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You know it was bound to happen. Someone at the DNC had to have finally admit that the phenomenon that is Sarah Palin can be bottled up and replicated.

Yup, the Dems are thinking like Palin. With the Senate battle against Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown (a state rep from Wrentham, which for those who don’t know Massachusetts, is the home of the largest discount shopping outlet in New England), the Bay State Democrats have found a Palin-esque diamond in the rough. A young and exciting mayor who has very little national political experience, fought in Iraq, and oh yeah, is African American. And yes, he is WICKED SMART, unlike Palin.

Newton Mayor and Senate Candidate Setti Warren

Newton Mayor Setti Warren has been in office for just 18 months, but last week he jumped into the Democratic primary race. His first mission was to effectively label Scott Brown as a typical Republican, and not the maverick LL Bean Barn Jacket independent that he became when he defeated Martha Coakley in 2010 to win the late Ted Kennedy’s seat.

Well, it appears that the strategy is working, since Brown, who has a $6 million (and growing) campaign war chest, is already responding to Warren’s charges. Yup, looks like things will get interesting in Massachusetts next year. Even though Warren still has to win the Democratic primary, he has quickly become a viable candidate, especially among the supporters of Governor Duval Patrick, who won his second term last year amid predictions that Brown and the Republican machine (more like a scooter in this highly Democratic state) would topple the governor.

Today, Warren’s campaign issued an email about the early buzz:

Mayor Setti Warren burst onto the campaign trail for U.S. Senate last week and repeatedly challenged Senator Scott Brown for his irresponsible votes. After declaring his candidacy on Monday via YouTube, Setti hosted a service breakfast at the American Legion Post in Newton to share his vision with supporters for middle-class security and small business job creation.

Mayor Warren began his Bay State kickoff tour by visiting a Head Start in Brockton, where he highlighted the need for investments in education and challenged Scott Brown’s voting record on Pell Grants and Head Start. Then Setti visited M.F. Foley Inc. in New Bedford, where he discussed the importance of protecting jobs in the fishing industry.  “As a United States Senator, one of the things that I want to focus on is making sure that this industry is sustained over the long haul,” he said.

Setti started Wednesday by touring the Gateway Park biotech complex in Worcester where he discussed his plan to eliminate capital gains taxes on investments in small businesses to help jumpstart growth. Setti was asked about the recent controversy surrounding Scott Brown’s statements on photos of Osama Bin Laden, responding that “a U.S. senator has the responsibility to do due diligence when talking about sensitive national security issues.”

Setti toured National Fiber Insulation Company in Belchertown. At the factory he met with workers and discussed job creation, manufacturing, and clean energy. He called attention to the fact that Scott Brown questions the science behind global climate change, a position clearly not in line with Massachusetts values.  He also visited an innovative home heating oil company in Greenfield. There, Setti continued to highlight the importance of investments in renewable energy.

Setti finished off his tour Thursday in Western Massachusetts where he visited Soldier On, unique multi-million dollar residential housing facility in Pittsfield that helps veterans with mental health and substance abuse challenges. Warren discussed his plan to address job training and homelessness among veterans, and praised the work of Soldier On. “As an Iraq vet, I understand how important it is for veterans to come home to a home and integrate back into life,” he said.

And just today, Setti Warren appeared on ABC’s Top Line. When confronted with the NRSC’s repeated attacks, Setti clearly explained his opposition to Senator Brown’s approach of holding middle class tax cuts hostage, in order to secure tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.

Setti is energized for his campaign to bring strong leadership to the Senate, support Massachusetts families, and represent our State’s values. He will continue to hold Scott Brown’s accountable for his irresponsible record in the Senate.

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US Congressman Luis Gutiérrez

In response to his public comments on the floor of the United States House of Representatives denouncing the plans for a natural gas pipeline being slated by the Republican and pro-statehood administration of Governor Luis Fortuño, Illinois Democrat Luis Gutiérrez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, has begun to feel the heat from the Puerto Rican press about his ties to Chicago’s natural gas industry.

Puerto Ricans protesting the proposed GASODUCTO pipeline

The Vocero, one of the many newspapers on the island, reported last week that Gutiérrez regularly receives campaign donations from companies with ties to natural gas and energy. As the newspaper states in its article “The Two Faces of Congressman Gutiérrez”:

According to the website, www.opensecrets.org, as recently as 2010, the Congressman received $ 7,500 from Exelon Corp., the U.S.’ largest nuclear operator, which is dedicated to the distribution of electricity and natural gas.

Also in 2008 Integrys Energy Group (a natural gas consulting company), donated $ 1,000 to his campaign.

According to the website, Gutierrez also received $ 10 000 from the Operating Engineers Union, an organization that supported the policies of George W. Bush to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to increase oil production, which received strong opposition from environmentalists.

Gutiérrez’s opposition to a pipeline is apparently limited to only Puerto Rico, as the Democratic Congressman from Illinois has not shown resistance to pipelines running through the city of Chicago, where he lives. He also showed no resistance when the administration of [former Puerto Rican Governor] Aníbal Acevedo Vilá began to build a pipeline to the south of the country and aimed to build another route to the north.

The cost of electricity in Illinois is less than half that of Puerto Rico. According to the Federal Energy Information Administration, the cost of the residential tariff is 10.63 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) 7.98 cents commercial, industrial and 6.5 cents per kWh.

Currently, there are about six natural gas companies operating in Chicago and at least 26 interstate pipelines and eight intrastate natural gas companies across the state.

The companies include: People’s Gas, Interstate Gas Supply of Illinois, Inc., Santanna Energy Services, U.S. Energy Savings Corp., Spark Energy, LP, and Ambit Energy.

Vía Verde (Green Way) is the project introduced by Governor Luis Fortuño to reduce the cost of electricity in Puerto Rico and, in turn, reduce dependence on oil. The government expects savings of $1 billion per year on fuel purchases.

Gutierrez took part [on May 1] in an anti-Green Way demonstration organized by Casa Pueblo in Adjuntas.

In his speech he said: “I am here with you because I think we should stand up and make ourselves heard and I am convinced that we must stop this pipeline.”

He said it is not the use of natural gas “but to stop what, to all appearances, seems to be a ‘mega-con’, the ‘money-pipeline’, the pipeline that leads directly from the treasury bills of the People of Puerto Rico to line the pockets of the [Fortuño] administration’s friends. ”

For his part, Secretary of the Interior, Marcos Rodriguez-Ema, told El Vocero that “Gutiérrez did not object in 2008 when Aníbal Acevedo Vilá wanted to make the southern gas pipeline, because he was receiving money from gas distribution companies. Now he opposes a pipeline because he is paying back the favors of his donors, who are members of the Popular Party.”

As you can see, there is never a dull moment in Puerto Rican politics.

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What was originally a local neighborhood issue, has now become a hot political potato for residents of Jamaica Plain in Boston. When The Boston Herald published the news in January that a new Whole Foods would be replacing the revered Latino Hi-Lo supermarket, few would have thought that it would cause a hornet’s nest. And that controversy, which at times has reached a level of anger and frustration, took another turn yesterday on Facebook, where a new site to fire Massachusetts state senator Sonia Chang-Díaz was formed.

Called FIRE SONIA CHANG-DIAZ, the page lists its mission as follows:

The ‘Fire Sonia Chang-Diaz’ page was created to serve as platform for residents of the Second Suffolk Massachusetts State Senate District to voice their opposition against State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and her recent anti-business statements.We are a multicultural, intergenerational group of 2nd Suffolk residents and natives who care deeply about the future of the neighborhood and who want to be able to live, work, and raise families here. We are working to stop State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz from creating an anti-business climate in the 2nd Suffolk District. We are not against Sonia Chang-Diaz or anyone who supports her; we are against an anti-business climate in the 2nd Suffolk District.

This powerful campaign is solely the result of the volunteer effort of a grassroots group of folks with no organizational budget or funding from outside organizations, but with limitless passion for what makes a great business community.

The site has 59 LIKES as of this morning, and makes mention of the fact that Senator Chang-Diaz’s public letter to the JP Neighborhood Council was pulled down from her main website.

Massachusetts State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz

Other comments on the Facebook page expressed anger towards the senator’s position:

“Well, Sonia Chang you might have removed the letter from your web page.. But it’s everywhere, DEMANDING… your political demise. I’m sure voters will remember this”

“Thanks to everyone who has “Liked” this page. We have some great momentum behind us now! It is interesting to note that Sen. Chang-Diaz’s letter to the JPNC regarding Whole Foods is absent from the senators website. She’s quick to post that the Phoenix named her Boston’s Best Local Politician however; there’s no mention of firestorm she stepped into with her position on Whole Foods. Keep spreading the word!”

“Like a true politician, throw the stone and hide the hand. Well we and many others know the truth. We should demand an explanation…. If not an apology from her…”

“JP residents need to start looking NOW for a serious candidate to run against this woman. She does not represent the majority by any means.”

“Thanks for the “Likes” everyone. Were only just getting started. Sen. Chang-Diaz may be breathing a sigh of relief knowing that Osama Bin Laden is going to dominate the news cycle for the days to come but, voters have long memories and we are not going to forget the statements our state senator has made. Keep spreading the word!!!”

“I don’t live in JP but what she’s doing is ridiculous. She is just like all the other politicians on Beacon Hill. Useless.”

“I had previously always been a fan of Sonia Chang-Diaz, but this populist, nonsensical approach is paramount to her asking for payoffs to “protect” a business. Kinda like the mob. And I am a member of the ad-hoc committee.”

“What a sad sad state of affairs. Why not address crime, safety and education?”

“Senator Chang-Diaz demands fund or business can’t open in JP. Someone isn’t in touch with its constituency.”

We did contact the Senator’s office this morning to get a statement, but they have not responded yet. Once we get a statement, we will share.

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Yes, we are rebels. Always have, always will.

On Cinco de Mayo of this year during the ever popular LATINOS IN SOCIAL MEDIA (#LATISM) Twitter party, we will be premiering the soft launch of LatinoRebels.com.

What is Latino Rebels?

Simply stated, it is a group of some of the top Latino social media influentials who have banded together. Our mission is clear: to educate the world about US Latino issues—from crazy immigration talk to the fact that Latinos now make up 17% of the entire US population and 25% of all US residents under 18.

We will share our knowledge in several ways:

  • Through comedy
  • Through satire
  • Through political analysis
  • Through drives, pledges, petitions, and education
Think a Daily Show vibe about US Latino issues.
We are a rowdy bunch, and we will have fun. Simple as that.
How do we know that the REBELDES will be an online success? Since we formed Latino Rebels 6 weeks ago, we have already accumulated more than 2,000 fans on Facebook and more than 800 followers on Twitter. And that is with NO ADVERTISING. Our demographic is young, educated, edgy, and of course, Latino. And we feel that we haven’t even started. Come grow with us and feel free to let out a GRITO once in while.
In the meantime, we have a favor to ask. We need a logo for our site. We have whittled the choices to three. Here they are:

Logo 1: Minimalist Latino Rebels

Logo 2: The Red and Black Latino Rebels

Logo 3: The Jazzy, Colorful Rebels Logo

Cast your vote, REBELDES!!!! ¡GRITO!

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We are committed to providing comprehensive coverage of Tuesday’s Puerto Rican Status Forum organized by the pro-statehood group, the Center for Puerto Rico Equality and Advancement (CPREA), which was held in the Rayburn Building of the United States House of Representatives.

Speakers included pro-statehooders Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi and Puerto Rican Secretary of State Kenneth D. McClintock, two of the highest ranking government officials in the administration of Republican Governor Luis Fortuño.

Pierluisi, who is a non-voting member of Congress but is also Congress’ biggest spender, said the following:

The only way we can begin the [statehood] process is by obtaining more than 50% [support on the island.] We have to do a better job and stop making excuses.

We have included pictures of the event. Later today, we plan to have a FULL AUDIO RECORDING of the forum. In addition, we were also able to ask three questions during the Q & A session of the forum. The answers to these questions appear below.

CPREA's Rafael Rodríguez addresses the session

Attendees at Tuesday's Puerto Rican status forum at the US House of Representatives

Puerto Rican Secretary of State and pro-statehooder, Kenneth D. McClintock (center)

Here were the three questions were asked:

Why aren’t the Puerto Rican Independence Party, a legitimate political party, and spokespeople for the new Free Associated State option not at this forum? Doesn’t this send a message that this forum is limited in its democratic scope?

This question was fielded by Mr. Andrés W. López, member of the DNC, He said “like any election, all people who are eligible to participate should participate.  It is up to those who are concerned about the issue to attend these and other meetings dealing with the upcoming plebiscite.”

What is your position on the fact that the White House does not recommend Puerto Ricans born on the island but now living on the mainland cannot vote on the upcoming plebiscite?

This question was fielded by McClintock. He said that everyone in the White House Task Force on Puerto Rico Status agreed that this was the best way to keep non-islanders from controlling the fate of those living on the island.  This was backed by Mr. Howard L. Hills, another panelist, who stated that it would be easy for outside political groups to muddy up the results.

Why will the second phase of the plebiscite be held in 2013? Why can’t it be held in 2012?

This question was fielded by McClintock. He said the decision not to hold the plebiscite in 2012 was to keep it clear of politics and political machines. He felt that if the plebiscite was held in 2012 it would confuse voters, because all the other candidates and referendums that would be introduced in 2012 [US presidential primaries and Puerto Rican gubernatorial elections].  He also said the timing of the plebiscite in 2013 would give a new Congress time to deal with issues that may come up during and after the plebiscite election.

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The Associated Press reported last night that a “celebrity-enhanced delegation” of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticized the current administration of Republican and pro-statehooder Luis Fortuño for use of police to keep the University of Puerto Rico open during a student strike over a new tuition fee.

Actress Rosie Ruiz and major league baseball player Carlos Delgado (© The Associated Press)

As the AP report states:

The delegation, which included Oscar-nominated actress Rosie Perez and former major league baseball player Carlos Delgado, said the initial findings of a fact-finding mission found a pattern of excessive police force over the past 18 months involving students, union leaders and journalists.

Their final report, which will be presented to the U.S. Justice Department, is expected by September.

Perez said at a news conference that she was overwhelmed by the testimony of students who said they were brutalized or sexually harassed and groped by police during a series of violent clashes over the $800 fee and budget cuts.

“I was really appalled as to how many of the adults treated many of the young people whether the young people were right or wrong,” Perez said. “Yes, there were some bad apples, there were many bad apples in the bunch, but even they have certain rights.”

Puerto Rico’s Secretary of State, Kenneth D. McClintock, who also supports statehood along with Governor Fortuño, was quick to comment about the delegation’s remarks:

Puerto Rico’s Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock, who met with the ACLU delegation along with other island officials, faulted the delegates for announcing their preliminary findings so quickly, saying it suggested they had reached their conclusions before they had started. He said he urged them to expand their focus to include the rights of students and teachers who wanted to go to classes despite the months of protests at island campuses.

“The rights of those thousands of students should be equally entitled to ACLU interest and protection as the rights of the hundreds who participated in the demonstrations,” he said.

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Massachusetts State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz

April 28, 2011

Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council
Whole Foods Ad-Hoc Committee

Dear Chair Steve Laferriere and Members of the JPNC Whole Foods Ad-Hoc Committee:

Thank you for your service to the Jamaica Plain community by taking on this new role within the JP Neighborhood Council. I write today to outline what I hope will serve as constructive suggestions for addressing the controversies that have divided our neighborhood since the release of the news that Whole Foods intended to move into the space of the former Hi-Lo Market.

The planned expansion of a Whole Foods Market into the Hyde Square section of Jamaica Plain has generated heated debate among my constituents. Since I first learned of Hi-Lo Foods’ closing, my office has done its best to understand from all sides the different perspectives on this highly divisive issue. I’ve met with representatives from Whole Foods, spoken with former employees of Hi-Lo, heard from members of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council, and spoken with staff at the JPNDC and local Main Streets organizations. My staff members and I attended community meetings at the Blessed Sacrament development, the Kennedy Elementary, and the First Baptist Church, where we listened to the concerns of community activists both for and against the expansion, and in the middle. Most important, we read hundreds of emails and letters from ordinary residents throughout Jamaica Plain detailing how the opening of a Whole Foods in Hyde Square would affect their lives—for better and for worse.

As many residents expressed, there are several positives to bringing a retailer such as Whole Foods to JP. We stand to gain potentially dozens of new jobs in the neighborhood, at rates of pay and with benefits that will likely exceed those paid by Hi-Lo. This is no small thing for the workers and families who will be touched by employment, especially at a time of still-fragile recovery for our economy. Whole Foods could also increase access to healthy food to the Hyde/Jackson area, especially for those without cars, at a time when many other low-income neighborhoods suffer dire health impacts because of the lack of such access. I believe firmly that all people deserve to have realistic healthful food options, no matter what zip code or socio-economic bracket they live in.

Unfortunately, there are also serious negative impacts that Whole Foods’ entry into the neighborhood is likely to bring. I believe, with a heavy heart, that these disadvantages outweigh the advantages.

Looking at data from other instances where Whole Foods has located in low- and middle-income neighborhoods, it’s clear that the presence of Whole Foods rapidly and substantially raises property values in its surrounding areas. This is the inherent problem. Even if Whole Foods behaves as the best corporate citizen, the best neighbor possible by all of our usual standards, its presence will still light a fire under the gentrification process that will displace low- and moderate- income residents from JP.

Increasing property values in our community is not always bad. Indeed, this is something every home owner in JP—low- or high-income, white, brown, or black—probably hopes for. But pace matters. A lot. There are families who have spent generations building JP into the incredible neighborhood it is today. We stand to lose many of these families, and their friends and neighbors, if property taxes and rents balloon so fast that their incomes can’t keep up. In order to preserve the character of JP that we all love and believe in so deeply, development has to happen at a pace our neighbors can benefit from, not be displaced by.

Whole Foods has said many times that they aspire to be a positive neighbor and a responsible corporate citizen in the JP community. I believe this is true and therefore ask Whole Foods to recognize that their typical strategy for integrating into new neighborhoods is not designed to protect economically and socially diverse communities. In action, this requires Whole Foods to take some specific steps to help mitigate the impacts described above.

  1. Whole Foods has stated that they expect to hire about 100 workers at their planned JP location. In order for local residents to actually benefit from this job creation, and for Whole Foods’ presence to contribute to local wealth creation, Whole Foods needs to commit to hiring locally for a specific percentage of these jobs.
  2. Whole Foods should also work with credible community groups in the Hyde/Jackson area to set up and endow a community preservation fund for the purpose of keeping Hyde/Jackson area properties affordable for current residents. This will mean front-loading Whole Foods’ typical neighborhood philanthropy, replacing its current strategy of rolling “5% days” and small donations to a variety of groups. The trouble with that existing strategy is that, not too long from now, Whole Foods’ corporate giving in JP will be benefiting the future neighborhood that its presence will create—not the current neighbors who’ve worked so hard to make JP what it is today and who stand to be displaced. Endowing a fund that could buy available property in the Hyde/Jackson area with a commitment to keeping it affordable will require a serious financial commitment—no doubt. But Whole Foods’ detrimental impact on the neighborhood in the absence of such an investment would be of a far greater magnitude.

If making commitments of this size is beyond Whole Foods’ reach, the simplest way to protect the neighborhood would be for Whole Foods to break their lease on the Hyde Square space, or sublet it to another grocer specializing in Latino foods.

I make these proposals as an elected official who represents all of the JP community, and who is committed to stewarding its long-term interests. But I also make them as a JP resident who deeply loves this community—with all its blemishes, all its character, and all its complexities. I know you, as JPNC members, share this passion for our community. I thank you again for your service in tackling these difficult issues and look forward to working with you to find solutions that reflect the pride, creativity, and mutual respect that are the fundamental values of our neighborhood.

Saludos,

Sonia Chang-Díaz 
State Senator 
Second Suffolk District

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