Mass. sheriffs: Populist positions or partisan pandering?

How often do you hear about what the state’s county sheriffs are doing, except at election time or in stories about patronage hiring? In Massachusetts, the office has been marginalized as no more than an innkeeper for miscreants, one that is elected but whose budget is controlled by the state.

But now some of the state’s sheriffs are challenging Gov. Deval Patrick, the man who signs their checks, on immigration and it’s fair to note the only ones on board are Republicans.  So are they emboldened by their numbers, where they hold five of the state’s 14 sheriffs’ offices, making them the largest concentration of elected Republicans in any group? Is it a partisan wedge issue, a base belief that Republicans hold that is anathema to progressive principles? Is it a choreographed effort with a larger group behind the push, trying to embarrass one of President Obama’s closets allies? Are they playing to the cheap seats? No answers here, but lots of valid questions.

Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, among the most outspoken of the group, says it’s a matter of public safety, nothing more. Some county sheriffs want to train their deputies as immigration agents, WBUR reports. Much of it is generated by the growing number of headlines of illegal immigrants committing crimes from OUI to murder.

Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins says he wants to deport 10 percent of the 1,200 inmates under his supervision because they are in this country illegally. Nahant Police find a man passed out behind the wheel of his car and report him to immigration authorities for being here illegally, the Lynn Item reports. Meanwhile, a Brazilian man in this country illegally and without a driver’s license is accused of running down a girl riding her bike to school in Ipswich, the Salem News reports. In Alabama, meanwhile, a federal judge rules that key provisions of an immigration law can go into effect, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

Another possible option is the money. The New York Times today has an interesting piece about the increase in concern over immigration issues has been a boon for private security companies in the United States, Australia and England.

Only a few states have private jails and prisons, but not Massachusetts. When illegal immigrants are detained, they have to stay somewhere and some of the county facilities, most notably Plymouth, are set up to hold federal prisoners, who bring with them a hefty reimbursement cost. The number of federal prisoners has been shrinking and with it, their funds. So an uptick in immigration enforcement and detainment could renew some of those lost dollars.

Some of the sheriffs’ rhetoric is political hyperbole, with the Department of Homeland Security rebutting their claim that the Secure Communities program is not in Massachusetts because of Patrick’s foot-dragging. But none of the GOP sheriffs have to worry about Democratic backlash because none are up for reelection next year. So they’ll pay little immediate price for bucking the Democratic majority and are helping out a Republican ally in Sen. Scott Brown.

It should be noted that not all critics of Patrick’s stance are conservative or Republicans. The Globe’s Joan Venocchi today said the governor is “out of touch” on the issue. Even the Patriot Ledger’s normally far-left-of-center cartoonist O’Mahoney wonders what’s so hard to understand about the “illegal” part of illegal immigrants.

Like the growing number of illegal immigrants, the issue is not going away.

                                                                                                                                                                          –JACK SULLIVAN  


State Auditor Suzanne Bump pushes for tighter controls on special education collaboratives to deal with “a systematic problem” of financial mismanagement and abuse, the Lowell Sun reports.

Dan Phelps, writing in the Lowell Sun, is amazed that the Senate was shocked at a proposal to rein in patronage involving lawmakers at proposed casinos.

A Detroit developer who invested millions in a casino project to benefit the Mashpee Wampanoag wants Gov. Deval Patrick to help him get his money back.

The Globe files a motion challenging the sealing of documents in the criminal case of bribery and conspiracy against former Probation Commissioner John O’Brien and Scott Campbell, the one-time aide to state Treasurer Tim Cahill. The paper’s editorial page says there is no compelling reason to impound the records and argues lack of transparency was part of the issue in O’Brien’s fall.


Lawrence’s Licensing Board revokes the license of a club where two people were gunned down 13 months ago. It was the second time in a month that the board had voted to shut a violent bar, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The Ayer Board of Selectmen pushes for town bylaw that would restrict where sex offenders can live, the Lowell Sun reports.

Town officials in Orange are mulling a number of options to balance the budget, including a state takeover.

The Abington School Committee chairman says he won’t literally be performing magic at the beginning of meetings anymore after he issued a written apology for the “magic bra trick” he performed on a unwitting colleague.

Attleboro has a hot mayoral race, and now it features plenty of name-calling!


Time analyzes the various initiatives to dismantle education reform.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants to kickstart the local economy, calling a special legislative session to pass 30 jobs bills. The Journal-Sentinel of Wisconsin has the details.

New England states will be forced to cut heating aid to low-income families if Congress follows through on plans to scale back a home heating aid program.


Vote first or die: New Hampshire has no intention of letting Florida move to the head of the primary pack.

“…At some point, you stop flirting with the candidate you want and you marry the president you need,” says former Mitt Romney advisor Alex Castellanos. And that person isMitt Romney. David Frum asks the Christie contingent “why the hell not Mitt Romney?” RiShawn Biddle says in the American Spectator that Mitt Romney is in his own “race from the top” as he dodges questions of his previous support for some of President Obama’s education policies. The Atlantic says this week’s current anti-Romney, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, is a GOP heretic.

Newt Gingrich is set to release his “21st century Contract with America” today and US News & World Report says the former speaker is quietly making his way back into relevance in the campaign.

Setti Warren is set to end his Senate bid today. The Newton Tab story is here.

The New Republic looks at whether the electoral college will favor President Obama in 2012.

The Tea Party targets Sen. Richard Lugar.

Karl Rove: Not so wild about this new, liberal incarnation of Barack Obama.


A condo complex that was shelved two years ago at the renovated Hingham shipyard because of the economy is now under construction again.

The Globe reports on Google’s $28 million investment in an Allston affordable housing project.

Sen. Scott Brown pens an op-ed in the Boston Globe in support of a proposal that would make it easier for people with federal government-backed mortgages to refinance. The feds’ current mortgage relief has fallen far short of its goals. And August was a busy month for foreclosures in Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts biopharma industry takes off.

Solar manufacturers may be facing tough times, but solar panel installers are doing just fine, thank you very much.

Steve Roth and Bruce Beal took a look inside the country’s banks, and they didn’t like what they saw.


Regulators are looking at revising quota rules that allow bigger boat operators to grow at the expense of smaller commercial fishermen.


Kansas City and other school districts are using dogs to decrease bullying and the programs are working.

Tuition paid to charter schools by the city of Boston is set to jump to as high as $90 million in fiscal year 2015, up from $55.1 million in 2011, due to the upcoming charter expansion.


The new federal health care law has reduced the numbers of uninsured young people since they can now stay on their parents’ plans until age 26. The Justice Department asks the Supreme Court to hear challenges to the 2010 law.


Attorney General Martha Coakley wants a five-year rate freeze as a condition of approval for the NStar-Northeast Utilities merger, the Globe reports.


An Ashland man and Northeastern University graduate was charged yesterday with developing a plot to fly explosives into the Pentagon and Capitol building, the Globe reports.  The MetroWest Daily News finds his yearbook quote. The Washington Post account is here.

Boston City Councilor Charles Yancey renews calls for a police civilian review board.


See the video of a discussion about the Boston Globe’s new paywall strategy at the Nieman Foundation.


New York TimesNate Silver, whose Five Thirty Eight blog is must reading for political polling acolytes, crunched the numbers on the odds of the Red Sox missing and Tampa Bay making the playoffs from Sept. 3 until last night and determined the odds of it happening were 1 in 238 million. And yet, there you go.