Happening Today

Health task force, Plainridge hearing, and more

— Today marks half a year since Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Robert DeLeo closed the State House to the public amid the flaring COVID-19 pandemic. 

— The new Health Equity Task Force created under a COVID-19 data law that Gov. Baker recently signed meets to receive testimony from the public on ‘findings and recommendations that address health disparities for underserved or underrepresented populations during the COVID-19 pandemic,’ 1 p.m.

— Senate President Karen Spilka delivers the virtual keynote address at One SouthCoast Chamber’s Women in Leadership Series, 1:30 p.m.

— As the Gaming Commission works through the renewal process for Plainridge Park Casino’s slots parlor license, regulators will host a virtual public hearing to ‘gather information and gauge public sentiment” about the Plainville facility,’ 3 p.m.

— Attorney General Maura Healey appears on the Progressive Power Hour hosted by The Alliance for Business Leadership, 4 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

Reminder to readers: SHNS Coronavirus Tracker available for free

A reminder to our readers as the coronavirus crisis unfolds: The paywalled State House News Service, which produces MASSterList, is making its full Coronavirus Tracker available to the community for free on a daily basis each morning via ML. SHNS Coronavirus Tracker.

The coronavirus numbers: 6 new deaths, 9,016 total deaths, 286 new cases

MassLive has the latest coronavirus numbers for Massachusetts.

BC flunks Testing 101: State takes over contact tracing at campus

It’s being described as an ‘unprecedented move’ by the state. From the Globe’s Laura Krantz and Deirdre Fernandes: “The state said Tuesday that it will take the lead in contact tracing at Boston College amid growing skepticism on campus about the school’s testing regimen, which is less rigorous than at some other local universities, and concern that the school is not equipped to control the spread of COVID-19.”

It’s a pretty damning description of BC’s handling of the reopening.

Boston Globe

Pandemic partying update: Et tu, Austin Prep students?

The Herald’s Joe Dwinell reports on the latest group of partying high-school students who have disrupted the reopening plans of school administrators, this time “selfish” Austin Prep students who attended a weekend bash. The Globe’s Zoe Greenberg takes a look at the partying mayhem students are creating during the pandemic – and how school officials really can’t do much about young ones acting like young ones.

In other school reopening news, starting with the Lowell Sun: “Lowell announces last-minute switch to remote learning.“ …. From the Enterprise: “Brockton won’t add any in-person classes for weeks.” …. From MetroWest Daily News: “Citing live-stream proposal, Hopkinton teachers reject work agreement.” … And from CommonWealth’s Shira Schoenberg: “Agencies scramble to offer school-day childcare.”

UMass and unions reach agreement to avert layoffs – for now

It’s only a temporary deal. The day of reckoning will come later. Ron Chemilis at MassLive reports on an agreement reached by UMass-Amherst administrators and unions to avoid possibly hundreds of layoffs in coming months. But the pact lasts only through January. After which there’s still going to be a revenue shortfall that needs addressing.


Boston to let restaurants go al fresco until keep Dec. 1

Why not? If it’s the only way to get a beer and burger and socialize even a little bit, some people will put up with a lot, including the cold. Universal Hub’s Adam Gaffin has more on Boston’s extension of the pandemic-era outdoor dining season. 

Universal Hub

Mass. employers on Trump’s tax-deferral plan: Thanks, but no thanks

The BBJ’s Greg Ryan reports there appears to be few, if any, major employers in Massachusetts jumping to take advantage of President Trump’s payroll-tax deferral plan for employees. Why should they go through all the troubles to implement something that lasts only through the end of the year (and, conveniently, through the November election)?


Despite fall in health-care spending, insurance premiums will still rise 8 percent next year

More evidence that health-care finances are totally, completely and utterly detached from reality. CommonWealth magazine’s Shira Schoenberg reports that health insurance premiums next year are expected to rise by an average 8 percent next year – despite a fall in overall health care spending during the pandemic. You see, it’s about “uncertainty” in the future, blah, blah, blah. And, of course, we all know where rates would head if there was actually “certainty” in the market. 


Wu’s first day: Challenging Walsh’s handling of pandemic, winning over ‘Markeyverse’ types, putting mayor on spot

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu spent her first full day as an official mayoral candidate greeting voters and promising to listen to them (Globe), criticizing the city’s response to the pandemic (Herald), winning over Ed Markey’s online ‘Markeyverse’ activists (Herald) and prompting Herald columnist Joe Battenfeld to press Mayor Walsh about his re-election intentions: “Let us know now, Marty. Is your heart in it, or not? And if you have to think about it for a few more months, your heart’s not in it.”

He’s certainly not coming across as a fiercely-protecting-his-turf Tom Menino, that’s for sure. Meanwhile, here’s an intriguing piece via GBH’s Adam Reilly: “Analysis: 5 Reasons To Take Michelle Wu’s Mayoral Candidacy Seriously — And 5 Reasons Not To.”

Free ride? Berkshire DA not cited after being stopped while driving with suspended license

This story, as they say, is developing. Heather Bellow at the Berkshire Eagle reports Berkshire County District Attorney Andrea Harrington had a suspended driver’s license when she was stopped by a Pittsfield police officer for a traffic violation on Election Day. Harrington was given a verbal warning, raising a host of yet-to-be-answered questions about why she wasn’t cited for driving without a valid license. Stay tuned. 

Berkshire Eagle

The SJC will soon become an all-Baker court

With the sad death earlier this week of Supreme Judicial Court Chief Ralph Gants and with the pending retirement of Associate Justice Barbara Lenk, Gov. Charlie Baker, via his appointment powers, now has the opportunity to make the SJC an all-Baker bench, reports Michael Deehan at GBH.

As for the appointment process, Baker yesterday said he and others are still reeling from the sudden death of Gants on Monday and hasn’t yet started to review who might replace him on the high court, reports SHNS’s Chris Liskinki (pay wall). Meanwhile, a tribute from the Globe’s Adrian Walker: “Gants fought for equity, as well as justice.”


After latest State Police scandal revelation, Baker plugs previously filed reform legislation

Gov. Charlie Baker yesterday turned the latest revelations about the State Police behaving badly into an issue of police-reform inaction on Beacon Hill. The Boston Globe and the Herald’s Erin Tiernan and GBH’s Michael Deehan have more on the governor’s non-misdirection-misdirection strategy on all things State Police.

Since when is ‘buy local’ about boosting tourism?

The Globe’s Jon Chesto reports that local chambers of commerce are complaining that the state’s $2 million ‘buy local’ campaign, intended to help local retail shops during the pandemic, has somehow morphed into a tourism promotion campaign. Well, maybe tourists will buy local when they manage to get here? 

Boston Globe

(Almost) back to normal: T eyes restart of Worcester-to-Boston express

Today’s sign of near-normalcy: The MBTA’s so-called Heart to Hub daily commuter rail express train from Worcester to Boston is set to return in early November, Cyrus Moulton at the Telegram reports. The popular express had run for less than a year before it was shut down due to the pandemic.


They’re the few. The proud. The brash Trump supporters in blue-state Massachusetts

Have you ever noticed that Trump supporters in Massachusetts tend to brashly let you know they’re Trump supporters in Massachusetts? They take pride in it. And George Barnes at Wicked Local (via the Enterprise) catches up with some of them. “If I get someone that flips me off it makes my day,” as one Trump-flag-toting supporter puts it.


Clark makes her move in the U.S. House

U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark stood by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when the speaker fended off a young-ones insurrection led by Salem’s very own Seth Moulton. And now Clark is making her move to become assistant speaker, reports SHNS’s Michael Norton.

Speaking of standing by the old guard, from Peter Lucas at the Herald: “Backing Neal could pay off for Baker and Massachusetts.”

SHNS (pay wall — free trial subscription available)

‘Notice the sky is looking a little hazy?’

It’s not your imagination: The skies over Massachusetts do look a little hazy these days – and it’s because of the smoke from the historic West Coast wildfires drifting across the continent to the northeast region of the country. NWS Boston and Boston Magazine have more on the phenomenon.

NAACP’s national convention rescheduled to 2023 in Boston

Here’s some good news. The NAACP, which had to cancel this year’s planned national convention in Boston due to the pandemic, has decided to hold its 2023 convention in Boston as a sort of make-up call. Phillip Martin at GBH has more.


Petition seeks to put ‘thin blue line’ flag to a vote

Let the people decide. A group of Danvers residents is gathering signatures in the hopes of putting the local fate of the much-debated “Thin Blue Line” flag before town meeting, Erin Nolan at the Salem News reports. Town Manager Steve Bartha ordered the flags removed from town fire trucks in August, saying they amounted to the type of political speech not allowed on town property. 

Salem News

Growing concern: Arrests at Hell’s Angels fundraiser in Westport fuel cannabis cultivation debate

What do arrests made at a recent Hell’s Angels fundraiser have to do with a proposal to cultivate marijuana in Westport? Jeffrey Wagner at the Standard-Times reports on the dispute over whether the proponents of the pot farm should be held responsible for what happened on the property it wants to use on a recent weekend. 

Standard Times

After 35 years, Mental Health Commissioner Joan Mikula says it’s time to retire

Finally, a big congratulation and thank you are in order. From SHNS’s Colin Young: “Commissioner Joan Mikula plans to retire from state service at the start of next month after a 35-year career at the Department of Mental Health, she announced in an email to staff Tuesday. Before becoming commissioner of DMH in 2015, Mikula served for years as DMH’s deputy commissioner for child and adolescent services.”

SHNS (pay wall — free trial subscription available)

Virtual Open House #3: Boston Common Master Plan

The Boston Parks and Recreation Department, in partnership with the Friends of the Public Garden, announced a series of virtual public events to gather feedback on the proposed improvements to the Boston Common, as part of the Boston Common Master Planning Initiative.

Boston Parks and Recreation Department and the Friends of the Public Garden

The Citizens’ Choice: Ranked Choice Voting

Join the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate and the Higher Education Consortium of Central Massachusetts for Constitution Day forum on Massachusetts’s Ballot Question #2. The moderated discussion will cover both sides of the Ranked Choice Voting initiative as Commonwealth voters prepare to head to the polls in November.

Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate

Envisioning Equity Part I: Equitable Education through the Crisis

This fall, MassBudget is hosting Envisioning Equity, a series of community conversations examining how our state budget can help build economic and racial justice in Massachusetts.


Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy

Award-winning journalist Larry Tye discusses his new book Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy with Pulitzer Prize-winning former Boston Globe columnist Eileen McNamara.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Virtual 2020 Best Places to Work

The BBJ hopes you can join us as we celebrate the Best Place To Work!

Boston Business Journal

Faith and the National Elections: A discussion of how faith informs our voting

Join us for a discussion with faith leaders and the media to discuss: How faith shapes the issues that matter most to us; Balancing issues, political party and personal attributes when deciding how to vote; Accurate and reliable reporting in the age of social media; and The impact of a candidate’s own faith.

A Faith That Does Justice

100th Anniversary Virtual Awards Gala

We will stand together, virtually, to celebrate our 2020 Health Care Stars who, while deserving the utmost praise and recognition pre-COVID-19, have maintained their commitment to improving and protecting the lives of MA residents since the outbreak began. We are planning a showcase of celebration and resilience and ask for your sponsorship support of our 2020 honorees and of MHC’s work.

Massachusetts Health Council

Today’s Headlines


Reaction mixed to proposed pot shop in Roxbury’s Nubian Square – Boston Herald

Keolis donates 5,000 masks to Lynn – Lynn Item


Venus de Milo owner: Covid restrictions doomed business – Standard-Times

State publishes survey in effort to ‘reimagine’ Holyoke Soldiers’ Home amid tragic loss of lives and waning pandemic – MassLive

Falmouth town meeting passes ban on nip bottles – Cape Cod Times


Maine wedding ‘superspreader’ event is now linked to seven deaths. None of those people attended. – Washington Post

Trump defends claim coronavirus will disappear, citing ‘herd mentality’ – The Hill

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