Rivera’s folly comes to an end
Lawrence on Thursday unloaded an empty downtown building and a lot next door, bringing an end to a real estate power play by Mayor Daniel Rivera that ended up backfiring.
Rivera engineered the purchase of the building at 370 Essex St. in 2015 as the future home for the city’s school department. At the time, he was locked in a battle with the landlord of the school department’s existing headquarters, which was located right behind City Hall. Rivera felt the city was being gouged on the lease, so he moved the school department into temporary quarters while its new building was rehabbed.
But it turned out Rivera couldn’t just walk away. A court ruled the city was on the hook for up to $3.5 million in repairs. Since he didn’t want to spend so much money repairing a building someone else would use, Rivera abandoned his plans for a new school department headquarters, bought the agency’s old digs, made the repairs, and moved the employees back in just 15 months after they had moved out. (Essentially, Rivera did what the landlord had been telling him to do from the start.)
The switcheroo left Rivera with a vacant, ugly downtown office building he no longer needed. He put it on the market and only one bidder, the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council, stepped forward. The council agreed to pay $601,700 for the property, which the city had purchased for $505,000 three years earlier. The city had also spent $400,000 on renovation plans for the building.
The City Council approved the sale in a roundabout and very odd fashion, according to the Eagle-Tribune. A vote to approve the sale failed, as did another vote to remove it from the council agenda, which would have killed it. A third proposal to table the measure also failed. The council then recessed for 20 minutes and when it returned the sales was approved on a 7-1 vote after three conditions were added to the sale — that the property remain on the city’s property tax rolls in perpetuity, that tenants be provided parking in a nearby garage, and that families with children in the Lawrence schools be given preference for the leases.
City Councilor Marc Laplante was the lone no vote, raising concerns about the proliferation of affordable housing in Lawrence.
“What are neighboring communities doing with respect to providing assistance to these very good people who want a good place to live and can’t afford it?” Laplante asked. “I don’t know why our community has to step up every single time for this. We can’t do it all by ourselves.”
Under pressure from Senate colleagues eager to see him go, Stan Rosenberg announced his resignation one day after a Senate Ethics Committee report offered a harsh assessment of his handling of issues related to sexual misconduct allegations against his husband, Bryon Hefner. (Boston Globe) Hefner’s defense attorney says it was inappropriate for Attorney General Maura Healey, whose office is prosecuting him, to call for Rosenberg’s resignation. (Boston Herald) Kevin Franck says the ethics report on Rosenberg was completed weeks ago but not released until one day after the deadline for challengers to run for the seat. As a result, Northampton Democrat Chelsea Kline will be the only name on the ballot. (Boston Herald) Herald columnist Hillary Chabot suggests the ethics committee report was a bag job that went too easy on Rosenberg, and she quotes Boston University professor Thomas Whalen, who said “it stretches all credulity that they didn’t find any rules broken.” But the rules are the rules, and this Globe story details how it was that the investigation came to the conclusion that Rosenberg broke none of them.
A bill that would allow those suffering from opioid addiction to be involuntarily held for up to three days advanced out of legislative committee. (State House News) Suffolk University professor Susan Sered says there is no evidence that such policies are helpful in combating addiction and they may have unintended harmful consequences. (CommonWealth)
The Hull firefighters union is urging voters to reject a pair of proposals at Town Meeting that would remove the fire chief and deputy fire chief from civil service and eliminate the requirement for firefighters to be trained paramedics. (Patriot Ledger)
Can’t we all get along? The Brockton Diversity Commission canceled its May meeting after testy confrontations between members at two earlier meetings. The board’s chairman said he will seek a retreat for members to work out their differences before moving forward. (The Enterprise)
A former speechwriter for President Trump who lives on the Cape has sued his ex-wife for $4 million, saying her accusations of abuse cost him his job. (Cape Cod Times)
Lowell Sun columnist Peter Lucas said Gov. Charlie Baker’s decision to ignore Republican challenger Scott Lively and stay off the campaign trail until at least August makes sense. “It is understandable that Baker is comfortable in the Statehouse, a Democrat stronghold. Democrats believe that despite a patina of Republicanism, deep down Baker is one of them,” said Lucas.
Paul Caccaviello officially announces his campaign for Berkshire County district attorney. Caccaviello, who is facing two Democratic challengers, stressed his experience and his vision. “I will not stand for violence, lawlessness, or crimes against our citizens,” he said. (Berkshire Eagle)
Former governor Deval Patrick endorses US Rep. Michael Capuano in his Democratic primary showdown with Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley. (Boston Globe)
Rep. Carlos Gonzalez of Springfield failed to gather enough signatures to get his name on the ballot. With no one else currently running against him,, he plans to launch a write-in campaign. (MassLive)
The unemployment rate in the United States fell to 3.9 percent in April, the 91st consecutive month with job gains and the lowest jobless rate since 2000. (New York Times)
Essex Sports Center in Middleton, a private business operating on state land, is facing a number of financial problems, including nonpayment of taxes and a lawsuit seeking to force the sale of the property. (Salem News)
Massport is going to develop the land now occupied by its Braintree express parking lot, but the authority’s CEO, Tom Glynn, says he’ll be cautious about going too deep on retail projects, given the softness of that sector in the era of Amazon and other online sellers. (Boston Globe)
The Federal Reserve held steady on interest rates but hinted they still could climb before the year is out with a rise in inflation. (U.S. News & World Report)
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $158 million to fight poverty in the United States. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)
Moody’s Investors Services upgrades its outlook for the University of Massachusetts. (CommonWealth)
A study by a Washington-based think tank finds Pell Grant recipients have a graduation rate 18 percent lower than their peers who did not receive the federal assistance. (U.S. News & World Report)
The Worcester school system, facing a challenging budget situation, decides to add teachers while eliminating tutors for elementary school students. (Telegram & Gazette)
Wayland officials are investigating racist graffiti found on a display at the high school celebrating the district’s 50th anniversary in the METCO program. (MetroWest Daily News)
The first JetBlue flight between Worcester and New York City was half full. Many of the passengers said it was easy getting through security at the airport and parking was a whole lot cheaper than at Logan International Airport in Boston. (Telegram & Gazette)
Switching to electric buses at the MBTA would reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly, a new report from MassPIRG says. (WBUR)
More shots get fired in the natural gas pipeline wars. (CommonWealth)
An industry analysis says the shutdowns at Pilgrim nuclear power plant, which has been offline nearly half the time since January 1, have cost the plant owner $31 million in net revenues so far this year. (Cape Cod Times)
Bill Bratton and Chuck Wexler offer a tribute to the late former Boston police commissioner Robert di Grazia as a giant in forward-looking policing reforms. (Boston Globe)
A lawsuit has been filed against Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson and the phone vendor he uses for prisoner phone calls, alleging the arrangement enriches Hodgson’s office while gouging inmates. (Boston Globe)
A federal judge rejected prosecutors’ bid to have defense attorney Howard Cooper tossed from the case of former state senator Brian Joyce, but the court says it will allow the government “limited subpoena” power to obtain some communications between Cooper and Joyce. (Boston Globe)
Prominent developer Arthur Winn is charged with assaulting a home health nurse. He says the nurse made up the charge to try to extort money from him. (Boston Globe)
Wareham police have charged a postal carrier with stealing a gift card from the mail. (Standard-Times)MEDIA
Chuck Plunkett, the Denver Post editorial page editor who wrote a blistering opinion piece last month that ripped the paper’s new owner, Alden Global Capital and its newspaper subsidiary Digital First Media, as “vulture capitalists,” resigned after company officials blocked another editorial sharply critical of the paper’s owners that was set to run this Sunday. (New York Times)