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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Cape Care Language

“Cape Care” Universal Health Care Proposal
Whereas, Health care coverage has become less affordable and less available to growing numbers of people in our community, despite all efforts to date at both the state and federal level; and
Each person who lacks adequate health care coverage faces increased risks of illness, disability, and premature death. Our region has well above state-average rates of uninsured – and underinsured – people; and
The families of such individuals are faced with growing out-of-pocket costs. These families must now confront the soaring expenses of health coverage, and the worry about bankruptcy or impoverishment in the event of serious illness. Their caregiver stress increases with the need to provide more and more uncovered care; and
Small businesses face the soaring expenses of covering their employees’ health premiums, passing some of these costs along to employees in the form of rising premiums and out-of-pocket payments. Our regional predominance of small businesses and self-employed individuals is, understandably, a key factor in the low rates of health care coverage; and
Our Town governments struggle with the costs of health care for town employees. We the people are regularly forced to choose among other important and accustomed community services for budget cuts; and
Our community health care providers and institutions are caught in the inescapable financial squeeze of rising administrative costs and declining reimbursements. They are forced to reduce staffing, cut services, or close. Access to care for all they serve is diminished.
And whereas,
These consequences represent losses in quality of life for many (if not all) members of the Cape and Islands community, and a threat to our collective welfare.
Now Therefore:
We petition our County Government to support the development of a proposed regional universal health care program, known as Cape Care, which would, at a minimum, meet these criteria:
• provide broad health care coverage for ALL residents of the Cape and Islands, to improve individual and community health; and
• control health care cost inflation by reducing excessive administrative expenses, as well as through bulk discount purchasing of necessary medications and medical supplies; and
• shape health care delivery to meet community needs for appropriate care, through a representative policy-making board of community members and health care providers; and
• strengthen the ability of our existing network of health care providers and institutions to provide high-quality care, by assuring adequate funding for necessary services.
We call for a public hearing process in Barnstable County, to include analysis of the proposed plan’s organization and governance, its expected effects on community health, and its financial modeling, to be initiated by the end of the year 2006.
The Clerk of the Town is instructed to give Notice of Passage of this Resolution to the town’s representative to the County Assembly of Delegates, the County Commissioners, and the state and federal Representatives and Senators, within 30 days. (by petition)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Minimum Wage Language - FY 2007 Senate Budget

SECTION 36A. Chapter 151 of the General Laws is hereby amended by striking out section 1, as appearing in the 2004 Official Edition, and inserting in place thereof the following section:

Section 1. (a) It is hereby declared to be against public policy for any employer to employ any person in an occupation in this commonwealth at an oppressive and unreasonable wage as defined in section 2, and any contract, agreement or understanding for or in relation to such employment shall be null and void. An hourly wage of less than the minimum wage specified in subsection (b), in any occupation, as defined in this chapter, shall conclusively be presumed to be oppressive and unreasonable, wherever the term “minimum wage” is used in this chapter, unless the commissioner has expressly approved or shall expressly approve the establishment and payment of a lesser wage under sections 7 and 9. In no case shall the minimum wage rate be less than $0.10 higher than the effective federal minimum rate.

(b) The minimum wage shall be $7.50 per hour.

SECTION 36B. Said section 1 of said chapter 151 is hereby further amended by striking out subsection (b), inserted by section 36A, and inserting in the place thereof the following:(b) The minimum wage shall be $8.25 per hour.

SECTION 36C. Said section 1 of said chapter 151 is hereby further amended by striking out subsection (b), inserted by section 36B, and inserting in the place thereof the following 3 subsections:(b) The minimum wage shall be $8.25 per hour, adjusted for inflation each year as specified in subsection (d).

(c) On May 31 of each year, the commissioner shall calculate and announce the percentage change in the national consumer price index for all urban consumers as prepared by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, or its successor index, for the most recent 12 month period for which such data are available.

(d) Effective September 1 of the same calendar year, the minimum wage shall be the minimum wage in effect on May 31 increased by the percentage change in the consumer price index calculated in subsection (c). In no instance shall the increase be less than zero.

SECTION 36D. Said chapter 151 is hereby further amended by inserting after section 1B the following section:Section 1C. (a) There shall be a commission, to be known as the Massachusetts Commission on the Minimum Wage, to consider further increases in the minimum wage as may be necessary or appropriate to reflect existing economic conditions in the commonwealth. The commission shall meet every 3 years, with the first meeting to occur by March 15, 2010. The commission shall file a report containing its recommendations for further increases in the minimum wage with the joint committee on labor and workforce development by June 15 of each year in which it meets. Upon filing this report, the commission shall be disbanded, until such appointments are made for the next meeting of the commission. Appointments to fill the membership of the commission shall be made no earlier than January 15 of the year in which the commission is scheduled to meet. The commission shall consist of 13 members, as follows: the secretary of economic development; 1 member appointed by the president of the Massachusetts AFLCIO; 1 member appointed by the governor who shall represent the interests of business; 2 members appointed by the attorney general, 1 of whom shall have demonstrable experience in labor law and 1 of whom shall have demonstrable experience in labor market economics; 2 members appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives; 2 members appointed by the president of the senate; 1 member appointed by the minority leader of the house of representatives; 1 member appointed by the minority leader of the senate; the house chair of the joint committee on labor and workforce development; and the senate chair of the joint committee on labor and workforce development.

(b) Nothing in this section shall prevent the general court from increasing the minimum wage before or following a scheduled meeting of the commission or from increasing the minimum wage in the absence of a favorable report by the commission.

SECTION 36E. Section 2 of said chapter 151, as appearing in the 2004 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the definition of "Department" the following definition:"Employer", an individual, corporation, partnership, labor organization, the commonwealth, a political subdivision thereof, including a city, town, county, or other governmental entity authorized or created by state law, including a public corporation or authority, or any other legal business, public or private, or commercial entity, including agents of the employer.

SECTION 36F. The third paragraph of section 7 of said chapter 151, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out clause (1) and inserting in place thereof the following clause:(1) 50 per cent of the minimum wage under subsection (b) of section 1

SECTION 36G.. Chapter 149 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 2 the following section:Section 2A. The attorney general shall make available to the residents of the commonwealth a 24hour tollfree hotline which may be used for reporting any suspected violations of section 19C or of 8 U.S.C. section 1324a, relative to the unlawful employment of unauthorized aliens. Calls to the hotline shall be treated confidentially, and callers shall have the option of reporting any violations anonymously. All complaints, whether received through the hotline, in writing, electronically, or in any other form, shall be recorded and documented by the attorney general and immediately referred to the attorney general of the United States, pursuant to 8 U.S.C. section 1324a. The attorney general shall annually prepare a yearend report detailing all reported violations of section 19C and of 8 U.S.C. section1324a, the nature of those violations, the date on which each complaint was received, documented and forwarded to the attorney general of the United States, and any enforcement action taken against an employer who knowingly employs illegal aliens in the commonwealth. The attorney general shall submit this report to the house and senate committees on ways and means and to the joint committee on labor and workforce development on or before February 1 of each year.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Moskovitch Article - November 2003

I went as an observer to a meeting of the Progressive Caucus last spring.

The Caucus is made up of about 25 legislators, who are ardently and unashamedly left wing. They are in favor of universal health care, sustainable wages, extended benefits of many kinds. While they are well intentioned, they are rarely interested in the fiscal consequences of their proposals, believing that closing 'corporate tax loopholes' will enable them to have their $40 billion budget with no consequences. This time, though, they had a special guest whose ideas I very much wanted to hear. His name was Ed Moskovitch.

Ed Moskovitch is not a household name on Cape Cod, but he should be. He has affected the life of virtually every person on Cape, regardless of age. He is the man who wrote the education formula.Back in 1993, the Legislature passed the Education Reform Act. In exchange for submitting school systems to measurements such as instituting testing of students (which came to pass 5 years later as MCAS) and a uniform curriculum framework (to prevent students from learning about the Civil War twice and the Revolutionary War not at all if they changes school districts), the State announced that it would pump many millions of dollars into local school districts to allow these school districts to offer new courses, offer teacher training and reimbursement, and set a foundation for student spending, to guarantee that each student had at least a certain amount spent on their education. A formula would have to be devised to distribute all this new aid. That is where Ed Moskovitch and his consulting firm, Cape Ann Economics, came in.

Mr. Moskovitch wrote a complex 36 step formula, which weighed various factors about each school district, and was to provide a fair and equitable distribution of the money. The Formula would be in place until 2000, when seven years had passed, and it would be reexamined at that time. (That reexamination did not occur at that time. Instead, the existing formula was left in place with only a few changes such as giving even more money to towns which had met a 10% affordable housing goal, which benefited only a few urban communities. A committee is now studying the formula to have the 2000 revision done by 2004).

The Formula has been a disaster for Cape Cod since its inception. While the income of residents, need for transportation, age of residents, etc., are all factors in the equation, nothing comes close to the 'weight' of the EQV (EQualized Valuation). This is the gross value of the property in the community, combined with what the Formula deems an 'appropriate' tax rate. For example, while the Dennis-Yarmouth School District receives about 22% of its budget as state aid, North Attleboro, with virtually identical student numbers, average income, tax rates, etc., receives about 44%. This all stems from the fact that the formula thinks that Dennis and Yarmouth residential taxpayers don't have high enough property taxes, and therefore have a higher EQV.

Boston legislators genuinely think the Formula is by and large an equitable one. When poor Tom Birmingham, then Senate President, was running for Governor, he completed his across-the-state bicycle tour in Sandwich, and was truly puzzled when he was mobbed by angry Sandwich residents complaining that the Ed Formula was bankrupting the town. "The formula is a fair one," he said. Of course, he is from Chelsea, which was very well treated by the Formula.

So I was very curious to hear the rationale behind the Formula from the man who wrote it.Mr. Moskovitch addressed the group of about 20 legislators and staff. His opening words were, "The purpose of the education formula, and indeed all state aid, is to redistribute wealth through tax monies from wealthy communities like those on Cape Cod who have a lesser need for the funds, to poorer urban comminutes like Lawrence, Lowell and the inner cities, where the need is so much greater. If you cannot accept that basic premise, then there is no need for further discussion. Are we all agreed?"

I looked over at the Progressive Caucus legislators, who were nodding like bobble-head dolls. This premise seemed fair to them, so the explanation would continue.

Mr. Moskovitch went on to explain how wealthy comminutes, like those who were party to the pending RAGE lawsuit, should simply face up to reality and raise property taxes to appropriate levels, at which time they would become eligible for increased aid. He did not take into account residents like the seniors on Cape Cod, who have had their Medicare supplements and drug costs skyrocket, at the same time they are coping with the possibility of lack of Prescription Advantage coverage, who cannot afford to triple their property tax. Instead, he spoke about 'second home' communities, where the absentee owners do not send any children into the school system, and who therefore had wealthy homeowners subsidizing their school systems with no costs incurred.

He did not mention, or pause to consider, that in fact the taxes paid by those second homeowners are the only funds which allow these communities to cope with the doubling and tripling of population during the summer months. For example, when a town of 7,000 becomes a town of 15,000 every summer, there are a large number of arrests, fires, lost dogs and children, etc., that the taxes paid by the owners of the usually empty summer homes help offset. Those extra revenues are the only thing which allows call firefighter departments, and essentially rural police departments, to function. The premise that all extra tax money can flow seamlessly into the school systems is a flawed one at best, yet that is what the education formula expects to happen.

Mr. Moskovitch spoke wistfully about the Chelsea School system. Since 1993, the State has given the Chelsea school system about $10 million in additional aid. This should have been a new dawn for those students, who should now be better educated and better equipped for the state tests. Yet, the test scores of the students have risen less than a percentage point. He suggested that perhaps the state would like to hire him to analyze why this heroic transfusion of cash into the system has produced such paltry results. The possibility that throwing money at the problem had not been a solution was not suggested. Mr. Moskovitch finished his remarks, and the legislators were pleased with the explanation. Nobody asked him why any community should receive more than 100% of its school budget in the form of state aid.

So - what can Cape Cod school systems and towns do to combat the stereotypes which abound in Boston of 'wealthy' Cape Cod, with its green golf courses, blue swimming pools and champagne-drinking seniors in trophy homes? We need to educate the legislators. Not our delegation, which is keenly aware of the problem, but the others. Our school administrators and school committees are in direct competition with other school districts that only need to hop on the subway to have a face-to-face meeting to plead their cause, and bring teachers and schoolchildren with them to demonstrate why they should get additional funding. We need to point out that we have more children in the school lunch program, an objective Federal measure of poverty, than many of the 'disadvantaged' school districts the aid is steered towards. We need to explain that we have no Forsyth Dental Clinic, no juvenile psychiatric facility or correctional facilities, none of the programs for the disadvantaged that urban areas take for granted, yet our level of poverty is greater than theirs. It isn't easy for vacationing legislators to believe that we have teen murders, domestic violence, drunk driving, heroin addiction, just like the inner city, but it's true and even backed up by recent Federal crime statistics. Out tourist industry is designed to cover up the cracks in our foundation, but they are surely there. We also need to be shrewder in the management of the resources we do have. For instance, there is a great deal of discussion of class size, with about 22 as the target. Yet, it has been shown that 15 is a better size for kindergarten and early grades. We see television commercial urging 'early education for all'. So why don't we have class sizes of 10 or 14 for early grades, graduating to the 20's for middle school, and to the 30's for high school? Most high school seniors who attend college will find themselves as freshmen in 'auditorium classes' of over 100, taught by teaching assistants instead of professors. Why not accustom them to larger class sizes and greater self reliance and personal responsibility for their studies while still in high school, and dedicate our teachers to the intensive teaching recommended for the early grades?

Ed Moskovitch has had ten years to see how his ideas might work out. For the rest of us, it's time to marshal our facts and figures and present them to the legislature as simple justice for our children. Speak softly, but carry a big statistic!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Last Will & Testament of Peter Porcupine

SINCE I took up the calling that I now follow, I have received about forty threatening letters; some talk of fisticuff, others of kicks, but far the greater part menace me with out-right murder. Several friends (whom by the bye I sincerely thank) have called to caution me against the lurking cut-throats; and it seems to be the persuasion of everyone, that my brains are to be knocked out the first time I venture home in the dark.

Under these terrific circumstances, it is impossible that Death should not stare me in the face: I have therefore got myself into as good a state of preparation as my sinful profession will, I am afraid, admit of; and as to my worldly affairs, I have settled them in the following Will, which I publish, in order that my dear friends, the Legatees, may, if they think themselves injured or neglected, have an opportunity of complaining before it be too late.

IN the name of Fun, Amen. I PETER PORCUPINE, Pamphleteer and News-Monger, being (as yet) sound both in body and in mind, do, this fifteenth day of April, in the Year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and ninety seven, make, declare, and publish, this my LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT, in manner, form, and substance following; to wit:

In primis, I LEAVE my body to Doctor Michael Lieb, a member of the Legislature of Pennsylvania, to be by him dissected (if he knows how to do it) in presence of the Rump of the Democratic Society. In it they will find a heart that held them in abhorrence, that never palpitated at their threats, and that, to its last beat, bade them defiance. But my chief motive for making this bequest is, that my spirit may look down with contempt on the their cannibal-like triumph over a breathless corps.

Item, To T_____ J_____son, Philosopher, I leave a curious Norway Spider, with a hundred legs and nine pair of eyes; likewise the first black cut-throat general he can catch hold of, to be flead alive, in order to determine with more certainty the real cause of the dark colour of his skin: and should the said T_____ J_____son survive Banneker the Almanack-Maker; I request he will get the brains of said Philomath carefully dissected, to satisfy the world in what respects they differ from those of a white man.

Item, To the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, I will and bequeath a correct copy of Thornton's plan for abolishing the use of the English Language, and for introducing in its stead a republican one, the representative characters of which bear a strong resemblance to pot-hooks and hangers; and for the discovery of which plan, the said society did, in the year 1793, grant to the said language maker 500 dollars premium. —It is my earnest desire, that the copy of this valuable performance, which I hereby present, may be shown to all the travelling literati, as a proof of the ingenuity of the author and of the wisdom of the society.

Item, To my dear fellow labourer Noah Webster, "gentleman-citizen," Esq. and News-man, I will and bequeath a prognosticating barometer of curious construction and great utility, by which, at a single glance, the said Noah will be able to discern the exact state that the public mind will be in the ensuing year, and will thereby be enabled to trim by degrees and not expose himself to detection, as he now does by his sudden lee-shore tacks. I likewise bequeath to the said "gentleman citizen," six Spanish milled dollars, to be expended on a new plate of his portrait at the head of his spelling-book, that which graces it at present being so ugly that it scares the children from their lessons; but this legacy is to be paid him only upon condition that he leave out the title of 'Squire, at the bottom of said picture, which is extremely odious in an American school-book, and must inevitably tend to corrupt the political principles of the republican babies that behold it. And I do most earnestly desire, exhort and conjure the said 'Squire-news-man, to change the tittle of his paper, The Minerva, for that of The Political Centaur.

Item, To Tom the Tinker, I leave a liberty cap, a tri-colored cockade, a wheel-barrow full of oysters, and a hogshead of grog: I also leave him three blank checks on the Bank of Pennsylvania, leaving to him the task of filling them up; requesting him, however, to be rather more merciful than he has shown himself heretofore.

Item, To the editors of the Boston Chronicle, the New York Argus, and the Philadelphia Merchants' Advertiser, I will and bequeath one ounce of modesty and love of truth, to be equally divided between them. I should have been more liberal in this bequest, were I not well assured, that one ounce is more than they will ever make use of.

Item, To Franklin Bache, editor of the Aurora of Philadelphia, I will and bequeath a small bundle of French assignats, which I brought with me from the country of equality. If these should be too light in value for his pressing exigencies, I desire my executors, or any one of them, to bestow on him a second part to what he has lately received in Southwark; and as a further proof of my good will and affection, I request him to accept of a gag and a brand new pair of fetters, which if he should refuse, I will and bequeath him in lieu thereof—my malediction.

Item, To citizen M___oe, I will and bequeath my chamber looking-glass. It is a plain but exceeding true mirror: in it he will see the exact likeness of a traitor, who has bartered the honour and interest of his country to a perfidious and savage enemy.

Item, To the republican Britons, who have fled from the hands of justice in their own country, and who are a scandal, a nuisance and a disgrace to this, I bequeath hunger and nakedness, scorn and reproach; and I do hereby positively enjoin on my executors to contribute five hundred dollars towards the erection of gallowses and gibbets, for the accommodation of the said imported patriots, when the legislators of this unhappy state shall have the wisdom to countenance such useful establishments.

Item, To Tom Paine, the author of Common Sense, Rights of Man, Age of Reason, and a letter to General Washington, I bequeath a strong hempen collar, as the only legacy I can think of that is worthy of him, as well as best adapted to render his death in some measure as infamous as his life: and I do hereby direct and order my Executors to send it to him by first safe conveyance, with my compliments, and request that he woud make use of it without delay, that the national razor may not be disgraced by the head of such a monster.

Cape Cod Times - March 2, 2006

Police say 1,500 needles found during drug bust
WEST YARMOUTH - A man who received 1,300 new hypodermic needles during a single visit to a needle exchange program in Provincetown was arrested on multiple drug charges Tuesday, according to police.

Officers found just under 3 grams of heroin, 3½ grams of cocaine and an estimated 1,500 new and used needles while executing a search warrant in Obed Story's home at 95 Lewis Road, police said.

''In all of my years, I have never seen anything like this,'' Yarmouth Detective Charles Peterson said yesterday.

Story, 36, was charged with possession of heroin and cocaine with intent to distribute. He was also charged with possession of marijuana and narcotics.

Two other people in the home were not charged, according to Peterson. The search resulted from a joint investigation by Yarmouth and Barnstable police. Police took 900 new needles from the home but left behind about 600 used needles. An investigation into how Story came into possession of so many needles was ongoing, according to Peterson.

State law prohibits the possession of needles and syringes unless an individual is participating in a needle exchange program authorized by the state Department of Public Health. Drug users receive a card indicating their participation in the program but tracing the card to an individual is difficult, Peterson said.

''The cards are issued with identifying numbers but they can't tell me who that number matches to,'' he said.

Department of Public Health spokeswoman Donna Rheaume said she would need more details on the case before making a substantive comment. ''Generally, there are policies and procedures in place that need to be followed,'' she said.

While it is unusual for a needle-exchange participant to swap so many needles, it has happened before, according to Rick Shaw, needle exchange coordinator at the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod in Provincetown. ''If somebody brings in that amount, then they are entitled,'' he said.
The Provincetown organization is one of four in the state authorized to exchange needles in an effort to reduce the spread of HIV through drug addicts' shared syringes.

The Provincetown group offers the only needle exchange program on the Cape, so many of the organization's clients travel relatively long distances and save up needles for the trip, according to Shaw.

Clients may also exchange needles for friends who refuse to do so themselves because they think the group works with police.

Shaw said Story spent 35 minutes at the Provincetown facility during one of his recent visits, an indication he was offered additional services at the time. ''The exchange is the least of what we do,'' he said.

The organization also offers counseling, education, testing and referrals, according to Shaw.
Story pleaded not guilty to all the charges in Barnstable District Court yesterday. A pretrial hearing is set for March 31.

Patrick Cassidy can be reached at pcassidy@capecodonline.com.
(Published: March 2, 2006)
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