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Episode 89: Wu grades the T
Boston residents are probably more reliant on the MBTA than anyone in the state, yet city government has no formal say in the operation of the T. It’s been an easy way for city officials to pass the buck about problems with the T – of which there have been more than a fair share in recent years.
But city officials are finally stepping up and speaking out on transit issues. One of the strongest voices has belonged to City Councilor Michelle Wu, who joined Bruce Mohl and me for this week’s Codcast.
Episode 88: Smoke ’em if you got ’em
To listen to the state’s newest regulatory commission in its meetings, the tenor and terms, for the most part, are no different than hearings regarding oversight of most industries in the state.
But the big difference is the industry they are charged with overseeing – legal marijuana – and members of the Cannabis Control Commission have just hit a historic milestone, finalizing regulations to get legal recreational sale and use of marijuana ready to roll.
“July 1 is the start date, not the end date,” says commission chairman Steven Hoffman, who along with commissioner Shaleen Title joined The Codcast to talk about the regulations. “The industry is going to take time to evolve. It’s going to take a few years, I believe, before this industry looks mature.”
Episode 87: Baker’s plea for patience on the T
We heat our homes and light our cities using fuels that come primarily from outside New England, which is part of the reason our prices are among the highest in the country.
This week’s Codcast features representatives from the two opposing camps — Robert Rio, the senior vice president of government affairs at Associated Industries of Massachusetts, one of the founding members of the Coalition for Sustainable Energy, and Elizabeth Turnbull Henry, the president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, which also represents many members of the business community. Listen and get up to speed.
Episode 86: Baker’s plea for patience on the T
On the Codcast, Setti Warren, the former mayor of Newton and a Democratic candidate for governor, and James Aloisi, the former secretary of transportation, said the MBTA needs to address its problems more quickly and more forcefully. Both called for more revenue for the T and both faulted Baker and House Speaker Robert DeLeo for resisting that effort.
Episode 85: Outsourcing works at other transit agencies
On this week’s Codcast, Josh Fairchild and Jim Aloisi of TransitMatters interview David Bragdon, the executive director of TransitCenter in New York City, and Neil Smith, the executive director of Transit Systems, an Australian company that provides transportation services to government agencies in Australia, Singapore, and London. (Transit Systems is the company that acquired Bridj, the Boston-based firm that tried to launch on-demand bus service.)
Episode 84: The nuclear option for Wynn Resorts
Could the Massachusetts Gaming Commission really pull the plug on the $2.4 billion Wynn Resorts hotel and casino going up in Everett?
Episode 83: Riley’s collaborative ways
Chip Tuttle and Jay Gonzalez are at the forefront of those pressing for the commission to do just that. They say the resignation of Steve Wynn as chairman and chief executive of Wynn Resorts is not enough – that top company officials were either aware or should have been aware of the sexual misconduct alleged by the Wall Street Journal. As a result, they say, the company’s casino license in Massachusetts should be revoked.
Jeff Riley won the backing last week of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to be the next state education commissioner based in large part on his work over the last six years as the state-appointed receiver for the Lawrence schools.
If somebody can show real gains in what was arguably the lowest-performing, most troubled school district in the state, the board seemed to reason, he looks like the right guy to tackle what nearly everyone agrees is the biggest challenge in K-12 schooling — closing the achievement gap that separates black and Latino students and students living in poverty from their white and better-off peers. What’s more, Riley seemed to do that while minimizing the degree of acrimony that could accompany a state takeover in which he was essentially the schools czar, with nearly unfettered power to remake the district, including hiring and firing teachers at will.
Episode 82: No pass for Northern Pass
State officials announced on Thursday that they had selected a project called Northern Pass to import a massive amount of hydro-electricity from Canada, enough to supply between 15 and 20 percent of the state’s electricity needs. Northern Pass, a partnership between Hydro-Quebec and Eversource Energy, immediately came under fire from environmental groups concerned about the route of its transmission line through New Hampshire and the way in which the project was selected.
On the Codcast, we talked to Greg Cunningham, director of the Conservation Law Foundation’s clean energy and climate change program, and Mark LeBel, a staff attorney at the Acadia Center. Both had concerns about Northern Pass and both said the state’s selection of the controversial project is likely to be challenged in court, which could lead to delays.
Episode 81: How to ease traffic congestion
Michael Manville, an assistant professor of urban planning at UCLA, says the best way to ease congestion in Boston is to put a price on it.
In a Codcast interview with Josh Fairchild and James Aloisi of TransitMatters, Manville said our roads are clogged because we have too much demand for scarce road space at certain times of the day. We’ve all been there, inching along because everyone is trying to get to work or head home at the same time.
Episode 80: The Senate’s surprise (acting) president
Harriette Chandler never had designs on the Massachusetts Senate’s top post, and she readily admits to mixed feelings about landing there. Her unexpected ascension was the result of the scandal swirling around her close ally, Stan Rosenberg, who temporarily relinquished the Senate president’s job last month while an investigation is underway.
Congratulated on her new role of acting president as we kicked off the Codcast conversation, Chandler wondered if that’s the right word.
“I’m not sure it’s congratulations,” she said. “It may be more of a commiseration, but we’re moving right along. This wasn’t expected and it wasn’t wanted.”
Episode 79: Sneak peek at new issue
CommonWealth’s Winter issue comes out Tuesday, but we give you a sneak peek in today’s Codcast. We run down our stories Airbnb, Uber/Lyft, ed reform’s 25th birthday, Worcester’s renaissance, Yvonne Spicer and much, much more.
It’s all pretty easy to follow, but for those of you relatively new to Boston it may help to watch this commercial from 1969 about Prince Spaghetti. Otherwise, you may not understand why I keep yelling out, “Anthony!”
Episode 78: The case for West Station now
In this week’s Codcast, the folks from TransitMatters (Josh Fairchild and James Aloisi) sit down with Jessica Robertson and Ari Ofsevit, two members of the Allston Interchange Task Force (Ofsevit is also a TransiMatters member) to hash out the West Station issue. All of them believe the station needs to be built at the beginning of the development process, so don’t expect a point-counterpoint type of debate. What their discussion reveals, however, is how the debate over West Station has become a debate about the future of the T and commuter rail.
Episode 77: Rosenberg’s fall
Globe op-ed columnist Joan Vennochi, who joined Everhart on the Codcast, said it may not matter whether Hefner actually wielded any influence on Senate matters. “If the accuser thought that Hefner had political influence, and they were afraid they couldn’t do their business before the state because of it, that perception then becomes reality,” she said.
Episode 76: Cashless T won’t leave people behind
There’s been a lot of talk about the MBTA’s plan to install a new fare collection system, most of it focused on the problems associated with going cashless. The concerns were exemplified by a headline in the Boston Globe last week that said: “The MBTA wants to go cashless. What about people who might be left behind?”
A pretty strong response emerged to that question over the weekend. Jim Aloisi, the former secretary of transportation and board member of TransitMatters, said not to worry. In a column (for those who like to read) and a Codcast (for those who like to get a slightly different take by listening), Aloisi explained how the benefits of not using cash on board buses and trolleys far outweigh the minor inconvenience of having to buy a fare before boarding.
Episode 75: Gateway Cities come of age
It was 10 years ago that MassINC launched its Gateway Cities initiative with a report documenting the challenges — and huge opportunities — in the state’s once vibrant industrial cities.
“Massachusetts’ proud, old manufacturing cities must be counted, on balance, as distressed,” it said. Yet, concluded the report, “For the first time in decades, these cities’ reconnection to prosperity seems at least imaginable.”
A decade later, MassINC, the non-partisan public policy think tank that publishes CommonWealth, has continued to carry out research showing some of the pathways to renewed prosperity in Gateway Cities. It has also pushed initiatives to help them get there, such as a MassDevelopment project that has placed mid-career “fellows” with expertise in urban planning and development in Gateway Cities to help with strategic planning, site acquisition for redevelopment projects, and other initiatives.
Episode 74: Filling the news hole
Everyone knows about the retrenchment and redistribution of resources by media outlets, especially newspapers. While some regions have filled the vacuum with blogs purporting to be news but are really opinion pages in disguise, true local news and events often go uncovered.
Episode 73: How reliable is the T? Do we need overnight buses?
The Codcast this week is an MBTA twofer: James Aloisi and Josh Fairchild of TransitMatters make a pitch for an overnight bus service pilot and also interview Matthew Casale, a staff attorney from MassPIRG, about the accuracy of a reliability indicator the T is using.
TransitMatters, along with the communities of Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Everett, Chelsea, and Revere, has been pushing overnight bus service for some time. The latest iteration of their proposal, bus routes running from Revere into Boston and from Mattapan into Boston every half hour, ran into headwinds at a meeting of the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board on Monday. Board members thought the subsidy, at $27 per passenger ($22 excluding fixed costs), was way too high and urged more work on the proposal.
Episode 72: Subsidizing congestion
Everyone knows about traffic congestion in Boston. It’s why we’re often late for meetings. It’s why sightseeing firms are paring back their tours because the tourists are spending too much time sitting in traffic. And it’s why many Boston officials are worried Amazon will take a pass on the city — traffic is just too heavy already.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that the federal government is subsidizing this congestion. Tax policies approved in the 1970s and 1980s give a break to people who drive to work and park in employer-provided or employed-subsidized parking spots. Normally that type of fringe benefit would be taxed as income, but under federal law employees are granted an exemption of up to $255 a month.
The federal tax break is most valuable to people in the highest tax brackets who are commuting to areas where parking is most expensive. “We’re subsidizing them to drive in precisely the places and at precisely the times that experience the most congestion,” said Tony Dutzik, a senior policy analyst at the Frontier Group, during a Codcast interview with Josh Fairchild and James Aloisi of TransitMatters.
Episode 71: Do we need an Amazon kick in the pants?
As you pore over the bids for Amazon’s second headquarters, put your headphones on, call up The Codcast, and listen to Shirley Leung and Chris Dempsey talk about what’s at stake.
Leung, a pro-growth columnist for the Boston Globe, and Dempsey, the director of Transportation for Massachusetts and one of the leaders of the No Boston Olympics campaign, find more common ground than you might think. But they also have some fundamental differences, which makes the conversation both entertaining and enlightening.
Episode 70: Buying booze the modern way
Massachusetts, where Blue Laws ruled and buying booze on a Sunday is a 21st century idea, has been slow to uncork some of the stringent regulations that were designed to limit consumption and, in the process, limit competition.
Those rules, though, are being challenged by national chain Total Wine & Spirit, a newcomer to the state’s retail liquor industry with four stores open already and plans to open more. The big booze box store is looking to upend the state’s way of doing business in buying and selling alcohol much the same way Uber disrupted the taxi industry and Amazon is changing the way people shop.
Episode 69: Brownsberger tees up criminal justice reform bill
The tough-on-crime era of the 1980s and 90s has given way to what some are calling the smart-on-crime era, a time in which policymakers and politicians are rethinking what it takes to keep communities safe while also giving criminal offenders the best shot of getting on a more positive path after paying their debt.
That debate will come front and center on Beacon Hill this fall, as lawmakers take up bills that would address perceived shortcomings in the current system. The most ambitious proposal was unveiled last week by Sen. Will Brownsberger, cochairman of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, who is this week’s guest on The Codcast.
Episode 68: Boston and Lawrence narrow mayoral fields
When it comes to the November match-ups for mayor in Boston and Lawrence, it looks like very different tales of two cities, one where a highly competitive race is now on tap, and one where that seems unlikely.
That’s the assessment from this week’s Codcast with Yawu Miller, senior editor of the Bay State Banner, and Ted Siefer, a CommonWealth contributor who penned a feature for the magazine’s summer issue taking stock of Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera’s first term and teeing up the reelection race he was facing.
Episode 67: Boston’s chief of the streets, Part 2
Everyone talks about equity these days. Pay equity, gender equity, racial equity. You can add to that list mobility equity and neighborhood equity, areas that are affected by all other social and economic equity issues.
Chris Osgood, Boston’s chief of the streets, says successful transportation planning now has to start at those equity points in order for the city to have a viable system that meets everybody’s needs. In a conversation with Josh Fairchild and Jim Aloisi of TransitMatters for The Codcast, Osgood detailed what Boston’s hopes and plans are for a multi-modal transportation system in a city where as many as 60 percent of the residents don’t own cars.
Episode 66: Boston’s chief of the streets, Part 1
Boston’s streets and sidewalks comprise 9 square miles in a city that is only 48 square miles in total. Chris Osgood, with the odd but apt title of Boston’s chief of the streets, is the person in charge of not only maintaining that infrastructure but making sure that residents have access to it whether they drive, bike, or walk.
Osgood, joined by Vineet Gupta, the director of policy and planning for the Boston Transportation Department, and Josh Fairchild and James Aloisi of Transit Matters, said on The Codcast that his charge from Mayor Marty Walsh is to find ways of incentivizing commuters and residents to rely less on their cars and to take advantage of other modes of transportation that help reduce greenhouse gases.
Episode 65: New pot czar a breath of fresh air
Steven Hoffman was successful at just about everything he did during his long business management career but, even by his own admission, his latest venture was proving difficult to master.
“I was failing at retirement,” said the affable 64-year-old Lincoln resident, who is the new chairman of the state Cannabis Control Commission regulating the emerging legal marijuana industry in Massachusetts.
With his golf game going south rather than improving, Hoffman said he was on the lookout for “new challenges.” But after a career that included being a partner at Bain and Company and stints as CEO and top executive at management consulting firms, he wanted to change direction.
Episode 64: The immigration reform challenge
With last year’s election of Donald Trump, complete with his campaign talk about about bad hombres and Mexican rapists, it’s hard to feel too optimistic about the prospects for comprehensive — and reasoned — immigration reform. Trump adds a loud exclamation mark to what had already become a starkly partisan divide on the issue.
But Ali Noorani — the guest on this week’s Codcast — says a solution to the immigration debate isn’t just a matter of the political dynamics in Washington. (Noorani may be familiar to folks in Massachusetts because he spent a decade in Boston serving as director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition.)
Episode 63: Tipping Point for Confederate statues
After this month’s white nationalist rally in Virginia, statues of Confederate leaders are falling across the South. Protests by white supremacists against the planned removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville has set in motion a rush to rid town greens and parks of icons to the Confederate cause.
The context in which many of the Confederate statues were erected is an important part of the debate, says Boston University historian Nina Silber on this week’s Codcast. Many were put up in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and sent a “message of white supremacy” as Southern states were consolidating the Jim Crow system of segregation as part of the backlash to Reconstruction.
Episode 62: The T’s chief technology officer
Riding the T sometimes feels like a step back in time. Red Line cars that are 40 years old. Payment systems that are slow and inefficient. Underground stations that leak whenever it rains.
But David Block-Shachter, the MBTA’s chief technology officer, says the transit authority is changing. In an interview for The Codcast with Josh Fairchild and James Aloisi of TransitMatters, Block-Shachter, who doesn’t own a car or a driver’s license, provides a glimpse of what technology can do for the T.
Episode 61: The ICE fight
What Gov. Charlie Baker calls a common-sense approach to dealing with federal immigration officials, Carol Rose of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts dismisses as fraternizing with the “Trump deportation machine.”
Rose calls Baker “well-intentioned,” which is fairly mild since many of her political allies on the immigration issue are calling him racist or worse. But Rose makes clear she believes there is no middle ground in the fight over state cooperation with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, officials.
Episode 60: YIMBYs take on NIMBYs
While “not in my backyard” has become the default response to development proposals in many communities, in a few places NIMBY is starting to meet its match. YIMBY — which stands for “yes in my backyard” — is a fledgling national movement, concentrated largely in already densely populated and high-cost urban areas, that is pushing a very different message: We want to see more housing, more density, and a tempering of the run-up of housing prices in our community to make it more accessible to all, say YIMBY activists.
The Boston area has several YIMBY groups — in Somerville, Cambridge, Newton, and Jamaica Plain. Eric Herot and Meg Wood of JP YIMBY join the Codcast this week to preach a bit of the community-based, pro-growth gospel. They’re not out to carry water for developers, but Herot and Wood often support their projects because they say neighborhoods like theirs will benefit from more housing. The tensions that can set off are clear.
Episode 59: Health care duopoly in the making?
On this week’s Codcast, Paul Levy, the former CEO of Beth Israel describes Partners as a regulated monopoly. He is skeptical that a merger of the BI, Lahey, and several other hospitals will steal a lot of business away from Partners or produce dramatic savings that will be passed along to patients in the former of lower insurance rates.
Episode 58: Trash talk
Stephen Lisauskas, a vice president at Waste Zero, a North Andover company that advises municipalities on ways to reduce their trash disposal costs, says cities and towns can fairly easily boost recycling and reduce trash generation. He worries that inertia on Beacon Hill and out-of-sight-out-of-mind attitudes toward trash among residents of the state are likely to discourage recycling and lead to a boost in expensive trash exports. Massachusetts and the rest of the states in the northeast already have the highest trash disposal costs in the country.
Episode 57: Pot politics
After a dumbfounding outburst by House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Wednesday evening, it appears the House and Senate are finally getting down to business. A fiscal 2018 budget is slated for a vote on Friday and the House and Senate lawmakers trying to broker a deal between the branches on marijuana legislation are finally getting back to work.
Episode 56: McDonough weighs in on health care
No one understands these issues as well as John McDonough, who joined Bruce Mohl and me for this week’s Codcast. McDonough is a professor at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, but his policy studies today are informed by decades he spent as a policy practitioner.
Episode 55: The Greenway Deal
The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy gained a measure of stability this week as the state, the city of Boston, and park abutters agreed to provide $2 million a year to help cover the organization’s operational expenses.
James Aloisi, the former secretary of transportation who played a hand in the formation of the Conservancy, said he has a hard time understanding why the state was playing hardball in the first place. He likened the situation to a homeowner who buys a piece of property and builds a house on it — and then goes to his neighbors to ask them to share in the cost of upkeep. (Gov. Charlie Baker should know all about this situation; he used to serve on the board of the Conservancy.)
Episode 54: How you beat Baker
Jay Gonzalez and Bob Massie grabbed some badly needed media attention this week when the two candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor issued a joint press statement attacking Gov. Charlie Baker for refusing to take a stand on the millionaire’s tax.
Episode 53: How you beat Baker
Jay Gonzalez and Bob Massie grabbed some badly needed media attention this week when the two candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor issued a joint press statement attacking Gov. Charlie Baker for refusing to take a stand on the millionaire’s tax.
Episode 52: Auburndale whistleblowers
Today’s Codcast features the TransitMatters guys who put the brakes on an $11 million MBTA redesign of the Auburndale commuter rail station that was going to improve handicap accessibility but result in poorer service on the Framingham-Worcester Line.
Andy Monat brought the problem to the general public’s attention with an article in CommonWealth that bluntly labeled the situation a mess. The current passenger platform is on the south side of the two tracks of the Worcester-Framingham Line. The station is low-level, meaning passengers have to navigate steps to access the platform and to enter trains. The design had two major drawbacks: handicapped passengers can’t use the stations and passengers can only board trains headed in one direction. So service is only available at the peaks — heading into Boston in the morning and out of Boston at night.
Episode 51: Add parking, cut emissions
The Massachusetts Port Authority believes the best way to reduce emissions at Logan International Airport is to add 5,000 parking spaces.
It sounds counterintuitive, but Massport CEO Tom Glynn makes the case on this week’s Codcast that more parking spaces will mean fewer people getting dropped off by friends, taxis, Ubers, and limousines. Those types of dropoffs typically involve a total of four trips to and from the airport — two when dropping off passengers and two when they are being picked up. To help win state approval for the parking proposal, Glynn recently enlisted the support of the Conservation Law Foundation by agreeing to additional measures to reduce emissions.
Episode 50: Ride-sharing redux
After several years of fits and stops, the Legislature finally passed a bill last summer that would regulate transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft with an eye on safety for passengers.
While lawmakers gave the Department of Public Utilities a pretty big canvas to paint their regulations on, they mandated a few set-in-stone parameters such as state-run checks on criminal background and driver records.
Tom Maguire, general manager for Uber of New England, and Gavi Wolfe, legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, joined The Codcast to offer their takes on why the regulations are hurting not only the individuals denied a right to work but the public which they claim isn’t really being protected by the regulations.
Episode 49: Dorchester Booming, mostly for the better
It’s boom time in Dorchester. That’s what Bill Forry of the Dorchester Reporter told Bruce Mohl and me when we sat down to talk with him about what’s going on in Boston’s largest neighborhood.
Dorchester is Boston’s grand melting pot — or at least its polyglot point of convergence. It is home to more than 120,000 people with roots that span the globe, who, these days, mostly get along well.
Episode 48: Plotting the future at DOT
Scott Hamwey’s job is figuring out the state’s transportation future. As the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s manager of long-range planning, he is charged with trying to plot a course for the next 25 years.
In a Codcast talk with Josh Fairchild and James Aloisi of TransitMatters, Hamwey focuses on both the short and long term. The short-term is the MBTA service expansion nobody’s talking about — extending the Silver Line bus to East Boston and Chelsea, providing a one-seat ride for residents of those communities to the Seaport District. Adding a little spice to the ride, the SL3 will make use of bus rapid transit, or BRT, over a Chelsea railroad corridor so it will feel more like a subway ride.
Episode 47: Probation, patronage, and power struggles
Patronage, no matter how blatant or unsavory, is not a crime. At least that’s what a federal appeals court ruled recently in overturning the convictions of former Probation commissioner Jack O’Brien and two of his colleagues, who doled out jobs at the agency to curry favor with lawmakers.
William Fick, one of the attorneys who represented O’Brien during his initial trial (which started three years ago today) and on his successful appeal, joined the Codcast to share his takeaway on the court judgments.
Episode 46: No Boston Olympics, revisited
It was just two years ago that the Greater Boston region was in the thick of a high-stakes showdown over whether to proceed with a bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. In January 2015, Boston was designated the US entry in the global competition for the 2024 Games.
It was all downhill from there.
The bid’s boosters seemed to do just about everything wrong, from adopting a secretive approach to bid documents in a city that demanded everything be put on the table to the mayor disparaging residents with the nerve to ask tough questions as a tiny group of naysaying cranks — “10 people on Twitter.”
By July, it was over and the bid was withdrawn. It was an astonishing fall given the set of Boston political and business power brokers lined up behind the effort. In the end, the public was widely skeptical of the idea, which would have put the city and possibly the state on the hook for any cost overruns. No one did more to plant those doubts than No Boston Olympics, a small group of 30-something-year-old Bostonians who became convinced of the folly of the Olympic pursuit.
One of the group’s co-founders, Chris Dempsey, has now authored an account of the drama together with Smith College economist Andrew Zimbalist. No Boston Olympics: How and Why Smart Cities Are Passing on The Torch is a great telling of a still-fresh piece of Boston history. They came in to talk about the book for this week’s Codcast.
Episode 45: Moulton doesn’t mince words
The phrase “mealy-mouthed politician” often seems redundant, so closely do we associate political figures with an aversion to direct answers that cut through the usual fog.
That does not describe Seth Moulton, the second-term Democratic congressman from Salem. Moulton answers questions with a degree of candor that is refreshing and sometimes jarring.
When CommonWealth sat down with him for this Conversation interview in November 2014, just after his election, Moulton said he was now wearing the politician badge reluctantly. When Bruce Mohl and I talked to him for this week’s Codcast, he still seemed to be in full candor mode.
Episode 44: From luxury towers to lunch-bucket politics
The spring issue of CommonWealth magazine is out, and you can not only read it all online here, you can listen to us chew over some of the stories in this week’s Codcast.
Episode 43: Water shuttle coming to Seaport District
Patrick Sullivan, executive director of the Seaport TMA, estimates 4,000 people on a typical weekday come into North Station and then take shuttles to the congested Seaport District. He said his organization hopes to eliminate a lot of that vehicle traffic by launching a water shuttle between Lovejoy Wharf and the South Boston waterfront this summer. Test runs showed the trip would take about 13 minutes.
Sullivan, participating in the Codcast with James Aloisi and Marc Ebuna of TransitMatters, said Silver Line service from South Station to the Seaport District is at capacity most weekday mornings, but there are no plans to expand the 32-bus fleet. The three discussed ways to boost capacity by creating dedicated lanes or adjusting traffic signals to speed up the buses.
Episode 42: Missed opportunities with new K-12 plan
Massachusetts is about to submit to the US Department of Education its plan for monitoring and holding schools accountable under the new Every Student Succeeds Act, the law passed in late 2015 that replaced the No Child Left Behind law.
The new law, which, like the No Child statute, is really a reauthorization of landmark 1965 legislation creating a bigger federal role in overseeing and funding education, gives states more leeway in how they hold schools and districts accountable for improving student outcomes.
MassINC research director Ben Forman and Linda Noonan, executive director of the Massachusetts Alliance for Education, say the state plan mainly holds pat.
Episode 41: Goldberg wants to keep her sight on pot
State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg says when she talks to counterparts around the country, there is one aspect of her job that stops them in their tracks: Her office’s regulation of the state’s liquor industry.
Goldberg now has another mood-altering substance to oversee with the passage of the ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana. Under the wording of the ballot question, the treasurer’s office will appoint a three-member Cannabis Control Commission that will form rules and regulations and report to the treasurer.Goldberg joined The Codcast to talk about her thoughts on ramping up oversight, which she said she’s been planning for since learning about the ballot question 15 months ago.
Episode 40: Getting around in the age of Trump
Beth Osborne, a senior advisor for Washington-based Transportation for America, was in town recently to discuss transportation needs with state officials and policy advocates. Osborne, a former undersecretary in the Department of Transportation and a longtime congressional aide to several lawmakers, said Trump’s “skinny budget” isn’t going to give a lot of answers for transportation, at least in the immediate future.
Osborne joined Transit Matters board members Josh Fairchild and James Aloisi for this week’s edition of The Codcast, and they talked about the uncertainty of just what transportation means in the Trump administration. Trump promised during his campaign and in his February address to Congress that he plans to launch a $1 trillion infrastructure program, music to the ears of transportation officials and advocates. But Osborne cautioned not to start spending the money just yet.
Episode 39: A conversation with teeth in it
State Sen. Harriette Chandler of Worcester and state Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli of Lenox have introduced bills in the Legislature to create a new practitioner called “dental therapists,” a highly trained dental hygienist who can perform basic procedures such as fillings, simple extractions of non-impacted teeth, and x-ray readings.
Dr. Ray Martin, president of the dental society and a dentist with a private practice in Mansfield, joined The Codcast to talk about the measure along with One-time gubernatorial candidate Dr. Don Berwick, a pediatrician who was administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the Obama administration.
Episode 38: Why is our infrastructure always crumbling?
Most transportation advocates focus on the need for more money, but Chuck Marohn comes from a different starting point, asking why the system needs more money in the first place. The one thing Republicans and Democrats in Washington seem to agree on is that the country should invest in its infrastructure. But Marohn asks why the nation’s infrastructure, and particularly its transportation infrastructure, has been allowed to deteriorate so badly?
Marohn, the founder and president of Minnesota-based Strong Towns, says that all too often infrastructure gets built with little or no thought as to how it will be maintained down the road.
Today’s Codcast was produced by TransitMatters, the transportation advocacy group, in conjunction with CommonWealth. Marohn was interviewed by Josh Fairchild and Jim Aloisi of TransitMatters.
Episode 37: Pacheco Law punch-out
In what may be a precursor to a soon-to-come Beacon Hill debate on the Pacheco Law, state Auditor Suzanne Bump squared off with Greg Sullivan, research director at the right-leaning Pioneer Institute, to discuss (sometimes heatedly) the pros and cons of the law that regulates privatization of state services.
Episode 36: Lessons from the teacher of the year
It was one thing when Sydney Chaffee was named Massachusetts Teacher of the Year. Now she’s been named one of four finalists for National Teacher of the Year, with announcement of the winner due in April.
The Codcast sat down with Chaffee and asked what she thinks makes for great teaching. The two top ingredients, she says, are a passion for what you’re teaching (she says she has that in abundance for the interdisciplinary study of history and English that is her focus) and building relationships with students to see them “as whole people,” gain their trust, and motivate them to take risks. I’m “really trying to fire them up,” she says.
Episode 35: What should Charlie do?
The press has been giving Gov. Charlie Baker a lot of advice on how he should deal with President Trump, so we thought we might as well get into the act.
This week’s Codcast features the CommonWealth staff kicking around what’s at stake for Baker as the nation’s preoccupation with Trump intensifies. Does Baker need to become more emotional and less of a technocrat? Can someone differ with Trump without going all-in with visceral statements of condemnation? And are Baker’s would-be Democratic rivals going to make him pay for failing to attend rallies and marches where Trump is pilloried.
Episode 34: Speaking up for the pay hike
Sen. William Brownsberger has been a supporter of the pay raises and one of the few willing to speak out in justifying the hikes. He joined us on The Codcast to offer his insight and defend why the time is never right but it is the right thing to do. Brownsberger said the quickness with which the bill made its way through the process was because “it’s not rocket science,” that what you see is what you get.
But he also said he understand the anger and frustration from voters over the issue and pointed out that while the entire measure is immune from repeal by initiative petition because of the inclusion of judges, it doesn’t prevent an effort from targeting lawmakers pay alone at the ballot box.
Episode 33: Tito Jackson makes his case
Tito Jackson is preparing to wage a campaign for mayor of Boston focused on the divide between the haves and have-nots, sounding an echo of many previous mayoral aspirants who pledged to make Boston a city that works for its most marginalized, struggling residents and not only for the well-heeled.
In this week’s Codcast, Jackson rips Walsh for his focus on a financially reckless Olympic bid, the ill-fated IndyCar race, and for squandering nearly $3 million in an unsuccessful legal fight against the Wynn casino in Everett. All of that has happened, says Jackson, while the city’s schools have struggled to maintain programs for students and a yawning income and housing affordability gap threatens to displace long-time residents from their neighborhoods.
Episode 32: Talking among ourselves
At CommonWealth, we try to give you a little more in-depth coverage of the issues but don’t always have the time to apply what we know to an analysis of where we think things will go. So as an end-of-year Codcast, Bruce Mohl, Michael Jonas, and I try to offer a little insight into some areas we’ve written extensively about.
Episode 31: Retailing’s clicks vs. bricks
Sears and Macy’s, two iconic names in retailing, recently announced they plan to close hundreds of stores resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs around the country. Both have targeted for closure a handful of stores at struggling malls in Massachusetts.
David Harris, associate managing editor of the Boston Business Journal, and Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, joined us on The Codcast to talk about the impact of the changes and what they bode for the state’s economy moving forward.
Episode 30: Airbnb wants to be taxed. Really
It’s almost Alice through the Looking Glass. An emerging industry leader that legally operates tax-free is asking – no, imploring – lawmakers to slap a levy on its business. That’s exactly what Airbnb, the web-based app that pairs up travelers with people looking to cash in on a spare room or three in their private homes, is asking the Massachusetts Legislature to do.
Will Burns, the director of policy for Airbnb, says it’s a matter of fundamental fairness, but taking off his corporate hat, he admits the effort is to legitimize the technology as an accepted commercial entity.
Episode 29: The case for extending the GLX ‘path’
To make the Green Line extension into Somerville and Medford more affordable, state transportation officials pared back spending on the project by close to $1 billion. A lot of items ended up on the cutting room floor, but none of the cuts have stirred more opposition than the decision to eliminate a key section of a bike and pedestrian path that would run alongside the rails.
Episode 28: Not your fathers weed
Did you hear? Legal marijuana for adult recreational use is coming to Massachusetts. It may be soon, it may be later, but make no mistake, it’s on its way.
Scott Moskol, a partner at the venerable Boston law firm Burns & Levinson LLP, joined The Codcast to talk about the budding industry. Scott has been traveling around the country and become familiar with the laws of the 29 states that have legalized some form of medical marijuana and is boning up on the laws in the seven states that have legalized commercial pot.
Episode 27: Keolis was on the verge of walking away
A member of the MBTA’s oversight board said the transit agency’s commuter rail operator was on the verge of walking away from its $2.68 billion contract earlier this year when state officials agreed to pay the company at least $66 million extra over the course of the next six years.
Episode 26: The shock heard ’round the world
Steve Koczela of the MassINC Polling Group and Politico’s Lauren Dezenski join The Codcast to take stock of the jaw-dropping turn of events.
Episode 25: Charter School question at the wire
Lots of the focus is on Boston, home to about one-quarter of the state’s 40,000 charter school students and the place that is likely to see the most charter school growth should the ballot question pass. Two Boston city councilors joined The Codcast to share their opposing views on the question. Andrea Campbell, a district councilor representing Dorchester and Mattapan, supports Question 2. Ayanna Pressley, an at-large councilor who lives in Dorchester, opposes the measure.
Episode 24: 2 pollsters talk shop
Americans love polls. Except when they don’t say what they want them to say.
“I’m not sure the polls have changed,” says data expert John Johnson,CEO of Edgeworth Economics in Washington, DC. “The results have. The time you really should trust the polls is the closer you get to the election.”
Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, says those self-selecting surveys are merely clickbait, for entertainment purposes only, and should not even be labeled polls. He says there often are no controls over who can respond or how many times they can answer the questions, unlike scientific surveys that have representative groups and random selection with a defined margin of error.
Episode 23: Smoke and mirrors
Both sides of the debate over the ballot question to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana are running television ads in the final weeks of the campaign and it’s safe to say neither will be awarded points for honesty.
John Carroll, a Boston University professor of communications and former journalist and commentator, and Dave Wedge, a former political reporter and currently a vice president at the political consulting firm Northwind Strategies, bring their expertise to help us break down what’s real and what’s just smoke and mirrors in these ads and the marketing campaigns for both sides.
Episode 22: Does DCR need fiscal control board?
What should be done? The Codcast talks with Whitney Hatch, chairman of the DCR Stewardship Council, and Stephen Pritchard, who spent four years in the administration of former governor Mitt Romney, including six months as DCR commissioner and a little over a year as secretary of energy and environmental affairs.
Episode 21: The charter funding debate
The impact of charter schools on district school budgets has become a central point of contention in the debate over Question 2, the November ballot question that would allow an expansion in the number of charter schools in Massachusetts.
Stephanie Hirsch, a municipal and state finance consultant, and Sam Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, dig into those issues in this week’s Codcast. Hirsch has developed a web tool to examine the impact of charter growth on district budgets with her husband, Joe Calzaretta, a mathematician and software engineer. They describe it here.
Episode 20: Grading the Legislature
The Environmental League of Massachusetts put out its latest legislative scorecard this week, and the rankings provided a number of interesting insights about Beacon Hill.
Episode 19: State economy hot, but not tax revenues
The Massachusetts economy is humming along. The unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent in August, its lowest level since 2001. But state tax revenues are not keeping pace. They fell so far behind the level that had been forecasted that the Baker administration is now trying to clean up a $575 million budget shortfall from the previous fiscal year.
What’s going on? We explore that issue with Eileen McAnneny, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, and Alan Clayton-Matthews, an associate professor at Northeastern University. Both of them conduct state revenue forecasts and work with state officials to develop a consensus forecast.
Episode 18: The Globe v. Joyce
CommonWealth’s Jack Sullivan and Bruce Mohl discuss the Boston Globe’s extensive coverage of Sen. Brian Joyce, and particularly the story last month suggesting the Milton lawmaker expanded his house without the necessary permits and was shortchanging the town on property taxes. Is this a media war between the Globe and CommonWealth, as media critic Dan Kennedy has suggested, or is this about something else?
Episode 17: Eldridge stirs things up
State Sen. Jamie Eldridge has managed to liven up a quiet August on Beacon Hill.
The Acton Democrat shared some thoughts on Democratic Party politics with an email to fellow Bernie Sanders supporters that made its way into the hands of the Globe’s Jim O’Sullivan. That led to a front-page story in the Globe headlined, “Democrat tries to nudge state party left; Senator wants some lawmakers voted out.”
Eldridge says in this week’s Codcast that the email was in response to the frustration many progressive activists felt with the national party as well as with “the Democratic party and Democratic legislators in Massachusetts.” He says his main message to them was, don’t break off and join a third party but redouble their efforts to push a progressive agenda joining their local town or city Democratic committee or consider actually running for elected office. There are “plenty of conservative Democrats who have been elected, unchallenged, for years if not decades, including at the local and legislative level,” he wrote.
Episode 16: Healey declares success on gun ban
It’s been more than a month since Attorney General Maura Healey announced her crackdown on sales of assault weapons she said are in violation of the 1998 state law barring such rifles, and the only thing that’s slowed down are sales.
Because of what some say was confusion over when her enhanced action took effect, Healey said no one who bought one of the guns would be held responsible but she refused to exempt dealers, threatening them with sanctions for violating her order. After declining to reveal her decision one way or the other for weeks, Healey, in a conversation on The Codcast, said she’s decided to move on and not bring action against any dealers – for that day.
Episode 15: Baker’s curious VMT decision
Gov. Charlie Baker’s decision last week to veto a legislative provision directing the state to seek federal funds for an all-volunteer study of vehicle-miles-traveled, or VMT, turned some heads. The tax-averse governor said the proposal, which would test out the imposition of a fee on drivers for the miles they drive on state roads, raised all sorts of fairness questions. But two VMT supporters said such questions are exactly what the study was meant to answer.
The Codcast this week talks to Michael Widmer, the former head of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, and James Aloisi, the former secretary of transportation. They believe the state needs to transition away from the gasoline tax to a VMT fee and explain why they think the governor was wrong to veto the study.
Episode 14: Open Court?
The Massachusetts Trial Court this week issued its new rules and regulations regarding public access to court records and it’s fair to say officials erred on the side of less rather than more.
Esme Caramello, faculty director of Harvard Legal Aid Bureau and a tenants’ rights advocate, and Todd Wallack of the Boston Globe, a member of the vaunted Spotlight team who has been at the forefront of reporters’ attempts to bring more transparency to public records, joined us to talk about the new rules.
Episode 13: Rosenberg laments broken system
When you cut through the Beacon Hill weeds, Senate President Stan Rosenberg’s message is clear: The system for reviewing and considering legislation is badly broken, and he’s not happy about it.
Episode 12: Baker and the T
Baker this week waded into the weeds at the MBTA and tried to adjust public expectations, warning that the turnaround at the T would take years to accomplish. Eileen McAnneny, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation and co-chair of the FixOurT Coalition, and Rafael Mares, vice president at the Conservation Law Foundation, came on the Codcast to discuss Baker’s remarks and the long-term prognosis for the state’s struggling transit authority.
Episode 11: US Attorney Carmen Ortiz
CommonWealth interviewed Ortiz on June 28 for a story that appears today in the just-released Summer print issue of the magazine. The story, entitled “Leaks, leaks, and more leaks,” raises questions about who is watching the watchdogs. A unit inside the Department of Justice investigates prosecutorial misconduct, including the leaking of grand jury and other confidential information related to federal investigations. But judging from the limited information available about past investigations, that unit appears to be little more than a toothless tiger.
Episode 10: Crunch time for ride-hailing bills
Sen. Eric Lesser of Longmeadow, one of the members on the panel that wrote the Senate’s final version, and Christopher English, policy analyst and project manager for the city of Boston who was appointed by Mayor Marty Walsh to chair the Taxi Advisory Commission overseeing changes in regulations, joined The Codcast to discuss the shifting landscape in the ride-for-hire industry.
Episode 9: Walsh’s Woes
CommonWealth’s Michael Jonas talks with Gin Dumcius of MassLive.com and Kyle Clauss of Boston magazine about the string of problems in the administration of Mayor Marty Walsh, capped most recently by the indictment this week of a second City Hall official on federal corruption charges.
Episode 8: The Libertarian team of Johnson and Weld
Steve Koczela of the MassINC Polling Group offers a pollster’s perspective on the Libertarian candidates and Michael Jonas and Bruce Mohl of CommonWealth magazine dissected their CNN performance.
Episode 7: The everyday terrorism of urban gun violence
Just over a week ago, 17-year-old Raekwon Brown was fatally gunned down just steps from Jeremiah Burke High School in Dorchester, where he was a student. Three others, including a 67-year-old woman, were wounded. The shooting, which took place in broad daylight after a fire alarm emptied students onto the street near the school, was a reminder of the daily toll of urban gun violence — and of the terrorism-like quality it often has, as a calm and seemingly ordinary moment suddenly turns to a mini-war zone.
Episode 6: Weld flashes the old charm
William Weld made libertarianism sound like a political middle ground between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during an interview Tuesday night with CommonWealth magazine.
Episode 5: The politics of energy, Cape Wind
The Senate’s point person on energy, Sen. Ben Downing and the developer behind Cape Wind, Jim Gordon share their concerns about the House energy bill, which calls for the state’s utilities to solicit large amounts of offshore wind power and hydroelectricity from Canada, possibly in tandem with onshore wind or other forms of clean energy.
Episode 4: Stirring the pot over the marijuana initiative
Will Luzier, leading the campaign for legal marijuana, and Corey Welford, of the anti-referendum group, make their cases.
Codcast Episode 3: The Bernie vs. Hillary throw down edition
State Sen. Dan Wolf, a Sanders delegate to the DNC, and former secretary of public safety Andrea Cabral, a Clinton delegate, have at it.
Codcast Episode 2: What makes a world class city?
Is hosting big events like the IndyCar race or Olympics the mark of a world-class city, or more of a distraction from the things that give Boston a global edge and should have the city puffing out its civic chest? That’s the topic for today’s installment of The Codcast.
Codcast Episode 1: All-night service on the T
The inaugural episode of our podcast, named The Codcast after the sacred cod hanging in the chamber of the House of Representatives, tackles a proposal by three advocates for all-night service on the MBTA.