By Sarah Birnbaum | Tuesday, June 21, 2011
June 21, 2011
BOSTON — A group of Massachusetts’ lawmakers is coming down hard on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency at the center of a contentious debate over regional fishing rights and the subject of a damning Commerce Department investigation last year.
During a Congressional hearing on the agency held in Boston on Tuesday, Rep. John Tierney called for the resignation of NOAA’s chief, Jane Lubchenco. He said the agency failed to respond adequately to reports of abuses by its staff.
"I don’t see the empathy that ought to be there, I don’t see the understanding. And the real commitment to make sure that their positions are understood and factored into any decisions that are made," Tierney said.
Tierney joins a growing chorus of lawmakers, including Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, who say that Lubchenco failed to respond to reports of abuses at NOAA quickly enough.
The investigation, by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Inspector General, found NOAA was charging fishermen outlandish fines for small offenses. The money then went into a NOAA fund with no oversight. It was used by regulators to pay for fishing conferences in exotic locations such as Australia, Malaysia and Norway. It also purchased a $300,000 fishing boat used by government employees for fishing trips.
The Inspector General also found the agency’s Law Enforcement Director, Dale Jones, shredded garbage bags full of documents in the middle of the investigation.
U.S. Sen. Scott Brown asked NOAA’s assistant fisheries director, Eric Schwaab, about Jones’ current whereabouts, but Schwaab refused to comment. He has said Jones was removed from his job, but according to CBS news, Schwaab remains an analyst still making a six-figure salary.
Schwaab also says the agency is addressing past abuses by making a number of financial reforms. Sen. Brown applauded these actions, but many fishermen say they ring hollow when the perpetrators remain unpunished.
Brown said the problem at NOAA goes deeper than what was uncovered in that investigation alone.
"NOAA's history of overzealous enforcement in the New England Fishery has come at the cost of the fishermen’s' trust and their livelihood. And many of them tell me that the folks in Washington regard them as criminals instead of a legitimate and valued regulated industry," Brown said.
In May, the Commerce Secretary ordered the agency to return tens of thousands of dollars in fines to fishermen. The government is still investigating if funds collected through fines are being used properly.
By Adam Reilly | Monday, May 23, 2011
May 23, 2011
BOSTON — Both of Massachusetts' senators are voicing opposition to a proposal in Congress that would turn Medicare into a privatized, voucher-based system.
On Monday, Democratic Senator John Kerry visited Kit Clark Senior Services in Dorchester and panned the voucher plan, which is a key part of the so-called “Ryan Budget,” named for Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
“I was against the Ryan budget the moment I saw it, folks,” Kerry said to loud applause. “Because I saw that it was a budget that would destroy this country. The Ryan budget is not a budget that is a pathway to prosperity. It’s a roadmap to poverty. It would destroy many of the things that make a difference in our country.”
In an op-ed published by Politico on Monday, Republican Sen. Scott Brown wrote he won’t support Ryan’s budget plan either. Brown said he’s grateful to Ryan for jump-starting a serious conversation about the nation’s debt — but also warned that Ryan’s Medicare plan could lead to increased deductibles and co-pays for seniors.
Earlier this month, Brown seemed to indicate support for the Ryan budget in a speech to the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce and Industry. But after the Massachusetts Democratic Party seized on Brown’s remarks, a Brown aide said the senator’s comments had been misconstrued and that he was still weighing his vote.
By Sarah Birnbaum | Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Feb. 15, 2011
BOSTON — President Barack Obama unveiled his budget plan yesterday for the upcoming fiscal year. It cuts back or eliminates some 200 federal programs -- and municipal officials in Massachusetts say they'll feel the pain.
The budget is a mixed bag for Bay State, according to UMass Boston economist Christian Weller. He says the budget would preserve or expand funding for education and clean energy. Massachusetts, with its strong academic and tech sectors, could benefit from those investments.
"The good news for Massachusetts is continued spending in innovation, more money in research and development, particularly for renewable energies, more money for education, especially in k-12 and more support in college education," Weller said.
But experts say the budget also contains some bad news for the state: Proposed cutbacks in heating assistance for poor families would disproportionately affect New England, where winters are cold, although some observers say Congress is unlikely to accept the President's proposed $2 billion or more cut in the program.
And Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, says the president's planned reduction in so-called community development block grants would be particularly painful for Massachusetts cities and towns. Beckwith says the grants fund a wide range of neighborhood improvements, everything from road repairs, to the Boys and Girls club to senior housing.
“So we’re talking about basic human services, leveraging housing, leveraging job creation, economic development projects. These funds are irreplaceable really,” Beckwith said.
President Obama’s budget proposal is just the first move in the Capitol Hill spending debate. Republicans are calling for even steeper cuts.
Monday, August 30, 2010
By Jeff Keating | Tuesday, July 3, 2012
July 3, 2012
On the June 29 episode of Beat the Press, host Emily Rooney had a rant about the media coverage of Karen Klein, the bullied bus monitor from upstate N.Y. Rooney thought the media should have delved deeper into this story and asked more probing questions. For example, why was Klein so passive? Would she have intervened if another child on the bus had been subjected to that kind of verbal bullying?
WGBH's Toni Waterman posed those questions to Klein at an event held for her in Boston by the radio station Mix 104.1. Viewers can reach their own conclusions about how she responds.
"As the bus monitor, your main objective is to make sure that stuff like this doesn't happen on the bus," Waterman said. "I'm wondering why you didn't say something to them and you weren't more aggressive in your action as the bus monitor."
"That's a good question," Klein said. "It's the first time they had ever done anything like that. Before they had acted up and I made them go sit in the front of the bus. Why I didn't do anything that time I really can't tell you, except that I kept thinking 'School's over and then I won't have to worry about this any more.'"
Klein added that she hadn't seen the children bully anyone else — just her.
She concluded, "It was a bunch that sit together and you know how kids get sometimes."
In fairness to Klein, many of those same questions should also be directed at the school district where she is (or was) employed. That's what Meaghan McDermott did in this article for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, one of the few reports I could find that went beyond the face value of the story.
By Bob Seay | Friday, June 29, 2012
June 29, 2012
BOSTON — During his two terms as Massachusetts governor, Michael Dukakis had health care reform on his agenda. In fact, in 1988 Dukakis signed into law a health care act that would have forced businesses that didn’t offer their employees health insurance to contribute to a fund to provide such insurance — but Dukakis said his successor William Weld did what he could to stymie the effort.
I sat down with the former governor and presidential candidate at Northeastern University, where he is now distinguished professor of political science. I spoke with him soon after the Supreme Court decision was released — a decision that somewhat vexed Dukakis
Excerpts from the interview
"Well, I'm pleased that the basic core piece of it was upheld. On the other hand, I must say I'm confused about the decision on Medicaid. Congress has regularly required the states to expand Medicaid coverage as a condition for receiving that money ... So what you're going to end up with, I guess, is a kind of pitched battle in conservative legislatures over whether or not they're going to agree to make it possible for working people and their families — up to 133 percent of poverty, which isn't a lot of money — to get decent, affordable health care. And in point of fact that's the whole issue anyway, which I'm sorry to say my party hasn't done a very good job of explaining. This is all about working folks and their families because the overwhelming majority of uninsured people in this country, and it's about 60 million, are working or members of working families ...
"We're finally going to, I hope, move ahead with decent, affordable health care, especially for working families in this country — unless of course Mitt Romney, who's done his 125th 180, in this case on health care — gets elected! If he does, then forget it."