Monday, December 24, 2018

What's in a (hurricane) name?

When I was a kid hurricanes had female names, giving rise to a joke I read in Boy's Life: "Why do they name hurricanes after women? Because there's no such thing as a himacane."

This changed in 1978 with the first male names used for Pacific tropical storms and the following year for Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico storms. Bud became the first masculine Pacific tropical storm but never reached typhoon status. He only lasted three days before being downgraded to a tropical disturbance, a veritable girly-man storm.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Governor declares public health emergency

This is great news. I applaud the efforts of the Department of Public Health and especially Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett for rising to the occasion. 

As a member of the Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention, I look forward to the discussions we'll have about bringing more treatment to the fore and adding to our drug court/jail diversion programs. The immediate action relative to Zohydro is welcomed as is clearing the way for all first responders to carry and administer Narcan. 

I've been preaching this stuff for awhile, so today is a good day for me. 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Why I don’t ski (a study of the laws of gravity)

Gravity is an interesting thing. It keeps your car in the driveway overnight without the need for tethers. That’s the positive aspect. In combination with a snow-covered mountain, gravity has no redeeming qualities.

About a dozen years ago, we decided to make the 140-mile trek into snow country from the desert city of El Paso, Texas. A few El Pasoans ski, but certainly not in the numbers that New Englanders do. For our family, skiing was just too expensive—starting with the fact that we had six kids. When you’ve got six kids, everything is expensive. Eating out anyplace other than a soup kitchen can break the bank.

So rather than deal with the expense of renting skis, snowboards and the associated accessories, we decided to go inner tubing. It’s roughly equivalent to going to a public swimming pool versus taking a dip at the country club. No one at the inner tubing facility is making a fashion statement by sporting $200 goggles that color coordinate with their $600 jumpsuit and $1,800 skis. No, the inner tubing crowd is jean-clad and arrives in a variety of vintage vehicles which share a common component: jumper cables.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Commissioner Roche cannot end DCF crisis

The disappearance of five-year-old Jeremiah Oliver sometime between September and December 2013 touched off a crisis at the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF). Criticism has been non-stop, much of it waged at DCF Commissioner Olga Roche but also at our seemingly lightly engaged governor and the state's oversight agencies.

To be fair, Commissioner Roche has been in the driver's seat for a short time. Secretary of Health and Human Services, John Polanowicz, promoted her to acting commissioner in April 2013 following a six-year stint by Commissioner Angelo McClain. The secretary then removed "acting" from Roche's title in October 2013, ironically during the time when Jeremiah Oliver was missing and his DCF case worker was skipping required home visits.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Medical marijuana dispensaries will be cash cows

Christine Legere, reporter for the Cape Cod Times, looked into security challenges that an all-cash medical marijuana dispensary will face.

She outlines some of the plans that Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts, former congressman Bill Delahunt's enterprise, has for placing armed guards in each dispensary and making home deliveries in armored trucks. Because selling marijuana, medical or not, is against federal law, banks are sitting on the sidelines, not willing to offer their services to pot businesses. No checking accounts, no credit card transaction services, no mortgages or equipment loans, and no working capital lines of credit.
An extension to Legere's story about security measures required by an all-cash operation is how this cash is going to be accounted for and whether all of it will be reported on a tax return.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Can we have our money back? Pretty please?

Similar scenarios to that which is unfolding in the Town of Sandwich, Massachusetts, are happening around the commonwealth. Every town and city is in the same boat.

 On January 16, 2014, the select board listened to the Department of Public Works director lay out plans for dealing with the town's deteriorating roadways. Originally pegged at $10 million last fall, the director sharpened his pencil and presented a prioritized project list totaling $6.6 million. In addition to this, the town needs an extra $300,000 annually to keep up with ongoing maintenance and repairs.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Jerry Madden, leading the way on crime reforms

I caught up with Jerry Madden, retired Texas state representative, in Dallas on November 27, 2013 to ask him how Texas became one of the first states to pass sweeping crime and justice reforms in decades.

Texas, with its reputation for locking 'em up and throwing away the key, not to mention its famous Death Row in Huntsville, seemed an unlikely state to embrace such reforms. It all started with marching orders for Madden, the newly appointed chairman of the Committee on Corrections, issued by the Speaker of the House: "Don't build any more prisons, Jerry. They cost too much."

With no particular experience in the court or prison systems, Jerry Madden tapped into his 12 years of legislative experience and his military and engineering background to search for solutions to the ever growing prison population that was costing Texas huge amounts of money and having little or no impact on crime.