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The Download: Flip side of the coin

Posted in: Current Affairs   Elections   Transportation   Massachusetts Legislature
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Glamour hasn’t gone out of style during the Great Recession. It’s just gone quiet as Jaguar dealers and wealth management gurus see their customers making more prudent purchases. But business owners serving a less privileged clientele have different stories to tell.

In the second installment of its two-part series on the recession’s impact on the rich and the poor, The Worcester Business Journal reports on how Central Massachusetts businesses have adapted to their poorer customers’ marginal or suddenly reduced incomes.

One long-time convenience store owner who saw demand moving from grocery purchases to beer and lottery ticket sales added check cashing and other financial services. Some people, like students and day laborers, who can’t maintain traditional bank minimum balances tend to use these types of outlets. That aspect of the convenience store owner’s business was so successful that he shuttered his Fitchburg and Leominster stores to go into the financial services business full-time.

A Worcester tax preparer decided to add “rapid refund” options to her income tax services since more of her clients preferred the quick cash even if fees consumed a sizeable chunk of the money.

Poverty persists, but it did not increase dramatically in Massachusetts during the recession as one might expect. Massachusetts ranks among the ten states with the lowest poverty rates, experiencing only a small uptick in the poverty rate from 2008 to 2009, according to a recent Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center study. Roughly 10 percent of the state’s nearly 6.6 million residents live below the 2009 federal poverty threshold of $21,756 for a family of four that includes two children.

The center also ranked the Bay State among the 10 states with the lowest “deep poverty” rates, defined as a family of four living on a household income of less than $10,900. But for the 285,000 people who fall into this category, that impressive statistic is cold comfort.

They face further stresses in the months ahead. With the Bay State facing a $1.5 billion deficit going into the 2012 fiscal budget season, lawmakers will be forced to make deeper cuts in state government services, especially in the health and human services sector that low-income residents rely on. Municipal programs are already being crippled by past state cutbacks: In Leominster, the city’s heating assistance program has run out of money, according to the Sentinel & Enterprise.

                                                                                                                                                            --GABRIELLE GURLEY

Election 2012

Perennial candidate Peter White announced plans to run against US Sen. Scott Brown as an independent. The Mashpee resident has run in several state and local elections, according to the Cape Cod Times.

Beacon Hill

Gov. Deval Patrick says he’ll be heading out of state a lot in the coming term.  The Boston Globe’s Brian McGrory thinks that’s a dreadful idea, and worries that it’s a harbinger of bad things to come. Patrick focuses on his “ambitious agenda” in an interview with WBUR. With the Herald, he talks tough on parole.

The Globe previews today’s swearing-in of Beacon Hill lawmakers – with a focus on the tough tasks that await them, starting with a state budget that will need to be cut by some $1.5 billion.

Howie Carr offers an amusing rant about the legislative pay cut, the head of the state’s parole board, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s efforts to change the subject.

Former state senator Dianne Wilkerson, who faces sentencing later this month on federal corruption charges, has thrown herself at the mercy of the court, sending the judge who will sentence her a seven-page letter apologizing for her actions and seeking leniency in sentencing.

Lt. Gov. Tim Murray helps two kids escape of a minivan with a tire on fire, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

PAROLE

“Greater Boston” examines the calls for crackdowns on who gets paroled in the wake of the killing of a Woburn police officer with State Rep. George Peterson of Grafton and Northeastern’s Jack McDevitt, director of the Institute on Race and Justice, offering their insights

Municipal AFFAIRS

Gov. Deval Patrick tells the Patriot Ledger he does not support allowing cities and towns to shift health costs to employees for savings and argues that they need to come up with a better idea other than seeking legislative approval for plan design to address their burgeoning health care budgets.

Taking a page from Mayor Thomas Menino, Boston’s urban mechanic, Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch says in his State of the City address that he plans to focus on grunt work and fixing perennial problems in the neighborhoods.

Gloucester’s city council president calls for a Cape Ann caucus to deal with National Grid on power outages, the Times reports.

Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon raises $300,000 from private donors to go along with $500,000 grant from the state for an artificial turf playing field at the high school, the Salem News reports. Meanwhile, Haverhill is selling naming rights for its high school facility, Haverhill Stadium. The minimum bid is $25,000, reports the Eagle-Tribune.

The police chief in Carlisle unexpectedly retired last month. It now turns out he was having an improper relationship with a female subordinate, according to a report in the Lowell Sun.

Attleboro city council boosts pay of mayor by $16,000 to $101,000, reports the Sun Chronicle.

new hampshire POLITICS

New Hampshire House of Representatives expects to vote Wednesday on allowing reps to bring guns on the House floor, the Union Leader reports.

WASHINGTON

Slate asks why the ethics trial of Rep. Maxine Waters of California has been postponed. The case focuses on efforts to steer $12 million in bailout funds to the Boston-based bank One United.

Democrats may still have majority control in the US Senate, but the Wall Street Journal says President Obama will hardly be able to count on lockstep support for his initiatives, as an unusually large group of those Democrats (22) face reelection in 2012, many of them in more conservative-leaning swing states.

Ruy Teixeira, whose 2002 book predicting a long-running national Democratic Party majority has been taking on a bit of water lately, is at least not throwing in the towel when it comes to Democratic control of the White House. He writes in The New Republic that President Obama’s much-criticized tax-cut deal with Republicans could be the move that ensures a second term for the president.

The Gloucester Times criticizes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for transferring a “criminal investigator” from Gloucester to New Bedford.

TRANSPORTATION

The Globe reports on a plan being considered by MBTA officials to sell revenue from its parking lots to investors in order to pull in a pile of cash to help close a projected budget deficit and pay off some of the T’s outsized debt.  CommonWealth wrote about the possible move in late November, spotlighting potential ripple effects from it that could hold up development efforts in the North Station area.

Business/Economy

The Auto Auction, unable to expand along the Lynnway in Lynn, is moving to Billerica, according to a story in the Item.

Philanthropy

The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s annual analysis of the biggest charitable gifts of 2010 found that the top 10 donations totaled just $1.3 billion, the second lowest in the 13 years the Chronicle has done the analysis and half of last year’s top 10 total. The review also found that, of the top 50 donations, half went to new buildings or expansion on college campuses rather than helping the needy.

REDEMPTION

The Enterprise polled Brockton Rox fans and most say there’s no ill will toward former Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, who will be the team’s manager for the upcoming season. We say “most” because some actually never heard of the man who once was derided as the biggest goat in Boston sports history.

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