Contrarian Boston/Dec. 6, 2021
In today’s edition: Boston’s next development czar | Feds blast silly Herald story | Rail boondoggle | Mass. GOP meltdown | Biden’s bad press | Goodbye Bob | About Contrarian Boston | Seeking contributors
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Heard on the street
A shakeup is brewing at City Hall.
In wake of Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s big win last month, city development chief Brian Golden is likely to be gone by year’s end. Golden has run the Boston Development and Planning Authority for nearly eight years, making him one of the longest-running directors in the agency’s history.
Golden, who is on the hunt for a new job, oversaw a record amount of development, ushering forward 105 million square feet of new offices, labs, retail space, condos and apartments.
Kairos Shen, the city’s sharp, well-regarded top planner under the late great Thomas M. Menino, is in the running to fill Golden’s shoes as the city’s new planning/development chief. Shen currently serves as executive director and associate professor at MIT’s Center for Real Estate.
Exactly what role Shen would take is unclear, with Wu having vowed to pull the plug on the BPDA and replace it with a full-fledged planning department.
Charlotte Golar-Richie, head of the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development under Menino, is also in the mix. A former state representative from Dorchester, Golar-Richie ran for mayor in 2013.
All aboard Western Mass rail boondoggle
We could sure use an infrastructure boost. But as much as $4.6 billion to link Boston with Western Massachusetts by rail?
Congressman Richard Neal wants to grab billions from the freshly inked $1 trillion infrastructure bill for a proposed East-West rail link.
And when the Springfield Democrat and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee speaks – as he did before business leaders in Boston last week - powerful people listen.
There’s no question Western Massachusetts needs a boost, and that means integrating the region’s economy more closely with a booming Greater Boston.
But the breathtaking acceleration in remote work in the Covid era – as reflected by an unprecedented surge in home prices across Western Massachusetts – signals the region’s longstanding isolation may be starting to crumble without having to spend billions of dollars on a new rail system.
The pending return of one-party rule in Massachusetts
Even with a popular governor like Baker at the helm, the imbalance in power between Democrats and Republicans in Massachusetts was breathtakingly lopsided.
Now, with Baker’s decision not to run, and the state GOP taken over by a braindead clique led by blowhard Jim Lyons, it’s about to get even worse.
The Globe offers a comprehensive piece here on the meltdown of the state Republican party, which accounts for just 10 percent of voters in the state.
That said, this quote from a Politico story on the state GOP’s woes – which beat the Globe to the punch by a day – sums up things nicely:
“Catering to 10 percent of a population and not focusing on the other 90 percent — it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out you’re not going to get the numbers you need to get elected, said Colin Reed, former campaign manager to former Massachusetts GOP Sen. Scott Brown.
Feds in a lather over silly Herald story
Ok, it’s not going to win any investigative journalism awards.
But we thought Herald’s takedown Saturday of U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm motoring around Boston in a “gas-guzzling SUV” was a fun read.
The story’s hook? Shortly after giving a speech at a Fenway project about the need to ratchet back greenhouse gas emissions from buildings and vehicles, Granholm promptly hopped into a Chevy Suburban Premier and sped away.
Failing to see the humor, a spokesperson for the energy secretary scolded the Herald for, well, being the Herald.
“Would the Herald run this kind of a story if it was a minivan? Shame to see journalism like this at a time when there are real dollars coming to Massachusetts that will lower costs and create jobs for families and workers,” the spokesperson wrote, per the Herald
Sometimes it’s better to say nothing.
The trashing of a president
If you think Biden has endured relentlessly negative press coverage – we certainly do – then you may be onto something.
The president’s political honeymoon ended abruptly in June, with negative press coverage surging over the summer, Washington Post’s Dana Milbank notes, citing a study conducted for him by data analytics unit Forge.ai.
By August, Biden was being hit each day with more negative coverage than Trump was during the same time in 2020. Think about that one. Trump by then had already grotesquely mismanaged the worst pandemic in a century, with more than 182,000 deaths and climbing fast.
Skepticism is good. But then there is being nihilistically cynical, which is a good description of the Washington press corps.
Here’s Milbank: “We need a skeptical, independent press. But how about being partisans for democracy? The country is in an existential struggle between self-governance and an authoritarian alternative. And we in the news media, collectively, have given equal, if not slightly more favorable, treatment to the authoritarians.”
So long Bob
We were saddened to read the news of Bob Dole’s passing Sunday at 98.
Politically, Dole was an acquired taste, too acerbic to win the kind of national following that would have propelled him from the Senate to the White House.
But the Kansan embodied a kind of “common sense conservatism,” as the Globe’s David M. Shribman puts it, that today’s GOP so desperately needs to find its way back to.
We also remember Dole for his heroic service in World War II.
There are still many of us who had parents or grandparents who served in the war. Whatever role they played, simply stepping forward was an act of courage, service and devotion to the country. Suddenly, your life and your fate were no longer your own.
By contrast, the complaints of today’s mask whiners and antivaxxers look all that more pathetic.
What is Contrarian Boston?
I have fielded emails over the past couple weeks asking what Contrarian Boston is all about.
Here’s a link to our mission statement – you can find it in the “about” section.
For a more prosaic, nuts-and-bolts description, read on.
An online newsletter, Contrarian Boston publishes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In Contrarian Boston you’ll find analysis of the day’s news, and original reporting as well.
Our focus is:
Politics and all levels of governance, good and bad, with an emphasis on state and local, with some national mixed in;
Economic growth and business, especially real estate, housing and new development projects;
The media and why it does what it does;
The business of public relations and lobbying;
Education, from school board spats to the doings of multibillion-dollar university endowments;
And whatever else catches our fancy.
Contrarian Boston seeks contributors
Have a news tip? Is there an issue you would like to see explored? Interested in writing up a news item or short opinion piece? As Contrarian Boston gets on its feet, I would like to add more news and a wider range of commentary as well.
Intrigued? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading and see you Wednesday.