Storm cancellations, delays and postponements …
State offices are closed today for all non-essential personnel due to the winter storm. School districts across most of the state have cancelled classes for the day due to the storm.
Commuter rail and Amtrak will operate on reduced schedules and some buses will run on snow routes. Commuter ferries are cancelled.
The Supreme Judicial Court has postponed planned hearings for today to January 10.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has postponed a planned meeting for today, with no new meeting date posted.
Massachusetts Cultural Council has postponed a planned reception for today to February 12.
Bracing for the storm: Governor urges travelers to stay home, government and school shutdowns …
Here we go: A major winter snow storm, with “hurricane-like” winds, followed by an Artic-like deep freeze. Most government offices and schools are closed across the state today in response – and many businesses are simply closing shop or reducing operations. Gov. Charlie Baker has urged all non-emergency workers to stay home, among other steps being taken by state and local officials, reports NECN and SHNS’s Andy Metzger (pay wall).
Fyi: WCVB has a good hour-by-hour slideshow of how and when the storm will unfold throughout the day. The Herald reports on preparations by utilities, which are expected to be busy with potential outages due to high winds, especially in coastal areas. The Globe reports on reduction of services for commuter-rail and Amtrak. The Globe’s David Epstein explains what to expect, weather-wise, today. MassLive has a list of school closings across the state. The BBJ reports that Logan Airport has cancelled 700 flights ahead of the storm. Here’s a small sample of what to expect today and coming days: A broken water pipe at One Ashburton Place forced the state office building to close Wednesday afternoon so crews could make repairs, reports SHNS (pay wall).
Test for T, Part II
The Globe’s has its own piece this morning, via Adam Vaccaro, on how the MBTA is now facing its most serious challenge since the snowmageddon of 2015 – and whether the Baker administration’s winter-preparedness reforms will actually work.
Gonzalez takes the T pledge …
Here’s one candidate who will be testing the T soon: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez, who has accepted the “#takethetpledge” challenge and will travel via public transit from his Needham home to his campaign headquarters in Cambridge, as part of the social-media campaign to force politicians to see what it’s like to ride the T on a regular basis, reports SHNS’s Katie Lannan. … Btw: Gonzalez is on a bit of a roll these days, earlier this week receiving the endorsement of state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and taking on the governor over the controversy surrounding a GOP-tied advocacy group (see post further below).
‘Romney’s direct role in Trump’s ascent’
The NYT’s Ross Douthat isn’t impressed with all the chatter that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney may emerge as the Republican voice of opposition to Donald Trump if Romney eventually wins the Utah Senate seat now held by the retiring U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch. In fact, Douthat says Mitt shares blames for Trump’s rise to power, largely by pandering to the far-right and seeking Trump’s endorsement during his presidential run in 2012.
The Globe’s Scot Lehigh wonders which Mitt voters will get in Utah – the early 1990s version, the early 2000s version, etc. “Such a variety of possible Republican candidates to replace Orrin Hatch — and all subsumed in the person of one Willard Mitt Romney!” The Globe’s James Pindell says that no matter what version he presents to voters, Romney will likely glide to victory in Utah, assuming he runs.
Rolling Stone’s deep dive into Farak case
The Sonja Farak crime lab scandal gets the full Rolling Stone treatment from Paul Solotaroff and the conclusions the piece draws are not kind to Farak—whose rampant drug use on the job sparked the scandal—or the state’s criminal justice system, including the office of the attorney general. “This is what we’ve come to,” Solotaroff writes, “almost 50 years along in the unwinnable War on Drugs: The accused can’t even get an honest shake in one of the bluest states in the country.”
Watertown councilor takes a knee for inauguration’s Pledge of Allegiance
She’s related to Betsy Ross. Seriously. From Kerry Feltner at MassLive: “First-time councilor Caroline Bays took a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance during the Jan. 2 inauguration ceremony for the Watertown Town Council, held at Watertown Town Hall. ‘I knelt in prayer,’ Bays wrote in an email. ‘The Pledge of Allegiance states that we are a nation which stands for liberty and justice for all. As long as U.S. citizens can’t freely move about our country without fear of harassment, of imprisonment, of death, simply because of the color of their skin – we are not honoring the principles the flag stands for.’”
Baker says GOP group ‘paid the price,’ but Gonzalez still wants probe
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker yesterday praised the Office of Campaign and Political Finance and backed its crackdown on a GOP-tied advocacy group accused of violating campaign finance laws. “They paid a price and they should,” Baker said of the group Strong Economy for Growth, as reported by SHNS’s Katie Lannan (pay wall). But Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez isn’t letting Baker off so easily, demanding an independent probe into Baker and any ties he may have with other “dark money” groups, reports the Herald’s Matt Stout.
Inauguration-day holiday raises eyebrows in Lawrence
Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera has given some City Hall workers the day off on Friday—the same day he’ll take the oath of office to kick off his second term in office, Keith Eddings of the Eagle-Tribune reports. The head of a union representing city workers who are not getting the day off says the move appears aimed at pumping up the crowd size for the event and wonders if workers who don’t use their day off to attend will pay the price in the long run.
Worcester eyes return to 1950 population levels
The 2020 census could write another chapter in Worcester’s rebound story by returning the city to population levels last seen nearly 70 years ago. In his inaugural address earlier this week, Mayor Joseph Petty suggested the population in New England’s second-largest city could top 200,000 again in the next census for the first time since 1950, Nick Kotsopolous of the Telegram reports.
Winthrop Square Tower will cast a smaller shadow
Cutting the proposed height of a 775-foot tall skyscraper by 84 feet doesn’t sound like much, but it is enough to clear the takeoff routes from Logan International Airport and cast a less imposing shadow on Boston Common – and that’s exactly what the developer of the controversial Winthrop Square Tower is now proposing, reports Tim Logan at the Globe.
Fentanyl and carfentanil banned from courtrooms in Massachusetts
Concerned about the health risks of handling potent and toxic opioids, the chief justice of the state’s trial court yesterday announced that fentanyl and carfentanil will be banned in courtrooms across the state, starting next week, reports the Herald’s Bob McGovern. Those with valid medical prescriptions may get waivers, but it appears the ban is mostly aimed at past practices of bringing the drugs into courtrooms as evidence in cases. Some are voicing concerns that a ban may complicate drug-offense cases.
Baker: GOP has no shot in some Mass. districts
As journalist Michael Kinsley once famously said, a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth – an obvious truth he or she isn’t supposed to say. So we suppose Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, committed a gaffe yesterday when he stated Republicans don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning in some legislative districts in Massachusetts. SHNS’s Matt Murphy at the Telegram has the details .
Former head of MassLive.com mulls run against Rep. Ashe
Here’s one Republican who thinks she may have a snowball’s chance in hell of knocking off an incumbent Democrat. Allison Werder, former president of MassLive.com, the news website affiliated with the Springfield Republican, is considering a run against Rep. Brian Ashe, a Longmeadow Democrat, reports Shira Schoenberg at MassLive. “I’m considering it,” Werder said. “I’m having conversations, seeing what the opportunity is.”
The Partners-Eye & Ear merger ball is now in Healey’s court
From Max Stendahl at the BBJ: “The state’s health care watchdog said Wednesday that it remains concerned that Partners HealthCare’s proposed acquisition of Massachusetts Eye and Ear will significantly raise costs, and referred the deal to the Attorney General, who has the power to potentially halt it.”
Amid threatened lawsuit, GE drops labor requirement for HQ
General Electric has dropped a requirement that only unionized labor be used on the renovation portion of its new $200 million Fort Point headquarters, a move that came amid a threatened lawsuit from a nonunion contractor, Jon Chesto of the Globe reports. A project labor agreement will remain in place for the new construction portion of the project.
Chandler’s busy agenda for 2018: More housing, paid sick leave, net neutrality and more
Presiding over the first Senate session of 2018, Acting Senate President Harriette Chandler made clear yesterday that she intends to keep senators busy, ticking off a number of issues she hopes the chamber will address, including more housing production, tax issues, paid sick leave, net neutrality and other items, according to reports at State House New Service and MassLive. She addressed the issue of affordable housing at length. “We are in danger of losing the next generation of business innovators and leaders — and our reputation as a nationwide leader in the innovation economy — if those innovators cannot afford to live in our state,” she said.
The emerging State House issues of 2018
Here’s another good list, via Steve Brown at WBUR, on what to watch for at the State House in 2018, including something we often forget is still out there, i.e. taxing short-term rentals like Airbnb. Btw: We didn’t know that lawmakers’ output last year, passing 168 bills, was the lowest in at least 20 years.
Lawmakers exploring state tax changes in response to GOP tax overhaul
SHNS’s Andy Metzger at the Lowell Sun and Shira Schoenberg at MassLive both have good stories on how lawmakers are now eyeing a review of the state’s tax code in light of the major tax overhaul passed late last year by the Republican-controlled Congress in Washington. Acting Senate President Harriette Chandler is among those saying a review is necessary, though she gave no specifics.
Eversource to pass along tax-cut savings to customers
This is a pleasant surprise. From Larry Barnass at the Berkshire Eagle: “Uncle Sam’s tax gift to Eversource will be repackaged for its customers, the utility said Tuesday. Rather than pocket tens of millions of dollars in savings through a lowering of the corporate tax rate, Eversource will support trimming the rate increase it won just a month ago. ‘We agree our customers should receive the benefits of the new tax law, so we are voluntarily submitting a filing this week to address this issue,’ said Priscilla Ress, a utility spokeswoman.”
Irish betting site puts Boston’s odds of landing HQ2 at 7-1
Forget what the pundits think. Gamblers are the real pros when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is with predictions – and an Irish betting site puts the odds of Boston landing Amazon’s HQ2 at 7-1, behind Atlanta and Austin, Texas, reports Catherine Carlock at the BBJ.
Markey: Losing DACA is a ‘human tragedy’
From the Globe’s Laura Crimaldi: “US Senator Edward Markey stood Wednesday among young immigrants who might soon lose their protection against deportation and demanded that Congress enact legislation to grant legal status to about 800,000 people who were brought to the United States illegally as minors. ‘This is a human tragedy. It is a heartbreaking story. It is unjust, and it is just plain wrong,’ Markey said during a news conference with immigrants who are authorized to work or study in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.”
A perfect snowstorm sports story to read today …
Finally, after last night’s signature Celtics victory over the Cavs (ESPN), a MassterList reader sends in this note: “Just the sports story to settle into with a cup of coffee on a snow day: the great Jackie McMullen on Kyrie Irving (at ESPN). As always, she gets to the heart of the matter. I love this year’s Celtic team but I’d be a little worried about next year and the year after… not seeing Kyrie try to win last night’s gem all by himself was a hopeful sign.”
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