"Like Thieves in the Night"

Patriots Day:  CLT's logo, its inspiration, is the Concord Minuteman, ready on a moment's notice to selflessly drop his plow, pick up his musket and race off to defend the liberty of his family and that of his fellow citizens. Today we celebrate the minutemen and the birth of our American heritage.

On April 19, 1775 American colonists first stood up and fired back "the shot heard 'round the world" as their government came to confiscate their guns and take away their munitions. We still call this ragtag group of determined citizens "patriots," heros all. They stood up for the principles of liberty and security against the then-most powerful government in the world, the British Empire.

But in the present, many vilify these same kind of folks as "gun nuts," "extremists" unwilling to compromise yet again. We've exchanged rebellion against British General Gage's "gun control" authority for submission to that of Attorney General Reilly.

We've gradually descended a very long way in the past 225 years; something worth reflecting upon over this Patriots Day, lest we forget who and what we're really supposed to be honoring on this day.

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Chip Ford

The Boston Herald
Monday, April 17, 2000

Like thieves in the night...
by Joe Sciacca

If the vice squad is up on Beacon Hill, they would do us all a favor by raiding Tom Finneran's House.

What the Legislature did during the budget debate last week was, by any definition of the word, obscene.

They pulled an all-nighter -- spending like crazy and throwing conscience and ethics out the window -- and it was the taxpayers who woke up with a headache.

No hack was left unrewarded. Just ask the Governor's Council, a useless, barely functional throwback to another era, whose members were treated to a $10,000 raise.

Now the councilors, some of whom appear as lawyers before the same judges they rubberstamp, are in line to get $25,000 a year for the half hour they put in each week instead of just $15,000.

You get nothing for nothing in the world of politics as we all know. So their fat raise means that the councilors will just have to rubberstamp a few more appointments when these state representatives aspire to use the political acumen they learned in Finneran's House to grab another plum when they leave the State House as say, a clerk magistrate or a superior court judge.

But the bellycrawlers in Finneran's House didn't stop there. They doubled the "per diem" stipend that lawmakers receive for their State House commute and "office budgets," explaining that lawmakers would need the extra cash because campaign spending reform would mean they couldn't use campaign funds for "constituent service." Except that they didn't pass campaign finance reform. They sent it off for further study.

And while special needs kids across the commonwealth were tucked in their beds, the lawmakers cut funding that will throw an estimated 30,000 out of educational programs and gave the break to another group instead: the lobbyists.

GOP Rep. Kevin Finnegan carried the water on this one because he's a lame duck and doesn't have to pretend to care any more.

At Finneran's direction, the courageous Newburyport lawmaker proposed an amendment allowing lobbyists to pick up meals and drinks, or rather drinks and drinks, for lawmakers without reporting them, as long as the bar tab is under $35.

When you see Finnegan on the streets of Newburyport or Amesbury or Salisbury, ask him how to manages to stand upright without a backbone.

And Finneran calls himself a reformer.

Maybe in the speaker's language that is reform. Because in Finneran-speak, the Governor's Council raise is "a very modest stipend." And last year's unprecedented budget delay was due to "creative thinking." I've always admired Finneran's maverick style, his skills at playing power politics with the likes of Bob Kraft, his gleeful humiliating of Paul Cellucci again and again.

But this year, they should replace the Hall of Flags with a Hall of Shame and put Finneran's portrait high on the wall.

The speaker, of course, has realized that he has virtually no chance of becoming governor. Now he wants to be mayor of Boston. But even by the low bar that City Hall sets in serving the public interest, Finneran is doing the limbo.

It's unlikely you, as a taxpayer, will ever actually get to speak to Tom Finneran. But maybe you could call his office at 722-2500 and make a suggestion: Massachusetts doesn't need a full-time state Legislature. The less they are in session, the less damage they can do.

And Finneran's Ways and Means chief Paul Haley (722-2990). After the House wraps up a budget process that stinks more than the sacred cod before it was stuffed and mounted, Haley utters the classic line, "(I'm) very nervous at what we've spent this week." I don't understand why Haley is nervous. It was our money he was spending. Hey, they only added $150 million to the $21.8 billion state budget. What's a little extra on the bottom line? Just ask the great minds over at the Big Dig.

Maybe Tom Birmingham, the Senate president who is running for governor, or Paul Cellucci, the shell-shocked governor who is running for his political life, will undo the damage. We'll see.

Finneran pretends that he wants to do things differently. He is pushing a two-year budget he says will "help us think in a generational manner" by providing "very careful planning." Careful planning? Spare us, Mr. Speaker. There's only one reason your House, year after year, ends up making million-dollar decisions in the middle of the night. You let it happen.

It's no coincidence that B & E artists prefer the cover of darkness. And it's no coincidence that the residents of Finneran's House do, too.

The Eagle-Tribune
Lawrence, Mass.
Sunday, April 16, 2000

Hold them to a higher standard

Elected officials who lie to us
should be made to pay the price at the ballot box.

Is it too much to ask for a little honesty from those who govern us?

In Boston, legislators are happily trying to line their pockets with extra cash and fixing things up nicely for their lobbyist friends, all while telling taxpayers that there is no money for tax cuts because of cost overruns on the Big Dig.

State Rep. Harriett L. Stanley, D-West Newbury, pulled a fast one on the citizens she represents. Just days after she told constituents at a local breakfast she supports Gov. A. Paul Cellucci's plan to reduce the state income tax rate to 5 percent, she voted against the plan in the Legislature.

Rep. Stanley's unbelievable excuse for lying to voters was this: She really does support cutting taxes but, as a high-ranking member of the Legislature, she could not vote for a tax cut the House leadership opposes. Support is one thing, Rep. Stanley said, but "voting for a tax cut is a whole different matter."

John C. Brockelman, state GOP executive director, had it precisely right when he called Rep. Stanley the "poster child for political hypocrisy." Perhaps in the next election, the citizens of Rep. Stanley's district will elect someone with the courage to vote their convictions, or at least someone honest enough to admit that they have no convictions.

While Rep. Stanley was trying to figure out what she really thinks, we had the obscene spectacle of state Rep. Kevin L. Finnegan, R-Newburyport, doing his utmost to make it easier for lobbyists to conceal their activities from the public. Rep. Finnegan's amendment to the budget passed in the wee hours of Friday morning -- after midnight, when all things dark and dangerous appear on Beacon Hill.

It allows lobbyists to hide many of their expenses from the public and spend up to $35 on gifts for lawmakers. Rep. Finnegan said his amendment fixes the "offensive" rule that prevents lobbyists from buying him a drink at a wedding or entertaining him with a day at the country club.

"Offensive" best describes Rep. Finnegan's action. But we're sure he doesn't care. Beacon Hill leadership wanted the change and, since Rep. Finnegan is not running for re-election, he needs to know where his next job is coming from.

There is a way to get political officials and those they appoint to deal honestly with us. It's a ballot box, and if we used it to hold those we elect to higher standards, we just might get better and more honest government.

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