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Download: Driscoll goes down but not out

Posted in: Current Affairs   Municipal government   Environment and recreation   Crime and safety
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Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll is the first of the Democratic water-testers to wisely pass on taking on US Sen. Scott Brown. By way of explanation, Driscoll pledged her fealty to the Witch City (and the demands of a young family), but it doesn’t take a passel of political consultants to tell a smart woman with virtually no statewide name recognition that she didn’t have a prayer against an incumbent senator with high-voltage star power.

Of course, Brown and Barack Obama were once political no-names who succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. But with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee already sweating bullets about Brown, and his $8.3 million campaign war chest, potential Democratic contributors are unlikely to be fired up by a Driscoll candidacy.

Driscoll’s final decision was probably made easier by Gov. Deval Patrick’s de facto anointment of his good friend Newton Mayor Setti Warren as the potential challenger, the governor’s less than ringing endorsement about her possible run, and, perhaps the sneaking suspicion in some quarters that Patrick himself just might toss his hat in the ring, especially if POTUS asks.

But Driscoll can afford to bide her time, since her prospects for the long haul are promising. Now in her second term as mayor, Driscoll is often mentioned as one of the brighter lights among the state’s municipal leaders.

In the ongoing fight to give municipal officials more control over public employees’ health insurance plans, Driscoll has emerged as one of the key leaders. She has consistently criticized Salem public sector unions for failing to relent on plan design decisions. (A new Boston Foundation/Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation report on costly municipal government health insurance benefits gives the Driscolls of the Bay State even more ammunition.)

Should a coalition of mayors give up on waiting for the Legislature to strip plan design authority from the unions’ collective bargaining prerogatives and instead go full bore on a 2012 ballot initiative to accomplish that goal, Kim Driscoll would be well-positioned to help lead that campaign— and raise her profile among Bay State voters for any future statewide run for office.

                                                                                                                                                                --GABRIELLE GURLEY

BEACON HILL

Gov. Deval Patrick insisted yesterday that the state can't wait a year or two for health care payment reform. Here's the Globe account and CommonWealth's report.  A Boston Herald editorial throws cold water on Patrick's attempt to goose the Legislature into acting on his overhaul plan. 

Patrick is taking steps to rein in runaway costs for transporting people with disabilities, the Globe reports.  

Barbara Anderson, writing in the Salem News, asks why there was so little attention paid to a report by Inspector General Gregory Sullivan documenting abuses of the state’s health care safety net for the poor. Maybe it has something to do with the way he released it – in stealth mode only to the Herald.

Officials from four area think tanks and policy organizations that don't see eye-to-eye on everything agreed at a State House forum that the state's film tax credit is bad policy.

Accidental Governor’s Councilor Charles Cipollini admits he knows nothing about Supreme Judicial Court nominee Judge Barbara Lenk but says it appears Gov. Deval Patrick “is using a quota system” for filling the court.

The Springfield Republican wants the state to toughen up seat belt laws.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

New Boston Redevelopment Authority chief Peter Meade tells WBUR that Boston is in much better shape than most cities.

At WGBH, Meade tells Emily Rooney his first priorities on a list of many are filing the hole in Downtown Crossing where Filene’s used to be and doing something – anything – with the Rose Kennedy Greenway.  

Woes keep mounting for Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua. First, the city’s fiscal overseer says unforeseen expenses have wiped out a $5.4 million surplus and left the city with a $1 million shortfall with just three months to go in the fiscal year. Second, the mayor is involved in a car accident, and the other driver is cited for leaving the scene. Both stories are from the Eagle-Tribune.

The state Inspector General and East Bridgewater officials are investigating a deal with a contractor who billed the town $53,000 after he said the fire chief authorized him to remove snow this winter from school roofs.

A Lynn Head Start program for children ages 3 to 5 has a waiting list of 1,118, the Item reports.

Falmouth voters approve an $800,000 capital exclusion for a feasibility study for a possible new water filtration plant.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Kristen LaBrie goes on trial in Lawrence for withholding chemotherapy drugs from her son, who died in March 2009, the Item reports.

WASHINGTON

In proposing a budget that's heavy on spending cuts, US Rep. Paul Ryan may inadvertently be making the case for tax hikes. The Atlantic does some math on Ryan's budget proposal and is not so thrilled with the outcome. 

House Speaker John Boehner has a Jack Abramoff connection - one who's steering policy in his office. 

Budget brinkmanship reaches the brink. Federal agencies prepare to go dark. 

EDUCATION

The Pioneer Institute's Jim Stergios asks some smart questions about school reform efforts in Massachusetts, including the process for instituting school turnaround efforts, which appears to have drawn some inspiration from Rube Goldberg

Is our children learning online?

LABOR

The American Prospect's Harold Meyerson ponders what the backlash against Wisconsin's anti-union governor might mean for labor's fortunes going forward.

ELECTION 2012

National Democratic Party leaders are urging that next year's March 6 Massachusetts presidential primary be pushed ahead to later in the spring, part of a strategy to frontload the primary season with more conservative states, which could  in turn give momentum to a hard-right GOP nominee who would be easier for President Obama to defeat in November. Key Dems here, however, are quite cool to the idea.

It’s the conspiracy theory that just won’t die. A new poll in New Hampshire found that 42 percent of likely Republican primary voters think President Obama is an alien, although at least they think he was born on Earth.

ENVIRONMENT

A Department of Environmental Protection hearing on a proposed East Springfield biomass plant brings out hundreds of residents.

Barnstable County officials release a draft of a map showing where offshore wind turbines could be built.

A rescued golden eagle is outfitted with a GPS tracking device so scientists can plot where wind turbines shouldn’t be located, WBUR reports.

BOATING

A bill to require everyone on a boat, not just children, to wear life jackets appears dead in the water.

PEACE OUT

The Institute for Economics and Peace ranks Maine as the most peaceful state, followed New Hampshire and Vermont. The Bay State is seventh. If turmoil is your thing, head to Louisiana.

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