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NRA and shot cops offer little comfort

My nephew was sworn in as a Massachusetts State Trooper a few weeks ago, a proud moment for my family, as well as one of continuing alarm as we hear more and more stories about officers shot in the line of duty.

Saturday’s Boston Globe had front-page stories in the Metro section about shootings in Greenland, NH, where Police Chief  Michael Maloney was killed one week shy of his retirement, as well as a shooting rampage in Chicopee on Friday, where State Trooper  John Vasquez was shot by a man with an automatic rifle; many civilians, including a school bus full of children, narrowly averted harm during the six-minute shootout in Chicopee. All this was juxtaposed for me by an article in the same paper regarding Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s speech to the NRA attacking President’s Obama’s position on the right to bear arms.

Excuse me if I’m not feeling too concerned about waiting periods and background checks for gun permit applicants, or a ban on assault weapons, which the NRA opposes.  Romney avoided mention of the controversial stand-your-ground laws currently being debated across the country and here in the Commonwealth, which are laws the NRA supports.

Depending on the state and exact language of the law, stand-your-ground legislation does not require civilians to retreat, if able, when attacked, but instead grants them the right to fight back, even in public, and to do lethal harm–all under the guise of self-defense. Aside from using this law as an excuse for deadly barroom brawls and gang encounters, other problems with the law are discussed here in this Florida article, where it notes “analysis of state data shows deaths due to self-defense are up over 200% since the law took effect,” as well as this piece from Tampa Bay News listing some examples that show, such as in the Trayvon Martin case, the victims are often unarmed.

It’s all starting to feel like the Wild West and not in a good way. It’s tough enough when bad guys have easy access to assault weapons, but to give anyone on the street access to weapons and permission to use them under the slightest provocation is a path, frankly, that terrifies me. Ask your legislators NOT to support this bill. Keep the waiting periods and background checks, increase efforts to get illegal guns off the streets, make it harder for bad guys to get weapons, and enact stiffer punishments for having them. There is no easy solution to the gunfire madness that is American society, but the NRA approach is definitely not helpful. We must demand our leaders take the steps necessary to protect our law enforcement officers and our communities.

posted in In the News, National issues, State Concerns | 0 Comments

Vote!

I just got back from voting for Eileen Donoghue and heard that turnout is pretty low today. Then I received a timely email reminding me that the right to vote for women was once a hotly-contested issue. This was one of those forwarded emails that I typically don’t bother to open, but it was very well done with photos of suffragettes and a description of how hard they had to fight and the abuse they put up with – being beaten, jailed, vilified and threatened with institutionalization for insanity! The email reminds us that it was only 90 years ago that women finally prevailed and were allowed to vote; it also describes the “night of terror,” November 15, 1917, when 33 women were jailed for picketing Woodrow Wilson’s White House. The warden gave his men permission to teach the women a lesson, resulting in horrendous abuse. The friend who wrote this email mentions a movie starring Hilary Swank, Iron Jawed Angels, which she says is a must-see to give us all some “shock therapy” and a needed reminder of the importance of voting. She adds:

one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

So, refresh my memory. Some women won’t vote this year because – why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn’t matter? It’s raining?

So, let’s all vote for ourselves, for our daughters and for those women who fought so hard and were so brave. A doctor who was asked to declare one of the leaders insane countered that she wasn’t crazy, but brave, adding, “Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.”

posted in State Concerns, Women's issues | 0 Comments

Highlights from the garden party

Last night while listening to State Senate candidate, Eileen Donoghue, (nice website, by the way) speak to a convivial group in Jackie’s back garden, I had an uprecedented urge to tweet. It would have been a perfect way to capture some of Eileen’s comments and the positive reception, indicated by nods, smiles, clapping, that greeted her words. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my phone with me, don’t really know how to tweet, and to whom does one tweet anyway? So, in lieu of twitter, some impressions of the evening: Eileen is a great speaker, relaxed, confident, and concise; her priorities are “jobs and education”; her years of public service on the Lowell City Council, four of them as Mayor and Chair of the School committee, give her the experience to “hit the ground running”; she knows how state mandates play out on the local level and wants to make sure these are realistic and funded; she is not cynical about politics and believes she can make a difference at the state house. Later, in conversastion, she stated that she is willing to make unpopular choices if needed and that her decision-making process is not based on electability, something that I think is of the first importance for a politician. In short, I was impressed. In other news, it didn’t rain too much, many old friends showed up, the food was excellent, and the Kousa dogwood was in glorious full bloom. It was a great evening. Going forward, we’ll be tracking Eileen’s campaign, who knows, maybe even tweeting, and periodically reminding everyone that the primary is September 14th.

posted in Local Politics, State Concerns | 0 Comments

Complete and mail census form now

If you’re like me, you probably threw the envelope in a pile with junk mail to deal with another day. Well, that day is coming soon: Mail your completed form before April 19 or a census worker will have to come to your door to collect the information, and you know the state can’t afford that expense. We also can’t afford NOT to count every resident. That gives us all about 10 days to mail the information, so do it today! Keep in mind, census data is used to qualify for billions in federal aid for schools, hospitals and transportation needs—about $2,000 in federal aid per resident. Census data also determines how many representatives Massachusetts sends to Congress, meaning we need every resident to be counted so we can keep our 10 congressional seats! If you have questions or need to see a form, check MassVote here.

On a local note, Secretary of State William Galvin visited the Daley Middle School in Lowell a few weeks back to pitch the importance of the census to sixth grade students. (It was part of a statewide education effort conducted in several schools.) After his presentation, the questions from our students shed some light on their unique perspective of all things census, such as: If you’re pregnant do you count as one or two people? If you struggle with reading or don’t speak English well, will someone help you? And if you are homeless or in the hospital, how will your information be included? (Out of the mouths of babes, we learn the reality of our community.) Since most of us don’t have those challenges, we should just complete the form and get it in the mail asap!

posted in State Concerns | 0 Comments

School committee to meet on local charter school issue

Yesterday’s Sun had an article regarding Wednesday’s discussion among school committee members of the Commissioner of Education’s indication that he would recommend revoking the license of the charter school on Jackson Street in Lowell. The Mass. Board of Education will vote on that decision later this month. In the meantime, the Lowell School Committee will meet on Wednesday, Jan. 20, at 5:30 in Council Chambers, to explore the district’s options should the 800-plus students in grades K-8 be returned to its schools. Factors to be discussed included the breakdown of students by grade and the impact on classroom size, options regarding school building facilities and costs, information regarding the possibility of creating a district-controlled Horace Mann Charter School, as well as funding for the returning students. (It is possible funding for those students would require special legislation in order to avoid a year lag time.) Although the state board of education is the ultimate decider regarding the future of the charter school, if those students return to our district schools, it is in their best interests as well as the city’s that we have begun the process of exploring our options. The meeting will be televised live and can be seen on cable channel 10.

posted in Education, State Concerns, school committee | 1 Comment

Election-day registration will encourage more voters

Voter apathy has been a recurring topic on this blog and others, as well as in the mainstream media, so it would seem any effort that would encourage more voters is a good one. Today’s Sun has an article about a bill currently being considered that would, among other things, allow Massachusetts’ voters to register and vote on the same day. (You may recall, last Wednesday was the final day to register for the upcoming special election for U.S. Senator on Jan. 19.) My initial post on election-day registration, as well as this one (both from 2008) detail some of the reasons why this would be good for the Commonwealth. For more information on this issue or to get involved in supporting it, check MassVOTE.

posted in In the News, Local Politics, State Concerns | 0 Comments

Non-voters along for a rudderless ride

Imagine you and your loved ones in the back seat of a car with no say in the speed or direction the driver takes. Would you really allow that to happen? Yet, every election it seems voter turnout hovers at 25% or worse. That’s a lot of people going along for the ride. I had an argument with a beloved family member on Christmas day, who told me not to judge her because she didn’t choose to vote, didn’t bother to register, and didn’t pay attention to “politicians who say whatever it takes to get elected.” Excuse me, but I will judge you—as stupid and lazy—not to participate in what is our responsibility and privilege as American citizens: That is, the opportunity to decide our leadership. I know we’re all busy, many politicians have become entertaining spin-doctors who feed the electorate what they think we want to hear, and often it feels like any election is deciding the lesser of evils as opposed to choosing truly talented and inspiring leadership. That’s no excuse. We owe it to ourselves, our ancestors, and especially our children to pay attention, so that we go to the polls as informed voters. Mind you, those last two are important: informed voters. It makes no sense to check boxes without knowing who and what you are supporting. And if you are truly disappointed by the quality of candidates, pull papers and run yourself, or encourage and support someone else running. The last thing you are allowed to do is check out of the system. With more folks willing to give up their say in the direction we’re all going, the likelihood of a driver who only listens to special interests or extremists increases exponentially. And if you think our elected leaders don’t impact you personally, add delusional to my earlier judgment.

Check out LiL or Dick Howe’s blog for information about registering by 8 p.m. tonight to vote in the special senatorial election on Jan. 19.

posted in Local Politics, National issues, State Concerns | 3 Comments

Another reason to vote today

I received this email message from Avi Green of MassVote: “Today, we go to the polls to choose party nominees for the US Senate.  You have many choices: from Michael Capuano, Martha Coakley, Alan Khazei, and Steven Pagliuca in the Democratic Primary to Scott Brown and Jack E. Robinson in the Republican Primary.  Today, your vote will decide who goes on to the General Election. The ultimate winner will represent Massachusetts for years to come.

“Here is another reason to vote: the politicians are watching.  From local town councils and mayors to state representatives and state senators, right up to the Governor’s office, elected officials watch carefully to see which communities vote.  Neighborhoods that turn out are noticedand politicians make a point of being extra responsive to their concerns.  So if you care about issues in your neighborhood, from public safety to schools to potholes to public transportation, be sure to vote today!”

With only 74 people having voted by noon at my polling location in the Highlands (the Pine Street Firehouse), it’s not looking like a huge turnout. Come on folksthis is important and takes only minutes to do!

posted in In the News, State Concerns | 0 Comments

Drug abuse continues to plague communities

At the monthly meeting of the City Manager’s Anti-Gang Task Force this morning, we discussed the problem of rampant abuse of prescription drugs, not only in Lowell but throughout the state, and its impact on crime and overdoses. Lowell Police Chief Ken Lavallee noted that many of the city’s recent increases in car break-ins, in particular, are due to drug abuse. (Readers may recall a community event on opiates abuse in October.) An op-ed in today’s MetroWest Daily News argues that one way to reduce opiate abuse is to support recommendations from an opiates report recently released to the legislature. The OxyContin and Heroin Commission report notes: “Between 2002 and 2007 the Commonwealth lost 78 soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the same time period, 3,265 Massachusetts residents died of opiate-related overdoses. The Commonwealth is losing men and women on its streets at a rate of 42 to 1 compared to what the state is losing in two wars overseas. Addiction is a medical disorder, and we have a public health epidemic on our hands that is larger than the flu pandemic.”

Among other things, the commission’s report calls for taking away the threat of prosecution for individuals who seek help for an overdose victim or who assist police in identifying drug sources. Likening it to the Safe Haven Law that allows parents to abandon infants without fear of prosecution and the lives saved from that initiative, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone said he could support similar legislation for drug users as long as it came “with limitations that didn’t allow drug pushers a free pass.” Leone went on to explain that lives are lost when drug-users are afraid to get help for themselves or friends because they fear prosecution. Another problem is the availability of prescription drugs on the streets and the lack of awareness: from doctors who may over prescribe these medications, and from people who don’t realize the risks of addiction and easy access due to storing these drugs without safeguards. For more information, watch replays of the Lowell community program on cable channel 22, at these times: more »

posted in Healthy Living, In the News, Local Groups, State Concerns | 0 Comments

My vote in the senate primary

With the senate primary this Tuesday, it’s no wonder the campaign volume has risen in recent days, with increased snail mail, recorded phone calls, and emails from the candidates. Today, I spent about 15 minutes on the phone with Dan Murphy, Lowell cc-elect Patrick Murphy’s twin brother and the muscle behind many of his youtube ads. Dan called to discuss Mike Capuano’s candidacy and to ask me to help with phone banking. He’s working the media for Capuano’s campaign and somehow I made his call list. (See LiL for post about his brother’s endorsement.) I like Dan and the entire Murphy clan, and I was happy to talk politics with him. Although he made good points about Capuano: his experience, grassroots campaigning, knowledge on the issues, record of progressive votes, etc—the more we talked, the more I realized, I really want to vote for Martha Coakley. (Prior to this discussion, I thought I was undecided.) I admit, it is hugely compelling that Martha Coakley would be our first women senator from Massachusetts and I could help make it happen. (About time!) Still, I don’t see myself as a gender voter; the bottom line is always the candidate’s values, ideas, and positions on the issues. (For example, I chose Tim Murray for Lt. Governor over two qualified women because he best represented my views and values.) I like Mike, and I like that yesterday a Boston Globe op-ed noted him as the “scrappy” candidate—a plus in a world where we desperately need folks fighting for just causes. But Martha brings her own skill set: she embodies the intelligent, hardworking, ethical female candidate we need in leadership. (The same op-ed described her as “deliberative,” also important in a legislator.) Either one of them would serve my interests in Congress, albeit from different perspectives, but when Tuesday comes, I will vote for Martha Coakley. Whatever your take on the candidates, please show up on election day and vote your choice.

posted in In the News, Local People, State Concerns, Women's issues | 1 Comment

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