Healey not rushing things at the MBTA
GOV. MAURA HEALEY is slowly – some would say too slowly – putting the pieces in place to take control of the MBTA.
Back in August, when it was widely expected she would replace Charlie Baker as governor, Healey said she intended to hire a new MBTA general manager and a statewide transportation chief. She also said she wanted two deputy general managers hired, presumably by her new GM. One of the deputies would oversee operations and one would be in charge of capital planning.
None of these positions has been filled yet.
After Jeffrey Gonneville, the interim general manager of the MBTA, laid out on January 26 just how bad the situation is at the Springfield plant producing new Red and Orange line trains, Healey stepped in on February 2 and said she was hiring her own team of non-MBTA employees to review the situation.
Healey can appoint at least three other members of the MBTA board, but so far has chosen not to do so.
Under Baker, the MBTA board has demonstrated very little independence or curiosity. When Gonneville dropped the bombshell about the problems at the Springfield plant, board members asked no questions.
Healey is facing pressure from Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and transit advocates to add some more independent voices.
Wu is lobbying for Boston to have a permanent seat on the board. Jim Aloisi, who served as a transportation secretary under governor Deval Patrick and is a member of the TransitMatters board, said he would like to see three of the seven members of the MBTA board be municipal representatives.
Aloisi said local officials are closer to problems on the ground and key to implementing policies regarding dedicated bus lanes and commuter rail parking needs.
“There’s a lot of evidence that governance structures matter a lot,” he said.
Ray LaHood, a former US transportation secretary and coauthor of a December 2019 report highly critical of the safety culture at the MBTA, told state lawmakers in October that he didn’t think it was wise to appoint local officials to the T oversight board because they would only be interested in their local concerns and not the broader goals of the agency. “You need a board that cares about the total system,” he said.
NEW STORIES FROM COMMONWEALTH MAGAZINE
MBTA takes another hit: A “horrific event” was narrowly avoided on Saturday at the MBTA’s Alewife Station when a driver intentionally slammed his car into a containment wall on the fifth floor of the adjacent parking garage, sending a 10,000-pound slab of cement hurtling toward the ticketing area inside the station below. Luckily, the concrete slab was blocked by the roof structure above the ticketing area, and only glass showered down. Few passengers were in the mezzanine of the station at 1:30 p.m.
– Jeffrey Gonneville, the interim general manager of the T, said the driver intentionally drove his vehicle into the containment wall. Sources said it was an apparent suicide attempt. The car came to a rest with its front hanging over the edge of the roof. MBTA Police and the Middlesex DA’s office are investigating.
– Gonneville said the incident will cost the T at least $1 million and inconvenience customers who will have to take shuttle buses between Alewife and Davis and wait for the garage and subway to reopen, possibly later this week. The timeline for the reopening of the mezzanine ticketing area is yet to be determined. Read more.
Super PAC challenge: The Supreme Judicial Court hears a challenge to former attorney general Maura Healey’s decision to block a question from appearing on the 2024 ballot that would have limited contributions to super PACs. Read more.
Bargaining power: Like them or not, illegal strikes are helping teachers win new contracts. Read more.
Big nonprofits should pay: Paul Hattis of the Lown Institute is backing a new law that would allow municipalities to require larger nonprofits, normally exempt from local property taxes, to make payments in lieu of taxes. In his hometown of Newton, the take could be $8.25 million. Read more.
STORIES FROM ELSEWHERE AROUND THE WEB
Gov. Maura Healey raked in $2.9 million, lots of it from companies and labor unions with strong interests in government policy, to fund her inaugural celebration, the most ever raised for a gubernatorial bash. (Boston Globe)
The royal visit of Prince William and Princess Kate cost Boston taxpayers $170,000, mostly in the form of police overtime. (Boston Herald)
The death toll is now more than 5,200 from the earthquake that struck parts of Turkey and Syria. (New York Times)
The Food and Drug Administration announced the recall of 400 food products produced by Fresh Ideation Food Group because of possible listeria contamination. (NPR)
This is probably not news to young parents in Greater Boston, but Norfolk and Middlesex counties rank as the third most expensive locations in the country for center-based infant child care. (Boston Globe)
Harvard researchers and non-tenured faculty are making a push to unionize. (Boston Globe)
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu says 20 electric school buses are being deployed as part of a pilot project she says is one of the largest in the Northeast. (WBUR)
With their convictions overturned because of drug lab misconduct, some defendants now want property confiscated by police returned to them. (Gloucester Times)
Worcester unveils its policy for police wearing body cameras. (Telegram & Gazette)
A 34-year-old career criminal will be arraigned on murder charges in the shooting death of 13-year-old Tyler Lawrence in Mattapan. (Boston Herald)
Northeastern journalism professor Dan Kennedy takes a shot at former Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle. (Media Nation)
Ken Doctor’s Lookout Santa Cruz news outlet is expected to turn a profit this year. Doctor is a well-known media analyst who decided to jump into the trenches himself. (Los Angeles Times)PASSINGS
John Bracey, a pioneer in Black studies at UMass Amherst, dies at 81. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)