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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.

Episode 119: Bellotti going strong at 95

FRANK BELLOTTI IS 95, the kind of 95 you’d want to be if you live to be 95. Trim, tan, sharp of mind (but perhaps slower of gait), Bellotti joined me recently to record a CommonWealth Codcast. He is, I’m pretty sure, the oldest living former statewide office holder – he was lieutenant governor from 1963 to 1965, and attorney general for 12 years, from 1975 to 1987. Most people today probably remember him as the former AG, a role that was perfectly suited to this progressive libertarian whose personal discipline and rigorous preparation made him a formidable lawyer.

Episode 117: The women of pot

The “bro” culture of pot is a dominant image of marijuana. Cheech and Chong are the dudes who most represent the “stoner” generation while the legal industry is increasingly seeing corporations and investors dominated by men.

The reality is a little more diverse, though, and Massachusetts is aiming to hold the door open for previously disenfranchised people who want entrée into the booming business, such as minorities, ex-convicts with marijuana-related records, and women.

Perception often being stronger than reality, though, makes it difficult for women to get a foothold in the industry. Caroline Frankel, who has applied for a retail license for a store she plans to open in Uxbridge, and Angela Brown, owner of T Bear Inc. who is aiming to open a free-standing manufacturing facility in Wareham, joined the Codcast to talk about what it’s like being a women in business and, especially, the emerging marijuana industry.

Episode 118: Lindstrom, Adrien dissect their races

Even in a year when women are expected to make strong political gains, there are no guarantees.

Beth Lindstrom, who came in third in the Republican primary for US Senate, and Gerly Adrien, who came in a close second in a Democratic primary for a state rep’s seat from Everett, explain why they ran for office and why they think they lost on CommonWealth’s Codcast, hosted by Democrat Jesse Mermell and Republican Jennifer Nassour.

Lindstrom says she faced both financial and political hurdles in her race against Geoff Diehl and John Kingston. She says she believes Massachusetts Republicans were open to her argument that she would back President Trump when he was right and oppose him when he was wrong, but she lacked enough campaign funds to get that message out.

Episode 116: The ‘Harvard tax’ plus transgender rights on the ballot

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez filled in one big missing piece of his campaign platform last week, a plan for how to pay for the new investments in transportation and education he has vowed to pursue if elected.

His proposal to levy a 1.6 percent annual tax on the holdings of Massachusetts colleges and universities with endowments greater than $1 billion became the topic of the week in the race — and it’s the first of two issues Jennifer Nassour and Jesse Mermell tackle in their latest Codcast installment. The Republican and Democratic voices live up to the show’s tagline, “disagreeing agreeably,” staking out opposing views on the matter.

Nassour, the former chair of the Massachusetts Republican Party, said her impulse is to be wary of any new taxes, but she said this one, in particular, makes no sense. It could “hurt the neediest students the most,” she said, a reference to concerns that the tax could mean a hit to college financial aid programs.

Nobody likes imposing new taxes, said Mermell, who served as communications director for Gov. Deval Patrick, but she argued that our education system and transportation infrastructure are badly in need of new revenue. “We have really fallen short over decades in both parties in doing something,” she said.

In the second half, they set their sights on the November ballot question that would repeal the state’s transgender rights law signed two years ago by Gov. Charlie Baker. On this issue, Nassour and Mermell are in agreement, with both supporting the “yes” side that would retain the law.

Jeanne Talbot, the mother of a transgender high school student, Nicole Talbot, is their guest, along with Matt Wilder, a spokesman for the Yes on 3 campaign.