STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS - LUNCH EDITION - MONDAY, FEB. 24

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

ROCHE: "I KNOW THAT WE CAN OVERCOME THESE CHALLENGES"

Embattled Department of Children and Families Commissioner is offering her gratitude and support to the agency's workers and outlining steps to build public trust in the agency and improve its operations. "What you read in the papers about DCF doesn't define you, and cannot define the impact you have on the families you work with every day," Roche wrote in an email to DCF workers circulated last Thursday by one of her colleagues and released by a communications aide late Sunday night. "What you don't hear from the media or other DCR critics is, 'thank you.' Thank you for your tireless work and efforts to strengthen our child welfare system." Roche plans a weekly review of ideas for improving the agency that will be submitted to a new employee feedback email address - strongsafetynet@state.ma.us. The agency plans to provide more statistics and data about its work on its website and share more stories "that reflect your commitment to protecting children and strengthening families," Roche said. A "team of reinforcements" will also help the agency, with former DCF social worker Faythe Abber-Van Dam working as a "dedicated recruiter" and Erin McAleer coming on board from Gov. Deval Patrick's office as a project manager.


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Alec Loftus, Haven Nichols and Radhika Bhattacharya - aides to Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz - will provide DCF with help in the areas of communications, legislative affairs and legal counsel, respectively. "I believe in our ability to create better outcomes for children in very difficult circumstances so they can grow into strong adults and become the future leaders of the Commonwealth," Roche wrote. "I believe in this work, and I know that we can overcome these challenges and become a stronger agency." - M. Norton/SHNS

CLERGY A FACTOR, BUT DeLEO SEES REVERE CASINO QUESTION PASSING

As hundreds of activists on both sides of the Revere casino issue rallied over the weekend, House Speaker Robert DeLeo predicted voters in that city would pass a casino referendum on Tuesday. During an appearance on Keller at Large on WBZ-TV, DeLeo said opposition to the casino plan from clergy leaders will reduce support for the proposal compared to Revere's vote last November in favor of a casino planned in East Boston - developers shifted their plans to Revere after East Boston voters rejected a casino at Suffolk Downs. "Many folks have been out there in support of the casino and so I think they'll win," said DeLeo, who suggested the vote against the East Boston casino plan might have been linked to its timing - the vote was held on the same day that city voters settled the mayoral election. The opportunity to boost city revenues and secure blue-collar jobs is enticing, he said. "A lot of folks are unemployed or are probably not working full-time," said DeLeo, who also expressed concern about the impact on the horse racing industry of diminished racing dates at Suffolk Downs. Casino opponents sound confident heading into Tuesday. "Every day we're feeling more and more confident we can beat this," Joe Catricala, a founder of Don't Gamble on Revere, told The Boston Globe. - M. Norton/SHNS

REPUBLICAN ASSEMBLY ENDORSES FISHER IN GUV'S RACE

Staking out ground among Massachusetts conservatives, Republican candidate for governor Mark Fisher is touting his endorsement by the Massachusetts Republican Assembly, whose board includes Republican National Committee member Chanel Prunier of Massachusetts. According to the Fisher campaign, the group decided to endorse the Shrewsbury Republican at their convention Saturday in Worcester. Fisher said in a statement he was "honored to be endorsed as the Conservative choice" and his campaign noted that 22 members of the Republican State Committee are current members of the Massachusetts Republican Assembly. Republican Charlie Baker is the favorite to win the party's nomination at the Republican convention March 22 in Boston. Fisher is touting his Tea Party membership and his advocacy for small businesses and against tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Baker plans to attend a fundraiser Thursday in Boston for the Republican Governors Association hosted by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. - M. Norton/SHNS