It could be a day of big change for a pair of the most harrowing, complex issues vexing Massachusetts policymakers.
Tuesday will bring an emergency court hearing over Gov. Maura Healey’s response to the overwhelming demand on the state’s emergency shelter system, driven in large part by a significant increase in newly arriving migrants.
Hours after anti-homelessness advocates plan to rally outside the State House calling on the administration and the Legislature to abide by the state’s right-to-shelter law, Judge Debra Squires-Lee will hear arguments about whether Healey’s announcement that families may no longer be guaranteed shelter placements starting Nov. 1 runs afoul of that statute.
The Healey administration is getting at least a little bit of a boost from the federal government after months of pleas, with plans unveiled for a “clinic” next month that would help migrant families in shelters obtain work authorizations. But one of the Legislature’s top Democrats made clear Monday evening the crisis is more or less Healey’s to navigate alone.
House Speaker Ron Mariano announced he is “not considering making changes to the 1983 right-to-shelter law.” While his inner circle continues to deliberate over Healey’s request to inject $250 million more into the emergency shelter system — something she proposed nearly seven weeks ago — Mariano said any temporary policy changes “would be better addressed by the Administration through the issuance of an executive order formally declaring a state of emergency, as they have real-time information regarding capacity issues and staffing shortages, and are in constant communication with local officials during this rapidly developing situation.”
At the city level, Tuesday also represents the final day before Boston begins enforcing a new ban on tents and tarps on public streets, a response to the vortex of homelessness, drug use and mental health issues in the area of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard.
City workers already began clearing tents Monday, according to GBH News. A Wu spokesperson told the outlet the “law enforcement portion” will begin Wednesday.
The Mass. and Cass ejectees will be offered shelter, the mayor’s office says — an odd juxtaposition with the plight of the migrants, highlighting two facets of a complicated policy equation with no apparent satisfactory solution.
Mass and Cass clearing underway
City workers Monday began clearing some of the tents that comprise the Mass and Cass homeless encampment. WGBH reported that while the law enforcement component of clean-up operation is expected to begin Nov. 1, crews on Monday put belongings in storage and removed tends the workers considered to be “abandoned property.” The station quoted residents as saying they had been caught off guard. — WGBH
State takes action on shelter crisis as it heads to court
The state will give taxpayer-funded rent vouchers to ease shelter crowding, officials announced Monday, and today (Tuesday) a judge will hear arguments on a legal group’s bid to prevent the administration of Gov. Maura Healey from easing up on satisfying a law that makes shelter a legally enshrined right in Massachusetts.
The rental vouchers will go to 1,200 people living in shelters in the hope they’ll use them to obtain housing elsewhere. The vouchers will go to families that have been in the shelter system for at last 18 months. — State House News Service
State and feds will offer migrants a work-permit clinic
Throughout the migrant-shelter emergency, Gov. Healey and Lt. Gov. Driscoll have made the legitimate point that they’d like to turn a problem into a plus: the state’s business community is facing an emergency of its own, a severe worker shortage, and the migrants arriving daily are by and large looking for work. At long last yesterday, the first step to such a solution: Healey said the state is getting federal help on a clinic to aid migrant breadwinners apply for work authorizations. — Boston Globe
Wait, that can’t be right. It’s Good. And it’s about the MBTA.
All snark aside, this is what success will look like, if first-year Philip Eng and his team are able to to generate some: the Globe’s “We’re using a lot of industry best practices that other transit facilities use,” Eng tells the paper. “I think we are fairly confident that the work we’ve done here will give us the ability to focus on other areas and not see [speed restrictions] rising up again in the very near term.” A rider headed toward Ashmont was more succinct: “They did good! They did good!” he exclaims. — Boston Globe
Lawmakers checking out library e-book legislation
State lawmakers are examining a new version of a proposed law that sponsors say will make it less expensive for libraries to provide access to electronic books. A similar Maryland law was struck down by courts. A representative for book publishers told Massachusetts lawmakers Monday that even the updated Massachusetts law is legally unsound. — State House News Service
Mass. General tops state’s NIH funding list
Massachusetts General Hospital hauled in $675 million in federal National Institutes of Health funding for 2023, placing the medical behemoth tops in the state. In second place is Brigham and Women’s Hospital, bringing in $401 million. Third place goes to Boston Children’s Hospital, with $235 million. The Boston Business Journal compiled a ranking of the top 20 recipients of NIH funding. — Boston Business Journal
Women short on headcount and donations in state politics
Massachusetts women run for office less than men and also give less to political campaigns than men give, according to an analysis by Rutgers University and further examination by Axios Boston. The state’s women gave 38 percent of individual donations in 2022, a higher figure than in many other states. Women in Maine appear to responsible for 42 percent of political donations, trailing peers only in Kansas and Colorado. — Axios Boston
Park Plaza gets new owner and new name
The former Boston Park Plaza Hotel is now the Hilton Boston Park Plaza Hotel after its purchase by a Mexico-based Hilton franchisee, Parks Hospitality Holdings. The 1,060-room hotel, built in 1927, sold for $370 million, or $350,000 per room. It was renovated in 2016. — Boston Business Journal
Police arrest 9 after protest at Cambridge weapon maker turns violent
Police in Cambridge, who started Monday providing traffic and crowd support when 200 people turned out to protest at the office of Israeli weapons maker Elbit Systems, say the event turned violent, forcing them to intervene and arrest nine people. Elbit has been targeted with peaceful demonstrations and vandalism repeatedly in the weeks since Israel launched military action in response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. — Cambridge Day
Off target: High bids are latest snag for Army’s machine-gun range
Bids from contractors to build a controversial machine-gun range at Camp Edwards have come in way over budget and critics say the new price tag of $15 million is further evidence the Army National Guard’s idea should be dropped. Walker Armstrong of the Cape Cod Times reports two bids came in $6 million over budget and notes that federal environmental regulators have yet to sign off on the project. — Cape Cod Times
New Bedford cops cite conditions, vote ‘no confidence’ in chief
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell says he fully supports Police Chief Paul Oliveira after the union representing most police officers took a vote of ‘no confidence’ in his leadership. The union says morale at the department is in the dumps amid a staffing shortage that has led to forced overtime shifts and made it difficult for officers to schedule vacations. — South Coast Today | New Bedford Light
Demographic changes point to Worcester’s challenges
As new data confirms that Worcester’s population is becoming younger and wealthier, Emily Micucci of the Worcester Business Journal explores how the demographic shift is creating both challenges and opportunities for the city’s political leaders. More than half of Worcester residents are under the age of 35 yet recent college graduates but even amid a building boom the local real estate market remains out of whack. — Worcester Business Journal
Holyoke details $1M response to shooting that claimed unborn child
Holyoke Mayor Joshua Garcia has released more details of his $1 million plan to make his city safer, saying he’ll deploy 13 additional officers on foot and boke, create a network of surveillance cameras on the streets and a new homeless liaison position. Garcia promised a robust response after the Oct. 4 shooting that claimed the life of an unborn baby whose mother was riding a bus and has dubbed the push ‘Ezekiel’s plan’ in honor of the baby. — MassLive