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Episode 129: Sudders talks health care

What’s it like to be in charge of nearly half the state budget?

Extraordinarily humbling,” said Marylou Sudders. But don’t confuse humbling with cautious indecision or lack of tenacity.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s health and human services secretary has a reputation for strong leadership and a social worker’s commitment to the enormous range of state programs she oversees, led by the Medicaid program that delivers health care coverage to 1.8 million state residents. Sudders said she is on board for a second Baker term, and highlighted some of the priorities she’ll focus on, including another stab at reining in Medicaid drug costs, an initiative to preserve access to community hospitals, and continued work to ensure access to mental health services.

Sudders said the state has built up a lot of protections against any rollback of the Affordable Care Act, but called herself a “worrier” who nonetheless closely tracks developments outside the state — prescient words on Friday afternoon, only hours before a federal judge in Texas struck down the entire federal law.

Sudders touched on those topics and more in the inaugural episode of “Health and Consequences,” a new health policy-focused entry to the Codcast line-up being helmed by John McDonough, a one-time Massachusetts legislator who now teaches at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, and Paul Hattis of Tufts University’s School of Medicine.“

Episode 128: ‘Beat the Press’ celebrates 20 years

Emily Rooney, who is celebrating her 20th year hosting Beat the Press on WGBH, says the biggest change she’s witnessed over that time period has been in the news-gathering business itself.

In television, the network and local news shows have narrowed their focus and range. Locally, she says, the focus increasingly is on traffic, weather, and “two-bit crime coverage. Anchors, once known by their first names, are now barely known at all.”

“Everything looks exactly the same and they’ve got these fungible anchors that all look the same,” she says on The Codcast.

Episode 127: Aiello on the state of the T, new revenues

The head of the MBTA’s oversight board says the hoped-for transformation of the transit agency has a long way to go yet.

“We’re still at the very beginning,” says Joseph Aiello, the chair of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board. He says the collapse of the T during the winter of 2015 exposed the sorry state of the agency. “We were probably in as dark a hole as you can possibly be in,” he says.

But Aiello is not all gloom and doom. He says the agency is moving ahead with an overhaul of the Red and Orange lines that will double their capacity and committing to an annual maintenance schedule that will prevent the sort of deterioration of service that occurred the last time the two lines were upgraded. “We’ve got a pretty radical transformation going on,” he says.

Episode 126: Pushed out of Roxbury

Some people may have been taken aback by the overflow crowd of 350 people who showed up earlier this month for a Boston City Council hearing in Roxbury to hear concerns about displacement. Kim Janey was not one of them.

“I was not surprised at all,” said Janey, the district city councilor who represents Roxbury along with parts of Dorchester, the South End, and the Fenway.

Janey, who sponsored the November 13 hearing, said concerns about displacement have reached a fever pitch in Roxbury, where housing costs shot up by 70 percent from 2010 to 2015, twice the rate of the overall citywide appreciation of 36 percent during that period. “People are feeling the heat,” she said on this week’s Codcast. “People are being pushed out of our neighborhood. And so we need to come up with creative solutions to keep residents who want to be in Roxbury in Roxbury.”

Exacerbating the problem, said Janey, is the city’s enormous racial wealth gap, which has left blacks disproportionately vulnerable to displacement. She said 81 percent of the households in her district are renters, a much higher figure than the citywide rate.

The displacement and gentrification story is certainly not a new one. What’s playing out now in areas of Roxbury looks similar to the changes that overtook the South End a few decades ago.

Episode 124: Making getting to Logan easier

Massport is developing a number of initiatives to improve the experience of getting to and from Logan International Airport while simultaneously reducing congestion.

The authority’s focus on congestion is understandable. At most airports, as many as a third of the passengers fly in, transfer to another plane, and fly out. At Logan, the 40 million passengers tend to start or end their trips there, meaning nearly all of them use ground transportation, adding to congestion.

Passengers already make greater use of high occupancy vehicles to get to Logan than they do at any other airport in the country. But Massport officials think they can attract more passengers to the Logan Express buses that depart from Braintree, Framingham, Woburn, and Peabody by allowing them to check their bags before boarding the vehicles.

Tom Glynn, the CEO of Massport, told the TransitMatters Codcast that remote baggage check-in will allow passengers to avoid the hassle of dealing with bags at the airport and should increase ridership. “That would have a big positive impact,” he said, noting that some have suggested remote baggage check-in could also be tried at North and South stations.

Episode 123: The Codcast: Nassour, Mermell talk housing, campaigns

Republican Jennifer Nassour and Democrat Jesse Mermell call their version of the Codcast “disagreeing agreeably,” but there is no disagreement on this pre-election edition.

They talk about the shortage of housing in Massachusetts with Rachel Heller of the Citizens Housing and Planning Association and Paul McMorrow of Mass Housing, and they discuss campaign camaraderie with Sarah Groh, the campaign manager for Ayanna Pressley, and Republican political consultant Matthew Sisk. Remember to vote on Tuesday.

Episode 125: Charter school lesson plans

It feels like an odd time to be celebrating charter school success in Massachusetts, but that’s just what Cara Candal does in a new book that not only touts the schools, but telegraphs a bold claim about them in its title.

The Fight for the Best Charter Public Schools in the Nation, published by the charter-friendly think tank Pioneer Institute where Candal is a senior fellow, leaves no doubt about the author’s view of the independently operated, but publicly funded, schools that were first authorized in the state’s 1993 Education Reform Act.

Episode 122: Everybody talks about transportation

Mark Twain once famously observed, “Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.”

The irony is, of course, there’s nothing much you can do about it but grumble. That is perhaps where we are at with transportation, especially public transit, here in Massachusetts. The MBTA is getting a lot of attention in the gubernatorial race, with Democrat Jay Gonzalez constantly trying to hang the decaying system around Gov. Charlie Baker’s neck. But for all the talk, it doesn’t look like it’s hurt Baker’s standing among voters.

Republican Jennifer Nassour and Democrat Jesse Mermell explored the phenomenon on their “Disagreeing Agreeably” program on The Codcast. They were joined by Pioneer Institute’s Charlie Chieppo and Marc Ebuña, from TransitMatters, who had different, albeit not divergent, takes on the state of transportation and later, Rich Parr of MassINC Polling Group joined the conversation to talk about where transportation ranks in importance to voters.

Episode 121: Natl. Grid says lockout all about its customers

The Massachusetts president of National Grid defends the nearly four-month lockout of 1,250 workers by saying the company is doing what it needs to do to bring its costs in line and protect customers from excessive charges.

It’s an interesting line of reasoning at a time when union leaders and their supporters are saying the company is putting profits ahead of public safety. To buttress their point, the unions and their allies regularly note that National Grid is a British company that earned more than $4.6 billion in profits last year.

Marcy Reed, the Massachusetts president and executive vice president for US policy and social impact at National Grid, says on the Codcast that the utility had three options when the contracts of its two steelworker locals expired on June 24. The union could strike, which its members had voted to do, she says. The company could keep the workers on under the terms of the current contract while the two sides continued negotiating, which is what the union says it wanted. Reed, however, says National Grid tried that approach two years ago but had no success in reducing costs. “We didn’t feel it would result in any productive conversations,” she says.

Episode 120: A question of money and speech

All the talk in Massachusetts about the referendums before voters next month focuses on Questions 1 and 3, with little acknowledgement that there’s a number missing in between.

However, unlike the other ballot questions which seek to create or maintain state laws, Question 2 would launch that most typical Bay State of creatures, a commission to talk about changing the US Constitution. But while the referendum is about process, the underlying motive is the hot button issue of campaign finance and, more specifically, overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates for corporate money to influence elections.

“The government’s no longer in our control; it’s in control of people with deep pockets,” said David Ropeik, the former reporter for WCVB-TV (Channel 5) who is now a member of the Yes on 2 campaign and who joined The Codcast to talk about the question.

Ropeik admits the ballot question is a “small ask” and is an incremental step. But Bradley Smith, the former head of the Federal Elections Commission who also appeared on the Codcast, says it’s a slippery slope in changing the First David Ropeik Amendment and giving government control over whose voice can be heard.