Friday, October 30, 2009

Casino Debate at the MA Statehouse

Friday, October 30, 2009
Here is a link to my coverage for MetroWest Daily News of the gaming bills debate yesterday.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mixed Martial Art Bill Engrossed by the House

Thursday, October 29, 2009
Story I did for the MetroWest Daily News regarding the mixed martial arts bill engrossed by the Massachusetts House on Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Committee hears bill on aversive therapy ban

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
This story was published in the MetroWest Daily News on 10/28/09. The published story may vary from this version. The story was not published to the MetroWest Daily News website.

BOSTON - For Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, D-Brookline, the struggle to get his nephew’s arms through a long-sleeved shirt provided a graphic demonstration for allowing the 32-year-old mentally disabled man to continue controversial electroshock therapy at a Canton facility.

“An outright ban would essentially kill Brandon. It is a death sentence for Brandon," Sanchez said of his nephew, who once bit off part of his own tongue.

The drama before the Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities on Tuesday focused on a series of bills that would either regulate or ban the use of aversive therapy at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton.

Although the center, which houses 193 patients, more than half of them children, is the only of its kind in the state, its use of "aversive" therapy is an emotional issue.

Over 100 people, many parents and family members of seriously mentally disabled children, signed up to speak at the hearing.

Sanchez said he opposed the bills that would ban or further restrict the use of aversive therapy.

But the sponsor of a bill banning the therapy, Rep. Barbara L’Italien, D-Andover, a parent of an autistic child, said the therapy was wrong.

Referencing the incident at the center in 2007, where a high functioning autistic resident was shocked 77 times as the result of a prank call, L’Italien said there are many other positive approaches and, “clearly the status quo isn't working."
Sen. Brian Joyce, D-Canton,who sponsored similar Senate bills, said, “This is the single most important bill that I have ever dealt with.”

One of the proposed bills would create restrictions for using aversive therapy.
Michael Flammia, an attorney who represents the center said that aversive treatments are already heavily regulated and treatment plans are approved through probate court.

The aversive treatment, particularly shock, is used as a last resort, often after a year of attempting other positive treatments, said Ernie Corrigan, who represents the center.

But Matthew Engel, an attorney at the Disability Law Center, told the committee he had tried the least powerful electric shock and, “it was an experience from hell.”
Sen. Gale Candaras, D-Wilbraham, co-chair of the committee questioned why shock therapy wasn't considered legal battery.

“What is the difference between taking your hands and smacking these individuals or hitting them with a belt or sticking them with pins? All we are doing is removing ourselves one step, and pushing a button.”

Monday, October 26, 2009

Uknown Senate Hopefuls - Published Version

Monday, October 26, 2009
Here is a link to the published version of my unknown Senate hopefuls profile feature story.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lesser-known U.S. Senate hopefuls still collecting signatures

Sunday, October 25, 2009

This story was written for the MetroWest Daily News and was published on 10/25/09. The printed version may be different from this version I submitted. The story was not published to the paper's website.

Photos by Lindsey Ann Palatino - Photojournalism Graduate Student at Boston University

WORCESTER - Standing in the Friday evening chill of a Shaws supermarket parking lot, clip board in hand, William S. Coleman, dressed in suit and tie, approaches a passing shopper.

As he explains he needs signatures to qualify as a candidate for January's special U.S. Senate election, the elderly woman pushing a cart listens politely. “I know your name," she says. "You run all the time.”

Coleman, 55, ran unsuccessfully for Worcester mayor seven times since 1991.
He laughed it off and said it’s not easy work to get signatures. Coleman said one of the best places to get signatures is at a grocery store but during a 30-minute time period, Coleman asked nearly 25 people to sign his petition and received just eight signatures. Most passersby claimed they were not registered to vote.

Such are the travails of some 50 Massachusetts residents who have picked up official nominating papers from the secretary of state's office to pull papers to run in the special election Edward M. Kennedy seat.

Few of these would-be candidates think they have a chance at filling that seat. Some say they are running to show it can be done. Others have decided since that they can't do it.

“I doubt I will be successful but I want to make an impression,” says Morris Chung, a 38-year-old engineer from Worcester. “I want to set an example to be involved.”
What follows are a look at some other of the independent candidates who are running.


A major hurdle for many, who desire to get their name on the ballot, is the lack of name recognition. Getting enough signatures to qualify is no easy task for lesser known candidates.

Coleman needs 10,000 signatures to be placed on the ballot. He said he hopes to collect at least 20,000; many signatures could be ruled invalid due to illegible handwriting or other issues.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Coleman attended Catholic schools and enjoyed volunteer work from a young age. He loved the tv show Leave It To Beaver, wanting to be Beaver’s, “first black friend,” and he wanted to marry Jackie Kennedy.

Growing up in a diverse neighborhood, Coleman learned seven languages including Greek, Albanian, Arabic and Lithuanian. Detecting the accent of a Greek woman outside of the Shaws, he switched over to her native language. Unfortunately, she was not a registered voter.

Coleman says he served as an aide for his hero, the first African American elected United States Senator, Edward Brooke, in 1976. He later completed a degree from Worcester State College.

Honoring his mentor, Coleman asked shoppers outside of the supermarket to sign a giant homemade birthday card for Sen. Brooke, who will turn 90 on Monday.

Driving an old blue Buick Le Sabre with wires hanging from the inside of the driver’s door, the back seat stuffed with old newspapers and petition papers, he goes from schools, homeless shelters, prison transition units and alternative learning centers to teach courses.

Education is one of the most important issues for Coleman. He works for the University of Massachusetts - Amherst. He said he knew long ago that his, “life was committed to teaching and community service.”

In his infrequent spare time, Coleman paints American flags on chain link fences throughout the country.

Coleman’s favorite book is Dante’s Inferno, which he is re-reading. He said his favorite passage says that, “the most torturous part of hell is reserved for those who remain complacent.”


Morris Chung, 38, of Worcester, is not a seasoned campaigner like Coleman. He is taking his first stab at running for public office by pulling papers to run for U.S. Senate.

Chung said he plans to start collecting signatures around Nov. 1. Independent candidates have until Nov. 24 to submit signatures.

Chung grew up in Brooklyn and Queens. Chung’s hero is his father, a South Korean immigrant, who owned a small grocery store. He was an only child and a “certified geek.”

Instead of, "following his heart,” and attending the Air Force Academy, his family convinced him to stay in New York. He attended Columbia University earning a degree in engineering.

Chung moved to Massachusetts in 1993. He worked in the science industry and earned an MBA from Northeastern.

Seeing himself as an example of what it means to be American, Chung has worked from the bottom of a company all the way “upstairs.” He was laid off from his first job after moving to the state. “I am constantly reinventing myself,” Chung said.


Taped to the door of a small internal medicine practice in Foxboro, near Gillette Stadium, is a simple black and white sign printed on standard computer paper that reads, “John J. Adams, M.D. for U.S. Senate.”

Adams, 54, said he and his wife, Anne, have been collecting signatures outside of stores and the parking lot of the stadium before Patriots games. He has about 4,000 signatures.

A graduate of Boston University Medical School, Adams said, “Health care should be a right, not a privilege.” As a child growing up in Boston public housing Adams suffered from asthma that wasn't properly treated because his family had insufficient health coverage.

At the age of 8, Adams remembers watching buses lined up in the projects ready to go to Washington, D.C. He was too young to go. Since then, “I have had a trip to Washington in my heart,” he said.
Joseph Baldino, 42, and Everett Wells, 63, decided it was not realistic to try after pulling Senate papers.

Baldino attended Worcester Vocational School, worked in the printing industry and then he joined the United States Army, serving stateside from 1986 to 1990. He nearly joined the Army again to serve in Iraq but he said his teenage daughter did not want him to go.

Baldino is an independent and works full time as a maintenance mechanic for a bottle and can recycling company.

“I am a blue collar man,” he said. “What is it about a button, a banner, a commercial, that’s going to make you any better because you have money to do all this than the person that’s out their busting his butt every single day.”

Frustrated that campaigns are so reliant on money, he decided he could not realistically run for office.

“They call Teddy the lion, but I will pounce on you like a cougar,” said Baldino, who said it is a shame he can’t fight for the real people of Massachusetts on Capitol Hill because he doesn’t have the means.

Baldino said it only makes sense that an average, hard-working citizen, like himself, should represent fellow citizens because he understands where they are coming from and what they need.

Everett Wells, a Brockton Republican, was the last to pull Senate papers as of October 8. Wells originally thought he needed signatures from registered voters but discovered he could only collect Republican signatures and saw the task as too daunting given the smaller population of Republicans in Massachusetts. He wrote an email to the GOP after pulling papers but he said it went unanswered.

Wells’ deadline has passed. Democrats and Republicans had to submit their signatures by October 20.

Wells, who is retired from a long career as a painter, plans to register as an independent in the future.

Chung, addressing everyone who pulled U.S. Senate papers, said that he is sorry that Kennedy has passed away but, “that unlocks Massachusetts from a political perspective and it’s a great, great opportunity for people in politics who truly want to serve the public. This is their chance.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Teacher Training in Devices to Help Non-Verbal Students

Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Link to the story.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tax Reimbursements for Non-Profit Owned Property

Thursday, October 15, 2009
A story I covered yesterday at the Revenue Committee Hearing at the MA Statehouse.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Area lawmakers weigh in on Obama's Nobel Prize

Saturday, October 10, 2009
This brief was published in the MetroWest Daily News print version on 10/10/09. It was not published to the paper's website.

BOSTON - Two area Democratic lawmakers say the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama is an impressive honor that speaks to the president's potential and the dramatic shift in world opinion of the United States.

“It shows that the president is fully committed to pursuing peace and diplomacy while helping to unite the world in an effort to combat its major problems," said Rep. Alice Peisch, D-Wellesley, when she was contacted by the MetroWest Daily News. "It also speaks to how the president has successfully worked to improve the image of the United States abroad.”

Rep. Pam Richardson, D-Framingham, who was also contacted by the MetroWest Daily News said the greater significance of the award may be that the world has recognized the shift in American foreign policy under the new administration.

“It signifies that the United States is now viewed as a nation in the forefront of international diplomacy and that Obama’s administration is committed to solving complex global problems such as freeing the world of nuclear weapons,” she said.

MetroWest Daily News attempted unsuccessfully to contact nearly a dozen other local legislators including Sen. Scott Brown, R-Wrentham, who is running for U.S. Senate, and the assistant minority leader, Rep. George Peterson, R-Grafton.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Election committee considers same-day voter registration

Thursday, October 8, 2009
This story was published in the MetroWest Daily News print version on 10/8/09. It was not published to the paper's website.

BOSTON- After moving a few blocks away from where he had been living, Gavi Wolfe, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, went to vote on Election Day and was told he was at the wrong polling location and could not cast his vote.
Since Wolfe had time, he went to the supposed correct location only to discover he had gone to the correct polling location in the first place and had to return there.
“Had I moved further away and not been able to do that, I would have been out of luck,” said Wolfe.
Wolfe recounted his experience to the Joint Committee on Election Laws on Wednesday as he spoke in favor of legislation that would allow Massachusetts voters to register at polling places on the same day of an election.
Co-sponsor of the bill, Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, in remarks prepared for the session, said that same-day registration would remove, “unnecessary and onerous provisions" that require voters to register weeks before an election.
“It’s an outrage that any qualified citizen is denied their right to vote simply because they have not registered in time – or because their registration was somehow lost or mishandled,” said Eldridge, who was injured in a fall and unable to attend the hearing.
Rep. Stephen Smith, D-Everett, questioned the same-day registration provision, saying that it might “spoon-feed” voters too much.
“Let them be a little more responsible. Give them a date and let them be responsible for signing up for that date. If they don’t, they can sign up on Election Day, and they can vote in the next election,” said Smith.
Committee co-chair Rep. Michael Moran, D-Boston, said he was worried that same-day registration would prevent campaigns and organizations from reaching out to potential voters because they are not on registration lists.
But Avi Green, executive director of Mass VOTE, said there are other ways to deliver messages to potential voters.
The situation “encourages everyone, a little bit, to reach out to everybody," he said. “It creates a cycle of people reaching out further and you get more people voting.”
Rep. Jay Kaufman, D-Lexington, dismissed concerns that same-day registration could welcome voting fraud and is too cumbersome.
“In the day of laptop computers and electronic connections that is absolutely untrue," he said at a press conference before the hearing. "We can record, instantaneously, the registration that takes place at the polling place and we can immediately call out anyone attempting to abuse the system,” Kaufman said.
The proposed bill, called the Massachusetts Freedom to Vote Act, also allows 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register to vote in high schools.
Sen. Ellen Story, D-Amherst, said this provision is unopposed.
Story said less than 50 percent of 18-year-olds are actually registered to vote.
“It is known that voting is addictive. If you start voting, you keep voting," said.
Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, urged the lawmakers to pass the bill saying it would “bring us into the 21st century.”
“Massachusetts should absolutely be a leader," she said. "We are the cradle of democracy and it’s time to claim that heritage and bring it forward today.”
Jen Judson © 2008. Design by Pocket