Daily Archives: December 22, 2010

For Him, It’s Personal

Published December 22, 2010

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Newton., an openly gay member of Congress, applauds during a ceremony on Wednesday, where President Obama signed the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal legislation that would allow gay service members to serve openly.  (Evan Vucci/AP)

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Newton., an openly gay member of Congress, applauds during a ceremony on Wednesday, where President Obama signed the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal legislation that would allow gay service members to serve openly. (Evan Vucci/AP)

When Rep. Barney Frank publicly revealed he was gay in 1987, gay men and women were forbidden from serving in the military. At a signing ceremony Wednesday morning, Frank struggled to compose himself. President Obama was repealing 17 years of keeping gay service members in the closet.

On Tuesday, at a enrollment ceremony for the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, Frank declared progress:

“Four years ago, a Republican running for Congress in Indiana said, don’t vote for his Democratic opponent because if he won, Nancy Pelosi would become speaker and she would let me enact the radical homosexual agenda,” he said.

“So, let me own up to that agenda. It’s to be protected against violent crimes driven by bigotry. It’s to be able to get married. It’s to be able to get a job and it’s to be able to fight for our country. Hey,  for those who are worried about the radical homosexual agenda, let me put them on notice — two down, two to go.”

Maybe marriage will be his next big fight. Mr. Obama, in a news conference today, said his feelings about gay marriage are “constantly evolving.”

“I struggle with this,” the president said. “I have friends, I have people who work for me who are in powerful, strong, long-lasting gay or lesbian unions. And they are extraordinary people. And this is something that means a lot to them and they care deeply about.”

A Winter Reminder: No Excuses For Icy Sidewalks

Published December 22, 2010

An icy walkway in Providence (Mr. Ducke/Flickr)

No. (Mr. Ducke/Flickr)

The snow might have melted away, but I felt like an amateur tightrope walker on the sidewalks of Cambridge this morning as I tried to avoid the ice.

Property owners must shovel their sidewalks.* As I reported back in July — when no one was thinking about snow — a Supreme Judicial Court ruling eliminates nearly every excuse imaginable.

If you don’t shovel your sidewalk after a snowfall and someone slips and gets hurt, you’re liable. Until today, property owners could argue the white stuff was “natural accumulation,” thanks to an 1883 ruling that made the hair-splitting distinction.

The Supreme Judicial Court on Monday threw out that logic in Papadopoulos v. Target Corporation.

In other words, your sidewalk must be clear even if the accumulation formed after you shoveled. (Even if you don’t live on the property, or it’s the weekend and your business is closed, or you’re on vacation!) It’s the “no excuses” ruling that could lead to a lot of slip-and-fall lawsuits this winter.

*There is no state statute that mandates snow removal. Chapter 85, Section 5, of Mass. general law sidesteps the issue by authorizing cities and towns to regulate:

Cities by ordinance and towns by by-laws may provide for the removal of snow and ice from sidewalks within such portions of the city or town as they consider expedient by the owner or occupant of land abutting upon such sidewalks.

So a Statie couldn’t write you a ticket for failing to shovel. But you could slip, sue and win in court.

In honor of the SJC ruling, I have written an alternative first verse for the Christmas classic “Silver Bells.”

Snowy sidewalks, icy sidewalks
White stuff clumped in a pile
In the air there’s a feeling
Of lawsuits
Children crying, people falling
Meeting lawsuits and trial
And on every street corner you’ll hear…

Shovel, please. (Shovel, please.)
Shovel, please! (Shovel, please!)
Soon it will be Judgment Day.

Seriously, just shovel your sidewalk.

Weds. Morning: Musical Chairs For Lawmakers

Published December 22, 2010

What’s news on a warm-ish Wednesday in Boston:

After losing a House seat, someone must go. The state Legislature will have to decide which of Massachusetts’ 10 Congressional districts must disappear. And that will force the retirement of a congressman or a fight in 2012. (WBUR)

The Herald calls it “Survivor: Massachusetts.” There is all kinds of speculation, if you’re into that. (Herald)

The governor appointed Nan Duffly for SJC associate justice. She would fill the seat left vacant by Roderick Ireland, who ascended to chief justice. Duffly is an appeals court judge. If confirmed, she would become the state’s first Asian-American justice. (WBUR)

BPS chief Carol Johnson wants to use test scores to gauge teacher performance. Educators throughout Mass. are judged by MCAS scores, but the Boston Teachers union is against the idea. (Globe)

An ex-manager for Upper Crust is suing the pizza chain in federal court. Patrick Joyce says “he quit in disgust over the way owner Jordan Tobins was treating his illegal-alien workers only to have Tobins dock his final pay and threaten him.” The alleged abuse of workers was first reported in a Globe expose. (Universal Hub)

Just in: The FAA says a man in Spencer died in a plane crash. (AP)