Happy New Year from WMassP&I! No Manic Monday Markup this week. Among the ever-changing fiscal cliff nonsense, New Year’s Even on a Monday and our Sunday publication of the Year in Springfield, we decided to give ourselves a break. We’ll be back very soon with new material on Springfield…and the world!
…And the World:
Merry Christmas, Feliz Natal, Boze Narodzenie, Shub Naya Baras, Sung Tan Chuk Ha
We begin today with Christmas in Australia. Prime Minister Julia Gillard, in her holiday message, urged her countrymen and women to reach out to the alone and isolated this season. Both she and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott also praised Australian service members.
Egypt has passed its new constitution, which opposition members feared could lead to repression of religious minorities and an Islamist state. The opposition, however, is gearing up for the coming weeks and months. Meanwhile the Washington Post looks at how the trials and tribulations in the country has wreaked havoc on its once lucrative tourism industry.
Israel votes in less than a month and while the left and center-left remains disorganized, the right block of Likud-Beiteinu has its own problems. In particular, the joint-party effectively led of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing a crisis because before becoming PM, Netanyahu endorsed a two-state solution. Many inside the coalition do not want that as part of the platform anymore.
The Hartford Courant has a somber note for this Christmas in light of the shooting in Newtown. Some Newtown residents try to see the brighter side while the clergy have “struggled” with a holiday message. On another Newtown note, the CT Mirror looks at the reporting of the Newtown Bee, which covered a story that struck at the heart of the community served and of which it was a large part. Here is another perspective focusing on the New Haven Register.
The Boston Globe does an excellent breakdown of the Mitt Romney campaign from the campaign’s perspective. However, Jamelle Bouie, writing at the Plum Line says the Republicans and Mitt campaign vets seem devoid of any recognition that Romney’s solutions were a part of his defeat.
It seems likely that Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race will, one way or another, be one of the more hotly contested in 2014. This story from the Philadelphia Inquirer about fairly naked influence peddling complete with retreats with the governor and lobbyists, is just one reason why.
We’re being grinches! No Fiscal Cliffmas for us!
The State of Things:
With John Kerry’s impending departure from the US Senate to the Department of State now a certainty, there is now an opportunity for US Senate seat, one that does not require anybody to decline to run for their current post. Ted Kennedy, Jr. is out and so is Ben Affleck and Martha Coakley. Congressmen Mike Capuano, Stephen Lynch and Ed Markey are all possibilities. State Senator Benjamin Downing of Pittsfield released a statement after the Kerry announcement. With his apparent hiring of Scott Ferson, a well-known Boston political consultant, his run seems quite likely, especially with Ted Jr. bowing out.
Meanwhile, David Bernstein seems legitimately unsure of what will happen in a special, although with Ted Jr out, he leans toward Scott Brown, who is poised to run. Mass Politics Prof Peter Ubertaccio looks at Brown’s chances in light of a favorable WBUR poll.
An Everett State Rep is resigning his seat amidst a voter fraud probe. He allegedly obtained absentee ballots for voters illegally. The resignation comes with a plea agreement. It will be up to the Legislature to set a date for a special election to replace him.
Northeaster Public Radio’s Paul Tuthill reports on the Attorney General’s indictment of two school department employees for stealing funds from Putnam High School.
On a more positive note, the Republican’s Jim Kinney looks at the city’s recent approval of tax incremental financing for city businesses. While the use of the program has not been always used judiciously, the two businesses highlighted here are decent examples of its success in the city.
The flag has been raised on Newtown’s Main Street flagpole.
— The Newtown Bee (@TheNewtownBee) December 23, 2012
Newtown is still very raw in the American, and obviously, the Connecticut psyche. However, with the victims buried, life must begin to go on. That will take the form of the debate about guns, mental health and more. However, part of the process of grief and moving forward can be more subtle than that, but no less important. Today we award the tweet prize to the Newtown Bee. Their tweet, in noting that the flag on their town’s Main Street, will be flown at full-staff after a week at half-staff. In a simple tweet, the Bee has reported on a simple step, in a long fitful journey to normality, set against the backdrop of the Christmas season.
…And the World:
We begin today…in Newtown, Conn. Were we a blog in any other country, our top international story would probably be here. The story has led the BBC’s news bulletins since Friday and as the slain children begin to be laid to rest, headlines from Newtown still dominate in Israel and Australia.
The investigation into Friday’s shooting that left twenty children and seven adults dead, not including the shooter that took his own life. Last night, President Barack Obama addressed a prayer vigil in Newtown for survivors saying that events like this cannot be allowed to become routine. NPR reports on a thaw, at least in the Democratic Senate caucus, of resistance to engage the issue of gun control. And the Hartford Courant reports on new details of the shooter, Adam Lanza, and his mother.
In Japan, the opposition Liberal Democratic Party returns to power, largely on the weakness of the current government run by the Democratic Party of Japan. Leader of the LDP and one-time Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will assume the office once more. Abe was a nationalistic figure whose tenure ended suddenly after a series of scandal. Many fear the return to his rule could presage a further deterioration between Japan and its neighbors, particularly China.
Hardline Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman resigned after being indicted on charges lesser than those the Israeli Attorney General were investigating. The impact on the January 22 election, however, is unknown.
In a few more Newtown notes, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy told reporters about having to tell the families about what happened Friday. The normally non-nonsense governor broke down during the Monday press conference. Earlier in the weekend, the Courant also published a report on how word spread at the State Capitol on a Friday that had, before the shooting, promised to be fairly humdrum.
Another sudden passing. News has broken that longtime Hawaiian Senator Daniel Inouye has died. He served in the state’s delegation since Hawaii became a state. Inouye’s seatmate, Daniel Akaka had already retired this year, his seat being taken up by Maize Hirono. A World War II veteran who lost his right arm in combat, he was the most senior Democrat in the US Senate. Governor Neil Abercrombie will appoint his replacement. The New York Times has a timeline of his life.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has appointed freshman Republican Congressman Tim Scott to fill resigning Senator Jim DeMint’s seat in the US Senate. Scott, an arch-conservative Republican, may not be quite as bad as DeMint in terms of conservative lunacy, but he is still pretty out there. Scott is also the first black Republican Senator from the South since reconstruction (and the first black Republican at all since Massachusetts own Edward Brooke was defeated for reelection in 1978). Still, his appointment is not a cure-all for the Republican brand’s toxicity with minority voters. Although Scott was rumored to be DeMint’s favorite, his appointment seems as much about helping Haley out with dismal poll numbers as appointing somebody she actually supports to the job.
The State of Things:
Local reaction to Newtown has included reviews of area schools’ security procedures. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and School Superintendent Daniel Warwick held a press conference to that effect today. Governor Deval Patrick is also calling on lawmakers in Boston to approve new restrictions as well.
With John Kerry’s appointment as Secretary of State largely seen as a sure thing, the question now turns to his successor. Governor Deval Patrick will probably pick a placeholder, possibly Michael Dukakis or Vicki Kennedy, and the legislature will probably not change the law again. While exiting senator Scott Brown tops the Republican list, the Democrats speculation machine includes South Boston Congressman Stephen Lynch, Malden Congressman Ed Markey and Somerville Congressman Mike Capuano, all of whom have shown an interest in the seat. Other possibilities include Treasurer Steve Grossman and Berkshire County’s own Ben Downing.
East Longmeadow goes to the polls tomorrow to select members of the Select Board to fill seats left empty by retiring member James Driscoll and disgraced former member Enrico “Jack” Villamaino.
Another week with a notable passing. Former School Committee Member Mike Rodgers died over the weekend after a brief illness, the Republican reported. Rodgers was remembered fondly by his colleagues on the Committee. In 2009, Rodgers also ran for the Ward 7 City Council seat, but was defeated by the presented Ward 7 Councilor, Tim Allen.
From the rhetoric to reality file, renovation of the former Holiday Inn off of 291 in Springfield to become a La Quinta is about complete. The renovation was made possible through a loan program managed by the city, but funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Block Development Grant Program. The City Council had to approve the loan and the debate included unsubstantiated claims about hotel rates by at-large Councilor Jimmy Ferrera, challenged by Ward 3 Councilor Melvin Edwards. At the time, it appeared Ferrera was trying to micromanage the hotel market in the city in his questions of the developer. The item, after a committee visit, itself later passed quietly.
Speaking of Ferrera, Springfield will find out today if he gets another term as Council President when the Council will pick its president during an informal caucus after tonight’s meeting. Formal selection occurs in January.
My mom would be SO proud to see President Obama holding her granddaughter. But not as proud as I am of her. twitter.com/Chass63/status…
— Cristina Hassinger (@Chass63) December 17, 2012
The White House released no photographs of President Obama meeting with families of the Newtown shooting. However, many families did on Twitter. One tweet, with a picture of the president holding the granddaughter of Sandy Hook Elementary School Principal Dawn Hochsprung attached, also notes how proud she is of her mom. This is an allusion to the late Hochsprung’s noble effort to protect her charges. Today we award this weeks tweet prize to Cristina Hassinger, Hochsprung’s. However unintentionally, this photograph of Obama and Hassinger’s daughter illustrates not only myriad details about this tragedy, her mother‘s bravery; the loss of innocence; the national implications. It also displays what is at stake, something the president alluded to in his speech. What is at stake is the future, our future, their future…
…And the World:
We begin today in Italy where over the weekend it was announced that Prime Minister Mario Monti will resign shortly after the country’s budget is passed. The announcement came only hours after former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced he will seek the office once again, although his chances of success are not terribly good. The news is something of a blow for Italy, which although it has endured recession under Monti, had in him a steady hand that recognized the need for reform, but rejected austerity alone as Germany’s Angela Merkel apparently supports. A return to a scandal-prone Berlusconi government is not likely to be welcome in European capitals or bond-trading floors. Monti says he has no plans to run in the election, which will now be held earlier than expected next year, but maybe we have not heard the last of Monti. Still, fears over the impact are already roiling the Eurozone.
Election results in Ghana show the incumbent John Dramani winning reelection. Opposition parties are contesting the election.
Elsewhere on the continent, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi endures continuing criticism over his decree, but now and more importantly over Saturday’s referendum on a new constitution. Also in the Arab world, the New York Times looks at the prospect of dimming democracy in Morocco.
Following Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s decision to back a right to work law in his state, political forces from the President on down appear prepared to fight back. Even the Detroit Free Press is fuming. Snyder proposed the measure last week, which would allow workers to refuse to pay for the cost of bargaining for wages and benefits that unions that have bargained for all workers in the bargaining unit. Workers are not obligated to join a union under federal law. Michigan’s Democratic Congressional delegation met with Snyder to pressure him to reverse himself or at least allow the measure to go to the people. Appearing in Michigan to campaign for his fiscal cliff negotiating position, President Obama, too, in no uncertain terms, condemned the effort to erode collective bargaining rights, which played a role in preserving jobs in the auto industry, an exercise in politics and not economics.
Last week’s announcement by South Carolina’s Republican Senator Jim DeMint that he was resigning certainly touched off a flurry of speculation. The decision to fill his seat will fall to the state’s unpopular Republican Governor Nikki Haley, who‘s own career is in flux especially after Mitt Romney‘s campaign lost Columbia‘s The State reported last month. However, Haley has also announced the replacement will not be a placeholder. In other words, the replacement will also run in the special election that will be held in 2014. Should that person be Cong. Tim Scott, a fight to replace him may be intense, though mostly among Republicans. South Carolinians, though, seem to want Stephen Colbert.
With a cadre of Democrats forming a coalition with New York State Senate Republicans, control of the chamber will not be in the hands of the erstwhile Democratic caucus. This has sparked protests and even the caucus’ leader has offered to resign if the Democrats come back.
And a profile of Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California who took down a longtime fellow Democratic congressman, Pete Stark.
The State of Things:
Governor Deval Patrick told WBUR news that he has been approached by Obama administration officials about joining the President’s team. Patrick says he intends to finish his term as governor. In gubernatorial policy, meanwhile, the governor has announced plans to eliminate toll-takers in the Commonwealth by 2015. The proposal will require negotiations with employee unions and will likely be implemented via attrition to minimize job losses. About 415 toll takers are employed in the state.
The Boston Globe also published an exit interview piece with Cong. Barney Frank. Frank, who has been in elective office for over forty years retired this year following redistricting. He outlined his post-congressional plans, but also landed a few jabs at his colleagues whom he said did not do enough to keep his district from shifting as much as it did and, in turn, prompting his retirement.
In Holyoke, City Council Brenna McGee will seek the position of City Clerk. The job, an elected one in Holyoke, carries a four year term.
In Boston, election season is already heating up. Elizabeth Warren staffer and recent law grad Michelle Wu confirmed her intent to run for at-large City Councilor eleven months before Election Day in the Boston Phoenix. She lives in the South End, but is declining a run in the South End-South Boston District 2 Council seat. Presently only one woman, Ayanna Pressley, serves on the Boston City Council.
Ward 8 Councilor John Lysak will propose a revised residency ordinance before his General Government Committee tomorrow at City Hall. It will require all new employees to be residents as of January 1st. Lysak is also locked in a battle with at-large Councilor Jimmy Ferrera for the Council’s presidency as explored by use last week.
As the casino debate grows stronger, it appears that Mayor Domenic Sarno has all but eschewed any regional cooperation on casinos in the region, at least for now. He rejected an offer of a meeting with Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse who recently changed his position on casinos as well. This comes as further casino meetings are expected Tuesday in the city.
The Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee approved for referral to the whole council a proposal to build a new parking garage to facilitate the redevelopment of the Court Square building. Left unexplained if why the garage is actually needed.
— Adam Reilly (@reillyadam) December 10, 2012
The end of Jim DeMint’s Senate career was seen as a good thing for his fellow South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, who was expected to face a tough primary in 2014 when his regularly scheduled election is set. That primary could still happen as DeMint’s conservative purge has been rather unforgiving of politicians seeking repentance. Either way, the announcement encouraged polling of South Caorlina and as the modified tweet within today’s winning tweet shows, Graham’s stock has risen back home this past year. Today we award the tweet prize not to Adam Reilly, a reporter for WGBH’s Greater Boston. To be fair, the bulk of his winning tweet is not his, however, he combined PPP’s findings with an ironically declared fact about Graham. He has been pushing the Benghazi conspiracies as much as John McCain. However, for knitting the polling together with the facts on the ground (in Washington), Reilly completes the thought PPP’s ostensibly left hanging.