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Where the Pentagon sees guns, Mass. sees butter

Posted in: Economics   *Gabrielle Gurley   Gubernatorial politics   National politics   Growth and development
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With Gov. Deval Patrick gone AWOL more and more, Lt. Gov. Tim Murray has been tapped to lead the fight to forestall cutbacks at Bay State military facilities. So far, the Pentagon is winning.

Massachusetts has staved off major cuts before. But with the Department of Defense under pressure to shave nearly $500 billion from its fiscal 2013 budget, the Air Force moved ahead with its plan to trim more than 300 military and civilian jobs from four facilities: Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, and Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod.

The handwriting was on the wall for Westover last month when the Air Force announced it planned to transfer half of the military cargo planes at the facility to Texas. About a third of the civilian job cuts will come from Hanscom, which was nearly shuttered in the last major base reduction effort in 2005.

There’s a good amount of fat to be trimmed in the military, and civilian leaders are pushing the Pentagon to get with the new austerity program in Washington. In its report on the announcement, The Boston Globe focused on the disbanding of the military jazz and rock group stationed at Hanscom that accounts for 43 of the 55 active duty military position cuts there.

However, when Murray and other state and local officials and talk about the bases they tend to focus more on jobs, with a nod to national security priorities, rather than the other way round. The Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force that Murray heads “calls for a long term initiative to support all military installations in Massachusetts in order to both protect them and explore opportunities to bring in new missions.”

It’s not a revelation that Massachusetts wants to “protect” its military bases; every state does. Military facilities are an economic boon to nearby communities whether they provide civilian jobs or customers for local goods and services.

But these facilities are, first and foremost, cogs in the country’s defense machinery. With two more rounds of base reduction reviews coming in the next three years, state leaders must craft a stronger rationale to convince Pentagon officials to keep them here, one that more closely matches up with the Defense Department’s assessments of current threats to national security.

                                                                                                                                                                                --GABRIELLE GURLEY


BEACON HILL

Gas station owners brace for state inspectors looking for price gouging, but CommonWealth reports there is no legal basis for any prosecutions.

The state has added $21 million to the fuel assistance pot and asked power companies to extend the moratorium for shutting off utilities to help low-income customers make it through the final weeks of winter.

Lowell Sun columnist Peter Lucas calls Gov. Deval Patrick “a slick politician” who has been given a free ride by the media on his past work for Ameriquest, a subprime mortgage lender.

Lawmakers are considering a measure that would fine dog owners and even confiscate the pet if the owners leave the dog outside in the cold for more than eight hours in a day.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo holds to his no taxes pledge.

CASINOS

The Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe of Martha’s Vineyard has sent a letter to Fall River Mayor Will Flanagan asking that voters be allowed to decide if they want a casino in the city.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

More trouble for embattled Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua, as the Globe reports that Attorney General Martha Coakley has launched an investigation into his fund-raising practices following findings that he has regularly violated state campaign finance laws. Meanwhile, four current and former Lawrence officials are served with subpoenas to testify and provide documents to an Essex County grand jury investigating Lantigua, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

State Rep. Angelo D’Emilia of Bridgewater is suing the town over land it plans to buy and keep as open space with community preservation funds that the Republican representative says he and his partners had been eyeing for a 97-unit housing development.

The Eagle-Tribune, in an editorial, says an arbitrator-awarded 10.5 percent, six-year pay raise for Haverhill firefighters sends the message that taxpayers should pay for raises even if their municipality cannot afford them.

ELECTION 2012

Mitt Romney ekes out a win in Ohio, retaining his position as the GOP front-runner, but he falls far short of delivering the knockout punch that his campaign hoped for. The Atlantic calls Romney’s margin of victory in Ohio “shockingly thin.” His county-by-county map in Ohio looks a lot like Barack Obama’s map did in 2008 -- a sign that Romney can count votes, but is struggling with the party’s red meat-loving base. That’s a Super wrap, from the National Review. In U.S. News & World Report, Leslie Marshall says it was a Super Tuesday. . .for Democrats. At the Weekly Standard, William Kristol says, sure, Romney is getting more votes than everyone else but not enough to put everyone else away. The primary is now more of a war of attrition than it is an election. Rick Santorum’s folks say maybe it’s time for Newt Gingrich to drop out and stop splitting the conservative vote. Joe Battenfeld echoes that call, while the Wall Street Journal focuses on the emerging Santorum-Gingrich clash. A New York Times editorial tosses a boatload of insults at the GOP field, and calls the party’s nominating contest “relentlessly nasty, divisive and vapid.” Get your exit polling data here. Oh, yeah, and Romney wins big in Massachusetts.

The National Review editors say the fun and games are over and it’s time for serious Republicans to accept the reality that President Obama was born in the USA and they add that Arizona’s Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio, who continues to fan the conspiracy flames, has passed his freshness date.

Liberal Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who was thrown into a Democratic primary showdown by Ohio’s redistricting plan, lost the party nomination for the seat to fellow Democrat Marcy Kaptur. Joe the Plumber fared better than Kucinich in his primary.

US Sen. Scott Brown, honoring an agreement with Democrat Elizabeth Warren, says his campaign will make a donation to charity because a PAC ran online ads on his behalf, the AP reports (via WBUR). The PAC says it spent just under $700 running pro-Brown ads online.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A state land court judge has ruled against opponents of the Fenway Center development slated to rise over the Massachusetts Turnpike near Kenmore Square, clearing the way for the $450 million mixed-used project.

Two Boston cabdrivers have filed suit against the city and taxi fleet owners alleging that they are improperly being treated as contractors rather than employees.  

Young people entering the job market are seeing downward pressure on wages, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Arthur Laffer’s supply-side economics is making a comeback in states headed by Republican governors, Governing reports.

EDUCATION

The CEO of Teach for America says teacher rankings are not the answer to better schools.

HEALTH CARE

House Speaker Robert DeLeo vowed to file legislation next month aimed at reducing by half annual increases in health care costs, but he offered few details of the plan.  

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A Winthrop man who was ejected from the stands during a girl’s hockey game after he allegedly shined a laser into the eyes of a goalie from Medway in a game Winthrop won will be summonsed into court on charges of disturbing the peace. Via Universal Hub.

A Hingham woman was arrested on a variety of charges including allegations she had six identities that she used to obtain a liquor license and register to vote under two different names in town.

The FBI busts members of the Anonymous hacker ring, Politico reports. The arrests have thrown the group into finger-pointing disarray.

MEDIA

Is Google Plus a ghost town or a bustling beehive of activity? The New York Times tries to answer.


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