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Where is Rahm Emanuel?

When he was selected last year by President Obama to be his chief of staff, it was assumed Rahm Emanuel was chosen so he could be the new President’s muscle. His public reputation, earned during his years in the Clinton administration and in Congress, where he also for a time headed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and publicly feuded with Howard Dean over electoral strategy, was one for being something of a head cracker. He was, after all, the basis for the character of Josh Lyman on the West Wing. Nevertheless, as the national health care debate has unfolded, both in and outside the hallowed halls of Congress, the Democrats have too often allowed their opponents to hijack the agenda […]

Whassup, kid?

When I was a ridiculously skinny, cocksure undergrad, that was how I addressed everyone. “Hey, whassup, kid?” It didn’t matter if the person I was addressing was a fellow student, dorm tutor, or professor. I bring this up in light of Scot Lehigh’s column this morning commenting on both Mayor Menino’s and Mike Flaherty’s reference to Sam Yoon as kid in last night’s mayoral debate on WCVB. Like tonic or bubbler, “kid” is a Bostonism, particularly “good kid” or “great kid”. I have kids I grew up with, who are now, like me, unfortunately approaching 40, with kids of their own, and if you were to ask me what they were like, I’d still respond with something like, “Macca? Macca’s […]

An Ali-like return to the Pioneer blog

He may be gone, but he is most certainly not forgotten. Alan Petrillo, our one-time editor extraordinaire, who now plies his trade for KLD Research and Analytics, recently had an interesting blogpost on the need to find a language of politics that avoids stereotypical labels. He asked me to share. Enjoy.

Campaign Messaging 101 – Vote and Pay Your Taxes

A mentor for whom I had the highest respect once told me the baseline for running for elected office is pretty low. There are really only two disqualifiers – not voting and not paying taxes. Everything else, he believed, can be overcome. (And if the rumors that Eliot Spitzer is contemplating a run for New York State Comptroller are true, we will get the chance to test that hypothesis.) Why do I mention this? It turns out Steve Pagliuca, who is running a consultant-laden campaign for Senate, pretty much forgot to vote for the decade of the go-go 90s and Christy Mihos has now committed the other disqualifying gaffe not once, but twice. Yes, I believe voters are pretty angry […]

The Senate Race That Never Was

I’m sitting here watching Jim Braude’s Broadside and he’s lamenting that a race for an open Senate seat has yet been able to induce exactly one brand name Democrat. This comes on the heels of today’s somewhat surprising announcement (or lack thereof) from Congressman Steve Lynch that, despite pulling nomination papers, he won’t be running after all. I say surprising because his nascent campaign had, in fact, scheduled three events for today – one in Springfield, another in Worcester and again in Boston. Conventional wisdom had it that these were kickoff events. I say somewhat, however, because, to be honest, I’m not, really. Just as I will be even less surprised if Congressman Mike Capuano also declines to run. (He […]

Who Knew Jon Keller was a Deadhead?

It’s been a long week here at Pioneer. We finally joined the social media revolution (check us out on Facebook and Twitter). We also released – in conjunction with the Boston Municipal Research Bureau – our first four issue briefs on the upcoming mayoral election. (If you missed them, you can check them out here.) So, I have to admit to being a little spacey. Therefore, in that vein, today’s post is a lighthearted one. I wanted to tweak Mr. Keller, who is moderating Wednesday’s mayoral debate (Jon, check out our questions for the mayors; they might prove useful) for basing his objection (which you can find at his blog) to Time’s list of the 10 greatest electric guitarists on […]

Rationing Health Care

Observers both here and across the country are trying to extrapolate lessons from our health care reform ahead of whatever legislation finally emerges from Congress. Some look at Massachusetts as a model, others as a bogeyman. If so, the lesson being offered is unfortunately a stark one, and possibly unconstitutional. Opponents of the various Democratic health care plans currently winding their way through Congress argue that a government takeover of health care will lead to rationing, that as more and more people receive subsidized health insurance, utilization will increase, costs will spiral and, ultimately, government will be forced to ration care to contain them. They may be right. For that is exactly what the Massachusetts legislature just did. The State […]

Why does this always seem like Boston's default attitude?

Today’s Globe has an article on a little-known provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the federal stimulus bill. The provision allows cities and towns to shift ownership of certain subsidized housing units to the federal government, as long as the units are in good condition. Doing so would obviously help in the short run to take the strain off of state and municipal budgets and in the long run help funnel more capital investment to the upkeep of the units themselves, something, at least according to the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, the feds have a greater fiscal capacity to achieve. Now, I don’t know whether this is a good or bad idea. […]

Teachers Unions Do Not Equal Teachers

In the wake of yesterday’s State House hearing on his proposal to create in-district charter schools in Boston, the Globe has an article exploring Mayor Menino’s motivation for changing his stance on charters, which he has historically (and quite vocally) opposed. I will leave aside for now my thoughts on the Mayor’s proposal, and simply point out in the article what I thought was a curious paragraph, one that highlights a problem that too often plagues public discussions of education reform: The party’s shift has elicited feelings of betrayal among teachers, who feel that too much blame is placed on them and that political leaders are failing to take responsibility for not providing funding and other resources teachers say are […]

Thank You, Finally, Adrian Walker

It’s about time. I’ve been watching the Zoo New England drama unfold in the Globe and the Herald since the incendiary headlines in Saturday’s papers and been wondering how long it would take for someone to call the Zoo’s bluff. Now, I like the Zoo, have been there twice in the past 13 months, but I believe there are three things to keep in mind as you watch this political stand-off: 1) Apparently the Zoo’s not so poor it can’t afford it’s own PR firm. 2) The Zoo still hasn’t disclosed what the location fee was it received from the studio filming the new Kevin James movie there (Read down a few paragraphs here.) and 3) A significant number of […]

St. Patrick’s, er, I mean Evacuation Day

Couple of items on the manufactured scandal over Evacuation and Bunker Hill Days. (For those of you who don’t know, the two days are official Suffolk County holidays celebrated, respectively, on March and June 17ths. Bunker Hill Day is pretty self-explanatory. Evacuation Day is a little more arcane – it celebrates the day in 1776 when the British army evacuated Boston. Both houses of the Legislature recently considered amendments to eliminate the holidays, in what I would guess is a vain attempt to throw beleaguered taxpayers a bone. Both amendments were narrowly defeated.) First, despite some rather overblown rhetoric emanating from the Legislature – cue Angelo Scaccia, whose defense of the holidays includes this tidbit (You can read the full […]

About Time

After ten long years, Time Warner has finally made the decision to kick AOL to the curb. All I can say is about time. The best analogy I can come up with is if Dennis Rodman and Carmen Electra lasted 10 years instead of the two weeks they did. At its height, AOL’s dial up served roughly 26 million customers. I believe that number is now somewhere around 6 million. In a truly frightening display of the speed with which Schumpeter’s creative destruction works in the digital age, who would have guessed that dial up internet service would go the way of the buggy so quickly?

Questions Michael Flaherty, Sam Yoon and Kevin McCrea should be asking

The Globe this week ran successive stories (here and here) regarding Boston’s new computer tracking system for city services. In this morning’s article, the three candidates challenging Mayor Menino were unsurprisingly critical of the new system – that it took too long to get up and running, that it still isn’t a true CitiStat program like the one Somerville uses and Baltimore pioneered, that posting the data to the Boston About Results website every quarter doesn’t give either residents or city managers real time data. All of that might be true, but I want to pose some questions of my own. 1) Why does budget data on BAR still only include the appropriations for FY08 and not the actual expenditures? […]

Strategic Debate is Good for the Country

President Obama and former Vice President Cheney delivered competing speeches yesterday, addressing the broad issue of national security, with specific reference to the issues surrounding Guantanamo, indefinite detention of suspected terrorists and the use of waterboarding. Whatever one thinks of either our current President or former Vice President, they are both serious men and, wherever one stands on these issues, publicly debating them is only good for the country. As our executive director Jim Stergios wrote in an op-ed that ran this past weekend in both the MetroWest and Milford Daily News, we seem to have proved ourselves incapable of engaging in serious, strategic debates. At the federal level, passing an appropriations bill now amounts to action. Money is great. […]

An absolute must read

Again, I have to give Michael Graham his props. As a colleague of mine wrote in an e-mail this morning, Mike absolutely nails it. I would go so far as to defy anyone to find a better summation anywhere of the parochial, retchingly chummy nature of Boston’s politics. Actually, check that. It is possible that Kyle Cheney’s coverage of the special commission on pensions on the State House News Service (subscription required) is in the running. Watching the commission in action Monday, or lack of action I should write, I was reminded of a high school cafeteria and its division between the nerds and the cool kids, in this case the unions and their legislative representatives on the commission, who […]

Massachusetts, yet again

There’s an entertaining feature on the American Educational Research Association’s annual conference in the most recent edition of the Weekly Standard. Amid the satirical pokes the author takes at participants’ jargon and over-reliance on Power Point, there is a serious point being made about how “the mix of lightweight courses, make-work assignments, and tired progressive ideology” at our nation’s ed schools often deter those who might otherwise pursue careers as teachers. (I speak here from personal experience. I might still be a 6th grade teacher if it weren’t for the fact that my provisional certification required I obtain an MEd.) However, it is a concluding quote in the piece that most caught my eye. It comes from James Fraser, education […]

Haute Cuisine, anyone?

A little behind on this one, but I did want to direct people’s attention to a recent piece on the SAT in The Weekly Standard. Fascinating history and interesting little tidbits. (For example, did you know that the letters SAT no longer stand for anything?) It also raised in my mind a question. Objections to the SAT often center on alleged bias. One of the examples of bias most often cited (at least according to the article) is a question dating from the 60’s that asks students for an analogy to “runner is to marathon”. The correct answer is “oarsmen is to regatta”. In this narrow context, I would agree with the test’s opponents. A prep school student would clearly […]

Boston's proposed school assignment plan

Today’s Globe describes the coalition that is forming to fight back against Boston School Superintendent Carol Johnson’s plan to move from three to five school assignment zones to save roughly $10 million in transportation costs. My thoughts on the topic are, in no particular order of importance: 1) The opposing coalition is right. The city should not be reducing the number of schools from which students and their parents can choose, which is what would happen if the city moved from three to five assignment zones. I would argue the city should expand choice through charter schools and other mechanisms. 2) Which brings me to point #2: would this same coalition be willing to support charter schools as vocally as […]

The Trust Deficit Grows

Yesterday, I got up on my soapbox and railed about the trust deficit our state and local leaders need to close before they think about closing the fiscal deficit. Well, today, unfortunately, based on some anecdotal evidence, it appears the trust deficit may be opening, not closing. Jim Stergios has an interesting post just below mine about the fiscal shell games going on in Haverhill’s school system and – poor Wilfredo Laboy – the Lawrence Eagle Tribune reported yesterday that the embattled superintendent was made aware of the illegal background checks his assistant was conducting long before it came out in the press. To turn his ridiculous quote back on him, where is Wilfredo Laboy’s transgression in all of this? […]

Taxation without trust?

I would like to follow up on my post last week regarding the shenanigans (and there really is no other way to describe it) going on in the Lawrence public schools. I heard from people and the recurring theme in their responses to me and in the comments they left on the blog is one of fundamental distrust. This doesn’t surprise me. Not only does the mismanagement of the Lawrence public schools at this point appear to be so broad it would be impossible for even the only moderately informed taxpayer not to notice it, but the same theme appears to be playing out at the state level as well. The state is facing a truly enormous budget gap, both […]

Harry Truman he ain't

I know there are a lot of issues on the table right now, particularly the sales tax increase the House just passed, but, because it was buried at the bottom of a column deep in the Metro section of this morning’s Globe, I wanted, very briefly, to point to a comment from Lawrence school superintendent Wilfredo Laboy so absurd it defies satire. Yet another scandal appears to be roiling the Lawrence public schools. After recent revelations that assistants to the Superintendent conducted unwarranted background checks on more than 400 individuals and that, apparently, underage drinking at Lawrence High doesn’t require police notification, we learn today that a K-8 school principal in Lawrence has been hawking her, according to the Globe, […]

Try to make your point more skillfully. . . err, I mean more subtly

As I have been in the past critical of Michael Graham’s column, I thought I would (as I have also done in the past) give him props when he deserves it. His column on Harvard’s exclusion of the ROTC from its campus appears in the Herald today opposite a similarly themed op-ed in the Globe. Both authors argue (correctly, I believe) it is time to bring ROTC back to Harvard after a 40-year absence. In contrast to the Globe piece, however, Graham’s column is a monument to nuance and careful argumentation. Frank Schaeffer paints Harvard (actually, the entire Ivy League) and its students with the broadest possible brush (a polite way of saying he stereotypes). Here is what he believes […]

The Revolving Door Also Swings Close to Home

There’s been some hand-wringing recently over the increasingly oligarchical nature of our federal government. The revolving door between D.C. and Wall Street is and should be of concern. (See Blue Mass Group, Salon.com and The Atlantic.) In all of this, however, it should not be missed that the same door is held open between Beacon Hill and the corporate sector here in Massachusetts. The Governor’s new Transportation Secretary (about which enough has probably already been written) and his Stimulus Czar both came back to state government after very lucrative stints in the private sector, which were set up by previous stints in state government, from which they both cashed out, the former by remaining a legal consultant to the Pike […]

Is he just spinning or out of the loop?

The other day my esteemed colleague Steve Poftak and I, in separate posts here and here, both jumped on a schizophrenic statement in a Boston Globe editorial to the effect that there is excess infrastructure and staffing in Boston’s public schools, yet, at least according to the Globe, the City should eliminate transportation for students attending private and parochial schools as a way to offset cuts. (As I wrote in my original post, I don’t disagree with the premise that the City shouldn’t be on the hook for the transportation costs of students whose parents choose not to send them to public school. I simply have a problem with the discrepancy between the excess capacity the Globe cites and the […]

When falling demand and inflexible management collide

There’s a rather curious editorial in today’s Globe. I don’t necessarily quibble with its basic premise, that the City of Boston should not be on the hook for the transportation costs of those students whose parents choose to send them to a private or parochial school. At one point, however, the editorial states that Boston’s infrastructure and staffing can support thousands more children than currently attend the public schools. The estimated $2 million spent on busing Boston’s private school students would be better used to offset cuts in public classrooms. This struck me as a paradoxical juxtaposition. If there is so much excess capacity in the system, then should we not be encouraging cuts, not looking for ways to offset […]

Live Blogging the President's Press Conference

Sort of. I’m not really in the East Room of the White House, but on my couch doing work as I listened to what the President had to say tonight. He has a tendency, a verbal tick almost, to try to buttress his answers with: That’s not just my opinion, but the opinion of many others. Or some variant thereof. I only caught the last half hour and he used it three separate times. It’s almost as if it’s his tell and we should all know he’s bluffing whenever he uses it. Hey, ifTeddy KGB can get caught listening to his Oreos, it can happen to the best of us.

Is KIPP really scalable?

Yesterday on Slate, in her review of Jay Mathews’ new book on KIPP, the Knowledge is Power Program, which now runs 66 schools in 19 states mostly geared to disadvantaged and minority students, Sara Mosle begins with an interesting remark: Let me begin—before I’m denounced as a traitor to the cause of educational reform—by saying that I’m inclined to agree. What she’s inclined to agree with is Mathews’ assessment of KIPP as the best program serving underprivileged students in America today. The reason for putting it so baldly out there at the top of her review is that Ms. Mosle goes on to question whether KIPP, despite her admiration of its success, is replicable to a scale sufficient to the […]

The Herald's multiple personalities

The Herald ended an editorial this morning on the Administration’s approach to the growing debate over the proposed gas tax increase as follows: It’s about this administration’s arrogance, its sense of entitlement to a larger share of your earnings in a time of crisis, and its dismissal of any approach that doesn’t mirror its own. They’re right. To dismiss opposition to a gas tax increase out of hand is arrogant. And that is exactly what Jim Aloisi is doing. Yet, yesterday, the Herald had no problem dismissing opposition to an elected Boston School Committee out of hand. Defending an appointed School Committee, which City Councilor and mayoral candidate Sam Yoon has criticized, the Herald noted: Well maybe Yoon questions it, […]

Just Asking

Apparently University of Connecticut men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun got into it yesterday, after his team’s win over the University of South Florida, with free lance journalist and self-described political activist Ken Krayeske. Krayeske used the post-game press conference as an opportunity to question Calhoun’s $1.6 million state salary when Connecticut is facing a $944 million deficit this year and a two-year deficit as large as $8 billion. Calhoun shot back (correctly, I might add) that the revenue his team generates for the college and, thus, the state far exceeds what he earns. (Though, I don’t know whether the $12 million figure he threw out is 100% accurate.) Yet, one must ask what it says about our society and its […]

First Nick's Beef and Beer, then Triple D's, now. . .

In the Globe’s front-page article this morning about a proposed public market in downtown Boston, there’s the following quote: The recommendations for the indoor public market call for the development of a marketplace similar to Pike Place in Seattle or Reading Terminal in Philadelphia, both highly successful attractions that provide a unique window into the culture of those cities. If the proposed project’s goal is to provide a unique window into Boston’s culture, can we really do better than Haymarket? You haven’t been to Boston until you’ve been yelled at by a Haymarket vendor for daring to test the quality of his produce. Next thing you know, there’ll be talk of converting the Pleasant Cafe to an Upper Crust. Heaven […]