Reporter's Notebook: Date switch for primary quandary for Democrats

On second thought, don’t save the date. In a spectacular goof earlier this month, Gov. Deval Patrick and state lawmakers signed off on a bill that switches next year’s statewide primary from a Tuesday to a Thursday and sets up a scheduling conflict with the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. When moving to approve the switch, lawmakers cited the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah as the main reason. So the primary date was moved up to Sept. 6 from Sept. 16.

But as the State House News Service detailed this week, few seemed to realize that the date change means that members of the Massachusetts delegation – many of them elected officials – who presumably would be en route to North Carolina at the time would be stuck with the choice of either enjoying the Democratic Party’s festivities or staying home for the election.

After a visit to Dorchester’s Clap Innovation School on Tuesday, Patrick acknowledged the conflict and said the date should be changed again to avoid it.

“Yes, we should change that date,” Patrick told reporters. “It’s amazing nobody caught it. I mean, we didn’t catch it. And I think I’m right, it was the secretary of state who observed this is an unusually late Democratic National Convention. But it ought to be changed and I think it will be.”

Mayor Thomas Menino agreed, though he said if he had to choose, he would vote in the morning and then head to the convention.

Secretary of State William Galvin, the state elections chief, did not seem to be as concerned about a conflict.

“In a situation like this where we presume it’s a re-nomination of the president and vice president, it is more a festive event than a political event, so we’re talking about overlapping with a balloon drop,” Galvin told the News Service. “We were concerned and are concerned about giving the maximum amount of time for the printing of absentee ballots.”

Casinos redux: Councillors comment on their new power

Last week city councillors were asked for their reactions to a provision in the recently-signed casino bill that hands the City Council the ability to set up a city-wide referendum on a gaming facility. The other option is to limit the referendum to the ward the casino would be located in.

The bill, signed by Patrick just before Thanksgiving, opens the Bay State’s doors to three casinos and a slot parlor. Suffolk Downs in East Boston is expected to make a play for one of the casino licenses.

East Boston Councillor Sal LaMattina told the Reporter last week that he prefers a referendum be limited to his area, because the ward would feel the heaviest impact. He was joined in that position by fellow Councillor Mark Ciommo of Allston-Brighton.

Councillor Matt O’Malley of Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury and incoming Dorchester Councillor Frank Baker said they would support a city-wide referendum, arguing that a casino would have a city-wide effect.

Councillor Charles Yancey of Mattapan told the Reporter this week that he also backs a city-wide vote. “It’s going to have such a dramatic impact on the entire city,” he said.

Michael Ross, who represents Mission Hill and Beacon Hill, said he is “not a big fan” of casinos and is leaning toward supporting a city-wide referendum.

City Councillor Rob Consalvo said residents had a chance to weigh in on casinos through their state lawmakers, who sent the casino bill to the governor's desk in November. Consalvo noted that his state representative, Angelo Scaccia of Readville, opposed the bill.

Consalvo said he supports an East Boston-only referendum. "They're the ones who are going to be locally impacted," he said.

When asked about the topic on Monday, South Boston’s councillor, Bill Linehan, helpfully told the Reporter, “You’re not going to get me to comment on casinos.”

Councillor Tito Jackson, who represents Roxbury and some of Dorchester, said last week that he was reviewing the legislation. Staffers to City Councillors At-Large Ayanna Pressley and Stephen Murphy offered the same comment. Other councillors have not been available for a response.

The issue is already on the radar screens of activists. One wrote into the left-leaning site BlueMassGroup.com, urging readers to contact their respective councillors.

“The Boston City Council has the opportunity to vote to collectively allow the residents of Boston to vote on this important issue,” read the post. “Whether you are for or against casinos, I believe that we should all have a voice on this measure.”

During an interview last Wednesday on WGBH’s “Greater Boston,” Menino reiterated his opposition to the concept of referendums, telling host Emily Rooney that such votes take pressure off of elected officials to make tough decisions. But he said if there had to be a referendum, he prefers it to be limited to the East Boston ward.

Suffolk Downs, which has a history as a horse race track, is “most logical location” for a casino, given its capacity to handle traffic, he added.

Flaherty thanks supporters

Former City Councillor At-Large Michael Flaherty this week penned an open letter to Dorchester residents expressing “heartfelt thanks” for their help over the last several campaigns.

“Life is full of ups and downs, but I take great satisfaction from the fact that voter participation in Boston has grown broader and more reflective of our city and its many diverse neighborhoods than at any time in recent memory,” he wrote. “I urge my supporters to keep politically active and involved, as I plan to do, and to work with all our elected officials to help make Boston a better and stronger city that works for everyone.”

Flaherty, who was once a ticket-topper among the city councillors at-large, came in fifth place in November’s contest for four City Council At-Large seats. He did well in Dorchester and his home neighborhood of South Boston, but lagged elsewhere in the city, coming up 922 votes behind City Councillor At-Large Murphy.

Flaherty, who left his at-large seat in 2009 to run unsuccessfully for mayor, has not returned phone calls seeking comment following this year’s election.

Quote of Note: Outgoing Congressman Barney Frank

“People on the left and people on the right live in parallel universes,” Frank said, according to Slate.com. “No longer do people get their information from a common media source, and then diverge in how they interpret it. The left is on MSNBC and on the blogs. The right is on Fox and on talk radio. And what happens is, people know different facts. These are echo chambers. People hear agreement with themselves.”

Frank announced this week that he will not be running for reelection. He cited his redrawn Congressional district as a reason, saying the changes made by state lawmakers made it more difficult to run again.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Material from State House News Service was used in this report. Check out updates to Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at dotnews.com/litdrop. Follow us on Twitter: @LitDrop and @gintautasd.