Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Earl: 5% Chance of "$10 billion disaster" in New England

I was just reading the Tropical Weather Blog at Weather Underground and was surprised to read this:
A deviation to the left, with a direct hit on eastern Long Island and Providence, Rhode Island, would probably be a $10 billion disaster, as the hurricane would hit a heavily populated area and drive a drive a 5 - 10 foot storm surge up Buzzards Bay and Narragansett Bay. The odds of this occurring are around 5%, according to the latest NHC wind probability forecast.
Whoa, whoa, whoa! The chance that Saturday morning we will begin cleaning up from a "$10 billion disaster" that would rival the Hurricane of 1938 are 1-in-20? This is news, no?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Worwtown Fleet: Leominster

In a show of support for Jeff Barnard, Worcester's premier web columnist who is waging a battle against cancer, area bloggers are taking up his practice of snapping photos of Central Massachusetts from their cars and posting the scenes on their sites. The snapshots have been a staple of Wormtown Taxi over the years. The producer of Nicole, Worcester--a must-read if you care about Worcester at all--is the brainchild behind the idea.

While I don't carry a camera with me in the car most of the time, I have taken thousands of road photos as part of my delayed quest to drive and photograph every state highway in Massachusetts. So in support of Jeff, I'll be periodically posting some of my favorites here.

This shot is of a 1940s-era sign for route 12. The sign is attached to a sign post on the southbound side of Main St. in downtown Leominster and is most likely the oldest route sign still in use in Massachusetts. In fact, I'd wager that it might be one of the 10 oldest--if not the oldest--still in use on a highway in America.

For more scenes, Nicole has set up a blogroll of posts made specifically in tribute to and in support of Jeff.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Jump on in, the water is great!

What are you doing standing on the sidelines? Jump on in to the pool at The water is great and the stories are even better! Here's what you missed today...

Foley v. Telegram
Worcester County Sheriff Candidate Thomas Foley (D-Worcester) has reacted forcefully to the Telegram's reporting last week of his disability pension. In a nearly 1,300-word letter to supporters that he posted to his Web site earlier this week, Foley accused Telegram reporter Shaun Sutner of treating his campaign unfairly and charged that his opponents were engaging in unfair campaign tactics...(read more)

Friday Roundup: Lamb's voting record in question
A Telegram report claims that "In previous elections, Mr. [Martin] Lamb says he has almost always voted Republican, but he conceded he didn’t vote for Ronald Reagan the first time Mr. Reagan ran for president." That does not jive with an earlier Telegram report. Last month, Shaun Sutner reported that Lamb "voted as a Democrat in state and presidential primary elections in 2006, 2004 and 2000."...(read more)

Bill Gunn clarifies remarks on Islamic Center
On Tuesday, The Sentinel and Enterprise wrote that First Congressional District challenger Bill Gunn (R-Ware) suggested that building a "pork factory" would be an appropriate response to the planned Islamic Center in Lower Manhattan a few blocks from Ground Zero...Following my note on the piece in Wednesday's Gunn posted a comment to the entry, putting the discussion into a fuller context...(read more
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Here is what you've been missing...

Here is what you've been missing over the last two days if you aren't reading

Wednesday State House Roundup: Debate days
The Ayer Democratic Town Committee hosted a debate between the three Democrats vying for the First Middlesex District nomination. While Jane Moriss (D-Groton), Jesse Reich (D-Ayer), and Tony Saboliauskas (D-Pepperell) agreed on many issues they split over the proposed repeal of the affordable housing law known as 40B...(read more)

Candidates weigh in on Islamic Cultural Center, one wants to build "pork factory"
Since the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" is the cultural issue du jour, the candidates spoke with the Sentinel and Enterprise. One, Bill Gunn (R-Belchertown) is so incensed he wants to make sausages next to the Islamic Center in an effort to antagonize organizers...(read more)

Wednesday Congressional Roundup: Out like a Lamb
Tuesday was a busy day on the campaign trail in the Third Congressional District, with many of the candidates out on the campaign trail. Michael Lamb (R-Holliston) made a stop in Fall River, where he criticized Rep. James McGovern (D-Worcester) for allowing the federal deficit to rise...(read more)
Thursday Congressional Roundup: Immigration dominates debate
Four of the five challengers for the Third Congressional District seat held by Rep. James McGovern (D-Worcester) squared off last night in a Shrewsbury debate. The forum, sponsored by the Shrewsbury League of Women Voters, gave Brian Herr (R-Hopkinton), Michael Stopa (R-Holliston), Martin Lamb (R-Holliston), and Robert Delle (R-Paxton) a chance to differentiate themselves from each other, however slightly. One area where there was both some consensus and disagreement was on immigration policy...(read more)

State House Roundup: Prickly debate in 13th Worcester
The six candidates for the Democratic nomination in the 13th Worcester District squared off in a 90-minute debate yesterday at Anna Maria. From the looks of the Telegram photo, the event was a greuling one for the participants. According to the report the dialogue became testy at times, with more than one tart exchange between dueling candidates...(read more)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tuesday Roundup: Harrington's new idea

This week, sister publications Lowell Sun and Sentinel and Enterprise are profiling candidates for the First Middlesex House seat being vacated by Robert Hargraves (R-Groton). Two Republicans are vying for the nomination, and one of them, Sheila Harrington (R-Groton) is advancing a proposal that I've not seen before:
GROTON -- For many workers, landing a competitive job in Massachusetts means they may not be able to work in the same field, should they ever resign or get laid off.

That's because, says Sheila Harrington, many employers ask workers to sign a contract that prohibits them from seeking a similar job elsewhere or starting a business in which the skills and knowledge they acquired on the job might come in handy. The Bay State court is known for enforcing the contractual agreement -- so much so that skilled professionals are afraid to use their talents outside the corporate shadows, Harrington says.

Harrington believes limiting the scope the non-compete clause and the range of workers to whom such contracts may be applied is crucial to creating more jobs in Massachusetts.

"If you want to stimulate more jobs in Massachusetts, you have to be more creative" than simply rolling back the sales tax, Harrington says.
I'm skeptical that there are that many people still out of work because of non-compete clauses. Even so, it's refreshing to see a candidate talk about something different than taxes, casinos, and immigration for a change.

While I don't think reporter Hiroko Sato meant the profiles of Harrington and Connie Sullivan (R-Ayer) to be contrasting pieces, it looks like Harrington is taking a veiled shot at Sullivan when the profiles are read one after the other:
AYER -- Discouraging Massachusetts consumers from crossing the state border is one of Cornelius "Connie" Sullivan's economic stimulus strategies.

Lowering the sales tax would help create many more jobs in the state, and that's evident from how stores were hiring people for the tax-free weekend, Sullivan says....

He supports rolling back the sales tax to 5 percent -- or as low as 3 percent if voters are willing to. That would require the state to scale back on spending, but the state government has "plenty of fat" to trim anyway, he says...
Presumably, the Sun and Sentinel will be looking at the Democratic candidates on the days to come.

On to other things...

Second Franklin House District
The four candidates for the Democratic nomination will face off in a forum at 6:00 pm at the Greenfield Community Television studios. GCT is pretty good about posting their events online, and we will post a link on once it becomes available.

Lee Chauvette (D-Athol) was interviewed by Athol author James Joseph Brown.

Second Congressional District
Jay Fleitman (R-Northampton) tells the Telegram that the federal stimulus was "a disaster," the Gulf oil spill was "handled horribly," and that Afghanistan is "an abject mess."
Fifth Congressional District
Sam Meas (R-Haverhill) gave a wide-ranging interview to the Haverhill Gazette. He said the number one reason he is running is:
First, there is a huge lack of choice in Massachusetts. There is one dominant party, and many are running unopposed. It is the antithesis to democracy. We've spent $1 trillion on two wars trying to give them the freedom of choice, but we do not have it here. To me, that's important. If Republicans were the dominant party, I'd say the same thing.
Third Congressional District
The Boston Globe reports that James McGovern (D-Worcester) co-authored a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi asking her to protect food stamp funding in a proposed child nutrition bill.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday roundup: Pension talk still driving sheriff's race

If a small snapshot is any indication, the political talk around Worcester  is still centered on the Worcester County Sheriff's race, where discussion of Governor's Councilor Tom Foley (D-Worcester) and his disability pension continues as we begin a new week. The topic was discussed this morning on WCRN-AM's The Midday Report with Hank Stolz. While there is no podcast of the show available, most of the callers sounded like they were more apt to blame Foley for running for office while collecting disability than to blame the odd pension system that would allow him to collect while being sheriff (should he be elected).

For better or worse (depends, I suppose, or which candidate you support), today marks the fifth day of discussion of Foley's disability pension. Dianne Williamson broke the ice in the Telegram with a column on Thursday, followed by notes from Shaun Sutner on on Friday and in the print edition on Sunday.

Coincidentally, Foley's supporters have come out in force over the weekend. Whether in response to the stories or because of the calendar (yesterday was 30 days before primary election day), Foley lawn signs have been sprouting like clover in this area. This morning I drove through Clinton on my way to 495 and counted 24 Foley signs in the 2.6 miles between the Lancaster town line to the west and the Berlin town line to the east.

Speaking of the Telegram, if you are trying to access the stories lined above and find yourself banging your head against the (fire)wall, it's because the T&G has begun charging non-subscribers for online access to most locally-produced articles. I have an on-line account and will continue to include links to the Telegram in my stories, but how much access you, the reader, will have is anyone's guess.

On to a very short roundup...

Third Congressional District
The Telegram keeps up its profiles of Congressional candidates, this time checking in on Brian Herr (R-Hopkinton). Herr briefly outlined some of his positions:
Like his opponents in the primary, Mr. Herr wants to cut government spending. He supports unemployment benefits in this “scary time,” but doesn't support borrowing money to extend benefits. He believes the government should provide services for vulnerable populations such as people with disabilities, as long as cuts are made elsewhere.

Schools, he contends, are best run at the local level, so he wonders why the country needs a U.S. Department of Education with a budget in the tens of billions of dollars.

He slammed a bill Congress passed last week to restore public jobs as more unnecessary spending.

He believes spending cuts need to come before new tax cuts.
Herr also claims to have more than 4,000 Facebook friends.

Fifth Congressional District
Sam Meas (R-Haverhill) has added former Haverhill Mayor Mike Sullivan as an advisor. He is also apparently "Bad to the Bone."

Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin Senate District
Fifth Worcester House District
Sen. Stephen Brewer (D-Barre) and Rep. Anne Gobi (D-Spencer) spearheaded a bill to allow the Worcester County 4-H Club to lease land from the state for the next 25 years.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Weekend roundup: I've been everywhere, man

It's awfully difficult for a challenger to dominate the media cycle against an well-financed, high-ranking incumbent, but Tom Wesley (R-Hopedale) managed to do just that Friday in his Second Congressional District race against Rep. Richard Neal (D-Springfield). We'll start with the Telegram, where Wesley was the feature of Friday's candidate profile:
Mr. Wesley explained that these are tough economic times and that people have to be careful with their finances. He quickly added, however, that this election is about more than raising money.

“I see it as my patriotic duty,” he said when asked why he was running. “I'm fighting for unborn generations.” termed a lynchpin election, which means in his opinion the American way of life is at stake and people are angry with what has been happening on Capitol Hill.
In addition, Wesley was all over the radio, appearing on Springfield's WAQY-FM and WHYN-AM. He has also continued videotaping while driving.
For his part, Neal has received praise from the unlikeliest of sources. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, has endorsed Neal's bill to provide for automatic enrollment in IRAs for employees of small businesses:
The Automatic IRA is a conservative, market-oriented solution to help address our retirement savings crisis. It would increase the proportion of Americans who can save for retirement at work from 50 percent to 90 percent, make it simple for small business owners to offer IRAs to their employees, and create low-cost accounts that an employee can understand and use without having to be a financial expert.
Neal's proposal has also been endorsed by the more liberal Brookings Institution.


Third Congressional District
Rep. James McGovern (D-Worcester) continues to keep the pressure on Congress and the Obama administration over the cut in food stamp aid that was part of the $26 billion jobs bill:
"President Obama pledged to end childhood hunger by 2015," McGovern pointed out. "It's hard to see how you do that while you're cutting food stamps.''
Fifth Congressional District
In the Sentinel, columnist Peter Lucas calls Tom Weaver (R-Westford) "the most qualified candidate you never heard of."

Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell) was in Harvard to tout federal funding for a 220-kilowatt solar power facility at Carlson Orchards.

First Middlesex District
Tony Saboliauskas (D-Pepperell) is part of a group trying to get permission to erect a "Support our Troops" sign on town land in Pepperell.

Second Franklin House District
Earlier this week, David Roulston (D-Greenfield) became the latest candidate to criticize the proposed biomass plant in Greenfield.

Middlesex and Worcester Senate District
The communications director for Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) is taking time off during the fall recess to work for the campaign of Ninth District Congressman Stephen Lynch (D-South Boston).

Worcester County Sheriff
Lew Evangelidis (R-Holden) recently visited the Hampden County Sheriff to get some tips on programs for inmates.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Scot Bove on Tom Foley's disability and retirement

In the Telegram's daily ElectionNet report, Shaun Sutner looks further into the ramificaions of Tom Foley's disability retirement and it's role in the race for the Democratic nomination for Worcester County Sheriff. Yesterday, Foley spoke with Telegram columnist Dianne Williamson. Today, Sutner wrote:
So far, Foley's opponent for the Democratic nomination, Scot Bove, has not talked about it publicly, including at a sheriff's debate Thursday night in Harvard.

It might look petty or negative for Bove to bring up questions about whether Foley, the retired state police superintendent who gets a $112,000 tax-free pension because of a heart condition but says his doctors have cleared him to return to work.
Perhaps Bove (D-Holden) has decided to take a low profile on this issue as spring turned into summer, but in May, Bove had some pointed words for Foley in a Democratic candidates' debate I moderated for Sterling-Lancaster Community Television.

At the event, I asked Foley about the charges that he would be "double-dipping." The exchange devolved into the candidates levelling charges back and forth, with Bove questioning Foley's assertion that the job was purely administrative (and implying that Foley wasn't phsically up for it) and Foley accusing Bove or forcing correctional officers to contribute to his campaign.

Here is the entire exchange:

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thursday roundup: A new sheriff in town

The Telegram really brings it today with a bunch of stories on area politics in their Thursday edition, led by a look at last night's Sheriff's debate in Harvard:
Three candidates for Worcester County sheriff last night promised to kick politics out of the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction, while the fourth candidate, an assistant deputy superintendent at the facility in West Boylston said the jail has already been professionalized.

The emphasis at a sheriff candidates forum at the Harvard Unitarian Universalist Church was more on individual qualifications to run the Sheriff's Department than differences over issues. The forum was sponsored by the Worcester County Chapter of the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, with Ronal C. Madnick, director of the chapter, posing questions to the candidates.
Madnick (U-Worcester), you may remember, is a candidate for state rep. in the 13th Worcester district. His participation as a moderator in this debate has sparked some discussion of a conflict of interest.

The Telegram's lead columnist, Diane Williamson, also took a look at candidate Tom Foley. Specifically, she examines the questions surrounding his retirement from the State Police due to a heart problem and the effect that issue is having on the race:
When Foley retired at age 50, he filed for and was granted a disability pension due to a heart condition. Under state law, he receives a tax-free pension — $112,000 — equal to 72 percent of his salary. The sheriff’s salary is $123,000, although under law Foley would only be eligible for about $93,000.

His opponents raise valid questions. If someone is so disabled that he must retire from one public job, how can he take another one? Is he disabled, or isn’t he? Just this week, while endorsing [Scott] Bove, the Worcester County Superior Officers Union said Foley couldn’t meet the “basic requirements” for sheriff because of his health, as the sheriff must also be a correction officer.
Williamson concludes that Foley's health is less of an issue than a flawed pension "system that encourages excess and abuse."
Third Congressional District
Brian Herr (R-Hopkinton) says the appropriations bill that passed congress earlier this week was akin to a shakedown:
It's no surprise that Jim McGovern voted for this bill...during his political career he has received $1,176,725 in contributions from labor unions. This year alone, he has received $2,500 from the American Federation of Teacher, $2,500 from the National Association of Firefighters, and $2,000 from the National Education Association.

It looks like the vote for this bill was nothing more than a $26 billion political payback.
Robert Delle (R-Westboro/Wayland/Paxton) talks about his upcoming move to Paxton and his campaign for office. He also says he "considers President Obama a socialist and is so wary of government spending that he believes people are 'stealing' federal stimulus money, though he didn't say who."

In an op-ed for the MetroWest Daily News, Michael Stopa (R-Holliston) argues that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is crowding out private investment and hurting the economy.

Fifth Congressional District
The four candidates for the Republican nomination discussed their ambitions at a debate in Concord:
When it came time to ask questions to one another, the candidates touched on tort reform for the healthcare bill, cost of living increases and the first piece of legislation they would file if elected.

Repealing the healthcare bill would be first on Golnik’s list, while Weaver said he would like to establish and chair an anti-appropriations committee to look at the books and cut unnecessary expenses. Shapiro would start by slapping a dollar limit on the federal budget and keeping bills under 100 pages, and Meas said he would seek to become the Ways and Means chairman and simplify the tax code to stimulate the economy.
13th Worcester House District
Mike Perotto (D-Worcester) visited Worcester Community Cable Access's "What It's Worth" show.

Shaun Sutner of the Telegram checks in on the relationship between Joff Smith (D-Worcester) and Worcester Mag columnist and former city councilor Gary Rosen. Sutner also looks at the efforts of Paul Franco (R-Worcester) in Paxton.

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About three weeks ago, I began to repurpose my longtime blog No Drumlins away from a personal opinion site and into a site that reports on political news here in Central Massachusetts. In an effort to better separate the reporting from my opinion, I have decided to start a separate venture for the political roundups.

Beginning today, the updates will be posted first on my new site,

In an effort to ramp up coverage of the local races, I will be reaching out to the campaigns to let them know that in addition to the daily roundups, candidates should feel free to send me press releases, campaign video or audio, announcements of events, or other newsworthy items.

It is my hope that over the next few weeks, will become the first stop for information on candidates and races in Central Massachusetts.

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