MBTA: A textbook case of civic dysfunction
What is the value of holding a major civic event after a winter storm in a city where the wheels have gone off the mass transit system?
When the history of the New England Patriots Super Bowl XLIX victory parade is written, all of that will have been long forgotten. What will remain in Boston’s collective memory is how people powered through to come out to celebrate their storied team.
At least, that’s the narrative that Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Gov. Charlie Baker, and Boston 2024 Olympic organizers are counting on.
Walsh has put himself into an impossible position. If the Patriots parade through the city’s snow-cleared, upscale shopping district goes off with only a few hitches, he’ll look like a hero and an organizational genius-except to those Boston residents who have endured hellish commutes from neighborhoods with unplowed streets. Walsh has remained resolute — and got testy — in the face of questions about whether it was a good idea.
What is more concrete is that the governor deemed the T’s recent performance “unacceptable.” That declaration puts him and Stephanie Pollack, the former transit advocate turned state transportation secretary, on the hook to deal with the system’s laundry list of maintenance issues.
As for Boston 2024 Olympic organizers, they have already unleashed the “We are bidding for the Summer not the Winter Olympics” public relations juggernaut. A parade that goes off against all odds also feeds into the Boston Strong narrative that is so appealing to US and international Olympic officials.
But as Richard Davey, the former state transportation secretary now serving as Boston 2024 CEO, knows better than anyone else, travelling on the T in the summer has its own circles of hell, courtesy of air conditioning failures, overheated engines, and heat restrictions, to name a few.
If there were any people left in metro Boston who did not know that the MBTA needs billions of dollars of maintenance fixes, the last few days have probably clued them in. After a group of Bay State wise men (and one woman) delivered their verdict on what ails the state transportation sector almost a decade ago, a few years’ worth of prudent investments (switch heaters anyone?) might have minimized Tuesday’s crisis.
As the eminent political scientist Cyndi Lauper once said, “Money changes everything.”
But the funding required to help the MBTA stave off collapse in the face of winter never materialized. The current responsibility for the underinvestment in the system lies with 198 state lawmakers and their leaders, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and former Senate president Therese Murray.
They decided not provide the funding to make the improvements that the MBTA and the rest of the state transportation sector needs. Motivated by a diverse and often contradictory set of fiscal, political, and regional concerns, they trimmed former governor Deval Patrick’s transportation ask to the bone.
Which brings us back to the spectacle of commuters kicking out windows, colossal mass transit delays, and mind-blowing traffic jams. Money does change everything. Conjuring up the dollars to revitalize the MBTA requires state lawmakers and voters to make some different decisions. One thing is certain: It is easier to move mountains of snow for a Super Bowl victory parade than to tackle this monster.
Gov. Charlie Baker unveils a plan to bring the current year’s budget into balance. The plan relies on $514 in spending cuts and $254 million in revenues. About a third of the cuts are in MassHealth, the primary funder for universal health care, CommonWealth reports.
Now that he has eliminated term limits on his job as House speaker, Robert DeLeo has a bunch of empty jobs he needs to fill with his loyalists, State House News reports. Howie Carr casts a not so favorable light on the term limits move, an effort led by Hingham state rep Garrett Bradley, who, Carr reminds all, has kept a low profile since being called to testify in last year’s Probation scandal trial. The Herald reports that DeLeo handed aides in his inner circle raises that were much larger than the 6 percent across-the-board pay hike he announced was going to all House staffers.
Senate President Stan Rosenberg has a sit-down with State House reporters, the first of what he says will be regular exchanges with the media. Such sessions mark an interesting break with the usual on Beacon Hill, CommonWealth reports.
Greater Boston sits down with Kirsten Hughes, the newly reelected head of the state GOP, to get her take on the decision by Mitt Romney not to run for president, the Olympics, and Gov. Charlie Baker’s performance in Snowmageddon.
Residents of the Rexhame Beach area of Marshfield say they will appeal a state Land Court ruling that said the beach is town-owned and not private. The beach battle has been going on for 16 years.
Nonprofit leaders are dismayed over President Obama’s $4 trillion budget that includes limits on charitable deductions.
The House voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act despite promise of a veto, the 56th time congressional Republicans have voted to gut Obamacare.
Jon Chesto has a look at the tally of winners and losers among the state’s powerhouse PR firms that have been involved in recent elections.
Tropical Foods, the ethnic food market that has long been a fixture in Dudley Square, will open a gleaming, new modern supermarket there today, part of the ongoing revitalization of the Roxbury business district.
Shirley Leung writes that “digital health care,” the intersection between medicine and information technology, is the next big play for the state’s knowledge economy.
A new report examines the pros and cons of Vermont legalizing the use and sale of marijuana, Governing reports.
The megafines companies are ordered to pay are often subsidized by taxpayers because of a loophole that allows businesses to deduct such penalties, a loophole Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont is seeking to close.
Administrators in Lawrence are launching Abbott Lawrence Academy, which will be located at the public high school and enroll about 100 students in what officials say will be an academically-rigorous, college preparatory public school, the Eagle-Tribune reports.
Pembroke officials say layoffs of elementary school teachers and other staff are on the table to balance next year’s school budget.
Two months after the principal at Andover High School left the post abruptly, he is one of two finalists for a principal’s job at a Marlborough charter school, the Eagle-Tribune reports.
There is a growing divide in college completion rates between students from higher and lower income families, a pattern that researchers say is contributing to increased income inequality.
Joe Battenfeld wades into the vaccine controversy, in which a number of potential GOP presidential contenders look a little less than presidential in their reckoning with medical science. Rather than taking them to task, he completely distorts a 2008 comment by then-candidate Barack Obama, writing that Obama “said he was ‘suspicious’ that the spike in autism cases was connected to vaccines. The record of the quote shows clearly that Obama was saying there are some who are suspicious of a connection; he was not referring to himself.
Holden’s contract with its firefighters bars them from smoking cigarettes and, for the first time, e-cigarettes, the Telegram & Gazette reports.
To say the MBTA has not been performing up to par would be akin to saying not every play went exactly according to plan in the Seahawks final drive last Sunday. Leading the parade of horribles, about 40 percent of Red and Orange line subway cars were disabled and out of commission. Traffic also came to gridlock throughout the region, slowing ambulances trying to get to Mass. General Hospital.
With commutes worsening from New Hampshire in to Massachusetts, Granite State officials tout the benefits of building a rail link between Lowell and Manchester, the Associated Press reports.
Seven people were killed when a Metro-North commuter rail train in New York slammed into a stalled SUV on the tracks in Westchester County during the height of rush hour Tuesday, the worst accident in the railroad line’s history.
Critics of Pilgrim power plant in Plymouth are urging the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to keep the aging reactor closed after it shut down during last week’s blizzard.
A prosecutor says Philip Chism told investigators that his teacher, Colleen Ritzer, was to blame for her death. Chism’s attorneys are trying to get his statements to police officers and other evidence excluded from the murder trial, claiming police had no legal justification to stop him when they found him walking along Route 1, the Salem News reports.The New Bedford police chief says several officers will be disciplined for last summer’s arrest of Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson’s daughter on charges of witness intimidation that were later dismissed.
A juror was dismissed from the murder trial of Aaron Hernandez after the judge determined she had discussed the case against the former football star in the past and had an opinion on evidence that was ruled inadmissible.