Public records issue gets heavy coverage

Updating the state’s Public Records Law is gaining some traction, at least in the media.

The problems with the law — the lackadaisical enforcement, the high charges imposed for obtaining records,  and the numerous exemptions — have been well documented for years. But this year, largely because the Boston Globe has gotten behind the idea, the notion of reform is picking up some steam.

The Legislature’s State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee held a hearing on Tuesday on bills revamping the law and this time the room was full. The Globe covered it, but so did the Boston Herald, the Eagle-Tribune, the Telegram & Gazette, and the Associated Press.

The testimony contained little new. Carol Rose, executive director of the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said those seeking public records should be allowed to recoup their legal fees if they prevail in court and win the release of documents. “The problem is that officials know they can just ignore the law and get away with it,” she said.

Scott Allen, the head of the Globe’s investigative Spotlight Team, said if New England’s biggest newspaper is having difficulty obtaining records then the problem is widespread. “Our ability to do our job is getting worse and worse,” Allen said.

Secretary of State William Galvin, whose office oversees the Public Records Law, testified that most of the problems with the law are due to the way it is crafted and not the way it is enforced. He said the Legislature, which exempted itself from the reach of the law, should be brought partially under its purview. Galvin, always attuned to which way the media wind is blowing, testified that he was considering filing a ballot question to revamp the law if the Legislature fails to act.

It’s far from clear whether a public records bill has a chance at passing. The hearing room may have been packed on Tuesday, but none of those who testified were high-ranking lawmakers. None of the Big Three — Gov. Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo,and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg — have taken a strong stance on the issue. The big question is whether the intense media interest in the legislation, and the coverage that comes with that interest, will translate into action on Beacon Hill.

–BRUCE MOHL

 

BEACON HILL

At least one of every five elevators in the state has not had its required safety inspection. (Boston Herald)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Boston Public Library, where artwork valued at more than $600,000 has gone missing, has lax security procedures in place and an incomplete inventory of its valuable possessions, according to a city-commissioned audit. (Boston Globe)

A Fall River city councilor who was identified by a special prosecutor as a central figure in allegations of intimidation by former mayor Will Flanagan has resigned under pressure. (Herald News)

An at-large Quincy city councilor running for mayor questions whether the “pay per inch” budgeting for snow removal is the reason the City of Presidents spent far more this winter on plowing than most other communities. (Patriot Ledger)

Westford decides not to accept state road funding because of fears it will change the character of the town. One requirement for use of state funds on road projects is the construction of bike lanes.(Lowell Sun)

A Marblehead man hit by drone calls lack of regulations vexing. (Salem News)

Cohasset selectmen rejected the Town Manager’s choice for police chief despite consensus he was the top candidate with the highest scores, albeit an outsider. (Patriot Ledger)

Governing, using Charlottesville, Virginia, as its prime example, shows how to design a pedestrian mall.

OLYMPICS

An ongoing standoff over the future of a huge US Post Office facility behind South Station could bollix part of the plans for a Boston 2024 Summer Olympics. (Boston Globe)

Brookline Town Meeting will consider a proposal this week to go on record opposing the Olympic bid. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The Internal Revenue Service says hackers stole data on 100,000 taxpayers. (NPR)

The National Review resurrects the old accusations of Sen. Elizabeth Warren and family members buying and flipping real estate in Oklahoma.

Seven world soccer officials are arrested in Switzerland on charges of accepting bribes. (NPR)

ELECTIONS

Carly Fiorina hits the hustings in New Hampshire. (Boston Herald)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Two top advisory firms are urging shareholders to turn thumbs down on outsized compensation packages for top executives at Vertex Pharmaceuticals. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

The Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) is adding kindergarten in Lynn as part of a long-term plan by the charter school to offer K-12 service. (Item)

Bristol Community College is looking for a new satellite campus in Taunton just eight months after opening its doors in an old school in the city after state officials said it would cost more than $20 million to bring the building up to code. (Herald News)

As applicants and enrollment decline, private four-year colleges are setting their sights on recruiting community college students. (U.S. News & World Report)

TRANSPORTATION

Uber and Lyft drivers are being hit with $500 fines in Boston. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Despite the winter’s heavy snow, Hanover moves to restrict outdoor water use, the first South Shore town to do so. (Patriot Ledger)

The state is exploring how new natural gas pipeline capacity could tamp down high electricity rates in Massachusetts. (Boston Herald)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The Christian Science Monitor explores what the Annie Dookhan case says about expert witnesses and tainted evidence.

A mother recalls the horror of her 7-year-old son being wounded by gunfire on a Dorchester street on Sunday afternoon. (Boston Globe)

Amy Lord‘s mother offers heart-wrenching testimony in the trial of Edwin Alemany, the many charged with killing her daughter. (Boston Globe)

State Police will add 11 troopers to assist Brockton police, who are facing a sharp spike in gun violence recently. (The Enterprise)

Cleveland police, under the microscope for a disproportionate number of deadly force incidents, have agreed to a stringent set of standards for the use of force and submit to federal oversight. (New York Times)

MEDIA

Boston Globe Editor Brian McGrory goes off on CommonWealth and its executive editor, Michael Jonas, for his Friday Download item about Globe columnist Shirley Leung. McGrory sent an email to CommonWealth and then someone at the Globe leaked it to media watcher Jim Romenesko.

The San Diego Union-Tribune lays off 178 of its 603 employees.

Vox Media buys Recode, the news website launched by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher. (New York Times)

The Tulsa World hopes to survive by charging subscribers $30 a month. (Nieman Journalism Lab)

Keller@Large wonders what consumers want from the media, saying viewers, readers, and listeners constantly send mixed messages.