A Turning Point for Conservative Thought In Massachusetts

(A challenge from JK – promoted by EaBo Clipper)

I love this state.  I was born here, grew up here, went to school here.  I want to continue to live here (well until I retire on a sailboat in the Caribbean).  But the Commonwealth is heading down a path that may sending some of us running for “higher ground.”  And the liberal/progressives are not to blame.  We, the conservatives, are.

Our country and government was founded on a two party system.  One that is more conservative and one that is more liberal, what ever the names are.  The two parties are needed to balance each other out and keep things in the center where neither side is completely happy but can live with it. 

We are now under one party rule here in the Commonwealth.  But the liberals are not to blame.  We are, we didn’t up hold our end of the balance.

UPDATE March 4, 2007 to add Mission Statement and Agenda Items 6, 7 and 8.  Also, I did find an agenda on the Mass GOP Site, you just have to go looking for it and it is filled with the typical platitudes.  Believe it or not, the environment is not even listed as an agenda item, talk about head in the sand.

UPDATE March 5, 2007 to revise the Mission Statement based on suggestions from EaBo and revise agenda items 3 & 4 based on suggestions from Patrick.

There is a litany of reasons why this happened.  Too many Republicans that were RINOs, too many Governors who won office only to look for the next position, national political climate interfering with local politics.  I could go on, but this is not important.  We are now a very small minority party and need to restore the balance to get our beloved state back on the right track, no pun intended. 

If we are going to move forward and return this state to two party rule, we need to move on past this problem and past bickering over the war in Iraq, weather what Ann Coulter said was hate speech, Deval’s drapes or Caddy, etc.  We need to focus on the real issues at hand.  We need to better then the liberal/progressives at debating the important things.  There isn’t even a list of positions on the Mass GOP web page.

We need clear, concise positions on the major issues facing the Commonwealth and these can’t be filled with meaningless platitudes or other political speak.  They need to be easily understandable to the masses.  For now we need to leave national politics aside.  Let the RNC worry about that, lets just focus on the Commonwealth.  We also need to create this agenda without the influence of religion.  We have spent too much time arguing over things like abortion, stem cell research, and homosexual marriage from a religious point of view instead of a conservative political view.

I believe we should set up an agenda for Massachusetts conservatives that we promote here at Red Mass Group.  The development could be done through blogging and eventually a list of agenda items created that could be featured as a permanent item on this page.

Here are a few items to start with.

MISSION STATEMENT

As conservatives, libertarians, Republicans and conservative Democrats in Massachusetts, our goal is to unite those like minded individuals in an effort to restore a second party in the Commonwealth.  A second party dedicated to making government responsible and responsive to the people.  We believe that decisions should be made on the most local level possible, that there should be transparency in government, and that government should practice fiscal responsibility.  All individuals should be free to pursue their goals and dreams and should not be impeded in this pursuit based on their religion, ethnicity, sex or age.  Government should assist in these pursuits by providing quality education, including affordable colleges and options for parents of students in under performing schools.  It is the responsibility of the government to provide protection that will allow individuals to pursue their goals and dreams without fearing for ones safety or becoming a victim of a crime.  Government should also be a steward of the environment without compromising the stability of our economy.  We intend to build these reforms from the bottom up, through a grassroots movement that advocates the support of local candidates, the use of new technology to provide better access to the government and holding those accountable who ignore the will of the people.

(This is the Mission Statement as I see it, but this is intended to be a discussion of where we want the conservative movement to go.  So by all means, please offer changes or revisions.  Also, I went back and forth about adding something about free-market economics.  What do you think?)

AGENDA

1.  The Environment – We should be focused on environmental cleanup, open space protection and setting a responsible example.

Environmental Cleanup – The privatized system at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP) is among the best in the nation.  We should allow this system to continue and flourish.  One of the few areas that is a problem is the budgeting process.  To address this we should “enterprise” the system similar to how many towns and cities run their sewer and water departments.  The DEP currently collects fees and penalties from those responsible for the releases and cleanup.  Those collections should not go into the general fund but be managed directly by the MADEP.  This will likely not found the MADEP alone, additional money for this program should come from the 2.5 cents per gallon tax we are currently collecting on gasoline for the cleanup of spills of gasoline.  In addition the remaining portion of the 2.5 cents per gallon tax should also be “enterprised” into an account to only be used for the cleanup of gasoline releases in accordance with Mass General Law 21J.  If we find out we are collecting too much, we can reduce the tax, not enough, raise it.

An additional mechanism for promoting environmental cleanup should be making deductible from taxes to the state, costs paid for the cleanup of property that you did not contaminate.  This is already partially being done under Brownfield’s but can be approved upon and will help promote the cleanup of historic contaminated sites and discourage the development of “greenfields” or undeveloped land.

Open Space Protection – The Commonwealth should continue to fund and manage protected open spaces in the state.  The state should also promote the private protection of open spaces through tax incentives (this may already be in place).

Setting a Responsible Example – Mitt Romney had previously started this and Deval Patrick had this as one of his positions during the campaign, we should reduce the number of SUVs and pickups being used by State, County and municipal workers when they are not needed for the work being done.  These vehicles should be replaced with more fuel efficient alternatives.

2. Education – Many of Kerry Healey’s ideas on this rang true to me.  We need to reward teachers based on merit.  Give parents alternatives to the failing public school in their city or town with the creation of more charter schools and a voucher program.  But we can’t just state this; we need to have an actual plan as to how to fund the schools.  We also need to create a program to draw better quality teachers into our schools.  Possibly through incentives like the payment of student loans if the teachers sign a contract to stay with the school for x number of years.

3. Campaign Finance Reform & Term Limits – One of the reasons we have ended up in this mess is that you now need a “war chest” to run for almost every elected position in Mass.  And how does one fund a campaign against say, Sal DeMasi if you don’t have a “war chest” built through the support of Mass GOP and other organizations.  So we need to come up with some real change for campaign finance reform that not only will allow the average citizen (someone making under $100K per year) to run for office but will also make it easier for us to find out who is funding the campaigns.  The founders never intended on career politicians.  They expected people to serve for a little while then return to normal life.  The advent of career politicians has muddied the waters and needs to be corrected.(I made this change as strike out because I feel this point needs more debate before removing it entirely.)

4. The Economy – The recent bickering over the “corporate loopholes” is a perfect example of the current problems in our state.  Neither side will truly examine the economy and look for real stimulus that doesn’t have a political benefit to them.  We need specific examples of policies, perhaps that are working in other states, that can help create jobs.  One suggestions has been through a Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

5. Taxes – We need to stop debating “how much” is ok to tax us and start debating what the dollars are going to.  When we debate “how much” is ok we have already lost the battle.  We need to discuss the programs we are supporting and then how much those programs need.  We need to build the budget from the bottom up, instead of the top down.  When we start with a dollar amount that we have and then start spending that money until it’s gone we are not creating real budgets.

6. Judicial Accountability – We need to end legislating from the bench.  This could be done by the establishment of an independent review board to review controversial decisions and issue sanctions when it is determined that the judiciary is overstepping their bounds.  Judges who receive a number of sanctions would be required to be reviewed by the legislator and possibly removed from the bench.

7.  Health Care Reform – This is a serious issue facing our country and our state.  I believe the current reform is heading in the right direction but is a long way from there.  Admittedly I am not informed enough about this subject to put together a good agenda for this item.  (Help please)

8. Affordable Housing – This is another serious problem affecting the Commonwealth.  It is often sited as one of the biggest impediments to economic growth in this country.  We need some clear, concise ideas that could help this problem.

There are lots more subjects but I think we should try and create a list of the 10 most important to us on the state level and set an agenda that we can build on and try and reestablish the party. 

About JK