Happening Today

Public health meeting — and lots of cancellations

Note: Many events previously scheduled for today have been postponed, cancelled or switched to live streaming as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. The below events were set to proceed as of this morning.

Public Health Council meets to receive an update from Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, who is expected to discuss the state’s coronavirus response, 250 Washington St., Boston, 9 a.m.

Health Policy Commission and Joint Committee on Health Care Financing meet to consider adjusting the health care cost growth benchmark in 2020, 50 Milk Street, 8th Floor, Boston, 12 p.m.

For the most comprehensive listing of calendar items, check out State House News Service’s Daily Advances (pay wall – free trial subscriptions available), as well as MassterList’s Beacon Hill Town Square below.

Today’s Stories

Coronavirus updates: Baker declares state of emergency, House cancels public events, reported cases jump to 92

Not to be confused with a state of near hysteria, Gov. Charlie Baker yesterday declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, as WGBH’s Kaitlyn Locke reports. The governor’s declaration, which mostly applies to government workers, comes as the number of coronavirus cases hit 92 yesterday in Massachusetts, reports Michelle Williams at MassLive.

And there was plenty of other action on the coronavirus front yesterday. From SHNS’s Michael Norton (pay wall): “House Cancels Public Events, Evaluating Session Options.” … And from SHNS’s Katie Lannan (pay wall): “Legislative Leaders Ready $15 Mil Coronavirus Bill for Vote Next Week.” … From WCVB: “AG warns Mass. residents of COVID-19 scams, misinformation.” … From the BBJ: “Is the Boston Marathon still happening? Mayor says situation ‘fluid’.” … From Common Wealth magazine: “Nursing homes to limit access to residents.” … From MassLive: “State of emergency makes it easier for schools to close, parents to keep students home from class.” … From Boston Herald: “Boston schools look to avoid closures, but preparing for worst.” … From WBUR: “Schools Weigh Challenges Of Staying Open During Coronavirus Spread.” … From the Berkshire Eagle: “North Adams mayor, city councilor in quarantine.”

And, finally, this one is from New Hampshire, but it’s too good not to share, via the Eagle Tribune: “Ballot machines clog due to increased use of hand sanitizer.”

Btw: We weren’t trying to be too flippant above with the “near hysteria” line. We know it’s a serious situation. But does anyone seriously doubt that more than a hint of hysteria has entered the coronavirus equation at this point? Just look at the headlines above and below and you decide.

Harvard, MIT, Tufts etc. to students: Go home and don’t come back

The coronavirus scare/hysteria is leading many universities to order students to leave campuses for the spring break – and not to come back. They’re going to try to wing it with online classes for the rest of the semester. The Boston Herald has the Harvard and MIT news. Universal Hub has the Tufts angle. Other colleges and universities are following suit, such as … never mind. MassLive has a handy list of what most area colleges are planning (and not all of them are closing, btw).

We liked this headline from Universal Hub: “Will soon be quicker to list colleges staying open, but in the meantime, Olin College is going online only.”

A solution is finally found for Boston’s traffic congestion problem: The coronavirus

A day after it was announced that Boston had retained its worst-traffic-in-the-nation title, Mother Nature comes along with a partial, if unwelcome, solution: The cornonavirus. From SHNS’s Chris Liskinski: “An analysis from the state Department of Transportation found that average travel times on several rush-hour routes were lower this week — when many events were canceled amid growing coronavirus concerns — compared to the same points in 2019 and 2018.”

And it didn’t even take a gas-tax hike or new tolls to achieve! Meanwhile, the Globe’s Adrian Walker writes that the coronavirus scare is slowly sucking the public life out of Boston: “A city that prides itself on being stopped by nothing is suddenly awash in uncertainty. Welcome to Virtual Boston, a place we’ve never known before.”

Actually, we’ve indeed seen this before, during Boston’s 2004 Democratic National Convention, when media hysteria scared the hell out of everyone about a traffic Armageddon that never happened – and yet led to empty streets and restaurants during DNC week etc.

SHNS (pay wall — free trial subscription available)

State’s tourism and hospitality industries reel due to you-know-what

There was at least one positive piece of news yesterday on the coronavirus scare/hysteria front: The Dow bounced back, regaining more than 1,100 points after Monday’s disastrous market losses tied to global coronavirus fears, according to a report at WBUR.

But the stock markets are one thing. Main Street businesses are another – and locally some are taking big hits due to the coronavirus outbreak, particularly those within the state’s tourism and hospitality industries, reports the Globe’s Jon Chesto and the Herald’s Erin Tiernan and Sean Philip Cotter.

More evidence that the travel-and-tourism industry is suffering, via the BBJ’s Greg Ryan: “Logan Airport’s traffic sees sharp decline.” And also from the BBJ: “Harvard Square businesses brace for slowdown as students switch to virtual classes.”

No sway: Poll says Warren endorsement wouldn’t move needle much

A new poll finds that an endorsement from former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren would not have a material impact on the current Dem race for president, Benjamin Kail at MassLive reports. A Morning Consult poll found that a Warren nod for Sen. Bernie Sanders would give him a 2 percent bump in the polls, while an endorsement for former VP Joe Biden wouldn’t move the needle at all. 


Westfield State recovers nearly all of stolen $1.75 million

Ron Chemlis at MassLive reports that Westfield State University has recovered most of the $1.75 million that was stolen by apparent cyber thieves after the school deposited funds into bogus accounts. Treasurer Deb Goldberg’s office isn’t releasing many details about the recovered funds – such as who may have stolen the money and exactly how – citing an ongoing investigation.


Movie mystery: Film tax credit requests down sharply

The Department of Revenue says it processed just $16 million worth of film tax credit requests in 2018, the lowest amount in several years for the controversial program that lawmakers regularly flirt with ending, Christian Wade reports at the Gloucester Times. The state doled out $50 million worth of credits in 2017 and $58 million in 2016. Observers are perplexed as the flow of productions in the state seems to be on the uptick. 

Gloucester Times

Study: TCI gas price hikes would be much higher than reported

The Herald’s Mary Markos and SHNS’s Matt Murphy (pay wall) report on a new study commissioned by the conservative Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance that finds gas prices under the proposed Transportation Climate Initiative would rise considerably higher than projected by TCI backers (read: the Baker administration). How much higher? About 9 cents higher, as the Herald reports.

MassDOT report: Income-based rail fares do have their occasional advantages

SHNS’s Chris Lisinski reports that a new MassDOT study isn’t exactly singing the praise of so-called “means-tested fares,” but it also isn’t dismissing the idea, which the study says could, if handled right, improve equity and affordability for some. Key graf from SHNS’s piece: “The study suggested the (MBTA) Fiscal and Management Control Board push for completion of a feasibility study on means-tested fares, lessen the cost increase from Zone 1A to Zone 1, and develop a pilot for reduced reverse-commute and off-peak fares.”

SHNS (pay wall — free trial subscription available)

MBTA sees ‘lowest crime rate in history for four continuous years’

Speaking of the MBTA, this is encouraging news. From the Globe’s Travis Andersen: “Violent crime on the T increased slightly in 2019 compared to the prior year, but the transit system continued to see the ‘lowest crime rate in history for four consecutive years,’ said Transit police Superintendent Richard Sullivan on Tuesday.”  

Boston Globe

Silence broken: Quincy mayor addresses disputed disability case

He’s standing by his decision. Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch is defending his 2018 decision to back a home-rule petition that helped the son of an injured city cop to jump the list of candidates vying to become a police officer, Mary Whitfill reports at the Patriot Ledger. Koch spoke about the matter for the first time, saying news reports have not been accurate and that he considered the issue “settled.” But at least one city councilor wants her colleagues to call on the office of Attorney General Maura Healey.

Patriot Ledger

As ICE rounds up hundreds of local illegal immigrants …

The Herald’s Joe Dwinell reports that ICE agents are keeping busy these days in the Boston area, conducting raids and rounding up more than 200 illegal immigrants, most of them wanted on various criminal charges etc. – and ICE officials are making it clear they’re targeting sanctuary cities and cases in which immigrants are released back into communities after arrests by other law-enforcement agencies.

But Suffolk DA Rachael Rollins thinks the ICE raids are counter-productive, via Arjun Singh at WGBH: “Rollins: ICE is making it harder for law enforcement to work with immigrant communities.”

Boston Herald

… Markey unveils ‘New Deal’ for immigrants

ICE may be stepping up its local arrests of illegal immigrants. But Sarah Betancourt at CommonWealth magazine reports that U.S. Sen. Ed Markey is calling for just the opposite, i.e. a ‘New Deal for New Americans Act,’ which would shift the immigration focus from enforcement to support, such as making it easier for immigrants to become U.S. citizens. 


Not-so-special: Saugus voters uneasy about multiple secret votes to elect a town moderator

It took 90 meetings and seven secret ballots for a special Saugus Town Meeting to elect a moderator and some residents say the entire episode flies directly in the face of a supposed push to increase municipal transparency. Elyse Carmosino has the details at the Lynn Item. 

Lynn Item

Starr Forum: Russia’s Putin: From Silent Coup to Legal Dictatorship

With speaker Yevgenia M Albats, a Russian investigative journalist, political scientist, author and radio host. A session of the Focus on Russia Lecture Series co-chaired by Carol Saivetz and Elizabeth Wood.

MIT Center for International Studies (CIS)

A Conversation on Female Agency

Writers Marjan Kamali and Katrin Schumann present “A Conversation on Agency: Displacement and Power During Political Turmoil.”

Boston Athenaeum

Sanguinary Theatre: Evening with Dr. Joseph Warren & his Massacre Oration

With an exciting blend of modern context and costumed interpretation, join us to relive Joseph Warren’s fiery oration 245 years later.

Revolutionary Spaces

Boston Speaker Series: Susan Rice

Rice served as National Security Advisor from 2013 to 2017. She also served as the United States ambassador to the United Nations from 2009 to 2013. Under President Clinton, Rice worked for the National Security Council and was Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

Lesley University

Predicting the Democratic Nominee

Welcome to the Democracy Studio! Join us as we combine politically-inspired images and words to provoke a deeper understanding of the state of our democracy.

Tom Manning, Harvard ALI Senior Fellow 2020

Boston Speaker Series: Susan Rice

Rice served as National Security Advisor from 2013 to 2017. She also served as the United States ambassador to the United Nations from 2009 to 2013. Under President Clinton, Rice worked for the National Security Council and was Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

Lesley University

Screening; Seven Communities, Seven families, One story: The Opioid Crisis

This compelling film, created through the generosity and civic-mindedness of Wareham Community Television, and produced by Queen Banda and Andrea Pergament, shares first hand accounts from seven parents who’ve endured the unimaginable heartbreak and trauma of losing a child to the Opioid Crisis now raging across the United States. In Massachusetts, the system is failing.

Queen Banda and Andrea Pergament (producers)

Jane Swift: The History of Women in Politics

Jane Swift was the youngest woman ever elected to the Massachusetts State Senate and the First Woman Governor of Massachusetts.

Aliali Belkus, Dean of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity

An Evening With Paul Tremblay

Celebrated horror author Paul Tremblay comes to Millbury to read from his work, talk about writing, answer some questions, and sign books.

Jeff Raymond

The Centenary of the 19th Amendment: New Reflections

Join legal and political science scholars to discuss lessons learned from the centenary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

Boston University School of Law

13th Annual Good Apple Award Reception

Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice invites you to the 13th annual Good Apple Award Reception at the Boston Harbor Hotel. We are pleased to announce that this year’s recipient of the Good Apple Award will be Enrique Colbert, General Counsel of Wayfair.

Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice

Election 2020: The Crucial Questions – Conversations on the Edge

A discussion on the crucial questions of the 2020 Election with seasoned political pros.

Cambridge Center for Adult Education

Ex-Rep. Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington) – On how we can bring more democracy & transparency to the Massachusetts Legislature

Ex-Rep. Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington) – On how we can bring more democracy & transparency to the Massachusetts Legislature, and so improve the systems that help deter corruption in state government.

Indivisible Williamsburg and Indivisible Northampton

Today’s Headlines


Boston schools look to avoid closures but prepared for worst – Boston Herald

Brockton politicians push tax break for Westgate Mall – Brockton Enterprise


Town: Ex-West Newbury police chief created false invoices – Salem News

Dennis to seek money for drug recovery support – Cape Cod Times

Worcester board recommends $11.5M WuXi tax break – Worcester Business Journal


Biden appears to be on an unstoppable march to the nomination – Washington Post

Dick’s Sporting Goods to eliminate gun, hunting departments in 440 stores – USA Today

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