Nor’easter Knocks Out Halloween

October ended with a crippling snowstorm that left thousands without power for days. Trick or treating on Halloween was cancelled or postponed for youngsters all over the commonwealth. Here we are a week after the storm and there are still many without power. Outraged at the failure of National Grid and NStar, Senator Scott Brown was quick to go public with his disappointment. Many other political figureheads quickly followed suit and hence an investigation of the power companies has begun by the Attorney General, Martha Coakley’s office.

On Halloween morning as most of Massachusetts woke without power, Scott Brown wrote stern letters to the heads of the four largest power companies criticizing their lack of preparation. “Brown expressed ‘outrage’ over what he claimed was a lack of adequate contingency plans. He said it doesn’t appear utilities had the necessary assets in place to quickly respond to outages caused by the storm.” Many were disappointed with the loss of power specifically because of Hurricane Irene this summer. New England was hit hard by the August hurricane that caused billions of dollars in damages. Most were optimistic about the Halloween storm since we are suffered a major storm only two months prior.

Contrary to Senator Brown’s disappointment was Governor Deval Patrick who described the utility companies’ responses as “terrific.” “I think the utilities’ plans are sound. I think they’re executing on those plans well,” he said at a press conference at the Framingham headquarters of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. “The number of crews – I think I’m right about this – is unprecedented.” MA democrats started blasting Brown for being to hard on the power companies but that would soon change, as power was slow to come back on as the week progressed.

The office of the Attorney General announced they would be investigating the power company’s response to the Halloween storm. Martha Coakley made this announcement four days after the storm and partially in response to not only Senator Brown but also Newton Mayor Warren and Rep Niki Tsongas who both publically made known their disappointment. Coakley said Wednesday that her office has received a number of complaints regarding the power restoration process by utilities. Gov. Deval Patrick has asked for a formal investigation by Massachusetts’s utility regulators into the response by the power companies to the October nor’easter. After a week of slow reaction, the Governor had to change his tone as both National Grid and NStar executives clearly did not get the message.

As a resident of Walpole, MA, I lost power sometime Sunday evening and did not have power back until early Wednesday morning. I, like many across the state, am worried about the future. We are about to turn out clocks back this weekend and winter is right around the corner. Hurricane Irene and the Halloween snowstorm were both unexpected and many if not all residents of Massachusetts were affected. Let’s hope that the investigation can create some positive results for the rest of 2011 and early 2012.

Whatever Happened to the Super Committee?

This past summer a historical event occurred when Standard & Poor’s announced that it downgraded the U.S. credit rating for the first time. President Obama had purposed a $4 trillion dollar plan that was shot down by Congress, specifically by the freshman tea party members. As a result Sen. John Kerry coined the term, “tea party downgrade.”  The month of August started of on a collapsing foot for America and a bipartisan effort was needed. President Obama created the United States Congress Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction where equal members of each party and each house of congress would have representation. Three months later I want to know what has been accomplished and how close are we to fixing the debt issue. A deal is to be made by Thanksgiving so with three weeks to go, lets look at the progress.

First let’s take a look at the members of the Super Committee. All members have or had served on respective varying committees. The idea was to have equal representation on each side with members who can come up with a minimum of a 1.5 trillion dollar debt reduction.

Appointed by House Speaker, Boehner, Jeb Hensarling R-TX, David Camp R-MI, Fred Upton R-MI

Appointed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Jon Kyl R-AZ, Pat Toomey R-PA, Rob Portman R-OH

Appointed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Patty Murray D-WA, Max Baucus D-MO, John Kerry D-MA

Appointed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, James Clyburn D-SC, Xavier Becerra D-CA, Chris Van Hollen D-MD

A few weeks ago the democratic members were the first to come up with a formal proposal. A 3 trillion dollar plan that has revenue increases and cuts to Medicare. The plan has fairly equal amounts of spending cuts and tax increases. The 3 trillion dollar plan over 10 years was the first step in the debate that was quickly described by republicans as “not serious.” A plan backed by republicans was announced as a 10 year 2.2 trillion dollar deal with heavy spending cuts and very little tax increases. A democratic aide was quoted as calling the plan a “joke.” After 3 months it seems there has been little if not any progress.

This week reports of a super sub committee have emerged where 3 democrats and 3 republicans have met in secret to work out a more bipartisan deal. It seems inevitable that there will have to be some scale of tax increases. Republicans have drawn a hard line here constantly pushing back. The pressure is on with so little time left. It’s frustrating to see the lack of urgency from both sides of the table. A deal has to be done and compromises have to occur. As presidential primary dates are starting to solidify, the president and many members of congress will have to take into account the results of this committee. The time is now and like the Rolling Stones sing, “you can’t always get what you want, but you get what you need.”

When will people stop occupying Boston and start occupying local government?

As a recent college graduate, I can relate to those protestors on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. In late 2009 I began pursuing a career change. Since then I have amassed 40k in student loans, have 3 part time jobs, and can barely pay my bills. On the front page of almost every newspaper across the country we can find an article about Occupy Wall Street. But what are these protests accomplishing? Are our elected officials listening to these people?

Occupy Boston has been going on for a solid month now. It began as an unorganized demonstration that has turned into a tent city similar to a summer Phish festival. There are reports of people defecating and urinating wherever they please. Also a recent arrest for a drug dealer-selling heroin. This morning I heard that a woman gave birth to a little baby while living on Occupy Boston. We are expecting snow this weekend and more chilly weather nights with temperatures in the low 30’s. How long is this going to go on?

Massachusetts Governor, Deval Patrick visited Occupy Boston on October 15th. Liz Pelly of the Boston Phoenix interviewed Patrick shortly after his visit. When asked if the Governor supported the protests, he replied, “I support their right to assemble and to express themselves and to do that peacefully and as far as I can tell they have and are committed to continuing to do so.” Boston Mayor Menino has been an adamant supporter of the movement despite the constant criticism. When asked about the incidents, he believes these are isolated and “a few bad apples.” Both the Governor and Mayor have failed to confront the problem. US Representative Stephan Lynch’s most recent comments at a “congressman on the corner” event in Needham made him sound clueless. Lynch was reported in saying the Occupy message “has been rather vague.” Rather vague, Congressman?

My point is that our elected officials don’t know what the Occupy Boston people are trying to accomplish. Isn’t it their job to know? I find it disappointing that they haven’t made more of an effort to try and find out. How can Congressman Lynch go on the road talking to his constituents and not have a solid answer? The people camping out at Occupy Boston should start targeting these mistakes. With just over a year until the next election, the protestors need to register to vote. The way to fight back against the big banks is to let your member of Congress know. Write letters, emails and make phone calls to their local offices. The way to change is not by camping out and not working. The country is in a horrible economic condition and the way to change America is at the voting booth.

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