Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays

I haven't posted lately and feel bad about that. There are things I am working on and need to write about, but it is the holiday season. I went to the lighting of the menorah at the State House last week (on the fourth day. I guess the political calendar dictated that but it worked out fine because Rabbi lit the initial candle, then the Governor, Senate President and the Speaker lit a candle, so it worked out.)The children who sang were wonderful, and each constitutional officer spoke also. (I am going to miss Joe DeNucci.)

So here it is Christmas Eve and I am home, having finished my shopping and every present is wrapped, with big thanks to my daughter Stephanie. Tonight is traditionally with my family and we are headed to my sister's house. Tomorrow, we are home and at my wife's aunt Pat's house. It will be nice to see everyone and spend the day relaxing with relatives.

There are many problems in this world, in our country and in our state today. We still have many people unemployed and we struggle to create jobs. Our budgets aren't healthy enough to satisfy everyone's needs, and we are mired in a quagmire in Afghanistan. But if there is one universal theme in our stories of the holidays, it is a theme of redemption and hope. Whether it is a lamp that burns brightly for eight days on one day’s oil, or a star that burns brightly lighting the way to Nazareth, the holidays remind us that the human experience is one of rising above our adversities. Whether it is a band of brothers or one person with disciples, our collective religions tell us that miracles do happen if we have hope and faith and work together towards a higher goal of peace and brotherhood.

On this holiday, despite the news on Fox News or CNN, I will take comfort in my friends and family, renewed by the spirit of the holidays and its story of hope and faith. My wish on this Christmas eve is that we remember this spirit and use it to guide us the day after and the next day and that day after that. Here's to all of you on this Christmas Eve. I wish you all the best of holidays, and the merriest of new years.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Capuano For US Senator

The race to elect a successor to Senator Ted Kennedy holds its primary election on December 8. I am urging everyone to vote for Congressman Mike Capuano. I do not do this lightly. This is a decision that marks the first chance to vote for someone other than Ted Kennedy in 47 years. And Ted Kennedy was so important for our area and our state that we need to ensure the best person is elected to take his place and carry on the tradition passionately advocating for the people in the Commonwealth. I believe that the best person for this job is Mike Capuano. He has the passion, energy, intelligence, and voting record that make him a worthy successor to Kennedy.

We have been faced with a population that has not kept up with the US population growth. We have lost Congressmen in the past during redistricting and we face the prospect of losing another. That means we must fight even harder to make sure that the northeast and Massachusetts in particular continues to get our fair share of government programs. It means that we need to fight harder to shape national policy. Mike Capuano has proven that he is a fighter.

A few people have come up to me in the Berkshires asking why I am not supporting the “hometown” candidate. One letter writer has called me a turncoat for not advocating for the Berkshire candidate. I take exception to that. First, Coakley hasn’t lived in the Berkshires for thirty years. When she ran for state representative and district attorney, she stated she was from Dorchester. In my mind it is far more important to elect the best person based on credentials rather than gender, relationship, or where they lived thirty years ago.

I like Martha Coakley. I campaigned and voted for her as Attorney General. However, I have to judge her based on my interactions with her office. I have a list of five different issues that I have either spoken to her or her office about over the last three years. None have been acted on. A few, like gas pricing hearings to find out why we pay higher prices in the Berkshires as opposed to areas like Phillipston-Templeton; or why we can’t provide a list of companies raising charitable funds with how much goes to the charity as opposed to the paid fundraiser, have statewide implications. Yet, I have been told there is nothing we can do on my concerns or there has been no response.

I would however, like to be very clear. My vote is not against another candidate, but because I believe that Mike Capuano is clearly the best choice. Mike Capuano has always answered my phone calls. I called his office recently over the Financial Stability bill to advocate for some amendments that would help small communities. His staff was responsive, knowledgeable, and ready to work on my concerns. He is familiar with our area and always discusses the Berkshires with a knowledge that most from his side of the state don’t have.

And he has a record he can be proud of. He became the Mayor of Somerville and cleaned the city up. As Mayor, he was a respected leader advocating for our cities and towns. That is where I first met Mike. He was at the State House working to secure money for our communities.

Mike has experience in Washington and serves on a couple of committees that have given him experience in areas that we need in Massachusetts. One of the most pressing issues facing us today statewide is transportation. How do we make capital improvements on the MBTA without bankrupting the state? How do we get rid of the backlog of projects necessary to improve our infrastructure? Mike has worked on these. Mike serves on Financial Services and what is more important to our economy than stability and job growth? Mike has experience in foreign affairs and that has become increasingly important for Massachusetts as we try to expand our foreign trade, foreign direct investment, and deal with international companies. How many had the courage to stand up and vote against the Iraq war with Ted Kennedy? Not many, but Mike did. And if that isn’t enough, he is also the person that was charged as chairman to lead a Special Task Force on Ethics Enforcement.

Add all this together and you get a hard working passionate representative that I would be proud to have as my Senator. I hope you look at all the candidates and examine their records. They are all decent people who want to serve you. But the person with the most experience is Mike Capuano. I hope you agree and vote for Mike on December 8.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Basic Research

There is a great op-ed piece today in the Boston Globe over something I have been writing about for a number of months. This piece written by Robert Weisman is titled Business Intelligence and can be found here:

The article states that we have little basic research in the US as compared to the past and that hampers our abilities to create new industries and new inventions or innovations. While our life science success in Massachusetts has been very good, it has masked this lack of basic research that we used to do in abundance. In a state that relies on innovation and creativity in our economy as much as Massachusetts does, it is critical that we return to our roots, tend our knitting, begin at home or any other worn but true cliché you can come up with.

The articles about Evergreen Solar in the Globe over the past few days detail the problem with picking winners and losers in our economy. I hope that Evergreen does well and becomes a leading company in Massachusetts, but we need to take precious state resources and put them in areas where all businesses can take advantage of them. We need to maximize our resources and let the market decide what is the next technology or invention. If I were king of the Forest, I would have used the stimulus money to launch a new economy rather than bail out the old. I would have called it “Retool America” and we would invest in job training, basic research along with the renewed emphasis on science and math in our schools. I would prepare industrial sites, manage our water and electric systems better and new equipment for our voke-tech schools.

A few years ago, I was in Mexico visiting companies along with other state officials including then Gov. Mike Huckabee from Arkansas. One of our fellow travelers told the companies in Mexico that they believe that Mexico took our jobs in the US after NAFTA was enacted. The companies replied that this wasn’t true and went on to defend their roles. However, they then bemoaned the fact that they were losing jobs and market to companies in China! Last year, I was in China in October to speak at a large tech conference. In meetings with Chinese officials, they told me they were losing jobs to Vietnam and Thailand because labor was cheaper. My point is this: We are never going to be the cheapest labor in the US. However, we can use our strengths in innovation and education to create new good paying jobs in new areas. We need to stay one step ahead of the competition on this and that means basic research to create new businesses.

Shakespeare and Company

There has been a lot written on Shakespeare and Company over the last few weeks. My role in this was simple. I have a relationship with someone at their bank and a mutual friend told me that Shakespeare may have some troubles that needed attention. I talked with Tina Packer from Shakespeare and Company and talked with Rep. Smitty Pignatelli who represents that district. I think it is important to be able t find a way to address ways to assist our cultural facilities and felt that, if we can help Shakespeare and Company, we could help all the other facilities in similar straits. Part of this is recognizing these facilities as parts, important parts of our business community. If a widget factory was having trouble and employed several hundred people, there would be several state agencies that would be rushing to help. We need to apply the same standards to cultural, tourism, agricultural, and other businesses that are extremely important for our economic health.

Having read the Boston Globe editorial this morning concerning Shakespeare and Company, I am of two minds. First, I think it is a tribute to the importance and the breadth of work from Shakespeare and Company that the Globe bothered to editorialize. They clearly understand that there are many many activities of the Company that transcend merely putting on performances. So it is heartening that the Globe gets it and opines that it is essential that Shakespeare and Company right their ship and restore their fiscal health.

On the other hand, almost every cultural facility relies heavily on their ability to fund raise private funds. When donors lose confidence in the future of a facility, it always hampers their fund raising ability. The Globe editorial was harsh, but honest and straightforward. Unfortunately, the word bankruptcy was mentioned in a local story and that hasn’t helped. A note to Alan Chartock: despite a disclaimer that he wants the company to survive, you can’t use that to excuse the rest of the column. It’s like the old comedian who said something to the effect of saying to someone” Gosh you gained weight and look awful.” And then saying, “I mean that in a good way.” You can’t have it both ways and your info is bad, even if you playfully use your dog as a foil.

There is a big lesson to be learned in the trials and tribulations over Shakespeare and Company’s troubles. A few cultural facilities have bemoaned the fact that people were looking to Shakespeare and Company as opposed to their needs. A few have suggested that we shouldn’t help them because they didn’t manage their finances as well as some others. I would suggest that they read the parable the Prodigal Son. We help where we can and no one suggested that we help one at the expense of another. I didn’t hear Shakespeare and Company complain when other received earmarks in the budget or received money from the Cultural Facilities fund. Rather than trying to stop assistance to one facility in a time of need, perhaps the parties in question should have been on the phone calling to find out how they can help each other for mutual benefit.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Stone Soup

When I was very young (yes, yes, a long, long time ago), I loved the Captain Kangaroo Show. Bob Keeshan was the Captain, and along with Mr. Greenjeans would entertain us every morning. I didn’t realize until many years later that this show was much more than Mr. Moose getting the Captain to say the word that would make lots of ping pong balls drop. It was also educational.

Jim Carville once said that all life you needed to know about life you can learn from watching The Andy Griffith Show. That’s how I feel about Captain Kangaroo. Life lessons were learned there long before Sesame Street. Where am I going with this? Well, as I watch our reaction to the recession, I am reminded of the story that the Captain used to read every now and then called “Stone Soup”.

The story goes something like this. Three soldiers were on their way home from a war when they happened into a small village of suspicious and war weary inhabitants. They stopped and asked for food. The villagers replied that there was no food to be had. One of the soldiers suggested that they make stone soup and feed the entire town. They got a big pot, filled it with water and placed three large stones in the bottom. They proceeded to boil this, stirring it and tasting it every now and then. The townsfolk were very curious. How could you make soup from stones? The soldiers said it would be delicious and would serve the entire town. As they went along, one soldier opined that it was good, but could be great if there were only a few carrots. One of the townsfolk said that he may be able to find a few carrots. So that went in. Over the course of cooking the soup, the townsfolk responded like this with potatoes, tomatoes, and much more until there were all sorts of seasonings, vegetables, and much more in the soup. The soldiers fed the town, ate, and went on their way. As they left the town marveled at how they made soup from stones!!

I haven’t seen nor heard that story since the days of the Captain (Kangaroo, not Morgan), but think of it often in my job. It should be required reading for all elected officials.

The federal government’s use of stimulus funds is much like the stones. It requires people to feel it works and then they begin to supply the other ingredients. Consumers spend on things like cars. Businesses invest in manpower or equipment upgrades. Each of these borrows from financial institutions as people invest in themselves and the economy. Government doesn’t have enough spending power by themselves, but must inspire and lead as we rebuild our economy. Whether that causes people to start to invest depends on whether you have sold them on the idea of stone soup, and of course, whether they have a few carrots or potatoes left.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Local News

For those who have said I don’t post enough about district concerns, it isn’t because we are not working on district issues. This week was a very good one in spite of the economy. The biggest news was that the Governor released his five year capital spending plan and MCLA’s science building is in the plan. Despite having to cut over $1.1 billion from the original plan, the $50+ million science building has made the cut and we will release $500,000 this year to begin the design phase. This is good news. It brings our science facilities into the 21st century, consolidates the classes, and stabilizes this area of curriculum. Besides that, it allows us to train our future workforce for the types of jobs that we need. That can be truly transformative for our economic efforts.

This week also saw the release in committee of the creative index bill for our classrooms. I believe that this will help to continue the innovation and creativity that is the hallmark of the Massachusetts’s economy. In this area, coupled with the Berkshire compact, the lap top initiative, and other local programs, gives us an ability to compete with other parts of the state to improve our economy and compete or anywhere else.

We also had a hearing on renaming the local skating rink. This bill was released from committee and we should see action on it very soon. It is important that we continue to remember the Viet Nam Veterans who the rink is names after, but giving it the name also of Peter Foote will personalize the sacrifice that each one who served in Viet Nam made and that will amplify the remembrance of that sacrifice.

Finally, we will be delivering a check to the city of North Adams this week on the improved corridors to the city. This transportation money will improve the entry corridors to the city. This helps us in so many ways from looking nicer, better services for constituents, to improving our ability to attract businesses.

Economic Update

Economists in Massachusetts have indicated that we are going to have a very slow recovery from the recession. Last month’s revenues, despite higher sales and other taxes, were off by $243 million and it is projected by the Department of Revenue that we have to reduce projections by $600 million for the next year.

This does not bode well for the Commonwealth, obviously. We are spending down our federal stimulus money and have about $600 million left in the stabilization fund. Next year’s budget is going to have to cut more spending at a time when many services have already been severely cut back.

If you are one of the two or three people who read this blog on a regular basis, you know that I have been saying that consumer spending is not rebounding and that job loss will continue to impact our recovery. At this recent hearing, many of the economists who spoke mentioned both of these factors. Let me once again state that in this time of fiscal downturn, we need to invest money into our efforts to create jobs in Massachusetts. While some are saying we have too many economic development agencies in the state, I believe we need to take advantage of all of the programs that have worked in the past to try to prepare ourselves as we come out of this economic crisis. The only way to restore fiscal health is the creation of jobs and that means working with the employers of the state to find ways to remove barriers on job creation. More on this in future posts.

Pandemic Bill in Massachusetts

This week was a mixed bag of issues at the State House. On the larger issues, we passed a pandemic bill in the House that closes gaps in our chain of command and should make it easier to react to a health emergency, whether it is an illness outbreak or a terrorist biological attack. We did so while avoiding the controversial issues that have plagued (pun intended) this bill since it was introduced.

The House bill struck out the Senate version sections that mandated vaccination, that allowed entry into people houses, and that took away the right to public assembly. While these were probably well intentioned by the authors, they traded away too many freedoms in exchange for control. This bill has been around for eight years, and we needed to get a bill passed.

What does this bill do? It gives local boards of health a role in pandemic preparations for the first time. It codifies a lot of regulation so that everyone is aware of the actions that could be taken. It codifies an appeal process for individuals for the first time. It limits the Governor’s power to suspend rules and call for a public health emergency to ninety days. It gives people civil liability protection if they volunteer to assist in a public health emergency. And it sets out rules for the Department of public Health in how they react and what they can do in case of emergency.

This is important. A few weeks after September 11, I was part of a group of Legislators that were chosen from the large municipality and state organizations to meet with Homeland Security in order to detail plans in case of further attack. It became apparent that we needed better inter and intra state cooperation in order to react to threats, whether they were natural or “man made”. For example, if a terrorist biological weapon were to be released in New York City, what do we do if parents start arriving at Williams College in the Berkshires to pick up their kids? If the Massachusetts Turnpike finds a pathogen in a rest stop, who do we contact to coordinate efforts on containment? Or if the Swine flu becomes an epidemic, how do we contain the illness and cover essential services? We need plans to react to these and we need to coordinate our efforts in a clear manner. This bill sets us on that path to planning.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Interim Senator

Four years ago, the Legislature in Massachusetts voted to change our state system from a gubernatorial appointment of the next US Senator in the case of a vacancy,to an elected position. I was not at the State House the day the vote was taken and didn't vote on this. I would have voted with the majority at the time. Since then, obviously this issue has come back with the death of Senator Kennedy. I have received a lot of email on both sides of this. After much deliberation, we are voting on this today.Here is my response to that email and my decision on this matter. I appreciate everyone's comments on both sides.

Thank you for your email. After consideration, I am going to vote for an interim senator for Massachusetts. While many will cry politics on this, I believe that if you strip away the politics from the current debate over replacement of Ted Kennedy, the core issue is; should Massachusetts have two US Senators representing the state at all times even in the interim while awaiting the voter's choice in a new election. I think the answer is yes. That is not political, it is practical. Given population shifts and the passing of our long time Senator as well as our reliance on these offices to give us assistance in such issues as Medicare, social security, immigration, and passport issues, I believe that it is imperative to have two US Senators in Washington.
People deserve to be represented in Washington with our full legislative contingent.

People claim that the vote to do away with the practice of appointing a Senator if there is a vacancy was political. Of course it was. Gov. Romney was running for President and no one wanted to give him a leg up on the competition by appointing himself. That was a choice that was made given that situation. We have a different situation today and if there are cries of hypocrisy, then they apply to the Republicans too as they thought this was a good idea four years ago and now decry the appointment of an interim Senator. The difference this time is that we have a pledge that the interim appointment will not be someone who will seek the permanent appointment so that the people of Massachusetts will truly be able to elect, by popular vote, the next US Senator. I believe this is fair and equitable.

Thanks for the email and input on this matter, I appreciate your comments.

Sincerely, Dan Bosley

Monday, September 14, 2009

Random Thoughts on a Beautiful Day

- Is there anyone who thinks that the vote against an interim Senator four years ago wasn’t political? Romney was sworn in as Governor and checked out immediately. He was clearly running for President and no one in the Democratic Party wanted to give him a leg up by having him become the Senator from Massachusetts.
- The difference this time around is that the idea is to ensure as much as possible that the interim Senator will not run for the elected position. So we get to have two Senators in Massachusetts during the interim and the public gets to elect the next Senator. What’s wrong with that?
- I know it is a pain in the neck to get around State St., but isn’t it great to have the bridge finally being repaired? BTW, that is the longest span in Berkshire County.
- I was out early Sunday morning taking pictures and in one area near the Savoy State Forest; the leaves are already turning quite a bit.
- My first trip for this school year to Sullivan School is today. Anna Saldo Burke and her third grade classes adopted me years ago and I get to class several times a year. Today I get to read to them.
- I keep hearing from people that Ted Kennedy’s passing is the end of an era. It is, partly because politics has become much more about personalities and less about issues. Ideologues have a hard time reaching across aisles as Ted did. But whose fault is that? We should demand that government again becomes more important than politics.
- If consumer spending is a huge part of our economy, how can we have a recovery when no one has any discretionary spending power? One of the aspects of this recession was that consumers were tapped out. Now we are being asked to do the same thing that got us into the last problem. I think this is going to take us longer to dig out of than in past recessions. Hang on, and continue to save a little.
- Gambling once again raises its ugly head in the state. Considering what we are now reading about Connecticut and the debt problems of the casinos as well as the weakness of the market, why is this still a good idea to some?
- We all have things that drive us nuts. For me, it’s people who have to push onto an elevator before people get off. Doesn’t it make more sense to wait till the elevator offloads before squeezing on? How much time do you have to save that you are in that hurry? And while I am on elevators, it drives me nuts when a young person gets on an elevator and presses the button to go up one floor. What drives you nuts?
- Back to politics; after two Globe stories where they dragged out Joe Kennedy’s ex-wife from years ago to write a story about his annulment and then printed a long story about his oil from Hugo Chavez, is it any wonder that Joe K didn’t run? The Globe has helped their candidate by defining the race. That’s too bad as Joe Kennedy was a good Congressman and would have helped this race as a candidate. This also says a lot about reporting and the direction of newspapers.
- I have decided to support Mike Capuano for the Senate seat. He is also a good Congressman and has been a good friend. I like his no nonsense style and find that he is as comfortable with a few people from the neighborhood as he is with foreign heads of state. He works hard and I like the fact that he is compassionate but also warns about how we spend money now and in the future. He is a good person and will work hard for us. And we will see him in Western Massachusetts if he is elected.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Boston Charter Day

This past Friday, I was asked by one of my colleagues to speak at Boston Charter Day. This is a celebration by historians in both Boston Massachusetts and Boston, Lincolnshire , England of the September 1630 chartering of the city of Boston. I, of course, got a kick out of being the furthest representative from Boston and talking on this occasion. I spoke about the development of government. I thought it may be interesting. These are my remarks:

Welcome and thank you for this opportunity to speak today
I come from North Adams – the farthest city from Boston and farthest commute in the state, but get to spend half of the week in the beautiful Berkshires and half of the week in Shawmut/Trimountaine/Boston.
My grandfather on my mother’s side comes from South England near Plymouth in a small town called Looe. This is very far from Boston England – but my great grandparents came here much the same as those in the 1600s – looking for a better life for themselves and their families.
Now we know that the first European settler here in Boston was William Blackstone in 1625. We know that the Puritans who served in the Arbella Armada of 11 ships brought too many settlers for Salem to accommodate and those settlers migrated from Salem to Charlestown before eventually settling in Boston. This was mostly because of potable water in this area. That was the start and we know that since a large number of settlers came from the Boston England area – this city came to be named Boston.
For the next 130 years, it was the largest, wealthiest, and most influential city in America. Its geographic location and large port made it so.
Due to its position of influence, the City of Boston and her residents greatly influenced the growth of a governance system in Massachusetts, and eventually in the United States.
The factor that was of most importance originally was the fact that early settlers here were Puritans rather than Pilgrims. They weren’t separatists from the Church of England, but were chartered colonists – (I was always told that the difference was that Puritans had money – Pilgrims did not). The word puritan came from their belief in purity of the Church. They felt that the Church of England had been compromised by tolerance of other beliefs.
As a result, they imposed a strict set of rules on all the residents of this new land. They legislated morality as well as laws. This had the effect of creating an extremely structured and stable society here. Lest we think it was all about morality and church, they also preached education and hard work, both of which were key factors in stability and expansion of the economy.
The other main factor in the growth of Boston and the evolution of government was that Boston and the Massachusetts Bay Colony was allowed far more self-governance than their American counterparts in Virginia.
In 1629, the twelve men in England who were members of the Mass. Bay Colony decided to transfer the power to the new world. In effect, they founded a new company and a new government.
Arguably the Charter of 1629 should be recognized as one of the most important documents in our history.
Governor Winthrop brought this charter with him when he came to the colony. It gave the colony unprecedented power. It created a General Court of all free men. This court elected a Governor themselves and stated that they possessed the right to govern their own affairs as long as their laws were not contrary to the laws of England.
That Great and General Court has met regularly except for an inter charter period in the 1680s for 379 years.
Not all settlers had a voice at the beginning. Some were indentured to others in order to finance their way to the new country. But as they worked this debt off, more and more became free men.
In October 1630, 109 settlers petitioned for rights as freemen. This was at the first meeting of the Great and General Court. In May 1631, at their next meeting, 116 men were admitted as freemen. They immediately put through reforms that curbed the Governors power and declared that only the General Court had the power to tax.
So many so became freemen, that by May 1634, the General Court arranged for representatives from each city and town to make decisions for them.
This was included in a document sent out in 1641 – the Body of Liberties. This was the first code of law for the Commonwealth. It codified a representative form of government and said that the General Court could not be dissolved without the majority consent of that body. This was amazingly progressive for its time. It included protection for the rights of children, outlawed slavery, declared usury as forbidden and separated church and state. Public records were declared open to the public. This was tremendously progressive…well not all progressive, the death penalty was reaffirmed for witchcraft.
While the first legislators were all members of the church, by the 1640’s expansion of the colony lead to elimination of religious tests of officeholders.
In 1644, the single assembly was split into two bodies, the House and Senate and the beginning of separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches began. This happened gradually ending with the Constitution of 1780. 1644 A bicameral legislature was declared. The House became the body of freemen, and the Senate was deputies to the Governor…the body of property and wealth. Thus, we are the oldest bicameral legislature in the United States
In 1652 the bodies adopted the right of mutual veto. This is important as it gave both branches equal power.
The General Court lasted under the Province Charter until 1774 when it became the Massachusetts government; however it wasn’t until adoption of the 1780 Constitution that we officially became the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The pre-eminent political scientist, Andrew McLaughlin wrote, “If I were called upon to select a single fact on enterprise which more nearly than any other thing embraced the significance of the American Revolution…I would choose the formation of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780; and I should do so because the constitution rested upon a fully developed convention, the greatest institution of government which America has produced, the institution which answered, in itself, the problem of how men could make governments of their own free will.”
239 representatives from 190 communities met in September 1779 to draft a Constitution. They had a “free conversation” and delegated a Grand Committee of 30 to prepare a draft. This committee selected a subcommittee of three – John Adams, Samuel Adams, and James Bowdoin to write the document. In the end, they let John Adams write this document. John Adams set out to write a document that, he wrote, created “an empire of laws, not men.”
This was a broad comprehensive document and today Massachusetts is the only state that still operates under its original constitution.
3 points are important:
1. Our rights must be respected by our government
2. It is our duty to maintain our government
3. The basic framework of that government
The Constitution gave the people tremendous power:
• Said government was accountable to the people
• We have the right to replace our officials
o Right to assemble
o Codified the separation of powers
o Right to impose taxes
This was far ahead of its time and set precedent for our national Constitution. Much of our federal government mirrors our state government.

Also in 1780, Senate was set at 40 members, where they have been since that time…House has fluctuated with growth of population high was 748 members in 1811
There are a couple things that make us unique. Each citizen of the Commonwealth can petition the legislature to pass a bill. This is the right of free petition. And each bill has to have a public hearing. No other state has both of these. You can still get your day in the general court.
This system has served us well, but it is a dynamic document. There have been changes or refinements along the way.
1840 citizens not taxpayers became the voters and legislators
1857 legislature abandoned town and city representation and elected 240 members from districts
1964 one man, one vote
1979 house cut to 160
In 1912, President Teddy Roosevelt said that, “Massachusetts has taken the lead in every movement for the welfare of this nation since the days when men of the 13 colonies sent their representatives to the first Continental Congress.”

There have been three presidents that have served here…John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Calvin Coolidge…6 speakers of the US House, and one Supreme Court Justice. Daniel Webster, and John Greenlief Whittier served and Ralph Waldo Emerson served as clergy to the House. What a place

We are proud of our heritage, our history, and our roots in Massachusetts. I believe that those roots have been responsible for who we are today.
Because of the Puritan emphasis on education and hard work and given our spirit of self determination, we lead the nation in college degrees per capita – on doctoral degrees per capita. We have 123 colleges and universities in our small state. That has lead to a record and history of innovation and creativity in our economy – from developing the first vaccine in 1791 to mapping the human genome.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Senator Edward Kennedy

I am deeply saddened by the passing of Sen. Kennedy yesterday. While it was not unexpected, it is a tragic and sad day for Massachusetts and the US Senate. My thoughts and prayers go to his family.

There has been much written about the senior Senator over the last few days and much more will be written. We will not realize the full impact of the loss nor will we realize the impact to Massachusetts until we start to look at the things Ted used to do that will no longer happen. We have lost the most influential member of Congress and that will hurt. For many of us, we have also lost a friend and someone who cared deeply for the people of this state and for the people in need of a champion all over this country. People who are far more eloquent than I am will detail the accomplishments and career of the Senator over the next few weeks and months. I would just like to relate a few stories of my personal dealings with Ted Kennedy.

First, I have two treasured pictures of Ted Kennedy. The first is a picture of Ted and Vicki with my daughter Stephanie. I was taking the Senator on a tour of MassMoCA a number of years ago and my daughter (much younger then) came along. I wanted her to meet the Senator and told her he was one of the most powerful men in Washington. So I have a picture of them together at the museum. The other is the picture that was on the front page of the Los Angeles Times during the 2000 convention. It is a picture of Ted and Caroline together waving to the crowd. I sent to the Times for a few prints of this and asked Ted to autograph it for me. He wrote, “Dan, I am looking for you, Ted Kennedy.”

The Senator and the family were on vacation in the Berkshires and I received a phone call from Gene Dellea asking me to go to lunch with the Senator and a small group. I was seated across from Ted who was about three seats from his wife Vicki. As many know, Ted Kennedy waged a lifetime battle with weight (I can relate) and he sat there with a salad for lunch. As the meal ended and the waiter asked for dessert preferences, the Senator said he wanted coffee but told the person on his right that the chocolate cake with the chocolate sauce was good. As dessert went on, every time Vicki was looking the other way, Ted would scoop a big spoon of cake and sauce out and eat it. He would grin, so proud that he was sneaking dessert until Vicki turned to him and said, “Ted, you know you have chocolate sauce all over your shirt”! He looked down very dismayed until we all started laughing and he joined in with a loud laugh himself. He took his job seriously, but could laugh at himself, a disappearing trait in politics.

In the mid-nineties, I was on my way to Washington to speak to Congress about heating assistance and the federal transportation bill with a number of people from around the east coast. I asked a number of people, as I always do, whether I could do anything else while I was down there. I was told by a few members of the BRTA that the train in Pittsfield was in danger. Newt Gringrich was Speaker of the House and Dick Armey from Texas was the House Ways and Means Chair. The rumor was that they were closing Amtrak stations all over including Texas. So I called Ted Kennedy’s office and asked to speak to him about this when I was in Washington. I arrived at his office with a bunch of people to talk to him about fuel assistance and we sat around his office in a semi circle. Being the closest on the left of the seats, I was close enough to the Senator to see the 3x5 card in his hand. The only thing typed on it was, “Dan Bosley-Amtrak-Pittsfield”. As our meeting wound down, a staffer reminded the Senator that I had wanted to talk about Amtrak. Ted Kennedy said something to the effect that trains were important and Pittsfield was important and America was getting into training, training the Amtrak way! He then asked if anyone wanted to take a picture and my chance ended with pictures of our group. I remember thinking that this didn’t go as I expected. I was a little disappointed until the next morning. I was in again a large meeting in Washington. This time I was with the CEO for Amtrak looking for an update on the proposed transportation bill. All we got was a half hour lecture of how we should lobby Congress to give Amtrak a penny from the federal gas tax. However, as this meeting ended and we all were leaving, Amtrak CEO Downs asked if I were in the room. He asked me to hang back. We went into his office and he said that I didn’t have to worry about Pittsfield closing. He said he received a personal phone call from Sen. Kennedy at home last evening requesting that they leave the Pittsfield stop open. He said that we shouldn’t worry and that he was very happy to have had the chance to talk to the Senator about Amtrak’s request for more money. He thanked me for getting Ted to call him! He went on to ask if I knew just how influential the Senator was and that he was thrilled to be able to talk to the most powerful man in the Senate as their funding was being discussed. He said that if I needed anything else, just call him. I remember leaving thinking God Bless Kennedy for making the phone call and taking care of us.

The last story is about Ted Kennedy’s appearance at the Commencement ceremony at MCLA in May ’06. I brought a copy of his recent book, “America: Back on Track” so that he could sign it. While we were getting “robed up” for the ceremony, I brought the book over and asked him to sign it. He took the pen and signed the book, but then started to go over the book and mark what he considered to be the important parts. I remember thinking, “hey, he’s writing in my book”, but how cool is it to have a book with the parts that he thought were important pointed out?

I remember where I was when I learned of both Bobby and John Kennedy’s death. The passing of Ted Kennedy is more difficult for me. Perhaps this is because I am older and more aware of our mortality. Perhaps this is because I knew him personally. Either way, we are diminished by his death and have lost a very good friend to the citizens of Massachusetts as well as a good friend to, in Dylan’s words, “the luckless, the abandoned, and forsaked” all over the country. He will be missed.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Governor's visit

Governor Patrick spent a day last week in the North Berkshire Community. He was gracious, inquisitive, supportive of our efforts here, and brought money!! What more could one ask for?

I am quick to criticize our administration when I feel they are wrong and the flip side should be that I should be just as quick to praise them when I feel they are right in their efforts. I feel this is one area that we have forgotten. Governor Patrick had a good trip here and we should say thanks for that.

The Governor announced that we would be receiving approximately 1.6 million in the district. These were Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to North Adams and Adams as well as some housing money. This comes from a $40+ million pool of grants around the state. A few people have questioned how the state can afford this when we are running a deficit and have cut other programs. A few have suggested that if there is money, why spend part of it on a skating rink as opposed to education or health care? Good questions. The answer is two-fold. First, this is federal block grant money that goes to the states each year to enhance communities. If we don’t use it, it goes elsewhere in the system, so we may as well use money that is designated for communities. On the question of putting resources into the skating rink, this is money that goes to people in the community. The skating rink is used by many kids and adults in the North Berkshire Community. Government should enhance the lives of our people and this will be a little money that will go a long way to helping locals use this facility.

The Governor also visited local businesses and art galleries. He asked a lot of good questions. He passed through the Juvenile court and said hi to Alex Daugherty. He talked with people on the street and had coffee in Brew Ha Ha.

But the most endearing quality of our Governor shines through when talking with kids. At the skating rink, he made a point of talking with every child there. He encouraged them to use the rink and was very engaged. (He also traveled out on the ice with his street shoes on. I was worried given his bad hip that he would slip, but he handled himself well.) He took several pictures with the kids. The Governor was scheduled to go to an area park to see the ROPES course that is operated regionally by the police departments. Given the death of Eunice Shiver and his hurrying back to the wake on the Cape, his office cancelled his afternoon appearance. When the Governor left the skating rink, he told his driver to take him to the ROPES course. He wasn’t going to disappoint the kids and he had made a promise at the Fall Foliage Parade to visit this course. The kids were thrilled and he again spent time visiting, posing for pictures, and talking to the kids. Thanks Governor for some time well spent.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Getting Out of the Recession

President Barak Obama and many economic advisors have said that they believe that the worst of our economic times are behind us and that we should start to see signs of an economic turnaround. While there will be higher unemployment and struggles, the worst is behind us. Indeed, Wall Street has experienced the biggest one month growth in July in many months.

I think that the President is right when it comes to Wall Street. Growth is occurring. However, Wall Street no longer reflects the average family or consumer and that is one of the problems. They are not tied to fiscal reality for the average family.

There is a second problem that is different today than in past recessions. That is consumer spending and this is going to be a big problem moving forward. Most economic experts will tell you that consumer spending drives the economy. Growth only occurs when people consume and that consumption depends on confidence in the market. It also relies upon the confidence that one will remain working and not have a fear of losing their job. The suggestion that we are turning the corner on the recession is steeped in numbers from Wall Street and the dependence on a return of confidence as the market grows that will lead to more spending. There are a couple of problems with this.

First is that the job market has changed. I have often quoted a study by the Center for Work and Learning in Washington D.C. that was done in the nineties that states that the average person graduating from college in the year 2000 will have to changed or be retrained for their job up to seven times in their career due to technological changes in the work place. I would suggest that this total is low. We know that manufacturing has struggled in the US and even though it is still important, the skill sets required for these jobs have changed dramatically. I worked in the machine tool trades about twenty-five years ago when machinists used micrometers as the most technologically advanced tool. Today machines talk to one another by laser and computers spit out three dimensional models of parts before the machines are started. Skill sets have changed and continue to change. Bill Gates called the 2000’s the “Decade of Velocity”. He may have underestimated the speed of change. We know that fields of new technologies such as stem cell research, nanotechnology, green adaptations of new discoveries, defense work and IT to name a few weren’t even around for our parents generation, yet they dominate the job sets being created. So people are not as confident that they can keep their job as in past generations and we have a challenge in retraining people to keep up with new advances in technologies. All of this slows consumer confidence.

Second, we have witnessed several generations that have spent more money than they have and there is little credit left with which to spend regardless of consumer confidence. Think about it. We have spent the last few decades giving people multiple credit cards, easy payments, and things such as subprime mortgages all while blasting them with commercials about products that they need RIGHT NOW! Want an iphone? Get it. Cars on your own signature and if you can’t afford a home, we will give you one for next to nothing, oh and don’t sweat the balloon payment five years out.

This is irresponsible. But it has lead to a very high consumer debt level while we are saving less than many generations past. Even the federal government is getting with the program spending far more than they have saddling future generations with debt service (already the highest line item in the federal budget) that will make it harder to find expendable income. So, yes, consumer confidence and spending is important, but do we have any money left to spend?

Governor's Veto

My last post was concerning the $80 million supplemental budget that the House passed just prior to breaking for the summer. It was placed on the Governor’s desk and he has had ten days to sign, amend, or veto the bill. As this is a budget, the Governor may line item veto the sections he disagrees with.

Governor Patrick signed the bill this past week, vetoing $33 million in spending and keeping intact the $40 million for legal immigrant health care. He suggested that $40 million wasn’t enough for this item.

I agree with the Governor’s vetoes up to a point and had hoped he would veto the entire bill. I don’t believe that this level of spending is sustainable. That said, I am saddened that he had to veto food bank money as well as regional library elder health care line items. These are important to my district, but I could not see spending $80 million in order to spend $6 million or so on programs that I like. That is the math that gets us in trouble.

I am also troubled by the statement that $40 million is not enough for the legal immigrant’s health care program. I believe that legal immigrants should be treated just as native citizens or people who have moved here to Massachusetts from another state. They are treated as a separate category of health care spending because the federal government doesn’t split the cost of health care for immigrants. That means that we pay 100% instead of 50% for their health care. The administration’s statement, along with the original estimate of upwards to $120 million for this line item, indicates to me that the administration will be back for more money for this later on in the year and that doesn’t bode well.

It saddens me to have to vote against any worthwhile program in the budget, but we have to live within our means and we have to find more cost effective ways of doing things within our line items. Until we do, the budget just continues to grow.

I believe that next year’s budget will be even tougher. Cities and towns have exhausted their rainy day funds. Next year is an election year and that means that elected officials are not going to want to bring home ore bad news than is necessary. That limits flexibility. If we don’t start to control spending now, we are in for an even tougher time next year.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Our Supplemental Budget

This week, the House and Senate voting overwhelmingly, passing an $80 million supplemental budget and placing it on the Governor’s desk. It had a lot of good things in it, such as restoring funding for Regional Libraries, emergency food banks, and the like. However, despite the fact that these were some of my priorities in the FY 2010 budget, I could not vote for this budget. I don’t feel that we should spend this amount of money at a time when we are not sure where revenues will bottom out and when we are being told we are in deficit in this year’s budget.

This is difficult and I don’t blame people for voting to restore these programs. For example, this spending bill restored food bank funding to the level of last year. Last year the food banks ran out of money and this year the demand for food will be even greater. But I felt that it was false for the Legislature to take up and pass additional spending that, I believe is unsustainable as we go forward.

There are several reasons that I voted against this budget. First, instead of taking up each of the Governor’s budget vetoes and deliberating over whether we should override a particular veto, the entire $80 million was placed into one spending bill. Therefore, if one wanted to increase spending on one line item, whether it was as little as $25,000 for beach preservation, you had to vote for $80 million in spending. I didn’t feel that we should do so.

Second, our revenues are still coming in less than even last month’s downsized predictions. We don’t know how much money we will have to spend. In caucus, I spoke about an individual from my district who always contributes to local cultural facilities. He told me he would be contributing again, but not right away. He said, “Dan, I still have money, but I am not sure how much and won’t know until the economy bottoms out. Then I will reassess and contribute.” We are like that guy. We know that we have some 20+ billion dollars, but we are not sure how much money we have and until we do, we should proceed cautiously.

Another factor in my decision was the timing of the supplemental budget. Again, as we have not seen any revenues yet from this fiscal year, we need to get some kind of idea as to how we are performing revenue-wise in the new fiscal year. July is not generally a good month for revenues and the first real benchmark will be the first quarterly payments in September. I believed that we should wait for the first quarter to see if we could afford to spend more money.

The signs are not good. It appears that the mid-month reports indicate that we will not meet the lowered revised benchmarks for July. The Senate President stated, on the day we passed the supplemental budget, that we may have to revise or cut local aid line items. And Michael Widmer, Director of the respected Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, has stated that he feels we are several hundred million dollars out of balance at this time.

Taken together with the timing of the budget on the week before a higher sales tax took effect, I felt the timing was not right to restore these items even though many of them are good programs.

Lastly, if revenues are down as predicted, we are fooling ourselves if we think that we can sustain these line items. The Governor has a constitutional responsibility to balance our budget. If we are out of balance, he will cut these items under his constitutional right to do so. Even if he doesn’t, next year we will be faced with even bigger budget deficits and this additional spending inflates the budget and creates a structural deficit that will be harder to deal with next year. That is not right. Add to that two other factors: federal stimulus money and our stabilization fund. Next year, we will not be able to rely heavily on federal stimulus money as this was a temporary fix. That creates problems for us and gaps in our budget. And our stabilization fund will be depleted. We have been supplementing our spending from these revenue sources, but will no longer be able to do so. This is unsustainable. More spending now means more to cut later unless revenues make a dramatic turnaround. We cannot rely on a dramatic rebound, but must be prudent in our budgeting.

I have written in the past about our budget process. We have had both tax increases and we have cut the budget this past year. We need enact more reform as to how we conduct business in Massachusetts. And we need to prepare our economy so that we grow revenues from increased business activity. This is not easy, but we must start now to plan for next year. That is the prudent business course. Next year is an election year. It will get harder to handle these problems. Again, that means we must start now.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Cambridge Incident

I have a friend who is a police officer. He told me that when they get a call that there is an attempted break-in at a home, or even when an alarm goes off, they have to follow up on the call. They can’t dismiss it because they think they know what’s going on. In one case I have heard of multiple times where the same person has set off the alarm at the family home and the cops would always ask the same person for an ID as that is what they have to do “by the book.” Asking for some identification, however, usually is the end of such incidents. That should have been the end of this incident.

I also know that I have been very irritable after a long flight. Heck, I’ve been pretty cranky after a short flight. If I got home and found that my front door was stuck, I would be in a very foul mood. Having cops show up questioning me after a long period away and a long flight home would send me over the edge.

I know only as much as the news articles I have read, and don’t know either of these gentlemen, but it seems to me that this incident itself was less about race than it was about two people who met at a time when both were at less than their best behavior. Either one could have prevented this escalation by taking a deep breath and walking away. A police officer has his job to do and he was responding to a call. And the professor should expect that some identification ends this event. Both failed to act as responsibly, in my opinion, as they could have in order to prevent this outcome. If one apologizes to the other, then it should be reciprocal and the other should also apologize. They should either meet privately and talk this out or just let it go and move on.

However, the larger story here is that this has become such a huge news story. That indicates that there is still a large gap between the treatment of black and white in this country and an even larger gap as to how we feel about such incidents. We have a long way to go. Perhaps this is the lesson to take away from this. Forget the actions of both men on the front porch of Professor Gates’ house and concentrate on why this touched off such widespread discussion, opinion, and press. If something good comes out of this it is a better understanding of racial attitudes and why they are such as they are. Only through a discussion of these and not the rehashing of the incident itself comes enlightenment and attitudinal changes.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Laura and Stephanie

Top photo is Stephanie on the left with Singer Sara Barelles
Bottom Photo is Laura

Any time one is elected to public office, you expect a lot of scrutiny. You are always on the job and people come up to you all the time to ask questions, to set up appointments, etc. It doesn’t matter if you are at dinner, in a hospital visiting someone, at a ball game, or sitting on your back deck. This is part of public office and it is accepted for the most part. Whenever people see you, they generally have an opinion or a problem and you have to realize that this is the most important thing on people’s minds when they approach you and need to be empathetic. Some of my best conversations have been at the local dump, er, landfill, no wait, transfer station. This is a part of public life.

However, most people don’t realize that when you run for office, the whole family becomes involved. Political life changes the family dynamic dramatically and the whole family is “on the job” in many ways. I never talk about the family as I have always thought that they deserve to stay out of the public spotlight and have a reasonable expectation to some privacy. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t important and aren’t part of the services that constituents receive. So this is a shout out to the families that participate in politics and government even though they didn’t run and aren’t paid for the service they provide.

Laura and I have been married for twenty seven years. I wasn’t in politics when we married, but she knew my interest in all things political. Still, it is quite a jump from interest to running and shortly after we were married, I became a city councilor in North Adams and then became the state representative a few years later. She has been an active participant ever since. The life of a political spouse is interesting, but it affects everything. I can’t tell you the number of times over the past twenty three years that I have come home and said, “Oh I don’t know if I told you, but this weekend we have to go to…”. And every year Laura has to march in the fall Foliage Parade (although I am concerned that she usually gets a bigger hand than I do). There are campaign events and Laura has planned countless cook outs and get togethers. She is the practical voice of advice and has to listen to me when I come home either frustrated or angry about the events of the day. While I am in the State House in Boston, Laura is back in the district. She is the one stopped in the supermarket by people asking for appointments or advice. She is the one who has to handle all the things around the house while I am gone, and she was the one who was always here for Stephanie as our daughter grew up. She handled phone calls and attended events with no complaints. She is far more practical than I am and gives me advice that keeps me focused and grounded as I go off in the many different directions that our jobs send us into. She’s the one who remembers most of the names! The hours of any elected official are varied and I am at events in the evening and on weekends and other times that many think of as family time. This can be tough and she has been a great partner through it all. She has been supportive and I know that she has sacrificed her ambitions so that I can pursue the career I have. I would be far less effective if she weren’t there for me.

My daughter Stephanie was born after I was elected, so this is the only job she has known me to have. Stephanie turned twenty one this year and has grown into a responsible wonderful adult. A senior at UMass Amherst and a member of the incredible Marching Band, she also has grown up differently because of my job. Some of it is funny. She once told then Gov. Jane Swift (who she has known all her life) that she wanted to run for my seat. The Governor told her that she would write the first check to her. She told me one day that she had a slogan for when she ran for my seat. She said it was “It’s time for a change, elect a new Bosley”! My daughter accompanied me to a dinner that I was emceeing one night and Jane Swift asked her how she liked it. Stephanie, about 10 at the time said it was good except when I got up to speak, then it was “blah blah blah”. Everyone’ s a critic. One day after she got her license, Laura sat her down and said that she should be careful on the road and watch out for other drivers. She then went on to say that if she got in an accident or was speeding, it would reflect on her father! So she has lived in that spotlight. One aspect of this is that she has always been very politically aware. She ran for class office in school, was elected to Girl’s State, participated in People to People and has been politically active in several campaigns. Last year we knocked on doors together in New Hampshire during the Presidential election. She has work study at the Donahue Institute at UMass and last year stayed there to help with a foreign exchange program with officials predominantly form Argentina. She had an internship last semester in Washington working for a nonprofit and is looking at an MSW so that she can continue to stay active. And she is a great political advisor to her dad. In many ways, she has become the one I go to on issues. She is sharp and cuts to the point very quickly. She is far more politically aware than many her age and I feel that she will make a name for herself in the future.

I have been thinking about this lately. No one makes someone run for office and no one keeps us there. I think I do a pretty good job, but it does take away from our families. I don’t see my mother, sister or brother anywhere near as often as I would like, and I spend a lot of time away from my district that I care very much for. I do this because I love my job, but the family gets caught up in this without placing their names on the ballot and they are the real unsung heroes in the jobs that the elected officials do. All we can do is thank them and let them know how much we love them for being there for us.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Good Week for North Berkshire

This week we were able to spread a little good news for the First Berkshire District. First, the city of North Adams was awarded over $3 million under federal stimulus money in order to upgrade the roadways in and around the city. Most of the work will happen on the major paths into the city. This is great news and I hope we are able to do more in other towns in the district.. Thanks goes to Peter Niles, the District One chief for his help on this. He does a great job. This coupled with broadband planning and pushing for the new science building at M.C.L.A. dramatically enhances our efforts to rebuild our economy.

The other good news was that the list of Registry of Motor Vehicles, first listed as twelve closings became eleven as we worked with the Patrick administration to keep our North Berkshire Registry open. At the end of the day, we were not only successful, but we will have enhanced the office by adding District One highway engineers as a satellite office at the Registry. I had opportunities to lobby the Governor on this issue and expressed the objection that any measurement that just takes use into account doesn't help us in the Berkshires because of our smaller population. I told him that under that measurement alone, the Berkshires always lose. However, we are part of the state and should get the same services as elsewhere. To his credit the Governor agreed and Transportation Secretary Aloisi came up with this plan. Thanks to them, Lt. Gov. Murray, Registrar Kaprelian, Sen. Ben Downing, and Mayor Barrett for their advocacy and help. This was a collaborative effort and was innovative.

Sunday Morning Musings

Toward the end of the song Stairway to Heaven is the lyric, “And as we wind on down the road, our shadows longer than our souls,”. The singer is making the point that the person he is talking about is more concerned with material wealth than her spiritual health. I have been thinking a lot about this over the past few months as we have been struggling with our budget. How much can we do and how do we do it? Where does government help end and our responsibility begin? How much are we responsible for our fellow man and how much is too much? We struggle with these constantly as we try to strike a balance. It isn’t easy. Do we spend more to help people in need now or do we appropriate in order to seed future projects that will help our budget in the long term? What is truly necessary and who sets those priorities? What is material and what is spiritual?

First, let me say that spiritual is not necessarily religious, but is, to me, a human responsibility to help each other as best we can. And material is not necessarily money, but services that give us comfort. Economic times such as these give us pause and an opportunity to examine every program that we have to decide what is viable and necessary, and what is outdated and dysfunctional. While this is painful, it is necessary for the continuation of an effective government.

This isn’t easy. First, entropy keeps most programs going even if they are outdated. People hate change. I know I do. I am still disgruntled about the designated hitter rule! So we resist change, well, just because. We also resist change because each line item, each program has grown its own constituency that will fight hard to keep a program going even if it is no longer as effective as other newer programs. People are employed in those agencies and they fight hard to keep going. Who wants to lose a job?

But programs can be very much like grass growing in a driveway or on a flagstone walk in the backyard. We can see the grass growing between stone and we can cut that back, but the roots continue to grow until they threaten to split apart the masonry. Much the same, we can enact budget cuts, but the core of or programs continue to grow. And left unchecked, they threaten the stability of the budget.

This is the second time in my legislative career that we have witnessed a deep recession. The first was in the early nineties and the second is this one. There have been others, but not like these two where the effect was deep and lasting over several budgets.

While there are similarities between the two, there is one striking difference this time. People seem more concerned with their shadows that their souls. People are more likely to criticize over one issue than in the past. When I first entered office in 1987, people would disagree on an issue, but would still consider all your work or positions rather than just one. Today, there is far more vitriol that doesn’t add to the debate, but further pulls us apart.

Some of this may be that more people are getting news from the internet or from blogs where there is no fact checking and a nastiness that seems to come with anonymity. It may be the threat of job loss as our economy churns and old jobs are lost and new jobs require new skill sets. Some is admittedly self-inflicted as we have grown far better at the politics of some issues than the actual governing of those issues.

For those of you who read this blog on a regular basis (thanks to both of you!) you know that I have talked about new ways to conduct business in government. We cut programs and increase taxes, but we also need to reform government in order to do things better and more efficiently with new technologies, and we need to expand our tax base by creating opportunities for business expansion. We can’t do this by adhering to old ideologies or based on political philosophy alone, but we need creative thinking and active participation focused on problem solving rather than scoring political points. And we can’t do this alone. No one person or ideology has a corner on the truth. We need a conversation on what we expect and how we achieve that. No political rallies. No vitriolic talk show hosts, just a conversation amongst ourselves. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

FY 2010 Budget Statement

This is a very tough but honest budget. Over the past year, we have experienced a revenue drop that I have not seen in my 23 years in the legislature.

In a normal budget year, we would have experienced a $1.4 billion increase in our budget due to the natural expansion of obligations in areas such as health care, pensions, education, debt service on prior year capital spending and other prior approved spending.

This year, we not only cut out any increase in spending, but we also cut over $1 billion in the House budget and then closed a $1.5 billion gap by utilizing $199 million from the stabilization account. We also maximized federal funds and continued to make further cuts to our bottom line. In short, between our current budget and next year’s, we had to close a $5 billion gap.

We are not alone; this is a worldwide recession and every state is going through the same process. We are fortunate that in years past the Legislature had placed money into a Stabilization Fund that we have been able to draw down over the last few months.

In an effort to balance the budget, we have reformed our transportation system, cut dozens of line items in their entirety, reformed the way we do business in state government and increased our own health insurance premiums. Through the whole process we made tough decisions and were forced to raise the state sales tax to 6.25%.

We did not come to these decisions lightly. In my opinion, the increase to the sales tax was preferable to the Governor’s more burdensome gas tax proposal which would have cost my constituents approximately three times as much as the sales tax.

These budget times are unprecedented in recent history. No part of the budget was spared, including local aid. We are bound by the state constitution to create a balanced budget and we tried to find the proper balance between cuts, taxes and reforms.

Can we do more to reform our budget? Yes, but real reform is difficult and takes time. The legislature will continue to work on these reforms as we go forward.

That said, there are some bright spots for the 1st Berkshire District. We were able to keep 75% of the funding for veterans services like the Turner House. The Emergency Food Assistance Program was level funded at $12 million and the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program was brought up to $1.2 million.

Payment in lieu of taxes was zeroed out in some versions but in the end we were able to ultimately achieve funding of $27.3 million.

Language was kept in for funding our community coalition.

The Mass Cultural Council, so important to our economy, was funded at $9.7 million.

Regional Transportation Authorities (RTA's) received $44.6 million, but there are new funding formulas that will among other things annually allocate $15 million of the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund to RTAs as we continue to work to modernize our system as a whole.

Local Tourism Councils were kept funded in a time where it would have been easy to be short sighted and eliminate this expenditure entirely.

We funded the essential School Pothole Account at $3.5 million and that is an important avenue for our distressed schools.

Our colleges and our Councils on Aging both received modest increases.

Again, this is the worst revenue outlook that I have experienced in my 23 years. I worked very hard and did my best to secure funding in these tough times for my constituents. All of this was done in an incredibly tough year. I have, in the past, worked to bring reform to the way we do business in Massachusetts. I will continue to work hard to do this in the future as it is a pleasure to work for the great people of North Berkshire and Franklin County.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Slot Resolution at Democratic Convention

Congratulations to all the people who worked hard to get an anti-slot resolution adopted during the Democratic Issues Convention this weekend. Getting this adopted was impressive and makes me feel that we still can beat this when it comes up for a vote later this year. Good job!

Sal DiMasi and Public Service

Since the news of indictments broke this week, I have been thinking over what to say or even what to think concerning this whole matter. I was one of the last defenders of the Speaker in the House and was quite vocal. I have been thinking over this a lot in the past few days and know that I have to write something.

First, let me say that I still won’t make any judgments concerning Sal DiMasi. That is now for the courts and everyone is innocent until the trial is over. Everyone deserves this right.

So what can I say? Well, for starters, I have been asked how we could have voted in January for a Speaker that had been in the paper so many times over the past year with all of the allegations concerning Cognos and other issues. I won’t speak for anyone else, but there were at least three reasons that I voted for him. First, he was and is my friend and I had never seen any impropriety from him in the years that we worked together. Politics is a rough and tumble business and that doesn’t mean I hadn’t seen him partake in the shoulder sharpened tactics that we all employ when are sure we are right on an issue. But I have never seen the Speaker cross the line on the ethics of an issue.

Second, our word is our bond in the Legislature. We live by our ability to convince people of our positions on issues. We live and die by our word. So when I was told on many occasions that nothing wrong was done on the allegations, I believe that we are wired to believe each other on this count as we know how much it means when we say such things to one another.

Third, there were alternative explanations for each and every allegation. For example, I was told that the department of education needed to have new software in order for our Ways and Means Committee to be able to see into the department. We spend more on education than on most parts of the budget and we need information in order to spend that money wisely. It makes sense, then, to go out to bid for software that makes the system more transparent to us and that gives us this information. It wasn’t as if Cognos was a “fly by night” company. They were a reputable firm. Lastly, I knew that we didn’t make the decision in the Legislature as to who was awarded the contract. Therefore, I tended to believe the Speaker on these issues as they made sense with alternative explanations and given how we operate.

There were other issues at work here as well. Many times in my career, I have been contacted by friends or acquaintances looking for help with the government. This may be help, or for a reference in getting a job that is posted or they have a great idea and need the services of our economic development offices. When someone in the business community calls me and tells me that they are having trouble with the department of revenue because they have fallen behind on their taxes, I will call DOR and remind them that we shouldn’t be in the business of putting people out of business and ask them to work something out. Or perhaps someone will have a problem with the registry of motor vehicles and we try to be helpful. Each one of us has businesses that we know or are in our district that call us. Constituent requests make up a lot of our phone calls and advocacy. In all cases, I ask the department in question for a fair shake and consideration. After that, it is up to the business or individual to make their own case on the problem or issue in question. But people shouldn’t be penalized for knowing us or for their friendship. I assume or assumed that the Speaker was doing the same thing.

Lastly, those of us in public life are frustrated by the press and that leads us to discount their stories when there are legitimate concerns. When was the last time we saw a good story about the work of the Legislature in the press? I would gladly take the bad stories if they wrote about all the good work we do. I work very hard for my constituents and spend a lot of time in Boston, away from my family and district in doing so. I have been the author of quite a few major pieces of legislation, and have never had a scandal in my district or office. That is not the exception, but the rule. Most members work very hard for their districts and on many state issues. Yet, over the past week, we have been called pigs, enablers, crooks, bums, and a few more choice words. People never see all the good we do and yet get the daily dose of allegations. A little balance would be nice.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things we can do to make the system and situation better. There are. However, we must make sure that we don’t rush in and change things that will make it more difficult to do our jobs. The toughest ethics laws in the world are not going to stop someone who will betray their constituents and the public trust. So we need to be smart concerning reforms. I would suggest that one of the ways we can make government more transparent and get more people involved in by going back to doing business the way we used to when I first came into the Legislature. By that I mean that we should print our daily calendar and have more formal sessions dealing with issues before us. The daily calendar was a listing of all bills ready for action. We used to read through the calendar each day and then go back through it to take up issues ready for debate. Not only is this more informative for the public, but gives the whole Legislature more power by placing each issue in some form on the floor. With that one can make motions and it gets harder for a select few to decide what we will deal with. This gives tremendous empowerment to the rank and file members and it also hones debate skills as more people speak on the floor.

I also think we need a way to televise our hearings and sessions again. I have always been surprised by the number of people who would tell me they watched our sessions. It is expensive, but I feel we need to try to find a way to cover this as it adds a lot to our transparency.

There is more, but this post is already overly long. I promised myself that I would cut the size of these, but as I have said before, these are complicated issues and the public deserves more than a sound bite.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Got To Read Each Day

Let’s get off of politics for a post. I just got back from a book signing by one of my favorite authors. Michael Connelly is a former police beat reporter from Los Angeles who has written a series of mysteries, mostly about a detective named Hieronymus Bosch (I hope I spelled that right). He also has written a few books, including “The “Lincoln Lawyer” about a lawyer named Mickey Haller. These are great books and I think that he is one of the best at his craft right now. I bought “The Scarecrow”, his new novel.

Mr. Connelly was at Border’s with another great author, George Pelecanos. He was a writer and director for the TV series “The Wire”. He has also written about a dozen books and I look forward to reading these. I bought his new book, “The Way Home”.

I believe that reading is extremely important. It teaches us about people and places, but does so much more. On a basic level it teaches us vocabulary. It also teaches us to think and handle complex plots and problems. It allows us to use our imaginations and that introduces innovation and creativity into our thought process. That makes a tremendous difference in our lives.

I have been very active in our literacy efforts in the State House throughout most of my career. In 1993, I formed the literacy caucus along with former Representative Barbara Hildt and former Representative and former Mayor of Fall River Ed Lambert. That year we introduced the first state budget line item for adult basic education (ABE). We managed to get $4 million placed into the Education Reform bill and into the budget. Since then this line item has grown to a high of over $30 million. This has been used to create a network across the state. Adult basic education is broken down into three parts: literacy, GED preparation, and English as a second language. I have also been active in our local reading days or promotions. Libraries have been an important budget item for me. ABE has been my number one budget and legislative priority since 1993.

Reading is the great equalizer. You can be rich or poor, as long as you can get to a bookmobile or a library, you can meet interesting people or go to fascinating places within the pages of a book. And it doesn’t matter what you read as long as you continue to read. When I speak in schools about reading, I tell the kids that I read something every day. That is the truth. It is a practice that I have kept since my school days.

Back to Michael Connelly. He is a fascinating author that gives you a very detailed description of police work. His characters are complicated and varied and it brings you into the world of detective work. I like that. I have read all of his books. I like to stick with an author if I like his work. I have read all of the books by Stephen King, David Baldacci, Beth Saulnier, Dan Brown, and Lee Childs. Not everything I read is fiction. I am on my third book by Bill Bryson and have read a few of Robert Reich’s books on the economy. I am working through “The World is Curved” by economist David Smick, and have “China Inc.” about the emerging economy of China by Ted Fishman. Again, it doesn’t matter what you read as long as you enjoy it.

I'd like to share three stories about authors. First, I was fortunate to have been asked to introduce David Baldacci at a conference years ago. I hadn’t read any of his books, but had seen the movie “Absolute Power” based on his novel. I went out and bought “Saving Faith” and “The Winner” along with “Absolute Power” before meeting him. He graciously signed all of these and asked me which I liked best. I had to tell him I hadn’t read any, and he laughed and signed them anyway. Since then I have read all of his books and like the stories about the Camel Club best. If I had to recommend one book, though, read “Wish You Well”. It is different than most of his books and it is very good. Baldacci is very much involved in literacy and has his own literacy foundation. He deserves our support for his work and philanthropic support.

The second story is about author Beth Saulnier. Beth is from North Adams and I knew her father. In 1990, I was running for my third term and she was just back in North Adams from college, working for a local newspaper. We had just raised taxes in Massachusetts in reaction to a recession and very difficult budget year. It was a tough year for many and I had a very tough local challenger. During a debate where the questioners were members of the local media, she asked a question on an issue that hadn’t come up in the other debates that year. (It is a long story, so I will leave the actual question for a future post.) To make a long story short, I think I answered the question adequately, but my opponent gave this long rambling and funny answer. After that, I felt much better about reelection. Beth wrote five books under her name and two under the name Elizabeth Bloom. In a book set in North Adams, she autographed my copy of the book, “To Dan, whose political career I once saved.”

My third story is about the Senior Senator from Massachusetts, Ted Kennedy. I know Ted Kennedy as an elected official and admire him. In 2006, he wrote a book, “America Back on Track”. It is about what we need to do to revitalize this nation. That same year he was the commencement speaker at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams. I brought my copy of the book to commencement to ask him to sign it. As I sat down with the Senator, he took his pen and started flipping through the book discussing certain parts and underlining passages. As he was doing that it struck me that here I am sitting with one of the preeminent US Senators of our times and the author of the book, and I have a copy not only signed, but he underlined his favorite passages and points. How cool is that?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

The following are my Memorial Day remarks for 2009. I join many others in remembrance of those who have fallen in service to this country. Thank you for your service.

Thank you for holding this ceremony. It is important that we gather here in thanks to those who have given themselves for their country. Many communities do not commemorate the day with as many ceremonies at their schools or town halls as we do here. We continue to do so and that says a lot about the character of our community. Thank you. Once again we are met on a Memorial Day, celebrating and commemorating those who gave their lives for this country and for their fellow man. We have been doing this for about 150 years, since a local druggist, a Mr. Welles, suggested after the Civil War that we honor those who fell in that war. That idea was picked up by Gen Murray, a patriot who had fought with distinction in the Civil War. He and Welles formed a committee and that first year they brought their Memorial Day ceremonies to three cemeteries locally. The next year they did the same thing and that is how this got started. It was originally called Decoration Day because that was how they commemorated the day, by decorating the graves of the fallen soldiers. That was 1865. In 1868, it was made an official day of commemoration, but it wasn’t until 1971 that the last Monday in May was designated as Memorial Day. The first President to speak at a national Memorial Day ceremony was James Garfield in 1880. His notable words capture the true spirit of why we set aside this day of remembrance: He said of our veterans, ”We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country, they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and virtue.”

I’d like to take Garfield’s stirring words one-step further. I’d like to believe the men and women we honor today immortalized more than their patriotism. They immortalized the principle that freedom is essential to the human condition. So vital is freedom that men and women die to preserve it – not only for themselves, but also for others.
Since that day in 1865, two things have remained consistent. Memorial Day ceremonies have been kept every year, and young men and women have given their lives for their country and to ensure our safety. It is not only fitting that we continue to observe this day, it is our duty as Americans to honor these fallen patriots. We honor their service, remind ourselves of the lessons taken from them, lessons on patriotism, service, lessons that teach us that great ideals such as democracy and freedom don’t simply happen, but come at a great cost, and rededicate ourselves to those same ideals that these heroes died for.
Stephen Ambrose said of WWII, we paid dearly in human lives, but he said that we didn’t tire of war or our responsibility, because determination outweighed that price. Determination, loyalty, patriotism…it doesn’t matter what you call it, it is the selflessness of young men and women who are called to duty and they sacrifice their safety and ultimately, their lives for their friends, family and even for people they have never met. They do so because they respond to the call of duty. They do so because they know that if they do not, then we lose something far greater, the democracy and the example of human rights and freedoms that is America.
And they must also realize that this service continues today; in Afghanistan, Iraq, patrolling the waters in East Africa, and so many other places where our troops put themselves in harm’s way to defend the ideals of our country. And that is the message that we must keep to pass along to each generation. In all of these cases, men and women served this country not because of an immediate threat to their families and homes, but to serve the ideals and principles of this country. They held dearly to the beliefs set forth by the Declaration of Independence. They are simple yet powerful; We hold these truths to be self evident, that all people are endowed with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These are not just words to us, but the ideals for which men and women have unquestioningly, time and again, put themselves in harm’s way defending. And continue to do so today. As we adjourn our sessions in the State House, we have a moment of silence and adjourn in memory of any soldier that is killed in duty to their country. It still happens today and we still adjourn in honor of our fallen comrades and fellow citizens. None of these brave men and women planned to give their lives that day, but they knew the risks of military service and they risked their lives daily in the cause of a free nation.

At our best, we should pay homage to our nation’s dead all year round. But we don’t. One of the amazing things about living in a free land is that we don’t have to think each day about our freedoms. We can take for granted freedom of speech, assembly, worship and all the others that people have fought so hard to give to us. We can take them for granted because that is what freedom is; it is the ability to do what we can without fear that someone will take it away from us. But we, here today know, that the price of this freedom has been the blood of our men and women; those who gave the ultimate sacrifice of laying down their lives, those who sacrificed and came home wounded in body, mind, and spirit, and those who sacrificed by staying at home and waiting for their loved ones to return.
And we know that there will always be a need to be vigilant in this world. We need to make sure that in taking these freedoms for granted, we do not lose that sense of how dear freedom is, or how costly, and; as my grandfather, who came to this country and became a citizen because of the love for is adopted land, taught me years ago, we must not forget those who made and kept this nation as a beacon of freedom and hope to the rest of the world.
We must always remember what unites us as one America, and recognize that the mortar holding our society together is mixed with the blood and tears of those who fought and died in battle. Over one million and a quarter men and women have breathed their last while serving our country. We can never repay them and their families for this sacrifice, but we can honor their actions with our remembrance.

Let us hold up the example of their courage for all to see.
Let us carry the message of their sacrifice to the generations to come.
And let us never forget the price that they paid to ensure that this remains the greatest country in the history of this planet.

The brave men and women who gave their lives for our country deserve our remembrance and they have handed off to us that awesome responsibility to take up the service that they gave their lives for and pass it forth to a new generation. It is now up to us to be the heroes and the people who preserve those ideals and rights that they died for. Hopefully, someday we will not send people into battle to defend these inalienable rights. Hopefully someday we can live in peace. But that will only happen if we rededicate ourselves to our nation and to the lessons and ideals that these people gave of themselves to defend. That is why we meet each year, to remember their sacrifice and to thank them for that selfless sacrifice. We meet to remember that we must stay vigilant and become the next generation to advance these principles. And we meet to celebrate that great experiment in democracy that is called America.

As long as we continue to meet and commemorate their lives, then their lives continue to hold meaning and continue to inspire us to carry on the ideals of freedom and democracy. They continue to live in our hearts and minds and continue their service to our country. Again, thank you for holding this ceremony and God Bless America.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Reform before Revenue

Lately in Massachusetts, this catch phrase has lead to all sorts of one-upmanship and criticism in the State House. The Governor has threatened to veto a proposed sales tax until he gets real reform and the House and Senate has gone off on the Governor for not understanding the process. I think we all need to take a step back and start again.

The newspapers and blogs have taken the Governor’s side in this and have gone as far as asking citizens to call their legislators to tell them to reform the system before revenue enhancements. This is complicated and let me give you one legislators opinion.

First, there is the premise that Legislators don’t want to reform the processes that we govern by. This is not true. As a matter of fact, both the House and Senate have passed various reform bills concerning ethics, pensions, and transportation. We are now reconciling these in conference committee. This is the process by which we work. The Governor should understand that. Second, while you may or may not agree with all the parts in the bills passed, all would be an improvement on the existing statutes. These will get better in conference and I think that most will be happy with the final bills.

So why not do these before the budget and any revenue increases? Our budget has to be passed by July 1st. We need to pass budgets in the House and Senate prior to that in order to conference the budget and get it to the Governor in time for his deliberations and signing. We can’t stop this practice as the state wouldn’t have a budget if we did and that would be bad for all of us. And we have a huge budget crisis that needs our attention. This is the worst I have seen in my 23 years in the Legislature and we need to resolve it before we know what else we can do on things such as transportation.

The Legislature is frustrated with the governor because he should understand this. The ethics bill doesn’t save a dime for the state and I would suggest that it doesn’t make us any more ethical. If you have a bad apple, they will continue to be ethically challenged regardless of how many laws one passes. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t examine our laws and change them to reflect our times, but this is not the most pressing issue for most people. As for the pension bill, by the Governor’s own words, it saves $1 billion over the next twenty years. We need to save $1.5 billion additionally in our budget this year because of lowered revenue figures in the past month! Again, I think most people would agree that we need to stop some of the past practices regarding pensions, but the real crisis is the budget and how we keep services intact for the citizens of the state.

I believe that the Governor is setting up “straw men” with issues that are popular with the press and play well. This is an old and reliable political ploy. However, his reticence to work with the Legislature on budget issues makes it far more difficult to resolve our budget problems.

The Governor has chastised the Legislature for not passing his gas tax. Then he has criticized us for passing a sales tax. As I have said in the past, the sales tax was not my first choice, but it was the only one with enough votes to pass. The Governor has said that a broad based tax such as the sales tax is a thumb in the eye to the citizens of the Commonwealth. Yet his gas tax would be a far larger broad based tax and much more unfair to large regions of the state. His criticism of taxes rings hollow in the face of the proposed gas, sugar, rooms, telecom and meals taxes that he has proposed. His suggestion that expanded gambling in Massachusetts is a broad based tax on the poorest residents and his department of revenue has increased their enforcement of business taxes to the point that the business community is ready to revolt.

If we want to restore the faith of the electorate, we need to pass a balanced budget that is intelligent and fair. Most people that I have talked to aren’t all that concerned about another ethics law. They equate it to dozens of gun laws and yet we still have gun crimes in the Commonwealth. If you want an honest legislature, elect honest people and let them do their jobs. People in my district are concerned over their health care, whether they can buy a house, get a job or get their kid into a college and afford to pay for it. They are worried about the economy and whether their property taxes will go up if the state can’t afford local aid. They are worried that their bridge won’t get repaired or their state park my not open or that their child can’t get a summer job. These are all budget issues. We need to finish our budget deliberations in order to do that.

Again, as I have said in the past, our budget doesn’t balance in the best of times. That is why we’ve laid off big dig debt on the Turnpike. It is why we took school building assistance and the MBTA out of our budget and gave them a revenue stream. It is why we were so backlogged in capital projects. And it is why we don’t fully fund health care each year shorting one part or another of the system. We can’t afford to do all this with the healthiest of revenue streams.

Rather than calling cuts reforms; and rather than kicking each other over the process, we should be working together on the worst budget crisis in the last 70 plus years. We should be planning for when we get out of this. We should being working to expand the economy. And we should be trying to find ways to do things cheaper while maintaining services because this is true reform.

But that takes hard work. It is easier to criticize one another over who is at fault or who mom likes best.