Reporter's Notebook: Blue-collar sitdown for Brown at Dot firm

US Sen. Scott Brown traveled into the heart of deeply blue Dorchester last Thursday and sat down with a friendly audience of blue collar workers at an excavation company’s headquarters near Fields Corner.

“Even if you’re an ardent Democrat, he hasn’t done enough to be fired from the job,” said Brendan Feeney, president and co-founder of Feeney Brothers Excavation Corporation, which hosted the Wrentham Republican at its Clayton St. offices. “We vote the person, not the party,” added his brother, Greg, the vice president.

The brothers describe themselves as independents and said they’ve also voted for Democrats like Congressman Stephen Lynch (D-South Boston) and state Rep. Marty Walsh (D-Dorchester).

Brown briefly spoke to the group of 40 people, many of them wearing yellow vests and holding hard hats in their laps, and interspersed talk of his hardscrabble biography and votes in the Senate with shots at his opponent, Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren. He also played up his Massachusetts roots, saying he was raised in the Bay State and he is “probably going to die here,” adding, “she’s not from here,” a reference to Warren’s upbringing in Oklahoma.

Brown touted the support of former Mayor Ray Flynn, a South Boston Democrat, and said he welcomed supporters from the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, the Green Party, or “if you just like to party.”

Asked by one member of the audience about rising tuition costs, Brown blasted Warren, saying the Harvard Law School professor is “part of the problem” and claiming her salary approached $400,000 for one class.

Pressed on lifting property tax exemptions for universities and colleges in Boston, Brown demurred, saying it was “more of a local issue.” Brown said Mayor Thomas Menino has pressed for increased payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT), adding, “it hasn’t reached our level, really.”

After Brown left, the audience migrated to a spread of pizza, calzones, and crackers. “He puts himself in your shoes,” said Kenny Williams, an Adams Village resident. “He’s not afraid to go against the grain.”

Despite the warm show of support Brown received, Dorchester is likely to go for Warren in November, as it did for the Democratic candidate in the 2010 special election, Martha Coakley. Brown picked up support in the Neponset neighborhood, winning four precincts in Ward 16.

Brown’s Thursday afternoon visit came 48 hours after Warren dropped in to meet and greet supporters at the Harp and Bard on Dorchester Avenue. In a press availability outside the restaurant, Warren sought to tie Brown to Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, the Republican ticket that will likely lose by a wide margin in Massachusetts, where President Obama is popular.

“I don’t think this is about parties,” Warren said. “I think this is really about whose side you stand on. Not in a political sense but in the sense of the vision for how we build this country going forward. Right now, Scott Brown, Mitt Romney, and Paul Ryan have all said we’ve got to protect tax breaks, special deals, subsidies for the wealthiest Americans and for the biggest corporations, and we have to do that at any cost, no matter what the effects are on working families. I believe that’s fundamentally wrong.”

Warren added: “I’m in this race because I believe that America’s working families are on the ropes and they can’t take much more. And the Romney-Ryan-Brown approach is a punch in the gut to them.”

As to the race, polling by a Democratic outfit on Tuesday showed Brown with a five-point lead. When Public Policy Polling took the state’s political temperature in June, they were tied at 46 percent, but likely voters prefer Brown over Warren by a 49 percent to 44 percent margin, according to the PPP poll conducted Aug. 16 to 19. The margin of error is 2.9 percent and 1,115 likely voters were interviewed.

His job approval rating stands at 53 percent, with 36 percent disapproving. Meanwhile, Warren’s unfavorable numbers have risen to 43 percent favorable from 33 percent in March.

For Warren, the race may not be about parties. But if Democrats want to win back the late Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat, it might have to become just that, the polling firm posits. “Democrats will have to convince voters who like him to vote against him anyway to keep the Senate from going Republican,” Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling said in a statement.

Menino taps Sheila Dillon for housing and neighborhood development post
South Boston’s Sheila Dillon is coming back to work at City Hall. Mayor Menino said last week that Dillon, director of the Rental Assistance Bureau at the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, will be taking over for Evelyn Friedman as chief of housing and director of the Department of Neighborhood Development. Friedman is leaving for the top job at Greater Lawrence Community Action Council.

“Sheila brings not only a deep understanding of today’s most important housing matters, but a strong record as a leader on these issues which are so critical to cultivating strong neighborhoods where residents and businesses can thrive,” Menino said in a statement.

Dillon once served as DND’s deputy director of housing, overseeing homelessness programs and affordable housing. At the state level, the Section 8 Program and the state’s homeless programs were among those in her portfolio.

She also once worked on housing policy at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, before serving as Menino’s housing adviser, according to the mayor’s office.

Before her time at City Hall, she was director of housing development at Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation.

Her first day on the job is slated for Sept. 26. Dorchester resident Bill Cotter, deputy director at DND, will serve as acting director until then, Menino’s office said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out updates to Boston’s political scene at The Lit Drop, located at dotnews.com/litdrop. Email us at newseditor@dotnews.com and follow us on Twitter: @LitDrop and @gintautasd.

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