Winter 2014 Editor’s note
For the discriminating wonk
Public policy at times can be very theoretical and dry, but this issue isn’t like that at all. It draws you in with great writing and photography that helps you understand some of the biggest challenges facing our society today and the people who are trying to address them.
Our cover story, for example, focuses on police who use deadly force and how their actions are investigated. I wasn’t sure what we’d find, but over the several months it took for Jack Sullivan to pull the story together I was amazed to learn that no one really tracks incidents of deadly force by police. I also learned how a relatively closed group of law enforcement officials makes the determination about whether deadly force was used properly. I wasn’t surprised that most police shootings are deemed justified, but I was surprised that all of them are, even the ones where police obviously screwed up.
Michael Jonas tells the stories of two local medical pioneers who are trying to change the way health care is delivered in America. Forget the tech glitches with Obamacare that most of the press is fixated on, this is the real medical challenge facing the country. One line jumped out at me from the story. “The thing most needed in US health care is not more treatments or more money, but greater connection between patients and health care providers.”
John McDonough, the interim superintendent of the Boston Public Schools, is another fascinating character on the public policy stage. He’s 62 and nearing retirement, but nevertheless pushing ahead with a fairly radical plan (for the Boston schools) to give principals the power to fill job openings with whoever they want, even if it means shunting aside existing teachers who are owed jobs under the current teacher’s contract.
Wendy Kaminer and Liam Kerr sit down with Paul McMorrow to talk about the so-called dark money flowing into political races. Kaminer’s ideas are counterintuitive and intriguing. She says the problem isn’t outside money, but outside money with its source unknown. She says the answer to the Citizens United court decision isn’t a crackdown on outside money, but removal of the cap on individual contributions to political candidates. Kerr, meanwhile, is a voice worth listening to. He’s an outside money man who is nevertheless worried about all the outside money flowing into political campaigns across the country.Let’s not forget Dr. Paula Johnson, who is trying to convince the medical and research establishment that men really are different from women, and Susan Liss, who is leading a crusade against e-cigarettes in Washington.
And then there is Steve Koczela, the head of the MassINC Polling Group. Steve was scrubbing election data from the last 40 years and discovered something unexpected was going on inside Massachusetts. While the state shows up on national political maps as reliably blue (for Democrat), cities and towns across Massachusetts are becoming increasingly polarized. Red municipalities are getting redder and the blue ones are getting bluer. A community that will go for a Democrat in one election and a Republican in the next is becoming rarer and rarer. Think on that.