10 a.m. | MBTA board of directors meets with plans to review alternate fare proposals and receive an update on the South Coast Rail project.
10:30 a.m. | Mayor Michelle Wu makes an announcement about an expansion of food justice and accessibility initiatives.
1:30 p.m. | Gov. Charlie Baker talks with Jim Braude and Margery Eagan on GBH’s “Boston Public Radio.”
7 p.m. | Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus hosts is first campaign training session of the 2022 cycle focused on media relations.
Good morning. Hope you enjoyed yesterday’s sunshine, because it’s time to take the shovels back out. After yesterday’s spring-like warmth, the cold is back and tomorrow’s forecast calls for snow.
I’m Matt Murphy, and I’ll be filling in for Chris Van Buskirk for a few days while he takes some much deserved time off. So let’s get to it.
The MBTA board meets today at 10 a.m. with alternate fare proposals on its agenda for discussion. The T is considering a number of changes to its fares that could lower the cost of certain passes for students, seniors and low-income riders. For example, the cost of a single-day LinkPass — which offers unlimited local bus, subway, Silver Line, commuter rail Zone 1A and Charlestown Ferry service — could get cut from $12.75 to $11.
MassterList has been told, however, that the board will also be getting a presentation on the results of a fare-free pilot program for the route 28 bus that started under former Boston Mayor Kim Janey last fall. A person familiar with the pilot said the board will see data showing that roughly two-thirds of riders that used the fare-free 28 bus saved no money because they had already paid for passes to allow them to use other parts of the MBTA transit system.
Janey launched the 28 bus pilot last summer using $500,000 in city funds and leaving some wondering if City Hall overpaid. Since then, Mayor Michelle Wu has tapped the city’s ARPA funds for $8 million to finance a two-year pilot making the 28, 23, and 29 buses free to riders.
Too little, but not too late?
Gov. Charlie Baker visited a Brockton restaurant – Luanda Restaurant and Lounge – on Wednesday to launch a $75 million grant program to support small businesses still struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the money is sure to help some businesses with grants of between $10,000 and $75,000, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the $668 million the administration cobbled together from federal relief funding sources to help small businesses in early 2021. That program helped 15,000 small businesses.
Jon Hurst, president of Retailers Association of Massachusetts, questioned not only the state’s commitment to helping Main Street businesses, but also the cities and towns those businesses call home. The Legislature is sitting on $2.3 billion in remaining ARPA funds, and municipalities have their own buckets of money from the federal relief law.
“Are they waiting for more dark storefronts? Are they waiting for COVID to be totally in the rearview mirror so they can spend it on unrelated purposes? And keep in mind this isn’t just the state,” Hurst emailed when we reached out to him.
Hurst credited Beverly Mayor Mike Cahill for putting together a $1 million program announced last week that will award grants of between $5,000 and $50,000 for retail, hospitality, tourism, recreation, arts, and family childcare.
“Who else is doing this? The municipalities should be leading in protecting, preserving and promoting their own Main Streets. It’s remarkable most are just sitting on those dollars,” Hurst said.
BREAKING: Russia invades Ukraine
Americans are waking up this morning to news that Russia has launched a military attack on Ukraine. The Associated Press is calling it a “wide-ranging attack” with the potential to “rewrite the geopolitical order.” Many Ukrainians are attempting to flee by car and train. This is a developing story.
wide-ranging attack on Ukraine on Thursday, hitting cities and bases with airstrikes or shelling, as civilians piled into trains and cars to flee. Ukraine’s government said Russian tanks and troops rolled across the border and accused Moscow of unleashing a “full-scale war” that could rewrite the geopolitical order and whose fallout already reverberated around the globe.
Unplugged? Thousands could face utility shutoff as moratorium winds down
As many as 750,000 Bay State households are behind on their utility bills and many could face the prospect of being cut off the grid as the state’s annual winter moratorium on such shutdowns comes to an end in a few weeks. Craig Lemoult of GBH has the details.
Lockdown brain: MGH study shows pandemic measures affect everyone
A study conducted at Mass General Hospital finds that lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions may be having a negative impact on the brain health of people who have never been infected with the coronavirus, Travis Andersen of the Globe reports.
Careful, the mic is HOT
Government’s expanded use of technology has undoubtedly made its deliberations more accessible to the public over the year, but it also means pols need to be a bit more careful with all the microphones and cameras around. The Boston Globe’s Edward Fitzpatrick reports that a hot-mic moment in the Rhode Island state Senate has some looking for an apology or a resignation. As Senate President Dominick Ruggiero gaveled his chamber’s session to a close after a tense debate over redistricting, the mic caught someone (maybe Ruggiero?) saying “these (expletive) people.” While the controversy exceeds anything we’ve seen in Massachusetts so far, it’s hard to forget the time when Speaker Ron Mariano visited the South End to endorse Rep. Jon Santiago’s campaign for mayor and the mics picked up the Quincy Democrat joking that he was “afraid my car’s gonna get stolen.” Mariano later apologized, explaining that back in the ’60s while in college his car had actually been stolen in the neighborhood.
Curry College taps former Boston police commissioner amid hate incidences
They’re calling for backup. Sarah Bettencourt of GBH reports former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis is now working with Curry College as the Milton school tries to put a series of racially motivated incidents in the rearview mirror. Threats of violence led to the closure of the campus. The school is not saying exactly what Davis’s role will be.
Would Attleboro be better off with no mayor at all?
As the Attleboro City Council began weighing Mayor Paul Heroux’s proposal to amend the city’s charter to clear up confusion about the process for replacing a mayor who leaves in the middle of a term, a former councilor says he has an even better idea: Doing away with the mayor altogether in favor of a professional, appointed city manager. George Rhodes of the Sun Chronicle has the details.
Constitutional concerns? Some in Gloucester push back on church’s use of school
Some Gloucester residents are questioning whether the city is running afoul of the U.S. Constitution by renting a school building out to a newly formed church to hold services, Ethan Forman of the Gloucester Times reports.
Nantucket Select Board divided on short-term-rental approach
The Nantucket Select Board was unable to reach consensus on whether to support a slate of proposals to change how short-term rentals such as Airbnb are regulated and where they are allowed on the island. The Inquirer & Mirror’s Brian Bushard’s reports the proposed regulations are likely to make for a feisty town meeting in the spring.
Tewksbury says it fell victim to spoof email scam
More like Tooks-bury. Tewksbury Town Manager Richard Montouri says the town lost more than $100,000 when an employee issued a wire transfer in response to a spoof email claiming to be from a regular vendor. Chris McLaughlin of MassLive reports the town hopes to get most of the money repaid through insurance.
Mass. unemployment office plans to drop use of facial recognition technology
The Herald’s Amy Sokolow reports Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance will phase out its use of facial recognition technology, following the lead of the IRS, which recently made a similar decision under pressure from civil rights groups and lawmakers including U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Share the wealth: SJC ruling seen limiting mayoral power in Springfield
Matt Szafranski of Western Mass Politics & Insight breaks down the ruling issued by the Supreme Judicial Court that found the City Council has the power to create a Police Commission over the objection of Mayor Domenic Sarno and comes to a simple conclusion: Power is meant to be shared.
Western Mass Politics & Insight
Prominent Boston civil rights attorney remembered
Lauren Sampson, a senior attorney at Lawyers for Civil Rights, is being remembered by her colleagues and peers as a gifted lawyer and “bright light” in the community. Sampson took her own life on Jan. 30, reports The Boston Globe’s Bryan Marquard/ She was 30.
Boston Public Health Commission to weigh mask mandate ‘soon’ – Boston Herald
Boston will put young people to work as part of city’s Green New Deal – Boston Globe
Biden’s Supreme Court shortlist – Politico
Prosecutors in charge of Trump criminal probe have resigned – Associated Press
Marijuana odor complaint raises stink in Holyoke – MassLive
Markey, local officials discuss Fall River’s fight against the opioid epidemic – Herald News
Facing red wave, Democrats work on a midterm message – The Hill
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