Chamber chief to T: You get what you pay for
Jim Rooney, the president of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, is encouraging the MBTA to pay top dollar for its next general manager and do everything it can to keep the interim GM at the agency.
Rooney, a former T general manager himself, said landing the agency’s next general manager will require base compensation in the range of $450,000 to $500,000 a year, roughly $100,000 more than what the T paid former general manager Steve Poftak.
He bases that estimate on a survey of salaries of top officials at comparable transit authorities conducted by a firm retained by the chamber – Executive Rewards Advisory out of Washington, DC.
The survey found base compensation ranged from a low of $280,000 at New Jersey Transit to a high of $485,000 at Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. WMATA is headed by Randy Clarke, who was hired in 2022. Clarke at the time ran the transit system in Austin, Texas, and previously worked as deputy chief operating officer and chief safety officer at the MBTA. (CORRECTION: Due to incorrect information provided to CommonWealth, the figure for New Jersey Transit compensation was inaccurate.)
Rooney said Clarke’s pay is a “pretty good bellwether” of what it would take to land a new GM in Boston. He said he wanted to get that information out to the public so they won’t be shocked at the next GM’s salary.
“The future of downtown and the entire Commonwealth hinge on the future of the MBTA,” the chamber said in a statement. “It cannot be overstated that we are at a critical turning point with our public transit system that impacts people, families, neighborhoods, and businesses every day. The oldest public transit system in the country desperately needs a general manager with the transit expertise to lead and transform the complex operations, systems, and workforce.”
Jeffrey Gonneville, the T’s interim general manager, has brought a refreshing sense of honesty to the job and drawn praise from officials in the Healey administration, but Rooney says he doesn’t think Gonneville will land the job permanently.
“The sentiment that I’m sensing is that we need fresh eyes, proven leadership, someone who’s done it is necessary in this moment,” he said.
Rooney says he has a personal affinity for people like Gonneville, who has moved up through the ranks at the MBTA. “You’ve been through quite a bit when you start at the bottom and work your way up in the organization,” he said.
Rooney acknowledged bringing in someone who is new to the MBTA means there could be a ramp-up period where the person learns about the agency, about Boston, and about Massachusetts politics. Rooney said it will be important to have people at the T who can bring the new GM up to speed quickly.
In that vein, he hopes Gonneville continues at the T “in some capacity,” Rooney said. “I hope they can convince Jeff to stay.”
Hardline stance on Avangrid: The Senate’s top budget official, Michael Rodrigues of Westport, called for banning Avangrid from future projects in Massachusetts if the company terminates its existing power purchase agreement for Commonwealth Wind.
– Avangrid says it needs to terminate the contract it agreed to last year because a combination of the war in Ukraine, rising inflation and interest rates, and supply chain disruptions changed the economics of the project and made it impossible to finance. The company initially sought to change the terms of the contract and later decided to terminate it, agreeing to rebid the project in the state’s next procurement later this year. So far, the utilities and state regulators have refused to terminate the contract.
– Rodrigues’s hardline stance could have huge ramifications for the state and its approach to climate change, since Avangrid owns a wind farm lease area off the coast and is also seeking to build a transmission line to carry hydroelectricity from Quebec into New England. Southcoast Wind, another Massachusetts wind farm developer, has said it is facing the same economic challenges as Avangrid but so far hasn’t asked that its contract be terminated. Other developers up and down the Atlantic coast are facing similar pressures.
– Rodrigues, the chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, outlined his stance on a comment page related to the state’s next offshore wind procurement. “I firmly believe that any company that non-performs on an existing contract should be deemed disqualified and be barred from bidding on any future projects in the state,” he wrote. “When companies do not act in good faith, they should be stricken from future bids, plain and simple.” Read more.
Septic system help: Gov. Maura Healey’s tax proposal could ease the cost of Cape Cod septic system replacements by doubling the size of a tax credit from $6,000 to $12,000. Read more.
Stop the shut-offs: Sanea Lamas, a student at Northeastern University School of Law, urges reforms, including pending legislation on Beacon Hill, to end water shut-offs due to unpaid utility bills. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins paid a $12,300 civil penalty after the State Ethics Commission concluded he violated state conflict of interest laws creating a position in his department for his niece and repeatedly asking subordinates to carry out personal errands for him. In an interview, Tompkins disputed some of the allegations – despite signing an agreement specifically admitting to them. (Boston Globe)
State Auditor Diana DiZoglio says she’s launching a probe of the state convention authority after allegations of racial discrimination were raised by employees. (Boston Globe)
Lawmakers appear to be on path to reinstate food stamp benefits that were about to shrink with the expiration of a federal pandemic food relief program. (Gloucester Times)
A judge is now considering a request to triple the $820,000 awarded by a jury last November to the former chair of the Sex Offender Registry Board over her removal by former governor Deval Patrick in 2014. (Salem News)
Lawrence Mayor Brian DePena and other officials from the city spent a week in the Dominican Republic and there is talk of making it an annual event. DePena paid his own way while other officials sought city reimbursement for their airfares. The Dominican Republic picked up most dining and lodging costs. (Eagle-Tribune)
The Everett School Committee voted 6-4 not to renew the contract of school superintendent Priya Tahiliani, who has accused Mayor Carlo DeMaria of racism. (Boston Globe)
Brandon Cardet-Hernandez is asking lots of tough questions as a member of the Boston school committee, a rarity on the appointed board, which has long been criticized as a rubber stamp for the superintendent and city administration. (Boston Globe)
Northern Essex Community College is remaining closed on Tuesday after a cyber attack on the institution. (Eagle-Tribune)
A United Airlines plane being pushed back from a gate at Logan clips the tail of another United plane. Both planes were taken out of service. The incident comes a week after a charter jet failed to follow instructions from air traffic control and forced a JetBlue pilot to change direction to avoid a collision. (WBUR)
A Leominster man is facing charges for attempting to open a cabin door on a plane flying from Los Angeles to Boston and hurt a flight attendant with a broken spoon. (WBUR)
The MBTA Police are being urged by Massachusetts politicians to crack down on rowdy extremists riding to this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade if they engage in violence and intimidation. Last year, some of these extremists held up banners at the parade saying “Keep Boston Irish.” (GBH)
Gov. Maura Healey told MassLive reporters and editors that East-West rail is a critical priority earmarked for several new budget items, but offered no clear timeline on the commuter rail project.
State officials are warning against eating fish from freshwater bodies in 13 state parks due to high levels of the PFAS chemicals. (Boston Herald)
Investigators succeeded in identifying a woman whose badly decomposed body was found in 1978. The woman, who was known only as the Granby girl for the town in which she was found in the woods, had been shot in the head. Officials notified her son and other family members who came to the press conference where the woman was identified as Patricia Ann Tucker. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)