Baker takes conventional approach to change

The honeymoon between Gov. Charlie Baker and the public is not at an end but the realities of the forced marriage between Baker and Democrats are starting to bubble up as Baker on Wednesday pulled the plug, at least temporarily, on the planned $1 billion expansion of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center that is backed by lawmakers, city officials, and unions.

Baker, whose signature is needed to issue the $1 billion in bonds for the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority that were approved by the Legislature last year, apparently has bought into the argument from fiscal conservative groups led by his old ally the Pioneer Institute that revenue and job projections were far too rosy and would not be able to sustain the debt service payments for the bonds, forcing the state to cover the gaps with tax revenues.

The governor also said part of the rationale for the expansion – that it would trigger further development in the Seaport district – is no longer a convincing argument as business is booming in the old Southie neighborhood.

“The environment has changed greatly in the five years since this proposal was first introduced, and the Seaport district has experienced an economic boom,” Baker said in a statement.

Baker also used the impending departure of the authority’s executive director, James Rooney, who is leaving to take over at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, as another reason to revisit the planned expansion.

“Plunging ahead now, when the data on the expansion’s feasibility is mixed, combined with the change of leadership at the MCCA would be irresponsible,” Baker said. Well, yes and no.

Even as Baker bemoaned the change in leadership, he took control of the authority’s board by replacing seven of the 13 board members and reappointing two others, giving him complete control of the board with Secretary of Administration and Finance Kristen Lepore also on the panel. Change was coming anyway, even without Rooney’s exit; his departure just gives Baker cover.

Among those who are out is Mark Erlich of the Carpenters Union, and none of Baker’s appointees have labor ties. The incoming members are CEOs, real estate developers, and people with ties to the financial industries. Not a dirty fingernail among them.

Baker is showing he’s more adept at politics than his policy wonk persona reveals. Among the the two he retained is Barbara Capuano, a tax manager at Raphael and Raphael LLC and the wife of US Rep. Michael Capuano. For those paying attention, in the days before last fall’s primaries, Capuano caused a stir by showering Baker with praise and saying he thought the former Weld-Cellucci aide would make “a good governor.”

“I have nothing bad to say about Charlie Baker,” Capuano said last September even though he had some bad things to say about Baker’s rival, Martha Coakley, as a candidate. Capuano later campaigned alongside Coakley to try to assuage the hard feelings but the die was cast and Baker apparently doesn’t forget his friends.

There was no immediate response from House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a steadfast supporter of nearly anything that creates union jobs. Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, a supporter of the expansion both from his days in the Legislature and as mayor, offered a muted statement that was as notable for what it didn’t say as for what it said.

“I look forward to a continued dialogue with the governor as we work to get things back on track,” Walsh said.

Lepore said the pause doesn’t mean the expansion is completely off the table, just that Baker wants his new team to review everything and see if they come to the same conclusions.

“I didn’t hear ‘never,'” said Rooney, who expressed second thoughts about leaving the job if this was the result. “I heard ‘not now.'”

But that may be selective hearing. When Baker handed his appointed commission the charge to review the MBTA, the subtext was to look at its management and everything that stems from there. Many say the report was a predetermined plan that ultimately reflected Baker’s priorities of no new revenues and reining in wasteful spending. The results may not be much different here.




The House approves a $38 billion budget with most of the amendments dealt with behind closed doors. (Associated Press)

A Globe editorial cheers the House budget’s restoration of funding the Patrick administration had cut for a pilot program to screen new mothers for postpartum depression. CommonWealth‘s Gabrielle Gurley wrote about the “baby blues” and efforts to mandate screening for it in the magazine’s spring issue.


The lawyer for Tamerlan Tsarnaev‘s widow says he’s worried his client could still face charges because she hasn’t been called as a witness in the trial or offered immunity to testify. (Boston Globe)


New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell signed a new “problem properties” ordinance into law that hits landlords with tax liens and foreclosures if there are excessive code violations or emergency calls at the addresses they own. (Standard-Times)

Freetown selectmen placed the town treasurer on paid leave and scheduled a hearing into her job performance amid rising concerns that the town’s finances are in disarray. (Standard-Times)

Roxbury may revive its long-dormant neighborhood council. (Bay State Banner)


In an investors’ call on Tuesday night, Steve Wynn provided assurances that he is fully committed to an Everett casino despite his company’s problems in Macau, but he seemed to take umbrage at having to deal with traffic mitigation issues and environmental reviews. “Welcome to the regulated businesses of America,” he said. (Boston Herald)

The New Hampshire House voted down legislation that would have permitted the construction of two casinos. (Eagle-Tribune)


In her first major policy address as a 2016 presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton called foran overhaul of the criminal justice system that she says treats minorities far more harshly than whites and contributes to racial tensions such as this week’s riots in Baltimore. (New York Times) She also calls for body cameras on cops. (Time)

One of the biggest components of the Clintons’ philanthropic enterprises, the Boston-based Clinton Health Access Initiative, did not comply with a sweeping promise by then-secretary of state nominee Hillary Clinton to submit information on all foreign donors to the State Department for review should she be confirmed as the country’s top diplomat. (Boston Globe)

At this point it might be easier to list who isn’t running for the Republican presidential nomination, as Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder becomes the latest to dip his toes into the water. (National Review)

The New Republic‘s Danny Vinik says Elizabeth Warren diehards will have to come to terms with the fact that she’s not running for president — and that Bernie Sanders is their consolation prize.


Gloucester’s fishing fleet prepares for the year of no cod. (Gloucester Times)

Regulators are filing “pay to play” charges against the biggest distributor of craft beers in the state. (Boston Globe)

About 200 labor members protested in front of Quincy City Hall calling for the contractors in the downtown redevelopment project to hire more union workers. (Patriot Ledger)

It sounds oxymoronic, but the family micro apartment is Boston’s newest answer to steep housing costs and the hankering for city living. (Boston Globe) Renee Loth says more innovative thinking on the region’s housing challenges is making her surprisingly optimistic about what’s long been a familiar, depressing storyline. (Boston Globe)


Both the University of Massachusetts and Suffolk University are apparently interested in Marty Meehan, now the chancellor at UMass Lowell, serving as their next president. (Boston Globe) Meehan may be one of three inside candidates being considered by UMass. (Boston Business Journal)

A new Brookings report ranks colleges based on the earnings of their graduates. (Governing)

Beverly commits to offering a free, full-day kindergarten, but first has to figure out how to pay for it. The town currently charges residents $4,000 for full-day kindergarten. (Salem News)

Fitchburg State University and the Fitchburg Art Museum team up. (Sentinel and Enterprise)


The World Health Organization has declared that rubella, often called German measles, has been eliminated as a threat in North and South America because of the success of decades of vaccinations. (U.S. News & World Report) State officials are tracking the wanderings of a student from western Europe with a confirmed case of highly contagious measles. (Salem News)


The main union representing MBTA employees is mounting a PR campaign to combat negative fallout about T workers from the recent state report that highlighted high levels of employee absenteeism. (Boston Herald)


Abigail Anthony of the Acadia Center says the region needs a new kind of power grid. (CommonWealth)

Gov. Jerry Brown has set aggressive new emissions standards for California — and President Obama should be ashamed, writes The New Republic‘s Rebecca Leber.


Depending on which paper you read, either something more than 500 (Boston Globe) or about 1,000 (Boston Herald) peaceful protesters took to the streets in Boston yesterday to march against police brutality toward blacks.

The Herald‘s Joe Fitzgerald talks to John Moynihan, the Boston police officer shot point-blank in the face last month, who is on the road to recovery and eager to return to work. (Boston Herald)

A Motel 6 in Rhode Island is passing along the names of every guest to the local police department so officers can run criminal checks. (Providence Journal)


The New Yorker and WNYC are teaming up for a radio show and podcast. (Politico)