Time is limited, and I don't know how many debates there will be for the second-in-command or if I will be at work, unable to watch. Most debates are, unfortunately, only when 9-to-5 office workers can view them. At least we can all watch video...but I can't guarantee I can watch them in time to post a review. Like many in Massachusetts, I work multiple part-time jobs because employeers use this as an excuse not to pay health insurance. However, I'll do my best!
As expected, Reed Hillman (R, Healy-Hillman) and Tim Murray (D, Patrick-Murray) attempted to channel attention, but met with limited success in this strictly-moderated debate.
Also as expected, Murray managed to reveal some of the gaping holes between past campaign promises, actions, and future promises ala Healy. In fact, Tim Murray did us all a large service by reminding us what will happen under the Healy-Hillman administration...they would allow corporations to avoid all responsibility for providing healthcare because they would remove what small teeth the Universal Healthcare Plan currently has -- the ability to levy a $295-per-worker fine for those that don't provide health care. Healy has been trying to repeal the fine already, so this is fact, not political grandstanding. When Hillman warned that corporations would respond by moving out of Massachusetts, Murry responded that he doesn't know of any Dunkin' Donuts and Wal-Marts that plan to move out of Massachusetts.
Under Healy-Hillman, not only would corporations get off scott-free, low-income workers would be devastated by a requirement to purchase health-care, something that the well-paid worker with benefits does not do on their own. Those who currently have good, full-time jobs with employer-provided healthcare already complain about high premiums...how then can someone making minumum wage afford to pay hundreds of dollars per month? The answer is, THEY CAN'T! We live paycheck to paycheck, breathing a sigh of relief when we do not run out of the gas money to get to work before our next paycheck comes. We have no discretionary income to take vacations or see the dentist (since we don't have healthcare, and anyway, Massachusetts does not consider "dental care" part of health care, which is horrifying), cannot take a day off when a relative gets married, cannot attend college because of a lack of health care (it's required), and so can not climb up out of this quicksand pit which is the Massachusetts employment scene. Unfortunately, we cannot even afford to move away! (And if we could, we wouldn't need or want to.)
If I had any complaint about the candidates in this debate, it was that John J. Sullivan was slow to jump into the back-and-forth and slow in speaking, which is detrimental in a debate where answer time is strictly regulated. However, when he did speak, it demonstrated his deep knowledge of the issues at hand and his highly intelligent and reasoned approach to solving problems. For example, he pointed out that under the Romney-Healy administration, hundreds of thousands of people have been added to the Medicaid rolls, resulting in 1 in 6 Massachusetts residents being on Medicaid. Also, that out of $8 billion being spent in Massachusetts on health care, 10% ($800 million) is spent on Medicaid alone. I wish John Sullivan had more time, so he could have explained how that percentage related to breakdowns into elderly, disabled/sickly (truly), "allegedly disabled" (drug addicts), children, single moms, and single moms who are "career welfare mothers"...because if what he says its true, it sounds like welfare reform has been eroding behind our backs. In case you are not aware, Medicaid is a supplement to Medicare that is supposed to cover extraordinary prescription drug costs for those who legitimately need that coverage. It is supposed to be focused on the elderly and sickly.
John J. Sullivan also mentioned that there is currently no "competitive procurement" (bidding process among health-care providers) in the Medicaid system. We need to change this, and doing so could save, he estimated, "upwards of 400 million dollars".
As a demonstration of just how much John J. Sullivan knows, compare Sullivan's personal research and accumulation of knowledge with the "spin" provided for the other political candidates by their campaign machines and party hacks. When Hillman and Murray were in the middle of another of their you'll-raise-taxes-but-I-wont sniper attacks, Hillman spun the line that "the income tax rate in Massachusetts is among the highest in the country". Sullivan quickly pointed out his error -- that is a falsehood -- Massachusetts is actually 40th-ranked in the income-tax rate. (It is high, however, in total collected revenues.) He pointed this out in spite of the fact that holding up the oft-repeated myth could help him better than either of the other candidates.
For the record, John J. Sullivan DOES support the rollback of the income tax to 5%...or rather, its implementation! The rollback was passed into law by myself and millions of voters, oh, years ago, and has been ignored for years by both parties. This is, as he pointed out, illegal.
The moderator then brought up the issue of the Gay Marriage Amendment that has been illegally blocked from a statewide vote by the legislature various times. As he said (nearest I can remember the exact wording), "(The legislature has)...put off something that recieved over 100,000 voter signatures until after the elections," we all know what that means in Massachusetts -- they'll ingore it again. The moderator asked what they thought of this and what they would do. Sadly, 3 of the 4 candidates said they disagreed with the legislature's avoidance (and Tim Murray also tried to downplay the legislature's antics) but would vote "no" when and if it came up for a vote, totally disregarding the will of the people of Massachusetts yet again. The only one who said the people of Massachusetts should vote on the amendment (which is legally required) was Green Rainbow Party candidate Martina Robinson.
3 of the 4 candidates do not agree with the MCAS requirement for graduation, while Reed Hillman does agree with it. This suprises me for two reasons: 1) its demonstrated success so far in making communities accountable for ensuring their high-school children actually graduate with basic skills in English, Mathematics and History; 2) if you say you want to improve education and provide the funding for remedial instruction (something only Martha Robinson brought into the discussion), why would you want to remove the requirement that "improvements" and "increased funding" actually lead to a better system of education? We understand that some students have challenges such as mental retardation, brain damage, and other serious disorders that require a different approach, and as Tim Murray pointed out, alternative methods already exist for those students. Why, then, do they want to weaken accountability in education? Then Reed Hillman tried to make Tim Murray out to be "waffling" because he agrees with those alternative methods for those special-needs students. I think we can see which way we don't want our government to head, folks!
Yes, as Robinson pointed out, the state should not be passing tough requirements when it is siphoning so much money away from communities that they are not only curtailing all extra-curricular activities, but laying off teachers and teachers' aides. However, the solution is to return that money, not to lower the requirements.
I must point out that the Christy Mihos-John J. Sullivan Proposition 1 does exactly that -- returns more funds to town control! I am not worried about their views on MCAS, because there is no clear consensus against MCAS except from teachers' unions. The truth is, the towns will have money, and the parents will be happy to have both funding and accountability.
This is the central aim of Mihos-Sullivan, Proposition 1. It requires that 40% of tax revenues be returned to individual cities and towns. If you go to Christy Mihos' Proposition 1 page, you can see the current funding and increase in funding from Proposition 1 for your town or city (every one in Massachusetts should be there).
However, this is not a free-for-all. Tied to the increase in revenue retention is the qualification requirement that the city or town in question must eliminate all fees for extra-curricular activities. This is a very important requirement. I think we can all agree that extra-curricular programs, be they sports, or cultural pursuits like theatre, or strictly educational activities like Math Team competitions, should be available to all students, not just the upper-middle-class and the rich. That all programs are equally accessible, and not based on an ability of families to pay for a "privilege", is a key principle in public education.
I respect Martina Robinson's determination to play a cruicial role in the political process, and look forward to the day when the ability to shout down one's opponents and speak quickly and pre-emptively is not a determining factor in becoming an electable candidate. (Martina Robinson has some type of speech disability, apparently part of a larger disability. I apologize for not knowing because this is the first time I have seen her.) The host of the debate did an admirable job in making sure she had enough time to both state her views and have them translated, though I rarely needed the translation. I have not read anything (and did not hear anything tonight) to indicate that this party, or at least these candidates, are part of some "fringe" group. Robinson had many important points to make, though she at times restrained herself during points of debate or didn't get a chance to jump in.
If Grace Ross and Martina Robinson do not win the election (the polls seem to indicate this is the case, and unfortunately the media likes to play to the two big parties), Robinson should run for a seat in the Massachusetts House. She is definitely a change from politics-as-usual. Moreover, by necessity of working around her disability (in an environment that would be naturally hostile to such a disability), she has developed sharp skills in focusing on exactly what she intends to convey and then saying it with the concise wording necessary, and in getting her point across without a shout-down match, which she could never hope to win. She is thoughful, intelligent, controlled, and purposeful when she speaks.
Again, no one can forget all the hullabaloo caused by Jane Swift when Christy Mihos and Jordan Levy insisted on more oversight of the Big Dig. We all remember how Mihos and Levy stood by the taxpayers of Massachusetts even at risk to their jobs, and even when they were politically railroaded. So, we already know Christy Mihos understands he is a servant of the public interest, because he understood it even as an appointee. He will be a terrific elected public servant! Reading about John J. Sullivan, one cannot help but be impressed by his educational and job experience in a variety of industries and as a public servant, and I know he "unenrolled" himself expressly so he could join Mihos in improving life here in Massachusetts. But I needed to get a bean on this John Sullivan -- his intellect, his beliefs, his politics, his commitment, and most importantly, exactly how he will work with Mihos.
I am very impressed by his sincerity, intellect, and approach to government, and I can see quite clearly now what a huge asset he will be to the state of Massachusetts and to Christy Mihos. He is extremely knowledgeable and methodical, and a skilled planner. He understands on a deep level the fundamental effects various factors have on our lives and our local and state governments. Far from being a wallflower on the sidelines as Lieutenant Governor, John J. Sullivan will work in skillful, close partnership with Christy Mihos in invesitgating all the facts and determining an avenue of action based on those facts, and this will be the case whether the action is to eliminate govenment waste, cause the agencies of government to operate more effectively, or deal with partisan politics in the Legislature.
He is the only candidate that supplied more than rhetoric to the question posed to them to solve the quandry of the Big Dig now that it has already failed Massachusetts in so many ways. All 4 candidates agreed they need to withhold payment from the contractor Beckell, but that's a no-brainer (though I concede that just because it's a no-brainer doesn't mean a candidate will do it). John J. Sullivan pointed out that he already sent a proposed plan to the Romney-Healy administration for cleaning up this financial, structural, and political mess, and that when Mihos and Sullivan are elected Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, this plan can be fully implemented over a 120-day period. This action plan includes how to dig to the root causes of the scandal and how to fix it (and of course, withhold payments from Beckell), but Sullivan could not outline the plan at all in the number of seconds allotted for his statement. (As mentioned before, this debate was closely moderated.)
I look forward to hearing it. No, scratch that, I look forward to seeing it -- this fully-developed plan, with "i"s dotted and "t"s crossed, by the sharp-minded man from Winchester, Massachusetts. Let's get moving, then!
They are a perfect fit personality-wise. Mihos is non-partisan, tough, outspoken and persistent. Sullivan is non-partisan, calm, knowlegable, reasoned and persistent. The fact that Mr. Sullivan gave up his party affiliation to join a campaign that has sincere and admirable goals proves this. As opposed to a "hanger-on" riding the coattails of the candidate for Governor on the campaign trail, having to spin the party line and the Governor-candidate's line to have his day in the sun, Sullivan joined Mihos based on a commonality of goals, ideals, and practical plans they have in common. Together they will smooth the polictial process and remove the barriers to productivity and reform in Massachusetts government!