Keller at Large
A Big Wu-Oops On The Vax Mandate
In this week’s Keller At Large, Jon Keller takes a look at Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s handling of the vaccination mandate for city employees, and in particular her struggle to get some unions and first responders to comply. From Keller’s perspective, Wu’s handling of the political and public health battle with the unions made him long for the days of former Mayor Marty Walsh’s bungled “search” for a police commissioner.
9:30 a.m. | Gov. Charlie Baker for the eighth straight year gets his head shaved at Granite Telecommunications in Quincy to benefit Boston Children’s Hospital.
11 a.m. | Joint Committee on Ways and Means holds a hearing to examine areas of Gov. Charlie Baker’s FY23 budget that relate to spending on housing, labor and economic development.
11 a.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu rides the 29 bus from Franklin Field to Jackson Square for for a press conference to celebrate start of the two year fare-free bus pilot for the 23, 28, and 29 buses.
4:30 p.m. | Boston Public Health Commission board meets to discuss “COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Updates.”
Good Tuesday morning,
Gov. Charlie Baker is getting his head shaved in Quincy this morning, as he has every year in office for charity, and the Joint Committee on Ways and Means is hosting another hearing on the governor’s fiscal year 2023 budget.
But a lot of attention will be on a gubernatorial hopeful this morning as Republican Chris Doughty plans a “major announcement” in Worcester. He will follow that up with a second event in Boston in the afternoon. Doughty is attempting to fill the lane left open by Baker when the governor decided not to seek a third term and give Republicans an alternative to the more conservative Trump-allied Geoff Diehl.
Doughty’s campaign said we’d have to wait until 11 a.m. to find out more about the announcement, but there was a lot of talk in Republican circles on Monday about a potential running mate, maybe even one from the Legislature. Even if that’s not what Doughty’s campaign is planning, it’s getting close to that time when some GOP candidates will have to step up.
The race for lieutenant governor on the Democratic side has been quite popular with five candidates in the race, including two senators, a representative and mayor. On the GOP side? Zilch. Diehl is also known to be looking for a running mate, even though technically candidates don’t run as a ticket during the primaries. Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito pulled this off fine, but there’s always the potential that Doughty’s choice for LG will end up on a general election ticket with Diehl, or vice versa.
Also new this morning and first in the State House News Service, the Pioneer Institute is launching a new public interest law firm called PioneerLegal. Pioneer Executive Director Jim Stergios tells me the initiative is intended to move the think-tank beyond being an “amicus briefing machine” and give it the muscle to pursue its own litigation to advance public policy of importance to Pioneer. PioneerLegal will be led by retiring U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Frank Bailey.
Exploring his options: Baker orders review of Russia-facing state contracts
Gov. Charlie Baker says he’s asked his administration to review tens of thousands of existing contracts to see what business the state is doing directly with Russian entities, a first step toward potentially crafting a policy in response to that country’s invasion of Ukraine. Matt Stout of the Globe and MassLive’s Alison Kuznitz report Baker wants to ensure that any ban or boycott actually targets Russian businesses and not local mom-and-pop concerns.
State House News Service’s Colin A. Young and Matt Murphy also report that Sen. Walter Timilty has filed a bill to divest state pension funds from Russia, and the Pension Reserve Investment Management Board says that while sanctions have not hurt any PRIM investments, the $104 billion retirement fund does have a $140 million “exposure” to Russia.
Wu Moves to Restrict Early/Late Protests
After being subjected to early morning COVID-19 vaccine protests outside her Roslindale home, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu filed an ordinance Monday that would ban such demonstrations targeting a single home from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. But she’s not the only public official who has had to deal with these types of disturbances. Gov. Charlie Baker has seen his fair share of protests outside his Swampscott house, and he said Monday restrictions are a “worthy topic” to consider given the impact the protests have of neighbors of elected officials.
In additional to Wu’s ordinance, GBH News’s Adam Reilly looks at how Swampscott might take action this spring, and the chances for action on Beacon Hill. Rep. Steve Howitt filed a bill in January to ban protests within 100 yards of an elected official’s home. That bill was referred by the House to the Judiciary Committee on Jan. 18, but the Senate has so far done nothing with it preventing the committee from scheduling a hearing.
Mass. and Cass, six weeks later
Six weeks after the city of Boston removed the tents where hundreds without homes were living on the streets near Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, some people feel they’ve been given a fresh start with transitional housing provided by the city, while other have fallen through the cracks. GBH’s Tori Bedford returns to Mass. and Cass to catch up with some who have been helped by the city’s relocation efforts, and others who still don’t know where to turn.
Vote to decertify MNA union at St. Vincent falls short
The Massachusetts Nurses Association will continue to represent employees of St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester after a vote to decertify the union was defeated by a count of 302 to 133 on Monday, Cyrus Moulton of the Telegram reports.
McGovern challenger takes back support for MTG
Jeffrey Sossa-Paquette, the Republican challenging U.S. Rep. James McGovern, apologized for since-deleted Twitter comments that seemed to back Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is under fire for speaking at an event whose organizers are tied to white supremacist beliefs. Sossa-Paquette says he was trying to support Greene’s position on the war in Ukraine and immediately deleted his tweet when he realized his mistake. Erin Tiernan of MassLive reports McGovern pounced on the comments, pointing out how he helped get Greene removed from her House committee assignments last year.
Free rides for now: Merrimack Valley RTA drops bus fares for two years
They’re on board. The push to make more public transit available at no cost got another boost on Monday when the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority said it would offer fare-free bus services for two years. Bruce Mohl of CommonWealth reports the agency plans to use federal funds to cover the costs, which have yet to be finalized.
U.S. Supreme Court denies Gordon College appeal – for now
Stay tuned. The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal by Gordon College of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that found an instructor at the school was not a minster and therefore subject to the state’s employment discrimination laws. But as Julie Manganis of the Salem News reports, several justices made clear in a statement they could revisit the issue in the future.
Somerville first in Bay State to pilot new rat-control tech
There’s a new weapon in the rat wars. Alex Newman of Patch reports the city of Somerville has become the first community in the state and just the second in the country to deploy a new rat-control technology that both traps the rodents and collects data about where they are hiding. The technology – first used in Portland, Maine – uses electric shocks to kill the rats and sends alerts when rodents are detected.
Sticker shock: Scituate beach passes scooped up in seconds
It’s going to be this kind of summer: The town of Scituate says it sold out its allotment of out-of-town beach stickers just seven minutes after they became available this week, Ruth Thompson reports in the Scituate Mariner.
Town wants vacant Berkshire Mall boarded up, patrolled
Even as efforts continue to attract new tenants to the long-suffering Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough, local officials want the property’s owner to secure the vacant facility by boarding up doors and windows and instituting regular in-person security patrols. Larry Parnass of the Berkshire Eagle has the details.
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