Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mayor puts out great proposal to ban smoking in public housing!

I give credit where credit is due, and I like the new proposal by the Mayor to ban cigarette use in BHA Housing.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dance a thon-next Saturday for Haiti victims

Benefit: "HOUSE OF LOVE for HAITI" Dance-A-Thon
A 12 HOUR DANCE-A-THON & MUSICAL EVENT presented by Boston HouseMusic Coalition / Love & Nappiness together with ROXBURY YMCA & PARTNERS IN HEALTH

Start Time: Saturday, February 6, 2010 at 12:00pm
End Time: Sunday, February 7, 2010 at 12:00am
Roxbury YMCA (Gymnasium)

285 Martin Luther King Blvd.
Roxbury, MA

Fort Hill --lookout for issues

Over at Universal Hub, there has been a discussion about Daryl Settles from Bob the Chef's and the Beehive fame trying to put in an establishment on Centre Street. Some people, including my friend John Keith, think the people there are behind the times in not wanting to get hip. I disagree. I have lived there and own property there, and I feel so much more at peace up there than I do here in the South End where life seems to be constant battle between jealous neighbors, devious developers, and keeping up with the Joneses. My comments:

John Keith-

My good friend. I think you seem to have become very angry (okay, many of us who
run for office to do good things are angry at the status quo) but this anger at
the Fort Hill residents is misplaced. I have lived and worked in Fort Hill for years,
most recently living on Highland Street in Summer 2008. It is a great area, with nice
friendly neighbors who look out for each other. It actually reminds me of the way
the South End was 15 or so years ago, back when people cared more about architectural detail
than how much square footage everything had.

There are some points to the NIMBY attitude on the hill, but isn't that their prerogative? I proposed putting a restaurant and community
gathering place into the old plantation building at the top of the hill owned by Mel King's brother.
I met with the neighbors, we talked about different ideas, they indicated they didn't want
a restaurant and we dropped the idea. The building still stands abandoned, dangerous and an eyesore,
but the 'democratic process' worked. The people I know (including tenants) love living on the Hill,
and I think it is a great area, otherwise I wouldn't own property there.

Just because not everyone wants what the South End has, doesn't make them bad or stupid, just wanting
something different in life. You (of all people!) should appreciate that. Not everything in life
needs to be real estate values (My South End properties have gone up in value, my Fort Hill ones down), but I will agree with you that if amenities like a local bar, restaurant and grocery store went in, that
the values would go up. But then, maybe the people that make the neighborhood great might not be able to afford it anymore and have to move out, sort of like the South End......

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Is Democracy real in the USA?

This is a fascinating article which articulates much better than I could, how corporate America and the wealthy have taken over our system. I love the phrase "pliable candidates", an excellent description.

Thanks to my friend Mark.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

anyone want some specific sox tickets? send me an email:

From the Red Sox for season ticket holders:

We realize that now more than ever the type of commitment and dedication you have shown is not easy. Yet your passion and devotion remains constant and helps to give Fenway Park a home field advantage that is unparalleled across the league. You are truly the lifeblood of this organization. As a small token of our gratitude, we want you to be among the first to have an opportunity to purchase additional tickets for the 2010 season, before they are made available to the general public on January 30.

If you want some tickets send me an email,, tell me which dates and how you will pay.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Representative of Boston?

I went to my wife's annual work party last night and had a wonderful time. She is a psychologist who works for a professional psychology association, staffed by many smart, educated people, many with Ph.D's. It was held at the College Club on 44 Commonwealth Avenue, a beautiful building.

There were slightly more than 50 people, two hispanic: my wife and the husband of another associate, and one African American, the banker who has helped the company out. During the Yankee swap, (we won some glass globes to water our plants) I asked for a show of hands of how many people in the room had gone to Boston Public Schools. One man put his hand up, the insurance agent for the company who had gone to Boston Tech, a now defunct school. Anecdotally, I have met many successul people in many walks of life who went to Boston Tech, what happened?

So in a 50 percent minority city, a growing successful business has less than 5 percent of its workers and associates as minorities and no members of the Boston Public Schools. This is a super progressive firm as well, with health care, time off, owned by a lesbian couple with many openly gay employees, by all accounts a great place to work for both employees and owners.

It is hard for me to not come to the conclusion that BPS is not filling the jobs of today or teaching for the jobs of tomorrow. It is not totally the fault of any one group, the Mayor, the Superintendent, the teachers, the parents, but until we acknowledge the huge failure that it is, instead of saying 'we're getting better every year' we are not going to have substantive change.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

NY Times outlines changes for the City Council...

These changes could almost verbatim be established in Boston, if you changed "NY" to "Boston", and reduced the number of councilors and aides commensurate with the size of NY vs. Boston.

This is great food for thought, thank you NY TIMES:

Published: January 22, 2010

IN Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s State of the City speech on Wednesday, he spoke of the City Council as if it were an equal partner in government. Indeed, the mayor’s surprisingly close re-election, the unusual defeat of a handful of council members and some spirited races in the general election in a city where winning the Democratic primary is tantamount to victory, might lead one to expect the 51-member body to be imbued with new democratic vigor. However, the council members inaugurated this month have joined a body whose governance structure is hardly more democratic than a high school student council’s — where the principal calls the shots.

Ultimately, all City Council decisions are made by the speaker and the speaker’s staff. The speaker controls which members get to sit on which committees and who heads those committees, what legislation comes up for a vote, the hiring and firing of the 250-plus central staff and the money that members get to dole out to their districts.

Since the 1989 City Charter reform enlarged the Council’s powers, a strong speaker has been seen as necessary to counterbalance the mayor, but this balance doesn’t hold. Because the current speaker, Christine Quinn, has so much control over the Council, Mayor Bloomberg can deal almost exclusively with her, ignoring the members and, by extension, their constituents.

The consequence of a cozy relationship between the speaker and the mayor is a Council that goes along with the mayor on most major issues. That’s why we’ve seen the City Council approve — at the mayor’s initiative — the rezoning of large areas of the city for high-end development, congestion pricing and the overturning of referendum-approved term limits.

Fortunately, creating a representative and transparent City Council that can check mayoral power won’t require a wholesale rewriting of the charter. All that is needed are three small but significant changes.

First, the Council should reform its process for approving the city budget. The mayor now prepares the budget with his Office of Management and Budget and city agencies, and then submits a relatively final document to the Council. Council committees hold hearings to review the mayor’s plan, but they have no real ability to make changes.

The Council’s budget negotiating team then spends torturous hours behind closed doors, proposing a few alternative cuts, which are usually rejected by the mayor’s side, and haggling over additional expenditures, which make up a tiny fraction of the whole. The final size of the Council’s “pot” is decided between the speaker and the mayor.

There are better alternatives. For instance, Council committees should vote on the components of the budget under their purview, like Congressional appropriations committees. Votes in committee would be in the form of resolutions and would therefore lack the force of law, but they would be a template for the Council’s negotiations with the mayor and carry more weight than the current closed-door deliberations.

This would engage more members earlier in the process, instead of allowing all the action to happen around the end-game exercises of the negotiating team, and encourage the Council to look at the budget in greater detail and more comprehensively. Best of all, city agencies would have to publicly substantiate the worthiness of their programs or risk an embarrassing vote in the Council.

Second, we need to restructure how the Council is staffed. The members of the central staff, which provides technical assistance and policy advice, serve at the pleasure of the speaker, meaning they can be fired at any time.

So if a councilman requests an analysis of a particular piece of legislation, staff members need to assess whether that councilman is in good standing with the speaker and whether his proposal is likely to get the speaker’s support. If the answer is no to both, then the request gets a low priority on the work pile. This results in some good ideas never getting a full vetting and some bad ones that are never put to rest.

As many parliamentary democracies have already done, the Council should establish a legislative services commission that sets the rules for hiring, compensation, promotion and retention of legislative staff. The result would be a professional staff that works for the Council as a whole, is better insulated from politics and better able to provide objective aid and analysis.

The third fix is to reform how the speaker is selected, and it would require a charter amendment. Instead of being chosen by the council members, the speaker should be popularly elected citywide (and the redundant public advocate position should be eliminated). The speaker should then be subject to a recall vote by three-fourths of the council members; if the speaker lost that vote, a special election would then be held to fill the position. This would ensure that the speaker remains responsive to council members and the electorate.

With these reforms, the speaker would lose some power, but gain a public mandate akin to the mayor’s — as well as leadership over a strong institution that could fulfill its true potential as an agent of democracy.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Great time to build!

I realize I can seem very negative sometimes, and I apologize for that. I'm actually in a very good place personally. I've committed to buying 4 buildings in the last month, I'm very busy with many different projects, and I'm even thinking about trying to take a vacation.

But, when I read the news I get angry. When I interact with government I get angry. I have put myself into a personal news blackout for the last couple months. I don't read the Globe or Herald except when people refer me to articles. I scan the NY Times every day or so, and I try and read Sunday papers. As always, I don't watch Television.

I'm angry that we don't have universal health care. I'm really angry that we are sending 50,000 troops to Afganistan. What a waste of money. Does anyone really think we are going to bring democracy to a country that has its own cultural traditions? We will look back at this in 25 years as the debacle it was. While we don't educate our children for the economic war we are battling everywhere in the world, the rest of Earth is laughing at us.

Locally, politicians tell us they are valuing education when the truth is that we cut education in Boston last year in order to give more money to cops and firefighters overtime. Not one fire death in Boston (a good thing), so why do we need overtime? (Very simplistic I know, but the overall point in terms of management of resources needs to be understood)

So, to end on a positive note: it is a great time to build! I put an ad online for plumbers and electricians and had 200 responses within 2 days, some people bidding against themselves to drop their prices. Put some people to work, and get some projects to spruce up your house! Or let me do it for you!

Have a great weekend, and enjoy the 50 degree day on Monday and then tell me we don't need to worry about Global Warming.

I will be in court Monday afternoon for the fifth year of the McCrea v. Flaherty and Boston City Council case. The law says I get a hearing in 10 days. That is why Brown won, people are sick and tired of different sets of laws for the connected and for the people, like an aristocracy. No City Councilors will be there, as they haven't had to once in five years. Why get involved?


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I voted for Martha....

But, I can't say that I don't understand Brown winning. An editorial in the Herald summed it up:

“It’s about the 25 percent increase in sales tax, Deval’s promise to cut property taxes, Dianne Wilkerson padding her bra, Chuck Turner kickbacks, Galluccio’s DUI, Buonomo ripping off the copiers at the Registry of Deeds, Gerald Amirault, three indicted speakers and four criminal senators.”

I know I'm tired of being treated like a second class citizen by the elected officials. Tom Menino tells me I don't understand finance but yet the assessment on my house keeps going up. My taxes went up by $3600 this year. The assessment on his house went down. He makes more money than I do, why does he make bad real estate investments if he knows finance so well.

I'm hoping he gives a class on finance so maybe I can learn more. I'd like to be able to take care of my family as well as he takes care of his family.

wink, wink, nudge, nudge

Sunday, January 17, 2010

How not to run a legal department

A couple of times over the last few years I have put Freedom of Information Act requests in to the City of Boston legal department to find out how much time and money that the in house counsel has spent on certain cases, such as the McCrea v. Flaherty case. (Which is still going on by the way, 4.5 years later, despite what the City Councilors would like you to believe. They are still spending money on it.)

At the request of a Dorchester resident, I recently asked the City legal department how much they have spent on the 99 Melville case, where the City is kind of arguing against their own zoning code on behalf of a politically connected family. This case has been going on for six or 8 years I believe.

The City's response to my request: "The City did not hire any outside counsel on this case, nor did the City incur or bill any other expenses regarding this case. Additionally, Assistant Corporation Counsels do not track work by the hour. As a result, the City does not have any records responsive in either of these regards."

In other words, the City doesn't keep track of its time so it has no idea how much it is spending on any case. Is there a law office in the private sector anywhere in the world which operates like this? How can they decide whether to settle a case or not? How can they figure out who is being efficient and who isn't? How can they know if anyone is getting anything done?

But of course, they don't want to know the answers to these questions because then actual performance reviews might take place, and accountability might kick in, and we can't have that at Boston City Hall.

Where is the Boston About Results for the City Law Department that Harvard Economics professors are crowing about in the Boston Globe? I run a tiny business, but I keep track of how much time I spend on every lawsuit I work on, and how much time and money is spent on every job. But then, like Tom Menino so graciously explained to me in the debates: I don't understand finance.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Running for the open State Senate seat left by Galluchio--Marjorie Decker

Sources have let me know that Marjorie Decker, Cambridge City Councilor is going to be running for the Open Senate seat.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

National Teacher's Union takes on task of eliminating bad teachers

The NY Times today talks about how the AFT has a woman (who spoke to the BTU during the campaign) who is seriously tackling the issue of ensuring that we have good teachers.

I think this is the crux of the charter school debate. No politician wants to take on the teachers union, yet they have to do something about improving education. One of the problems (not the only one) is how to deal with teachers who are not effective.

Measuring teacher performance and having a mechanism to eliminate teachers would seem to be part of the solution.

I'm amazed when I speak to kids in schools how often they talk about teachers who didn't care, or they thought weren't teaching the subject very well. The first step is to give every teacher help to become a better teacher, often, I suspect, like many of us, they aren't aware of their own shortcomings. When they are teaching our future, we need to make sure they are at their optimum.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Snapshot of America-2010


I think this sign sums up the United States perfectly right now. We are spending all of our money on security, which creates no value, while we can't even do the basic things like spell.

What good is it going to do to spend billions on Afganistan to bring democracy and capitalism to the Middle East (yeah, right). We have so much democracy and capitalism here, with the Supreme Court about to approve more money in politics, and the Congress using our money to bail out huge corporations. That's not capitalism, that's corporate welfare.

How long will we be able to maintain our standard of living when people can't even spell?

As I was leaving Boston, I asked the TSA person what security level we were at. She clearly didn't know so she said "the same". I said, "I haven't flown in about 6 months so I don't know what it is, could you please tell me?". She told me "You don't need to know what the security level is." Clearly, she doesn't either. What has it been, two weeks since the underwear bomber came through? Don't you think it might be good to know what the danger level is in order to be prepared?

Who is the enemy?


Postscript: I just read the NY Times. They report: Meanwhile, China last week tested the fastest bullet train in the world — 217 miles per hour — from Wuhan to Guangzhou. As Bradsher noted, China “has nearly finished the construction of a high-speed rail route from Beijing to Shanghai at a cost of $23.5 billion. Trains will cover the 700-mile route in just five hours, compared with 12 hours today.

We spent 20 billion dollars on the Big Dig, to go from 6 lanes of traffic above ground to 6 lanes of traffic below ground for around 20 miles of road. The failure of America to not build a high speed train between Boston, NY, and Washington is a symbol of how we can't get things done in this country, and we are setting ourselves up to have our clocks cleaned by the competition.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

DPW chief Royer shoved out by Menino administration

Universal Hub reports that Dennis Royer, the DPW chief who did good work in Denver has been cleaned out of City Hall.

I met his wife Linda, who was appointed to the Main Streets program when she got to Boston, when I was out collecting signatures for Mayor. She signed my nomination sheets, and said she knew who I was and we ended up having an involved conversation.

I was amazed how much she told me about the "inside" knowing that I was running against "the man". She compared her and her husbands experiences in Denver with how things are in Boston. I thought about using her quote in one of the debates:

"I am amazed at how Bostonians tolerate such a low level of services from their government." This from a woman who works for government agency and whose husband was head of DPW. I asked about how her husband found working here, and she specifically talked about the unions and Menino. She said her husband found that the city workers didn't care about the city and about trying to improve it, they just cared about their job and their perks. I asked if Menino would let him do his job and institute reforms, and she explained how Menino would let him do some things but not other things and that he absolutely micromanaged. He was frustrated with not being able to do what he wanted to improve things.

It does not suprise me one bit that he has left, and I wish him and his wife all the best.

So there are two positions open now. Don't keep holding your breath for a "new" Menino administration full of reform.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

City sells $451,000 building for $100 after $500 campaign contribution to Menino!

The more things stay the same, the more things stay the same:

But remember there is no quid pro quo in Boston!

West Roxbury Transcript does reporting, Globe doesn't

The West Roxbury transcript did some good reporting, and the Menino administration admitted they have been violating the Open Meeting Law in regards to selecting the school committee for the last 17 years. Big surprise.

Another news:

Vornado Trust and partners who own the hole in the ground at Downtown crossing are being considered for tax breaks by the BRA. Why not, we need to give more tax breaks to the rich, right? Menino and the BRA love Reaganomics, give to the rich and trickle down to the poor!

So, if you lie to the city, break your promises, get things rushed through permitting, and then destroy a business district---and you are rich and connected, you get tax breaks!!

However, if you are a middle class citizen who had their house devalue last year, you go to work, pay your bills, are decent and honest with your neighbors. You get a tax increase to make sure that Lisa Menino continues to make more than $100,000 a year as a secretary.

Isn't America a great country?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Boston Globe editorial about me and transparency

Notice that in the second paragraph he says how good Boston About Results is and then in the fifth paragraph says he can't get any information from it. That's good?

Check out the comments section, someone says it much better than I could have:

Professor Glaeser confuses 'reporting' with 'transparency'.

The Menino administration uses Boston About Results as advertising, reporting oddball statistics carefully selected to make the organization look good. If Boston About Results went away today, nobody would miss it and city government would behave about the same.

McCrea and others want real transparency, giving residents easy access to the information the city would prefer to hide, like every payment of more than $1,000. If that raw information were made public, it would have a real impact on how tax dollars are being spent.

The difference between reporting and transparency comes down to who decides what information is presented; if the publisher (Menino) decides then it's reporting. If the subscriber (McCrea) decides then it's transparency.