Boston housing officials shoot the messengers
There is plenty to crow about in praising the good things about Boston. If you leave aside its insane housing costs, it’s one of the country’s most livable big cities. Crime rates are lower than in many other big cities, and the city’s public schools outperform many other large urban districts. But to suggest that families might find safer neighborhoods and better schools in suburban communities hardly seems like a controversial statement, let alone one that deserves a reprimand.
But that’s exactly what the Boston Housing Authority has meted out to two employees who let slip that inconvenient truth in a message to low-income residents who hold Section 8 housing vouchers that provide deep subsidies to rental costs.
The Boston Herald reported on Saturday that a BHA flier went out promoting a pilot program to help Section 8 recipients who want to move out of the city with information about finding apartments out of Boston. The letter said a move might be attractive to families because it would “allow your children to grow up in a low-crime environment with good schools.”
That sent Mayor Marty Walsh and BHA administrator Bill McGonagle into a tizzy. The letter was “an insult to the residents of Boston,” said McGonagle. “It blew my mind.” Walsh said, “It sends a bad message.”
“I am convinced that all of the folks involved are truly sorry, I would say despondent,” McGonagle told the Herald. “I have every confidence that this kind of grave miscommunication error is not going to happen again.”
It’s understandable that BHA higher-ups, had they reviewed it, might have worded the flier differently. But the essence of its message one that has prompted tens of thousands of middle-class residents with children to migrate from Boston to its suburbs over the last several decdes. It’s why thousands of Boston families sign up for the METCO program that allows city students to attend suburban schools. Why wouldn’t lower-income residents with Section 8 housing vouchers be similarly motivated?
Boston is booming. The city is undergoing a rate of population growth not seen since World War I. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t real worries, far more concentrated in some neighborhoods than others, over public safety, or concerns about the quality of the public schools and resources they have to work with. The flier may not have conveyed the message the city wants to send. But that’s not the same as saying it said anything that wasn’t true.
The Department of Public Utilities will launch an expedited review of the state’s natural gas infrastructure in the wake of the explosions two weeks ago in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover. (State House News)
The effort to help Merrimack Valley residents affected by this month’s gas explosions stay warm by providing them with space heaters is coming up against a big problem: Many homes have outdated electrical systems that cannot safely handle the devices. (Boston Globe)
Lynn officials are mulling changes to an ordinance to allow them to crack down on landlords of abandoned or vacant commercial properties that are in disrepair. The bylaw passed in 2009 did not include commercial property. (The Item)
With much of the nation riveted on the impending testimony of Christine Blasey Ford about her accusations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, yet another woman stepped forward with charges that Kavanaugh and his friends routinely preyed on young vulnerable women. (New York Times) President Trump declared the accusations baseless because of similar accusations lodged in the past against him and other powerful men by women he said are seeking fame and fortune. (Washington Post) Keller@Large thinks Trump’s preference for Ivy League-educated justices on the Supreme court is part of the problem in the Kavanaugh nomination fight. None of this bodes well for Joe Biden and any 2020 presidential dreams he may harbor, writes Joan Vennochi. (Boston Globe)
Susan Prout, the mother of Chessy Prout, who was a sexual assault victim while a 15-year-old student at St. Paul’s prep school in New Hampshire, pens an op-ed on the grueling experience of coming forward to report such an attack. (Boston Globe)
It is impossible to summarize and characterize Trump’s combative press conference at the United Nations Wednesday, but the Washington Post gives it a try.
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jay Gonzalez called on his Republican opponent, Gov. Charlie Baker, to fire MBTA general manager Luis Ramirez, citing a lawsuit against the energy company Ramirez previously ran in Texas in which he and other company officials were charged with issuing false and misleading financial statements. (CommonWealth) He also called on Baker to fire the head of the State Police and his public safety secretary because of the overtime scandal that has rocked the force. (WGBH News)
Nurses on each side of the issue debated at a Worcester forum the November ballot question that would mandate minimum nurse staffing levels at hospitals. (Telegram & Gazette) Baker takes a wait-and-see position on the ballot question, saying he’s interested in seeing analysis expected next week from the state Health Policy Commission. (State House News)
John Kerry said he and the late Sen. John McCain “flirted” with the idea of running together as a ticket in 2004 and he said he hasn’t yet ruled out a run in 2020. (Greater Boston)
The tariffs levied on aluminum aimed at increasing US manufacturers’ profits are having the opposite effect as the rising cost of materials need to make aluminum are eating into revenues. (Wall Street Journal)
Federal officials said very few commercial fishing trips carry the mandated observers or monitors to ensure catch quotas are met. (Cape Cod Times)
New MCAS scores identify more than 200 schools statewide, including 41 in Boston, that districts must provide targeted assistance to based on low performance on the assessment. (Boston Globe)
A Cohasset middle school principal has been placed on leave pending an investigation into her handling of sexual assault allegations against a teacher. (Patriot Ledger)
Norfolk Sheriff Michael Bellotti is stepping down to take over as temporary president of Quincy College for the next 18 months while the school’s board searches for a permanent replacement, a position Bellotti said he may be interested in pursuing. (Patriot Ledger)
Massachusetts was only one of six states that showed a marked increase in the rate of adult obesity but even with the increase, the Bay State is still far below the national average, ranking 44th of the 50 states. (Herald News)
A panel tasked with coming up with options to redesign the aging “throat” section of the Mass Pike near the Allston-Brighton area along the Charles River has added a hybrid design that elevates Soldiers Field Road and lowers the Pike while adding more green space and reducing the impact on the river. (CommonWealth)
Hingham officials say data showed a controversial lane closure on the roadway leading from the town’s rotary to Hull’s Nantasket Beach reduced speed and increased pedestrian safety over the three-month pilot during the summer. (Patriot Ledger)
State gaming commission chairman Stephen Crosby abruptly resigned yesterday in the face of charges — which he strongly denied — of bias both for against Wynn Resorts maintaining its casino license that he said made it impossible to remain in the post without hampering the panel’s work. (State House News)
While other communities look to keep marijuana stores out, Springfield city councilors approved regulations that would allow up to 15 recreational marijuana shops in the city. (The Republican)The Framingham City Council approved a proposal allowing as many as six retail pot shops in the city. (MetroWest Daily News)
Gloucester city councilors voted to lift the city’s moratorium on recreational marijuana, opening the door for applications for retail facilities. (Gloucester Times)