Fact, fiction, and adult conversations about transportation
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
If more evidence was needed that the state transportation sector is in freefall, Dana Levenson,
the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s
chief financial officer, has obliged.
The State House News Service reported that Levenson, who appeared before the MassDOT finance and audit committee yesterday, called the department’s fiscal 2013 budget “fictional.”
"But it is a balanced budget based on past practices,” he said.
The Transportation Finance Commission
identified the fiscal flaw of using borrowed funds to pay employees, particularly at MassHighway
, five years ago.
Cue Ferdinand Alvaro,
MassDOT board’s finance and audit committee chairman to point out the folly of the practice once again. He added that he would not support future budgets that rely on that mechanism.
Meanwhile, the MBTA
continues its descent into the twilight zone. According to a second State House News Service report
(subscription required), independent auditors discovered slipshod procurement practices and “non compliance” with federal regulations.
Wearing his MBTA board member hat, Alvaro commented, ”We have a system where we don’t even know if people are stealing from us.”
Does the MBTA need a control board after all? MassDOT officials have downplayed the need for another group to ride herd on the agency. But if further investigations uncover more than lax inventory controls, the proposal that was defeated in the Senate last week might not seem so far-fetched.
Not surprisingly, the MassDOT/MBTA board and the Legislature continue to point fingers at each other over who is to blame for the lack of progress on solving the state’s transportation quandaries. State lawmakers’ complaints about the MassDOT/MBTA board’s lack of initiative have some merit. Apart from Alvaro, the board has been largely silent about the financial chaos at the MBTA, with no specific policy prescriptions offered that would put either MassDOT or the MBTA on more solid financial footing.
Beacon Hill isn’t blameless in this current state of affairs. Other than providing funds to stave off the latest T budget emergency, legislators have consistently failed to gin up any new ideas on how to revive a sector that is running on fumes. Speaker Robert DeLeo
has said that situation will change…next year. Gov. Deval Patrick
has been unwilling to stick his neck out for transportation since his gas tax proposal died in 2009.
There has been plenty of chatter about the need for an adult conversation on financing transportation in Massachusetts. What’s missing are the adults who will step forward to steer the conversation from the realm of fiction into the real world. --GABRIELLE GURLEY MUNICIPAL MATTERS Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua
and the City Council clash over the city budget, the Eagle-Tribune reports.Fitchburg approves
a $101 million budget. Rehoboth
a property tax surcharge to pay for a new town hall. NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON
Senate leaders say a student loan deal
is reached, the Washington Post reports.
The National Rifle Association
is enjoying Eric Holder
’s standoff with Congress. ELECTION 2012
The earnest Scot Lehigh asks
for, but can’t seem to obtain, the details of Mitt Romney’s plans for both huge tax cuts and a balanced budget.
Democrats are coming to terms
with the inevitability of getting outspent in November.
Sen. Orrin Hatch
and Rep. Charles Rangel fend off
primary challenges. FISHING
The interim director of the National Fisheries Science Center
in Woods Hole, which has been under fire from local fishermen questioning the accuracy of fish stock assessments, has been appointed the permanent head of the center
. Meanwhile, former state rep. John Quinn was appointed to a seat on the National Fisheries Management Council
after being nominated by Gov. Deval Patrick.BUSINESS/ECONOMY Devens goes Hollywood
as a Massachusetts group begins construction on a $30 million sound-stage complex, CommonWealth reports.Steve Belkin
, whose 2006 proposal for a 1,000-foot tower in downtown Boston fizzled with the economy, is back
with a plan for a new skyscraper.
Home sales may be up in the state but values remain static
After two years of contentious negotiations, teachers in Andover
ratify a new contract, the Eagle-Tribune reports.Marlborough School Superintendent Anthony Pope resigns
after months of turmoil.Roxbury Community College names an interim president
-- after two other candidates decline the offer.
A Harvard museum
and organizers of a conference in Switzerland are clashing
over the rights to use racist imagery commissioned by Louis Agassiz
, a Swiss-born, mid-19th century Harvard professor.
A teacher tenure law
is passed by the legislature in New Jersey
and sent to Gov. Chris Christie
, the Star-Ledger reports.
A new playoff system for college football
is announced, the Wall Street Journal reports.TRANSPORTATION
Macy’s Downtown Crossing Station? Genzyme Kendall, next stop? The cash-strapped MBTA wants to sell naming rights
to stations. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno
comes out against Pioneer Valley Transit Authority fare hikes.ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT “The bear” lands
in pricey Brookline. Literally. Brian McGrory speaks for the multitudes
, asking why it had to happen this way. Portland
, Oregon, cuts back
curbside trash pickup to once every two weeks, increases composting, and cuts the tonnage flowing into its landfills by 43 percent. Global warming
: It’s a thing, and it can be regulated
, according to a federal appeals court. CRIMINAL JUSTICE
One of the seven correction officers hospitalized after an inmate attack at a state prison in Shirley
was stabbed in the neck, the Sun reports.
An assistant manager opening the Rent-A-Center
in Brockton found a would-be burglar laying on the loading docking floor with his head stuck between the concrete floor and the rolling metal door
. And he videotaped the scene
while waiting for the police.
A church youth leader in Easton was sentenced to life in prison
after being convicted of rape of a child.
The estate of Debra Davis goes after Catherine Greig
and her twin sister, Margaret McCusker
Holliston police resort to fundraising to buy a police dog.MEDIA
Writer Nora Ephron
dies at 71. See NECN’s report here
. The New York Times
obit is here
and the New Yorker showcases
Ephron’s writing for the magazine. Time analyzes what was special
about Ephron.CNN viewership plummets
; the network blames it on a lack of news, the New York Times reports.
A Wall Street Journal intern is fired
for fabricating sources, Poynter reports.
A New Canaan News
reporter, now fired, may have fabricated sources in at least 25 stories that appeared in the Connecticut newspaper, reports
Poynter.Radio Boston analyzes Boston.com’s bid
to enter online radio. The Phoenix
announces it, too, will get into online streaming by reviving WFNX on the Internet
. Via Universal Hub