The Download: Getting bolder on the environment

With Earth Day on the horizon, Phil Primack, a CommonWealth contributing writer, turned on the wayback machine, lamenting in a recent Boston Globe Magazine column that the passion that marked Boston’ first Earth Day has faded. Instead of 1970-style protests, such as a “die-in” at Logan Airport to protest supersonic jets, people today gravitate toward “product-placement bonanza[s] of ‘green living’ festivals, cleanup campaigns, and special events.”

Primack wants to see college students taking issues like climate change to the streets, as he and his peers did back in the day. The timing of his lament is curious since young people descended on the nation’s capital by the thousands last weekend for Power Shift 2011, a biennial youth climate summit, to draw attention to green economics, climate legislation, clean energy, and a bundle of other energy and environment concerns. Lending gravitas were former vice president Al Gore, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, and former White House green jobs czar Van Jones.

Young people have run out of patience with President Obama on the energy and environment front. Activists are hot and bothered by the president’s failure to pass a climate change bill and what they see as a general lack of leadership from the White House on clean energy.

Mother Jones speculates that the president’s shortcomings on those issues could ultimately damage his standing with this important group of voters who supported him 2-1 over John McCain. Courtney Hight, a young environmentalist who worked on the Obama campaign and later served on the White House Council on Environmental Quality, was so disillusioned with the administration that she resigned her position and moved to over to help run Power Shift and the Energy Action Coalition, one of the lead organizers of the Washington, DC, event.

But Primack can take heart: Where the last Power Shift gathering focused on the climate change bill, this year’s conclave focused on community organizing. “Obama can be bolder,” Hight told Mother Jones, “We have to show him we need him to be.”  

The former community organizer knows he’s got some fence mending to do.  Obama surprised Hight and a delegation of other young environmental leaders by showing up to a White House meeting. (The activists expected to meet with senior advisors.) The two sides agreed to disagree on nuclear energy (Obama yea; activists nay), but Obama urged them to mobilize in their local communities and to push local officials on the issues where they can find common ground with the White House.

                                                                                                                                                                        –GABRIELLE GURLEY  

BEACON HILL

Federal District Court Judge Mark Wolf ruled against former House speaker Sal DiMasi and two co-defendants who sought to bar the testimony at their upcoming trial of a former co-defendant who flipped in a deal with prosecutors.

Lawmakers from Cape Cod and the Berkshires team up to promote cultural tourism.

The Berkshire Eagle urges state lawmakers to work with public unions rather than trying to drive them out of existence Wisconsin-style.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy sits down with The Daily Item and talks about  controlling health care costs (without going into the Group Insurance Commission) and her concerns about the city’s growing reputation as a destination for the needy.

A police investigation in Lawrence disputes Mayor William Lantigua’s claim that someone in a car tried to run him down in front of City Hall, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Some residents of Canton and Milton are pushing for the state and towns to allow deer hunting to thin the population in the area because of a marked increase in Lyme disease in the communities.

Methuen’s City Council approves a $120,000 settlement with the former head of the patrolmen’s union who claimed he was transferred out of the detective bureau because the union didn’t endorse Mayor William Manzi’s reelection bid in 2007, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Veteran Boston City Councilor Maureen Feeney won’t seek reelection this fall.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno is asking city employees to accept a pay freeze and a 12 furlough days to plug a $5.4 million budget gap going into fiscal 2012. Meanwhile, Newton’s 2012 budget includes layoffs. Mayor Setti Warren explains his reasoning here.

ELECTION 2012

David Bernstein ponders Tim Pawlenty’s strange opposition to raising the debt ceiling, and what it means for Pawlenty’s well-coiffed primary opponent, Mitt Romney.

The Obama campaign sees demographic shifts opening the door to a competitive race in Texas.

The New York Times profiles Jon Huntsman, the outgoing ambassador to China who’s betting there’s a spot in the Republican field for a fiscally conservative and socially moderate candidate.

Here’s another Donald Trump link. It’s OK. This one’s about why The Donald will finally destroy birtherism.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Prosecutors score their first major conviction from the housing bust.

EDUCATION

The Springfield Republican applauds the new status of Western New England University, which recently dropped “college” from its name, thereby becoming the only private university in the Pioneer Valley.

Raising the math requirements for high school student planning to attend state universities gets backing from The MetroWest Daily News.

HEALTH CARE

The Globe reports, with more than a tad of befuddlement, on Mississippi governor and possible GOP presidential candidate Haley Barbour‘s strident opposition to the federal health care law that would send millions of dollars to provide health coverage for the 18 percent of Mississippians without insurance.

A Suffolk Superior Court judge ruled that the MBTA can unilaterally switch workers into the health plans overseen by the state Group Insurance Commission to save on health care costs.

The White House’s plan to rein in Medicare costs runs into opposition on the right and the left.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar gives Cape Wind momentum, WBUR reports, while CommonWealth explores the intrigue behind the project’s efforts to find a buyer for the remaining half of the power output. Meanwhile, the state is asking the federal government to cut in half the “wind zone” area south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, where a massive wind farm is being planned. The Cape Cod Times report on Salazar’s visit is here and the story on the offshore wind zone area, here.

Bristol Community College is revamping its engineering and technology programs to include a focus on green energy sources and has updated its agreement with UMass Dartmouth to allow a higher number of transfer credits by students in those subject  areas.

Engineers are testing floating solar panel installations.

North Adams explores siting more solar power plants.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

An umbrella, mistaken for a rifle, causes panic at the Burlington mall. NECN has a report, as does the Lowell Sun and the Globe.

Shore Shore police officials tell the Patriot Ledger that the SJC ruling that voter-approved decriminalization of marijuana limits their searches of suspects when they smell burnt pot is one more obstacle in doing their job. The ruling drew the same reaction from Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, reports the Globe.

A Lawrence man testifies how he cooperated in faking an automobile accident to file phony insurance claims for $2,500, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

A limo driver has filed a suit against the town of Brookline and some police officers after he said several off-duty cops beat him up and wouldn’t let him go to the hospital when he dropped a stripper off at a bachelor party last spring.

STATE OF THE STATES

The Wall Street Journal asks whether the municipal bond drought is a temporary phenomenon, or whether it represents a more fundamental shift in public finance.

ALCOHOL

Michelle Minton, the director of insurance studies for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, says in the National Review that there aren’t any data to support the argument for a drinking age of 21 and adds that kids shipping off to war ought to be able to throw a couple back before leaving.

MEDIA

The Gloucester Times picks up where the State House News Service left off, exploring the Boston Globe’s unusual access to state officials and their policy decisions.