Sunday, August 29, 2010

Endorsement: Sonia Chang-Diaz

With the State House in the background, the hosts of a recent meet and greet for State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz gather around the candidate. From left to right: Myrialis Moran-Nieves, Dave Greenwold, Kim Jennings, Khadijah Britton, Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, me, Pat McDonough and Pat Amend.
On a Beacon Hill rooftop
August 26, 2010

It's hard to be an elected official right now. It's especially hard to be a first-term elected official. I kind of get the feeling when State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz took office less than two years ago, she realized she didn't have time to rest on her laurels. It's been a whirlwind several months, during which time my State Senator has not stood still. Just this summer she stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Gov. Deval Patrick when he signed into law CORI reform, something desperately needed. CORI is a process by which information about arrests is kept available to potential employees; the reform bill shortened the time such information is kept.

There's so much more for the young Chang-Diaz to do, and she has the same energy level as when I first met her back in 2008. I am voting to send her back for (at least) two more years, most immediately in the Mass. State Primary on September 14.

What I have learned while Sonia has been in the Senate is that while her district is the most diverse in the state, its residents really do share a lot of similar priorities and concerns. We all want better schools. We all want safe streets. We all want an economic environment where everyone who wants a job can find one. We all want to raise families in the city.

A former schoolteacher, Sen. Chang-Diaz shares these priorities. She has ideas for improving public schools throughout Massachusetts, and in Boston specifically. She is focused on the root causes of youth violence in the city. On a much more tactical level, Sonia is against casinos in Massachusetts, because she knows they draw revenue disproportionately from the poor and do not spur economic activity outside of the casino walls.

Beyond her stances on issues, Chang-Diaz represents a new type of elected official in Boston. She has the courage and integrity to say what she believes and stand by her beliefs, even if this "say it like it is" approach doesn't make everyone happy. I think we need to see a lot more outward courage in our elected officials, especially when the cause is right. For Sonia, her causes are ones I agree with. And I like that she will be on Beacon Hill fighting for them on my behalf.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What's the Problem? Look in the Mirror

There is a strong anti-incumbent mood in American politics right now. I think the problem is the American voter today is a dangerous combination of selfish, stubborn and short-sighted.

We want it all, but we don't want to do anything for it.

The government is too big and wastes too much money, yet we complain when the government doesn't have the resources to get things done.

We don't want our taxes to go up... ever. But if anyone thinks about taking away social security, we let them have it.

We want better paying jobs, but we're not willing to learn the skills to deserve them.

We care about the environment, as long as doing so doesn't cost anything.

We don't like to admit we're wrong.

When someone says something we like, we believe it even when it's not true.

Then again, we don't question what we hear anyway. Nearly one in five Americans say President Obama is a Muslim; a majority of those people say the media told them so. [President Obama is not a Muslim; he's a Christian.]

We like things presented in black and white; we don't make the effort to understand the colors in-between. One is either with us or against us; you are either right or wrong.

We care about here and now and here and now only. We are completely neglecting long-term challenges; we are passing a debt written, environmentally filthy society on to those that will follow us.

With this type of mindset, it's no wonder politicians can't do anything right. It's no wonder it's so easy to pick on anyone who's driving an agenda.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Half Marathon Takes A Long Time

Next month I am traveling to Madison, Wisconsin to watch my friend Annmarie compete in her second Ironman, the Ford Ironman Wisconsin. I have watched Annmarie quite a bit over the years as she's marked pretty amazing athletic achievements. I have spotted her within the thousands that run in the Boston Marathon. I drove from Atlanta to Panama City a few years back to see her complete the Ironman there.

Watching someone in an event like an Ironman or a marathon takes a long time. It takes patience, careful planning, and a little bit of luck. Along with Annmarie's roommate Kim, we have it down to a science. In Panama City, Kim and I went for two swims (one in the ocean, one in the hotel pool), had lunch, watched an entire college football game, and took at least one nap---all while Annmarie was completing just the bike portion of the Ironman.

Earlier this year, I was the one watched during a long race. It wasn't an Ironman, but I did complete the Run to Remember half-marathon in late May. Annmarie, Kim and my parents came out to watch.

Even a half-marathon can take a long time, especially if you are a spectator. My parents decided, for the sport of it, to take photos of everything they did while I was running. Here's my favorite:

Mom and Dad Levanto Finishing Breakfast
Paramount on Charles Street, Beacon Hill, Boston
May 30, 2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Two Weeks, Two Candidate Meet and Greets

I am joining a few of my neighbors in hosting two separate candidate meet and greets over the next week. What's really neat about these events is that, while they are fundraisers, a donation is not required to attend. So they end up being a great way for the candidates to meet new people.

First, this Tuesday, Mac D'Alessandro, candidate for Congress, is on Beacon Hill. Below is the official invite. The event is on Tuesday, August 17, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the home of Hilary and Rajan Nanda, 25 Garden Street, on Beacon Hill.

Second, State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, who is running for re-election, is attending a rooftop Beacon Hill event on Thursday, August 26. From 7 to 9 p.m., the event as on the roof of 21 Beacon Street (right next to the State House). Below is the official invite for that event.

Monday, August 02, 2010

The End of Movie Convenience

Mike's Movies, my local movie rental shop, is closing at the end of August.

I am a bit of a serendipitous movie renter. There are times I am sitting on my couch on a lazy weekend afternoon and I decide to rent a movie I enjoyed when I was a kid. Just for kicks. I mean, there are times when you just want to watch "Sixteen Candles," and that time doesn't happen enough to warrant buying the movie. I own "Bourne Identity," for example, but not "Sixteen Candles."

It would seem that my habits in movie rentals are a bit arcane, or at least not common. Because local movie rental houses are going out of business. With Mike's Movies leaving, there is no other movie rental shop in my neighborhood or anywhere nearby.

Reluctantly, I signed up for Netflix and am in the middle of the free trial. I like the concept, and so far, the service has been easy to use. I am in the middle of season 4 of "The Wire," for example. I send back in a DVD, and in a few days I have a new one with four new episodes to watch.

Netflix does not have a good solution to my serendipitous movie watching tendencies. You can watch certain selections from Netflix online, and I can connect my computer to my HD TV. But many of the movies I want to see quickly, like "21," are not available online. I have to add them to my queue and wait.

I think I will stick with Netflix. But the days of randomly watching "Sixteen Candles"? Well, it looks like they are over.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

While Casinos Distracted Us All

The debate over casinos in Massachusetts, which came to a climax overnight, has distracted Bay State lawmakers from economic programs that could be creating jobs in the state.

Thursday's New York Times profiled programs in place in several states that take advantage of money provided in the federal stimulus bill to subsidize jobs for small businesses. The article talks about a few scenarios, particularly in Illinois, where small businesses have been able to fill openings they otherwise would have left alone, were it not for the jobs programs. As a result, those companies were able to grow and, in turn, potentially hire additional workers.

It's frustrating that Massachusetts was not one of the states listed as having such a small business program. I would gander that legislators on Beacon Hill have been so distracted by casinos that they have not had a chance to think about other programs that would help the economy in the Commonwealth. The casino debate has sucked the oxygen out of the larger discussion of how to create jobs here; ironically casinos themselves suck the economic oxygen out of the towns around them (something I outlined in a previous blog entry).

I am sure there are many other initiatives that, like the small business jobs subsidy programs, would help tremendously. My friend Tom Hopcroft leads the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, which supports the many technology-centered markets in the state. Earlier this year, at the group's annual meeting, the membership pledged to work toward creating a significant number of new jobs. Speakers discussed how to make it happen. It was very informative, however it was too bad that no elected officials were present.

Proponents of the casinos argue they will create jobs, and there is no dispute there. They also lash out at their opposition, saying lawmakers (including the Governor) who do not support casinos or the most recent casino proposals are voting against the jobs those casinos would create. The deeper truth is that there's no telling how many jobs could have already been created had the legislature focused on other programs---seeing success in other states---that can create jobs. Those programs were lost at the craps table.

P.S. The New York Times article is just one of many stories I have read recently that shows how the federal stimulus bill passed early last year has helped the economy in measurable ways. It's too bad many have already made up their minds that the bill was a failure.

P.P.S. Very pleased that my State Senator, Sonia Chang-Diaz, and my State Representative, Marty Walz, both voted against the casino bill.

Editor's Note: Referenced story is: "The New New Deal: Public Money for Private Jobs," New York Times, July 29, 2010.