is competing to serve as a depository for state funds.

Patrick's close working relationship with Arnall, a conservative Republican and one of President Bush's major financial backers, and his former role as a well-paid board member for Arnall's lending company, has caused concern among his supporters and anger among those who have battled the mortgage giant. The firm faced allegations that it has defrauded minorities, the elderly, and low-income people.

Patrick has defended his service on the board of the mortgage company, saying he pushed through changes in the way the company operates. Patrick served as the board's representative to the Ameriquest legal team, as the lawyers negotiated a $325 million agreement with 49 states to settle allegations it had defrauded low-income borrowers.

In 2005, Patrick wrote the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as it considered Bush's nomination of Arnall to be the US ambassador to the Netherlands.

He described Arnal as a man of rectitude. He said Arnall has demonstrated leadership in moving to correct his company's practices and said the nominee would make a "fine ambassador."

Tuesday, March 06, 2007 5:41:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, News Media, Politicians, and the People:

ALL THE STATE LOTTERIES REALLY ARE IS A SYSTEM OF INEQUITABLE REGRESSIVE TAXATION!

I cannot believe the priorities of the Massachusetts State Legislature:

Rob 1/2-billion dollars from the Health Care Security Trust state account in order to justify not closing corporate tax loopholes for rich corporate executives while planning for, implementing and then administering an expensive lottery ticket similar to the one designed by N.Y. State in order to exploit the poor!

PLEASE VOTE ALL MASSACHUSETTS LEGISLATORS OUT OF OFFICE IN 2008!

Sincerely,
Jonathan A. Melle

---------------

Lotto stakes getting higher
With state game sales lagging, a new high-priced ticket will be released, according to officials

By Hillary Chabot, Eagle Boston Bureau

The Berkshire Eagle
Friday, April 13, 2007

BOSTON — Winning could get a lot easier at the Massachusetts State Lottery — for both players and municipalities.

Lottery officials are hoping to strike it rich with a new sweepstakes-type game after sales lagged last year for the first time in lottery history, according to a source close to the state lottery department. Cities and towns depend on lottery revenues for local aid, and the sales slump sparked deep concern across the state.

The game would sell a limited number of tickets for a limited amount of time, upping the odds of nabbing a winning ticket. Discussions about the game are still ongoing as the department tries to nail down a contract.

The sweepstakes would be similar to the "Raffle to Riches" game unveiled by New York earlier this year. The New York game sold 1,318,418 tickets for $20 each and brought in $26 million during the game's three-week sale period.

The game would have sold all 1.5 million tickets available if the weather had not churned out some of the worst snowfall in years in upstate New York, said New York Lottery spokeswoman Susan Miller.

Even better, those who played had a one in 125,000 chance of hitting a big prize, better than the odds of a big win in Megabucks, which is about one in 5 million. The game awarded 12 prizes of $1 million, 15 prizes of $100,000 and 60 prizes of $25,000.

"Anytime you can create excitement with a new product, you get renewed interest," Miller said. New York Lottery officials plan to conduct another raffle shortly before the Fourth of July.

Similar games have met with great success in Florida, Ohio, Maryland and Georgia, Miller said.

The game, if Massachusetts Lottery officials agree on a contract, would have to be approved by the Legislature, according to the source.

Lottery spokeswoman Beth Bresnahan would not comment on the possibility of such a game, but did confirm that department officials are looking into several new games to spur sales.

"The lottery is putting out new games and working on innovative and exciting ideas that we believe will help increase sales and provide strong sales for years to come," Bresnahan said.

Senate Ways and Means Chairman Steve Panagiotakos, D-Lowell, said the state budget depends on lottery aid to give municipalities the funding they need.

"It's novel and a little bit of a different product than they've been offering, and that should certainly help bring in a little more revenue," Panagiotakos said of the possible new game.

The game could bring a sorely needed shot in the arm for lottery sales, said Michael Widmer, executive director of the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation.

"They haven't been meeting their target, so it's facing a shortfall of expectations," Widmer said.

"Lottery revenues are vitally important for cities and towns," said John Robertson, deputy legislative director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. "We have been worried about the lottery this year, as some games have struggled, particularly flagship games like scratch tickets. The new product ... sounds like a great idea to boost sales."

Unofficial sales for March show that the lottery took $3,380,447,099 so far this fiscal year, which is down about 2.3 percent from last year.

Keno and the Numbers Game are the only games where sales increased from last year; all the others have dropped.

The department recently released two new games, including one that is similar to Keno but with live car racing. The other game is a $10 Red Sox instant scratch ticket, which has sold $40 million in three weeks.

Friday, April 13, 2007 1:34:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Paul Cellucci and Jane Swift were both wrong to allow the Massachusetts Port Authority to be vulnerable to the 9/11 terrorist attacks by leaving Logan Airport in such inexperienced, incompentent hands!

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“MOAKLEY, CELLUCCI TRADE BARBS OVER MASSPORT APPOINTMENT”

By Martin Finucane, Associated Press, 09/14/99

BOSTON- Gov. Paul Cellucci traded barbs Tuesday with U.S. Rep. Joseph
Moakley over his decision to appoint chief of staff to head the
Massachusetts Port Authority.

Moakley, D-Mass., had criticized Cellucci’s nomination of 34-year-old Virginia Buckingham, QUESTIONING HER ABILITY TO RUN THE AGENCY THAT OVERSEES LOGAN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT and the Port of Boston.

“I’m surprised at Congressman Moakley,” said Cellucci. “It
sounds like Joe Moakley might be one of those men I was referring to a couple of weeks ago who are threatened by powerful women.”

Cellucci, at a recent news conference, had defended Buckingham by suggesting her detractors were threatened by powerful women and they
should “get a life.”

MOAKLEY CRITICIZED BUCKINGHAM FOR HER LACK OF TRANSPORTATION EXPERTISE, TELLING THE BOSTON HERALD, “I FAVOR ON-THE-JOB TRAINING, BUT NOT IN
THE TOP POSITION.”

He also told the Herald on Tuesday that Cellucci had taken “some girl
sitting in the next office” and put her in charge.

Moakley quickly apologized, the newspaper reported, and amended his
statement to say “woman.”

But the Republican governor and LT. GOV. JANE SWIFT pounced on
Moakley’s initial use of the word “girl.”

“Ginny Buckingham is a professional woman. She’s not the girl in the room next door,” said Cellucci.

SWIFT said: “I just think it’s unacceptable for the dean of our
congressional delegation to call an accomplished 34-year-old woman a
‘girl’.”

Moakley spokeswoman Karin Walser emphasized Tuesday that “Mr. Moakley apologized the minute the word left his lips. It was a misstatement pure and simple.” She had no further comment.

Moakley and Cellucci are currently at odds over a controversial
proposal by Massport to add a runway to Logan. Moakley is leading the opposition to the plan.

The powerful South Boston politician also has clashed with Cellucci over the governor’s criticism of the all-Democratic federal delegation for failing to secure enough money for the Central Artery-third harbor
tunnel project in Boston (the “Big Dig”).

Buckingham, who has been on maternity leave, is expected to be approved by the Massport board on Thursday and begin her new job next week. She has told the board she wants to make $150,000, $10,000 more than her predecessor Peter Blute was scheduled to make. Her home phone number
in Marblehead is unlisted.

Moakley had also criticized the Buckingham appointment as part of
Cellucci’s pattern of naming close political allies to key jobs.

“You look at a couple of (Cellucci’s) appointments, he didn’t have to walk two feet to make three of them. I know the world is getting smaller, but I don’t think it’s that small,” Moakley said.

Cellucci defended his appointments by pointing to Administration and
Finance Secretary Andrew Natsios, a former state representative who
left Massachusetts to work for the U.S. Agency for International
Development and a private relief agency in Washington.

“It’s a remarkable life experience. … We’ve brought in people. … We’ve also promoted people who have demonstrated they can get the job done,” Cellucci said.

Natsios was a close friend of Cellucci’s when the served in the House of Representatives together in the 1970s.

Saturday, April 14, 2007 2:38:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Dear Honorable State Representative Daniel Bosley:

I am glad to hear that you are hosting a public forum for Berkshire area residents to voice their views on State House politics. As I am a former resident of North Adams and you were my top-down state Rep. back then, I would like to speak my piece:

(a) The State House has slashed state aid to cities, towns, and like political subdivisions and public entities of the commonwealth to such a dramatic extent that the Legislature gave more local aid in its FY2001 state budget than it will in its FY2008 state budget. So, 7 years ago the cities, et al, got more state financing dollars than they do now.

How do you justify this fact, Rep. Bosley?

(b) Last summer, a portion of the "Big Dig" concrete ceiling fell and killed a woman. The "Big Dig" is the most wasteful, costly single public works project in the history of the United States! The "Big Dig" leaks too much water and its maintenance is unconstrained.

How do you justify this fact, Rep. Bosley?

(c) Berkshire County is the number one region in the commonwealth for job losses! Moreover, Massachusetts loses population and jobs just about every year. You are supposed to be the wiz-kid on economic development on Beacon Hill.

What are your solutions for the Berkshire economy and economic development in Massachusetts, Rep. Bosley?

(d) Governor Deval Patrick proposed an equitable FY08 state budget that amounted to the same price tag as the State House of Representatives' state budget. Patrick's budget is equitable and wants to prevent young women from getting cervical cancer with a preventive cure. The State House slashed Patrick's funding for this important program that protects young women from contracting cancer.

How do you justify the State House politics as usual, and not fully funding preventive medicine for the young women of the commonwealth, Rep. Bosley?

(e) Pittsfield and North Adams have become the teen pregnancy capitals of the World! How come teen pregnancies and welfare caseloads are decreasing throught the commonwealth and nation, but they are increasing at ever rising numbers in Pittsfield and North Adams?

What are you going to do to prevent teen pregnancies in the Berkshires, Rep. Bosley?

(f) The Massachusetts Universal Healthcare Insurance Law has NO FUNDING MECHANISM! The FY08 state budget has a $1 Billion deficit! Next year, the costs of this program will compound, multiply and exponentially rise higher and higher. Moreover, healthcare insurance prices have increased at 18% per year compounding in cost every year since 2000.

Are you going to come up with a new revenue source (TAX) to fund Universal Healthcare Insurance for all of Massachusetts' 6 Million citizens, Rep. Bosley?

(g) Massachusetts is one of the top 3 debtor states in the nation. Since borrowing money became problematic for the commonwealth, the Legislature has cut deeply into state aid for municipalities, social service programs, and other socially just causes. The majority of funding for Western Massachusetts comes via state aid for roads, schools, police, fire, and other important services.

How much more funding are you going to cut out of Western Massachusetts to allow Beacon Hill to finance special interests, lobbyists, corporate executives, and the like, Rep. Bosley?

(h) Massachusetts, South Carolina and Arkansas are the top 3 states where incumbency is the highest cause. In 2003, you, Rep. Bosley, voted to end Clean Elections, which was a voluntary public financing of election to encourage challengers to legislative seats that otherwise never get seriously challenged.

Are you going to keep collecting so many thousands of special interest dollars to hold onto your "legislative" seat, Rep. Bosley?

Thank you for not bothering to ever respond to my points, questions, and writings. You, Rep. Bosley, are a real man of the special interests!

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

------------
Legislative Public Forum at MCLA

North Adams - Those with questions or concerns about the issues facing the region's residents are asked to bring their voices to a public forum on April 20.

State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing D-Pittsfield and Rep. Daniel E. Bosley D-North Adams will host the event at the Sullivan Lounge at the Masasachusetts College of Liberal Arts. The hour-long forum is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m..

Downing has just completed his first 100 days in office after being elected to a first two-year term in November. Bosley has served the Northern Berkshires as an elected member of the state House of Representatives for over a decade.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007 5:21:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

MANDATORY HEALTH INSURANCE | THE FIRST YEAR
Progress and perils
Thousands more in state have coverage under ambitious program, but challenges lie ahead over funding and getting message out to all
By Alice Dembner, Globe Staff | April 22, 2007

Massachusetts has made a strong start toward ensuring that all state residents have health insurance, but it faces major obstacles as it seeks to achieve the full promise of landmark legislation signed into law a year ago, according to more than a dozen analysts, policy makers, and advocates.

More than 110,000 people -- one-fifth to one-quarter of the state's uninsured -- have been given free or heavily subsidized coverage in the past year. New insurance plans were designed to provide more affordable options for those who have to buy their own coverage. And the use of state money to pay for charity care at hospitals has begun to decline, offering hope that the funds can pay for insurance instead.

Still, the big tests of the universal health insurance law are yet to come. Will insurance be truly affordable? Will individuals revolt when the state starts fining those without coverage next year? Will employers maintain the insurance they now offer? Will there be enough federal and state funding to cover rising costs?

"The nation is watching," said Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based nonprofit foundation that sponsors research to improve healthcare. "It's inspiring other states to act. But nobody would yet say it was a success."

Policy makers this year laid the building blocks for success, many observers said, reaching compromises on the tough issues of how much people can be expected to pay for insurance, what constitutes real insurance, and who will be exempted from the requirement that everyone have coverage by July 1.

The compromises helped retain support from the alliance of businesses, medical providers, and advocates that formed to get the law passed.

Shaped by former Republican governor Mitt Romney and the Democratic -majority Legislature, the law also gained the full support of the new governor, Deval Patrick.

"It's a matter of quality of life, it's a matter of quality healthcare, and it's an economic matter," Patrick said.

That broad support may help this healthcare initiative succeed where a similar attempt failed nearly a decade ago after being torpedoed by business opposition.

Now, "Massachusetts really has a structure in place and the political support to deal with problems as they emerge," said John Holahan , director of health research at the Urban Institute , a think tank that provided a framework for the law.

The biggest strides so far have been in providing free coverage for the uninsured with low incomes. Nearly half of that group has been signed up for the state Medicaid program or for new fully subsidized plans that offer some of the most comprehensive benefits in the nation. Earlier this month, the state expanded subsidies to provide free insurance for tens of thousands more.

"The very poor are covered very well," said Brother Jack Rathschmidt of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Jamaica Plain, a leader of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, a coalition of 80 congregations.

A few problems have cropped up in the new subsidized plans. Some individuals were assigned to plans that didn't include doctors they had been seeing or even providers near their homes. Others faced delays in getting appointments. But for the most part, the newly insured seem pleased with their healthcare and relieved to finally have the security of insurance. (See miniprofiles).

The next big question is whether low-income people who have to pay for insurance, even with a substantial subsidy, will sign up. Some advocates suggest that the costs are still too high, particularly for the young and healthy who don't see the need for insurance. So far, most of those enrolling in partially subsidized programs are older and sicker. Without the younger, healthier people, costs will rise rapidly and the plans could quickly become unaffordable for everyone.

In addition, there is widespread public confusion about the many subsidized and unsubsidized insurance plans now being offered. Aggressive recruitment and education through advertising is just beginning. And a broader campaign is about to kick off to alert uninsured middle- and upper-income individuals about the requirements of the new law and new insurance options on sale next month.

"If we don't get that going pretty darn quick, there's real trouble ahead," said John McDonough, executive director of the advocacy group Health Care for All.

The biggest challenge to ensuring insurance coverage for all under the plan is financing, observers said.

The state's plan relies largely on two sources: federal funds that are committed only through June 30, 2008, and the state's free-care pool, now used to pay for charity care at hospitals and health centers.

To guarantee continuation of the federal funds, which total nearly $400 million, the state must renegotiate an agreement with the Bush administration, an uncertain prospect.

Additional federal funds, to cover children, are dependent on Congress overriding President Bush's objections to a broad expansion of insurance for children.

And the state can shift the $605 million from the free-care pool only if many people currently seeking charity care get insurance coverage.

As the state presses forward, healthcare costs continue to rise. That will push up the cost of the insurance initiative, estimated at about $1.6 billion this year, and threaten the delicate balance that keeps it going.

"The legislation . . . is unsustainable tomorrow," said Alan Sager , a professor of health policy at the Boston University School of Public Health, who takes a gloomier position on the financial picture than some others.

"There are no cost controls in the state that has the most expensive healthcare in the world. Premiums are rising rapidly and . . . revenues are not adequate to cover the costs of healthcare."

Monday, April 23, 2007 4:21:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Dear BERKSHIRE BLOGGERS, Dan "Bureaucrat" Bosley, Deval"-uator" Patrick, George W. "Tax-cutting but War-spending" Bush, Stan "The Insider's ONLY Man" Rosenberg, Smitty "Closed Door Governance/wheel & deal" Pignatelli, the "corporate controlled" News Media, the People, & "the despicable" Denis "Gold-digger" Guyer:

Re: "Jackson jackpot set: State's new game will cost $20 per ticket" (The Berkshire Eagle, 4/26/2007): The Massachusetts state Lottery keeps taxing the poor with new gimmicks! This newest of the myriad forms of fraud perpetrated against the manipulated poor by their state government, entitled: "Star Spangled Sweepstakes", is totally reprehensible, inequitable and WRONG!

The Eagle states: "The new game is an attempt to boost profits after an $86 million sales slump compared to last year. The profits go to help municipal budgets."

The following is what is wrong with these half-truth laden reported facts:

#1 - The Massachusetts Lottery is an inequitable multi-billion dollar public monopolistic industry designed only to raise state revenues from the people who can least afford to pay into "the system"! In other words, the state lottery is an inequitable form of REGRESSIVE TAXATION!

#2- Almost every recent year before 2006, the Massachusetts Lottery reported record sales. The one year of downward sales does not at all mean that the Lottery is in any kind of financial trouble. In fact, the money it collects for the state is nearly all pure profit!

#3 - The Lottery's revenues first go to the state and a percentage get redistributed to the municipalities. During the Massachusetts state budget crises of 3 consecutive years of state budget cuts to municipalities from FY2002 - FY2004, the percentage of redistributed lottery revenues to the municipalities was dramatically cut back. The state government took the difference to fund the state, not her political subdivisions (cities & towns).

Massachusetts State Treasurer Timothy Cahill is selling this newest form of public inequity to the people by stating that it will create a paltry $35 million in additional local aid. There are 351 municipalities in the commonwealth! Given the costs to the poor who are the primary consumers of the inequitable Lottery, the social benefits clearly do not exceed the costs.

Lastly, Bureaucrat Dan Bosley strongly opposes private gaming in the commonwealth in order to support and keep the state Lottery a monopoly. In the Eagle article, Bosley's name and comments went unethically omitted, along with the fact that more poor children will go to bed without a nutritious meal because $20 was displaced to benefit an inequitable "system" that demonstrably chooses to rob poor Peter to pay rich Paul.

I dissent! And, I will always speak my good conscience as long as I live!

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

------------------------------

Jackson jackpot set
State's new game will cost $20 per ticket
By Hillary Chabot, Eagle Boston Bureau

Thursday, April 26, 2007

BOSTON — Bring on the millions.

State Lottery officials unveiled a patriotic $20 raffle-style sweepstakes game yesterday that will produce more millionaires in a single drawing than any other game in U.S. lottery history.

"Star Spangled Sweepstakes" will sell four million tickets starting on May 1 and offer one prize of $20 million, 10 prizes of $10 million, and 40 prizes of $250,000.

The game comes two weeks after a Berkshire Eagle story about the new sweepstakes game in the works at the Lottery. Those who purchase a ticket have a one-in-100,000 chance of winning $250,000.

The new game is an attempt to boost profits after an $86 million sales slump compared to last year. The profits go to help municipal budgets.

"Municipalities will also win big with this ticket. It is expected sales for this game alone will generate more than $35 million in local aid for the Commonwealth's 251 cities and towns in Fiscal Year 2007," said state Treasurer Timothy Cahill in a statement.

The game will operate like a traditional raffle. Vendors will sell only 4 million tickets between May 1 and June 30, and the winners will be selected on July 4.

Each of the tickets will have a seven-digit sweepstakes number, which players must match up to the winning numbers drawn by the Lottery. Officials will draw 51 tickets in total.

Players odds of winning the big $20 million prize are one-in-4 million, and the odds of winning a $1 million prize are one-in-400,000.

Thursday, April 26, 2007 2:54:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers:

State "Representatives" Dan "Bureaucrat" Bosley, Smitty "Let's make an unethical deal" Pignatelli, Denis "Marry only the richest lady in town" Guyer, et al, passed a proposed FY2008 state budget. The proposed state budget they passed excluded proposals by Governor Deval Patrick to find real revenue sources to fund state and local services. Instead of closing corporate tax loopholes and increasing revenues by hundreds of millions of dollars, the "representatives" are relying on one time revenue sources, including the taking of $500 million from the state's Health Care Security Trust account coupled with the "representatives" the fiscally irresponsible decision to not make any interest payments and a $100 million contribution to this fund.

Moreover, not in the proposed FY08 Massachusetts House Budget is any real funding source for the commonwealth's flawed mandatory health insurance plan. The Boston Globe reported that: "The commonwealth relies largely on two revenue sources: federal funds that are committed only through June 30, 2008, and the state's free-care pool, now used to pay for charity care at hospitals and health centers."

Now, remember the $500 million from the commonwealth's that Bureaucrat Bosley, Golddigger Guyer and Slimy Pignatelli proposed transferring from the state's Health Care Security Trust account to cover the $1 billion budget deficit? Well, now listen to this from the Boston Globe's news article: the federal funds to cover the cost of the state's mandatory health insurance program total nearly $400 million this year!

O.K. So now we have Bureaucrat Bosley, Golddigger Guyer & Slimy Pignatelli, et al, proposing a FY2008 state budget that robs the state's Health Care Security Trust account to the tune of $500 million, which the federal government contributed $400 million, in order to close the state's budget deficit gap instead of closing nearly $300 million in special interest dollars in the form of corporate tax loopholes that benefit only the wealth big businesses throughout the commonwealth, NOT THE PEOPLE the "representatives" are supposed to be, in theory, serving.

In conclusion, Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, passed a very special interest proposed FY2008 Massachusetts State Budget that trades off the healthcare and common interests of the people for the exclusive benefit of special interests that continue to fill his campaign coffers with blood money. THAT, MY FRIENDS AND POLITICAL OPPONENTS, IS CORRUPTION!

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

P.S. I will always speak my good conscience as long as I live! I am NOT AFRAID of CLIFF NILAN's trivial alliances with Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. & Luciforo, et al, nor Cliff Nilan's phone calls to my dad; Nor am I afraid of Denis Guyer's hypocritical criticisms and slanderous rumors against me. No matter the cost, I will always speak out on political matters! Give me Liberty or Give me Death!

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House passes county funds
The budget includes $200K for Tanglewood and Mahaiwe, among other earmarks for the Berkshires.
By Matt Murphy, Eagle Boston Bureau
The Berkshire Eagle

Friday, April 27, 2007

BOSTON — House lawmakers have forged ahead with about $171 million in new spending, padding the initial $26.7 billion House budget with new money for education, public safety and economic development programs.

The House wrapped up debate late last night on its budget for next year, shifting focus on Beacon Hill to the Senate, which plans to put out its version of the budget in late May.

The House, however, spent the past four days putting the final touches on its proposal with $26 million in new education spending, roughly $30.1 million for state and local economic development, and an additional $35 million in anti-gang and public safety programs.

Representatives restored $13.5 million to the popular Charles Shannon Community Safety Initiative, including $2.5 million for training new police officers, after money for the program had been cut by both the governor and the House in their budgets.

The funding for new police is a far cry from the $30.6 million Gov. Deval L. Patrick hoped to use to put 250 new police officers on the streets. The bill includes earmarks for a couple of prized art institutions. Tanglewood will receive $200,000 for repairs to its grounds, and the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington will also receive $200,000.

State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli said the new earmark he requested of $75,000 for Shakespeare and Company in Lenox did not make the cut. Neither did several other new requests that weren't part of last year's budget.

The $200,000 for the Boston Symphony Orchestra was level-funded from last year, despite a request for $500,000.

"Overall, I'm very pleased. It's a tight budget and I think they did a good job of protecting the programs that have been part of previous budgets," Pignatelli said.

Not all of the earmarks, particularly those related to economic development, tourism and the environment were immediately available last night as House leadership was putting the final touches on the amendment.
Much of the budget debate this year, like last year, took place behind closed doors as representatives argued amongst themselves for earmarks to fund local projects in their home districts. The House then voted for consolidated amendments on the floor that reflected a consensus on how much the state could afford to spend.

Last month, the House and Senate passed a joint resolution guaranteeing $235.1 million in local aid next year, including $220.1 million in Chapter 70 money for local schools. The new education spending this week came in the form of an additional $6.25 million in early education and child care, $5.5 million in local aid for the "pothole" account, and $868,000 more for higher education.

Gov. Deval L. Patrick's administration, which saw many of its prized initiatives slashed in the House budget, said it was concerned how much the House was spending in a tight fiscal year. Patrick has threatened to veto the final budget if some of his priorities, such as putting 250 new police officers on the streets and expanding full-day kindergarten, are not restored.

"We're certainly pleased that the governor's priorities are finding their way back into budget, but we have some serious concerns about how much they're adding to the bottom line given the tight revenue picture we're facing next year," said Cyndi Roy, the governor's deputy press secretary.

House leadership, however, defended their decisions, and said they were hoping to see an increase in revenues over the next few months.

"We made a conscious policy decision to fill the budget gap without burdening businesses with increased taxes at a time when we're trying to grow jobs. We had to cut in this budget, limit our spending and borrow from the stabilization modestly," said David Guarino, spokesman for House speaker Salvatore DiMasi.

Guarino said it was unclear how much money would have to be drawn from the state's $2.2 billion stabilization account, though the initial budget called for using $150 million.

Some county earmarks

$75,000 for the Housing Services and Mediation Program, operated by the Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority in Pittsfield.

$150,000 for the Berkshire County Drug Task Force.

$200,000 for repairs to the Boston Symphony Orchestra grounds at Tanglewood.

$200,000 for the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington.

What's next

Senate will pass a budget in May.

Gov. Deval L. Patrick will veto or approve the budget.

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Bosley pleads for milk money
By Hillary Chabot, Eagle Boston Bureau
The Berkshire Eagle

Friday, April 27, 2007

BOSTON — Representatives from the Berkshires have asked Gov. Deval L. Patrick for $3.6 million in emergency funds for the 167 dairy farms left in Massachusetts.

Roberto Laurens, general manager at High Lawn Farm in Lee, said the money might not even be enough to save local dairy farms, which have been hit hard by rising production costs. The state has lost 20 dairy farms since January.

"We need a lot of help, and I don't know if ($3.6 million) is going to be enough," he said.

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Letter to Gov. Patrick on dairy relief
City
The Berkshire Eagle

Friday, April 27, 2007

Here is the text of the letter state Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, which is co-signed by state Reps. Denis Guyer and William "Smitty" Pignatelli, sent to Gov. Deval L. Patrick requesting state aid for dairy farmers:

April 24, 2007

His Excellency Deval Patrick Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
State House Room 360
Boston, MA 02133

Dear Governor Patrick:

We are writing to you in reference to the urgent need for action to address the dairy farm crisis in our Commonwealth. We are losing dairy farms at an exponential rate due to the declining farm price of milk and the growing price of production for these farms. We ask you to file a supplemental budget before May 1, 2007 in the amount of $3.6 million to give immediate relief to these long suffering farmers.

Milk prices are set by the federal government based on national supply and demand. Theoretically, that price is adjusted by regions and is sent to the farming community. Large dairy farms and huge agricultural corporations in the western states have skewed the price for years as they have flooded the market with supply. That has sent prices for farmers in the northeast spiraling downward year after year and is beginning to impact farms in the Midwest also. At the same time, we have witnessed record production costs for farms. Ever year, this means that more and more farms close and sell their lands. Just as an example of this, the average production price given to farmers for milk in 2006 was $1.14 per gallon. The price paid to farmers in 1981 was $1.18 per gallon. That means that farmers received less money for milk in 2006 than they did in 1981! Since milk reacts to the price set by the federal government rather than cost of production, farmers have been losing money year after year. The average dairy farmer in Massachusetts lost between $40,000 and $60,000 last year and costs have continued to skyrocket.

Last year farmers were paying between $1.25 and $1.50 per bushel for feedstock. This year the price is more than $4.00 per bushel as ethanol production has driven up cost. Farmers have also seen the price of fuel, heat, and electricity hit record prices.

Not only are our farms important as a source of local milk, but they are also approximately 20% of our open space. They provide us with water recharge areas, as well as recreational space. If we close these farms this land will be developed and we will lose it forever.

Our neighboring states are also working on aid the dairy farmers. New Hampshire is down to 134 farms and they are appropriating $3 million.

Vermont has budgeted over $18 million for their 1,100 farms over the past eighteen months. New York is looking to spend close to $30 million on a farm package and Connecticut has just appropriated several million. New York, Vermont and New Hampshire are all working on bills that will place shipping costs on the processors.

We need an immediate supplemental budget that provides assistance to our farmers until we can come up with a more permanent solution. The consensus figure for that appropriation is $3.6 million. This will allow us to provide price supports to our farmers to buy seed and keep them in business until we enact a longer term strategy.

It is extremely important that we act now. Our farmers will not last much longer given the discrepancy between price and cost. These remaining 167 farms are the best that we have. They have been able to survive this long while others have closed. We need to preserve them. We, as members of the House of Representatives are asking you to work with us on this emergency and file this supplemental budget.

Sincerely yours,

DANIEL E. BOSLEY, First Berkshire

ANN M. GOBI, Fifth Worcester

STEPHEN KULIK, First Franklin

SMITTY PIGNATELLI, Fourth Berkshire

DENIS E. GUYER, Second Berkshire

PETER V. KOCOT, First Hampshire

CHRISTOPHER J. DONELAN, Second Franklin

LEWIS G. EVANGELIDIS, First Worcester

ELLEN STORY, Third Hampden

ROSEMARY SANDLIN, Third Hampshire

JOHN W. SCIBAK, Second Hampshire

STEVEN J. D'AMICO, Fourth Bristol

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Friday, April 27, 2007 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

House defends budget
By Matt Murphy, Eagle Boston Bureau
The Berkshire Eagle

Saturday, April 28, 2007

BOSTON — House leadership yesterday defended its budget spending amid growing criticism that the proposal for next year will rely too heavily on state reserves to balance the budget.

The House put the final touches on its budget for fiscal 2008 yesterday afternoon, passing a final amendment with new spending initiatives on the environment and economic development.

"This has been a very tough budget process. With over a billion dollar deficit, many programs were cut or not included at all in this House budget," said Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams.

Overall, representatives added about $175 million to its initial budget of $26.7 billion, including $26 million in new education spending, about $37.5 million for state and local economic development, and an additional $35 million in anti-gang and public safety programs.

House Ways and Means Chairman Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, said only $25 million of the additional money is for pet projects in legislators' home districts.

"This budget isn't about pork. It's about doing good for the people in our districts and for the people of the commonwealth of Massachusetts," DeLeo said, in a defensive speech from the House floor.

Leslie Kirwan, Gov. Deval L. Patrick's secretary of administration and finance, said Thursday she was concerned that the House was using too many one-time revenue sources to pay for its budget, a move that will only exacerbate the structural deficit in 2009.

Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Michael Widmer joined the chorus yesterday, arguing against a policy of draining the "rainy day" fund to pay for yearly expenses.

The House budget calls for $150 million of the state's $2.2 billion stabilization account to be used for the budget. House leaders also froze the annual 0.5 percent contribution to the "rainy day" fund for next year.

Widmer said that that results in a net $656 million withdrawal from stabilization.

Saturday, April 28, 2007 2:25:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Re: Open letter to State Senator Stan Rosenberg (against Bureaucrat Bosley)

April 28th, 2007

Dear Honorable State Senator Stan Rosenberg:

Re: "House defends budget" (The Berkshire Eagle Online, April 28, 2007): This news article quotes Bureaucrat Bosley: "This has been a very tough budget process. With over a billion dollar deficit, many programs were cut or not included at all in this House budget," said Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams.

THEN, this news article contradicts "the bureaucrat impostering a legislator" and states the following FACTS:

(a) Bureaucrat Bosley's, et al, FY2008 state budget proposal for next year will rely too heavily on state reserves to balance the budget.

(b) Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, passed a final amendment with new spending initiatives on the environment and economic development.

(c) Overall, "representatives" (bureaucrats impostering legislators) added about $175 million to its initial budget of $26.7 billion, including $26 million in new education spending, about $37.5 million for state and local economic development, and an additional $35 million in anti-gang and public safety programs. $25 million of the additional money is for pet projects in legislators' home districts.

(d) Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, are using too many one-time revenue sources to pay for its budget, a move that will only exacerbate the structural deficit in 2009.

(e) The House budget calls for $150 million of the state's $2.2 billion stabilization account to be used for the budget. House leaders also froze the annual 0.5 percent contribution to the "rainy day" fund for next year. That results in a net $656 million withdrawal from stabilization.

(f) NOTE: FROM: "House lawmakers toss Patrick's plans" (The North Adams Transcript Online, 4/12/2007): This recently past news article stated that Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, affirmed using $500 million from the Health Care Security Trust to make up part of the difference on the disputed figure for the budget deficit. Moreover, Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, affirms the fiscally irresponsible decision to not make any interest payments and a $100 million contribution to this fund.

TO SUMMARIZE the above FACTS: Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, are closing the state budget deficit by (a) transferring $500 million from the Health Care Security Trust account to the General Fund account and not making both any interest payments and a $100 million contribution to this fund --AND-- (b) withdrawing a net figure of $656 million from the commonwealth's "rainy day" fund. AFTER divesting over $1 Billion in the commonwealth's fiscal resources, Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, THEN added about $175 million in new spending to the FY2008 Massachusetts State Budget.

So, Stan Rosenberg, this fiscally irresponsible disaster of a state budget that Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, are handing off to you and your legislative hack colleagues in the State Senate gives you the opportunity to support or oppose the foolishness, special interests, closed door and secretive governance, and divestments in HEALTH CARE and other critical state and local government services.

QUESTIONS FOR STAN ROSENBERG:

Are you, STAN ROSENBERG (future candidate for John Olver's Congressional seat), going to go along with "the bureaucrat(s) impostering legislator(s)" in the state House of Representatives --OR-- are you going to find legitimate means to raise state revenues to a level that does not rely on robbing both current public services and the future fiscal resources of the commonwealth so that a few powerful state House leaders like BUREAUCRAT BOSLEY, et al, may continue to raise many thousands of lobbyists, corporate executives and other like special interests campaign dollars instead of meeting the needs and critical service of the people they are supposed to be representing?

I want to know what you think about all of this revolting CORRUPTION by Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' state government?

I WANT TO KNOW IF YOU, STAN ROSENBERG, ARE TRULY A LEADER WHO WILL STAND UP AGAINST BUREAUCRATS LIKE BOSLEY, et al, in the State House of Representatives who are selling out the common people for many thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the special interests?

So, what is going to be, STAN: THE COMMON PEOPLE --OR-- The Special Interests?

I want a reply from you, Stan Rosenberg!

In Truth, and In the strongest of my written power of Dissent,

Jonathan A. Melle

P.S. VOTE BUREAUCRAT BOSLEY, et al, OUT OF "ELECTED" OFFICE IN 2008! GIVE OUR GOVERNMENT BACK TO THE PEOPLE!

SPECIAL NOTE to Bureaucrat Bosley: I will always speak my good conscience as long as I live! You, Dan Bosley, will be remembered as a CORRUPT BUREAUCRAT! That will be my legacy. I will hold you and all other corrupt Pols (and the insidious business people who finance your kind) ACCOUNTABLE until the day I will die! If you, Dan Bosley, had any integrity, you would resign your "elected" office NOW and then spread the common people's messages demanding good governance! I hope you are held accountable like The Boston Globe held LUCIFORO accountable in their 1-16-2007 news article exposing his like corruption in state government!

Saturday, April 28, 2007 4:55:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

NEWS ARTICLE:

Big Dig job may have used wrong epoxy

Total of bolts affected not clear; probers ask who knew

By Scott Allen and Sean P. Murphy, Globe Staff

May 3, 2007

Contractors apparently used the wrong adhesive to install at least some of the bolts in a Big Dig tunnel ceiling that partially collapsed last summer, project records show, prompting criminal investigators to focus on whether the mix-up was a significant factor in the accident that killed a Jamaica Plain woman.

Invoices from the 1999 ceiling construction job show that Modern Continental Construction Co. received and apparently used at least one case of a quick-drying epoxy to secure ceiling bolts to the tunnel roof rather than standard epoxy, which the ceiling designers had specified.

The distinction was crucial to the safety of the ceiling: The "fast-set" epoxy holds 25 percent less weight than standard epoxy and is not recommended for suspending heavy objects overhead.

It is unclear how widespread the use of fast-set epoxy was, since most sales records don't list the epoxy type, but state criminal investigators are looking seriously at the possibility that the weaker epoxy was used in the ceiling section that collapsed when 20 bolts popped out on the night of July 10, 2006, according to representatives of several firms under investigation.

The investigators also want to know why no one raised the possibility that the wrong epoxy had been used when ceiling bolts started coming loose during construction of the Interstate 90 connector tunnel.

"If [workers] used the wrong stuff, which appears to be the case, the issue is who knew about this or were they reckless about letting the project go forward with the wrong stuff?" said a consultant to one of the firms involved in the ceiling project, who asked not to be named so as not to anger prosecutors who are presenting their evidence in secret to a Suffolk County grand jury.

Paul F. Ware, the special prosecutor leading the state's criminal investigation, has sent investigators back into the tunnel over the last few days to collect more ceiling bolts for lab analysis, according to a letter from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which manages the Big Dig tunnel system, to the companies involved in the ceiling project. The tests could help investigators determine the strength and type of epoxy that was used.

Use of fast-set epoxy in the ceiling is one in a series of missteps that may have contributed to the accident and, at the least, point out oversight lapses in the $14.6 billion Big Dig project.

The Globe has previously reported that, to save time, Big Dig managers and designers eliminated half the ceiling bolts called for in the original ceiling design and that construction workers made numerous mistakes during installation of the bolts that could have weakened them. The newspaper has also reported that ceiling bolts in the area of the collapse were safety-tested with a weight now regarded as too low, potentially allowing defective bolts to pass.

If the bolts were held in place by fast-set epoxy, the ceiling would have had little, if any, margin of safety left. Bolts secured with fast-set epoxy could safely carry 4,285 pounds each, rather than the 6,350 pounds the designers had planned on, based on their final report to Big Dig managers on the ceiling. Two independent engineers who have reviewed the ceiling's specifications for the Globe estimated that the ceiling's weight was close to 5,000 pounds per bolt, which is more than bolts secured with fast-set epoxy were designed to bear over the long term.

After the accident, the tunnel ceiling was permanently removed in the area of the accident, and elsewhere in the connector the ceiling was reinforced with additional bolts and brackets.

Construction of the ceiling was supervised by engineers at the joint venture of Bechtel and Parsons Brinckerhoff, but responsibility for using the right epoxy is difficult to pin down. The Braintree office of Gannett Fleming designed the ceiling to be secured with standard epoxy, but that require ment is not highlighted in project documents. Modern Continental built the ceiling, but workers have said they weren't told there was an important difference between the epoxies. Powers Fasteners of New York had a contract to supply the epoxy and bolts, but only through a small distribution company that bought the products wholesale and then delivered them to the job.

As a result, each company has said it bears no responsibility for use of the wrong epoxy. In fact, Powers Fasteners officials have told investigators that they aren't even certain that the epoxy in the accident area was their product, even though, during construction, company officials visited the tunnel and provided technical advice to workers on how to install the ceiling bolts properly. Powers' distributor, Newman, Renner, Colony of Plymouth, declined to comment.

The investigation into what epoxy was used has been hampered by both the imprecise sales records and the difficulty of chemically identifying the epoxy used in the area of the accident. The National Transportation Safety Board reported four months after the crash that it could not identify the epoxy taken from the failed bolts even after comparing it with samples of standard and fast-set epoxy. And the sales records that show what Newman, Renner, Colony delivered to Modern Continental distinguish between standard and fast-set epoxy in only one invoice.

State investigators in recent months have intensified their interest in Powers, sending company officials a fresh subpoena in March asking for documents concerning its role in the ceiling project. In addition, witnesses from other companies called before the grand jury hearing evidence in the case say they are being questioned closely about the type of epoxy used to hold up the ceiling.

"All the discussion outside the jury room is about the question of which epoxy was used and was it fast-set epoxy?" said an official for one of the companies under investigation who asked not to be named.

The focus on epoxy comes as Ware and his boss, Attorney General Martha Coakley, strive to meet a self-imposed deadline of June to decide whether to ask the grand jury to return indictments against anyone for criminal negligence in the accident. Legal analysts say that winning a conviction would require Coakley to prove that people or companies knew they were building a dangerous ceiling or they were so reckless that they missed obvious warning signs.

Before taking office in January, Coakley had raised doubts that the evidence was strong enough to prove criminal negligence, but, since Ware's arrival on March 1, some in her office say they have become more optimistic that there could be enough evidence for criminal indictments.

But fixing responsibility for the epoxy remains challenging, in part because the design documents produced by Gannett Fleming and Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff say only in passing that contractors should use standard epoxy rather than fast-set for ceiling bolts. All of the safety calculations are based on bolts secured by standard epoxy, but the design specifications don't explicitly forbid fast-set, and the fact that fast-set can support less weight than standard epoxy is contained only in a footnote.

Adding to the confusion, although fast-set epoxy cartridges were clearly marked, the workers installing the ceiling may not have known there was a difference between fast-set and standard aside from drying time. Construction workers on the ceiling project have said they used Powers Fasteners epoxy and bolts, but they don't recall whether the label said fast-set.

Finally, the epoxy passed through many hands on its way to the tunnel. Sika Corp. manufactured the epoxy at a plant in Ohio, then shipped it to a warehouse in New Jersey in barrels marked with a prominent "FS" to denote fast-set epoxy, according to Sika officials. Powers then transported Sika's epoxy to its plant in New York where workers repackaged it into small cartridges, placing Powers's label on it. Then, Newman, Renner, Colony brought the cartridges and bolts to Modern Continental at the tunnel site.

Criminal investigators are focusing on a period in October 1999 when five ceiling bolts came loose shortly after the ceiling was hung from them, prompting Modern Continental officials to call in Powers Fasteners officials for advice. Over the next three months, officials from Powers, Modern and Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff discussed ways to install bolts more securely, but there is no evidence anyone asked: Did workers use the right epoxy?

As one lawyer with direct knowledge of the investigation put it, "Was the right advice given by the experts?"

Thursday, May 03, 2007 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

THE BOSTON GLOBE

Big Dig's cost could near $15b, state officials say

By Scott Allen and Sean P. Murphy, Globe Staff

May 5, 2007

Massachusetts officials disclosed yesterday that the final price of the Big Dig could be close to $15 billion in the worst case scenario, $333 million more than previous estimates. But they emphasized that cost recovery from contractors and other expected income should keep the final cost below that figure.

State finance documents released yesterday show that, more than a year after the megaproject was declared "substantially completed," the price is still rising due to unexpectedly high construction costs, exten sive repairs after a fatal ceiling collapse, and the need for a $10 million reserve fund. The new estimate, approved by the Patrick administration as part of a report to bondholders, pegs the price of the Big Dig at $14.798 billion, an increase of $173 million, with the possibility of another $160 million if negotiations with Big Dig contractors go badly.

However, officials at the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which manages the Big Dig tunnel system, said the estimate reflects increased openness about project costs, rather than out-of-control spending. In the past, authority officials avoided the appearance of cost increases by counting income they hoped to receive in the future as part of the estimate, but the new administration has urged them to abandon that practice.

"As we've worked with the administration to update the project's costs, the Turnpike [Authority] has been fully forthcoming," authority spokesman Jon Carlisle said in a statement.

Once the authority receives expected insurance payments, contractor repayments for poor quality work, and other income, he predicted, "we're going to get close to $14.625 billion," he said.

Aides to Governor Deval Patrick said they were concerned about the possibility of a $333 million increase in the cost of the Big Dig, but they pledged to work with Turnpike Authority officials to control costs. They also pledged to help cover an immediate $210 million cash shortfall in the authority's budget while they await repayment from contractors and other income.

"We will continue to closely monitor the management of this project and continue to insist on an open and transparent process," said John Lamontagne, spokesman for Bernard Cohen, the state secretary of transportation.

The Big Dig, expected to cost $2 billion when designed in the mid-1980s, has been plagued by cost overruns and reluctance by officials to acknowledge them.

But, following the collapse of a tunnel ceiling last July that killed a Jamaica Plain woman, Turnpike Authority chairman Matthew J . Amorello was replaced by John Cogliano, who pledged to make the authority more publicly accountable. Cohen is scheduled to replace Cogliano on July 1.

Patrick campaigned last year on a pledge to reform the Turnpike Authority, which is governed by its own board of directors.

Yesterday, Mary Z. Connaughton, an authority board member since 2005, said the Big Dig cost estimate is a "step in the right direction" toward more accountability, and that the report contains for the first time a full estimate of how much Big Dig contractors say they are owed for work already performed: $243 million.

The Turnpike Authority has estimated it will have to pay only $84 million of those claims, but acknowledged yesterday that, if the contractors successfully press all their claims, it would boost the cost of the Big Dig by another $160 million.

"The public needs to know," Connaughton said. "It's public money, not state money."

The finance documents, prepared for bondholders who finance the authority's ambitious construction program, show that construction costs have risen by $109 million since the last official cost estimate in 2004.

In addition, the authority spent $54 million on repairs after the ceiling collapse, costs that the agency expects to recover from the contractors found responsible for the accident.

The documents also include a litany of troubling financial information, all of it previously disclosed, such as a $67 million shortfall in Big Dig funding due to overly optimistic estimates of the resale value of the project headquarters building near South Station. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Port Authority is holding back $50 million it is contracted to pay because the agency is unhappy with the condition of Big Dig tunnels leading to Logan Airport.

However, Carlisle said the turnpike expects to eventually collect millions from insurance policies and from Big Dig contractors who did substandard work. Attorney General Martha Coakley is suing the companies involved in the design and construction of the Interstate 90 connector tunnel ceiling, and her office is seeking cost recovery for other Big Dig contracts.

Saturday, May 05, 2007 3:22:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Dear Honorable Dan "Bureaucrat" Bosley:

YOU ARE A BUREAUCRAT IMPOSTERING AS A LEGISLATOR! In yesterday's Boston Globe, it states that you are "a gambling opponent who nevertheless wants to see the lottery stay healthy."

#1 - WHAT? You oppose gambling, but support the lottery! For this oxymoronic view, I call: "Bosley's Hypocrisy!"

Let us come up with some good ones:

#2 - George W. Bush: "War with Tax Cuts"!

Boy, Bureaucrat Bosley, that makes so much sense that there must be more from where that came from...

#3 - 2 + 2 = 5! The mathematical equation of totalitarian governance. If I say two plus two equals five, the goddamnit, two plus two equals five!

Boy, Bureaucrat Bosley, that one makes so much sense that there must be even more from where that came from...

#4 - The pathway to my wealth is through my state lottery! If the lottery really is a tax on the poor and uneducated, then if I pay my poor taxes then I will become rich someday.

Boy, Bureaucrat Bosley, what a WHOPPER! Boy, I am keeling over with laughter now.

#5 - MY FAVORITE: ALL animals are equal, but SOME animals are more equal than others! If I speak out on government matters, no one will retaliate against me because I am equal to my government officials. But the outcome will be that I won't have a job and I will become homeless and marginalized. I better recognize that my equality to the political or ruling class is not as equal to those who govern me.

Well, Bureaucrat Bosley, I just love reading about all of the BULLSHIT that corrupt, special interest, more equal than me, top-down Pols like you have to say in the news media. I just love feeling the power of a president or a state representative who makes no more sense than an insane man battling windmills, but without his heart. I hope that our nation's very costly war against Iraq nets the corporate and political elites a few more million dollars in earnings this year. I hope that the meek will inherit the Earth by state's having monopolies over gambling, and that the lottery makes the masses have financially secure retirements! I also hope that PIGS HAVE WINGS AND FLY!

In my long-standing essays on Bureaucrat Bosley's Orwellian and deficient public policy record! I WILL ALWAYS SPEAK MY GOOD CONSCIENCE AS LONG AS I LIVE!

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

Source:

"The lottery's revenue problem: Under pressure from municipalities to generate ever more money, the state lottery says it may have maxed out revenue from conventional games. The next phase of wagering may involve a technological leap -- into cellphones" (The Boston Globe, by Bruce A. Mohl, May 6, 2007).

Representative Daniel E. Bosley of North Adams, the House chairman of the Legislature's Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee, is a gambling opponent who nevertheless wants to see the lottery stay healthy. He doubts, even with cellphone betting or other innovations, whether it will grow faster than the rate of inflation.

"How much more do you expect to squeeze out of a state our size?" he asked.

Monday, May 07, 2007 8:18:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Mass. has yet to collect fees from firms for healthcare
Totals expected to fall far short of predictions
By Alice Dembner, [Boston] Globe Staff
May 10, 2007

Taxpayers are bearing a larger share of the cost of the expansion of healthcare coverage than expected because the state has not yet collected a penny from businesses that do not help insure their workers.

Penalties on those businesses were expected to bring in $95 million this fiscal year and $76 million next year, according to the Legislature's estimates when the bill was signed into law a year ago.

But the state now expects to collect nothing in the fiscal year that ends June 30, and only $24 million next year, according to budget officials in Governor Deval Patrick's administration and in the House of Representatives.

Even in future years, when the state is actively collecting the fees, the amount will be significantly less than originally anticipated because of changes made by the administration of Governor Mitt Romney and the Legislature after the law was passed.

In this start-up year, lower costs for some aspects of the nearly $1.7 billion health insurance initiative are expected to offset the money that would have been collected from businesses.

But in fiscal 2008, the drop in revenue and increases in costs mean taxpayers will pay nearly $125 million more than expected, according to a Globe analysis of proposed budgets for next year.

The added expense will be covered by shifting funds from other state accounts. Nonetheless, it raises doubt about whether the responsibility for insuring nearly all Massachusetts residents will be shared as planned among individuals, government, and businesses.

"We have always suggested that there are financing concerns going forward, in terms of holding this law together," said John McDonough, executive director of Health Care for All, an advocacy group that helped win passage of the law. "This gives us a first hint of what they look like. These numbers also give us a reason to question whether business is indeed paying its fair share."

As lawmakers shaped the law in 2005 and early 2006, one of the hardest-fought battles was over how much businesses should contribute. Business leaders adamantly opposed a proposed payroll tax on employers who did not provide insurance for workers.

The compromise was a fee of up to $295 per worker annually charged to companies that did not make a "fair and reasonable" contribution to their workers' insurance.

The legislative conference committee that hammered out the compromise estimated in March 2006 that this "fair share" fee would bring in about $45 million this year. Romney vetoed the fee, but the Legislature restored it.

The law also contained a second fee on businesses whose workers and their dependents regularly seek charity care funded by the state. The conference committee estimated that this "free rider" fee, based on how much charity care a business's employees used, would generate about $50 million this year.

Both fees apply only to companies with 11 or more full-time employees, and money from them was supposed to help provide state-subsidized insurance for low-income people.

But the Patrick administration does not expect to collect any free rider fees until fall 2008 because the Legislature has delayed the effective date, and the administration has yet to issue regulations detailing how the fee will be imposed. House officials say some money may be collected early in 2008, but they are so unsure of the amount that they are not counting on that revenue in next year's budget.

When the fee is collected, it will probably generate much less than the originally estimated $50 million, because the Legislature exempted any company that helps its workers secure a tax break for health insurance premiums. Most companies are expected to do that because it also cuts their payroll costs.

The fair-share fee went into effect last October, but the Romney administration did not begin collecting it, and the Patrick administration is still setting up the billing systems to do so.

Even when fair-share bills go out, the revenue is anticipated to be only $24 million, because of rules established by the Romney administration that reduced the number of firms facing the fee.

"The previous administration had no intention of collecting it, so the infrastructure was not put in place," said Representative Patricia Walrath, cochairwoman of the Legislature's Committee on Health Care Financing.

Romney's spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, said the Romney administration had not dragged its feet, despite initial opposition to the fee. He said that regulations were established "in a timely manner" and that the money could not have been collected any earlier.

To bring in more revenue from businesses, Walrath suggested, Patrick could revise the Romney regulations in line with the original intentions of the Legislature.

But Patrick's deputy press secretary, Cyndi Roy, said it is too early to consider that kind of change.

"We've got to wait and see how much we do collect from businesses," Roy said. "We have to let healthcare reform work."

Michael Widmer -- president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-funded fiscal watchdog -- said that businesses will eventually pay both fees, but that the total collected will be small. The estimates for free-rider collections, he said, were "really exaggerated."

"It's a major misunderstanding to focus on the fair-share assessment as a centerpiece of the business contribution" to health reform, he said.

The main business contribution, he added, will be the hundreds of millions of dollars employers spend to cover workers who buy insurance for the first time this year, as required by the new law.

Thursday, May 10, 2007 2:17:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Patrick delivers dairy aid to farms
By Hillary Chabot, Eagle Boston Bureau
The Berkshire Eagle

Friday, May 11, 2007

BOSTON — Gov. Deval L. Patrick unveiled a proposal yesterday to rush $3.6 million in emergency funding to dairy farmers across the state struggling to stay in business.

The plan also would put aside money to study the problem further and initiate long-term solutions.

"I have heard from many dairy farmers that they are hurting," Patrick said in a statement. "Last year, in particular, rising costs for energy and feed stocks combined with low prices to put these farmers in a financial hole. These funds will help them back on their feet while we work on permanent solutions."

State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, sent Patrick a letter last month requesting the emergency funding.

"We need to get this out to the farmers because they really need the help," Bosley said.

A total of 20 dairy farms have been lost since January as part of an ongoing crisis throughout the state. Only 167 farms remain, and they are having trouble keeping up with rising electricity and feeding costs.

The money is part of an $88.9 million supplemental budget filed by Patrick that also puts $15 million toward anti-crime initiatives and $35 million in unanticipated costs such as snow and ice removal and rising county corrections costs.

State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, said the dairy funding is money well spent.

"I think it's a good step by the governor. It reflects what has been a long negotiation between the administration, the local dairy farms and legislators throughout Massachusetts, but especially members of the western delegation," Downing said.

The cost of running the farms has gone up, including the price of feedstock, electricity and fuel. The $3.6 million would go directly to grain, whose cost rose dramatically because of the price of ethanol.

The federal government sets milk prices, which have been kept low because of a glut of milk production in the Midwest. Dairy farmers received $1.14 per gallon for production in 2006 and $1.18 per gallon in 1981.

The supplemental budget also puts $472,438 toward collective bargaining costs between the Berkshire County sheriff and the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office Employees' Association and the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office Communications Center.

Friday, May 11, 2007 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

NEWS ARTICLE:

Sour times for dairy farmers

Subsidy would help cover rising costs, but some seek long-term relief

By Joyce Pellino Crane, [The Boston] Globe Correspondent

May 13, 2007

CARLISLE -- So far, Mark Duffy is holding onto his 130 cows, but just this winter he saw two more friends sell their stock as economic shifts deepened the woes of the Massachusetts dairy farmer.

Duffy, 52, has been milking cows for 28 years, the last 20 at Great Brook State Farm, where he leases 100 acres. Some years, he ekes out a living. Other years, he amasses debt.

This is looking like another of the bad years.

Along with the state's other remaining dairy farmers, Duffy was relieved to hear last week that Governor Deval Patrick had filed a supplemental budget for this fiscal year, which will end June 30, that includes $3.6 million to subsidize local farms in the short term.

In the supplemental spending request, the governor also proposed creating a task force to develop strategies for strengthening the Massachusetts dairy industry. Farmers and some lawmakers say long-term legislation is needed if the state's dairy producers are to survive.

"Beyond the supplemental appropriation, we need to come up with long-term ways to stabilize the dairy industry," said Representative Stephen Kulik, a Democrat from Worthington. "Otherwise, they will suffer with costs that are higher than the cost of producing the milk."

Duffy and others say one way of helping the Massachusetts farmer for the long haul is to replicate a law passed in Maine in 2005 that adds a fee to the retail price of milk. If the market price of milk falls below a certain threshold, the fee still ensures an adequate return for the Maine dairy producer.

"That would go a long way toward solving the problem in Massachusetts, if some type of fee can go toward sustaining the dairy farmers," Kulik said.

The Massachusetts dairy farmer is becoming a rare breed. In 1980, there were nearly 830 dairy farmers in the Bay State. Today, there are 167, according to the state Department of Agricultural Resources .

Towns such as Dracut, Dunstable, Littleton, and Pepperell still have surviving farms, but many are barely hanging on as they face new economic realities.

One new challenge is the escalating price of corn, deluxe nutrition for cows, which increasingly is being converted into ethanol, the so-called clean alternative to petroleum.

The increased demand for corn, combined with lower production levels this seasonal year, has driven up the per-bushel price of the grain from about $2 in 2005-2006 to $3.20 in 2006-2007.

But there's no way to cut corners with feedstock. At Duffy's farm, the cows consume more than 2,000 pounds of grain a day. "The cows get taken care of, no matter what," he said.

The economics of the Massachusetts dairy farmer's dilemma is simple: Milk brings in less money than what it costs to produce it; last year, for example, a gallon of raw milk cost about $1.60 to produce, but yielded only $1.14 for the farmer.

The Massachusetts farmer's position in this highly regulated industry has to do with a complicated formula that sets the market prices for milk across the country.

The bottom line, Duffy and others say, is that a farmer in a Western state, where the climate does not require the animals to be sheltered, can more easily add stock and produce a greater volume of milk to compensate for falling prices.

But the increased volume depresses the price even more, and this vicious cycle hits the Massachusetts farmer harder because of the higher overhead, which includes the costs of energy, insurance, feed, and labor.

Market prices set by the federal government plummeted almost 90 cents per gallon between May 2004 and May 2006, putting farmers behind the eight-ball. Though prices are edging up, area farmers say they are playing catch-up on their bills.

"This is an extremely stressful time," Duffy said. "I've already told my landlord that in order to continue to operate Great Brook State Farm, I have to be economically viable."

Many Massachusetts dairy farmers have joined Agri-Mark, a dairy cooperative based in Methuen with about 1,300 Northeastern members. The farmers send their milk to plants in West Springfield, Vermont, and northern New York, where cheese, yogurt, and butter are manufactured.

The cooperative has helped, but dairy farmers are giving up at a rapid pace. Duffy said this winter a friend in Newbury sold all his milking cows, and another in Middleborough became ill and was forced to sell.

The short-term subsidy is supported by Kulik and state Representative Daniel E. Bosley of North Adams and Senator Stephen M. Brewer of Barre, both Democrats.

The farmers, who had hoped to get $12 million, have agreed to divide whatever money they get based on the quantities of milk they produce each year. Under the supplemental budget submitted by Patrick, Duffy would get about $20,000 -- not quite enough to ensure his survival in the long run, he said.

"We very much appreciate it," he said of the proposed appropriation, "and we view that as a short-term program to get us to a long-term solution."

Duffy and other farmers say they fear dairy farms in the West will continue to grow in number and size, while Massachusetts will lose more food producers.

Warren Shaw, who owns a dairy farm in Dracut and produces ice cream, said there are benefits to local farms beyond their supply of milk.

Centralizing agricultural production in large industrial farms out West, he said, leaves the nation's food supply vulnerable.

"The question remains: Do the people who are responsible for the character and quality of life in New England care enough about locally produced food to help it survive?"

Providing subsidies to local dairy farmers, though, is not an efficient way of propping up a declining industry, said Dan Lass, a professor in the Department of Resource Economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

"Subsidies keep farmers in business who might not otherwise survive in a perfectly competitive market," he said.

Nonetheless, Lass voiced support for maintaining farms in the state.

"We don't really have to have dairy farmers in this state," he said. But "they provide other benefits beyond just a fresh supply of milk."

Ask Duffy and other farmers, and they will list preservation of open space and water quality among the benefits.

But those don't help pay the bills.

Duffy estimated that he owes about $160,000 in short- and long-term debt. His capital expenses include farm equipment and maintenance costs for buildings, as well as corn silage and concentrated grain for feeding the cows.

Labor, too, is an overhead challenge. One recent Friday morning, two farmhands were milking cows and storing grass and feedstock in the trench silos. But missing was the herdsman, who left his job in January.

"There's no way to replace him," Duffy said. "It's springtime, and we're flat out."

So Duffy's wife, Tamma, puts in about 70 hours a week helping on the farm and running the ice cream stand in front of the farmhouse, and Duffy works around the clock. The couple has two teenage sons and a daughter in college, who all help out.

On this Friday, about 70 Holsteins were lined up in two rows inside Duffy's barn as machines emptied their swollen udders and channeled it through pipes to a glass tank in the next room.

The jar funneled it to a 2,000-gallon, stainless-steel cooling and storage tank, ready for delivery.

Five heifers and a bull calf were penned in separate hutches to keep them from nursing one another.

Yellow tags with numbers extended from the females' ears, but the male had no such appendage because he'll soon be sold.

The heifers are the farm's future, as are the 13 pregnant cows behind the barn and the two newborns inside.

Standing among the black-and-white animals around which half his life has centered, Duffy spoke his heart.

"I have no intention of giving up."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007 6:58:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

NEWS ARTICLE:

Health costs soar, squeeze localities

Groups lobby for legislation

By Matt Carroll, [The Boston] Globe Staff

May 13, 2007

Health care spending for Massachusetts communities has nearly doubled since 2001, squeezing town budgets and forcing cutbacks in public safety and government services and leading to calls for property tax increases.

Employee healthcare costs in cities and towns shot up about 85 percent , from an average $2.5 million to $4.7 million, from 2001 to 2006 , according to a Globe analysis of budgets from 324 communities , using data from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue .

In Weston, healthcare costs are up more than 120 percent, a major contributor to the town's decision to seek a $1.1 million general override from voters last year. In Amesbury, healthcare costs more than doubled, to $4.9 million, and the town has held off on filling five to 10 jobs. In Fall River, costs have nearly doubled, to $32.7 million, and the city has at least 10 percent fewer staff members than it had in 2002.

Meanwhile, Stoneham has seen health costs soar 130 percent , to about $6 million , since 2001, said Ronald J. Florino, the town accountant. The increases each year total between $500,000 and $1 million, "which pretty much wipes out all our new revenue each year," he said.

"That extra $500,000 we could have had would definitely save 10 positions a year," he said.

The town has eliminated about 12 jobs in the police and fire departments, cut hours for other employees, and chopped programs. The town no longer has an information technology director or a town planner. The treasurer gets a stipend to handle computer issues, said Florino.

"It is the biggest fiscal crisis facing every city and town in Massachusetts," said Samuel R. Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, a government-funded watchdog organization.

"Escalating prices are absorbing a larger share of revenue growth, which means fewer resources for other services, which puts more pressure on property taxes."

On average, healthcare now eats up 9 percent of municipal budgets, up from 6 percent in 2001.

Tyler is part of a group of municipal officials, unions, and public retirees lobby ing for legislation to curb the skyrocketing healthcare costs. Governor Deval Patrick has also proposed legislation to curb costs.

"The governor believes we must give cities and town additional tools to help relieve the pressure on the property tax, and this is one way we believe makes sense," said Cyndi Roy, the governor's spokeswoman.

The coalition wants to give communities the option of joining the state's healthcare plan, called the Group Insurance Commission , a quasi-independent agency, as long as 70 percent of a community's unions agree.

State officials say municipalities like the plan because it has held costs to a relatively modest 54 percent increase over the past five years, compared with the average 85 percent hike in municipal costs .

The state health plan has a number of financial advantages over the communities' coverage. First, its massive size gives it far more clout when negotiating deals with insurance companies and physicians.

The state health plan has other advantages for local governments : State employees and their unions do not directly bargain for many aspects of their medical benefits, while municipal employees do.

For example, the state plan, through the Legislature, sets the percent of the premium paid by members, which ranges from 15 percent to 20 percent for most employees. The plan also sets the design, which means it can establish prices on items such as copayments for doctor visits.

By contrast, the cities and towns' plans are relatively generous, sometimes offering $5 copayments and 10 percent premiums. That is also better than private-sector policies in the state, where the average copayment is $15 for a visit to the doctor's office, and the employee share of premiums is usually 20 percent to 25 percent.

Some employees drop a spouse's private-sector plan for the municipal plan because it saves the family money.

In Plainville, costs have roughly quadrupled since 2001 -- from $340,000 to $1.4 million.

"We're looking at freezing wages and making budget cuts," said Town Administrator Joseph Fernandes. He said the town is "$750,000 in the hole" on a budget of about $23 million.

"Everything is on the table. . . . Other things are going up, too, but nothing like health insurance."

Across the country, health care costs have exploded in the past few years because of two trends, said Joseph Newhouse , a professor at Harvard University who specializes in healthcare economics.

Baby boomers need more medical care as they age. Plus, the medical field is constantly improving. But more capability -- in the form of new procedures, drugs, and devices -- means higher costs.

For some community officials, union members, and retirees, the solution lies in the legislative proposal that would steer municipal employees to the state plan. They have been working on the legislation for more than a year.

Currently, many municipalities have their own plan or join with other cities and towns to establish one. Medical benefits are a contentious issue during contract negotiations, and unions and the cities and towns battle over premiums and copayments.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association, which has 106,000 active and retired members, supports the measure, said its vice president, Paul Toner.

"Health care costs have been accelerating on a very rapid pace, and cities and towns are under stress," Toner said. "We see a win-win situation for municipalities on a case-by-case basis."

Other unions supporting the measure include the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 93 -- which represents 35,000 state and municipal workers across the state -- and the National Association of Government Employees, which is based in Quincy and represents 8,000 public workers statewide.

Mayor Thomas G. Ambrosino of Revere, who has worked with the 12-member Metropolitan Mayors Coalition on the bill, said the plan tries to give everyone something.

The best plan would allow municipalities to join the state plan without negotiating with unions, he said .

"The problem with that is that it has absolutely no chance of passing the Legislature," Ambrosino said. "There would be immense labor opposition."

Some municipalities doubt they will see savings. Other critics said the bill would not help cities and towns nearly enough. And some unions have declined to support the bill, saying it would not protect its members.

Firefighters are not enthusiastic about the plan. Bob McCarthy , president of the 12,000 -member Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, said he is hoping for changes. For example, he is concerned that under the bill, unions would lose their ability to negotiate a plan's design, including copayments.

Michael J. Widmer , president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Association , a nonprofit watchdog organization, called the bill a weak response.

"While a good step, it is too tepid a response for a problem of this magnitude," he said. He would like to give towns the option of joining over union objections.

House Bill 2601, which has been co sponsored by more than 100 representatives and senators, would give communities the option of joining the state plan, but would not force them.

The decision to join would be made jointly by municipal leaders, unions, and retirees.

A vote to join would require a 70 percent vote by unions and retirees.

Matt Carroll can be reached at mcarroll@globe.com.

(Correction: Because of a reporting error, a Page One story Sunday about rising employee healthcare costs in cities and towns misstated the background of a local research group and its position on legislation aimed at curbing costs. The Boston Municipal Research Bureau is a business-funded watchdog organization. It is not part of a coalition pushing legislation to curb the costs because the bureau believes the proposal does not go far enough.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007 7:00:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Care plan gap seen for many workers

Low-wage earners who can't afford company benefit ineligible for aid

By Alice Dembner,
[The Boston] Globe Staff

May 19, 2007

As many as 30,000 low-wage workers face a Catch-22 that could leave them uninsured, despite the state's new healthcare initiative.

They can't afford the insurance offered by their employers, yet they aren't eligible for state subsidies because their employer offers coverage.

"It's totally and completely unfair," said Sandy O'Brien, 53, who hasn't had insurance for years.

After being out for two days last week with severe back spasms, O'Brien dragged herself back to her counter job at Dunkin' Donuts in Milford, where she is on her feet all day. Without insurance, she doesn't have the money to see a doctor for treatment or to get the doctor's note that Dunkin' Donuts requires for an absence of more than two days.

Dunkin' Donuts offers her insurance, but on a yearly income of about $15,000, she can't afford the monthly premium of $98. She sees other people with equally low wages signing up for the new state- subsidized insurance plans. But she's not eligible.

The state law requiring every adult to have coverage by July 1 is structured to encourage work-based insurance. Anyone who is offered coverage through work, no matter how expensive, is excluded from the state plans.

"For poor people in my situation, the new insurance law is really a joke," O'Brien said.

She is among the approximately 60,000 people who will be excluded from the state requirement to obtain insurance because coverage isn't affordable for them. But that brings O'Brien no relief, because she will remain uninsured.

Not having insurance, she says, "is a very, very bad problem. When my back went out months ago, I went to four different doctors' offices, and none of them would see me because I didn't have the money. I started crying. I'd been out of work for two weeks at that point, and I had no money."

The state needs to find a way to help insure people like O'Brien, said Celia Wcislo, a labor organizer who is on the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority , which oversees implementation of the new law.

"There are many working low-income people who have access to insurance but can't afford it," said Wcislo, assistant division director of labor union 1199 SEIU. "If we're trying to make it universal, it's our responsibility to figure out how to make insurance affordable for them."

The law provides a mechanism to do that. It permits the Connector Authority board to admit low-income workers like O'Brien into the subsidized program as long as their employers send the state the money that they would have paid toward those workers' premiums. But it leaves the decision up to the authority.

Based on her income, O'Brien would probably qualify for free coverage in Commonwealth Care, the new state program that offers subsidies on a sliding scale based on income. But even with her employer's contribution, the state cost for insurance would rise, because the state would be picking up her share of the cost. Growth in spending remains a big cloud over the long-term future of the healthcare initiative.

"We're looking at the financing" of including more people than the state has already budgeted for, said Jon Kingsdale, executive director of the authority's board. "There are lots of demands for additional spending. If we have any extra money, we could spend it. But it's premature."

In addition to the 30,000 people like O'Brien, there are more than 4,000 self-employed workers who are prohibited from joining the more affordable Commonwealth Care because of another quirk. They meet the income guidelines for the program, earning less than $30,636 a year, but are excluded because they have insurance through an older state program that provides smaller subsidies.

That program, the Insurance Partnership, pays a portion of the premium for private insurance, but leaves some low-income, self-employed people facing insurance bills of $300 or $400 a month. Under the new insurance law, to qualify for Commonwealth Care and its premiums of zero to $180 a month, they would have to go without insurance for six months.

"They're offering something that's more affordable, but they're telling me I can't have it unless I drop my insurance and stay off it for six months," said Margot Sharff, 39, a self-employed garden designer who makes about $17,000 a year. "That's a risk," she said, but one she is considering, even though it seems counter to the intent of the new law.

Sharff has benefited from the Insurance Partnership for six years. But with premiums rising, she said insurance is no longer afford able even with the state paying half. Getting into Commonwealth Care would cut her premiums drastically.

For the state, in addition to the increased cost, there is also the question of how employers would respond to a policy change that lets more low-wage workers into Commonwealth Care. Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economics professor who sits on the connector board, said some employers with many low-wage workers might try to shift more costs to the state by requiring workers to pay a higher share of premiums, thus making coverage unaffordable and pushing more employees into Commonwealth Care.

Others suggest that leaving the policy as it is, instead of allowing people like O'Brien in, could encourage some cash-strapped employers to drop insurance to make all their low-income employees eligible for the state plan.

Connector Authority board member Dolores Mitchell cautioned against quick changes.

"There are a lot of people for whom the connector insurance is less expensive than that from their employer," said Mitchell, who is also executive director of the Group Insurance Commission, which oversees health coverage for state workers. "This is a Pandora's box. Before we lift the lid, we should have an informed discussion about what the implications are."

Saturday, May 19, 2007 4:01:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Dear Rinaldo Del Gallo III, Bureaucrat Bosley, Berkshire Bloggers, News Media, Pols, & the People:

Re: "Expedited Permitting Program: New process pushes towns to be `quick, predictable'" (The Berkshire Eagle, May 22, 2007): It must be sweet for Rinaldo Del Gallo III to see one of his many insightful economic development proposals for Pittsfield going forward with financial assistance from the state. As a political supporter of Rinaldo, I find it disheartening to read that his initial ideas for expedited permitting for Pittsfield were not given their due credit by The Berkshire Eagle.

At the end of the news article, State Representative Impostering a Bureaucrat Dan Bosley contradicted one of Rinaldo's earlier claims for economic development for Pittsfield and Berkshire County. Bureaucrat Bosley said that precaution against gentrification for the Berkshires is a needed ingredient in this economic development public policy. For the public record, Bureaucrat Bosley stated that the "attractive housing costs" in Berkshire County could change "if the infrastructure changed."

First of all, Rinaldo has been claiming that housing costs in Berkshire County, especially Pittsfield, are not at all attractive in comparison to other "post-industrial wasteland areas" similar in nature to Pittsfield and North Adams. Rinaldo previously sent out emails comparing the lower costs of housing in other like areas of the nation with the very high housing prices in Pittsfield. Seeing how Rinaldo has been right on every aspect of economic development for Pittsfield and Berkshire County thus far, I believe that Bureaucrat Bosley is OUT OF TOUCH WITH REALITY!

Moreover, BERKSHIRE COUNTY IS THE NUMBER ONE REGION IN THE COMMONWEALTH FOR JOB LOSSES! Guess what, lousy Berkshire Pols, once JOBS LEAVE an area THEY AINT COMIN BACK! The Pols can tout their ineffective public policies on economic development all they want, but it is the OUTCOME of JOBS that really matters.

Similar to Rinaldo, I see every SPECIAL INTEREST project in Pittsfield and Berkshire County used in the name of economic development! The Colonial Theater and the Spice Restaurant are worthy investments, but THEY HAVE NOT CREATED REAL JOBS THAT PAY REAL WAGES!

WHERE ARE YOU RINALDO? The people of Pittsfield and Berkshire County need you to lead them on these crucial matters of ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT! Please run for Mayor of Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 2007!

The only real OUTCOME by Dan Bosley, and his fellow corrupted SPECIAL INTEREST lousy Berkshire Pols, is that BERKSHIRE COUNTY IS THE NUMBER ONE REGION IN THE COMMONWEALTH FOR JOB LOSSES. Once jobs are lost, they are very hard to induce back to an area.

The sad reality is that SPECIAL INTEREST POLS THROUGHOUT THE USA HAVE SOLD OUT THE WORKING AND COMMON PERSON AND FAMILY! The corporate elite justifies a steadily recurring rate of job losses from our nation to foreign nations by indocrinating the masses about the benefits of globalisation: Namely that prices on consumer goods are cheaper through the new market efficiencies. By the way, Globalisation is NOT Capitalism. No one really knows the principles of Globalisation except maybe WAL MART, Inc.

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

P.S. I understand that housing prices in Pittsfield and Southern Berkshire County are artificially high because greater NYC area investors and developers are buying them up at current prices on the assumption that the homes will increase in value over the next coming decade(s) like real estate shot up in price in New York City in the past several decades. That means that the Pittsfield Real Estate Market is not even being marketed to the exploited people of the Pittsfield area!

---------------------------------

Expedited Permitting Program

New process pushes towns to be 'quick, predictable'

By Jessica Willis, Berkshire Eagle Staff

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

NORTH ADAMS — The goals for the state's new expedited permitting program? To make it, in the words of Greg Bialecki, "as quick, predictable and consistent" as possible — without "lowering standards."

At yesterday's luncheon at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Bialecki, the state's assistant secretary and general counsel of Housing and Economic Development, told his fellow diners — which included North Adams Mayor John Barrett III, MCLA President Mary Grant, state Rep. Daniel E. Bosley and Berkshire County business leaders — the communities that have "done their homework" will be the ones eligible to take part in the expedited permitting program.

"When the permitting process hits a bottleneck, it's because of inadequacies in the public infrastructure," Bialecki said, referring to a community's roads, water lines and sewer capacities — which must be adequate to encourage and maintain economic growth.

"Looking to private developers to supply the missing links is very difficult," he concluded. "If all conversations are about what the developer wants to do, we're really behind."

Instead, he advocated for municipalities to take a more proactive approach, and the state, he said, would "piggyback on what (communities) are doing."

Pittsfield is one of 10 communities in the state currently approved to take part in the program, as announced yesterday. Barrett said his city would "probably get on board with it."

The program, known as Chapter 43D, was revised last year to streamline the permitting process for municipalities by offering extended filing deadlines and eligibility for up to $150,000 in state funds.

Bosley, for his part, reminded the group of one of the key infrastructural pieces needed for Berkshire County's development — broadband access.

"One-third of Western Massachusetts doesn't have it," Bosley said. "We need to look at what will happen when we do have broadband access throughout the community."

He said more businesses and residents would come to the area — a good thing, to be sure — but that precaution against "gentrification" is needed.

The legislator noted that the "attractive housing costs" in Berkshire County could change "if the infrastructure changed."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007 5:25:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

NEWS ARTICLE:

[Deval-uator] Patrick dismisses Spence in overhaul of state agencies

5/23/2007, 2:55 p.m. ET

By KEN MAGUIRE

The Associated Press

ATTLEBORO, Mass. (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick replaced the embattled head of the state's child welfare system Wednesday as part of an overhaul of state government aimed at strengthening his grip on state agencies after 16 years of Republican administrations.

The governor ousted Department of Social Services Commissioner Lewis "Harry" Spence along with Department of Conservation and Recreation Commissioner Stephen Burrington as he made 11 appointments, including two to newly created positions in the governor's office.

Patrick foreshadowed the moves earlier this month when dozens of commissioners and department heads left over from previous Republican administrations were told that they must reapply for their jobs or be replaced. A letter to about 50 agency chiefs asked them to forward "your resume, accomplishments, publications, personal statements and any other relevant information," to be considered for reappointment.

Patrick is replacing Spence with Angelo McClain, executive director for ValueOptions, a Virginia-based health care company. Burrington's replacement is Westfield Mayor Richard Sullivan.

"This is a great opportunity to work on something I care deeply about — the quality of life in Massachusetts," Sullivan said in a statement.

Former Department of Mental Retardation Commissioner Gerald Morrissey, who was fired in April, will be replaced by Elin Howe, a former commissioner of New York's Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

Patrick also created a Senior Appointments Director, who will oversee future appointments in the executive branch and on state boards and commissions, and a Development Cabinet Director to help implement policy in various departments, including transportation, labor, energy and housing.

Spence was fired following criticism of his agency's handling of two high-profile child abuse cases. He told a talk radio program Wednesday that his replacement should focus on strengthening ties between the DSS and school systems.

Spence also said he was concerned about his relatively short six-year tenure and noted that all but one DSS commissioner had left involuntarily.

"It's the nature of the work. It all catches up at some point," Spence said during a morning call into "Finneran's Forum" on WRKO-AM. The show is hosted by Tom Finneran, the former House speaker.

Spence said Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, who serves as secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services and was his boss, assured him that high-profile cases were not the reason for his downfall. Spence has developed a reputation for undertaking challenging jobs, including running Chelsea after it declared bankruptcy and was under financial receivership.

Spence was criticized after the drug overdose death of 4-year-old Rebecca Riley late last year. He also was criticized for his handling of the 2005 case of Haleigh Poutre, a young girl was beaten into a coma, allegedly by her parents, and then nearly removed from life support by DSS just before her condition began to improve.

Spence, who was appointed head of DSS in late 2001 by Republican acting Gov. Jane Swift, had publicly lobbied to retain the job. He did not return a call to his cell phone Wednesday.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007 3:51:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

NEWS ARTICLE:

Treasurer looks to beat tribe with casino deal

Says plan could provide more money to state

By Andrea Estes, [The Boston] Globe Staff

May 24, 2007

State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill is to unveil a plan today to beat the Mashpee Wampanoags into the casino business by launching a state-sponsored search for a developer who would build a luxury gambling mecca sooner and with much greater financial benefit to the state's coffers, according to officials familiar with the plan.

Cahill has long expressed concern that an Indian-run casino would drain money from the state lottery, while providing the state only a limited amount of revenue, subject to negotiations with the tribe. By orchestrating its own deal to establish a casino in Massachusetts, Cahill will argue today, the state would gain far more from gambling than Connecticut has from its two Indian casinos.

The Mashpee Wampanoags, who today are celebrating their official recognition by the federal government, have announced plans to open a casino by 2010, but must first go through the time-consuming process of putting land into federal trust. The tribe must also negotiate a compact with the state, which would allow the tribe to open a casino with a level of gambling not now permitted elsewhere in Massachusetts. In other states, tribes have often agreed to pay a certain percentage of revenues in lieu of taxes.

Because any non-Indian casino would not be on sovereign land, it would be subject to all the taxes the Indian casino would be exempt from and therefore would generate more revenue for state and local government. In addition, the state could impose a gambling tax that would far exceed the 25 percent of slot revenues that the Indian casinos in Connecticut, for example, send the state.

Under Cahill's plan, which would have to be approved and implemented by the Legislature and Governor Deval Patrick, the state would issue a request for proposals for one or more casinos that would offer such amenities as five-star hotels, gourmet restaurants, shopping, and event pavilions.

The state would specify criteria for the casino, potentially including such provisions as the amount of land required for development, the level of capital investment, access to transportation, and number of parking spaces.

Developers whose proposals met all the state criteria would then bid for a license. According to gambling specialists, the going price for a 10-year casino license is $150 million.

Cahill, who will unveil his plan before the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce this morning, was unavailable for comment.

The Legislature has resisted efforts to expand gambling in the past, but could now be more open, given the Wampanoags' aggressive push for a casino and the expected impact on the state lottery.

Lawmakers, who are struggling to balance the state budget, have also expressed frustration that Massachusetts residents spend so much money each year at out-of-state gambling facilities, mainly in Connecticut.

Patrick has said he is open to the possibility of some type of casino gambling, as has Senate President Therese Murray, who reiterated yesterday that the state must explore new ways to raise revenue to help cities and towns and to support social services.

"The Wampanoags are poised to ratchet up the debate with their plans for economic development," Murray said. "We need to start thinking about the best ways to position the state's interests in an industry that is on the brink of expanding within our borders."

While Cahill is launching his proposal to compete with the Wampanoags, it would probably remove one of the key barriers the tribe is facing, according to casino experts. Under federal law, recognized Indian tribes with sovereign land are allowed to pursue any kind of gambling venture that is legal in the state.

In fact, a spokesman for the Mashpee tribe said it would welcome the state's foray into casino gambling.

"This would be fine with us," said spokesman Scott Ferson. "There are two things the Mashpees have needed to open a Class 3 gaming facility: recognition, which they have, and state approval for Class 3 gaming, which is what the treasurer would be calling for.

"It might take a few years, but the tribe would not have to share revenue with the state," he said. "The tribe would keep all the money."

According to the officials familiar with Cahill's plan, the treasurer will say in his speech that growth in the state lottery, the country's most successful, is expected to flatten in coming years. Last year the lottery sent $952 million to communities across the state. But sales so far this year are down a little more than 2 percent, trailing expectations by about $75 million

While the privately owned casino would siphon revenue from the lottery, Cahill plans to argue, cities and towns could ultimately end up receiving significantly more local aid. Under his proposal, all the revenue received by the state would be distributed to cities and towns, though the Legislature could decide that the state should retain some of the money.

There are non-Indian casinos in 11 states, including Nevada, New Jersey, Louisiana, Illinois, and Indiana. According to specialists, most states followed procedures similar to what Cahill will propose: They set up an entity that solicits proposals and regulators to oversee casino operations.

A recent survey by the American Gaming Association found that Connecticut's two casinos, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, generated $1.7 billion in revenue from slot machines in 2006. They contributed $427 million last year to the state.

"With commercial gaming, the state has regulatory jurisdiction, taxing authority, and licensing authority," said Clyde Barrow, director of the Center of Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. "They are subject not just to gaming tax, but all the other taxes including property taxes to the host community."

Alan Meister, an economist with the California-based Analysis Group, said that Connecticut's two tribal casinos, which pay the state 25 percent of their slot revenues, pay more than any other Indian casinos in the country.

"These [casinos] are meant to provide a benefit to tribes because they haven't had good economic development," he said. "The federal government is protective of tribes and won't allow states to try to get an exorbitant amount of money from the tribes."

Thursday, May 24, 2007 7:29:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, News Media, Pols, & the People:

Hillary Clinton is coming back to Manchester, NH next week (see below). I am supporting Hillary Clinton for President because she has common sense solutions to the socioeconomic problems facing our nation. Furthermore, we need to elect a woman president. I sent Dan Bosley two of Hillary's position papers on nationwide broadband access in the U.S. Mail today. I hope the information will help Rep. Bosley achieve his goal of providing broadband access to all of rural Berkshire County!

Re: "Treasurer looks to beat tribe with casino deal: Says plan could provide more money to state (The Boston Globe, 5/24/07): It is a SHAME that Massachusetts leads the nation in the growth of its state lottery, which is just another form of regressive taxation! A state authorised Casino is being used as a complement to the public lottery (currently monopoly) system instead of as a competitor. The commonwealth only wants to grow its systems of regressive taxation at the expense of the working poor person and/or families.

Which leads me to JOE LABARBERA's Letter to the Editor (see below). I concur with him that the Democratic Party no longer works on behalf of the working person and/or family. The bottom line is that the Corporate Elite run our country, including the big government Pols that take their SPECIAL INTEREST campaign donations. We have a 2-in-1 party system, which should be known as the Incumbent Party -- as the U.S. Congress has a 98% incumbency rating that rivals Communist China's "rubber stamp" parliament. Moreover, the Massachusetts Legislature is one of the top 3 states in the Union of 50 states for the highest rates of incumbency along with Arkansas and South Carolina. An Incumbent Massachusetts State Senator has NOT been voted out of his or her political seat in over a decade. The reality is that when a big government Pol serves his or her Corporate Masters, then he or she will have far too much money for the average working man or woman to effectively challenge their lousy public record. The system is rigged by blood money to serve the SPECIAL INTERESTS as the expense of the common person and/or family!

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

---------------------

CAMPAIGN EVENT:

Hillary Clinton will be giving a major policy speech at the Manchester School of Technology on Tuesday, May 29th, 2007 at 9:30am. The school is located at 530 South Porter Street in Manchester, NH. Seating is very limited, so to RSVP, please call Hillary Clinton's campaign office at 1 (603) 634-4455. www dot hillaryclinton dot com

---------------------

LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE:

Democrats are no better than GOP

Thursday, May 24, 2007

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:

I'm glad I'm not a Democrat anymore. I've been forced to leave my party because it's not my party anymore. This Democratic party doesn't even pretend to work for poor and working class people anymore.

I left the party for two major reasons: One, it was and still is pro-war and hyper-militaristic. Many Democrats are arm-chair quarterbacks now because of the Iraqi crime, but 90 percent of the Dems. were and are for the war, and an even higher percentage want to bomb Iran. The second reason I left the party is because of the "free trade" agreements, like NAFTA the party makes for banks and corporations at the expense of the American worker.

Bill Moyers did a piece aired on PBS last week on the secret deal between the Democrats and Bush to get a new "free trade" deal through congress. It's another boon for the rich and super-rich, and will cost America millions of jobs.

These Democrats should not be supported in the next election. I don't know from whom we will have to choose, but these tricksters should be sent packing to their lobby firms and think tanks, and tossed out of elected office.

JOE LABARBERA

Pittsfield, Massachusetts
May 21, 2007

Thursday, May 24, 2007 7:52:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

NEWS ARTICLE & LETTER ON DEVAL-UATOR PATRICK:

Patrick makes imprint

In an expected move, the governor ousts GOP holdovers from a number of state agencies.

By Hillary Chabot, Eagle Boston Bureau

Thursday, May 24, 2007

BOSTON — A series of tragic missteps concerning the state's most vulnerable residents sealed the fate of state child welfare head Lewis "Harry" Spence, Berkshire lawmakers said yesterday.

Gov. Deval L. Patrick ousted the Department of Social Service commissioner along with other holdovers from former Gov. Mitt Romney's organization in a sweeping bid to tighten his control on Beacon Hill.

More will follow, Patrick said yesterday.

"This is about building our own team," Patrick said at a news conference before holding a meeting of his Cabinet at the Attleborough City Hall. "We are not done."

The freshman governor made a total of 11 new appointments, including a new head of mental retardation and director of work force development. Patrick will announce the rest of the appointments by next week.

State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, said becoming the DSS commissioner is often a thankless task.

"The position is a no-win situation. You're understaffed, caseloads are often ignored because there are not enough people to handle all the cases, and you're scrambling from one to the next," said Bosley. "Obviously, (Patrick) gets to appoint whoever he wants, that's his right. But you hope those changes are with qualified people."

Spence, who was appointed by former acting Gov. Jane Swift in 2001, came under fire following two child abuse cases: the drug overdose death of 4-year-old Rebecca Riley and the severe beating of Haleigh Poutre, who was almost taken off life support by DSS officials before her condition improved.

State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, said voters demanded a change on Beacon Hill when Patrick was elected.
"This is the governor's prerogative and this is the issue with these political jobs," Pignatelli said.

Bosley, along with many other legislators, expected the reshuffle. Patrick had asked for roughly 50 Romney appointees to reapply for their jobs earlier this month.

Patrick selected Angelo McClain, an executive director at a health care company in New Jersey, to replace Spence. He also tapped Elin Howe, commissioner of the New York state Office of Mental Retardation, to take over for Gerald Morrissey.

Pignatelli was very disappointed when Morrissey left, and said he wished Patrick had chosen replacements from inside the state.

"I like homegrown people, but I certainly will give him the benefit of the doubt as to who the best qualified people are," Pignatelli said.

Patrick did make some local selections, picking Westfield Mayor Richard Sullivan to head the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and Mark Conrad, a patrolman at the Milton Police Department, as a nominee for the Parole Board.

Patrick also created two new appointments — a development cabinet director to help put new policy in place in various departments and a senior appointments director to review new appointments in the executive branch and on state boards.

Material from the Associated Press was used in the report.

» At a glance ...

The replacement of Lewis 'Harry' Spence in the post of Department of Social Service commissioner drew the most publicity yesterday, but Gov. Deval L. Patrick appointed people to a number of new positions, including:

Ron Marlow — Development cabinet director

Elin Howe — Department of Mental Retardation commissioner

Richard Sullivan — Department of Conservation commissioner

Lily Mendez-Morgan — Senior appointments director

Anthony 'Angelo' McClain — DSS commissioner

----------------

THE BOSTON GLOBE

LETTERS

Meet the new boss

May 26, 2007

GOVERNOR PATRICK states that his ouster of DSS Commissioner Harry Spence was not because of Spence's performance but because of Patrick's desire to build his own leadership team and leave his imprint on state government ("Patrick assumes control of agencies," City & Region, May 24) .

Great, politics as usual. What a refreshing change.

MARILYN MORRISSEY

Jamaica Plain

----------------

Saturday, May 26, 2007 1:13:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

RE: Reps. Bosley & Pignatelli must be proud--for the public record

RE: I am ASHAMED of the Massachusetts Democratic Party Leaders!

Dear Bureaucrat Bosley, Slimy Pignatelli, Berkshire Bloggers, news media, Pols, & the People:

Re: "Lawmakers plan tribute for Finneran" (The Boston Globe, 6/6/07): State Representatives Daniel E. Bosley and William "Smitty" Pignatelli must be proud of the Massachusetts Democratic Party Leaders' terrible decision to host a tribute to the current Felon and Former-House Speaker Tom Finneran!

TOM FINNERAN MARGINALIZED MINORITIES BY GERRYMANDERING HIS and another LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT TO KEEP HIMSELF and another white state Legislator IN POLITICAL OFFICE ON BEACON HILL. Instead of owning up to his RACISM through the state government's most precious resource: DEMOCRACY!, Finneran committed PERJURY and then submitted a plea of OBSTRUCTION of JUSTICE to avoid jail time!

SEPTEMBER 25th, 2007 WILL BE A DAY OF INFAMY FOR THE LEADERS OF THE MASSACHUSETTS DEMOCRATIC PARTY and other former leaders of the COMMONWEALTH of MASSACHUSETTS' Government:

1. Governor Deval Patrick

2. Former Governor Jane Swift

3. Former Governor Paul Cellucci

4. Former Governor Bill Weld

5. U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy

6. U.S. Senator John Kerry

DEVAL PATRICK IS PROVEN TO BE A HYPOCRITE ON RACE ISSUES! By honoring Tom Finneran, Deval Patrick is presenting a double standard on race issues in state government! Deval Patrick should boycott this tribute to the racist and politically corrupt Tom Finneran on the basis that Finneran used the state legislative process to try to marginalize thousands of minority voters in both Finneran's and a neighboring legislative district. THAT WAS RACISM -- something I thought Deval Patrick committed his career in public service to eliminating.

When I returned from my honorable service in the U.S. Army in the Summer of 2001 and moved back to my parent's then home in Becket, Massachusetts, the State Legislature under Speaker Finneran began to cut state aid to cities and towns for the next three consecutive state government fiscal years: FY2002 - FY2004! Watching my Town of Becket and surrounding Western Massachusetts communities' finances being gutted by the state Legislature and Governors Swift the Romney, I wanted to join the state Legislature to change the system and give back the money that state cut from the cities and towns in the rural legislative district that I lived in at the time. Although I was never able to complete a run for Berkshire State Senator, I never forgot the political corruption, top-down, closed door, bureaucratic, self-serving, special interest Beacon Hill Pols, especially Speaker Tom Finneran.

In closing, "Smitty" Pignatelli and Dan Bosley must be thrilled with the Massachusetts Democratic Party leaders and 3 former Massachusetts Governors for hosting a tribute to Tom Finneran on 9/25/2007. After all, Bureaucrat Bosley was a long-term, loyal Finneran lieutenant, and Slimy Pignatelli's first legislative vote was a vote for Finneran in early 2003 -- after two of the three straight aforementioned years of Speaker Tom Finneran gutting state government financing to Pignatelli's new rural southern Berkshire area legislative district.

What ashame!

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

----------

Lawmakers plan tribute for Finneran
By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff | June 6, 2007

Former House speaker Thomas M. Finneran may have left office under the cloud of a federal investigation, but the Massachusetts political establishment remains loyal to him.

A group of old friends and colleagues, led by one of Beacon Hill's most influential lobbyists, Robert F. White, are holding a tribute dinner Sept. 25 at the Fairmont Copley where they hope to raise as much as a quarter of a million dollars to help Finneran launch a charitable foundation in his name to support some of his favorite local programs and educational scholarships.

White, a close friend to the former House leader, said the strong support for the event from top political, business, and community leaders -- including Governor Deval Patrick, three former Republican governors, and US Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry -- sends a strong message that Finneran's extensive State House record dwarfs the federal perjury charges that dogged him at the end of his public career.

"Whatever misconceptions the federal government had about this man's public life will be assuaged by the public demonstration for this event," White said. Tickets are priced from $2,500 to $10,000. "This is long overdue."

In October 2004, as a federal grand jury probed his testimony in a case challenging a House redistricting plan, he resigned as speaker to become the president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. In June 2005, he was indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges.

In an agreement with the US Attorney's office in early January, Finneran pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in exchange for federal prosecutors' dropping perjury charges. He was sentenced to 18 months unsupervised probation and fined $25,000. His plea prompted his resignation from his $500,000-a-year Mass Biotech job.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007 5:06:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Patrick's plans raising doubt and enthusiasm

His big dreams may falter on funding issues

By Lisa Wangsness,
[The Boston] Globe Staff

June 6, 2007

Free community colleges, universal preschool, and full-day kindergarten. A new commuter rail to New Bedford. A $1 billion public investment in biotechnology.

Governor Deval Patrick is thinking big lately, churning out expansive and expensive proposals for long-term projects every few weeks, then basking in praise from students, local officials, life sciences leaders, and other key Massachusetts constituencies.

But he has said little about how he would pay for his plans, and financial analysts say the state probably cannot afford them without finding new revenue or cutting spending elsewhere in the budget. If his education plan is fully implemented for every student, it alone could add as much as $2 billion a year to the state budget by 2017, according to some analysts' estimates.

Patrick has brushed aside doubts about the feasibility of making big changes. Recently he likened skeptics who questioned his education proposals to those who challenged President Kennedy's mission to land a man on the moon.

But in his first five months in office, Patrick has already seen some of his campaign promises fall prey to the reality of governing within a tight budget. His pledge to put 1,000 more police officers on the street, for example, became a proposal to add just 250 this year, and the Legislature wants to cut that number further.

Some political observers say that even though Patrick's boldest ideas might be beyond the state's means, the political benefits of pitching popular, even visionary, proposals outweigh the risks for the freshman governor.

"I think it's an impressive and ambitious agenda," said Jeffrey Berry, a political scientist at Tufts University. ". . . Nobody expects that they're going to come to fruition anytime soon."

But some financial analysts, particularly conservatives, say the governor's proposals are as unrealistic as they are ambitious.

"I think politically he's putting himself in a box," said David Tuerck of the Beacon Hill Institute, a conservative think tank. "He won't get all this stuff through the Legislature, because the Legislature won't raise taxes."

Doug Rubin, Patrick's chief of staff, dismissed such criticism as premature. The governor, he said, is laying out a broad vision designed to address the state's most critical long-term economic challenges. Patrick plans to work closely with the Legislature and others to nail down the details in the coming months, he said, just as state leaders did with health reform.

"This takes time, and for critics and naysayers to shoot it down before you even get a chance to have that discussion doesn't do anybody any good," he said.

The Patrick administration also argues that the governor's plans are essential to maintaining the state's economic prosperity and therefore to state government, which depends on income and sales tax dollars to carry out its responsibilities.

Noah Berger, executive director of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, said the feasibility of the governor's plans is "a question of priorities and values." He said that if the administration develops a thorough analysis justifying the spending, the state could choose to cut other programs, or identify new revenue to pay for Patrick's plans.

The governor's latest plans come in addition to campaign promises large and small, from a pledge to add $10 million to the state's parks budget, which he decided was too expensive to fit into his budget proposal this year, to his vow to reduce property taxes, a prominent plank in his campaign platform.

Administration officials point out that Patrick has already tried several routes to cut property taxes since taking office in January, including filing legislation that would allow cities and towns to raise more non-property-tax dollars and to save money on health insurance and pensions. He has also proposed granting up to $870 in tax abatements for low- and moderate-income homeowners, which he would fund by closing so-called loopholes in the corporate tax structure, a payment method the Legislature has not greeted warmly.

Meanwhile, the financial pressure on the state budget is growing. The costs of salaries, pensions, and healthcare are rising faster than tax revenue, which is expected to increase less next fiscal year than it did in years past. Billions of capital projects have accumulated, including $15 billion to $19 billion for transportation alone, and the state has a self-imposed bonding limit of $1.25 billion in new debt each year.

In this context, the cost of the governor's proposals seems daunting, particularly the education proposals, which could have the biggest impact on the operating budget. Patrick has said he will form a committee to study the proposals and how to pay for them. Education officials and advocates say the cost could easily come in much lower than $2 billion if the plans are not implemented universally.

"I think there's certainly a tremendous amount of vision in the education plan, but I approach the financing side of it with a great deal of trepidation," said Steve Poftak, research director for the Pioneer Institute, a conservative think tank. "I think it's going to be tremendously difficult to come up with the funds for each one of these initiatives."

The sheer scope of Patrick's plans, some budget analysts believe, will open the door to talk about the need for new sources of revenue.

Patrick is studying the possibility of legalizing expanded gambling. State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill has recently proposed a casino gambling plan he says would bring the state as much as $1 billion a year.

Administration officials, however, say the governor plans to implement his agenda over many years, which would soften the impact on the state budget. And those who admire his ideas say Patrick ought to think big, even a little too big.

"I think the governor understands he's not going to get everything he asked for," said Thomas M. Finneran, the former House speaker and now the host of a talk show on WRKO radio. "But it's part of his job to take that bully pulpit as governor and to point out the directions, plural, that the state needs to consider."

Wednesday, June 06, 2007 5:10:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

The Boston Globe
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Governor Deval Patrick’s agenda & estimated costs if programs are fully implemented.

POLICE: $85m – Add 1,000 new police officers
TAX BREAKS: $75m – Property tax breaks to low-to-moderate income homeowners
TRANSIT: $1.4b – Extend commuter rail line to New Bedford (Borrowing over time)
SCIENCES: $1b – Life sciences investment ($50m/year for 10 years and $500m in borrowing)
EDUCATION: $120m – All day kindergarten; $180m – Free community college tuition and fees; $600m – Universal preschool; $1.3b – Longer school day and year
SOURCES: Patrick Administration, State Officials, Education Advocates.

Friday, June 08, 2007 9:38:00 AM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

The Boston Globe
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
The final say on casino is a matter of debate

POSITION # ONE of FOUR:

Indians’ position: Mashpee Wampanoag Indian tribe – The Governor can negotiate a binding deal with the tribe, even without an affirmative vote by the Legislature.

Governor Deval Patrick has broad authority to negotiate a binding agreement with the tribe, known as a compact, even without a vote of the Legislature, but the Legislature can vote to reject it.

The Mashpee Wampanoags won federal recognition as a tribe this year after a 30-year effort. The Indian tribe took control of 350 acres of land in Middleborough. While the process for an Indian tribe to open a casino is governed by the federal government, the tribe must also gain the approval of the state in which the tribal casino is to be located. If no compact is reached within 180 days of the tribe formally asking for one, the Department of Interior – a federal agency – may step in and impose terms of a compact. After the state loses its authority to the federal government, the gaming procedure terms may be less favorable to the state than those the state could have secured by negotiations.

Legal Opinion source: Professor Richard Primus’ 13 page legal brief. He is a University of Michigan law professor who was commissioned by the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian tribe.

POSITION # TWO of FOUR:

Attorney General’s position: Martha Coakley – “The issue of Indian gaming is uncharted territory in Massachusetts. With regard to the approval process for a tribal gaming compact, the A.G.’s office is currently reviewing the matter and has not yet reached an opinion.”

POSITION # THREE of FOUR:

Speaker Sal DiMasi: He is unsure if the Wampanoag Indian tribe has an absolute right to open some kind of casino in Massachusetts. He believes this claim has to be researched.

POSITION # FOUR of FOUR:

Representative Dan Bosley’s position: Chairman of the House Committee on Economic Development and a long time opponent of non-state lottery gambling proposals – Dan Bosley’s legal research says that an Indian gaming casino cannot open without the approval of the Legislature.

Notes on Dan Bosley’s legal research: He is NOT an Attorney and cited NO legal text or precedent to back up his legal position and claim. Moreover, Dan Bosley not only contradicts the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian tribe’s legal position and claims, but also, his legal position and claim conflicts with both those of Attorney General Martha Coakley and Speaker Sal DiMasi’s respective legal positions on the matter.

Dan Bosley cites a 1997 proposal by the Aquinnah Wampanoag Indian tribe to open a casino in Southeastern Massachusetts. Dan Bosley said then-Gov. Bill Weld made the same legal argument that he had the authority to negotiate a compact without Legislative approval with the same counterarguments made by the Legislature, and the issue was never resolved. The Legislature ended up rejecting the land deal back then.

Friday, June 08, 2007 9:40:00 AM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

RE: Dan Bosley's losing hypocrisy on gambling!

Dear Honorable Representative Daniel E. Bosley,

There is only one person in Berkshire County politics more intelligent on public policies than myself, and that person is Dan Bosley! You have an M.O. where you appear to follow the dictates of the corporate elite's influence over the power brokers, but beyond your phony exterior, you are a man of extreme intelligence on politics, government and business. You don't fool me, for sure, because I am envious of your knowledge in state and local governance.

Given your high level of intelligence, Dan Bosley, why do support the lottery, but oppose casino gambling when they are both a source of more regressive tax revenues for state governments -- in this case to the benefit of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at the expense of the working poor?

The state Legislature lost its moral authority on the issue of privatized gambling because it has expanded the state lottery to record levels year after year after year... Now, the state Legislature lost its legal authority on the issue of privatized gambling because people like you only want the lottery without private competition, and avoided the issue with a lack of state laws and regulations on the subject of privatized gambling.

The bottom line is, Dan Bosley, that it is your own fault and making that Massachusetts is going to lose out by privatized casino gambling because of the policies of collecting state revenues from the have nots for the benefit of the haves. The more regressive revenues become for state governments, the more state Legislatures lose in their battles for social justice. As the old sang goes, "Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere!"

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

-----
THE BOSTON GLOBE ONLINE

Monday, June 11, 2007

Middleborough selectmen agree to support Mashpee Wampanoag casino
By Sean P. Murphy, Globe Staff

The Middleborough Board of Selectmen has agreed to support a casino in the town in exchange for a promise from developers to pay the town $7 million a year for the wear-and-tear from millions of visitors, according to sources familiar with the deal.

The deal, if approved, would significantly advance the proposal of the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian tribe and their partners, Sol Kerzner and Len Wolman, the billionaire developers of Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.

The deal would also eliminate other possible locations for a casino, including New Bedford, where city officials had aggressively courted the tribe.

Under the terms of the Middleborough agreement, the selectmen would be required to throw their support behind the casino proposal in upcoming negotiations at federal and state levels, according to sources familiar with the deal.

On the federal level, that means the selectmen would join forces with the developers in urging the Department of Interior to accept Wampanoag land in Middleborough into trust status, a necessary step under federal law to open a casino.

The Department of Interior, in weighing whether to grant trust status, must consider whether it is locally supported, federal law says.

On the state level, the deal would require the selectmen to act in concert with the casino developers in seeking an agreement with the state. The compact would exempt the developers from the current state prohibition against slot machines in exchange for the developers agreeing to pay the state a certain share of revenues in lieu of taxes.

The deal calls for the developers to meet the cost of necessary improvements in water, sewer, and roadway infrastructure and to pay for any increases in police, fire, and other emergency services.

The Wampanoags have moved extremely fast in the last month to make the state's first casino a reality. On May 23, the 1,460-member tribe won federal recognition after a 30-year quest, a designation that included the conditional right to operate a casino.

On that date, tribal leaders inked a deal with Kerzner and Wolman, instantly giving them access to billions of dollars in capital and the kind of business know-how that has made Mohegan Sun one of the world's largest casinos.
Last Friday, the developers, known as Trading Cove Mashpee closed on the purchase of about 125 acres of land from the town for $1.8 million, after successfully bidding on it at an auction in March.

Meanwhile, the developers are pressing their legal interpretation that they can negotiate a compact with Governor Deval Patrick, without resorting to a vote from the state Legislature. A legal opinion to that effect has been circulated by the developers within the governor's office and the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.

While the state Senate has voted for expanded gambling in Massachusetts, the State House has steadfastly opposed it, and its current speaker, Salvatore F. DiMasi, recently questioned the right of an Indian tribe to open a casino.

"The tribe has been clear that it wanted to settle the question of where a casino would go sooner rather than later, and the negotiations with Middleborough have been cordial and fruitful," said Scott Ferson, the tribe's spokesman. "The tribe expects to have an announcement soon."

Posted by the Boston Globe City & Region Desk at 02:11 PM

Monday, June 11, 2007 5:12:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, Pols, News Media, & the People:

I am NOT suprised by Deval Patrick's special interest agenda representing the Corporate Elite. Governor Patrick's highly reported ties to the corporate world were more evident during last year's campaign than his lip service to the common people who swept him into political office.

In Massachusetts, many Democrats are fiscally conservatives serving their Corporate Elite masters who finance their election to big government political offices. In the Berkshires, Luciforo exemplified special interest politics while serving a region that received less and less state aid and investments during his terribly deficient tenure as Berkshire State Senator.

In Political Science 101, one learns that in theory our government's modo is "We the People", but in reality, our government's perversely incentivized philosophies boil down to "We the Corporate Elite". That is why a good political scientist will spread the subverse message to, "Subvert your Corporate Elite Masters by participating in government and openly dissenting against your corrupted Pols!"

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

-----

2 key CEOs give Patrick a fund-raiser
State policies could affect firms' profits
By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff | June 21, 2007

Governor Deval Patrick picked up about $25,000 in political donations this week at a fund-raiser thrown by the chief executive officers of two highly regulated companies whose financial standings and profits could be affected by decisions pending before the new administration.

Edmund F. "Ted" Kelly, the chief executive of the insurance giant Liberty Mutual Group, and Thomas J. May, his counterpart at NStar, cosponsored the breakfast event at the Sheraton Boston, which was attended by Patrick and about 50 executives from both firms.

While not uncommon during previous administrations, Patrick's use of two heavily regulated industry giants to raise political funds stands in sharp contrast to his campaign promise to change the way business is conducted on Beacon Hill and to free politics from special interests.

Both firms have stakes in sweeping policy issues that are before regulatory agencies controlled by Patrick. In the next few months, the Patrick administra tion will make decisions on proposals that could bring wholesale changes to the way the state auto insurance industry makes money. NStar, while always looking for rate increases, is also keenly interested in proposed safeguards to protect utilities' profits as energy conservation increases.

Asked whether the governor saw any conflict between Monday's fund-raiser and his campaign promise to change the state's political culture, his press secretary, Kyle Sullivan, said Patrick and his regulators would not be swayed by the donations.

"Policy and regulatory decisions in this administration are based solely on what is in the best interest of the citizens of the Commonwealth," Sullivan said in a statement released to the Globe. "We have some of the toughest campaign finance laws in the country, and we strictly adhere to them."

Jeffrey M. Berry, a professor of political science at Tufts University, said the fund-raiser is a clear indication that Patrick has succumbed to the realities of political life, which includes what he called the unsavory campaign finance system.

"It looks like he's been housebroken," Berry said. "Words are cheap, and his rhetoric now appears to have been empty slogans. His supporters are going to be a little disappointed. But it is rare for politicians to follow through on changing politics as usual. Politics as usual has a lot of attraction once you are in office. Governor Patrick is not immune from the temptation."

During his campaign, Patrick repeatedly denounced the "culture of Beacon Hill" and promised to restore citizens' faith in state government. As an example of the culture, he pointed to the coziness between public officials and Big Dig contractors, which he said undermined the state's oversight of the project. He particularly cited contractors' political donations to elected officials and their funding of awards to honor state officials who oversaw the construction. "It now all gets caught up in the political culture of Beacon Hill," he said in May 2006.

Patrick has a deep background in corporate America, as a former general counsel at Coca-Cola and Texaco and a former board member at Ameriquest, a controversial subprime lender.

The fund-raiser by May and Kelly reflects a growing relationship between Patrick and the state's business leaders. May, who also serves on Liberty Mutual's board of directors, and Kelly were part of a small group of business executives who last month met privately over lunch with Patrick to discuss a host of business issues.

None of the participants would comment about the meeting. But a source said the talk turned tense at one point as several took issue with his push to close so-called corporate tax loopholes. The session ended on a friendly note, with Patrick assuring the business leaders that his door was open to them, the source said. Others at the session included New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft, former Bank of America chairman Charles K. Gifford, retired advertising executive Jack Connors, and former Fidelity Investments' chief operating officer Robert L. Reynolds.

During last year's campaign, Liberty Mutual gave generously to Patrick's Republican opponent, former lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey.

After the election, Liberty Mutual was one of several corporations that made a $50,000 donation to fund Patrick's inauguration -- another event that raised questions about the new governor's repeated promises to return state government to the people.

Kelly's Boston-based insurance firm, which has national and international operations, is lobbying heavily for Patrick's insurance commissioner, Nonnie Burnes, to adopt a competitive rate-setting system for auto insurance and to revamp the high-risk drivers pool. Both moves have divided the auto insurance industry and have drawn strong criticism from consumer advocates and urban lawmakers.

On Friday, just three days before the fund-raising event at the Sheraton Boston, Burnes wrapped up a hearing on auto insurance and is now trying to decide which changes -- if any -- the administration should adopt. NStar, the biggest combined electric and gas utility in the state with more than 1.3 million customers, regularly appears before the state Department of Public Utilities board to get rates approved.

In recent weeks, the Patrick administration has also begun to push for the most radical overhaul of state utility regulation in a century -- a policy called "rate decoupling" that is intended to ensure utilities' profits don't fall if they promote energy conservation -- that could have major ramifications for NStar's $3.5 billion in annual revenues and more than $200 million in net profits.

The utility is eager to make sure it maintains access to and good relations with Patrick, to ensure that NStar and its shareholders get the best possible outcome from rate decoupling.

Kelly and May declined to speak to the Globe about their political fund-raising for Patrick.

"It's not anything we're going to get into," said Caroline Allen, NStar's spokeswoman, when asked why May cosponsored the event. "We support Governor Patrick and his agenda."

Neither Allen nor John Cusolito, a Liberty Mutual spokesman, would provide the Globe with the exact amount that was raised, referring questions to Patrick's staff. "We encourage our employees to be politically active," Cusolito said. "So demonstrating support for the governor and other elected officials is not unusual for us." He said Kelly did not attend the fund-raiser because of a scheduling conflict.

Steve Crawford, a spokesman for the Patrick campaign committee, said the figure exceeded $25,000. That is a significant amount for Patrick's political committee, which has only $133,000 in its checking account, according to Crawford, a paltry sum for a sitting governor.

-----

CEOs raising funds for Patrick

Governor Deval Patrick picked up about $25,000 in political donations this week at a fund-raiser thrown by the chief executive officers of two highly regulated companies whose financial standings and profits could be affected by decisions pending before the new administration.

While not uncommon during previous administrations, Patrick's use of executives to raise political funds stands in sharp contrast to his campaign promise to change the way business is conducted on Beacon Hill.

Are you concerned that Patrick is veering away from the promises that got him elected?

ONLINE MESSAGE BOARD follows...

Friday, June 22, 2007 4:26:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

House OKs state plan to towns, cities
Part of Patrick's municipal plan now heads to Senate
By Hillary Chabot and Matt Murphy, Transcript Statehouse Bureau
North Adams Transcript

Article Launched: Friday, June 22, 2007

BOSTON — In a minor coup for Gov. Deval Patrick, the House passed a bill Thursday allowing cities and towns to join in the state's health insurance plan.

Patrick had promoted the bill, which could cut health insurance costs dramatically for many communities, as part of his Municipal Partnership Act. The House has considered similar insurance bills for the past three years.

Rep. Chris Speranzo, D-Pittsfield, who co-sponsored the bill, said the early vote of confidence doesn't mean Patrick's entire proposal is in the clear.

"Pittsfield strongly endorsed this bill and it has the potential to offer terrific savings to communities," Speranzo said. "I think the rest of the act will be a discussion that's a little ways off."

The bill allows municipalities to join the state health insurance plan, but all decisions about the percentage employees would pay toward their health insurance premiums would still be made at the local level. Communities must also have support from 70 percent of unionized municipal employees to join the Group Insurance Commission.

Patrick said the proposal makes sense because many communities have seen their health insurance rates climb twice as fast as the state's.

"We want to share our success with you, it's as simple as that," Patrick said, adding the bill could save communities $180 million statewide.

The GIC won't bring savings for everyone. The cost of health insurance coverage in Williamstown, for example, actually went down by half in the past five years, meaning its plan saved more than the state's.

Patrick held a rally with roughly 70 municipal leaders who support his Municipal Partnership Act down the hall as House members considered the GIC bill. Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto and North Adams Mayor John Barrett III joined the rally.

The GIC also bill won't benefit North Adams, where health insurance costs rose by 47 percent while the GIC's rose by about 48. However, Barrett still felt it's a good option for communities.

"All we want the Legislature to do is give us some tools," Barrett said. "I think it's important to give communities the opportunity help ourselves rather than relying totally on the state."

Geoffrey Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, said legislators must pass the entire act to give residents a break from property tax relief.

"We need both sides of the equation. It's good to make progress on savings, but the lasting solutions also have to include ways to raise revenue for cities and towns."

Patrick's proposal also includes ending a 95-year-old tax exemption on telephone poles and allowing local meal taxes so communities can raise more revenue. (Barrett is amenable to the meals tax but opposes the rescinding the telecommunications tax emption.)

"People in Massachusetts are continually paying more and getting less," he said. "This bill provides cities and towns with various tools to reduce property taxes."

The bill now moves on to the Senate, which is expected to vote on the measure next week.

Friday, June 22, 2007 4:27:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Report: Settlement talks to begin in Big Dig death lawsuit

June 24, 2007

BOSTON --Settlement talks are planned this week in the lawsuit brought by the family of a motorist killed nearly a year ago by falling ceiling panels in the Big Dig, according to a published report Sunday.

Lawyers for Milena Del Valle's family will discuss a possible settlement with lawyers representing the companies that designed and built the Big Dig, The Boston Sunday Globe reported, citing unidentified sources.

Del Valle's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit last August, naming the Turnpike Authority and companies associated with design and construction of the project. The lawsuit does not seek a specific amount in damages.

The 39-year-old was killed July 10 when several concrete ceiling panels fell from the Interstate 90 connector tunnel as she and her husband drove toward Logan Airport.

Inspectors believe bolts that held ceiling panels in place came loose because of failures in the epoxy resin designed to glue them in place. Repairs were made throughout the Big Dig tunnel system. Panels were reinforced with additional bolts and brackets.

Lawyers on both sides of the lawsuit would not publicly discuss the settlement talks, the newspaper reported.

In addition to the Turnpike Authority, which oversees the Big Dig project, defendants include: Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the project manager; and Modern Continental Construction Co., the company that constructed the I-90 connector ceiling, and several other companies.

Meanwhile, both sides are watching Attorney General Martha Coakley, who has set a June 30 deadline to decide whether to bring criminal charges against those same companies.

The $14.798 billion Big Dig, the costliest public works project in U.S. history, replaced the aging above-ground Central Artery with a series of traffic tunnels.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007 8:12:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Dear North Adams Transcript, Glenn Drohan, Pols, News Media, & the People:

Charles Joffe-Halpern states that "It is important to be aware that uninsured individuals are now eligible for Commonwealth Care, a richly subsidized health insurance program, if their incomes are under $30,636 a year ($61,956 for a family of four), and if their employer does not provide coverage and pay a portion of the premium."

As I understand the public policy issue, the commonwealth of Massachusetts does not have the guaranteed state revenues to subsidize any of these healthcare insurance plans. Ergo, I believe the letter is only half-true.

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

-----

Clarification on health-care change

Letters

North Adams Transcript

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

To the editor:

A clarification needs to be made in regard to the date that Massachusetts residents, who fall within the health insurance requirement guidelines, must have health insurance (Health Quarterly Summer 2007, a publication of New England Newspapers Inc. that recently was inserted into the Transcript and The Berkshire Eagle).

While the statute states that individuals must have health coverage as of July 1, there is no penalty as long as coverage is in place before Dec. 31. To have insurance in place by that date, it should be acquired before Dec. 1.

What individuals need now is information both about their responsibilities and about the unprecedented opportunities for health coverage that now exist in Massachusetts. Historically there are two primary reasons why individuals don't access health-coverage programs for which they are eligible: lack of awareness these programs exist or lack of belief they are eligible for these programs.

It is important to be aware that uninsured individuals are now eligible for Commonwealth Care, a richly subsidized health insurance program, if their incomes are under $30,636 a year ($61,956 for a family of four), and if their employer does not provide coverage and pay a portion of the premium. For individuals above those income guidelines, a range of options are available under the Commonwealth Choice program.

For guidance and assistance, contact one of the three area health-care access programs in Berkshire County: Advocacy for Access in Great Barrington, 528-5045; Advocacy for Access in Pittsfield, 445-9480; or Ecu-Health Care in North Adams, 663-8711.

Charles Joffe-Halpern

North Adams

June 24

The writer is director of Ecu-Health Care in North Adams.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007 8:19:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Lawyers eye huge Big Dig settlement
Wrongful death case could be landmark

By Andrea Estes and Scott Allen, Globe Staff | June 27, 2007

Lawyers for Milena Del Valle's family are building a case for a landmark settlement of potentially hundreds of millions of dollars for what they describe as the outrageously egregious acts that led to her death in last summer's Big Dig ceiling collapse, according to a 15-page memo obtained by the Globe.

The lawyers did not specify a price for settling the family's lawsuit against an array of contracting firms and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, but said the case should be compared to those that have produced some of the largest jury awards in US history, including the $450 million in punitive damages awarded to the widow of a sheriff-elect in Georgia assassinated by his rival in 2000. If anything, the lawyers predicted, a Massachusetts jury would award the Del Valle family even more money.

"Once that jury has spoken, each defendant found responsible will bear a 'scarlet letter' likely to mark them permanently for reckless and grossly negligent conduct," warned the Del Valle lawyers Jeffrey A. Denner, Mario Garcia, and Leo V. Boyle in urging the defendants to settle the case before it goes to a jury.

The assertions are contained in a mediation report prepared by family's lawyers in preparation for this week's private settlement talks with the defendants. The document argues that the defendants deliberately and repeatedly cut corners to save money, then continued building the ceiling even when the bolts holding it up began to come loose. As a result, they wrote, "every user of the tunnel was placed at risk."

The parties to the lawsuit have promised not to speak publicly about the settlement talks, but the family's demands exceeded the expectations of some defendants who had predicted the Del Valle team would seek something closer to $75 million for actual and punitive damages combined. In wrongful death lawsuits, lawyers typically seek money for the emotional and financial loss to survivors, called compensatory or actual damages, but they can also seek additional money to punish the defendant, called punitive damages. These tend to be much higher.

Punitive damages in the hundreds of millions would be unprecedented in Massachusetts, where large jury awards are rare. In one of the biggest cases ever, a Suffolk County jury in 2000 awarded $27.5 million to the estate of a Russian immigrant who suffocated beneath a Green Line trolley as an MBTA rescue effort disintegrated into "a tragedy of errors." A judge later reduced the penalty to $1 million, arguing that the MBTA was only careless and did not intend to harm the man.

"There haven't been large punitive damage awards in Massachusetts," said Andrew C. Meyer Jr., a leading malpractice lawyer in Boston.

However, he said, that could change if a lawyer can make a convincing enough case. "In a wrongful death case, if one is capable of proving gross negligence, the jury is entitled to award punitive damages, which are measured by the amount of money necessary to cause harm [to] -- in fact, punish -- the defendants."

The defendants asked the Del Valle family to take part in settlement talks this week in hope of resolving the complex lawsuit before Attorney General Martha Coakley decides whether to pursue criminal charges in the July 10, 2006, accident. Coakley had been planning to complete her investigation by Saturday, but her office issued a statement yesterday saying that her investigators need "at least two weeks" more to decide whether to seek criminal indictments from a Suffolk County grand jury hearing evidence in the case.

Criminal charges could raise the price tag of settling for any company whose employees are indicted. On the other hand, if Coakley decides there is not enough evidence for a criminal conviction, it could weaken the Del Valle family's leverage. Another factor in the timing of the settlement talks is the final report from the National Transportation Safety Board, due by July 10.

In their report to the mediator overseeing this week's talks, the Del Valle lawyers divide their discussion of the case into two parts: the actual losses suffered by the Del Valle family in the accident and the much larger punitive damages.

The family lawyers say they cannot imagine that a jury would award anything less than $10 million in actual losses to Del Valle's husband, 51-year-old Angel Del Valle, and Milena Del Valle's three children in Costa Rica, who were receiving financial support from their mother at the time she died.

The lawyers say that Angel Del Valle was also nearly crushed in the accident and that he still suffers hearing and vision problems, as well as headaches and vertigo. "The emotional impact of the accident and the loss of Milena will certainly forever haunt Angel Del Valle," they wrote.

The lawyers argue that the punitive damages should be many times larger because the collective misconduct by the people who designed, built, and inspected the ceiling in the Interstate 90 connector tunnel was so "outrageously egregious."

For instance, documents show that Big Dig managers at Bechtel/ Parsons Brinckerhoff and designers from Gannett Fleming cut by half the number of bolts they originally planned to use to hold up the ceiling, while significantly increasing the ceiling's weight by making it out of concrete. These moves made the ceiling cheaper, the lawyers said, but less safe.

When construction began in June 1999, workers for Modern Continental Construction Co. made numerous mistakes installing the ceiling bolts, secured to the tunnel roof by epoxy, that weakened their strength, the lawyers wrote. In addition, crews may have used the wrong epoxy, a fast-setting type that has 25 percent less strength than specified for the job.

As a result of all these problems, the lawyers argue, some ceiling bolts began to come loose almost as soon as the ceiling was suspended from them.

"It is, however, the astonishing degree of actual knowledge on the part of the defendants that these epoxy bolts were failing -- even in the midst of installation in 1999 -- that makes the defendants' conduct so reprehensible and tragically egregious," the lawyers wrote, adding that work crews did not stop installing the ceiling despite unanswered questions about the performance of the bolts.

"The only questions they asked were how could they minimize their costs and maximize their profits," the lawyer wrote of the defendants.

The lawyers predicted juries would offer landmark punitive damages if the case is not settled, comparing the case to other lawsuits over wrongful deaths in which juries have awarded at least $98 million in recent years and as much as $450 million.

Outside lawyers said the Del Valle family may have a hard time persuading a jury or a judge to match those figures. They said that the US Supreme Court in recent years has tried to rein in large punitive damages cases by arguing that, in most cases, the punishment should not be more than nine times larger than the actual losses.

If the family gets $10 million for actual losses, that would suggest punitive damages of not more than $90 million.

However, the Del Valle lawyers argue that the limit on punitive damages is not strict and that the punishment has to be enormous for the companies involved to suffer significant pain: Bechtel Co., one of the world's largest privately held companies, reported revenue of $20.5 billion last year, its fourth straight record year. The joint venture of Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff estimates it made $140 million to $160 million in profit on the Big Dig.

"One can only imagine the potential future harm that can occur if we as a society do not send a clear unwavering message that corporate profit cannot come at the expense of human life," they wrote.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007 1:54:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Issue Date: 6/28/2007,
Posted On: 6/27/2007

Boston and Beyond
Kevin John Sowyrda
kevinsow@aol.com

The media has shown a fancy of late for a staffing problem at Team Romney, where everybody is presumed to be as straight as they are straight shooters; with at least one exception that is. It appears that coatholder-in-chief Jay Garrity may have been a Mall Cop in another life; which is to say that he’s obsessed with pretending be to a real and bonafide member of the constabulary. To that end, Garrity has been caught with his badge off — or on — as various law enforcement officials investigate him for pretending to be them. Garrity is also charged with flashing in public — his blue lights, that is. Mr. Garrity is now on leave from Camp Romney, which translated from politic speak means his next job in the Byzantine world of campaigning will be licking envelopes for the Mississippi State Republican Party.

But there are bigger staffing skeletons in the multi-million dollar operation which is the presidential campaign of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Just as the media made quite the fuss about contender John Edwards hiring two staffers who in another life had written allegedly anti-Catholic commentaries as bloggers, the press should be quite interested in two of Romney’s top advisors who were the de facto managers of the Massachusetts state treasury when it suffered a $10 million embezzlement scandal, the worst in state history.

Eric Fehrnstrom and Beth Myers were hardly shrinking violets at Treasurer Joe Malone’s office when nearly $10 million was heisted from the taxpayers. Fehrnstrom, recently identified by the Washington Post as “always at Romney’s side,” was deputy state treasurer and Myers was chief of staff when the office they ran was pilfered of enough cash to buy a sweet pad near Romney’s grotesquely opulent manse at Lake Winnipesaukee.


Though the Edwards camp was excoriated in the mainstream media for retaining two bloggers who dared to differ with arcane Catholic dogma, there’s been no article I can find in the mainstream media, blogosphere or any other sphere regarding the fact that Romney’s two campaign chieftains had day-to-day control of a public agency where cash was quite literally carried out the front door by political loyalists appointed by them, and the elected treasurer, Joe Malone.


When it was revealed that the cronies of Malone, Myers and Fehrnstrom had been siphoning cash over an extended, six year period, the three quickly became objects of derision in the press. Although none were charged with any crimes, in the court of public opinion, they were seen as guilty of a comical level of mismanagement.


When asked by the Associated Press if he and his top managers were “guilty” of not keeping a proper eye on the store, Malone, a life long Republican, said that he did not have a preference for “micro managing” and that he trusted those working under his chain of command. So much for Reagan’s famous advice, “trust but verify.”


When all was said in done, prison sentences were handed out and the only thing we can say regarding Malone, Fehrnstrom and Myers is that their careers were suddenly in cryogenics. When you manage an office so well that a cool $10 million is slipped by your nose, it tends not to endear you to the employers browsing your Monster.Com resume posting.


But then came Mr. Ethics, Mitt Romney. His Excellency’s first move as governor was to resurrect Fehrnstrom and Myers to run the executive suite on . Myers would become an alter ego to Romney as his thoroughly loyal chief of staff. (It was Myers who was widely reported to have played an instrumental role in advising Romney to abolish the advisory commission on LGBT youth, which had been a meritorious invention of one of Romney’s Republican predecessors, William F. Weld.)


As for Fehrnstrom, he became the highest paid communications director in the history of the governor’s office, and was sometimes making news more than giving the governor’s reaction to it. On one occasion at the offices of New England Cable News, Fehrnstrom was accused by one of the station’s producers of attempting to assault another on-air guest, longtime North Adams Mayor John Barrett. Not much came of the incident, except to reinforce Fehrnstrom’s reputation as a petty, political scrapper.


But today, the petty political scrapper and the ultra conservative chief of staff to a state treasurer, and then a governor, are quite literally running the day-to-day operations of a presidential campaign. They do so with humble people like me still wondering if they were merely guilty of an abysmal level of managerial ignorance.


Either way, the press has a bigger story in Fehrnstrom and Myers than they’ll ever have in the coat holder who likes to play cop.

Friday, June 29, 2007 3:29:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Dear BERKSHIRE BLOGGERS, Pols, News Media, & Pols:

I cannot believe what I have read this past entire Spring of 2007 up to this point: July 3rd, 2007--about the Governor and Legislature's passing of the FY2008 Massachusetts State Budget! All of the new spending proposals being codified into state law without the state revenues to pay for any of them, most especially the newly mandated healthcare insurance program, which was just robbed of its $500 million in FEDERAL DOLLARS (from the Health Care Security Trust account to the General Fund account), compounded with the fiscally irresponsible decision of not making both any interest payments and a $100 million contribution to this fund. The state is mandating its citizens have "subsidized" healthcare insurance and they just stole all of the money to "subsidize" their healthcare insurance mandatory program. WHAT A FARCE!

In Truth,
Jonathan A. Melle

-----
Patrick happy with budget
The governor stresses points of agreement in the $26.8 billion spending plan, keeping mum about whether or not he would veto items.
By Hillary Chabot, Eagle Boston Bureau
The Berkshire Eagle
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
BOSTON — The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington will get $200,000. Teen pregnancy prevention programs in North Adams and Pittsfield will get a $250,000 boost, and $20,000 will go to Berkshire Theatre Festival.

These are just a few of the goodies tucked into the $26.8 billion budget passed yesterday by lawmakers, a roughly 4 percent increase over last year's funds.

Local aid and education funding increased by $235 million, bringing about $33 million for Pittsfield schools and $14 million for North Adams schools.

Gov. Deval L. Patrick, who vowed to cut excess earmarks during the race for governor, said he would inspect the budget, but stopped short of saying whether he would whip out his veto pen.

"I'm going to do my homework. I'm going to study what is in this budget in detail ... and we'll see," said Patrick, who has until July 12 to make any vetoes. "My first impression is this is a positive budget in terms of substance and process."

Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, said he is proud of the budget. "There is a lot of cultural development this will fund that can inject job creation in the area. We're going to see a big influx of economic development, thanks to this."

Rep. Denis E. Guyer, D-Dalton, supports the increase in regional transportation reimbursement, which was bumped by $2 million.

Rep. Christopher N. Speranzo, D-Pittsfield, was just glad that communities in the Berkshires will be able to tap $6.8 million in state flood funding originally meant for Katrina victims.

"It's been a two-year saga for me and the people in these communities, and I'm just glad it can come to a close," Speranzo said.

He fought to let communities in the Berkshires dip into the funding after legislators in the Northeast tried to access the money after the flooding in the spring of 2006.

Budget creator Sen. Steven C. Panagiotakos, D-Lowell, was pleased that the communities will be reimbursed for the flood damage. He also defended the use of earmarks in the budget.

"It's an opportunity for legislators to say what their priorities are in their districts. If you just give the money to administration with no earmarks you're just giving them the ability to earmark," Panagiotakos said.

If Patrick does decide to cut any line items, most lawmakers believe that he will be overridden, even though he is from the same party.

"This has been a governor who has really been involved," said House Ways and Means Chairman Robert A. DeLeo, D-Winthrop. "Does that mean we're going to march lockstep with the governor because he's a Democrat? No, we're all individual branches here."

Missing from the budget was Patrick's initiatives to close corporate tax loopholes, but he did receive funding to hire police officers and expand kindergarten.

Despite tapping several reserve funds for a total of $609 million, DeLeo said that members worked hard to keep spending low during the difficult budget cycle.

Lawmakers also proposed to place up to $100 million into a new fund called the Bay State Competitiveness Investment Fund if the surplus from last fiscal year tops $150 million.

"We put money into that fund to make the economy grow," House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, D-Boston, said. Legislators will vote on exactly how the funds will be spent.

The $150 million will be put toward a broad job growth initiative outlined by Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, and the funding will be doled out over the next five years. Some of the money will go toward biotechnology industry and housing development.

"There's no earmarks in this, there are economic development pieces and housing," Murray said. She said she will know whether there is a surplus to fund the initiative by September, but added that she does expect one.

-----

Berkshire County area -
Local impact
Projects funded include:
$250,000 for the Berkshire Economic Corporation
$75,000 for the Berkshire Regional Housing Authority in Pittsfield
$100,000 for the Berkshire Museum
$75,000 for the Samuel Harrison House in Pittsfield
$100,000 for the local United Veterans of America
$150,000 for the Berkshire County Youth Development project
$250,000 for the Berkshire Economic Development Corporation, granted with matching funds

-----
THE BOSTON GLOBE -

Lawmakers agree on state budget
They'll take final vote on Monday
By Glen Johnson, Associated Press
June 30, 2007

Negotiators from the House and Senate yesterday reached agreement on a $26.8 billion state budget for the new fiscal year that starts tomorrow and carries through next June 30.

A conference committee composed of House and Senate negotiators filed its report with the House clerk late in the day, and lawmakers from both chambers were to give it an up-or-down vote Monday.

Separately, Governor Deval Patrick proposed doubling the staffing of the state's Washington, D.C., office to push more aggressively for federal funds. His $453,000 request to pay for the expansion is part of a $132 million spending bill filed yesterday.

Patrick filed the supplemental budget to close out spending for the current fiscal year. The funds for the Washington office would double staffing to six employees, Patrick spokesman Kyle Sullivan said.

"For too long, the Massachusetts governor's office has not had a strong presence in Washington, and in turn we have lost countless opportunities to access additional federal dollars," Sullivan said. "This investment will allow us to work more closely with our influential congressional delegation on critical funding areas, such as healthcare, education, and transportation."

The all-Democratic Massachusetts delegation in a Congress controlled by Democrats is already poised to bring additional dollars. But US Representative Michael Capuano, Democrat of Somerville, said expanding the governor's office in Washington is a great idea.

"It never hurts to have extra help," he said.

Also in the supplemental bill is $35.2 million for programs and services at MassHealth, which helps the needy obtain health coverage, and $22.3 million for the Committee For Public Counsel Services, which provides legal representation to indigent people in the state.

There is also $6.9 million for inmate suicide prevention at state prisons.

Patrick began the state budget process on Feb. 28, when he unveiled a $26.7 billion spending request that included a request to raise $500 million annually by closing so-called business tax loopholes. The business community greeted the request with hostility.

On April 11, House leaders unveiled their own version that rejected key initiatives floated by Patrick, including his call to pay for 250 new police officers. That $26.7 billion spending plan also rejected the loophole closing proposal.

The Senate took the final preliminary step on May 16, when it unveiled a spending plan that called for extra police, a loan forgiveness program for public college graduates, and a text message emergency warning system for the state's public campuses following the Virginia Tech shootings.

-----

THE BOSTON GLOBE

House and Senate OK $26.8b budget, a 4.2 percent rise
Governor gets number of wins
By Lisa Wangsness, Globe Staff | July 3, 2007

The House and Senate passed a $26.8 billion budget yesterday, restricting spending growth to just 4.2 percent over last year and embracing, at least in part, many of Governor Deval Patrick's budget priorities for education, public safety, and public health.

Patrick has up to 10 days to review the spending plan and decide which parts, if any, to veto or return with amendments. His initial reaction, however, signaled that he was largely satisfied with the Legislature's work.

"I think we have a working budget based on shared values, and built on collaboration, and I'm very pleased with what I know about it," he said in an interview yesterday.

The vote came two days after the start of the 2008 fiscal year, but the Legislature passed an interim budget last month to keep state agencies running two weeks.

The governor's warm reception of the budget reflects a budget season that, after a rocky start, became more harmonious as legislative leaders gradually resolved their differences with the new governor.

Earlier this spring, the initial House budget rejected many of the new governor's priorities in education, public safety, and health, frustrating Patrick's team.

But the Senate was more hospitable to Patrick's initiatives, and the compromise adopted yesterday meets the governor at least halfway on many of his proposals, with the noticeable exception of his effort to raise up to $500 million a year through closing so-called corporate tax loopholes.

In the end, it was a disagreement between House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi and Senate President Therese Murray that kept the budget from being delivered on time.

Murray wanted to dedicate portions of any year-end budget surplus to life science research, housing, and new technology projects, in hope of stimulating job creation in Massachusetts. DiMasi, sources said, felt that other priorities were equally important.

The two chambers eventually worked out an unusual compromise: The budget dedicates up to $100 million of the fiscal 2007 surplus to a new Bay State Competitiveness Investment Fund, but it does not spell out how the money would be used. A House legislative aide said the leaders agreed that the House and Senate would each use half of the money for its own priorities.

The budget depends on about $611 million in reserves and one-time revenue sources, more than double the amount the governor's budget used and nearly $140 million more than the Senate's did.

In doing so, the Legislature is betting that revenues will come in higher than the conservative estimate of 3 percent over last year.

Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said the legislative leaders would probably win the bet, as they have in the previous two fiscal years, and not have to draw too heavily on reserves.

Patrick, who earlier this year sharply criticized the House budget for its liberal use of reserves and one-time revenue, seemed unworried.

"I'm very positive about the outcome, because so many of our initiatives turn out to be shared initiatives with the Legislature, and I appreciate that," he said, adding that he would examine the reserves issue more closely in the coming days.

In his budget plan, Patrick was able to reduce his reliance on reserves and one-time revenue by closing the so-called loopholes in the corporate tax code.

The Legislature set aside that proposal after DiMasi sharply criticized it as destructive to the economy.

A tax commission is currently studying Patrick's proposals.
-----

FROM: "House lawmakers toss Patrick's plans" (The North Adams Transcript Online, 4/12/2007): This recently past news article stated that Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, affirmed using $500 million from the Health Care Security Trust to make up part of the difference on the disputed figure for the budget deficit. Moreover, Bureaucrat Bosley, et al, affirms the fiscally irresponsible decision to not make any interest payments and a $100 million contribution to this fund.
---
Re: "House defends budget" (The Berkshire Eagle Online, April 28, 2007):
The House budget calls for $150 million of the state's $2.2 billion stabilization account to be used for the budget. House leaders also froze the annual 0.5 percent contribution to the "rainy day" fund for next year. That results in a net $656 million withdrawal from stabilization.
-----

Tuesday, July 03, 2007 1:54:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Big Dig collapse aftershocks still felt

Safety agency will issue findings today

By Lisa Wangsness and Andrea Estes, [The Boston] Globe Staff

July 10, 2007

One year after massive concrete slabs fell from the ceiling of the Interstate 90 connector tunnel, instantly killing a 38-year-old mother of three, the aftershocks of the tragedy continue to reverberate across state government, within a family touched by tragedy, and in the minds of commuters who pass through the tunnels each day.

Today at a hearing in Washington, the National Transportation Safety Board is scheduled to issue a long-awaited report of the agency's findings on the cause of the tunnel collapse. Attorney General Martha Coakley is expected to announce soon whether she will seek criminal indictments against anyone involved in the tunnel's construction.

Milena Del Valle's family continues to come to grips with her death. Her husband, Angel, will attend a memorial service in Jamaica Plain this evening, joined by her daughter, Raquel Ibarra Mora, 24, who will travel to Boston after spending the day at the hearing in Washington.

"It's almost incredible to have your mother or your spouse torn away from you, and it's dramatically exacerbated by the senselessness of her death," said Brad Henry, a lawyer for the Del Valle children. "It haunts people. It's hard enough to lose a mother or spouse, but to lose them through a purely avoidable tragedy makes it that much harder to cope with and to get over."

The Big Dig had been plagued for years by reports of corruption, leaks, and cost overruns, but Del Valle's death on July 10, 2006, took concerns about the megaproject to a new level, especially after reports emerged that shoddy construction and inadequate oversight might have contributed to the tragedy.

A year after the event shook the public's confidence in the tunnel, Turnpike officials say there is now no reason to doubt its safety.

"Is the tunnel safe to drive through? The answer is absolutely yes," said state Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen, who recently became chairman of the Turnpike Authority. "There's no denying the fact that we had the kind of catastrophic event in that tunnel that is everyone's worst nightmare. We are continuing to look at problem areas within the tunnel structure, but those problem areas, at least in the opinion of all the experts who have looked at this, do not rise to an issue of fundamental safety."

Yet, the images of the piles of concrete rubble that rained down on Del Valle's car last summer still haunt some commuters, like Will Alvarez, 27, of Dorchester, who said he doesn't feel safe traveling through the tunnel.

"All that concrete can come down at any time," he said yesterday as he ate lunch on the Boston Common. "If it happened once, what makes you think it couldn't happen again?"

Inspections of the tunnel immediately after the tragedy concluded that the concrete panels that crushed Del Valle's car fell because large bolts secured to the tunnel roof with epoxy came loose. The Globe has since reported that federal and state criminal investigators are focusing on whether contractors used the wrong adhesive to install at least some of the bolts in the area where the ceiling collapsed.

It was not until June, nearly 11 months later, that the Turnpike Authority reopened the last lane of the connector tunnel after replacing all the bolts secured to the roof with epoxy. Over the past year, the Turnpike also conducted a review of the other structural systems in the Big Dig, pronouncing them fundamentally safe.

But Cohen said that some structural problems remain. Concrete in the Thomas P. O'Neill Tunnel, which replaced the Central Artery, has started to fragment, requiring considerable repairs. Roads in the same tunnel have also begun to deteriorate, he said.

This summer, the Authority will begin a yearlong inspection of the remaining pieces of the metropolitan highway system: the Sumner and Callahan Tunnels, as well as the Central Artery North tunnel in Charlestown.

The ceiling collapse led to dramatic changes in the leadership of the quasi-independent Turnpike Authority. Governor Mitt Romney, who had long sought the ouster of Matthew J. Amorello, then the Turnpike Authority chairman and chief executive, finally prevailed. Amorello was forced to resign and was replaced by Romney's transportation chief, John Cogliano, who was replaced by Cohen after Governor Deval Patrick took office.

As state and federal officials continue their review, lawyers for Del Valle's family are pressing a massive lawsuit against the Turnpike Authority and more than a dozen contractors, a claim that has spawned at least 172 counterclaims among the defendants and engaged the services of more than 100 lawyers. Recent efforts to settle the lawsuit, which plaintiffs argue is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, were unsuccessful.

Lawyers for Del Valle's family said their clients are eagerly awaiting today's report, which will provide investigators' findings on the cause of the accident and who is responsible, as well as safety recommendations.

"This is a very sad day, but we tend to look at it as the beginning of all the answers," said Jeffrey Denner, who represents Angel Del Valle. "Rather than dwell on that sadness, we're going to build on it. We're very hopeful we will now find out the truth underlying this horrible tragedy and be able to establish just accountability."

Coakley and US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan are pursuing their own investigations as to whether to press criminal charges against those involved with the connector's construction.

Patrick said he was not given an advance copy of the safety board's findings.

"I'm as anxious as anyone to see what the report has to say," he said.

David Luberoff, executive director of Harvard University's Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, said the safety board report could shed some light on who was responsible, but that the tragedy brought with it larger lessons.

"What I hope we take away from it is the importance of vigilance on the stuff that really matters, even when that means sometimes having to cut against the grain," he said.

April Simpson of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

-----

Tunnel timeline

July 10, 2007

The National Transportation Safety Board today releases its investigation into a 2006 fatal accident in the Big Dig tunnel connecting the Massachusetts Turnpike to Logan Airport.

Jan. 17, 2003 The Turnpike Authority says the $6.5 billion tunnel has been inspected before opening. The ceiling panels, designed by Gannet Flemming in 1998 and built by Modern Continental, are not part of the inspection.

July 10, 2006 Milena Del Valle and her husband are driving in the eastbound lane of the tunnel to Logan Airport when 20 bolts come loose, releasing 10 ceiling panels. Several of the 4,500-pound panels fall onto the car, killing Del Valle.

July 14 Investigators focus on a possible cause of the collapse: the failure of the epoxy used to fasten the suspended ceiling to the tunnel roof. In 2000, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the company overseeing the Big Dig, had warned Modern Continental that its standard for testing bolts was not tough enough. Modern Continental countered that retesting would be expensive and time-consuming.

July 18 State inspectors conclude that 1,146 hangers suspended from the connector tunnel roof by bolts and epoxy are unreliable. A second support bolt is ordered to be installed beside each suspect one.


Sept. 1 The state reopens a single lane of traffic in the eastbound tunnel.

Dec 23 Westbound lanes open.

June 2 After $54 million in repairs, the final section of the repaired tunnel opens.

SOURCE: Globe Archives

Tuesday, July 10, 2007 2:50:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD

Public Meeting of July 10, 2007

(Information subject to editing)

Highway Accident Report
Ceiling Collapse in the Interstate 90 Connector Tunnel,
Boston, Massachusetts, July 10, 2006
NTSB/HAR-07/02

This is a synopsis from the Safety Board’s report and does not include the Board’s rationale for the conclusions, probable cause, and safety recommendations. Safety Board staff is currently making final revisions to the report from which the attached conclusions and safety recommendations have been extracted. The final report and pertinent safety recommendation letters will be distributed to recommendation recipients as soon as possible. The attached information is subject to further review and editing.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the July 10, 2006, ceiling collapse in the D Street portal of the Interstate 90 connector tunnel in Boston, Massachusetts, was the use of an epoxy anchor adhesive with poor creep resistance, that is, an epoxy formulation that was not capable of sustaining long-term loads. Over time, the epoxy deformed and fractured until several ceiling support anchors pulled free and allowed a portion of the ceiling to collapse. Use of an inappropriate epoxy formulation resulted from the failure of Gannett Fleming, Inc., and Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff to identify potential creep in the anchor adhesive as a critical long-term failure mode and to account for possible anchor creep in the design, specifications, and approval process for the epoxy anchors used in the tunnel. The use of an inappropriate epoxy formulation also resulted from a general lack of understanding and knowledge in the construction community about creep in adhesive anchoring systems. Powers Fasteners, Inc. failed to provide the Central Artery/Tunnel project with sufficiently complete, accurate, and detailed information about the suitability of the company’s Fast Set epoxy for sustaining long-term tensile loads. Contributing to the accident was the failure of Powers Fasteners, Inc., to determine that the anchor displacement that was found in the high‑occupancy vehicle tunnel in 1999 was a result of anchor creep due to the use of the company’s Power-Fast Fast Set epoxy, which was known by the company to have poor long-term load characteristics. Also contributing to the accident was the failure of Modern Continental Construction Company and Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, subsequent to the 1999 anchor displacement, to continue to monitor anchor performance in light of the uncertainty as to the cause of the failures. The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority also contributed to the accident by failing to implement a timely tunnel inspection program that would likely have revealed the ongoing anchor creep in time to correct the deficiencies before an accident occurred.

The safety issues identified during this investigation are as follows:

Insufficient understanding among designers and builders of the nature of adhesive anchoring systems;
Lack of standards for the testing of adhesive anchors in sustained tensile-load applications;
Inadequate regulatory requirements for tunnel inspections; and
Lack of national standards for the design of tunnel finishes.

As a result of its investigation of this accident, the National Transportation Safety Boar makes safety recommendations to the Federal Highway Administration; the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials; the departments of transportation of the 50 States and the District of Columbia; the International Code Council; ICC Evaluation Service, Inc.; Powers Fasteners, Inc.; Sika Corporation; the American Concrete Institute; the American Society of Civil Engineers; and the Associated General Contractors of America.

CONCLUSIONS

By July 2006, a significant portion of the adhesive anchors used to support the D Street portal ceilings had displaced to the extent that, without corrective action, several of the ceiling modules in the three portal tunnels were at imminent risk of failure and collapse.
Although it is unlikely that all the D Street portal adhesive anchors were installed in a manner that would ensure maximum anchor performance, improper or deficient anchor installation procedures or practices alone would not account for all of the anchor failures that were observed before and after the accident.
The anchor loading calculations developed by Gannett Fleming, Inc., for the ceiling in the D Street portal tunnel were consistent with the actual maximum loads sustained in service.
Based on published anchor strength test data, the calculated anchor loading for the D Street portal ceiling system, and the limited number of available alternatives, Gannett Fleming, Inc.’s, specification of an adhesive anchoring system to support the ceiling system was not inappropriate.
Gannett Fleming, Inc., and Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff failed to account for the fact that polymer adhesives are susceptible to deformation (creep) under sustained load, with the result that they made no provision for ensuring the long-term, safe performance of the ceiling support anchoring system.
Modern Continental Construction Company was supplied with and used the Fast Set formulation of Power-Fast Epoxy Injection Gel when the company was installing the anchors in the D Street portal, including the anchors that failed in this accident.
The source of the anchor displacement that was found in the D Street portal tunnels and that precipitated the ceiling collapse was the poor creep resistance of the Power‑Fast Fast Set epoxy used to install the anchors.
Modern Continental Construction Company was not aware, when its employees installed the adhesive anchors in the D Street portal, that the epoxy being used was susceptible to creep and was therefore unsuitable for this application.
Had Gannett Fleming, Inc., in the construction contract for the D Street portal finishes, specified the use of adhesive anchors with adequate creep resistance, a different anchor adhesive could have been chosen, and the accident might have been prevented.
Gannett Fleming, Inc., approved the D Street portal anchors without identifying which epoxy formulation was being used, even though the company was provided with information indicating that one version of the Power-Fast epoxy should be used for short-term loading only.
The information that was provided by Powers Fasteners, Inc., regarding its Power-Fast epoxy was inadequate and misleading, with the result that Modern Continental Company used the Fast Set formulation of the epoxy for the adhesive anchors in the D Street portal even though that formulation had been shown through testing to be subject to creep under sustained tension loading.
As shown by the displaced anchors in the D Street portal, the maximum load capacity of an adhesive anchor, which relates to short-term loading, does not indicate that the anchor will be able to support even lighter loads over time, and thus a larger design safety factor cannot compensate for an adhesive material that is susceptible to creep.
After unexplained anchor displacement was found in the Interstate 90 connector tunnel in 1999 and 2001, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and Modern Continental Construction Company should have instituted a program to monitor anchor performance to ensure that the actions taken in response to the displacement were effective. Had these organizations taken such action, they likely would have found that anchor creep was occurring, and they might have taken measures that would have prevented this accident.
Powers Fasteners, Inc.’s, response to the anchor displacements that occurred in 1999 in the high-occupancy tunnel of the D Street portal was deficient in that the company did not identify the source of the failures as creep in the Fast Set epoxy adhesive and took no followup action to ascertain why its product had not performed in accordance with the users’ expectations.
Had the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, at regular intervals between November 2003 and July 2006, inspected the area above the suspended ceilings in the D Street portal tunnels, the anchor creep that led to this accident would likely have been detected, and action could have been taken that would have prevented this accident.
Because of the potential catastrophic effects of a failure of the D Street portal ceiling system, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and Gannett Fleming, Inc. should have required that ultimate load tests be conducted on the adhesive anchors used to support the ceiling before allowing any of the anchors to be installed.
Installing adhesive anchors in overhead applications appears, by the nature of the task, to introduce voids into the adhesive that can reduce the ultimate load capacity of the anchor and thus the overall reliability of the anchoring system.
The circumstances of this accident demonstrate a general lack of knowledge and understanding among design and construction engineers and builders of the complex nature of epoxies and similar polymer adhesives, and in particular, the potential for those materials to deform (creep) under sustained tension loads.
Protocols or standards for the testing of adhesive anchors in sustained tensile-load applications will provide designers and builders with test methods designed specifically to accurately assess the long-term safety of those anchors.

National standards for the design of tunnel finishes, including tunnel suspended ceilings, will provide government entities or other organizations with ready access to information that could be useful in designing tunnel finishes that minimize potential risks to public safety.

PROBABLE CAUSE

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the July 10, 2006, ceiling collapse in the D Street portal of the Interstate 90 connector tunnel in Boston, Massachusetts, was the use of an epoxy anchor adhesive with poor creep resistance, that is, an epoxy formulation that was not capable of sustaining long-term loads. Over time, the epoxy deformed and fractured until several ceiling support anchors pulled free and allowed a portion of the ceiling to collapse. Use of an inappropriate epoxy formulation resulted from the failure of Gannett Fleming, Inc., and Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff to identify potential creep in the anchor adhesive as a critical long-term failure mode and to account for possible anchor creep in the design, specifications, and approval process for the epoxy anchors used in the tunnel. The use of an inappropriate epoxy formulation also resulted from a general lack of understanding and knowledge in the construction community about creep in adhesive anchoring systems. In addition, Powers Fasteners, Inc. failed to provide the Central Artery/Tunnel project with sufficiently complete, accurate, and detailed information about the suitability of the company’s Fast Set epoxy for sustaining long-term tensile loads. Contributing to the accident was the failure of Powers Fasteners, Inc., to determine that the anchor displacement that was found in the high‑occupancy vehicle tunnel in 1999 was a result of anchor creep due to the use of the company’s Power-Fast Fast Set epoxy, which was known by the company to have poor long-term load characteristics. Also contributing to the accident was the failure of Modern Continental Construction Company and Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, subsequent to the 1999 anchor displacement, to continue to monitor anchor performance in light of the uncertainty as to the cause of the failures. The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority also contributed to the accident by failing to implement a timely tunnel inspection program that would likely have revealed the ongoing anchor creep in time to correct the deficiencies before an accident occurred.

SAFETY RECOMMENDATION

As a result of the July 10, 2006, investigation into the ceiling collapse in the I-90 connector tunnel in Boston, Massachusetts, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendations:

To the Federal Highway Administration:

In cooperation with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, develop standards and protocols for the testing of adhesive anchors to be used in sustained tensile-load overhead highway applications. These standards and protocols should consider site‑specific ultimate strength values as well as the creep characteristics of the adhesive over the expected life of the structure. (H-07-XX)
Prohibit the use of adhesive anchors in sustained tensile-load overhead highway applications where failure of the adhesive would result in a risk to the public until testing standards and protocols have been developed and implemented that ensure the safety of these applications. (H-07-XX)
Seek legislation authorizing the Federal Highway Administration to establish a mandatory tunnel inspection program similar to the National Bridge Inspection Program. (H-07-XX)
Once provided with legislative authority to establish a mandatory tunnel inspection program as indicated in Safety Recommendation [3], develop and implement a tunnel inspection program that will identity critical inspection elements and specify an appropriate inspection frequency. (H-07-XX)
In cooperation with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, develop specific design, construction, and inspection guidance for tunnel finishes and incorporate that guidance into a tunnel design manual. (H-07-XX)

To the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials:

Work with the Federal Highway Administration to develop standards and protocols for the testing of adhesive anchors to be used in sustained tensile-load overhead highway applications, and incorporate those standards and protocols into the AASHTO Construction Quality Assurance Guidelines. These standards and protocols should consider site‑specific ultimate strength values as well as the creep characteristics of the adhesive over the expected life of the structure. (H-07-XX)
Use the circumstances of the July 10, 2006, accident in Boston, Massachusetts to emphasize to your members through your publications, Web site, and conferences, as appropriate, the risks associated with using adhesive anchors in sustained tensile-load applications where failure of the adhesive would result in a risk to the public. (H-07-XX)
In cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, develop specific design, construction, and inspection guidance for tunnel finishes and incorporate that guidance into a tunnel design manual. (H‑07-XX)

To the Departments of Transportation of the 50 States and the District of Columbia:

Prohibit the use of adhesive anchors in sustained tensile-load overhead highway applications where failure of the adhesive would result in a risk to the public until testing standards and protocols have been developed and implemented that ensure the safety of these applications. (H-07-XX)
Review the use of adhesive anchors in highway construction within your jurisdiction and identify those sites where failure of the adhesive under sustained load could result in a risk to the public. Once those sites have been identified, implement an inspection and repair program to ensure that such failures do not occur. (H-07-XX)

To the International Code Council:

Require creep testing for the qualification of all anchor adhesives. (H‑07‑XX)
Disqualify for use in sustained tensile loading any adhesive that has not been tested for creep or that has failed such tests. (H‑07‑XX)
Revise your building codes, qualified materials listings, and product labeling guidelines to clearly address the possibility for creep in polymeric anchor adhesives and to make end users aware of the potential lack of correlation between short- and long-term performance of these adhesives. (H-07-XX)
Use your building codes, qualified materials listings, test criteria, or other mechanisms to make end users aware of the strong potential for creating voids in the adhesive during the overhead installation of adhesive anchors and of the need to account for the reduction in effective embedment depth associated with the use of seal plugs in such applications. (H-07-XX)

To the International Code Council:

Revise evaluation report ICC ESR-1531 to state explicitly in the text and in the bond strength tables that the Fast Set formulation of the epoxy is approved for short-term loads only. (H‑07‑XX)


To Powers Fasteners, Inc.:

Revise the packaging, for all distributors, of your Power-Fast Epoxy Injection Gel Fast Set formulation to state explicitly that this formulation is approved for short-term loads only. (H-07-XX)

To Sika Corporation:

Revise your product literature and packaging to state explicitly that Sikadur Injection Gel Anchor Fix-3 epoxy is approved for short-term loads only. (H-07-XX)

To the American Concrete Institute:

Use your building codes, forums, educational materials, and publications to inform design and construction agencies of the potential for gradual deformation (creep) in anchor adhesives and to make them aware of the possible risks associated with using adhesive anchors in concrete under sustained tensile-load applications. (H-07-XX)

To the American Society of Civil Engineers:

Use the circumstances of the July 10, 2006, accident in Boston, Massachusetts to emphasize to your members through your publications, Web site, and conferences, as appropriate, the need to assess the creep characteristics of adhesive anchors before those anchors are used in sustained tensile-load applications. (H-07-XX)

To the Associated General Contractors of America:

Use the circumstances of the July 10, 2006, accident in Boston, Massachusetts to emphasize to your members through your publications, Web site, and conferences, as appropriate, the need to assess the creep characteristics of adhesive anchors before those anchors are used in sustained tensile-load applications. (H-07-XX)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007 3:14:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Wide risk, wide blame
US report finds further tunnel peril in '06, faults all parties
By Sean P. Murphy and Andrea Estes, Globe Staff | July 11, 2007

WASHINGTON -- Federal investigators blamed multiple Big Dig contractors and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority yesterday for last summer's fatal tunnel collapse, concluding that the wrong kind of glue was used to hold up part of the concrete ceiling and that project oversight was inadequate to detect the problem.

Because the glue was too weak to support the multiton ceiling panels, the investigators said, several other sections of the ceiling were "at imminent risk of failure" at the time of the accident.

In a four-hour hearing and a summary report that named those responsible, the National Transportation Safety Board spared no party.

Much of the blame rests with the ceiling designer, Gannett Fleming Inc., for not specifying the use of epoxy strong enough to keep bolts from gradually coming loose, the board said. But it also found substantial mistakes by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and by other contractors. Their failure to catch the error and to aggressively investigate when bolts started coming loose during construction, contributed to the tragedy, the board found.

The board primarily faulted the use of a fast-drying form of epoxy that was unable to hold up the ceiling for a long period without the bolts creeping out. After the collapse, investigators found that a significant number of the bolts used to support the ceiling in the easternmost 200 feet of the Interstate 90 connector tunnel had partially slipped out.

"Over time, the epoxy deformed and fractured" until several ceiling supports pulled out, said the report.

The result was that late on the night of July 10, 2006, 26 tons of concrete and steel crashed down on a Buick headed for Logan International Airport, killing 38-year-old Milena Del Valle of Jamaica Plain and fundamentally shaking the city's trust in the safety of the Big Dig tunnels.

Del Valle's 24-year-old daugh ter, Raquel Ibarra Mora, traveled from Costa Rica to attend the meeting in Washington and a memorial service for her mother last night in Boston.

"I have mixed emotions," she said through a translator. "It was a very difficult day. I wished the report could have been released on a day other than the anniversary. I have to relive, through the findings, what actually happened. But I'm very pleased with the NTSB because the NTSB seemed to have done a thorough job and to have found the people responsible for this act."

Gannett Fleming and Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the consultant hired to manage the overall design and construction of the $15 billion highway project, failed to recognize long-term bolt slippage as a potential problem that needed to be taken into account in the design and approval process for the tunnel ceiling, the board found. It said the supplier of the epoxy bolts, Powers Fasteners Inc., provided "inadequate and misleading" information about its epoxy and the company then failed to determine that the wrong glue had been used when bolts started coming loose during construction.

Subsequently, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and Modern Continental Construction Co., the tunnel builder, failed to monitor whether bolts continued to come loose, and the Turnpike Authority did not inspect the ceiling after the tunnel opened in 2003.

"There are plenty of issues to go around for everyone," Mark V. Rosenker, the safety board's chairman, said at the conclusion of the hearing.

The board called for a nationwide moratorium on the overhead use of epoxy bolts in highway construction if their failure would endanger the public. It recommended that the Federal Highway Administration develop national standards for testing epoxy bolts used in this way -- none now exist -- and urged all states to identify locations where overhead anchor bolts are used and inspect them.

Using epoxy bolts to hold up objects overhead "appears . . . to introduce voids into the adhesive that can reduce" the weight- bearing capacity and reliability of the bolts, the report said. The safety board also called for legislation to create a mandatory tunnel inspection program similar to the checks now required for bridges.

Senators John F. Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts immediately introduced a bill that would require the US Department of Transportation to develop tunnel inspection guidelines for states and authorize the use of independent engineers to review construction methods on major federal highway projects.

US Representative Michael Capuano, who filed legislation last year to set up a national tunnel inspection system, praised the safety board for advocating mandatory inspections. "Before this tragic accident I had no idea the tunnels were not inspected on a regular basis," he said. "I presumed they were. I was wrong."

The ceiling at the eastern end of the I-90 connector was removed after the accident, and epoxy bolts elsewhere in the tunnel were reinforced with braces and another type of bolt.

State officials inspected all tunnels and determined that epoxy used to hold up the ceiling in the Ted Williams Tunnel is safe.

Attorney General Martha Coakley is conducting a criminal investigation of the accident and is expected to decide shortly whether to seek indictments. She would not comment on the safety board's findings or her own probe.

Governor Deval Patrick, who expressed anger over the findings, urged the attorney general "to hold accountable all those who should be held accountable."

"As I understand the report, it confirms the utter disappointment I have, and I think we all should have with Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff," Patrick said. "Among the conclusions -- the wrong glue and the wrong leadership. The wrong oversight of the project has been confirmed by this report."

A lawyer for the Del Valle family said the board's findings suggest there was wrongdoing that warrants criminal prosecution.

"This report provides all manner of factual support for criminal indictments and no question about civil liability," said Brad Henry, one of the lawyers who has brought a multimillion-dollar lawsuit for the family against more than a dozen contractors and the Turnpike Authority.

But most contractors said the findings show their companies were not to blame, or they disputed the board's conclusions.

"We are still reviewing the findings of the NTSB report, but it seems to confirm our confidence in the integrity of our design and the accuracy of our calculations," Doug Bailey, spokesman for Gannett Fleming, said in a written statement.

He said the company "only approved the use of an epoxy that could have been the standard-set epoxy," not the quick-drying kind. "Only today did we learn that the wrong epoxy was used in the tunnel ceiling," he said.

In a strongly worded statement, Powers Fasteners insisted it supplied standard-set epoxy. "Powers did not know that Fast Set [quick-drying epoxy] was used for the ceiling in place of the Standard Set epoxy," it said. "It would be an absurd conclusion if the federal investigators were to consider Powers Fasteners in any way responsible."

Peter Mancusi, spokesman for Modern Continental, said in a written statement that the report makes clear that "Modern Continental fulfilled its obligations to install the suspended ceiling system in conformity with contract plans and specifications."

Andrew Paven, a spokesman for Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, said, "NTSB has performed a thorough and objective investigation of this tragic accident."

After a year of speculation over causes of the collapse, ranging from faulty installation by workers to cost-saving decisions to scale back the number of bolts used, the safety board determined one factor counted more than any other.

"Fundamentally, what we're talking about here is the wrong glue being used," said Kitty Higgins, one of the five board members.

The problem began with Gannett Fleming, ceiling designer. "They set a performance-based standard for the epoxy, that it had to be an epoxy of a certain strength," said Bruce Magladry, director of the board's Office of Highway Safety. "They did not specify an epoxy to use, but rather one that performs in a certain way."

Gannett Fleming failed to consider "creep," the fact that fast-set epoxy, due to its chemistry, breaks down and loses strength, while standard-set epoxy remains stable, the board's staff said.

"Should they have known?" asked Rosenker.

"They probably should have," said Magladry, adding "there was no malice" on the part of managers and engineers. "These were conscientious people trying to do their jobs. They didn't understand creep."

"Should they have known?" Rosenker asked again.

"It had been in the [engineering] literature," Magladry said. "I just don't think enough people understood it."

The contract specifications written by Gannett Fleming and reviewed by Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff omitted any consideration of creep. "The shortcoming is that the specifications did not address the issue of the long-term characteristics of the epoxy," said Mark Bagnard, an NTSB investigator.

Modern Continental followed those specifications and contracted with a distributor, which in turned contracted with a supplier. Modern Continental, however, was not aware the epoxy it used was susceptible to creep and unsuitable.

Powers Fasteners, meanwhile, had tested its products for creep and found in 1995 that fast-set failed under long-term stress, such as the pull of gravity in overhead applications, the NTSB found.

Yet Powers did not highlight the fact of the fast-set breakdown in its dealings with Big Dig contractors, the staff said. "It was difficult to find -- it was in the fine print," said Magladry. "But even if they did find it, I'm not sure they would have understood it."

Later, when managers discovered within weeks of installing the bolts that they were slipping out, it was Powers that was in the best position to have averted the collapse, said Carl Schultheisz, a NTSB material lab analyst.

Once bolts slipped, didn't Powers, the one entity involved that was aware of the phenomeon of creep, question whether the right epoxy was used, asked NTSB member Debbie Hersman.

"We don't know why it wasn't asked," Schultheisz said. "Powers had the best opportunity to prevent this accident by raising that question."

Instead, Modern Continental, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and other managers were convinced the cause of the slipped bolts was faulty installation, and indeed, the bolts examined after the accident had lost up to 40 percent of their strength because of voids, or air bubbles. But that alone would not have caused the collapse.

Dan Walsh, an NTSB engineer, said Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff in 2003 produced an inspection manual for the tunnels, but it was not implemented by the Turnpike Authority during the 43 months between its completion and the ceiling collapse. "The bureaucratic delays are enough to set your hair on fire," Hersman said.

-----

'We're still coming to terms that she's not here anymore'
Scores remember Milena Del Valle
By David Abel, Globe Staff | July 11, 2007

Her bright smile was everywhere, gilded in a gold frame, beside a bouquet of yellow roses, and on T-shirts worn by many of her friends and family.

Below the glowing image on the T-shirts, there was the message, "We'll always love you."

A year ago yesterday, as the 38-year-old mother of three and her husband drove in their Buick to Logan Airport, huge concrete slabs fell from the ceiling of the Interstate 90 connector tunnel and instantly killed Milena Del Valle.

Last night, scores of friends and family attended a service in her memory at her church in Jamaica Plain, Iglesia Hispana de la Comunidad.

"We all feel sad today," said Lizy del Valle, Milena's stepdaughter. "The year passed very quickly. We're still coming to terms that she's not here anymore."

The service was held as the National Transportation Safety Board released a long-awaited report in Washington that found Big Dig contractors used the wrong epoxy to secure the tunnel's heavy ceiling panels, allowing bolts to "creep " over time.

The agency said a fast-drying epoxy used throughout the Interstate 90 connector tunnel holds 25 percent less load than conventional epoxy. The fast-set epoxy had "exceptionally poor creep resistance" that allowed the bolts to slip, investigators said at a hearing.

The service included Del Valle's husband, Angel. Her daughter, Raquel Ibarra Mora, 24, was expected after spending the day at the hearing in Washington, but because of flight problems she did not arrive in time for the service.

The Big Dig has been plagued for years by reports of corruption, leaks, and cost overruns. But Del Valle's death on July 10, 2006, increased concerns about the project after reports of substandard construction and insufficient oversight.

In recent weeks, lawyers for Del Valle's family have pressed a lawsuit against the Turnpike Authority and more than a dozen contractors. Recent efforts to settle the lawsuit, which the plaintiffs argue is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, have been unsuccessful.

Before the service last night, lawyer Jeffrey Denner, who represents Angel Del Valle, said he expects the NTSB's report to help speed up a settlement.

The tragedy occurred about 10:45 on a Monday night last year when Angel Del Valle was driving with his wife through the I-90 connector. They were going to pick up his brother, Francisco, who was returning from a trip to Puerto Rico.

Milena -- an immigrant from San José, Costa Rica, who arrived in the United States about five years before her death -- worked in facility maintenance at Mississippi's Restaurant in Mission Hill. She also occasionally handed out copies of El Planeta, a Brookline-based Spanish weekly newspaper, at Forest Hills T-station in Jamaica Plain and Orient Heights station in East Boston.

Angel Del Valle worked as a full-time clerk behind the meat counter at Hi-Lo Foods on Centre Street, a supermarket popular with Latino shoppers. When he came home from work, she would take off his shoes and rub his feet. He did the cooking. The two were nearly always together.

The couple did not have children together, but Milena had three adult children living in Costa Rica. She had left her family to find a job that would help support her mother, two sons, and daughter.

Her goal was to help move her children to the States. Until then, she hoped to make enough money to help her daughter start an ice cream shop, Angel Del Valle has told the Globe.

At last night's service, those attending sang songs in Milena's honor and watched a slide show and videos of her and her family.

Speaking at the service, Lisa de Paz, the wife of the church's pastor, told those who packed the pews that Milena was a woman no one will forget.

"It's has been a hard year . . . of sadness and affliction," she said. "We miss her voice singing in our service, her phone calls when someone missed a service, and the coffee she made every Sunday . . .. We know that she's just sleeping, and one day, sooner or later, we'll see her again, in eternity."

After the service, well-wishers hugged Angel Del Valle and gave him a dozen white roses. He brushed back tears.

"Every day, every minute, every moment, I remember what happened," he said.

-----

GLOBE EDITORIAL
Responsibility all around
July 11, 2007

THE CASCADE of failures that led to the fatal ceiling collapse in the Big Dig connector tunnel one year ago was on stark display yesterday in Washington, where the National Transportation Safety Board issued its final report on the incident that killed 38-year old Milena Del Valle.

In a recitation of mismanagement that one panel member said "would make your hair stand on end," the NTSB staff described the numerous ways in which Big Dig designers and contractors didn't understand, and state authorities didn't investigate, why the anchors used to fasten the ceiling panels in the Interstate 90 connector tunnel were vulnerable to "epoxy creep." In reading the panel's findings, board chairman Mark Rosenker said repeatedly that, had the responsible parties done a better job of testing, monitoring, and inspecting the ceiling construction, the accident could have been prevented.

And who are the responsible parties? Dashing hopes for a quick resolution of the long-playing drama, the board's report revealed no single villain. Instead, the board flagged failures all along the way. There was the failure of contractors Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, design managers Gannett Fleming, and builders Modern Continental to thoroughly test and monitor the ceiling construction after they learned that some of the anchors were coming loose in 1999. The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority failed to do a single inspection of the tunnel from the day it opened to traffic in November 2003 to the day of the fatal incident more than 30 months later. And almost everyone failed to realize that the "fast set" epoxy used to anchor the bolts in the ceiling panels, made by the firm Powers Fasteners, was insufficient to bear long-term loads and wasn't holding.

Hanging over the findings was a pervasive sense of neglect and inaction from leaders on Beacon Hill -- until tragedy struck.

"I find it incredible," said panel member Kitty Higgins, "that the state played such a passive role."

The report won't draw a bright line for officials still picking their way through the thicket of pending lawsuits and financial claims. Attorney General Martha Coakley must still decide whether to pursue criminal charges in the death -- weighing the likelihood of a conviction against the need to maximize cost recovery for repairs and ongoing maintenance of the project. Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen must still complete his promised "stem-to-stern" review of the project, necessary to restore the public confidence that surely took another hit yesterday.

Everyone knows that there are risks associated with driving in tunnels. But citizens have a right to believe that those risks are minimized by professionals doing their jobs and caring about them. And, that nearly $15 billion in taxpayers' money would have bought a decent measure of oversight.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007 4:59:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Patrick signs $26.8B budget
Only $41 million in items vetoed
By Hillary Chabot, Eagle Boston Bureau
Berkshire Eagle
Article Last Updated:07/13/2007 06:14:10 AM EDT

Friday, July 13
BOSTON — Touting his cooperative role with legislative leadership, Gov. Deval L. Patrick slashed $41 million in earmarks before he approved the $26.8 billion budget yesterday.
The budget brings an additional $220 million for local schools and a total 5.8 percent increase in local aid. Although Patrick targeted $50,000 for additional environmental officers on the Deerfield River, the vetoes seemed light in comparison to his Republican predecessors.

"For the first time in a very long time, we have built a budget on real collaboration between the Legislature and the administration and based on shared goals," Patrick said.

Senate Ways and Means Chairman Steven C. Panagiotakos, D-Lowell, said that, although he is concerned about the Jackson/Appleton/Middlesex (JAM) Urban Revitalization Plan cut, he believes that Patrick worked well with lawmakers.

"It's certainly a small amount. Cutting only $41 million out of a $26.8 billion budget shows that we're pretty much on the same page in terms of priorities," Panagiotakos said.

The budget includes $4 million toward hiring an additional 100 police officers, part of Patrick's campaign promise to add 1,000 additional officers.

Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, said he plans on trying to restore the funding for the officers, in addition to $200,000 meant for the Western Massachusetts enterprise fund.

"I would hope they would restore these. Some of this funding, like the money for the enterprise fund, they've counted on for the last 20 years," Bosley said.

Also cut was $50,000 for agricultural prizes.

'A reasonable spending plan'
Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, said that, although he will work to get some funding restored, he believes that the budget is good overall for the Berkshires.

"I think the governor did a great job with the budget. It really shows we put forward a reasonable spending plan," he said.

Rep. Christopher N. Speranzo, D-Pittsfield, and Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, said that Patrick left in all their earmarks meant to spark development and tourism in the region.

"He's been a really good partner with the Legislature," said Speranzo, who served on the House Ways and Means Committee for the first time this year.

Michael Widmer, executive director for the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said Patrick cut a reasonable number of initiatives, considering the tight budget, which increased by only 4.2 percent.

The budget also used about $600 million in reserve spending, slightly more than Patrick's initial budget.

"I'm very concerned about the use of reserves," Patrick said after signing the budget. "I still believe we have work to do on both revenue and efficiency in terms of this budget."

Both Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, and House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, D-Boston, said they will pore over Patrick's vetoes next week before they consider overrides, which are not out of the question even though lawmakers from the Berkshire delegation are happy.

"I think there are a lot of projects which mean a lot to a lot of people's districts, so we'll take a look at the merits and go from there," Speranzo said.

Walking the line

Patrick, the first Democratic governor in 16 years, tried to walk the line between working with lawmakers and kowtowing to them, Widmer said.

"I'm not here to provoke members of the Legislature or to curry favor with them," Patrick said. "We're here to work together. There are some things they're disappointed about, and there are a couple of things I'm disappointed about."
---
Some of Gov. Deval L. Patrick's vetoes:

$200,000 meant for the Western Massachusetts enterprise fund.

An item to provide health insurance to the mother of former Bristol District Attorney Paul Walsh.

$2.2 million for the Boston Fire Department's training academy.

$175,000 for the Springfield Business Improvement District.

$11 million for the trial courts.

$50,000 for agricultural prizes.

---

Patrick Signs $26.8 Billion State Budget, Vetoes $41 Million
Web Editor: Rhonda Erskine, Online Content Producer
Last Updated: 7/12/2007

BOSTON (AP) -- Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has signed his first budget. He says the $26.8 billion spending plan for the new fiscal year was a collaboration between his office and the Democrat-controlled state Legislature.
The governor issued about $41 million in line-item vetoes. One item vetoed in the massive document would have provided health insurance to a single person in Massachusetts, the mother of former Bristol District Attorney Paul Walsh.

Patrick says the budget signed Thursday morning includes increased spending in a number of key areas, including local aid to cities and towns, public schools, affordable housing, expanded kindergarten and community policing.

He also says the budget includes $1.8 billion for the state's landmark health care reform effort.
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Friday, July 13, 2007 1:26:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers:

Believe me, I have studied public administration or the inner workings of government for many years now. I can easily tell when a Pol is serving the People or if he is serving the Corporate Elite. Most of the time--99/100, Pols serve the interests of the Corporate Elite over those of the People they claim to be representing.

The two news articles, below, illustrate examples of the current Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts--the Deval-uator--using Perverse Incentives for the sole purpose of trying to increase federal funds to his state government coffers. The tradeoff of a politician who choses financial gain for his interests, which are usually not the People he is supposed to be representing, is that he leaves society a lot worse off than before he took the Oath of Office to serve the People.

Deval Patrick's smooth Operator M.O. and terribly unethical public record has proven him to be anything but a man of the People. While the state government may attract more federal funds for the Governor to administrate, he is leaving society a lot worse off in the end.

Please read the following news articles to understand how Deval Patrick uses Perverse Incentives and his end game is to serve his Corporate Elite Masters instead of the People he once promised to represent in state government.

In Truth and Dissent,

Jonathan A. Melle
-----

AmeriCorps loses state grant
By Patrick Cassidy
STAFF WRITER
July 17, 2007 6:00 AM
The future is uncertain for AmeriCorps and a handful of other Cape Cod programs after Gov. Deval Patrick's veto last week of $10.4 million in earmarks from the state's 2008 budget.
The move shocked AmeriCorps advocates, who viewed Patrick as an ally in light of his recent call for more volunteerism by his own staff and a focus on civic engagement in his campaign for governor.
"We were definitely surprised and a bit confused," said Mary Schumacher, regional supervisor for AmeriCorps Cape Cod. The Cape's chapter of the national volunteer program learned the news Friday afternoon from the Massachusetts Service Alliance, the commission responsible for funneling federal funds to 22 AmeriCorps programs in Massachusetts.
Almost $1 million of the money was meant for the alliance.
"This money is basically a commitment from the state that allows them to receive funding from the federal government," Schumacher said. "Without the $900,000 we are unable to leverage over $10 million in federal grants."
Although AmeriCorps Cape Cod received its 2007 funding directly through a competitive federal grant, the program is normally reliant on the money allocated through the alliance.
AmeriCorps programs are funded with a combination of federal, state and local money. Last year the Cape's program received $312,000 in federal funds, an amount Barnstable County is required to match, said Darlene Johnson-Morris, AmeriCorps Cape Cod's program director
If the alliance goes unfunded, AmeriCorps programs in Massachusetts "would just stop," Johnson-Morris said.
In the earmarks eliminated by Patrick under the state's Workforce Training Fund were several other Cape-based programs, including $250,000 for Outer Cape Health Services and $95,000 for a workforce development program for people over 55.
"Quite frankly, this program is a model for what the rest of the country is going to be needing in the next five years," said David Augustinho, executive director of the Cape and Islands Workforce Investment Board, citing the impending retirement of the baby boomer generation as a future drain on the workforce.
In the past two years, the over-55 program has placed more than 30 people in jobs, Augustinho said. An additional 25 to 30 individuals are receiving case management services, he said.
"They're all worthy programs," said Linnea Walsh, spokeswoman for the state's Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. "This veto was not about the worthiness of any given program."
The statute that established the Workforce Training Fund includes specific criteria for a competitive application process to access the money, Walsh said.
The earmarks are an end around that process and would have pushed the fund further into deficit caused by spending in previous years, she said.
The governor's move was logical, especially considering employers who contribute to the fund must compete for the funds, said State Rep. Matthew Patrick, D-Falmouth. "If I was one of the employers who was paying money into this program I would be upset if my project got turned down," he said.
The state Legislature can override the governor's veto with a two-thirds vote, a move some members of the Cape's legislative delegation were already calling for yesterday.
"With Romney it was easy," said State Rep. Cleon Turner, D—Dennis. "There wasn't a single veto that was upheld."
But with a Democrat in the governor's office, things could be less clear-cut, Turner said.
"What kind of voting is going to take place?" he said. "Is the Democratic Party going to be split?"
State Rep. Jeffrey Perry, R-Sandwich, said the governor should have made it clear earlier that he intended to eliminate the funding.
"If it's not overridden it's gone," Perry said, adding that the imbalance of power in the Massachusetts Legislature made for a lot of closed-door backroom deals.
Turner and other Cape representatives said they would be contacting House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi to request the vetoes that affect local programs be placed before the Legislature for an override vote.
"I have really done my homework so that the budget requests that I've filed are not for pork," said State Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, the sponsor of the earmark for the Outer Cape Health Services money.
The governor eliminated $31 million in addition to the Workforce Training Fund earmarks from the $26.8 billion budget.
Patrick Cassidy can be reached at pcassidy@capecodonline.com.
AmeriCorps Cape Cod
24 volunteers annually
Resident housing in Wellfleet and Bourne
1,700 hours required per volunteer annually
200 service projects since September
$900,000 estimated benefit to county annually
Programs in Natural Resource Management land and water; community education; and disaster relief and preparedness
Source: AmeriCorps Cape Codhttp://www.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070717/NEWS/707170314
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Free care may come at a cost to poor
State proposes copayments
By Alice Dembner, Globe Staff | July 13, 2007
For the first time, many low-income patients seeking free care at hospitals will face deductibles and copayments similar to those charged to insured patients, under proposed rules released yesterday that are designed to push more Massachusetts residents to get health insurance.
In addition, the state will no longer reimburse hospitals and community health centers for care they provide if the patients are eligible for insurance through the state Medicaid program, state-subsidized Commonwealth Care, or affordable coverage through their work. Hospital officials said that they would not turn away patients needing urgent care, but that they probably would be more aggressive in billing those patients.
The new provisions were required under the state law that mandates that all adults obtain insurance coverage this year, if the state deems it affordable for them. The state is drawing on funds previously used for free care to pay for insurance subsidies and is counting on weaning as many people as possible from free care.
The number of people using the pool already has dropped 20 percent this year compared with last year, according to state officials, in large part because 155,000 people now have insurance through the state's near-universal coverage initiative. But hundreds of thousands of patients are still using the pool.
The state allocated $605 million for free care this year, but the fiscal 2008 budget Governor Deval Patrick approved yesterday includes only $354 million for the pool's successor, the Health Safety Net Trust Fund.
"We did not want the trust fund to look more attractive to people than insurance," said Dr. JudyAnn Bigby , state secretary of Health and Human Services, as she explained the rules the administration issued yesterday .
Rather, she said, the rules are designed to make sure free care serves as a safety net for people without access to insurance, those whose insurance is inadequate, and those who face extraordinary medical expenses. The rules are subject to a public hearing, scheduled for Aug. 22, and may be revised before they are imposed on Oct. 1.
The proposals drew support from advocates and healthcare providers, but also concern that the new copayments would deter some people from seeking care and could leave hospitals with extra debt if patients get care but are unable to pay for it.
"We think the regulations are a great step forward and will ensure that most folks who can't find affordable coverage . . . will maintain access to critical life-saving services," said John McDonough, executive director of the advocacy group Health Care for All . "But we are concerned that for an individual making between $15,000 and $20,000, there will be a new deductible that accumulates on a monthly basis whether or not they actually use any medical services. That means that someone could get services in January, then go back in December and face a bill of about $385 before they could get served."
The proposed deductible is $35 a month for people earning between 150 percent and 200 percent of the federal poverty level -- roughly $15,000 to $20,000. Other copayments include $5 for office visits in a hospital and $50 for emergency room visits that don't result in an inpatient admission. These payments apply to patients between 100 percent and 200 percent of the poverty level. There are no copayments or deductibles for children or for care at community health centers, other than a $3 charge for each prescription filled.
Patients earning between 200 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level would face a larger deductible, based on their income.
State officials said they would try to ensure that the new rules do not cause major disruption. "We will be implementing this in a measured and phased way, so it doesn't create a hardship," said Sarah Iselin , state commissioner of healthcare finance and policy, whose office oversees free care.
Joe Kirkpatrick, vice president of the Massachusetts Hospital Association , said, "Patients should expect more rigorous collection and enforcement efforts" from hospitals if the new rules are imposed. Hospital officials also want the state to help medical facilities foot the bill, he said, if patients do not pay deductibles or if uninsured patients with access to insurance nonetheless seek emergency care at hospitals.
"We're not going to turn people away," said Ellen Murphy Meehan , a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Safety Net Hospitals . "But we believe there's a shared burden of responsibility."
Under the proposed rules, the state would pay for a broad range of medically-necessary care for the uninsured. In addition, the state would expand the amount it pays for people facing medical bills that pose an extreme hardship.
Jon Kingsdale , executive director of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector , said the rules probably would drive more people to get insurance. "It's like the second shoe dropping on health reform," he said.
http://www.boston.com/yourlife/health/other/articles/2007/07/13/free_care_may_come_at_a_cost_to_poor/
http://www.boston.com/yourlife/health/other/articles/2007/07/13/free_care_may_come_at_a_cost_to_poor?mode=PF
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Associated Press

Mass.: Settlement for Big Dig Managers?

By STEVE LeBLANC 07.18.07, 1:29 PM ET

BOSTON - Gov. Deval Patrick said he could support a deal that would allow Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff to avoid criminal prosecution and future liability related to last year's Big Dig fatal tunnel accident in exchange for a large cash settlement.

Patrick didn't confirm that a deal was in the works, but when asked in a television interview Tuesday whether he could back such a deal in exchange for as much as a $1 billion payment by the Big Dig project manager, Patrick signaled tentative support.

"I could. I would have to see more of it," Patrick said in an interview on New England Cable News.

Attorney General Martha Coakley is weighing possible criminal charges against companies that worked on the project, including project manager Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, in connection with the collapse of ceiling panels last year that crushed a car, killing a Boston woman.

The Boston Globe reported on Saturday, citing four unnamed sources familiar with negotiations, that state and federal officials were demanding Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff pay as much as $1 billion to settle claims for shoddy work on the Big Dig, in exchange for a guarantee that the project managers would not face criminal charges in connection with the fatal tunnel collapse, and would be released from civil liability from state and federal governments.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined last week that the July 10, 2006, collapse that killed Milena Del Valle, 39, could have been avoided if designers and construction crews had considered that the epoxy holding support anchors for the panels could slowly pull away over time.

About 26 tons of the concrete panel and hardware fell on the car. Del Valle's husband Angel Del Valle crawled up from the rubble with minor injuries.

Coakley has twice delayed making public her final decision on whether she would file criminal charges.

A government civil settlement would not directly affect a separate wrongful death lawsuit that Del Valle's family has filed against Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, other Big Dig contractors and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.

A spokesman for Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff reached late Tuesday declined to comment on Patrick's remarks.

Patrick said that while many might like to see a criminal trial for the project managers of the $14.798 billion project - the most expensive public works construction in U.S. history - throwing people in jail might not be the best thing for the state.

"I think we all ought to appreciate that as much as we'd love to have - some us by sort of emotional reasons want to see a criminal prosecution - actually the consequences of a criminal prosecution and the benefit long term to the commonwealth may not be as great as a significant civil sentence," Patrick said in the interview.

Patrick also said the state should consider banning Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff from doing business with the state - a process known as "debarment".

"We don't need the criminal conviction to pursue what's called debarment and frankly I do think that has to be on the table," he said in the interview.

A handful of state senators have been pushing the executive branch to take the step of debarring Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff.

The NTSB report, instead of singling out any one of the small army of corporations, consultants, engineers and state officials involved in the design, construction and oversight of the problem-plagued $14.798 billion Big Dig project, spread blame with a broad brush.
-----

Thursday, July 19, 2007 1:59:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Bill helps consumers cope with stolen ID
By Hillary Chabot, Eagle Boston Bureau
The Berkshire Eagle
Wednesday, July 18, 2007

BOSTON — State lawmakers agreed on a broad identity-theft bill yesterday meant to protect the public from the release of personal and financial information.

"I think the most important thing we did was to have security freezes included, so that if their identity is stolen your credit isn't impaired by that theft," said Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, who worked on the bill as part of the committee on consumer protection and professional licensure.

The bill would also force companies to alert customers when their personal information is compromised, either electronically or in paper form. The legislation landed on Gov. Deval L. Patrick's desk yesterday and is under review, a spokeswoman said.

"The governor feels strongly that ID theft is an issue that demands prompt and serious attention," said Cyndi Roy. "He looks forward to reviewing the bill sent to him by the Legislature."

If the bill is passed, victims of identity theft can put a security freeze on their consumer credit reports, and others can request one for up to $5. The bill also asks state officials to delete the first three digits of Social Security numbers when handling documents if the full number isn't required by federal authorities and demands that business or government entities shred all documents with sensitive information before disposing of it.

Attorney General Martha Coakley applauded legislators for passing the law yesterday. Coakley found out her identity had been stolen earlier this year when a thief tried to buy a Dell computer with her credit card, which had been stolen.

Massachusetts reported 4,000 incidents of identity theft in the past year. The state was hit with a high-profile security gaffe when TJX Cos. of Framingham, which owns T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, disclosed Jan. 17 that its computer systems had been breached, potentially exposing 45 million credit-card holders to identify theft.

The TJX breach was discovered in mid-December, but it was not made public until January, after law enforcement officials requested it.

Massachusetts is one of only six states that doesn't already require immediate disclosure of security breaches and allow consumer credit freezes.

"This bill goes a long way to empowering and protecting customers with regards to disposal and transferal of sensitive information," said Senate Ways and Means Chairman Steve Panagiotakos, D-Lowell.

Thursday, July 19, 2007 2:28:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Dear State Senator Stan Rosenberg:

I enjoy reading your monthly legislative state government reports on Hampshire & Franklin Counties, Massachusetts. In regards to your lead initiative, "Franklin County Education Study Project", I find your following statement to be very top-down.

"What we have now are various stories of crisis from individual districts without any comprehensive framework to help policymakers judge the efficacy of any proposed solutions..."

I would like to know what the respective crises in public education are and why you need to synthesize all of them in a uniform manner in order for the state to be able to assist the school districts in finding public policy solutions. It seems to me that in order for the average common citizen to approach his or her power-broker state or federal Pol, he has to participate in a comprehensive study project or else be seen as part of the problem. This is a very top-down method of solving bottom-up social problems.

Stan, my firm view of state government--whether it be Massachusetts, New York or New Hampshire--is that the power-brokers only serve the interests of the powerful, meaning those elite groups of people with high social statuses and economic class. In serving the powerful, the state Pols wring their hands with pleasure when they are asked to respond to social problems. The reason why top-down Pols respond to social crises with glee is due to the economic theory of perverse incentives. The more critical needs of public school systems, and related social problems such as high welfare caseloads from high rates of teen pregnancies and unskilled workers, means that more federally funded, state administered social dollars are qualified to come into the Pols' legislative district that would otherwise never be invested in--Pittsfield, Massachusetts' myriad of social problems is a shining example of this socially unjust phenomenon. The state complements all federal dollars for social programs with its own tax base, thereby diminishing the social causes. The state then administers these dollars back to the cities and towns, who do the same exact thing. By the time the federal dollars are filtered through the state and then the local governments' administration of these funds, the money is greatly diluted through the complementing of these funds with the state and local tax bases, and always makes a minimal difference for society. Rather, the use of perverse incentives makes way for even more social problems, thereby leaving society even worse off than before the federal funds were received by the state and local Pols, and the top-down process begins again with blinders on the eyes of the common citizens wanting to live in a more promising World.

This is your public record: STAN ROSENBERG, DAN BOSLEY, et al:

From FY2002-FY2004, the state government balanced its books by making three consecutive years of state budget cuts to cities and town, including public education. During this same period of time, the state cut social service programs, but expanded the state lottery to record profits. The state lottery is not only a tax on the poor, but also, it is a prime example of perverse incentives. The state budget passed on FY2001, or July 01, 2000, included more public money adjusted for inflation than the recent state budget passed on FY2008, or July 01, 2007. BEACON HILL IS PART OF THE SOCIAL PROBLEMS!

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

Monday, July 23, 2007 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Pump plan for leaks to hike Big Dig cost by $3M
By Casey Ross
Boston Herald Reporter

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Big Dig’s never-ending repair bill could swell by another $3 million because officials have to install a new pumping system to remove huge volumes of water flowing through the downtown tunnels, state officials said.

The new system is needed because Big Dig officials apparently never made appropriate provisions to rid the tunnel system of millions of gallons of water from precipitation and leaks. The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority has been siphoning the water into its sewers, but the volume is more than the authority ever anticipated, officials said.

Meanwhile, the Patrick administrationhas tapped an independent engineering firm to review concerns about high water volumes in the tunnels, and whether the problem is attributable to leaks. “This is about veryifying that everything has been examined,” Gov. Deval Patrick said of the water troubles.

The Herald reported yesterday that the administration refused to accept the conclusions of a report by the project’s managing contractor Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff that indicated most of the water is not coming from leaks.

Instead, the administration, which has spent $1.2 million sealing tunnel leaks in three months, has tapped the firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates to review the water problems and determine whether the state faces an ongoing maintenance liabilities as a result of leaks.

Currently, a deluge of about 1.9 million gallons of water a month is flowing through the Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neil Tunnel. B/PB officials have presented data showing most of the water appears to be precipitation and runoff into uncovered tunnel sections.

Either way, it is far more than the 36,000 gallons per month the MWRA agreed to pump through its sewers, which is why a separate system is being designed to pump the water into Boston Harbor. That system would cost between $2 million and $3 million, Turnpike officials said. It is unclear whether contractors or taxpayers will be on the hook for the bill.

Patrick said he expects a hefty payout from contractors now facing possible criminal charges as a result of last summer’s fatal tunnel ceiling collapse. “These are serious damages that all of us feel. We have not been well-served,” he said.

Monday, July 23, 2007 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

August 01, 2007

RE: Beacon Hill's 560 lobbyists reported earning $34,020,888 so far this year--$60,751.59 each on average!

Dear State Representative Dan "Bureaucrat" Bosley:

According to a recent Boston Globe news article:

"..lobbying fees paid by gambling interests have reached $612,040.71 [so far] this year".

Given the increased incentives, I am surprised that you haven't yet changed your tune on this issue of gambling (or regressive taxation/profits) since "the blood money" from the gambling lobbyists must be very tempting for you. Maybe you will be the last hold-out on casino gambling, while all of the other Pols will enrich their campaign coffers at the expense of the poor residents and the working class communities they represent in theory, on paper, by law, but not really in practice--AS THE LOBBYISTS RULE BEACON HILL, not the People!

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

--

Galvin measure seeks to toughen rules on lobbying
By April Simpson, Globe Staff | July 18, 2007

Secretary of State William Galvin is calling for heightened regulation of Beacon Hill lobbyists, who through the first half of this year have earned more than $33 million and are on track to match or break last year's spending level, according to reports filed this week.

Galvin has filed legislation that would require the state's 560 registered lobbyists to provide more detailed written reports of their expenses, payments, and hours with clients. The bill would permit the secretary's office to immediately revoke a lobbyist's license for late reports, as well as report the lobbyist to the attorney general's office for any matters requiring criminal action.

Lobbyists are required to submit their biannual reports by midnight Monday. With late filings trickling in, Galvin said yesterday, lobbyists reported earning $34,020,888 from their clients, roughly $687,000 more than this time last year. This year, the Legislature has approved 62 bills, according to Galvin.

"When you consider that that much money is being spent to influence the decisions of public policy makers, I think it's important that we determine what decisions they were trying to influence and who they are and what they represent," Galvin said.

Last year, lobbyists reported $65,103,053 in fees, a record, according to Galvin.

"We're on track to exceed that number," Galvin said.

Currently, lobbyists are required to register after working at least 50 hours within a six-month period. They are also required to submit biannual reports that include the name and dates of employment with each of their clients, their business interests, bills worked on, and the total amount incurred, paid or contributed during the reporting period.

Galvin said his legislation seeks to make lobbyists more accountable for their actions and their work more transparent. While the current system allows for vague and broad explanations, he said, his bill would require a detailed report from every executive and legislative agent that includes the number of hours the agent engaged in lobbyist services, a description of the subject, the name and title of the agency the lobbyist works for, and identifying information for any legislation or procurement contracts the lobbyist worked on.

"The Big Dig is the ultimate case that points to the fact that we have a problem," said Galvin, who said that the public works project lacked a thorough method of ensuring that "everybody who was trying to influence decisions were made were known to the public."

Jackson C. Hall, principal of Political Advantage LLC and a lobbyist for healthcare and education companies, said Galvin is typically even-handed in enforcing fines, but said he did not see any problems with the current system.

"I don't think that there's anything being hidden," Hall said. "I don't see a problem with our system the way it's working."

House minority leader Bradley Jones, a Republican from North Reading, has filed his own legislation that would require lobbyists to register after working 25 hours in a six-month period and submit a disclosure of expenditures even if they are not working on a specific bill. The bill would require lobbyists and political organizations to provide a list of expenditures three times a year, which would include office overhead, such as rent and utilities.

"I think it's important that we expect a higher level of awareness and scrutiny from those doing the lobbying," Jones said.

Galvin said that lobbying fees paid by gambling interests have reached $612,040.71 this year, compared with $464,376.00 this time last year. A task force convened by Governor Deval Patrick is reviewing whether the state should pursue an expansion of gambling. The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is also in talks with town officials in Middleborough about a possible casino there.

"If large companies are paying large amounts of money to influence public policy, then the public should know," Galvin said.

-----

Wednesday, August 01, 2007 5:09:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Patrick uses campaign funds for legal fees
Common practice draws criticism
By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff | July 30, 2007

Governor Deval Patrick will use $27,000 from his campaign fund to cover legal fees stemming from a recent ethics investigation, taking advantage of a controversial and longstanding Beacon Hill practice that passes legal muster but has raised concern among advocates of campaign finance reform.

Patrick has begun making the payments to Laredo & Smith, a firm specializing in white-collar crime and government investigations, which represented him this spring during a state Ethics Commission inquiry of a telephone call he made to the former US Treasury secretary, Robert Rubin, a top official at Citigroup, to vouch for a controversial subprime mortgage lender that was seeking financial help from Rubin's firm.

Patrick paid $15,000 to the law office in mid-June and will pay the balance shortly.

Liz Morningstar, executive director of Patrick's campaign committee, justified the payment on the grounds that the ethics investigation, sparked by the state Republican Party, was politically motivated. She noted that campaign finance laws allow political figures to use donations to promote and protect their careers.

"What is more political than a baseless complaint from the Republican Party against the governor?" Morningstar said. "It would be in my mind unacceptable for some other form of payment to occur. It was a political charge to begin with."

Patrick, in a statement to the Globe at the time of the inquiry, said he made the call as a private citizen and not in his position as governor. It was prompted, he said, by a personal request from a top official at ACC Capitol, the private holding firm that is owned by billionaire Roland E. Arnall. Its major entity is Ameriquest Mortgage, which has frequently been accused of predatory lending practices.

For several years before he was elected governor, Patrick served as a $360,000-a-year board member for ACC Capitol. Citigroup has a host of business interests in Massachusetts, many of which are regulated by the state or contract for lucrative bond work with quasipublic agencies and authorities that Patrick controls or will control during his tenure as governor. Ameriquest is licensed by the state banking commission.

The Ethics Commission dismissed the GOP complaint. But Patrick's legal costs are the first public indication of the extent of the probe. The governor would not comment on the investigation.

A host of political figures who have faced inquiries over the years have used their political accounts to pay their lawyers. Two former House speakers, Charles Flaherty and Thomas M. Finneran, drew on their campaign funds to pay huge legal bills stemming from federal investigations. Flaherty pleaded guilty to felony tax charges in 1996, Finneran to obstruction of justice earlier this year. Former mayor Raymond L. Flynn's campaign committee, fleeced out of $617,000 by a former campaign volunteer, spent more than $400,000 in legal and investigative fees in the 1990s seeking restitution of the funds and defending Flynn, who never faced charges.

Still, the use of the campaign donations for legal bills has come under criticism from advocates for campaign finance reform, who say the regulations should be tightened to ensure that donations are strictly limited to campaign work. They say the payment of legal fees is an example of loopholes in the law that allow elected officials to turn to their political accounts for expenses that should be paid from personal funds.

"The average citizen is donating to the candidate to get them elected or reelected," said Pamela Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause of Massachusetts, a citizens watchdog group. "They are not donating for other purposes. We believe the law should reflect that reality."

The final checks to the law firm are going out just as Patrick finishes a fund-raising spree, collecting over $300,000 in the past six weeks. On June 15, his campaign committee reported a $129,000 balance. Now after six weeks of heavy fund-raising, the account stands at $345,000, after expenses, with donations coming in from high-powered law offices that do business with the state, state-regulated industries, and other traditional Democratic funding sources such as labor organizations.

One campaign event took place earlier this month at the Venus de Milo Restaurant in Swansea, where civic, business, and political leaders in Southeastern Massachusetts raised close to $30,000 for the governor. One fund-raiser for the event was former state senator William Q. "Biff" MacLean, once a controversial Beacon Hill powerbroker who remains an influential political force in Southeastern Massachusetts.

MacLean retired from the Legislature in 1992, after spending more than 30 years in the House and Senate building a reputation for taking care of his constituency and catering to special interests, from beer wholesalers to racetrack owners. A year later, he pleaded guilty to a state indictment that he had received hidden commissions from state contracts. He was forced to repay the state $512,000. The Fairhaven Democrat used $130,000 from his campaign account to pay for his legal bills.

Robert Karam, a longtime politically active Democrat and business leader from Fall River who played a major role organizing the event, said the fund-raiser reflected "an extra-outpouring" for Patrick, whom he said appears, more than other governors, committed to helping the region.

"We in Southeastern Mass. know how the political system works," Karam said. "Nobody buys anything with these kinds of events, but we did get the governor's attention . . . There is a lot of good will down here. He keeps coming down, saying the right things. People are hoping he is the right guy."

Patrick also garnered $25,000 in political donations from an event that the chief executives of two highly regulated companies -- insurance giant Liberty Mutual Insurance and NStar -- put together in Boston in late June. The firms' financial standings and profits could be affected by decisions pending before the new administration.

The Patrick committee also collected more than $16,000 from a fund-raiser that the Boston law firm, Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo, threw in June. The law office, along with its lobbying division ML Strategies, does a good deal of business on Beacon Hill.

Morningstar said Patrick's fund-raising still relies on donations from the grass-roots and average citizens -- representing a broad professional background -- that were the core of his campaign for governor. It also includes $90,000 that was taken in over the Internet since January. She objected to any suggestion that his fund-raising activities as governor conflicts with the image he crafted as a candidate with promises of challenging the long-standing practices of politics.

"This is not a person who can be cast as someone who is influenced by donations," she said. "That doesn't make sense."

(Correction: Because of a reporting error, a story in yesterday's City & Region section about Governor Deval Patrick's use of his campaign funds to pay legal fees misspelled the name of ACC Capital Corp., on whose board Patrick once served.)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007 5:11:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Dear Boston Globe Editorial Idiots!

The issue of casino gambling in Massachusetts is the issue of: REGRESSIVE TAXATION!

I really do not understand why your regional newspaper would slam Deval Patrick on failing to provide the news media preliminary documents on this inequitable issue under the state's public records laws when the real issue before the Governor of Massachusetts is raising more state revenues by continuing to taxing the poor, the "have-nots", the working class, and the like.

I cannot begin to understand how your newspaper cannot say it like it is. ...So I will:

The Government, or the ruling class, serves the state (not one of the 50 States), which is predominately influenced by big business, or otherwise known as "the Coporate Elite".

In the last Presidential Election, you had two Corporate Elite candidates representing special interest that had absolutely nothing to do with the commom citizens. John Forbes Kerry represented the New England and New York City regional wealthy financial institutions. George Walker Bush represented "the Connecticut Country Club's" Texas Oil Industry's economic interests. The people were left to make a choice between Kerry's "Wall Street" and Bush's "Big Oil".

The point of explaining the 2004 Presidential Election is that neither Kerry nor Bush were going to change the inequitable system from a regressive to a progressive system of government. Kerry would have given more power to the large "Bos-Wash" finanicial institutions, while Bush gave more power to the oil institutions.

Now, the demographics of our nation's regressive finanical governance is 1/10 citizens are part of the Corporate Elite class. 2/10 at its best get to work for the corporate elite businesses. That leaves 8/10 (at its best) Americans in either the middle class or some sort of poverty--dependence on the system. The odds are stacked against the average American Citizen to have finanical well-being. The two main means to wealth in our country is through Education and Marriage. Usually the Elites go to Ivy League Schools (Bush & Kerry), and marry into wealthy families. Working at a job is not a means to wealth, but to higher incomes over time. Of course, being wealthy gives one a networking apparatus to obtain high income professional jobs.

So for a politician like Deval Patrick, who grew up poor but made all of the smooth elitist moves, he has a choice to make. We already know what he will choose to do: Serve his Corporate Elite masters by making the system even more regressive than it already is. Deval Patrick will back casino gambling next month because it will provide the state with more regressive revenues to finance its pro-business, anti-worker operations.

Look, the whole point of a state lottery is to have another regressive taxation revenue source to complement the 20-30 other sources of state revenues. The more regressive taxation the state government gets to take in, the more they complement the tax revenues from poor people to offset them on rich people, making the tax liabilities for wealthy corporate businesses artificially lower and lower than before. The system becomes more about the Corporate Elite and less about the people the state is supposed to be serving.

The Politicians' incentive to back regressive taxation programs that include gambling is that by lowering the tax liabilities on big business, they will be rewarded with more and more campaign contributions from the Corporate Elite. By Pols doing the bidding of their Corporate Masters, the common man who cares about his community, family, house, schools, safety, and the like, will have less and less means to challenge the Incumbent ruling class or his Government.

This is a Government by the Corporate Elite, For Wall Street, of the Corrupted Pols!

Casino Gambling, like the state lottery, is NOT about designating more public monies to social programs! It is about complementing public funds to offset the rich's tax liabilities by administering programs of regressive taxation at the expense of the poor for the benefit of big businesses.

The issue of perverse incentives is that while special interests are rewarded with finanical benefits, the poor become poorer, and society becomes worse and worse off. But, the Corporate Elite have pulled the wool over the eyes of even The Boston Globe!

In Dissent,

Jonathan A. Melle
-----

[A Boston] GLOBE EDITORIAL

Tough questions on gambling

August 9, 2007

GOVERNOR PATRICK owes Massachusetts residents more than a simple "go" or "no go" on casino gambling by his self-imposed deadline of Labor Day. If Patrick nixes the idea, the public will want to know how else he expects to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in needed revenue for the state. If the governor gives thumbs up on casinos, then he must provide substantive information on how much the state stands to gain from its share of casino revenues, how that money should be used, what the regulatory and oversight structure is likely to be, and how best to minimize any social problems, such as crime or compulsive gambling.

This is a legacy decision for Patrick. That explains why he'll be dragging his briefing reports around on vacation.

Many lawmakers, reporters, and members of the public also deserve an opportunity to review the stack of studies that will inform the governor's decision. But Patrick has turned down the Globe's formal request to release the documents under the public records law. The administration is splitting hairs by arguing that the completed studies are exempt from public disclosure as part of the governor's "deliberative process." Transparency will be essential if casino gambling is to succeed in the Commonwealth.

This is an industry, after all, that is not far removed from the days when crime syndicates routinely skimmed casino profits. Faced with his first test to make the pros and cons of casino gambling clear to the public, Patrick failed.

Who regulates it?

The issues haven't changed much since 2002, when an expert committee, which included current Public Safety Secretary Kevin Burke, outlined potential impacts of casino gambling for Acting Governor Jane Swift. The bottom line for that committee was that "the expansion of legalized gambling has the potential to provide substantial new revenues to help fund vital state and local services."

Such an outcome requires scrupulously independent and effective regulatory and oversight bodies. The Patrick administration isn't ready to discuss such details. But it is inconceivable that the governor would support lifting the state ban on slot machines or creating destination casinos in Massachusetts without giving serious thought to the structure of a state gambling commission.

Gambling commissions come in two basic sizes: a single body that oversees both licensing and enforcement, such as the one in Colorado; and the split-agency model like that in New Jersey, where the independent Casino Control Commission handles licensing and inspections while leaving matters of investigation and enforcement to the Division of Gaming Enforcement in the attorney general's office.

Regardless of whether Massachusetts opts for commercial casinos, Indian casinos, or some combination, the public would need ironclad assurance that such ventures will be on the up-and-up. The best way to ensure that is to separate the licensing and enforcement functions.

New Jersey builds in checks and balances by giving the enforcement division responsibility for conducting background checks for license applications and ferreting out violations. But it is the quasi-judicial control commission that rules on the license applications and assesses penalties. Similarly, it is the control commission's responsibility to collect the roughly $417 million derived from the state's 8 percent tax on gross revenues at the 11 casinos in Atlantic City. But it is the enforcement arm that performs an array of auditing functions and financial reviews on the state's take.

Trust shouldn't enter into it. Dan Heneghan, public information officer for the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, says the agency's inspectors are present around the clock when casino cash is being counted. Boxes with uncounted cash are fitted with two separate locks. Casino employees have one key, and the control commission holds the other. And the Gaming Enforcement division provides another level of oversight.

If the Patrick administration embraces casino gambling, it must be prepared to fend off what economists call regulatory capture -- the process by which regulators come to be dominated over time by the industries they oversee. One essential ingredient of an effective ethics code for a casino commission, says Heneghan, is a strict post-employment policy. New Jersey bars commission employees from seeking jobs at casinos for a period of two to four years. The longer, the better.

Where does the money go?

If Patrick gives the green light to casinos, he also owes the public an explanation of how the increased revenue will be used. Such knowledge is essential for public support. In New Jersey, the funds are earmarked for elderly services and the disabled. In Massachusetts, some of the most acute needs are in the areas of transportation infrastructure, the new healthcare law, and aid to cities and towns. This is likely to be an integral part of any legislative debate to legalize casinos in Massachusetts. Patrick should also address questions about the value of placing casino gambling, the Lottery, and pari-mutuel betting under one regulatory roof. There are potential savings through efficiencies. But revenues could also slide if the agencies are stripped of their incentive to compete.

Patrick has indicated that he has no deep moral qualms about casino gambling. But compulsive gambling could become a public health problem if left unaddressed. Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, the state's secretary for health and human services, has been analyzing the problem since the spring. The least the governor could provide is some specific details on ways he would prevent, minimize, and treat gambling addiction.

By ruminating so long and keeping his casino gambling studies under wraps, Patrick has whetted the public's appetite. It won't be enough for him to serve up scraps on Labor Day.

-----

Thursday, August 09, 2007 4:26:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Dear Boston Globe Editorial Idiots!

The biggest victims of the state government's 3 consecutive fiscal years (FY02 - FY04) of budget cuts were the commonwealth's cities and towns! How could you possibly omit this fact? All that your "rag of a newspaper" only cares about is Boston, not the rest of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts! The irony of the state's economic downturn during our nation's "2nd worst bear market in U.S. History" was that the Corporate Elite's Boston area wealthy businesses never missed a beat on receiving tax breaks from their corrupted legislative hack leadership team--most of whom went off to the private sector, including my least favorite lobbyist Peter J. Larkin who, by the way, is singularly responsible for the City of Springfield's financial plight by being the sole objecting voice during the Legislature's informal session during the Summer of 2003.

If find it so very interesting, "BOSTON Globe Editorial Idiots!", how you are able and willing to point your finger at Argeo Paul Cellucci's commitment to tax cuts, but not at the State Legislature's never-ending commitment to tax breaks for wealthy businesses (mostly in and around the Boston area).

During this time of multiple state budget cuts to cities & towns, I lived in Western Massachusetts, which got screwed worse than any other region of the commonwealth. I remember the terrible Thanksgiving Budget of 2001/FY02, and then the following FY03 & FY04 state budgets. I remember that all of these state budgets all came after the Spring of 2000's $2 Billion Big Dig cost overrun, which is the real negative spot on the Cellucci Administration's deficient public record.

Of course, the worst Paul Cellucci decision was placing the worst Governor in U.S. History into appointed executive office: Jane Swift!

In Dissent,

Jonathan A. Melle

--

[The Boston] Globe Editorials
Short Fuse
August 24, 2007

Cellucci: A tax tale to tell

Former governor Paul Cellucci is getting into presidential politics at a policy forum in New Hampshire tomorrow. He will moderate a panel discussion for his favorite candidate, Rudy Giuliani, that will feature voters telling "personal stories" about taxes. Cellucci himself has an important story to tell: how, as governor of Massachusetts in 2000, he assured voters that rolling back the state income tax to 5 percent wouldn't harm essential services. With his strong support, voters approved a ballot question to do just that. Then the post-Sept. 11 economic downturn hit, the state faced a $1 billion deficit, and dozens of state education and health programs were decimated. By that time Cellucci had decamped to become ambassador to Canada. Cellucci's enthusiasm for tax cuts is an object lesson in fiscal responsibility -- just not his.

Friday, August 24, 2007 1:05:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

September 4th, 2007

Dear State Representative Daniel E. ("BUREAUCRAT!") Bosley, et al:

You, Bureaucrat Bosley, must be very pleased with the new $20 scratch ticket. More regressive taxation by Beacon Hill's corrupted Pols that will benefit the Special Interests that serve the Corporate Elite (10 to 20 percent of the population) . Well, Bureaucrat Bosley, I will always speak my good conscience for as long as I live, and this is what I have to say about top-down, bureaucratic Pols like yourself who screw the "have nots" (80 to 90 percent of the population) by design:

First of all, the lottery is nothing more than a system of regressive taxation. In theory only, the profits from the lottery benefit social causes, such as public education, but in reality, regressive tax revenues complement progressive ones, and thereby lower the tax liabilities on the wealthy (10 to 20 percent of the population), who are the Corporate Elite businesses ran by rich corporate elite "haves" (multi-millionaires) or owners.

Secondly, the lottery is supported by the top-down, bureaucratic Pols because they get to give more tax breaks to the Corporate Elite's wealthy businesses than they would be able to give if there were NOT multiple systems of regressive taxation. By giving the wealthy businesses tax breaks, the corrupted Pols each receive many thousands of dollars in special interest campaign contributions to keep them re-elected: Incumbents! (The Massachusetts' Legislature is the #3 out of 50 for having the highest rates of Incumbency. It is all done by design by screwing the "have nots" and keeping them from participating in government).

Thirdly, you, Daniel E. Bosley, are an IMPOSTERER! You pretend to represent rural Western Massachusetts, but you are really an INSIDER BOSTON POL! You pretend to represent the people, but your public record clearly proves that you only represent the Corporate Elite's Special Interests. You pretend to be stupid with a "North Adams' M.O.", but you are really one of the most intelligent State Legislators on Beacon Hill--you are even more intelligent in understanding public policies than myself. BUT YOU DO NOT FOOL ME! That is why, at least once every month, I have to send out an Anti-Bosley email letter! I see right through you, Bureaucrat Bosley, and my writings and blog postings on you and your public record all point out my thesis that YOU ARE A BUREAUCRAT IMPOSTERING AS A LEGISLATOR!

You know what is wrong with you, Bureaucrat Bosley? Well, I will tell you. Your loyalty to dictatorial state leaders (like former-Speaker Tom Finneran) trumps the great value you would otherwise be able to contribute to society. You are a good man, but you get caught up in idiotic politician's (like Denis E. Guyer's) trivial machines that prove only what morons these type of small, closed-minded, banal types of people really are. Instead of being who you are, you become a reflection of everything that is wrong with government!

Berkshire County is the #1 region in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in job losses! I know that my chances of getting a decent job in the Berkshires is much, much less than being stuck by lightening or winning a lot of money by playing the lottery. Do you know why? The answer is because I believe in living at my own level of dignity and treating others with humanity. Because I choose to be the opposite of you, Bureaucrat Bosley, I am blacklisted by strong-armed Pols like Luciforo, Mayors Barrett & Ruberto, Gold-Digger Guyer, et al. Because I am willing to stand up to guys like you, Bureaucrat Bosley, and tell you off about manipulating the poor into buying a $20 lottery ticket instead of food and shelter for themselves and their families, I am labelled as a "loose cannon" and the like, and I can never "play ball" with "the big boys."

Look around you, Bureaucrat Bosley: North Adams has very poorly performing public schools, very high welfare caseloads from high per capita teen pregnancy rates, high rates of poverty, homelessness and joblessness, and on and on. Pittsfield's teen pregnancy rates are growing higher and higher every forthcoming year, and now double the statewide average, its welfare caseloads are skyrocketing, businesses are fleeing because a rational parent doesn't want their kid to grow up with such kinds of social injustices. Look at the society you are producing, Bureaucrat Bosley. You are complicit in using perverse incentives in order to manipulate the poor into social injustices for the sole benefit of wealthy businesses that do not even exist anymore in the Berkshires.

In conclusion, another month has passed us by, and I am sitting here, once again, dissenting against one of the few politicians who gets it, but chooses to screw society anyways! At least I am not you, Daniel E. Bosley!

IN DISSENT!

Jonathan A. Melle
--

THE BOSTON GLOBE

State plans new game with big lottery ticket

By Michael Naughton, Globe Correspondent | September 4, 2007

After a year of declining sales and a sweepstakes that left the Massachusetts State Lottery with a $12 million loss, the agency plans to release its first-ever $20 instant ticket, which will reward winners with the largest total prize amount ever given out in the country.

Lottery officials tout the game - named "Billion Dollar Blockbuster" - as the first instant game in the country to pass the billion-dollar mark in terms of prizes.

"It's going to be the most exciting game the lottery's every produced," said Mark Cavanagh, executive director of the lottery. "We're the only New England state that doesn't have a $20 instant ticket. It's something that the players have been asking for."

The new ticket is not the first $20 game offered by the state lottery. Earlier this year, players had the chance to win up to $20 million by purchasing a Star Spangled Sweepstakes ticket at a cost of $20. The raffle wasn't as popular as lottery officials had hoped, and lackluster sales left the lottery with a $12 million loss on the game.

The state lottery has been one of the most successful in the county, but overall lottery sales have declined within the last year. Lottery officials had estimated that sales for the fiscal year ending in June were down 1.5 percent from the previous year's record take of $4.52 billion. Records filed with the state earlier this year showed that lottery revenues fell $71 million, or 3.8 percent, during the first five months of last fiscal year.

Despite its collapse, Cavanagh said, the Star Spangled Sweepstakes helped pave the way for the new ticket. He also said he was optimistic that cities and towns would benefit from the new game, because the lottery provides local aid to communities throughout the state.

Opponents of gaming said the new ticket could do more harm than good. "Any expansion of gambling is counterproductive to the welfare of the families of Massachusetts," said Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute.

Although players have a better chance of being struck and killed by lightning than winning the top prize - the odds of winning that prize are 64 million to 1, according to Cavanagh - Tony, 48, a lottery player from South Boston, said he would still try his luck. "I'd try a few of those," he said, standing inside a convenience store in South Boston waiting for the next Keno game to start. "Luck is luck."

The new ticket will be available statewide starting Sept. 25 and offers players the chance to win dollar amounts including $20, $25,000, and $10 million.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007 2:36:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

9/6/2007

Dear Joan Vennochi, et al,

Your (Ms. Vennochi's) op-ed's (see web link below) on the Massachusetts debate over casino gambling is paradoxically MYOPIC. This surprises me because you get what this issue is really all about.

In democratic politics, the power to set the agenda is the trump card used by the real government: The Corporate Elite.

On Beacon Hill, there are 200 State Legislators, but there are also 560 lobbyists who earn far more than those they influence with tens of millions of special interest annually private dollars. Why is this reality so? The answer is that the real government (The Corporate Elite) trumps the elected government (The State Legislature) by SETTING THE AGENDA.

For example, by all mainstream presidential candidates being fixated on Iraq, the Corporate Elite is able to place more and more jobs in China, India, and the like, without a lot of notice. By the media fixating on a perverted, sexually-deviant Idaho U.S. Senator (Larry Craig), the agenda becomes about behavior instead of the loss of pensions, the increasing healthcare gap, affordable housing, the environment, public education, and other common man causes.

As Alan Chartock pointed out in his past columns and radio pontifications, the Corporate Elite used identity-politics in the early 1950's to drive a wedge through the progressive economic causes of 20-consecutive-years of Democratic Party control of The White House. The Corporate Elite set the agenda, but did not ever give a damn about (the common man, or) the issues (Abortion, Civil Rights, Sex Education, Evolution) that lead the masses to their regressive economic causes. The common man became co-opted by his social identity in order for him to serve the economic interests of the top 10% of American Society. It worked like a charm. I think Alan Chartock is a political genius because he is never fooled by the AGENDA.

The Agenda (casino gambling) on Beacon Hill is a diversion. The agenda on Beacon Hill, like Capitol Hill, has been and continues to be set by the Corporate Elite for the benefit of the top 10% of the population. THAT IS WHY THERE ARE SO MANY LOBBYISTS SPENDING SO MUCH MONEY! I cite real examples:

EXAMPLES (a): During 3 straight fiscal years (FY02-04) of state budget cuts to commonwealth cities and town that amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars of cuts to social programs each year from FY02 - FY04, the tax breaks, subsidies and credits for already wealthy big businesses NEVER missed a beat. While the Boston Pols did not shed a tear at the common man paying 33% more in his property taxes, they took care of the Corporate Elite (and thereby themselves).

(b) The Massachusetts State Lottery is the most profitable, ever-expanding, monopoly- ran public gambling operations in the nation. All the lottery really is is a form of regressive taxation, or a tax on the poor. In theory, the lottery money goes back to the cities and towns for such social causes as public education. But, in reality, the lottery serves as a complement to progressive business tax revenues so that already wealthy businesses' tax liabilities are able to remain artificially low thanks to placing more of the tax burden on the common man. During the aforementioned 3 straight years of state budget cuts to municipalities, Beacon Hill placed a cap on how much lottery revenues could go back to the theoretical-only social causes the lottery is supposed to serve, but doesn't. Beacon Hill then took the remaining money and placed it into the general fund. Once again, big businesses benefited!


The conflict that Beacon Hill Pols have about the AGENDA on casino gambling is that it may cut into its ever-expanding lottery system. If that happens, then the lottery will not be an effective subsidy for Boston's big businesses. If the lottery is unable to provide tax breaks to the Corporate Elite, then the commonwealth's cities and towns will suffer further socially unjust hardships by Beacon Hill via further cuts in state aid to cities and towns.

Now, you have to remember, that Beacon Hill (like its 49 counterparts) does not provide state aid to cities and towns because the Legislators are "nice guys." Rather, state aid is mandatory if the state is going to receive federal funds for its operations. Beacon Hill receives many billions of federal dollars to administer its state government and administer federal funds to its local government. When Beacon Hill slashed state aid to cities and towns during the earlier part of the decade, all the Legislators did was complement federal dollars to state dollars in order to fund the operations of state government and continue to be "nice guys" to the Corporate Elite. That is why Jane Swift's administration was deplorable, and Mitt Romney's real public record for Massachusetts is fraudulent.

The AGENDA on Beacon Hill as it pertains to gambling should be about both the State Lottery AND proposed casino gambling operations. The fact that Ms. Vennochi has been diverted by the actual AGENDA of debating the merits of casino gambling against those of social well-being is disheartening. There is minimal social differences between a common man who subsidizes the Corporate Elite by purchasing many lottery tickets versus rolling the dice one too many times. BOTH the state lottery and casino gambling, as Ms. Vennochi states it: "[is] just another way to take money from the poor and give it to the rich."

In terms of giving every individual the right to gamble away the future of Massachusetts, that has already been done many, many, many, many...times over on Beacon Hill. Maybe I am fortunate to have been able to listen to Alan Chartock and read his political columns throughout most of my life. I am disappointed that other political columnists do not understand his point that the AGENDA is not the truth in government.

I enjoy reading your columns, Ms. Vennochi, in The Boston Globe, and I urge you to see the AGENDA for what it truly is. You interest me because while you have been successfully diverted by the AGENDA, you still also get what it is all about: THE CORPORATE ELITE!

My very best regards,

Jonathan A. Melle

--

JOAN VENNOCHI

Place your bet, governor

By Joan Vennochi, Globe Columnist

September 6, 2007

IF GOVERNOR Deval Patrick is still unsure about casino gambling, he should follow that wise instinct and walk away from it now.

Why take two more weeks to ponder the issue? The arguments for and against aren't new. The governor had plenty of time to study them during his lengthy vacation in the Berkshires.

The push for expanded gambling in Massachusetts comes from racetrack operators, out-of-state promoters, and other gambling interests. If they haven't made their case yet, that should tell Patrick something important. It's a shaky case for everyone but them.

The governor's spokesman said no specific event changed Patrick's timetable for making up his mind. Unfortunately, the delay in executive decision-making makes it look like Patrick is weighing the politics, pro and con, instead of the policy, pro and con. It also looks like he is giving the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe time to get past the recent resignation of disgraced tribal chairman Glenn Marshall.

Marshall stepped down after the Cape Cod Times reported that he had been convicted of rape in 1981 and lied about his military record. The deposed tribal leader was key to negotiating the Wampanoag agreement to build a resort casino in Middleborough. That, too, should tell Patrick something about the ethics of gambling's biggest promoters.

Walking away now would show Patrick has the spine to resist the heat generated by the casino gambling crowd. For weeks, gambling proponents have been fanning the flames of inevitability. Now is a good time to douse them.

Walking away now would also give state policy leaders the chance to face fiscal reality and deal with it responsibly.

A package of revenue-raising proposals in Patrick's first budget made good economic sense. He proposed a plan to close corporate tax loopholes; doing so could bring in $100 million in new revenue. The governor also wanted to give cities and towns options to raise revenues by increasing meals and lodging taxes; just a 1 percent local option meals tax could raise as much as $120 million for Massachusetts cities and towns.

The business community balked and state legislators caved. But if Patrick says no to casino gambling, legislators might be forced to get serious about alternative revenue sources. With gambling off the table, other important matters will be on it.

Meanwhile, the intrigue continues to build in this gambling drama. Blogging for Cape Cod Today, Peter Kenney yesterday reported that one of Patrick's political advisers, Michael Morris, recently attended a private meeting between state Senator Dianne Wilkerson and two members of the Masphee Wampanoag tribe. Wilkerson has a long history of political problems, relating to missing campaign records, mortgage payments, and unpaid federal income taxes. Why would the governor want a top aide involved with Wilkerson and the Wampanoag tribe?

Wilkerson asked Morris to meet with her about constituent problems involving the Wampanoags, according to Kyle Sullivan, a Patrick spokesman. Morris did not know anyone from the tribe would be at the meeting, Sullivan said. He talked to them out of courtesy, and ultimately referred them to Secretary of Housing and Economic Affairs Dan O'Connell.

The one way to stop the rumor mill is to stop the gambling madness as soon as possible. Once he does, Patrick should go back to the business community and speak the truth. The state needs more revenue. Closing tax loopholes is a matter of tax fairness; it's not a tax increase. Giving cities and towns the option to raise meals and lodging taxes doesn't threaten economic development.

He should also do what he didn't do when he unveiled his budget plan: challenge the business community to put aside selfish interests for the greater good of the Commonwealth. There are business leaders out there willing to rise to that challenge.

Patrick said he would have something to say about gambling sometime after Labor Day. It's now sometime after Labor Day.

"The more I read, the more complicated it is," Patrick told reporters. But there really isn't much gray in the casino gambling debate.

Proponent or opponent, each side knows its lines. It's economic development vs. the social cost of addiction and crime. It's flooding state budget coffers with new revenue or chasing after the false promise of fool's gold. It's getting a piece of Connecticut's casino action or selling out Massachusetts. It rightly gives every individual the right to gamble away the future, or it's just another way to take money from the poor and give it to the rich.

Inquiring minds want to know what side Patrick is on - the sooner, the better.

--

JOAN VENNOCHI

DiMasi holds the cards

By Joan Vennochi, Globe Columnist

August 12, 2007

THE MAN most likely to decide whether Massachusetts gambles on casino gambling isn't Governor Deval Patrick.

It's Speaker of the House Salvatore F. DiMasi.

The governor must sign off on any deal that would allow the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to build the state's first casino in Middleborough -- or, for that matter, on any casino deal.

But there's no casino without, first, an affirmative vote by the state Legislature. Senate President Therese Murray backs expanded gambling. DiMasi is a longstanding opponent. If DiMasi's not on board, what Patrick wants doesn't matter.

DiMasi isn't talking about his current thinking on the subject. However, David Guarino, his director of communications, is e-mailing.

On Aug. 2, the Globe published a powerful antigambling opinion piece by former attorney general Scott Harshbarger. Under the headline, "Casinos -- the new gold rush," Harshbarger argued that the Middleborough proposal "is all about money, special interests, and politics." He also questioned how much Massachusetts would benefit from the plethora of Bay State casinos that could be Middleborough's legacy.

That morning, Guarino sent this missive to Harshbarger: "I enjoyed your op ed today -- very well thought out. It is nice to have another voice besides the speaker and Chairman [Daniel] Bosley raising these concerns. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, particularly after the governor weighs in."

DiMasi always opposed casinos and slot machines on the grounds that the economic benefits would not be as grand as predicted, and not worth the social costs. From Guarino's e-mail, it sounds like the speaker is happy to have someone else buttress those arguments in a public forum.

But, will DiMasi impose this view yet again upon the House? Or, this time, will he leave it up to House members to decide casino gambling's fate? Can he withstand the argument of inevitability that gives this latest push by the casino lobby its potency and momentum? Not so long ago, state Auditor Joseph DeNucci suggested that DiMasi "is warming up to it."

There's a lot at stake -- the economic interests of the gaming industry, the public interest in balancing new revenue against social costs and the political interests of a new governor.

Casino owners are guaranteed a fortune and the public gets a tiny piece of it. If DiMasi blocks expanded gambling, he also blocks Patrick's ability to raise extra cash to underwrite an ambitious, first-term agenda. If Patrick can't deliver on campaign promises to cut property taxes and increase aid to education and public safety programs, he will be answering to some highly disillusioned voters.

DiMasi already said no to Patrick's proposals to increase state revenue by increasing the meals tax and closing corporate tax loopholes. The speaker's resistance made him the darling of the business community and denied the Patrick administration several hundred million dollars in new revenue.

Since Patrick took office, DiMasi is showing a willingness to thwart him. At the same, he is standing up less to the business community.

Back in 2005, when Beacon Hill took up healthcare reform, it was DiMasi who insisted business must chare the cost of expanded coverage to the uninsured. In 2007, it is DiMasi who became the business community's new best friend by declaring Patrick's modest tax proposals dead on arrival.

DiMasi recently asked Patrick to rescind a $10 million grant for a controversial development, saying it represented inappropriate corporate welfare. But it will take even more fortitude and spine to stand up to the business interests fanning the Bay State's gambling fever. Much of the state's political leadership already seems under its spell.

At the least, DiMasi should oversee a full and open debate on the merits of casino gambling. That packet of economic studies that is now in the governor's hands should be public. All the people have the right to know exactly what the state is betting on. DiMasi, the skeptic in the past when it comes to judging gambling's promised riches, should remain a skeptic. When it comes to gambling, the people deserve at least one in the State House.

The speaker holds the key to giving the casino industry what it wants. He also holds the key to a new governor's ability to deliver on some his campaign promises.

That's one powerful hand. How he plays it will be a test of DiMasi's personal principle and political loyalties.

Thursday, September 06, 2007 2:03:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

9/11/2007

RE: The Pol receiving the most per diem $ is BUREAUCRAT! Bosley with $10,980 so far this year!

Dear Pols, Berkshire Bloggers, News Media, & the People:

Beacon Hill lawmakers are shaking down the taxpayers each and every way they can, and it is all for their own personal gain! Let them eat cake! Massachusetts State Politics in NOT a democracy!

Please read the news article, cut & pasted below.

In Dissent!

Jonathan A. Melle

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By Bob Katzen/ BOB at BEACONHILLROLLCALL dot COM
GateHouse News Service
Monday, September 10, 2007, BOSTON -

During the week of Sept. 3-7, the House met for a total of three hours and 35 minutes while the Senate met for a total of three hours and 47 minutes.There were no roll-call votes in the House or Senate during the week of Sept. 3-7. Both branches continue to meet in brief informal sessions at which little business is conducted.

The official list from the state treasurer's office of "per diems" collected by 159 state representatives in 2007 for "mileage, meals and lodging" expenses reveals that through Aug. 23 these lawmakers have collected a total of $290,852.

The state pays per diems to representatives "for each day for travel from his place of residence to the Statehouse and return therefrom, while in the performance of his official duties, upon certification to the state treasurer that he was present at the Statehouse."

Beacon Hill Roll Call reported last week that the state's 39 senators have collected $61,411 in per diems through Aug. 23. The combined total collected by representatives and senators is 352,263.

These per diems are paid to representatives above and beyond their annual salaries, which at the beginning of this year were raised 4.8 percent from $55,569.41 to $58,236.74. The $2667.33 hike was implemented by former Gov. Mitt Romney under the terms of a constitutional amendment approved by the voters in 1998. The amendment requires legislative salaries to be increased or decreased biennially at the same rate as the state's median household income for the preceding two-year period, as ascertained by the governor. Many representatives also receive additional stipends ranging from $7,500 to $25,000 if they serve as committee chairs or in other leadership positions.

The 2007 statistics indicate that representatives received annual per-diem payments ranging from $78 to $10,980 and that 42 representatives have so far chosen not to apply for any money.

State law does not establish a deadline that legislators must meet in order to collect the per diems. Critics say that some legislators will wait several months before they file for per diems in order to avoid having their full payments appear on the early list released by the state treasurer's office. .

The amount of the per diem varies and is based on the city or town in which a representative resides and its distance from the Statehouse. These payments are tax free and range from $10 per day for representatives who reside in the Greater Boston area to $90 for some western Massachusetts lawmakers and $100 for those in Nantucket. Representatives who are from areas that are a long distance from Boston's Statehouse often are the ones who collect the highest total of annual per diems.

The Legislature approved, as part of the state budget in 2000, a provision doubling these per diems to the current amounts. Supporters of the hikes said that the per diems had not been raised for many years despite the rising costs of travel, food and lodging.

Some opponents said that the hikes were excessive while others argued that the very idea of paying any per diem is outrageous. They noted that other state workers and most private workers are not paid additional money for commuting.

The House and Senate did not hold a separate roll-call vote directly on the doubling of the per diem. The hike was included as a small section of the comprehensive $21.5 billion fiscal 2001 state budget that was approved on roll-call votes by both branches.

The representative who received the most money is Rep. Daniel Bosley, D-North Adams, with $10,980. The other top 10 recipients include: Reps. Denis Guyer, D-Dalton, $9,266; William Pignatelli, D-Lenox, $8,640; Christopher Donelan, D-Orange, $6,000; John Scibak, D-South Hadley, $5,880; Christopher Speranzo, D-Pittsfield, $5,670; Benjamin Swan, D-Springfield, $5,580; Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, $5,402; Demetrius Atsalis, D-Barnstable, $5,350 and Ellen Story, D-Amherst, $4,920.

Local representatives' per diems for 2007 - Here are the numbers of days that local representatives certified that they were at the Statehouse from Jan. 1 through Aug. 23, 2007. Also included is the total amount of per-diem money that the state has paid the representative in 2007. A total of 42 representatives did not list any days and did not request any per diems. This should not be construed to mean that these 42 representatives were never at the Statehouse in 2007. It simply means that as of Aug. 23, they chose not to list the number of days and not to request their per diems.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

9/18/2007

RE: Dan Bosley is my new favorite Politician! He told it like it really is! AWESOME!

Dear Dan Bosley, et al:

You, Dan Bosley, are my new favorite Politician! You told it like it really is! That takes a lot of courage. Awesome job!

You are right that Deval Patrick overstated the benefits of casino gambling!

You are right that the state government will not be able to regulate or contain the casinos to three regions of the commonwealth!

You are right that casino gambling will proliferate like the state lottery has over the past 3+ decades!

I am impressed with you, Representative Bosley! Good job!

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

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Gov. Proposed 3 Casinos in Massachusetts

By KEN MAGUIRE – 9/17/2007

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick proposed licensing three full-scale casinos in Massachusetts on Monday, a move he said would generate billions of dollars for the state and thousands of jobs.

The casinos would go in the state's western, southeastern and Boston regions, and Patrick said they would generate more than $2 billion annually in economic activity.

"With that kind of economic benefit, we cannot reject the gaming industry out of hand," the Democratic governor said.

The casinos also would generate $400 to $450 million in annual tax revenue that Patrick said he would spend on transportation upgrades and property tax relief.

Getting the casinos, however, will take the Legislature's approval, and support there is mixed. House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi said Monday he was not persuaded by Patrick's plan.

"So far, our concerns for ushering in casino gambling have not been eased," DiMasi said in a statement. "We in the House remain skeptical. But we will hear the governor out and we will be asking the governor to explain the rationale behind his conclusions.

Senate President Therese Murray has said she supported expanded gambling.

Massachusetts already has some legalized gambling in the form of a state lottery and four racetracks. If casinos are approved, the licenses would be put up for bid in a competitive process open to both Indian tribes and casino companies.

The governor said developing casino gambling in the state was part of his overall plan for long-term sustainable growth in the state. Patrick is under pressure to find new revenue. He has proposed a $1 billion life science project that would include the world's largest stem cell bank and a $1.4 billion commuter rail line from Boston to Fall River and New Bedford.

The state also is looking for extra money to close an estimated $15 to $19 billion gap in transportation spending over the next 20 years.

Gambling opponents already are mobilizing against the plan, arguing the casinos won't be the cash cow Patrick hopes and will end up costing the state money — primarily Lottery revenues — while destroying its character.

Consumers spent $32 billion in commercial casinos in 11 states last year — more than consumer spending on specialty coffee and books combined, according to the American Gaming Association.

---

Governor predicts a jackpot

Millions targeted for road, bridges, property tax relief
Proposal is hailed, faces turbulence on Beacon Hill

By Frank Phillips and Andrea Estes, Globe Staff

September 18, 2007

Governor Deval Patrick, ending months of private study and public speculation, invited the casino industry to come to Massachusetts yesterday in a watershed proposal that he said will create 20,000 jobs and generate $2 billion in economic activity from three resort-style casinos in various regions of the state.

In unveiling his proposal, Patrick said the financial windfall would outweigh the serious social ills associated with gambling. The hundreds of millions of dollars in additional state revenues, he said, would be directed toward rebuilding the state's crumbling roads and bridges and providing property tax relief for beleaguered homeowners.

"Casino gambling is neither a cure-all nor the end of civilization," Patrick said at a State House press conference. "Under certain conditions, I believe casinos can work well in and for the Commonwealth."

Patrick's plan immediately encountered turbulence in key places on Beacon Hill. House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, a longtime gambling opponent, responded coolly to the initiative, saying, "We in the House remain skeptical."

"So far, our concerns for ushering in casino gambling have not been eased," DiMasi said. "But we will hear the governor out, and we will be asking the governor to explain the rationale behind his conclusions."

Patrick, who must win the support of the Legislature for his plan to proceed, wants to license three casinos: in Southeastern Massachusetts, Western Massachusetts, and the Boston metropolitan area. His plan would encourage bidding by the Wampanoag Indian tribe, which has proposed a casino resort in Middleborough, by including a provision that would give special consideration to an Indian bid for one of the licenses.

The administration estimates that bidding for the 10-year licenses would produce between $600 million and $900 million in upfront fees for the state. The state would then receive 27 percent of gambling proceeds from all three casinos each year. That would amount to $400 million a year, after subtracting the costs of treating chronic gamblers, beefing up police enforcement, and creating a regulatory branch of government.

"With that potential economic generator, we cannot reject the casino industry out of hand," Patrick said. He presented the initiative as an alternative to raising taxes.

His long-awaited decision was praised by advocates for casino gambling, including the potential bidders for the licenses, the labor unions that represent hotel and resort workers, trade unions, some municipal officials, and the state's tourism officials.

"This is a way of helping Massachusetts' beleaguered cities and towns without raising revenues through taxation," said Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who supports a casino resort at Suffolk Downs race track in East Boston. He called the facility "the only feasible site in Boston."

But Patrick's proposal is also creating strong opposition that cuts across ideological lines. Some of his closest supporters denounced his decision, as did social conservatives, including the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and the state's leading group opposing same-sex marriage.

Scott Harshbarger, the former attorney general and a liberal Democrat who was an early supporter of Patrick last year, said he was disappointed in the decision. "This is bad public policy, and it would be a huge mistake for Massachusetts to take this step in expanded gambling," he said. "His campaign was not about casinos but real economic development, on the merits and not on quick fixes."

The Massachusetts Family Institute, an anti-gambling group, called the proposal a "short-sighted, dangerous approach to economic growth." Kris Mineau, the group's president, said the institute and other opponents are considering taking the issue to the state ballot for voters to decide. The earliest it could appear before voters is 2010.

Under the governor's plans, the state's proceeds from the casinos would be evenly divided between paying for road and bridge repairs and bringing tax relief to an estimated 1 million property owners. He proposed a property tax credit that would range from $150 to $400 a year for qualified property owners and average about $215. Property owners who pay 2.5 percent or more of their income on property taxes would qualify for the credit. The average property tax bill in the state was $3,962 in the last fiscal year.

The governor's proposal calls for the state lottery, which provides about $950 million a year in aid to cities and towns, to receive additional funds from the casino money to make up for the expected loss because of the new gambling competition.

Patrick said 2.5 percent of gross casino proceeds would be placed in a public health trust fund to pay for increased problem gambling referrals. Another 2.5 percent would be set aside to help host towns and adjacent towns with increased police, fire, and transportation costs.

A special gaming commission, paid for by the casino operators, would be created to oversee the casinos. Patrick said the details of the commission membership and other details are still being worked out. A special unit would be created in the attorney general's office to enforce gaming laws.

"We will regulate casinos vigilantly, professionally, and independent of politics," Patrick said.

---

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Gambling debate flares after Patrick's proposal

(Wiqan Ang for The Boston Globe)

Representative Daniel Bosley (left), a longtime casino foe, squared off this morning against state Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, who supports the expansion of gambling. Rev. Richard McGowan, a gambling researcher at Boston College, sat between the two men during the panel discussion at the Omni Parker House.

By Michael Levenson and Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff

Passions flared on both sides of the gambling debate this morning as opponents and supporters of Governor Deval Patrick's plan to license three casinos in Massachusetts squared off at a forum in a hotel ballroom in downtown Boston.

About 100 lawyers, lobbyists, and lawmakers attended the panel discussion at the Omni Parker House, which included Representative Daniel Bosley and state Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill -- two Democrats on opposite sides of the issue -- and the Rev. Richard McGowan, a gambling researcher at Boston College.

The most passionate comments of the morning came from a lawmaker in the audience, state Senator Susan Tucker, who blasted the governor's plan in a sarcastic speech.

"The fact is that this is an industry that depends on addiction for its resources," said Tucker, a Democrat from Andover. "Why don't we just promote smoking so we can use the extra tax on cigarettes to pay for public health problems?"

The discussion, hosted by MassInc., a nonpartisan think tank, had been scheduled before Patrick unveiled his casino plan Monday. The timing made it one of the first vigorous debates of the proposal to expand gambling throughout the state.

Cahill called the governor's plan "brilliant," saying that casino gambling became a reality that needed to be addressed after the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe won federal recognition this spring. While state treasurers have historically been against casino gambling to protect Lottery revenues, Cahill said that young consumers tend to view Keno, scratch tickets, and other Lottery contests as "their father's game." That has allowed a large revenue stream to leave the state for casinos in Connecticut and beyond.

"We should start to capture that money," Cahill said. "If people want to spend their money on gambling, who are we to say they can't. We just want to make it an attractive setting."

Bosley, a North Adams representative and longtime critic of casinos, argued that the governor overstated the economic benefits of legalized gambling. He said it would be impossible to limit casinos to three regions in the state and warned it would mushroom like the Lottery, which started with one green ticket in the 1970s and has grown to nearly 40 types of scratch-off tickets, Keno with its drawings every four minutes, and a bevy of other games.

"That's a cautionary tale for us, because the same thing will happen that happened with the Lottery," Bosley said.

Opposition to expanded gambling has been growing since 1996, Bosley said, and he estimated that 101 of the 160 members in the state House of Representatives vote against casinos the last time the issue surfaced.

Cahill said that the way to build support was simple: make sure casino revenues will be spread to each of the state's 351 cities and towns, ensuring that each legislator gets a piece.

McGowan, the gambling researcher, agreed that the governor may have been too optimistic about the financial windfall and had a warning for lawmakers hoping to fill budget gaps with casino revenues. "Once you get on to the medicine, you can't get off it," he said.

Posted by the Boston Globe City & Region Desk

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007 4:43:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

9/18/2007

RE: Deval Patrick is for the Corporate Elite!

Dear Deval Patrick:

Get real! The only real beneficiary of casino gambling in Massachusetts will be the Corporate Elite, which is the top 10% of American citizens organized around big businesses.

The problem with your reasoning on economic development for the working class stiffs of Massachusetts is that the jobs created will be low wage service positions that will not come close to cutting it. The profits from the casinos will go to Wall Street investment venture capitalist firms, while the social cost will be paid by those who are unable to ante up for the tab.

You, Deval Patrick, are Orwellian in your governance. First, you run a populist campaign, and now, you serve only your corporate elite masters through your inequitable public policies! You are a phony and you do NOT fool me.

The new revenue for the commonwealth is REGRESSIVE TAXATION! The revenue will not be used for progressive means, but rather, it will be complemented with progressive tax revenues to further lower the tax liability for the Corporate Elite. That is the crux of the problem with the state lottery's inequity, and that will happen with the casino's public revenues, too!

It is evidentially proven that DEVAL PATRICK is for the CORPORATE ELITE!

In Dissent,

Jonathan Alan Melle

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Patrick to offer 3-casino plan
By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff | September 16, 2007

Governor Deval Patrick plans to propose as early as tomorrow that the state sell licenses for three full-scale resort casinos in Massachusetts, citing their potential to spur economic growth, create jobs, and generate new government revenue, according to State House officials who have been briefed on his plan.

Patrick will recommend that the casinos be licensed in three regions: Southeastern Massachusetts, Western Massachusetts, and an area that includes Boston and points north, the officials said. His announcement will mark the culmination of months of study and the end of a long stretch of public silence on the subject of legalized gaming.

All three licenses would be put up for competitive bid, in a process that is expected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in immediate and direct state revenue, the officials said.

The Mashpee Wampanoag Indian tribe would have to outbid other competitors if it wishes to quickly proceed with its plans for a resort-style casino in Middleborough, the officials said. If the tribe decides against seeking a state license or fails to receive one in the bidding process, it could still proceed with a longer, more arduous federal approval process that could result in a fourth Massachusetts casino.

The governor will not recommend allowing slot machines at the state's financially struggling horse and dog tracks, the officials said, a decision which is sure to set off protests and a major lobbying push in the Legislature from the politically powerful track operators.

The officials agreed to talk only on the condition of anonymity because the governor had yet to make his announcement.

Only part of Patrick's proposal was outlined yesterday by the officials, and key details - including how much new cash the state could expect and how many jobs Patrick administration officials believe the three casinos will create - were withheld.

In other states with licensed casinos, initial license fees have generated hundreds of millions of dollars, and states garner hundreds of millions more each year in their share of gambling proceeds.

The officials who have been briefed on Patrick's plan said the governor will justify his decision to embrace casinos with the same arguments made by gambling proponents: that licensed casino gambling will create thousands of new jobs, spur growth in travel and tourism, and provide the state with a key stream of new revenue to augment income and sales taxes.

Patrick will argue that the casino resorts will be an important part of a larger economic development program, which includes a $1 billion life science initiative, an aggressive renewable energy program, and a $1.5 billion capital spending plan.

"The governor is saying that this is an important part of his overall economic strategy to ensure he meets his goal for economic activity and create 100,000 new jobs over the next four years," one of the officials said.

According to the officials, Patrick, in framing the arguments to back his endorsement of expanded gambling, will tout the potential economic benefits to the state more than the financial benefits to the fiscally strapped state government.

But the lure to state budgeters is clear: Patrick and other leaders are searching for billions of dollars needed to repair bridges and roads, improve education, and provide cities and towns with property tax relief.

When Patrick presents his plan, which is scheduled to be tomorrow, his announcement will be seen as a political watershed for his administration.

The announcement will also mark the beginning of a new stage of the casino debate, one that will focus increasingly on the Legislature, which will be required to approve the governor's plan if it is to move forward.

House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi is publicly opposed to casinos while Senate President Therese Murray is among gambling's key supporters.

A move into gambling could dramatically alter the market for gambling throughout the region and set off new competition. Proponents have contended that Massachusetts is in a good position to pick up casino revenue that is currently going to Connecticut, where there are two large casinos that attract legions of Massachusetts gamblers and others from throughout New England.

In making his decision to endorse casino resorts, Patrick will be going against many of his close political allies and a good chunk of his Democratic base, including liberals who see gambling as a regressive tax that takes money from those in the lower income brackets to ease the financial burdens of the more affluent.

Those critics, including House leaders, say the financial gains are illusory. They say expanded gambling would create social problems and will hook state political leaders and Beacon Hill budget writers on gambling revenues, while providing few long-term economic benefits. They also say that expanding gambling with Las Vegas-like resorts will change the historic and cultural character of Massachusetts forever.

But a recent study said that there is $1.5 billion in annual unmet market demand for gambling.

A line of pent-up casino proposals bears out the assertion that market forces favor gambling.

The Mashpee Wampanoags have proposed a $1 billion casino in Middleborough, estimating their facility alone could generate up to $200 million to $250 million a year in additional state revenue.

Other gambling interests, including another Wampanoag tribe from Martha's Vineyard, the owners of the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut, and Suffolk Downs race track in Boston, are also vying for casino licenses.

Billionaire casino developer Sheldon Adelson is talking with legislative leaders about a casino on Interstate 495 where it intersects with the turnpike.

Patrick faces a difficult task in persuading DiMasi, a longtime opponent of expanded gambling, to switch his position, according to senior Beacon Hill figures. The House has consistently, and by wide margins, defeated pro-casino and increased gaming plans over the last decade.

As Patrick studied the issue this summer, DiMasi made statements that have led many to suspect that he is softening his position. His press aide, David Guarino, said late last week that the speaker is keeping an open mind to any arguments that Patrick makes for casinos.

But those who have talked to DiMasi privately in recent weeks come away with the clear impression that his opposition to expanded gambling remains firm and that his comments were made in deference to Patrick.

"It will take a lot of convincing to bring the speaker around," said one senior legislative official.

On the other side, gambling has galvanized proponents who think it will give the state an important economic boost.

"At the end of the day, you would have $400 million to $450 million a year in new revenue," said Senate Ways and Means chairman Steven C. Panagiotakos, a Lowell Democrat, referring to the state's projected take from the three proposed casinos.

He said the money would go a long way toward helping the state pay to repair roads and crumbling bridges, and offer property tax relief to communities.

"It is not going to solve all our problems, but will go a long way in helping us deal with them," he said.
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Tuesday, September 18, 2007 5:05:00 PM  

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