Category Archives: Politics

Closing the Books on 2017

The low points on the last year are so thoroughly obvious, well documented and endlessly discussed, that there is no need to mention them here. An examination of the high points, though mostly personal, may illuminate the path ahead.

Where where you when?

On Saturday, January 21st, 2017 I was at the Cathedral Church of St Paul, watching as the Boston Common filled with people. 5 Million people, at demonstrations  all over the world, showed up for the Women’s March that day, supporting the equity, inclusion and dignity of all people.  The Cathedral, the seat of the Episcopal Dioceses of Massachusetts and house of prayer for all, is opposite – just down the Beacon Hill and across the Common from –  the State House. Church and State – one was a refuge while the other was in peril. There were three quarters of a million people on the Boston Common that day. At the Cathedral we poured coffee and served bagels. There was quiet space and clean restrooms. People met up on the front steps and eat brown bag lunches in the fellowship hall. Keeping the lights burning and the doors open – yes. This we can do.

All Politics are Local/So Get Involved in Local Politics!

The results of the November 2017 municipal election gave me back some of the hope that the national election in ’16 took away. The composition of the Board of Aldermen* shifted decisively to the left. In Ward 3, where I live,  Ben Ewen-Campen won over two-term incumbent Bob McWatters. In Ward 2, JT Scott defeated Maryann Houston; in Ward 4 Jessie Clingan, running against former City Hall staffer Omar Boukili, took that open seat, and newcomer Will Mbah won at-large. In addition running effective campaigns that identified and turned out new voters, each of these candidates was endorsed by Our Revolution Somerville. OR- Somerville also endorsed the sitting Ward 1 Alderman Matt McLaughlin and sitting Ward 2 School Committee Representative Dan Futrell.

The Mayor, though challenged, won another term, and, with our city’s stronger mayor form of governance, what he says pretty much goes. But Curtatone’s faux pas over affordable housing at Assembly Row has stirred the hornet’s nest. And while it is right and noble to speak out for El Salvadoran residents facing deportation, discerning observers point out that without more affordable housing it is increasing difficult for those who need refuge to actually live in our city.

It will be interesting to see how the sea change in the composition of of the Board of Aldermen plays out, especially as it’s tact to the left puts a spotlight on Curtatone’s reputation as a progressive. Instead of a working class hero, he might be seen as a limousine liberal. We shall see.

*Board of Aldermen = city council

When 20 Becomes 6 It’s Time to Drain the Swamp

Missing the Parade

Kate was visiting her folks for the weekend, so I offered to feed her cat. The weather Sunday afternoon was picture postcard perfect, so walking over to Highland Ave was a pleasure. The City’s Memorial Day parade had just left Central Hill for Davis Square. People, couples and families with small kids carrying little American flags were walking done Prospect Hill as I walked up. I spotted an old friend. She & I worshiped at the same church back in the day. She had a poster with a picture of her dad on it. Her dad had served in the Tenth Mountain Division during World War 2.

Remembering Jack…

After tending to Kate’s cat, I was walking home, with nothing on my mind, and I remembered Jack Hamilton. “Jack,” I thought, “must be spinning in his grave.”

I met Jack as he was nearing the end his 30-year tenure as the executive director of the Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS). CAAS runs the Head Start program in Somerville and Cambridge and it helps people navigate the social safety net system – food stamps, fuel assistance, housing subsidies. Need to find a food pantry? CAAS has a list. Bedbugs? Someone at CAAS knows who to call. If Jack weren’t already dead, the recent decision by the Planning Board to cut Federal Reality’s affordability requirement by more than half would have killed him.

…And a lot of other folks

And then I thought of the other good people of CAAS, and Somerville Community Corporation, and the Somerville Homeless Coalition, and the Cambridge-Somerville Health Alliance, and Save Our Somerville, and all the other organizations and people who devoted years to pass legislation that requires a 20% set aside for affordable housing in our city. All the time and the meetings, the motions and the minutes and agendas, the conversations and arm twisting, the sweet talking and ego stroking – all the road races and walks to save our homes and gala benefits, silent auctions and 50/50 raffles – all that hard work, commitment to community and good will has been rendered meaningless. Wow. This gives a whole new meaning to “government waste.”

You Consider Us Simple, But We’re Not Stupid

Is it any wonder why we no longer trust our government? Do our elected officials not hear what we are saying? Do they think we get involved CAAS and SCC, and the Homeless Coalition because we’re bored, or hoping to build our resumes, or that we’re just fuzzy headed moon-bat liberals who don’t understand the reality of free market economics? Do they really expect us to believe that influence isn’t bought? All of City Hall’s happy talk about “diversity” and “community engagement” are empty words. By turning the 20% affordable housing requirement into 6%, all those star-spangled flags and banners – “One Somerville” says the one hanging on the high school-  become fig leaves, covering up the selling out of Somerville’s residents and the values that we share. Let’s vote these guys out of office.


What is the value of a liberal arts education…

…when professional wrestling is so lucrative? Let us welcome the new head of the Small Business Administration.


Words Starting with “P”

They –

Us –

For Us to Progress?

HRC wins NY

The polls have her leading by 12 percent over Sanders, and while anything can happen, she should take the primary handily. And the general, she’ll take the Empire State too. New Yorkers both elected HRC and have taken her to heart. That she was their Senator is huge. And, in New York, there is a strong tradition of empowering women.

New York State

New York has been home to some very outspoken women. The state is a HRC stronghold. And telling the story of HRC as the Senator from New York has the potential to win voters over in the General big time.

Unintelligible Yelling: What the HRC Campaign Needs to Hear

The less said about the current state of the GOP the better.  His name, He Who Must Not Be Named, is on everybody’s lips. Personally, I’ve taken up not even uttering his name as part of my Lenten discipline. He has tapped into a deep vein of anger and frustration that runs like a fault line though this time and place.

Wrestlemania Reality : What’s a Girl to Do?

My Wrestling Moment
About 20 years ago, in an effort to make peace with the teenage boy who lived next store, I asked him about the T shirt he was wearing. Austen 3:15 – what’s that about? I asked. It’s about Steve Austin, a wrestler, said Neighbor Boy – he once kept an opponent in a hold for 3 minutes, 15 seconds.Oh, I thought, picturing  Greco-Roman wrestling, the kind of wrestling that John Irving writes about.

greco roman 2

Then, looking at the T shirt again, I realized that this wasn’t about that.  This was Stone Cold Steve Austin.  This is about…

Professional Wrestling, aka…
Wrestlemania! Which is staged. Which means it’s theater…

Just like Reality TV
Where He Who Must Not Be Named is coming from.

Q: How Does One Go About Winning a Reality Show?

A: One Creates a Heroic Reality Character who then runs the script
He Who has outfoxed the entire field of GOP candidates because he’s playing reality show and they’re playing politics as usual. Heroic Reality Character (HRC) stands in dramatic contrast to, and ultimately defeats He Who, the loud mouth bully.


Listening to Leaders

Five – count ’em – five current and former US Senators spoke yesterday morning at the Kennedy Institute of the US Senate’s Women in Leadership conference. Given that much of our political dialog   is one step removed from shouting four letters words through a bull horn, listening these Congressional leaders was a refreshing reminder that pragmatic collaboration actually produces results. It was also a chilling reminder how high the stakes are.

Reality TV, said Blanche Lincoln, former Senator (D-AR) has given us reality show expectations. Decorum leads to respect. Now, the more outrageous you are, the more media attention you attack, observed Susan Collins (R-ME). We’re beginning to see people within the institution denigrate the institution.

Contrary to public perception, said Collins, last year on Capital Hill was actually quite productive with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act and a comprehensive agriculture bill.

After winning office, you need to govern said Barbara Mikulski, (D-MD). When HRC was first elected to the Senate, there was the fear that she’d be a diva; not only did she work hard, she worked across party lines.

People vote with their hearts, said Mazie Hirono (D-HI), for Democrats to win, we need our message to connect with people’s hearts. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said of Senator Mikulski that she has a tough mind and a good heart. A tough mind and a good heart might be the winning mantra this election cycle.

Thank you Emerge Massachusetts for providing me with a ticket. Emerge recruits and trains Democratic women to run for and win elected office. There are currently Emerge programs in  sixteen states.

Emerge Massachusetts Reception

Another cool event last week was the reception Wednesday night for Emerge Massachusetts, at the home of Barbara Lee.  Emerge MA trains Democratic women to run for, win and hold political office.  With chapters in eleven states, Emerge America, through its candidate training programs and network of supporters, works to address the under-representation of women voted into local, state and federal office.  The event attracted Beacon Hill movers and shakers Steve Grossman, Suzanne Bump and Alice Wolfe, Somerville’s own Bob Massie, and a solid group of alumna, friends and supporters.  During remarks by Christine Jahnke, a nationally renowned speech coach and author of The Well-Spoken Woman, we all adjusting our stances, and mimicking gestures to use while standing behind a lectern and trying to be ourselves.  A heady mix of brilliant conversation and high-minded political gossip, cocktails, framed by Ms. Lee’s beloved collection of contemporary art, the annual Emerge reception is the see and be seen salon for progressive Massachusetts Democrats.