Off the Blotter

By Chief Mark Corr  |  Lexington Police Department “Off the Blotter” is an opportunity for the Lexington Police Department to share what is happening here in Lexington and in your neighborhood. The door bell rings, you answer it, and a young man starts his sales pitch. He introduces himself and seeks to capture your attention. The door-to-door sales person is a readily recognized American entrepreneur. These young men and women are willing to accept hundreds of refusals to make a few sales. This is a tough way to make a living and common during difficult economic times. Unfortunately, for all of the very good sales people there are a few who are antagonistic, combative or engaged in scams. Lexington allows Hawkers and Peddlers and this includes door to door sales.

Individuals and/or groups must have a permit with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and then must check-in with the Lexington Police Department. Typically, we identify who and where the solicitors will be working. We review works hours, identify individuals who should not be soliciting, and issue a Lexington permit. Residents are invited to contact the Police Department if they have any concerns or complaints about solicitors at 781-862-1212, ext. 0 for dispatch. If a solicitor is assaultive or refuses to leave your property, call 9-1-1. Not all people who come to your door are solicitors. Religious organizations, charitable or political groups are not bound by the laws governing solicitors. It is their right to canvass neighborhoods to speak about their organization or beliefs. These groups are encouraged to contact the Police Department so we are familiar with their locations.

The worst case scenario is the scam artist who solicits business at your door. They notice that your house needs painting, the roof needs repair or the driveway needs sealing. They offer you a “bargain” price because they are in the neighborhood and have some time to fill. They will target older residents and ask for cash or immediate payment. Please call the Police Department immediately. Many of these scam artists are well known to the police and we welcome the opportunity to meet them face to face. If you are uncomfortable with a sales person at your door, practice apolite refusal. “I know you are working hard but I do not do business at my front door. Thank you for understanding.” Smile and close the door.

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Light and Hope

Ana Hebra Flaster

 We’re big recyclers in our house; our shattered, lopsided bins prove it. We keep the thermostat up in the summer and down in winter. When Masspirg sends the nation’s youth to our door, I listen and usually sign the petition they’re peddling. I conserve and protect natural resources whenever possible. But the new push to use energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs is bumming me out big time.

 I have these corkscrew-shaped bulbs in most of our fixtures, thanks to the free MassSave energy audit we had here last winter. The bulbs cast a sad blue light that my mother says reminds her of communist Cuba. All I know is that when my loved ones sit under these lights, thoughts of jaundice and vitamin D deficiency float through my mind. To make matters worse, the bulbs don’t work well on dimmer switches or when a room is cold.

 The new bulbs mean well. They save electricity and think green thoughts, but too often they don’t work well on dimmers, or when a room is cold, and just flicker with good intentions while you feel around the inside of your sock drawer in the dark.

But it turns out we can have good lighting and save our planet, too. There’s a new efficient version of the standard 100 watt bulb that sheds the same kind of warm light, dims, and fires up in the cold just like the classic one—although it costs about $1.50 more.  Two web sites offer great details about energy efficient lighting options: and You see? There’s hope.

I’m trying to shine a light on hope wherever I go these days. I found bottomless wells of the stuff last Saturday at the Pan Mass Challenge cycling fundraiser in Bourne, Mass. After losing our beautiful vibrant friend, Wendy, to cancer last November, my husband joined hers in this ride to benefit cancer research and patients. Everywhere I looked that hot afternoon, I saw hope. The rider who ignored his missing leg and just peddled on with his fancy prosthetic device past the finishing line. Behind him came a pair of tandem riders, a man in front, a thin, obviously ill woman, on the second seat, both smiling and waving to us as we cheered. I saw a sweaty happy rider look around as she glided toward the finish line. She glanced at the crowd of supporters ringing bells and waving signs of gratitude at her, at the mob of riders ahead who had just stopped under the finish line banner, then she looked up at the banner itself and lost it. Her hand flew up to cover her mouth, her head sagged down, and she wept. I looked away for a moment; so much emotion in a stranger seemed too private a thing to see. As I wiped my own eyes I wondered whom or what she’d thought of at that moment. When I turned back she was smiling again and waving to us all, her eyes brimming with light and hope.



Ana Hebra Flaster is a freelance writer and Lexington resident. Ana’s work has been featured on NPR and the Boston Globe.


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I Forgot the Binoculars…

Ana Hebra Flaster

I forgot the binoculars. I had left them at home on the counter as we rushed our daughter to Lowell’s Tsongas Arena for her high school graduation last month. But even from my perch at the top of section J, I spotted her easily in the sea of royal blue robes and square caps as she walked into the arena with her 500 identically clad classmates.  I thought about those exhausted but determined mother penguins that waddle back to the swarming colonies and quickly find their hatchlings. I turned and saw all the other parents pointing out their hatchlings, too. We shared the same expressions of tired happiness and pride, the trademark of the seasoned parent.

Just as the band struck up Pomp and Circumstance, something struck me. I—we—had been part of this flock for so long, the same group we’d started with thirteen years ago in kindergarten, and this would be the last time we’d all be together. Of course, I’d realized the students would be together for the last time, but as parents and families we were all part of the same flock, uniquely entwined through this particular group of hatchlings. We’d cheered them through their first winter concert in the auditorium, and held them close on the playground when, as third graders, the world got turned around on that crisp September morning. We pulled splinters out of fingers, drove car pools all over town, and made dinners for each others families when illness, or worse, made meals too difficult for one parent to handle alone. We’d faced off on rare occasions, as members of working colonies will, over differing views on parenting, politics or picking up dog poop near the playground, but mostly we’d worked together to shepherd this batch of kids along, as best we could, to this moment, together.

Even before our kids entered school, we’d come together for the first time at a district-wide meeting for parents of incoming kindergarteners. All the dutiful were gathered there that night, in the cafeteria of the largest elementary school in our high-scoring, education-centered town. The superintendent and others welcomed us and explained all the learning and growing adventures that awaited. We took careful notes about supplies and how to best prepare the hatchlings for the upcoming year. There were math games and recommended books to read, libraries to visit and board games to consider. I looked around and marveled at the bowed heads recording this new to-do list. Looking back now, it seems silly to have worried so about the hatchlings. Really, with love and a good colony in which to waddle around, they’d grow up just fine, along different paths—for sure—but they’d be fine.

And look at them now. So poised, so grown up. Walking slowly with an elegance bestowed from more than just this old stately melody.  I’d like to think the rest of the flock, with its swirl of activity and careful tending for all those years, had lent a note of grace to their steps. They were our hatchlings, and with such bonds, who could possibly need binoculars to see them?


Ana Hebra Flaster is a freelance writer and  Lexington resident. Ana’s work has been featured on NPR and the Boston Globe.

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For a super-team, this Sox roster sure has a lot of holes

By Devin Shaw  |  And tonight the biggest hole will be on display: Right Field. Truthfully, the current platoon of JD Drew and Mike Cameron has been nothing short of a disaster. The combination currently represents the worst OPS of all right fielders in baseball. Oh, and by the way they represent nearly $22 million of the team payroll.

Which points to another major issue this team faces: money. As constituted, the Red Sox certainly need to make trades to fill holes throughout the roster, but their hands are tied because they are up against their self-induced cap. I don’t blame ownership one bit for not wanting to spend more than $160 million to field a baseball team. The Rays are one game behind the Sox currently, and their payroll is a little less than $42 million! Hell, if I had $160 million I’d be sitting on a beach somewhere with a supermodel watching the sunset.

My dreams aside, no one will argue that the Red Sox need a new right fielder—from within the organization or hired help. And the bullpen is like the cowbell of sports; more is always better. But with the multitude of bad contracts scattered throughout this roster the Red Sox have reached the point where they simply cannot go and get help. Carlos Beltran is available from the Mets and he would certainly look nice in a Red Sox uniform, but that is a pipedream my friends, he won’t be playing in the friendly confines unless he signs as a free agent in the offseason—and by then it will be too late to plug the giant hole in right field.

Michael Cuddyer? Nope. Ryan Ludwick? Not happening. Jeff Francour, at $1.5 million? Maybe.

The only way I can see the Red Sox reaching into their back pockets for some spare-millions is for a young superstar like Matt Kemp from the soap opera they call the LA Dodgers, but there’s a better chance of JD Drew playing hurt then Kemp becoming available. So, stop dreaming…now.

Which leads us to the dilemma the Red Sox face tonight in Philadelphia; the Sox lineup has struggled mightily on this nine game National League tour thus far, and to infuse some offense the team is considering moving Adrian Gonzalez into right field to allow David Ortiz to play first. Let that sink in.

The first half MVP and possible gold glove winning first baseman will be moved from his customary home to the outfield to allow David Ortiz—someone who said in Spring Training he did not know where his glove was—to play first base.

This is sports talk radio stuff, but the sad thing is, they are actually doing it. What if Gonzalez chases a fly ball and injures himself—we lose our best player, and all shot of winning the World Series goes out the window. Even in terms of this game alone, the whole right side defense becomes an absolute joke.

On the off chance that it is smooth sailing tonight in the outfield for Gonzalez, it should never have gotten to this point. This lineup, with this payroll, should be able to carry the Red Sox for nine games without David Ortiz through the lowly NL.

On top of that, John Lackey ($16 million) may need to have elbow surgery, and the short stop situation is hairy at best. So the Red Sox cannot add much if not any payroll and they need: a right fielder, a starting pitcher, a short stop and more bullpen arms.

And this is a super team?

If Theo Epstein had not grossly overpaid players on this roster the Red Sox could go out and fill some of these giant holes. Instead, fans will have to sit back and watch this roster as constituted battle it out for the rest of the season.

Once they get back into AL action the Ortiz problem will fix itself. And eventually Josh Reddick should become the everyday right fielder. Or maybe they go and get someone cheap like Jeff Francour to fill the role. Starting pitching can probably survive until the postseason (if they make it) with Wakefield and Miller as the fourth and fifth starters. And Scutaro hopefully can keep his shoulder tied on until Lowrie returns from his latest vacation to the disabled list. And maybe when Jenks makes it back the bullpen will solidify.

But again, for a team dubbed the “best of all time” with a $160 million payroll this should not be happening. This is no super team—they are a team with too many overpaid players held together with superglue and fantasy baseball-esque lineups hoping they can survive to the playoffs.

So July 31st will be boring for Sox fans, but I have a suspicion that the rest of the season will be very interesting for the Red Sox.


Devin Shaw is an avid sports fan and suffers the fate of being related to the owners of the Colonial Times Magazine. He also provides commentary for Rational Talk with Rich Hancock on Rational Radio in Dallas. You can listen to his segments online.


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The NFL Draft

Entering the NFL draft’s primetime showcase, you could argue that this is the Patriots party and everyone else was just invited. Looking at it quickly, the Patriots hold two picks in each of the first three rounds. But on top of that, the Patriots own three of the first 33 picks. That would be the equivalent of striking oil in your own backyard.

This is all due to the frugal dealings of mastermind Bill Belichick. Up until last year it could be argued that Bill had lost his touch in finding talent. But in the 2010 draft he struck gold: Finding five rookie starters who contributed greatly in last year’s surprising 14-2 season that ultimately ended in disappointment.

When looking at the Patriots roster, gaping holes exist in very definitive areas of the team.

Pass rush is a necessity. In modern football, where teams are throwing at a much more frequent clip an effective secondary is needed, but also consistent pressure on the quarterback is a must. The Patriots roster, as constituted, lacks the necessary players who have the ability to rush the passer. And luckily this draft is chalk full of players who can sack the quarterback.

But there are three other glaring needs on the roster. An effective replacement for Richard Seymour on the defensive line needs to be found. And the Patriots also need to address the lack of depth in the running back position, while finding some “big fatties,” or offensive lineman, as Bill calls them.

These needs should all be filled by midnight on Friday.

These are players I believe the Patriots could potentially target to fill the holes on their roster:

Pass Rushers

Robert Quinn

Robert Quinn: Robert Quinn will not be available at the 17th pick. No chance at all. He did not play a single snap last season due to interactions with a sports agent, and he has had a brain tumor removed that is not guaranteed to not return. But his talent is so immense that these red flags will be overlooked and he will be picked very early. In fact, if he had played this past season for North Carolina he would have been a top two pick. Instead, with the Patriots stock pile of draft picks, they could potentially move up into the top-10 to grab in pass-rushing dynamo. He is a big man—6’4” and weighing in at 265 pounds while running a 4.6 second 40 yard dash. Why does size matter? The way the Patriots play defense requires the edge linebacker to be of considerable size. Since Willie McGinnest retired Belichick has searched for players to replace his contributions, including cough-Adalius Thomas-cough, and Robert Quinn fits this mold to a T.

Da’Quan Bowers: Da’Quan Bowers of Clemson has incredible skill. He is a giant who has many different pass rushing moves. Unlike Quinn, who does not project to remain at his college position of defensive end, Bowers will certainly remain on the edge of the line. Generally successful college pass rushers on the end can only play on the typical 4-3 defensive line format, but Bowers has the ability to play on a 3-4 line and still get great pressure on the Quarterback. He is very similar to Mario Williams of the Houston Texans, who was drafted first overall in 2006, and if it weren’t for the incredible concern of Da’Quan Bowers knee he would almost certainly go in the top-2. Instead, his arthritis has caused him to fall into the middle-late first round group of ends. Many believe his career will be cut short due to his knee, but whichever team drafts him would probably only keep him for his rookie contract. In fact, the concern for his knee is so big in some teams they have actually taken him off their draft boards. But the Patriots have proven over time that previous injury does not concern them as much as it does other teams in the league. Case and point last year’s TE Rob Gronkowski, who ended up being one of the best players to come out of the draft.

Brooks Reed: The ability of the following players is not at the level of either Bowers or Quinn. That does not mean that these players will not end up being tremendous assets to whichever team drafts them, it just means they are not guaranteed to be a success. Truthfully, I am very high on Brooks Reed, and I think he fits perfectly into the Patriots scheme. He was a defensive end from the University of Arizona who had the innate ability to always apply pressure the quarterback. He was also an end in college, but he will be moved to outside linebacker when he suits up in the pros. He has tremendous size and power, and will be a great bull-rusher for whichever team gets him. He is not elusive per-se but he is a great ability to move laterally and get by blockers. His stock has risen of late—previously I thought he would be available for the Patriots at the 33rd pick, but now it seems like he would need to be taken with their 28th pick. He will be worth it. The fans, which still cannot get over the Patriots skipping Clay Matthews two years ago, will be happy if Reed ends up putting on a Patriots jersey.

Justin Houston: This will be a tough pick for Bill Belichick to make. Houston, out of the University of Georgia, has all the attributes Belichick looks for in a pass-rushing outside linebacker—but Houston is known for not being incredibly smart on the field, while lacking discipline off the field to take advantage of his immense skill. Also there is the news he was one of two players to fail a drug test at the NFL combine. Proving he isn’t the smartest person on earth. But besides those issues, he is a big man who has serious speed. When he locks someone up they aren’t getting away, he is a very reliable tackler. He also has very good pursuit when he attacks the passer. Fortunately for the Patriots, he will be available in the second or third round. If the Patriots think they could surround him with solid character guys to teach him how to be an NFL player, he could end up being a very big steal for the team that gets him.

Mark Herzlich

Mark Herzlich: Everyone knows Herzlich survived a rare form of cancer—Ewings-sarcoma—but then also forget that before he got this disease he was also a damn good linebacker. In fact, many saw him as the best defensive player in this draft class. He was essentially a much more athletic Mike Vrabel with better ability at tackling in the running game. After a year of recovery Herzlich returned and played solid outside linebacker, but he lacked a lot of the speed and strength he had before. But whichever team drafts him will get a great leader and potential captain, who will do great work for the community. And my gut tells me he will eventually come back to being the Herzlich of old and dominate the NFL like he was supposed to. For a late round pick, there is no reason to pass him up on potential alone, but when you throw in the fact that he is an all-time character guy, no risk exists.

Defensive Ends (Richard Seymour replacements)

Cameron Jordan: The player I pray the Patriots get if they stay at 17. In fact to be safe, I would move up and get him because he could very well be gone. He is a strong, strong man. He gets pressure on the passer while containing the run. He will become a ten sack a year player. He is Willie McGinnest-redux. He is fast, huge and smart. He is the prototypical Patriot.

Nick Fairley: Nick Fairley had one great year at Auburn. And his great year was really great, in fact legendary. He stuffed the run at defensive tackle, while applying great pressure on the quarterback. He was really a freak of nature. He is a huge man. He could play a 4-3 defensive tackle or play a 3-4 defensive end. He will be a dominate player in the NFL. There is concern with his work ethic, his motor and the fact that he is done it for only one year. His football aptitude is not what it should be. This player will not be available at 17 and will be gone before the 9th pick for sure. But there is an outside possibility the Patriots make a play for Fairley—though I highly doubt it.

J.J. Watt: J.J. Watt is a very similar player to Richard Seymour. He is a strong player who has much of the skills the Patriots look for in a player. He is smart, has a constant motor and can stuff the run with the best of him. He is very similar to Cameron Jordan, but he lacks the pass rushing potential that Jordan has due to the fact that he is slower and lack the same agility. He has been known to occasionally stand up and loose position. That can easily be fixed. He will be a great player in the league for many years, but he will not have the same potential as Jordan, which is why I think he is a lesser prospect.

Running Backs

Mark Ingram: Mark Ingram won a Heisman trophy his sophomore year. His junior year was hampered by injuries, and he lost some carries to fellow Alabama running backs. But it is well documented that Nick Saban-coached players are highly regarded by Bill Belichick, and this does not change with Mark Ingram. Ingram is not a burner by any stretch of the imagination. But he is consistent and can come into the NFL and run for 1,000 yards right away. He will be a ten-year back and put up great numbers, nothing spectacular but very consistent. As close to Emmitt Smith as any player has ever looked.

Mikel Leshoure

Mikel Leshoure: Leshoure will most likely not get picked in the first round, this is not because of skill, but more because of the lack of running back needs by the teams drafting. He is seen by many to play like fellow Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall, of Pittsburgh, he is powerful with moderate speed and decent elusiveness. He is by no stretch of the imagination Adrian Peterson, but he is also a consistent back with potential to surprise many. He could end up being the best running back of this draft when looked back on in 10 years.

Ryan Williams: If you can grab Williams at the end of the second round or the beginning of the third you should take him. He is elusive and fast, with a good amount of power and vision. If it weren’t for his second year that was ravaged by injury he would be a first round lock. His ability is off the charts, but he has only shown it in one season. This has scared off many scouts, on top of his obvious nagging injury concerns. Another setback was his slower-than-imagined timed 40 yard dash. Many believe he lacks the big play ability that many once thought he had. I don’t buy it, I think he will be a very good back eventually—only if he is in a 2-back system, he will not survive being a workhorse, he is too small. But if he were to share carries with, say, Ben-Jarvis Green-Ellis his value could climb exponentially.

Offensive Lineman

Anthony Costanzo: Usually offensive tackles are big and fat. This is not the case with Costanzo who may be the only offensive tackle in history with a six-pack. On top of that he is a bona fide genius. He is huge, standing at 6’7” and well over 300 pounds, but this does not hinder his athleticism. He is quick and can definitely stay with some of the faster defensive ends in the league. His one negative can be found at his run-blocking. He tends to stand up and lose leverage at the point of attack. This can be fixed by a good coaching staff. He was a four year starter at Boston College, otherwise known for producing starting offensive lineman at an incredible rate. He should be able to start for the next 10 years at tackle. Not spectacular, but very, very good.

Mike Pouncy

Mike Pouncy: Brother of Pittsburgh all-pro offensive guard Maurkice Pouncy, Mike is a great athlete who excels at guard like his brother. This former Gator was moved to center this past season and struggled getting snaps off accurately. Many see him as a guard so does not seem like an issue. He will be a great guard like his brother, but he lacks the technical skills that will make him an all-time great. He lacks the mean-streak that many guards need. But whichever team gets him will see a bump in production in their running game, as he is great at run blocking.

Danny Watkins: This is the prototypical Patriot. I can easily say Logan Mankins 2.0. Like seriously, he just like Logan Mankins. There is some concern with Watkins though—he is much older than most prospects, will turn 27 his rookie season, since he took time to become a fire fighter. His size has been maxed out most likely, but he only began playing football in 2007 and will definitely get much better as a player as he gets more polish. If the Patriots were to go with an offensive lineman, I hope it is Watkins; he will be a great lineman who will be the envy of many teams.

Now, some of the players listed could easily be overlooked by the Patriots—or may not be available when the Patriots pick. Anything could happen; this is the NFL draft after all. But some players make more sense than others for the Patriots.

With the 17th pick I see the Patriots running up to the commissioner if Cameron Jordan is available. He is the ultimate Patriot—willing to sacrifice personal statistics for the team. But he reminds me of a Richard Seymour with a better ability to get to the passer. Over time I see him becoming a 10-sack-a-season end. Conversely, he will not defend the run like Big Rich did. But a team with Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo do not necessarily need another player who can contain the running back.

Cameron Jordan

The 28th pick will most likely be traded—when has there ever been a draft when Belichick did not trade at least one early-round pick for future considerations? And considering the Patriots only have five picks heading into the 2012 draft, I consider it a foregone conclusion that this pick will be moved. Most likely for a team trading back into the first round for a quarterback; a team that is high on Andy Dalton of TCU or Christian Ponder of Florida State will be remised if they did not come back to get their guy.

But if the Patriots do keep the 28th pick and Mark Ingram of Alabama is sitting there, it will be hard to pass him up. Bill Belichick trusts Nick Sabans evaluations of his players like it is gospel, and from the information coming out of the draft, nothing leads me to believe he has not given Belichick his seal of approval. And Ingram could walk into the NFL and run for a 1,000 yards easily. If he had run a better 40 yard dash at the combine, the only way the Patriots could smell him at 28 would be in a dream. But this is the fickle system of scouting, and players fall for stranger things—remember Jerry Rice and Emmit Smith were also deemed to be too slow coming out of the college ranks.

If it were up to me though, I would take Brooks Reed out of Arizona with this pick. There is no guarantee that he will be there at 33, with rumors coming out of New York that he is quickly climbing up team’s draft boards. He is as close to a Clay Matthews clone you can get—all the way down to his long blonde hair.

And with the 33rd pick I would look at someone like Mikel Leshoure out of Illinois. He is a very similar back to Rashard Mendenhal, who also came out of Illinois. I see a lot of Stephen Jackson (of the Rams) in him when I watch his game tapes. He overpowers defenders, but he lacks the blazing speed to be an elite prospect. I think he will end up being the best Running Back from this draft class.

Most likely the Patriots will also move this pick. It is well known that having the first pick in day two of the draft is like holding the winning Megabucks ticket—and I see the Patriots cashing in for a later second round pick and a future second rounder.

Regardless, the draft is fantastic theater. It is a soap opera in primetime. Except it is real life. Kids lives will be made, and teams futures will be founded—and watching the Patriots and Bill Belichick wheel and deal on draft day is like seeing Mozart write music in his prime, it’s beautiful and fluid and generally whatever comes out is a stunning result.


Devin Shaw is an avid sports fan and suffers the fate of being related to the owners of the Colonial Times Magazine. He also provides commentary for Rational Talk with Rich Hancock on Rational Radio in Dallas. You can listen to his segments online.

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Senator Ken Donnelly

‘A good deal for Massachusetts Taxpayers’

|  By State Senator Ken Donnelly

 A number of articles and editorials have appeared recently bemoaning the state of the Massachusetts public pension system and offering ideas about how to get out of the pension “mess.” Many even ques-tion, explicitly and implicitly, whether our citizens deserve retirement security (an argument I thought was settled in the 1930s). Critics of the public pension system routinely assert that the system is too costly, overly generous, and creates an undue burden on taxpayers. These allegations, however attractive in today’s economic environment, are not based on facts. Both the Massachusetts pension sys-tem and Social Security are contributory sys-tems that require contributions from both employees and employers. Massachusetts public employers and employees do not par-ticipate in the Social Security System. If they did, both the government and the public employee each would be required to contribute 6.2% of the employee’s salary. In fact, public employers in Massachusetts contribute, on average, only 2.7% of salary to cover the cost of benefits earned each year, while the pub-lic employee, on average, contributes 9.2%. In other words, the government pays substantially less and the employee pays substantially more than they would under Social Security. Employees hired after 1995 con-tribute nearly 11% of their salaries towards their pensions, which in most cases fully covers the cost including administration. The Massachusetts public pension sys-tem is a good deal for taxpayers. So what’s the real problem facing the public pension system? The current financial strain on the pension system is due to years of underfunding by the state and its municipalities. Until 1988, the state and municipali-ties paid only those pensions due in a given year. That is, while employees made their required contributions to the retirement system, the state and municipalities did not. This “pay-as-you-go” system worked as long as the workforce was young and the num-ber of employees retiring was low. By the mid-1980s, however, the amount needed to fund the system when then-current employees retired was $12 to $14 billion;

money that wasn’t there. In 1988, legislation was passed to address this “unfunded liability.” The legislation set a deadline of 2028 for fully funding the system, increased employee contributions again, and required mandatory minimum payments from public employers. Like any retirement account, the money that employees and employers pay into the pension system is invested. The 1988 law set an assumption that the investment would yield an average of 8.25% interest over 40 years, with the understanding that some years returns would be higher, and some years lower. This might seem overly optimistic, especially after a year like 2008. But the facts show that over the past 28 years, the return on pension investments is averaging 9.25%, and that includes the huge losses sustained in ’08. The State Pen-sion Fund reported an investment return for 2010 of 13.6%. Contributing to the burden on our pen-sion system has been the lack of planning for years when the system experienced returns below the assumption. Higher-than-average returns should be invested back into the system to mitigate the effects of years with lower returns (like saving for a rainy day). But over the past 20 years, when the return was greater than 8.25%, the state and many municipalities diverted the “extra” money toward other priorities. The extra return was not put back into the pension system as a cushion for years like 2008. Diverting excess revenue during good years has resulted in the state, and many municipalities, being behind schedule for funding their pension systems by the deadline set by law. Dismantling or eliminating the current pension system will not address these prob-lems; the unfunded liability will still have to be paid off. It is up to the Commonwealth and its cities and towns to fulfill the obliga-tion that has been put off for so many years. This and additional steps the Legislature is taking on pension reform will protect our employees, our taxpayers, and the pension system. Employees’ pension benefits will continue to be paid for largely by the em-ployees at almost no cost to Massachusetts governments. Senator Donnelly represents the Fourth Middlesex District in the Massachusetts State Senate. He currently serves as Senate Chairman of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight. If you would like to contact Senator Donnelly or his staff, they can be reached at their State House office by calling 617-722-1432.

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