|C-5B Galaxy (wikipedia)|
|SEA President Tim Collins (Urban Compass)|
|Sen. Brown (WMassP&I)|
|St. Michael’s Cathedral, Springfield
|Justice Elena Kagan (wikipedia)|
|Elizabeth Warren in W. Springfield
|Sen. Blunt of the Blunt Amdt (wikipedia)|
In fairness to Brown, he has supported the actual bill (as opposed to amendment) version of the Blunt Amendment since August, which was approximately when the contraceptive rule was first proposed. However, the president gave him an escape hatch when the revised contraception rule came out last Friday. Brown demurred and stuck to the zanier position. Brown may think he’s cannily gathering votes, but the voters he’s reaching with this are probably the blue collar white men who were already going to vote for him. The only other fathomable reasons why Brown would do this is a sincere belief in the issue (which is not one that people say “We disagree, but I like him”) or his advisers are playing generic national Republican games.
|Legislators, aides and union officials at Friday’s Meeting
|Gov. Patrick in 2010 (WMassP&I)|
|Councilor Walsh (Facebook)|
All officials in the room seemed agreed to pursue a two-pronged effort of home rule legislation and lobbying of the Governor and Chester. Assistant City Solicitor Thomas Moore assured Walsh that if the Council acted on the petition Monday and the mayor signed it soon thereafter, the measure would be in the office of the clerk of the House of Representatives with a day or so. However, the Byzantine bill-making process leaves executive action as the likeliest scenario.
|US Sec. of Education
Arne Duncan (wikipedia)
Complicating matters further, Massachusetts just received one of the first ten waivers to the No Child Left Behind Act. While the most onerous parts of the bill are waived for the state, it must still meet new goals and obligations worked out between itself and the federal education department. In the meantime, Springfield students will need to make the most of the few days they may receive from Commissioner Chester.
Case law on this matter requires substantial evidence to sustain these rules or more accurately to sustain a denial of a permit. The reason why the risk of litigation is so great is that it will likely invite a stream of litigation if the mayor’s denials of the new permit are frequent and based on the circular reasons described above. It is unlikely to be a single case initially, unless a bar owner challenges the rule on its face and then succeeds in getting it struck down. That said, we would fully encourage a bar owner with a good record that is denied the extended license, appeal this rule and take it as far as possible, including the Supreme Judicial Court if it will take the case.
Then-Councilor Amaad Rivera expressed a concern that young professionals would have be disinclined to move to Springfield. At-large Councilor Thomas Ashe said that this unfairly harms the many for the actions of the few. Frank Caruso an attorney for bar owners noted that the window the mayor seeks to close is a large part of their clients’ business. Daniel Kelly, another attorney, noted that a similar measure in Lawrence yielded few if any benefits. Bar owners and prospective business owners said the earlier entertainment cessation would affect their livelihood and their decision to invest in Springfield. Other speakers noted the impact on wages of employees and the possibility the rule would either drive patrons to drink more sans entertainment or take the party and the violence to their homes, disturbing other neighborhoods.
All of the above testimony points to a huge economic risk and damage to the city. Less productive watering holes will garner less rent for their landlords and less property taxes for the city. Less business overall will harm the city’s meals tax revenue stream where applicable. Indeed part of the mayor’s rationale for this rule was the idea that Springfield with its later closing time is drawing in undesirable elements, notably from Connecticut. However, Connecticut’s Governor, Dannel Malloy, has proposed changing his state’s last call to 2 a.m., a move that would eliminate the mayor’s chief concern about outsiders bringing trouble. It would also have the effect of causing the city to lose out on more business to Connecticut generally, but Hartford in particular, which despite its troubles maintains a larger bar scene than Springfield.
The results could be even worse if in fact patrons, however intoxicated or not, endure at the bar past 1, but without the soothing glow of Sportcenter or the ability to blow off steam at the Billard table. These rules will not hobble other distractions that can encourage violent numbskullery. The attractive girl eyed by two guys or the knocked over drink, triggers that could inspire the very violence the mayor seeks to end, are not covered by this new regulation.
This post is the first in a series on the Hampden Senate District Race.
Every individual who runs for office must have some ego. While Ward 3 City Councilor Melvin Edwards is no different, it is quite obvious after only a few minutes with him that he keeps humility in a sizable reserve. If that’s a strength, he is going to need all he can get and more as he takes on Senator James T. Welch in what may be the most highest profile primary race for state office in the area this year.
Edwards, a sophomore member of the Springfield City Council, and among the first batch of ward-elected councilors for the city in over fifty years, is not the council’s loudest or highest-profile member. However, when he does speak, it easy to identify him as among those who may be the body’s conscience, never rushing to a decision and often excoriating councilors, the mayor and others for forcing the body to rush things needlessly.
Whether soft-spoken or eloquently speaking more forcefully at a council meeting or other public venue, it is clear that Edwards possesses a true and real love for Springfield. That passion for the city is not just boilerplate polito-speak. Rather it is the conviction of his tone coupled with factoids about Springfield‘s prouder aspects. (like how Springfield’s Forest Park and Central Park share a connection through fabled parks designer Frederick Law Olmstead). “My passion is for Springfield,” he said during an interview with Western Mass Politics & Insight.
It is no surprise that Edwards’s tone moves between a soft conversational and ministerial, but never sanctimonious. His mother was a Pentecostal minister, just one piece of the mosaic that forms his background, which includes roots in Pakistan, the West Indies and Native American tribes. A resident of Springfield for virtually his whole life, Edwards raised his family here with his wife Suzanne.
Edwards won reelection unopposed, like seven out of eight of the city’s ward councilors last year. However, his initial victory in 2009 was made possible by the circumstances of the city’s changing municipal government. The race was the inevitable next step for someone who had gone from sprucing up the Maple Heights/Six Corners neighborhood where he lives to becoming President of the neighborhood civic association. Additional honors of late have included introducing Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren at a fundraiser for her in Springfield last year.
In an interview with WMassP&I, Edwards described his transition from citizen to public servant. Well before ward representation was a reality, Edwards and his wife, tired of the condition of their neighborhood, among the city’s poorest, took to picking up garbage on the side of the road. Their work quickly gained the accolades of other fed up residents and would become the genesis for Keep Springfield Beautiful. It would be that early activism that led others to encourage Edwards to attend and participate in Maple High/Six Corners Neighborhood Council.
At the neighborhood council, Edwards ascended to president, a position he holds to this day. However, even the president of the neighborhood council would find it difficult to get adequate responses from city departments. The police often asked if a gun was involved before sending help on the way, a questionEdwards says is not posed to all neighborhoods calling the cops. Facing these harsh realities where even the head of a neighborhood council could not get the answers he wanted from City Hall, Edwards and Ward 3 would find an opportunity in ward representation. Edwards said that in the run up to the 2009 election, many in the neighborhood came up to him and urged him to take up the challenge and represent their ward at 36 Court Street.
Edwards says his turn toward elected office was one he always intended to take, but fate would send him to work to support his family before he could act on his political ambitions. The all at-large nature of Springfield’s City Council would prove another barrier until it fell by the wayside in 2009.
With the support of the civic association and a neighborhood that already knew him Edwards made the leap to City Hall. He says that the change in attitudes and responsiveness from city officials was massive. City and state departments began responding to his calls and services to Ward 3 improved. At the same time, it had the effect of drawing residents to him as somebody they could reach out to and get responses from 36 Court Street.
Still, Edwards worries about his limitations as a councilor under the city’s strong-mayor setup. This, along with the considerable realignment of Welch’s district, led Edwards to look to Beacon Hill. Redistricting placed considerably more of Springfield into Welch’s district and dropped Agawam from it completely. The district also includes parts of Chicopee in addition to holding onto West Springfield as a whole. Indeed, while Edwards did pepper in some digs at Welch’s expense throughout the interview, he maintained that his decision to run was not aimed at Welch in particular. “Jim Welch is not the target,” the councilor asserted.
That peppering included references to Welch as following in former State Senator Stephen Buoniconti’s footsteps from West Springfield municipal government to the State House and Senate. Welch was a relatively low-profile state rep when he graduated to the Senate as Buoniconti pursued a failed run as Hampden County’s District Attorney. Welch was also an aide to Buoniconti before taking the latter’s seat in 2004. Due to this and other connections of Welch’s, Edwards often refers to himself as “not a company man,” a phrase Edwards has used during interviews with other publications.
Still, Edwards waived off opportunities for direct attacks on Welch on policy. Rather, he seems intent on promoting a candidacy that mimics his experience and approach in city government. That will begin with a great deal of reaching out. As a ward councilor, Edwards represents less than 20,000 people. A state senator in Massachusetts will represent just under 164,000 once new district lines go into effect. To meet that larger audience, Edwards is planning a listening tour.
Additional challenges lie ahead, however. Welch will almost certainly have a massive fundraising advantage and will leverage his vote for bills or for future senate presidents to get additional backing from his colleagues.
The message Edwards intends to bring to voters is fairly straightforward. Voters, “will have the confidence that I’ve made a decision on the merit.” When asked if maybe he was too honest for politics, Edwards repeated the words his mother once said to him, “I can’t go to heaven for you, but I won’t go to hell for you either.” Put a different way, Edwards does not claim to be perfect, but ultimately expects voters to judge him based on an assurance that he has voted his conscience.
Another issue looming in the background relates directly to the realignment of the district in the new senate maps. Mindful of the voting rights lawsuits that tarnished the state’s redistricting process after the 2000 Census, legislators made Welch’s district majority-minority. Edwards’s decision to run is certainly an intended consequence of mapmakers if not exactly the timing anybody expected given the Springfield area’s tendency to leave incumbents alone, especially in primaries. Edwards pointed out that the state Senate had no black members, despite the leaps and bounds made by minorities in politics, most notably Governor Deval Patrick and President Barack Obama. However, in light of his own diverse background of which African-American is only one component, Edwards does not seem eager to run a campaign on that facet alone.
Edwards announced run is also a unique step in the history of ward representation in Springfield. One of the goals of the reform of the council was to give more voice to areas of the city that felt they lacked a voice at city hall. This is exactly the empowerment Edwards and his ward felt upon his election. However, ward seats are still elected political positions, which can be springboards to higher office including those who don’t live in the city’s more politically active wards. Under the old at-large council format, it was improbable that a city councilor would even be from ward 3 let alone somebody from that ward running for one of the city’s two senate districts.
Of course that also reminds us of the obvious defects in the city’s charter when a ward vacancy opens up. Unlike when Amaad Rivera replaced Keith Wright in Ward 6, Edwards has no opponent who would be the “runner-up” because in 2011 Edwards was unopposed. Consequently, an Edwards vacancy would throw the decision of making his replacement to the city council upon Edwards resignation from the council unless councilors act to correct the deficiency.
For now, however, Edwards needs to expose himself to a much broader electorate. That will involve a lot of reaching out to people throughout Chicopee, Springfield and West Springfield, many of whom may not know who he is. However, Welch will face a similar dilemma as he introduces himself to new parts of Springfield and Chicopee. Edwards hopes residents of all three cities will give him a chance, however and put the kind of passion he has had for Springfield to work in Boston, “I feel I can make decisions that make a difference.”
The damage done to its brand after the Susan G. Komen fund pulled funding for Planned Parenthood (then semi-reversed) is not over, yet. Additionally, The New Republic, pivoting off a 2009 Barbara Ehrenreich article, notes the philosophical hazards of Komen’s attitudes, particularly its feminist ones that may have presaged this whole fiasco.
|Elizabeth Warren Greets White Hut Patrons (WMassP&I)|
WEST SPRINGFIELD—Cameras and reporters jockeyed for space in the small dining room of the White Hut restaurant on Memorial Avenue. It was official. The race for the United States Senate had truly arrived to the greater Springfield area as Elizabeth Warren greeted voters and sampled the cuisine (hamburger w/ onions) at the legendary burger joint.
Warren arrived at White Hut with State Senator James Welch and Representative Michael Finn, both of West Springfield at about 12:30. She spent the first few minutes of her visit slowly moving down the line of patrons sitting on the stools facing the counter. Warren, who has never run for office before, showed off how much of a natural she is at retail politics, which has surprised many within an often skeptical media. Patrons and staff, in response received her warmly and offered more than a few words of encouragement.
Reporters chatted with patrons and Warren staffers as the candidate conversed with Welch and Finn over some of the restaurants trademark hamburgers. Patrons came and went during the busy lunch hour some bewildered by the mob, some stopping to greet Warren as she and the West Springfield elected officials lunched.
|Sen. Scott Brown last summer (WMassP&I)|
Meanwhile more than three hundred miles away, the man Warren seeks to unseat, Scott Brown, was making his own moves to secure reelection. Working in tandem with several Democrats and armed with 90+ votes on a procedural action in the Senate, Brown touted the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act. That proposed law would ban members of Congress, their families and their staffs, from using material information they glean from their duties to make stock trades.
Originally, Brown and New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand introduced two separate bills, but they have since been merged into one committee bill. Brown’s bill was the weaker of the two and attracted considerably less support than Gillibrand’s, but as Brown is a member of the committee with jurisdiction he has been given equal billing with Gillibrand. Until recently, Brown’s public statements on the bill omitted any mention of Gillibrand. The New York senator’s public comments, by contrast, often alluded to Brown.
The STOCK Act became the latest political football in the Massachusetts senate and the latest in a line of efforts on the part of Brown to appear more moderate since Warren announced in September. Brown has voted somewhat more often with Democrats since last Fall in contrast to the first half of his term. Indeed, Brown hurriedly walked up to President Barack Obama after the State of the Union to pitch the bill. The president had alluded to the issue of congressional insider trading in his address.
|Warren w/ Rep. Mike Finn and Sen. Jim Welch (WMassP&am|
During an impromptu press conference Warren held after lunch, several reporters asked Warren about the insider trading legislation. Mirroring comments she made on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell last week, Warren said she is “delighted to see it go forward.” However she added an important caveat. She wants to see the legislation take on stronger language.
Specifically, Warren called on Congress to ban legislators from owning stock. The thinking being that legislators should not be writing laws that could benefit the companies they own through shares. For her part, Warren has committed herself to selling long held shares in IBM once elected to the Senate. Brown, by comparison, is said to own shares in banks that benefited from the weakening of the 2011 Wall Street reform law, concessions Brown extracted from Democrats in exchange for his filibuster-ending vote.
Almost on cue, Warren’s request became a reality and entered the consciousness of the Senate thanks to a Senator Brown. Not the Massachusetts Republican. It was Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, who announced today that he would propose an amendment to the STOCK Act that would ban the ownership in company shares for elected federal officials. As reported by Greg Sargent of the Washington Post, the Ohioan is quoted saying, “I want to see us go further. Why should members of the Senate vote on issues that affect the oil industry while owning oil industry stock? This is pure, it’s simple, it’s clean, it’s direct.”
|Sen. Sherrod Brown D-OH (Official Site)|
Whether Sherrod Brown’s amendment finds its way onto the bill or not, it has the effect of upending Brown’s good press on the subject. If Scott Brown supports the amendment, Warren gets to one-up him as she pushed for the change from the outside. If he opposes the amendment, Warren can hammer him. Even if the amendment never gets a vote, Warren can still hang it around the Massachusetts Republican’s neck.
For all of the talk of the STOCK Act and the policy that will play a huge part of the campaign, Warren seemed to genuinely enjoy her White Hut outing. She noted that the restaurant had been in business for three generations and that it was encouraging to see a small businesses like that prosper. Warren added that she liked being able to talk to people. When asked what patrons said to her as she greeted them, Warren said they were telling her, “Keep it up, girl.”
Warren also fielded questions about her and Brown’s historic anti-SuperPAC pact and her work for Travelers Insurance. Warren consulted for the insurance company on a Supreme Court case which, if decided, differently, could have damaged the effectiveness of compensation funds for victims.
Warren departed for Springfield to meet with Mayor Domenic Sarno and tour tornado damage in the city. That meeting and tour were closed to the press, but was followed by a public visit to Lenox Tool in East Longmeadow.