House and Senate in session
Both the House and Senate are in session, as state lawmakers try to tackle remaining legislation before the new session begins next month.
Copley menorah lighting
Gov. Charlie Baker, Mayor Martin Walsh, City Councilor Josh Zakim and Yehuda Yaakov, the consul general of Israel to New England, will attend a menorah lighting hosted by Chabad Boston, Copley Square, 5:30 p.m.
The Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending holds a clinic to provide information to people whose homes have been foreclosed or who are facing foreclosure, Somerville Public Library, 79 Highland Ave., Somerville, 5 p.m.
Cahill hosts ‘Nightside’
Former state Treasurer Tim Cahill guest hosts “NightSide,” WBZ NewsRadio 1030, 8 p.m.
Superintendent Chang’s school grade: ‘B’
Boston School Superintendent Tommy Chang has been on the job for more than a year and has just received his own report card from the school committee, reports Max Larkin at WBUR. “The evaluation shows that Chang definitely still has a lot of support on the school committee; many members praised his leadership on instruction and his temperament. But still they essentially gave him a B for the year — and they said he ‘Needs Improvement’ in communicating with families and the community.”
Neal, Markey push to curb sales of the ‘Godzilla of opioids’
As the Globe’s Brian MacQuarrie reports, lethal synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, are flooding into the United States via, of all things, good old snail mail – and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and U.S. Sen. Ed Markey say more must be done to stem the tide. Fyi: Markey refers to fentanyl as “the Godzilla of opioids” and he’s not wrong to do so. It is nasty, nasty stuff.
Line of duty: State Police K-9 units issued Narcan for dogs sniffing out deadly narcotics
The man-made opioid fentanyl is so powerful and potentially lethal to police dogs sniffing for illegal drugs that the Massachusetts State Police next month will start carrying Narcan, an anti-opioid medication, to inject in canines to save their lives if they come across the drug during raids, reports WHDH TV. “These dogs do great work for us and we have a lot of time and money invested into them.” says State Police Capt. Joseph King. “The dogs are devoted to us and we are to them…and we will do whatever we can to keep them safe.”
UMass Lowell adjunct faculty: ‘We’re getting screwed, royally screwed’
After 37 bargaining sessions over nearly two years of contract talks, adjunct faculty members at the University of Massachusetts Lowell are stepping up their calls for pay and benefits parity with their UMass colleagues in Amherst and Boston, reports the Globe’s Katie Johnston. “It is outrageous that we’re doing the same job for what’s supposed to be one system, and we’re getting screwed, royally screwed,” said Debbie White, an ethics teacher at UMass Lowell, who, as you might have discerned, isn’t happy with pay and benefits differentials.
More damaging than a taxi-company lawsuit: Lyft driver accused of stabbing woman
As ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft try to fend off lawsuits and local regulations, this is the last thing the emerging industry needs: A Lyft driver was accused of stabbing a woman during an altercation in Boston on Christmas night, sending the victim to the hospital with life-threatening injuries, reports WCVB. “For this to happen by a driver, you know, carrying a knife… I wonder why she was driving with a knife anyway,” said a neighbor who lives near the scene of the encounter. Good point. It’s one we’re sure has crossed the minds of police, legislators, city councilors, plaintiff attorneys and others.
Massachusetts now owns a piece of California
If Massachusetts can’t beat Silicon Valley, why not join and own it? From Catherine Carlock at the BBJ: “The state’s pension fund has made its first direct investment in real estate with a $112.25 million acquisition of three office buildings on 21 acres in Santa Clara, California. The Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management Board and the Santa Clara Redevelopment Authority closed the deal on Dec. 21, PRIM announced. The land and ground lease deal includes three five-story, Class A offices spanning 449,000 square feet.”
Globe editorial calls for mandated treatment for the mentally ill
In the wake of the Globe Spotlight Team’s excellent series on the sorry condition of the state’s mental health system, the newspaper’s editorial board today calls for mandatory medication treatment of some mentally ill patients. Sure, the Globe is also calling for increased funding for community health services for the mentally ill. But let’s be clear: Compelling some patients to undergo treatments is where the real debate lies – and there should be a debate. The current system simply is not working. No one is calling for a return to the days when people could be sent off to institutions, against their will, on a flimsy scientific pretext. But not taking any action, in some limited cases, is a form of medical neglect. A balance must be found. So let the debate begin.
Uncomfortable truths Republicans and Democrats don’t want to hear
They’re seemingly unrelated articles, but, in a way, they are related. The Globe’s Deirdre Fernandes reports on how researchers have made a very tentative link between the loss of jobs tied to trade deals and suicide rates among workers. Meanwhile, David Paul Kuhn, author of “The Neglected Voter: White Men and the Democratic Dilemma,” pens an op-ed piece in the NYT headlined “Sorry, Liberals. Bigotry Didn’t Elect Donald Trump.” If you need someone to connect the economic and political dots for you, then you’re probably in denial.
Skilled labor increasingly hard to find on North Shore
North Shore employers across a wide range of industries are having trouble finding skilled workers, Ethan Forman of the Salem News reports. With recent state unemployment data showing jobless rates below 2.5 percent in some parts of the region, construction companies, as well as other businesses, are among those struggling to fill jobs.
Where the millionaires live
Looking ahead to 2018 and the battle to change the state’s constitution to allow for a luxury tax on millionaires, Shira Schoenberg at MassLive uses Department of Revenue data to pinpoint where those millionaires live in Massachusetts. The data shows that more than a third of communities in the state have fewer than four residents who rake in a cool million per year, and that most communities with the highest population of top earners are centered around the Boston metropolitan area.
Berkshires marchers readying for D.C.
Community organizers are expecting the Berkshires to have a strong presence at the Washington D.C. march for women being planned to coincide with the inauguration of Donald Trump next month, Carrie Saldo of the Berkshire Eagle reports. Organizers hope as many as 10,000 Massachusetts residents will pledge to attend – and Berkshire organizers already have plans to send more than 50 bus loads from their county.
Meanwhile, Dems are readying for confirmation battles in D.C.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is among Dems expected to be at center stage when Donald Trump’s cabinet picks for attorney general, secretaries of state and treasury, and other top-level posts go before Congress for confirmation hearings, reports the Herald’s Chris Cassidy.
Murder unit revamp seen yielding results
An overhaul of the Boston Police homicide unit has led to a 10 percent improvement in the number of murder cases being solved, a new study from Northeastern University shows, according to report from Evan Allen and Jan Ransom in the Globe. The case clearance rate for murder cases rose from 47 percent between 2007 to 2011 to 57 percent between 2012 and 2014 — and it may be even higher when cases still working their way through the legal pipeline are considered.
High rents drive out small merchants
Some small business owners say rising retail rents are forcing them to relocate out of some of Boston’s hottest neighborhoods, Meghan Ottollini of the Herald writes. Overall rents in the city are up 5.5 percent year-over-year—to more than $100 per square foot per month in some cases— and for some merchants that’s simply too much.
Massachusetts is fastest growing state in New England
With the state growing by 27,500 people in the past year – making Massachusetts the fastest growing state in New England and most of the Northeast, for that matter – here’s our question: Where are they all living? Isn’t there supposed to be a housing shortage that can’t keep up with demand and that’s driving housing costs ever higher? Just asking. WCVB has more on the state’s otherwise impressive population gain, ultimately a sign of a healthy economy, high housing prices notwithstanding.
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