The Codcast: Getting around in the age of Trump

For all the attention paid to the new administration since President Trump was inaugurated, the new president and his policies remain enigmas to advocates across the spectrum of services reliant on government support, perhaps none more perplexed – and worried – than transportation advocates.

Beth Osborne, a senior advisor for Washington-based Transportation for America, was in town recently to discuss transportation needs with state officials and policy advocates. Osborne, a former undersecretary in the Department of Transportation and a longtime congressional aide to several lawmakers, said Trump’s “skinny budget” isn’t going to give a lot of answers for transportation, at least in the immediate future.

Osborne joined Transit Matters board members Josh Fairchild and James Aloisi for this week’s edition of The Codcast, and they talked about the uncertainty of just what transportation means in the Trump administration. Trump promised during his campaign and in his February address to Congress that he plans to launch a $1 trillion infrastructure program, music to the ears of transportation officials and advocates. But Osborne cautioned not to start spending the money just yet.

“In this president’s mind, infrastructure is much broader than transportation,” she said, noting dams, pipelines, and broadband are on the list of administration projects.

The three talked about different ways of financing transportation projects, such as dedicated taxes and tolls. Fairchild raises the prospect of infrastructure banks becoming more prominent for state officials.

Aloisi said he thinks Massachusetts will be in the back of the line when it comes to federal dollars, intimating the state’s lack of support for Trump and the all-Democratic congressional delegation puts us at a disadvantage.

“Under this administration and this Congress, Massachusetts should not be expecting any significant increases in the flow of federal funds for transportation, let alone other programs,” said Aloisi.

When you put three transit wonks in a room, you’re bound to get a conversation thick on policy spoken in a language that can sound foreign to the uninitiated. The trio talked about the difference between financing and funding, terms a layman might take as one and the same. But they are different and the differences matter. In the discussion, Osborne, Fairchild, and Aloisi bandied about an alphabet soup of obscure acronyms, so here’s a helpful reference guide. TIFIA is Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act; RRIF is Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing; and TIGER is Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant program.

But you’ll also get an informed discussion and road map for how infrastructure projects and transportation needs can get the funding they require to go from drawing board to reality. They all admit, though, it won’t be easy.

JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

In a wide-ranging interview with Gateway Cities editors and reporters, focused mostly on President Trump, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has only mild criticism for Republican Gov. Charlie Baker. (CommonWealth) Warren says Trump will be bad for Gateway Cities. (Salem News) She also blasts the GOP. (Telegram & Gazette) Ron Chimelis offers his take on the anti-Trump opposition being led in Congress by Warren. (MassLive)

Rep. Michael Finn of West Springfield agrees to a settlement over campaign finance violations. (MassLive)

Lowell Sun columnist Peter Lucas says the recent legislative pay raises are about more than money. “Everybody now is in the tank. Dissent has been bought off,” he writes.

The new state supervisor of records appears to be questioning whether a frequently-cited 1997 court case fully exempts the governor’s office from the public records law. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Boston’s planning office is backtracking on a previous vow to issue written guidelines governing huge signs on company headquarters or other businesses, saying it will instead review proposals on a “case by case basis,” a policy is drawing some criticism. (Boston Globe)

West Roxbury abutters are suing the city of Boston for granting permits for a developer to build 18 luxury townhouses off Allandale Road. (Boston Herald)

Sheila Vanderhoef, who became Eastham’s first town administrator when the position was created in 1992, is retiring after 25 years. (Cape Cod Times)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump’s proposed budget would radically shift federal spending, with huge increases in defense spending and big cuts to an array of domestic programs serving the poor, the elderly, and funding medical research. (Boston Globe) GOP lawmakers, including several key senators, are none too impressed with the first stab at a spending plan. (U.S. News & World Report) Boston Mayor Marty Walsh slams proposed cuts as “reckless” and “heartless.” (Boston Globe) Local transit advocates fret about cuts in transportation spending, though federal funding of the planned MBTA Green Line Extension to Somerville and Medford appears to have survived. (Boston Globe)

The proposed 20 percent cut to the National Institutes of Health would hit the Boston area particularly hard. (STAT)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the administration is done negotiating with North Korea over its nuclear arsenal and suggested the United States could take “preemptive action” if the rogue nation continues testing and launching missiles. (New York Times)

A day after the top Republican and Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee dismissed on President Trump’s claim that former President Obama tapped his phone in Trump Tower, their counterparts on the Senate Intelligence Committee did the same. (Vox)

Trump’s “bigoted campaign rhetoric has come back to bite him in the butt,” says a Herald editorial, pointing out that his revised executive order on immigration has been halted by a federal judge on similar grounds to court action blocking his first order — that his campaign statements made clear he was pursuing an unconstitutional ban targeting Muslims.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the president will donate his $400,000 salary to charity at the end of the year and jokingly said media members can decide who gets it. (Politico) But the Chronicle of Philanthropy is taking him up on the challenge and is running a survey for nominations of worthy recipients and will present the results to Trump.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says in prepared remarks that marijuana “is only slightly less awful” than heroin. (Time)

A Lowell veterans group singles out Sen. Elizabeth Warren for not responding to their call for more support for vets — though the organization concedes that not a single member of Congress has actually done so. (Boston Herald)  

ELECTIONS

Five women who have known both victory and disappointment in statewide political life in Massachusetts — Evelyn Murphy, Jane Swift, Shannon O’Brien, Kerry Healey, and Martha Coakley — gather at Faneuil Hall in Boston and urge women to continue to push forward in politics. (Boston Globe)

Newton mayor Setti Warren is loading up a finance committee with Dukakis administration veterans for his not-yet-official campaign for governor. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

How the internet is saving culture, not destroying it. (New York Times)

EDUCATION

Two Lawrence High School seniors receive full scholarships to Babson College worth $500,000. (Eagle-Tribune)

The Worcester teachers union presses the school administration for the right to do its own testing for PCBs in city schools. (Telegram & Gazette)

The ex-wife of a wealthy alum of Worcester Polytechnic Institute who has given generously to the school is suing WPI, charging that some of the millions given to the school were joint assets that her ex hid from her during divorce proceedings. (Boston Globe)

Medway officials are considering a plan to give every high school student a computer. (MetroWest Daily News)

Is cursive on its way back to being taught in classrooms? (Associated Press)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The state is warning Leafly that the firm may be violating state law by advertising for delivery services that will bring medical marijuana to patients’ homes. (Boston Globe)

Another offshoot of the opioid crisis seems to be a rapid increase in the number of babies born with syphilis. (Governing)

A new study says everyday painkillers, such as ibuprofen, carry an increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest. (U.S. News & World Report)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Massachusetts Sierra Club executive committee member D.R. Tucker says President Trump’s gutting of the EPA and rollback of environmental laws will exact a particularly high toll on communities of color. (CommonWealth)

A Japanese judge, ruling in favor of displaced residents, said the government and the utility that owned the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant both bore responsibility for the “predictable” meltdown that crippled the facility following a tsunami in 2011. (New York Times)

CASINOS

Neither MGM officials nor Springfield residents are expressing too much concern about the proposed new casino just over the Connecticut border, despite it being just 13 miles away. (Greater Boston)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A cheese truck driver who rolled his truck over on the Southeast Expressway in Milton early Thursday and triggered a commuting nightmare during the morning rush hour was charged with drunken driving. (Patriot Ledger)

A Trial Court report on the management performance of suspended Suffolk County Register of Probate Felix Arroyo describes an office riven with chaos and dysfunction, with missing files everywhere and employees who seem to come and go as they wish. (Boston Globe)

The Bristol District Attorney’s office cleared Fall River police of using excessive force in the death of a Brockton man who was Tased when he allegedly interfered with officers who were making an arrest of a woman. (Herald News)

PASSINGS

Robert Cunningham, who served as executive director of the state Republican Party during Gov. Charlie Baker’s successful 2014 run for the corner office, died unexpectedly at age 44. (Boston Globe)