Thursday, March 26, 2009

Recap of Senator Flanagan's Sterling forum

Senator Jennifer Flanagan took questions for nearly an hour and a half at the Sterling Democratic Town Committee's open forum Monday night. The discussion was lively and spirited, and touched on a wide range of topics including the aftermath of the December Ice Storm, the effect of President Obama's stimulus package, and the Transportation Reform bill (which passed the Senate yesterday) to name a few.

A couple of things stood out to me:
  • I was struck at how much the discussion has changed since the last time we had then-Representative Flanagan in Sterling for an April forum and for a June debate. At the time, most of the questions were about social issues such as gay marriage and abortion rights, minor reforms like police details, and other topics that seem almost trivial when compared to the financial crisis the state is currently facing. As best as I can recall, there were no questions about any topic except finances in Monday's entire 90 minute discussion.
  • Senator Flanagan seems to be unhappy with Governor Patrick. Although she did not explicitly say so, it was clear that she is frustrated with the Governor's budget plan, his gas tax proposal, and the hiring of Senator Marian Walsh to a lucrative post. She seems to think that the backlash to the governor's actions have made it more difficult for the legislature to get things done.
  • She said she doesn't think we'll be out of the current budget crisis until fiscal year 2012. That would mean at least two more years of difficulty like the last one.
  • She was unwilling to commit to any revenues (gas tax, local option meals taxes, etc.) until after the Senate's reform measures were passed.
  • She and the other senators and representatives don't have any specifics on the stimulus funds. She seemed to be a bit frustrated about the process and the lack of information.
There is a whole lot more. The entire forum was taped and has been posted on you tube. Here is Part 1:

Part 1: Public Utilities, Transportation
Part 2: Commuter Rail, Transportation, Pension Reform
Part 3: Pension Reform, December Ice Storm
Part 4: Local Aid, Budget Cuts
Part 5: Federal Stimulus
Part 6: Federal Stimulus, Commuter Rail, Local Option Taxes
Part 7: Budget Cuts, Transportation, Media
Part 8: Budget Cuts and Reform
Part 9: Elder Affairs

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