A better charter bill

Pat Jehlen is a state senator representing Cambridge, Medford, Somerville, and Winchester. She won her contested Democratic primary almost 4-1. BMG endorsed her :-) She was born in Texas. - promoted by Bob_Neer

“What changes do you want to see in charter schools?”

I sometimes hear this from people who know I’m against Question 2, which would allow for unlimited expansion of charter schools without changing anything about them or their funding.

Question 2 is an up or down proposition, but it’s never good to be the “Party of No.”  Actually, the Senate passed a bill last spring called the “RISE Act” (because everything has to be an acronym).  It would have allowed for charter school expansion with critical changes in the way charters are approved and operate.  I was one of the senators who helped write the bill, and agree with almost all of it.

I was disappointed in the Charter School Association’s response. They didn’t say, “We’re okay with this provision, but not that one.” They immediately rejected the entire bill.  I’d like to hear from people who support Question 2 (or are considering it) which portions they support, and which ones they oppose.

Here are its main provisions, which show the ideas Senators have, not just about charter schools, but about improving education for all children.

The 1993 Education Reform Act didn’t just create charter schools and state standards.  The most important provision increased state aid by $1.2 billion a year, distributed in a way that moved us toward more equalized spending.  Three studies of MA school finance reform in the 1990s found that achievement of students in previously low-spending districts went up.  (At the time there were no high-stakes for schools and teachers based on tests, and there were few charters.)For 7 years we kept the promise of moving toward equality.  But since 2000 state funding has fallen far behind the costs of health care and special education.  I served on the Foundation Budget Review Commission.  We found that we’re short-changing schools by a billion dollars a year.  Low-income communities can’t make up their losses from local property taxes.  We are now among the states with the greatest inequality between school districts (and the greatest income inequality).

Schools labeled as “failing” are mostly in those low-income communities.

MCAS scores correlate almost 90% with income.

Early Stammtisch: come see a comedy show Wednesday night!

Bumped - this is tonight! Click the banner ads at the top left and right of the page to order tickets, or just show up at the box office. Remember - BMGers get half price tickets with code "LBBluemass" or just by showing up. - promoted by david

Thanks to the good people at Laugh Boston, BMGers can get half price tickets for “Trump Takes On Boston” this Wednesday, Oct 26, at 8 pm.  Use the code “LBBlueMass” when ordering to receive this exclusive discount!  The banner ads at the top right and left corners of the screen should take you directly to the ticket order page.  Also, if you decide to go last-minute, don’t worry – just show up at the ticket office and tell them you’re from Blue Mass Group.  You’ll still get the discount.

The show is an interactive comedy affair – here’s the description:

The show is a comedic romp where audience members are encouraged to engage with America’s most notorious presidential nominee. Whether you love him or hate him, you’ll have a chance to debate “Trump” on any topic you want. We’re talking no holds barred here, folks. No holds. Starring award-winning actor and comedian David Carl, the show incorporates improv, songs, sketches, video, social media, and maybe even some dance (…Who knows? Our fingers are crossed, though!) to create a one-of-a-kind performance that will be different every night.

Co-starring actors from Boston’s famed Improv Asylum – this interactive show allows Boston to finally ask whatever they’ve wanted to say to the most polarizing and controversial presidential nominee of our lifetime.

Why not make a BMG event of it?  Laugh Boston is located in the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel, 425 Summer Street (corner of D Street), in South Boston.  There’s a bar that opens an hour before showtime, and there’s also table service in the show itself.  More detailed info on directions and parking are here.

We could all use a laugh or two this election season.  Hope you enjoy!

November BMG Stammtisch

Upcoming Stammtisch is T minus 6. Best wishes to Tom - promoted by hesterprynne

The Saloon

Come, enjoy some libations, and talk politics at the last pre-election stammtisch. Our now-regular monthly BMG Stammtisch will happen, as usual, the first Wednesday of the month — 2-November — at The Saloon in Davis Square at 7p.

My wife and I plan to return home later this week. My mother died on 16-October, and we have been making funeral arrangements and settling her affairs since then. I appreciate the kind words from the BMG community.

Hope to see you there!

Citing the 1851 Fort Laramie Treatie, today, 10/23/16 Water Protectors take back sovereign lands via blockade and their right of eminent domain!

For some time of late esteemed BMG'er AmberPaw has been directing our attention to the noble opposition being exerted by the Standing Rock Native American Tribe to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in north central U.S. The opposition by the Tribe to the pipeline concerns not only the climate change fossil fuels bring us but also the tribe's constitutional religious free exercise rights and the constitutional free press rights of journalists to cover this controversy. Today, former VP Al Gore endorsed the position of the the Standing Rock Tribe on the issue - promoted by hesterprynne

[Note:  Governor Dalrymple owns plenty of pipeline stock, and has shown willingness to play rough.  I have friends in Sacred Stone Camp acting as legal observors - I am concerned for their safety]  Deborah Sirotkin Butler aka AmberPaw

Citing 1851 Treaty, Water Protectors Establish Road Blockade and Expand Frontline #NoDAPL Camp<

Cannon Ball, ND – This morning, at approximately 8am central, water protectors took back unceded territory affirmed in the 1851 Treaty of Ft. Laramie as sovereign land under the control of the Oceti Sakowin, erecting a frontline camp of several structures and tipis on Dakota Access property, just east of ND state highway 1806. This new established camp is 2.5 miles north of the Cannon Ball River, directly on the proposed path of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). This site is directly across the road from where DAPL security dogs attacked water protectors on September 3rd.

To ensure the protection of this new camp from overtly militarized law enforcement, water protectors have established three road blockades:

  1. North of the Frontline Camp, on Highway 1806
  2. South of the Cannon Ball River, on Highway 1806
  3. Immediately west of Highway 1806, on county road 134

Police have discharged weapons, using rubber bullets to shoot down drones being used to document the police activity and actions.

This frontline camp is located on the final three 3 miles of the proposed pipeline route, before it connects with the drill pad that will take the pipeline beneath the Missouri River. Active construction of the Dakota Access pipeline is 2 miles west of this frontline camp. Oceti Sakowin water protectors continue an on-going pledge to halt active construction as frequently as possible.

Mekasi Camp-Horinek, an Oceti Sakowin camp coordinator states, “Today, the Oceti Sakowin has enacted eminent domain on DAPL lands, claiming 1851 treaty rights. This is unceded land. Highway 1806 as of this point is blockaded. We will be occupying this land and staying here until this pipeline is permanently stopped. We need bodies and we need people who are trained in non-violent direct action.  We are still staying non-violent and we are still staying peaceful.”

Joye Braun, Indigenous Environmental Network organizer states, “We have never ceded this land. If DAPL can go through and claim eminent domain on landowners and Native peoples on their own land, then we as sovereign nations can then declare eminent domain on our own aboriginal homeland. We are here to protect the burial sites here. Highway 1806 has become the no surrender line.”

Ladonna Bravebull Allard, Sacred Stone Camp, “We stand for the water, we stand on our treaties, we stand for unci maka- we stand and face the storm.”

the Standing Rock Tribe today

It's time to make Keolis pay

Hmm. The Gov forgives Keolis $839.000 in fines while making plans to cut $295 million from this year's budget -hesterprynne
Formatting fixed. - promoted by david

A big crowd of legislators and transit workers gathered on the State House steps last Thursday afternoon to protest the Baker administration’s outsourcing of pubic transit services.

I was outraged to hear that the Baker administration decided to forgive $839,000 in fines leveled against Keolis, the outsourced operator of the commuter rail system, behind closed doors and without any notice to the public. As co-chairs of the MBTA Legislative Caucus, Senator Linda Dorcena Forry (D-Dorchester), Representative Sean Garballey (D-Arlington), and I sent a letter to Governor Baker yesterday last week, urging him to hold Keolis fully accountable for its poor performance.

The winter of 2015 was brutal for Massachusetts commuters and residents. Nearly two-thirds of Keolis-operated trains were late or cancelled in February of that year. Due to performance-based provisions in its contract with Keolis, the state justifiably fined the rail operator for its failure to ensure timely transportation services.

However, without notifying the public, the Baker administration decided to waive $839,000 of those fines in November of 2015, citing unforeseen extreme weather as an excuse. Given that commuters did not receive their money back when trains were overcrowded, late, or cancelled, it’s puzzling that Governor Baker supports forgiving Keolis, a multi-billion dollar global corporation hauling in $5 billion in revenue in 2015.

Unfortunately, the Governor’s tolerance with Keolis’ poor services is the latest of a series of disturbing decisions that seem to prioritize corporate interests over working families. In 2015, the Baker administration gave back additional fines to Keolis to allow them to hire more staff, and earlier this year, Governor Baker rewarded Keolis with an extra $66 million over six years above its agreed contract despite the company’s continued poor performance.

Mayor Walsh standing with elected officials at rally opposing Governor Baker’s outsourcing of MBTA jobs

It seems that when a multi-billion dollar global corporation makes multiple mistakes, Governor Baker is not just ready to forgive – he is comfortable spending tax dollars to bail them out.

At the same time, when it comes to MBTA cash counters, bus drivers, janitors, and many of the MBTA’s professional staff that make the state’s transit system work, workers are blamed for the T’s overall problems, early retirement is pushed, and jobs are outsourced. Additionally, Governor Baker continues to cite reduced revenue to justify his opposition to make necessary investments in essential government services. If the state can’t afford to invest in its people, then it’s fiscally irresponsible to let Keolis off the hook when it fails to deliver its contractual obligations.

Last week, multiple elected officials, led by Mayor Marty Walsh, stood side by side with workers in strong opposition to Governor Baker’s agenda to outsource transportation jobs and services. That rally could mark a turning point in the Legislature’s go-along to get-along attitude with the Baker administration. In the interim, the public deserves answers on how Baker’s corporate welfare will lead to a better MBTA system for Massachusetts commuters.

No on 2

Joyce weighs in... - promoted by david

Good morning BMGers.

I posted something on my Facebook page yesterday about the proposed charter cap lift on the ballot, and it generated some predictable vitriol (I’ll be sad on the day that questions involving the future of children don’t produce passionate arguments on all sides.), but it also generated a great number of questions from people who are genuinely confused about the issue. This makes sense, because it’s not really a question that argues opposite sides of an issue, but rather a complex issue with a lot of nuance. I think we can all agree to start with the premise that parents want what’s best for their kids, and everyone believes that all children should have access to a quality public education.

I haven’t seen an abundance of talk here about the issue, so I wanted to share a few items that might be of interest.

The CFO and Budget Director of Boston analyzed the fiscal impact of the proposed cap lift, and you can read it here if you are interested. It’s dense, but understandable, and I think people are finding it helpful as they hone in on their decision.

I am also linking here to Mayor Walsh’s op-ed on the issue. As has been well documented, he is in favor of a responsible cap lift, but this isn’t that.

And last, here is a well reasoned opinion piece in Commonwealth by Boston School Committee member Michael Loconto, who is also a BPS parent. As he eloquently puts it, it’s not anti-charter to oppose lifting the cap in the way this ballot question proposes.

Thank you for all of your advocacy and activism.


Schilling Held the Saddest Rally at Boston City Hall Today

Bumped, because Breitbart Inc, having noticed his ability to draw audiences, just hired him. - promoted by hesterprynne

The Globe posted that Curt Schilling held a rally at Boston City Hall today, they estimated that a few dozen people, yes, two dozen, like 24 people showed up. That estimate looks charitable as the photograph looks more like 12 people to me.

But it seems like we didn’t miss much:

Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling joined about two dozen Donald Trump supporters on a rain-chilled and windswept Boston City Hall Plaza on Saturday afternoon to denounce Hillary Clinton and what several speakers called the “Clinton crime family.”

Then he encouraged people who haven’t made a decision to not vote, since their values, thoughts and opinions don’t matter unless they align with his. But since no one was there I’m not sure exactly who he was talking to.

The former All-Star had this advice for potential voters who don’t support either Trump or Clinton: “If you’re not informed, do not vote, because on the table right now is two to four Supreme Court justices and the future generations of our Supreme Court.”

Seems like a great guy. Must have promoted it on his radio show/podcast.

John Podesta's email is not anti-Catholic, is not a scandal, and surrenders no "moral high ground"

Great and phenomenally well-sourced read. - promoted by hesterprynne

This is response to a comment on the other thread, in which it was posited that Trump would pay no political price for his somewhat “over the line” speech at the Al Smith dinner. (“Here she is, pretending not to hate Catholics.”) A speech that sort of missed the point of why Democrats, Republicans, and Catholics alike all remember and honor Al Smith, and which contrasted sharply with her speech, which after a round of corny awkward jokes, starkly illustrated why the GOP of 2016 is so thoroughly opposed to what the Al Smith dinner is supposed to represent. (Seriously, go listen to her speech. If you want to skip the bad jokes, skip to 15:00, at which point she makes a stirring case for how America SHOULD be, and that is a thorough takedown of Trumpism. She doesn’t do stirring speeches, or make any case for she would be President? Bull.)

It was posited that Trump would pay no price because Clinton had “surrendered the moral high ground” by the supposedly anti-Catholic attitudes revealed in the Wikileaks emails. Bunk.

For the most part, those offended are the same ones “offended” by the dire imposition on their religious liberty to make sure other people don’t use birth control.

I believe that the organisation to which porcupine refers is Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, an organization formed in 2005 and which opposes the Church’s exclusive emphasis on sexual politics at the expense of the wider aspects of Catholic teaching on social morality. As such, it turns out that the group found itself NOT supporting GOP policies over the last 11 years. Hence the pearl clutching, and the denunciations from the John Paul II-political Catholics.

This is purely an instance of IOKIYAR. When the execrable Cardinal Dolan, or Paul Ryan or Rick Santorum or other Opus Dei types pretend that “Thomism” and “subsidiarity” give theological support for the psuedo-intellectual social Darwinism of Ayn Rand (which, you might be surprised to learn, is a lie), they are exemplary fighters for their religious values. When their opponents engage in political activity in opposition to them, those opponents must be denounced as perfidious.

The Podesta email was sent in the context of the 2012 mini-crisis over birth control and Obamacare. Recall that Cardinal Dolan, who is an evil man, was quite gung-ho to support keeping people without health insurance in order to protect his religious liberty to control what other people do. In true John Paul II fashion, Dolan pretended to be the monolithic voice of Catholicism and thus thundered away, as he is wont to do.

In response to someone inquiring why there isn’t simply a revolution by Catholics to overthrow the Church prelates, Podesta wrote something like “this is why we formed CAPG.” In other words, Catholic opponents of Dolan’s absolutism would seek reform of the Church’s approach to such pastoral matters from within, rather than trying to overthrow the hierarchy in its entirety. We had similar discussions here; many (non-Catholic) liberals were then quite impatient and disappointed in the liberal Catholic’s “reform from within” approach. Sandy Newman described the Church’s “middle ages dictatorship,” which was a phrase used here on BMG by those similarly frustrated. Podesta was defending liberal Catholics’ unwillingness to “revolt.”

His use of the first person plural now allows Republicans like porcupine to use the “astroturf” talking point that she read on redstate. It ignores that Podesta is actually Catholic, and likely is involved in the organization, because it supports his view of Catholic social teaching. I would hope he is: that’s why I support him and his boss.

The other thing that is producing faux pearl clutching is that Sandy Newman stated a wish for a “Catholic Spring” in response to Dolan, who is an evil man. This, of course, is a wish that was then, is now, and has long been shared by the overwhelming majority of American Catholics, even if they are not willing to secede from the Church. The irony is that, just a year later, something that could be just that began with the election of Pope Francis.

Just look what all those people who, in 2012, were horrified that a Catholic might disagree publicly at all with a Price of the Church, now say about the Pope himself, once it became clear that he would not provide moral justification for social Darwinism.

This email scandal is a non-issue, except to those whom are trying to rationalize their support of a forthrightly depraved candidate. Pretending that Clinton somehow “lost the high ground” is simply a continuation of their absurd campaign tactics this season:

November Ninth

John's comment of the day: "After that, if she governs as a neoliberal, continues the policies of her husband, if she is able to gain support from Democrats like Chuck Schumer and deliver “a giant wet kiss for the tax dodgers who have already parked $2.1 trillion overseas” to quote Senator Elizabeth Warren, she runs one term and loses in a landslide equal to the one that put her in office. If, however, she listens to people like Senator Warren, Senator Sanders, and yours truly, she wins re-election with the bonus of the Democrats taking the house and senate." - promoted by Bob_Neer

This presidential election is not a contest between Clinton and Trump (and, to a lessor extent, Johnson and Stein).  Rather, it is a referendum on Trump.

And assuming that Trump is going to lose, the voters will be electing whomever is running against him.  Turns out, that’s Hillary Clinton (remember her?).

Although Clinton’s election Trump’s defeat will be a monumental smackdown with a mandate against all his horrors, HRC will not have a mandate.

Let’s assume my prediction of a 48.3%–45.2% popular vote spread is correct, which many of my friends think is waaaaay too high for the Donald.  This plurality harkens back to her husband’s 43% win back in 24 years ago (count ‘em!), but that was with a serious third party contender.  Still, I expect about 20% of her supporters aren’t voting FOR HER they’re voting AGAINST HIM.  It’s not unusual to have some voters only voting against the “lesser of two evils.”  But I can’t imagine it’s ever been this significant.

Add to that her unpopularity; her not being a good campaigner (cf. Coakley, Martha); and all the faux scandals drummed up by Faux News.  And it’s clear to me that few voters in America will be supporting her.

So my point (see! I’m getting around to it!) is more of a two-part question:

  1. How much of a mandate will she have to govern?
  2. Is she a sitting duck in 2020?

Here’s the counter points to my worries:

  • She’s much more popular when she’s actually in government (Senator, SoS) than in campaigns (’92, ’08, ’16).  So maybe my worries will be over when the dust settles on November 9th.
  • W had no mandate in ’00 and he ran with it like he was king of the world.  A mandate is whatever you say it is.  Winning is enough, even if it’s a squeaker, and she’s got four years to do a good job.

Obama sort of had a mandate in ’08, but that was due to McCain’s terrible campaign, Bush’s unpopularity, the financial meltdown, and inevitable pendulum swing between parties.  But the GOP got to work obfuscating him at every turn for eight fun-filled years.

So I worry that we’ll have a wounded president even before she starts and will be hard to re-elect in four years.

Am I wrong? I welcome your comments.


Yes on 4 Gets Biggest Endorsement Yet

Excellent! - promoted by Bob_Neer

Sen. Rosenberg (Flickr/Jones Library)

Stan Rosenberg has become the highest-ranking current elected official in Massachusetts to endorse Yes on 4, the ballot question to legalize marijuana:

Senate President Stan Rosenberg says he’s planning to vote for a ballot question that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Massachusetts.

The Amherst Democrat said during an interview Thursday on WGBH-FM that he will vote for Question 4 and then try to make improvements to the measure. [...]

A poll released Wednesday by WBUR-FM found 55 percent of voters back the ballot question, while 40 percent oppose it.

Other endorsers include former Gov. Bill Weld and Boston City Council President Michelle Wu. Also, Rick Steves!

It’s unfortunate that some Democrats, like House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Attorney General Maura Healey and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, continue to oppose legalization in the face of majority public support. It’s one thing to take a moral stand against popular opinion, but opposing marijuana legalization is both wrong AND unpopular.

Marijuana is less of a health risk than alcohol and tobacco, both of which are legally available to adults. As the Globe has reported, research shows that in the Netherlands, where marijuana is legally sold in cafes, young marijuana smokers are slightly LESS likely to take up harder drugs than their counterparts in the United States and other countries.

Despite “decriminalization” in Massachusetts, statewide arrest rates for marijuana possession were 3.3 times higher for blacks than for whites in 2014, even though research shows blacks and whites use marijuana at similar rates, as the Globe reported.

On the ballot questions, I’m on board with Progressive Massachusetts: No No Yes Yes.

Debate open thread

Have at it.

Some Follow-Ups: Baker's Welfare Policy, Mass Fiscal's Disclosure Policy, Mandatory Minimum Sentences in the SJC

(A few developments on three posts from earlier this year.)

Back in June, Governor Baker sought unsuccessfully to reduce state welfare payments to families in which a disabled family member was receiving federal disability payments. Under Baker’s plan, as the Herald reported, the state would no longer pay $400 per month to a grandmother who’s caring full time for her 13-year-old granddaughter who cannot walk or talk because of the cerebral palsy that she has had since birth. The cutoff of state funds Baker proposed would have left the family of two to survive on the $750 per month in federal disability payments the granddaughter receives. The Legislature told the Governor no.

In August, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire struck down a welfare eligibility restriction in that state very similar to the rule Governor Baker wanted Massachusetts to adopt. The federal disability payments, the court ruled, were intended as specific assistance to persons with disabilities and were not intended to be available for the family’s general living expenses. One hopes that if the Legislature’s rejection of Baker’s proposal does not deter him from introducing it again, the New Hampshire Supreme Court decision will.


In August, after the Legislature passed a law requiring organizations that use direct mail for their electioneering to disclose the names of their five largest donors (just as organizations that use paid television, internet and print advertising must do), the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, purveyor of preposterous allegations about the voting records of its opponents, was left with a choice — either divulge the names of its five biggest donors, or curtail its electioneering.  They recently announced that they would keep their donors’ names secret, which means that their direct mail efforts this election season will not be indulging in their usual farcical claims but will merely encourage recipients to visit their website.  In an effort to portray this decision as a victory, Mass. Fiscal commented that it never wanted to become dull:  ”We are always looking at ways to improve our effectiveness in communicating with the voters.”


In April, the Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments in a District Attorney’s appeal of a case in which the trial judge declined to impose the statutory minimum mandatory prison sentence for drug distribution on a disabled black man who had been convicted of possessing an amount of drugs in the approximate quantity of a five-gram packet of sugar.

Last week, the court issued an opinion reversing the trial judge and ordering that the minimum mandatory sentence (3 1/2 years instead of the 2 1/2 years the trial judge ordered)  be imposed. But in that decision, the Court also sent a message to the Legislature that arguments about the unconstitutionality of mandatory minimums, such as the strong evidence of their racially discriminatory application during the twenty years that they have been on the books, might be appropriate for the court to consider in future cases.