Baker’s leak strategy

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER’S press strategy for this week’s MBTA advisory panel report — which involved a steady diet of leaks in advance of its official Wednesday release — was masterful, but it still felt a little sleazy.

The governor appointed the panel back in February, in the midst of the T’s winter of discontent. He gave the group a month to six weeks to recommend a course of action, but he signaled where he wanted the panel to end up when he cautioned that it was too early to jump on the more-revenue bandwagon. His was probably a minority opinion at the time, as T advocates and the authors of past studies said the T’s finances had been studied to death. The winter storms had exposed the T’s soft underbelly, they said, and it was time to stop stalling and pony up more dough.

The first leaked story appeared on Monday, splashed across the top of page one of the Boston Globe. The story said the Baker panel faulted the T for “limited cost control, low labor productivity, and high maintenance costs” and would not recommend more money for the agency. The next leaked story, also on page one, came the next day. The Globereported that the panel had discovered that rampant absenteeism by T workers was causing a lot of service cancellations. Then on Wednesday, the Globe reported that the panel believed Big Dig debt was not the cause of the T’s woes. There was also another story on T absenteeism.

What caught people’s attention was not that the report was leaked to the Globe (leaks to the Globe are commonplace), but that key elements of the report were leaked over three days. By the time the report was officially unveiled on Wednesday, there was little news left to report. But that’s why the leak strategy worked. Baker and the panel members on Wednesday could focus on their message — reform before revenue, for now — instead of explaining the ins and outs of absenteeism and capital spending at the T.

The leaks also made pushback by opponents difficult. Former transportation secretary Jim Aloisi condemned the no-new-revenues drumbeat, pointing out inconsistencies in the way the panel was crunching its numbers. But it was hard for most pro-revenue advocates to weigh in because they didn’t have access to the data. Indeed, the press spokesman for the T was deferring to the governor’s office when asked about T reports cited in the leaked documents.

After the report was officially released, administration officials still refused to release the MBTA data backing up some of the panel’s claims. A T spokesman referred people seeking the data to the governor’s office and the governor’s office said the information was not publicly available.

Sen. Thomas McGee, the Lynn Democrat who co-chairs the Legislature’s Transportation Committee, grumbled to the State House News. “It would have been nice to have a chance to review it before bits and pieces were wheeled out over a couple of days to the local media,” he said.

But there was no getting around the fact that the nerdy governor who likes to get down into the weeds on issues had manipulated the press to his advantage. Tim Buckley, the governor’s press spokesman, said after the T panel’s press conference on Wednesday that he couldn’t talk about the administration’s leak strategy. But then he softened a bit, saying the administration decided the panel’s report, which was basically a PowerPoint presentation, was so complicated that the decision was made to release the information in smaller chunks.

“A lot of these things are really important, really dense,”  he said.



Carolyn Kirk, the former mayor of Gloucester, talks about her new job on Beacon Hill as the No. 2 official at the executive office of housing and economic development behind Jay Ash. (Gloucester Times)


Lowell Sun columnist Peter Lucas says the Big Three on Beacon Hill shouldn’t waste money on a consultant to help them study the Boston Olympics proposal. The Globe‘s Frank Phillips offers a cheat sheet on how the fortunes of various political and business figures will rise or fall as they deal with the Boston 2024 Olympics bid.

It turns out Romans and residents of Hamburg (Hamburgers?) are not wild about the idea of hosting the 2024 Olympics, either. (Boston Globe)


A Salem News editorial praises Beverly Mayor Michael Cahill for convincing state officials to lift outdated restrictions on waterfront zoning.

We think Al Haig would be proud: Boston City Councilor Steve Murphy insists he didn’t realize CNN was identifying him during an interview this week as the man who was “acting mayor” of Boston on the day of the marathon bombings. But the Globe reports that CNN says a Murphy representative billed him as such when the interview was being booked. The paper also says Murphy nodded to CNN’s Jake Tapper as he introduced the councilor with that bio information. (Boston Globe)

The Brockton City Council delayed a vote on pay raises for councilors and the School Committee at least a month, though critics are claiming the delay is aimed at waiting until nomination papers can be taken out to tamp down possible challengers. (The Enterprise)

An acting sergeant in the Hull Police Department has filed suit against the police chief and the town accusing them of retaliating against him for reporting money missing from the police union’s treasury which has resulted in civil and criminal charges against the chief and several officers. (Patriot Ledger)


In today’s Globe, James Pindell and Scot Lehigh both take on variations of the same topic: The challenge for Sen. Rand Paul, who announced his Republican bid for president this week, of trying to retain some of his father’s base of hard-core libertarians while expanding his reach outside of that narrow slice of the GOP electorate.

Paul says he will accept Bitcoins for contributions to his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, the first candidate to accept the Internet-based currency that is virtually untraceable. (New York Times)


In a Globe op-ed, Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter lays out the findings from a new report he coauthored that finds the US lagging well behind leading nations in a Social Progress Index that measures countries’ standing on a set of indicators that includes social, economic, and environmental measures.

Steve Wynn is facing problems on a lot of fronts, but it still shouldn’t derail his Everett casino, writes the Globe‘s Jon Chesto. The Download chronicled Wynn’s woes earlier this week.

As Converse relocates to Lovejoy Wharf in downtown Boston, it leaves behind its former headquarters in North Andover. Town officials are eager to see that space filled. (Eagle-Tribune)

Central Mass is finding out that when Whole Foods arrives real estate values elsewhere tend to go up, too. (Worcester Business Journal)


A study released this week aimed at identifying effective schooling practices among black and Latino males said it could find no examples of high achievement among these groups in Boston schools, but the report failed to include the city’s charter schools, some of which have extraordinarily high academic outcomes among this student population. The Boston Public Schools and Barr Foundation shelled out $510,000 for the study. (CommonWealth)

Attorney General Maura Healey is joining with other AGs to urge the federal education department to intervene and forgive debts racked up by students at for-profit Corinthian Colleges, which is alleged to have engaged in misleading tactics to lure students to take out loans. (Boston Herald)

The lawyer for the former director of a child care center at Bridgewater State University is contesting the allegation that his client delayed notifying authorities about possible abuse of a child at the center by a student worker there. (Boston Globe)

The state is cracking down on unlicensed afterschool programs in Quincy aimed at Chinese students. (Patriot Ledger)

The Berkshire Eagle hails Tufts University for its decision to begin providing financial aid to undocumented students.


The Massachusetts Health Connector is still suffering from problems. (Boston Globe)

A survey of low-income people in 10 states finds that there are still financial, technological, and cultural barriers that are preventing some from getting health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. (U.S. News & World Report)

A study shows that while the rich sleep less because they’re more apt to work more, people who live below the poverty line are most likely to get less than six hours of sleep a night. (New York Times)


The head of the Fall River economic development office says “reading the tea leaves” means the expansion project for South Coast Rail is likely going to be put on hold after the release of the scathing report on the condition of the MBTA’s finances and management. (Herald News)

Outgoing T general manager Beverly Scott attended a one-day conference in New York two weeks ago, and the Herald says we should be outraged.

Bourne wants to join the MBTA, but it doesn’t get any service from the agency: MassDOT officials have told at least one regional official that may be a bad idea. (Cape Cod Times)


Many top Massachusetts pols say they oppose the death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. (Boston Globe) Joe Battenfeld says pols and editorial pages should keep their views on the issue to themselves. (Boston Herald)

The judge in the Aaron Hernandez murder trial has banned a Channel 7 cameraman from the court after he followed two jurors leaving the courthouse at the end of deliberations Wednesday. (Associated Press)


The Boston Museum of Fine Arts selects Matthew Teitelbaum, the head of the Art Gallery of Ontario, to replace Malcolm Rogers. (WBUR)