Deval Patrick, John Adams, and rail to the South Coast

The week before Halloween, Gov. Deval Patrick is giving out transportation projects like candy: New Red and Orange line cars to calm those anxious commuters in Greater Boston who despair of seeing an end to the horror show that is commuting on the MBTA; electronic tolling that will prod drivers who haven’t gotten a transponder to get with the program; and straighter roads at the Allston tolls on the Mass Turnpike.

But the South Coast Rail, the one apple Patrick would dearly love to give out, has worms in it.  With little to say about concrete progress on South Coast Rail financing, Patrick touted the economic goals of the project at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce breakfast Tuesday. 

Opening up Boston workers to the affordable housing mecca that is the South Coast is one of the aims of the rail line. “Imagine if you worked here in Boston and could get a fast train to New Bedford . . . within 45 minutes,” the governor told the Boston Globe. “It completely transforms the way we think about economic growth.”

Travel time estimates to the South Coast via Stoughton using electric trains are actually 77 minutes, according to the Army Corps of Engineers recently released study and MassDOT’s own fact sheets.

As John Adams once said, Facts are stubborn things. And whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

Patrick’s desire to bring trains to the rail-deprived region is laudable. But his bold assertions about South Coast Rail remain problematic. In 2007, when the governor promised that trains would be running to New Bedford and Fall River by December 2016, he did not have a finance plan.

There will be no trains running between Boston and the South Coast in three years. There is still no finance plan. The details that were supposed to be released several years ago have yet to see the light of day. Nevertheless, state transportation officials plow gamely ahead with regional open houses touting the line’s virtues and the Corps of Engineers stamp of approval on the Stoughton route.

Despite $500 million in new revenues for transportation projects statewide, the state of facts and evidence have changed little for South Coast Rail. Massachusetts does not have the means to fully fund the project. If built, the MBTA does not have the financial capacity to operate the line.  

With the sequester in play, there are fewer federal dollars available for transit than ever before. Even if House Republicans were to conjure up a miraculous, new appreciation and dollars for mass transit, the head of the Federal Transit Administration is on record with his reluctance to send federal dollars to transit agencies for new projects if those agencies have difficulties running their existing systems.

South Coast Rail, a nearly $2 billion project, hinges on South Station’s expansion. That nearly $1 billion plan, which would also ease congestion on other commuter rail lines, is creeping along with its own issues just as slowly as the rail project.

The governor may be working on a calculation of getting South Coast Rail far enough along, so that his successor in the Corner Office would get tied up in knots reneging on the deal. If that person were inclined to do so, that is.  But facts are stubborn things. Sprinkling a few treats around the commonwealth does not make rotten apples go away.

  –GABRIELLE GURLEY

 

BEACON HILL

Developers and municipal officials are clashing over a bill to change Chapter 40B, the state’s affordable housing law, that would make it easier for communities to reject proposed developments.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Saying she can’t sleep at night worrying about businesses leaving the city, Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong offers to take a $20,000-a-year pay cut to help fund the position of economic development director, the Telegram & Gazette reports.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Time’s Joe Klein forecasts a wave of independent candidates running for office in the wake of all the dysfunction in Washington.

Sen. Mike Lee feels some shutdown backlash.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page attacks Ohio Gov. John Kasich for expanding Medicaid. 

ELECTIONS

A truth-bending campaign mailer by outside labor groups backing Marty Walsh that attacks John Connolly became the flashpoint in the second televised mayoral debate. Globe political analyst Jim O’Sullivan says Walsh remains vulnerable to concerns that he is too closely tied to unions to manage city finances prudently. Globe op-ed writers Joanna Weiss and Tom Keaneboth score the debate as victory for Connolly. Keane’s take, especially on school reform, seemed to be a big turnaround from only 10 days ago.

The race for mayor in Boston is a toss-up, according to a WBUR-MassINC Polling Group poll showing both candidates hanging on to their bases while failing to garner an edge in black and Hispanic precincts. Walsh also appears to have erased the advantage Connolly previously held among women.

David Bernstein doesn’t find very compelling a sudden call for Connolly to suddenly release a list of legal clients he’s represented.

Kevin White guided Boston through its darkest hour in the latest installment from James Aloisi on pivotal mayoral races of the past. Don Gillis, a former aide to Ray Flynn, offers an economic and social justice agenda for Boston’s next mayor.

An official sent by the state to observe last month’s preliminary mayoral election in Lawrence said he found “confusion and overall chaos” at several polling places. The observer’s report, which cited numerous irregularities, was obtained by the Eagle-Tribune after a public records request.

In their first debate, challenger Joseph Carvalho accused Fall River Mayor Will Flanagan of governing by crisis and being more active on issues as the election approaches.

A consultant who works for Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy testifies under a subpoena before the City Council in connection with the seizure of a council computer. The incident has become a lightening rod in the race between Flanagan and challenger Timothy Phelan, the city council president, the Item reports.   

Boston City Councilor Steve Murphy swears off any future appearances on the Herald’s radio station after being asked whether he’ll serve the full two-year council term he’s currently seeking.

CASINOS

A huge casino outfit with ties to skeezy characters?  Who could have imagined, says Adrian Walker. Other casino proponents now worry about passing the state gaming commission’s background checks.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Massachusetts housing sales reach an 8-year high, the Associated Press reports.

A new measure of poverty in California adds 2.2 million additional poor, Governing reports.

EDUCATION

Dracut High School students stage a sit-in to protest the firing of a 17-year English teacher for “conduct unbecoming a teacher and insubordination.” Previously, he had been suspended for reading a “vulgarity-laden” story he had written about Bob Dylan, the Lowell Sun reports.    

Part-time faculty at several Boston area universities are pushing to unionize. 

HEALTH CARE

The Fairhaven Planning Board voted to recommend a moratorium on approving zoning changes for medical marijuana facilities, putting a proposed dispensary in jeopardy.

TRANSPORTATION

The state rearranged the southbound lanes last night at the Braintree Split on the Southeast Expressway. 

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The New York Times looks at William Koch’s longstanding opposition to Cape Wind. CommonWealth previously spoke to Koch about the project.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Saugus police say two fiberglass black calves valued at $1,000 apiece were stolen from the now-closed Hilltop Steak House, the Item reports.

If you’re going to elude State Police, you probably don’t want to taunt them: A Somerset motorcyclist who police say has been hitting speeds of 90 to 100 mph during rush hour on Interstates 93 and 95 and Route 24 then calling police and taunting them for not catching him was arrested and held without bail after police found him hiding behind a warehouse in Randolph. Keller@Large says the cyclist, who has a history of dangerous driving and speeding tickets, is proof the state doesn’t take reckless driving seriously.

MEDIA

Meet the Author

Gabrielle Gurley

Senior Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

Red Sox owner John Henry’s purchase of the Boston Globe is put on hold as a judge sorts out a 2009 class action lawsuit, the Associated Press reports. The lawsuit holding up the sale of the Boston Globe and Telegram & Gazette dates to an errant newspaper toss a decade ago, the T&G reports. Here is the Globe report on the hold-up of its sale.

Struggling newspapers are selling off their headquarters at a rapid rate, the New York Times reports.