Category Archives: Sports, Politics, News

Boston Lays Claim to Title Town

Fans thronged Boylston Street during a duck boat parade to celebrate the Boston Red Sox victory in the World Series in 2013. (BU News Service/Dana Hatic)

By John Simonini

One Stanley Cup. One NBA Championship. Three World Series rings. Three Super Bowl banners. Welcome to Title Town, USA.

Boston sports teams have had tremendous success over the past 15 years. The level of expectation the city has cast upon the teams has drastically increased since 2000, as the teams have found success.

The New England Patriots had some playoff success in the 1990’s, making it to the Super Bowl in 1997, but the team had never before won a Super Bowl. Nobody expected the Patriots to win the big one.

The Pats were the first to kick off the local title explosion in 2001, under star quarterback Drew Bledsoe’s successor: Tom Brady.

“We only have had two quarterbacks, Bledsoe and Brady, one owner, three head coaches, all three have won Super Bowl Championships,” said Stacey James, vice president of Media Relations for the Pats.

Before the Pats began a run of three Super Bowl titles in four years, the last Boston title was won in 1986 by the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics were going through a period of mediocrity at the turn of the century. With nothing but a young Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker, the team made a few playoff appearances, but never managed to find complete success.

The Celtics finally answered their championship calling in 2008, when they traded for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to pair up with Pierce, creating a new Big Three. The C’s coasted to the NBA Championship after a dominant season.

Even as the team enters a re-building stage, the high bar of expectations set by their predecessors is still looming. The Celtics selected Oklahoma St. point guard Marcus Smart with the sixth pick in the 2014 draft.

The TD Banknorth Garden’s other club, the Boston Bruins, also found themselves in a championship drought, having not won a Stanley Cup since the 70’s.

In the early 2000’s, the Bruins, much like the Celtics and Pats, managed to just scrape themselves into the playoffs but kept hitting a ceiling.

In 2011, 39 years after their last title, the Bruins brought the Cup back to Boston.
Now, the Bruins are annually one of the top teams in the NHL, led by top-tier goalie Tuuka Rask, skilled forward Patrice Bergeron, and defensive behemoth Zdeno Chara.

The Boston Red Sox had possibly the worst history of all Boston teams. They would manage to squeeze into the playoffs occasionally, but once again, no championships. Fans would anticipate the team falling apart year after year.

That all changed in 2004, when the team came back from 3-0 in the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees and went on to sweep in the World Series, launching the Sox into a period of success. The team ended an 86 year title drought, and established themselves as a championship regular.

They would win in 2004, 2007 and 2013. In 2013, the club seemed to rally around the city and help to heal wounds that were opened by the Boston Marathon Bombing earlier in the year.

This city has high hopes and expectations from all four teams. The development of the teams in this millennium is refreshing for the city of Boston.

New Goals Established in Mass. Schools

(Wikimedia Commons)

By Marcos Hernandez
Every year, while students finish their last days of school before summer break, administrators start work towards development for the New Year. They reflect on their current system and take any necessary actions to move it forward.

“Change is happening, and we must continue to make improvements,” said Jacqueline Reis, a spokeswoman for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in Massachusetts.

Priorities are shifting toward the integration of technology, higher-class standards, and turning around underperforming schools, she said.

“Everything that we’re trying to do is to make sure there is strong teaching and learning going on in the classrooms because that’s the most important thing,” said Reis.

Administrators use certain criteria to distinguish a bad school from a good school. This includes analyzing low graduation rates, quality of teachers, and funding for low performing schools.

Schools are classified from levels one to five, with five being considered the worst. With level four schools, they qualify for financial assistance from the government, along with the state monitoring progress. “You have to file turnaround plans, usually replace the principal, all at level four, and you’re given three years to show significant improvement,” said Reis.

A lack of resources and the amount of money invested per student are factors that contribute to slower development. In 2012, the cost per student in Boston was $17,283, while Worcester’s was $13,489.

A community’s economic background can influence the materials schools can afford. “A lot of people in Worcester don’t have a lot of money and don’t want to pay a lot of taxes,” explains Reis.

Students like Nora Cameron, rising senior at Boston Latin School, agree these rules can raise the bar on standards nationwide, leading to higher test scores. “Kids can be assessed more fairly and equally,” said Cameron.

There are also new plans regarding bullying, and changes in school culture about this issue. “We’ll develop a survey to be administered to students every four years to assess overall school climates, and the severity of bullying to better determine measures needed to prevent it,” said Reis.

Reis mentioned that she deals with setting academic standards for districts, but any issues students have can be solved through student initiative. “We get letters from classes here, and we do listen. I think no matter what age you are, you should feel free to write to whoever about any issues you have,” said Reis.

Other changes in schools revolve around technology, and the increased integration of electronics in the classroom. This is to accommodate the newer generation of students seeking modern ways to learn.

“We’re hoping that by having high standards, teachers will teach those high standards, and students will feel challenged,” said Reis.

Menino, Walsh: A Comparison of Philosophies

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

By Ming Ying

Former Boston Mayor Tom Menino.

Former Boston Mayor Tom Menino.

A modern “common man” not unlike his predecessor, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh provides Boston with a new face of leadership while preserving much of the legacy of Thomas Menino, who served as mayor for decades before retiring his post last year.

Just as Menino made up for whatever he lacked in youth with wisdom, Walsh compensates for his limited experience as mayor with blue-collar, down-to-the-streets smarts. In a bustling hub vibrant with rapid transformation, it is important to examine how Walsh’s philosophies, and those of like-minded progressive City Councilors, compare to Menino’s – and what those differences will mean for the city of Boston.

Boston-born and Boston-bred, Menino and Walsh share a hearty sense of Boston sensibility. Walsh’s self-described passion comes from within – at age 7, he survived a form of cancer known as Burkitt’s Lymphoma. To this day, he has been sober for 18 years. Menino seeks guidance in his idols, such as personal hero President Harry Truman, whose portrait hung sternly above his desk.

What relates the two men most of all, says Tim McCarthy, current City Councilor, is their shared “true love for the city…you’ve got to love what you’re doing to do a 24/7 job.”

Despite their difference in personality, the two mayors have clear commonalities. Take their stance on marriage equality. Walsh, who refused to attend the St. Patrick’s Day parade due to its ban on openly gay marchers, is reminiscent of Menino, who opposed the opening of Chick-fil-A restaurants in Boston due to the chain’s anti-gay sentiment.

“So much of our Irish history has been shaped by the fight against oppression,” Walsh said, according to the Huffington Post, a statement hand-in-hand with Menino’s support of the gay and lesbian community.

In fact, Walsh’s administration appears a confident continuation of Menino’s 20-year reign, a reign which echoes pro-charter school, pro-urban development, and anti-gun sentiment. Under both men, the expansion of charter schools gained traction, public works projects such as the expansion of the Mass Pike flourished, and gun control tightened.

So is Boston headed in a new path under Walsh, or is he steering Boston in the course laid out by his predecessor?

One of the of the most striking differences is a deviation in leadership style. Walsh, following suit with his persona of an approachable, friendly guy, aims to create a hands-off, inviting City Hall, while Menino, though cordial, carries the reputation as an intensive micromanager.

“My background has been in coaching and managing for 25 years,” says McCarthy. “Menino has more of a coaching style…that philosophy works for me. Marty’s philosophy is more team-based.”

For now, Walsh’s moderate form of leadership seems to be working. His track record as a longtime union member and leader shows that he is capable of creating unity and resolving labor disputes before they escalate into strikes.

Furthermore, driving Walsh’s administration forward is a new generation of City Councilors known as progressives, intent on instilling improvements for the city of Boston. Led by Walsh, a progressivist himself, Councilors such as Michelle Wu and McCarthy are carving changes for Boston in areas such as permitting, zoning, and city services.

“I see the government as the best place to help people,” said Wu. “I want to take down barriers for families with limited means.”

But as for the remainder of Walsh’s four-year term, we are barely peeking through the keyhole. While vast projects and hurdles lie ahead, Wu is optimistic. “What I love about Boston is that we are a city of resources and neighborhoods,” she said. “We have the tools to solve every problem. It’s a matter of connecting the dots.”

Massachusetts Celebrates Gay Marriage Anniversary

Cathedra Church of St. Paul in downtown Boston shows support for LGBT rights. (Photo by Isabelle DeSisto)

By Isabelle DeSisto

May 17 marked the 10th anniversary of Massachusetts’ first same-sex marriages. Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, a landmark MA Supreme Judicial Court case, made the state the first in the nation to legalize gay marriage.

Rapid developments have since taken place within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. Today same-sex marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

Carisa Cunningham, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD)’s Director of Public Affairs and Education, deems this a success, but has greater designs moving forward.

“We have 19 states,” she said, “and we need 50.”

GLAD’s Senior Attorney, Ben Klein, is likewise hopeful for the future.

“When those things happen it’s reflective of where the culture in general is moving,” he said of courts striking down gay marriage bans.

GLAD initiated the lawsuit legalizing same-sex marriage in MA by suing the Department of Health on behalf of same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses. After Superior Court Judge Thomas Connolly ruled in favor of the Dept. of Health, GLAD’s lawyer Mary Bonauto appealed directly to the Supreme Judicial Court – and won.

Since then, the LGBT rights movement has cast its net over a variety of issues.

For example, in June MA Gov. Deval Patrick approved a measure to provide insurance coverage for transgender medical care. His administration announced a new policy that will cover gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy through MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program. The Bay State is now the third state in the nation to offer health care for this type of treatment. Several private companies already provide employees with similar options.

Groups that oppose the gay rights movement, such as the Massachusetts Family Institute, disapprove. They assert that the surgery is not a reliable treatment for gender dysphoria, a conflict between a person’s physical gender and the one with which he or she identifies.

“Those statements come from a place of lack of understanding,” said Klein. “Every major medical organization agrees that these procedures are standard.”

Despite opposition, supporters of the movement continue to celebrate developments every year.

For example, organizers indicate that 25,000 marched during Boston’s 44th annual Pride Parade, which was led by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Gov. Patrick. Groups ranging from churches to university clubs to members of the city’s LGBT communities participated in the festivities on June 14, marking the parade’s increasing diversity. Events included dances, concerts and a worship service to conclude a week of celebration.

Cities across the country recognize Pride during June to memorialize New York City’s monumental Stonewall Riots, which are considered a catalyst of the LGBT rights movement.

By contrast, Walsh avoided 2014’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade after parade coordinators, the Allied War Veterans Council, failed to make an agreement with advocacy organization MassEquality to allow members of the LGBT community to march openly. While they would allow gays and lesbians to march in the parade, signs and clothing bearing explicit declarations of sexual orientation, such as the word “gay,” were banned.

“The reason for this rejection was a clear violation of our ‘no sexual orientation’ rule, and not that we ban gay people as reported by the press,” said the Council in an official statement. “Any[one] should be allowed to march, regardless of sexual orientation.”

Cunningham does not foresee a shift in policy anytime soon.

“As long as the same people are in charge of the parade, we aren’t going to see a change,” she said.

Ten years after GLAD’s lawyers helped to push through same-sex marriage legislation, Cunningham acknowledges that her organization still has work to do. But, “in general, increased visibility of the [LGBT] community has benefited everybody,” she said.