Happening Today

Senate-race nomination papers, local unemployment stats and more …

— Today is the deadline for candidates seeking the 3rd Essex Senate seat, now held by state Senator and Lynn Mayor-elect Thomas McGee, to submit their nomination papers to local registrars or election commissioners for certification of signatures.

— Normal highway construction schedules will resume following a shut-down last Friday to accommodate pre-Christmas holiday travel, according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

— Local unemployment and job statistics for November will be released by the Office of Labor and Workforce Development; statewide figures were released last week.

— Mayor Martin Walsh, former Mayor Ray Flynn and historian Yoni Appelbaum talk on ‘Radio Boston’ about how snowstorms can define a mayor’s tenure, WBUR-FM 90.9, 3 p.m.

— Former Treasurer Tim Cahill guest-hosts ‘NightSide with Dan Rea’ from Tuesday through Friday, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, 8 p.m.

Today’s Stories

UMass plans major expansion of online offerings, pays executive big bucks to get there

From Deirdre Fernandes at the Globe: “The University of Massachusetts is planning a major expansion of its online education programs, turning to a highly paid executive as it challenges more-entrenched competitors across the country. Facing a decline in college-age students in Massachusetts and uncertainty about state funding of higher education, the university system believes it can find new money by serving out-of-state students willing to enroll in online programs.” 

Don Kilburn, a former executive at U.K.-based Pearson PLC, has been hired to head the online campaign and is being deliberately treated, in terms of salary, as an equal to chancellors of bricks-and-mortar campuses, a UMass spokesman says: $403,0000 in his first year, plus a potential 30 percent annual bonus. No mention of a housing allowance.

Boston Globe

MBTA blasts Keolis’ investigation of detached-car incident

Sherlock Holmes, they’re not. From Matt Stout at the Herald: “The MBTA’s private commuter rail operator fumbled the early stages of a probe into how a car abruptly broke free from a moving train in September, failing to interview witnesses and running afoul of federal regulators — moves officials say ‘severely’ limited the T’s ability to find the cause, records show. Keolis’ clumsy handling prompted federal officials to hang a civil penalty on the company, and laid bare the company’s fractious relationship with T officials.”

Boston Herald

State Police to spend $30K to investigate TrooperGate

Speaking of investigations, the Massachusetts State Police has set aside $30,000 to fund an investigation into the scrubbed police report of the daughter of a district court judge, a controversy that has already led to the high-profile resignations of two State Police commanders. Citing information gained through a Freedom of Information Act request, James Russell of the Telegram reports the investigation will be led by former Essex County DA Kevin Burke with help from former U.S. Marshal Nancy McGillvray and may take three months to be completed. 


Massachusetts’ bad case of Potomac Fever, dating back to the ‘80s

They’re the complete opposite of the New England Patriots: They can’t win the big one, i.e., Massachusetts presidential candidates who either can’t win their parties’ presidential nomination or can’t close the deal in November when they do (Ted Kennedy, Mike Dukakis, Paul Tsongas, John Kerry, Mitt Romney). But once again the Bay State today has no shortage of candidates eyeing, or said to be eyeing, a White House bid, reports the AP’s Steve LeBlanc at US News & World Report. You already know the names.

US News

So where are you going to build that factory, Bob?

Speaking of the New England Patriots, one can almost see Bob Kraft spitting out his coffee as he watched the bill-signing ceremony on CNN. From Greg Ryan at the BBJ: “President Donald Trump said Friday that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft told him his paper business is going to open a plant in North Carolina as a result of the tax overhaul Trump signed into law. But asked to confirm the plan as described by Trump, Kraft Group spokesman Stacey James issued a statement Friday afternoon that made no mention of a new North Carolina plant.”

The thing is he’ll probably indeed build yet another factory, as the Kraft Group routinely did before the tax cut and as the Kraft Group was probably planning tax bill or no tax bill.


Fishermen cast a wary eye at offshore wind farms

Wind farms are moving further offshore, reducing conflicts with land-based opponents but running smack into another conflict: commercial fishermen who say the projects will make navigating to and from fishing grounds and even fishing itself more challenging and dangerous, Phillip Marcelo of the Associated Press reports, via the Standard-Times at South Coast Today. 

South Coast Today

Who says the textile industry is dead in Massachusetts?

The state of Massachusetts isn’t giving up on the textiles industry, making a second multimillion-dollar grant to support R&D of futuristic fabrics at the Defense Fabric Discovery Center. The $3.9 million award announced by the Baker administration brings the state’s total investment to the partnership between MIT Lincoln Laboratory and the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center to $6.1 million, the Associated Press reports at Boston.com.


Charges against Patrick’s brother-in-law upgraded to rape and kidnapping

He could be put away for a long time if convicted on these new charges. From the Herald’s Marie Szaniszlo and Matt Stout: “Charges against former Gov. Deval Patrick’s brother-in-law have been upgraded to rape, kidnapping and witness intimidation, and a Norfolk Superior Court judge has denied his lawyer’s motion to release him on bail. Bernard Sigh, 65, is expected to be arraigned on the new charges Jan. 11, a month after he was charged with assault to rape and assault and battery on a family member — the second time he was accused of sexually assaulting his estranged wife.”

Boston Herald

Is Tommy Chang much longer for this city?

Boston Public Schools raised the white flag prior to the holiday weekend, signaling officials were giving up on the highly controversial plan to change school start and end times next year, after a fierce backlash from parents, reports Bianca Vazquez Toness at WGBH and Spencer Buell at Boston Magazine.

Some are now questioning the leadership at BPS, i.e. Superintendent Tommy Chang, reports the Herald’s Kathleen McKiernan and Bob McGovern. Herald columnist Peter Gelzinis says the start-time fiasco is “simply the latest example that the mayor from Dorchester and the young school guru he imported from California don’t seem to be speaking the same language.”

Leadership loyalty tests: How senators stack up on Beacon Hill

MassLive takes a look at the voting records of state senators on Beacon Hill in 2017, comparing their records to how leadership voted on legislation, and we’re talking uber-loyalty in most instances.


Joseph F. Timilty, RIP

Joseph F. Timilty, former city councilor, state senator and three-time Boston mayoral candidate, passed away last Friday after a battle with cancer, reports Brian Dowling at the Herald and Bryan Marquand at the Globe. “He was a champion of the underdog and always willing to take up the cause for justice,” said former Mayor Ray Flynn. “Somebody the other day described Joe as a throwback — an old-school politician who never forgot anybody’s name, who always remembered where they came from,” said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. “He was a good man who always helped people out. He defended the underdog. He defended the person who didn’t have a voice.” A funeral mass will be held this Thursday at St. Gregory Church in Dorchester.

The greatest rendition of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer ever?

NECN’s Alison King continued with her annual tradition of getting local pols to belt out a favorite holiday song – and this year it was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. You can tell they know their Rudolph lyrics, no practice or cheat-sheets required. It’s fun. Check it out.


Pot distributors use ‘free gifts’ and other ways to get around retail ban on weed

Even though possession of marijuana is now permissible in Massachusetts, it’s still illegal to sell pot until July – and so many budding pot entrepreneurs are resorting to questionable gimmicks to get around the law, including giving pot away as a ‘free gift’ with the purchase of other items, reports Gerry Tuoti at MetroWest Daily News. Police are not amused and continue to make arrests.

MetroWest Daily News

A look at Massachusetts mental health services (or lack thereof)

Shira Schoenberg, via three stories at MassLive, takes a much-needed look at the state of the state’s mental health services. Her first story: “Massachusetts mental health patients often wait for days in hospital emergency rooms.” Second story: “Massachusetts children with mental health problems struggle to get care.” Third story: “Massachusetts health officials work to speed up care for mental health patients in crisis.”

Harvard and MIT, beware: Conservative Christian college to open in Boston

Just what we need. Another area college. From Laura Krantz at the Globe: “In a city full of colleges and in an economy increasingly perilous for small schools, one wealthy businessman is making an unlikely investment. Next fall he will open a college in Boston geared toward conservative Christian students, using an innovative model that incorporates online learning. Sattler College, named after a 16th century martyr, will be entirely funded by Finny Kuruvilla, an investment fund manager with a medical degree and a PhD from Harvard. He has guaranteed $30 million of his money to fund the school.”

Boston Globe

Giving credit where credit is actually due …

There we were, last week trying to be nice by giving credit to CommonWealth magazine’s Jack Sullivan for first identifying ex-State House reporter Jim O’Sullivan as the Globe staffer who was ousted following sexual-harassment complaints, only to learn that Kirk and Callahan at WEEI identified him first, followed by others, including WGBH, as well as Jack’s excellent piece at CommonWealth. Our mistake – and our apologies!

State panel reviewing farm-preservation program

Did you know that a 40-year-old state program to preserve farmland in Massachusetts has kept 73,000 acres from getting plowed under for strip malls, parking lots and subdivisions? From that perspective, the program has been a success, but many believe it’s still unfair and needs tweaking. So the state Department of Agriculture has established a new panel to review the program –a panel that won’t be subject to the open meetings act. Eoin Higgins at the Globe has the details.

Boston Globe

State opts into fed emergency response system, Baker seeks finger-print checks for those handling tax info

From SHNS’s Colin Young at WCVB: “Massachusetts will opt into a federal emergency response communications program designed to reduce response times during emergencies, the governor told the federal government this (past) week. In a letter dated Thursday, Gov. Charlie Baker officially accepted the state-specific plan for Massachusetts’ buildout of the system, which the federal government had delivered to him in September. Baker had until Dec. 28 to either opt into FirstNet or assemble a different plan to access the nationwide network.”

Meanwhile, Baker is pushing legislation that would require fingerprint background checks for current or prospective employees with access to federal tax information, bringing Massachusetts into compliance with new Internal Revenue Service requirements, reports SHNS’s Katie Lannan (pay wall).

Baker’s housing-focused zoning tweaks likely to get pushback

As part of a push to build more workforce housing, Gov. Charlie Baker is eyeing some legislative “tweaks” to local zoning rules that are likely to see push-back from impacted communities, Christian Wade reports in the Salem News. One key provision would eliminate the need in local communities for a two-third supermajority to change existing zoning while another would require cities and towns to create zones where multi-family housing can be built.  

Salem News

Moo-ving ahead: Cow power gets the nod in Dalton

The town of Dalton is moving ahead with a plan to purchase renewable energy credits from a Granville-based company that produces methane gas via cow manure, Patricia LeBoeuf of the Berkshire Eagle reports. The manure-based credits will be dropped into an energy portfolio that also includes a larger solar contract. 

Berkshire Eagle

Stay tuned in 2018 for more Beacon Hill Town Square events!

Today’s Headlines


Fallon Co. proposes removing hotel from Seaport’s Fan Pier area – Boston Business Journal

D. Herbert Lipson, owner of Boston Magazine, passes away at age 88 – Boston Magazine


Some advocates say homelessness under-reported – Telegram & Gazette

Barnstable wary of proposed Vineyard Wind project – Cape Cod Times

UMass wants to be a leader in online education – Boston Globe

Sudbury ordered to pay attorneys fees of $75K in 40B case – MetroWest Daily News


The next special election that could portend a Democratic wave – Politico

Robust health insurance sign-ups surprise supporters and opponents – NPR

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