8 a.m.| Annual meeting and policy forum of the Council of State Governments -- East continues at the Doubltree Hotel, Manchester, NH. Offshore wind is this year's focus. Sen. Marc Pacheco is scheduled to give remarks.
11 a.m. | Boston Mayor Wu holds press conference "to announce climate-related legislation."
11 a.m. | Democratic Lieutenant Governor candidates debate at WBUR's CitySpace
11 a.m. | State seal and motto commission meets to continue its work finding a replacement for the current state emblems
2:30 p.m. | Gubernatorial candidate Maura Healey visits the closed South Attleboro MBTA station with Congressman Auchincloss, state Sen. Feeney, and state Reps. Hawkins and Scanlon.
Charlie Baker’s not going to be running, and as of Friday, neither will the Orange Line. These two phenomena are likely related, as some of the doom and gloom attending yesterday’s T-closure revealed. It’s hard to imagine an incumbent governor running for re-election against a potent challenger unveiling plans for the pain that will now be inflicted not just on the commuters of Eastern Massachusetts. But Baker is not a candidate. So, his job is not on the line, but his legacy could well be.
The administration yesterday laid out the commuting consequences of its dramatic plan to get ahead of the Federal Transit Administration’s demands that the T be fixed, and fast. They did not paint a pretty picture. “If possible,” said state highway administrator Jonathan Gulliver, “avoid the region altogether until the diversion period has ended.” Well, it’s the largest city in New England, so avoidance is easier said than done.
One sometimes hears that politicians can get away with neglecting transit riders, but woe to the voteseeker who makes suburban motorists suffer unduly. But, in this case, none of the accountable officials are seeking votes. So they felt free to cast the impact of the coming month on travelers in more dire terms than they might have if the political context were different. The loss of a major transit line is a “transportation emergency,” Boston Chief of Streets Jascha Franklin-Hodge said.
“But we are hopeful that we will look back on this moment as a turning point,” he added, and he later tweeted, “Herculean effort underway to make Orange Line shutdown bearable.” That was the main theme of yesterday’s event: more pain now in return for less pain later.
Baker has five months left in his term, and one of them will be taken up with the shutdown, not just the Orange Line, but part of the Green Line as well, and the associated disruption and anger. The following four months will be given over to evaluation of whether the big gamble worked. Did the T handle the closure well? Has the number of incidents dropped? Do riders perceive that service is better? And most importantly — do the officials at the Federal Transit Administration, now the de facto operations overseers, adjudge that the administration’s efforts succeeded?
Those are questions for another day, the questions by which Baker ultimately will be judged by the public. For today, Channel 5’s shutdown clock is ticking. Oh, and Maura Healey’s visiting a closed South Attleboro commuter rail station this afternoon….
— “Never Heard Of” and Millionaire’s Tax score big in MassINC poll
Could be a reason Bill Galvin‘s never too enthused about moving up the state primary. The MassINC Polling Group is out with a new poll, repped by CK Strategies on behalf of The Coalition for Responsible Development. It shows Galvin ahead of challenger Tanisha Sullivan in the Democratic primary for secretary of state, 43 to 15 percent. With 22 days to make up the difference, and the primary set for the day after Labor Day, Sullivan’s got plenty of fodder for rhetoric denouncing incumbent protection via hinky rulesetting — but she’d rather have more time, and more votes. Sullivan’s “Never Heard Of” score was 71 percent among the 520 likely Democratic primary voters, meaning there’s room to connect with her progressive message, but again, time is short. The poll docs linked here speak for themselves, so check them out (respondents say the state is on the right track, didn’t see that coming) but it must be emphasized: of the 854 respondents, 57 percent said they were leaning Yes on the question for a 4 percent surtax on personal incomes above $1 million; 37 percent said they’re leaning No; and just 5 percent were undecided or refused to opine.
— Higher MCAS standards score poorly with critics
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted yesterday to raise the score high schools must attain on the the MCAS exam in order to graduate. The proposal was excoriated by teacher’s unions and opposed in writing by 100 state legislators, but Education Commission Jeff Riley believed the old standard sent students into the world and to college insufficiently educated and unprepared for success. Opponents argued the stricter standard sets kids up for a different kind of failure, driven by stigma and stress. Alvin Buyinza of MassLive, Grace Zokovich of the Herald and Adria Watson of the Globe were among those covering the story yesterday
— Ed Dept. drops most Covid strictures
Oh, yeah, Covid. In a sure sign the coronavirus era of Massachusetts public life is just about at an end, state education commissioner Riley yesterday issued a bulletin to all Massachusetts public schools, informing them that the Ed Department “is not recommending universal mask requirements, surveillance testing of asymptomatic individuals, contact tracing, or test-to-stay testing in schools.” Via the Worcester Telegram, Colin Young of the SHNS reports.
— Cox completes Boston journey from victim to commissioner
He was once beaten by members of the same force he now commands, and Michael Cox promised to bring the hard won wisdom gained from that experience to his new job as Boston police commissioner. Cox was sworn in by Mayor Michelle Wu yesterday.
— The Sinkhole that Ate the Subaru
“Everything I saw for years, and I’ve never come across a situation like this.” Sileshi Beshah, manager of the Gulf gas station at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Tremont St. in the South End, came up with pretty much the perfect way to describe the strange effects of a water main break that caused a sinkhole near his Gulf. Combined with another water main break on Charles St. over the weekend, the water main problems are currently vying with the T for Infrastructure Calamity du Jour. John R. Ellement and Bailey Allen of the Globe describe the badness. But it could have been worse. No one was hurt, apparently.
— Front of mind: Trump becomes a flashpoint in GOP Lt. Gov. debate
He’s not on the ballot this fall, but former President Donald Trump was a centerpiece of the radio debate between the two Republicans who hope to be the Bay State’s next lieutenant governor. CommonWealth’s Shira Schoenberg reports the Chris Doughty-aligned Kate Campanale took aim at the endorsement from Trump that Leah Cole Allen running mate Geoff Diehl has received, saying it is all but a death knell for the duo’s electability, while Allen said many voters still support many of Trump’s policies.
— Nope: Smith & Wesson says it won’t provide details on AR-15 sales, profits
Springfield-based Smith & Wesson is responding to a Congressional subpoena seeking information on its marketing of AR-15’s by saying it has no responsive documents and won’t provide a more detailed breakdown of how the semi-automatic weapons impact the company’s bottom line. MassLive’s Jim Kinney reports that instead of speaking to a Congressional committee, Smith & Wesson CEO Mark Smith struck a defiant tone in a message aimed at gun owners and supporters.
— What if? Worcester council could be reshaped by Petty departure
He still has a primary to get through and an election to win, but if Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty is elected to the state senate, his departure would completely remake the Worcester City Council and the political order in the city, the Telegram’s Marco Cartolano reports.
— In Stockbridge, part-time residents push back hard on nascent tax-break idea
A proposal to give full-time Stockbridge residents a property tax break by increasing how much out-of-town and part-time residents pay is dividing the town’s select board and already drawing stiff opposition months before the idea would come up for a vote in late October. The Berkshire Eagle’s Clarence Fanto reports Stockbridge would be the 17th community in the Bay State to adopt a 1979 state law that enables communities to tax part-timers at a higher rate.
— Armed for battle: SouthCoast police add to weapons stockpile
Police departments in the New Bedford area tell the Standard-Times’ Kevin Andrade they have added more semi-automatic weapons to their arsenals in order to be ready to respond to the growing number of the high-powered weapons in the hands of criminals.
— Early start: With clear primary sailing, Healey launches first TV ad
The gubernatorial campaign of Attorney General Maura Healey has launched its first statewide television and streaming ad, a 30-second spot that re-introduces the candidate to voters and emphasizes making the state a more affordable place to live. The Globe’s Samantha Gross notes the ad comes as Healey faces no active primary opponent and appears to be aimed in part at heading off general-election arguments against her likely to come from the eventual GOP nominee.
— Amherst residents speak out on student rental woes
Officials in Amherst are telling residents frustrated by the growing number of UMass students living off campus in apartments that the town has limited tools to prevent investors from turning single-family homes into rentals but hopes to roll out new rules by next year that would enable the town to be more proactive in monitoring the housing. Scott Merzbach of the Daily Hampshire Gazette has the details.
— Revenues rise at state’s casinos in July
The Plainridge Park slots parlor reported $12.5 million in revenue in July, a slight improvement over the month before but just off last year’s pace, Tom Reilly of the Sun-Chronicle reports.
Meanwhile, MassLive’s Jim Kinney reports similar results from MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor, both of which are currently under fire from regulators for not bringing back table games at a faster rate after Covid shutdowns.