Friday, November 30, 2007

Ten Story Building by the Charles River: P&S Reached on Charlesview Relocation

Harvard University and Charlesview Inc. now have a purchase and sale agreement for the transfer of the Charlesview apartments in North Allston to Harvard in exchange for a newly-constructed housing development at the former K-mart, and additional land north of Western Avenue, in North Brighton.

This arrangement has been discussed throughout the past year, where the trustees of Charlesview Inc. supported the move -- based on their assessment that the apartments needed substantial renovation -- while many of the tenants, many of whom are low-income, have been increasingly opposed to the idea.

Features of the new housing development:
  • 6.9 total acres replacing 4.5 acres at current site
  • Former K-mart building, plus land to the north of Western Avenue
  • Mostly four-to-six story buildings, rising to ten stories closest to the Charles River
  • Ten total buildings
  • 400 units of housing:
    • 213 units to replace the mostly low-income housing currently at Charlesview
    • 118 condominiums (I'm guessing higher-end units sold at market rates -- or could these end up as Harvard-affiliate housing, say, for junior faculty?)
    • 69 affordable housing units
  • 450 parking spaces, mostly below ground
  • Community center for use by residents and neighbors.

If I were placing a wager in the Deval Patrick Casino at Suffolk Downs, I would bet that the 10-story building will become the target of outrage by the neighborhood. There just ain't nothing remotely close to that tall in the North Brighton neighborhood now, although there are some such erections on Watertown's side of the river.

Harry Mattison notes that they plan to submit initial plans to the BRA within a month!!! Yet the neighborhood has yet to be included on the planning or details of the development.

Mayor Thomas Menino, however, is already a convert and a vocal proponent of the plan:
"It's really great," said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. "Residents of the 1971 urban renewal project are going to be moved to well-landscaped units. It's going to be a wonderful new life for them."
Note to future Mayoral contenders: here's your chance to pick off votes in North Brighton / North Allston, but only if you act quickly!

Keeping Score on McGrory

Brian McGrory, City/Region Editor of the Boston Globe, was recently forthcoming in describing why his news desk deliberately did not cover the Boston City Council election.

Now I wonder how aggressively his news reporters will be covering the Mayor, given that McGrory seems to be one of Mayor Thomas Menino's golf buddies, according to Boston Globe business columnist Steve Bailey.

Earlier this year, one such "Menino Golf Pal" told me that, as a result, he/she had to keep a low profile when addressing anything related to city issues. If so, then how can we expect a Boston Globe editor to keep such a low profile on the Mayor?

"Dirtiest Campaign Money Can Buy"? No way. Check Out "Citizens Opposed to Politicians Who Pander to Perverts"

Two weeks ago, Mark Trachtenberg wrote in the Allston-Brighton TAB an opinion piece that referred to the anonymous campaign mailings in the 2007 Boston City Councilor-At-Large race -- two of which Councilor-elect John Connolly later admitted to sending out -- as the "dirtiest campaign money can buy."

Dirty? Sure. But the dirtiest? Not by a long shot.

Howie Carr dug some mud out of his brain describing worse mailings from local political history. But we don't have to rely on Carr's memory. There's plenty of other campaigns to look to.

Saugus had an anonymous mailing this year smearing incumbent Selectman Stephen Horlick who, like Councilor Stephen Murphy here in Boston, got re-elected anyway.

The Framingham area saw an ugly mailing in 2004:
The mailing, which asks, "Who's Working in Our Children's Schools?" and includes a photograph of a crying child, criticizes [Karen] Spilka for voting against a Republican-sponsored amendment to a municipal relief package approved by the House last year. The Senate did not adopt the plan and it did not appear in a compromise bill later approved...

"Vote NO on Karen Spilka. She won't protect our children at school," reads the postcard-sized mailing.
Her opponent, Republican Jim Coffey, denied responsibility for the mailing. Another Framingham election in 2004 continued the trend:
During the Democratic primary for the Seventh Middlesex District between Ginger Esty and write-in candidate and eventual winner Tom Sannicandro, the pro-same-sex marriage group MassEquality, sent mailings to residents that read, "Ginger Esty would divide our community."

Esty does not favor allowing same sex-marriage and Sannicandro supports it.

The mailing also pointed out that Esty as a selectman voted against a proclamation stating Framingham would stand "against bigotry, prejudice, intimidation, and hatred of any kind."
Oh, and that vote was taken out of context, as you can probably imagine. Demonstrating that there really is something funky in the water out west of Boston, Framingham resident Harold Wolfe put up a website skewering the opponent of a candidate he supported:
The website features [State Representative Deborah] Blumer's picture complete with glowing and blinking eyes.

Wolfe said the glowing eyes addition was inspired by a sci-fi character who is evil.
Littleton Town Meeting had its own anonymous attack mailing back in May, although not centered on an election campaign.

But the cream-of-the-crop is definitely Philadelphia politics, where one Councilman running for re-election was attacked for his position on raising the lease from $1 to $200,000 for Boy Scout use of a city building:
The "VOTER ALERT," printed on a yellow index card, reads: "Councilman Jack Kelly voted with the homosexual lobby to remove the Boy Scouts from their city rent-free headquarters. The Scouts can remain only if they agree with the homosexual agenda which would promote sodomy to our youth. Not too long ago this would have caused Jack Kelly to be tarred and feathered for contributing to the delinquency of minors. Today, all we can do is to retire him from City Council. Distributed by COPPP - Citizens Opposed to Politicians Who Pander to Perverts, P.O. Box 57040, Philadelphia, PA 19111. ANYONE BUT KELLY."
Now those words -- "promote sodomy to our youth" and "Citizens Opposed to Politicians Who Pander to Perverts" -- are real down-and-dirty politics, not the comparatively tame mudslinging by Connolly against Councilor Murphy for wanting a job promotion (to some other job).

The COPPP appears to be under suspicion under Pennsylvania law because it is an unregistered committee making expenditures advocating for the election or defeat of a particular candidate. Sound familiar? Oh, and that Councilman Kelly appears to have won the race, too, albeit by a very narrow margin.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Legal Trouble for Another BC Football Player

While the Boston College football team has impressed the ACC with their 10-2 season record and a birth in the ACC championship game this Saturday, they will be playing without backup running back A. J. Brooks, who has been suspended indefinitely from the school.

Brooks has been charged with "assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (his shoe)" stemming from an incident Sunday night in which he allegedly kicked a visitor to BC in the face. (The Boston Globe and Boston Herald erroneously reported earlier that the victim was a residential adviser/assistant.)

Brooks's legal problems add on top of two other BC football players -- DeJuan Tribble and Gosder Cherilus, who were arrested over the summer after a fight in a North Station bar, and later charged with assault and battery. (The Boston Globe article strangely only notes their arrest but not that they were charged.)

Neither Tribble nor Cherilus were suspended for their actions over the summer, while Brooks was suspended without delay. All three were charged with the same assault and battery. The Greatest Bar incident at North Station led to the victim, Sean Maney, needing emergency spinal surgery a couple of days later. (Maney was also charged in the incident, as was off-duty State Police Sgt. Joseph Boike.) BC football coach Jeff Jagodzinski did not respond to the Globe's request to describe why (backup running back) Brooks was suspended, while (starters) Cherilus and Tribble were not; Jagodzinski only said that each case is treated separately.

Methinks it smells suspiciously like the star players getting preferential treatment over the expendable backup player.

Brighton Tree Lighting: Saturday in Oak Square; Monday in Brighton Center

The annual tree lighting (and trolley tour) events are coming to Allston-Brighton during the next week. These are a chance to meet Santa Claus, drink cider, eat candy canes, watch the holiday Christmas tree be lit -- and, for Oak Square only, go on a trolley tour. You know, that thing that rides on train tracks down the middle of Washington Street...

Oak Square: Saturday, December 1st, 5:00 pm. Annual Trolley Tour and Tree Lighting.

Brighton Center: Monday, December 3rd, 6:00 pm. Tree Lighting.

Jackson-Mann School / Community Center (Allston): Thursday, December 6th, 11:30 am. Tree Lighting.

For more information, contact: Paul Holloway, Office of Neighborhood Services, 617-635-2678,

This Saturday: Dueling Christmas Bazaars

Annual Christmas Bazaar at St. Columbkille's 10:00 am - 4:00 pm

The annual Christmas Bazaar at St. Columbkille's parish will happen this Saturday, December 1st, at 10:00 am - 4:00 pm, 25 Arlington Street, Brighton, 02135. Lots of arts and crafts for sale, silent auctions, and, presumably, the Cookie Room Bag Stuffing Contest (as many cookies as you can fit in one bag for a fixed price).

Christkindlmarkt at the German International School 1:00 - 5:00 pm

This is a "traditional" German Christmas fair being held by new North Allston neighbors, the German International School, at the former St. Anthony’s School, 57 Holton Street, Allston, MA 02134, from 1:00 - 5:00 pm.  "Santa, lots of kids activities, gluehwein (hot mulled wine, the real thing!), beer and nonalcoholic beverages, all kinds of food, a kids raffle, traditional holiday crafts, and more!"  The Christmas sausages are no doubt "Blutwurst" (red) and vegetarian (green).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Brighton High School Football to the Super Bowl

It wasn't many years ago when the Brighton High School football team had seasons where they fought to avoid a winless record. No longer. In Tuesday evening's semi-final game, the Bengals defeated Manchester Essex 28-7 to gain a berth in the Division 4 Superbowl game on Saturday at Stonehill College.

The Boston Herald and Boston Globe both come through with more coverage of Brighton High School football than they gave to Allston-Brighton District 9 City Council elections. The A-B TAB chimes in, too... albeit with historically more balanced coverage.

Brighton Challengers for Mayor Menino?

Mayor Thomas Menino has been flexing his fund-raising muscle this fall, despite the fact that he was not on the ballot. Many are viewing this as a sign that he wants to run for re-election in 2009. More evidence? David Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix couldn't get anyone to speak on -the-record, but provides this nugget ("Menino's Hit List"):
Sources also say that Menino’s people — particularly former chief of staff David Passafaro — are warning off anyone who provides aid and comfort to a potential rival. Those who contribute to a rumored mayoral candidate’s campaign committee, or who make introductions at ward committee meetings for a rumored candidate, these sources say, receive a reproachful call from Passafaro.
Who is poised to take on an incumbent Mayor Menino in 2009? Bernstein has a top-40 list. A number of Brighton residents show up in the list -- some real possibilities, others unlikely (Brighton residency given in the Phoenix article, not by my research):

6. Peter Meade, 61, Executive Vice President, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
11. Steven Tolman, 53, State Senator
12. Joe Kennedy, 55, Chairman, Citizens Energy; former Congressman
18. William Galvin, 57, Secretary of the Commonwealth
37. Kevin Honan, 49, State Representative
38. Michael Moran, 36, State Representative

It is a big step to go from a local district to a city-wide Mayoral race, so I find ranking our local representatives as quite a leap. On top of that, both Rep. Honan and Rep. Moran appear genuinely devoted to local issues and constituent services, as opposed to constantly aspiring to higher and higher office. That said, Secretary Galvin made the leap to state-wide office quite effectively.

Senator Tolman is an intriguing possibility: connections from brother Warren could be very useful for the vast fund-raising required by a city-wide election. But why hasn't Senator Tolman been raising much money in recent years? He had only $88,677.63 in his account as of year-end 2006, less than you would expect for someone thinking about getting a bigger office and poised to take on a powerful Mayor. Those connections of Tolman's may not be as profitable as you might think at first.

Former Congressman Kennedy and Secretary Galvin would be strong contenders if they had any interest in being Mayor; the Phoenix provides no evidence of such interest, so I find their inclusion in the list as odd. Secretary Galvin's associates may also be stinging a bit from their inability to throw a local election to their favorite candidate.

How About Flaherty?

My odds-making? The Phoenix's #1 pick, Councilor Michael Flaherty, has a shot only if he can knock off the Mayor neighborhood-by-neighborhood by aggressively adopting those residents' key local issues as his own.

He has to go to East Boston and take the residents' side by fighting hard against the Mayor on having a casino at Suffolk Downs. Go to Allston-Brighton and take the residents' side by fighting hard against unchecked expansion by Harvard and Boston College and their facilitator, the BRA. Walk the streets of Dorchester and Mattapan every night, arm-in-arm with community leaders, railing against rising violent crime rates and how City Hall isn't doing anything about it. Help South Boston residents replace garbage cans in the streets, after City workers remove them, thereby reserving their shoveled parking spaces. (OK, maybe a bad example.) Blame every major woe in every neighborhood on the Mayor, even if it isn't quite true.

That's the only way someone like Councilor Flaherty could take on incumbent Mayor Menino in 2009: on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, standing alongside the local residents on their biggest issue, and all-the-while blaming it everything on the Mayor. It would be a fun election to watch, but bound to be immensely negative.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bloggers 1, Mainstream Media 0

Not really about Brighton, but follows along on issues that have been discussed here at Brighton Centered about whether or not (some) bloggers practice journalism.

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee recently held two telecons with journalists -- one for mainstream reporters, another for bloggers.  The bloggers' questions were far more substantive (albeit many of them were also Huckabee supporters), while the mainstream reporters' questions were far more superficial.

Read about it at Slate (via Adam Reilly of the Boston Phoenix).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bulk Mailing Permits: Not Much Evidence There

The Boston Herald has been focusing on the apparent link between Councilor-At-Large-elect John Connolly's campaign mailings and the anonymous attack mailings sent the week before the election that he has denied sending -- but which share the same bulk mailing permit number (out of North Reading) as at least some other bulk mailings sent by the Connolly campaign.

How unique is such a match for the bulk mailing permit?

I've been shoving some of the mailings I received during the campaign into a yellow envelope, so this gives me the opportunity to pull them out to inspect the bulk mailing permit numbers. I got two other packrats in town to help out. We all braved the silverfish while reporting for this story. The numbers in parentheses gives the number of unique mailings the three of us received from that candidate. (There might be some duplicates among us.)

#231 (No. Reading, MA or zipcode 01864): Alex Selvig (6); Mark Ciommo (1); Rosie Hanlon (2)
#315 (Brockton, MA): Greg Glennon (3)
#396 (Boston, MA): Steven Tolman/Kevin Honan/Michael Moran [not campaign literature] (1); Steve Murphy (1)
#755 (Boston, MA): Mark Ciommo (4)
#52955 (Boston, MA): Steve Murphy (4)
#54162 (Boston, MA): Tim Schofield (1); John Connolly (5)
#54302 (Boston, MA): Sam Yoon (1)

I'm not sure if permit #231 is the same one out of North Reading on the anonymous mailing the Herald referred to, but it looks like a reasonable inference.

Does the bulk mailing "evidence" mean that Selvig, Ciommo, and/or Hanlon are the real culprits who sent the anonymous mailing(s) with the North Reading bulk mailing permits? Or that the bulk mailing permit line of evidence just isn't a unique piece of evidence all by itself? I'll bet on the latter.

The Herald's linking of Connolly to the remaining anonymous mailings via the evidence of bulk mailing permit numbers is not a unique match: many mailings from various campaigns may use the same permit numbers. Instead, the Herald's reporting should be focusing on the other factors that they are really using to assess a possible link between Connolly and the mailings: motive, means, and opportunity. That's where the discussion should be focused.

New Poll on Low Voter Turnout in Election

I've posted a new poll on the Brighton Centered Blog:
"What do you think was the biggest reason for the low voter turnout in the November 6th election?"
To see the poll, you must load the blog's full website in a browser and look at the upper-right-hand-side. Voting ends Thursday night at midnight.

Student Death on Allston's Glenville Avenue

The mainstream media has been covering this story, hence I'll just provide a summary and links here.

Early Saturday morning, November 17th, there was a large fight at 14 Glenville Avenue in Allston, MA 02134. Police officers responded and found a 21-year-old photography major at the Art Institute of Boston, Shawn Dow, lying in a back alley. He later died. He apparently fell off of the roof of the building. The coroner later determined that he died from the fall itself, but no police or coroner statement has been made about what caused him to fall off the roof (accidental or intentional); this last element of the story is yet to be resolved.

BPDnews 11/17/07: death investigation
Boston Globe 11/18/07: police interviews indicate faller from building and brawl inside building were separate incidents
BPDnews 11/18/07: deceased identified as Shawn Dow, 21, of Peabody
Blog comment from "pierce" 11/18/07: Dow had "footprints all over his chest" (note: unconfirmed report, taken from a now-removed, second-hand EMT report of a not-fully-specified fatal party fight. EMT report probably removed for legal reasons.)
Boston Herald 11/18/07: broken bottles litter building's stairwell, bannister poles missing
Boston Globe 11/19/07: story on Dow, friends, and family
Boston Herald 11/19/07: Dow's mother suspects foul play causing Dow's fall, since police photo of Dow's face, she says, looks like "someone hit him"
BPDnews 11/19/07: death is not listed as a "homicide" as of this date
Allston-Brighton TAB 11/19/07: Conway Cahill-Brodeur Funeral Home in Peabody is handling funeral arrangements; Art Institute planning a memorial service
Salem News 11/19/07: interviews with family, friends in Peabody area
BPDnews 11/19/07: cause of death consistent with a fall, as opposed to injuries sustained as the result of assault; interviewed 20+ witnesses which don't place Dow at the scene of the brawl report on the same 11/19/07
BU's Daily Free Press 11/20/07: anonymous witness says that Dow had severe injuries to his face, despite being found near-dead on his back after falling from the roof. Brawl reported to have included breaking bottles over people's heads.
Salem News 11/20/07: "Witnesses quoted in some media reports said Dow had been beaten in a fight."
Allston-Brighton TAB 11/20/07: details on the wake, funeral, and burial of Dow

Boston Police "Citizens Alert" 11/20/07: "On Nov. 17th 2007 the Boston Police responded to a large fight at 14 Glenville Avenue where a party was being held and found a male lying on the asphalt in the rear alley of 14 Glenville Ave. Autopsy reports indicate that this male sustained injuries consistent with falling off the roof. Anyone with any information relative to this incident is advised to call the Boston Police @ 617-343-4256 and speak to the Detectives."

Boston Police are looking for tips in the investigation: Crime Stoppers at 1-800-494-TIPS where anonymous tips can be placed.

On an unrelated note: three young men were arrested on gun charges in the area of Tremont Street and West Newston Street on Friday night, November 16th.

Another unrelated note: the two Brighton bank robberies on Friday, November 16th, were accompanied by two others in the Boston area. Some of the suspects have physical features that do not match each other. Since this year has seen 118 bank robberies in Massachusetts thus far, it is unusual to see four on the same day.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Robberies at Two Citizens Banks in Brighton

Two robberies, one armed, occurred Friday morning at different Citizens Bank branches in Brighton.  The armed robbery was at the bank next to Whole Foods at 35 Washington Street, while the second robbery (where no weapon was shown) was at the bank in Brighton Center at 414 Washington Street.

BPDnews, the Allston-Brighton TAB, and the Boston Globe have short stories up already.  Neither robber has been apprehended yet.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Brighton-Allston Bicentennial Jubilee Saturday Night

The Brighton - Allston Bicentennial Committee Members
Cordially Invite You To The Bicentennial Jubilee

At The New WGBH Building
1 Guest St., Brighton, MA 02135

Featuring “Herb Reed” And “The Platters”

Saturday, November 17, 2007
6:30 pm to 12:00 am
Gourmet Hors D’oeuvres & Cash Bar

Tickets:   $50 per person [CORRECTED]

Contact Terri Weida (617) 254 1950 -- no tickets available at the door, call by Friday

Tickets can also be purchased at

Governor Patrick to Announce Affordable Housing Bond Bill at Honan Apartments

This release/invitation comes from the Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation:

Please join Governor Patrick and Mayor Menino, Rep. Kevin Honan and the Allston Brighton CDC at the Brian J. Honan apartments at 33 Everett Street in Allston tomorrow, Friday November 16, at 11 AM. Governor Patrick has chosen the site for the release of his Affordable Housing Bond Bill.

The Brian J. Honan apartments are 50 units of affordable rental housing for families, developed and owned by the Allston Brighton CDC. The housing was named in honor of the late Allston Brighton City Councilor Brian J. Honan who was instrumental in securing the site for the homes that now bear his name.

The Brian J. Honan Apartments were made possible by a unique partnership including suppport from the City of Boston, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Harvard University, the Home Funders Collaborative, Massachusetts Housing Partnership, Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation, Bank of America, the Massachusetts Life Insurance Community Investment Initiative, Mass Development, Boston Community Capital and the Renewable Energy Trust of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

Allston Brighton CDC
320 Washington Street
Brighton, Massachusetts 02135

"Ironic Plea" from the Boston Globe Editorial Board

Adam Reilly has a hard-hitting story in the Boston Phoenix this week about the mainstream media's virtual failure to cover the Boston City Council campaign and election: the run-up to elections, the Globe had helped foster the very apathy [the Globe's editorial] was now lamenting — ignoring some campaigns, skimping on candidate profiles, and generally signaling that the election didn’t matter much.
Reilly calls the Globe's editorial an "ironic plea."  Is this the making of a news room vs. editorial page divide like that in the Wall Street Journal?

Reilly got Brian McGrory, the news editor, on-the-record about his paper's lack of coverage:
“What you saw this year isn’t really Boston politics,” argues McGrory. “We had an incredibly lackluster campaign, with a field of candidates who weren’t campaigning all that hard. This cannot be in any way confused with what would happen in a mayoral election in which we had two candidates offering sharply divergent views on how to run the city.

“The council hasn’t exactly distinguished itself with accomplishments over the last 16 years or so, since [Menino] has been in office,” he continues. “If the council proved to be a major policymaking body — if they had incredible enthusiasm for the campaign — we would have covered that very enthusiastically.”
Those words are pretty similar to what McGrory wrote in 2003 as a metro columnist in the Globe, thereby indicating that it was an affirmative managerial decision not to cover the race.

Reilly lectures McGrory by describing six news stories that the Globe could have run during the election, were he to think slightly deeper about the race:
1) Does Flaherty have the guts to challenge Menino for the mayoralty in 2009?
2) Steve Murphy’s cultivation of Governor Deval Patrick and dalliances with employment in the Patrick administration.
3) What Yoon learned, and didn’t, during a bumpy first term on the Council.
4) What’s lost when Boston doesn’t have an at-large female councilor?
5) Why don’t more African-Americans run for the Council?
6) Who are Greg Glennon and Mark Ciommo, the two candidates for the District Nine seat? (The District Nine councilor represents Allston-Brighton, and could have inordinate influence on Harvard University’s future expansion; Ciommo won the race.)
As I showed previously, in 2007 the Boston Globe ran no news stories about the District 9 candidates, while they ran two such news stories during the 2002 campaign.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Heroin Bust Near Monastery Road

Heroin bust near corner of Washington Street and Monastery Road (near St. Elizabeth's Medical Center and Fidelis Way public housing):
Two Arrested On Drug Charges

Yesterday at 4:01pm, members of the Drug Control Unit from District D-14 (Allston / Brighton) were in the area of Washington Street and Monastery Road when their attention was drawn to two males sitting in a black vehicle looking down onto their laps. Officers walked by the vehicle and observed the passenger with a folded scratch ticket and a q-tip on his lap. Officers approached the vehicle and identified themselves and observed the driver drop an uncapped hypodermic needle to the floor. Officers recovered a dollar bill from the floor, which contained one open plastic bag of tan powder believed to be heroin.

Mathew Baldwin, 26, and Michael Baldwin, 22, both of Cotuit were arrested and charged with Possession of Class A and Possession of Class C.

Did the Mass Turnpike Authority Violate the Open Meeting Law When Approving Recent Toll Hikes?

During the October 29, 2007 meeting of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority's Board, they voted to approve toll increases on the Massachusetts Turnpike, including an increase of $0.25 in the Allston-Brighton tolls as of January 1, 2008.

In so doing, however, the MTA Board may have violated Massachusetts's Open Meeting Law by meeting privately ("back-room meetings") with lawyers during a break in the public meeting. The nature of the Board's public meeting changed after the private meetings occurred, highlighting how substantive and key the private meetings appear to have been to the subsequent Board vote.

Boston Globe Story on MTA Board Meeting

Mac Daniel, Director of Communications for the MTA, confirmed the accuracy of the reporting in the Boston Globe story about the October 29 public meeting of the MTA Board. That story reported that a break in the meeting occured after two hours but before the Board vote on the toll increase. The story also reported that during the meeting break "several back-room meetings" occured between Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen, "fellow board members and Turnpike Authority lawyers."

Daniel clarified that the break and the "back-room" meetings were not part of an Executive Session. In particular, he said, the MTA Board did not enter Executive Session at any time prior to the vote on the toll increases, but did enter Executive Session after the vote occurred.

How many people were meeting privately in the "back-room"? The Globe story states it was the Board chairman (Secretary Cohen), "fellow board members" (i.e., plural, so at least two), and MTA lawyers.

What was discussed in the "back-room" meetings? The Globe story does not make it clear, instead only noting the reasons given subsequent to the "back-room" meetings to support the toll increase:
Any delay in approving a hike would risk damaging the authority's bond rating and possibly lead to higher interest rates, authority lawyers said...

But [Cohen] seemed blind-sided when authority staff told him after two hours of debate that a delay would make it difficult if not impossible to begin collecting the new tolls by Jan. 1, the deadline set by bondholders.
Daniel confirmed that, early in the public meeting, Secretary Cohen was considering post-poning the Board vote on the toll increase for a month, but that he was later told that any delay in approving a toll increase could have a negative impact on being able to roll out the increases by January 1, 2008. Daniel also confirmed the Globe story that concerns over the MTA's bond rating factored into the decision to vote on October 29 on the toll increase. "Cohen initially agreed with the rest of the board... that a final vote could wait another month," reported the Globe. Secretary Cohen's position changed in the latter part of the public meeting -- after the "back-room" meetings had taken place -- to supporting the toll increases.

One person present on 10/29/07 has confirmed that the public in general was neither notified that the "back-room" meetings were taking place during the break nor were the public invited to attend them.

(Daniel did not respond to an additional request for information and comment related to the meeting. Official minutes [either draft or final] of the 10/29/07 MTA Board meeting were not available for this story; Eileen Fenton of the MTA explained that the minutes are only released once they are approved at the next meeting of the Board.)

Did the MTA Board Meeting Violate the Open Meeting Law?

The Massachusetts Open Meeting Law applying to state agencies is in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 30A, Sections 11A, 11A-1/2, 11B, and 11C. The Attorney General has issued guidelines for understanding, interpreting, and applying the OML. Many informational resources about the OML can be found at the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries site. Discussion about some other OML cases are discussed on the Brighton Centered Blog.

The basic text of the statute reads:
All meetings of a governmental body shall be open to the public and any person shall be permitted to attend any meeting except as otherwise provided by this section.

No quorum of a governmental body shall meet in private for the purpose of deciding on or deliberating toward a decision on any matter except as provided by this section. [M.G.L. Ch.30A, Section 11A1/2.]

Does the OML apply at all to the MTA Board? The Law gives the definition of "Governmental body" as:
a state board, committee, special committee, subcommittee or commission, however created or constituted within the executive or legislative branch of the commonwealth or the governing board or body of any authority established by the general court to serve a public purpose in the commonwealth or any part thereof, but shall not include the general court or the committees or recess commissions thereof, or bodies of the judicial branch, or any meeting of a quasi-judicial board or commission held for the sole purpose of making a decision required in an adjudicatory proceeding brought before it, nor shall it include the board of bank incorporation or the Policyholders Protective Board. [MGL, Ch.30A, Section 11A]
As I understand it, the MTA Board is the governing board of an authority established by the State Legislature, so the OML appears to be applicable. (Note: I am not a lawyer, so I have not pored through case law on any of these issues.) A contrary argument might be made, however, based on the Supreme Judicial Court ruling that the MTA Board was "not part of the machinery of the government" when it considered the attempted firings in 2001 by Acting Governor Jane Swift of Board members Christy Mihos and Jordan Levy. It is unclear how that particular ruling of the SJC might impact the applicability of the OML to the MTA Board.

Last year, two unions took the MTA Board to court over allegations that the Board violated the OML when they discussed the issue of removing toll booths. The nature of at least some of Suffolk Superior Court Associate Justice Diane Kottmyer's rulings in the case indicate that the Kottmyer considered that the MTA Board is subject to the OML. Another instance from July 2007 indicates that Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, believed that the MTA Board was subject to the OML.

Possible Violations of the OML. Assuming that the OML applies to the MTA Board, then the "back-room" meetings during a break in the public meeting of October 29th appear to violate these provisions in MGL, Ch.30A, Section 11A1/2 because:
  • The "back-room" meetings were unannounced to the public in advance;
  • There was no clear indication that the public was invited to join the "back-room" meetings, or was allowed to do so;
  • A quorum of members of the MTA Board participated in the "back-room" meetings;
  • Issues related to their decision-making authority appear to have been discussed in the "back-room" meetings; and
  • The subsequent public meeting showed a change in direction relative to the public meeting prior to the "back-room" meeting.
According to the Globe story, at least three Board members (including Secretary Cohen) appear to have been in the "back-door" meetings, which would constitute a quorum of the five-member Board. Even if fewer than a quorum were present, the possibility of an intent to circumvent the quorum requirement ocould still be a violation of the OML -- as evidenced by recent litigation regarding the Boston City Council.

Did the direction of the Board's public meeting alter after the "back-room" meetings? The Globe reported:
For two hours of the three-hour meeting, the board seemed certain to delay the vote by a month...

Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen, who chairs the board, reopened the public meeting and shifted course. Any delay in approving a hike would risk damaging the authority's bond rating and possibly lead to higher interest rates, authority lawyers said.

Summary. All said, it appears to me that the OML applies to the MTA Board; it further appears that the MTA Board violated the OML by holding these "back-door" meetings. Since their vote on the toll increase was made subsequent to the "back-door" meetings, a legitimate case can be made for invalidating their vote.

Is Anybody Investigating Possible OML Violations?

The Attorney General is charged with enforcement of the statute. (This differs from the the case of municipalities, where the District Attorney is charged with enforcement.) Complaints of violations of the OML must be made within 21 days of the meeting, i.e., by next Monday, November 19. The obvious first step for any such investigation by the AG would be to establish if the MTA Board is subject to the OML.

I asked the AG's press office whether they have received a complaint about (or are investigating) possible violations of the OML by the MTA Board. The press officer confirmed that no such complaint has been received to date by the AG's office. He could neither confirm nor deny, however, whether any such investigation is currently being undertaken by the AG's office since that information cannot be legally disclosed.

Does Anybody Care About the Toll Increase?

Since the MTA Board vote was taken, legislation has been introduced on Beacon Hill that would block the toll increases by freezing the tolls.

Locally to Allston-Brighton, State Representatives Kevin Honan and Michael Moran are co-sponsoring the House bill, while State Senator Steven Tolman is co-sponsoring the Senate bill.

Senator Tolman and Representatives Honan and Moran wrote a letter to Secretary Cohen on October 12, 2007, requesting a "Resident Discount Program" for residents of Allston-Brighton. The letter read, in part:
Given a long history of hosting this major highway with its negative effects, and recent proposal to increase the toll at the Allston-Brighton turnpike exit, it seems appropriate and necessary to explore some means of mitigating impacts on our community.
Representative Honan also testified before the MTA's October 12, 2007 meeting in Framingham. He argued that the MTA should first provide information on projected potential revenues, and study potential benefits from Governor Deval Patrick's proposal for consolidating parts of the state transportation. He also said he was "disappointed" with the failure of the MTA install sound barriers (e.g., along Lincoln Street) that he had requested previously be done.

Does anybody care about these toll increases? Sounds like a lot of State Legislators do, including ours in Allston-Brighton.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Federal Postal Regulations May Have Been Violated in Anonymous Mailings

Boston City Councilor-At-Large-elect John Connolly was again in the news over the weekend related to the anonymous mailings sent out the week before the November 6th election. Connolly has admitted to sending out two of the anonymous mailings that attacked Councilor Stephen Murphy, but did not claim responsibility for any other anonymous mailings that were sent out -- although one or more of them have printed bulk mailing permits as other Connolly flyers.

Last weekend, the Boston Herald looked into the the legalities surrounding some of these anonymous mailings related to their use of fictitious return addresses. While the State Legislature passed a law in 2006 allowing anonymous mailings in Massachusetts, there are additional federal postal regulations that must be followed. The Herald reports:
...sending bulk mailings with bogus return addresses could be a violation of federal postal regulations if there was “intent to defraud,” according to Doug Bem, a spokesman for the United States Postal Inspection Service.
The article gave no indication if there was an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The legal condition of "intent to defraud" is probably the big hurdle that any such investigation would have to address. As long as no one steps forward to take responsibility for these mailings, then it would seem like the "intent to defraud" hole is, in effect, being dug deeper by the day.

I noted in a previous post that one of the anonymous mailings that no one has stepped forward to take responsibility for could also pose a problem for whomever sent it, because it mentions voting against a particular candidate for public office; such mailings must be declared to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, yet there is no record of the "South Boston Association" on file at the OCPF's online database.

Connolly's problems just continue to mount. He has chosen not to apologize either for the anonymous nature of the mailings or their content. He will become a colleague with Councilor Murphy, who may not offer forgiveness to someone who hasn't apologized. He appears to be linked to a mailing -- although he denies it, according to the Herald -- that has yet to be fully disclosed under state campaign finance rules. And now he appears to be linked to a mailing -- although he also denies it -- that could be in violation of federal postal regulations.

Connolly's a lawyer. He's got some skills there he may need to use in the days and weeks to come.

Election Urban Legends: Checking Out the Facts

Rain Caused the Low Voter Turnout

Boston's 13.6% turnout was far less than the 23-32% turnout in all previous municipal elections without a mayoral race since 1985. Inclement weather can certainly reduce the turnout for elections, and November 6, 2007 had a good amount of it: half an inch of moderate rain coming down during the day. The rain stopped by 3:00 pm, and the Sun began showing by 3:30 or 4:00 pm.

Did this rain cause the low turnout? Last time I checked, Quincy, Brockton, and Fall River all have weather highly-correlated with Boston; those cities still had around 50% turnout among registered voters for their mayoral elections. You can't tell me that half the people stayed home in Boston, Quincy, Brockton, and Fall River because of the weather... unless the latter three can expect voting rates of 100% -- or more -- when the Sun is shining. Yeah, right.

More likely: voter turnout was depressed a bit by bad weather, but mostly by the blizzard-like-whiteout of horrendously inadequate coverage of the race and issues by the city-wide papers, the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald. Those newspapers could have written their campaign coverage via computer program: IF (not cover the campaign && rainy weather) THEN (write column about low voter turnout on election day and a news story the day after). I wonder if all their news coverage could be coded up like this.

Memo to Globe and Herald city news desks: you got the election you asked for. Brian McGrory is my candidate for local news editor of the year, since he appears to have been the most powerful influence in the election via his reporters' non-coverage in the race.

Allston-Brighton Residents Don't Vote

A staple of Boston election politicking is that Allston-Brighton residents don't vote. You can explain it in many different ways, primarily through the transient nature of much of the A-B population, but the bottom line result keeps coming up. A-B Wards 21 and 22 (which includes Ward 21, Precincts 1 and 2 which are not part of District 9) voted in the 2005 municipal election at 23.6% of registered voters, while the city as a whole voted at 35.6%. In the 2005 preliminary municipal election, Wards 21 and 22 voted at 11.5% while the city voted at 15.1%. Conventional Wisdom of city politics dictates that city-wide candidates shouldn't spend much time campaigning in A-B -- or delivering constituent services -- because the residents don't vote enough to make it worthwhile.

In the 2007 election, we have all learned a lesson: Allston-Brighton electoral interest is resurgent. For the first time in recent memory, voters in Wards 21 and 22 turned out at a rate of 12.6% -- a rate nearly matching the city-wide average of 13.6%.

Why? The open A-B District 9 City Council seat likely motivated voters here to turnout for their favorite between Mark Ciommo and Greg Glennon. This local race also brought to the fore important neighborhood issues on many voters' minds, particularly those of institutional expansion and the exodus of families from the area. The A-B turnout has its silver lining: A-B residents are showing that they want their neighborhood issues dealt with during the next two years. The City Council and Mayor are bound to take note.

Councilor Michael Flaherty So Encouraged by 2007 Finish That He Will Run for Mayor in 2009

Hold your horses! In 2005, Councilor Flaherty got 49,220 votes to take first-place in the Councilor-At-Large race, thereby beating second-place finisher Councilor Felix Arroyo by more than 5,600 votes. This time, Councilor Flaherty got only 25,847 votes, beating second-place finisher Councilor Stephen Murphy by only 2,206 votes. The difference between first and fourth place in 2007 was only 3,867 votes: the first four candidates ran pretty much neck-and-neck.

On a positive note for him, Councilor Flaherty managed to get a vote off of 55.9% of ballots cast in 2007, up from 50.7% in 2005, in a Councilor-At-Large race that allows voters to cast up to four votes. Nonetheless, in 2005, Mayor Thomas Menino got a vote out of 65.9% of the ballots cast (including blank ballots) in a Mayoral race where voters do not have the opportunity to cast more than one vote. Without a massive voter revolt over the horizon, it's hard to reconcile Menino's and Flaherty's numbers to make it look like the latter would have any chance in a head-to-head competition.

While Councilor Flaherty was bringing in the big bucks for his fundraising in an election year, Mayor Menino decided to do a little bit of his own fundraising in an off-year. During September and October, Mayor Menino raised $229,890; in the same reporting period, Councilor Flaherty only brought in $147,480. Does Councilor Flaherty have piles of his own money to throw into his own race like Maura Hennigan did in her failed 2005 Mayoral bid?

Councilor Flaherty needed to win big on November 6th to make his Mayoral aspirations look credible, but he only won marginally, not overwhelmingly. And the Mayor flexed his fundraising muscles to make it clear.

Bullet Voting in West Roxbury

John Connolly's campaign sent out two anonymous mailings attacking Councilor Stephen Murphy in the last week before the municipal election. There were three additional, anonymous mailings that were sent out around the same time (according to the Boston Globe's summary), but which nobody has stepped out to take responsibility for. Two of those were sent to voters in the Parkway neighborhood (i.e., West Roxbury) lobbying for "bullet votes" for a local candidate, presumably Connolly; one of those mailings also included the bulk mailing permit number previously used by Connolly's campaign.

Did Connolly's lobbying for West Roxbury bullet votes swing the election to him?

Ward 20 includes West Roxbury as well as some of Roslindale; Connolly was born in Roslindale but currently resides in West Roxbury. Ward 20 historically turns out to vote at rates well above the city-wide average: in the 2005 municipal election, the Ward voted at 48.4%, compared to the city-wide rate of 35.6%; in the 2007 municipal election, they turned out at 23.8% compared with city-wide 13.6%. In 2007, Ward 20 was therefore disproportionately voting at a higher rate even than is usual even for them. This is exactly the behavior expected in a low turnout election, where neighborhoods with white/elderly/wealthy residents turnout at higher rates than minority/young/poor neighborhoods.

What did this disproportionately high turnout in Ward 20 mean to the Connolly vs. Councilor Felix Arroyo race for the fourth Councilor-At-Large seat? If Ward 20 had voted at 18.5% in 2007 (matching their usual higher turnout) instead of 23.8%, Connolly would have lost only 635 votes out of his 3421 margin of victory over Arroyo. Ward 20's disproportionately high turnout in 2007 was not nearly enough, by itself, to elect Connolly.

Did these Ward 20 voters engage in bullet voting? City-wide in 2007 there was an average of 2.7 votes (out of an allowed four votes) for City Councilor-At-Large; in Ward 20, the average was 2.5 votes per ballot. Compare this to the 2005 municipal election which had 2.9 city-wide votes per ballot, versus 3.0 votes per ballot in Ward 20. While city-wide voters did a little bit more bullet-voting in 2007 than in 2005, West Roxbury and Roslindale voters did substantially more bullet voting in 2007 than in 2005.

Did this bullet-voting make the difference? We don't know for sure, because you would need to know how each and every ballot voted. But we can take two cases: an extreme case, where all the bullet votes took a vote away from Arroyo (unlikely); and an average (and likelier) case, where all the bullet votes took a vote away from one of the other four candidates, taken at random. In the extreme case, all of Ward 20's 0.5 fewer votes per ballot in 2007 than in 2005 removed 3142 votes from Arroyo, almost all of the margin between him and Connolly. In the more likely case, only 3142/4 = 786 votes were taken away from Arroyo, not nearly enough to produce the difference between Connolly and Arroyo.

OK, so the numbers back up that West Roxbury and Roslindale utilized the bullet vote more in this election than previously. But are they the masters of the bullet vote? No! Ward 6 (South Boston, Councilor Flaherty's ward of birth) averaged 2.3 votes per ballot, Wards 1 (East Boston), 7 (South Boston, Councilor Flaherty's home ward), and 22 (Allston-Brighton) all averaged 2.5 votes per ballot, similar rates of bullet voting to the West Roxbury/Roslindale recent converts.

What do we make of all this? Yes, Ward 20 (West Roxbury/Roslindale) voted at a disproportionately high rate and used significantly more bullet voting than in previous elections, but neither effect was sufficient to explain how Connolly beat Arroyo for fourth place. The combination of the two effects only explains around 40% of their margin differentiating the two.

Look elsewhere for bigger causes of Connolly's defeat of Arroyo, such as: Arroyo's failure to raise money; Arroyo's failure to get-out-the-vote; the mainstream media's failure to cover the race resulting in low voter turnout; etc. Those will likely be fingered as the real factors leading to Arroyo's ouster at the polls in 2007.

Why Ciommo Won and Arroyo Lost in the 2007 Municipal Election

Just before the polls closed last Tuesday night, I posted my predictions for the City Council race. I was pretty much spot-on for the Allston-Brighton District 9 seat (albeit missing the turnout numbers by a lot), but got the wrong odd-man-out in the Councilor-At-Large seat. Here is some analysis of what I thought happened on election day.

Allston-Brighton District 9 City Councilor

I predicted that Mark Ciommo would beat Greg Glennon by at least 900 votes and by at least 57-43% (possibly as high as 60-40%). My prediction couldn't have been closer: Ciommo won by 948 votes by 59.8-39.8%. The full precinct results can be found here.

That said, I screwed up on two points -- one moderate mistake (Wallingford Road) and one a big mistake (voter turnout) -- which magically cancelled each other out to make it look like I hit the lottery.

Turnout. I guessed 6500 voters would turn out, which was at the low end of previous municipal elections. It was far worse at 4745, which was barely over the 4521 votes in the preliminary municipal election.

Why was I so wrong? Not because of the weather. I think that the rank-and-file voters got so little information from the mainstream media (Allston-Brighton TAB excepted), that there was little motivation to vote. I also heard from many voters in the preliminary election who were dissatisfied with the two choices in the final election; I suspect many of them just stayed home, unwilling to be forced to choose.

Wallingford Road.
Glennon carried Ward 21, Precinct 13, full of elderly Russian Jewish voters at the Wallingford Road housing project, over Ciommo 303-142 in the preliminary election. I predicted that he would add to that lead by +200 votes, but the forces of arm-twisting pushed it the other way: Ciommo won 333-242, giving Ciommo a net +252 votes. I blew the vote difference by 452. Oops.

But this is a really, really big story in the neighborhood. Tim Schofield told host Joe Heisler on the Talk of the Neighborhood show that the Russians mostly listen to former State Representative Brian Golden and Mayor Menino; to that I add a likely third party, the Mark Alford-Pat Galvin-(and-his-brother) trifecta. Golden, Alford, and Pat Galvin all supported Glennon -- and Ciommo holds progressive social positions incompatible the conservative Russian voters, at least in the conventional wisdom -- so this means that the Mayoral power in A-B is now at the point that it trumps all else in specific cases of arm-twisting (like Wallingford in this election).

The other big feature of the Wallingford Road vote is that it actually didn't matter in the election. Ciommo could have won without a single vote from the Russians. In looking back on this year's election, the message we should all take away is that the Russian vote can impact a preliminary (or three-way) election in an important way by determining the second-place finisher, but their strength cannot dominate over the powerful base of a long-time resident.

Oak Square battleground.
I predicted that several precincts in the Oak Square neighborhood would represent battlegrounds between the long-term Brighton residents (Ciommo's base) and socially conservative Irish Catholics (Golden's base, and hence Glennon's). Many people in the neighborhood have one foot firmly in each camp, so predicting how they would swing was the parlor game of the election.

Ciommo carried the combined Ward 22, Precincts 7, 11, and 13 in the preliminary, with Glennon and Schofield in a virtual tie for second. Schofield's voters generally swung heavily for Ciommo, regardless of his endorsement, but this was the one neighborhood where that pattern might have been broken.

In the final election, Ciommo won 22/7, 22/10, and 22/11 heavily, and barely nudged Glennon 102-98 in more conservative 22/13. I predicted, "if Ciommo carries 7, 10, and 11 with big margins, then it's lights out." That it was.

My model was that Schofield's supporters went 80-20% for Ciommo, Selvig's 65-35%, and Hanlon's 50-50%. Using that model on Ward 22, Precinct 7, for example, my prediction was Ciommo over Glennon by 137 to 61 votes; the actual result was 131-67, off by six, but within the margin of error of 14 votes (for 198 cast).

Ward 21 Progressive Precincts. I predicted that you should forget-about-it without a strongly identified progressive in the case (like Schofield). Ward 21, Precinct 8 actually doubled their turnout over the preliminary election -- from 1.6 to 3.2%. In the end, the progressive precincts still didn't show up.

Summary. The bosses of Ward 22 were able to get Councilor Jerry McDermott elected in 2002 (he is the cousin to the Galvins, after all), even though McDermott claimed after the election that he was not the Mayor's candidate. (Ciommo told me earlier in the year that he disputes that characterization of the 2002 race, however, since the Mayor did not formally endorse a candidate.) In 2007, however, the Ward 22 bosses no longer appear to be able to throw an Allston-Brighton election to their favorite candidate -- although they can get him a second-place finish and into the finals.

Councilor-elect Ciommo enjoyed powerful support from middle-aged men who chose to stay in Brighton to raise their families here. He won out over the younger, more transient constituencies -- like former Representative Golden and lame duck Councilor McDermott -- who leave town with their young families.

Long-time Brighton residents and the Mayor's influence ended up winning over the ward bosses and families in transition through the neighborhood.

Boston City Councilor-At-Large Race

While many in the city thought that the race for the fourth seat among the Boston City Councilors-At-Large was between Councilor Stephen Murphy and challenger John Connolly, there were many soothsayers predicting Councilor Felix Arroyo to be the odd man out.

I called the race a toss-up until the last moment, when I thought that Connolly's strategic blunder of sending out the anonymous attack mailings would cost him enough votes to lose out on fourth place. I was obviously wrong, and the Arroyo predictions were right.

Why did Arroyo lose? The pundits have rained in with some pretty convincing reasons: low voter turnout working against minority candidates; Arroyo raised little money, while Connolly raised around ten times as much; Arroyo didn't campaign very hard or send out many mailings, while Connolly campaigned like crazy (and sent out quite a few flyers!); Arroyo's record on attendance at City Council meetings and hearings; etc. None of the reasons seems enough by itself, but, taken together, they seem plenty to explain why he got around 15% fewer votes than Connolly.

This year's City Council election is an important one for data mining purposes in the future, because it shows clearly how low voter turnout impacts voting from ward-to-ward. Connolly's West Roxbury Ward 20, for example, voted disproportionately higher than the rest of the city.

The election numbers, plus analysis on a ward-by-ward basis, for the Councilor-At-Large race can be found at Matt O'Malley's website.  He ran, albeit unsuccessfully, in 2005 for Councilor-at-Large, so he knows the ins and outs of all the different neighborhoods and their voting trends.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sushi in Cleveland Circle

A new sushi restaurant, Fins, has opened in Cleveland Circle on Market Street.  Boston College sophomore, Meg K., reviews it and thinks that it could become the next, trendy "hot spot" around BC.

Who's the place catering to?  There are two TVs playing inside, and it's located next door to BC perennial hangout Roggie's, so I would guess BC students.  According to Meg. K.'s review, however, larger entrees reach up to $18-20.  The atmosphere and decor sound like they're trying to pull in the (slightly) older, urban crowd:
Very calming with mint colored walls and dark wood tables and chairs. The bright red lights above the sushi bar provided a nice contrast to the lighter walls...
And the floors don't sound like they're sticky, yet.  Sounds like a nice addition to Cleveland Circle which might satisfy a range of clientele -- and worth a visit.

Brighton High School Footbal Team Enters Playoffs Undefeated

While the Boston College Eagles' football team missed out on their perfect season with a 27-17 loss to Florida State last Saturday night, the Brighton High School Bengals' football team finished their regular season Friday night undefeated at 10-0 after a 30-6 win over Dorchester.  The Bengals continue on to the post-season with a division 4 playoff game.

Precinct Results in the Allston-Brighton District 9 City Council Election November 6, 2007

WardPrecinctGreg GlennonMark Ciommo

EDIT: Note that the results published in the Allston-Brighton TAB for Ward 21, Precinct 16 (Glennon 55, Ciommo 0) are incorrect.

EDIT (11/12/07): The TAB has fixed those errors online.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Boston Globe: Covering the District 9 Race in 2002, But Not in 2007

It is straight-forward to see how the Boston Globe's coverage of the Allston-Brighton District 9 City Council race has changed from past coverage.

2002. In the special municipal election of 2002 to replace District 9 City Councilor Brian Honan after his sudden death, the Boston Globe ran two stories about the race, the candidates, and some of the issues:
These stories were followed by an endorsement of Jerry McDermott for the special municipal election, a short story on election day for the special municipal election, and a full story the day after the election saying who won:
2007. In the municipal election of 2007 to fill the seat being vacated by District 9 City Councilor Jerry McDermott, who chose not to run for re-election, the Globe ran the following news stories prior to the preliminary municipal election:


The editorial page ran an endorsement of Tim Schofield on 9/19/07, but no news stories. Nor did they run a story on the preliminary municipal election day saying it was happening or who was running. The Globe followed with a short blurb the day after the preliminary municipal election (page B2, 97 words) saying who ran and who made it into the final election, an editorial endorsing Mark Ciommo in the municipal election (along with an editorial reminder of that endorsement on election day), a single sentence on election day stating who was running, and then a single sentence the day after the election stating who won.

Comparing 2002 and 2007. What was different between the Globe's coverage of the District 9 races in 2002 and 2007?
  • In 2002, the news desk ran two stories about the race prior to the election -- one in the City Weekly, and one in the City/Region on the front page (B1). In 2007, the news desk ran no stories prior to the election.
  • In 2007, not even a single sentence on preliminary election day to tell you that it was election day today in Allston-Brighton, while in 2002 they did.
  • Information on the candidates and some of their positions on the issues was given prior to the 2002 election, but not prior to the 2007 election (with the exception of the summaries in the editorial endorsements).
  • In 2002, a full story about the election the day after, which included descriptions of some of the major issues in the race (university expansion, housing, bars).

Is this what we can expect in 2007 from the local reporters working under the direction of City/Region editor Brian McGrory? Yes, McGrory, the former Metro columnist who, earlier this year, referred to the "backwater known as the Boston City Council." Yeah, the same guy who, last year, referred to them as the "lapdog City Council."

Sounds like McGrory didn't care for the City Council when he was a columnist, and hence doesn't want to bother covering them as editor.

Am I being harsh and judgmental in making that statement? Am I being unfair in hypothesizing about what city issues McGrory might want to cover? Actually, no. In 2003, McGrory provided a description of exactly what he believed not to be worth the price of the ink:
Exactly one decade ago, after covering Thomas M. Menino's first election as mayor, I set a lofty journalistic goal. My goal was to never spill a drop of ink writing about the Boston City Council, because no reader with even the hint of a normal life could possibly care about the collection of political mis creants and misfits who make up that perenially underachieving group. [italics added]
No, I'm not making this up. This guy's in charge of the local news desk since May. With such leadership at the helm, it's no surprise the City Councilor-At-Large campaign barely got mentioned in the Boston Globe, and the District 9 City Councilor campaign not at all. It was the logical extension of a goal he set back in 1993.

The Boston Globe's editorial page thinks that we should consider re-vamping the election of Boston City Councilors in the wake of this week's election. No, no, no. What we need to do is make the job of Boston Globe City/Region Editor an elected position. And then let's see if he'll cover the race.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Peek Underneath

What does a Cardinal wear under his robes?   It's not often you get to peek underneath:

I don't believe it is a bloody sock. It looks more cardinal than red, but close enough.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Halloween Taser Incident at Jackson Mann School

The Daily Free Press, the student newspaper of Boston University, conveyed a police report on an incident of a student with a taser at an elementary school in Allston.  Sgt. Bill Fogarty of the Community Service Office of the Boston Police Department District D-14 Station confirmed that the incident occurred in the Jackson Mann School, 40 Armington, Street, Allston.

The report in The Daily Free Press reads:
"Don't tase me, bro"

Just after noon Oct. 31, police responded to a call for assistance from the Boston Fire Department at an elementary school in Allston.

When police arrived, the BFD and school administrators told them a student had set a fire in the cafeteria. The student told police he had been eating lunch with friends when a bottle of rubber cement caught fire at their table.

Upon investigation, police determined the student had been playing with an electroshock weapon and had ignited the rubber cement. The student claimed he did not have a taser.

Further questioning determined the student had stashed the taser in the men's bathroom when the school was evacuated.

The school principal spoke with the parents of the students involved and will determine disciplinary measures.

Residential vs. Commercial Taxes in Boston

Shirley Kressel, of the Alliance of Boston Neighborhoods, has written a nice blog posting about the competing proposals by Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Thomas Menino to address the relative burdens shared by commercial and residential property taxpayers in Boston.

The 2004 state law temporarily raised commercial property taxes a bit by raising the commercial tax cap from 175% to 200%, thereby allowing residential property taxes to increase at a slower rate. The temporary increase is currently slowly decreasing back to its original level. As I understood it, Mayor Menino's proposal (HD 2717; see also PDF linked here) is to return the commercial tax rate back to 175%, while Governor Patrick's proposal has a two-year freeze at 183%; the Mayor's proposal results in higher residential property taxes, while the Governor's proposal results in lower residential property taxes.

Kressel uncovers all the layers of the mess, however, noting the hidden secrets of the 2004 law and Mayor Menino's proposal to repeal it. She finds some "dirty tricks":
Menino’s bill would help residents in one way: it would repeal two harmful “dirty tricks” slipped into the 2004 legislation by business interests after the original “deal” was set. The first trick drops the commercial tax rate down to 170% in 2009 – lower than the pre-existing 175% -- permanently shifting more of the city’s tax burden from businesses to residents. The second, and far more devastating to residents, permanently prevents the mandatory residential portion of the tax burden from ever going back down from its highest level, no matter how low housing prices go or how high commercial values go. This portion used to be 30% of the total levy; it is already up at 42%.
My understanding then is too simplistic: Mayor Menino's bill would lower residential property taxes in the long-term by repealing the 2004 law's reduction of the previous 175% rate to 170%, but would keep residential property taxes high in the long-term by fixing the 42% residential property tax burden (rather than letting it lower back to 30%). Here's a case where we need some solid guidance from an independent analyst, like the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation's Michael Widmer, projecting the future costs of these various competing elements of the Mayor's and Governor's proposals, and the 2004 law left unchanged.

Tax law is usually pretty boring stuff. But when so many people throughout Boston keep asking for property tax relief, understanding in detail the issues involved can be more interesting than you might expect. And it could tell you something about your elected officials' prioirities.

Where are these different proposals in the process? The State Legislature just passed Mayor Menino's bill, so it awaits Governor Patrick's signature. This would be a good time to contact the Governor to tell him if you approve or disapprove of the bill.

Municipal Elections Results for November 6, 2007

Final unofficial results of the District 9 City Council election on November 6, 2007, with all precincts reporting:


Number of Precincts
Precincts Reporting
27100.0 %
Vote For
Total Votes
Number of Uncast Votes

Write-in Votes


Number of Precincts
Precincts Reporting
254100.0 %
Vote For
Total Votes
Number of Uncast Votes

Write-in Votes

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Ciommo and Connolly In, Arroyo Out

In today's municipal election, Mark Ciommo has defeated Greg Glennon for the Allston-Brighton District 9 City Council race by 948 votes, corresponding to 59.8-39.8%. Turnout was significantly lower than expected -- in fact, barely 5% more voters casting ballots than in the preliminary election. I estimate voter turnout at 13.1%.

The surprise of the evening was hearing Tim Schofield read off the Wallingford Road vote as 333-241 for Ciommo over Glennon, meaning that Glennon actually lost votes from the Russian Jewish elderly vote since the preliminary (when he won over Ciommo 303-142). Some mighty strong arm-twisting was going on there.

In an even more awfully low-turnout vote city-wide -- 13.5% -- challenger John Connolly knocked off sitting Councilor-At-Large Felix Arroyo by around 3000 votes, according to preliminary results. Councilor Arroyo just wasn't running in the same league: he only managed to raise around $30,000 this year, far less than Connolly and Councilor Flaherty, who each managed to raise more than $300,000. Many pundits were right when they put Councilor Arroyo as the one most at risk of losing his seat.

Councilor Michael Flaherty took first, Councilor Stephen Murphy second, Councilor Sam Yoon third, and challenger John Connolly fourth.

In the Councilor-At-Large race it is amazing how few votes separated first-place from fourth-place: fewer than 4000, where Flaherty took 25,700 and Connolly 21,800. In 2005, with a bit more than twice the number of votes cast, first and fourth place were separated by more than 13,000 votes.

Challenger Carlos Henriquez, a former aide to Councilor Flaherty, did poorly in District 7 against incumbent Councilor Chuck Turner. Between the low vote total for first place and the result in District 7, Councilor Flaherty will find little to justify a run against Mayor Menino in 2009. Flaherty needed to win big, and he didn't. There's always 2013.

Bullet voting was big in this race compared to 2005. In the Councilor-At-Large race today, the average ballot had 2.7 votes out of four allowed, while the 2005 race had 2.9 votes on average per ballot. It will be interesting to see where those bullet votes occurred -- West Roxbury, anyone? -- since Councilor Arroyo's defeat indicates that they weren't generally for him.

District 2 Councilor Bill Linehan won the prize for the "least-liked unopposed Councilor," getting only 60.1% of the vote; all the other ballots either had a write-in candidate or no vote, meaning he beat out "anything but him" by only 3:2. District 8 Councilor Michael Ross was the "most-liked unopposed Councilor," garnering 76.1% of the vote, thereby beating "anything but him" by more than 3:1.

Predictions for the Boston City Council Election

These predictions are being submitted at the close of the polls on Tuesday, November 6th. If I'm totally off-mark, then please take every opportunity to laugh at me without end.

Allston-Brighton District 9 City Councilor

Mark Ciommo will carry the election in what approaches a landslide, predicted at 57-43% -- but possibly as high as 60%-40% -- and a difference of at least 900 votes.

Turnout. With lots of rain forecast and a city-wide (non-Mayoral) City Councilor-At-Large race with only one strong challenger, the turnout will be lower than expected, probably close to 6500 votes in Allston-Brighton. Those 2000 votes of people who didn't show up for the preliminary election are Glennon's best -- and only -- chance to pull out a win today.

Russian Jewish elderly vote. They vote in large numbers in preliminary and primary elections, which means that there's not a lot of room to grow into the final or general election. Glennon picked up 302 votes in Ward 21, Precinct 13 to Ciommo's 142. Look for, at most, 200 more votes among these Wallingford Road -- and that the forces of darkness will twist both Ukrainian arms to turn it into a true voting bloc. Probably another 50-100 votes in the less-Russian, but still elderly, Precinct 12. Glennon +200 votes relative to Ciommo.

Who will Schofield-Hanlon-Selvig supporters vote for? In the preliminary municipal election on September 25th that saw 4500 total votes cast, Tim Schofield took third with 965 votes, Rosie Hanlon fourth with 576 votes, Alex Selvig fifth with 293 votes, and James Jenner sixth with 28 votes. That comes to 1862 votes up-for-grabs, or 41% of the overall vote. On September 26th, all these voters were looking hard at Ciommo and Glennon to figure out who to vote for.

All four candidates who finished out of the running have since endorsed Ciommo.

I haven't met a single Schofield supporter who admits to now being a Glennon supporter. There must be some, there really must be some... so I'll make a conservative estimate that Ciommo picks up Schofield's votes 80-20%.

Selvig supporters congregated around Boston College's new Brighton Campus area in Ward 22, Precinct 8 where Glennon supporters Patrick Galvin and Mark Alford are long-time and influential residents. The Selvig supporters I have spoken to, however, are breaking Ciommo, so I'll put it at 65-35%.

Hanlon supporters come from all over the district and have a variety of constituencies: business owners, long-time residents, more conservative Irish Catholics, etc. She took a long time to decide to support Ciommo, and I think her supporters will show similar difficulty choosing between the two: 50-50%.

What do these numbers mean? Ciommo picks up 1250 votes from the other candidates' supporters, while Glennon only picks up 600. Advantage Ciommo, +650. Big, big advantage which more than neutralizes Glennon's elderly pick-up.

Ward 21 progressive precincts. Forget-about-it.

Irish Catholic vote near Oak Square. Ciommo walloped Glennon in Ward 22, Precincts 7, 10, and 11, while Glennon tied him in 4 and 6. These precincts will be the bell-wether of the election: if Galvin, Alford, and former State Representative Brian Golden call up every single person they have ever remotely heard ever came within three miles of this neighborhood, then Glennon may get close here and make the race overall relatively close. But if Ciommo carries 7, 10, and 11 with big margins, then it's lights out. In one of Governor Patrick's casinos I would bet on the latter.

Other new voters in final election. This leaves 1600 new voters in the municipal election who didn't vote on September 25th. They haven't been following the race as closely, so they base their votes on the limited information coming from the mainstream media and other factors (like endorsements).

Glennon picked up the Boston Herald endorsement, but virtually nothing else aside from a former Mayor who lives elsewhere, a former State Representative who lives elsewhere, and the gentlemen of Lake Street.

Ciommo cleaned up on the endorsements, getting the Boston Globe and Allston-Brighton TAB, all the other (defeated) candidates, all the unions, and the only two local elected officials who made endorsements (current State Representative Michael Moran and current State Senator Steven Tolman).

Up until these last 1600 votes, Ciommo was winning 56-44%. Give Ciommo 60-40% among these final-election-only voters, which is Ciommo +300.

All told, that's Ciommo by 900 votes out of 6500 total votes cast, or 57-43%.

Boston City Councilor-At-Large

I don't pretend to understand the nitty-gritty voting patterns of the city-wide race. Let me say that again, so that you don't misunderstand.

I was quoted last week as saying that this race is too close to call. More specifically, Councilor Michael Flaherty will easily top the ticket again, as he did in 2005. Other than that, I believed it to be a toss-up between Councilors Felix Arroyo, Stephen Murphy, Sam Yoon, and challenger John Connolly.

The election-eve hijinks of Connolly with his campaign's anonymous mailing attacking Councilor Murphy threw a wrench into the machine. While I am active in the blogosphere -- and the blogosphere was totally abuzz with establishing the links between the mailing and Connolly, as well as expressing negative comments afterwards -- the web probably only could managed to move hundreds of votes, or maybe a thousand, from Connolly to Councilor Murphy. It could've been the margin in a very close race... but probably not enough.

Councilor Murphy's rapid response mailing, however, extended the reach of the escapade to people who had no idea that any of this had been going on all weekend. He'll get extra sympathy votes from all over town. On top of that, Connolly got the bad press of a story on the Boston Globe City/Region front page on election morning. Yuck.

A race that was too close to call isn't quite anymore. Connolly takes fifth place, again, by a few thousand votes. All the incumbents are re-elected. Matthew Geary gets a nice, but distant, sixth place: he showed far more understanding of local political issues than any other 22-year-old you could dream up.