IN THE LAND of late budgets and last-minute negotiations, even having both legislative chambers and the governor on board isn’t a guarantee that a provision makes it through to the other side. For the second year in a row, Boston representation on the MBTA board hangs in the balance.
“We’ve been here before,” Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said on WBUR’s “Radio Boston” as the budget cleared the state House and Senate this week.
In it, a change to the MBTA board of directors would include new posts: one person appointed by the mayor of Boston and one municipal official representing the MBTA service area. The seven-member board is mostly composed of gubernatorial appointees, with no direct input from Boston, the state’s largest city, which depends heavily on a functioning T.
“Transportation access is make or break for our city, in every single neighborhood, as we’re looking to grow and bring new industries there and make sure that people are connected to everything that they need in their daily lives,” Wu said. “So our goal is to be a city that’s the best place in the country for families. We have to have a direct say in how our transportation system is operating.”
Wu, and her mayoral predecessor Marty Walsh, pushed for the city to have a voice on the MBTA board through its several configurations. As the system struggled in 2019 from neglect, crushing winters, and major derailments, then-councilor Wu called for a seat at the table and Walsh described a city held hostage by a disconnected board.
“Our residents and workers are suffering under the ongoing failures of the MBTA,” he wrote in a Medium post. “We deserve better and Boston deserves to have a role in the future of the MBTA. Right now we don’t even have a seat on the Board. We’ve been waiting too long for the train and for a better system, and we can’t wait any longer.”
Boston would, in fact, have longer to wait. After multiple tilts at the windmill, similar language made it through the House and Senate last year, charting its way to then-Gov. Baker’s desk.
He sent the legislation back with an amendment – the board could include a City of Boston employee with transportation operations experience, selected by the governor from a list of three people submitted by the mayor of Boston. Municipalities, he concluded, were already served by the current board composition.
“I appreciate the desire of municipalities that rely on the MBTA to be involved in its management and, under the current structure, municipalities do have a seat on the board via the appointee from the MBTA’s Advisory Board,” Baker said in a letter to lawmakers at the time. “Nevertheless, Boston is the center of the MBTA as well as the largest city and economic hub in the Commonwealth, and I think there is great value in including Boston in the ongoing management of the MBTA.”
The governor’s change was accepted by the House but got lost in the shuffle in the Senate as the hours ticked down on late-night negotiating on the final day of session. It never made it back to the governor’s desk.
“That’s where things kind of unraveled a little bit,” Wu told “Radio Boston” host Tiziana Dearing. “So I’m not going to count any of those final steps as a given. I’m incredibly grateful to the House for initiating this in their budget, the Senate for agreeing to it in the negotiations, and, again, fingers crossed, in this last stretch.”
The MassINC Polling Group asked voters in late 2022 about possible changes to the MBTA board. Statewide, 83 percent of voters supported giving Boston and other surrounding communities seats on the MBTA board, and 62 percent also supported asking these communities to contribute more to the T’s budget.
A spokesperson for Wu said the administration had nothing to share on potential appointments until the budget crosses the finish line. Healey has about a week left to review the budget and offer any vetos or amendments.
Once again, the governor is on board in spirit, but changes to the MBTA language this late in the game could constitute, as MBTA Advisory Board executive director Brian Kane put it last year, “a little bit of a poison pill.”
“Gov. Healey supports adding a Boston seat on the MBTA Board,” spokesperson Karissa Hand said on Tuesday. “Our administration is reviewing the budget.”
Steel in the water: Avangrid offers an on-the-water glimpse of the nation’s first commercial-scale wind farm, Vineyard Wind 1. Six turbine foundations and an electric substation are in place, and the turbines themselves are expected to start arriving soon and begin generating electricity in October with full completion slated for roughly a year from now.
– The tour of the wind farm for lawmakers, environmental advocates, and members of the press comes as Avangrid is seeking to terminate its power purchase agreement for its second wind farm and rebid the project in the state’s next procurement next year. Read more.
New Carmen’s contract: The MBTA negotiates a new contract with its largest union with pay and perks designed to attract new workers and retain existing employees. Read more.
Preventing cyberattacks: Carolyn Kirk of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and Frederick Clark Jr. of Bridgewater State University say the best way to prevent cyberattacks is by developing an ecosystem of linked facilities defending vulnerable institutions. Read more.
FROM AROUND THE WEB
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, who had vowed to tackle the problems at Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard with a public health approach, shifts gears and declares that disorder there has reached “a new level of public safety alarm,” vowing to roll out a new plan to address it. (Boston Globe) Boston Herald columnist Joe Battenfeld says the deteriorating situation is testament to the failure of policies put in place by Wu and her predecessor, Marty Walsh.
Though access to public pools and swimming lessons are a central part of Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s summer youth plan as temperatures spike, all six city-owned pools in Dorchester and Mattapan are closed. (Dorchester Reporter)
Nurses at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute satellite center in the Merrimack Valley vote to strike. (Eagle-Tribune)
Nomination papers are in for Westfield, where contested races loom for mayoral and council seats. (MassLive)
The Massachusetts Teachers Association takes another step forward in its bid to pass a referendum law doing away with the high school graduation requirement linked to scores on the MCAS. (WBUR)
The Marblehead School Committee is paying Superintendent John Buckey to leave. Buckey will receive the rest of his salary for the 2023-2024 school year plus $94,350. (Salem News)
A Harvard Business School professor accused of research fraud filed a defamation and discrimination suit against the university and three academics who made the charge on a blog post. (Boston Globe)
Amherst Assistant Superintendent Doreen Cunningham, placed on leave in May amid a district investigation that initially started with allegations of gender-based discrimination on the part of middle school guidance counselors, is pursuing her own discrimination complaint against Amherst school officials. (MassLive)
Money for East-West rail was not included in the budget passed by the Legislature, but Gov. Maura Healey had the funds included in the MBTA’s capital investment plan. (New England Public Media)
Eversource is asking for public comment on a new proposed electrical cable that would run under the seabed from Woods Hole to Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. (Cape Cod Times)
Three mental health and prisoners’ rights groups file a class action lawsuit against the Massachusetts Parole Board, alleging the agency does not consider the challenges incarcerated people with mental disabilities face in seeking probation. (WBUR)