Rollins reforms loom over Suffolk DA race
RACHAEL ROLLINS’S name won’t be on the ballot this year, but her approach to prosecution in Suffolk County may end up being front and center.
Rollins – both by personality and policy – shook up the prosecutorial landscape in the state with her 2018 election as Suffolk County district attorney. The blunt-talking reformer held little back in calling out ways she said the criminal justice system had not been delivering justice, particularly when it comes to racial disparities in the system. Her change agenda was highlighted by the memo she issued declaring that there would be presumption against prosecuting those charged with 15 lower-level misdemeanor offenses.
Before even completing her first term, though, Rollins was gone, named by President Biden to be US attorney for Massachusetts. But as the DA’s race takes shape, it’s clear that the mark Rollins left will animate the contest to succeed her.
Gov. Charlie Baker named Kevin Hayden, a one-time prosecutor in the Suffolk DA’s office who most recently helmed the state Sex Offender Registry Board, to fill the vacancy when Rollins resigned last month. Hayden announced this week that he’ll run to keep the seat in this year’s election.
While Arroyo offers a full-throated embrace of Rollins’s policies, Hayden seems to be carving out ground more toward the political center. “I think too far left and too far right are a dangerous place to be,” he said in a recent interview. As for the Rollins do-not-prosecute list of 15 offenses, Hayden said he fully embraces “the overall notion behind it – the idea that our carceral footprint needs to be reduced,” but stops short of saying he will maintain the policy, as written.
On another hot-button topic, Arroyo favors eliminating the Boston Police Department’s controversial gang database, which a federal appeals court recently criticized as being too loose in its criteria for listing an individual. As a public defender for four years, two of them in Suffolk County, Arroyo said he knew of cases where “folks were wrongfully put in the gang database.” Hayden says changes may be needed to ensure the list is used fairly, but he said doing away with the gang database “would hamper law enforcement significantly.”
While reform advocates – and Rollins herself – hailed her 2018 victory as a clear mandate for the changes she instituted, Rollins won a five-way Democratic primary with 39 percent of the vote before easily rolling over a third-party opponent in the general election.
City Councilor Michael Flaherty is said to be weighing a run for the seat. He didn’t return a message on Thursday. At this point, however, Hayden and Arroyo are the only declared candidates. If no one else jumps in, a head-to-head match-up of the two candidates in a Democratic primary would provide a clear barometer of the direction voters want to see the DA’s office take.
It’s a start: Prysmian Group, headquartered in Italy, purchased 47 acres at Brayton Point in Somerset and plans to build a $300 million manufacturing facility there producing subsea cable for the offshore wind industry along the East Coast and possibly in England. The company is forecasting 250 local hires.
Two soundings from Somerset: Rep. Patricia Haddad of Somerset, who helped get the ball rolling on offshore wind in Massachusetts, takes a gentle jibe at Gov. Charlie Baker, noting he bet that hydroelectricity from Canada would arrive ahead of offshore wind. Right now, it looks like wind is going to come in first. Also, a big international energy player says it has invested $10 billion in Massachusetts. Read more.
Governor not convinced: Gov. Charlie Baker is refusing to say whether he will veto an immigrant license bill that just passed the House by a veto-proof margin. But he says he wished the House had approved an amendment that would allow cities and towns to easily identify the immigrant licenses. “That would have been a big statement by the Legislature that this really is about driving and not anything else,” he said. Read more.
Mass. citizenship: Ed Lyons, a Republican activist and political writer, says the immigrant license bill pending on Beacon Hill is not just about driving. He says it’s about Massachusetts citizenship and the importance of state power. Read more.
Send in social workers: Tom Nolan, an associate sociology professor at Emmanuel College and a former cop, backs legislation providing funding for unarmed mental health professionals to respond to behavioral health emergencies. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Gov. Charlie Baker dismissed the idea that the latest controversy at the Registry of Motor Vehicles – in which four RMV workers allegedly approved driver’s licenses for 2,100 applicants without having them take the required road test – reflects a systemic problem, chalking it up the misdeeds of “a handful” of “low-level” employees. (Boston Herald)
The Gardner police chief and deputy chief are both placed on leave following no-confidence votes by members of the police department. (Telegram & Gazette)
Four National Guard members and 13 state health care workers arrive to help deal with staff shortages and rising complaints at Springside Rehabilitation and Skilled Care Center in Pittsfield. (Berkshire Eagle)
A judge ruled that New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, can question former president Donald Trump and two of his adult children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, under oath as part of a civil probe of his company’s real estate valuation practices. (New York Times)
California adopts an endemic approach to the coronavirus. (Associated Press)
Gov. Charlie Baker says he plans to stay involved in politics by helping raise money for like-minded candidates through a super PAC he’s tied to, but he made clear he has no use for state Republican Party chairman Jim Lyons and said the party is failing at its basic charge of raising money for candidates and developing a winning message that will appeal to voters. (Boston Globe)
Candidate for state auditor Diana DiZoglio unveils a social justice plan. (MassLive)
The board overseeing the state’s $104 billion pension fund will begin using its investment clout to pressure companies to take action on climate change issues. (Boston Globe)
Utility companies are making slow but steady progress on fixing gas leaks in Massachusetts. (Salem News)
Boston police have removed 600 names from a controversial list of alleged gang members, but critics on the Boston City Council say it’s not enough and want the database abolished altogether. (Boston Globe)
A 23-year-old member of the notorious MS-13 street gang was sentenced to life in prison in federal court following his conviction in connection with brutal murders in East Boston and Lynn and on racketeering charges. (Boston Herald)MEDIA
Western Mass Politics & Insight dissects the local media landscape with the arrival of Axios and City Cast.