Saturday, October 31, 2009

City trying to sell off valuable Park Land?

Dear Mr. McCrea,

I am writing you this email with the hope that you will look into a story that I think you and your blog readers will find very interesting. As a fellow resident of Boston, I think you will find the actions of our elected officials appalling. I am referring to the Mary Cummings Park.

Mary Cummings Park is a Land Trust overseen by the City of Boston, but the land itself lies in the Town of Burlington and the City of Woburn. In case you are not familiar with Mary Cummings Park, please allow me to provide some background.

Mary Cummings died in 1927 and left her vast estate of over 200 acres to the City of Boston as a Land Trust. In her will she stated that the land was to be kept and maintained in perpetuity as open space. This land is now the 12th largest park inside of the Rt. 128 area.

In addition, Mary Cummings left some buildings that she owned in downtown Boston to her trust. In 1929, the City of Boston seized the buildings by eminent domain and that money is still owed to the trust, which with interest is now worth millions of dollars.

Over the years, programs brought many children from Boston to enjoy the woods and fields of Cummings Park. Children camped, grew vegetables, and enjoyed nature in a way that is not readily available to most kids in Boston.

However, since 1993, all programming has ceased at the park, and the City of Boston has spent virtually no money on the park. In fact, of late, the only money the City of Boston has spent on the park has been on No Trespassing signs and lawyers and engineers who are looking to break the Cummings Trust and sell off the land for residential and commercial development. This would be a direct violation of the Mary Cummings Trust. Some proposals have called for a golf course or to sell the land to pay for the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Mayor Menino who claims to have the best interests of the residents of Boston at heart, particularly its children, has clearly demonstrated that he is quite comfortable with depriving inner-city kids the opportunity to experience and enjoy a beautiful park that was intended for their use. Once again, Menino would like to set up his developer buddies/campaign donors with a sweetheart/backroom deal.

I apologize for this long email, but as you can see, the issue is quite involved.

It would be a shame for the residents of Boston, Woburn, Burlington, and the people from the surrounding area if this land was sold and developed. I urge you to visit the Friend of Mary Cummings website.

Particularly the page concerning the vision for the park:

and the documents page which outlines what the City of Boston has done to try and break the Mary Cummings Trust:

The Boston Globe and the Boston Herald have both largely ignored this story. Lately, the Change for Boston website, and the Northeastern University Student Newspaper, The Huntington, has brought attention to it. I invite you to read there stories:

Thank you for your time.

Why I hate finance people

Clara and I were walking along Newbury Street to go to the movies last night and two well dressed guys, 30 somethings, were walking towards us. They had a Friday afternoon, world at my feet, boisterous attitude. A homeless guy wrapped in a blanket walking ahead of us about 30 feet asked them for some change, and one guys says smugly and mockingly "sorry we are just poor financial guys", as they walked past the man in the blanket. The second guy laughed lightly and added as a highlight: "that just got a bailout." The two of them laughed as they continued down the street.

I have no problem with people not giving money to people on the street. But mocking and making fun of the homeless is shameful. The fact that they are laughing about being given a government bailout that I'll bet they didn't need to keep them from being homeless just reinforces for me why these bailouts are wrong. Why do we bailout the rich, but it is okay to have people begging in the streets. Haven't we learned yet that trickle down economics doesn't work?

Very depressing, if I had noticed quicker what was happening I might have given those guys a tongue lashing or at least snapped a picture so everyone could see the true character of these guys who I'm sure are upstanding members of their community.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I've endorsed Flaherty, Selvig and Kulikowski

At a press conference at Downtown Crossing today I endorsed Michael Flaherty (and Sam Yoon) for Mayor, Alex Selvig and Christian Kulikowski for City council in their respective seats.

All of these candidates are calling for the end of the BRA, and recognize that we need more transparency at City Hall. These are my litmus tests for candidates, and I've had other candidates who have asked for my endorsement but without that understanding of how undemocratic Boston is, and the willingness to do something about it, I can not endorse.

I'll have more later.

Bad News about Taxes, and of course City Hall is hiding the numbers

A CFA who closely follows City Budgets has the following information if you are doing any financial planning for the next year:

It APPEARS that we are headed for several years of double digit increases in residential property taxes due to the collapse of the commercial real estate sector similar to what happened in 2004. The city so far refuses to release the information necessary to make that calculation. While the numbers they currently have are tentative pending state approval and modification, it is unlikely there will be a significant change between now and the issuance of 3rd quarter tax bills in December. Rather than release the information which can settle this issue, they appear to be holding it until after the election so my assumption is that the news is not good.

I have made two requests (early September and this past Monday - 10/26) to the assessor's office for this information. Was told the first time that it wasn't available and have not received a response to my second request.

FOIA request update

After blogging about the lack of response by the City on my 3 month old FOIA request, surprise, surprise, I got the information yesterday.

The City has about 2200 Hispanics on their Excel list of Hispanic workers. In her comments to the Jamaica Plain Gazette she said that her list didn't even include the numbers in the school department. Well, contrary to what she said, in fact a huge amount of the Hispanics on the list are in the school system. They also list a number of part time employees, people who are on leave, and even poll workers who (I believe) are just contract workers who work a few days a year for a set fee.

So, even with including these other categories there are less than 14% of the City workforce who are Hispanics. Not a bad number, but less than their percentage in Boston.

Why did it take 3 months to just pass this along? What is it like pulling teeth to get any information from City Hall?

Mafia Wars-(at city hall) a computer guy weighs in

I play mafia wars all the time. Did you see this article in the Herald today:

This is his link to his Mafia Wars Profile.

I also play the game but never at work. You can attack someones character in this game. I attached hm and asked others to do so. It takes like forever to get to the level he is at. Like seriously a lot of work.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

City of Boston refusing to turn over simple information

As I've reported before, the City assigned an attorney, Maribeth Cusick, to directly answer my Freedom of Information requests. Back in July in response to Michael Flaherty talking about the lack of minorities in City Hall, the Mayor's press secretary Dot Joyce said: Councilor Flaherty’s remarks are completely off-base,” Menino spokesperson Joyce later told the Gazette. “I have 21 pages of Excel spreadsheets that have Latinos in city government, and that’s not even counting the Boston Public Schools.”

So on July 10 I sent a FOIA request to Ms. Cusick for those 21 pages of Excel spreadsheets.

Should be a pretty easy request, just email me the excel spreadsheets, should take about 5 minutes. But, surprise, surprise, the City has not turned over that information. (Apparently they are working hard on their Facebook pages)

Just last Thursday Ms. Cusick sent me an email promising me the information on Friday, of course I haven't received it yet. Her most recent reply:


I think I'll have that for you tomorrow. Sorry again for the delay.


I wonder if I make a complaint to the Board of Bar Overseers that she is complicit in unlawful behavior by the Menino administration if I might get a quicker response. The City is clearly in lockdown phase and is not giving out any information to anyone in the last couple of months. I have made other information requests and am met with a stonewall. But, this has been the modus operandi of this administration and our current elected officials and the citizens don't seem to mind. Don't you wish we could tell the IRS to blow off when they ask us for information?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The G-8 is born!

Thanks to the efforts of Bill Trabucco, a group of less than ultimately successful politicians gathered in the living room of my home tonight to renew acquaintances, share stories from the campaign, and talk about how we can work together to make the city a better place and to hold our government accountable.

It was one of the most enjoyable evenings I have spent in some time. Although we range from Republican (Robert Fortes) to virtual libertarian (Sean Ryan), from rough edged street talkers (Trabucco and me) to men of God (Ego Ezedi), from community leader (Jean Claude Sanon) to biking environmentalist (Scotland Willis), and finally the immigrant accountant (Hiep Nguyen) we all share the common goal of wanting to help people.

There were many laughs, some good natured ribbing, and good stories from the past year. We've named ourselves the G-8, and I look forward to us getting together again and working to help people everywhere. Politics is about people, and this is one great group of people.

Protest against BRA, Harvard, and Menino ramming development down Allston's throats

Yesterday Michael Flaherty, Sam Yoon, Alex Selvig and Allston residents such as Harry Mattison held a press conference in Allston at one of the dozens of properties that Harvard has bought up to land bank for their future expansions at the detriment to the community. The Globe covered it without mentioning Selvig .

According to Michael Pahre it was Mr. Selvig who spoke most knowledgeably and eloquently about the problems in Allston. It would be nice if the Globe even acknowledged that a race was going on between Selvig and Mark Ciommo. The Herald is even worse.

The City and the BRA and Harvard have essentially snubbed their noses at the local residents, using the poor at Charlesview as pawns in their game, as Dylan would say. Instead of enforcing the City of Boston Inspectional Services department to require the landlords to fix their buildings and maintain them according to the law, they promise the residents a better place someplace else which not coincidentally is on less valuable land than what they sit on now. Sounds like what we did to the Indians back in the 1800's.

Poor Jay Rourke, he has to put up with a couple of bad mentions in the press and all he gets is a $95,000 capital gain signed off by the City Council and the Mayor. Those public servants of ours deserve everything we can give them, they work so hard for us. Makes you proud to pay your taxes.

Senate Debate Notes & pizza night!

Clara and I watched the Mayoral Debate last night. Pags seemed like a deer in the headlights, Martha was as safe and staid as usual, Alan had some good points but went on and on without answering questions, and Capuano was as Clara said 'the best'.

She liked his tactic of answering the hypothetical questions with "that wouldn't happen" so I'm not going to answer the question. "That wouldn't happen", "That wouldn't happen", etc.

Seems as if it is Martha's race to lose.

I'm looking forward to an interesting evening tonight. Former City Councilor at Large candidate Bill Trabucco has organized a get together for all the losing at Large candidates. He asked if I would host, which of course I'm only too happy to do. We're going to share some pizza and stories and talk about making the city a better place.

The press wanted to make fun of Bill, but he is actually a very smart, committed, honest, devoted individual who brought real passion and fresh ideas to the race. He earned the respect of his fellow candidates, by showing them respect. I can't say such nice things about many of the finalists. Bill got one of my four votes.

The press is so bad, they want to make their snap judgments to typecast someone, they like to say they want a straight talking individual, but then they anoint people who say nothing specific as the 'polished leaders'.

The press was recently fawning over Michelle Obama jumping double dutch, but if she dared to try that while Obama was on the way up they would have had a field day with saying how 'unladylike' she was and how unprepared she was to be 'first lady'. I have no doubts why the newspaper and press business is doing so poorly. Often bigger hypocrites than the politicians they cover.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ned Flaherty summarizes emails

1. Calculation of unrecovered messages.

A. TOTAL MESSAGES. After analyzing Kineavy’s daily e-mail traffic volume during August and September 2009, the Globe estimated that he would have sent/received 159,640 messages over the last 5 years.

B. RECOVERED MESSAGES. City officials recovered 11,423 messages, and accounted for them (including 240 withheld) on the City web site by 15 October. Then State officials announced they’d recovered 48,000 messages yesterday. City’s 11,423 + state’s 48,000 = 59,423 recovered messages.

C. UNRECOVERED MESSAGES. Total messages of 159,640, less recovered messages of 59,423, = unrecovered messages of 100,217.

2. Posting the latest 48,000 messages. Galvin’s 5-week investigation finished on 22 October, at which point he concluded that Kineavy improperly double-deleted an unknown number of messages. In yesterday’s Globe, Galvin said he will let the City review the 48,000 state-recovered messages, to exempt personnel and medical messages, prior to their public release.


It took the City about 16 calendar days to print, review, scan, and release 11,423 messages, so at 714/day, it will take 67 days to process the next 48,000 messages. Deducting for official holidays in November, December, and January, those 48,000 messages would theoretically be posted by 4 January. Realistically, however, 1 extra month is needed for holiday time off, normal winter illness, and the 2nd and 3rd waves of swine flu (which state health officials yesterday called “widespread”).

Menino and Coakley plan to disclose nothing until after both are firmly enshrined in office in January. Coakley’s already stated that she doesn’t know “whether” the law was broken at all, and even if it was broken, she doesn’t know if the double-deleting was “intentional.”

January 6: Menino hopes to get sworn into his 5th term of office.

January 19: Coakley hopes to get elected U.S. Senator.

February: Bill Sinnott publicly posts the latest 48,000 messages.

March: Coakley concludes her investigation after reviewing 59,423 messages.

April: FBI upgrades the corruption charges related to liquor licenses and Wilkerson.

Ned Flaherty

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I just contributed to Blue Mass Group's PAC

Blue Mass Group is setting up a political PAC and is asking people to donate $1 just so they can build up a data base and a list of contributors.

Although I don't always agree with them, I more than often do, and they clearly care about transparency and good governance and so I was pleased to send them $10.

Their forum is a very civil dialogue of topics, local and national which affect us all.

A BIG thumbs up for the work those gentlemen do!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Emily Rooney doesn't believe anyone either

Emily Rooney had a very interesting blog post about the balloon boy where she said her rule number 1 was "Everyone is lying and everything is intentional."

It is funny, but when I read this I had a whole new appreciation of her. This could easily be my motto and I can understand now why she can be so aloof to political guests. When you have seen so many of them lie, lie, lie and change positions over the years it can be very hard to get excited or even interested over anyone.

Will Galvin send his report to the AG for prosecution?

A little birdie told me that the Secretary of State might be so fed up with the email shenanigans at City Hall that he might report it to the AG's office very soon.

(file this under rumors)

Will the Mayor (if re-elected) serve out his four years?

One of the rumors that has been going around the campaign trail this past year is whether Tom Menino will resign sometime during his last term. The story goes that Rob Consalvo (allegedly his 'secret' God son if you believe comments left on blogs !!??!!) will be elected city council president and then Menino will resign making Consalvo the acting Mayor with enough time to coalesce power and continue the dynasty with the same front room and back room players in place.

Now first of all I want to say that I like Rob Consalvo, and he has always been more than a gentleman to my wife and me. He is a bit over effusive in his praise of the Mayor, "and thanks to the Mayor" seems to be his most common phrase. But, Rob has said he loves his job where he is, and the Mayor and others have said absolutely that he is going to serve all four years.

But, it wouldn't be the first time a politician says one thing and does another and leaves for a higher job (see Flynn, Mayor Raymond). I have spoken to three City Councilors in the last couple weeks who have told me adamantly that they think this is the plan. I have been shocked at how I benignly bring this topic up, and how animated they get in assuring me that they think this is the plan (off the record of course).

Councilor Tobin has introduced legislation that would call for an election if this transfer were to happen. It would be an interesting question to ask all of the City Council candidates where they stand on this issue. You would think that Mayoral aspirants such as Tobin, Connolly, Pressley, Ross and Arroyo would be against it.

Does anyone know when this might come up for a vote?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What Boston Jobs Policy?

There has been a lot of talk in this campaign about the Boston Jobs Policy. I put forward specific plans as to how I would enforce it, other candidates talk about its importance, and Michael Flaherty has said he is going to "lose it" the next time he goes to a jobsite and sees out of state license plates.

The truth of course, is that no one is doing much about actually enforcing it, and the Mayor isn't worried about it. The City right now is in the midst of a massive redo of Massachusetts Avenue, and the Susi company from Dorchester is doing the work. They started about a week ago, and since I live right next to it and drive Massachusetts Avenue all the time I can see what is going on. As usual what is going on is a bunch of white guys are doing the work, much of it unskilled labor involving picks and shovels and wheelbarrows.

This morning as I walked by on Columbus Avenue I counted 9 white guys and 1 African American. I talked to the African American cop on detail and asked how long he had been working the detail and he said about a week. I asked how many black guys he had seen in the week and he said "three". I said "doesn't seem like they are enforcing the Boston Jobs Policy here" and he said "well, I wouldn't know" and I said "very diplomatic of you" and he said "you have to be".

Perhaps if Councilor Flaherty would like to make a point about the Boston Jobs Policy he could hold a press conference or a rally on Mass. Ave. pointing out how the Menino administration is not enforcing the policy. How hard could it be for a company in Dorchester working in the South End to find some minorities to work for them? (I have not seen any women on the site at all)

People want to do studies about why the inner city is dangerous, why African Americans are in jail and the high unemployment rate about inner city minorities, but the simple answer is jobs and access to opportunity. Why aren't the black ministers coming to job sites and saying "give our people a chance", or even better supporting minority owned companies to compete on these projects. You can preach against doing drugs all you want, but if there aren't other options, you take what you can get.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ayanna Pressley takes the time to answer some of my questions-Thanks Ayanna!

On Blue Mass Group, Ayanna Pressley was kind enough to answer some of my questions. She is for lifting the cap on the Charter Schools, she doesn't know that 6 councilors are allowed to meet behind closed doors, she has proposals she wants to introduce that will be paid for by that evergreen 'efficiency and collecting unpaid stuff' line that all politicians use (apparently she doesn't think Menino is doing a good job of collecting all the money that is owed to us), and she won't cut anything, or say how she will get anything done until she has time to meet with all the parties and analyze everything. She has learned from the best (Joe Kennedy, John Kerry) how to promise everything while saying nothing, and she will get elected as I predicted in February. I am impressed that she took the time to answer, and I look forward to her being as accessible as she promises which will be a nice breath of fresh air.

Her responses:

Thanks for the questions. I'll do my best to answer them as thoroughly as my time allows. And don't forget, I'm #8 on the ballot- hope I can earn one of your four votes.

1) Are you for expanding the Charter School Cap or opposed to it?

I was fortunate enough to have a mother who cared deeply about my education, and fought hard to ensure I got the best education possible. Today I see the long wait lists for a number of our city's charter schools, and those wait lists only exist because there are so many parents who take personal pride and responsibility for their child's education. It is the job of a City Councilor to support those parents who have decided this is what's best for their children. So while I do support lifting the existing cap, I am concerned that there could be some fiscal "blowback" on BPS.

2) Where in the Back Bay/Beacon Hill are you going to advocate for diverse, mixed use housing?

I believe development must include community-input that is respected and taken seriously by developers and the city. I don't have specific locations in mind and would be uncomfortable imposing my views, at this time, on a process I really believe should be driven by neighborhood residents.

3) Do you agree with the current city council rules which allow for 6 councilors to meet behind closed doors and discuss issues? If not, will you introduce new rules in your first 100 days?

As far as I know, Council rules do not allow for 6 councilors to meet behind closed doors. I support the work that has been done in the last few years to improve and ensure that the Council is fully educated on and compliant with the Open Meeting Law requirements.

4) Counseling for victims of violence is a good thing. What will you propose cutting from the budget to pay for it?

I think it's a bit irresponsible to advocate cutting programs before I am elected and before we have a clearer idea on where the city stands fiscally next year. There are opportunities to collect unpaid taxes, fees and tickets that could amount to tens of millions of dollars. Some may see my answer as pie-in-the-sky idealism but I think making rash announcements in October about budget cuts is more about political posturing than anything else.

5) How will you pay for a Green Jobs workforce?

In the budget section of my post, I spoke about a few places where we can improve on revenues. Longer term, I believe we need to be thinking about economic development as a way of sparking our economy and generating revenues. But "paying" for a Green Jobs workforce isn't our immediate challenge- educating a Green Jobs workforce is and that can be achieved through creativity, innovation and commitment on the part of our educators and teachers, and not necessarily out of the city's checkbook.

6) What penalties will you impose on contractors who don't enforce the Boston Jobs Policy? Will you introduce legislation in your first 100 days?

Adherence to the Boston Jobs Policy is a priority. If I'm fortunate enough to be elected, I will definitely start work on issues like this. I don't want to make a promise today about legislation that I may write, or tie myself to an immediate timeline, these issues are too important to rush into without talking with all the parties involved. If it takes 101 days, but that extra day makes the difference between O.K. legislation favored by a few and comprehensive legislation favored by most, the important thing is achieving the ultimate goal of better enforcement of the policy.

7) Will you refuse to give any funds to the BRA (as we do now) until they are as transparent as you think they need to be, which means voting against the budget if need be?

Transparency is absolutely essential. But I don't believe in making threats, particularly before I have even been elected, and I don't believe it is productive to hinge my entire budget vote on one issue and in effect abandon all the other priorities that I have for the city.

Tough times out there

To no one's surprise, I'm becoming a curmudgeon in my old age. I see our country going down the tubes, while the rich laugh all the way to the bank, because of unfair laws, absurd wars, and because we are not educating our children.

We hear the talking heads say that the economy is getting better, but I don't believe it and I think we are in for a difficult winter. I placed an ad for a personal assistant yesterday and received over 40 applications within one hour, with more coming in constantly.

I had to serve my first eviction notice to one of my tenants in years yesterday, after giving them every last chance to pay their rent. A promised education loan didn't come through and so their finances are a mess and the young couple can't pay the rent and their bills on one part time construction income which has also been cut down.

Another potential tenant is losing her apartment for her and her 4 kids on November 1 because her house is being foreclosed on and the owner has to get her out. She has bad credit so it is difficult for her to find a place. Even in these tough times, finding decent affordable housing is difficult.

I hope things are better for you, my readers, but we need to educate our youth, teach financial literacy, instill the values of true friendship and forego cheap marketing and commercialism. Meanwhile, the City and State continue to give tax breaks to rich developers while we cut jobs and raise taxes. I felt a bit of guilt as I happened to be in NH recently and Clara and I took advantage to buy a new TV and grill. It isn't good that I should relish the fact that my state government lost out on $25 of sales tax, but the Scrooge in me was rubbing my hands together with joy.

Have a nice day!

Shout out from Joan Vennochi !!

In the Boston Globe today, Joan Vennochi writes a column where she bemoans the lack of Kevin McCrea holding the administration accountable during the debate.

Thanks for remembering me Joan!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mayoral Debate tonight and Senate candidate at Cyclorama

Flaherty v. Menino round 2 is tonight at 7 pm, tune in!

Senate candidate Khazei will be at the Cyclorama tonight at 7 pm till 8:30 so you can see the debate then catch the end of the Khazei show.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Email analysis


Your 14 October blog post is now out of date, because of the additional e-mails released on 15 October. I recommend you just delete the 14 October post entirely, and post this new updated version under a later date.

Changes are in bold, underlined orange.

Good news: I ran some tests, and when text-searchable files are properly prepared, an electronic search finishes in several seconds, not several minutes. Yes!

Ned Flaherty


By 15 October, City officials had re-formatted 11,423 messages (19,388 pages) into new electronic files that prevent text searching. They could have converted those same 11,423 into one text-searchable file in about one hour, but instead spent 16 days printing and scanning to create 212 un-searchable files. Reporters, readers and investigators looking for specific text now will have to spend many weeks manually scouring those 19,388 pages, instead of letting a computer do it in a few seconds.

City officials needlessly consumed paper, ink, electricity, and labor on a print-and-scan approach that has been obsolete for 20 years, solely for the purpose of making formerly search-able e-mail become un-search-able. The Globe and Secretary of State should demand all 11,423 of the recovered messages in a single, text-search-able file.

Of Kineavy’s 15,964 estimated messages from October 2008 through March 2009, he double-deleted 4,981 (31%). Of the 160,000 messages Kineavy created as Policy & Planning Chief over 5 years, 11,423 (7%) were recovered, but 148,577 will never be recovered, so he destroyed 93% of the records we paid him to create. He owes every taxpayer a refund.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Shenigans with the Fenway project

Massachusetts DoT (Department of Transportation) officials have secretly re-designed and re-negotiated the Fenway Center air rights proposal’s design and business deal, without any public comment, review, or disclosure.

Throughout 2008, the original proposal was published for review, discussed at many public meetings, and subject to public comment periods. But the new proposal was never published, no public meetings were held, no public comments were solicited, and DoT quietly approved it behind closed doors.

The Fenway Center Citizens Advisory Committee never saw the new proposal that DoT approved on 15 October 2009. And most Citizens Advisory Committees seats are owned by development teams, which dictate to the mayor whom he can appoint.

Since 1997, the only independent public body dedicated solely to reviewing air rights proposals has been the Metropolitan Highway System Advisory Board. Having been dissolved as part of statewide transportation reform, the MHS Advisory Board held its final meeting on 14 October 2009. DoT approved the new Fenway Center the next day, which prevented Board members from taking any action on the new proposal that DoT approved without their knowledge.

DoT omitted three unresolved issues from its press release:

1. No fair market value. DoT is not charging fair market value for the Fenway Center air rights property.

2. Private projects paid for with public subsidies. No one knows whether air rights development costs more, less, or the same as land-based development, but DoT is subsidizing private developers with public funds anyway. The total taxpayer-funded bailout is $162 million, and growing.

3. Toxic site. The air above and within a few blocks of the I-90 corridor is heavy with fine and ultrafine particulate matter air pollution, which causes increased rates of birth defects, incurable illness (heart disease, lung disease, cancer), and early mortality. On 14 November 2008, Environment Secretary Ian Bowles ordered the developer to: (1) quantify the risks of building Fenway Center’s homes and offices inside the toxic air zone above the corridor, and (2) propose appropriate mitigation. That Final Environmental Impact Report, required by state law, was never published. Building homes and offices that expose occupants to serious illness is reckless public policy, because it harms the health of the occupants, raises the cost of health insurance for everyone, and increases the expenses borne by Medicare, Medicaid, and state-subsidized health care programs.

DoT just rendered the original 2008 public process pointless, by replacing it with a private process from which the public was excluded.

Ned Flaherty

15 October 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A summary of Kineavy's emails

By 12 October, City officials had re-formatted 5,283 messages (9,101 pages) into new electronic files that prevent text searching. They could have converted those same 9,101 into one text-searchable file in about one hour, but instead spent 14 days printing and scanning to create 96 un-searchable files. Reporters, readers and investigators looking for specific text now will have to spend many weeks manually scouring those 9,101 pages, instead of letting a computer do it in 5 minutes.

City officials needlessly consumed paper, ink, electricity, and labor on a print-and-scan approach that has been obsolete for 20 years, solely for the purpose of making formerly search-able e-mail become un-search-able. The Globe and Secretary of State should demand all 10,983 of the recovered messages in a single, text-search-able file.

Of Kineavy's 15,964 estimated messages from October 2008 through March 2009, he double-deleted 4,981 (31%), so of the 160,000 messages he created as Policy & Planning Chief, 93% will never be disclosed.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

An activist writes in

Leaving the City’s proof-of-financing rule unwritten poses 3 problems:

· It perpetuates the City’s pay-to-play policy.

· It encourages the City to seek subsidies from the Commonwealth cash cow.

· It prevents legal challenges in court.

After $4.3 billion in failed projects (Fan Pier, Columbus Center, One Franklin, Longwood Center), Mayor Menino vowed in August 2008 to require proof-of-financing on every major project. But over one year later, the BRA Board has adopted no policy, and there are no set criteria, as reported last week in “BRA to developers: Sure you’ve got money?” (Boston Courant, 9 October) and again today in “New BRA financial standards a state of mind” (Banker & Tradesman, 12 October).

Keeping the proof-of-financing rule un-written is just another example of City Hall’s pay-to-play zoning: for a campaign donation to the mayor, the BRA makes everything optional and waive-able. The BRA rule is kept unwritten so that: (1) it can be selectively enforced, and (2) it is virtually impossible to challenge in court.

Also, if the City started requiring proof-of-financing before approving proposals, that would turn off the spigot to the Commonwealth cash cow, and Mayor Menino and the BRA would have to stop asking the state to subsidize un-funded projects. That’s why the City never adopted the rule that Menino promised over one year ago.

It was precisely because no proof-of-financing rule existed that Mayor Menino signed 3 state subsidy applications for $29.5 million — under pains and penalties of perjury — in which he certified that Columbus Center had 100% financing, even though it never had any financing at all. Had there been a proof-of-financing rule during 2005, 2006, and 2007, Menino and the BRA could never have applied for those state subsidies because the un-financed proposal would never have gotten City approval to begin with.

Ned Flaherty

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A commitment to education

Here is a wonderful story of achievement in the Cleveland PUBLIC schools. What I find the most noteworthy about this story from the NY Times is that this school is approved by the teachers union in Cleveland. It indicates that when people are willing to compromise and work hard, good things can result.

A 16-year-old former gang member with a faux hawk waited at a recent high school football practice to approach Coach Ted Ginn, who is known for producing elite college and professional players.

He did not want to join the team.

The teenager wanted to enroll at the public school Ginn founded to give at-risk boys enough care, structure and education to succeed. Ginn suggested that the aspiring freshman, Joseph Williams, get a haircut and meet him in his office the next morning.

Williams shaved his head and rode his bike four miles to the school.

“I’m still young,” he told Ginn and the school’s principal, Byron Lyons. “I still have a chance.” After spending 21 days in jail with men facing life sentences, he said, he no longer wanted to be in “that other life.”

The school, Ginn Academy, had a spot for him, and Williams teared up. “I feel blessed,” he said.

Ginn, who has never taken a college class, was a coach and full-time high school security guard in 2006 when he proposed to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District an academy based on his brand of mentoring.

Even as the city’s graduation rate has fallen to 54 percent, Ginn Academy, now in its third year, has grown to 300 students, and no one has dropped out. Of the 37 students in its first senior class, 32 have already passed Ohio’s mandatory graduation exam.

Although Ginn used his prominence as a football coach at Glenville High School to start his academy, it is not to be confused with diploma mills where football and basketball players go to burnish their academic credentials to qualify for college. Ginn Academy has no varsity sports teams; students who are athletes can play for neighborhood high schools like Glenville, where Ginn was a security guard. Eighty-nine students at Ginn Academy are among the 107 varsity and junior varsity football players at Glenville.

The academy follows two basic philosophies that have worked elsewhere: hiring the best teachers based on a rigorous interview process, not the ones with the most seniority; and full immersion with additional staffers who are always on call.

“Those two areas of focus are what we see in some of the highest-performing low-income charter schools,” said Jon Schnur, the chief executive and a co-founder of New Leaders for New Schools, a group that trains principals nationwide to improve school performance.

As the executive director of the academy, Ginn, 53, provides motivation and inspiration. He often speaks at the daily morning session. A fixture in the hallways, Ginn dispenses hugs, one-on-one pep talks and reminders to the boys to tuck in their shirts.

“Being a former professor, I can tell you the uniqueness of what he’s doing is something for the textbooks,” said Eugene Sanders, the chief executive of the district, who recalled Ginn’s pitch to start the academy as “perhaps the most passionate vision of any person I’ve ever had the opportunity to hear a plan from.”

Ginn Academy uses a curriculum that includes an emphasis on science and math to help students pass the state’s graduation exam. Ginn knows each student’s name and home situation, and even decided on the shade of red for the uniform blazers. He dislikes administrative meetings because he fears becoming “too corporate.”

Ginn, who is paid $66,950 annually, said: “The philosophy works because it’s all based on relationships and trust. And people don’t understand, but it’s so simple. You have to be consistent.”

Providing Direction

All students at Ginn Academy must turn right when leaving class, even if they would reach their destination more easily by turning left. Over the years, he said, too many students have gone the wrong way in life, like one Glenville quarterback from the 1980s who failed to qualify for a college scholarship. Ginn said there were no academic alternatives to help, and the quarterback ended up on the streets and addicted to crack cocaine. That kind of lost potential haunts and motivates Ginn.

At the academy, students know someone is always looking out for them. In addition to 23 teachers, seven youth support staff members serve essentially as life coaches, each in charge of 30 to 50 students. The seven, who receive district-issued cellphones, are on call 24 hours a day, even during the summer, to help students in emergencies or even to arrange rides to school.

Ginn Academy classes are smaller than the city’s average, and teachers are asked to be more involved. The Cleveland Teachers Union endorses Ginn’s efforts, said its president, David J. Quolke. Sanders, the district’s chief executive, said Ginn’s model could be duplicated.

After 21 years as an assistant football coach at Glenville, 10 of which he worked for free, Ginn became the head coach in 1997.

More than 100 of Ginn’s football players at Glenville have received athletic scholarships to college, including his son, Ted Jr., a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins.

“Through a personal relationship, individualizing the school experience, a student having a personal desire to be here, the parents choosing the school, and teachers being selected on the basis of skill and competence and not seniority are all variables that are part of the new wave of teaching and learning,” he said.

‘He Saved My Life’

Marvin D. Perry hardly attended class after his mother died of lung disease when he was in eighth grade. And he rarely saw his father, who, he said, struggled with alcohol and drug addiction. Perry said he entered Glenville High with “vengeance in his head” in 2006. But over time, he said, he began to look at Ginn as “the father figure I never had.”

Perry, 19, is the president of Ginn Academy’s first senior class and plans to attend college on an academic scholarship. He said Toledo, Tennessee State and Morehouse were options.

“I can say that he saved my life,” Perry said of Ginn. “You can’t even count how many he’s saved.”

Perry, who lives in subsidized housing with his older sister, said they survive on government assistance and the $7-an-hour grocery store job Ginn helped him secure.

Once he finishes college and starts a career, Perry said, the first thing he plans to do is buy a headstone for his mother’s grave, now marked by a stick. When he visits, he cuts the surrounding grass with scissors.

The only reason Perry would consider staying in Cleveland, he said, would be to help Ginn. And students like Perry have kept Ginn from leaving for more lucrative jobs.

“I’m going to die working,” Ginn said. “I don’t know what everyone else lives for. This is what I live for, so I’m going to die working.”

More than 100 of Ginn’s football players at Glenville have received athletic scholarships to college, including 21 in 2005. Five are in the N.F.L., including his son, Ted Jr., a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins. A desire to play football has kept far more in school, even if they did not go on to college.

“There’s not a moment he’s awake when he’s not thinking about making this world better,” Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel said of Ginn. Many of Ginn’s players have played for the Buckeyes, including Troy Smith, a Heisman Trophy winner now with the Baltimore Ravens, and Donte Whitner, now with the Buffalo Bills.

Ginn is often late to practice and does not carry a whistle. On a recent day, he was still wearing a pinstriped beige suit and alligator shoes on the practice field.

Last year, he suspended 29 players for a second-round playoff game after they missed practice. (Glenville lost by a point.) This month, Ginn benched the star quarterback Cardale Jones for an important game because he had slept through practice and, worse, had been late for school. (Glenville won anyway.)

“It’s always life first at Ginn Academy,” Jones, a junior, said. “Then it’s school, and then it’s football. It’s a great experience. It’s changing my life.”

Humble Roots

Ginn grew up so poor in tiny Franklinton, La., he considered a bologna sandwich a treat. He recalls being embarrassed that the biscuits his grandmother made left grease stains on his brown lunch bag. He also remembers removing burned crosses that the Ku Klux Klan would leave at forks in the road near his church.

“I think I was being educated while being raised, coming through the South in segregation,” Ginn said. “That’s being educated.”

Ginn moved to Cleveland when he was 11 and never left. In 1974, he graduated from Glenville, where he played center on the football team and met his future wife, Jeanette. He worked as a machinist and inspected airplane landing gear before becoming a security guard at a junior high school and later at Glenville. After 21 years as a football assistant at Glenville, 10 of which he worked for free, Ginn became the head coach in 1997. His career coaching record is 120-28.

Ginn Academy, which opened in September 2007 with 100 freshmen and 50 sophomores, now occupies a former middle school with more than 100,000 square feet of space. It has attracted top educators and visitors from outside the district who come to see the innovative school in action.

Valeria Flewelon, who teaches career technology at Ginn Academy, drove Jones to school throughout his freshman year, buying him breakfast at McDonald’s. She said the teacher-student relationships are stronger at Ginn than at any other place she has taught in 25 years in Cleveland.

“Because I never gave birth to any children of my own, me being here makes me feel like I have 100-plus sons,” she said.

Judy Rickel, an art teacher with 20 years’ experience, came to Ginn Academy this year with $50,000 in equipment she obtained through grants. She said she took the job because of Ginn. “He has a personal interest in every single student at this school,” she said. “I’m loving every single minute of it.”

Like the hallways at the Ginn Academy, the teachers’ mission is based on moving in the right direction.

“If you come here for a job, you’re in the wrong place,” Ginn said. “This is not a job, it’s a calling. It’s somewhere everyone can make a difference in the world.”

Friday, October 09, 2009

Nobel prize winner in Economics -echoes my thoughts on education

This is by Paul Krugman of the New York Times. Neither Menino nor Flaherty are addressing this issue adequately. As Krugman points out, even during a recession we should be educating our children. I remember the last major recession in the early 90's I met a contractor from Southie who took the down time to go to Wentworth and get himself an engineering degree to enhance his value when the economy came back. That is what we should be doing now, educate, educate educate.

If you had to explain America’s economic success with one word, that word would be “education.” In the 19th century, America led the way in universal basic education. Then, as other nations followed suit, the “high school revolution” of the early 20th century took us to a whole new level. And in the years after World War II, America established a commanding position in higher education.

But that was then. The rise of American education was, overwhelmingly, the rise of public education — and for the past 30 years our political scene has been dominated by the view that any and all government spending is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Education, as one of the largest components of public spending, has inevitably suffered.

Until now, the results of educational neglect have been gradual — a slow-motion erosion of America’s relative position. But things are about to get much worse, as the economic crisis — its effects exacerbated by the penny-wise, pound-foolish behavior that passes for “fiscal responsibility” in Washington — deals a severe blow to education across the board.

About that erosion: there has been a flurry of reporting recently about threats to the dominance of America’s elite universities. What hasn’t been reported to the same extent, at least as far as I’ve seen, is our relative decline in more mundane measures. America, which used to take the lead in educating its young, has been gradually falling behind other advanced countries.

Most people, I suspect, still have in their minds an image of America as the great land of college education, unique in the extent to which higher learning is offered to the population at large. That image used to correspond to reality. But these days young Americans are considerably less likely than young people in many other countries to graduate from college. In fact, we have a college graduation rate that’s slightly below the average across all advanced economies.

Even without the effects of the current crisis, there would be every reason to expect us to fall further in these rankings, if only because we make it so hard for those with limited financial means to stay in school. In America, with its weak social safety net and limited student aid, students are far more likely than their counterparts in, say, France to hold part-time jobs while still attending classes. Not surprisingly, given the financial pressures, young Americans are also less likely to stay in school and more likely to become full-time workers instead.

But the crisis has placed huge additional stress on our creaking educational system.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States economy lost 273,000 jobs last month. Of those lost jobs, 29,000 were in state and local education, bringing the total losses in that category over the past five months to 143,000. That may not sound like much, but education is one of those areas that should, and normally does, keep growing even during a recession. Markets may be troubled, but that’s no reason to stop teaching our children. Yet that’s exactly what we’re doing.

There’s no mystery about what’s going on: education is mainly the responsibility of state and local governments, which are in dire fiscal straits. Adequate federal aid could have made a big difference. But while some aid has been provided, it has made up only a fraction of the shortfall. In part, that’s because back in February centrist senators insisted on stripping much of that aid from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a k a the stimulus bill.

As a result, education is on the chopping block. And laid-off teachers are only part of the story. Even more important is the way that we’re shutting off opportunities.

For example, the Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported on the plight of California’s community college students. For generations, talented students from less affluent families have used those colleges as a stepping stone to the state’s public universities. But in the face of the state’s budget crisis those universities have been forced to slam the door on this year’s potential transfer students. One result, almost surely, will be lifetime damage to many students’ prospects — and a large, gratuitous waste of human potential.

So what should be done?

First of all, Congress needs to undo the sins of February, and approve another big round of aid to state governments. We don’t have to call it a stimulus, but it would be a very effective way to create or save thousands of jobs. And it would, at the same time, be an investment in our future.

Beyond that, we need to wake up and realize that one of the keys to our nation’s historic success is now a wasting asset. Education made America great; neglect of education can reverse the process.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Email shenanigans

The City of Boston has posted 5,000 emails, of course not in readable form.

The AG is not doing anything. The DA is coming up on 11 months since I requested they look into an open meeting law violation of the Boston Licensing Board relating to the Wilkerson corruption case. They have done nothing other than send a couple letters and have indicated to me that they won't be doing anything about it.

On our open meeting suit we asked both the AG and the DA to enforce the law and they refused to take the cases.

This is what we have in MA with one party rule. We have a banana republic where there are no laws, we only have what the powers that be want to enforce. Frankly, a joke. When I think of what our Founding Fathers went through to give us the rule of law, and what we have now, it is very depressing.

I highly recommend 'The Shock Doctrine' by Naomi Kline, it really explains how the big capitalists that run the world economy are running things and bringing pain to people in this country and around the world, both literal and physical.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The City Council at Large race

Earlier this year I invited all of the City Council candidates to my house for a casual dinner. I did the same thing in 2005. I see it as a chance for everyone to get to know each other, to build some camaraderie, and a chance to trade thoughts and ideas. Also, especially for first time candidates, it is a chance to tell them some of the tricks of the trade (not that I am any expert) on who the members of the press are, what they can expect from City Hall, where to gather signatures, etc.

I go in with the notion that everyone who runs for office has some altruistic reasons and goals until they prove otherwise. I believe that we all need to be civil and try and work things out, and that by sharing a meal and a drink that is a good start down that road.

When we had the get together earlier this spring, we talked about who people thought would be the City Councilors at large at the end of the year. Many people had different ideas, some people thought Steve Murphy might be vulnerable, everyone (Good for them!) could see a path to victory for themselves, and everyone agreed that John Connolly was guaranteed a spot.

I told them that Connolly, Murphy and Pressley were automatic and that the rest of them were vying for one seat. Some of them hadn't even heard of Pressley yet, but I told them they would, and that the media (especially the Globe) and the insiders would be making sure that she made it. Sure enough, she has been out cutting ribbons with the Mayor in West Roxbury, had fawning articles written about her in the Globe, and she has worked hard to warrant the attention.

The real surprise has been Felix Arroyo, Jr. who came in an amazing third. He has run a great campaign, run by his dad's old campaign manager Pat, and they have really got their base out there. He should be commended.

I've asked both Ayanna and Felix about where they stand on the BRA. Ayanna wouldn't answer the question, and Felix honestly answered that he didn't know much about it.

Barring a major revelation or surprise I don't see much chance for a change in the top four. I hope that Ayanna and Felix get up to speed fast on the most important agency dealing with the City of Boston.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Greetings from the Irish Channel


I've been down in New Orleans working on my double shotgun that I placed a camelback on the rear of. The French laid out this City with equal lots that are about 30 feet wide and one hundred feet long, so you have long narrow houses. The proximity of the houses helps out in hurricanes as wind can't build up between the buildings.

Mine was built circa 1870 (Just after and around the South End) and it has some of the original plaster moldings which were hidden under two dropped ceilings and millions of termites. The building was not habitable after the hurricane and I fixed it up, changed the rotting pink exterior with hardiplank and painted it Wabash Red and White.

The Irish Channel was named because it was where the Irish immigrants lived. They were carpenters, masons and housemaids to the rich who lived a few blocks away in the Garden District. Although it was low income housing, the craftsmen built the buildings well, with 27 foot long joists and rafters made out of beautiful knot free wood. There are 14 foot high ceilings to deal with the heat and there are no basements in NOLA. I'm about 6 blocks from the Mississippi but a huge wall separates the citizens from the river, as it is a working port.

There are shootings and arrests weekly in the area but it is slowly getting better and people are fixing their places up.

Please visit New Orleans if you have open vacation plans. The people are incredibly nice, and the area can use all the economic stimulus it can.

Enjoy the Day, go Pats, Go SOX!

Dancing with the Stars

Last night at Vaughan's in New Orleans, I got reacquainted with Kermit Ruffins who had a new set, with some old standards.

Cuba Gooding, Jr. was hanging out and he and I closed down the house second lining to 'talkin loud and saying nothing' James Brown's tribute to politicians. He had a gaggle of 20 and 30 somethings hanging around him, not minding when he gave them ample pats and squeezes on the backside. An older woman with feel tried to teach me some rhythm but it was nearly a hopeless case during the slow numbers, I've just got too much hop in me.

New Orleans is slow, I hired a couple of guys for a few days who were both happy just to have jobs, $10 or $15 an hour. One local, one from Maine, we went through gallons of gatorade working our tails off. I had dinner with a former NOLA city council at large candidate who espoused the view that the USA is on a long slow (maybe not too slow) decline. His biggest culprits were the lawyers and the lack of teaching our kids responsibility or how to do the basics.

Tonight I walked down Bourbon Street, the non-stop party and thought about the craziness of us fighting a war in Afganistan while half wits are getting fully baked out of their minds. As I sit on my porch, I can hear Kool and the Gang wafting across the Mississippi River from the Gretna festival. There is always a smile, a party and a joy in this City. Musicians all over the City from Harmonica players on the waterfront free forming jazz, to guitar playing Dylans, Zeppelin's and Floyds.

I miss my number 1 fan, my lovely wife, besitos!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Thursday in New Orleans

Thursday night in New Orleans can only mean one thing: Kermit Ruffins at Vaughan's in the Bywater.

Times are tough here in New Orleans the economy is definitely hurting. But, people are friendly, the streets are clean, and somehow road crews are doing work on the streets without police officers to watch over them. I saw two gentlemen working on a sidewalk with a broom AND a rake. What a concept!

I was woken up in the middle of the night as the trash trucks came through my neighborhood collecting the garbage when there wasn't any traffic, and they in turn did not contribute to the traffic problem.

Good luck to Flaherty and Menino in the debate tonight, I hope they discuss some things in substance.