Sunday, September 30, 2007

Perfect transportation storm hits Eastie

Was it necessary for a large section of Bremen Street to be closed to traffic this weekend while the Sumner Tunnel was shut down and the MBTA was running buses instead of trains between Maverick and Airport stations?

The result was, at times, a transportation nightmare. The center of East Boston was filled with slow-moving traffic for much of the day yesterday.

Does the right hand have any idea what the left hand is doing?

An Enlightened nation

The New York Daily News reports that John McCain said recently that he doesn't want a follower of Islam to be elected president. That's fine. The Arizona senator, who is seeking the GOP nomination for the presidency, is entitled to vote for whomever he wants -- though he did backtrack later, saying that he would vote for a Muslim if he or she were the best candidate.

What ticks me off is that in the same interview, which took place on, McCain said, "[T]his nation was founded primarily on Christian principles." While often stated as if it were fact, this is an ignorant reading of history -- or worse, an intentional obfuscation of the truth.

The Founding Fathers were children of the Enlightenment, an 18th century European movement that embraced reason above revelation as a basis for truth. The scientific method, Classical thought and the human mind replaced superstition, tradition and blind fealty as the routes to knowledge and progress. Maybe the greatest application of such thinking was in the realm of political philosophy, where the radical idea that people should govern themselves moved from the conceptual to the concrete when Thomas Jefferson wrote, "All men are created equal," in the Declaration of Independence and Gouverneur Morris began the preamble to the Constitution with, "We the people..."

Most of the Founding Fathers -- among them, Jefferson, Morris, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, James Madison and Thomas Paine -- were deists. They believed, as I understand it, that there is a Creator, but not the miraculous, revelatory being of any of the accepted holy books. Jefferson, in fact, cut up a copy of the New Testament, took out all of the supernatural episodes, and reassembled the text so that it was the story of a wise preacher. In a letter he asked, "Would not Society be better without Such religions?"

There's no denying that these men came from cultures where Christianity was the dominant religion, but to extrapolate that into a bedrock platform that America was founded as a Christian nation is not only untrue, but twists the thoughts and beliefs of men whose actions and words paved the way for us to live here in freedom today.

Worth the gamble?

Today's Globe offers up a recent survey that we're told shows that people in Massachusetts are strongly in favor of casino gambling in the Bay State. "There is no strong opposition to the plan," says the director of University of New Hampshire center that conducted the poll.

However, just 29% of those who were queried said that they "strongly favor" bringing casinos to the state. Another 24% "favor somewhat," which sounds to me like they have some reservations. A total of 34% oppose casinos, either somewhat or strongly, while 12% are neutral on the issue. I don't see that as an overwhelming mandate. Nearly half the respondents agreed that we need more time to study the issue, and one-quarter said efforts to bring casino gambling to the Commonwealth should be stopped immediately.

With the governor's recent waffling on whether casinos belong in urban areas, his smackdown of Suffolk Downs plan to build a temporary casino as soon as it is legal to do so, House Speaker Sal DiMasi's general opposition to casinos, and inter-tribe squabbles among the Wampanoag in Middleborough -- it looks like it could be quite some time before the slot machines are ringing and beeping. In the interim we need a reasoned and deliberate discussion of the pros and cons on the matter, as well as more of a consensus about whether this is a good idea at all.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Local boy makes...dinner

Eastie native and old friend Pino Maffeo gets some good press for his new Back Bay restaurant in today's Herald. Boston Public, located at 234 Berkeley Street, is "an Asian-influenced steakhouse," the review says, and "the food is quintessential Maffeo, deft and delicious..."

Maffeo was named as one of Food and Wine magazine's Best New Chefs for 2006. In that story he names his mother as his biggest influence: "She's the best cook in the world. When I used to come home from clubbing at 2 a.m., first she'd yell, then she'd start cooking. I never came home from school when there wasn't something on the stove wrapped in foil—stuffed peppers, polenta pie."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tunnel discount debated again

An audit by the Mass. Turnpike Authority found a significant amount of fraud in the tunnel discount program, according to today's Boston Herald. More than 17% of the people paying 40 cents instead of the $3 toll to go through the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels had either moved from East Boston, South Boston and the North End or used false addresses to claim residence in those neighborhoods.

"The abuse of the program is heightening calls to reduce the discount or eliminate it altogether," the story says. This is a call we've heard frequently in the past couple of years, especially from Turnpike board member Mary Connaughton. However, eliminating the program would require legislative approval, and such a move would be tough to get by House Speaker Sal DiMasi of the North End.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Basile wins seat

Carlo Basile swept to victory in the special primary held to fill East Boston's empty state rep seat. Basile won 11 of 14 precincts to top Jeff Drago by 522 votes, with 30% of the neighborhood's 14,859 registered voters making the trip to the ballot box. The totals are below. has a breakdown of the election results by precinct, which you can check out by clicking here. For the story on the outcome, click here.

Basile .......................... 2071 ............ 46%
Drago ...........................1549 ............ 34%
Mota ............................ 714 ............. 16%
Berninger ........................156 ............. 3%
Write-ins .......................... 5 ............. 0%
Total ...........................4,495 ...........100%

Polls open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. today

Today is primary day in the special election to fill the open state rep seat in East Boston. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

If you aren't sure where you are supposed to vote, check the city's web site by clicking here.

To read my interviews with each of the candidates, click here: Gloribell Mota, Jeff Drago, Mary Berninger, Carlo Basile.

To review the candidates web sites, click here:
Carlo Basile, Mary Berninger, Jeff Drago, Gloribell Mota.

To review the candidates' responses to the questions of The Hubster Forum, click here: casino gambling, education, crime and punishment, business and employment, abortion and same-sex marriage, and health care.

To review video from the Sept. 8 debate, click here.

If you'd like to post your observations from election day, please do so, but let's avoid insults, blind accusations and empty cheerleading. Good luck to each of the candidates.

Library meeting

I've been told that there is a meeting Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. regarding possible renovations to the East Boston Branch Library. Originally housed in the old Lyman School in 1869, this neighborhood was the site of the first branch library in the US. The current location, at 276 Meridian St., opened in 1914. The meeting will be held at the library.

Monday, September 24, 2007

One day to go

In just over 24 hours the polls will open in East Boston for the Democratic primary in the special election for the first Suffolk state rep seat. What is your take on how the campaign has gone? Who has run the smartest campaign? How will this play out tomorrow?

I encourage everyone to respond, but to do so in a positive manner. Leave out the name calling and the accusations because they will just be deleted anyway.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sign pollution

After my interview with Carlo Basile a couple of weeks ago, we talked about a number of other topics. One item I mentioned is that I think it's ridiculous that campaign signs are left hanging or tossed to the curb long after elections are over. Carlo agreed and said that it was a pet peeve of his. He promised that his signs would be taken down within days of the election. I ask the other candidates to join him in pledging to clean East Boston of the ubiquitous signs in the days following Tuesday's election (though I suppose I can understand the winner keeping his or hers up until after the Oct. 23 general election).

On a related matter, some weeks ago a campaign sign for one of the candidates appeared on the house that my mother lives in, on Chelsea Street near Santarpio's. I thought it odd, because my aunt, who owns the building, is mostly apolitical, but I figured it was possible that someone had asked and that she OK'd the sign. I saw her today, and she told me that nobody had checked with her before putting the sign up and that she had asked her son, who lives in the building, and he hadn't given permission either. I don't like the idea of campaign workers taking advantage of the elderly by putting signs on their property without permission, and I wonder how often incidents like this occur. I will be taking it down immediately.

From sizzle to fizzle?

Today's Globe has a piece about the slow-down in East Boston's real-estate market. It's called "Eastie's sizzle fizzles" with the sub-headline: "The next 'hot' housing market has cooled, and for some that is OK."

The story points out that condo sales in this neighborhood jumped 264% in 2005, but then the market weakened statewide and condo sales in Eastie dropped even faster than elsewhere. Some in the community, the article says, feel that this is a good thing:
...the stalling market may have provided a much-needed breather for East Boston, and helped preserve some of the unique flavor of the neighborhood that made it so appealing, including its demographic mix of races and ethnic businesses.
The story also notes that:
The neighborhood has seen marked improvements in recent years -- there are more owner-occupants on every block, and they are spending money fixing up their new homes, filling flowerboxes, and adding other touches that brighten the streetscape, he said. Storefronts are full, creating a vibrant urban village.

Sacrificing humanity

On March 12 of last year four young American soldiers -- Steven Green, James Barker, Jesse Spielman and Paul Cortez -- raped 14-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza in a village southeast of Baghdad. While they took turns on the girl, one of them shot and killed her parents and younger sister in the next room. When they were done, they killed the teen with shots to the head and then tried to burn her body.

In wartime, horrible things happen every day. Many are part of the accepted rituals of fighting and killing, but some are so far beyond anyone's idea of what is justifiable that soldiers are court-martialed, imprisoned and sometimes executed. When someone does what these four guys did, they must be held responsible and they must be punished.

But there is a bigger picture here and it is this: When you train people to become killers and when you put them in a place where they see so much violence that it desensitizes them, then they become desensitized killers. For some, it is impossible to recalibrate from one day or one setting to the next, even after they come home. You can't put toothpaste back in the tube.

Today I saw In the Valley of Elah at the Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge. Tommy Lee Jones gives a masterful performance as the father of a soldier who comes back from the Iraq War a different person and then goes missing. The film is partly a meditation on how cruelty and violence are planted in people and how they spread and grow.

Atrocities have always occurred in wartime and they always will. Soldiers get messed up mentally as well as physically in war zones, and some return to take out their fears and frustrations on their spouses and children. Because of such consequences, the civilian leadership of the military must be extremely careful about sending troops into battle and we, as voters, have to be extremely careful about who we install in the White House and hand the levers of power to.

In 2000 and 2004 -- collectively -- we failed.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Assault suspect arrested

Boston Police arrested an 18-year-old East Boston man who allegedly groped a woman on Falcon street yesterday morning, and now they're investigating whether he is the same guy involved in a string of sexual assaults in this neighborhood earlier this month.

Whether or not the perp is off the streets, there will be a women's self-defense and safety-awareness course Thursday from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Paris Street Recreation Center. The evening will include tips on body language that may discouraged a potential attacker and techniques to immobilize an attacker if necessary. Call 617-635-5125 for more information.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Now hear this...

A couple of hearings have been scheduled on issues that affect East Boston.

First, the city's Licensing Board is holding a hearing on the proposal by Two Guys Food, Inc. to open a Burger King in Maverick Square. The board is coming out to the Umana Middle School on Wednesday at the behest of Maverick Square and Jeffries Point residents. The hearing begins at 6:30 p.m.

Second, a hearing will be held in the next two weeks on a proposal to allow slot machines at the state's four tracks, including Suffolk Downs in Eastie and Wonderland in Revere. According to the The Enterprise newspaper's web site, the host communities -- which would get a piece of the action -- must approve of the slots as well.

Also, the Westford Eagle reports that the town's board of selectmen have been discussing issues related to East Boston Camps, which has been run on town property in Westford for decades. The issues include "overseeing [that] the lessee was upholding their end of the lease" as well as electrical problems that resulted in "a toxic substance from old electrical power transformers" being found on the property.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Boys & Girls Club for sale (Revised post)

I was told tonight by a local resident that the Salesians have sold the property at 189 Paris Street -- which housed a Boys & Girls Club for decades -- to Massport, which intends to use that lot for the affordable housing piece of the East Pier project. However, I have no confirmation on any of this, and a second source tells me that the building is, in fact, for sale, but hasn't been sold yet.

I saw a letter that was signed by Fr. John Nazzaro, the Club's new executive director, to Club members recently and is also on the web site. It says in part:
This is just a reminder that our Club opens on September 24, 2007. We are all looking forward to having you enjoy the wonderful programs we have planned for you.

This year we will be opening the Club full-time at our Byron Street Unit (Savio Hall). Unfortunately, we will not be able to open our Paris Street Unit, but we will have a van which will transport any Club member from the Paris Street area to Byron Street.
I will say right here that Fr. Nazzaro is a stand-up guy who I've known for years, though he is not my source on this, and I haven't spoken to him in weeks.

To fill in the blanks a little for those unaware of the finer points, the Salesians of Don Bosco are an order of the Catholic Church whose mission is to work with young people. The group has facilities, as well as priests and brothers, throughout the world. The main office for the works located in the eastern half of the US is in New Rochelle, NY.

The Salesians came to East Boston in 1945 and bought the Paris Street property in 1947. Eventually they started St. Dominic Savio High School at the corner of Bennington and Byron streets and the Salesian Boys & Girls Club at 189 Paris Street. As a teenager I attended the Club, which was on the opposite side of the block I grew up on, and I went to Savio. I would go on to work at both places.

The Salesians had other works in New England: a camp at Barrington, NH; a retreat house in Ipswich, MA; and Don Bosco Technical High School in downtown Boston. With fewer people dedicating themselves to religious life, the Salesians hired more lay staff to operate their facilities. This increased costs, as did the skyrocketing price of health care as more and more of their priests and brothers got older and retired, ending up at nursing homes. Barrington and Ipswich were sold, and Bosco and Savio were closed (though Savio was reopened by a lay board until last year).

That left the Boys & Girls Club, but dwindling resources seem to have impacted that program as well. Paris Street was an institution for a long time, and I met hundreds of people there who I now call friends.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tracking the campaign cash

Documents filed with the state show that Carlo Basile has raised more money in pursuit of East Boston's open state rep seat that the other three candidates combined.

Today is the deadline for candidates to file their "pre-primary report" -- paperwork that lists receipts and expenditures for the campaigns through Sept. 7 -- with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

Up to that date Basile had raised $84,935, while spending $69,622; Jeff Drago took in $40,085 and spent $35,881; Gloribell Mota collected $35,842, while spending $21,545; and Mary Berninger raised $7,775 and spent $5,398.

The public can see more detailed information, including who donated money to each campaign and how that money was spent, by going to the OCPF web site. Here are links to the front pages of the four candidates' reports: Carlo Basile, Mary Berninger, Jeff Drago and Gloribell Mota.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

There's magic in the air

After pounding the Yankees yesterday, the Red Sox magic number stands at nine with two weeks to go in the regular season. Any combination of Sox wins and New York losses totaling that number will give the hometown team their first division title since 1995 and set us on course to the post-season.

Of course, Friday night's loss was quite disheartening. More than blowing a 7-2 lead in the eighth inning -- which all by itself is something that the team with the best record in baseball should not be doing with the playoffs so near -- the Sox had their two best relievers roughed up. Ouch.

However, putting things in perspective, we already knew that set-up guy Hideki Okajima was having serious problems. The lefty, a big part of the team's success over the first few months of the season, seems to have run out of gas. There's a Globe story today that details his sliding numbers.

As for Papelbon, he gave up a couple of hits as well, but if we can just chalk that up to one bad outing then the big picture of this weekend series so far is that the Red Sox have pounded their opponents' pitching. Excluding the Yankees big inning on Friday, the visitors have been outscored by Boston 17-3 in two games.

Today is another interesting pitching match-up, with Curt Schilling taking the hill against Roger Clemens on ESPN at 8 p.m. Neither of the two know when to keep their mouth shut, but each had some great moments in Red Sox uniforms.

Go Sox!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Eastie nightlife wanting

Last Sunday's Globe had a story that touches on some of the discussions going on in a couple of the threads on here. It was called "All dressed up, looking for someplace to go," and it discusses the lack of places to gather in East Boston for "20- to 40-something lawyers, artists, marketing directors, entrepreneurs, and software engineers" who have moved into the neighborhood in recent years.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

New cafe opens doors

I went by to check on the progress of the new cafe on Sumner Street last night and found that the doors were open and customers were being served. It was a "soft opening" one of the owners told me, and my cappuccino was on the house.

The 303 Cafe is located at, of course, 303 Sumner Street, just a short walk from the Maverick T station in East Boston. It's a cute little place with a shiny wood floor, brick walls and windows that open to the street. The menu includes sandwiches, soups, salads, smoothies, bagels, muffins and espresso-based drinks.

The cafe will be open until 9 p.m. six nights a week, with brunch served on Sundays. Check it out.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Hubster interview: Carlo Basile

The fourth and final interview with the candidates vying for East Boston's open House of Representatives seat is with Carlo Basile. The 36-year-old is the former chief of staff at the Registry of Motor Vehicles and has worked on a number of political campaigns in the neighborhood in recent years. Basile and I spoke almost two weeks ago at his campaign headquarters.

Click on the headline above or on "comments" below to see the entire interview, which I recorded and transcribed in whole.

Safety in the park

Andrew Kenneally, a staffer for at-large City Councilor Michael Flaherty, sent me an outline of steps that the Boston Police are taking to bolster safety around the Airport subway station and Bremen Street Park in the wake of the recent assaults against women in that area. These include lights in the park that now work, a 9-1-1 telephone that will be installed soon and self-defense classes.

To read the entire memo, click on the title above or "Comments" below.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Take a look: Video from Saturday's forum

For those of you who missed Saturday's candidates' forum -- or those who would like to review the event -- here are links to the opening and closing statements and the questions and responses from the foursome vying for East Boston's open House seat in the state legislature:

Opening statements: Carlo Basile, Mary Berninger, Jeff Drago, and Gloribell Mota.

Questions and responses: public safety, Brandywyne Village, in-state tuition for immigrants, rent control, death penalty, Suffolk Downs, Eastie as a tourist destination, after-school programs, same-day voter registration, waterfront development, and state tax rollback.

Closing statements: Gloribell Mota, Jeff Drago, Mary Berninger, and Carlo Basile.

The video links came to me courtesy of Chris Coletta, and I'd like to thank him.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Eastie saw this coming

Joe Mason sent to me via email a letter that he, as president of the East Boston Land Use Council, sent to the Central Artery/Tunnel project in the spring of 2003 noting the risks to public safety of the walkway from the relocated Airport T station to Porter or Bremen streets. The letter asks that the area be well lighted and outfitted with closed circuit television and panic buttons, which connect with the police.

Those features were never included and, of course, this is where the three attempted sexual assaults occurred last week. If you click the headline above or "Comments" below you can read that letter and also a statement sent today from the Land Use Council to Fox News 25.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

On the campaign trail

The forum for the four 1st Suffolk Democratic candidates seemed to go smoothly today. My guess is that there were 400 to 500 people on hand in the East Boston High School auditorium to watch the quartet answer questions.

The room was warm, but not oppressively so. Some of the candidates read from a prepared text for their opening statements, which made them look stiff, but generally they only referred to notes when responding to specific questions. The audience was generally well behaved, though Gloribell Mota got some boos when she pointed out that the state had cut funding to some youth programs during the Romney/Healey administration and that Carlo Basile had worked on both of their gubernatorial campaigns. Jeff Drago made a number of criticisms of Romney and Healey in his opening remarks, but didn't use Basile's name directly. Meanwhile, Basile attempted to use Drago's connections to Mayor Menino against his adversary by saying that he would be beholden only to the people.

Drago spoke forcefully during his responses, and it does seem clear that he has the broadest grasp of the nuts and bolts of most of the issues, which befits his role as a policy wonk in the Menino administration. Mary Berninger seems to be the candidate with the toughest road to victory at this point, but she speaks with fire and gets praise from Eastie old timers for saying what she thinks no matter what the fallout. Basile has been the most civil of the candidates, eschewing negative campaigning in his opening statement and quieting his supporters with a raised hand when their enthusiasm for him boiled over. Mota's warmth and charm allow her to get her foot in the door with almost any constituent, and once she has their attention her passion for the issues may win over quite a few.

A campaign insider with access to a recent poll showed me the numbers last week. Basile had a lead of more than 2-1 over Drago, with Mota and Berninger trailing in that order. Polls can be misleading and opinions can change, but with just over two weeks to go those numbers seemed to conform roughly to the my impressions of the campaign up to this point.

Guinness really is good for you

A new study indicates that a pint of stout a day can help prevent heart attacks, much like taking an aspirin a day can. Interestingly enough, the study found that drinking lager, as opposed to ale -- the two styles of beer use different types of yeast -- does not have the same effect.

More Guinness all around!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Hubster interview: Gloribell Mota

The third of four interviews with candidates vying for East Boston's open House of Representatives seat is with Gloribell Mota. The 31-year-old mother of two sits on the board of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center and the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing. She has worked for City Councilor Felix Arroyo, as well as being involved in many community issues.

Mota and I spoke last week at her campaign headquarters. Click on the headline above or on "comments" below to see the entire interview, which I recorded and transcribed in whole.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Meeting tomorrow to address sexual assaults

Today's Globe reports that three women were assaulted by a screwdriver-wielding man early yesterday morning between the Airport T station and Porter Street. All three victims fought off the attacker, who is still at large. Two weeks ago a woman was raped in a late-night attack on her way home from Logan Airport.

City Councilor Michael Flaherty posted comments on this blog entry to notify the community that there will be a meeting to discuss these crimes at the East Boston YMCA on Bremen Street tomorrow night at 7 p.m. The Boston Police will be on hand to discuss the assaults and to provide some safety tips as well.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Candidates' forum to be held Saturday at EBHS; candidates receive all the questions Wednesday

A forum will be held for the candidates in the race for East Boston's open House seat this Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon in the auditorium at East Boston High School. Josh Resnek of the East Boston Times, Juan Vega of Centro Latino de Chelsea and Avi Green of MassVOTE will be asking the questions.

According to the event guidelines, no one from the audience will be allowed to ask a question, "there will be no discussion allowed between candidates," and "there will be no rebuttals." I'm not sure that I agree with those stipulations, but here is the part of the ground rules that I strongly disagree with: "Questions will be distributed to candidates, in advance for preparation purposes, on Wednesday, September 5."

First of all, why do we need three questioners -- giving the illusion of some diversity in point of view from the moderators -- if the questions are all chosen in advance? Secondly, why can't some of the questions be spontaneous, with follow-ups and with questions from the audience, even if they are submitted in advance on sheets of paper and screened by the moderators? Certainly I like my elected officials to offer well-thought responses to issues, but I also like to know that someone can think on his or her feet.

Joe Mason, the president of Eastie's Land Use Council, brought some of these issues to my attention. He also sent me a copy of the minutes to a meeting held on Aug. 24 at the East Boston Chamber of Commerce, where the guidelines for the forum were agreed upon. Click "comments" or the title of this entry to read those minutes in full.

The Hubster Forum: Week #6

Note that two of the candidates responded to last week’s Hubster Forum questions on abortion and same-sex marriage. I expected a firestorm of comments, but there is just one so far. I hope that readers take advantage of the candidates’ willingness to respond on specific topics as well as their being interviewed. This week’s topic:

Americans all across the political spectrum are quite concerned about health care. The costs are rising dramatically, affecting us not only directly, but in the price of everything we buy because businesses are trying to deal with the rising costs as well. Here in Massachusetts the state adopted a plan by which everyone needs to have health insurance. What are you thoughts on this plan? Are there other policies that the state can undertake to help ensure that residents have care that is top quality and affordable?

Wasting Times

For many years I was disgusted and embarrassed that the East Boston Times was my neighborhood weekly newspaper. It was poorly designed, badly written and filled with narrow-minded points of view. When the Independent Newspaper Group came along and purchased the Times there was hope that the Revere-based company would improve the local rag. Alas, it was not to be.

The East Boston Times remains one of the worst examples of a weekly newspaper that I’ve ever seen. What qualifies me to make that statement? My word is certainly not the be-all and end-all, but I do know a little about this field. I have a degree in journalism, and I worked as a writer and editor for a company that owns eight weeklies in suburban Portland, Maine, where I won three first-place awards for stories I’d written. I attended newspaper conferences where we saw examples of papers from around the country. Let me tell you: None that I saw are as bad as the Times.

I also wrote a column for this outfit when they first came to this neighborhood with a paper known as the East Boston Independent. Personally they treated me well, and I was grateful that they made space for me each week. I wrote the column for one year. It didn’t take long for the Independent to buy out the East Boston Sun Transcript, which was an attractive and well-written paper, and from there they came after the Times and then sunk the operation down to the lowest common denominator.

Week after week the East Boston Times has little news and most of what they do publish is dull stuff about the procedures of local government and fluff pieces about how great the local politicians are. There are nearly 40,000 people in this neighborhood, and you mean to tell me that none of them are doing anything worth writing about? There are stories everywhere each and every day. However, no one at the Times is looking for them.

Last week one of the stories in the Times about the current campaign for state rep said this: “It doesn’t appear that issues mean very much in this special election.” Issues might not mean much to those at the Times, but they mean a great deal to quite a few voters. The Times has abdicated its civic duty by dedicating absolutely no space to a discussion of the issues and the candidates' positions on them. Shouldn’t that be the job of the local newspaper? My humble little blog has far outdone the weekly in a discussion of issues, as well as taking a look at who the candidates are.

The same piece in the Times offered this gem: “The winner will pull out the winning vote on Election Day.” Brilliant. A friend of mine sent me an email after reading that story online (at their awful web site) and said: “I cannot believe an adult wrote this. It is pathetic writing. It reminds me of some of the worst writing I saw as a teacher.”

Very few newspapers -- and none with any integrity -- allow advertising on the front page, yet the Times front is mostly advertisements. In fact, look at this week’s paper. There is one story and one photo among 12 ads. That’s outrageous. A quick measurement shows that 79% of the space below the nameplate is advertising. Where’s the beef? At least the old Times -- backwards though it was -- filled the pages with stories. This week the Times has three full pages and three half pages covered with photographs -- mostly static shots of people standing still.

The most frustrating part of this is that the Times is easily the worst of the 10 weeklies that the Independent Newspaper Group owns. Check out the Revere Journal, the Chelsea Record, the Charlestown Patriot Bridge or any of their other newspapers. They could put out a better product for the people of East Boston, but they consciously choose not to.