When is the Boston mayoral race going to pick up?
WITH LESS THAN three months to go before the Boston mayoral preliminary election, it feels like the campaign is in slow motion.
The candidates are out there talking with voters, meeting at forums, and issuing policy positions. But there’s no sizzle, no clash of ideas. It’s a little boring.
Josh Gee, who worked as communications director for Mike Ross in 2013, the last time there was a wide-open race for mayor, offered the candidates some advice in February that none of them seem to be taking. In a crowded field – there were 12 candidates back then and six major ones today — Gee said a candidate needs to find a way to stand out from the pack. Don’t be afraid to attack your rivals or center your campaign around a single-issue, he urged.
None of the candidates have gone either route so far, probably because they remain bunched together and are wary of taking a step that could put a bullseye on their back with a large segment of the electorate still undecided. They may also be wary of offending a portion of the electorate if they make it into the two-person final election and need all the support they can muster to win.
It feels like the lull before the storm, as each candidate waits for the best time to make their move.
Contrast the blandness of the Boston race with the bare-knuckled brawl that has emerged as New York City holds its primary election for mayor today, with 13 candidates running on the Democratic side and two on the Republican. The New York Times reports that the race has centered around “public safety, the economy, political experience, and personal ethics and that in its final weeks became intensely acrimonious.”
New York City is giving ranked-choice voting a shot in the primary, which means if no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote initially the candidate with the lowest tally is dropped out and the second choice of his or her supporters receives their votes. The process of elimination continues until a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes, which may not come until next month.
The nature of ranked-choice voting, where a sound strategy often relies on candidates currying favor with the supporters of rivals, prompted Andrew Yang, the former presidential candidate, and Kathryn Garcia, a former sanitation commissioner, to start campaigning together in the closing days of the campaign in an effort to draft off of each other’s popularity. Eric Adams, a former New York City police officer, state senator, and the current Brooklyn Borough president, accused his two rivals of conspiring to thwart his election because he is Black, a charge they both denied.
The race for mayor in New York City is anything but dull.
GLX under budget, delayed: Many thought the Green Line extension to Somerville and Medford would never get built after the price tag ballooned to $3 billion. But a team was brought in to pare back the cost to $2.3 billion and John Dalton was hired to oversee construction. Now the project is 80 percent complete and the end is in sight. Key takeaways include:
— The project is expected to come in under budget, even after paying the contractor team $80 million to cover the cost of COVID-19 delays and reimbursing Somerville and Cambridge for the $75 million they invested in the project when its fate was uncertain. When all is said and done, more than $100 million could be left over at the end of the project.
— Service will begin later than expected, with the Union Square branch of the line opening in December rather than October and the Medford line opening next May rather than this December.
— Coming in under budget and nearly on time is a big lift for an agency that has a reputation for its inability to pull off big projects. The GLX success is a strong signal to federal funding agencies that the T knows what it’s doing. Read more.
MBTA control board has left the building: After six years of trying to get the transit agency back on track after the snowmageddon of 2015, the Fiscal and Management Control Board is no more. Members of the five-person board gave speeches in which they raised alarm bells about looming financial problems and the T’s “stagnant organizational structure.” On the positive side of the ledger, they noted capital spending to maintain and improve the T’s infrastructure has grown from just over $600 million in fiscal 2014 to $1.8 billion today. As the volunteer board members waved goodbye at their Zoom meeting, lawmakers on Beacon Hill were still wrangling over the creation of a replacement board. One major point of contention is how often the board should meet, with the House favoring fewer meetings and the Senate proposing more. Read more.
Prison phone calls: With pressure mounting to eliminate the cost of phone calls made by state prisoners, the Massachusetts Sheriffs Association says it will make the first 10 minutes free and charge 14 cents a minute after that. That’s quite a drop, with an earlier CommonWealth report indicating the price at some county jails ranging as high as $6 for a five minute call. The sheriffs made their announcement as Connecticut abolished all phone charges for prisoners and a bill is pending on Beacon Hill to do the same. Read more.
Chronicle the horrors: A bill filed by Sen. Michael Barrett would establish a commission to gather and write the history of the state’s now-shuttered state hospitals, where patients were subjected to shocking human rights abuses, including the practice of eugenics and forced sterilization. “There seemed to be a real injustice here, and there seemed to be lives crying out to be acknowledged,” Barrett said. Read more.
T notes: The MBTA’s new Red and Orange line cars continue to remain in limbo with the cause of a March 16 derailment still unclear and possible remedies still being developed. MBTA GM Steve Poftak said the agency hopes the cars can be returned to service this summer….State Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver says most roadways are returning to 2019 pre-pandemic traffic levels. Read more.
Teaming up: Sen. Cynthia Creem, Rep. Christine Barber, and Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan push to close a loophole in the state’s hate crime law that allows perpetrators to avoid punishment if the crime does not occur on property owned by the victim. Right now, victims who rent apartments, live in college dorms, or are targeted at work are not protected by current laws. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Policy makers on Beacon Hill are weighing options for providing children with mental health treatment as need continues to increase, especially for low-income and minority youth. (Eagle-Tribune)
The state inspector general says the MBTA Transit Police pension fund has overpaid workers hundreds of thousands of dollars over more than a decade. (Boston Globe)
A union representing municipal workers in Boston filed a complaint with a state labor agency over Acting Mayor Kim Janey’s order to return to in-person work, arguing that the city did not seek its input or bargain in good faith over the issue. (Boston Globe)
Rockport voters will decide Tuesday whether to approve a tax override to provide public schools with $777,336 for operating expenses. (Gloucester Times)
The Biden administration may restore protections to the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument on Cape Cod that would limit commercial fishing, crabbing, and lobsering among other activities. The protections were eased under the Trump administration. (Gloucester Times)
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the NCAA cannot block modest payments to student-athletes. (New York Times)
Carl Nassib, a defensive end with the Las Vegas Raiders, became the first active NFL player to announce he is gay. (Washington Post)
Former state veterans director Francisco Urena was appointed to lead the MassGOP Veterans Coalition, an organization formed last August. He brings with him a history in veterans affairs and notoriety from his controversial resignation over the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home last spring. (Eagle-Tribune)
Gig workers are dialing up the heat on Uber, Lyft and other companies that insist on classifying them as contract workers and not standard employees. (Boston Globe)
Massachusetts business leaders are advocating for a loosening of child-labor laws that would allow 14 and 15 year olds to work until 9 p.m. when school is not in session. They say the change could aid in economic recovery. (Salem News)
Northeastern University is in discussions to merge with Mills College, a 1,000-student liberal arts school in Oakland, California, that has been facing mounting fiscal challenges. (Boston Herald)
A coalition of groups is pushing a series of sea gates between Hull and Winthrop that would prevent storm and tidal surges from damaging Boston harbor and the surrounding coastline. (Dorchester Reporter)
Data show that the state’s new hands-free law, which prohibits drivers from holding a phone while driving, is being widely flaunted. Most offenders are getting away on a warning. (Eagle-Tribune)CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS
The criminal trial against Worcester defense attorney Blake Rubin gets started with a grant of immunity to the client with whom he allegedly conspired to intimidate a witness. (Telegram & Gazette)