A Marblehead housewife

“Darn, I knew this was going to happen someday. If you’re reading this, I’m dead.”

So begins Barbara Anderson’s final column in today’s Salem News. Anderson died Friday at the age of 73 after a long battle with leukemia.

If you’re under 45, that name may look familiar but mostly from occasional quotes in budget and tax stories or from her weekly column in the Eagle-Tribune and Salem News. But if you are middle-aged or older, it’s a name that will bring chills or smiles, depending on your view of how to fund government. In the 1980s to early 90s, Anderson was arguably the most influential non-politician in Massachusetts.

Before there was the Tea Party, there was Citizens for Limited Taxation, which is to say, there was Anderson. Anderson did not have the polish of a Jim Braude, her then-foil who was the head of the ultra-liberal Tax Equity Alliance for Massachusetts, nor the biting wit of Herald columnist Howie Carr, who gave her a regular soapbox to connect with the masses. But what she had in her favor was the fact everyone in power underestimated her and dismissed her – until she almost single-handedly brought Proposition 2½ across the finish line and changed the way the state and municipalities dealt with their budgets.

Anderson often introduced herself as “just a Marblehead housewife,” fully aware of the disarming self-deprecation and double meaning the phrase carried. But to view the fiery redhead as simply out of her element when it came to public policy was to miss the boiling anger she channeled from voters to the public arena.

It didn’t matter to Anderson that the passage in 1980 of Prop 2½, whose effects still reverberate today, resulted in municipal layoffs, fire station closings, and overcrowded classrooms. She insisted there was plenty of money to do those things; it just required a change in priorities.

But Prop 2½ was not the end for Anderson, only the beginning. Every time the Democratic Legislature and then-Gov. Michael Dukakis made a move to raise taxes, she rallied opposition to defeat it at the polls. In 1988, when Dukakis was touting the Massachusetts Miracle in his run for president, Anderson was a highly sought-after voice – and a more than willing one – for reporters from around the country.

Anderson, Carr, and WRKO talk show king Jerry Williams were so incessantly hammering away at Dukakis and the Democrats, effectively blunting any attempts to increase revenues, they were dubbed “the governors.” They liked the moniker so much, they had a regular segment on Williams’s show every Tuesday afternoon called “The Governors.” For several years, it was must-listening for both voters and politicians.

As a young mother in New Jersey, she pushed her baby son around in his carriage handing out flyers for Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential race, which she compared recently to the GOP establishment’s rejection this year of Donald Trump.

“I learned that fiscal conservatives were hated by the Republican establishment as well as by the socialist-leaning Democrats,” she wrote. “How can you build a Washington, D.C., lobbyist-run power base if you can’t tax, spend and borrow unlimited amounts?”

But Anderson was not a one-trick pony. Her signature was taxes but her cause was libertarianism. But, of course, even her death is a chance for some lobbying on an issue that was near and dear to her, in this case the matter of Gerald “Tooky” Amirault, convicted in the infamous Fells Acre Day Care child abuse trial.

“There will be no memorial service but if anyone wants to honor my memory, please remind Gov. Charlie Baker that when he was running for office, he promised my friend Gerald Amirault and his family that getting Gerald off parole and his ankle bracelet would be a first order of business,” she wrote. “So far he has broken his promise, and keeping it is my dying wish.”

In her next-to-last last column on March 27, Anderson went off on a variety of subjects in her usual cue-ball-off-the-six-cushions manner, taking on Communism, Islam, terrorism, border fences, and the Catholic church. But the end of her column may have been a goodbye that few people recognized, when she railed against the defeat of the “death with dignity” ballot question in 2014.

“When I get angry, it’s when my own rights are attacked. For instance, as I get older, I want the right to choose assisted suicide should I be in a ‘ready to die’ mode,” she wrote without revealing her cancer. “But no, despite my having left the Catholic Church 55 years ago, it still had the power to fight a ballot question that would give me personal autonomy over its religious doctrine. My own emotions don’t usually run deep, my being a rational, logical person and all, but I admit to hating the voters who said no to the recent ‘death with dignity’ ballot question; [I] hope they live long enough to regret it.”

“Well, enough peace, love and understanding this week,” she concluded.




With an amendment that the state education secretary says would yield a charter school moratorium, the Senate charter school bill ran off the rails last week, moving the issue farther, not closer, to resolution — and showing that “shared leadership” can get messy. (CommonWealth) A Herald editorial says the Senate made a bad bill worse.

Gov. Charlie Baker defended to Politico his recent forays into national Republican circles, saying he’s using the platform to speak up for the vanishing brand of Republicanism he practices here, which he called “collaborative, bipartisan, open, and solution-oriented.”

If nothing else moves him, Baker should see from the North Carolina controversy that failing to stand up for transgender rights is bad for business, says Shirley Leung. (Boston Globe)

The Supreme Judicial Court is hearing a case brought by the town of Attleboro alleging parts of the Our Lady of La Salette Shrine shouldn’t be tax-exempt. (WBUR)


A Globe editorial urges Boston to adopt the Community Preservation Act.


The trial begins today for three men charged with hiding the ownership interest of a reputed mobster in land targeted for the Wynn Resorts casino in Everett. (Boston Globe)


The Globe gives over the front of its Sunday Ideas section to a scathing parody version of the newspaper’s imagined front page a year from now, should President Donald Trump be in office. Naturally, Trump has something to say, calling the Globe a “stupid” and “worthless” paper. (Politico) Howie Carr, too, is not at a loss for words over the stunt. (Boston Herald) The Herald gathers up some of the critical commentary, including from reliably right-wing sites, but also from the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, who points out the obvious: that it plays well into Trump’s shtick of slamming the media elites.

Trump releases data showing his charitable donations, and they are skewed toward rounds of golf and land, not cash contributions. (Washington Post)

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who insists he will not run for president even through a brokered convention, is running a campaign against Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz for the soul of the party. (New York Times)

Reagan Democrats in a forlorn one-time milltown in Pennsylvania like what they see in Trump — and it has Democrats worried. (Boston Globe)


Boston will include “clawback” provisions in its $25 million property tax break to General Electric if job targets aren’t met, but there will be no such provision with the $120 million in state infrastructure aid. (Boston Globe)

Stop & Shop has reached a tentative agreement on a contract with the union representing some 35,000 workers for the supermarket chain in three states. (Associated Press)


The Chicopee schools plan to take in more students from outside the district next year to bolster revenues. (Masslive)

The Lowell schools grapple with a deficit that is likely to force layoffs. (The Sun)

Ramon Gonzalez of Give A Summer says Boston schools need to figure out why so many students are missing out on learning opportunities in the summer. (CommonWealth)


China has become a major source of deadly fentanyl flooding the US. (Stat)

Tests find lead above allowable levels in water systems in Malden, Winthrop, Chelsea, Marlborough, and New Bedford. (Associated Press)

The state says it will halt all admissions at four Arbour Health System psychiatric facilities in Pembroke, Westwood, Quincy, and Jamaica Plain if they don’t take immediate action to address a number of “patient care and life safety violations.” (Patriot Ledger)

Peter Neumann and Joshua Cohen say value should determine a drug’s price. (CommonWealth)

The Eagle-Tribune examines the growth of sober homes.

California moves aggressively to regulate health plans. (Governing)

The Journal of the American Medical Association finds the rich can be healthy and live longer anywhere but when you’re poor, location matters. (New York Times)

Not all generic drugs contain the same ingredients as the brand names they are patterned after. (Boston Globe)


Amy Dain wonders whether there’s a way to smoot the subways. (CommonWealth)


WCVB’s Chronicle offers a  great overview of the trash problem in Massachusetts and some of the potential solutions. The segment uses as its starting point a CommonWealth cover story on trash.

Haverhill hikes the cost for residents to dump yard waste at the Highway Department. Town officials say part of the problem is residents aren’t using the resulting mulch, so the city has to pay to have it taken away to nearby farms. (Eagle-Tribune)

The mild winter has increased the risk of ticks attaching themselves to dogs and, in turn, humans. (Cape Cod Times)

The rise in sea levels is threatening historic sites and structures along coasts around the world. (Associated Press)


An organization representing gay New England police officers now claims more than 300 members. (Boston Globe)


A Herald editorial and Dan Shaughnessy column in the Globe welcome the boys of summer back to Fenway (where it’s not quite yet summer). A longtime season ticket holder, one Stephen King of Bangor, Maine, isn’t too happy about the new protective netting in front of his dugout seats. (Boston Globe)