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Manic Monday Markup 3/2/15…

…And the World:

We begin today in Russia, where thousands marched in memory of slain opposition leader Boris Nemstov. Although no longer the pivotal figure he once was among opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Nemstov’s brutal murder in the shadow of the Kremlin has sent ripples throughout the world and within Russia itself throughout the political spectrum. The US and WEstern leaders have called for a full and transparent investigation, and the Kremlin has suggested a host of potential theories.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, previewing his speech to Congress about Iran at AIPAC’s annual conference, claims his efforts to evade normal diplomatic procedures amid his own election were not a sign of disrespect for President Obama and jeopardized Israel’s bipartisan support. The fracas of the speech has not always yielded positive responses in Israel amid the election slated for March 17, although both the US and Israeli leaders have sought to calm tensions ahead of Bibi’s trip here. However, California Senator Dianne Feinstein, panned Netanyahu’s seeming framing of himself as speaking for all Jews, reflecting the bind in which the Prime Minister has put Jewish Democratic groups broadly.

Meanwhile in the elections itself, Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid is backtracking on a promise to recommend the winner of the largest bloc of votes, while a Haaretz columnist opines that whoever the largest party is, likely winning less than a quarter of the Knesset’s 120 seats cannot seriously argue they have a mandate of any kind from voters. Meanwhile, the paper itself accuses the Israeli Attorney General of playing politics by putting off an investigation of Netanyahu until after the election.

Bangladeshi authorities make an arrest in the murder of an atheist blogger.

Iraq’s offensive to retake Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s birthplace, begins.

Spanish officials claim a third bailout for Greece is in the offing. Both Greek and European officials deny the claim.

The Feds:

The longest serving woman in Congress, Barbara Mikulski, US Senator of Maryland, has announced she will not seek a sixth term. A former social worker and fierce advocate for liberal and women’s causes, Mikulski said she was retiring so she could spend the next two years “raising hell” rather than fundraising 24/7. The Baltimore Sun praised Mikulski as Maryland’s “Happy Warrior.” NBC put together a flashback to her 1986 election.

Democrats have a distinct edge in this state, which Obama won by 26 points in 2012 and potential Democratic candidates could include US Reps Elijah Cummings, Donna Edwards , Jon Sarbanes and Chris Van Hollen, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and former governor Martin O’Malley. Potential Republicans include the state’s only Republican congressman and its twice-defeated former governor, Bob Ehrlich.

The death of a homeless man at the hands of police in Los Angeles has gotten international press attention.

The Supreme Court heard arguments today about whether voters can place redistricting power into the hands of an independent commission. Early assessments suggest it could go either way with the slightest of leans toward Justice Anthony Kennedy being the fifth vote to uphold the will of the voters in states like Arizona and others.

After last week’s epic fail by Speaker John Boehner to keep the Department of Homeland Security open as the GOP tries to quash Obama’s immigration order (a bill keeping the department open for a week, instead of three, passed), House Republican leadership tries to regroup.

The California GOP blesses the creation of a gay Republican group.

The State of Things:

Governor Charlie Baker will include a push to encourage workers to retire as part of his budget that begins July 1. Recent reports have painted another dark picture for the budget.

Northampton is looking to make more affordable housing available in the city. Rents have leapt in recent years often making housing too costly from poorer individuals who could benefit most from the city’s walkability.

Boston is poised to pick a new School Superintendent.

Holyoke Police Chief James Neiswanger issued four promotions last week, including last year’s Democratic nominee for the 2nd Hampden & Hampshire Senate district, James Leahy. In his remarks, Neiswanger also noted the issues surrounding the use of force by police officers, which have gripped the nation of late.

Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos gave his state of the city address last week.

The Boston Globe profiles the race for state rep in the 11th Worcester, covering Shrewsbury and part of Westborough. Neither Republican Hannah Kane nor Democrat Jason Palitsch are opposed in their primaries tomorrow, but East Boston’s state rep primary is very contested. In this arch-Democratic seat, securing the primary is tantamount to election.

It’s Working:

The Wisconsin legislature is expected to pass and Gov. Scott Walker expected to sign a bill this week legalizing so-called “right-to-work” in the Badger State. Just to be clear, it is already illegal to force someone—in any state—to join a union. This law simply allow workers to enjoy the benefits of union membership, such as negotiated benefits and representation during conflicts such as grievances, without paying for them.

The Fourth Estatements:

 Things continue to get messier for Bill O’Reilly. Fox News has backed off of some of O’Reilly’s claims such as his witnessing bombings in Northern Ireland. It’s not the first time he or Fox have backpedaled. Meanwhile, Mother Jones, the pesky organization that began reporting inconsistencies in O’Reilly’s reporting in the first place, namely during the Falkland War, has obtained one of the Fox News anchor’s reports for his then-employer CBS News. O’Reilly’s report in 1982 sound a much milder note than his recollections more recently.

Elsewhere in the Murdoch empire, Rebekah Brooks, the executive at the shuttered News of the World who was acquitted of wrongdoing during Britain’s phone-hacking scandal is getting a job. Rupert Murdoch has hired her back.

The Globe’s much-vaunted Capital section seemingly retreats the Metro Section.

City Slickers:

The Springfield City Council is expected to give final approval to an ordinance establishing casino ethics rules, namely a freeze on how long city bureaucrats and elected officials must wait before getting a job at MGM. Mayor Domenic Sarno’s intentions remain cryptic and undefined.

Parkmageddeon begins in Springfield.

Stephanie Barry lays out the latest settlements Springfield is paying out this fiscal year, which appears to be one of the city’s most expensive in recent years.

Twitter Chatter:

Usually we would eschew tweets directly from the major parties as winners of the tweet prize (although it is possible we have done it before). In light of Senator Barbara Mikulski’s retirement announcement, however, the winner this week fits, plain & simple. It would be easy to overlook the historic nature of Mikulski’s tenure. She not only is the longest serving woman, she is the first Democratic women elected in her own right and has mentored women in politics—of both parties—since. It is not an overstatement to say her presence will be missed. To that end we award the Tweet prize to The Democratic Party’s official twitter account, primarily for their image that included a quote from her, which reflected her desire to see that other could be elected on their own. And they were, many times over.

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Analysis: Is Holyoke Government Coming out of the Cave?…

A step toward more modern Holyoke government? (via Google image search & WMassP&I)

A step toward more modern Holyoke government? (via Google image search & WMassP&I)

HOLYOKE—City Charters are complicated and it is easy to see why.

The United States Constitution clocks in at just under 7600 words including amendments. City charters like Holyoke’s have more than 12,000 words—even before the appended special acts and adopted general laws. The Supreme Judicial Court observed that Boston’s charter was not a single document, but “a patchwork of special laws enacted over the years by the legislature.” The Paper City’s is no different.

Even model and home rule charters like Springfield or Worcester’s respectively are decorated with amendments both ancient and modern. Yet as the last few weeks here have shown, the century-old special act charters of Holyoke, Chicopee (originally written as a twin to Holyoke’s) or Boston go into granular detail, dragging out modernization attempts that in turn invite counterproposals.

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Manic Monday Markup 2/23/15…

…And the World:

We begin today in Greece, which has agreed to a four month extension of its bailout terms from European officials. The interim agreement, while essentially the same as the old one and against which the governing party Syriza campaigned, does allow for some flexibility. However, the Greek government has to bring forward a series of alternative reforms in order to get the money it needs to keep operating past the end of the month. Greece was given an extension until tomorrow to present its proposals. Syriza and its leader Alexis Tsipras, meanwhile, faces backlash for perceived caving to European leaders, namely Germany.

As the Israeli election rages, leaked cables show that nation’s top spy agency contradicts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements on a nuclear deal with Iran. Meanwhile Secretary of State John Kerry is in Geneva as talks continue with Iran. Relatedly, The Washington Post assesses the Israeli election.

The situation in Ukraine remains as tenuous as ever. Over the weekend rebel commanders said they were withdrawing their weapons, though Kiev and the West remain suspicious especially as bombs go off in government controlled territory. The government, in turn, says it can’t fully withdraw its weapons due to violations during the ceasefire’s infancy.

A potential cash for access scandal has erupted in the UK involving two MPs. Both MP, Malcolm Rifkind, a Tory, and Jack Straw from Labour were suspended. Opposition and Labour leader Ed Miliband called on Prime Minister David Cameron to limit MP’s outside jobs and has put forward its own proposal.

The New York Times reports that Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro and his ruling party have turned to harassing opponents as the economy falters.

Likewise, Hungary’s government is targeting NGO’s and, perhaps, democracy itself, reports The Post.

New US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter says the US may consider a slower withdrawal from Afghanistan. He followed up the visit with a stop in Kuwait to discuss the fight against ISIS with regional partners.

The Feds:

President Barack Obama is promising to veto the Keystone Pipeline bill hurtling toward his desk, likely the first of many.

Wisconsin Governor and likely Presidential hopeful Scott Walker is fundraising off of the aftermath of Rudy Giuliani’s comments about Obama.

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt got a challenger last week in the form of Secretary of State Jason Kander, currently the youngest statewide elected official in the country. In his announcement, Kander invoked his time as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan and called for more cooperation in Washington. He has secured the support of most of Missouri’s top Democrats and has already named a campaign manager. Beating Blunt seems a Herculean challenge, but some Show Me State pundit explain why Kander might see an opening.

Maryland’s new governor is under scrutiny over a memo that appears to direct agencies under the governor to declare everything subject to executive privilege.

Tomorrow is Election Day in Chicago. A new poll shows that incumbent Rahm Emanuel won’t clear the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff and both he and his challengers are campaigning right up to the wire.

The State of Things:

The Boston Globe came west for Elizabeth Warren’s constituent visits in Springfield and Northampton and discovered what the local faithful think of a presidential run: a resounding no. But The Globe also spoke to the man in New Hampshire who would love to run Warren’s campaign—if it existed.

Holyoke mayor Alex Morse tells The Republican he thinks a question on switching the city to a manager-council form of government is not appropriate in light of the other changes voters will consider. Morse declined to say whether he would veto or not until after the Council acts.

In Worcester the mayor is an at-large city councilor who runs in a simultaneous election for the largely ceremonial post. Incumbent Joe Petty will face a challenge from freshman councilor Michael Gaffney.

The Fourth Estatements:

Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly’s record as a war correspondent has come under scrutiny after a Mother Jones article noted inconsistencies about his reporting during the Falkland Islands War. O’Reilly had come out aggressively against the accusations, but reporting about the story has continued to pile up complicated his defense.

City Slickers:

Bishop Mitchell Rozanski of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield said a new regional Catholic high school will be built following the merger of Cathedral and Holyoke Catholic. However, it is far from certain that Cathedral’s Surrey Road location will house the new school.

Springfield’s snow deficit reaches $700,000. The DPW is allowed to spend beyond its budget following approval by the City Council to remove ice and snow.

Seven South End parking lots will close March 1st as MGM construction begins.

Twitter Chatter:

The Springfield Catholic Diocese’s announcement about Cathedral has left a great deal to be desire according to the area Twitterverse. Indeed, the point that concerned people the most was whether the school would be rebuilt on Surrey Road or not. In announcing the regional model, but not a site, the diocese essentially punted, kicking that decision down the road. Today we award the Tweet prize to Jennifer Murphy, a Western Mass resident who distilled well how much anticipation was built up before today only to let the decision fall flat with still more uncertainty for Catholic education within the city itself.

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After 8 Month Trial, a Full Term and a Full Plate for Velis…

This is the third in a series of posts on the new 189th Massachusetts General Court sworn in January 7.

Rep. John Velis (via Facebook/Velis campaign)

WESTFIELD—When John Velis first became the 4th Hampden’s representative, it was too late to file items for the budget himself, let alone legislation that could escape the labyrinthine committee process. Velis, sworn in mid-April last year, needed colleagues to submit amendments on his behalf. Another election was just around the corner, too.

Now, at the beginning of his first full term representing the Westfield-only district, Velis has laid out an agenda that conforms to his brand and addresses issues of concern throughout the commonwealth. Moreover, Velis does not face election for nearly two years (when presidential turnout in the Whip City will work in his favor) allowing him some breathing room to get work done on Beacon Hill.

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Tardy Tuesday Takedown 2/17/15…

…And the Feds:

We begin today in Ukraine, where an uneasy ceasefire between pro-Russian rebels and the government in Kiev has begun. However, fighting continues in a small town that serves as a major rail junction, testing the truce in its very infancy.

Following shootings in Copenhagen that left three dead including the assailant, Denmark offers solidarity with its Jewish community. Meanwhile Danish Jews seemingly rebuff Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest appeals to European Jews to settle in Israel.

Greece and the European Union remain far apart on reaching a new deal that the new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is demanding as he lessen austerity there. The hardline could imperil his country’s membership in the Eurozone, though Tsipras’s government is open to short-term concessions. While Tsipras has long been open to reforms and streaming bureaucracy, he has begun to roll back other bailout reforms. The New York Times notes that both austerity and the still-unreformed elements of Greek government are hampering the country’s growth.

A scathing new report has been released in Israel accusing the Prime Minister and his wife Sara of spending millions in shekels (hundreds of thousands of dollars) on cleaning, cosmetics and food at the Prime Minister’s official and private residences. Efforts to deflect the impact of the report appear to have backfired and some even accuse Bibi of scapegoating his wife in the issue. Oh and elections are just a month away. Some think it may be of little import in the election, although the hiring of a Likud electrician could be troublesome.

In non-Bibi news (sorta) former Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres, a youthful 91 years old, says he believes Israel shall find peace with its neighbors in his lifetime. Haaretz editorializes against excluding controversial Arab Knessett member Haneen Zoabi from Arab parties’ slate of candidates.

France to let shops open on Sunday. Yes, Blue Laws are not just for New England.

Scandals and falling energy prices may sink Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative party in this year’s elections.

Labor’s Annastacia Palaszczuk sworn in as premier of Queensland.

The Feds:

A federal judge in Texas has temporarily halted President Barack Obama’s deferred action plan for undocumented immigrants. The judge has a history of stepping out of the law and into opinion, prompting some to think the Fifth Circuit will reverse.

With the Department of Homeland Security funding still unresolved (Speaker John Boehner is cool with shutting it down if Obama does not cave and end his deferred action program), Democrats have not changed their position either. Following the Texas ruling, Democrats will not end their opposition to Republican efforts to stop Obama’s executive order via the appropriation process.

Jonathan Bernstein on the GOP’s addiction to shutdowns.

Former Ohio governor Ted Strickland seems to be inching toward a run for US Senate next year. The news comes after an earlier bit of news he was planning a run seemed to jump the gun.

Connecticut US Senator Chris Murhpy sponsors legislation to roll back the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force.

California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom is fundraising for governor’s race…in 2018.

The State of Things:

The MBTA may not be back up to snuff for a whole month (assuming no more mega-storms head Boston’s way). David Scharfenbarg writes about the Boston area transit system’s road to ruin in The Boston Globe.

The BBC picks up on Mayor “Mahty’s” admonition against jumping into snow piles from second story windows.

Partners Healthcare walks away from South Shore hospital acquisition.

Shrewsbury: Center of the GOP universe.

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse will give the State of the City address at tonight’s City Council meeting. Somewhat new in proposed Holyoke government reforms, however, is lengthening the Council term to four years in addition to the mayors. But at-large Councilor Daniel Bresnahan, argues that could shut people out of the political process if there are no city elections at all for four years at a time.

A belated item: Dan Knapik did not get the job in Walpole, will remain mayor of Westfield until his term expires it seems.

The Fourth Estatements:

An all-star crowd of Timesmen (and women) crowded a Manhattan church to pay thei respects to Media reporter/columnist David Carr who died from lung cancer last week.

It’s Working:

A second labor group has been recognized by Volkswagen at its Tennessee plant giving the also recognized UAW some competition. The recognition is not formal union-recognition, but gives the groups a voice in how the plant is run. The two labor organizations disclaim competitions, but it seems inevitable on some level. Anti-union activity is said to have declined at the plant, however.

City Slickers:

The AP notes that casino revenue often fails to meet expectations and MGM reported a loss, but the company says its totes cool in Springfield.

City Council President Mike Fenton announced a neighborhood business subcommittee to be chaired by at-large Councilor Kateri Walsh.

US Senator Elizabeth Warren to hold an open house at her Western Mass office at 1550 Main Street this Thursday at 11:00 a.m. Doors open a half hour before.

Springfield Rep Jose Tosado files a bill to make public safety funding available for economic development projects. It is geared toward all Gateway Cities, but Springfield is clearly in mind with this legislation.

Movement on a new East Forest Park branch library?

Twitter Chatter:

Another week and lots of good candidates, but it seems only fitting that we pick a tweet celebrating the life of the late New York Times media columnist David Carr. The impact of his writing cannot be understated and we at WMassP&I were particularly saddened by his death. His voice and perspective as a steadfast defender of old media while avidly adopting the new synergized the very perspective we attempt to offer and promote on this lowly blog.

Clearly others thought the same. Today we award the tweet prize to Carr’s former colleague at The Times, Brian Stelter, who observed media moguls from other firms like Time Warner at Carr’s funeral. The impact he had on reporting on the very craft he practiced was clearly respected far and wide—as it should have been. It is reassuring to know that others felt this way and Stelter’s notation of this collective mourning, even from competitors.

But we would be remiss to not co-award the tweet prize to Carr himself. Among his last tweets, he praised his colleague Emily Steel’s story on NBC and Brian Williams’s problems by linking to a tweet from the Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan (fairly) lamenting buyouts at The Times’s media desk. The New York Times did just fine on that story despite its thin bench. Feisty to the end. RIP David Carr.