Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Unions kill our chances for 250 mill in education money

Washington has passed our State over for that 250 million dollars (Race to the Top competition) funding. According to the Globe, Mass may have lost points for requiring union consent on enacting some plans to overhaul under performing schools and for not changing state law to allow for unfettered growth of charter schools. Our state can apply again in June for a slice of the 3.4 billion left over, but it appears that our elected eleite who cater to the union demands, will once again, leave our state at a disadvantage as our school budgets continue to decrease.

Tax breaks in Mass a secret

Some of this states biggest companies are applying for millions in tax breaks, all in secret according to the Globe. The obscure state Economic Assistance Coordinating Council is keeping the size of incentives away from public scrutiny. These tax breaks are based on how many new jobs will be created and as we all know from previous posts, many of the companies that have received millions in tax breaks have not done for the State what they had promised. Pam Wilmont from Common Cause has raised the red flag on this and says it's the public right to know, who is getting what, how much and what for.

State Sec Galvin has said the council cannot be exempt from open meeting laws, but he and AG Coakley have declined to do anything about it. Under pressure. the council will now post times and places for public meetings, but this council needs to be eliminated and companies can apply for tax breaks in local communities.

Denial in Hadley, they could have done something

As more details emerge in the suicide death of a Hadley school student, one thing is for sure, school officials knew, parents knew and no one did much to help stop the painful bulling that caused Phoebe Prince to take her own life.

As prosecutors now have charged 9 teenagers with various crimes, including statutory rape, parents are outraged over what they feel is a complete breakdown of responsibility amongst school officials. Stopping short of charging any adults in this case is the real travesty. The school even expelled some of the core group of bullies as far back when the first complaints were reported.

While legal experts expect these cases to be very hard to prosecute, in civil court, the hurdles are less and I hope each and every parent and school official involved is taken to the cleaners. All those who knew and did nothing at the school should be terminated and run out of town. And the parents of those who plead ignorance and knowingly let their children do harm to others at school should be made to take parenting classes and charged as accessories.

It is beyond sad to see how parents have defended their childrens role in all this. Even more outrageous is the lack of responsibility the school is accepting.

Framingham Candidates Forum

Thanks to Norma Schulman and FPAC TV, you can see the video on of the candidates forum that was sponsored by the League of Women Voters, last week in the Town Hall.

It's also seen on all the cable providers, Verizon,, ComCast and RCN starting 3/30 through 4/8.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The War in Iraq

It was March of 2003 when we learned that we were at war with Iraq. Live coverage of the bombing of Iraq and the rush to gain control of Baghdad and find Hussian. Seven years later, confirmed US military causalities, 4,385, civilian employees of the US, 1,457, Non-US coalition deaths, 315. Thousands of mentally and physically wounded soldiers who will never be the same. Not to mention the suicides and POW MIA's.

It is only now, do we understand the role of mis-information, lies, political motivation and ego in a war that was unjustified.

We should never forget the sacrifices American soldiers made in Iraq, help those who suffer from the experience, and never allow our kids to go off to war, without good reason, if there is ever a good reason.

History was made last night, Health Care Reform passes.

If any of you watched the vote last night, you saw history being made along with the divisive polarity that has made a mockery of our democracy. The far left and the far right are alive and well. 35 Dems voted against their party and across the isle it was nothing but the same old worn out partisan arguments, game playing and re-election politics. Like many issues before them, the extreme views seem to dominate, while common sense and compromise are left off the table.

According to the WSJ, the winners in all of this are the drug companies and Insurance companies, as they will reap the huge customer influx in 2014 of about 34 million uninsured people. There is still much work to do on the bill and I wonder how many people will die, go bankrupt and suffer before any of this is actually enacted. And look for a bunch of States to join the claim that forced health care is un-constitutional.

The losers in all this? The top wage earners in this country, couples making over 250,000 a year will pay a 3.8% sir tax to help fund part of the program.

It does subsidize the lowest wage earners for health insurance in 2014, which would help Mass, but nothing about cost controls and fraud was part of the debate.

Mr. Lee and Lehman Brothers

As the feds dig deeper into who knew what and when, it was reported by the WSJ on Saturday that Mathew Lee, senior vice president at Lehman's, warned the company with a letter in May of 2008 that he believed "senior management may have violated Lehmans internal code of ethics by mis-leading investors and regulators about the true value of the firms assets".

Sooner than later, a few high ranking people at Lehmans will stand trial. Last week Senator Dodd asked for the Justice Department to investigate alleged accounting manipulation at Lehmans, stemming from a 2200 page examiners report.

And to add insult to injury, it was reported last week that the regulators who were charged with oversight are getting huge raises and bonuses.

Cahill and friends

According to the Globe, Tim Cahill, our State Treasurer, in 2002, 03, and 05 collected more than 100,000 dollars in campaign contributions from lawyers, property managers and real estate concerns, not from Massachusetts. The Globe uncovered that one man, Michael Ruane, a Boston Investment manager for TA Associates, who was allotted 500 million in state funds to invest since 2003, was getting these out of state companies to give to Cahill.

While not illegal, it sure does look unethical and appears to be a conflict of interest. Keep in mind, TA Associates has collected 34 million dollars in fees managing the 500 million in investments, chaired by Tim Cahill.

Another insider, gaming the system to his own benefit. What a shame.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mass Health, 295 million in the red

Get ready for another budget cut before July. Deval will be forced to do something about the huge and growing whole generated by Mass Health. The huge Mass Health program, 60% which is paid by the feds costs the State about 10 Billion a year out of the 27 Billion dollar budget. This program has nothing to do with the Health Care debate going on.

Our reserve fund in the State stands at 675 million and could be used to offset the gap this year. But the long term solution is jobs, cost control and fraud detection.

Bullying Bill Passes the House

In a stunning turnaround, the House approved a bill that would require teachers, buss drivers, principals, cafeteria workers and others to report bullying to law enforcement. It will make bullying a crime. It also mandates training for teachers and others on how to identify bullying which won't take effect until 2011-12 school year. What it doesn't do is provide a fine for those who don't report it. And further, it some how leaves out the parents. It still needs to go back to the Senate for tweaking. Wait until a 5th grader is taken out of school in hand cuffs.

The bill defines bullying, in part, as “the repeated use by a perpetrator of a written, verbal, or electronic expression, or physical act or gesture . . . directed at a victim that causes physical or emotional harm or damage to the victim’s property; places the victim in reasonable fear or harm to himself or of damage to his property; [or] creates a hostile environment at school.’’

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dead again, Medical Marijuana

After 9 years at the State House, HB 2160 "an act to regulate the medical use of marijuana by patients approved by physicians and certified by the department of health" has been once again, stopped at the Health Care Committee. Twelve other reps have signed on to this bill, but once again, the leadership shows little sign of acceptance. One other good reason for the removal of DeLeo and all that follow him.

The chair of the committee, Jeffrey Sanchez, D 15th Suffolk is the culprit and should be ashamed of his lack of intelligence and compassion for the sick and dying. This has gone on to long in this State, while others like California reap the tax revenue generated from the sale of medicinal cannabis, the morons on the Hill continue to block this non toxic, historically proven medicine for perhaps as many as a million people in this State.

Some of you may know someone who has been told by their doctor to use cannabis, (off the record) and perhaps even been asked to find some for a family member or friend going through chemo or a host of other painful diseases.

If you are as disgusted with him as I, send the bastard a note.

Jeffrey Sanchez
8 Armstrong Street
Jamaica Plain MA 02130

Jeffrey Sanchez
130 State House,
Massachusetts 02133
Phone: (617) 722-2130

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The costs of Health Care in Mass

Any wonder why it costs so much more money this year than last for your health care coverage? Some insurers have increased co pays and increased rates, while spending millions in lobbying and high salaries. Well today we learn the newly appointed CEO of Blue Cross resigned today, after only weeks on the job. BC has lost 149 million dollars and lost 89,000 subscribers. I'm sure some of you will remember the days when BC was the high end insurer and if the company you worked for had BC, you were golden. No word on why the CEO has left.

Today we learn that AG Coakley is investigating why some doctors and hospitals are paid dramatically more for the same procedures and services, as much as three times more. This investigation is to try and figure out why health care cost in our state are rising so fast. I hope AG Coakley will get some straight answers and in the end, perhaps we will understand how the system is not equal for all and is rigged to benefit just a few in the health care arena.

And today we heard from Cahill, if the US adopts the very same system of health care for all in this state, the country will go broke. I couldn't agree more and on a local level, Framingham, if approved, we start spending millions every year, over and above what is paid now, to insure health care and retirement funds will keep up with demand. Look for this to be banged around at Town Meeting.

Banking fraud and TARP

I'll bet some of you remember commenting on this blog about the criminal activity surrounding the TARP program last year. The Troubled Asset Relief Program was designed to stop the banks and others from going under. Many of you had written about who and why the money was given and today we learn that the first criminal complaint was issued by US District Court in Manhattan. Charles Antonucci of Fishkill NY is accused of using false information to get 11.3 million in TARP funds. His bank was taken over last week by the FDIC and reopened the next day as a new financial institution.

Look for a dozen or so of these crooks to be charged and convicted this year. Also, we may soon learn who exactly was the central figure in the financial melt down of 2008.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The IRS and tax time

It appears that the IRS is showing some compassion, if the IRS could have compassion, towards the millions of people who have a tax bill and are unemployed or underemployed.

IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman says that the agency will loosen it's rules for negotiating tax settlements. One thousand more offices will be open as of March 27, to help taxpayers through the system. Taxpayers will have to show that they are unable to pay, but whatever you do, don't not file a return as the rules change and the taxpayer is not eligible for the program.

Local Aid.. maybe cut by 5%

In a closed door session at the State House, leaders are bracing their flock for a 5% reduction in local aid. This chapter 70 funding which in January was 4 billion is now projected to be 3.8 billion. The GOP has offered a local aid resolution to level fund Chapter 70 funding, but was ignored by House Speaker DeLeo. Sounds like a lot of money, but rest assured, if the cuts are in place, our Town will be forced to reduce expenses.

Our Town CFO Ms. Kelly has asked for budget cuts of 4 and 8%. Look for some serious layoffs without an override this coming fiscal year. 80% of our town budget comes from local taxes and the rest comes from the state and various other receipts.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Delahunt won't run again, Edwards wish he could

In another blow to Democrats, U.S. Rep. William Delahunt made it official last night: He’s bowing out of politics and won't seek re-election. And this has nothing to do with the Bishop case?

Another career politician, who at the end of his tenure, just like so many this week, this year and the past 10 years, are forced from office or re-election, because of their unethical and criminal behavior. Discovered only by accident or tragedy with little in the way of answers to valid questions.

It was reported earlier this week, Delahunt's campaign coffers are being spent down quickly on lavish expenses for his family and friends.

Justice for the almost President, con-man John Edwards may come sooner than later according to the Inquire. They say, the cheaters poster child will be accused of shuttling campaign funds to his mistress, the mother of his newest child.

It's criminal that justice has to wait for so long to appear.

DeLeo-Deval in high stakes game

The usual political non-sense over gambling is heating up. DeLeo wants his slots and Deval doesn't. Next week DeLeo will roll out the House gambling bill with a bunch of legislators saying no, while Deval will say slots will not create jobs.

Just another reason to elect a new speaker and senate president. These elected elite have taken millions from lobbyists already and now, the lobbyists will try to buy as much support as possible, from either side.

Two casino's, three casinos and where they will go is at stake. Will the Indians get their act together in time? The trade: The Casino for Nantucket sound is what I think is happening at the federal level and I wonder what compromise will come of the DeLeo-Deval chess match.

Tolls on 93, where have you heard that before?

From the Herald:

New Hampshire is poised to set up one toll station in NH, to snag the 46,000 NH residents who travel rte 93 daily. Deval has promised not to retaliate with tolls of his own. But as we all know, tolls on Rte 93 and Rte 3 must be done if we ever think in our grandchildrens life time, to pay off the big dig dept. And won't we look like dopes if NH does it, and we don't.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Money can't buy those Indians, Cape Wind rejected again

Cape Wind developer Jim Gordon has offered two Native American tribes millions to halt their opposition as the clock runs down on the review period for the controversial wind power project slated for Nantucket Sound.

Sources told the Herald that Gordon, through a middleman, offered to pay the two tribes a total of $50,000 a year for 20 years if they would support the project.

Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers said the offer represented “financial mitigation.”

Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoags, which is one of the two tribes involved, said the offer was rejected “out of hand.”

“This issue has never been about money for us,” Cromwell said.

For nine years, Gordon has fought for approval of his estimated $2.6 billion, 130-turbine project, proposed for a 25-mile stretch of federal waters, located between Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

Supporters say the project, which would be the nation’s first offshore wind power generator, will serve as an important symbol of the switch to clean energy.

Critics contend that the private, for-profit project will wreak havoc on the environment, disrupting fishing, transportation and tourism.

The Aquinnah and Mashpee Wampanoag tribes say the project will interfere with the long-held religious practice of greeting the morning sun, and could harm ancient tribal burial grounds. Horseshoe Shoals, where the project would go, was dry land thousands of years ago.

The battle could end soon because U.S. Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar has said that if the warring factions can’t reach a compromise by Monday, he’ll decide the project’s fate by April 1.

More perks for Clerk Magistrates

From The Herald:

Almost 200 high-paid clerk magistrates and their assistants are padding their pockets with thousands of dollars in bail fees, a little-known perk payment that fiscal watchdogs say should go to the cash-strapped commonwealth.

The $40 fees are incurred by suspects who pay bail set by clerk magistrates and assistants after hours, when courts are closed. The fee goes straight to the judicial staffers - on top of their salaries of $84,000 to $110,000.

“This is a striking amount of money these fees are generating for these clerks,” said Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. “They are paid well. This should be part of their responsibilities.”

Critics also warn of a possible built-in conflict of interest in the system: Rather than receive a flat fee for every suspect, magistrates collect the fee only if they set bail for a suspect and the bail is paid, potentially creating an incentive to set low bail.

“It’s clearly a temptation. Clearly from the point of view of a purer justice system, you don’t want this question to arise,” Widmer said. “It doesn’t engender trust in the judicial system to have this inherent conflict there.”

The fees are set by statute and can be changed only by the Legislature.

Another RMV increase

Very quietly, Deval has added an increase in RMV fees... some R's call for it to be repealed. The intent is to get more drivers to go on-line to do business, but there must be at least a million or so drivers who don't even own a computer. This move hits our seniors the most and is just another tax increases.

Customers will incur the new $5 fee if they speak with an RMV representative on the phone or go in to one of the 30 branches for the following services:

• Renewing your driver’s license (except for the 10-year renewal required in person);

• Getting a duplicate license or Massachusetts ID;

• Renewing your registration; or

• Requesting an attested driving record.

The fee won’t be charged for transactions completed online, by mail, or over the RMV’s automated phone system.

“We want to discourage people from going to the branches,” said Ann Dufresne, a spokeswoman for the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

The RMV recorded only 1.8 million online transactions last year for the 4.7 million licensed drivers and the 5.8 million vehicles on the road.

Unions protect Heath Care benifits

From the Globe, we learn that the one major contributor to our budget woes here in Framingham and around the State, is the refusal of Unions to enroll in the States Group Insurance Commission. According to Mass Tax Payers Foundation and Boston Municipal Research Bureau, if all the towns and cities were to be consolidated into the Group Insurance, 1 billion dollars a year could be saved by 2018.

The GIC saves taxpayers money in two ways, requiring employees, retires and elected officials to pay more out of pocket dispenses. It also allows changes in health care plans without union barging.

The Bill that was passed in 2007 allowing communities to adopt the GIC program had one catch, it required a 70% vote by the union representatives before a community could join, giving the biggest unions, veto power.

Since it's inception, 10 communities, school districts and charter schools have joined, the second year 15 more and as of July 1, Hopedale and Brookline have joined.

Two bills pending allowing Towns to adopt the GIC without Union approval are still in committee and have been labeled as "too controversial".

While the majority of average citizens have had major increases in their health care cost and premium increases, Unions have shown little understanding of how their benefits are causing communities to look for ways to rein in the cost to the taxpayers. This is the price we pay now, for allowing powerful self interest to dictate policy in our community and resist money saving measures in health care costs. Town leaders must show the tax payers, that they feel our pain and negotiate in collective bargaining, a common sense plan to drive down health care costs.