The T’s youthful retirees

After all the hype and hyperbole, the pension data released by the MBTA Retirement Board on Thursday was pretty much what you’d expect: Lots of employees retired early with healthy packages.

The Herald reported that more than half of the people listed in the 6,300-plus database retired from the T before the age of 60 and 35 percent left before 55. More than a thousand retired in their 40s, including former MBTA General Manager and current T pension fund executive director Michael Mulhern, who retired at age 46 with a pension of $64,800.

For those of us who feel like we may end up working most of our lives, those numbers are shocking. But they’re not that surprising, given that state law up until a few years ago allowed T employees to retire at any age with 23 years of service. The law was subsequently changed, allowing employees to retire starting at age 55 with 25 years of service.

Herald columnist Howie Carr dishes dirt about the many Bulgers who show up on the T retirement list (Patrick, Chris, Jackie, Mark, and more) and also notes that James Rooney, who is paid $275,000 a year as the head of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, pockets a $62,541-a-year pension from the T that he started collecting in 1999 at age 41.

The Globe report on the pension list crunches the numbers a bit differently than the Herald. The Globe says roughly a fifth of the people on the list are currently 50 or less while the average age of all T pension recipients is 55. According to the Globe, the biggest annual pension is $76,882 and it goes to Joan Martin, who retired in 2003 at the age of 53 as deputy general manager for organizational diversity, labor relations, and employee relations.

                                                                                                                                                                         BRUCE MOHL

BEACON HILL

The state Ethics Commission fires back at state Sen. Dan Wolf, correcting what it says are errors in the way he characterized the agency’s decision that his ownership stake in Cape Air represents a conflict that would make it impossible to serve as either governor or state senator.

The state has found fault on a litany of “serious issues” by the Wareham Housing Authority ranging from lax budget controls to potentially illegal board votes.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Cambridge still hasn’t approved permits for a new Central Square biotech research facility, three years after the developer first filed plans with the city.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Tea Partiers are ramping up their campaign against Obamacare, reports the Globe’s Tracy Jan, but their target isn’t lily-livered liberals; it’s the Republicans who won’t shut down the government in a fool’s errand effort to derail the health care law.

President Obama is not the only commander in chief criticized for taking vacation while the country roils. Just the latest — and the loudest.

ELECTIONS

The Herald quizzes Boston mayoral candidates John Connolly and Charlotte Richie about out-of-town campaign contributions. In the segment, Richie cites a recent CommonWealth report on where candidates are fielding their campaign donations from. An updated CommonWealth infographic detailing Boston mayoral fundraising is here.

In an odd look at the legal divide that is supposed to be maintained by elected officials between their official duties and campaigns, the Globe shows that City Councilor and mayoral candidate Charles Yancey makes little effort to maintain the division.

A woman in Peabody decides electing a mayor every two years is a waste of time and launches a ballot question effort to make the mayor’s term four years, the Salem News reports. CommonWealth reported earlier on how many cities are coming to the same realization.

Steve Murphy chats with David Bernstein — and, one can only imagine, Gabriel Gomez is smiling.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Penn National sweetens the pot in Tewksbury, adding $900,000 in one-time public safety grants to its $1.12 million-a-year bid for a slots parlor, the Lowell Sun reports.

The rate of bad mortgages falls to its lowest level since 2008.

The United Food and Commercial Workers will rejoin the AFL-CIO.

A study shows there is a lot of grade inflation in crowd-sourced reviews on TripAdvisor, Yelp, and other consumer-information sites

EDUCATION

Is the real problem with American schools the anti-intellectualism that pervades US society? A new book explains why the rest of the world is smarter than us, the Daily Beast reports.

In a Telegram & Gazette report, students offer advice on how to cope with student loan debt.

Actor Matt Damon, a big supporter of public schools, sends his children to private schools in Los Angeles and says he really didn’t have a choice, Time reports.

HEALTH CARE

An audit by the Inspector General’s office of the federal Health and Human Services found that Medicare wrongly pays hospitals millions of dollars in claims for canceled elective surgeries. Via Weekly Standard.

Officials in Quincy and Weymouth say discarded hypodermic needles in public areas are still posing a health and safety threat even after the state legalized possession of needles.

TRANSPORTATION

The Storrow Drive overpass at Clarendon Street in the Back Bay is declared the most dangerous bridge in the country, according to Travel and Leisure magazine. Via Greater Boston.

MassDOT chief Richard Davey says the state now has complete control of the Boston-Worcester commuter rail line and promises improvement in service, the MetroWest Daily News reports.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Green energy mandates are gobbling up 5.4 percent of the typical National Grid customer’s bill, CommonWealth reports. Ian Bowles, the former secretary of energy and environmental affairs and former head of MassINC, tweets that the CommonWealth story is “know-nothing misleading stuff” and points to a 2011 report that says green initiatives save money. Here’s a link to the report, which forecasted that ratepayers would pay $111 million for renewable energy development in 2012 and net $328 million in benefits. The underpinnings of the analysis are pretty complicated.

Criminal charges were dismissed against 44 protesters arrested at Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset last month in exchange for the defendants paying $100 each to help defray the town’s costs for security at the protest.

The long-time Fairhaven town counsel asked selectmen to remove him from matters involving the controversial wind turbines because of the political tension over the issue in town.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

As the jury in the Whitey Bulger trial enters its fourth day of deliberations, Scot Lehigh says we should look forward to soon being rid of the stench of of not only Whitey, but his enabling brother Billy, too.

Bruce Browne, the brother of former US Sen. Scott Brown, was arrested and charged in Connecticut with impersonating a police officer and stopping boaters to ask for their registrations while he was armed. Browne has never explained why he spells his last name differently than his famous brother.

The US attorney’s office charges Lee police chief Joseph Buffis with extorting money from two people accused of prostitution, Masslive reports.

Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis defends his record on promoting minority officers and says the state’s reliance on civil service rules limits his leeway.

Two UMass Dartmouth students from Russia who are friends of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were indicted on obstruction of justice charges.

MEDIA

Romenesko reports that Patch, the hyperlocal news site, is preparing to close sites and may layoff as many as 500 employees.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Mathew Ingram urges Jeff Bezos to shut down the Washington Post’s printing presses and go all-digital.

Slate makes an editorial decision to stop calling Washington’s NFL franchise the Redskins.