Walsh to audit Menino’s BRA

Alleged personal tensions between Marty Walsh and Tom Menino made for great tabloid fodder during last fall’s mayoral election. The Herald painted the Walsh and Menino clans as Hatfields and McCoys in triple-deckers, and chalked up the supposed bad blood to everything from playground battles to patronage contests. On Sunday, the Herald outlined a much more likely source of tension between Boston’s new mayor and its former leader: Walsh wants to conduct a top-down audit of the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

Walsh ran on a promise of tearing down the BRA, and during last week’s inaugural address, Walsh committed to overhauling the powerful development agency, and restructuring Boston’s economic development bureaucracy. The first step in that process appears to be a very deep, very public examination of the way things worked under Menino — how decisions happened, who benefitted, who got punished, and whether any of it followed any sort of predictable rules.

The Globe provided a taste of what Walsh’s auditors are sure to find late last month, when a months-long investigation by Sean Murphy found the BRA mismanaging affordable housing funds, cutting deals with the Menino administration’s favored developers, and slipping millions of dollars worth of financial favors past a board that seldom bothers to cast an inquisitive eye on the projects it greenlights. Murphy’s report showed the BRA acting in a way that confirmed the suspicions of the agency’s most acerbic critics. And now the agency is facing a deep forensic audit of its finances and decision-making.

We’ve seen this play before. Three years ago, when Suzanne Bump took over the state auditor’s office, her first act was to audit the department she was inheriting. That audit proved ruinous for Bump’s predecessor, longtime auditor Joe DeNucci, because it cast serious doubts over the competency of the agency that DeNucci ran. Several of DeNucci’s former staffers were either fired or forced to resign. And it all fell back on DeNucci himself.

On its face, Walsh’s BRA audit doesn’t look personally aimed at Menino, but when one guy has been calling the shots for the past 20 years, and when the shot-caller in question is a notorious micromanager, whatever Walsh’s auditors find at the BRA is bound to reflect poorly on Menino. The former mayor, more than anyone else, surely knows this.

–PAUL MCMORROW

BEACON HILL

Former House Speaker, attorney general, and gubernatorial candidate Robert Quinn, who was the force behind the so-called “Quinn Bill” that created financial incentives for police to get college degrees, has diedat the age of 85.

The MetroWest Daily News calls for new monitoring of consultants and contractors after Auditor Suzanne Bump found MassDOT contractors working well over their 12 month, temporary assignments.

There is much to like in Gov. Deval Patrick’s ambitious capital investment plan,The Berkshire Eagle finds, while also arguing that most of the initiatives will have to be carried out by the next governor.

Whether to legalize marijuana in Massachusetts may land on the state ballot in 2016.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Former Boston city councilor Mike Ross says we have a chance to do right by artists who have landed in the Newmarket business district, but it will take forward-looking city planning to make it happen.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Nothing to see here, says the GOP national chairman of the traffic and political mess Chris Christie finds himself ensnared in. The Wall Street Journal looks at the Christie campaign’s hard push for Democratic endorsements during last fall’s reelection campaign. Christie’s version of the bridge lane closure looks more muddled.

The IRS internal public advocate criticized the agency for the growing backlog of applications from organizations seeking nonprofit status.

The Globe reports that the battle to increase the minimum wage, which President Obama vowed to lead in his State of the Union address last year, is now being waged at the state level, where campaigns to boost the wage standard are being waged in a dozen states, including Massachusetts.

Writing in The New Republic,Rich Yeselson says David Brooks’s new, policy-serious Republican Party, laid out in a column on Friday, is a fantasy.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The New York Times explains why the medical marijuana business is all cash.

Will 2014 be the banner year for the biotech industry that 2013 was?

EDUCATION

The single woman taking over as the president of Alabama State University is required by her contract not to “cohabitate” with a lover in the school’s presidential home, the Washington Post reports.

Five Wareham seventh-grade teachers have presented a proposal to the School Committee to create a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) Academy within the town’s middle school to be opened this coming school year.

A study by the federal National Center for Education Statistics find that college graduates are more likely to put off having children and stay single longer than people who don’t finish high school.

HEALTH CARE

Maryland becomes the first state to cap health care spending, Governing reports.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Andover and its water and sewer department have spent about $1.1 million fighting and eventually settling a lawsuit brought by a resident who says the town dumped dangerous sludge in a wetland on his property, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The Sun Chronicle looks at the infrastructure challenges facing the state’s electric grid, including potential natural gas bottlenecks.


The West Virginia storage facility where a chemical spill contaminated the water supply of 300,000 people had not been inspected since 1991, the Wall Street Journal reports.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

James “Whitey” Bulger is transferred to a prison in Arizona, the Associated Press reports.

MEDIA

Weymouth police are urging people to be more responsible with social media after numerous Facebook, Twitter, and blog posts wrongly identified a 49-year-old Quincy woman whose body was found under the Fore River Bridge as a homeless man.

New York magazine sits with Alexis Wilkinson, the first black female president of the overwhelmingly white male Harvard Lampoon. “Having a black woman president either means that we will be unsueable or the most-sued organization of all time,” she says. “So let’s find out!”

Keller@Large wonders where Alex Rodriguez went wrong.