Boston-Cambridge Google wars

“It’s too bad.” That’s how the president of the Boston City Council greeted last night’s news that Google had won approvals to expand its Cambridge headquarters. Google ran into a surprisingly contentious expansion fight in Cambridge, raising hopes in Government Center that Boston might be able to poach the tech giant from across the Charles. Last night’s Cambridge City Council vote puts an end to those hopes. Hence, Steve Murphy’s dejected “too bad” quote in the Herald. The whole episode speaks volumes about the state of economic development in Boston — the city talks a world-class game, but is often chasing leftovers from across the river.

Google’s Cambridge expansion involves connecting two Kendall Square office buildings with a 40,000 square foot, multi-story glass bridge. The bridge would cut in half a rooftop public park that sits atop a parking garage. To make up for building on protected open space, Google’s landlord would build a bigger park, at ground level, two blocks away. The plan stirred up fierce opposition among East Cambridge residents. That’s when Boston stepped in.

Cambridge residents and officials fight over every square foot in Kendall Square because the vast majority of the square’s real estate is spoken for. That makes every decision about what gets built, or left unbuilt, a zero-sum game. Officials and landlords in South Boston have the opposite problem — they have acres of vacant space, and need businesses to come in and fill it. Last summer, Boston officials broke ground on a massive new headquarters for Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a firm the city lured from Cambridge. When Google ran into trouble permitting its Cambridge expansion, Boston officials hoped to pull a repeat. “We told them we’re ready to go,” Boston Mayor Tom Menino told the Herald this past weekend. Such a move would have sped construction in South Boston. But it wouldn’t have grown the state’s overall economy or created permanent jobs that aren’t already heading for Cambridge.

In February, House Speaker Robert DeLeo lamented the fact that Facebook is headquartered in California, even though it was founded in Cambridge. He made an overture to the tech company’s founder, and the founders of the next Facebooks: “To Mark Zuckerberg, and other leaders of new companies, we want you here.” After watching the Boston-Cambridge flare-up over Google, maybe DeLeo should have added, “Especially if you’re already here in the first place.”

                                                                                                                        –PAUL MCMORROW

BEACON HILL

State Rep. Paul Schmid is sporting a black eye and some other bruises after being roughed up by a cow on his Westport farm. The cow had just given birth and Schmid found the calf on the other side of some barbed wire fence and tried to reunite the pair when he was attacked.

The Tax Expenditure Commission will recommend to state lawmakers that they reduce the number of tax breaks currently in place, the Globe reports.

The Pioneer Institute blog has an infographic detailing the state’s public records problem.

Gov. Deval Patrick challenges House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s no-taxes pledge, wondering aloud what type of mathematics would allow DeLeo to please municipalities without tapping new revenues. On cue, municipal officials ask for $100 million more in local road money than Patrick says he can give them.

The Phoenix’s David Bernstein demonstrates why he wasn’t invited to speak at Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day roast by posting some of the gags and one-liners he would’ve deployed. They include asking assembled pols to sign his copy of the Ware Report, and noting that last week’s Globe story on Sal DiMasi’s allegedly tame grand jury testimony earned him another State House standing ovation.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

More than 125 cities, towns, and school districts in Massachusetts have taken steps to adopt municipal health care reforms, saving $80 million to date, State House News Services reports (via Lowell Sun).

The Quincy City Council is questioning the use of money from a controversial energy savings account to relocate the city clerk’s office during renovations.

The private water supplier for Hingham is calling a proposal for the town to study the feasibility of taking over the system a “hostile” move.

The Globe argues that NStar should cover some of the costs associated with last week’s Boston blackout.

Cambridge city manager Robert Healy will retire in 2013.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

The Lowell Sun, in an editorial, mocks Vice President Joe Biden’s middle class myth.

A New York Times editorial accuses both parties of selling out investors in return for corporate campaign donations.

House Republicans unveil their 2013 budget.

ELECTION 2012

Bristol District Attorney Sam Sutter has challenged US Rep. William Keating to a series of nine debates leading up to the Democratic primary for the 9th Congressional District seat.

US Sen. Scott Brown does a campaign swing through Chicopee.

Plans proposed by Mitt Romney would raise the the age for Medicare eligibility to 67 while also repealing the Obama health care law that prevents insurers from denying coverage to seniors with pre existing conditions, the Globe reports.

President Obama’s campaign raises $45 million in February, but that figure looks bigger than it really is, the Times notes.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Boston Globe outlines options available to the Charles Street AME Church for avoiding foreclosure. Meanwhile, in his weekly Globe column, CommonWealth’s Paul McMorrow argues OneUnited’s pattern of failing to lend in low income Boston communities raises questions about whether it should have received federal bailout money.  The Dig points out that the Bay State Banner carried an editorial in defense of OneUnited Bank’s threat to foreclose on a historic Roxbury church while the paper’s publisher, Melvin Miller, sits on the bank’s board, which the editorial failed to mention. Via Universal Hub.

A Massachusetts couple sold their collection, numbering in the millions, of copies of Massachusetts vital records to Ancestry.com, which will allow anyone who pays to search the digitized records. Some records date back to 1620, the Boston Globe reports.

EDUCATION

Governing asks: Can education data build the perfect teacher?

HEALTH CARE

Paul Levy has some suggestions for the search committee looking for a new president of UMass Medical Center in Worcester.

High levels of arsenic and lead were found in children’s jewelry sold at retail outlets in Massachusetts, part of a national study by a Michigan-based non-profit ecology group.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

An aide to former Lawrence School Superintendent Wilfredo Laboy testifies about how he was ordered to raise funds for an outside organization headed by Laboy, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

A Salem woman allegedly slashes the throats of her two children and then sets the apartment on fire, the Salem News reports.