Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thoughts from Pakistan on an American redrawing of the Middle East

While I was traveling through Pakistan this time last year, I made the acquaintance of Fazi Zaka, a journalist and Rhodes Scholar from Pakistan. He recently sent me an article he wrote about a map you may have read about in the Armed Forces magazine about a hypothetical redrawing of the borders of the Middle East.

My time in Pakistan, the friends I made and the articles I've read show how diverse and different the country is which can not be painted in broad strokes as American politicians and press would like to. Just as a foreigner would be wrong to think they understand everything about Massachusetts politics by studying what Ted Kennedy writes, the truth is usually much more complicated and subtle understandings can make a large difference.

Here is Fazi's article:

Fasi Zaka

From my experience, there are two major sources of interest in cartography in Pakistan. The first is the Tolkien books the youth devour in their spare time, the second is the legendary smoking gun about a map made by the United States to eventually redraw the borders of Pakistan.

This US map has been talked about endlessly in the Senate in Pakistan, the media and personal conversations. It is the evidence of the sinister plan for the dismemberment of our country, and often the basis of the argument to end our cooperation with the US. There may be many valid arguments about ending our cooperation with the US based on moral grounds, but this map certainly isn’t one of them.

I first learned of the exact origin of this map from Babar Sattar’s article “Rethinking Conspiracies” which explained that it came from an article in the Armed Forces Journal. I believe some more space needs to be allocated to this particular issue.

The article in the Armed Forces Journal is by Ralph Peters, titled “Blood Borders” (How a better Middle East would look). I am not a security expert, and my first reaction was that the Armed Forces Journal was of dubious quality, but through checking references and the publisher profile I realized this was not true.

So this “devil map” actually came from a reputed source, though it must be clarified not from the US government itself. The map on its look looks sinister, it seems like a vision of an imperialist that takes territory away from Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Turkey and Yemen amongst others.

But one of the beauties of literacy is that reading helps give context. I imagine the map has been distributed widely without the accompanying article that explains this exercise in revised borders.

Ralph Peter’s article is about preventing bloodshed and creating peace. His explanation for this is that if this region’s map was redrawn into ethnic lines then more viable states would result that are not drawn into ethnic bloodshed.

Peter’s questions the love for the borders of certain countries, especially given the context that it was the Europeans who drew these nation states somewhat arbitrarily in an exercise of imperial power. Think of the lasting problems of Kashmir, of the Kurds amongst, and now the Sunni’s of Iraq. The only way their sentiment for self determination has been kept in check has been through brute force.

Interestingly, and this is not something that is highlighted, is that this map also has Israel losing territory and shows it back into its pre-1967 borders. Also it contains a suggestion for Mecca and Medina to be controlled by all the Islamic countries in the world as part of a consortium of rulers for pluralism.

The emphasis of the article is also quite strong on the possibility of realigning the Muslim world based on the basis of Islamic sects, that is avoiding the schisms one found in Iraq before and still finds in Syria and Turkey where rulers control with an iron fist because they subscribe to a different version of the Islamic faith, and the rigid control is to avoid the break out of violence in countries with simmering tensions, like Yugoslavia after Tito and Iraq after Saddam.

The map is essentially an intellectual exercise, one the author also hints at being impractical. Of course such a realignment of borders is wholly impractical, and also denies Muslims the possibility that they are able to overcome their differences and embrace pluralism.

Other than maybe the Kurds and some pockets of Shia-Sunni differences, the proposed map also overlooks the fact that several generations have been born within these borders drawn by arrogant imperial powers. If most of the people where changes have been proposed by Peter’s article are surveyed today, I am sure that most, with the probable exception of the Kurds, will not wish for any change in the territories that define their states.

But these criticisms aside of an article that is an exercise in an intellectual hypothesis, nowhere in it does one find the gist that it is an insidious attempt of western neo-imperialist sanction in creating a world in their image. This map is impractical, but it is not an imperialist one, in fact it seeks to reverse the injustices to some parts of the Middle East that were committed almost a century ago. However, the part where Pakistan ends up losing territory so the Pakhtuns can be part of Afghanistan (a movement no one backs today) and where Baluchies can have their own state with parts of Iran incorporated show an utter lack of understanding about the ends of the people resisting state machinery in Pakistan. It’s about underdevelopment, NOT about ethnic separation.

The map of Ralph Peters is now subject to greater scrutiny than was once intended, and incorrect inferences have been made. It is right to suspect the myopic aims of the West, especially after the Bush administration, but this map is not part of them.

How to solve the School Budget (shortfall) for next year

Again, just rational common sense. But as Mark Twain said, to paraphrase, "Common sense doesn't seem to be too common at Boston City Hall"

From the financial maniacal one:

The city collects $1.4 billion in property tax, $500 million from state aid and $500 million from fees/fines/interest etc. If state aid goes down by $50 million and other income goes down by an unprecedented 15% or $75 million, half of that will be offset by property tax increases under prop 2 1/2. So we will have a NET budget decrease next year of about $75 million in a virtual armageddon scenario. If the school system has to account for 1/3 - that's $25 million or a 3% budget cut. We put $10 million in this year to supplement high fuel costs that disappeared - save that and apply to next year, cut it from next year's budget and you are now only $5 million short of a flat budget. Lose 200 non-teacher heads through attrition in your 9000 person staff that has been growing over the past decade while the school population has been shrinking and add that to the savings from the 6 or so planned school closings and boom - balanced budget, no layoffs and the teachers get the raises they deserve. Now Tom that didn't hurt so bad, did it?

Thoughts from an anonymous City employee

In response to one of my blog posts, a City Employee who I deal with on a professional basis sent the following:

Sad truth is, Menino once inspired me (back in the early 90s which is why I went to work for the city) but politics and power can have egregious effects on even the most idealistic ones (enter, stage left, my old boss). I wonder how many talented people leave government because of the pinheads running the show. The one thing any politician is good at is getting elected, it doesn't mean they'll be any good at what they're elected to do. Hence you would have been a good and effective City Councillor but getting elected is another skill set. I sure hope Obama is the exception, JFK and Clinton are the only ones in my lifetime who were such exceptions.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Contribute to the Campaign to Elect Kevin McCrea before 2009!

You only have two days left to contribute to my campaign before the end of the year.

Please send checks to "committee to elect Kevin McCrea" at 218 west springfield street, boston, ma 02118.

Remember you can only donate $500 per year, so if you were thinking of giving me a $1000 handshake, you should split it up into two equal handshakes of $500, one now and one after the stroke of midnight wednesday!

Thanks for the support!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

"City Council has different ethical standards than Congress"

I called up Councilor Feeney's office last week to get some clarification about the hiring of the ex-judge at $500 an hour to look into Councilor Turner. A $50,000 price tag has been bandied about in the press, but Feeney's spokesperson said that it wasn't correct. In fact, the City still hadn't signed a contract with the guy.

Now call me crazy, but usually you don't announce to the press that you have signed some one up to do a job, until you actually have signed someone up to do a job. That kind of gives the other party all the bargaining leverage. If the City tries to negotiate hard on an issue, the judge could threaten to walk and then how would that make the City Council look? But, then the City and the City Council seem to have buckets of money at their disposal for these fleece quests, so who cares? Lord knows we don't have to tighten our belts in these tough times.

The breakdown was explained to me as follows: $500 an hour for the judge, $90 an hour for his investigator, but apparently the bulk of the work is going to get done by unpaid interns. That's great, the City Council is going to decide whether to oust an elected official who hasn't been found guilty of any crime (yet), based upon the work of unpaid interns. That sounds like a fair and democratic process. Unpaid interns (from California?) are going to determine whether Chuck Turner is qualified or unqualified to serve. The report is due in February! No signed contract yet and the report is due in two months?

I asked about the comparisons to Richard Jefferson the Congressman from Louisiana who has been serving in Congress for almost 3 years since his indictment, including winning an election. Councilor Feeney's office spokesperson told me that "The City Council has different ethical standards than Congress". I asked does that mean 'higher' standards than Congress, to which the reply was in the negative, not 'higher' just different.

Finally, I asked whether the other councilors voted to hire this guy and was told that no, Councilor Feeney and the Corporate Counsel decided she had the authority to do it on her own. That sounds a bit iffy to me that the City Council President could hire someone with out any parameters of cost without authorization from anyone. If it is true, it is a dangerous precedent to set. What if she wanted to hire her friends consulting firm for $100,000 to look into Turner does that need to be authorized by anyone? The lack of checks and balances at City Hall is incredible. The spokesman said the contract isn't for $50,000, and from his statements it seemed like it could be more, it could be less, it could be anything.

I've asked for a copy of the contract once it becomes finalized.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sarah Palin believes in Transparent Government-why can't Boston or the State House do the same?

A great holiday conversation starter: who is more qualified, Sarah Palin or Caroline Kennedy? Anyway, for all of her offbeat belief system, Sarah Palin seems to be at heart a reformer, and 'goo goo' (good government) person. She has made every State Expenditure of more than $1000 available online for any citizen to look at.

Just imagine if you could look at those checks to Cognos, or to the $500 an hour judge Feeney is hiring.

Good job Sarah! Read more about it at:

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sam Yoon wants $100,000 by the end of the year!

Sam Yoon has been busy sending fundraising requests out to people. Here is the latest request from him. If you link to his website, you'll see he updated his blog last in 2005. I wonder if he is still happy that he didn't endorse the Democratic nominee from the primary for State Senate, Sonia Chang-Diaz. Apparently he didn't think my district needed "new leadership with vision to move Boston forward".


A lot has been written about next year’s mayor’s race. You may have even read some of the stories abojavascript:void(0)ut who’s in and who’s out, and yes, my name is being mentioned. See the most recent Boston Globe article from Wednesday.

While I’m still considering all my options, the insiders say it takes a hundred thousand dollars going into next year to be competitive.

It looks like we may fall just short of our year-end goal.

Your help now will make the difference.

That’s why I’m asking you to please make a contribution of $100, $50, and $25 - anything you can afford.

Your small donation will have a big impact.

You will be sending a message that we’re ready for new leadership with vision to move Boston forward.

Thank you, and may 2009 be a healthy, happy and prosperous new year for everyone.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!!!!

Christmas Day 2008

Merry Christmas and season’s greetings of peace to all.

Since I was young, I have enjoyed the annual Christmas letter sent from my daredevil pilot uncle Michael. I’ve tried to send one out every year for awhile, because time and life is short and Clara and I have made so many friends whom we wish all lived on our block so that we could spend more time with, and stay closer to. But such are the vagaries of life, that we spread hither and dither, and some of you express appreciation to know what we are up to. If you have heard it all before, skip the rest of this and come over for a drink sooner rather than later, for the rest of you: Read on!

As most of you know, Clara and I took 2007 to ride our motorcycles around the world. We spent last Christmas in Udaipur, India where James Bond’s Octopussy was shot. We are hoping to write a book about our travels to 42 or so countries; I want to call it “The World is Full of Good People”, Clara who is smarter and more practical thinks it should be called “Adventure Honeymoon: Building Bridges to the World”. Either way, she is the star of the book, a five-foot-two-inch dynamo who had less than 1000 miles of seat time on her bike, taking off for what would be 36,000 miles on the odometer as we circumnavigated the Globe, through Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East, the Subcontinent and Himalayas before ending in South East Asia. It was difficult at first, with her experiencing a few drops and falls, and our getting used to each other and the rhythms of the road. In Mexico and Ecuador it was NOT okay to take pictures of her sliding through a puddle and getting mixed up in a barbed wire fence. By Bolivia, it was okay to snap a shot of her sideways in a sand dune desert that passed as a highway. When we got to Transdneistr, she was staring down corrupt Cyrellian guards as I was trembling in my boots. To read more, please visit our blog at To all of our new friends we met along the way, thank you so much for all of your help, and for confirming for me the basic goodness of most people.

We arrived back in Boston in March, although we had rented out the BIG House and didn’t get back in it until July, so in the meantime we lived in a one bedroom section-8 apartment of ours in Roxbury. For Clara it was confining, for me it was like being in college again, sleeping in sleeping-bags on a mattress on the floor, an old door on two file boxes serving as a desk. We cleaned the back yard and planted a garden, as Clara looked for work, and I got back up to speed with construction stuff. It ended up being a brutal few months, as I was working on renovating a house recently purchased by the people renting our house. It is amazing to me how the rich (they make $500,000 a year between them) can be so nasty and miserable. We eventually had to evict them from our house, as they screwed over everyone from roofers, to heating people to electricians. They owed one subcontractor $500, sent him a check for $250 with a note that said “times are tough for everyone”. The problem is that working people are so used to getting the shaft from the rich that they tolerate it. For example, President Bush, Congress and the Bailout. Somehow I don’t think many of you reading this are going to get your share of the $20,000.00 or so per person they just handed out to Wall Street. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Welcome to America!

Meanwhile, Clara couldn’t find a job back with the Veteran’s Administration where she had worked. Her doctoral specialty is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Why would the VA need anyone with experience in PTSD working with Veterans??? Probably because we ONLY have two wars going on, and our vets are already not getting all the care they need. So, she took a job which she is really enjoying, working within walking distance at a private practice here in Boston. Seems as if non-veterans have the need and money to afford Clara’s excellent service.

Amazingly, the corruption in Boston hadn’t been solved in the two years that I was gone. I started to blog again about the myriad roadblocks that City and State government put up to keep residents from doing honest business and getting good schooling for their kids. Some people have started to take notice, and I was recently hired as a columnist by the South End News, my local weekly paper which had been keeping tabs on my ranting. The column was named by Clara and is called ‘No Comment?!’ in honor of all those politicians who won’t answer questions. It can be found at Only my city councilor and my state senator are currently under indictment by the FBI. My state representative who told me two years ago he was going to call me back after the election to talk about my ideas for Open government reforms has not been arrested and has not called me back. Yet.

This year we received the decision in the lawsuit McCrea v. Boston City Council in which the Boston City Council has spent about $200,000 of taxpayer money fighting an $11,000 fine in defending the Council’s right to meet behind closed doors and talk about the planning, zoning and development of the City, and other things and exclude the public from knowing anything about it. It went through the appeals court, and the McCrea decision is now case law in Massachusetts. The City Council plead guilty to all remaining counts in November to avoid a trial, setting our case up to be the largest fine in state history for a body violating the Open Meeting Law. Every once in awhile the citizens win one, thanks to my co-plaintiffs Shirley and Kathleen, who spoke to truth to power and to $600-an-hour lawyers and won.

I took Clara to the beaches of Central America for her birthday in August. While we were there, I decided to try the other side of the fence and “play ball” with a local politician. With my limited-but-getting-better Spanish I negotiated a deal with a guy running for Mayor. I would give him $50 and a pair of boxing gloves, and if he got elected he would let me exceed the zoning limits and build a hotel with a rooftop casino, if I hired some of his friends and family members to do some construction and engineering on the building. It really opened my eyes to how things get done in Boston, and what is the problem with that??? It creates jobs!! It cleans up neglected neighborhoods!! Everyone is a winner!!! Well, except for all the people left in shadows around me, and whose views I would block, but hey they have less money than me so they have less rights right? Unfortunately, I heard he lost the election.

My South End Youth baseball team, The GIANTS, won the championship again. We are undefeated in the playoffs for the last 4 years running. The kids were the champs, not me, as I lost my composure and had to retire early. I’m probably asking too much for the league to abide by the rules it sets for itself. As Clara would say, I’m a tortured individual who finds problems everywhere instead of seeing the glass half full. We had a bunch of great kids on the team who have been with me for years, including a new kid this year: God. Yes, I drafted God West in the second round (unbelievable: God was still available in the second round. I know!) and his adorable smile and attitude, as well as other great players like Ryan, Jorge, William made for a great summer. There really is a special warmth in the heart when you hear a kid call you “coach” with adoration, respect, and desire for instruction. I recommend it to everyone. Thanks to fellow coaches Mario, Bill and Ryan for a great year. Mario got me to go VT for a weekend wiffleball tournament to raise money for the Travis Roy foundation. Nothing like two straight days of pitching whiffle ball on miniature Fenway Park and Wrigley Field diamonds to remind you that you are not a teenager anymore.

Another thing that makes you realize you are not a teenager is breaking your wrist playing basketball with a bunch of big, strong Northeastern University “kids”. I was fortunate enough to do this in September, so that by the time our Thanksgiving family get-together happened in Hawaii I could take off the cast and swim, although it wasn’t strong enough to surf. The stench in my cousin’s house, however, was strong enough to get Clara to move out after one night and into a beautiful beach-front resort. There are compromises to be made in marriage, I’m learning. Don’t get me started on the state of health care in the country, as this is a family newsletter. But why would you pay 50% more for something that is of inferior quality? USA wake up!

I’m sorry if any of you lost money in this tiny correction that is happening, but, you trusted Congress, President Bush and Wall Street with your money. What were you thinking? And people call me crazy????

On a serious note, friends have noticed a difference with me and Clara since we’ve returned. Living for over a year out of 4 metal boxes makes you appreciate what is and isn’t important in life. We are more appreciative of time and friends, of conserving the world, intolerant of intolerant people and religions, and less materialistic. (Hard to believe I could be less of a consumer, but I am.) I love the library! I’m currently designing and hope to start building this year an off-the-grid house, with recyclable grey water; it is an interesting challenge.

The happiest man I know, is a motorcyclist from the D BIG BIKES motorcycle club in Thailand who befriended us and let us stay with him in Bangkok, and spent much time helping us to ship our bikes back to the USA. He has sold everything and is back to being a Buddhist monk in north Thailand (All Thai men spend time as a monk young in life, even the King). He is eternally giving and happy, and we stay in touch. All he has is his orange robe and his bowl to beg for his meals every morning. Life is a state of mind, and if we choose to be happy and to bring happiness, it will be returned. I am grateful to Ood for including me in his life.

This country was built on fantastic ideals, worth fighting and dying for. People around the world look to us as a beacon of hope for what is possible if we are given freedom and equal rights. They are smart enough to separate George Bush from the rest of us, but they question what direction we are going. It saddens me to have to spoil their vision of America, of a land without corruption, where everyone gets the same chances. My time in New Orleans shattered that ideal. We visited Tsunami-ravaged areas in Southeast Asia where they have completely rebuilt, but when I went back to New Orleans in September it almost seemed as if nothing had been done in the year-and-half since I left.

However, to end on a positive note, one of my favorite quotes from Winston Churchill “America can always be counted on to do the right thing…After they have exhausted all other possibilities.”

Let’s work together to do the right thing. Don’t tolerate empty platitudes from your elected officials. Even better, run against them! You will always have two votes from Clara and I. Make new friends, come visit us old ones or invite us to see you! Clara is excited about getting back on her bike in the springtime and finding new adventures!!!

Have a great New Year’s and 2009

Peace and Love,
Kevin and Clara
218 West Springfield Street
Boston MA 02118

P.S. Check out FireWater’s album: The Golden Hour. I can’t stop playing it. An American musician fed up with George Bush and our wars, traveled around the Middle East and Southeast Asia to meet our “enemies” (sound familiar?) He made music with local musicians, recorded it on his Mac and it is great. I crank it up and dance to it, it gives me energy to keep fighting the MAN. See it on Youtube:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sign up to Volunteer for Scotland Willis' City Council at Large campaign

Apparently there are 71 positions open for Scotland Willis campaign for Boston City Council at Large. See his posting at Craigslist:

I've never heard of the gentleman, but I agree with him that education is the number one priority.

Good luck! Here are the positions you can volunteer for:

1. Campaign Manager
2. Media Strategist
3. Strategist for Communications and Message
4. Senior Advisor
5. Chief Operating Officer
6. Chief of Staff
7. Chief Financial Officer
8. Political Director
9. Constituency Director
10. Latino Vote Director
12. African American Vote Director
13. Jewish Vote Director/Advisor on Mideast Policy
14. Senior Policy Advisor/Jewish Outreach Coordinator
15. Asian American and Pacific Islander Vote Director
16. First Americans Vote Director
17. First Americans Vote Deputy Director
18. Ethnic Vote Director
19. Gay & Lesbian Vote Director
20. Disablity Vote Director
21. Veterans Director
22. Women for Scotland
23. African American Relations
24. Director for Hispanic Relations
25. Women's Field Director
26. Senior Advisor
27. Director of Religious Affairs
28. Deputy Director of Religious Affairs
29. Catholic Outreach Coordinator
30. Evangelical Outreach Coordinator
31. Youth Vote Director
32. Field Director
37. Senior Advisor
38. Communications Director
39. Deputy Communications Director
40. Press Secretary / Spokesman
41. Area Communications
43. Director of Rapid Response
44. Director of Speech-writing
45. Speechwriter
46. Policy Strategist
47. Security Coordinator
48. Research Director
49. Senior Producers: Jon Jones, Scott Thomas.
50. Design Lead: - Brand strategist
51. Online Organizers:
52. External Online Director:.
53. Blogger:.
54. Writers:
55. Video: (Director of Video Production)
56. Director of Field Production.
57. E-mail: (lead), (writer, producer), (writer/analyst), (writer/producer).
58. Internet Advertising: an internet marketing expert.
59. Data Analyst (trends)
60. Phonebank Coordinator
61. Polling
62. Direct Mail
63. Chief Technology Officer
64. Database Manager voter file manager, redistricting consultant, and union organize
65. Scheduling and Advance
66. Senior Advisor and Chief of Staff
67. Director of Correspondence
68. Finance Director
Congressional / Elected Officials Team
69. Elected officials (City Council members/ Mayor/ Senate/ Congressional)
70. Director of Delegate Operations
71. Director of Senate relations

Monday, December 22, 2008

I blog on Saturday, hear it on Monday on NPR

I go back and forth about the news media in Boston. The quality of the papers have gone down, so why do you pay for something which isn't of great quality? On the other hand I strongly believe in the fourth estate, and believe it important to keep the other 3 branches of government in line. I support WBUR as I listen to public radio all the time. I suppose I support the Herald and the Globe by looking at their websites, although I'm not much of a consumer and don't buy much other than tools and motorcycles.

I'm not sure what to think about situations like this morning in my shower. Loyal reader and writer the ZAK sent me the minutes from the Financial Commission from September and November, with some thoughts about whether open meeting law violations occurred. However, I found the information very interesting. The FINCOM as we call it does yeoman's work for the citizens of Boston, some of the people at city hall who really earn their keep. Although we have gained 1400 employees of the City Government in the last 5 years, we have kept the FINCOM at 3 employees. Can you imagine having 1400 new employees but not adding one financial overseer to look at what they are doing? My either, but such is the collective wisdom of the Mayor and City Council.

Anyway, I posted the FINCOM minutes with comments. A Herald writer magically wrote about the FINCOM findings for Monday's paper, and WBUR, which gets its news from the Herald and the Globe, (as no one has money for staff anymore) reported it on the air this morning. As I was groggily waking up and taking a shower I was listening to the news in the background thinking to myself "didn't I just write about that a couple days ago?"

The big point is that this should have been news over a month ago!!! If we really valued media, we could pay people to monitor and report on what is going on at the State House and City Hall. It is precisely this lack of reporting which leads to these incestuous deals that sometimes blow up into headlines. Certainly we weren't going to get a notice or a hearing from the city councilors or Mayor about what a bad job we are doing about getting meters installed.

So, here goes for round 2, here are the FINCOM minutes from September. Phrases jump out at you like "Many of the district supervisors have been in their jobs for long periods of time with little or no management skills". BTD is "$14 million under projections", or "City uses an awkward system to collect those revenues and does not maximize collections." when talking about mooring fees. It almost makes you think that someone should be managing more and lighting christmas trees less.

Here is the report:

Minutes of the Meeting of September 30, 2008

The Finance Commission meeting was convened at 5:30pm at its office, 152 North St., Boston.

The first item of business was a new inquiry involving the potential stealing of gas at the Mt. Hope cemetery. The Commission was informed that the staff had received an anonymous complaint that an employee was stealing fuel in the evening and putting it directly into his private vehicle. The staff conducted a preliminary review of the complaint as it appeared to have validity. The normal city controls for fuel management were not in place at Mt. Hope which would allow for fuel to be stolen particularly as it appeared that the individual who managed the fuel might be the employee stealing it. The staff determined that fuel had been taken after the cemetery was closed for the day and prior to it reopening in the morning. At this point nothing further had been determined including how widespread the theft might be and why nothing had been done. The Commission was advised that it may be necessary to utilize subpoena power for the conduct of the investigation and the Commission unanimously approved such use. The Commission asked to be kept up to date on the progress of this matter.

The staff has continued to monitor Boston Transportation Department (BTD) revenues and at this point in the fiscal year the numbers are troubling. Parking fine revenue, estimated by the City to be $77 million this fiscal year is running below the FY 2008 income by $1.4 million which would result in revenue falling below $63 million or $14 million under projections. BTD has encountered trouble putting the new multi-space meters on the street. The single space meters are not due for delivery until late October. With fewer working meters on the street not only is meter revenue down but ticket issuance and ticket revenue as well. The Commission directed the staff to closely monitor this matter including being out on the street to determine what needs to be done to remedy the problem.

The Public Works Highway Division reorganization remains a work in progress. The Commission was informed that the change at the top had been productive but that overall progress remains slow. Time, attendance and daily management has improved but the district management issues remain. Many of the district supervisors have been in their jobs for long periods of time with little or no management skills. The staff visits at least one district yard weekly which gets the message out that PWD will continue to be watched by the Commission.

The staff has been working with City officials to enhance the collection of boat excise taxes and mooring permit fees. The City uses an awkward system to collect those revenues and does not maximize collections. The main problem is the data base used to manage the collections. It is driven by registration numbers which is problematic as well over half the boats moored in Boston waters are owned by people living outside the city. The registrations do not identify where a boat is habitually moored. Most coastal communities use a system that identifies boats kept within that community. The staff will be providing the City's Collector's office with a better plan of action on this matter.

The first few months of the fiscal year are busy with the review of unadvertised contracts. During the past month the staff has received over eighty such contracts. A number of contracts have been rejected due to costs and the status of the city of the budget. School Department personal service contracts have had more extensive review due to the problems we encountered last year when the number of such contracts jumped dramatically.

Under other business the Commission voted to go into executive session to discuss some several areas of potential review.

A true copy.
Jeffrey W. Conley
Executive Director

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Finance Committee minutes and other thoughts

Notice how you can actually understand what they did in their meeting. Amazing what you can do when you are not paying people hundreds of thousands to write minutes to keep the information about what you are doing secret.

If you calculate how much the city council stenographer gets paid on an hourly basis, it is about $600 an hour. This to record the meeting and NOT produce written minutes???!!!

No wonder the City Council has $50,000 or so left over to investigate Chuck Turner. Wouldn't that money be better spent on a Scholarship for a needy Boston Public School Student? We could name it the Maureen Feeney President of the City Council Scholarship. If they cancel that $50,000 contract to investigate Chuck, and create a scholarship for BPS graduate to go to college, I'll put in another $1000 of my money for book expenses.

On a positive note, the City did a great job of cleaning the streets. We were at work at 8 am this morning on a couple jobsites and the roads were clear. Of course, the guys I hired to shovel didn't show so I got some exercise shoveling out apartment buildings.

Anyway, here are the Financial Committee minutes. Note what they say about the school committee contracts. Absolutely they should be reviewed. We have added 1400 city employees in the last 5 years, but the Financial Committee still only has 3 members to oversee what the Mayor and the Council are doing??? Their budget should be a line item percentage of overall budget. But why would the Mayor want finance professional looking over the contracts he signs and hands out. That would make too much sense.

The Commission met at its office at 5:30pm on November 11, 2008. The members were brought up to date on the inquiry into the City of Boston Cemetery Division. The individual was caught stealing fuel from Mt. Hope Cemetery resigned his position with the City. The rest of the inquiry is ongoing. The staff has been working with Parks Commissioner Antonia Pollak and the City's Office of Labor Relations. The staff has turned over its information of the fuel matter to City officials. In addition to a video taken in the evening of the fuel theft, the staff reviewed all of the fuel records and found records that identified that fuel had been stolen dating back to at least April, 2008. The staff also interviewed all of the employees at Mt. Hope. Due to the incomplete status of the inquiry the Commission deferred further discussion to later in the meeting.

The staff has continued to monitor the installation of the new parking meters which remains a significant problem. The vendor who won the bid for the new meter mechanisms has begun to deliver them with over 3,000 received to date. However, none of them has yet to be installed and there is no plan in place to provide for the installation. The financial impact is significant as meter revenue and the revenue from ticket issuance is down year to date. The City had planned for increased revenues due to buying all new meters. The City is well into the 2009 fiscal year and the trend becomes increasingly difficult to reveres. It is clear at this point that the revenue projects made by the City will not be reached. The Commission instructed the staff to continue to monitor the process.

There have been several memorandums sent to City departments concerning reducing expenses for the duration of the fiscal year in many areas, including external contracts. Reducing and or eliminating contract expenses is the quickest way to reduce expenses. First, vendors have no recourse and secondly, unlike employee reductions, there are no residual costs. The staff has been reviewing all unadvertised awards with the goal of making recommended cuts or reductions, particularly with School Department contracts which account for millions of dollars in costs.

There being several pending matters of inquiry along with the need to continue discussion of the Cemetery inquiry, the Commission voted to go into Executive Session to discuss those matters and will not return to open session.
A true copy.
Jeffrey W. Conley
Executive Director.

Anyway, here are the

Friday, December 19, 2008

Boston Common-First a Conservancy, then a Fund, now a public/private partnership

So, Mike Ross has now posted the third iteration of his Boston Common committee's report on the Boston Common on the City website. He keeps changing the name, but at least this time we start to see the mud wash off of the real prime mover. Suffolk University and Emerson College want to get their hands on part of the Boston Common. They want to put astroturf or something and use the recreation fields for their usage. Finally, he comes clean with what we knew all along, there are private groups that want to control public spaces and Mike thinks that is ok. I do not. What is most unfortunate is the deceptions they went through to get to this point now. What is a conservancy? and what does it do that the Friends of the Public Garden couldn't do. Citizens must be vigilant in making sure these public giveaways don't happen.

Here is a letter from Shirley Kressel to Councilor Ross:


I reviewed your new Special Committee report, which is posted today.

I am surprised to see that it still proposes public-private partnerships, which were discussed in your previous recommendations. First it was a conservancy, then an Improvement Fund, and now it's a partnership, or a "relationship" with a "local college to maximize care and utility of the fields." These are fundamentally all the same thing: deals with private parties for public rights in return for private money. Rotch Field, which you denounce, is a partnership, or a "relationship," with "a local college" -- Emerson, in fact.

And you still recommend taking down the small fields' fencing to create one big field and install synthetic turf. You must know that, if the colleges pay for turf, that they will only do this so they can schedule their sports seasons on it. Even if they don't pay for it, they'll start asking to use it regularly, and offer other donations, which they know always works.

From my point of view, you are still doing basically the same thing.

I know Suffolk and Emerson are determined to use the park as their campus grounds, and they will never give up, just as the businesses behind the Greenway Conservancy spent years finding just the right words, the right formula, the right political allies until they got what they wanted.

If you think money is the real issue, let's really figure it out. The report should include an analysis of all the private money and other government grants coming in to the Parks Dept in general and the Common in specific, and also all the capital money, because as Marty said, most of the improvements you recommend are capital improvements. The $16 million budget figure in your graph is a small part of the resources available to the Parks Department.

Do you know what funding the Kershaw enterprise yields to the Common, relative to what it has cost the City? I can't find out, because it's a private non-profit and its books are closed; maybe you can get the information.

And I can tell you about a lot of money in the City budget that's being wasted that we could use for the park. Like the $60,000 a year paid to a non-functional Council stenographer, $600 an hour for nothing, as the hearing last night revealed. And all the "excess" money in the Council budget that is divvied up among the Council's employees in unlawful bonuses at the end of the calendar and fiscal years with those mysterious hastily-mumbled votes called with reading out the dockets, just like the ones passed today; you could stop that if you wanted to. And the millions in TIF tax breaks that the Council approves, because as you say, future taxes are not "real money." And the 121A tax break orders the Council puts "on file" and doesn't even ask about, that cost us $50-$70 million a year. A lot of public money is burned in the Ianella Chamber, while we go begging to Suffolk and Emerson and other abutters, pleading poverty.

I saw you presenting the report to the Council today. You said that somehow the idea that a conservancy was being proposed "got out there" and it was a misunderstanding. But a conservancy was proposed in that draft report; and indeed, it is still being proposed. Calling it an Improvement Fund didn't change that, and now calling it a partnership or a relationship doesn't change the basic problem of City alliances with private parties who are pursuing special interests in the park.

I would like to be notified when your committee takes up this issue next year.

Thank you.


PS I do appreciate your statements opposing the Silverline III project.

Shirley Kressel

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A take on busing from a business associate of mine

Some excellent thoughts here. Those who followed my campaign 3 years ago know that I proposed offering low cost housing loans for teachers to attract them to stay in Boston. I'm a big advocate of rewarding our teachers, not just fiscally either.

i don't think busing is necessarily a bad thing but it is such an imperfect solution. the problem i see is that people have now taken busing as THE solution rather than the stop gap measure it is. everyone rather goes to the neighborhood school. some of these kids have to wake up at 5 am just to get ready for their ride to another school district. and they are expected to perform at same level with all that added onus and pressure?

the main problem is finding good teachers willing to teach in urban cores. its not $/student. it is not facility even. quality of teacher is the number one factor. to attract them i think quality housing goes a long way. this leads to bigger issue of providing affordable workforce housing for teachers and other public employees. so a lot of these issues are inter-related.

vancouver has an interesting project in some of its down and out areas. the city funds affordable housing aimed at accommodating we are talking 3 BR condos and can actually raise a family there. by attracting familes you have more involved parents in the schools and they have found that quality goes up. And because it's affordable housing, you are not displacing existing families either. I think something like this layered with workforce housing sets the foundation. just throwing money at schools without providing a strong community around it does not work. but i wouldn't throw out busing per se. people fought hard for that because it was only solution and still often is. the goal is to move the urban schools to the point where busing is no longer needed.

Big news and Fair Warning---I've been hired to be a Columnist!!!

Thanks to all the readers of my blog who have kept the hits and the comments coming. Apparently we attracted the attention of the South End News, who have hired me to bring my writings to a greater audience. They have hired me as a columnist to write about whatever I want.

I'd like to thank them in advance for giving me this opportunity, and for having the faith in me to let me write about whatever I find interesting in Boston, America and the World. I grew up poor, and believe what Poor Richard's Almanac says about a penny saved is a penny earned. One of the biggest expenditures that could be cut in Boston is the busing budget, and it is the subject of my first column. As a product of public schools, I believe strongly that one of the most important backbones of our freedom is learning critical thinking skills in excellent free public educational institutions.

One of the most critical thinking skills I think I have learned is not to trust politicians. One of the things we hear from people like Mayor Menino or Congressman Capuano is "I treat all people the same". Does anyone believe that? I've called and stopped by the Mayor's office many times over the years looking for a comment or some help on a project, and I'm yet to get one minute with him. But, if someone from the Beal companies calls over to get a tax break for development in Southie, well that's another question.

Anyway, over the years I have tested and prodded the State House, Congress and City Hall, testing things that they have said in the press. The first thing these people do when you call is ask "who is this", and you can't say "I just want to ask a question, I don't want to give my name" because the reality is that you might get a different answer depending on who you are. Since I've been so publicly critical of so many of these guys, they often don't reply or don't answer, or give me an answer they wouldn't give someone else. I've tested this in a couple of different ways, sometimes by having other people call the same politician and ask the same question, and often they get different answers.

Sometimes I identify myself as Richard, as in Kevin Richard McCrea. Sam Yoon has recently been complaining to other City Councilors that I have called his office looking for information and not identifying myself properly. You would think that Sam who has jumped on my Transparency bandwagon lately, wouldn't care who called his office, that he would give everyone the same information, no matter what their name, race, sexual orientation or nationality!

I have run many probes, and asked many questions over the years, often in conjunction with building projects that I am working on. Sometimes, I have staff members of one of my companies call up and get information. We've even kept some audio recordings of some local Boston politicians who have left audio recordings on our answering machines and cell phones which are very revealing. You would be amazed how fast these guys respond when there is potential money involved, as opposed to when you call about an illegal roofdeck or a pothole to be fixed.

So, FAIR WARNING, now that I'm a paid journalist I will always identify myself as Kevin McCrea when I am calling the State House, City Hall or even down to D.C. If I'm contemplating writing about what I am calling about, I will identify myself as being with the South End News. I won't for matters of business or personal edification. Fair enough?

More stuff about taxes, from Universal Hub, etc.

Adam over at Universal Hub ( who is doing a great service for Boston residents (not to mention occasionally helping me with technical blog issues--THANKS ADAM!) recently crossposted my blog about taxes which started an interesting discussion.

In spending some time last week poring over the numbers one BIG thing became clear. The reason Tom Menino is pushing big developments so much is that he has created a sort of Ponzi scheme with our taxes and city contracts. He has signed contracts with our City employees and unions that assume about a 5 percent increase a year in revenue, despite proposition 2.5 that should limit the growth of our income taxes. So, he needs new revenue, hence pushing big developments as fast as he can, since new developments just add to the tax base. The problem is that since the city is not growing and remains stable at about 600,000 people, those of us who live here are on the hook for those contracts. If commercial values drop, as they likely will in the near future, the residents taxes have to make up the difference to pay those contracts that Menino didn't negotiate very well.

Some of of my friend Steve's answers to some of the questions at the Universal Hub site ( are below:

All - I am Kevin's anonymous financial person - here are my answers to your postings:

Gareth - yes residential taxes will go down in 2009 - but not for the reason you cite. The tax rate will be about 3% lower - but the residential exemption will also fall to probably about $1350 (it's based on median house price which I believe is down about 10% - maybe a little more). These roughly wash each other out for most homeowners. Net, net, most homeowners will see their taxes go down purely because their home is worth less and because commercial properties had a good 2007 (assessments are based on prior year's values).

Brigid - you are correct - the rate is basically a function of dividing the total amount of taxes collected by the assessed values (with all kinds of adjustments to account for classification, exemptions etc. etc. etc.). Currently 60% of our city's revenue comes from property taxes - I believe this is the highest of any major city in the country. This is extremely dangerous for many reasons - one in my explanation to Gareth below.

Gareth - 2nd blog - you are incorrect on this statement. Residential taxes for an individual or even the whole city can easily increase by greater than 10%. Keep in mind that 2010 taxes are based on values of properties as of Jan 1, 2009 and 2011 on values as of Jan 1, 2010. Commercial properties will pay about $900 million in property tax in 2009 and residential about $500 million. This gets a little complex, but basically a small reduction in commercial valuations can shift a huge amount of taxes to the residential properties (that's why our taxes went up so much from 2004-2008 - mine increased about 50%). If one makes the reasonable assumption that commercial values decrease 10% in each of the next two years and residential values decrease 5% in each year we will see increases of 10% or greater in both years, although this will not be evenly distributed to all owners - some may see 30-40% increases, others only 10-15% increases.

Notwhitey - only if there is a prop 2 1/2 override - otherwise the city will have to cut staff

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Property taxes, in plain english

A financial analyst friend of mine has crunched the numbers, as he has for years, usually predicting the next years tax increases within a percentage or two. The bottom line is that Menino is going to manipulate the percentages in this tax year so that he can say he is helping out homeowners, and then he will whack us with up to 10 percent increases in the next couple of years. He can do this for 2009 because the commercial values did not fall as soon or as fast as the residential values, that were set on Jan. 1 2008. So, expect many commercial abatements, but they will come after the rate is set. Since the City is essentially awash in money, having added 7 percent more employees in the last 5 years, he will be able to come up with funds.

The analysis:

After several years of outsized property tax growth in Boston, 2008 and 2009 finds us in the eye of the property tax storm with relatively stable residential taxes thanks primarily to rising commercial taxes that are absorbing a rapidly increasing total tax levy. Residential tax rates will fall slightly from $10.97 per thousand to 10.70 per thousand in 2009 but this will be mostly offset by a lower residential exemption for homeowners. Most property taxpayers will ultimately see lower taxes only due to a fall in the value of their homes. However, concern remains for 2010 as commercial taxes are expected to drop dramatically with the economic slowdown. The result is that residential taxes will rise, perhaps substantially, even if home values continue to deteriorate in 2009. Successful lawsuits from owners of larger commercial properties may exacerbate the shift of tax liability from commercial properties to residential properties in 2010 and beyond.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Boston Globe Editorial Page agrees with me and against Ross, Linehan, etc.

Today the Boston Globe editorial page wrote an opinion about the Boston Common and their improvement fund. See it at:

Their opinion could have been lifted from my blog. They wonder why Boston doesn't fund their parks as adequately as other cities. We can blame this on Mayor Menino and the Council that approves his budget. They also wonder why the Park Ranger staff is down. As I reported, the Parks Personnel staff is up, so why they cut Park Rangers maybe a better question for the Council to ask.

Finally, and most importantly, they realize that the Boston Common Improvement Fund should be a non-starter and makes no sense.

I hope that the council will drop their idea for another hack filled non-profit, and focus solely on improving the Boston Common experience.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Going BIG!

I've been having fierce negotiations this week to bring my blog to a Bigger audience.
Hopefully I will have an announcement next week.

First a few thoughts while looking at City Budget numbers:

In 2006, the City Parks Department had 200 employees. The 1/1/09 projected budget has the Parks department at 212 employees. Why have we cut the number of Park Rangers as Mike Ross reports in his state of the Boston Common report? Clearly it isn't because of lack of personnel.

There is yet another source of revenue for the Parks Department: The non profit Fund for Parks and Recreation that none other than Mike Ross used to be a board member of and may still be now. How much do they have and how much are they giving to the parks.

A guy that occasionally works for me recently requested a $6,000 loan from the Department of Neighborhood Development to put in a heating system. Instead they gave him $10,000 at 0 percent interest for as long as he owns the property. Who says the City doesn't have any money?!

Did you know the City of Boston has 29 full time employees in the Graphic Arts department? What the heck do they do?

Finally, although the Boston Licensing Board is appointed by the Governor (without posting!) the members and the staff are all paid by the City of Boston. When Menino says he has no influence on what the Board does, I, for one, don't believe him one bit. Not from the guy who says he knows what is going on everywhere in the City.

Happy Holidays!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Don't mess with the Man!

I remember the last time all the banks were failing in the late 80's and early 90's. I was on the T one day and started talking to one of those ranting lunatics we see at parks reading Chomsky novels and pontificating about the unseen forces of Rothchilds and other powerful families controlling the power and money in the world.

He told me that there were 9 banking families in America and they were going to divide up the country into a few regions and consolidate all the money and the banks. I laughed it off inside, as I listened to him intently and enjoyed my ride to North Station.

I was thinking about him yesterday as I went into Bank of America in the morning and chided my friendly tellers about the Governor of Illinois stopping all business between the State of Illinois and Bank of America.

Is it any coincidence that within 24 hours of Blagojevich taking on Bank of America, he finds himself indicted?

Don't mess with the Man!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Boston Common Draft Report has been posted on the City Website

See it here at:

There is much good research in this report. Thanks to the outcry from the citizens they have removed any mention of a Conservancy. They have proposed a non-profit Fund to raise money for the Common. It is unclear to me how a non-profit Fund is any different from the non-profit Friends of the Common.

Troubling is the mention of this Fund being involved in the security of the Common. Security in the City is under the auspices of the Boston Police. Any separate group having any authority to enforce the law on a public piece of ground is problematic.

The report has some interesting ideas about renovating some of the historic fountains and areas, proposes a restaurant with an 8 year lease, and some form of dog park.

I was interested to find out that our Park Ranger force has declined so much in the last few years. How has the City of Boston increased its labor force so much, the City Council increasing its central staff by 8 percent in just the last year, yet we cut the amount of Park Rangers by half. All voted on by Mike Ross. There seems to be more questions about money to be asked, but this is a much better draft than the one originally proposed and as they acknowledge is a work in progress.

Please read it and weigh in with your councilors.

I stand Corrected!

Last week I posted that the daughter of the McDermott who is a partner in the law firm that handles all the Licensing Board cases worked for Maureen Feeney's office. The woman was nice enough to call my answering machine and let me know that I was wrong and that she was not the daughter of that McDermott although her name was McDermott.

I had received that information from someone at City Hall, which obviously was incorrect. Because I wasn't able to verify, I left out the persons name and prefaced the statement with an 'I believe'.

I apologize for my incorrect reporting, especially to the young lady in question.

thanks for setting me straight!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

More Research on the Boston Common, and lack of transparency from Councilor Ross's office

Mike Ross is having a working session on the status of Boston Common Monday afternoon at Boston City Hall.

In a process that would make George Orwell proud, Councilor Ross advises you to bring 15 copies of what information or testimony you want to bring to the meeting. But how can you know where you stand on the issue when he won't release his report of what they are proposing??? They had a draft report from their last meeting that included establishing a Conservancy for the Boston Common, but they wouldn't release that report to the public despite it being presented at a public meeting(!?). They have told constituents that they are going to post the new proposals online but as of 2 pm. EST on Saturday they haven't posted that information for a Monday meeting.

A couple of weeks ago after blogged about the idea of a Conservancy the Boston Globe did an article where the Councilors stated that we didn't have enough money for the Common. See it at:

I called Councilor Ross's office up to ask how much is spent on the Common now, how much is needed, and how much their proposals would cost. His office didn't have any of that information.

So I called the Parks Department, and as is so often the case, I spoke to an average hard working down to earth City employee who gave me a wealth of information and some basic common sense.

I asked if there is a breakout on how much we spend on the Boston Common every year. She said no, we don't break it out by park, we buy grass seed and other items for all the parks together. Her colloquialism was "when you buy a big bottle of Windex you don't count how many squirts to clean the bathroom versus how many squirts to clean the kitchen, you get enough to clean the whole house."

I asked her some more financial questions, she said she would check and call me back. Sure enough she called back a few minutes later and said that the Parks department has a 16 million dollar maintenance budget and a 14 million dollar capital improvement budget. The capital budget is planned out 5 to 10 years in advance for big projects like park renovations, and playground upgrades. I asked if the Parks department had done any reports or studies on the Boston Common in the last couple years that identified needs and she said not to her knowledge.

I then mentioned the Globe article which quoted the Councilors as saying we didn't have any money. She beat me to the punch by saying "how can they say they don't have any money if they don't know how much we spend?" I replied "my point exactly".

She then made me crack up and nearly drive off the road with laughter: "it sounds like a teenager asking for money, 'how much is it going to cost', 'I don't know until I spend it', or maybe it sounds like a used car salesman."

I couldn't have said it better myself. When a Parks Department employee equates the Boston City Council actions about a public park to a teenager asking for money you know that something is up.

There are two separate issues here: one is what improvements are going to be made to the park, the second is who is going to control the park. Councilor Ross is trying to combine the two as if they are intertwined when they have nothing to do with each other.

On issue one, improving the park, I applaud the Councilors on their effort to study the Boston Common, get public input on what should be done to the Park and come up with a consensus for making the Park better. My opinions on what physically happens to the park are quite neutral, I support much of what the Friends of the Public Garden recommends:

However, on issue two which is about who controls the Park I have very strong opinions. Conservancy's are a bad idea as I have written about before. They put private control over public spaces. This allows the private entity, which in this case appears to many of the rich businesses and institutions such as Emerson College and Suffolk University, that abut the Common to establish their own rules. In other cases such as the Rose Kennedy Greenway and Post Office Square the Conservancy's have banned freedom of speech, the right to assemble, loitering, etc. I spoke to a photographer from Boston Press Photographers Association who tried to take a photo of a local business leader at Post Office Square and they were escorted off the premise, told to apply for a permit and then had to cool their heels for some time waiting for a response that never came. They took the picture elsewhere. Imagine if you had to ask for permission to take a picture of your kid skating at the Frog Pond?

What is troubling is the lack of transparency about what the Conservancy would do, who would be on it, what control they would have and whether they would accept public funds. If these Institutions and Private Donors want to donate now, they are perfectly able to through the Friends of the Public Garden. Why does Councilor Ross's office refuse to answer any questions about what the structure of this Conservancy as he proposes it, will be???

So why don't they? My experience tells me because they want some quid pro quo. If they give money they want it tied to specific improvements that they want, not necessarily what the People want. Potentially even more diabolical, is that they want to control behavior on the Boston Common, the first and maybe most important Park in the country. They want the right to treat the Common as private property so that they can keep the undesirables away, to control who gets to use the common for Shakespeare on the Park, or for baseball games, and certainly not for hemp rallies.

Until the question is answered about what the Conservancy will do, what rights over the Park they will have, and whether they will take Public money (with no public oversight) this idea should be a non-starter.

Please call Councilor Ross, Councilor Linehan, and Councilor Lamattina with your questions about what this Consevancy will do at 617-635-4000 and hopefully you will tell them that you too do not want private control over this most important Public Space.

No one from City Hall testified at the Governors Ethics Task Force?

The Governor relented and posted the public comments presented at the Public meeting online. You can see them here:

I am almost surprised that no one from City Hall, no City Councilors, no one from the Mayors office, no one from the City Law Department came to testify about how our government can be more ethical.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

No comment from Councilor Ross on what will be unveiled Monday

I called Councilor Ross's office today to find out if he is still going to propose a conservancy for the Boston Common. With less than 2 working days left after a year long study on the Common apparently it still needs to be held in secrecy. This does not bode well.

His staff responded to the request of whether he was going to still propose a Conservancy with a No Comment. They said that all would be revealed Monday at the public working session. I asked what the next step would be after the working session and they said it would be discussed at that hearing.

So, if you care about keeping public control over Boston Common, transparency in the way we manage our public spaces, the right to assemble and free speech in America's first public park, try and go to the working session on Monday or call Councilor Ross's office at 617-635-4000 and let him know that you are against a Conservancy for the Boston Common.

As mentioned earlier, Bob Terrell is getting into the At-large race

As I mentioned last month, Bob Terrell, a respected citizen out of Roxbury is going to join in the At Large City Councilor Race. There is an interview with him in this weeks Dorchester Reporter.

I'm really hoping that we have a political season next year that transcends race, and deals honestly with the issues of education, safety, and taxes. City Hall is awash in money and fraud and we need people who are going to stand up to business as usual at City Hall Plaza.

An eloquent voice against privatization of the Boston Common

Shirley Kressel writes in today's South End News:

This is an excellent summary of why private control over public parks is a bad idea. It is non-transparent, it rewards the rich at the expense of the middle class and poor, it is anti-democratic, and limits free speech. Not really what our founding fathers would approve of.

Working session on the status of the Boston Common next Monday!

Kudos to Mike Ross for holding a public meeting on this subject. I hope that he will allow the public to see his proposal and make it available on the City website. For many reasons I do not believe a Conservancy should be set up for the Boston Common. I think Councilor Ross has dropped this idea, but I'm not sure.

Here is the notice. If you are interested in protecting public ownership of the Boston Common, please call Mike Ross's office at 617-635-4000. Remember, where other conservancies have been set up at Post Office Square and the Rose Kennedy Greenway they have banned Freedom of Speech and other rights of the public. It is a way to make things beautiful for the rich and privileged, and to exclude the hoi polloi.

Here is the notice:

Boston City Council
Notice of Working Session
December 1, 2008
The Boston City Council’s Special Committee on Boston Common will hold a working session on
Monday, December 8, 2008 at 3:30PM in the Curley Room, fifth floor, Boston City Hall.
The subject of the working session is:
Docket #0284 – Order for a hearing regarding the Boston Common.
This matter was sponsored by Councilor Ross and referred to the Committee on 2/27/2008.
Members of the public are cordially invited to attend. If you have not attended a Council working session
before, please arrive (5) minutes before the call of the session to become familiar with the working
session format. Please bring fifteen (15) copies of any written documentation you wish to present at the
working session. If you know of others who may be interested in this working session, kindly notify them.
Written comments may be made part of the record and available to all Councilors by sending them by
email, fax or mail to arrive before the working session, please use the address below.
For the Committee:
Michael P. Ross, Chair
Special Committee on Boston Common
Mail Address: Attn. Juan Lopez-Docket 0284 - Boston City Council, Boston, MA 02201
Fax Number: (617) 635-4203 Attn: Juan Lopez –Docket 0284
Telephone Number: (617) 635-3041
Email Contact:

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What happened at the Governor's ethics panel hearing today?

Here is the summary from someone who was there:

They not only refused to open their meetings to the public, but refused to provide or post the testimonies until they issue their report!

It was reported that there was a bunch of good testimony there, too bad they won't publicize it or make it available.

Another great and funny example of the dishonesty at City Hall

Don't ask me why, but I was looking for Tom Menino's website to see what his vision for the future of the City is (and next I will find the Holy Grail!) and I found the following website:

which lays out in detail and with humor how a citizen gets the runaround at City Hall asking about how it is possible there is an illegal billboard on the TD Banknorth Garden.

Globe reports "another development" 6 days after you read it on my blog!

Matt Visor had a story today about Therese Murray and the US attorney reaching out to black clergy in Dianne Wilkersons district:

"In another development, US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan has also sought to meet with clergy members, according to a source briefed on the discussions. Sullivan has been criticized by some black leaders because his investigation so far has resulted in the arrest of two influential black politicians, Wilkerson and Boston city councilor Chuck Turner.

It is extraordinary for a prosecutor to try to respond to such criticisms."

If you scroll way down on my blog you will find this information already.

Article in Boston Globe about Licensing Board leaves out one other connection

Donovan Slack wrote an interesting article in the Globe today about the connected insiders getting liquor licenses for their clients. The other connection she doesn't make, I believe, is that the daughter of the law partner McDermott of McDermott, Quilty & Miller used to work for City Council President Feeney.

The comment I like most is yet another lie from Tom Menino:

"From neighbors to business owners, he treats everyone the same," said spokeswoman Dorothy Joyce.

Who believes this guy?

Years ago (way before I was politically active) I won a BRA project which I put 20 percent affordable housing in, built on time, on budget, with the correct amount of minority and local residents working on the project. I was invited to a speech by Menino and when he was shaking hands with everyone afterwards I said I'd love to get 5 minutes of his time to talk about how we could build more affordable housing in the City. He looked at me, and said "we are already doing enough." I then made a request to his office to have a meeting and never heard back. Now clearly, some people get to meet with him, so they are getting preferential treatment to those of us citizens who would like to meet with him to talk about issues to make Boston better.

At least John Connolly and his father are being honest by saying "no comment."

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Public Integrity Task Force hearing tomorrow-go and voice your displeasure!

The Governors task force which is meeting in secret to talk about ethics (Jumbo Shrimp, Military Intelligence, secret ethics?- notice a pattern) is having a public hearing tomorrow at 3:30 pm where the citizens can come and air their grievances and suggest solutions. Please go if you can!

They are asking people to submit their testimony in advance (!?), maybe to eliminate any real rabble rousers, hopefully just to streamline things. Good for Pam Wilmot of Common Cause who is on the committee for saying that all the meetings need to be held in public. Maybe she could record the meetings and release them to the press and public, post them on Youtube.

Here is the email someone sent me with the info:

Wednesday, 3:30 pm, Room A-2

Website also says to tell them if one is planning to testify and send the testimony in advance. Hmmm....screening the testimony?

"Please indicate whether you intend to testify and submit your advance written testimony to:"

Monday, December 01, 2008

Fascinating article in Time Magazine

There is a great article about Mrs. Rhee in this weeks Time Magazine. She is the new superintendent of the Washington DC school system that has a take no prisoners approach to building the best urban school system in the country.,9171,1862444,00.html

What I like about her is that she is shooting for excellence, as opposed to accepting mediocrity, which is too often the case with our complacent city government.