Keller at Large

Charlie’s hot MBTA mess

In his latest Keller at Large on MassterLIst, Jon Keller says Gov. Charlie Baker is no longer just ‘Charlie on the MTA’ of Kingston Trio fame. He’s Charlie in MBTA Hell. And it’s mostly his own fault for not acting more decisively on reforms. … Note: Text of Jon’s commentary accompanies his podcast. Check it out!

Keller at Large

Happening Today

Utility penalties, Kerry honored, and more

— State Rep. Dylan Fernandes holds an in-person press conference at the dry-run opening of a COVID-19 testing site at Barnstable County Fairgrounds, 11 a.m.

— U.S. Sen. Ed Markey hosts virtual press conference with activists to renew the call for states and utilities to extend moratoria on gas and electric service disconnections, late fees and other penalties as a result of the pandemic, 12 p.m.  

Alliance for Business Leadership hosts a panel of transportation experts and activists to discuss the role of public transit in recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and recession, 10 a.m.

— Education Committee chairs Rep. Alice Peisch and Sen. Jason Lewis join the Latinos for Education group for a legislative briefing on access to technology and how the ‘digital divide’ affects Latino students during the COVID-19 pandemic, 12:30 p.m.

— U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley interviews Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry as part of a pre-recorded event the Environmental League of Massachusetts is hosting to honor the former U.S. senator and Secretary of State with its Commonwealth Environmental Leadership Award, 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: 30 new deaths, 10,793 total deaths, 2,463 new cases

MassLive has the latest coronavirus numbers for Massachusetts.

Backing down: MBTA retreats from deep service cuts, delays decisions until later this winter

After receiving overwhelmingly negative feedback about its proposed service cuts, the MBTA is backing off threats of eliminating many transit services to balance its pandemic-era operating budget, with GM Steve Poftak suggesting final decisions should wait till later this winter, after officials see if the feds pass an emergency relief bill for states. The BBJ’s Greg Ryan, SHNS’s Chris Lisinski and CommomonWealth’s Bruce Mohl have more on the T’s service-cuts retreat.

The governor doesn’t seem too keen on the move. From SHNS’s Colin Young (pay wall): “Baker: Running Empty T Vehicles ‘Bad Public Policy’.’”

Is Baker bending? Governor curtails elective surgeries at hospitals while dropping hints of more restrictions to come

Amid a spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations across the state, Gov. Charlie Baker, who has resisted new restrictions amid the second coronavirus surge, yesterday ordered that hospitals curtail elective surgeries in order to free up beds for virus patients. The governor noted that coronavirus cases “took off like a rocket” in the days after Thanksgiving, report the Herald’s Lisa Kashinsky and the BBJ’s Jessica Bartlett and Allison DeAngelis.

But here’s a line that caught our attention in a piece by SHNS’s Matt Murphy (pay wall): “The governor also said his administration was reviewing the post-Thanksgiving data and considering additional restrictions that might be necessary, and would have more to say ‘soon.’” The Herald’s Kashinsky and’s Nik DeCosta-Klipa also caught the gubernatorial “hint” of possibly more pandemic restrictions on the way.

No hints here: Mayors and city administrators call for tough new restrictions amid second surge

Gov. Charlie Baker may or may not be hinting at more pandemic restrictions to come in Massachusetts. But 14 mayors and city administrators from around the state aren’t mincing words, bluntly writing at CommonWealth magazine that it’s imperative that the state impose new restrictions to battle the second surge.

Meanwhile, the Globe’s Dasia Moore and Gal Tziperman Lotan report how, in the absence of new restrictions, “personal responsibility” seems to be the state’s de facto second-surge policy.


Not till June: Did the Trump administration screw up vaccine-dosage order, causing potential delays in vaccinations?

Can this be true? Granted, it’s from the NYT, which hasn’t exactly covered itself in objective glory of late. Still, the Times reports that the Trump administration last summer took a pass on ordering extra doses of Pfizer’s new vaccines – and now the company may not be able to provide enough vaccines to Americans until June or July.

The Washington Post doesn’t appear to be blaming the Trump administration per se, but it is confirming Pfizer has informed the feds that “it cannot provide substantial additional doses of its coronavirus vaccine until late June or July because other countries have rushed to buy up most of its supply.”

Well, thank goodness for our very own Cambridge-based Moderna. Then again, from the Globe’s Jonathan Saltzman: “Doctor who volunteered for Moderna study felt ‘lousy’ after second shot, but touts vaccine.”

Baker: ‘Americans need help while awaiting a vaccine’

Gov. Charlie Baker, in an op-ed at the Wall Street Journal, says Congress can do something really helpful for Americans while they await the arrival of coronavirus vaccines: Pass another relief bill. 

WSJ (pay wall)

Rolling back the rollback: Boston to reopen 28 schools for 1,700 more students

As pressure builds for rollbacks of reopening measures amid the second coronavirus surge, this is surprising. From the Globe’s Naomi Martin and James Vaznis: “In an abrupt shift, Boston will reopen 28 schools next week, allowing 1,700 more high-needs students to return to classrooms, officials confirmed Monday.” But the trend is still toward remote learning in other parts of the state. And, btw, see the item below.

Boston Globe

Meanwhile, MCAS tests delayed once again

Still on the subject of education, from WBUR’s Max Larkin: “State education officials have postponed a special January administration of the MCAS tests of English language arts and mathematics for high school juniors. That class of students already missed their first chance to take those tests after the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools in the spring.” 

Question: If they can’t take MCAS tests in person, why are school districts being pressured by the state to resume in-person classes? Just thinking aloud.


Confirmed: Eviction filings are definitely on the rise in Massachusetts

It may not be a ‘tsunami’ of eviction filings predicted by some, but eviction filings have been unmistakably spiking in recent weeks in Massachusetts, raising fears of thousands of people getting tossed from their homes. SHNS’s Chris Lisinski (pay wall) and the Globe’s Tim Logan have more.

Losers strike back: Five Republican ex-candidates sue to overturn election results in Massachusetts

Now we now know the names of five of the 25 percent of the electorate who believe the November elections in Massachusetts were a sham. Universal Hub’s Adam Gaffin reports on a lawsuit brought by five ex-candidates, all of them Republicans and all of them recently declared losers (literally, though not necessarily figuratively), challenging early voting and the state’s Nov. 3 election results. And, oh, they want entirely new elections.

Universal Hub

Did you know there’s a mayoral race underway? It’s true

As GBH’s Adam Reilly writes, it’s easy to forget there’s a mayoral race underway in Boston, amid a pandemic and a petulant president’s efforts to overturn the November election results. But Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell are indeed running – and they’re actually “defining themselves very differently” as the city awaits word on whether Marty Walsh will seek re-election, reports Reilly.


Tucked away, Part II: Caregiver abuse registry delayed in state budget

SHNS’s Colin Young has found yet another interesting item tucked away in the $46.2 billion state budget approved last week by lawmakers: A six-month delay in implementing the state’s new caregiver abuse registry, aka ‘Nicky’s Law.’

SHNS (pay wall — free trial subscription available)

Final flip? Former Correia chief of staff may take federal plea deal

Will the ex-mayor be the last man standing? Gen Andrade, the former mayoral chief of staff in Fall River and co-defendant in ex-Mayor Jasiel Correia’s federal corruption case, is indicating through court documents she’s prepared to change her plea to guilty, Jo C. Goode at the Herald News reports. The filing comes just days before a planned pre-trial hearing in the bribery case, which has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Herald News

Will Kerry cast shadow over the rest of Biden’s cabinet?

Does he have too much gravitas? Some Democrats see potential trouble on the horizon after President-elect Joe Biden tapped former Secretary of State, former U.S. Senator and former Dem presidential nominee John Kerry as his climate czar. Natasha Bertrand and Nahal Toosi at Politico report Kerry’s experience and his personality could lead to him having a lot of clout within the administration.


‘A textbook case in how justice works for the rich’

The Globe’s Joan Vennochi isn’t too surprised that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft dodged prosecution in the Orchids of Asia Day Spa case while the women operating the sex shop were pressured into guilty pleas. But she’s still disappointed that, once again, the rich guys won when it comes to justice in America.

Boston Globe

It appears reforms will come very slowly for mentally ill prisoners

For some reason, we’re not surprised about this. From GBH’s Mike Deehan: “Even after federal investigators alleged that the Massachusetts Department of Corrections violates the constitutional rights of inmates by failing to supervise mentally ill inmates and forcing lengthy mental health-watches in restrictive housing, prisoner advocates say no changes have been made to correct the problems.”


Grounded: Releasing of balloons banned in Attleboro

First, they came for the balloons. George Rhodes at the Sun Chronicle reports the Attleboro City Council voted to adopt the first piece of the local Green New Deal being pushed by Mayor Paul Heroux: A ban on the release of bunches of balloons enforceable by a $20 fine issued by police.  

Sun Chronicle

A who’s who of state pols object to East Boston electric substation

Mariam Wasser at WBUR reports that 16 elected officials – including numerous members of the state’s congressional delegation, state lawmakers and city councilors – have sent a letter to the Baker administration objecting to a controversial East Boston electrical substation, saying the state is short-circuiting public input into the project.

Power grab? Councilors want more say in Boston’s budget process

From the Globe’s Danny McDonald: “The Boston City Council this week is poised to vote on whether to put before voters a proposal that would change the city’s budgeting process and give the council more power over Boston’s purse strings. Under the measure, the council would have the ability to amend the mayor’s proposed budget, but not increase its total amount.”

Boston Globe

Sense of urgency: Amherst looks at next steps toward embracing ranked choice voting

Your turn, lawmakers. Amherst is inching closer to adopting ranked-choice voting for next year’s municipal elections, turning its attention to getting Beacon Hill lawmakers to approve the move in a home-rule petition, Scott Merzbach at the Daily Hampshire Gazette reports. A 2018 charter change laid the groundwork for Amherst to join Cambridge in using ranked-choice voting in local elections. 

Daily Hampshire Gazette

Azure Databricks Government Forum: Predictive analytics in the cloud with FedRAMP High

In today’s cloud-first world, data is being created at a staggering rate. Join our virtual event to learn how you can turn your agency’s data into a strategic asset with a modern cloud data architecture.


Beyond 2D: The Rise of Immersive Commerce

Now more than ever, consumers miss shopping beyond the 2D limitations of technology. Cue, immersive commerce. Brands are exploring new ways of bringing consumers closer to the in-store experience, blending physical and virtual experiences. Join us as we explore how immersive commerce could change consumerism for years to come.


The State of Innovation: Electrification presented by Analog Devices

Across the network, Innos State of Innovations meetups focus on a specific industry, category, theme or individual and will feature a keynote, fireside chat, panel, pitch, demo or a combination of the five. Join us for a conversation with local innovators and experts.

The Boston Business Journals

Living Room Conversations: Coronavirus: Life in the Time of Corona

Covid-19 has touched all aspects of our personal and community life. Our health, civic, social, work, academic, and financial systems are struggling to cope with uncertainty and the need for rapid readjustment. We are physically distancing ourselves from our friends, family, co-workers, and other people to prevent being infected or spreading the infection. Registration is required.

Boston Public Library

Author Neal Gabler with Catching the wind: Edward Kennedy and the Liberal Hour, 1932-1975

Join the Boston Public Library and the GBH Forum Network for an online talk with Neal Gabler, author of Catching the Wind: Edward Kennedy and the Liberal Hour, 1932-1975. BPL President David Leonard will moderate this program, which is part of the Arc of History: Contested Perspectives series.

Boston Public Library

Schism 2.0: China and America’s Trade Conflict in the Next U.S. Administration

This seminar is part of the Special Series on Japanese Economic Statecraft. Moderated by Christina Davis, Director, Program on U.S.-Japan Relations: Professor of Government; and Susan S. and Kenneth L.Wallach Professor, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University.

Harvard Kennedy School of Business and Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government

2020 Women Who Mean Business

Join us as we celebrate outstanding women at our fourth Women Who Mean Business awards program. These women represent the scale of business in Greater Boston and have demonstrated significant growth in their companies.

Boston Business Journal and Webster Bank

Empowering Women in Business Conference

Join us for an inspirational virtual conference, the annual Empowering Women in Business Conference, hosted by Nichols College. We invite you for a day of inspiration and education. Be inspired by our keynote speaker Valerie Weisler the founder and CEO of The Validation Project.

Nichols College

Kay Ulanday Barrett Performing and Answering Questions at the Intersections of Disability, Trans and Racial Justice

LexPride is thrilled to welcome the one-and-only Kay Ulanday Barrett (they/them) to Lexington. Kay is a poet, performer, and educator, navigating life as a disabled pilipinx-amerikan transgender queer in the U.S. with struggle, resistance, and laughter. They are the author of When the Chant Comes and More Than Organs. Kay will perform and answer questions from the audience.

LexPride. Co-sponsored by Boston Pride, Cary Memorial Library, and the Network for Social Justice.

WBJ Webcast: Cybersecurity: Protecting Your Business from Cyber Threats

The Covid pandemic has exposed a whole new range of obstacles for businesses, including new risks with cybersecurity. With cyber crime and fraud on the rise, it is vital that businesses of all sizes take their cybersecurity seriously. Protecting systems, networks, devices and your employees and customers is critical in the fight to protect our businesses.

Worcester Business Journal

Data & Donuts (Virtual)//Melissa Jones on Data Visualization of Racial Disparities During Covid

Melissa Jones is an undergraduate at Harvard and a member of the Coronavirus Visualization Team. As this session, Melissa will present her work and lead a discussion around data visualization of socioeconomic and health disparities within marginalized communities.

Harvard Kennedy School

Living Room Conversations: What is Essential?

Essential workers, essential services, essential travel. The global pandemic has affected all areas of our lives and has invited a shift in what we believe to be essential. What is essential to our lives, to our community and for our planet? What adjustments are we making in the short term and for the long run for our personal safety or for the welfare of others?

Boston Public Library

INSEAD Workshops: Venture Capital, Business Angels and Start Ups

In the workshop, we look at Venture Capital, Business Angels and Startups. The workshop is for people who are active in the domain of venture capital, business angels and startups. The workshop is free to attend.


Smart Work-X: Japan’s Transformations in the New Normal

Speaker: Hirotaka Takeuchi, Professor of Management Practice, Harvard Business School. Moderator: Christina Davis, Director, Program on U.S.-Japan Relations; Professor of Government; Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

Harvard Kennedy School

James Snyder in Conversation: Antique Inspirations, Fresh Creations

James Snyder in conversation with award-winning Palestinian-Israeli architect Senan Abdelqader on the influence of Arab culture across time on art, architecture, and design in Israel, Palestine, and the world today.

Harvard Kennedy School

Coping with Covid-19: The Role of Telehealth Services

Moderated by Grant Welker, News Editor, Worcester Business Journal. Join us for this special session as we explore the role of telehealth during the Covid-19 outbreak, its astounding level of adoption and what the future of technologies like it hold for the future of healthcare delivery.

Worcester Business Journal

Healthcare in Retirement

Healthcare concerns increase as we reach retirement age, and ensuring you have the right healthcare coverage can make a huge impact on your financial health. In this session, we will learn about Medicare and how you can put it to use to help cover rising healthcare costs during retirement. Join Dabney Baum, Baum Wealth Advisors with Janney Montgomery Scott, LLC., for this important presentation.

Boston Business Journal

The World of Maple Sugaring (Live Webinar)

Kyle Jacoby, Manager of Adult Education at Tower Hill Botanic Gardens, will walk you through the history of maple sugaring, how syrup is made today, the differences in maple syrup types, and tips for starting to make it at home. This webinar is perfect for both those who want to learn about this special treat and those who want to begin their own maple sugaring journey.

Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Today’s Headlines


Allston project would feature labs, offices, and apartments – Boston Globe

Quincy councilors approve $4 million to buy open space – Patriot Ledger


UMass Lowell smashes fundraising campaign goal – Lowell Sun

Nichols College spent $1M on testing and kept its COVID positivity rate at 0.1% – Worcester Business Journal

Ashland to vote on property, Brave Act at special town meeting – MetroWest Daily News


US election spending exceeds GDP of numerous countries – The Hill

Most of California locks down as coronavirus strains hospitals – New York Times

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