Baker’s MBTA control board gift to Legislature
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER gave House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg a big gift. The present did not come wrapped in colorful paper with a fancy bow. It’s mundane really: a thin binder tagged “Back on Track: An Action Plan to Transform the MBTA,” full of PowerPoint slides in shades of blue and grey with rare splashes of red and yellow.
While many analysts remain caught up in the white noise of unspent capital dollars and worker absenteeism, Baker’s proposal for a MBTA fiscal and management control board is a historic development.
The Boston Herald explained the move as as “tearing the transit agency right down to the studs.” Most major renovation projects don’t come with a gift card, but Baker has dangled one in front of legislative leaders. A control board is a gift that essentially absolves the Legislature in the short term by taking the pressure off legislative leaders to deal with MBTA revenue questions.
Nevertheless, a fiscal and management control board would spotlight what has shaped up as one of the major failings of the 2009 transportation reforms: the inability of the MassDOT board to chart any coherent long-range policy and planning strategies or rise to the challenge of reforming the MBTA.
But former governor Deval Patrick came under fire early on for populating the board (with several notable exceptions) with individuals who had no substantive transportation experience. In 2010, CommonWealth noted that the board did not get off to an auspicious start. “The fact that we got the board that we ended up with that was disappointing to so many unfortunately made it easy to criticize,” said former state senator Steven Baddour, the co-chair of the Transportation Committee who was present at the creation of MassDOT six years ago.
Those reservations proved well-founded as the MassDOT board essentially rubber stamped decision after decision and procurement after procurement without engaging in substantive debate over the merits of such moves.
The proposed control board is a natural outgrowth of the failure to appoint a strong group of transportation professionals to highlight and fix governance problems in the transportation bureaucracy. The this-board-needs-to-go sentiment only got louder with the winter collapse of the MBTA. The special MBTA panel gave this succinct and damning appraisal of their tenure: “The current governance structure does not foster productive oversight of the troubled MBTA.”
In the short term, the governor’s proposal would return the state transportation sector to its pre-2009 governance status of two boards, one charged with dealing with the MBTA and the other with the rest of the transportation departments. However, since Baker has asked for the resignation of the MassDOT board, he would essentially get two completely new boards-if the Legislature approves his plan.
Baker’s proposal would install the Secretary of Transportation as chair and align the terms of board members so that most of them serve in tandem with the governor who appoints them. These changes have their own potential for political shenanigans.
Increasing the number of members of the board is a proposal that deserves consideration, especially if the board brings on individuals who represent the city of Boston and other cities and towns served by the MBTA and a labor representative from a transportation union.
Details can be tweaked. What Baker has really done is place responsibility for one of state government’s most persistent problems firmly in the Corner Office. The Bay State will find out soon enough whether legislative leaders are in the mood to accept this gift of political absolution.
MARATHON BOMBING TRIAL
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is found guilty on all 30 counts in connection with the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the killing days later of MIT police officer Sean Collier, and the shootout in Watertown, where he was eventually captured. (Boston Globe)
Here is how the penalty phase, in which jurors will decide whether Tsarnaev gets the death penalty or life in prison, will unfold. (Boston Globe) Lawyers tell the Boston Herald that taking the stand and testifying in the upcoming penalty phase might be Tsarnaev’s only real hope for being spared a death sentence, but that move would also carry tremendous risk that he snaps under withering cross-examination.
Gov. Charlie Baker and others say Tsarnaev deserves the death penalty. (Eagle-Tribune) US Rep. Seth Moulton opposes the death penalty. (The Sun) A WBUR/MassINC Polling Group survey indicates 62 percent of Boston residents believe Tsarnaev should be sentenced to life in prison while 22 percent favor the death penalty. A Boston Herald editorial says jurors should show Tsarnaev no mercy, an apparent call for a death sentence. A Boston Globe editorial calls for a life sentence.
“Evil did not win that day,” says Mery Daniel, who lost a leg in the blasts and spoke publicly yesterday for the first time about her experience. (Boston Herald)
Gov. Baker reflects on his first 100 days in a meeting with Telegram & Gazette reporters and editors.
State officials say they will aggressively revamp the medical marijuana licensing process to get the dispensaries up and running. (Boston Globe)
A film crew takes over the Hawthorn Hotel in Salem even as lawmakers ponder whether to do away with or scale back the state’s film tax credit. (Salem News)
Worcester officials are calling in representatives of the US Department of Justice to host discussions on race. (Telegram & Gazette)
New Bedford City Councilor Naomi Carney has filed for bankruptcy, saying her credit card debt is “out of control.” (Standard-Times)
As sickening as the video is showing a white South Carolina police officer gunning down a fleeing black man in the back, almost worse, writes the Globe’s Ty Burr, is the realization that he might well have gotten away with it if not for a bystander who saw the unfolding commotion and trained his cellphone camera on the scene.
President Obama will call for an end to religious-based therapies aimed at “repairing” gay, lesbian, and transgender youths. (New York Times)
Developer and restaurant owner Joseph Faro buys 50 acres of the former Rockingham Park in New Hampshire but says his plans are not contingent on a casino going there. (Eagle-Tribune)
Nicki Ruiz de Luzuriaga, of the Crittenton Women’s Union, says Robert Putnam’s new book misses the mark by blaming parents for their children’s lack of economic mobility. (CommonWealth)
The former director of a child care center at Bridgewater State University is facing criminal charges alleging that she failed to report potential abuse of a child there by a student worker and urged staff to keep the issue under wraps. (Boston Globe) The Brockton Enterprise editorial page calls for the resignation of the school’s president, Dana Mohler-Faria, or for state officials to remove him, saying the incident is just the latest in a series of cover-ups created by Mohler-Faria’s “culture of secrecy” over sexual assaults.
Five unions at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth angrily protested that they have not received their contractually obligated raises that the Legislature funded last summer. (Standard-Times)
A computer glitch has further delayed Boston school assignments for next year, a process already behind schedule because of a recent decision to close several schools. (Boston Herald)
Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack talks about the issues raised in the report by a gubernatorial-appointed panel, saying the agency is “so dysfunctional it’s not even spending the resources it has.” (Greater Boston) Pollack’s views on the system’s need for more funding have evolved, reports CommonWealth, as she has learned more details about the degree of that dysfunction. Former state transportation secretary Jim Aloisi faults the report for ignoring the need for more funding in the system, calling it “a historic missed opportunity.” (CommonWealth)
Winterization of MBTA above-ground rail lines will mean shuttle bus service this summer. (State House News)
The private company that manages Fall River’s waste management says a shortfall in expected revenues has been caused by the “unprecedented” lack of enforcement in the pay-as-you-throw program by city officials. (Herald News)
National Grid is preparing to begin a $30 million cleanup of the Gloucester waterfront and harbor. (Gloucester Times)
The Baltimore Police Department used secret technology to track cell phones in thousands of cases. (Baltimore Sun)
A 14-year-old student at St. Francis of Assisi School in Braintree was arrested after a loaded gun was found in his locker. (Patriot Ledger)
Washington Post editor Martin Baron delivers a provocative speech in Los Angeles on the shift to digital and he uses the Boston Globe’s coverage of pedophile priests at the Catholic Church to illustrate some of his points. Baron is the former editor of the Globe.
Beth Bresnahan, the executive director of the Massachusetts Lottery, announces she is stepping down to become CEO of the Daily Item in Lynn.Trevor Noah, the new host of the Daily Show who got in some hot water for tasteless tweets, is facing an even more serious issue: charges that he stole other comedians’ jokes. (New York Times)
The Associated Press runs its coverage of the end of the Civil War on the 150th anniversary of the surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.