Does Wu have a Teflon coating?

Michelle Wu has made it clear she’s no Charlie Baker fan, telling the Boston Globe her ambitious agenda for Boston would be easier to achieve with a Democrat in the governor’s office. But she seems to share one trait with the Republican pol (besides their Harvard degrees): A popularity that seems impervious to almost anything that gets thrown at them.

With the second poll in two weeks showing Wu with a 32-point lead over fellow Boston city councilor Annissa Essaibi George, Globe columnist Adrian Walker asks, “Is the mayor’s race effectively over?” 

What was clear from Tuesday night’s televised debate is that Essaibi George knows she’s running from behind. She was on the offensive for most of the night, hammering Wu for pushing unrealistic goals that rely on backing from the Legislature and governor that is not there. 

She pointed out that even Wu supporter Aaron Michlewitz, the North End state rep who helms the powerful House budget-writing committee, poured cold water on her idea of a fare-free MBTA. And she continued to pound away at Wu’s support for rent control, which also depends on state authorization that seems unlikely to be forthcoming, saying it’s a failed policy that could promote disinvestment and hurt small landlords. 

The problem with the attacks? Both ideas seem popular with voters, and they don’t seem especially bothered by the fact that they are more aspirational than something Wu can actually make happen if she takes office next month. 

“I’m not running for mayor to say what we can’t do,” Wu said in Tuesday’s debate. “I’m fighting for what we need and deserve.”

With the candidates’ views on big issues like housing, transportation, and policing already pretty clearly laid out and litigated, Essaibi George sought to turn up the heat with more basic questions about Wu’s integrity and consistency on the campaign trail. 

On this year’s big shift in the admission policies for the city’s three selective-entry exam schools, Essaibi George said Wu had “delivered inconsistent messages depending on the neighborhood you’re in.” 

“That’s simply not true, Annissa,” Wu shot back and said it was a big distinction between them that she supports “having equity in every part of our system.” 

“I support having an entrance exam plus grades plus socioeconomic criteria so there is fairness across the board,” Wu said. Allotting seats to the schools within eight tiers based on the socioeconomic status of census tracts is the big change that was adopted, a move that is expected to markedly increase the number of Black and Hispanic students admitted, especially to Boston Latin School.

Essaibi George’s campaign pointed to a candidates’ forum before the preliminary election in which, according to the Dorchester Reporter, Wu said she would favor permanently doing away with the entrance exam as part of the admissions process. The exam was scrapped last year because of the pandemic.

The decision to maintain an exam as part of the process was an important one, but it’s a pretty weedy point to try to prosecute in a fast-moving TV debate. What’s more, Essaibi George never actually put Wu on the spot by spelling out the exact inconsistency.  

It also was hard for Essaibi George to land a blow when raising questions about the story of Wu’s original purchase of the Roslindale two-family home she and her husband now own, which was accomplished with one of Wu’s closest friends from college, Elizabeth Likovich. Likovich’s father, Terry Considine, a Republican businessman, has donated to Wu’s campaign.

Essaibi George asked Wu to disavow his support, charging that he was a “hate-monger” who made racist statements in a US Senate campaign. She also raised questions about Wu’s husband, Conor Pewarski, being listed in state records as the “resident agent” for a limited liability company that Likovich and family members established that owns a three-family house outside Harvard Square. But the only problem the Globe identifies with the arrangement is that Pewarski is still listed in state records at the South End address where he and Wu last lived in 2015. 

Wu ignored the jabs about Considine’s views and said everything was above board in her home purchase. 

With time running short to catch up, it’s understandable that Essaibi George is looking for any opening to take some of the sheen off Wu’s Teflon coating. Whether any of the attacks will actually stick is a lot less clear. 

MICHAEL JONAS

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Ride for free: A new report says fare-free buses in Worcester are a bright spot in the recovery of transit, with ridership up to more than 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels. The administrator of the Worcester Regional Transit Authority says the numbers are off a bit.

— Fare free buses are a big deal in the Boston mayoral race, but the WRTA administrator is measured in evaluating the policy. He says fares were eliminated initially for practical reasons — they were dropped when the system moved to rear-door boarding and then retained when rear-door boarding was deemed ineffective and canceled. Federal aid covered the loss of fare revenue. The fare free experiment in Worcester is scheduled to end December 31, and the WRTA administrator indicates that will probably happen unless a new source of revenue can be found.

— A second study from the business group A Better City pushes the MBTA to create more fare options that cater to commuter rail customers who come to the office infrequently. Right now a 5-day Flex Fare is the only alternative to paying for each ride individually or purchasing a monthly pass, but it is cost effective only if the rider comes in three days a week. A Better City is pushing for a new 7-day pass, a month-long welcome back 50 percent discount on all fares, and free parking at MBTA lots three days a week. Read more.

Bullying investigation: Boston school officials place two more teachers at the troubled Mission Hill K-8 Pilot School on administrative leave and order a second investigation into bullying. Read more.

Brockton map tweaked: The Senate adds a sixth majority-minority district in Brockton as the two legislative branches prepare to vote on final redistricting plans. Read more.

OPINION

Just vote: Imari Paris Jeffries of King Boston and Segun Idowu of the Black Economic Council of Boston say the best way to honor Martin Luther King is to get out and vote. Read more.

Making MCAS better: Chad d’Entremont, executive director of the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy, says the question we should be asking is how can we make MCAS better. Read more.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

Some lawmakers and workers’ rights advocates are pushing for a higher minimum wage for tipped workers. (Gloucester Daily Times)

Springfield Rep. Orlando Ramos files a bill that would require Eversource to pay its property taxes in full, as the utility withholds taxes amid a dispute over valuation of its properties. (MassLive)

Five new experts are appointed to the state’s Cannabis Advisory Board. (MassLive)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

Boston acting Mayor Kim Janey declares a public health crisis and unveils a plan to remove the tents at Mass and Cass and help as many people there as possible get housing and treatment. (WBUR)

A Springfield nonprofit that provides suits for job interviews spent nine months in a space that had no electricity and water, because it was given the space for free. (MassLive)

Sparks are flying over budget issues between Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan and City Council President Cliff Ponte who are facing off in next month’s election for mayor. (Herald News

Rachel (Bunny) Mellon’s grandson sells her Osterville estate for $19 million. (Cape Cod Times)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Acting Mayor Kim Janey declared a public health crisis in the Mass. and Cass area of Boston and said the encampment of tents there will not be allowed to remain. (Boston Globe

The newest state COVID-19 numbers report that 62 percent of new cases last week were among unvaccinated individuals, who make up 30 percent of the state’s population. (MassLive)

Trustees at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home are split on whether the home should remain part of the Department of Veterans’ Services or shift to the Department of Public Health. (MassLive)

Mass General Brigham workers who were denied vaccine exemptions sue the hospital system. (WBUR)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The Food and Drug Administration moves to make some hearing aids available without a prescription. (New York Times)

House Majority Leader Claire Cronin’s nomination to be US ambassador to Ireland cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and heads to the full Senate for a vote. (Boston Herald

ELECTIONS

City workers in Boston are ponying up to the mayoral candidates, with Michelle Wu a favorite among educators and Annissa Essaibi George getting lots of support from police and firefighters. (Boston Globe

EDUCATION

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito visits New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School, as the school rolls out a virtual reality program to teach students and offshore wind workers what it’s like to be on a wind turbine. Also Tuesday, six higher education institutions in the New Bedford area team up to bolster training for jobs in the offshore wind industry. (Standard-Times)

State officials plan to announce next week whether they will continue the in-school mask mandate past November 1, when it is currently scheduled to expire. (MassLive)

Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the 1619 Project, says she was disinvited to a Black History Month event at the Middlesex School in Concord. (Boston Globe)

ARTS/CULTURE

The Italian-American Alliance is asking for the prosecution of the person responsible for vandalizing a statue of Christopher Columbus in Worcester, amid debate over Columbus’s role in atrocities committed against indiginous people. (Telegram & Gazette)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A battle is brewing over plans by Eversource to build a new natural gas pipeline through a Springfield neighborhood. (Boston Globe

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Clark Grant, the husband of prominent Black activist Monica Cannon-Grant and a director of Violence in Boston, the nonprofit she heads, was arrested on federal charges that he used the group’s assets on a mortgage application and that he fraudulently collected nearly $68,000 in pandemic unemployment payments while actually still employed. (Boston Globe