Showing posts from February, 2018

Boston+Acumen Impact Circles

Acumen was founded in 2001 as a philanthropic entity focused on poverty reduction. Importantly, it committed itself to investing patient capital bridges the gap between the efficiency and scale of market-based approaches and the social impact of traditional philanthropy. Not quite a foundation and not quite a venture capital fund. It also started +Acumen to offer skills-training to social entrepreneurs. And there are +Acumen chapters which build a community of like-minded young professionals together. Today, I joined with the Boston+Acumen chapter to learn about what the +Acumen’s Impact Circles. It’s the next evolution of their +Acumen chapter — really it amounts to a 20+ people making donations of $500 each to Acumen and then receiving what amounts to a membership.  I’m thinking about it.

Petition to the state

A problematic pattern in government for an executive branch that disagrees with regulation, but of course can’t pass legislation, is to appoint a regulator who will not enforce said regulation. Unfortunately, it undercuts the rule of law. Today, I signed a petition to request Governor Charlie Baker to remove an NRA leader from being the Massachusetts Commissioner of Fish & Game. We need government officials to respect the law.

Voter registration in Michigan

Today, I joined in an effort, jointly hosted by Sister District and Indivisible Somerville, to boost voter registration in Michigan. I wrote 10 post cards that were sent to un-registered citizens across the state. All of them had recently received voter registration forms in the mail. I have no idea what their political leanings are, but that’s not the point. We’ve got to boost citizen participation in our governance. As a group, we wrote 340 post cards! Impressive.

The Buy Nothing Somerville community

When I took on the co-moderation role for the Buy Nothing Somerville community , there were about 650 members. Now, there are well over 1,400. Unfortunately, I haven’t done a great job nurturing the community. Buy Nothing facilitates the free exchange of goods and service, yes, but it stresses building relationships with neighbors. It’s not just about the transactions. That’s hard to do when half your community is brand new. Today, I began to rectify that with the first in a series of posts, giving “pro tips” on norms for the community that are designed to facilitate relationship-building. I actually wrote a series of pro tips, and I’ll post them perhaps weekly.

Puerto Rico still needs help

Hurricane Maria, the tenth-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record, was way back in the Fall, but its effects will be felt for years if not decades. Puerto Rico still has large portions without power. Tens of thousands of families lost everything. Today, I went to a party with a purpose, at my friend Elizabeth’s house. We had traditional Puerto Rican food and coquito, and donated to two families in need on the island.

Ranked Choice Voting educational vlogs

I first wrote about ranked choice voting last May.  It’s a simple change to how voting gets tabulated, to allow voters to rank their choices instead of picking just one. Maine has passed a resolution to use it for state-wide elections, although I think that’s tied up in the courts right now. Today, I supported an education video blog series, on Kickstarter , to help explain how ranked choice voting works. I still like the idea, but it’ll take a big boost in public understanding to really make any inroads.

Zoning Q&A

Continuing to learn more about zoning here. At the last Land Use Committee hearing, we got a long presentation on the general principles behind Somerville’s proposed new zoning code. Today, we had a representative from Somerville’s Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development committee sit with the Climate Coalition of Somerville to talk turkey. It was great session because we could really hear from the author of the new code himself, who has experience writing zoning codes across the country. All in preparation to provide public feedback to the city by March 13.

Community Cooks - February 2018 edition

For my monthly session providing a dish to the Respond emergency domestic violence shelter, facilitated by Community Cooks, I had some big plans that didn’t quite work out. I started a dish last weekend that would require some fermentation, but I’m afraid the fermentation didn’t quite work out. So I had to turn to plan B. Today, I offered up three quarts of cole slaw for my dish. But I had resort to store-bought cole slaw instead of home made.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida set forth a predictable pattern of mass public outrage and concentrated political apathy. Yes, the NRA really is that powerful. This time, however, the level of activism that has emerged feels more potent. That includes many forceful rejoinders from the high-school survivors of the massacre, which are more difficult sources for gun control advocates to inoculate against. Today, I made a donation to Everytown for Gun Safety . The organization was founded by Michael Bloomberg to be an advocate for action on gun control. Americans are 25 times more likely to be killed by a firearm than citizens of other developed countries. That’s just crazy. Bloomberg is still involved and tweeted this last Fall — let’s hope his offer is still valid. US has a gun violence problem. @Everytown & @MomsDemand are working to solve it. I'll match every donation. Give now — Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg

Climate Coalition of Somerville crash course on zoning

The City of Somerville is looking for public comment on its proposed new zoning code, so that it can finally revamp a century-old code. And it’s reasonably well thought out. But it’s also an opportunity to push the city to be more aggressive in setting out a code that will help it achieve its own vision. Today, the Climate Coalition of Somerville to talk about the zoning code and how we think it can be improved We have a meeting this coming Thursday with Somerville’s Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development to go over the proposed new zoning code and we needed to get up to speed.

Kiva loan - Tenika from Pittsburgh

Today, I made another Kiva loan. This one went to Tenika from Pittsburgh, who is a female carpenter hoping to expand her business.

Sierra Club training

Today, I attended a Sierra Club Massachusetts training called, “What You Can Do Now.” The event was held in Jamaica Plain, and the reason they chose that location became clear as they honed in on their legislative agenda and the importance of the Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee — who happens to represent Jamaica Plain. Good group to connect with.

MIT and the Legacy of Slavery

My alma mater, MIT, was founded in 1861, the same year the Civil War began. While the fact that those dates match may be coincidental, there were no institutions of the time unconnected to or unaffected by slavery. Indeed, slavery from 1820 to the start of the Civil War and even through Reconstruction was a core part of the development of industry and engineering. So, when historians discovered that MIT’s first president, William Barton Rogers, was a slaveowner, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. What MIT did next, though, was interesting. The MIT School of Humanities and Social Sciences (SHASS) actually started a class to set students loose on researching the legacy of slavery in relationship to the university. Here’s a really thoughtful primer. Today, I went to a panel discussion at MIT, with MIT’s President, the Dean of SHASS, the lead archivist who worked with the class, the professor, the teaching assistant and the four students who did the research. (That’s a lot of people, bu

Briefing from Senator Pacheco

The Massachusetts Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change (I think we’re the only state that has one, by the way) released its omnibus bill, called “An Act to promote a clean energy future,” on Monday. Today, as part of the Climate Reality Project Boston chapter, I received a briefing from Senator Marc Pacheco on some of the bill’s details. There’s a lot to like about the bill, from an increase in the renewable portfolio standard to reform of the Department of Public Utilities to expanding market-based mechanisms to transportation, industrial and residential energy. There’s a solid chance this will be voted up by the Massachusetts Senate. The House is another matter.  

IS #ee meeting

Today, I chaired another meeting for our Indivisible Somerville Energy & Environment lab. We’re prepping for some bigger campaigns coming soon, related to state legislation and city divestment. Oh, and I also sent letters to my state representatives to support Mass Power Forward’s 5-point agenda to meet at least 50% of our energy needs with clean energy by 2030, advance environmental justice, reform the Department of Public Utilities, ensure all communities can access solar energy and fully implement the Global Warming Solutions Act. I couldn’t make their lobby day, today, at the State House, but it was worth sending a note in support.

Zoning and Somerville's Land Use Committee

Zoning is the process of planning how a city will be used. Zoning sets guidelines that direct urban growth and development. A zoning code will designate permitted or prohibited uses for different parts of a city.  Naturally, a city’s zoning code is a contentious document, placing requirements on new development, with impacts on many stakeholders. The City of Somerville has been trying to revamp its zoning code for quite some time now. For good reason: the current code is a century old in origin, with pages and pages of cobbled together revisions. It’s difficult to interpret, even for the city’s own Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development (OSPCD). And it’s virtually impossible to navigate for a mere homeowner, as I can attest to, without the help of either a lawyer or someone in the planning department. Or both. Today, I attended a meeting of Somerville’s Land Use Committee, in which the Director of the OSPCD gave a rundown of a proposed zoning revision to the City’s Ald

Conscious Capitalism planning

Today, I led another check-in call for the Programming Committee of Conscious Capitalism’s Boston chapter. Boring post, I know, but an important task as we get into our 18 events this year.

The Lucky Well

Philadelphia has held the title of “America’s Poorest Major City” for a decade, with 26% percent of residents living below the poverty line. Nearly 40 percent of all children in the city under 18 live below the poverty line. Today, I donated to a Kickstarter project to open a barbecue restaurant called the Lucky Well. Here’s why: The commissary will provide meaningful employment opportunities for those struggling to overcome poverty, and even in some instances– homelessness. Employees will learn critical technical and personal skills needed for a successful career in the hospitality industry. The Lucky Well team will partner with local shelters and organizations that serve populations in need on a daily bases to identify, connect with, and extend opportunities to potential candidates. Through their relationships with local community organizations, they’ll ensure a positive, supportive work experience that will ultimately help residents achieve self-sufficiency.

Senator Merkley and Indivisible Somerville

Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon is known as one of the most progressive lawmakers in the upper chamber. He’s on a national tour right now and he’s asked Indivisible to connect him with local chapters, so he can hear directly from the progressive movement. Today, I represented Indivisible Somerville in a meeting with Senator Merkley. He was thankful for the movement, noting that when he visits the red-leaning districts in Oregon for town halls, he now gets applause from Indivisible chapters, rather than jeers from tea partiers. It’s really flipped the dynamic. Earlier today, I spent an hour and half with a doctoral student at the University of Kent, who is doing an anthropological study of the climate movement in the United States. Interesting to be a subject for ethnographic study.

Samsung petition

Technology is potentially a dirty sector. Manufacturing processes are energy intensive, and consume a lot of water and mineral resources. Many tech firms get it. Tech giants such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft have all signed on to  RE100 , pledging to go 100% renewable energy. Not so, Samsung, which is Apple’s arch-rival in the mobile handset market. In fact, Samsung currently sources just 1% of its energy from renewable energy. Today, I signed a Greenpeace petition asking Samsung to change its approach to energy.

CC Studio on Integrated Reporting

Integrated reporting is an emerging (at least in the US) practice of corporate reporting that goes beyond just reporting information on financial capital to include other areas: manufacturing capital, human capital, social and relationship capital, intellectual capital and natural capital. It’s not widely used in the US, but there’s an effort underway to catalyze the practice. Today, I hosted a discussion on integrated reporting as part of our Conscious Capitalism Boston chapter event series.

Al Gore reception

Today, I attended a private reception with Al Gore. I represented the Climate Reality Project at a talk held at Tufts University, as he tours the country trying to inspire more climate activists. Here’s the full fireside chat, if you’re interested.

Sled Hockey Rangers

The Wheelchair Sports Federation has a biennial fundraiser at the Bryant Park skating rink. Since the team is affiliated with the New York Sled Rangers, they’ve brought in Rangers stars as guests for the event. In 2016, the guest was Mark Messier, the hero of the 1994 Stanley Cup team. You know, the one that broke the 54 year curse. Today, I went to the 2018 edition of the fundraiser. This time, the special guests were Mike Richter and Adam Graves — two stars from that same 1994 team. Oh, and that’s my friend Bill, who runs the WSF New York Rangers, being interviewed on tv at the event.

Gratitude from the Brattle

The Brattle Film Foundation seems to be on increasingly solid footing. I had great experiences while serving on the board for six years. I met great people who became friends, and I learned something from everyone. Hopefully, I made some small difference from a governance perspective. And I continue to serve. Today, I made a few thank you calls to donors of the Brattle. Mostly, I left voice mails, but I did speak with one donor. It’s really gratifying to hear from them.


Contrary to popular opinion , the public intellectuals is alive and well, and is not the sole remit of moneyed interests. Case in point is Pangyrus , a journal of art, ideas and culture that is a deeply thoughtful stew of ideas that will get you thinking. It’s a labor of passion and creativity, but not of a whole lot of money. Today, I supported Pangyrus through Patreon, to give it a small financial boost and a large vote of confidence.

Drilling off our coasts

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is accepting comments on the Department of the Interior’s proposed opening of 90% of US coasts to offshore oil drilling — even in states that don’t want it. At the same time, Congress is moving to dismantle safety regulations that were enacted after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. You know, they one that wrecked 1,313 miles of coastline. Even without the pretty much inevitable spill, offshore oil causes pollution. Today, I wrote to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management during its public comment period to tell them to keep oil rigs away from our coasts.

Solar in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities has allowed utilities to charge new fees on residents with solar energy. Not a good idea, though not surprising from a department well-known for patronage and dysfunction. Today, I wrote my state senator to make she knows how many people are opposed to the new fees. Mass Power Forward is trying to get 200 people to write in.