Sunday, March 28, 2010

Editorial which could be written for Mass. and Boston

When the Legislature convened its fiscal session a year ago, Louisianians expected lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal to streamline the state's bloated bureaucracy without crippling our future.

The Times-PicayuneLouisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.What we got instead was a one year fiscal Band-Aid.

So lawmakers begin this year's session Monday facing an even worse fiscal outlook. Despite $248 million in mid-year cuts, they may need to trim as much as $400 million more from this year's budget. Then, they have to slash another $1 billion in expenditures to balance the 2010-2011 budget.

To say that lawmakers will have to make hard choices is an understatement. Yet they must find the vision to look ahead and pass reforms that help stabilize the state's finances for years to come and end the current cycle of jagged cuts that are eviscerating vital services.

To that end, Louisiana has to significantly reduce its number of state employees and slow down the growth of salaries and benefits, which are asphyxiating the state's budget.
Despite significant efforts by the Jindal administration to trim the bureaucracy, Louisiana has more than 100,000 state workers. That's unsustainable. This session, the governor and lawmakers must pass serious measures to cut that number, such as state Treasurer John Kennedy's unsuccessful proposal last year to eliminate 15,000 jobs over three years. That would save hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

The state also needs to reform a structure that for years has led to automatic pay raises for most state workers. Last year, 98 percent of classified state workers got a pay hike. The number is down to 61 percent this fiscal year, and that's progress. But giving pay increases to six of every 10 state workers is still jaw dropping in the face of monster deficits and while most Louisianians are seeing their income drop or stagnate.

Legislators shouldn't buy the old argument that state workers deserve special treatment because they earn less than their private counterparts. That's just not true, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The department said private employees nationwide earned $27.42 in salary and benefits per hour worked in December, while employees of state and local governments got $39.60 in salary and benefits per hour worked the same month. The complete report is on the Web site of the department's Bureau of Labor Statistics, at

Another fallacy is that the public sector needs to pay more to attract or retain employees. But governments are not having trouble filling positions, in great part because people are attracted to the relative stability of public work compared to the private sector.

Lawmakers also need to reform the state's pension program to adjust it to our new fiscal reality and to place it more in line with the benefits most Louisiana workers receive. That means revising provisions that let some state workers retire with almost full benefits at a very young age. Those terms were created decades ago, under more auspicious fiscal conditions and lower life expectancy. It's also unfair to ask taxpayers, many of whom don't have traditional pension programs anymore, to finance much better benefits for state workers, especially in the current economic climate.

Even these reforms would not be enough. Lawmakers also should make it easier to spread the pain of deficits, by expanding the governor's ability to make budget cuts across the board and at higher percentages than now allowed. Legislators and Gov. Jindal also need to have a frank discussion about repealing constitutional restrictions that have left higher education and health care exposed to disproportionate cuts.

Of course, Louisianians expect lawmakers not to make matters worse. Ignoring warnings of fiscal disaster, the Legislature last year passed unaffordable tax breaks, including a repeal of the Stelly tax plan that is helping balloon this year's deficit and will hurt state government for years.

Yet some lawmakers are still in fiscal wonderland. They have filed numerous bills that would exponentially increase deficits for state and local governments, including proposals to raise the already generous homestead exemption. Another ill-conceived measure, by Rep. John Alario of Westwego, would raise the state supplemental pay to most police officers, sheriff deputies and firefighters. Those employees provide important services, but their salaries and benefits seem competitive enough already. And every penny in additional pay has to be cut from other services, mostly education and health care, that have already been severely affected.

Most Louisianians appreciate the gravity of our fiscal situation and the need to publicly evaluate our state's priorities while protecting our future. Some lawmakers do as well, judging by some of their recent statements on the matter. They should not let this session go by without major fiscal reforms.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Some positive thanks!

I called up Ayanna Pressley's office to get some financial information. They were very polite, and got back to me about a week later with the information I requested. I wrote an editorial for the Boston Globe about what a farce the closing of the libraries is, but they seem to have ignored it.

Anyway, it might seem as if I'm bashing politicians here all the time, so I'd like to say something positive about one who has lived up to her campaign process of "access".
I am still waiting for a call back from Councilor Connolly on why he thinks the Open Meeting Law is restricting his work as he told a group in Brighton. It has only been 3 or 5 months.....

Monday, March 22, 2010


Here I am getting blisters on my palms and trying out my new gppro camera, thanks to raoul and our team usa hovercraft shirt!

morning in Baja

This trip has been the most physically grueling I've taken. We get up at 6:30, eat and are on the road at 7:30, we ride until just before the sun starts to set, with just a lunch break over the Baja 1000 course. Today will be the 6th and final day of riding. We started out with 6 riders, and by day 4 we were down to just me and the two guides, the others all needed time off, including an ex-police officer about my age, in excellent physical shape. The three amigos rode like the wind down the pacific coast, often at top gear 3/4 throttle through sand, rocks, washboard dirt roads and through rivers. No fun at all.

I picked up a bug somewhere and was fighting that off for the last two days, I feel a bit better this morning after 6 delicious steak tacos. Mexico is muy tranquillo (very calm) and everyone is nice, the kids line up at the side of the roads to give us high fives as we come into the tiny towns along the way.

Looking forward to Cabo tonight, 1000 miles of dirt trails in 6 days deserves a drink!

Friday, March 19, 2010

having no fun at all in baja

amazing scenery, toughest trails ever, we were supposed to do 210 miles today and ended up doing 67 in 11 hours, leaving five guys stranded in the desert mountains with no water. An almost potentially dangerous situation.

Saw a mexican eagle, a rattlesnake, and some men with bravado fall by the wayside.

viva mexico!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Petition to save the Libraries--please sign up

There is a petition drive underway to try and stop the
> closing of a number of Boston Public Library branches,
> including locally, the Fields Corner Branch. The Dorchester
> Reporter has a fuller description of the issue.
> Also, the Globe reported on the public hearing last week.
> I am collecting signatures via email for the petition
> drive. If you would like me to add your name, please respond
> to this email and say that you want to added, and give you
> full name and address (for example):
> Please add my name to the petition:
> John Doe
> 123 Main Street
> Dorchester, MA 02122
> I will attach hardcopies of any emails that I receive to
> the petition sheet I submit, so that your source email will
> be confirmation of wanting to be on the petition.
Mike Cote

Thursday, March 11, 2010

city council hearing on giving liberty mutual 16 million in tax breaks

shirley kressel has a post at blue mass group:

My comment:

I don't know when people are going to wake up that our business and political priorities are contrary to what is good for the majority of the citizens.

The leaders and executives at Liberty Mutual don't need libraries, they live in communities that value education and libraries, not the inner city neighborhoods of Boston. If they do live in Boston, you can be sure that they are relatively close to Copley which will always be there.

What they do need is even more money for their pockets, and few well placed contributions to candidates is well worth the return on investment. I believe John Keith at Universal Hub did the research and showed that Liberty Mutual executives gave about $16,000 to Mayor Menino last year, what is that rate of return? $16,000 to 16 million?

This tower will be near the corner of Berkeley and Columbus the old Salvation Army building. Blighted? Hardly.

But then again, the Mayor signed off on nearly 6 million in tax breaks a year for 1 Beacon Street because it is in a blighted area. Perhaps being 180 steps away from so many lawmakers at the State House makes an area blighted.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Margery Eagan outlines the facts!

Margery Eagan in the Herald today finally outlines the facts of a recent study showing how government workers make more than the private sector, especially when health and other benefits are included.

When I was in Las Vegas a few weeks ago as a birthday present from my wife, we went to Denny's on Sunday morning because they give you a free breakfast on your birthday. (Yes, I am always trying to save money. If its free it's for me!) Our waitress was clearly exhausted as she was rushing around to a packed house. She looked to be in her 30's with braces. When she got to our table she apologized in advance and told us she was tired, we empathized with her. She said she was a nurse and had done 3 straight night shifts but she had to do this shift at Denny's as well.

I don't know why, but I started to get angry and sad, and literally a tear came to my eye, and I thought of: Steve Murphy. These politicians just don't understand how hard average citizens are working just to try and make ends meet. A women works as a nurse and then works at Denny's on weekends clearly to pay her bills?? Meanwhile, all last year Steve Murphy goes from campaign stop to campaign stop telling everyone how much he loves his job and then 2 months after getting elected he is off running for a statewide office? Amazing.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Update on McCrea v. Flaherty: Don't believe the City Council!!

Believe it or not, the McCrea v. Flaherty case is still not over, nearly 5 years after it began. We were supposed to go to court in February but the presiding judge was busy.

We asked the City Council if they would allow us to video tape the hearing. You will see councilors such as Mike Ross and John Connolly talking about how they care about transparency and how they are making sure that the BRA boards have to be videotaped.

But, when it comes to their own transparency????? NO, NO, NO. They wrote a letter to the court explaining why it was important that they and their attorneys were not videotaped while they were explaining to the court about how transparent they are!!!!

And, of course, the court decision came back in their favor. So, in a court case about how important transparency is, the City Council and the Courts have acted against such a horrible thing as someone quietly standing to the side and video taping the procedures. I'm so proud of our democracy!

You can't make this stuff up!