Today | Deadline for City of Boston officials to connect unhoused individuals living near Mass. Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard with social services and then clear encampments from the area.
10 a.m. | Joint Committee on Revenue holds a virtual hearing to consider 13 bills related to estates and another 37 bills concerning income taxes.
10 a.m. | Mass. Gaming Commission meets to get an update on potential development around Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, take a vote related to the commission’s own office reopening, hear about current operations at the state’s three gaming centers and to take a vote related to changes to the rules of pai gow poker.
1 p.m. | Baker administration hosts a webinar to brief municipal officials in the 175 cities and towns with MBTA service about new multi-family zoning requirements they must meet.
Takeaways from Baker’s COVID oversight hearing performance
Good Wednesday morning,
Hope you survived the frigid temps yesterday, and maybe this can warm you up for your Hump Day…
Lawmakers on Tuesday hounded Gov. Charlie Baker and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders with questions about the administration’s response to the latest COVID-19 case surge and increasing hospitalizations.
The Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management hearing ran just under an hour and half and was the first time Baker has testified before the committee since early last year. A couple things stood out:
– Vaccinating children is more difficult than Baker had originally anticipated, according to Baker. “I think it’s because there’s so much noise out there about vaccines, generally,” he told the committee, reports Boston Globe’s Matt Stout and Sahar Fatima. The governor added, “I’ve been in some really intense conversations with people I know who have kids, and honestly, sometimes I can make the sale and sometimes I can’t.”
– The Baker administration stuck to their guns and again resisted the idea of implementing a statewide indoor mask mandate. MassLive’s Alison Kuznitz reports Sudders ruled out the option, suggesting they have not proven effective in places like New York. Sen. Jo Comerford, one of the co-chairs of the committee, called a statewide indoor mask mandate one “the lowest possible fruit” that Massachusetts could implement to help stop the spread.
– Need further evidence of the disconnect between Baker and legislators on COVID-19. State House News Service’s Katie Lannan reports on another exchange between Baker and Comerford over guidelines for the quality of masks in schools that shows how they don’t always see eye-to-eye.
Also worth noting: Baker got ahead of any questions on testing when he announced the state purchased 26 million rapid COVID-19 tests that will be distributed over the next three months with a focus on getting them to teachers and school staff first. Boston Herald’s Erin Tiernan reports Baker urged residents to stop relying too heavily on PCR testing and instead turn to rapid tests.
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Potential for conflict: Study raises concerns about contributions to sheriffs
More than $700,000 worth of political contributions to Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph McDonald come from donors who present potential conflicts of interest, according to a new study that examines political donations to sheriffs across the country. According to Michael Jonas of Commonwealth and Jeanette DeForge of MassLive, the report from Common Cause and Communities for Sheriff Accountability argues many donations to Bay State sheriffs are problematic because they come from potential contractors and political insiders.
Driscoll jumps into LG race
At this rate, a shot at becoming lieutenant governor may be more popular than a bid to serve as governor of Massachusetts. Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll announced Tuesday she is running for the number two spot, joining an already crowded field that includes three Beacon Hill lawmakers and a Boston businessman.
Boston Globe’s Matt Stout reports Driscoll is describing herself as a pragmatic executive who can stand up for municipalities. The fifth-term mayor was first elected in 2005 and boasts more than a half-dozen endorsements from other mayors.
Court ruling calls into question BPD gang database
A ruling in the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals struck a blow to a Boston police gang database. Bay State Banner’s Yawu Miller reports the ruling found in favor of a Salvadoran immigrant’s petition to review a deportation order that argued the database falsely identified him as a member of the MS-13 gang.
More from Miller: “With two of the seven justices dissenting, the court found that an immigration judge who denied Christian Joshue Diaz Ortiz’s petition relied on the BPD’s controversial database in his judgement.” … Here’s another piece from the story: “The ruling calls into question the validity of the gang database, said City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo.”
Testing lines in Chelsea grow longer as temperatures drop
Testing lines are long across the state and as temperatures drop to frigid levels, waiting hours in line for a COVID test can be a grueling experience. Residents in Chelsea, which is only second to Lawrence is case rates, are having no less luck. WBUR’s Simón Rios reports people from surrounding communities are flocking to the city’s two testing sites, making it difficult for local residents to see get tested.
More from Rios: “The city’s community outreach manager, Lourdes Alvarez, said police have been called to keep the peace at a testing site near City Hall. And officers were needed recently when two out-of-towners were unwilling to leave the line.”
Coming up for air
A team of researchers collecting zooplankton samples in Cape Cod Bay spotted this right whale off the coast of Wellfleet in late December, the first visitor of the season to the frigid waters. The Center for Coastal Studies on Tuesday released the image of the mammal, a juvenile known to the research team from last season. Right whales are endangered with an estimated population of just 326, and every year a couple hundred arrive in the waters off the Cape and islands to feed in the winter and spring months. The arrival of the whale kicked off the 2021-2022 survey season.
Worcester Black and Latino communities feel disproportionate effect of omicron
Black and Latino communities in Worcester continue to be impacted at disproportionate rates by COVID as the omicron variants surges through the state. Telegram & Gazette’s Steven H. Foskett Jr. reports vaccination rates among the two communities continue to run below white residents and state averages.
More from Foskett Jr.: “That has led to renewed cause for concern as the extremely transmissible omicron variant has become the dominant strain of the virus in the city. Dr. Matilde Castiel, the city’s commissioner of health and human services, told the board Monday that Latinos represent 25 percent of the city’s population [but] make up 37 percent of the city’s COVID-19 cases.”
Encouraging sign: Wastewater data may herald end of latest Covid surge
Researchers say a sharp drop in the amount of coronavirus being detected in sewage from the Boston area may be a sign the latest surge in cases could be about to ease, Rick Sobey of the Herald reports. Coronavirus levels in the wastewater sampled dropped more than 40 percent in a single week.
Munis sue McKinsey over marketing ideas related to OxyContin
Cities and towns filed a lawsuit against McKinsey & Company over the weekend for marketing ideas related to OxyContin sold to Purdue Pharma. Staff at WBZ NewsRadio report that 124 municipalities joined the lawsuit and the attorney representing them says money is needed to address the opioid epidemic at the local level.
Rollins names Joshua Levy as first assistant U.S. attorney for Massachusetts
There’s a new first assistant U.S. attorney in Massachusetts. Newly minted U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins announced late Tuesday afternoon that Joshua Levy will fill the post. He previously served as a partner at the law firm Ropes & Gray LLP where he specialized in white-collar and complex civil litigation, according to Rollins’ office.
“His decades as a litigator on a wide range of criminal and civil matters have allowed him to cultivate an excellent legal acumen that will be an invaluable asset to me and this Office,” Rollins said in a statement accompanying the announcement.
Untied: Framingham special election resolves November deadlock
No drama this time. Framingham City Councilor Adam Steiner won another term in office after defeating challenger Mary Kate Feeney by nearly 200 votes in a special election called after a recount of the November results showed the two candidates deadlocked in a tie, Zane Razzaq of the MetroWest Daily News reports.
Too big: Hinsdale rejects plan for “massive” RV park
The Hinsdale zoning board rejected plans for a recreational vehicle camping facility capable of hosting up to 300 vehicles at a time, saying the scale of the project is “not in harmony” with the character of the town of fewer than 2,000. Larry Parnass of the Berkshire Eagle has the details, including the prospects for an appeal.
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