MBTA has to up its game for control board

It has come to this: The fate of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority lies with a fiscal and management control board tasked with rebuilding the legendarily feckless public transportation system into a somewhat normal one.

The task before the five-member board that met for the first time on Tuesday almost got lost in the revelations that fines paid by Keolis, the commuter rail operator, would be reinvested in fare collection agents and public information staff, a jaw-dropping development – at least for the MBTA.

Despite that look-at-this, not-at-us moment, the clear takeaway from the two-hour meeting was this group understands transit and knows in the their bones that the MBTA is a mess. Most of them ride the T regularly, which demonstrates that they will be more focused on what goes wrong when it goes wrong. These are no small things.

But the most telling indicator that the times are a changin’ was the quality of the questions and requests that the group hurled at Frank DePaola, the MBTA interim general manager, during his presentation on the transit system.

If the MBTA officials had gotten used to softball questions tossed out by most of the Patrick administration-era MassDOT board appointees, this first meeting put them on notice that they’ll have to up their game for the control board.

Presented with the commuter rail’s April school vacation week-induced staffing snafus, control board chairman Joseph Aiello wanted to know if management had the right to tell some people they couldn’t take time off and if this was “a solvable problem.”

Steve Poftak, of the Rappaport Institute at Harvard’s Kennedy School, asked about the differences between the type of real-time train information available for subway lines and commuter rail and if, in addition to more staff, technology upgrades were necessary for commuter rail.

Brian Lang, president of Unite Here Local 26, wanted to know why the Fairmount Line had the lowest number of riders in the commuter rail system.

Monica Tibbits-Nutt, 128 Business Council’s executive director, asked about the types of survey information that the MBTA collects from customers.

Lisa Calise, a former city of Boston chief financial officer, requested a “high-level presentation” on the MBTA fiscal 2016 budget.

Talking tough won’t be enough to turn the MBTA around though. “You have your work cut out for you,” Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack told the group. “There is no more important task in state government than getting the MBTA back on track.”

GABRIELLE GURLEY

 

BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto of all-day kindergarten money riles state lawmakers who are threatening an override. (Gloucester Times)

A Globe editorial calls on Baker to speak out on behalf of strengthening the state Public Records Law. Keller@Large asks the public for suggestions on ways to break the impasse over updating the Public Records Law. The Patriot Ledger calls out the Massachusetts Municipal Association for its opposition to the bill.

With the movie Central Intelligence filming in town, the Lynn Item says “hooray for Hollywood” and the state’s film tax credit.

Newton Rep. Kay Khan seeks insurance coverage for treatment of eating disorders. (WBUR)

Scot Lehigh says labor unions are getting too bent out of shape over the three-year suspension of the Pacheco Law. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

In a case that underscores the outsize power of arbitrators under the state’s civil service laws, a superior court judge has ordered the Boston Police Department to reinstate an officer for the second time following serious misconduct allegations that led the department to try to fire him. (Boston Globe)

Everybody’s talking about George Simolaris of Billerica who painted some town crosswalks himself when town officials couldn’t get the job done and is now facing charges. (The Sun)

Vivien Li, the longtime head of the Boston Harbor Association and a fixture in city and state political circles, is leaving for Pittsburgh, where she will helm Riverlife, an organization working to revive the area alongside the three rivers that converge there. (Boston Globe)

A tent city set up by homeless people in New Bedford creates a stir after an assault. (SouthCoastToday)

OLYMPICS

The Globe reports that it’s often hard to conclude whether recent Olympics were money makers or losers. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

About 7.5 million Americans paid financial penalties for not having health insurance in 2014. (NPR)

At 10.25 percent, Chicago is about to have the highest sales tax rate in the nation. (Governing)

Fewer American teenagers are having sex. (Time)

Secretary of State John Kerry is getting hammered by some former Senate chums over the proposed Iranian nuclear deal. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

Joe Battenfeld, who last month slammed the “establishment” for reacting to Donald Trump‘s entry in the GOP presidential race with a “predictable mix of ridicule and fear,”today joins the establishment and urges the GOP to “ignore” the “billionaire egomaniac” in order to get the poll-leading blowhard to go away. (Boston Herald)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Amazon has a new e-commerce rival, Jet.com, which launched yesterday with backing from some Boston investors. (Boston Globe)

Dante Ramos decries the fact that the debate over Uber, Airbnb, and other “sharing economy” ventures has begun to break into conventional left-right camps, with conservatives celebrating the developments and some liberals looking to slam the door on them. (Boston Globe)

Pfizer will consolidate several Cambridge operations at one large site outside Kendall Square in Cambridge. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

State Auditor Suzanne Bump cites lapses in a report on Worcester State University. (Telegram & Gazette)

The Globe says most Boston colleges and universities are paying the city only a fraction of the voluntary contributions the city has asked for in lieu of property tax payments, which nonprofits are exempt from.

The Herald Times applauds the creation of Parent Academies in Fall River.

HEALTH CARE

Massachusetts is behind the curve in following the federal government’s lead in halving the blood lead levels that trigger lead poisoning warnings. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA fiscal control board gets down to work. (WBUR)

Former state transportation secretary James Aloisi explains what the T’s fiscal control board needs to do. (CommonWealth)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Rock walls built to protect homes on Plum Island are being torn down by wave action and turning a sandy public beach into a beach filled with soccer ball-sized rocks. (Eagle-TribuneCommonWealth reported on Plum Island and its struggle with climate change in its recent print issue.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

John Grossman is the man in the middle, bringing together government officials, service providers, and private sector money men for pay-for-success projects. His big project in Massachusetts is attempting to reduce recidivism of young men released from jail. (CommonWealth)

MEDIA

The Salt Lake Tribune offers “members” a $9.99-a-month digital subscription with no ads or a $4.99-a-month subscription with ads. (Nieman Journalism Lab) Both are cheaper than theBoston Globe’s new digital subscription price of $6.93 a week. (CommonWealth)