All that glitters: how Chump exploited people

For some people, the first public appearance of Chump–currently the President–was hustling applicants seeking to rent his dad’s apartments in Brooklyn and Queens. It was also his first close encounter with federal government. In 1973, the U.S. Department of Justice charged him and the family company with civil-rights violations for refusing to rent to African-Americans–contrary to the Fair Housing Act, part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. [Public Law 90-284] That helped spark a lasting reputation as a commercial sleazebag.

There is strong synergy between Chump, as commercial sleazebag, and the late Sen. McCarthy of Wisconsin (1908-1957), as self-annointed prosecutor of leftists. The late lawyer Roy Cohn (1927-1986) was attack-dog for McCarthy during the viral phase of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, not long after which McCarthy died of alcohol abuse. Before dying of AIDS and liver cancer, Cohn was attack-dog for Chump, trying in the 1970s to countersue the government as a dodge around Fair Housing charges.

Cohn failed. The countersuit was dismissed, and Chump was forced into a consent agreement. It was a taste of what became usual Chump behavior: try to blame the victims, and call them insulting names. A reporter told it this way: “As [his] Hyatt [hotel] rose, so too did the hidden hand of his attorney Roy Cohn, always there to help with the shady tax abatements, the zoning variances, the sweetheart deals and the threats to those who might stand in the project’s way.”

Exploiting the rich: The Chump reputation from the early 1970s stuck through years of turning his dad’s real-estate fortune into glitzy Atlantic City casinos and resorts. Those businesses all failed under his clumsy and greedy management. As reported in the New York Times, he cheated hundreds of people and ran down his properties, while contriving to enrich himself. Quoted by the Times: “[the family] name does not connote high-quality amenities and first-class service.”

While his gambling businesses in Atlantic City were cratering during the 1990s, Chump stiffed investors, contractors and suppliers, and he turned to almost any source of ready cash. He shortchanged his family as well, borrowing “at least $413 million in today’s money…and never fully repaid his loans.” He drove his “businesses into bankruptcy by his mismanagement…[and] pillaging.”

Exploiting the poor: A problem gambler down on his luck at exploiting the rich turned to exploiting the poor. The main angle was a string of “get rich” games, feeding off notions that the chief card-shark was immensely rich–because of secret knowledge that he could impart, for a fee. Among the better-known games, “Chump University” and later “Chump Institute” were the glitzy upper-crust.

According to a New York Times report, the “secret knowledge” imparted at Chump Institute was actually handicraft of a lawyer and legal writer from Briarcliff Manor, NY. “She said she never spoke” to Chump but “drew on her own knowledge…and a speed-reading” of Chump’s ghost-written books. According to another report, Chump University charged students $1,495 or more a course and delivered “nothing” in return: “No certification. No keys to success. Just debt.”

Bottom-feeding Chump games are described in the recent complaint beginning a federal class-action lawsuit. Chump, three of his offspring and his ongoing business are charged with exploiting poor and middle-income people by vague promises aimed at suckering them into streams of fairly small payments–around $20 to $500–in hopes of future income. Chump and his alleged conspirators are charged with federal RICO violations, under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization provisions of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970. [Public Law 91–452]

Chump suckered the public by pretending to be a self-made billionaire in a television series called The Apprentice, later The Celebrity Apprentice. According to the class-action complaint, “producers candidly acknowledged that their portrayal…was pure fiction.” [Class action complaint, page 23 of 164] Chump “has a long and storied history of wildly exaggerating his net worth.” [page 26 of 164] Chump’s “apparent wealth was largely an illusion.” [page 64 of 164]

Buyer beware: The main Chump games were recruiting lower-income people into becoming product resellers, particularly for a little-known outfit called American Communications Network (ACN). [Class action complaint, page 9 of 164]. On The Celebrity Apprentice, Chump displayed and touted ACN products. Offscreen, according to the complaint, he made “false and misleading statements indicating [he] was endorsing the company because he believed the ACN business opportunity offered a reasonable probability of commercial success.” [page 10 of 164]

Chump with business agents and conspirators, 2011

ChumpWithConspirators

Source: Class-action complaint, Jane Doe v. Trump Corp.

Hidden from viewers and recruitment targets was many millions of dollars paid by ACN to Chump and his alleged conspirators, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. According to a gushing story in the Boston Globe, Chump also licensed his “brand” to a Massachusetts promoter of “diet plans, energy aids and skin care” products–using a similar game of recruiting lower-income resellers.

The class-action complaint in Jane Doe v. Trump Corp. asserts that the four individual complainants in the lawsuit who were suckered into becoming product resellers each lost hundreds to thousands of dollars to deceptive Chump games. Their occupations suggest this would not be money they could afford to lose.


“Jane Doe” — hospice caregiver
“Luke Loe” — mechanic and handyman
“Richard Roe” — fast-food sales clerk
“Mary Moe” — retail sales clerk

If the class action and the use of RICO sanctions are upheld in U.S. District Court, many other victims of Chump games stand to be identified, and punitive damages plus legal costs can be assessed. Chump and alleged conspirators might become exposed to criminal RICO sanctions, including fines and prison terms of up to 20 years.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, October 30, 2018


Maggie Haberman and Benjamin Weiser, Trump persuaded struggling people to invest in scams, lawsuit alleges, New York Times, October 29, 2018

Jonathan O’Connell, Trump defrauded investors in marketing scheme, lawsuit says, Washington Post, October 29, 2018

Class action complaint filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) provisions of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, Jane Doe et al. v. Trump Corporation et al,, Case no. 1:18-cv-09936, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, October 29, 2018

Alexandra Hutzler, Bill Maher asks Stormy Daniels how she could ever sleep with ‘sleazebag’ Donald Trump, Newsweek, October 27, 2018

David Cay Johnston, New York Times exposed Trump’s tax fraud, Daily Beast, October 2, 2018

David Barstow, Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner, Trump engaged in suspect tax schemes as he reaped riches from his father, New York Times, October 2, 2018

Margaret Sullivan, After a stunning news conference, there’s a newly crucial job for the American press, Washington Post, July 16, 2018

Joy Crane and Nick Tabor, 501 Days in Swampland, New York Magazine. April 2, 2018

Marie Brenner, How Donald Trump’s and Roy Cohn’s ruthless symbiosis changed America, Vanity Fair, June 28, 2017

Igor Bobic, Trump kicks out ‘sleazebag’ reporter for asking about sexual assault allegations, Huffington Post, October 13, 2016

Sam Levine, Michelle Obama explains exactly why Trump’s comments about women are so repulsive, Huffington Post, October 13, 2016

Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher, Trump Revealed, Scribner, August, 2016

Jonathan Martin, Trump Institute offered get-rich schemes with plagiarized lessons, New York Times, June 29, 2016

Peter Wehner, The indelible stain of Donald Trump, New York Times, June 12, 2016

Russ Buettner and Charles V. Bagli, How Donald Trump bankrupted his Atlantic City casinos but still earned millions, New York Times, June 11, 2016

Quiana Fulton, Trump University documents reveal Trump’s sleazebag marketing, Reverb Press, June 1, 2016

Charles Doyle, RICO: a brief sketch, Congressional Research Service, May 18, 2016

Ben Mathis-Lilley, Watch a cornered Donald Trump reveal himself for what he really is, a deceptive sleazebag, Slate, March 4, 2016

James V. Grimaldi and Mark Maremont, Donald Trump made millions from multilevel marketing firm, Wall Street Journal, August 13, 2015

Justin Elliott, Donald Trump’s racial discrimination problem, Salon, April 28, 2011

Erin Ailworth, Firm’s new moniker may be its Trump card, Boston Globe, December 7, 2010

Marylin Bender, The empire and ego of Donald Trump, New York Times, August 7, 1983

Craig Bolon, Election aftermath: recovery starting, work pending, Brookline Beacon, November 9, 2016

Craig Bolon, Chump disease: political virus, Brookline Beacon, October 2, 2016

Craig Bolon, Chump No. 2 returns as anti-Semite, Brookline Beacon, July 3, 2016

Craig Bolon, Chump No. 3, plain vanilla creep, Brookline Beacon, June 16, 2016

Craig Bolon, Chump No. 3 sounds like No. 2, Brookline Beacon, June 11, 2016

Offshore wind-power in Massachusetts: a long sail

In 2017 and 2018, the Baker administration’s Department of Energy Resources solicited long-term proposals for Massachusetts offshore wind-power. They came in at much lower rates than ones in 2012 from the failed Cape Wind project, cancelled in 2015. Vineyard Wind, the contractor designated in May, 2018, would provide a significant share of the state’s electricity–around twice as much as Cape Wind.

Massachusetts has the largest offshore wind energy potential of any U.S. state, estimated by NREL at more than 1,000 TWh per year. Vineyard Wind of New Bedford, MA, plans to install about 100 turbines rated at 8 MW each–with blade tips reaching about 700 feet above the water–in an area of about 250 square miles commencing about 15 statute miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. Water depths there span about 120 to 160 feet. Environmental disputes over interference with fishing and over routes for the main power cables continue.

Vineyard Wind estimates a capacity factor of at least 45 percent, which would yield at least 3.15 TWh per year–equivalent to about 6.5 percent of the electricity used by Massachusetts retail customers in 2015, the latest year in state reports. If operating today, the proposed project would be the world’s largest offshore wind farm.

According to the agency, over 20 years Vineyard Wind would charge an average wholesale rate of $0.084 per kWh, adjusted to 2017 dollars. By way of comparison, ISO New England reported that the average wholesale rate for electricity delivered during 2017 to northeastern Massachusetts, including Boston, was $0.034 per kWh. According to 2012 agreements–now cancelled–Cape Wind would have charged $0.194 per kWh in 2017.

Wholesale electricity rates, actual and proposed

WholesaleElectricityRates2017

Sources: ISO New England and Massachusetts agencies

Analysis: Rather than tell what Massachusetts electricity customers have actually paid for wholesale electricity, the Department of Energy Resources offered a wordy argument about what they might pay during years of the proposed Vineyard Wind contracts. Most so-called “business reporters” parroted agency arguments and did not investigate them.

The agency claimed an average rate of $0.079 per kWh for other sources of electricity during the proposed 20 years, but it presented neither data nor methods to support the claim. Using net present value, the agency also estimated a different and lower rate for electricity from Vineyard Wind, but again it provided neither data nor methods to support the estimate.

New England electricity rates, 2003 thru 2017

NewEnglandWholesaleElectricity2003-2017

Sources: ISO New England and U.S. Commerce Dept.

Actual, inflation-adjusted average wholesale electricity rates, reported for the region by ISO New England, declined during 2003 through 2017. They fell from around 8 cents per kWh in the early years of that period to around 4 cents per kWh in the most recent years. The rate history provides no support for a claim by the state Department of Energy Resources that rates over subsequent years will again rise to average about 8 cents per kWh over 20 years.

The agency has not supported its claims with data and methods. Based on actual and recent data, Vineyard Wind’s output and pricing would raise Massachusetts wholesale electricity rates over 20 years by an average of about $0.0033 per kWh above the average rate for 2017 reported by ISO New England. Although it got lower rates for offshore wind-power from Vineyard Wind than proposed six years earlier by Cape Wind, the Baker administration did not achieve parity with recent wholesale electricity rates.

Background: For 2015, the latest year in published state reports, Massachusetts sites generated 2.65 TWh (43 percent) out of 6.23 TWh in total renewable energy supplied to Massachusetts retail customers. Within that total, 2.52 TWh came from wind (Massachusetts 18 percent), and 1.20 TWh came from solar (Massachusetts 94 percent). The rest, 2.51 TWh, mostly came from hydropower, landfill methane, waste burning and efficiencies of combined heat and power. During 2015, Massachusetts retail electricity customers used 48.0 TWh in all. About 13 percent of the state’s retail electricity came from renewable sources.

Massachusetts suppliers of retail electricity currently obtain so-called “Renewable Energy Credits” to satisfy six standards under state laws and regulations: Renewable Portfolio Standard Class I (2003), Class II (2009), Solar Carve-Out I (2010) and Solar Carve-Out II (2014), Waste Energy (2010) and Alternative Energy (2010). Federal reports on Massachusetts electricity measure only in-state generation and do not acknowledge some sources credited by the state, such as combined heat and power efficiencies.

The Baker and Patrick administrations have tried to develop new sources of renewable energy needed under laws enacted in 1997, 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2016–the middle three during the Patrick administration. The Patrick administration tended to focus on expanding capacity, while the Baker administration has tended to focus on holding down rates. Thus Baker’s agents strain to show that Vineyard Wind will somehow save money.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, September 28, 2018


Massachusetts offshore wind farm forecasts incredibly low rates, National Wind Watch (Eric Rosenbloon, Kirby, VT, and Rowe, MA), August 29, 2018

Kristen Young, Cape Cod Times (Hyannis, MA), Petition mobilizes opponents of Vineyard Wind power cable in Yarmouth, South Coast Today (Orleans, MA), August 29, 2018

Julia Pyper, First large U.S. offshore-wind project sets record-low price, Greentech Media (Boston, MA), August 1, 2018

Jim Efstathiou, Jr., First big U.S. offshore wind farm to charge 6.5 cents per kwh, Bloomberg News, August 1, 2018

Petitions for approval of proposed long-term contracts for offshore wind energy, Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, August 1, 2018

Alex Kuffner, Vineyard Wind still at odds with Rhode Island fishermen over turbines, Providence (RI) Journal, July 29, 2018

Michael Kuser, Massachusetts and Rhode Island pick 1,200 MW in offshore wind bids, RTO Insider (Potomac, MD), May 23, 2018

Jon Chesto, Two big wind farms to rise off coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Boston Globe, May 23, 2018

Construction and operations plan, Vol. 1, Vineyard Wind, U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, March 15, 2018 (draft). Map, see Fig. 1.1-1 on p. 1-2. Capacity factor, see p. 1-7. Blade tip height, see p. 3-4.

New England’s wholesale electricity prices in 2017 were the second-lowest since 2003, ISO New England, March 6, 2018

Wholesale electricity rates for 2017, ISO New England, January, 2018 (CSV format)

Plans for Vineyard Wind, U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, December, 2017

David R. Borges et al., Vineyard Wind contribution to employment and economic development, 800 MW proposal, University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth Public Policy Center, December, 2017

Compliance report for 2015, Massachusetts renewable and alternative energy portfolio standards, Department of Energy Resources, October 10, 2017

Requests for proposals, Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, June 29, 2017

Pat Knight et al., An analysis of the Massachusetts Renewable Portfolio Standard, Northeast Clean Energy Council, 2017

Walter Musial et al., 2016 Offshore wind energy resource assessment for the United States, Report NREL-TP-5000-66599, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, September, 2016. Potential by states, Fig. ES-4, p. viii

Jim O’Sullivan, Two utilities opt out of Cape Wind, Boston Globe, January 7, 2015

Bob Salsberg and Jay Lindsay, Associated Press, Utilities agree to buy Cape Wind power in merger, Boston Globe, February 15, 2012

Massachusetts Clean Energy Act, St. 2018, C. 227

Massachusetts Energy Diversity Act, St. 2016, C. 188

Massachusetts Renewable Thermal Act, St. 2014, C. 251

Massachusetts Competitively Priced Electricity Act, St. 2012, C. 209

Massachusetts Green Communities Act, St. 2008, C. 168

Massachusetts Electricity Restructuring Act, St. 1997, C. 164

Craig Bolon, Wind energy: broken promises, Brookline Beacon, January 2, 2018

Craig Bolon, New England energy: wobbly progress, Brookline Beacon, January 12, 2015

Taking the low road: Alabama judge invites dismembering abortion rights

Judge Edward Earl Carnes of the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, in Alabama, wrote up a “Kavanaugh case”–dripping with loaded words and clearly inviting the U.S. Supreme Court, once bulked up with Judge Kavanaugh, to overrule the Eleventh Circuit and ultimately to take apart, piece by piece, 45 years of abortion rights in the United States. Carnes has accumulated a highly controversial record on civil rights.

The Eleventh Circuit case concerns whether Alabama can so severely restrict use of a dilation and evacuation procedure, formerly called dilation and extraction, as to effectively ban it in second-trimester abortions. Citing precedents from the Supreme Court, the three judges from the Eleventh Circuit agreed with a district court decision that Alabama cannot do so.

The opinion written by Judge Carnes reeks with religious prejudice and vicious sarcasm. From the State of Alabama arguments, Carnes adopted the pejorative term “dismemberment abortion” instead of the medical term “dilation and evacuation procedure” and adopted the religiously prejudiced term “unborn child” instead of the medical term “fetus.”

Then Judge Carnes tried to ridicule prior decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court. For example, citing Stenberg v. Carhart [530 U.S. 914, 2000] and supposedly summarizing the recent, challenged Alabama law, he wrote on pages 3 and 4, “Killing an unborn child and then dismembering it is permitted; killing an unborn child by dismembering it is not.”

In citing the prior Supreme Court case, Judge Carnes quoted only from a dissent in the case, written by the late Justice Scalia, criticizing what Scalia called “the Court’s inclination to bend the rules when any effort to limit abortion, or even to speak in opposition to abortion, is at issue.” Carnes is clearly charting a course for dismembering abortion rights, extending from Roe v. Wade [410 U.S. 113, 1973].

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, August 22, 2018


West Alabama Women’s Center et al. v. Williamson et al., U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Case no. 17-15208, August 22, 2018

John Eidsmoe, Foundation condemns inhumanity of Eleventh Circuit decision striking down Alabama ban on intact D&E abortions, Foundation for Moral Law (Montgomery, AL), August 22, 2018

Stephanie Akin, Anti-abortion group doubles down on Kavanaugh after he told Susan Collins Roe is ‘settled law’, Roll Call (Washington, DC), August 21, 2018

Unattributed editorial, The red-state war on abortion rights, Boston Globe, April 23, 2018

Railroad to nowhere: another tunnel under Boston

Visions of sugarplums clog up public projects. Often they are promoted by gadflies who don’t have to make anything actually work–always to be paid with somebody else’s money. Lessons from childhood: “If it sounds to good to be true, then it isn’t true.”

Grand vision left disaster: In 1983, the second Dukakis administration, as led by a sometimes visionary Transportation Secretary Fred Salvucci, claimed that highway tunnels under Boston to replace the Fitzgerald Expressway would cost $2.35 billion, with Massachusetts paying only 15 percent and with the federal government funding the rest. “If it sounds too good to be true, then it isn’t true.”

Dukakis and Salvucci got federal funding for the Big Dig–over a veto from former Pres. Reagan–by a margin of one vote in the Senate. They did not manage the construction. Republican state administrations that managed the Big Dig and its aftermath of repairs–from Bill Weld through Mitt Romney–lied to the public about rapidly growing costs. Massachusetts taxpayers have been hit with at least 45 times the costs claimed in 1983.

So far, including interest, the financial disaster is at least $24 billion and counting–over two-thirds being paid by Massachusetts. As of 2006, about 80 percent of the state Department of Transportation and its routine projects were being funded with money borrowed for the Big Dig. The Democratic administration of Gov. Patrick straightened out budgets. However, while state government returned to pay-as-you-go, Big Dig debts are not scheduled to be retired until 2038–55 years after efforts began.

Railroad to nowhere: Many historic, congested cities–including London, Paris and New York City–have long-distance railroad stations outside a central district, connected by transit lines. Boston’s MBTA provides transit similar to the London Underground, Paris Metro and New York City subways. There is no unique need to link Boston’s North Station and South Station via a long-distance railroad track. It would become a railroad to nowhere.

Proposals for a long-distance railroad tunnel under Boston have circulated since the 1920s, when there was an elevated transit railway–closed in 1938 after lack of use and scrapped in 1942 for steel needed during World War II. Likely costs always outweighed likely benefits. The surface Union Freight Railroad along Atlantic Avenue, built in the 1870s, was abandoned in the late 1960s for lack of use. The surface Grand Junction Railroad through Cambridge and Somerville still connects between the Boston railroad stations. It is now owned by the MBTA and is used occasionally to transfer equipment between the north-side and south-side commuter-rail lines.

Atlantic Avenue Elevated and Union Freight Railroad
near South Station in Boston, c. 1915

BostonAtlanticAvenueElevated1915

Source: Wikimedia, copyright expired

For some local visionaries, practical issues don’t seem to matter. Former Gov. Dukakis, now Prof. Dukakis, apparently learned little from the Big Dig financial disaster. In 2014, he was touting yet another tunnel under Boston: the would-be railroad to nowhere. It would cost “as little as $2 billion” he claimed. We have heard the same line before from Prof. Dukakis, when it proved wrong by more than a factor of ten. For a public works project, governments rarely seek out designs and costs from lawyers or academics.

Former Transportation Secretary Salvucci, a Boston Latin and MIT grad who trained as a civil engineer, was not on board the Dukakis train. As quoted in 1992, he said a long-distance rail tunnel under Boston faced “any number of problems, each of which was fatal.” Although veteran observer Stephen Kaiser has called Salvucci’s tactics with state projects “Machiavellian,” he shows a clear instinct for self preservation.

$18-33 billion boondoggles: On June 18, 2018, a state-sponsored engineering analysis, performed by Arup Group of London, attached price tags to several plans for the railroad to nowhere, Depending on the plan, the designs, construction and equipment alone would cost from $12 billion to $22 billion–in the spending range of the Big Dig–according to the initial report.

Arup Group initial estimates were projected to mid-completion in 2028 and include new rolling stock and “investments to support increased service.” They do not include any interest on state bonds. If interest costs were comparable to the Big Dig, they would add around 50 percent to construction and equipment costs, resulting in total costs to taxpayers of about $18 billion to $33 billion.

According to Bruce Mohl, writing in Commonwealth, the House chair of the General Court’s Transportation Committee said the results show “how expensive and unnecessary the project really is…beyond the reach of any conceivable financing plan.” Final shoes will drop with release of a completed Arup Group analysis this fall, but as of mid-summer, 2018, the railroad to nowhere looks headed for scrap.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, July 28, 2018


Bruce Mohl, North-south rail link to cost at least $12.3 billion, Commonwealth, June 18, 2018

Adam Vaccaro, North-south rail link would cost $12 billion, maybe more, Boston Globe, June 18, 2018

North-South Rail Link Feasibility Reassessment, Massachusetts Department of Transportation, June 18, 2018 (See page 39 for combined estimates, excluding bond interest.)

Robert Huber, Michael Dukakis’s last stand, Boston Magazine, December 5, 2017

Mike Deehan, State House News, Dukakis teams with Weld to push rail link plan, Brookline (MA) Tab, November 10, 2014

Gil Propp, On and along the Grand Junction Railroad, Boston Streetcars, 2014

Eric Moskowitz, Add interest and Big Dig cost expected to top $24 billion, Boston Globe, July 11, 2012

Mark Bulger, Atlantic Avenue trains times two, Good Old Boston, December 12, 2011

John E. Petersen, The Big Bill, Governing, September 1, 2008

Sean P. Murphy, Big Dig’s red ink engulfs state, Boston Globe, July 17, 2008

Stephen H. Kaiser, History of transit policies and commitments relative to the Central Artery Project 1989-1992, Somerville (MA) Transportaton Equity Project, 2004 (See page 2 on Fred Salvucci abandoning a Boston rail tunnel.)

Alan Altshuler and David Luberoff, Mega-Projects, The Changing Politics of Urban Public Investment, Brookings Institution Press, 2003 (See page 95, note 41, on Salvucci and the Boston “rail link” project.)

Craig Bolon, Billion-dollar splurge: Connecticut expands Hartford commuter-rail service, Brookline Beacon, June 21, 2018

Winds of change: limits on marijuana

At the federal and state election of November, 2016, Massachusetts voters approved Question 4 by a 54-46 percent margin, legalizing marijuana for all uses. Opposition concentrated in the middle and outer Boston suburbs and on Cape Cod. Otherwise support spread across the state. Majorities voted Yes in 260 cities and towns with combined population of 4.7 million (72 percent of state population according to the 2010 census). Majorities voted No in 91 communities with combined population of 1.8 million (28 percent).

Voting to legalize marijuana did not mean accepting marijuana as a local business. Over the next year and a half, 156 Massachusetts cities and towns with combined population of 2.7 million (42 percent of state population) enacted moratoriums on marijuana shops. Some communities enacted outright bans, and some also banned or restricted other types of marijuana business. Most moratoriums were set to expire between June 30, 2018, and June 30, 2019.

Despite warnings from the state’s attorney general about enacting a moratorium extending into 2019, eight towns did so: Abington, Mansfield, Douglas, Rochester, Berlin, New Marlborough, New Braintree and Florida (listed by decreasing populations). Majorities in all but Mansfield had voted Yes on Question 4.

Bans on marijuana shops: As of late June, 2018, 76 Massachusetts cities and towns with combined population of 1.4 million (22 percent of the state population) had enacted permanent bans on marijuana shops. Most were communities where majorities of voters had voted No on Question 4. In those communities, town meetings and city councils could enact bans. Elsewhere voters had to approve.

In 18 Massachusetts communities where majorities of voters in a state election had supported Question 4, voters in local elections banned marijuana shops: Milford, Stoughton, Concord, South Hadley, Southbridge, Bellingham, Auburn, Whitman, East Bridgewater, Holliston, Medway, Acushnet, Hull, Southwick, Freetown, Merrimac, Barre and Mount Washington (listed by decreasing populations).

Hazards: Although milder than those produced by cocaine, amphetamines and narcotics, addictions to marijuana are well known. Craving, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, adverse reactions, cognitive and behavioral impairments and mood disorders tend to increase with frequency and amount of marijuana use. A range of psychological dependence shades into addiction, similar in some ways to dependencies on alcohol and tobacco and to compulsive gambling.

Marijuana users who begin as teenagers or in early adulthood incur risks of lasting harm. As with other addictive regimes, some people are not attracted to marijuana, and some avoid addiction despite exposure. There is controversy over degrees of risk and amounts of harm, and there is currently no reliable way to predict individuals becoming addicted or suffering lasting harm.

Trends and publicity: Rejection of local marijuana business has been notably firm and fairly cohesive among Boston’s middle and outer suburbs. From Boxford and Chelmsford to the northwest, curving through Weston and Northborough to the west, Foxborough and Raynham to the southwest, and Braintree and Duxbury to the southeast, towns banned marijuana shops outright. Some banned all marijuana business.

Those are communities where many live who grew up in the founding high-tech surges. Most such workplaces were located in the suburbs spreading outward from Route 128, so those are also the communities where much of the workforce went. Family values remain strong and upwardly mobile. There is low tolerance for needless risk to sons and daughters from parents who reached success in their careers. As one speaker at a town meeting put it, “We are a community that builds ball fields and parks.”

In contrast, the Boston Globe–New England’s best known news medium–has been patronizing marijuana partisans, often focusing on interests seeking a faster pace of development. Reporter Dan Adams carved out a niche writing items favorable to marijuana interests that rarely mention other outlooks. While there is an occasional contrary view written by someone else, it tends to get lost in the parade for marijuana. Chasing profits instead of candor, Globe managers foster public and reader disservice.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, July 2, 2018


Massachusetts city and town actions on marijuana shops, Brookline Beacon, July, 2018 (notes majorities voting to legalize marijuana or not, via Question 4 in 2016)

Ally Jarmanning and Daigo Fujiwara, Where marijuana stores can and can’t open in Massachusetts, WBUR (Boston, MA), June 28, 2018 (presents data through an interactive map)

Dan Adams, Attorney General Maura Healey’s ruling could slow Massachusetts marijuana industry, Boston Globe, June 25, 2018

Steven Hoffman, Which Massachusetts towns won’t allow marijuana sales?, WBZ (CBS Boston), June 22, 2018 (tabulates data from the Massachusetts Municipal Association)

Timothy Naimi, Why marijuana policies in Massachusetts aren’t strict enough, Boston Globe, June 20, 2018

Dan Adams and Margeaux Sippell, Recreational marijuana companies face bans, moratoriums in cities and towns, Boston Globe, March 17, 2018

Zoe Mathews, North Andover bans commercial marijuana, North Andover (MA) Eagle-Tribune, January 30, 2018

Massachusetts ballot question 4: legalize marijuana, Boston Globe, November 16, 2016 (includes interactive map showing voting by cities and towns)

Massachusetts marijuana legalization, Question 4, Encyclopedia of American Politics (Ballotpedia), November, 2016

Kevin Sabet, Madeline Meier responds to latest IQ and marijuana studies, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (Alexandria, VA), January 19, 2016

Madeline H. Meier, Avshalom Caspi et al., Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife, Proceedings of the U.S. National Academies of Science 109(40):E2657-2664, 2012

Alain Dervaux, Cannabis use and dependence, Presse Médicale 41(12):1233-1240, 2012 (in French)

Alan J. Budney, Roger Roffman et al., Marijuana dependence and treatment, Addiction Science and Clinical Practice 4(1):4–16, 2007

Craig Bolon, Marijuana business: trends in Oregon, Brookline Beacon, May 29, 2018

Craig Bolon, Against neighborhoods: Brookline zoning for marijuana, Brookline Beacon, May 12, 2018

Craig Bolon, Medical marijuana in Brookline: will there be a site?, Brookline Beacon, December 7, 2014

Discord over surveillance: Justice Kennedy retires

Justice Kennedy had enough sense to step aside before most of the public would see that he was losing his grip. Evidence showed in his dissent from Carpenter v. United States. In this high-profile case, he failed to see a difference between business and personal data. Even Chief Justice Roberts–sometimes a backer of imperial government–saw the difference, described in the U.S. Supreme Court opinion released Friday, June 22.

Carpenter v. United States involved government use of cell-phone location-tracking data in a criminal case without obtaining either consent from a cell-phone owner or a search warrant. As Justice Roberts wrote, “Tracking a person’s past movements through [cell-phone data is]…detailed and encyclopedic…the Court has already recognized that individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the whole of their physical movements.”

Interstate crime watch: The Carpenter case arose from interstate crimes in Michigan and Ohio. Through cell-phone location-tracking data, the FBI found that Timothy Carpenter, alleged ringleader of a crime gang, was near the sites of several armed robberies at the times they occurred. Carpenter was convicted by a federal district court jury and sentenced to more than 100 years in prison.

Informed by a confession from one of the robbers, the FBI might have been able to justify search warrants for cell-phone records under the Fourth Amendment. Instead it relied on exemptions found in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. [Public Law 99-508] A key issue was whether locations tracked from cell phones are Constitutionally protected as elements of personal privacy. If so, the Fourth Amendment requirement for search warrants should apply to records of locations.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

A so-called “third-party rule” derived from United States v. Miller and from Smith v. Maryland exempted data voluntarily sent to businesses from Fourth Amendment protections: bank transactions and manually keyed telephone numbers. However, those Supreme Court cases from 1976 and 1979 could not anticipate circumstances of the recent Carpenter v. United States case. Consumer cell-phone services were introduced to North America in the mid-1980s and grew slowly in early years, when they were very costly.

Surveillance: While they are powered on, cell phones sample the radio environment and silently exchange messages with transceivers so that they can respond to incoming calls and be ready to place outgoing calls. Most if not all cell-phone services keep records of silent messages that include cell-phone identifications and transceiver locations. Location tracking exposes cell-phone owners to continuous surveillance–a major threat against personal privacy.

The 2018 Carpenter case challenged whether the federal government can access location-tracking data for a criminal investigation without obtaining a search warrant. Joined by Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor, the opinion from Chief Justice Roberts said no–citing among other cases Riley v. California, decided by the Supreme Court in 2014.

The Riley case arose from data contained within cell phones, not data acquired by cell-phone transceivers. As in the Carpenter case, however, data had been examined by law enforcement without obtaining consents or search warrants and had been used to convict cell-phone owners, who appealed. The Supreme Court opinion found a novel, qualitative factor in the “immense storage capacity” of cell phones, calling that “a digital record of nearly every aspect of their [owners'] lives.”

Confusion: The Supreme Court opinion in the 2014 Riley case was likewise written by Chief Justice Roberts and joined by Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor. Justice Kennedy also joined that 2014 opinion, yet for the 2018 Carpenter case he wrote a carping dissent. It shows confusion, starting with a claim that the Carpenter case somehow involves “new technology.”

Justice Kennedy either knew or should easily have learned that technology relevant to the 2018 Carpenter case is older than technology relevant to the 2014 Riley case. He tried to invoke the “third-party rule” based on cases four decades ago. Only by comparison with the 1970s era of communications does either of the more recent cases involve “new technology.”

Justice Kennedy’s dissent failed to recognize changes in communication uses and technologies over the 39 years since Smith v. Maryland. It failed to distinguish the 2018 case from the 2014 case whose opinion he joined. He was unable to see that–unlike bank transactions or manually dialed telephone numbers–durable records linking individual cell phones to dates, times and locations are not essential to business services as usually provided in the United States but instead reflect personal information.

Justice Kennedy seemed to think cell phones are active only when “a cell-phone user makes a call, sends a text message or e-mail or gains access to the Internet.” His views suggest location data from cell-phone transceivers have been voluntarily sent to businesses and are subject to the “third-party rule.” At a late point in a long span on the Supreme Court, he faded to a shadow of his former presence.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, June 29, 2018


Todd Ruger, Justice Kennedy to retire from Supreme Court, Roll Call (Washington, DC), June 27, 2018

Adam Liptak, Supreme Court says warrants generally are necessary to collect cell-phone data, New York Times, June 22, 2018

Carpenter v. United States, U.S. Supreme Court, Case no. 16-402, June 22, 2018

Matthew Tokson, The Supreme Court’s cell-phone-tracking case has high stakes, New York, November 27, 2017

Orin Kerr, Supreme Court agrees to hear Carpenter v. United States, Washington Post, June 5, 2017

Riley v. California, U.S. Supreme Court, Case no. 13-132, June 25, 2014

Ken Schmidt, Wireless telecommunications timeline, Steel in the Air (Baldwinsville, NY), 2014

Smith v. Maryland, U.S. Supreme Court, Case no. 78-5374, June 20, 1979

United States v. Miller, U.S. Supreme Court, Case no. 74-1179, April 21, 1976

Billion-dollar splurge: Connecticut expands Hartford commuter-rail service

Borrowed locomotives decorated in Halloween orange and black. Rented coach cars lacking restrooms, with air conditioning that may not work. Nevertheless, some added commuter-rail service is operating on what Connecticut’s government calls the “Hartford Line”–in planning since 1994 with designs starting in 2003.

Gov. Malloy on June 15, 2018, in New Haven

GovMalloyNewHaven20180615

Source: Connecticut Governor’s Office

Plans versus progress: Plans in 2004 from the Connecticut Department of Transportation figured capital costs of the Hartford Line at about $260 million. Actual spending so far in Connecticut and Massachusetts totals about $800 million, over $500 million of that from the state of Connecticut. The program is not finished and could take $500 million more.

Since 2006, Connecticut spent about $503 million renovating former Hartford and New Haven Railroad facilities and equipment between New Haven, CT, and Springfield, MA. Massachusetts spent about $45 million to renovate the Springfield rail station. Springfield and the local transit agency put in $6 million. The federal government has contributed about $248 million to the combined projects. Amtrak continues to own most tracks and stations and continues to operate many of the trains.

The Railway Era: Founded in 1833, the Hartford and New Haven sold to the New York and New Haven in 1872. Afterward, although those owners acquired other lines, they operated as the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad–often called the “New Haven.” Its 4-track main line runs from Grand Central in New York City to New Haven–with early, main branches to Hartford, New London, Danbury and Waterbury. That main line is now owned by New York and Connecticut. It is jointly operated as Metro North.

In the aftermath of a 1902 train crash in the Park Avenue tunnel connecting to Grand Central, New York City banned coal-fired locomotives. The New Haven developed technology for its main line: the world’s first long-distance electric railroad. Through the 1920s, the New Haven spread into downstate New York, western Massachusetts and across Rhode Island into eastern Massachusetts, reaching Boston and Cape Cod.

New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, c. 1929

NewHavenRailroadMap1929

Source: Pechristener on Wikipedia

After financial reverses during the Great Depression, the New Haven again prospered during World War II and for several years afterward. However, automobiles began attracting many riders. The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 [Public Law 84-627] funded new, toll-free interstate highways, soon erasing passenger rail from most of the United States.

Era of struggle: During the 1950s, U.S. passenger rail services plunged into deep decline. Services halted for lack of demand, and business failures began. New Haven management filed bankruptcy in 1961. At the start of 1969, as directed by Congress, the New Haven was taken over by the Penn Central, a brittle amalgam of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central. A year and a half later, the Penn Central was bankrupt.

In 1970, Congress authorized Amtrak: the National Railroad Passenger Corp. It made Amtrak the operator and prime custodian for the Northeast Corridor–between Boston, MA. and Washington, DC–under the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976. [Public Law 94-210] In the Northeast Corridor, more than vestiges of the Railway Era passenger services survive, and in recent years they once again prosper.

Initial Amtrak system map, 1971

AmtrakRouteMap1971

Dashed routes not then stabilized

Source: Brian Roman, Amtrak Archives

Amtrak acquired most former Hartford and New Haven property between New Haven and Springfield, operating a few trains in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Ownership of Northeast Corridor tracks and stations became divided between Amtrak and agencies of New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Those states supported commuter-rail services around New York City and Boston: major transit markets without sound alternatives.

New Haven-Springfield service: The initial Amtrak system offered passenger service between New Haven, CT, and Springfield, MA, but during the 1970s and 1980s it became as little as two trains each way on a weekday. The Bay State connected New Haven to Boston via Springfield and Worcester, while Bankers Express ran between Springfield and Washington, DC. In 1995, Boston service ended, and legacy trains were replaced by trains between Springfield and Washington as part of Northeast Direct services–later called Northeast Regional.

There has also been one Amtrak train a day each way using that route between Washington and northern Vermont, subsidized since 1995 by Vermont. The Springfield Shuttle–operated by Amtrak and subsidized by Connecticut–began in 1995, connecting between New Haven and Springfield via Hartford. That service continues today. It has varied between two and eight trains each way per weekday.

With the start of Connecticut’s Hartford Line commuter rail June 18, 2018–contracted with TransitAmerica Services and Alternate Concepts–the state also increased subsidies for the Springfield Shuttle. Amtrak now charges the same fares–as much as a 50-percent reduction–and accepts fares and tickets from new CTrail-branded service. There are 16 commuter trains each way on weekdays. However, only 10 travel the span between Hartford and Springfield, which continues to lack former double-track segments.

To cut its property taxes, during the 1970s Amtrak ripped out segments of former Hartford and New Haven tracks. It neglected maintenance of track equipment, bridges, crossings, platforms, signals and stations. The 1926 Springfield station was closed for over 40 years. The 1889 Hartford station, last renovated after a fire in 1914, is reached over an aging viaduct, reduced to a single-track platform when I-84 was built through Hartford during the 1960s.

Most federal support for the Hartford Line came from a so-called “high-speed rail” program touted by the Obama administration. Although rolling stock on the Hartford Line can reach speeds over 100 mph, tracks and signals do not sustain that. There are no express trains. The Hartford Line trains traversing the 62 rail miles between New Haven and Springfield stop at all of the nine current stations reached on their routes, except that Amtrak trains fail to stop at State Street in New Haven, a station Amtrak does not own. Their average scheduled speed is 39 mph.

So far, the Hartford Line commuter-rail program has reconstructed all but 23 miles of former double tracks between New Haven and Springfield, renovated or rebuilt several stations and put up a new station at State Street in New Haven. Four proposed new stations and several projects to renovate facilities and equipment have yet to start. There is no longer much federal assistance, and Gov. Malloy–a strong supporter of the program–did not run for another term in the November, 2018, state election.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, June 21, 2018


Initial Hartford Line schedule, Connecticut Department of Transportation, June 18, 2018

Initial Hartford Line fares, Connecticut Department of Transportation, June 18, 2018

Mary Ellen Godin, Launch of Hartford Line praised as exciting new chapter in transportation, New Haven (CT) Record Journal, June 15, 2018

Rebecca Lurye, Despite new commuter line, rail upgrades lag north of Hartford, Hartford (CT) Courant, June 12, 2018

Justin Schecker, Hartford Line passenger-rail launch rescheduled for June, NBC Connecticut (WVIT, West Hartford, CT), April 19, 2018

Nicole Ahn, Connecticut leases old rail cars for new Hartford Line, Yale Daily News (New Haven, CT), April 10, 2018

Gregory B. Hladky, 30-year-old rail cars Connecticut is leasing not worth repairing, Hartford (CT) Courant, April 6, 2018

Funding request for FY2019 and legislative report, Amtrak, February 15, 2018 (See Fig. 1, NEC ridership growth, and Fig. 2, Ticket revenue growth, FY1998-2017, p. 17)

Funding for New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail program, Connecticut Department of Transportation, 2018

Ana Radelat, Northeast rail plan stymied by lack of funding, concerns in Fairfield County, Connecticut Mirror (Hartford, CT), December 11, 2017

Jim Kinney, Springfield Union Station rehabilitation: where did the money come from, and how was it spent?, Springfield (MA) Republican, June 23, 2017

Amtrak Northeast Regional and former Northeast Direct passenger services, USA Rail Guide–Train Web, American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation (La Plata, MO), 2017

Adam Burns, Serving the heart of New England: the New Haven Railroad, American Rails, 2016

I-84 Hartford project, Connecticut Department of Transportation, 2016

Andres Felipe Archila and Joseph Sussman, Amtrak’s productivity in the Northeast Corridor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2013

Don Stacom, Wheels slowly start turning on New Haven-Springfield rail improvements, Hartford (CT) Courant. December 31, 2012

James Redeker (Connecticut Department of Transportation), New Haven, Hartford and Springfield rail service, Legislative briefing, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), Washington, DC, February 29, 2012

State rail plan, Connecticut Department of Transportation, 2012

Mark Samuels (producer), Park Avenue tunnel crash in 1902, U.S. Public Broadcasting System, 2008

Mike Ferner, Taken for a ride on the interstate highway system, CounterPunch, June 28, 2006

Wilbur Smith Associates, Recommended action, New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail implementation study, Connecticut Department of Transportaton, 2004

Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, U.S. General Accounting Office, April 13, 1995

John B. O’Mahoney, Railroad electrification a landmark, New York Times, May 16, 1982

Brian Roman, Initial Amtrak system map, Amtrak Archives, 1971

Railway map, New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, c. 1929

Too hot to handle: at Natick School Committee

In a classic 1938 film, Myrna Loy played Alma Harding, modeled after Amelia Earhart. Corey Spaulding–parent of a former student in Natick Public Schools–probably would not be mistaken for Loy. Last January 8, however, her message proved “Too Hot to Handle.” Natick School Comittee members walked out of their monthly meeting moments after she started to speak and then-Supt. Peter Sanchioni interrupted, calling her remarks “unfettered lies” along with other jibes.

According to public records, at the Natick School Committee on January 8 Spaulding began by saying, “I am the mother of a child who was mercilessly bullied into suicide here in Natick.” Outbursts at the meeting made other comments hard to follow. About two months later, Dr. Sanchioni resigned. The School Committee cited “personal, family and medical reasons.” Another two months on, he was hired as the school superintendent for Tiverton, RI, apparently at a lower rate of pay.

Freedom of speech: In the interim, Corey Spaulding and Karin Sutter–also a parent of a former student in Natick Public Schools–filed a civil rights lawsuit. Sutter had sparked another Natick School Committee walkout in February, telling members that “my boys and family…needed to move out [of Natick] due to the retaliation and retribution we received at the hands of the Natick Public Schools.”

Supported by the Massachusetts ACLU and represented by Benjamin Wish of Todd & Weld in Boston, Spaulding and Sutter won an order from a state court enjoining the Natick School Committee from enforcing rules against “improper conduct and remarks” and against “personal complaints” applied to comments at meetings. The court ruling stated that Natick policies and actions were likely to be found invalid under both Massachusetts and federal laws.

Over recent years, public comment became a regular feature at meetings of many local boards and committees. The Brookline School Committee adopted the practice in 1993. The Brookline Select Board later adopted it. Governing boards and committees in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and many other suburbs of Boston follow similar practices. The Massachusetts Association of School Committees publishes guidelines for public comment. Guidance is also available in other states and from national organizations.

What can one say to members of a local governing board or committee in a public comment? When and how does freedom of speech, guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, apply? Boundaries of civil rights in particular situations are explored in court decisions, but so far few decisions directly concern public comments made to local boards and committees.

The Natick case: Members of the Natick School Committee rise to attention at the start of a meeting–like a McCarthy-era vestige–and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. In situations described in the recent court ruling, a committee chair led in squelching criticism. Interrupting Karin Sutter’s remark last February 5 about “retaliation and retribution…[by] Natick Public Schools,” the committee chair said, “…you cannot speak defamatory about the Natick…this is Open Meeting Laws…you are out of order.”

In such situations, the court ruling found “restrictions…aimed to prohibit…speech…critical of the Natick Public Schools…quintessentially viewpoint-based…[and exercised] on an ad hoc basis.” Citing the Open Meeting Law was merely a distraction, according to the ruling, because “First Amendment or Article 16 principles [of the Massachusetts constitution]…would take priority, and the statute would have to be read in a way that is compatible with the rights that they provide.”

To support and explain its findings, the recent court ruling cited several prior judicial decisions and opinions, particularly –

*** Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona, U.S. Supreme Court, Case no. 13-502, 2015
In that case, a local ordinance regulating signs was overturned, reversing an Appeals Court, because it was found to be “content-based” and not “narrowly tailored to serve compelling state interests.”

*** Roman v. Trustees of Tufts College, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Case no. SJC-10822, 2012
In that case, an institutional policy was found to be content-neutral and viewpoint-neutral, and it was upheld against a free-speech challenge.

*** Draego v. Charlottesville, U.S. District Court for western Virginia, Case no. 3:16-cv-00057, 2016, memorandum of opinion and order
In that case, an injunction issued against a so-called “group defamation ban” by a city council, because under “strict scrutiny” it appeared likely to violate First Amendment rights to free speech and Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process.

Thomas P. Billings, the judge hearing the Natick case, was appointed in 2001 by former Republican Gov. Swift. He has heard several cases with interactions between state and federal laws, including DirecTV v. Massachusetts in 2012–involving issues of taxes, telecommunications and interstate commerce. The state ruling in the case was upheld when the Supreme Court declined a challenge. [U.S. Supreme Court, Case no. 14-1524, 2014]

Were Brookline’s current School Committee policies subject to similar scrutiny, bans on “individual personnel issues” and on “inappropriate conduct or statement[s]” in public comments could prompt objections similar to those from Justice Billings about Natick School Committee policies, in his recent ruling for the Natick case. [Public comment and participation at School Committee meetings, Policy Manual, Public Schools of Brookline, pp. B.11-13]

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, June 12, 2018


Benjamin Wish obtains preliminary injunction ordering school district to stop suppressing free speech rights, Todd & Weld (Boston, MA), June, 2018

Decision and order (preliminary injunction), Spaulding v. Natick, Middlesex Superior Court, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Civil action no. 18-1115, June 5, 2018 (made quotable and searchable)

Marcia Pobzeznik, Superintendent appointed in Tiverton, Fall River (MA) Herald News, May 9, 2018

Susan Petroni, Mothers of former Natick students file lawsuit to defend free speech rights, Framingham (MA) Source, April 23, 2018

Caitlyn Kelleher, Natick superintendent of schools resigns, MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, MA), March 1, 2018

“Public Speak” at Natick School Committee, Pegasus (Natick, MA), February 5, 2018 (video with sound)

“Public Speak” at Natick School Committee, Pegasus (Natick, MA), January 8, 2018 (video with sound)

Natick Public Records (unattributed pages on a commercial Web site), 2018

Select Board’s policy on public comment, Town of Brookline, MA, 2016

Memorandum of opinion and order, Draego v. Charlottesville, U.S. District Court for western Virginia, Case no. 3:16-cv-00057, 2016

Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona, U.S. Supreme Court, Case no. 13-502, 2015

DirecTV v. Massachusetts, Suffolk Superior Court, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Civil action no. 10-0324-BLS1, 2015

Glenn Koocher, et al., Public participation at school committee meetings and guidelines for public comment, Section BEDH, Guide for Present and Future School Committee Chairs, Massachusetts Association of School Committees, 2014

Roman v. Trustees of Tufts College, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Case no. SJC-10822, 2012

What does free speech mean?, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, 2007

Public comment and participation at School Committee meetings, Town of Brookline, MA, 2005 (in Policy Manual, section B, pp. 11-13)

United States v. Carolene Products, U.S. Supreme Court, Case no. 640, 1938 (Footnote 4, outlining what is commonly known as “strict scrutiny”)

Clark Gable, Myrna Loy and Walter Pidgeon (Jack Conway, dir.), Too Hot to Handle, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1938

Teacher salaries: gains and losses

Public-school teachers in several states have been challenging unfairly low pay and inadequate resources. Reflecting its suburban liberal views, a recent New York Times report charted changes in public-school spending across the United States since the Vietnam War era. A longer span would have shown how unusual the recent funding lapses have been–breaking a rising tide of investment in public schools extending since at least the 1920s.

Public elementary and secondary school spending

UsPublicSchoolSpending1929-2014

Source: U.S. Department of Education, 2018

Major changes in U.S. public education are often faintly remembered. For European-American, English-speaking students, the norm of basic literacy and arithmetic skills was a revolution during the early nineteenth century. The extensions to high-school education and participation of African-American students, native-American students and foreign-language speakers took over a century more. A high-school education became a national norm only in the 1950s.

Percent elementary and secondary school enrollments

UsSchoolEnrollments1900-1990

Source: U.S. Department of Education, 1993

Costs of living: Few reports on recent strikes and protests over teacher pay and school spending consider how costs of living warp the comparisons. Because of steep costs for housing, utilities and food, when an apparently middle-class $58 thousand average yearly pay for Hawaii teachers is adjusted for the state’s high cost of living against the U.S. average cost of living, it shrinks to about $33 thousand–near the edge of poverty.

The following table shows average salaries of K-12 public-school teachers by states. They are adjusted by statewide costs of living: equal for a state matching the U.S. average cost and proportionately scaled for states with higher or lower costs. The table also shows percentage changes in teacher pay–using constant, U.S. inflation-adjusted dollars–over 47 years that the U.S. Department of Education has analyzed data.

Average teacher pay, adjusted for costs of living

State Adj. Pay Change
Michigan $74,100 -1.5%
Pennsylvania $69,002 +15.7%
Illinois $67,725 +0.2%
Ohio $65,992 +6.9%
Wyoming $65,558 +10.9%
Iowa $64,892 +3.3%
Georgia $64,260 +16.8%
New York $64,227 +19.9%
Massachusetts $62,560 +38.2%
Delaware $62,532 +4.0%
Connecticut $61,686 +22.0%
Texas $61,603 +12.8%
Minnesota $61,465 +3.1%
Wisconsin $61,093 -4.5%
New Jersey $61,033 +18.7%
Nebraska $60,203 +10.5%
Kentucky $59,690 +17.2%
California $59,653 +18.8%
Indiana $59,300 -10.9%
Arkansas $59,170 +20.0%
Nevada $58,560 -3.1%
Alabama $57,830 +11.6%
Tennessee $57,662 +7.0%
Rhode Island $57,474 +17.9%
Missouri $57,404 -3.6%
Kansas $56,847 -1.9%
Louisiana $56,600 +10.8%
North Carolina $56,296 +3.5%
Maryland $55,598 +11.1%
Alaska $55,455 +0.4%
North Dakota $55,325 +20.0%
Idaho $55,058 +7.3%
Montana $54,731 +5.2%
Oklahoma $54,203 +2.3%
Washington $54,026 -8.6%
Mississippi $53,901 +15.3%
New Mexico $53,487 -5.2%
Virginia $53,377 -1.5%
Vermont $53,286 +17.6%
New Hampshire $53,201 +14.7%
Florida $53,169 -8.6%
Arizona $52,987 -15.3%
Utah $52,754 -3.8%
District of Columbia $52,250 +15.2%
South Carolina $52,193 +9.2%
Oregon $50,935 +8.8%
West Virginia $50,924 -7.0%
Colorado $48,579 -6.7%
Maine $48,047 +5.0%
South Dakota $45,824 +3.7%
Hawaii $32,730 -5.0%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, 2018

Contrary to impressions colored by recent teacher strikes, Kentucky, Arkansas and Arizona do not come out as drastically unfair states. Instead they rank 17, 20 and 42 nationally on teacher pay–adjusted for state costs of living. Hawaii, South Dakota and Maine are at the bottom of that list–on average paying public-school teachers the equivalents of about $33, $46 and $48 thousand per year, as adjusted to states nearest the average U.S. costs of living: notably Maine, Washington, Nevada and Delaware.

Similarly, California, New York and Massachusetts are not top-paying states–as popularly reported–when considered against costs of living. Instead Michigan, Pennsylvania and Illinois are at the top of that list–on average paying public-school teachers the equivalents of about $74, $69 and $68 thousand per year, as adjusted to states nearest the average U.S. costs of living.

Gains and losses: In the Change column, the table reflects gainers and losers among the states. The public-school teachers of Massachusetts have been by far the greatest gainers. Their average pay, adjusted for inflation, rose about 38 percent between 1969 and 2016. Over that period, the public-school teachers of Arizona have been the greatest losers. Their average pay, adjusted for inflation, fell about 15 percent–most of those losses since 2009. In 1969, Arizona ranked 20th nationally in unadjusted teacher pay, but in 2016 it ranked 45th.

State public-school spending per student

Not adjusted for state costs of living

UsStateSchoolSpending2014

Source: U.S. Department of Education, 2018

On average, annual pay of U.S. public school teachers reached about $59,500 for school year 2016, adjusted for statewide costs of living, an increase of about 8 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars over the previous 50 years. However, there are many more stories to be told about gains and losses. Although they involve economics, they more often reflect politics.

While Massachusetts has seen an economic success-run, thanks to high tech, it has been strong teacher unions that tapped the wealth. The state now ranks ninth from the top in teacher pay, but if the state had made only an average increase in teacher pay it would rank fifth from the bottom. No force in government is compensating for enormous gaps in average public-school teacher pay between the states: as adjusted for costs of living, about $33 thousand a year in Hawaii versus $74 thousand a year in Michigan.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, June 5, 2018


Robert Gebeloff, Numbers that explain why teachers are in revolt, New York Times, June 4, 2018

Ricardo Cano, Pay raises for teachers and staff vary across Arizona school districts, Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ), June 3, 2018

David M. Perry, Why the Arizona teachers strike should terrify anti-union governors, Pacific Standard (Social Justice Foundation, Santa Barbara, CA), May 3, 2018

Michael Hansen, Hidden factors contributing to teacher strikes in Oklahoma, Kentucky and beyond, Brookings Institution (Washington, DC), April 6, 2018

Digest of Education Statistics for 2016, U.S National Center for Education Statistics, February, 2018

Current expenditures per pupil for public elementary and secondary education by state during 2015, Figure 1 in Cornman, et al., January, 2018 (category bounds $9,000 $11,000 $13,000 $15,000 per year)

Stephen Q. Cornman, Lei Zhou and Malia R. Howell, Revenues and expenditures for public elementary and secondary education during school year 2014, U.S. National Center for Education Statistics, January, 2018

Estimated average annual salary of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools by state, U.S. Digest of Education Statistics (preliminary), Table 211 for 2017, January, 2018

Costs of living data by states for 2017, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, January, 2018

Thomas D. Snyder, ed., American education: statistical portrait of 120 years, U.S. Department of Education, 1993

Marijuana business: trends in Oregon

Oregon has the most experience of any U.S. state with commercial marijuana. For many years before legalization, starting as early as the 1950s, surveys of Oregon found more marijuana use and cultivation than in any other western state. Mild climate and moderate rainfall in the Willamette Valley, which produces widely known orchard fruits and wines, also favored covert marijuana farming.

In 1973, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana: up to an ounce. By the 1980s, marijuana had become the state’s most valuable crop. In 1998, Oregon became the second state to legalize and regulate medical marijuana. In 2014, Oregon became the third state to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana, following Colorado and Washington two years before.

Product trends: Quality and strength of marijuana in the United States evolved after early restrictions, starting with federal and state laws during the 1930s. Bulk “bricks” of a pound or two–common through the 1970s–were often smuggled from Central and South America. Strength was generally low. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main euphoric, measured a few percent by weight in a mix of dried leaves, flowers and stems. Sinsemilla from only unfertilized flower buds–without seeds, leaves or stems–was unusual and costly.

Popular grades of commercial marijuana

Grade A seedless, no large leaves or stems, 15 percent THC or higher
Grade B some leaves, few seeds, around 10 percent THC
Grade C largely leaves, seeds and stems, 5 percent THC or lower

Source: RAND reports

Processed marijuana began to capture U.S. trade during the 1980s and became a focus of consumer appeal. However, grade A sinsemilla needs greenhouses to protect against insects and fungus–optimized for light, temperature, moisture and nutrients. During decades of marijuana cultivation as a covert crop in Oregon, most producers look to have worked small, open-field plantings. Locally grown, grade B products overtook grade C imports and so far survive against industrialized, grade A products.

Business trends: When presented the option of a legalized and regulated business in 2015, experienced Oregon growers mainly adapted and expanded open-field plantings, an annual crop cycle harvested in early fall. Out of about 2,000 producer licenses approved and in process, as of May, 2018, nearly two-thirds were for locations in only four of the 29 Oregon counties: Clackamas, Jackson, Josephine and Lane. They span lowlands east of the Coast Range mountains around Interstate 5, running from Portland south through Salem and Eugene to Medford. That is where about three-quarters of the state’s residents live.

The first of the annual harvests after legalization, in 2016, shrank because of heavy rain, cold weather and hailstorms. The next year, nearly ideal weather provided a huge crop. The Oregon agency licensing marijuana operations has not published production and sales summaries. However, news writers claiming to have seen internal data say producers reported sales for 2017 of around 350,000 pounds against producer inventory, unsold in February, 2018, of more than a million pounds.

Within a few months after the harvest, wholesale prices collapsed. Grade B product formerly selling at over $1,500 a pound was reported dumped at $100 a pound or less, when costs of production ranged above $200 a pound. Some growers say they are converting smokable marijuana into more stable extracts, hoping to sell medical and edible products. Retail shops that bought at last year’s prices are being whipsawed by competitors who waited and bought at fire-sale prices. Half the workers in the Oregon marijuana industry may be out of jobs. Desperate business owners are increasing covert exports to other states that legalization was expected to retard.

– Craig Bolon, Brookline, MA, May 29, 2018


Suzanne Roig, Overproduction of marijuana floods Oregon markets, Bend (OR) Bulletin, May 26, 2018

Matt Stangel and Katie Shepherd, Oregon grew more cannabis than customers can smoke, Willamette Week (Portland, OR), April 18, 2018

Robert C. Clarke and Mojave Richmond, Cups, labs and terps, Cannabis Business Times (Cleveland, OH), April 4, 2018

Oregon Liquor Control needs cannabis monitoring and security systems, Audits Division, Oregon Secretary of State, February, 2018 (7 MB, 41 pp)

Pete Danko, A reckoning has arrived for Oregon’s overgrown cannabis industry, Portland (OR) Business Journal, January 10, 2018

Marijuana License Applications, Oregon Liquor Control Commission, 2018

Mahmoud A. ElSohly, Zlatko Mehmedic, Susan Foster, Chandrani Gon, Suman Chandra and James C. Church, Changes in cannabis potency over the last two decades in the United States, Biological Psychiatry 79(7):613–619, 2016

Omar Sacirbey, Growing high-quality cannabis in a greenhouse, Marijuana Business Daily (Denver, CO), September, 2016

Jerry Kieran, Measuring yield, Cannabis Business Times (Cleveland, OH), September, 2016

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