Baker’s approach to T epitomizes his leadership style

Gov. Charlie Baker, Beacon Hill’s Mr. Fix-it, is taking a lot of heat over the Red Line derailment on Tuesday.

A Boston Globe editorial – titled “Going off the rails on Charlie Baker’s train – warns the T is his Achilles heel as he lays plans to seek a third term.

Beacon Hill analyst Michael Widmer notes Baker is thinking about running for a third term to complete the things he’s started, but says at the pace he’s going he may need a fourth term to finish the job at the T.

And the Boston Herald’s Howie Carr suggests Baker’s third term dreams must be a joke. “What’s the T’s new slogan?” Howie asks. “Next time, take the bus.”

Such criticism comes with the job, but in a lot of ways it misses the point. The Red Line derailment was and still lingers as a commuter nightmare, but from Baker’s perspective it’s not a reason to suddenly shift gears and move in a different direction. It’s just another reminder of how far the T must travel to recover from years of disinvestment.

Baker’s approach to the T epitomizes his leadership style – analytical, diligent, cautious, and at times lacking inspiration.

After the snowmageddon of 2015, the governor promised to turn the T around. Over the last four years, he has brought stability to the organization, put it on the right path, and set the stage for a turnaround. Progress has been painfully slow but, as Baker insisted this week, “we’re headed in the right direction.”

Even so, there have been a lot of bumps along the way. The hiring of Luis Ramirez (remember him?) as general manager may have been one of the bigger bumps. Hiring in general is a problem: This year the transit authority will hire more people than it loses through attrition for the first time in years. South Coast Rail, a campaign promise of Baker’s, may be good transportation policy, but it’s unclear whether a $1 billion service expansion makes sense when the T’s core service continues to struggle.

Baker is also too cautious. His refusal to even discuss the need for additional revenue makes little sense. He says the T can’t spend the money it has now, which is a fair point. But there is growing consensus that the T will need additional revenues in the future. His own Fiscal and Management Control Board is trying to craft a statement on new revenues, and it will be interesting to see if Baker rejects the advice of the very people he personally selected to help him turn around the T.

Finally, there is his lack of interest in experimenting with new approaches and his unwillingness to even ride the T. He doesn’t need to step on board a train to fix the system, but his refusal to do so shows an unwillingness to connect with T riders on a personal level. (He might take a cue from a certain predecessor who still manages to hop aboard regularly at age 85.)

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu, who skillfully uses her own personal experiences on transit to connect with riders, suggested the governor’s unwillingness to ride a train leaves him out of touch. “Is there any daily @MBTA commuter who agrees with @CharlieBakerMA that service is moving in the right direction? Anyone? Has anyone ever seen the Gov taking public transit? Even 1 time?” she asked.

What you see is what you get with Baker. He may be frustrating at times, but this is the same politician who overwhelmingly defeated Democrat Jay Gonzalez in the last election even though Gonzalez repeatedly challenged Baker’s cautious approach on the T and promised huge investments in the transit agency. He’s the same politician who twice won the Globe’s endorsement for governor. And he’s the same politician who 66 percent of voters think should run for a third term even though 60 percent of those same voters think their commute is getting worse.



Michael Widmer asks: Where is Gov. Charlie Baker’s sense of urgency with the MBTA? (CommonWealth) A Globe editorial echoes that sentiment, framing it in a political context by saying Baker’s approach could imperil his chances for a third term.

A Standard-Times editorial takes local lawmakers to task for opposing a New Bedford charter school initiative developed by state and local officials without ever explaining why. The lawmakers helped kill the initiative using procedural delays on Beacon Hill.

Second time around: The Massachusetts Legislature approves a constitutional amendment creating a millionaire tax. (MassLive)

Since 2006, the state has doled out at least $550 million in film tax credits for movies including Godzilla: King of the Monsters and the film industry wants to keep it rolling by scrapping the 2023 statutory sunset of the program. (Gloucester Daily Times)


Boston’s Zoning Board of Appeal approves a new Dot Block proposal that features a $200 million four-building apartment complex along Dorchester Avenue. (Dorchester Reporter)

Quincy will hold its first-ever History Corps Volunteer Fair to recruit new volunteers to serve as guides to visitors to the City of Presidents. (Patriot Ledger)


Writing teacher Joelle Renstrom worries that space tourism and other commercialization could compromise NASA’s scientific mission and jeopardize public support for the agency. (WBUR)


President Trump said he’d take dirt on a 2020 opponent from Russia or another foreign government if it was offered, and he dismissed talk that such an entreaty should prompt him to call the FBI even though his own FBI director has said that’s exactly what should happen. “The FBI director is wrong,” he snapped in an interview with ABC News. (New York Times) Bill Weld, Trump’s lone Republican challenger, said the comments only reinforce his earlier call for the president to resign.


Business is booming in the city’s “working port,” not just the glassy new office towers going up on its edge. (Boston Globe)

Airline food prep workers at Logan Airport are considering a work stoppage to push for better wages and benefits. (Boston Globe)

Larry Edelman says investors are not swooning over the proposed Raytheon-United Technologies merger. (Boston Globe)

Caroline Pineau, who wants to build a marijuana store in Haverhill, claims two neighboring property owners tried to extort her, demanding $30,000. (Eagle-Tribune)

The Lowell Sun looks at one of three companies in the running for two marijuana dispensary licenses available in Littleton.


Parents from seven Massachusetts school districts plan to file suit today against state education leaders, alleging that inadequate school funding has violated the civil rights of low-income, black, and Hispanic students. (Boston Globe)

Swampscott schools Superintendent Pamela Angelakis is trying to rebut rumors about Tonya Thomas, a transgender fourth-grade teacher who was principal of another school before coming out as transgender and changing her name. (Salem News)

Framingham High’s athletic director says vaping is an epidemic at the school. (MetroWest Daily News)


The Museum of Fine Arts has hired Scott Harshbarger, the former attorney general, to investigate the incident where students and teachers from the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy claim museum staff and other visitors subjected them to racism. (WBUR)


After the Red Line derailment on Tuesday, the MBTA deployed 94 of its own buses and 15 provided by the Yankee Line to shuttle passengers between closed stops. But the shuttle effort was overwhelmed by the number of stranded passengers and it failed to move those that did get seats because of gridlock on the streets. Plus, update on repairs and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s concerns. (CommonWealth).

TransitMatters board member Jim Aloisi says the derailment should lead to “unprecedented but necessary era of accelerated, massive investment in the public transportation network” financed by higher gas taxes, higher fees on Uber and Lyft, and new fees on non-residential parking spaces. (WGBH)

Bird and Lime provide some data on electric scooter use in Brookline. (MassLive)

A US Coast Guard “findings of concern” document sheds more light on the incident almost exactly two years ago when the crew operating the Iyanough, a high-speed catamaran ferry, mistook sailboats for buoys before crashing into a rock jetty in Hyannisport. (Cape Cod Times)


Smith College professor James Lowenthal is leading the fight against light pollution — yes, light pollution. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Two companies will pay $250,000 for cleanup efforts as part of the settlement of a lawsuit over illegal dumping of construction materials in a West Bridgewater wetlands area. (The Enterprise)


Wynn Resorts has a plan for the expected heavy traffic, but the yachts may present some headaches. (CommonWealth)


Six suspects are under arrest in connection with Sunday’s shooting of former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, but authorities have yet to disclose a possible motive for the attack. (Boston Globe)

Suffolk DA Rachael Rollins and Miriam Aroni Krinsky, director of the national organization Fair and Just Prosecution, say we should take lessons from Germany’s more rehabilitation-focused handling of younger offenders. (Boston Globe)

John Vandemoer, the former sailing coach at Stanford University, was sentenced to two years of supervision and fined $10,000 for his role in the Varsity Blues bribery scandal that has raised questions about the role of sports in the college admissions process. (WGBH)

A 77-year-old man from Dennis was found dead Wednesday, attached by rope to a sailboat that had run aground in South Yarmouth. Officials believe a medical incident or accident may have caused the death. (Cape Cod Times)


Journalism professor Dan Kennedy is conflicted about a prize named after the late Danny Schechter going to the federally charged and controversial figure behind Wikileaks, Julian Assange, but concludes Assange is worth sticking up for because “if you don’t want to defend Assange, you may not get the chance to defend The New York Times.” (Media Nation)


Acclaimed Harvard economist Martin Feldstein, who served as chief economic advisor in the Reagan administration, died at age 79. (New York Times)