Legal saber-rattling over local housing cuts | Righting a decades old travesty of justice | Globe, enviros seeing red over green hydrogen | A progressive fail in Plymouth County DA race raises questions | Quick Hits | About Contrarian Boston |
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What happened? Criminal justice reform activist Rahsaan Hall falls short in Plymouth County DA race, despite raising a mountain of cash
Can you win a modern election with no discernable polling, a small direct mail campaign, and a lack of traditional advertising?
The failure of Hall, a former prosecutor turned activist, to unseat Plymouth County DA Timothy Cruz is not encouraging on that point. The long-time Republican incumbent rolled to 63.2-to-36.8 percent victory at the ballot box earlier this month.
The Hall’s campaign’s anemic advertising - or for that matter, it’s limited outreach by direct mail and its apparent decision to forgo polling - can’t be blamed on a dearth of cash.
Hall’s campaign raked in $329,000 in campaign contributions, or roughly double the haul of his opponent, with money pouring in from everyone from teachers and social workers to celebrities and Black political power brokers.
Former Gov. Deval Patrick, former Suffolk County DA Ralph Martin, Northeastern University criminal law professor and GBH legal analyst Daniel Medwed, and Devin McCourty, the Pats star safety, all gave $1,000, the maximum possible contribution, state campaign finance records show.
But if cash wasn’t the problem with Hall’s campaign, then arguably its spending priorities were. Roughly two-thirds of the money raised by Hall’s campaign went to staff and consultants, or more than $227,000, records show, with the remaining one third for ads and other items.
The standard rule of thumb for spending in political campaigns is roughly the reverse, with two-thirds devoted to ads and marketing, and the remaining one third to consultants, staff and everything else.
Hall’s campaign spent a few thousand dollars, a relatively modest amount, on digital ads and for spots on a local radio station. The campaign also took out ads on streaming sites like Disney+ and Hulu, and sent “postcards with personalized messages to 7,000 targeted households,” said Jessica Laverty, campaign manager for Hall’s DA campaign. Money was also spent on magnets to give out at senior citizen events, t-shirts for staff and volunteers, and bumper stickers.
Laverty said the decision was made to create a campaign organization that could work on building grassroots support. The campaign hired a number of younger staff to register voters and get the word out, while also recruiting a network of 800 volunteers.
That said, most of the pay went to experienced political staff and consultants, like Laverty, Doug Chavez, and Erikson Communications.
“We faced a 20-year entrenched incumbent,” Laverty said. “You have to be within Plymouth County to realize how incredibly, deeply entrenched he is. We don’t have that political infrastructure in Plymouth County.”
Giving the max off the field as well as on: The Pats Devin McCourty tried to give the maximum possible contribution not once, but twice, to reformer Rahsaan Hall’s campaign to unseat Plymouth County’s long-time Republican DA. The second $1,000 check was returned.
So would a more traditional, ad-heavy campaign yielded better results for Hall? After all, he was an impressive candidate, a former prosecutor in the Suffolk County DA’s office who went on to head the ACLU of Massachusetts’ racial justice program.
Maybe, but Hall would still have faced an uphill battle, with Plymouth one of the reddest counties in Massachusetts. Several towns voted for Geoff Diehl, the Trumpie MassGOP gubernatorial candidate crushed by now Gov.-elect Maura Healey. Democratic town committees, typically a source of support for local campaigns, are also less robust in Plymouth County, Laverty said.
There’s also the possibility that Hall’s campaign, by hiring and cultivating some talented young campaign staffers, may have put into place the building blocks for future campaigns.
“We worked harder than I have ever seen a team work for this,” Laverty said. “We worked really hard.”
Warning shot: Local housing authorities push back against Baker administration cuts
Outgoing Gov. Charlie Baker’s controversial attempt to pressure NIMBY suburbs to open their doors to new housing - by slashing funds for local housing authorities - appears to be backfiring badly.
In fact, the way things are going, the dispute could very well wind up in court.
The state’s Department of Housing and Community Development sparked an uproar a couple weeks ago when it slashed the budgets of housing authorities in five cities and towns that have failed to comply with the new MBTA Communities law.
A centerpiece of the Baker administration’s efforts to combat the housing crisis, the new law requires local communities to open their doors to new apartments, condos and townhomes near T stations.
Now the state chapter of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials is firing back.
The organization has delivered a firmly-written letter protesting the Baker administration’s decision to lop 10.6 percent off the budgets of already cash-starved local housing authorities in Waltham, Woburn, Saugus, Hamilton and Halifax.
The housing authorities, which provide low-cost rental housing for seniors, the disabled and the low-income, operate independently of the towns and cities they are based in. Moreover, the MBTA Communities law has no authority over local housing authorities, which are not mentioned in the legislative act, NAHRO contends.
“It makes no logical sense whatsoever to financially harm those providers of housing to our state’s most vulnerable citizens as a consequence of a failure by the municipality that is beyond the housing authority’s control,” writes Donna Brown-Rego, executive director of the state NAHRO chapter.
Asked about a potential lawsuit, David Hedison, immediate past president of the organization and head of the Chelmsford Housing Authority, said it “has been discussed,” but that “there has not been a vote by the organization to file a legal appeal.”
Captain obvious: Globe reveals that industry group tinkers with wording of industry-funded study on green hydrogen
The industry group in question here is the Associated Industries of Massachusetts.
AIM apparently did some wordsmithing on a UMass Lowell study it had paid for on the feasibility of replacing natural gas with more climate friendly green hydrogen, according to a report by the Globe’s new “climate team.”
The edits were mainly in the executive summary and in the report’s section on proposed policy changes.
AIM’s involvement and sponsorship wasn’t a secret, though apparently natural gas companies like Eversource - AIM members - were given access to review early drafts.
Interesting, but hardly shocking. After all, is anybody truly confused as to what AIM is and who it actually represents?
The Globe story takes aim at an agenda driven, industry funded study. Fair enough. But ironically, the Globe also appears to be doing the bidding of the Energy and Policy Institute, a self-described watchdog group which, according to its website, “exposes attacks on renewable energy and counters misinformation by fossil fuel and utility interests.”
The EPI shared with the Globe the UMass Lowell records on the study - and the behind the scenes involvement/meddling by AIM and natural gas companies - on which the Globe’s story is based.
Environmental groups hate talk of green hydrogen, which they see simply as a ruse by the natural gas industry to avert its eventual extinction.
But arguably the pros and cons of green hydrogen are more complicated than that, with the opposition of environmentalists smacking of ideologically-driven zealotry.
If anything, global warming should spur research and exploration of all potential avenues, not a dogmatic shouting down of debate.
We’ve been skeptical of the Globe’s decision to devote scarce reporting resources to a climate change team, fearing it would simply parrot the line of environmental groups, which have their own agenda.
The story only confirms our suspicions.
Long overdue: Baker moves to rectify a terrible wrong stemming from the 1980s child sex abuse hysteria
That would be the notorious Fells Acres case, in which Malden day care owner Violet Amirault, her son Gerald Amirault and his sister, Cheryl, were convicted in the late 1980s on child sex abuse charges based on wild allegations that included animal sacrifice and the rape of small children with 12-inch knives.
Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday proposed pardons for Gerald Amirault and his sister, Cheryl Amirault LeFave, citing “grave doubt regarding the evidentiary strength” on which the cases were built.
Fells Acres was just one of a number of similar child abuse cases in the 1980s that led to a wave of day care providers being sent to prison on lurid allegations culled from very young children using now thoroughly discredited investigative techniques.
Amid our current QAnon madness, it is easy to forget some of the truly crazy things otherwise reasonable people believed in the 1980s: from the McMartin daycare case in California, which featured allegations of children being abused in tunnels and hot air balloons, to tales of roving bands of satanists engaging human sacrifice in remote, wooded locations.
The propensity to buy into some truly whacked out ideas is one aspect of human nature that is not exactly reassuring, nor does it appear to be going away anytime soon.
Oh well, better brace for Armageddon: “In crises, officials tweet crucial info. What if Twitter dies?” Washington Post
Great day for our grandfather in chief: “President Biden’s granddaughter Naomi ties knot in White House wedding Associated Press/Boston Globe
The newly-appointed Trump investigation special counsel is low profile, but very hard charging: “Garland’s appointment of a special counsel was cautious. But also bold.” Ruth Marcus/Washington Post
He’s right: “U.S. Defense Secretary Warns of ‘Tyranny and Turmoil’ if Ukraine Loses” New York Times
Yikes! “MBTA says ridership won’t be back to normal in 5 years” Bruce Mohl/CommonWealth Magazine
I have fielded emails over the past couple weeks asking what Contrarian Boston is about.
Here’s a link to our mission statement – you can find it in the “about” section.
For a more prosaic, nuts-and-bolts description, read on.
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