10 a.m. | Cannabis Control Commission hosts a briefing with lawmakers, highlighting revenue earned from the emerging industry. | Room 428
11 a.m. | U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch touts $2.4 million award for New England Aquarium | 1 Central Wharf, Boston
11:30 a.m. | Gov. Maura Healey heads to Moderna’s Norwood Facility where she'll talk up jobs in the life sciences sector. | One Upland Road, Norwood
1 p.m. | Joint Committee on Housing holds a listening session to highlight priorities, but has yet to begin hearings on any bills despite growing crisis of housing affordability and availability. | Room A-1
Boston’s two special elections today may be a mere formality for candidates running now-uncontested for open seats in the state House of Representatives, but heated races taking shape for city council seats up later this year have the potential to invigorate voters in a city seeing less and less participation in local elections. One wonders who votes in uncontested special elections besides friends and family.
A historic mayoral election that saw an all-woman ticket and led to Michelle Wu’s victory in 2021 enticed just one-third of Boston’s roughly 442,000 registered voters to show up to the polls, according to official election results.
The trend, however, seems to be bucked in presidential election years — turnout in the 2016 presidential election was 2.5 times higher than a mayoral election the following year. It was a similar story in 2020 when statewide voter turnout saw historic highs — including in Boston where about 65% of registered voters cast ballots, data show.
Boston isn’t alone in seeing low turnout in municipal elections. Big cities throughout the nation are struggling with declining interest in local elections, which a recent Manhattan Institute report blamed in part on the decline in local news and a shift toward a national focus on political coverage.
“As voters get more of their news from cable television and online, they are getting their information from outlets that have a national or even an international focus. Accordingly, it is no surprise that Americans’ knowledge about and engagement with local politics are declining,” University of Pennsylvania Prof. Daniel Hopkins said in the brief.
Perhaps today will set a record for low turnout, as Democrats John Moran and Bill MacGregor face zero competition at the ballot box in the 9th and 10th Suffolk districts.
Both soon-to-be state representatives tell MASSterList they haven’t let the lack of competition get in the way of campaigning, though. Moran said his “grassroots” outreach hasn’t stopped and his soon-to-be-released 100-day plan is being built based on ongoing conversations with voters.
“Now people are talking more about their issues rather than where I might stand. I’m learning from them and finding out what’s important,” MacGregor said. The issues in their districts? Affordable housing, the MBTA, addiction and mental health.
They’re the same issues city council candidates will run on this fall, where controversies and a vacancy by outgoing longtime Councilor Frank Baker have drawn many candidates. Ricardo Arroyo will see a contest in his District 5 after becoming embroiled in the scandal surrounding former U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, who resigned this month. An upcoming special election for Kenzie Bok’s now-vacant seat is also likely to see a race.
Lawless: Massachusetts Legislature has slowest start in 40 years
Measuring by the number of laws passed, state lawmakers have had the least productive start to a legislative session in at least 40 years. Just 10 bills have passed into law since the session opened in January, reports Matt Stout for The Boston Globe. Insiders suggest it’s likely a sign of the times and the way-of-doing business now in the Democratic-controlled body where power is overly concentrated at the top.
Feds reject MBTA safety plan
Federal regulators rejected the MBTA’s plan to improve track safety for workers and contractors, instructing the T to resubmit a plan with “direct and focused actions,” WBZ reports. The FTA has given the MBTA until June 5 to submit a plan to have right-of-way safety processes in place within 60 days.
Blame game: GOP points fingers on who should pay up for $600,000 party debt
The Massachusetts Republican Party’s finances are in the red, but the new chairwoman wants to pin a $600,000 debt on last year’s GOP gubernatorial contender Geoff Diehl. The details will be hashed out at an upcoming committee meeting, writes Gayla Cawley for The Boston Herald. The agenda lists questioning Diehl about “campaign finance irregularities” that led to roughly half of the party’s $600,000 debt.
Settling debts: SCOTUS ruling on property seizure has Mass implications
A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court over the seizure of a Minnesota property from homeowners who are late on their property taxes could impact Massachusetts, which like Minnesota is one of a handful of states that allows the seizure of equity, writes Christian Wade for the Eagle Tribune. The ruling found the state erred in keeping a $25,000 profit when it sold the home in a tax foreclosure sale saying the government can take what it is owed and anything beyond that is unconstitutional.
Many go hungry in Massachusetts after COVID aid disappears
A new report from the Greater Boston Food Bank reveals many Massachusetts residents are going hungry under the added pressure of COVID-era aid rollbacks.
According to the report, one in three adults in Massachusetts experienced limited or uncertain access to adequate food, also known as food insecurity last year. And 20 percent had “very low” food security, meaning their eating patterns were disrupted for a prolonged period. More than a third of households said a child in their family has skipped a meal — or several — in the past 12 months due to lack of food. Among Black, Hispanic, and LGBTQ+ households, those numbers are higher, reports The Boston Globe.
Healey restarts council to advise on veterans’ services
Ahead of Memorial Day weekend, Gov. Maura Healey signed an executive order Friday restarting a council that will advise her on veterans’ services, reports The Boston Herald. The Governor’s Advisory Council on Veterans’ Services will meet four times a year and be tasked with producing a written report every two years.
Construction stops on Vineyard Wind among worker protests
A day after celebratory headlines lauded the arrival of the first turbine parts for the Vineyard Wind project, work ground to a halt when a local union of predominantly Black longshoremen took to the picket line and accused the project’s developer of falling short of its promises to hire a diverse workforce, reports The Public’s Radio. Members of the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1413 blocked the main entrance to the port facility.
Partial do-over: Hull eyes solution to local election disrupted by house fire
A Superior Court judge has reversed course and now says Hull can legally count votes cast during an unauthorized two-hour extension of voting hours at the May 15 election. The judge has also authorized a reopening of voting for two hours at a future date to be determined by local officials, who had argued that the initial solution of an entirely new election would be cost-prohibitive and unnecessary.
Lawmakers vow to fight after UMass Memorial says it will close Leominster birth center
UMass Memorial Health announced Friday it would close its birthing center in Leominster, but state lawmakers and advocates say they plan to fight the move–starting with a Tuesday protest at the facility. The hospital group cites both falling birth rates and staffing issues for the move.
In election preview, Ramos leads charge on water rates, quality in Springfield
State Rep. Orlando Ramos has launched a petition drive aimed at pressuring Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno to address issues with water quality in the city in the wake of a surprise rate hike. As MassLive’s Jonah Snowden notes, the push is an early salvo in the race for the mayoral seat Ramos hopes to wrest from Sarno in November.
Some in Mashpee see bias in government against Wampanoag Tribe
Some members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe say the town of Mashpee has repeatedly passed up opportunities to appoint tribal members to local government positions. Rachael Devaney of the Cape Cod Times reports a recent dustup over a vacancy on the Community Preservation Committee prompted multiple claims of racism and prejudice.
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