Chandler backs regional rail, more RTA funds
Senate President Harriette Chandler indicated on Monday that she intends to use her new, temporary clout on Beacon Hill to push a transportation agenda that focuses attention on communities outside of Boston.
Chandler, a Democrat from Worcester who is serving as Senate president until early next year, said she wants more money for struggling regional transit authorities and is also interested in developing new funding to build a regional rail system. Her vision of regional rail is similar to what the group TransitMatters has been pushing — faster, electrified trains that operate more like subways and make trips at regular intervals throughout the day.
“Currently, we are settling for a model of service conceived in the mid-20th century, built for suburban workers on a 9-to-5 schedule,” Chandler said in a speech to the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. “That simply does not reflect the reality of today’s workforce, or the reality of central Massachusetts as an economic center, attracting its own workforce.”
Chandler said she wants the Department of Transportation to submit a regional rail plan by early 2019 and finish initial development of the project by 2022. DOT is already working on a long-range study of its aging commuter rail system, but its capital investment program currently provides no money for regional rail over the next five years.
Chandler wants more money in the fiscal 2019 budget for regional transit authorities, including the authority in Worcester, which is facing what many believe is a death spiral as revenue shortfalls force the agency to cut service and raise fares.
The Baker administration has shown little interest in funneling additional aid to regional transit authorities — the governor’s budget for fiscal 2019 level-funds the authorities — but at a Big Three meeting on Monday attended by Chandler, Gov. Charlie Baker, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo the governor seemed receptive to increases targeted at specific authorities that would be tied to performance improvements.
“I think the right answer is to come up with a plan and a strategy that works for each of the RTAs, and it’s going to be a different plan and different strategy depending on which one we’re talking about,” Baker said.
Chandler agreed, saying, “This is not a cookie cutter.”
Robert Pozen says the new federal tax law, which caps deductions for state and local taxes, will put fiscal pressure on cities’ ability to fund pension obligations and other employee benefits, though Boston is in a better position on the matter than other cities of comparable size. (Boston Globe)
The Hanover Theatre in Worcester is developing alternative revenue streams to assure a stable financial future. (Telegram & Gazette)
A small trash-strewn lot with a deed restriction prohibiting building a house is causing big friction on the Brockton City Council. (The Enterprise)
President Trump has ousted Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, with whom he has clashed throughout the first year of his presidency, and will replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, a former Republican congressman. Trump also tapped CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel to replace Pompeo, making her the first woman to lead the spy agency. (Washington Post)
After a stunning televised declaration in support of gun control measures following the school massacre in Florida, President Trump reversed himself and got in line behind the NRA agenda. (New York Times) Trump seized on conservative talking points, blaming Obama-era policies that reined in suspensions of minority students as a potential cause of the Florida shootings, even though the gunman was white and had been expelled from the school. (New York Times)
US Sen. Edward Markey proposes legislation that would authorize the federal.government to dish out grants to states that adopt Massachusetts-like gun laws. (WBUR)
The Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee, with no input from Democrats, closed its investigation into Russian meddling in the president election, claiming there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin’s government. (Washington Post)
Las Vegas opened a 4.5 acre campus where homeless people can get help and, starting in May, a bed to sleep in. (Governing)
The San Francisco spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement resigns after top officials at the agency made false statements about how many undocumented immigrants avoided detainment because of an early warning from Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. (San Francisco Chronicle)
Stephanie Clifford, the porn star known as Stormy Daniels, has offered to return the $130,000 she received as “hush money” about her affair with President Trump in return for releasing her from the confidentiality agreement. The offer is a double-edged sword that, if accepted, allows her to talk about the affair, and if declined, is tantamount to an admission the payment was made. (Associated Press)
It’s silly season in national political coverage — and Sen. Elizabeth Warren is forced to play along. (CommonWealth) A Herald editorial chides Warren for dodging a question asking whether she would submit to a DNA test to prove her claimed Native American heritage and for not giving straight answers about a potential presidential run.
Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera is barred by term limits for running again for mayor, but he keeps raising campaign cash anyway. (Eagle-Tribune)
Jaclyn Cashman says the wobbly MBTA is Charlie Baker’s electoral Achilles heel — and today’s winter blast isn’t likely to help any. (Boston Herald)
US Rep. Seth Moulton will see his national star rise if Democrat Conor Lamb, a fellow ex-Marine whom he has backed vigorously, prevails in today’s special election for a Pennsylvania House in a district that Donald Trump carried two years ago by 20 points. (Boston Globe)
President Trump blocked the plan by Singapore-based Broadcom to buy Qualcomm in a $117 billion hostile takeover, saying the biggest-ever technology merger poses national security concerns. (Wall Street Journal)
Women with children earn about 18 percent less than those without, according to a new report showing persistent evidence of the so-called “motherhood penalty.” (Boston Globe)
CommonWealth founding editor Dave Denison offers a meditation on symbols, art, and the famed Citgo sign in Kenmore Square. (Boston Globe)
AFL-CIO president Steve Tolman said unions are a necessary counter to corporate greed and added labor’s popularity is “through the roof.” (Keller@Large)
A proposal by a Quincy city councilor would allow gas stations to sell pre-packaged food from racks and refrigerated units like they do in most other towns. (Patriot Ledger)
The owner of Shift Eco-Boutique, a small clothing store in downtown Hyannis, dropped her trademark lawsuit against a Boston-based retailer after the chain agreed to change the names of its Cape Cod and Nantucket stores, which it had rebranded from In the Pink to Shift. (Cape Cod Times)
Discipline continues to be an issue in New Bedford’s three middle schools despite a change in principals at two of them. (Standard-Times)
In the face of declining enrollment, the Catholic Archdiocese of Springfield decides to close the 115-year-old St. Mary’s High School. (MassLive)
More than a quarter of Massachusetts residents say they know someone who died of a fatal opioid overdose, according to a Blue Cross Blue Shield survey. (WBUR)
The MBTA is expected to next raise fares in July 2019 and the head of the Fiscal and Management Control Board says a “new revenue” discussion will probably take place in three years after the T shows it is capable of spending all the capital funds it has at its disposal. (CommonWealth)
T notes: New Silver Line bus service to Chelsea is scheduled to open April 21, bids for construction work at the Braintree and Quincy Adams parking garages comes in way below budget, T keeps tabs on its assets, and still no word on what caused a Red Line train to derail on February 21. (CommonWealth)
Renee Loth offers some free advice on improving the state of things for riders of the MBTA, which is looking to hire a $150,000 “chief customer experience officer.” (Boston Globe)
As New Hampshire regulators put off a decision about Northern Pass, the project selected by Massachuetts to bring hydro-electricity into New England from Quebec is running out of time in the Bay State. (CommonWealth)
A UMass Dartmouth study commissioned by Vineyard Wind indicates the state’s upcoming offshore wind procurement will produce a lot more economic benefits for Massachusetts than the procurement to import hydro-electricity from Canada. (CommonWealth)
Brewster voters at a special Town Meeting agreed to allow one recreational marijuana retail store to be licensed in the town but with some restrictions, including housing it in a stand-alone structure so it’s not in a strip mall or other area where children could congregate. (Cape Cod Times)
The Supreme Judicial Court rules that public funding of churches is allowed, but only if the purpose is secular and not to aid the church. The ruling came in connection with Acton’s decision to use Community Preservation Act funds to restore parts of the Congregational church. (Lowell Sun)
Boston Police Commissioner William Evans tells a City Council hearing a pilot program with officer-worn body cameras was successful and that the main consideration in moving to department-wide use of the devices is cost. (Boston Herald) Mayor Marty Walsh says the city is prepared to make a significant investment in the venture. (Boston Globe)
About one of every eight state troopers, or 245 officers, earned more than $200,000 last year. (Boston Globe)
Former state representative and Dartmouth selectman John George, convicted of embezzlement in 2015, pled guilty to concealing $2.5 million in cash and jewelry. (Standard-Times)
MEDIALowell Sun columnist Peter Lucas rises in opposition to changing the name of Yawkey Way, saying Tom Yawkey “in death has done more for the minority community in Greater Boston than John Henry has done alive.” Henry, the current owner of the Red Sox and the Boston Globe, is pushing to change the name because of Yawkey’s alleged racist past.
National Geographic acknowledged that for much of its history it has reported on the world through a racist lens, featuring brown-skinned tribesmen from foreign lands as savage, unsophisticated, and unintelligent. (Associated Press