Grabauskas lands in familiar territory
In his time in Massachusetts, Dan Grabauskas earned a reputation as a Mr. Fix-It in Republican administrations. He was, at varying times, Registrar of Motor Vehicles, Secretary of Transportation, and MBTA general manager.
Given that those three agencies are arguably the most distrusted and disliked arms of state government, one has to question either Grabauskas’ life choices or sanity. Even an all-expenses paid relocation to Hawaii has apparently done little to sate Grabauskas’ appetite to be in the middle of a storm. He now has the dubious distinction to be the steward of one of the country’s most expensive public works projects ever after being a close witness to another, one that had an impact on his ability to do his job at the MBTA.
Grabauskas is the executive director of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit, an indication of a rather cushy position since the island doesn’t really have rapid transit – yet. Grabauskas was hired in 2012 to manage the construction of a 20-mile rail line that will connect the two ends of the main island of Oahu. The original budget for the project was just over $5 billion, a hefty cost that is being borne largely by an excise tax surcharge with about $1.5 billion coming from the federal government.
But, shades of the Big Dig, that price tag has ballooned to more than $6.5 billion without the final phase of contracts being opened yet. Some say the cost is rapidly heading to more than $9 billion and has pushed back the opening to 2021, at least two years behind schedule.
The rising costs put the Hawaii rail project on track to be the most expensive per-capita public works project in the country. At the time, the Big Dig was the costliest public works project in the world and still stands as the most expensive in the country, depending on the cost calculations. Graubauskas did not have control of the Big Dig when he was transportation secretary — that still belonged to the Turnpike Authority at the time — but the choking debt could give Grabauskas a case of déjà vu, reminiscent of his days as the head of the cash-strapped T and the inability to keep the system in a state of good repair.
Like the Central Artery project, the groundwork for the Hawaii rail increases was laid well before Grabauskas came aboard but he still had to deal with the fallout when he went to the T. Grabauskas’ hands were tied at the MBTA because of debt the agency was forced to take on related to Big Dig mitigation. The Honolulu rail project will be brand new, but if anything goes wrong they will be hard-pressed to find the money to make things right because of the IOUs.
As of now, even though an overwhelming number of residents and officials think the rail project is more boondoggle than boon, the feeling is that so much money has already been spent that it makes no sense to turn back.
“People are very angry about it,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell told the New York Times. “But we are now heading toward eight miles completed. It’s like we are pregnant — we can’t just stop and tear it down.”
Grabauskas, who was a senior fellow at MassINC for a brief time after he was forced out at the T, has shown he learned some valuable lessons in the hardscrabble world of Massachusetts politics. Last year, he opted to forego his contractual bonus as anger began to boil over the cost overruns and delays. But, he said, the sun will rise.
“They don’t get to ride it,” said Grabauskas, who makes about $260,000 plus expenses a year. They don’t get to see it. They have to deal with the traffic. This is kind of the darkest time for any new system that is coming into fruition.”
State Sen. Jason Lewis, who has led a legislative effort to study the impact of marijuana legalization in other states, says he will oppose a ballot question this fall to legalize pot in Massachusetts. (Boston Globe)
Rep. Benjamin Swan of Springfield is listed as a tax delinquent by the city. Swan says he must have slipped up and will pay the $527 he owes immediately. (Masslive)
Senate President Stanley Rosenberg is named Irish person of the year by a Pittsfield organization. (Berkshire Eagle) He also sat down with Keller@Large Sunday morning to talk budget and charter schools and to address a complaint by outgoing state Sen. Dan Wolf that Democrats aren’t doing enough to forward their agenda.
The number of child abuse deaths in the state dropped sharply from 2013 to 2014. (Boston Globe) But what’s being heralded as a surprising decrease of nearly 50 percent looks more like a return to the numbers seen in the years before 2013.
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera flip-flops on where to put the school department. After losing a $2.6 million court judgment brought by the department’s old landlord, the mayor now wants to buy the old building and move the school department back in. That means backtracking on the city’s purchase of a new school department building down the street. (Eagle-Tribune) For more of the history, check out this report on the initial court decision and this longer piece on Rivera’s use of old-school tactics. (CommonWealth)
Black architect, lawyer, and public official Ted Landsmark reflects on race relations in Boston 40 years after he was attacked by a flag-wielding white tough on City Hall Plaza, a moment captured by a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph that helped define Boston to the nation.
Two Quincy city councilors want more transparency in downtown development deals and plan to offer measures that would require council approval for any agreement between the mayor and developers. (Patriot Ledger)
The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority is launching a $100 million program offering interest-free loans to cities and towns to replace water lines that contain lead. (Boston Globe)
David Vining’s felony conviction could jeopardize his wife’s bid to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Billerica. (The Sun)
President Obama is on his first full day in Cuba, a historic visit marking a sharp turn in relations with the island nation. (Washington Post)
George Will calls Senate Republicans “obdurate” in their refusal to consider any Supreme Court nominee from Obama and says if they’re counting on President Trump coming up with a name, they’re hanging their hat on a “stupendously uninformed dilettante.” (National Review)
Hundreds of Jewish leaders and rabbis plan to protest Donald Trump’s scheduled speech in Washington today to the country’s largest pro-Israel organization. (Boston Herald) Frank Rich says Trump isn’t hijacking the Republican Party, he’s reflecting what it’s become. (New York) Trump takes a whack at Elizabeth Warren. (New York Times)
Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham mulls the potential showdown between hack has-beens Steve Murphy and Charles Yancey for Suffolk County Register of Deeds. The Herald’s Matt Stout says they aren’t the only ones eyeing the well-paid, make-work post.
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Secretary of State William Galvin is pushing legislation that would allow abuse victims to register to vote without having their address accessible to the public.
A new report by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative finds 70 percent of charities expect to see increases in revenues in 2016. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)
Beverly evaluates the cost and space needed for a full-day kindergarten. (Salem News)
Sunday’s Globe reports on a week at Boston Latin School, which is under the microscope over race issues at the school.
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Massachusetts seems to be unusually secretive about its plans, if there are any, to comply with a federal requirement changing the way highway road exits are numbered. (Telegram & Gazette)
The Government Center MBTA station will be back in business today after a two year shutdown for a complete makeover. (Boston Globe)
A Boston Herald editorial faults the MBTA for having launched its now-shuttered late-night service without a long-term plan to pay for it.
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Deborah Letourneau, whose license was suspended for life for multiple drunk driving arrests, is caught driving in Hull. (Masslive)
A Vermont couple with two children is busted for heroin at a restaurant in Methuen. (Eagle-Tribune)
Boston police are searching for two men whose drag race down Beacon Street on Saturday ended with one car crashing onto the sidewalk and injuring a pedestrian. (Boston Globe)
Lisa Strattan is named executive editor of the the Patriot Ledger of Quincy and the Enterprise of Brockton. (Patriot Ledger)The disturbing symbiosis between the news media and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. (New York Times)
“just setting up my twttr.” Ten years to the day after Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey sent out that first tweet on the new social media site, the New York Times talks with a number of users — and victims — of the app to get their take on the 140-character phenomenon.