Hail to the T’s Control Board

The five members of the MBTA’s Fiscal Management and Control Board are the most intriguing people in state government right now. They work long hours for no pay and take lots of abuse at their public meetings, yet they refuse to take the easy way out.

On Monday, the board assembled at the state Transportation Building to raise T fares. They had two options in front of them, one that would raise fares an average of 6.7 percent and another by an average of 9.7 percent. The politically smart approach would have been to go with the lesser amount. Few transit advocates would have balked at the lower increase and the whole controversy over fares would have faded from public view fairly quickly.

But the board voted unanimously to go with a 9.22 percent average fare hike after paring back planned increases for student and senior passes, The Ride, and bus trips. The board members even debated and took their vote while protesters disrupted their meeting, chanting and making it virtually impossible for anyone to be heard.

The board went with the higher fare hike because the T desperately needs money and it’s not going to come from the Legislature or the governor. Gov. Charlie Baker opposes raising taxes for transportation, as does House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

Rafael Mares, vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation, also opposed the larger fare hike. He said in a letter to the Boston Globe that the T didn’t need the larger fare hike to balance its fiscal 2017 budget and “already has more money than it can spend next year on capital projects.”

But, in a briefing Monday morning for state lawmakers, board members suggested otherwise. They said they hoped to set aside $100 million from their fiscal 2017 operating budget for upgrades to Green Line signal technology that dates to 1915 and for more winter resiliency initiatives.

George Donnelly, in an op-ed in the Globe, laments the short-term mentality of most government officials on Beacon Hill, those who favor belt-tightening over investments for the future. “Massachusetts needs far-reaching infrastructure and education investments to take an already strong economy and make it the best in the world,” he wrote.

Luckily, the Control Board appears to share his view. In the face of strong opposition, the Fiscal Management and Control Board did on Monday what few in state government rarely do. It didn’t take the easy way out.

–BRUCE MOHL

 

BEACON HILL

A bill that would expand Gloucester’s Angel program prompts a backlash from district attorneys, who say police departments don’t have the legal authority to grant amnesty to people in possession of illegal drugs. (Salem News)

A state Senate report to be issued today casts a wary eye on possible legalization of marijuana in the state, saying any such move should be accompanied by hefty taxes, a ban on home cultivation, and limits on the marketing of edible forms of it. (Boston Globe)  Meanwhile, lawmakers take pro-and-con testimony on legalizing marijuana. (State House News)

A Herald editorial questions state Auditor Suzanne Bump’s “obsession” with finding flaws in reports on the size of the waiting list for charter schools.

An Eagle-Tribune editorial opposes proposed state legislation that would force nonprofits to make payments-in-lieu-of-taxes to municipalities.

Fresh off his victory where he gained control of the Republican State Committee, Gov. Charlie Baker is backing state Rep. Keiko Orrall of Lakeville for the national Republican committeewoman post to replace a conservative activist who has been critical of Baker’s tenure. (The Enterprise)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Worcester paid nearly 400 municipal employees more than $100,000 in 2015. (Masslive)

CASINOS

MGM partners with a lesser-known Indian tribe to fight a Connecticut law that would give the tribes behind Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun first dibs on a third casino near the Massachusetts border. (Masslive)

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe is planning to break ground on its proposed Taunton casino in April despite litigation questioning its legal right to do so. (WBUR) The tribe has hired three construction companies to build its First Light casino, including a Las Vegas firm that has extensive experience in remodeling and renovating gambling facilities. (Cape Cod Times)

ELECTIONS

Michael Bloomberg says he will not run for president because he cannot win and because a campaign would hand the election to either Republican Donald Trump or Sen.Ted Cruz. Bloomberg says Trump “appeals to our worst impulses” and Cruz’s stance on immigration is extreme. (Bloomberg View)

With primary voters heading to the polls today in Michigan, Trump’s appeal there is worrisome to Muslims in Dearborn, home to a huge Muslim population and the largest mosque in North America. (Boston Globe)

The New York Times details the curious bromance between Trump and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie that began 14 years ago when Trump’s sister, a federal judge, told the then-US attorney that her little brother wanted to meet him.

Kimberly Atkins suggests a Clinton-Sanders ticket might have been a possibility — but not after Sunday’s testy debate between the two rivals for the Democratic nomination. (Boston Herald)

Former state representative Cleon Turner, who retired last year after serving a decade in the Legislature, has entered the selectmen’s race in Dennis. (Cape Cod Times)

Republicans are unlikely to mount any challenge to Democratic lawmakers in Berkshire County. (Berkshire Eagle)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

OSHA has proposed a $20,000 fine against a Marlborough energy company after one of its electricians was burned in a fiery explosion at a Framingham public library last fall when he failed to cut the power before beginning work on the electrical panel. (MetroWest Daily News)

The tech job market is hot, but not so much for older workers in the field. (Boston Globe)

In a civil action, the federal Securities and Exchange Commission is charging Rhode Island’s state economic development office and Wells Fargo with defrauding investors who bought bonds as part of the failed $75 million deal with 38 Studios, the video game company run by former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling. (Boston Herald)

EDUCATION

More than 1,000 Boston Public Schools students stage a walkout over budget cuts threatening school programming. (WBUR)

As the Worcester School Committee and City Council come out against Gov. Charlie Baker’s charter school legislation, a Telegram & Gazette editorial bucks the tide, backing the governor’s bill.

John Sbrega, who has been president of Bristol Community College since 2000, will step down in August, 2017. (Herald News)

Dante Ramos thinks campuses are getting worked up over the wrong types of injustice, including the recent controversy over Harvard Law School’s official seal. (Boston Globe)

Two Northeastern University students, one of whom survived injuries from the Boston Marathon bombings, were killed in a car crash while traveling in Dubai. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The embattled Pembroke Hospital, under scrutiny over issues with patient and staff safety, is facing a probe by the Justice Department over possible fraudulent billing. (Patriot Ledger)

Tyrek Lee Sr., the head of SEIU Local 1199, which represents 52,000 health care workers, backs a ballot question that he says would level the playing field for community hospitals. (CommonWealth)

The maker of a hepatitis C treatment that goes for more than $1,000 per pill has gone on a $100 million advertising tear to promote greater use of the drug at a time when the costly remedy has drawn lawsuits, state investigations, and condemnation from members of Congress. (STAT)

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA is getting ready to roll out a new online dashboard that will chart the transit system’s performance. (CommonWealth)

Both sides are unhappy with new legislation to regulate ride-hailing businesses. (Boston Herald) Uber prepares to offer temporary, $5 late-night fares as the MBTA shutters its late-night service. (State House News)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

With studies showing vast species of marine life creating thriving ecosystems around oil rigs, a push is underway to turn the platforms into artificial reefs once they are decommissioned. (New York Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A former Weymouth Bank executive has been indicted on charges he embezzled more than a quarter-million dollars from a fund set up for the children of his sister and brother-in-law who were killed in a car crash in 2009. (Patriot Ledger)

A judge has rejected a request from prosecutors in the Aaron Hernandez double murder case to get the cellphone former Patriots tight end gave to his attorneys but left the door open for them to possibly obtain it later. (Associated Press)

A jury awards $55 million to Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews in her suit against a stalker who took a video of her through a hotel room peephole. Half of the jury award will come from the hotel’s owners. (Associated Press)

MEDIA

Peter Howe is let go as business editor at NECN. (Boston Business Journal)