All politics is local

Though he made his biggest mark in Washington as speaker of the House, famous son of Cambridge Tip O’Neill’s most quoted aphorism was his claim that “all politics is local.” 

It’s fitting, then, that a fascinating new story in Mother Jones on Bernie Sanders’s views on housing and his political impact opens with a tale of how the rabble-rousing presidential hopeful may have tipped a battle in Tip’s hometown over zoning — often the mother of all local political disputes. 

The story argues that while the Vermont democratic socialist has released an ambitious national plan to boost housing production, he has backed candidates in local races who work to do just the opposite. 

In Cambridge, that meant endorsing a slate of five candidates in the 2017 City Council election. Four of them won, including one who local observers claim was little known and would never have won without Sanders’s high-profile endorsement. 

Fast forward to earlier this month, when the Cambridge council fell short by one vote of passing a zoning change that would have allowed developers to exceed existing height restrictions if new housing units were made permanently affordable to low- and moderate-income renters. A super-majority of six votes of the nine-member council are needed for such a change, and the proposal got only five votes. Two of the Sanders-backed councilors voted against the zoning measure. 

“I’m convinced that if Bernie hadn’t gotten involved two years ago, we would have had the six votes. So it’s a really awful thing he did,” said David Sullivan, a former Cambridge city councilor active with the group A Better Cambridge, which is part of a national “YIMBY” movement pushing for more housing development as a solution to the affordability crisis. 

Sullivan told the magazine he was shocked that Sanders waded into the local race “because I didn’t know Bernie knew anything about local politics. And it turned out, he didn’t know anything about local politics.”

The battle over affordable housing has created a huge fault line within progressive circles between those who favor greater regulation of the market and are wary of the private developers and those who say robust private development has to be part of the solution. 

Though Sanders has called for a huge federal commitment to housing, Aaron Weiner, author of the Mother Jones piece, says he has “expressed skepticism of private housing development.” He quoted Sanders railing against developers at a recent presidential forum sponsored by the NAACP. 

“The unfortunate effect of endorsing the people that Bernie Sanders endorsed,” Eugenia Schraa, who heads the political action committee affiliated with A Better Cambridge, tells Mother Jones, “is that it helped people who claimed to be progressive but who—whether purposefully or not—end up allying with the most conservative faction of people in Cambridge, who tend to be wealthier, whiter homeowners, and enact policies that keep people out, including immigrants, young people, and newcomers of any kind.”

The article says Sanders has also weighed in on local races on the West Coast, backing anti-development candidates in the Bay Area who YIMBY advocates say are thwarting efforts to address the housing shortage. 

Sullivan, the former Cambridge city councilor, is no toady for big-money developers. He was a member of Our Revolution, the group Sanders formed in 2016, and Democratic Socialists of America, which endorsed Sanders for president in 2016 and has done so again in the 2020 race. Though Sullivan backed Hillary Clinton over Sanders in the 2016 primary, the article says most members of the board of A Better Cambridge at the time of Sanders’s 2017 Cambridge city council endorsements had backed him in 2016. 

But most of the pro-housing activists Weiner spoke with say they’re now supporting Elizabeth Warren, including Jesse Kanson-Benanav, who founded A Better Cambridge in 2012 and supported Sanders four years ago. 

One wrinkle to the local-national dynamic to the story that Mother Jones doesn’t mention: Warren happens to be a Cambridge resident. 

Never mind her views on impeachment, federal tax rates, or foreign policy, the burning question now in Tip O’Neill’s backyard ought to be, who did Warren vote for in the 2017 Cambridge city council race?



In  the face of a mysterious lung illness that appears to be gaining momentum, Gov. Charlie Baker declared a four-month ban on the sale of all vaping products. An official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told a congressional panel that consumers should stop using vaping products but stopped short of calling for a ban. (CommonWealth) Baker’s ban goes beyond what other states are doing in response to the rising number of lung illnesses. (Boston Globe) Around the Commonwealth, vaping retailers are scrambling. (Cape Cod Times) 

Proponents of the state’s film tax credit have been successful in fending off attempts to eliminate it or pare it back. But with the credit nearing a sunset date, those proponents now face an even bigger challenge — amending the law to extend the credit indefinitely. (CommonWealth)


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces the start of an impeachment inquiry over President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, setting a high-stakes showdown in motion that’s likely to have a significant effect on the 2020 presidential contest. (Washington Post


Preliminary election results: Republican Sen. Donald Humason and Police Captain Michael McCabe advance in the Westfield mayor’s race. (MassLive) In Taunton, Republican Rep. Shaunna O’Connell garnered 62 percent of the vote, while City Councilor Estele Borges won 29 percent in the race for mayor. (Taunton Daily Gazette)

Explicitly challenging Sen. Elizabeth Warren on her much-touted tax plan, Sen. Bernie Sanders unveils his own wealth tax, which he says would bring in $4 trillion over a decade from the richest people. (Associated Press) Meanwhile, Warren moves to ramp up ad spending and add staff beyond the early primary states. (Boston Globe)

All four at-large Boston city councilors advanced to the November final election, with would-be mayoral challenger Michelle Wu topping the ticket, but Althea Garrison only placed sixth, confirming speculation that she may face a tough time retaining the seat she walked into when Ayanna Pressley resigned to take her seat in Congress. (Boston Herald


Comstock Inc., the company that tracks digital readership, paid a $5 million fine to settle Securities and Exchange Commission findings that the firm fraudulently manipulated its revenues.

TJX Cos. is expanding its footprint in Framingham, purchasing a nearby property owned by Meditech for $120 million. (MetroWest Daily News) Marshalls opens an online store. (MassLive)

Pittsfield proposes a $160,000 grant and a $45,000 tax break to lure Electro Magnetic Applications and six jobs to the Berkshire Innovation Center. (Berkshire Eagle)


With state officials preparing to review Boston’s low-performing school system, a Globe editorial says Mayor Marty Walsh has “had more than five years to put his mark on the schools — without much to show for it.”

Four Massachusetts residents are awarded MacArthur Foundation “genius grants,” including a legal scholar, two scientists, and a poet. (Boston Globe


With the death of a Hampden County resident, three people in Massachusetts have died this year from eastern equine encephalitis, the mosquito-borne illness. (WBUR)

Thousands of patients could lose doctors in a dispute between Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Southcoast Health. Dr. Ronnie Brownsworth, president of the Southcoast Health Network says Blue Cross has decided not to invest as much for patients on the SouthCoast as it does elsewhere. (Standard -Times) 


The Barr Foundation donates $500,000 to MassDevelopment to augment the state agency’s arts initiatives in Gateway Cities. (CommonWealth


As a new poll indicates most biotech workers are angry about their commutes, the leader of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce calls for more transportation revenue. (CommonWealth)


Warming oceans are have dire effects that will threaten everything from fish stocks that millions rely on for food to the liveability of coastal areas, a new UN report says. (New York Times

Last year as devastating fires erupted in the Merrimack Valley, Columbia Gas officials had no maps of their system to share with emergency responders, and company officials were difficult to reach as the disaster unfolded, according to the National Transportation Safety Bureau. (Eagle-Tribune)

Jets at Logan Airport are emitting ultrafine particles, which create health hazards. (WGBH)


The state’s Cannabis Control Commission approves home deliveries of pot and requires drivers to wear body cameras. (State House News)


Boston Municipal Court Judge Richard Sinnott, whose prosecutorial-minded handling of protesters’ charges created controversy, is under investigation by the Judicial Conduct Commission. (WBUR)

Jurors heard harrowing eyewitness details of a double-killing committed by Wes Doughty, who prosecutors allege went on the attack in Peabody to muscle rivals out of drug-dealing turf. (Salem News)

Decks of cards featuring the photos of people who are missing or are crime suspects were released by Norfolk County Sheriff Jerry McDermott on Tuesday in an effort to mine information from the men sitting behind bars to help solve the cases. They will be the only cards allowed in jail. (Patriot Ledger) 


Vox Media acquires New York Magazine. (New York Times)

Media critic Dan Kennedy thinks the press is turning the Ukraine scandal into another partisan brawl. (Media Nation)


Former state rep Marie Parente of Milford dies at age 91 (MetroWest Daily News)