Sunday, February 7, 2010

Praising Democrats not allowed

The race for Lew Evangelidis’ seat in the State House is heating up, with Holden Selectman Ken O’Brien running as a Democrat and fellow board member Kimberly Ferguson likely running as a Republican. But the debate really got started four weeks ago when O’Brien wrote a letter to the editor of The Landmark thanking Governor Deval Patrick for restoring transportation funds he had previously cut from the state budget.

Apparently, if there is one thing you can’t do in this district, it’s to publicly praise a Democrat, as the Landmark has received letters and guest columns for three straight weeks eviscerating O’Brien for daring to defend the Governor. The assault from the right culminated in a “Speak Out” column by Darin McCarthy which was peppered with myths, half-truths, and omissions. I think there were a couple of good points in there, but it was hard to get past the errors.

And because I just can’t let old news pass without a comment, I’d like to try to set the record straight. Here are excerpts of the letter:
Countless thanks to both Mark Ferguson and Elliott Lockwood, who both wrote articles in previous weeks (Jan. 14 and Jan. 21) bringing to light a letter by Holden Selectman Ken O’Brien (Jan. 7). In the letter Ken O’Brien went on a completely tactless, partisan rant praising our governor Deval Patrick for reversing his own decision to rob our transportation funds earlier this year.

Here is O'Brien's letter. Here again is McCarthy's letter. Which one is the "tactless, partisan rant?"
Yes, Ken, the vast Republican executive branch has been a widespread problem in Massachusetts for some time now. His letter proves to me how completely out of touch he is, how outright partisan of a town official he is and, more importantly, how absolutely stupid he thinks the taxpaying voters are.
I sense sarcasm. I wonder if Mr. McCarthy remembers that the executive branch was controlled by Republican governors from 1991-2007.

I guess being a partisan town official is a bad thing. Mr. McCarthy is probably surprised to see that Select Board Chair Kimberly Ferguson is running as a Republican. I imagine he will be writing another letter to the editor shortly decrying the partisanship of that town official. I also find it interesting that Mrs. Ferguson's husband wrote a letter earlier that was critical of Ken O'Brien. Nothing like softening up the opponent as your spouse is exploring a run for office.
What do you think of the fact that the Massachusetts Democratic Legislature, stating that such a critical seat should not be appointed by one person, reversed the succession law in 2004 so that then-Gov. Mitt Romney could not appoint a senator had John Kerry won the presidency? What do you think of the fact that the Democratic Legislature reversed that same decision in 2009 (at Ted Kennedy’s urging just prior to his passing) so that Deval Patrick could appoint an interim senator, in order to cast critical votes on Obama’s health care overhaul? By the way, how did that self-serving political move play out, Ken?

Should Martha Coakley have just been handed the senator’s seat without having to earn it?
I'm going to answer for myself here. The legislature should not change succession laws based on circumstance, they should change them based on what is right. They should not have changed the laws in 2004 or 2009 in response to specific events. However, the law as it is currently written is the best solution. The governor should appoint a temporary replacement so that the state's interests are protected, and the people can decide a replacement shortly thereafter. It would have been better to make that change in 2006 or 2008 or 2010 when there was no specific case in mind.

Of course, if McCarthy is implying by the tone of his questions that the law should not have been changed, then his answer to the question of whether or not Coakley should "have just been handed the senator’s seat without having to earn it?" must be a resounding yes. Based on the way the law was before 2004, whoever was appointed would have been handed the seat without having to earn it. In a climate where the appointee was a permanent replacement, Coakley may very well have been the pick.
How many more state senators and speakers (Marzilli, Wilkerson, and DiMasi) needed to be indicted by the federal government because she, as the state’s top law enforcement official, failed to prosecute some of them herself, Ken? I believe her arguments were mostly that she felt the federal government had better investigative tools and jurisdiction.

Oh no, here come the inaccuracies. Jim Marzilli was indicted by the Middlesex District Attorney's office because his alleged assault happened in Lowell. The AG's office would not have had jurisdiction. With Wilkerson and DiMasi, Coakley did explain that state law did not was not nearly as strong as federal law when dealing with public corruption. Thanks to Governor Patrick and the Democratic-led legislature (oh no, am I going to get a nasty letter now?), ethics reform was passed last summer. The tougher ethics rules make it harder to get away with corruption under Massachusetts law and make it easier for corrupt politicians to be prosecuted in state courts.
When Sal DiMasi was up for re-appointment, who in the state’s Legislature unanimously voted in his favor, only to see him step down under federal corruption allegations weeks later? I’ll give you a clue: there are 144 of them, out of 160.
Here is the rundown of the vote on January 7, 2009:

135 -- Sal DiMasi (D)
9 -- Brad Jones (R)
1 -- William Greene (D)
14 -- Present

Techinically, it wasn't unanimous in the Democratic caucus because there was one vote for Green and nine who voted present. However, if we use McCarthy's counting method and tally a "present" vote as an affirmation of DiMasi, then he must have been royally angered at Representative Lew Evangelidis because Big Lew also voted present, in an apparent--by McCarthy's logic--show of support of DiMasi.
What of Deval Patrick’s pick for transportation secretary, James Aloisi? What of the fact that while campaigning, Deval specifically used words that he was against the “Big Dig culture,” yet in appointing Aloisi as transportation secretary (the Friday before Christmas during a snowstorm), the taxpayers’ stocking full of coal was a stooge lawyer who helped write the law that saddled the Turnpike Authority with the Big Dig’s debt, and later he cashed in to the tune of $3 million in legal fees, working as an outside counsel. And the list goes on and on.

Aloisi did "help write the law." Who was he helping? Current Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker, who was then Secretary of Administration and Finance. From the Boston Globe:
And the decision to assign the project, and much of its debt, to the Turnpike Authority in two bills passed in 1995 and 1997, was also crafted during Baker’s time as a top finance man on Beacon Hill. In 1997, when critics were cautioning that the state was not setting aside enough money to pay for the Big Dig, he defended the turnpike plan as “the right mechanism for dealing with a situation that everyone admits is going to be challenging.’’....
Former House Transportation Committee chairman Joseph C. Sullivan, who led the panel when many financing decisions were made, said Baker had a heavy hand in the plan to assign Big Dig expenses to the Turnpike Authority.

“The primary author was the governor and, instrumental in that authorship, was Secretary Baker,’’ said Sullivan, a Democrat and now mayor of Braintree....

“It would be impossible to get that kind of a monster created without the [administration and finance] secretary, the governor, and the legislative leadership,’’ [Senator Mark Montigny] said. “It’s just too big of an undertaking.’’

If you're going to blame Aloisi for the Big Dig mess then you have to blame Baker, as they were working hand in hand to saddle the Turnpike Authority with billion of dollars in debt. I'd think having the guy who masterminded the whole scheme in the corner office is more dangerous than appointing his cohort to a bureaucratic position. But that is for voters this fall to decide.
Four more years? Was it also not a fact that Deval Patrick in 2006 campaigned that he would reduce property taxes in Massachusetts? How has that worked out for everyone?
Patrick campaigned on "property tax relief" not "property tax reduction," and you know what? He has delivered. In each of the first two years of Patrick budgets, property taxes have risen at a slower pace than any year since 1992. Of the 16 budgets filed during the years of Republicans, the last 15 caused property taxes in cities and towns to rise faster than they did in 2008 or 2009.

Under Romney, the average property tax bill rose 23.5% from 2003 (the last Swift/Celluci budget year) to 2007 (the last Romney budget year). Broken into two year blocks, property taxes rose 11.9% in 2004-05 and 10.4% in 2006-07. As a comparison, in 2008-09, property taxes have only risen 7.3%.
I understand that you have to get tax revenues from somewhere to prevent the impoverished state government from having to forego pay raises.
Yeah, all of those high pay, no work hacks like prison nurses and mental health workers don't deserve raises.

Sigh. Looks like it's going to be a rough and tumble summer.
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