Civil Service Law Commission, healthcare workers protest, and more
10 a.m. | Commission to Study and Examine the Civil Service Law holds virtual hearing. Agenda includes presentations from Department of Veterans’ Services. Massachusetts Veterans’ Service Agents Association, and the Disabled American Veterans.
12 p.m. | 1199SEIU United Healthcare workers near Tobey Hospital “to protest CEO & President Kevin Hovan’s refusal to support premium pay from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding and address critical short-staffing for Tobey Hospital and Southcoast VNA workers.”
3 p.m. | Port of New Bedford hosts meeting with fishermen and industry advocates on impacts of proposed offshore wind leases in the New York Bight.
Full steam ahead
It doesn’t really feel like August recess.
Yes, the State House is deserted (although it’s never really been that busy since it closed to the public last year) and the Legislature slowed down it’s pace of lawmaking. But the typical lull that comes with the one-month summer break was shoved aside as debates over vaccine mandates and masking recommendations dominated discussions.
While Beacon Hill slowed down, Boston politics are forging full steam ahead.
All eyes were on Boston Acting Mayor Kim Janey this week after she invoked slavery and former Donald Trump’s birtherism conspiracy in response to a question about New York City’s decision to require proof of vaccinations for certain indoor activities like entertainment, restaurants, and gyms.
“When it comes to what businesses may choose to do, we know that those types of things are difficult to enforce when it comes to vaccines. There’s a long history in this country of people needing to show their papers whether we’re talking about this from the standpoint of, you know as a way to, after, during slavery, post slavery,” Janey said, according to the Globe. “As recent as, you know, what the immigrant population has to go through here. We heard Trump with the birth certificate nonsense.”
Councilor Andrea Campbell suggested that those comments were “dangerous.”
“When we are combating a deadly virus and vaccine hesitancy, this kind of rhetoric is dangerous,” she said. “Showing proof of vaccination is not slavery or birtherism. We are too close to give ground to COVID. Science is science. It’s pretty simple – Vax up and mask up.”
At a press conference Thursday, Janey said she wished she had not used those analogies as they “took away from the important issue of ensuring that our vaccination and public health policies are implemented with fairness and equity.”
As we talked about yesterday, vaccine mandates have started to roll in all across Massachusetts from the state auditor’s office to staff of long-term care facilities. It’s certainly a difficult decision for public and private employers to make as they have to weigh employee safety against their ability to make personal choices.
It’s reasonable to expect more vaccine mandates to come down the pipeline over the next month as the Delta variant prompts a surge in cases. It also begs the question of whether or not we’ll see more restrictions come back into play at the local level.
But at least one Democrat running for governor disagrees. At the start of the week, former Sen. Ben Downing called on the Republican governor to issue a new mask mandate that aligns with federal guidance and declare another state of emergency (State House News Service’s Katie Lannan had more details on Downing’s position).
So is it really August recess? For legislators, yes. But for the rest of us, it’s just another pandemic-era week.
‘Last, best, and final’ offer
That’s what St. Vincent Hospital said it had presented to the Massachusetts Nurses Association Thursday in an attempt to resolve a strike that has now hit 151 days. And the nurses rejected the offer, saying it failed to provide the improvements they were looking for, reports Telegram & Gazette’s Cyrus Moulton. The proposal includes increases to resources nurses from 11 units to 20, nurse staffing in “multiple units where patient acuity has increased,” wages, and much more.
MA Cannabis industry is mostly white and male
Largely male and white can be used to describe a lot of industries in the nation, including the makeup of the cannabis sector here in Massachusetts. MassLive’s Melissa Hanson reports that Cannabis Control Commission data found 73 percent of active owners, employees, executives, and volunteers of cannabis businesses are white while 64 percent are male. CCC Commissioner Nurys Camargo told MassLive that the passing an equity fund through the Legislature and creating more public-private partnerships could help diversify the industry.
Provincetown cluster silver lining
The outbreak of COVID-19 on the Cape may prove to have a silver lining: a large amount of data was collected on vaccinated individuals who contracted the virus that can be used by researchers studying the impact of virus breakthroughs, reports Cape Cod Times’ Cynthia McCormick. The accessibility of testing, local officials said, helped health personnel detect the more than 1,000 cases associated with the cluster.
Wading in? GOP’s Lyons says Trump could back Baker challenge
Mass Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons says he met with former President Donald Trump on the golf course and was told that Trump is “no fan” of Gov. Charlie Baker and could take sides in the 2022 gubernatorial race by actively backing a challenge from Geoff Diehl, Erin Tiernan of the Herald reports. With no race set yet, the meeting and its message are a reminder that the state’s GOP is fiercely divided, with Trump the wedge down the middle.
Some 911 crisis calls in Boston may head to mental health workers
The next time you call 911, you may have a mental health worker show up to the scene depending upon the emergency. Boston Globe’s Tonya Alanez reports that Boston Acting Mayor Kim Janey unveiled new protocols Thursday where the city will rely less on police officers and more on mental health workers for some crisis calls. The goal, Janey said, is to help people get the proper care they need and divert them from jails, courts, and emergency rooms.
More from Alanez on the new response models: “The second [model] would strengthen EMS’s response in collaboration with mental health workers and without police officers when there is no risk of violence. The third model, which is still in planning stages, would involve a peer-led response, meaning someone who may have lived with and experienced mental illness would take the lead in an intervention.”
State informed BPS that Cassellius’ license was set to expire
Boston Public Schools were informed that Superintendent Brenda Cassellius needed to complete the re-licensing process for her credentials to run a school district. Boston Herald’s Sean Philip Cotter reports that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education told BPS in February that Cassellius’ license was set to expire and that she needed to take the test to get a new one.
More from Cotter: “The state noted that school district is the employer, and therefore is the entity responsible for ensuring each educator has the appropriate license for the position they hold, as well as holding the records for each employee. It’s now unclear who’s running the day-to-day operations of the district until Cassellius takes the final licensure exam Aug. 14. BPS declined to comment further on Thursday, after board members asked Cassellius about the matter, and she said the district is consulting its lawyers.”
Ballot question focuses on happy hour in Massachusetts
We took a quick break from writing about the multitude of ballot questions that were filed with the Attorney General’s Office. But State House News Service’s Chris Lisinski. Here’s his quick roundup from Wednesday night of the 30 possible questions the AG Maura Healey has before her.
And here’s Lisinski’s story from yesterday about one Dorchester attorney who wants voters to decide whether or not happy hour drink promotions should come back. Attorney Nick Silveira launched an effort Wednesday to get the question on the 2022 ballot.
Buying time: Federal relief funds help stabilize small colleges, but for how long?
The trend is still not their friend. Kirk Carapezza of WGBH checks in with small local colleges that received windfalls from federal COVID relief packages and finds that while a welcome boost, the cash — half of which had to be passed on to students — is likely only a temporary fix to long-term trends that have led to a wave of closures and mergers in the sector.
Group think: Report says 9 Marblehead officers failed to report swastika incident
They all had their reasons. A scathing report says nine members of the Marblehead police department knew about but failed to report an incident in which one cop scratched a swastika on the personal vehicle of a fellow officer all the way back in July of 2019. Trea Lavery of the Lynn Item and Dustin Luca of the Salem News have the details.
Two-year warning: 300-plus jobs to disappear as Coca-Cola shutters Northampton plant
The good news is they have time to plan. The bad news for the city of Northampton is that Coca-Cola announced it will close a local bottling facility as part of a national restructuring that will mean the loss of 320 local jobs, Jim Kinney of MassLive and Brian Steele of the Daily Hampshire Gazette report. Mayor David Narkewicz called the closure “a significant economic loss” in terms of both jobs and property tax revenue.
Masks required in North Adams’ public buildings
More mask mandates — this time in North Adams. Mayor Tom Bernard announced Thursday that visitors will need to wear face coverings in public buildings, reports Berkshire Eagle’s Greta Jochem. The move comes after a recent increase in positive COVID-19 cases in the city and surrounding communities, including among vaccinated residents. Jochem notes that buildings affected include City Hall and the city’s library.
Sunday public affairs TV: Chris Dempsey, book talk, and more
This Week in Business, NECN, 10 a.m. This week: The rebound of the wedding industry with photographer Nelly Saraiva and D-J Chris Saraiva; the business of building a beverage brand with Tom First, Founder of Nantucket Nectars & Culture POP and Ryan Ayotte, Founder & CEO of Ohza; plus Boston Business Journal Editor Doug Banks on Delta’s impact on the return to work, the role of universities in the vax mandate push and why there are no female CEOs in the biggest 25 publicly traded companies in Massachusetts.
On The Record, WCVB-TV Channel 5, 11 a.m. This week’s guests: State Auditor Candidate Chris Dempsey talks with hosts Ed Harding and Janet Wu followed by a roundtable discussion with Democratic Political Analyst Anne Marsh and Republican Political Analyst Andrew Goodrich.
CityLine, WCVB-TV Channel 5, 12 p.m. With host Karen Holmes Ward, this week’s topic: Museum of African American History CEO Leon Wilson and Dana Williams, Dean of Graduate School at Howard University discuss the process of choosing winners for the museum’s Stone Book Awards; Lex Mongo talks about the book “Little Big Dreamers;” and Dr. Tamika Jacques talks about the book “A Brown Parents Guide: Preparing Our Children for Employment in the 21st Century” while Louis Chude-Sokei talks about book “Floating in a Most Peculiar Way.”
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