What did Auchincloss mean by “Millennial Mecca” remark?

Editor’s note: This is more or less a purely local post about politics in Newton MA (where we record our weekly radio show), but it has broader implications for both eastern Mass and other parts of the country where a similar pattern is playing out.

Newton highlighted within Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Credit: Justin H. Petrosek - Wikipedia)

Newton highlighted within Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Credit: Justin H. Petrosek – Wikipedia)

At the Newton Ward 2 At-Large forum, citywide aldermanic candidate Jake Auchincloss said, some 44 minutes in:

“I don’t hear a lot of demand for us becoming a Millennial mecca. […] That’s not where the voters I spoke to chose to live. They chose to live in Newton, which is the Garden City and which has a special comparative advantage in Greater Boston of being bucolic, of having fabulous schools and safe streets, and that’s the priority.”

 
Maybe other voters won’t hear it the way I did, but: This is, without question, the most troubling (even disturbing, actually) thing I have yet heard from Jake over the course of this campaign.

It would be one thing to contrast Newton in general terms with other slightly more urban communities, some of which he cited by name. But it’s quite another to imply that those communities have bad schools or unsafe streets or no green spaces, and to further imply by specific word choice that this is all because ‘Millennials’ live there in large numbers. As if ‘Millennials’ are destroying the Greater Boston area like locusts and must be kept at bay from Newton.

Can you imagine the blowback if a candidate for citywide office said during a debate that Newton shouldn’t become a “mecca for the elderly” or a “mecca for baby boomers”? He would rightly finish in last place and never be heard from again.

But this discrimination is an easy political move because adult Millennials are not a major voting force in Newton right now for the simple reason that almost none of us can afford to live in Newton. No wonder he didn’t “hear a lot” from young people who have been priced out of their home city. They’re not here to be able to tell him what they want. Read more

In Mass., Goldman wants in on prison profit stream

new-york-stock-exchange-200Recently, in some states, Goldman Sachs has been issuing “social impact bonds,” a new financial instrument that purports to help cure social ills with Wall Street’s “help.”

In this case, they’re loaning $9 million to the state of Massachusetts to help support a Boston organization that tries to help young offenders from bouncing back into prison. (Reducing young recidivism is a good social goal, obviously, and would have a ripple effect on crime prevention.)

If the effort reduces the number of days past inmate spend back in prison — which would save the state money — the savings would go back to Goldman Sachs, up to a million dollars. If the effort really pays off (above and beyond the bond repayment terms), then the state would get to keep the money. Of course, if the effort doesn’t hit the minimum targets needed to generate enough savings, Goldman Sachs would still get interest payments on the bond, but would lose the principal loan ($9 million or however much of it couldn’t be repaid due to insufficient savings).

As private investments in the prison industry go, it’s not the worst thing in the world. At least the profit incentive is toward rehabilitation rather than toward further imprisonment in the way privatized prisons are. But the question is why is it even necessary to involve the private sector middleman in the first place?

The state could pay for the upfront cost of the program through tax revenues (if it were willing to raise taxes, of course), instead of taking a loan, it would keep all the money and not end up paying Wall Street no matter how things turn out. That money could be reinvested into expanding the successful efforts even more, thus benefiting all taxpayers.

In my opinion, the job of corrections and the rehabilitation of young offenders is part of the role of government. The private sector is free to help, but it should be an add-on to the process, not a redundant profit diversion mechanism in the middle.

Moreover, Goldman Sachs has a pretty notorious history of cooking the books (BBC video) to make money while temporarily making their loan recipient governments look like a success story until Goldman’s gotten all its money back.

And that’s not a good track record to have, going into this plan.

 
h/t Universal Hub

“A system of racism…is much more important than the individual racists.”

tito-jackson-boston-city-councilFollowing another round of bigoted tweets from Boston Bruins fans, Boston City Councilman Tito Jackson wrote a very long Facebook post arguing that it’s time to move beyond the entry-level “gee whiz, Boston says a lot of racist stuff, doesn’t it?” and start talking about how Boston makes life terrible for its Black residents all life long, from poor health outcomes to chronic unemployment to micro-aggressions on a daily basis. Here is an excerpt from the full post:

At a time when the Supreme Court strikes down affirmative action, arguing erroneously that race doesn’t matter anymore, and makes a case that we live in a post-racial society we can point to this and other high profile cases and show race has, does and still matters more than ever. In Boston, race does matter in life expectancy with the difference in life expectancy in the richest part of the Back Bay at 91.9 years and the poorest part of Roxbury at 58.9 a 33 year difference in life expectancy at birth.

I think the most important part of these conversations is that the high profile cases are just the tip of a huge iceberg, that exists in a system of racism, that is much more important than the individual racists. The relevance is not the sentiment but the reality that racism has undeniable effect on who is incarcerated, who is educated, who is nominated, who is elected, who is incarcerated, who graduates and who is effected.

As a black man, I face racism on a daily basis even though I wear a suit, have a degree and an elected office. You see, it is not my achievements, my mind that this insidious system categories but the potential threat that I am as a black man large or small. The high profile incidents pale in comparisons in frequency to the everyday elevator rides where folks grab their purses, the dehumanizing interactions with cab drivers who don’t want to bring me home to Roxbury and the times that I have been pulled over by police (not only in Boston) for no reason.

The teachable moment is simply that we cannot fix what we do not face. Racism is real. Racism is alive and well.

Boston cannot and will not live up to the true meaning of Boston Strong until we acknowledge the present issues: double the dropout rate for Black and Latino boys in schools, achievement gap, 3 fold unemployment rates, address the issues of the past i.e. busing and decide collectively on what we want our future to be for our children.

 
And he has a particularly strong reminder for the Millennials who want to wish away racism:

We know that the younger generation does not see themselves through the same racial lenses, but when they take their glasses off, the rose tinted virtual reality game of “We are all the same” is replaced with the black and white reality of disparity…

We must use this special, important and urgent moment in time to not walk away, silence and avoid these issues.

 
We can’t just say “we’re all part of the human race, mannnnn” and suddenly make everything better. Race may be a biological fiction, but race as a social construct exists, and it results in racism. We can’t change it without first accepting that the system exists (and goes well beyond just tweets with the N-word or recordings of NBA owners saying stupidly vile things).

Jackson’s post — and specifically the admonition to younger folks — calls to mind a recent article by the ever-great Ta-Nehisi Coates:

…liberals do not understand that America has never discriminated on the basis of race (which does not exist) but on the basis of racism (which most certainly does.)

Ideologies of hatred have never required coherent definitions of the hated. Islamophobes kill Sikhs as easily as they kill Muslims. Stalin needed no consistent definition of “Kulaks” to launch a war of Dekulakization. “I decide who is a Jew,” Karl Lueger said. Slaveholders decided who was a nigger and who wasn’t. The decision was arbitrary. The effects are not. Ahistorical liberals—like most Americans—still believe that race invented racism, when in fact the reverse is true. The hallmark of elegant racism is the acceptance of mainstream consensus, and exploitation of all its intellectual fault lines.

Letter: Discrimination in St. Patrick’s Day parade

ireland-flagI submitted this letter to the editor of the Boston Globe last week — I don’t think they published it — regarding this story, which has been brewing for quite some time.

It’s absurd in 2014 that the organizers of the Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade are still trying to block open LGBTQ participation. The day is an annual cultural and community tradition, and one certainly long-separated from any religious aspect. The parade aims to celebrate one of Boston’s communities – Irish-Americans – that, like every ethnic community, has LGBTQ members within it. The organizers are telling their own community that not everyone is welcome to be proud of their ethnic heritage. LGBTQ people have always been with us and aren’t going away. Every poll indicates that’s ok with about 9 in 10 Bay Staters. Rather than representing an integral part of Boston, the parade organizers have proven themselves deeply unrepresentative. (As an Irish-American, I certainly don’t feel represented by them.) Instead, they prattle on about “wrong messages” like it’s 1980. Get with the times. If you’re going to host a public parade on city streets, with city facilitation, then no discriminating against any of the city’s residents. The organizers should be ashamed of themselves.

 
While it’s perhaps not my primary self-identity, I am, in fact, old-school Irish-American. Pre-Potato Famine. My first Irish ancestor arrived during the American Revolution to help fight the British, who were still repressively occupying Ireland at the time. He fought in the Battle of Bennington in upstate New York. I don’t take kindly to people trying to suppress other people’s freedoms and identities, particularly when it’s coming from Irish-Americans, who’ve faced their share of terrible discrimination and should do better.

Boston gun control billboard updated

Many folks from the greater Boston area are quite familiar with the huge anti-gun-violence billboard that’s been up in Boston for nearly two decades, outside Fenway Park along the Mass Pike. It’s reportedly the largest billboard in America.

Every so often, the Stop Handgun Violence group responsible for it, changes the specific message, though its focus is usually related to gun deaths of children. They have just updated it with a counter showing the number of gun deaths in the United States since the Sandy Hook massacre a year ago. You can read their press release here.

Credit: Anne Mostue of WGBH Boston.

Credit: Anne Mostue of WGBH Boston.

Meanwhile, even today there was another school shooting, just miles from Columbine High School. In a separate incident, a young mother was shot when she tried to take a handgun away from a 23 month old baby, who was playing it with it. Over five hundred children are killed every year in America due to gun accidents in the home and other gunshot incidents.

The Boston Globe published a front page story on Thursday, entitled:
Newtown far from a catalyst for gun control: In a year since school shootings, many states loosen their laws

President Obama […] made it his personal mission: “Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?”

Much of the politics, in the end, turned against him. Today, it is easier, not harder, to carry a gun in many parts of the nation than it was before the Newtown massacre last Dec. 14.

More than 1,500 bills were filed in state legislatures amid a chorus of grieving voices from shattered families. And while several reliably blue states enacted major reforms, far more states, more than two dozen, passed laws that weakened gun control. Many expanded the number of places where concealed weapons are permitted.

The federal effort, championed by Obama, failed in April in the face of Senate opposition to expanded background checks, a ban on assault weapons, and limits on ammunition magazines. In Colorado, two state senators were recalled by voters for supporting tougher gun restrictions in the wake of horrific killings at a movie theater in Aurora. A third state senator resigned rather than face a recall.

Yes, more states rolled back controls than those who expanded them.

Recall in Rhode Island

Just next door to both Massachusetts and Connecticut, the little town of Exeter Rhode Island has exploded in vitriol as gun advocates campaign to recall four town council members who dared to try to move concealed-carry permitting from the overwhelmed and under-resourced town clerk’s office to the state attorney general’s office, which used to handle it anyway as recently as 2011.

Under Rhode Island law, it’s much easier to get a local permit than a state permit, so many gun owners get theirs through the local authorities who are less free to refuse permits. What’s the distinction?

State law mandates that local authorities “shall” grant the permit to a qualified applicant — but the attorney general “may” issue a permit, giving that office more discretion.

In general, Rhode Island towns and cities do local licensing through their police force, but the town of Exeter is too small to have its own police force. So a few years ago, a town council member who also happens to own a gun store, insisted the town clerk had to start issuing the licenses instead, even though they were not adequately prepared to handle the task.

Shortly thereafter, the other council members decided that they should actually probably hand it off to the state attorney general’s office, which could do more thorough checks on applicants but who also had more authority to deny permits. The (now-former) town councilman who owns a gun store has led a nasty recall election campaign against the four members (out of five) who pragmatically and for safety reasons thought the matter should be referred to professionals (though it would require a state legislative act to codify the exemption and thus hasn’t even taken effect yet).

This is literally the smallest possible measure of gun control possible — restoring the situation to how it was two years ago with a one word distinction in the level of permit availability — and yet the gun advocates are trying to run everyone out of office. (In a particularly bizarre twist, the recall process there stipulates that offices recalled are filled by the losing candidate in the previous election.)

The campaign has been extremely vicious and filled with lots of big cash from the wider gun rights movement, as well as allegations that during the petition phase the pro-gun side told senior citizens the council members were secretly trying to raise their property taxes.

Voters there will head to the polls tomorrow.

AFD 52: The Right to Rule

Latest Episode:
“AFD Ep 52 – The Right to Rule”
Posted: Tues, 06 August 2013

Who has the right to rule in a society? What is a democracy? How do citizens get to participate in a civil society? In light of events in Egypt, Persephone and Bill discuss political theories of legitimacy, governance, and civil society. Then, they discuss what Boston is doing to prepare for global warming effects. Warning: This episode may be educational.