Charlie Baker

On Beacon Hill: Free, but not welcome, speech

Baker selfie

State House News Service/Sam Doran

Gov. Charlie Baker takes a selfie with Pete Frates after signing the “Ice Bucket Challenge Week” law.

 


Recap and analysis of the week in local, state and federal government from State House News Service and Sun research.

It would be virtually impossible to so quickly forget the racial violence that erupted in Charlottesville last weekend, but political leaders at all levels of government this week were preoccupied with making sure they would not be condemned to a repeat of it.

Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, in particular, were joined at the hip for much of the week as they united in press conferences, op/eds and safety meetings to condemn white nationalists and neo-Nazis and make it clear how they felt about a “Free Speech” rally planned for yesterday by conservative groups for Boston Common.

Baker and the Legislature also partnered Thursday to pass a resolution and sign a  proclamation denouncing white supremacy that they planned to send to the White House, the Virginia governor and the mayor of Charlottesville.

Coming on the heels of the Charlottesville protests, organizers of the Boston rally said they don’t support white nationalism, but a controversial list of speakers and the potential to draw unsavory elements had police and public officials on edge heading into yesterday.

The fears were not realized as counter-protestors vastly outnumbered those attending the rally. Boston Police reported 33 arrests, according to reports.

“99.9 percent of the people here were here for the right reason, and that is to fight bigotry and hate,” Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said.

The First Amendment being what it is, the city issued a permit for the event that drew thousands of counter-protesters. Officials hoped for the best while planning for the worst.

Charlie Baker

State House News Service/Sam Doran

Gov. Charlie Baker said that “there is no place here for that type of hatred — period — that we saw in Virginia.”

“As governor of the commonwealth of Massachusetts, I want to be clear that there is no place here for that type of hatred — period — that we saw in Virginia,” Baker said in one of several statements he made over the course of the week.

The governor’s rhetoric seemed to escalate in intensity as the days wore on and a furor grew over President Trump’s response to the violence. Eyes in Massachusetts turned to him for moral leadership, or at least an indication of where he fell on the spectrum.

Trump, of course, condemned the violence, but with great emphasis took the position that “both sides” were to blame for the confrontation that led to the death of Heather Heyer in Virginia.

In comments made during a combative press conference criticized for giving comfort to racism, Trump chose to also blame the “alt-left” that showed up to protest the gathering of white supremacists who marched, ostensibly, in protest of the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Baker’s condemnation of Trump’s response went from deep disappointment to something more, and earned him a shout out from the head of the Democratic Governor’s Association — Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy — who challenged the GOP in his own state to follow Baker’s lead.

“His offensive rhetoric and failure to condemn white supremacy in Charlottesville highlights a failure of the Trump administration to properly address issues that matter to people of color and promote unity and tolerance across our nation,” Baker would say.

The challenge of confronting this country’s racial history is not relegated to places like Charlottesville or communities in the South, either.

While grounds of public parks like those at the State House may be dotted with statues of J.F.K. and Horace Mann instead of General Lee, the city of Boston has its own ugly history of racism to contend with and that also came to the fore this week.

Red Sox owner John Henry said the team was ready to make a push to rename Yawkey Way, and House Majority Whip Byron Rushing has filed legislation to take the Yawkey name off the commuter rail station in the Fens.

Tom Yawkey, of course, was the longtime owner of the Boston Red Sox. He was a philanthropist and is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was also, according to many reports, racist toward black ballplayers and a major reason why the hometown nine were the last team in Major League League Baseball to integrate in 1959.

Walsh made some vaguely supportive comments of Henry’s call for renaming the street that runs alongside Fenway Park, but on Friday he brushed aside questions on the topic suggesting it should be left for another day to discuss.

–Matt Murphy

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Solar farm

Inbox [Aug. 20-26] News and notes from Assumption, city of Worcester, Greater Worcester Our Revolution, Quinsigamond CC, and You Inc.

Have news you or your group would like to share? Let us know by emailing it to info@worcester.ma. Be sure to include a link to the full release on your site or Facebook page so we can include it and send Sun members your way.

Worcester’s economy grows in 2nd quarter

Following a slow start to the year, the Worcester Economic Index, a quarterly economic analysis compiled by Assumption College Professor of Economics Thomas White, Ph.D., has shown that the greater Worcester economy grew at a modest clip during the second quarter of 2017. Since March, the WEI is up 1.1 percent on an annualized basis.

The WEI is estimated using Bureau of Labor Statistics data on employment and unemployment in the Worcester metropolitan area. The unemployment rate slightly increased to 4.6 percent in June while household employment has gone up by 6,400. The BLS payroll survey also showed an increase of 4,200 jobs since June 2016.

“The data shows a labor market that is steady but without much growth, which is the reason the WEI grew at a modest 1.1 percent rate during the second quarter,” White said.

Charlie Baker

In wake of Virginia violence, officials leery of Saturday “free speech” rally [with video]

Charlie Baker

State House News Service/Sam Doran

Gov. Charlie Baker said that “there is no place here for that type of hatred — period — that we saw in Virginia.”

State and city officials denounced the racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend and pledged to keep Boston safe during a planned rally this Saturday, while acknowledging they know very little about the event or its organizers.

With an event billed as a “free speech rally” planned for Boston Common on Saturday, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh on Monday said he discourages the organizers from coming to the city while the “emotion and the wound and the pain are very fresh” after three people died in Charlottesville.

“Don’t hand hatred a megaphone and pretend you can’t hear it,” Walsh said at a press conference on City Hall plaza surrounded by a diverse group of civic leaders. “Leaders call out hate and reject it before it becomes violence. That’s why we’re here today. That’s why this weekend myself and the governor spent nearly about 10 or 15 different phone calls talking about how do we reject hate in the commonwealth and the city of Boston.”

Editorial: When will we say, ‘Enough!’ ?

Charlottesville showed us an almost unrecognizable country over the weekend.

In that pretty, usually quiet Virginia city, the flaming torches, gun-toting marchers, and ugly, hateful chants — instigated by far-right outsiders and outliers — were “disturbing and sickening,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said in Boston on Monday.

We can’t think of two more apt descriptions.

“It’s disturbing and sickening to turn on the news and see that there are people in this country who believe that the color of their skin or their place of birth makes them superior to their neighbors, and we as a commonwealth flatly denounce and reject this intolerance,” the governor said during a press conference about what could be a similar rally planned for Saturday in Boston.

The events in Charlottesville were also unusual. Unlike a surprise attack, such as when Dylann Roof slayed nine African-Americans in a Charleston, S.C., church two years ago, a sense of foreboding grew starting Friday night. The frightening clashes that erupted then and the next day sent people across the country into an unmooring sense of helplessness — and then, thankfully, for many, the opposite of helplessness.

Bill would allow police to issue tickets for misdemeanors

A police officer would be able to issue a ticket instead of criminal charges for offenses like disorderly conduct, public drinking and littering under a bill endorsed last month by a legislative committee.

According to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Michael O. Moore, D-Millbury, state law already allows for the decriminalization of such offenses but only once a defendant appears in court. Moore’s bill would give police the option to issue a civil citation on eligible charges, allowing the offender to avoid court entirely by paying their fine.

Moore said the bill (S 1146) would let someone who committed a minor offense avoid the long-term consequences of having a criminal record, while also cutting court costs and providing flexibility for police departments with tight finances.

Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 189]: On pot, Mass. lawmakers show green thumb

Maybe it was an earnest and honest diligence that kept state lawmakers from finishing their rewrite of the voter-approved legal marijuana bill that wallowed behind closed doors for months.

Or maybe they just figured most of the interested parties were busy restringing their ukuleles and crushing it on the ultimate Frisbee course.

Either way, what the joint committee came up with finally earned the governor’s signature. But, Hitch wonders, does it leave any room to grow?

Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 188]: Beetles, barely — and other rare Worcester species

News came earlier this month that the once pervasive Asian longhorned beetle has all but disappeared from the Burncoat-area neighborhoods they once ravaged.

Some 35,000 trees in North Worcester, Boylston and West Boylston fell victim before years of vigilance quelled the scourge. That persistence is certainly missing in other corners of the city.

For Hitch, there is, indeed, a certain political animal that could use a wake-up call.

Sen. Moore: Solving the Alzheimer’s puzzle

Alzheimer’s permeates nearly every community in our country, forcing millions of families to suffer through the pain of having loved ones gradually forget the people and memories they previously cherished. The burden placed on these families can be overwhelming.

Sina-cism: An integrity commission that has none

I’m not nearly as much into baseball these days as I was in my youth, but I have to admit I am enjoying watching some hardball this summer — the kind going on between the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity and several states.

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

The commission was created May 11 by the signature of President Donald Trump, who seems as incredulous about Hillary Clinton’s 2.85-million-vote margin in the popular vote as many Americans are incredulous about his 77-vote victory in the Electoral College.

The commission’s purported mission is to ensure the fairness and integrity of the electoral process by collecting detailed electoral and demographic data.

Now, from a mathematical perspective, it is surely true not every one of the more than 130 million ballots cast last November was legitimate. Americans move a lot. Municipal voting records are not always up to date. Clerical errors are made. Even machines err.

But mathematics also assures us that however many ballots were illegitimate, it wasn’t remotely close to 2.85 million. This Washington Post piece makes the case for why the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is an absurdity. Democrats did not “steal” the popular vote — a meaningless concept — any more than Republicans stole the Electoral College.