Subscribe on iTunes.

Episode 143: Councilor Wu, Paul Regan dissect the MBTA fare hike

Michelle Wu and Paul Regan took very different positions on the MBTA fare increase, but they both agree on the big picture needs of the transit authority.

Regan, the executive director of the MBTA Advisory Board, said on CommonWealth’s Codcast that the $29 million derived from the fare increase approved by the Fiscal and Management Control Board last Monday is needed just to cover a small wage increase for union employees, not to mention rising costs for commuter rail, paratransit service, and other operations. “They’ve spent the entire fare increase already,” he said.

Wu, the Boston city councilor, presented a petition to the control board calling for no fare hike, free passes for students and seniors, and selective bus routes operated fare-free. Wu said it made no sense to raise fares and lose riders at a time when congestion is pervasive and climate change is looming.

Episode 142: Osgood details mayor’s transportation initiatives

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh made a splash last week by announcing a bunch of new transportation initiatives, some of which were set in motion by the advocacy of Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu.

In a speech to the annual meeting of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau on Thursday, Walsh called for reducing the speed limit on neighborhood streets to 20 miles per hour, providing free T passes to every Boston student at public and private schools in grades 7 through 12, creating two new dedicated bus lane pilots, and testing a new pickup-dropoff spot for ride hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft at the intersection of Boylston and Kilmarnock Streets in the Fenway.

On the Codcast with Josh Fairchild and James Aloisi of TransitMatters, Chris Osgood, Walsh’s chief of streets, detailed the proposals and said a major goal of the city’s new transit team will be to accelerate these types of initiatives. The team currently has two members focused on planning and engineering, but Osgood said it will be expanded to six.

Episode 141: Nursing home industry sounds alarm

The Massachusetts nursing home industry says inadequate state funding caused 20 facilities to close last year and is putting another 39 at risk of going out of business this year.

Tara Gregorio, the president of the Massachusetts Senior Care Association, and Naomi Prendergast, president and CEO of D’Youville Life and Wellness Community in Lowell, sounded the alarm on the Codcast, saying rates provided by MassHealth are way too low because they are based on cost benchmarks from 2007. There are 398 skilled nursing care facilities in Massachusetts.

“We’re very concerned today that we don’t have the resources, whether it’s staff or funding, to support today’s needs let alone what’s coming in the next five to 10 years,” Gregorio said, referring to the so-called silver tsunami caused by the aging of the state’s baby boomer population.

Episode 140: Expanding our view of health

When it comes to the state of our health, there is a glaring disconnect in the US, says Sandro Galea. We spend far more on health care per capita than any country, yet we’re far less healthy than those in many other developed countries as measured by all sorts of indicators, including life expectancy.

Our cutting-edge new medical treatments and drugs are wonderful, says the dean of the Boston University School of Public Health. But he says we are focusing on them to the exclusion of all sorts of factors in everyday life that have a profound effect on health. Galea joined John McDonough and Paul Hattis for the latest installment of “Health or Consequences” on the Codcast, where he unspooled his take on how we’re missing the boat when it comes to promoting good health.

A native of Malta who trained as in emergency medicine in Canada, Galea described his migration from work as an acute care doctor to the field of public health. When treating patients on the frontlines of medicine, “you are sharply aware of what really shapes health,” he said. “What drives health is not so much the immediate experience, but a lifetime of experiences in the world around people and the context in which people live.”

Episode 139: Are you tired of electoral spoilers?

Adam Friedman calls it being Nadered.

In the 2012 congressional race in the 6th District, Democrat John Tierney won with 46 percent of the vote. Republican Richard Tisei came in second with 45 percent of the vote. Libertarian Dan Fishman was way out of the running, but he may have been the deciding factor in the race as he garnered 4 percent of the vote.

In the 2010 election for governor, Democrat Deval Patrick emerged victorious with 48 percent of the vote. Republican Charlie Baker came in second with 42 percent of the vote and Independent Tim Cahill was a distant third at 8 percent. Was Cahill’s participation a deciding factor?

Episode 137: The life (and death) stories that drive Andrea Campbell

Andrea Campbell’s twin brother Andre died seven years ago while awaiting trial in the custody of the state Department of Correction, and she says that has everything to do with how she wound up on the Boston City Council.

The 36-year-old Mattapan resident says government needs to share more stories. By that she means we can often gain greater clarity about how to approach public policy issues through stories that put a human face on the often dry matters of city and state. Campbell, who is starting her second year as City Council president, leads by example and unspools some of her own life story on this week’s Codcast.

It is, by turns, both heart-wrenching and inspiring, and when you hear it it’s easy to see how she connects her life experience with the issues that drive her work as a Boston city councilor. Campbell has been a relentless advocate for public schools – and for ensuring all students get the sort of education she received at Boston Latin School. She’s been outspoken on criminal justice reform issues and, most recently, on the need for greater diversity in the city’s police and fire departments.

Episode 138: The campaign money man


Sullivan is the director of the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance, which monitors and publicizes how candidates for office in Massachusetts raise and spend their campaign cash. He makes sure politicians follow the rules, and in some cases he has to set the rules.

He recently proposed a new rule covering expenditures by unions on behalf of political candidates. Labor unions are currently allowed to give no more than $15,000, or 10 percent of their gross income, to a political candidate before having to register as a political committee and face tighter regulation. Sullivan’s proposal would impose a $1,000 limit on union contributions to political candidates, a $500 limit on contributions to political action committees, and a $5,000 limit on donations to a political party’s committee.

Episode 136: Salvucci, Aloisi liken Pollack to Sargent

TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY Stephanie Pollack is being likened by two of her predecessors to former governor Frank Sargent for her decision to replace the elevated section of the Massachusetts Turnpike between Boston University and Allston with an at-grade version. Sargent 50 years ago called a halt to the proposed inner belt highway that would have continued the state’s auto-centric approach to transportation and carved up many of Boston’s neighborhoods.

On the Codcast hosted by TransitMatters members Jim Aloisi and Josh Fairchild, former state transportation secretaries Fred Salvucci and Aloisi praised Pollack for deciding not to follow conventional wisdom and rebuild the elevated section of the Turnpike as is, which would have maintained the Pike as a de facto wall separating one part of Boston from another.

Episode 135: Dreyfus highlights Blue Cross experiments

Andrew Dreyfus, the CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, is excited about a series of initiatives the state’s largest health insurer is pursuing to improve care while simultaneously treating patients in less costly settings.

One initiative, a pilot project with South Shore Hospital, rewards the facility if it succeeds in admitting fewer patients and doing fewer procedures. Dreyfus, appearing on the “Health or Consequences” Codcast with Paul Hattis, an associate professor at the Tufts University Medical School (co-host John McDonough of the Harvard Chan School of Public Health was on jury duty), said the goal of the pilot project is to reverse the incentives that currently reward hospitals for seeing more patients and doing more procedures.

Episode 134: Getting to yes on new education funding

State leaders appear to be serious about finally passing new legislation this year that would update the state’s education funding formula for K-12 schools. But exactly what would a new funding bill look like?

Tracy Novick of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees and Liam Kerr of Democrats for Education Reform tackle that question on The Codcast. Their spirited conversation offers a preview of the debate that’s likely to unfold on Beacon Hill.