Friday is Flag Day; I
started flying my porch flag early last weekend, at half-staff, to
note the passing of both former Gov. Paul Cellucci and former Salem
Mayor Jean Levesque.
My relationship with
them is a tale of two ballot questions.
During the Proposition
2Ĺ campaign in 1980, it was my job to sell this dramatic proposed
law to the voters, arguing for a 15 percent property tax cut in many
communities, followed by a permanent annual levy limit. At the time,
I knew only the Marblehead Board of Selectmen, which endorsed it,
and two mayors: Jean Levesque of Salem and Peter Torigian of
Peabody. So I thought, what can go wrong?
Then I met other
mayors. But anyhow, after the ballot question passed in both their
communities, Levesque and Torigian set about doing what their voters
asked, and responsibly implemented the new law.
Barbara and Gov. Cellucci celebrate 2000 tax rollback
petition drive success with volunteers
After he left office,
Jean Levesque occasionally called or dropped me a note to encourage
my activism; he even joined Citizens for Limited Taxation and
remained a member until his death last week. He also remained very
active in his community and had a long, interesting and rewarding
life with a lovely family that I met Sunday at his wake.
Paul Cellucci had an
interesting life, too, but it was cruelly cut short by ALS ó Lou
Gehrigís disease. He was barely a senior citizen when he died last
weekend. I just found the notecard on my desk that Iíd intended to
send him when I heard of his diagnosis; I wonder why I never
followed through. I guess I didnít know what to say about having
such a terrible disease, and yet ,from what Iím reading in the
newspapers, he made good use of his remaining time, working to find
a cure, while still remaining involved in politics, his job, with
I knew him
professionally from the beginning of his political career: CLTís
political action committee supported him for state representative
and state senator. As a legislator, he filed and carried our tax cut
and tax limitation bills, supported Prop 2Ĺ, led various legislative
When he was running for
lieutenant governor with Bill Weld in 1990, CLT had a question on
the same ballot to repeal the Dukakis tax hikes of 1989-90. Weld/Cellucci
endorsed this ballot campaign, which became even a tougher battle
than Prop 2Ĺ had been; they never wavered even when it became
obvious to almost everyone but me that it was going to lose.
Looking back, I can see
that voters decided the tax cuts ďwent too far,Ē but the issue
helped elect the governor and lieutenant governor who soon got the
sales tax on services repealed and continued to argue for the income
tax rate to return to its traditional 5 percent.
In 1997, CLT did
another petition drive, this one just to roll back the income tax
rate over three years. The Massachusetts Teachers Association
challenged the signatures, and we didnít have enough to get on the
ballot. Discouraged, we just filed the rollback as a bill. At its
legislative hearing in 1999, Paul Cellucci, now the governor,
marched dramatically into the hearing room to announce that if the
legislature didnít pass it, he would lead a petition drive himself
to get it on the 2000 ballot.
This was the first Iíd
heard of this plan. All eyes, including those of Statehouse
reporters, turned to me, wondering if CLT would resent his taking
charge? Actually, I wondered if it would be undignified to do
cheerleading cartwheels across the hearing room floor.
We teamed up, CLT with
its volunteers and prior experience with petition drives, Gov.
Cellucci with paid petitioners funded by donations from Cellucci
supporters and another longtime ally, the Mass. High Technology
Council. This time there were too many signatures to be challenged,
and we made it to the 2000 ballot.
It really was a fun
campaign, with Gov. Cellucci doing the major television debates
after hilarious debate preps that I attended, in which his aide Rob
Gray played the role of various opponents, or maybe Iím confusing
this with the gubernatorial campaign in 1998. Regardless, Cellucci
won them both; he never lost a campaign in his entire political
He resigned as governor
to become ambassador to Canada; this was unfortunate for the
rollback, which acting Gov. Swift wasnít strong enough to protect
from being frozen at 5.3 percent, but fortunate for the country, as
he was in place to encourage Canadian support for U.S. initiatives
after the Sept. 11 attack.
After he left the
Statehouse, I never saw him again in person, did occasionally see
him on television, but didnít know his physical condition was
deteriorating so rapidly. Of course I thought of him when the income
tax rate dropped to 5.25 percent last year, but there seemed plenty
of time to write a thank-you note.
With Fatherís Day this
weekend, this is a good time to tell my story about seeing my
father, three days after he died, moving on to someplace he looked
excited about going. I expect to see him again someday and hope to
run into Jean and Paul there too. I wish their families the same
expectation of reunion.