Thursday, October 21, 2010

Galvin: Ask Me No Questions

He lives!

Perhaps two dozen citizens in Hanson sighted (and heard) the rare Secretary of the Commonwealth, Bill Galvin, on Sunday at 3 p.m.

Meanwhile, his opponents were in that quasi-debate forum thingummy so popular nowadays. At Lasell College, GOP nominee Bill Campbell and independent Jim Henderson went face to face and position to position. As promised in coverage of that, when I got a DVD of Galvin from Whitman-Hanson Community Access TV, I took notes for this post.

I also clipped the Galvin section from WHCA's vid and uploaded it. This is only 9 minutes. Note that WHCA does not approve of this relatively low-rez process and original is spiffier. This bastardization was my work. None of Galvin's content is missing.

One might well wonder why one candidate was solo at a candidates' forum and two of them were on stage at another. According to the other candidates for this office, Galvin knew exactly what he was doing. The League of Women Voters with their Brookline and Newton branches had spoken with the Hanson Democratic and Republican Town Committees about the scheduling conflict, as well as with the candidates for Secretary. Galvin, who is infamous for limiting public appearances and avoiding debates, picked the time when he could appear alone and unchallenged.

Moreover, the moderator plugged Galvin in first, while the order of this longstanding forum is to start from the bottom of the ballot, which may well have gotten to Galvin about the time the other two candidates arrived from Newton. As the agreeable moderator put it, "We are making one exception on the speaking order today and that's Secretary of State Bill Galvin who's running obviously statewide and has probably more commitments than we all do. So as a courtesy to Secretary of State Galvin, I would recognize him at this point for an opening statement."

He didn't appear to kiss him though.

Galvin's stealth campaigning has worked for him since 1994 when he first took the office. Just because he is chief administrator of elections in the commonwealth doesn't mean he advocates open, vigorous campaigns.

Open and shut

The chair slouching crowd chuckled when the (unidentified) moderator Charley called for questions from the audience right after Galvin finished his opening remarks...and immediately told him to make his closing remarks.

The gist of Galvin's remarks were 1) he did not address any of the criticisms of his opponents and 2) he thinks he's been doing an excellent job at real hard tasks.

Specifically, he started with the timely topic of elections. He cited MA having over 4 million registered voters, adding "We have had remarkable turnouts in the elections we've had." He also said,"We've removed all the impediments to registration that made it difficult for people in the past to register." In that vein, he said his office provided the 2,000-plus polling places with the necessary equipment — "remarkable progress" in his terms.

Making it personal, he concluded this part that for elections, "I'm very proud of my record." He went farther into "pleased and proud" that he thinks he has a reputation for fairness and providing the help necessary for candidates and those seeking to put questions on the ballot.

Next, he touched risk management in finance and securities. "Massachusetts has led the way among the states in reining in the excesses in the financial services industry," he said. "I've been able to return hundreds of millions of dollars back to Massachusetts residents who have been defrauded. We not only have a strong body of laws in Massachusetts we we also enforce it."

To personalize this, he said he's had "the difficult time of talking to people who've lost all kinds of money," on Bernie Madoff-style scheme and simply losses of 401K and similar plans. Here too, he graded himself highly — "I believe I've done a good job. I think the responsibilities I've been charged with are handled well."

He'd like some help here, calling for reforms at the federal level. His idea would be to allow those with 401K plans to dip into them in emergencies without paying any fiscal penalty. He noted that 401Ks were originally an afterthought when many people had pensions, but now they tend to be "the primary way people prepare for their retirement, for the later years." As such, federal law should be more flexible in giving people access without penalty.

In his immediate closing, he hit on two topics, redistricting and foreclosures. He portrayed each as an example of his vision and fairness.

Noting that when the U.S. Census data are complete, MA will redraw every precinct and ward line, starting with precincts, then wards, and finally legislative and Congressional districts.

He said he was in charge of starting this and claimed he'd do his best to see it happens fairly. "Now in the past that has been a very political process," he said "And unfortunately it's led to situations in this town where the town is divided between two congressional districts. It's also led to some very unfortunate experiences in the legislature. We've seen areas where districts make no sense."

He noted that the very term gerrymandering arose in Massachusetts. However, he said this time, he'll propose that "it shall at least initially (be done) by a bipartisan commission that makes a recommendation or recommendations with the objective to make certain that communities are protected and preserved and not divided, wherever that's possible. Redistricting should not be political."

He said he takes his part in this "very seriously. That's something I'm eager to work on, but it's also something I see as getting the building blocks for fairer districts in the future."

He put himself into the heart of foreclosures, even though he is not related to mortgage and banking regulation directly. Instead, he said that he has responsibility for registry of deeds in the majority of MA areas that no longer have county government.

As such, he says he has been concerned at the recent revelations of flawed foreclosure documents and procedures. "It's a problem for those who are victim of a flaw foreclosure," he said. "It's a problem to the bigger market that's going to make real estate less likely to be sold because of all the uncertainty in the marketplace."

He added that two years ago he asked the legislature to correct a related problem, that we are one of the few states without formal judicial process for foreclosure. He said our system predates the Civil War and that "as a tenant you probably have more rights than you do as a property owner."

In addition to requiring those who would foreclose to provide valid documentation "I think it would mean that the banks would have to keep good track of their paperwork, those they sell the mortgages off to."

Galvin said the legislature did not act on his proposals two years ago, "(b)ut I think in light of what we've seen, in light of what we're now experiencing, in light of the damage this could well do to the real estate market, not just to those who are in foreclosure but others, it's very important we address that as well in the coming legislative session."

One hand clapping

I am sorry I could not be Hanson for the manifestation. I'm sorrier that Galvin avoided the likely single chance for serious verbal challenges.

He certainly did not address any of the questions and criticisms from Henderson and Campbell. There are those matters of election-day registration, extended voting periods, moving primaries into August to let us comply with federal requirements for ballots to overseas troops, modernizing and computerizing public records so citizens could access them as they do in other states, and whether the 50% or less voter turnout that Galvin calls "remarkable" is good or bad remarkable.

In the most literal sense, Secretary Galvin did appear in Hanson and he did speak to the public. Avoiding his opponents and not taking any questions don't seem to be Democratic or democratic though.

We at Left Ahead! continue to ask him to join us before the election, with offers of any day, any hour, just call in. We're waiting.

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