State representative slams proposed daily trains to Gillette Stadium

A state representative Monday blasted a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority proposal to run daily commuter rail trains to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, saying the agency should focus on improving the service it currently provides.

State Representative Shawn Dooley, a Republican from Norfolk, told the MBTA’s fiscal control board that the proposed expansion, and its effects on existing service, would be a major concern for his constituents.

“We have been expanding throughout the years without fixing what is broken,” he said.
Adding more trains would put more pressure on the Franklin Line, which runs to Foxborough for special events, such as New England Patriots home games, he

Over the past seven days, more than 80 percent of the line’s rush hour trains have been on time, according to MBTA statistics.

The MBTA’s commuter rail provider, Keolis Commuter Services, already runs some trains to Gillette Stadium, which is owned by The Kraft Group. Founded by Patriots owner Robert Kraft, the business could subsidize a pilot program by as much as $200,000, officials said in November. Expanded service would initially last about a year but could then become permanent.

MBTA officials have not provided an estimated cost for the program, but a 2010 study found that full-time service to Foxborough, including a new station and other infrastructure improvements, could run to $84 million.

In late 2014, the MBTA discussed plans to increase service to Foxborough, and in January 2015 reached a deal with The Kraft Group/Foxboro Realty Associates LLC. But just a few weeks later, a record-breaking winter brought widespread cancellations and delays, and the idea was shelved.
As the MBTA has looked to cut costs, officials and the Kraft Group have discussed expanding service on a trial basis. Foxborough’s Board of Selectmen recently voiced support for the pilot program, which would feature four round trips from South Station.

But at Monday’s meeting, Dooley denounced the idea, saying the MBTA should not finance a “separate line that really only services the Kraft Group.”

“This is a great business model for them to make their property substantially more valuable,” he said. “This should not be subsidized by the taxpayers.”

But Paul Matthews, executive director of the 495/MetroWest Partnership, a group dedicated to economic growth, said many would welcome expanded service, particularly if it were evaluated openly.

“We applaud the board’s willingness to consider such pilots, considering the potential benefits for the economy, environment, and our transportation system,” he wrote in a letter to the board.

Several board members appeared to be wary about the idea. Board member Steven Poftak asked members to be “honest with ourselves” about the implications of testing new rail service and how that might affect daily operations.

“The notion that adding commuter rail service would not require additional vehicles is a false one,” he said.

Joseph Aiello, the board’s chairman, said the agency needed to focus on improving current service.

“I worry about the limited human capital at this place, getting distracted from safety, customer service, state of good repair, and investment,” he said. “I would be reluctant to have a pilot program that was unhinged from the clear ability of this organization to perform the things that need to be priorities.”

Read the original article here. 

  • Standard Post
  • Written by William Rigdon

T board wary of expansion proposals: Pilot service projects on hold until evaluation policy developed

THE MEMBERS OF THE MBTA’S oversight board indicated on Monday that they are extremely wary of expanding service at a time when so much work remains on improving the quality of existing operations.

The concerns surfaced at the Fiscal and Management Control Board’s weekly meeting during a discussion about how to evaluate pilot projects to expand service.  As a staffer sought guidance from board members on how they want to evaluate pilot proposals, it quickly became apparent that the board members were skeptical of any service expansion unless the benefits were clear.

Four pilot project proposals are currently pending before the MBTA. Two deal with commuter rail service – one extending regular, daily service on the Fairmount Line to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough and the other extending commuter rail service from the Middleboro-Lakeville line to Bourne on Cape Cod. The other two pilot proposals would test year-round ferry service between Lynn and Boston and overnight bus service across Greater Boston.

Board member Steve Poftak raised concerns about analyzing all of the costs associated with a service expansion. Board chairman Joseph Aiello also had cost concerns; in addition, he wanted information on past agreements between the T and sponsors of the pilot proposals.

Board member Monica Tibbits-Nutt said she wanted to make sure that service expansion proposals were compared against each other so that everyone would be aware that service expansion in one area could mean a project elsewhere could not be pursued. For example, she was wary of expanding commuter rail service to new destinations at a time when many inner city bus routes are not working well. “There are tradeoffs here,” she said.

Tibbetts-Nutt at one point said she wasn’t in favor of any sort of rail expansion because rail is “insanely expensive.”

David Mohler, director of the state Transportation Department’s planning department, recommended that the board have MBTA staff develop guidelines for assessing pilot projects but in the meantime move ahead with evaluating the existing pilot proposals. There was even a suggestion that one of the pilots – perhaps commuter rail service to Foxborough or overnight bus service – could be approved in February before the guidelines are completed.

Board member Lisa Calise said she was not in favor of moving ahead witof Norfolembers nodded their heads in agreement, Calise said: “We all seem to be pulling in the same direction with our concerns.”

The Foxborough proposal, which is being pushed by Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, seemed to be on a fast track toward approval in February until the board put the brakes on the entire process.

During the public comment period of the meeting, Republican Rep. Shawn Dooley of Norfolk criticized the proposed train to Gillette Stadium, saying Foxborough doesn’t need commuter rail service because it is surrounded by communities that already have T service. Dooley, who represents communities opposed to the new train service, said the Foxborough proposal would be little more than a “private train station” for Kraft and his retail operations near Gillette Stadium.

“This should not be subsidized by the taxpayers,” Dooley said.

Read the original article here.

  • Standard Post
  • Written by William Rigdon

Attleboro area lawmakers balk at pay hike

Local legislators object to increases and the way state leaders pushed it through

BY JIM HAND SUN CHRONICLE STAFF 

The raises for House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg were rushed through after just a few days of deliberation.

DeLeo and Rosenberg would get $45,000 raises to bring their salaries to $142,547. DeLeo said the raises are “long overdue.”

Gov. Charlie Baker and other constitutional officers would get smaller raises.

In addition to a $34,000 bump to $185,000, Baker would receive a $65,000 housing allowance.

Supporters were so anxious to give their bosses raises that they declared the bill containing the pay hikes an emergency so the raises could take effect immediately.

The $18 million measure passed on a 155 to 44 vote. It goes to the Senate Thursday.

State Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, said he understands the need for a pay raise, but voted against it because it gives more power and leverage to two men: DeLeo and Rosenberg.

“Last session, the Democrats removed the term limits for speaker of the House, allowing the speaker to be elected for life,” he said.

“By increasing his salary to $145,000, plus expenses, makes the position more desirable to stay well beyond what is healthy for a robust democracy. Further, by increasing the stipends the speaker and Senate president can dole out as perks to his or her supporters to $35,000 is troubling”

Reps. Jay Barrows, R-Mansfield, and Steven Howitt, R-Seekonk, made almost identical statements explaining their votes against the measure. They both said there is too much budget uncertainty at this time to approve raises.

Baker has said that tax revenue is not coming in as strongly as anticipated and has made spending cuts. More reductions this year are a possibility.

The Republicans in the House tried to slow the rush toward passage by calling for more public hearings, but they were outvoted.

State Rep. Betty Poirier, R-North Attleboro, said she voted against the measure for several reasons, including the way it was rushed through.

“It wasn’t vetted. It just appeared before us. I don’t know, it didn’t seem right,” she said.

State Rep. Paul Heroux, D-Attleboro, was one of the few Democrats who voted against the raises, once again putting him at odds with his party’s leadership.

“I don’t see how giving these pay raises helps my constituents,” he said.

The bill would eliminate the per diem benefit for rank-and-file lawmakers for travel to Beacon Hill. Instead, they would get funding for office expenses.

The raises were based on a study done by a panel that actually recommended Rosenberg and DeLeo get 70 percent raises to make them among the highest-paid legislative leaders in the country.

The House cut that recommendation to 40 percent.

Prior to the vote, Eileen McAnneny, head of Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said the state should offer salaries comparable to other states, with the cost of the raises offset by spending cuts.

“It is vital that we don’t further add to the deficit. Therefore, we agree with the recommendation of the special advisory commission that any increases should be absorbed within the existing budgets for the respective agencies, and not add to the bottom line,” she said. “In other words, the cost of these raises will come at the expense of something else.”

The only area lawmaker to vote for the pay raise was Rep. Louis Kafka, D-Stoughton, whose district includes Precinct 4 in Mansfield.

 

Read the original article here

  • Standard Post
  • Written by William Rigdon

Representative Dooley named to Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed Representative Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk) to serve as his designee on the Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government.

Created at the request of House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, the task force will conduct an investigation and study of the existing legal and regulatory framework governing the conduct of all state, county and municipal elected officials, as well as appointed public employees. The investigation will include a review of the state’s Conflict of Interest Law, the Financial Disclosure Law, and the regulations of the State Ethics Commission.

“Representative Dooley brings a unique perspective to the task force, having served in government at both the local and state levels,” said Jones. “Shawn’s experience and expertise will be an asset to the task force as it works to identify ways to clarify and strengthen the state’s ethics laws.”

Dooley commented, “I am so honored to be nominated to such an important commission although I will admit to being saddened that this is needed in our Commonwealth. Our elected and appointed officials should be beyond reproach when it comes to the public trust but unfortunately there are those who feel they are above the law and that the ends justifies the means. I applaud Speaker DeLeo for creating this task force and continuing to push for it until it became a reality. Greater transparency in our government will be one of the key aspects I will push for as well as harsher punishments for those who misuse their position for their own personal gain.”

Dooley is one of six state legislators serving on the 13-member task force, which is being co-chaired by the chairs of the House and Senate Ethics Committees and the House and Senate chairs of the Joint Committee on State Administration & Regulatory Oversight. Other members serving on the task force include Attorney General Maura Healey; the respective Chief Legal Counsels for the Governor, the Senate and the House; and three members with expertise on issues relating to ethics, public integrity or campaign finance who will be appointed by Governor Charlie Baker, Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and Speaker DeLeo.

The task force will file a report of its findings with the Governor, Senate President and Speaker on or before March 15, 2017.

Representative Dooley represents the Ninth Norfolk District, which is comprised of the towns of Norfolk, Plainville, Wrentham, Medfield, Millis and Walpole. He previously served as the Norfolk Town Clerk and as the Chairman of the Norfolk School Committee before winning a special election in January of 2014.

Read the original article here.

 

  • Standard Post
  • Written by William Rigdon