Berkshire County power politics

The race for district attorney in Berkshire County is shaping up to be a primer on what’s wrong with elections in Massachusetts.

The first sign came in March, when then-District Attorney David Capeless announced he was stepping down after 14 years in office and turning the reins over to his assistant, Paul Caccaviello. Capeless admitted that he decided to step down early so Caccaviello could run for the office with the advantages of an incumbent, and internal emails showed just how he orchestrated the handoff with the help of Gov. Charlie Baker.

Caccaviello is now facing two rivals who are both progressive women — Andrea Harrington, a self-styled reformer and defense attorney from Richmond, and Judith Knight, who has experience as a defense attorney and prosecutor and ran against Capeless in 2006.

State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield looked at the race and decided to play a little power politics herself. She figured Harrington and Knight would appeal to progressives in favor of criminal justice reform, splitting that vote and leaving the field to Caccaviello. So Farley-Bouvier met with the two women separately and broached the idea of one of them dropping out so the other would have a better chance of defeating Caccaviello.

“I’m looking for a progressive district attorney,” Farley-Bouvier told the Berkshire Eagle. “I am for the full implementation of criminal justice reform.”

Both Harrington and Knight said they had no intention of withdrawing from the race, and Farley-Bouvier was criticized for meddling in the election by Caccaviello, who seems to have forgotten how he became the interim district attorney in the first place. “It seems more than a little inappropriate, in an attempt to influence the outcome of an election,” Caccaviello said. “It’s obviously an attempt to win the election by getting the two to merge.”

A similar dynamic is occurring in the race for Suffolk County district attorney. Three candidates of color are competing in the crowded field, and some activists have urged the minority community to coalesce behind one of them rather than splitting their support among all three.

These seemingly anti-democratic calls to winnow the field of candidates reflect a growing concern about a Massachusetts electoral system where crowded fields often lead to election victory parties where a candidate wins with a narrow plurality, not a majority, of the votes and like-minded candidates are at a disadvantage.

Some say the solution is ranked-choice voting, where voters vote, or rank, the candidates in order of their preference. Ballots are tallied by computer as a series of run-off elections. If no candidate secures a majority, the lowest-ranked candidates are removed, one at a time, and their ballots are redistributed to the voter’s next-place choice. Instead of using power brokers to winnow a field of candidates, ranked-choice voting lets voters do it.

BRUCE MOHL


MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Scituate selectmen, calling the issue “complicated,” said they don’t have an overnight fix for residents’ complaints about the years-long problem of brown water coming from the corroding cast iron pipes that carry the town’s water supply. (Patriot Ledger)

A grassroots group in Hopkinton is pushing for the town to become the latest in the state to change the name of the Board of Selectmen to the gender-neutral Select Board. (MetroWest Daily News)

Revere city councilors call on federal investigators and the state auditor to investigate the disappearance of $92,000 in parking revenue. (Boston Herald)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

An uncle of White House aide Stephen Miller pens a devastating take-down of his nephew’s role as “the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our family’s life in this country.” (Politico)

In a Globe op-ed, Attorney General Jeff Sessions trumpets the administration’s tackling of the opioid crisis, tying a crackdown in Maine on traffickers of synthetic opioids to a reduction in overdose deaths there.

President Trump in a tweet inadvertently admitted what many have speculated — that the White House requires highly unusual nondisclosure agreements with aides that are more associated with his private business. (New York Times)

What about Nancy Pelosi, the would-be returning speaker should Democrats regain control of the House, is so dreadful that Republicans are running against her and Democrats like Seth Moulton have run away from her? Paul Krugman makes the case that she is, in fact, “by far the greatest speaker of modern times and surely ranks among the most impressive people ever to hold that position.” (New York Times)

A new fund has been established to serve Native American farmers and ranchers from $266 million from the federal government to settle a landmark civil rights suit over official discrimination over 20 years. (Washington Post)

West Virginia’s Republican majority House of Delegates voted to impeach the entire state Supreme Court ostensibly for lavish spending, sending the matter to the GOP-controlled Senate. If the Senate votes to remove the justices, mostly elected Democrats, the Republican governor will appoint the replacements until the next election that could be late next year. (New York Times)

Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone said he won’t drink Sam Adams beer anymore after the brewer’s founder, Jim Koch, attended an event with President Trump. (MassLive)

ELECTIONS

The Globe scrubs a few of the main boasts of Gov. Charlie Baker’s Saturday campaign kickoff speech, finding a pretty big hole in particular in his claim to “always stand with the taxpayers of Massachusetts,” pointing to the several measures he has signed that break his 2014 vow not to raise taxes or fees.

GOP Senate candidate Beth Lindstrom, who had the table all to herself when her two opponents declined to participate in a televised debate, said she would vote for President Trump in 2020 even though she says she’s “distanced” herself from the bombastic commander in chief on some of his statements and behaviors. She also told host Jim Braude, oddly without a follow-up, that “I’ve never voted.” (Greater Boston)

A Boston Globe editorial whacks Josh Zakim for refusing to join William Galvin in disavowing funding from “shadowy outside groups”  in the race for secretary of state.

The four Democrats vying to replace Stan Rosenberg in the state Senate participate in a debate that is somewhat remarkable for its far-left tone and the fact that only one of them has her name on the ballot. (MassLive)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Businesses in Lynn suffered thousands of dollars in damages from flooding caused by Sunday’s deluge of rain there. (Boston Herald)

Think turning off your location services on your smartphone keeps your whereabouts private? Think again. An Associated Press investigation finds that Google can continually track users’ movements even if they change the settings in their Android devices and iPhones.

Sheet Metal Workers Local 17 ended its 12-day strike, with some 1,400 workers returning to their jobs after agreeing to a new contract that the union says includes wage increases and “improved overtime provisions.” (Boston Globe)

The Massachusetts beauty queen who gave up her crown because of an insensitive comment about the #MeToo movement apparently cheated on ultra-marathon races. MassLive has the story, which was broken by Turtleboy Sports.

ARTS

North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard said the final say on public art installations should be his office, not the members of the Public Arts Commission. (Berkshire Eagle)

EDUCATION

The New Bedford School Committee voted to oppose any expansion of charter school enrollment in the city and is looking at creating an ad hoc committee to fight plans by one of the schools to add 100 seats. (Standard-Times)

Mayor Marty Walsh says the city has no fixed timeline yet for a search for a permanent new school superintendent. (Boston Herald)

Police in Bismarck, North Dakota, request funding to buy AR-15 rifles for officers stationed in the city’s schools. Police officials in the schools already have handguns but say they need rifles if they have to shoot an intruder from far away. (Star Tribune)

TRANSPORTATION

MBTA officials kept the public and members of the Fiscal and Management Control Board in the dark about safety issues at the Alewife parking garage. (CommonWealth)

The MBTA balanced costs and revenues for the first time in a decade. (CommonWealth)

MBTA ridership kept falling in 2017, but at a slower rate than in 2016. At a meeting of the Fiscal and Management Control Board, the agency offered no insights on why riders are deserting the T when the economy is booming. (CommonWealth)

Selectmen in Milton, rattled by planes that fly low over town en route to Logan Airport, asked JetBlue to retrofit its planes with a device to reduce noise. (Patriot Ledger)

Well-known defense attorney John Madaio of Paxton was driving on Route 9 in Spencer when a crowbar came through the windshield and hit him in the head, killing him. Officials are calling the incident a freak accident. (Telegram & Gazette)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Climate change is thought to be at the root of a lot of problems and now three professors at Harvard and MIT have released a study they say shows global warming is contributing to a rise in violent crime and other social ills. (U.S. News & world Report)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Four more State Police officers were implicated in the seemingly ever-widening overtime scandal in the department and relieved of duty. (Boston Herald)

A Superior Court judge has turned down prosecutors’ request for the names of witnesses who cooperated — under the assurance of anonymity — with a state Senate investigation of former president Stan Rosenberg. Prosecutors sought to obtain the names as part of their case against Rosenberg’s husband, Bryon Hefner, who faces multiple sexual assault charges. (Boston Globe)

Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett calls US Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s claim that the criminal justice system is racist “uninformed rhetoric.” (Gloucester Times) Gov. Charlie Baker, meanwhile, defends police officers. (Boston Herald)

The Norfolk District Attorney is reducing charges against a Shutesbury woman who allegedly made threats against a journalist at the Walpole Times. The charges were reduced from a felony of making terroristic threats to the misdemeanor of threatening to commit a crime. (MetroWest Daily News)

MEDIA

Dan Kennedy explains how Philadelphia philanthropist Gerry Lenfest became the savior of journalism in the City of Brotherly Love. (Boston Globe) Philadelphia Daily News and Inquirer columnist Will Bunch, with a wider lens than just journalism, explains why the increasing reliance on “trickle-down” philanthropy to meet basic needs in US society is a horrible sign, one that won’t save the American Dream. (Philly News)