Piling on

Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.

That seems to the operative approach to the fact that Boston resident John Kerry got a $50 ticket for an unshoveled sidewalk alongside his Beacon Hill townhouse.

To say the story was irresistible catnip to the crew at the Boston Herald would not do justice to the delirium that must have set in at the tabloid. The paper’s cover story is a triple-bylined affair — with a fourth reporter given a “tag-line” credit at the bottom of the piece. There is also a riveting 30-second video posted on the paper’s website that consists of a poorly lit view of Kerry exiting a car and walking up the steps to his house last night and ignoring a Herald reporter shouting out to ask if he has something to say about this latest crisis on his watch (move over Syrian slaughter, Boko Haram, and Iranian nuclear program).

The story reports that the sidewalk on the Pinckney Street side of the US secretary of state’s Louisburg Square manse went unshoveled following this week’s storm until sometime Thursday morning. A complaint led to a $50 ticket being issued by the city’s Inspectional Services Department.

Kerry’s office seems to be handling the matter with the utmost degree of, well, diplomacy. In a statement, his office explains that he was away during the storm (his job description does call for a bit a travel), and that the contractor who clears his sidewalk “misconstrued yellow hazard tape along the sidewalk – put up to warn of falling snow and ice overhead – as police tape and thought that part of the sidewalk was off limits.” Once the contractor was made aware that the area could be entered, the walkway was cleared.

The front-facing sidewalk along Louisburg Square was presumably shoveled promptly following the storm, and there is no reason to think the contractor would not have also cleared the walkway on Pinckney Street but for the apparent misunderstanding.

The Globe also ran a story, inside the Metro section, but the Herald didn’t just splash a news story on its front page; two of its columnists also saw fit to weigh in on the matter. Howie Carr, whose loathing of Kerry is legendary, rambles on about Shovelgate (leaning right, as he does, he would probably prefer it called Shovelghazi) and somehow manages to weave in (for the second time this week) a healthy dose of climate-change denial.

But he is far outdone by former Boston mayor-turned-columnist Ray Flynn. Raybo uses the story to rail against the wealthy blow-ins now filling condos in his South Boston neighborhood, who he claims shovel their walks at a much lower rate than the city’s salt-of-the-earth natives. Shoveling your walk is “something we always did in Boston,” he writes.

Just to make clear the class resentment — it feels like Flynn is relitigating every grievance the Irish have had against Beacon Hill brahmins for 150 years — he suggests that the secretary of state pony up “a couple of grand” (read: pocket change to Kerry and his multimillionaire wife) to local homeless shelters and ask them “please send a crew up to shovel in front of my house” whenever it snows.

Of course, Kerry actually already has a “crew” contracted to shovel — and they apparently did shovel “in front of” his house. But what does that have to do with anything here?

The Herald’s large-type headline, at least — “PILING ON” — did seem on target.

–MICHAEL JONAS

BEACON HILL

Saying his thinking has “evolved,” House Speaker Robert DeLeo does away with a rule he instituted six years ago that would require him to step down as the House leader at the end of this term. CommonWealth’s Michael Jonas says the “optics” here are not good. The Berkshire Eagle calls DeLeo’s move a “Putinesque power play.” The Telegram & Gazette calls the move “a cynical and self-aggrandizing power grab, and one carried out by a legislative body that is intoxicated with arrogance and power.

Shady deal: State Sen. Brian Joyce’s purchase of high-end sunglasses at a deeply discounted price as gifts for all his Senate colleagues may have run afoul of state ethics laws. Who knew the senators did so much gift-giving?

Gov. Charlie Baker has been cleared by the New Jersey state treasurer of engaging in a pay-to-play scheme involving a $10,000 donation he made to the New Jersey Republican Party. Here’s coverage from the International Business Times.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito seems poised to play the role of local government liaison for the new administration.

The Baker administration has denied a Boston Herald request for details of former lieutenant governor Tim Murray’s cell phone records from the time of his high-speed car crash in 2011.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Knight Foundation hands out grants to leverage libraries as platforms to create more knowledgeable communities, and a developer wins $475,000 to make the Boston Public Library’s open data collection more accessible.

Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi praises Gov. Charlie Baker’s creation of a Community Compact Cabinet to work with municipal leaders.

A city building inspector in Lawrence is being charged with indecent assault and battery for allegedly assaulting a woman during an inspection, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

CASINOS

Friday is the deadline for filing applications — plus a $400,000 nonrefundable filing fee — for the final casino license in the Southeastern portion of the state,with one group hoping to build in Somerset planning to submit an incomplete form to get in under the wire.

Governing asks: Is Atlantic City headed for bankruptcy?

OLYMPICS

Shirley Leung tries to get at what a Boston Olympics would actually cost — and gives up, other than to say it will be a lot more than any current estimates.

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

One week after the leader of the Assembly in New York was arrested for taking bribes, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is reportedly under investigation by federal agents.

Former Boston police commissioner Ed Davis, citing the Boston Marathon bombings and recent attacks in Paris, is calling for expanded domestic spying to identify “homegrown” extremists. Davis praised the value of surveillance video during the Marathon investigation in a feature story on the proliferation of video evidence in the current issue of CommonWealth.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Worcester Sharks hockey team is moving to California, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

A federal judge has sided with an open-records activist and ordered the IRS to release Form 990s — filings by nonprofit organizations — in formats that can be read by computers, a change that makes the documents more accessible.

EDUCATION

Adrian Walker decries the idea — first reported last week by CommonWealth’s Jack Sullivan — that Dorchester teacher Nicole Bollerman may have violated state ethics laws by donating a $150,000 prize she won to her school.

U.S. News & World Report took a look at health care and education for minorities in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, and found deep disparities in both between the races in a data package titled “Separate and Unequal.”

Dartmouth College is banning hard liquor on campus.

HEALTH CARE

Suffolk Superior Court Judge Janet Sanders rejects former attorney general Martha Coakley’s deal with Partners HealthCare that would have allowed the health care giant to acquire three more hospitals in return for pricing and other concessions, CommonWealth reports. WBUR’s Martha Bebinger analyzes the judge’s decision. A Globe editorial says Partners should abandon the deal.

TRANSPORTATION

Frantic riders kicked out windows on a Red Line car that suddenly began filling with smoke at the Quincy Center station.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Senate has passed a bill trying to force President Obama to approve the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline despite a vow by the White House to veto the measure.

Federal wind leases off the coast of Massachusetts attract minimal interest. Only two of four areas federal regulators put out for lease south of Martha’s Vineyard received bids and both were millions below expectations.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Philip Chism told investigators that he cut his Danvers teacher, Colleen Ritzer, just once with a box cutter and denied raping her. But a state trooper told a courtroom that Ritzer was stabbed 16 times in the throat and raped twice, the Salem News reports.

A Pittsburgh law firm has launched a national initiative to fight so-called “revenge porn,” sexually explicit photos and messages posted on social media sites by scorned lovers in an effort to shame their exes.

Opening arguments began in the murder trial of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, with prosecutors telling jurors they will see DNA evidence and a sneaker print belonging to Hernandez tht was found at the murder scene.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

SUPER BOWL

With the Big Game (we didn’t pay for the rights to say it) a little more than 48 hours away, it’s fair to ask, did we invent football in Boston? Of course we did. But if you happen to wager on the outcome of the game, just remember your Uncle. Sam, that is.