At Baker’s home, Pokémon Go
It was a quiet July evening on Governor Charlie Baker’s street in Swampscott. A warm breeze rolled in from the ocean. The sun was just beginning to set.
And down the street stumbled two teenage boys, eyes glued to their cellphones, searching desperately for Pikachu.
“This is frustrating,” said Erik Martin , 13, pacing back and forth as his phone’s battery life quickly dwindled. “He ran away from me.”
Martin estimates there are seven “Pokéstops” around this stretch of Monument Avenue, where Baker lives with his family. The stops are part of the wildly popular new smartphone game “Pokémon Go,” in which users try to capture monsters from the Japanese cartoon franchise that are scattered — virtually — across a real-world landscape.
At least one stop, where players can collect virtual loot and Pokémon creatures, is across the street from Baker’s house, on the grassy median strip that bisects Monument Avenue. Like many other designated spots in the game, this one is a landmark — a Vietnam War memorial.
Mark McCarthy, 15, skateboarded down the sidewalk, eyes locked on his cellphone yet still navigating. He had just picked up three Poké balls and a potion from the area — prizes on the mobile game — and was out hunting for more.
The street, he said, was “pretty good.”
While players have flocked to the street and the monuments near Baker’s home, they have not disturbed the governor, said State Police spokesman David Procopio .
“In recent days, there have [been] reports of ‘Pokémon Go’ players going up and down the street in front of the governor’s house. We have observed them,” Procopio said. “They have not come onto the governor’s property, and we have had no interactions with them. There have not been any problems with them.”
A State Police officer parked outside Baker’s house, who declined to give his name, said he had seen about 10 players wander down the street over the last few hours, “nearly bumping into each other.” McCarthy, who, like several other local players, knew Baker lived on the street, said it “would probably be annoying” to have so many people ambling nearby.
But Joe Sheehan , 13, said nothing was out of the ordinary. Lots of people walk on the street, which leads to the ocean, he said.
As the sun slowly slipped below the horizon, Sheehan and Martin, fretting at their low battery life — 1 and 6 percent! — ran off toward the Swampscott Town Hall in a last-ditch effort to find Pikachu.
An unconventional proposal
All the makings of a celebration were there: balloons, music, friends, and the party.
So Tuesday morning, the second day of the Republican National Convention, Christopher Sheldon , a Massachusetts delegate, proposed to Lacey McGreevy, a Rhode Island alternate delegate, at their hotel.
And she said yes.
“It’s been a whirlwind today,” said Sheldon, 38, a business owner from New Bedford, in a phone interview.
He and McGreevy, a 34-year-old marketing consultant from South Kingstown, met in March at a local Republican event before the Rhode Island primary. The convention, he said, has been the “big thing on our calendar” ever since.
“We started getting to know each other, preparing for the convention, and it seemed pretty appropriate,” Sheldon said.
Sheldon initially planned to propose Thursday — the last day of the convention, when Donald Trump was to accept his party’s nomination. But the ring recently arrived from New York, he said, and “the time seemed right.”
As McGreevy opened the FedEx package, Sheldon got down on one knee and asked the question. When she said yes, Sheldon said, it was like Christmas Day.
Later in the day, Sheldon said, the Rhode Island delegation “thrust us up on stage” at a Big & Rich concert near the Quicken Loans Arena. Some members of the Massachusetts delegation were in attendance as well.
The proposal, and the first few days of the convention, couldn’t have gone any better, Sheldon said.
McGreevy and Sheldon plan to have an October wedding at Sheldon’s parents’ vineyard in Virginia.
Lawmakers pause on antiboycott bill for Israel
Those free trips that lawmakers have been taking to Israel — paid for by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, a pro-Israeli lobbying group — are still haunting Beacon Hill.
In both the state House and the Senate, a lawmaker offered, then quietly withdrew, amendments to the nearly $1 billion economic development bill last week that would crack down on companies that participate in boycotts of Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.
The amendments — by state Senator Cynthia Creem , a Newton Democrat, and state Representative Paul McMurtry , a Dedham Democrat — would have prohibited the state from contracting with any company that boycotted Israel.
JCRC, a registered lobbying group which has pushed the antiboycott issue on Beacon Hill, has over the years squired state lawmakers for 10-day trips to Israel, paying between $4,000 and $6,000 for each member. Last December, 10 state senators participated in the tour, and the year before, a House contingent was treated to a similar junket.
Even Attorney General Maura Healey , whose office could be drawn in to adjudicate the legal issues of the debate, took a free trip this spring — funded by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the American-Israel Friendship League.
That has raised the ire of peace activists who have called on the State Ethics Commission to crack down on what they see as a serious conflict of interest.
Those who advocate for the boycott argue the legislation is an attempt to stifle a nonviolent economic protest. They say the boycott is a legitimate exercise of free speech, much like the effort in the 1980s against apartheid in South Africa.
“Senator Creem’s amendment is not about stopping discrimination,” said Cole Harrison, executive director of Massachusetts Peace Action in a press release. “It’s about impeding our constitutionally protected right to engage in boycotts as a form of speech.”
Creem, who as a senator has not taken a free trip to Israel, said she withdrew her amendment because she felt the controversial issue needed a full public airing, which it would not get as budget rider.
“It deserves to be talked about and debated,’’ she said.
Attorney bridges establishment-outsider divide for Mass.
A familiar face in Massachusetts politics helped put Donald Trump over the top for the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday. But Vincent DeVito was standing on the opposite side of the GOP’s establishment divide from where he was two years ago.
During the state-by-state roll call vote to nominate Trump, DeVito raised the curtain on the Bay State’s contribution to Trump’s success — including his 49 percent primary win. DeVito then turned the microphone over to health care executive Parson Hicks for the official announcement of the state delegate tally in Cleveland.
DeVito, a partner at the Bowditch & Dewey law firm, came onboard the Trump effort earlier this year, helping bridge Trump’s success in the March 1 primary — which depended largely on name identification — with his sweeping victory in the state’s party caucuses nearly two months later, and their heavy emphasis on organization.
Before that, though, DeVito had largely operated within GOP establishment circles. He was an assistant secretary at the US Energy Department during the administration of President George W. Bush — whose supporters were largely absent this week in Cleveland. And DeVito worked as then-candidate Charlie Baker’s chief legal counsel during the 2014 cycle.
During that campaign, DeVito played a role in the controversial state party convention, where Baker allies allegedly manipulated the floor vote to deny Baker’s Tea Party challenger, Mark Fisher, a spot on the primary ballot.
Legislators shift into override — or not?
The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance is threatening state lawmakers to keep their hands off Governor Charlie Baker’s budget vetoes, saying it plans to “highlight every single roll call vote” taken on his spending reductions.
Given MFA’s previous election-related activities, that can cause a lot of knee-shaking among those Democrats who have seen the previous campaign attacks from the supposedly nonpartisan group.
But voting to override Baker’s vetoes may also be a bit dicey for lawmakers, who are expected to take them up later this month. Some of those vetoes hit a few sensitive programs.
With the national dialogue swirling around race relations, Baker redlined a proposal by retiring Representative Ben Swan, a Springfield Democrat, to create a “Center for the Study of Racial Justice and Urban Affairs” in his city run by the University of Massachusetts. That saved $250,000.
And those immigrants who experienced torture and trauma? The Legislature voted in its budget to spend $350,000 to provide them with mental health services. Baker cut it.
He sliced $917,133 from the state’s $32.7 million for HIV/AIDS Prevention Treatment and Services program. And for those kids who are suffering from serious and painful diseases, Baker vetoed $400,000 from the $1.7 million program for pediatric palliative care.
“In MassFiscal’s view, each line item change is important to the success of Governor Baker’s plan going forward,’’ wrote Paul Craney, the group’s executive director, in a letter to legislators, saying it would highlight every single roll call vote.