The MBTA, which already has its hands full trying to transport passengers across eastern Massachusetts, on Monday tried to avoid being drawn into ancillary ideological battles by banning controversial advertisements.
WBUR reported that the unanimous decision by the T’s Fiscal and Management Control Board applied to advertisements that deal with “matters of public debate,” while the Boston Globe said the transit agency agreed to reject ads that refer to political issues or those expressing opinions on “economic, political, moral, religious, or social issues.” Ads dealing with e-cigarettes were banned specifically.
The T board’s vote came after what was described as a raucous hearing where pro-Israel advocates thuggishly shouted down the representative of a pro-Palestinian group that purchased an ad at the Davis Square T station in Somerville claiming that the Israeli government has “killed one Palestinian child every three days using US tax dollars.”
Richard Colbath-Hess, a board member of the Palestinian Advocacy Project, said the statistic in the ad was accurate and his group should be allowed to publicize it. He said criticism of Israel should not be confused with anti-Semitism. “We’re a firm supporter of free speech,” he said, identifying himself as Jewish. “The solution to speech we don’t like is to have more political speech.” The American Civil Liberties Union sided with Colbath-Hess.
But a number of pro-Israel advocates said the ad’s claim was inaccurate and would incite hatred of Jews. Charles Jacobs, director of a group called Americans for Peace and Tolerance, called the ad anti-Semitic and told the board it would put “the Jewish community here in danger.” State Rep. Lori Ehrlich, a Democrat from Marblehead, said the T was inappropriately using public space to promote a public issue.
Some of the pro-Israel advocates booed as Colbath-Hess testified. One of the advocates, Daniel Hermon, called Colbath-Hess a “cousin of Hitler.” Paul Fleishman said the ad’s depiction of a young girl with pigtails was inaccurate. “If it would be a real Palestinian girl, it would have a suicide vest on her. That’s how I know this is probably not a Palestinian girl,” he said.
The T board apparently wanted no part of the ideological fight. Without any public debate, the members of the board voted for the ad ban and moved on to other issues. According to the Globe, the MBTA vote follows similar actions by other major transit systems across the country.
Ads dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have caused problems for the T in the past. The transit agency refused to run an ad from a pro-Israel group in 2013 that said “in any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel; defeat Jihad.” The pro-Israel group challenged the T’s decision in court. The T has prevailed so far, but at a cost of $182,392 in litigation fees.
Standard & Poor’s downgrades the outlook for Massachusetts bonds, spawning a spate of finger-pointing between the administrations of Gov. Charlie Baker and his predecessor, Deval Patrick. (CommonWealth)
Baker says his administration will do nothing to impede refugee resettlement programs while he learns more about the vetting process the federal government uses for people fleeing unrest in the Middle East. (State House News) A Suffolk University poll finds voters split on the refugee question, with a plurality backing Baker’s position that we stance. (Boston Globe)
US Rep. Seth Moulton pens an op-ed on ISIS explaining that attacks on refugees, who he says are already thoroughly vetted before being admitted to the US, are wrong and wrongheaded, because they betray a lack of understanding of how ISIS recruits. (Boston Globe)
Lowell Sun columnist Peter Lucas sides with Baker on the Syrian refugee issue and in the process takes swipes at Moulton, Secretary of State John Kerry, and former governor “Devil Patrick” (we hope that’s a typo).
Baker, joined by members of his administration as well as Moulton and local officials, launched a new collaborative approach on development in Lynn. (The Item) An Item editorial says all the participants understand that Lynn’s time is now.
Secretary of State William Galvin is pushing legislation that would allow workers at firms without retirements to have access to state-administered retirement savings accounts. (Boston Globe)
Amy Dain says you’ve got to love buildings that uses monkey architecture, but the two state buildings in downtown Boston need a lot of TLC. (CommonWealth)
Joan Vennochi says former House speaker Sal DiMasi, four years into an eight-year sentence on corruption charges in federal prison in North Carolina and suffering from two types of cancer, deserves “compassionate release” or at least a transfer to a prison closer to his family in Massachusetts. (Boston Globe)
Everett Mayor Carlo DiMaria is under federal investigation for allegations that he “strong-armed” a developer into using union workers in the construction of a big apartment complex, the Globe reports.
Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera reverses course and comes out for a city worker residency requirement. The move is part of an ongoing power play between the mayor and City Council President Modesto Maldonado. (Eagle-Tribune)
The Council on American-Islamic Relations asks local police departments to protect mosques, and the Worcester Police Department says it intends to bolster its presence around the local house of worship. (Telegram & Gazette)
Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini compromises with the City Council on tax classification, agreeing to a slight increase in taxes on residents and a lesser decrease in taxes on businesses. (Eagle-Tribune)
Lowell’s new gun licensing policy gets pushback from gun-rights activists. (The Sun)
New Bedford residential and commercial property owners will pay the highest tax rate in 16 years as the City Council approved a hike that places the biggest burden on businesses and lowest on homeowners. (Standard-Times)
Brockton city councilors voted to approve a $6.4 million payment to private water supplier Aquaria for use of the company’s desalination plant, a move that ends a dispute over the 20-year contract between the city and the firm. (The Enterprise)
Milton selectmen want to meet with the town’s police chief to try to resolve a contract dispute that could result in the chief leaving. (Patriot Ledger)
Gov. Charlie Baker offers support for Attorney General Maura Healey‘s plan for regulating sports fantasy sites. (Boston Herald)
James Aloisi says terrorism offers major challenges for policymakers, noting military action will do little to defeat an ideology. (CommonWealth)
Decades of Western meddling in the Middle East helped sow the seed of the current turmoil and terrorist threats, writes Stephen Kinzer. (Boston Globe)
Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, likes the new rules CNN is using to decide who participates in an upcoming debate. (WBUR)
Karl Rove still has nothing good to say about Donald Trump. (USA Today)
A new app offers valet parking in Boston at cheaper-than-most-garage prices, but it’s unclear if the company is making any money.(CommonWealth)
A proposed assisted living facility in Marblehead stirs neighborhood concerns. (Salem News)
Data geeks rejoice: the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Donahue Institute has compiled a treasure trove of key economic and demographic metrics. (Boston Business Journal)
A survey finds 93 percent of Americans know what Black Friday is but just 18 percent are familiar with Giving Tuesday, the annual day on which nonprofits try to get people to focus on charitable donations. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)
Rockland police have applied for a criminal complaint against a 14-year-old boy seeking to charge him with threatening to kill a teacher. (Patriot Ledger)
Displays of the Confederate flag by some students at Framingham State University have riled the campus. (MetroWest Daily News)
Hundreds of Brandeis students have taken over an administration building in an effort to compel interim University President Lisa Lynch to address their diversity demands. (Associated Press)
A new study indicates patients on Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor, were far more likely to see their requests for effective but costly hepatitis C drugs denied than patients on Medicare and commercial insurance plans. (Governing)
California researchers say they have genetically engineered mosquitoes that cannot be infected with the malaria parasite and in a way that will make sure the trait spreads quickly in the mosquito population. (Time)
Steward Health Care will maintain a satellite emergency room at the former Quincy Medical Center through 2016 rather than moving it to another location. (Patriot Ledger)
Rising health care costs will leave Fall River schools with at least a $2.3 million budget shortfall. (Herald News)
A report from the American Highway Users Alliance says three stretches of roads around Boston that are the bane of commuters’ existence –I-93 from the Zakim Bridge to the Mass Pike; the lower end of the Southeast Expressway; and the Mass Pike extension in South Boston — are among the top 50 worst bottlenecks in the country. (Patriot Ledger)
New England officials want the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to evaluate all five of the natural gas pipeline proposals at the same time. (MassLive)
Abigail Hanna, 21, of Topsfield is arraigned on charges she kidnapped and tortured a 2-year-old toddler from Hamilton. (Salem News)
A New Hampshire couple pled not guilty to lying to police and may be hit with more serious charges in connection with the murder of a 29-year-old New Jersey woman whose burning body was found along railroad tracks in Bridgewater earlier this month. (The Enterprise)
Gunmen shot and wounded five people in Minneapolis during a rally by Black Lives Matter organizers protesting the fatal police shooting of an apparently unarmed black man. (New York Times)
Legal experts say Boston College official Jack Dunn would likely face a tough road in litigation against the makers of Spotlight, which he says badly sullies his reputation by completely distorting the role he played as a Boston College High School trustee in the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal. (Boston Herald)
The Download will be on break until next Monday. To send our faithful readers off for what we hope is a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends, we offer two somewhat less than solemn readings of the season from the Book of Dorchester. Specifically, a chronology of her typical Thanksgiving day by Dorchester Reporter co-founder Mary Casey Forry, who passed away in 2004 and whose wry take, first published in 1986, is reprinted each year by the paper, and an account of a particularly memorable Thanksgiving that is best just read, not summarized, by Dorchester’s Joyce Linehan, whose day job is chief of policy for Mayor Marty Walsh.