MBTA critics pile on

The evidence is mounting, as if more was needed, that the MBTA is in an epic freefall. The agency is on its way to being a Harvard Business School case that will have future titans of industry facepalming in sheer horror over the decision-making that has undermined one of the country’s largest transit agencies.

The Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation, one of the most persistent critics of the MBTA, has released its most recent analysis, “T: The End of the Its Line,” the product of nearly a year’s worth of study.

Many of the problems that the foundation describes are familiar ones that veteran MBTA-watchers know well: expenses that outpace revenues by hundreds of millions of dollars, questionable debt management decisions, and capital needs that go unmet because the agency can’t pay for or even track because its asset management system is kaput.

Although the foundation’s overall recommendations are less drastic than the Pioneer Institute’s call for a “soft receivership,” they are no less damning. The foundation says the system requires independent financial and maintenance audits. Some of the group’s proposals dovetail with the conservative think tank’s ideas. The foundation refers to “a rescue plan,” suggests a short-term moratorium on expansion contracts, and wants to see the state board that governs the T get its collective act together.

The foundation report piles on the major studies that have gone before, including the 2007 Transportation Finance Commission report, the 2009 MBTA Advisory study “Born Broke,” and the D’Alessandro report, to name just a few.

This latest effort sets the table for what promises to be the mother of all MBTA reports from the special panel which was tasked with coming up with a potentially definitive set of recommendations that can get Gov. Charlie Baker’s seal of approval.

Nevertheless, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation report shows that the management and financial tools that state lawmakers gave the MBTA six years ago aren’t enough. Worse, the foundation concludes that no one really knows just how bad things are at MBTA headquarters.

Yet roadblocks to dealing with the MBTA once and for all seem to be moving into place on Beacon Hill. Both Speaker Robert DeLeo and House Majority Leader Ron Mariano have signaled that Baker’s proposal for a new infusion of money for the MBTA is a poor use of state dollars and have called on the agency to get its collective house in order on its own.

The system’s collapse has also been blamed on the region’s “historic winter.” The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation isn’t having any of that:“What happened this winter was not simply a meteorological fluke that disrupted the T’s operations-it was a stress test that brought to light underlying financial, managerial, and structural weaknesses.”



Secretary of State William Galvin blasts the Baker administration for using algorithms to set his elections budget so low that he can’t afford to run a presidential primary in 2016. Senate President Stan Rosenberg raises concerns about the film tax credit. And lawmakers raise concerns about early retirement incentives and Medicaid cuts, CommonWealth reports.

State Auditor Suzanne Bump pays $115,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by her former top aide, State House News reports.

Senate President Rosenberg says state leaders are taking steps to make sure taxpayers aren’t stuck with any bills for the Boston Olympics bid, the Associated Press reports. The group organizing against a Olympic bid says it won’t release information on its donors, maintaining supporters assumed the donations were anonymous and may fear reprisals if their contributions are disclosed. The group’s leader called it a “David vs. 100 Goliaths” situation and the organization said its entire operating budget since 2013 is less than the $7,500 the Boston 2024 organization will pay Deval Patrick for one day of work.

A failed Roxbury health center stopped reimbursing the state for unemployment benefits while Ronald Walker II, Gov. Charlie Baker’s new labor secretary, was president of its board, according to a claim filed by the state.

Galvin’s office, which oversees the state’s Public Records Law, has sanctioned the practice of many police departments in the state of denying media requests for arrest records, the latest blow, writes the Globe’s Todd Wallack, to a Public Records Law already considered one of the weakest in the country.

As lawmakers debate the film tax credit, Lynn is experiencing the pull of the credit first-hand. The crew of Joy, the story of the woman who invented the Miracle Mop, converted a Johnnie’s Foodmaster into a Kmart for a scene. And producers of the Broad Squad, a TV pilot about the first female members of the Boston Police Department,  were also scouting locations, the Item reports.

Former state senator Dianne Wilkerson, who served 30 months in federal prison on a bribery conviction, is making her way back into the public spotlight and isn’t ruling out seeking office again someday.


A rift between the New Bedford City Council and school officials widened further when no one from the school department or School Committee showed up at a council meeting to talk about issues involving the city’s troubled education system.

Keller@Large tosses his two cents into the debate about what to do with Boston’s City Hall Plaza, urging Mayor Martin Walsh to rip it up and replace it with an urban marketplace.

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll appoints the city’s first female police chief, Mary Butler, the Salem News reports.

Salem may have a chicken ordinance, but a grandfathered coop is the focus of a dispute between neighbors before the Board of Health, the Salem News reports.

The Marshfield town administrator says layoffs cannot be avoided, including in the schools.


The National Governors Association urges House Speaker John Boehner to push through a law that would allow sales taxes on Internet sales, Governing reports.

Ferguson, Missouri’s, fine-loving city manager resigns, the New York Times reports.

The Utah legislature passes a bill that, if signed by the governor, would authorize the use of firing squads for executions if lethal drug injections are not available, Time reports.


Hillary Clinton defends her use of personal email as secretary of state, Time reports.


A jury in Los Angeles orders “Blurred Lines” songwriters Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to pay $7.3 million to the family of Marvin Gaye for copyright infringement, Variety reports.

The Salvation Army plays off the Twitter sensation about the color of a dress to launch a campaign on domestic violence. The campaign has gone viral, picking up 30 million Twitter impressions and a wave of media coverage.


The Easton School Committee has voted to drop Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Good Friday from the school calendar beginning in the fall.

A report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development finds girls still lag behind boys on math tests but overall the inequality education gap is widening with boys falling further behind in achievement.


State officials say a more stringent prescription monitoring system may be having an effecton tamping down “doctor shopping” by addicts looking for drugs.

In a veiled message to the Supreme Court as it considers a challenge to the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration says 86 percent of the 11.7 million people who bought insurance through a government exchange are receiving subsidies.

The increase in private insurance premium payments has driven down estimates of government health care spending and lowered the projected deficit even further, according to new figures from the Congressional Budget Office.


The Mass. Taxpayers Foundation says the MBTA’s finances have gone “off the rails” and recommends it halt any expansion plans and consider privatizing some services. Fixing the T will take “reform, restraint, and money” writes Charlie Chieppo. Officials from the Massachusetts Business Roundtable offer a roadmap on T investments.


Haverhill leases its old landfill to a solar power developer, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

WBUR runs the second part of its two-part series on electricity costs. This one focuses on the potential of liquefied natural gas.


Family business: The son of Rev. Shaun Harrison, who is himself facing a charge related to shooting his girlfriend, defends his father, a one-time Boston English High School staffer who is charged with shooting a 17-year-old student in the head.


Aaron Kushner resigns at the Orange County Register.

Karen Webber, who has been working as the acting executive editor at the Telegram & Gazette, is formally appointed to the post. Webber announced several other personnel changes after her appointment, the T&G reports.

Kirk Davis, CEO of GateHouse Media, which owns the T&G and scores of other papers, talks up his company’s aggressive acquisition spree and use of technology, moves that have been accompanied by lots of unhappiness in newsrooms.