The Download: The circus is coming

It’s a running joke on Beacon Hill that this current incarnation of the Governor’s Council may finally be the one that takes the whole institution down. That theory should be put to the test soon, as Gov. Deval Patrick’s latest history-making pick for the Supreme Judicial Court runs headlong into a confirmation process that the Big Apple Circus, now playing on Boston’s City Hall Plaza, may not be able to hold a candle to.

Yesterday Patrick tapped Barbara Lenk to replace retiring SJC justice Judith Cowin. Lenk is an Appeals Court judge who was put on the bench, and then elevated, by former Gov. William Weld. As she said yesterday, she’s the daughter of a bookbinder and a housekeeper. She also happens to be married only because of the SJC’s 2003 Goodridge decision, which found it unconstitutional to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

With the Lenk pick, Patrick continues to reshape the SJC in his own image. If confirmed, four of the SJC’s seven justices would be Patrick nominees; a fifth, Roderick Ireland, was a Weld nominee whom Patrick recently elevated to Chief Justice. Lenk would be the first openly gay justice to sit on the SJC.

Patrick acknowledged the history-making significance of the nomination yesterday, but only when asked by reporters. “It’s a nice coincidence and a happy one,’’ he said. “I love the idea of firsts, as you know, and I’m proud of this one. But first and foremost, this is a very well prepared and highly qualified candidate.’’

Republican state Rep. Dan Winslow, who headed up judicial nominations for former Gov. Mitt Romney, drew an analogy between Lenk’s nomination and the dream of blind equality. “It’s important that our judicial branch reflect the diversity of our Commonwealth in every respect,” he said, “but I think that the real value of the governor’s nomination is that qualified people are appointed to the bench, regardless of their status by race, by creed, or by sexual orientation.”

But before the hand-holding and song-singing can commence, there remains the issue of what will likely be an uncomfortable confirmation hearing before the Governor’s Council. The body has been more combative and divided than usual lately. Its last SJC vote prompted the Globe to editorialize in favor of its abolishment. And that vote didn’t have nearly the same social and political subtext that Lenk’s will.

During the confirmation hearing for SJC Justice Fernande Duffly, Governor’s Councilor Charles Cipollini – a man who ran for office largely as a way to sweep his brother onto the Council – asked her to rate her political views, “An ‘A’ standing for most conservative and ‘F’ standing for most liberal, now called progressive.” On a Council where sniping and political backbiting are common, Cipollini has taken those arts to new levels.

It’s Cipollini’s conservative social views that should be giving Patrick’s team heartburn, though. The Fall River Republican has said he ran for the Governor’s Council to put a “traditional-values candidate on the council.” He’s outspokenly pro-life; on marriage, a one-time hot-button issue that has largely faded away in the state, Cipollini described himself as not “anti-anything necessarily, but pro-traditional marriage.” During Duffly’s confirmation hearing, he repeatedly asked about her views on polygamy and “communal living.” That was enough for the Globe to weigh in against the Council’s very existence. One can only imagine the questions that await Lenk.

                                                                                                                                                                            –PAUL MCMORROW


Senate President Therese Murray is off to Finland next week to explore biotech business potential, but it’s unlikely the GOP will be squawking about wasteful junkets because she’s taking Republican state Sen. Robert Hedlund along for the ride.

The MetroWest Daily News opposes a measure that would increase the number of signatures required to bring a ballot question before voters.


A very familiar face will be the new face of the Boston Redevelopment Authority as Mayor Tom Menino prepares to name veteran civic fixer Peter Meade to head the city agency. Meade gets high marks from a few Boston city councilors.

Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua issues a bizarre apology for comments he made Saturday on Spanish radio about the police department and a detective after he says he was nearly run down by a car, the Eagle-Tribune reports. In an editorial, the paper says the Lawrence Police Department isn’t the problem; “the increasingly bizarre and divisive behavior of Mayor Lantigua is.”

John Logan, leader of the US 2010 Census Project at Brown University, goes on Radio Boston to explain how segregated Boston is.

In May, Yarmouth voters will consider an override in order to bridge a gap in the regional school district budget.

The Springfield City Council rejected a proposal for a new police oversight board that would have included neighborhood and city council representatives

Southern Essex Deeds Register John O’Brien escalates his fight with the mortgage industry, asking Treasurer Steve Grossman to pull all the state’s funds out of Bank of America. O’Brien believes an industry mortgage transferring clearinghouse, which is partially owned by Bank of America, stiffed his office on $22 million in fees.

Sandwich continues to debate whether adults and high school students should have access to the high school pool at the same times.


House Republicans issued a scathing report on AARP and said the advocacy group, which supported President Obama’s health care reform, may not warrant its tax-exempt status.

Tim Geithner prods Congress on debt.

A new Pew Research Center poll finds Democrats favoring a budget compromise, but Republicans more forgiving of a government shutdown.


A leaked poll has bad news for Newton Mayor Setti Warren and others who may want to take on the most popular politician in Massachusetts.

Barack Obama’s campaign wants to surpass the $750 million it raised in 2008.

The Wall Street Journal’s Gerald Seib argues that technology and pervasive communication are changing the presidential election calendar.


Some Cape towns have called in the professionals to clean up the plastic disks from a New Hampshire waste water plant that have landed on area beaches.


Prosecutors on the Cape are looking into further allegations of child sexual abuse at a summer camp that US Sen. Scott Brown attended as a child, the Globe reports. Brown reported in his recent memoir that he had been sexually abused at a Cape Cod summer camp, but he has said he has no interest in pursing charges related to the decades-old episodes – a stance for which he comes in for blistering criticism this month in a Boston magazine column by Eileen McNamara.

A Scituate author and historian – who’s also carved out a pretty good career as a con man, if you consider getting convicted and serving time “pretty good” – was charged with forging a letter on Attorney General Martha Coakley’s stationery to help him get a car loan.

Brockton police say Michael Varano of Bridgewater would go to the wakes of people he knew then break into the homes when the mourners were at the funeral. Varano, who admitted to the Brockton Enterprise last month he would take his 4-year-old daughter with him on other break-ins, has been charged with breaking and entering in the daytime.

New Bedford Police Chief Ronald Teachman is leaving his post for a new position training police forces in developing countries.


Health care costs for municipal employees are 37 percent higher than those for similar health plans covering private-sector workers, according to a new report by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation and the Boston Foundation. WBUR interviews Taxpayers Foundation president Michael Widmer.

Steward Health Care System, a for-profit chain, agrees to buy nonprofit Saints Medical Center in Lowell, the Lowell Sun reports.

The New York Times examines the political gamble in Republicans’ bid to remake Medicare and Medicaid in the name of deficit reduction. House budget chief Paul Ryan defends the blueprint in a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed.

Berkshire County has good access to health care but gets poor scores for residents’ physical and mental health in a recently released report.


Wendy Murphy, an attorney who has filed a number of Title IX lawsuits against colleges for sexual harassment, talks with Jim Braude about problems at Yale University.


Rising enrollment at a Gloucester charter school has school and city officials worried about the financial impact, the Gloucester Times reports.


The Herald digs deeper into the flight of family trusts to New Hampshire.


An AmeriCorps alum explains why gutting the program would be so bad.


New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid, a former Globe reporter, sits down on “Greater Boston” to describe his recent capture in Libya where he said he and his three colleagues thought they were going to be executed by the militia who seized the journalists.

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