Pushing back on Baker’s T reform
Lawmakers began pushing back against the Baker administration’s MBTA reform plan on Monday, questioning the need for a special T control board, raising doubts about unspent capital funds, and suggesting there’s no evidence the Pacheco Law has hindered the transit agency’s efforts to contract out work.
At a State House hearing, Sen. Thomas McGee of Lynn, a co-chair of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee and the chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, questioned the need for a new new “piece of bureaucracy” overseeing the T when Baker already controls the MassDOT board. His co-chair, Rep. William Straus of Mattapoisett, chimed in that he saw no need to “reinvent the wheel.”
Stephanie Pollack, the governor’s secretary of transportation, along with members of Baker’s T advisory panel, did a pretty good job defending the need for a control board specifically focused on the T. But they had far less success explaining some of the findings in their action plan to transform the MBTA. It got so bad that the Baker administration pledged to release the data buttressing the report’s conclusions later this week.
McGee, for example, wanted to know more about the $2.2 billion in capital funds that the report said the T failed to spend over the last five years. McGee remarked that there’s an image out there of “$2 billion sitting around in a drawer unspent.” According to a report in theGlobe, “no one answered that question clearly.”
The Carmen’s Union, with many of its members in the audience, also weighed in with a four-page memo questioning the accuracy and relevance of the T panel’s report on absenteeism and arbitration procedures. The T report said absenteeism at the transit agency is twice the levels found at peer agencies.
While the tone of the hearing suggested Baker’s legislative reforms will face tough going, theBoston Herald, in an editorial, dismissed all the sniping. “It’s a classic case of diversion by lawmakers who too often take their marching orders from the Boston Carmen’s Union,” the tabloid said.
The House begins budget deliberations, fending off changes to the film tax credit and dealing with most legislation in a back room. (State House News)
The House votes to remove the surcharge penalty from its headlights law. (Associated Press)
A Globe editorial urges the Baker administration to put the brakes on a deal that would give Simmons College exclusive use during certain hours of state-owned Daly Field in Brighton.
Gov. Charlie Baker is mending ties with the state’s municipalities. (Salem News)
MARATHON BOMBING TRIAL
The defense begins its case to spare Dzhokhar Tsarnaev the death penalty and focuses on the dysfunction and mental illness running through his family.
Rep. Michael Capuano joins the chorus of those calling for more transparency from Boston 2024, including disclosure of its new contract with PR powerhouse Weber Shandwick. “It strikes me that there are an awful lot of people getting very wealthy off this PR, and yet it’s not going so well,” he said. (Boston Herald)
David Bernstein asks why there isn’t more black political power in Boston. It’s a good question — and one CommonWealth took a deep dive on 12 years ago in a cover story with the identical headline as the new piece. UMass Boston’s Ken Cooper told CommonWealth in March that “packing,” a tactic that diminishes the impact of minority voters, is in part to blame.
An Eagle-Tribune editorial slams the state’s “hotel homeless” program as another unfunded mandate on cities and towns.
Colman M. Herman asks why it’s taking so long for Inspector General Glenn Cunha to conclude his investigation of a deal between the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Boston Red Sox regarding Yawkey Way and Green Monster air rights.
A group of parishioners is asking Attorney General Maura Healey to stop the planned sale of the Star of the Sea Church in the Squantum section of Quincy, which the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston closed in 2004. (Patriot Ledger)
The Maryland governor declared a state of emergency in Baltimore and called in the National Guard after riots broke out following the funeral of Freddie Gray, who died after being injured in police custody. (New York Times) The Atlantic‘s Ta-Nehisi Coates, a Baltimore native, weighs in: “When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse.” David Simon has something to say, too. A vice president of the Baltimore Orioles, who is the son of the team’s majority owner, offered a surprising and frank assessment of the broader context for the unrest.
The Supreme Court today will hear arguments that are expected to once and for all determine the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans. (New York Times) The Globe‘s Michael Levenson profiles Mary Bonauto, the Massachusetts attorney who will make the case for marriage equality to justices today. Attorney General Maura Healey, who filed a brief in support of same-sex marriage, plans to be there to hear the arguments and says she’s cautiously optimistic about how the court will rule. (Boston Herald)
John Kerry has a taste for the culinary aspects of international diplomacy, showcasing the work of some of Boston’s bold-name chefs when hosting foreign dignitaries at his Beacon Hill home. (Boston Globe)
Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken promised not to run for reelection this fall when she was appointed in January to replace Carolyn Kirk, but now it appears she may be changing her mind. (Gloucester Times)
A study shows online revenue for nonprofits increased by 13 percent last year even though the average size of donations fell by 2 percent. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)
Mitchell Chester, the state elementary and secondary education commissioner, gets a not-so-warm welcome in Holyoke for his explanation of a proposal to put the school district into receivership. (MassLive) CommonWealth‘s new spring issue takes an in-depth look at the 2010 state law under which the Lawrence schools were put in receivership and Holyoke could be next.
A desperate Dracut school board votes to raise activity and service fees to make up a $1.2 million budget shortfall. (Lowell Sun)
The Andover Board of Selectmen reject pleas to add $280,000 to the school budget to hire more teachers. (Eagle-Tribune)
Bridgewater State University officials are refusing to identify the campus food service worker who is charged with sexual assault on a student, citing the state’s domestic violence law enacted last year that prohibits police from releasing information in domestic assault cases. (The Enterprise)
U.S. News & World Report ponders the future of for-profit colleges, which are increasingly under state and federal scrutiny and sanctions.
Partners HealthCare is moving aggressively to commercialize more of the health care giant’s research. (Boston Globe) The health conglomerate hosted a conference yesterday on health care innovation at which pharmaceutical company leaders defended the high cost of new drug treatments. The Globe notes that there was no discussion of the eye-popping compensation packages drug company executives are pulling in.
The Portland, Maine, city council votes 7-1 to bar the use of electronic cigarettes in public places. (Governing)
Audi says it has produced automobile fuel from carbon dioxide and water. (Time)
Auburn explores aggregating its residents to buy electricity in bulk in a bid to get cheaper rates. (Telegram & Gazette)
A Tewksbury drunk-drive case may provide a test of the accuracy of Breathalyzer results. (Lowell Sun)
An alleged sexual assault captured on Snapchat turns bizarre as the victim recants most of the allegations. (The Item)
A Carver man who lost his license for life in 2009 because of repeated drunken driving convictions was charged with his seventh OUI offense when police spotted him driving erratically in Wareham Monday afternoon. (Patriot Ledger)
Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz, a Republican whose office is reeling from internal issues ranging from accusations of racism to political coercion involving staffers, has hired Beth Stone, a former spokeswoman for former attorneys general Tom Reilly and Martha Coakley. (The Enterprise)
Jenny Surane, the editor-in-chief of the The Daily Tar Heel, offers insight on why young people don’t read newspapers in the traditional sense.The New York Times is eliminating its bridge column.
ESPN is suing Verizon after the cable company moved the sports giant to a tiered package in its restructured cable bundles, which the Disney-owned network says is a violation of its contract that requires Verizon to include the channel in its basic package. (New York Times)