Construction pending for Maynard Crossing at 129 Parker St.

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Construction pending for Maynard Crossing at 129 Parker St.

By Holly Camero

With the ever-changing retail market, Robert DiPietri is thinking outside the box when it comes to finding tenants for the development at 129 Parker St.

“The retail market is in such flux right now. So retailers that were there five years ago are not there today. So we are almost starting from scratch again trying to get new tenants,” said DiPietri.

DiPietri is vice president of Capital Group Properties, the Southborough-based firm that is developing the 58-acre property, formerly owned by Digital Equipment Corporation.

The developers have been working with the town since October 2012 to come up with a plan both sides can agree on and after several failed attempts, Maynard voters approved amendments to the Neighborhood Business Overlay District zoning bylaw that governs the property at a special Town Meeting, Jan. 11, 2016.

Capital Group still has not broken ground on the property, but DiPietri says they are nearing the finish line.

“I think we’re getting close,” he said.

DiPietri says they have been meeting with various boards for the last several months, during which they have pored over every detail, and they currently have meetings lined up until the end of June with the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and the Conservation Commission.

Approval from the ZBA is required, he said, because the property is in a Zone 2 aquifer zone, and they must show the development will not impact town water.

The architectural design has been agreed upon, as have the signs and most of the landscaping. Some of the open items include drainage on the property and the potential noise impact.

“We are in the process of doing a noise study on the project right now,” he said.

Most of the major issues have been worked out, he said, and he hopes to have permits soon so they can begin signing tenants.

DiPietri said even if all goes well, he does not anticipate building will start until mid-August or September because after the permits are issued, there is a 21-day appeal period.

“It’s a big project so there’s a lot to review,” he said.

Capital Group has been looking at potential restaurants, a fitness center, and entertainment options, DiPietri said, to go in the property. A few businesses have already signed on. Emerson Hospital has committed to opening an urgent care center, Market 32 will open a grocery store that will include Starbucks and a liquor store, 110 Grill will open a new restaurant, and Lux Nails will open a salon. DiPietri is also hoping for a small hardware store, a pet store and a hair salon, to round out what is now called Maynard Crossing. There will be an apartment complex, with an affordable component, and senior housing.

“We’ve got a couple of very exciting tenants that we are talking to and we’re hoping they will come,” he said. “A lot of them are just waiting until the final permits. It’s a big expense for them to commit.”

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How Boston’s Preparing For Rising Sea Levels

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How Boston’s Preparing For Rising Sea Levels

By Anaridis Rodriguez, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – Boston is one of more than 300 cities across 47 states choosing to adopt the goals of the Paris Accord, with or without President Trump. But this latest push is nothing new for the hub. Massachusetts has been working to become climate ready for more than a decade.

And for good reason.

“If we had a large storm in 2050, then this would be an island right here,” said Austin Blackmon, Boston’s Chief of Environment, while standing in Christopher Columbus Park.

Blackmon says the park, located in the city’s North End, is part of five waterfront neighborhoods under the threat of coastal flooding, major storms and extreme heat.

Six months ago, Blackmon’s office, in partnership with The Green Ribbon Commission, released a 400-page report. Climate Ready Boston details the consequences of the changing climate. And what researchers found could be catastrophic; reminiscent of the destruction left behind by Superstorm Sandy in New York and New Jersey.

“If something like that were to happen in Boston; that wipes out our North End, that wipes out our Downtown Crossing that, wipes out our Financial District,” said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

A team of researchers mapped out what’s at risk. Climate Scientist Mathew Barlow has been studying climate change in the country’s northeast region for decades.

“There’s just a level of flooding that happens with the storm surge and the wave activity that’s the higher than Boston’s low-lying ground,” said Barlow, who teaches at UMass Lowell.

“A lot of the T, the openings to the subway tunnels, are at ground and close to ground level and a lot of those could be flooded in a major event,” added Barlow. “There would be communication problems, there would be sanitation problems, and the electrical grid could well fail.”

The city’s latest outlook indicates sea levels will rise a foot-and-a-half in the next three decades.  Levels could be three feet higher by the turn of the century. And in the event of a major storm, up to six feet of water can rush into the city. That would mean $20 billion worth of real estate and the homes of at least 16,000 people could end up inundated. Blackmon says the city is now taking the data and putting engineers to work.

“By coming up with conceptual designs for flood protections. Whether it’s in East Boston, in Charlestown, in South Boston, to give us an understanding of what the cost would be and how feasible they would be,” Blackmon said of the design drafts expected to be released early next year.

Blackmon’s office is training residents to understand the information and share it with the community in neighborhood sessions.

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Meds aid in recovery

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Meds aid in recovery

A Herald article highlights the important debate on harm-reduction initiatives for opioid use disorders (“Boston eyes safe sites for addicts” June 6). Unfortunately, the article also furthers the stigma around addiction by repeatedly using the term “Methadone Mile.”

The statewide Association for Behavioral Healthcare strongly objects to the use of that term to refer to an area of Boston that is home to a major teaching hospital and other health care organizations including two methadone clinics. All of these facilities provide much-needed services to our community.

Methadone is a lifesaving medication used to treat individuals who struggle with a chronic disease that is treatable. Medication assisted treatments, such as methadone, bridge the biological and behavioral components of addiction. Research shows that a combination of medication and behavioral therapies can help sustain recovery.

And these medications help reduce mortality while patients begin recovery.

We urge the Herald to stop using this derogatory term that denigrates a neighborhood and feeds a stigma associated with substance-use disorders.

— Vic DiGravio, president and CEO, Association for Behavioral Healthcare, Natick

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Local AMR Emergency Medical Technician Honored With Star of Life

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Local AMR Emergency Medical Technician Honored With Star of Life

By Anne Craig

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — A veteran of the War in Iraq and AMR Paramedic Supervisor Mike Turcio has been selected as a 2017 Star of Life by the American Ambulance Association. Turcio is one of 100 recipients nationwide to receive the award which is considered the highest honor an emergency medical service professional can receive. It recognizes the dedication of ambulance services professional across the country.

The highest praise I could receive is recognition from my peers. I am honored they nominated me for Stars of Life,” said Michael Turcio. “It’s a real pleasure to represent American Medical Response, meet my senators and congressional representatives, and get to know some of my colleagues from across the country.”

Turcio is passionate about supporting and recognizing others who’ve served. Mike organized a ceremony last year to honor veterans working in his operation and designed a special challenge coin for veterans in Connecticut’s EMS industry. Mike also regularly leads efforts to create and send care packages to soldiers deployed overseas.

Mental health for first responders is another of Mike’s passions. Mike has been part of several panel discussions related to identification and treatment of first responder stress, and has organized team meetings with Yale’s Critical Incident Stress Management Team. Mike makes a point to check in with colleagues who’ve responded to critical incidents and to connect them the initial and ongoing support they need.

American Ambulance Association President Mark Postma notes, “Across our great nation, EMS professionals provide life-saving health care every day. This year’s Stars of Life recipients represent the very best of our profession, and we are proud of the positive impact they have made.”

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On the former Medieval Manor site, a bookstore with a mission

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On the former Medieval Manor site, a bookstore with a mission

By Megan Woolhouse

Raise a toast, the former Medieval Manor, boarded up for more than a year, will come to life again as a sprawling used bookstore with an unusual social mission.

It will be run by More Than Words, a nonprofit whose employees are youth from troubled backgrounds who often live in foster homes and homeless shelters.

Moreover, the owner of the building on East Berkeley Street elected to give More Than Words discounted rent instead of giving in to the tide of gentrification washing over this corner of the South End. The five-story brick building is surrounded by some of the most expensive new real estate in the city, with its neighbor, the Troy, charging as much as $4,600 for a unit.

“This is 100 percent the convergence of everything right in the world,” said Jodi Rosenbaum, who founded More Than Words 13 years ago. “You don’t see that very often.”

More than Words already had a small store on the second floor of the building, above where Medieval Manor had run its boozy period feasts for 35 years before closing at the end of 2015.

The building has been owned by Stuart Rose for decades, who agreed to lease Medieval Manor’s former space to More Than Words at below-market rate for 13 years. Rose declined to be interviewed, saying through a spokesman that he didn’t want to be “knighted” for his good deeds.

In a statement, Rose said More Than Words is “a fascinating, exciting, and unusual retail addition to this changing neighborhood” and he offered the “below-market cost to support their contribution to the community.”

More Than Words describes itself as a social enterprise, and provides on-the-job training for youth who have faced problems in court, at home, or in school and struggled to find work. More than 70 percent of its youth have been involved with the foster care system and 40 percent in the courts. The teens also receive intensive case management working with counselors, who help them work through issues and identify goals.

The books — 2.4 million of them last year — are donated by libraries and other institutions and individuals and sold either through its stores in the South End and Waltham, or online at Amazon, eBay, and Alibris.

Employees are people such as Phedora, an 18-year-old who would give only her first name. She came to the country from the Dominican Republic when she was 14 and currently lives in a foster home in Dorchester. She said the work experience and assistance she’s received from More Than Words helped get her into Bridgewater State University this fall.

“We support each other,” she said of the staff. “You’re free to be yourself here and grow in so many ways.”

The first-floor space will need a significant renovation after decades as a bawdy haven for Renaissance meals. More Than Words has launched a $5 million fund-raising campaign, and Rosenbaum said Liberty Mutual has already donated more than $1 million after its chief executive, David Long, visited the facility.

“We are particularly excited that they’ll be able to grow to serve 60 percent more youth,” Liberty Mutual Foundation president Melissa MacDonnell said.

Plans call for installing a modern glass storefront at street level that will showcase the retail bookstore, as well as the warehouse facility where the teens manage all the logistics. The 10,000-square-foot space will also have room for community events that can be rented and is big enough to host a film festival. There will also be retail space for jewelry, food, and other goods made by social enterprise companies, Rosenbaum said.

More Than Words staff will unveil its plans at a community breakfast Friday featuring Mayor Martin J. Walsh and break ground later this summer.

Kim Zeuli, senior vice president of the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, a Roxbury nonprofit, said the big question is whether the neighborhood will respond by shopping there. She thinks that’s likely, noting that young, socially minded people have moved to the area, and expects many of them to be drawn to the bookstore because of its uniqueness.

“But you just can’t predict it with total certainty,” she added.

Rosenbaum is moving full-steam ahead. A training space inside the operation will host people from other cities and states interested in recreating the program in their communities. Such inquiries are not unusual, she said.

“Usually when it comes to big dollars and corporations and real estate, it doesn’t come out with our kids as winners,” she said. “And they’re going to triumph here.”

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Boston seizes clean energy opportunity

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Boston seizes clean energy opportunity

IT’S BEEN A sobering few months for clean energy advocates. Despite the Trump administration’s disdain for programs and policies intended to lower the carbon emissions that threaten the safety and well-being of the nation, Boston and like-minded cities are surging ahead to take advantage of the economic, health and other benefits inherent in a carbon-free economy.

We now know that there is unstoppable momentum in the city and state-driven clean energy markets – enough to keep renewables alive and growing through the next four years and beyond. According to the Energy Information Administration, renewable energy accounted for 70 percent of new energy capacity added in the U.S over the past two years. And it’s a trend that is expected to continue.

Local and regional clean energy-focused economies, together with a coalition of major international corporations that have pledged to run all of their operations with 100 percent renewable energy, see enormous opportunities. We’re in a new ball game, with a big upside for Boston.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said recently that if the Trump administration withdraws from the Paris Climate Agreement, he will push for the 128 U.S. mayors who are part of the Global Covenant of Mayors to join in its place. And why not?

Cities account for more than 70 percent of global energy use and produce roughly half of greenhouse gas emissions. More than 80 percent of global Gross Domestic Product is generated in cities, according to the World Bank. Actions that cities and large companies take will drive the global carbon economy as much, if not more, than national actions.

Moreover, the world’s mayors are in a fundamentally different position than the federal government relative to climate change impacts. They’re on the front line – every day. Like Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, city leaders have an immediate and direct responsibility to their residents who, as it turns out, don’t so much care for scorching heat, nuisance flooding, superstorms, drought-induced water rationing and other climate-driven problems.

Boston, which is part of the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance and other international city-based carbon reduction initiatives, is at the forefront of carbon mitigation and climate resilience planning and action. Walsh’s Climate Ready Boston initiative has provided the most thorough and rigorous future impacts analysis of any city in the nation. Now, he is rolling out an action plan to address those impacts. A detailed carbon reduction plan, Carbon Free Boston, is not far behind, in collaboration with the Boston Green Ribbon Commission.

In Massachusetts, the Green Communities Act and other legislation have benefitted the state’s economy year after year. According to the latest report from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the clean energy industry accounts for more than 105,000 jobs in the Commonwealth, contributes $11.8 billion to the Gross State Product, and has grown by 75 percent – or 45,000 workers – since 2010. This squares with national data showing that clean energy-related employment gains are far outpacing overall US job growth. Talk about putting America back to work! And there’s plenty more growth to be had in Massachusetts, not least as our world-class offshore wind resources come on line.

The Trump administration’s retreat from clean energy won’t prevent us from continuing to grow clean energy in Boston, or from making progress toward Massachusetts’ commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050 – goals that mirror Boston’s own targets.

As both the president of Ceres, a Boston nonprofit mobilizing business sustainability leadership worldwide, and a founding member of the Green Ribbon Commission, which focuses on sustainability in Boston, I see climate actions at the global and local levels every day. My commission colleagues – leaders of hospitals, universities, real estate companies and energy providers – all know what it takes to move business forward through challenges.

After years of hearing about high clean energy costs, we’re now in a new paradigm where clean energy (both wind and solar) is cheaper than fossil fuel energy in many parts of the country. Global corporations such as Google, Walmart and Microsoft know that fossil fuels do not represent a long-term energy strategy – and so does Boston. Too bad Washington can’t see it, too, but that won’t stop us.

Mindy Lubber is president of Ceres and a founding member of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission.

 

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Green electric vehicle test drive at Healthy Melrose

Get behind the wheel of the new Chevy Bolt or a Sonata Plug-In Hybrid at the May 13 Healthy and Sustainable Melrose event, taking place at the Melrose High School athletic fields from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Mirak Chevrolet and Hyundai will have an all-electric Bolt and a plug-in hybrid Sonata available to test drive as part of Mass Energy’s Drive Green program which offers discounts on the purchase of electric and hybrid vehicles at participating dealers all over Massachusetts. The Bolt is the latest addition in a growing market of electric vehicles and features a maximum range of 238 miles.

In addition to the Drive Green electric vehicle test-drives, the Melrose Energy Commission and their partner HomeWorks Energy will register homeowners for no-cost MassSave home energy assessments. Volunteers will also be on hand to talk to residents about going solar and adding their roof to the list of 300 homes and businesses with rooftop solar in Melrose. Be sure to check-out the recently released baseline greenhouse gas inventory for the city of Melrose and share your ideas on how we can reduce our emissions as a community.

Healthy Melrose always offers opportunities to learn more about healthy and sustainable living. Eight Sustainable Melrose organizations will be at the fair providing demonstrations, activities for kids, and plenty of give-aways:

• “Bring Your Own Bag” will be the focus at the Melrose Recycling Committee booth. Learn about their initiative to reduce the use of plastic bags in the city as well as tips on proper recycling and how to support efforts to increase recycling in our community.

• Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation will have a leading environmental scientist at their booth to engage visitors. Stop by to get a map of the Fells or to learn about their newly expanded program offerings for kids of all ages.

• Pick up free seeds from the Melrose Seed Library, a project of the Melrose Community Garden, or sign up for space in the new community garden at Franklin Field.

• Go for a hike after the fair on one of several trails maintained by the Melrose Conservation Commission. Open Space and Trails Pocket Guides will be available at their booth.

• Environmental justice is the topic of the day for the Universalist Unitarian Green Sanctuary Committee. Stop by their table to learn how to make a difference.

• Volunteers from Sally Frank’s Farmers’ Market will get your home garden started with lettuce seedlings. Buy a carrot yard stake (or three!) to support the market.

• Check out the bike maps and learn about upcoming bike events from the folks at the Melrose Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee booth including Bike to the Sea on June 11.

Moreover, Healthy and Sustainable Melrose will not only be “talking the talk,” but will also be “walking the walk” by making the fair a “zero waste” and “zero carbon” event. Bins for the proper disposal of bottles, paper, and other items will be located around the fair, and the electricity used during the event will be matched with clean and local wind power made possible by Mass Energy Consumers Alliance

To sign up to test-drive an electric vehicle at Healthy Melrose, look for the Drive Green table near the entrance to the fair. More information on the Drive Green electric vehicle discounts, which are in addition to up to $10,000 in state and federal incentives offered right now, is available on MassEnergy’s Drive Green website www.massenergy.org/drivegreen.

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Prouty Garden advocates sue state over public record request

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Prouty Garden advocates sue state over public record request

By Jessica Bartlett

A group that's fighting the demolition of a beloved garden at Boston Children’s Hospital is suing the state, saying there may be a connection between the state's approval of the demolition last October and the hospital's participation in a new pilot program around the same time.

The lawsuit by the Friends of Prouty Garden in Suffolk Superior Court against Marylou Sudders, the secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, alleges the state refused to give petitioners documents it requested under the state’s Public Records Law.

It's the latest move in a longstanding dispute over the Prouty Garden, a half-acre plot of land at Boston Children’s Hospital that has already been demolished to make way for a $1 billion new clinical building.

According to Gregor McGregor, an attorney for the plaintiff who has also been a spokesperson for the group opposing Boston Children’s Hospital expansion, the group is seeking several documents related to the state’s communications around the Boston Children’s Hospital state approval — also called a Determination of Need, and communications relating to the state’s desire to have Boston Children’s Hospital join a pilot program for MassHealth to care for patients on a budget.

McGregor said the governor approved Children’s project at roughly the same time the hospital said it would participate in the pilot program. He reasons that there may be a connection.

“I’m not drawing inferences. I’m connecting the dots,” McGregor said. “That’s what this suit is about.”

The suit references meetings Gov. Charlie Baker had with Children’s CEO Sandra Fenwick, and also discussions he had with Sudders about that meeting.

Endowed in 1956 by a family, the garden had served as a healing space for children and their families. Advocates also say the ashes of at least two children who died in the hospital had been spread in the garden.

Despite opposition, and an ongoing court case against the project, the state’s Department of Public Health approved the expansion in October 2016. Demolition of the garden began in December.

Opponents appealed but still lost injunctions to stop demolition. McGregor said he’s still hopeful that the garden could be restored, or at the very least that the decision to approve the project would be rescinded.

“(My clients) want the integrity of (state’s approval process) upheld,” McGregor said. “They want the agency to review under its jurisdiction the project with no exceptions, and… this is designed to daylight how this went down. We’ll see what the facts lead to.”

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The Shadow-Casting Winthrop Square Tower Is Taking a Step Forward

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The Shadow-Casting Winthrop Square Tower Is Taking a Step Forward

By Spencer Buell

The controversial plan to build a new tower in Boston that would cast shadows on Boston Common and the Public Garden has been updated, and will soon be sent to the city and state officials for approval.

A proposal from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh will be presented to city councilors this week, according to the Globe, and if it’s approved, it will then be sent to state lawmakers.

It would reportedly include a state law designed to make it more difficult to build buildings that cast shadows on Copley Square. It would nix the so-called “shadow bank,” a policy that has allowed some buildings to cast smaller shadows on the Common, for good. And it would call for a more comprehensive study of downtown zoning—a move many activists called for in the past because they say development is too often happening on a piecemeal, case-by-case basis.

The proposed 775-foot tower would be the latest from Millennium Partners, the same firm that built the Millennium Tower not far away in Downtown Crossing. If approved, it would rise from the site of a worn-down government-owned parking garage that has long sat idle at 115 Winthrop Square.

But in order for it to be built at the height sought by developers, state lawmakers need to grant Millennium an exemption to a decades-old state law that bans buildings from blocking sunlight on the public parks. According to current plans, the tower’s shadow would sweep across both parks for much of the year as the sun rises over the city, on average for about half an hour, and at most for more than an hour and a half.

The project has spawned opposition from activists for public space, the Friends of the Public Garden, and critics who say the city is too cozy with developers and too willing to make exceptions to rules for big-money builders.

City Hall has touted the project because it would bring $153 million in benefits to the city ($101 million initially and the rest over time, tied to revenue collected at the property). That money would be earmarked for benefits to public space and housing, including $28 million for the Common, $28 million for Franklin Park, $11 for the Emerald Necklace and $35 million total for affordable housing renovations in East Boston and South Boston. It would also bring a surge of property tax revenue.

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Lured by $153M deal, mayor aims to change state law for Winthrop Square tower

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Lured by $153M deal, mayor aims to change state law for Winthrop Square tower

By Catherline Carlock

In exchange for allowing a tower at Winthrop Square that would result in a big windfall for the city, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh on Monday expects to file a home rule petition that would limit height and density for future buildings proposed in the city’s Midtown Cultural District.

Walsh will call for amendments to state legislation governing shadows on the Boston Common and Public Garden, the first in a series of steps that would ultimately allow for a skyscraper at the site of the Winthrop Square garage downtown.

Brian Golden, the director of the Boston Planning & Development Agency, said the expected $153 million payout expected from Winthrop Square developerMillennium Partners is an “outrageously compelling” enough reason to alter state shadow laws that have been on the books since the 1990s. The city expects to allocate that funding toward Boston Common, Franklin Park, the Emerald Necklace and refurbishing public housing in South Boston and East Boston.

“The benefits to the people of Boston will be profound,” Golden said. “This is a once in a multi-generational thing.”

The Midtown Cultural District, which runs south and east of the Common and Public Garden, has an existing “shadow bank” developers tap into when proposing new buildings that would cast shadow on the two parks. The home rule petition calls for the 1.15-acre parcel at 115 Winthrop Square to be treated as part of the Midtown district, using up all the remaining “shadow bank,” which would restrict both height and density at future buildings proposed in the district.

The home rule petition also calls for a downtown planning study, which would likely guide new zoning standards for the downtown neighborhood and allow the city to get an advance read on future development sites that could generate shadows. Millennium Partners would partially fund that study, Golden said.

Millennium has proposed a 775-foot tower at 115 Winthrop Square, currently the site of a dilapidated city-owned parking garage. As part of the deal, Millennium is expected to pay the city $102 million ­for the acquisition of the garage, while another $51 million to the city is dependent on revenue generated by the tower.

“In that public ownership there is a really magnificent return to the people of Boston, and the people of Boston would not get such a return on the development of a private parcel,” Golden said.

The home rule petition does not outline a specific height for a tower at Winthrop Square.

At its longest duration, the proposed tower at Winthrop Square would cast shadow on the Boston Common for more than an hour and a half during certain periods of the year; the average shadow duration is between 35 and 37 minutes, according to two shadow studies done on the proposed tower.

The topic of the shadows cast on the Common and Public Garden by a Winthrop Square tower has been a hot-button issue in recent months, with critics arguing that altering state legislation to allow for a single development sets an inauspicious precedent where well-capitalized developers can seek one-off exemptions for projects. Indeed, 13 representatives of neighborhood parks associations wrote as much in a letter dated March 21 to the Boston City Council.

“The development proposed for Winthrop Square threatens the historic greenspace heart of the city – Boston Common and the Public Garden – not just with shadows from this one building, but the precedent it sets for other developers to seek exemptions for their projects,” the 13 representatives wrote. “As parks advocates we are all concerned, because a threat to one greenspace is a threat to all, and what happens to one can happen to others.”

Elizabeth Vizza, executive director of the Friends of the Public Garden, said last week that her organization looked forward to reviewing the legislation.

“We are continuing to work with Mayor Walsh and the BPDA to ensure that a final resolution provides broad, permanent protections for the city’s landmark parks and minimizes the impact of shadows from the proposed Winthrop Square project,” Vizza said.

The home rule petition will be read at the Boston City Council meeting this Wednesday and then referred to a hearing at the government operations committee, the BPDA said. Following its time in committee, the petition would be voted on by the City Council; if it passes, Walsh would sign the petition and send it to the state Legislature. Golden said the BPDA felt confident in the petition’s successful passage at city council.

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Advocates oppose construction of tower casting shadows over Boston Common, Public Garden

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Advocates oppose construction of tower casting shadows over Boston Common, Public Garden

By Abigail Freeman

Months after the City of Boston selected Millennium Partners’ proposal to develop a multipurpose tower at 115 Winthrop Square, advocates for public landmarks continue to fight against this construction, as it violates state shadow laws, according to Liz Vizza, executive director of the Friends of the Public Garden, an organization dedicated to improving Boston’s public parks.

The site at Winthrop Square is currently occupied by a four-story parking garage that was condemned in May 2013, according to a statement from Millennium Partners.

Millennium Partners was selected by the city on Aug. 3, 2016 out of six different submissions from development teams, according to the statement.

Millennium Partners submitted their proposal in March 2016 for a tower up to 725 feet “that must contribute substantially to the image of downtown Boston’s skyline [and] that is emblematic of the future of Boston’s downtown,” according to the statement.

Vizza said the Winthrop Square project would damage Boston’s parks if exempt from the state’s shadow laws.

“This arrangement sets … a standard for allowing the shadow to have a permanent impact on these parks,” Vizza said. “This shadow alone isn’t going to kill these parks or the horticulture, but it adds more shadow on parks that are already shaded.”

The city will receive a total of $153 million from Millennium Partners with the tower project, and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh has determined that the first $102 million will be invested into Boston parks and affordable housing, according to a fact sheet from the Boston Planning and Development Agency.

While the Friends of the Public Garden recognizes that Walsh will use the money from Millennium Partners to improve Boston parks, Vizza said the funding should be obtained without compromising the protection of the parks.

“Since they’re the people’s parks, the people deserve a voice in deciding how they’re protected and how the city grows with them at the heart of the matter, thinking innovatively about how we can revitalize this garage site,” Vizza said. “We can get the financial benefits for the city that we all agree are a good thing while strengthening and protecting these parks.”

Vizza said Boston has grown as a community in terms of evaluating projects and their impact on resources since state shadow laws were put in place for the Public Garden in 1993 and the Boston Common in 1990.

“Those two laws were put in place that provided for robust development over the last two and a half decades while protecting these parks from excessive shadows, which means that there are allowable shadows,” Vizza said.

The Friends of the Public Garden have met with the BPDA to discuss development in accordance with the shadow laws, Vizza said.

“We continue to have a respectful disagreement about this project, but a close partnership with the city on all things regarding these parks and how to preserve them and enhance them, and encourage people to use them in the right way,” Vizza said.

Vizza said she hopes this project will not start a trend of future projects that will be exempt from the law to be built.

“[The Winthrop tower project] also creates a blueprint for another proposal in the future, and another either developer or future mayor to see this as an opportunity to amend the laws for their building,” Vizza said.

A shadow will be cast over the Boston Common and Public Garden as a result of the tower’s height, although according to the fact sheet, the shadow will not qualify for the shadow bank, which is the maximum amount that a shadow can exceed the limit under state law in the Midtown Cultural District.

Several Boston residents expressed varying opinions about the idea of a new tower in Winthrop Square.

Matthew D’Intino, 24, of Back Bay, said residents could see a decrease in rates for rent as a result of the condos in the new building.

“The added supply of condos should drop rent prices, which I think will benefit everyone,” D’Intino said. “It’s also good to see the city growing.”

Christine Dornbach, 33, of Fenway, said the tower would change the atmosphere of the Winthrop Square area.

“I would think the tower would stop [Winthrop Square] from having a more residential, homey feel,” Dornbach said. “I would say people in Winthrop are probably upset about it.”

Olivia Shelton, 20, of Brighton, said she does not see the need for another apartment and office complex, especially if it is being built at the expense of a landmark like the Public Garden.

“I don’t see how it could cause too much damage but I also don’t see it as a good thing for people to live there if it’s just going to be another expensive apartment building that only people in their 50s can afford,” Shelton said.

Tags: 115 Winthrop SquareAbigail FreemanBack BayBoston Commonboston mayor martin walshBoston Planning and Development AgencyBrightonChristine DornbachCity of BostonFenwayFriends of the Public GardenLiz Vizza,Matthew D’IntinoMidtown Cultural Districtmillennium partnersOlivia SheltonPublic Garden

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Don’t drape our iconic public parks in shadows

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Don’t drape our iconic public parks in shadows

By Elizabeth Vizza, Special to the Reporter

One of the world’s most livable cities, Boston is known for the iconic parks that make up its heart, providing welcome open space in our urban environment while contributing to the physical and mental well-being of our residents and acting as a tourist hub to support our local economy. Boston Common and the Public Garden are parks for the entire city, sought-after destinations for thousands of Bostonians every day of the year. The Garden, with its Swan Boats, is world-renowned, and the Common has served Boston as the center stage of its civic life for centuries.

Since 1990, two state laws designed to prevent “shadow creep” from high-rise buildings have worked as intended – successfully protecting the Common and the Garden, while allowing robust development to continue downtown. Now, 25 years later, our landmark parks face a new challenge as the city of Boston seeks a one-time exemption to allow for a 775-foot luxury condominium and office high rise that will violate both shadow laws.

Millennium Partners’ proposed building at Winthrop Square is poised to cast a morning shadow that at its greatest extent would stretch almost a mile from the Financial District down the middle of Boston Common, through the heart of the Public Garden, and onto the Commonwealth Avenue Mall. The city’s proposal to amend the state laws in order to allow this building is short-sighted and creates a dangerous precedent.

Legislation that allows a one-time pass to skirt the law in exchange for one-time revenue will create a blueprint for future developers to entice the city to sell more shadow on our landmark parks.

Over the last 25 years, a tremendous amount of development throughout downtown Boston has occurred within the restrictions established by these laws without the creation of excessive shadows. This developer’s own tower in Downtown Crossing and the Ritz Carlton development are both examples of new buildings that have invigorated our city while conforming to existing shadow laws.

The proposed 55-story luxury tower - taller than any other residential building in Boston - would violate the shadow laws 264 days of the year on the Boston Common and 120 days on the Public Garden. No amount of fertilizer and water can correct for lost sunlight - an asset that is important not just for horticulture, but also for the thousands of people who use these parks daily as they commute to work, relax and recreate, and join with others to celebrate or exercise their rights of free speech.

There is no ignoring the millions promised to come to the city in one-time revenue as part of the sale of the city-owned Winthrop Square garage - money the mayor has said would support public housing and several city parks, including the Common and Franklin Park. But citizens of Boston should not have to choose between protecting our iconic parks on the one hand and supporting needy citizens or critical funding for our green spaces on the other. Let’s not pit neighbors and needs against each other.

One reason Boston is growing at a record pace is its quality of life, and the ability to use and enjoy these parks is key to what makes Boston livable and desirable.

The Common and Public Garden are, after all, the people’s parks, and the people deserve a voice in deciding their future. We need to work collaboratively and think innovatively about how we can revitalize an old garage site and reap financial benefits for the city while strengthening and protecting our signature parks. With the talent and resources we have in Boston, we should be able to find a solution to this challenge. Let’s preserve these parks that we all enjoy, now and for generations to come.

Elizabeth Vizza is the executive director of The Friends of the Public Garden, which works to protect and improve Boston’s first public parks — the Boston Common, the Public Garden, and the Commonwealth Avenue Mall.

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College Park gains ambulance company HQ, new jobs

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College Park gains ambulance company HQ, new jobs

By: Norren Cochran

Health care in south Fulton just got a shot in the arm.

Greenwood Village, Colorado-based American Medical Response recently opened a 36,000-square-foot headquarters facility in College Park to fanfare from public safety, government and business officials.

Its open house attracted Fulton County Chairman John Eaves, College Park Mayor Jack P. Longino, Airport Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Carmelita Scott, business owners, health care professionals and residents.

During the event, paramedics and emergency medical technicians demonstrated technology like nasal atomizers for opioid overdoses.

“AMR interacts with a patient every two minutes in the metro area. If you need them, they will be there and they will be swift. They will be there to handle your needs,” Scott said at the event.

Formerly known as Rural Metro in Fulton County, the Envision Healthcare division provides medical transportation services across the U.S. and is a Federal Emergency Management Agency contractor, according to the parent company’s website.

Nationwide, it employs more than 25,000 doctors, paramedics, EMTs and registered nurses, has more than 6,600 ambulances and transported 4.4 million patients nationwide last year.

College Park EMS Director Ron Taylor said the national company has a community focus benefiting local residents.

“AMR employs 750 people in the metro area. They own the largest fleet of ambulances in America with 120 of them here in the metro area,” he said.

The company is in the process of hiring more paramedics and EMTs to serve Fulton and DeKalb counties.

Company Vice President of Operations Steve Youd said at the event that “best in the nation” employees complement the health care and safety efforts of city and county governments and their public safety agencies.

Georgia Regional Director Kenneth Simpson agreed.

“Our county and municipal partners are an integral part of our daily service,” he said. “We all cooperate to provide essential, high-quality public safety and health care services.”

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Local Projects Highlighted in Walsh’s State of City Address:FOPG Urges Caution on Winthrop Sq. Project Mitigation Funds

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Local Projects Highlighted in Walsh’s State of City Address:FOPG Urges Caution on Winthrop Sq. Project Mitigation Funds

By Beth Treffeisin

 

In a packed Symphony Hall, Mayor Martin J. Walsh delivered his third State of the City Address before embarking on his re-election campaign. In his address, Walsh committed to keeping Boston accessible to all residents by investing more money in affordable housing and upgrading infrastructure and transportation options.

An effort from the Walsh Administration to create jobs and broaden opportunities for all residents has resulted in 60,000 jobs and cut the unemployment rate in the city to 2.4 percent, the lowest on record, Walsh pointed out.

Walsh said that he wants to make sure that everyone shares in this success including using the $100 million from the sale of the Winthrop Square Garage to go towards housing and renovating parks.

“That money will go to revitalizing public housing in East Boston and South Boston, major investments in Franklin Park and Boston Common, and finally completing the original plan for the Emerald Necklace,” said Mayor Walsh.

In order to receive the funding from the Winthrop Square Garage, state legislation to change the Shadow Laws will have to be passed in order to allow the proposed building to be built at heights that would cast additional shadows on historic parks downtown.

He has advocated for $28 million of the funds to go towards upgrades to the Boston Common, another $28 million for Franklin Park in Roxbury to create more access for surrounding neighborhoods and to upgrade the baseball fields and facilities.

In addition he hopes $25 million will go towards the Old Colony apartments in South Boston, $10 million for Orient Heights public housing in East Boston and $11 million to go towards completing the Emerald Necklace.

“We applaud Mayor Walsh for his commitment to the city’s parks and open spaces, but we are concerned about pursuing a temporary revenue boost in exchange for the permanent damage this development proposal would have on our landmark parks,” wrote the Friends of the Public Garden in a statement.

They believe approving a special exemption to the state shadow laws for this project will create a blueprint for future developers to seek further exemptions for their projects – resulting in an inevitable chipping away of legal safeguards that have preserved the Common and Public Garden for decades while also allowing robust development.

They continued, “We continue to urge the Mayor to take this proposal off the fast track and undertake a comprehensive process to develop a vision for the City’s future development – one that considers not just where and what to build, but also the places that must be preserved to protect Boston’s unique character and quality of life.”

In his address, he highlighted how his administration has worked to create 7,400 homes for low and middle-income families and have housed 1,052 formerly homeless individuals. Next week the Mayor will be filing legislation to protect residents from displacement.

But in order to get from good homes to good jobs it is dependant on transportation. Walsh said, “While people are talking about infrastructure, we’re taking action.”

He pointed to upgrades being made at Uphams Corner and breaking ground on a redesigned Commonwealth Avenue from Allston to Fenway, and are completing Central Square in East Boston.

Walsh said the city has secured $300 million to take this effort citywide. Future projects include transforming Rutherford Ave. and Sullivan Square in Charlestown; North Washington St. Bridge in the North End; Melnea Cass Boulevard in Roxbury and the South End; and the Northern Avenue Bridge at Fort Point Channel.

In addition, he announced a plan to bring cutting-edge traffic-light technology to Boston’s busiest streets, despite already having a Traffic Management Center that coordinates and adjusts the timing of traffic lights remotely to ease congestion.

“We’ve all been there: you hit one red light, you seem to hit them all,” said Mayor Walsh.

Mayor Walsh also brought up the opioid crisis that has affected families across the city.

“Addiction is a cunning and baffling disease. But recovery begins with a simple plea for help,” said Mayor Walsh added that is the reason why the city turned the 311 system into a 24-hour recovery hotline.

He continued, “Tonight I have message for everyone watching: if you or your loved one has a problem with drugs or alcohol in the City of Boston, call 311 right now. We are here to help. Don’t suffer alone.”

The Mayor thanked the Legislature and the Governor for passing four pieces of legislation, last session, aimed at saving lives but did not speak of any future plans to combat the crisis within the city.

Mayor Walsh pledged to create safer neighborhoods by doubling down on community-driven public safety strategy.

Since 2014, violent crime is down nine percent, property crime is down 16 percent and arrests are down 25 percent. Last year, shootings were down six percent, which is a drop of 16 percent from the 10-year average.

“But the work is far from over,” said Mayor Walsh. “We had 45 homicides in our City last year. That’s unacceptable. One is too many. And zero is our goal. To get there we have to keep digging up the roots of violence and sowing the seeds of opportunity.”

Mayor Walsh will be working to create neighborhood Trauma Teams in Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, East Boston and Jamaica Plain to coordinate immediate response and sustained recovery for all those affected in the aftermath of violence.

“Whatever happens nationally, I will fight for our values,” said Mayor Walsh. “We are in this together, and we will fight every day for each other, for Boston, and for all of its people.”

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Massachusetts charter school advocates opposing President-elect Trump's education pick Betsy DeVos

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Massachusetts charter school advocates opposing President-elect Trump's education pick Betsy DeVos

By Phil Demers

 

 

1/11/17

 

The Bay State's biggest fans of charter schools are refusing to support the billionaire and aggressive charter school advocate President-elect Donald Trump has chosen to serve as U.S. education secretary.

 

Massachusetts Charter Public School Association made a political statement when its director Marc Kenen this week mailed U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren a letter criticizing Betsy DeVos' record on promoting quality education, the Associated Press reports.

 

"We're very concerned that if the federal government lowers the standards for charter schools, it would have a negative impact on Massachusetts charter schools," Kenan said, according to text quoted in The Boston Herald.

 

MCPSA represents 70 Bay State charters.

 

Numerous reports have presented the charter school system DeVos helped shape in her state, Michigan, as lax in oversight and providing sub-par education to students, according to the AP.

 

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney wrote an editorial in The Washington Post supporting DeVos, calling the nominee "smart, dynamic, no nonsense and committed" and touting her record in Michigan.

 

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Opposition grows to Senate confirmation of Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education nominee

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Opposition grows to Senate confirmation of Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education nominee

By Valerie Strauss

1/10/17

Public education was not much of an issue during the 2016 presidential campaign — but it sure is now as opposition grows to the Senate confirmation of Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s education secretary  nominee, who once called the U.S. traditional public school system a “dead end.”

The confirmation hearing by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions had been set for Wednesday, but late Monday it was postponed until Jan. 17, with panel leaders releasing a statement saying the date was changed “at the request of the Senate leadership to accommodate the Senate schedule.” They did not note that Democrats had been pushing for a delay because an ethics review of DeVos has not been completed. Matt Frendewey, national communications director of the American Federation for Children, which DeVos founded, said in an e-mail, “It’s shameful that Democrats continue to play partisan politics with hollow attempts to disrupt what’s always been a bipartisan process.”

DeVos, a leader in the movement to privatize the U.S. public-education system, has quickly become a lightning rod in the education world since her nomination by Trump in November 2015.

Supporters say that as education secretary she would work to expand the range of choices that parents have in choosing a school for their children and that she is dedicated to giving every child an opportunity to succeed. One of them is Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who heads the committee that will vote on her nomination. He issued a statement on Tuesday saying that he had met with DeVos and that he knew that she will “make an excellent secretary of education” and “impress the Senate with her passionate support for improving education for all children.”

Her critics say that her long advocacy for vouchers and her push for lax regulation of charter schools reveals an antipathy to public education; they point to an August 2015 speech in which she said that the traditional public education system  is a “dead end” and that “government truly sucks.”

Thousands of people have signed petitions, started Twitter campaigns and called congressional offices urging that DeVos not be confirmed. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), expressing concern about the nomination, sent DeVos a long list of questions she wants answered, and the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association sent a letter to Warren — who sits on the confirmation committee — expressing its concern about her nomination, saying in part:

Both President-elect Trump and Ms. DeVos are strong supporters of public charter schools, and we are hopeful they will continue the bipartisan efforts of the Clinton, Bush and Obama Administrations to promote the continued expansion of high quality charters while pursuing reforms that will strengthen traditional public schools.

But we are concerned about media reports of Ms. DeVos’ support for school vouchers and her critical role in creating a charter system in her home state of Michigan that has been widely criticized for lax oversight and poor academic performance, and appears to be dominated by for-profit interests.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who has worked alongside DeVos on some school reform issues, said in a December interview with the 74, a news website, that he had has “serious” issues with her confirmation.

And a coalition of more than 200 national nonprofit organizations on Monday sent a letter (see text below) to the Senate Education Committee accusing DeVos of seeking “to undermine bedrock American principles of equal opportunity, nondiscrimination and public education itself.”  The letter was sent by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, composed of groups including the NAACP, the National Urban League, a variety of labor unions, and the League of Women Voters.  Teach For America is a member, as is the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Sierra Club. (You can see the complete list of members here.)

The two major teachers unions are also working against her confirmation, mobilizing teachers to oppose her nomination. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, gave a speech Monday saying in part: “Betsy DeVos lacks the qualifications and experience to serve as secretary of education. Her drive to privatize education is demonstrably destructive to public schools and to the educational success of all of our children.”

There is a push, too, by her supporters to persuade the education panel to confirm her as education secretary, which seems likely despite the outcry against her.

Twenty Republican governors, for example, sent a letter to Alexander, saying that Trump had “made an inspired choice to reform federal education policy and allow state and local policymakers to craft innovative solutions to ensure our children are receiving the skills and knowledge to be successful in the world and modern workforce.”

Mitt Romney, a DeVos supporter, wrote  in a Washington Post op-ed that her nomination by Trump had “reignited the age-old battle over education policy.” He said that the debate is “between those in the education establishment who support the status quo because they have a financial stake in the system and those who seek to challenge the status quo because it’s not serving kids well.” (Translation: DeVos opponents are self-serving and DeVos and her supporters are thinking about the kids.)

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Trump’s Pick for Education Could Face Unusually Stiff Resistance

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Trump’s Pick for Education Could Face Unusually Stiff Resistance

By Kate Zernike

 

 

1/12/17

 

Nominees for secretary of education have typically breezed through confirmation by the Senate with bipartisan approval.

 

But Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald J. Trump’s choice for the post, is no typical nominee. She is a billionaire with a complex web of financial investments, including in companies that stand to win or lose from the department she would oversee. She has been an aggressive force in politics for years, as a prominent Republican donor and as a supporter of steering public dollars to private schools.

 

Her wealth and her politics seem likely to make her confirmation hearing unusually contentious, and possibly drawn out.

 

The hearing, which was originally scheduled for Wednesday of this week, was postponed until Tuesday after Democrats complained she had not completed an agreement with the independent Office of Government Ethics that outlined a plan to deal with potential conflicts of interest. The ethics office has said it has not completed its review of Ms. DeVos, which is required before the office can make any agreement. A spokesman for Ms. DeVos said she had responded to a first round of questions from the office last weekend.

 

On Thursday, Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the committee that will hold the hearing, said she and Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the panel’s Republican chairman, “have some concerns about missing information” on the financial disclosure forms that Ms. DeVos has filed with the Senate. Ms. Murray would not specify what they were looking for, because those disclosures are not public, but said they had asked Ms. DeVos for additional information. Ms. Murray said she had “pushed very hard” not to hold the hearing until Ms. DeVos had completed her agreement with the ethics office.

 

“This is a candidate with extremely complicated financial dealings,” the senator said. “We have to know, if there are conflicts of interests, how those are going to be resolved. If we don’t have that, it’s incumbent on all of us to say we cannot vote for that.”

 

Some Republican committee leaders, including Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who is chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, have said they will hew to a tradition of not holding hearings until the ethics office signs off on the nominee.

 

But a spokeswoman for Mr. Alexander said his panel — the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee — had “no rules” about a need for an ethics review, and that the chairman intended to hold the hearing on Tuesday regardless.

 

Mr. Alexander also said he would limit senators on the panel — 12 Republicans and 11 Democrats — to five minutes of questions each, after opening statements by him and Ms. Murray.

 

His office noted that Rod Paige, President George W. Bush’s first education secretary, had a hearing eight days before his ethics review was complete. But Mr. Paige, a school superintendent when he was nominated, did not have nearly the same wealth or financial investments as Ms. DeVos.

 

Mr. Alexander’s office said the committee would not hold a vote on Ms. DeVos’s nomination until her ethics review was complete.

 

That could take awhile. In a letter to Ms. Murray about the DeVos nomination, the ethics office said on Monday that “multiple rounds of questions and revisions are usually needed before a report can be finalized,” because of the complexity of financial disclosure rules. And some nominees “find it difficult to untangle” their investments quickly. So the vetting process “can take weeks,” the office wrote, “and, in the case of extremely wealthy individuals, sometimes months.”

 

Democrats have repeatedly noted that Penny Pritzker, a billionaire real estate entrepreneur who became the commerce secretary during President Obama’s second term, took six months to complete her ethics agreement.

 

Ms. DeVos and her husband have a larger fortune, estimated at $5 billion.The Windquest Group, their investment firm, has holdings in many companies that invest in other interests such as Social Finance, which refinances student loans — a potential conflict, given the federal government is the biggest student lender.

 

Ms. DeVos also lists herself as a director of the RDV Corporation, which similarly invests in companies with education products, including digital textbooks and onlinecharter schools.

 

Unlike most past secretaries, Ms. DeVos has never been an educator or overseen a state education agency. She did not attend public schools, or send her children to them.

 

Her primary involvement in education has been as a benefactor and board member for groups that advocate steering taxpayer dollars away from public schools in the form of vouchers to help families attend private and religious schools.

 

In her home state, Michigan, she pushed and defended a charter school law that is lax compared with policies in other states. She consistently fought legislation that would stop failing charter schools from expanding, andargued to shut down the troubled Detroit public school system and use the money saved to send students to charters or private schools.

 

A Republican group pushing for Ms. DeVos’s confirmation, America Rising Squared, has flooded reporters with testimonials from supporters and politicians who say Ms. DeVos is in line with “mainstream” Americans in her support of school choice. That group, and one calling itself Friends of Betsy DeVos, insist that the opposition to her nomination is funded by teachers’ unions that want to deny poor families a way out of failing schools.

 

But school choice means different things to different people. Many educators and groups that support charter schools — which are public — do not support vouchers, which steer public money away from public schools by giving families money to spend on private school tuition.

 

So teachers’ unions have opposed her nomination, but so, too, have organizations that have fought unions.

 

The main association of charter schools in Massachusetts, for example, which is generally considered to have the nation’s best charters, sent a letter to the state’s senior senator, Elizabeth Warren, who sits on the committee that will hold the DeVos hearing. The letter expressed concern about Ms. DeVos’s support for vouchers and loose accountability in Michigan, which it said would “reduce the quality of charter schools across the country.”

 

Mr. Trump has promised to steer $20 billion in federal education funds to vouchers, and Shavar Jeffries, the president of Democrats for Education Reform, a pro-charter organization, said he was worried that the Department of Education would take the money from Title I funds, which go to public schools serving the poorest students.

 

Other groups have noted Ms. DeVos’s millions of dollars in political contributions to Republican senators who will vote on her nomination, insisting that they recuse themselves from any vote on her. Her supporters have countered that Democrats who receive money from teachers’ unions should recuse themselves, as well.

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Advances in trauma surgery save more gunshot victims

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Advances in trauma surgery save more gunshot victims

Isiah Hester was on his way to get a haircut when he got shot.

As he was walking down the street from his house, a man stopped him to ask the whereabouts of one of Hester's friends.  After he said he didn't know, the two exchanged some words.

"I didn't even see him pull out the gun," Hester said.

Four shots rang out, piercing the routine of a Thursday afternoon on Arnett Boulevard.  Hester didn't even realize he'd been shot until he turned to run and his leg gave way beneath him. One of the bullets had struck him in the upper right thigh.

Now, some nine months after the incident, the 15-year-old says he remembers the flurry of activity on the street that afternoon in the moments that followed, and the rush of first responders who helped to get him to the hospital.

But more than anything else, Hester remembers the sight of blood pouring from the wound in his upper thigh.

"I was bleeding a lot," he said. "There was a lot of blood."

For most gunshot victims, the loss of blood is the biggest immediate threat to life.  Shock can set in quickly, followed by unconsciousness and death. If the femoral artery, a large blood vessel in the thigh, is severed or even nicked, that can happen within a matter of minutes.

Even though he wasn't in a lot of pain, Hester knew the seriousness of the situation. If he didn't get help quickly, he would bleed to death right there on the sidewalk.

"I was worried that I wasn't going to make it," Hester said. "I could've died."

Survival rates rising

Improvements in trauma care over the last decade have helped lead to better outcomes for people like Hester who are the victims of shootings, stabbings, or other violent assaults.

A joint study between Howard University and Johns Hopkins University found that the percentage of shooting victims who died from their wounds has been dropping during the last decade. Local numbers show the same trend.

There have been no definitive studies to quantify the relationship between emergency medicine and the recent decline in homicides. But if you ask law enforcement officers or others on the front lines of crime fighting, they'll say better care by trauma surgeons is the major difference-maker.

"That's what we tell them," jokes Dr. Mark Gestring, director of Adult Trauma at the Kessler Burn and Trauma Center.  "But really, it's a number of things."

Gestring says that many of the changes that have occurred have been systemic improvements, starting with better communication and cooperation between staff at the trauma center, paramedics who are transporting patients, and even the police who are the first to arrive on a scene.

Many of those improvements were prompted by lessons learned on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, where there was a concerted effort to collect and analyze data about patient outcomes.  That research showed that the biggest factor in whether soldiers survived gunshot wounds was how quickly they got to a trauma surgeon.

 

Navy Surgeon Richard Jadick, an upstate native, wrote about those lessons in his book On Call in Hell: A Doctor's War Story.  He described his frustration at seeing a soldier die because he'd lost too much blood by the time he arrived back at the base hospital.  Transport time, particularly in a combat zone, was just too long, so Jadick decided he needed to get closer to the fighting.

He and his team moved as close to the front as they could during the Battle of Fallujah in 2004, one of the deadliest operations of the Iraq War.

"It took Fallujah to turn theory into practice and to demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach," Jadick wrote. He shared those results with other military doctors, as well as those in the private sector.  

"The one that means the most to me and to all those who made it possible is that an estimated thirty Marines who otherwise would have perished in Fallujah were able to make it home to their families."

Quicker response times

Gestring says there's no doubt in his mind that those lessons are paying dividends in Rochester.

"The techniques for managing gunshot wounds and acutely bleeding patients are much better and I think we do have better survival now than we did 10 or 15 years ago," he said.

One of the areas where there has been major improvement is techniques to control bleeding in areas that are difficult to apply pressure, such as armpits, groin or the neck.  The use of new kinds of packing materials and clotting agents has had a significant impact.

Improved response times are also important, ensuring that patients get to the hospital as quickly as possible.

Hester was fortunate that there was a medical clinic about 100 feet from the corner where he was shot.  A friend carried him inside to get immediate help, and an ambulance arrived soon after.

Within minutes, Hester was on a table in the emergency department at Strong Memorial Hospital, under bright lights in a room full of doctors and nurses. They cut off his clothes so they could assess his injuries.  Hester recalls being embarrassed at being naked in front of so many strangers, but he knows their quick work likely saved his life.

"Thank God for those people. Otherwise I could have bled to death," Hester said.

One of the battlefield lessons was to spend less time stabilizing patients at the scene and focus on getting them to the surgeons as soon as possible.

"We joke and say that the most important resuscitating fluid in a gunshot wound patient is diesel, that they should step on the gas and get going," Gestring said. "The quicker they can get to a trauma center the better."

But it also means better communication, not waiting until an ambulance pulls up at the emergency department to let doctors know what's happening. Paramedics and EMTs start talking to the trauma center from the scene, allowing staff to make preparations and have everything in place when the stretcher rolls in the door.

"It's not uncommon to see two or three people shot at the same scene who come in very close together," Gestring says. "When we hear there are two or three victims coming in, we prepare differently."

Having those plans in place has made a difference on the nights when Gestring and his colleagues have had to work on multiple gunshot victims at the same time.

"The one we think back to was the Boys & Girls Club shooting, which was bad but could have been worse," he said. Three people were killed and four seriously injured in a drive-by shooting outside the facility in August 2015.

"We could have easily had seven homicides that night," Gestring said.

Paramedics set the stage

An ambulance sits in the parking lot outside a convenience store at the intersection of Lake and Ridgeway avenues in northwest Rochester. The paramedic and EMT inside are not simply passing the time: They're at a designated staging area, one of many locations across the region identified after an intense data analysis of the time and location of calls received.

Staging ambulances across the city this way has helped reduce the length of time it takes first responders to get to the scene of a  medical emergency. That strategy has made a difference, according to Chris Gray, clinical supervisor and chief paramedic for AMR, which provides ambulance service in the Rochester area.

"We used to talk about 'the golden hour' in the '70s and '80s, that you needed to get the patient to the hospital within an hour if they were going to survive," he said. "Now we're thinking about much shorter times."

Getting from the scene to the hospital quickly is important, but getting to the scene in the first place is critical. One of the most important tools has been the ShotSpotter program deployed by the Rochester Police Department. It uses an array of microphones to detect gunfire in real time. Within seconds, it sends an alert to police, paramedics and the staff at the trauma center, setting everybody into motion quickly.

Once on the scene, paramedics and EMTs are working to get the patient loaded up as quickly as possible. The goal is to keep scene times to less than 10 minutes, from the time the ambulance pulls up until it heads out. It's often less if there is not a complicated extraction, such as carrying someone down flights of stairs or cutting him or her out of a damaged vehicle.

The priority is to deal with bleeding and breathing, Gray explains: Stop the bleeding and make sure they're breathing. If that work can be done while the ambulance is en route to the hospital, all the better.

From most parts of Monroe County, transporting the patient to the trauma center takes less than 15 minutes.

"It's all about getting to the hospital quickly to fix the problem," Gray said.

One of the major changes that made its way from the battlefield to the streets of Rochester was the aggressive use of tourniquets. These devices help completely cut off the flow of blood to arms and legs by applying strong pressure to a limb. It's a technique that had fallen out of favor because of concern it could cause tissue damage.

"We'd say, 'The limb can't survive very long without oxygen and blood,'" Gray said. "Well, neither can the patient."

Blood loss can occur rapidly, especially if a gunshot wound strikes a major artery. Minutes often mean the difference between life and death, and Gray says the use of a tourniquet can be a temporary fix, allowing the patient to survive long enough to get to a surgeon.

"We've had several cases in the last year where the use of a tourniquet definitely saved somebody's life," Gray said.

Aftermath

D&C Digital watchdog reporter Sean Lahman tells Virginia Butler the back story about why more people are surviving gunshot wounds in Rochester. Sean Lahman, Virginia Butler

While these improvements have saved lives, it does not mean that stabbing and gunshot wounds aren't often fatal. Nor does it mean that there are no long-term consequences for those who survive.

"If you get shot in the head, chances are pretty good you're not going to survive," Gestring said.  "If the bullet truly went through the skull and impacted the brain, those are frequently non-survivable injuries."

Patients with gunshot wounds in their torso face a more uncertain path.

"Ones that impact the abdomen, from front or back, those people almost always need surgery, the quicker the better. The outcome depends on what organs get hit," he said.

Gestring says that they frequently see people who are shot who are not out of the hospital for weeks, and then not back to regular activity for months, if at all.  For those who survive, many find that their daily lives are irrevocably altered, even as the reports simply summarize their injuries as "non-life-threatening."

"It's actually a pet peeve of mine," he said. "We see bullets going through spinal cords all the time. Those are still considered to be non-life-threatening injuries when you write about them."

Wake-up call

Hester also says he bristles at people who think his getting shot was not a big deal because he looks fine today. Doctors told him the bullet missed a main artery by 3 inches, and his recovery was long and arduous.

"When I left the hospital I didn't know how to walk," he said. It took months of physical therapy and a dedicated workout regimen for him to recover well enough to regain his skills on the basketball court.

He did that, but last October he walked away from his high school hoops team to take a job with Teen Empowerment, sharing his experience with his peers. He hopes that when they hear the story of what he's gone through, it can inspire them to better insulate themselves from the dangers of a neighborhood ravaged by poverty and violence.

"When you are surrounded by so much negativity, by drug dealers and gang bangers, you become accustomed to it," he said.  "Even if you're not involved with those things, it's around you and you're going to get what comes with it. I got what comes with it."

Hester says he focused on being positive and productive. He's doing well in school, hoping he can go to college to study culinary arts.

"Getting shot was a wake-up call," he said. "If you keep putting that alarm on snooze, sooner or later, you're the one that's gonna be snoozing."

Survival rates for gunshot victims rising

A joint study by Howard University and Johns Hopkins University found that the percentage of shooting victims who died from their wounds has been dropping during the last decade. 

The study found that in 2010, 13.96 percent of U.S. shooting victims died, almost 2 percentage points lower than in 2007. Their data also found a decrease in the mortality rate for victims admitted for stab wounds.

The local data reflects that same progress: In 2007, 194 individuals were shot in the city of Rochester and 39 of them died as a result, roughly 20 percent. A decade later the fatality rate was just under 11 percent — 225 shooting victims and 24 resulting deaths.

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Grid in the balance

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Grid in the balance

ON THE FACE of it, New England’s power system is in good shape. Over nearly two decades, the region’s competitive wholesale electricity markets have attracted investment in the power plants and demand-side resources needed to meet consumer demand.

Upgrades to the region’s high-voltage transmission system have vastly improved reliability, allowing power to move freely around the six states, expanding access to electricity from the lowest-priced power plants, and enabling old, inefficient power plants to retire. The retirements of old coal- and oil-fired generators and the increasing use of natural gas to produce electricity have significantly lowered generator emissions over the past decade.

Because of the investment in power plants and transmission, New England has not experienced widespread blackouts or controlled outages since 1965. Near-record-low wholesale electricity prices have resulted from recent mild weather and extremely low natural gas prices, and a competitive market that selects the lowest-priced resources needed to meet demand.

However, the power industry is undergoing a profound transformation. A hybrid power system is starting to take shape in New England with three major elements: Renewable resources, distributed generation and demand resources at customer sites, and a fleet of fast, flexible natural-gas-fired power plants to back up wind and solar resources. The New England states’ environmental and clean energy goals are one driver of this transformation, producing immense growth in solar panels at customer sites, energy-efficiency measures, and proposals for wind farms.

ISO New England has a front row seat on this transformation. The ISO keeps the power flowing in New England by managing the power grid, administering competitive wholesale electricity markets, and conducting long-term planning. The ISO is independent, fuel- and technology-neutral, owns no generators or transmission lines, and makes no money in the electricity marketplace.

The ISO has been preparing for the new order, but looming challenges could derail the region’s progress toward a hybrid power system that provides competitively-priced, reliable, and clean electricity.

Gordon van Welie

The first challenge is the lack of adequate fuel infrastructure in the region, particularly infrastructure to serve New England’s natural-gas-fired power plants. Over the past two decades, the number of power plants using natural gas has increased dramatically—nearly half of the region’s fleet uses natural gas as its primary fuel—while investment in the underlying fuel delivery infrastructure has not kept pace. During cold snaps, the region’s natural gas infrastructure can’t deliver sufficient fuel for both heating and power generation. Instead, the region relies on nuclear and coal- and oil-fired power plants to keep the lights on—but those generators are closing or at risk of retirement due to low wholesale electricity prices.

The region’s reliance on natural gas will only intensify. Natural-gas-fired generation makes up half of proposed power plants. While some argue that the region is too dependent on natural-gas-fired power plants, the future hybrid power system will require reliable, flexible back-up power—exactly what efficient natural-gas-fired generators provide.

To ensure power is available during the winter, ISO New England has incentivized generators to add dual-fuel capability—the ability to burn oil stored onsite if they can’t get delivery of natural gas. Having back-up fuel on hand is great insurance for power system reliability, yet oil produces higher emissions, and environmental and siting regulations are imposing greater limitations on existing and new oil generation. That will reduce the region’s ability to rely on oil as a back-up fuel.

Second, wind farms are a small and growing part of our fleet, but onshore wind facilities in northern New England also face a big infrastructure obstacle—the need for extensive and costly transmission expansion to deliver power from their remote locations to cities in southern New England. Bringing hydro energy from Canada will also require significant transmission expansion. Offshore wind farms are more costly than onshore wind, but require less transmission.

Third, the competitive wholesale marketplace has brought much-needed investment in power plants in New England. However, these markets are vulnerable as states seek to advance clean energy development using contracts and incentives outside of the wholesale marketplace. Depending on how they are structured, government subsidies for clean energy will have unintended consequences: market prices that are lowered by subsidies may not be sufficient to keep existing power plants in operation and investor uncertainty could dampen new development, ultimately undermining resource adequacy.

ISO New England is responsible for managing the power system affected by this changing landscape, but can’t require investment in fuel infrastructure. The ISO’s role is limited to developing market incentives to induce generator owners to ensure they have fuel.

 

 

The challenges outlined here, plus the ISO’s independent natural gas infrastructure studies, plus the ISO’s actual experiences operating the power grid in recent winters, lead to the unavoidable conclusion that New England needs more fuel infrastructure to ensure a reliable power system.

Additional fuel infrastructure could come in the form of greater pipeline capacity, liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage combined with forward contracts for LNG delivery or, alternately, dual-fuel power plant capability—with emissions permits that allow extended run times on oil. The high-voltage transmission network will also require expansion to reach clean energy sources. But given the difficulties in building infrastructure in New England, the ISO is not optimistic that sufficient infrastructure will materialize in time.

The key to long-term independence from natural gas and oil is renewable energy in combination with grid-scale electricity storage, but at a level that will not be economically or technically feasible for many years. This transition will take decades, it will be challenging and costly, and it will require regional collaboration. In the meantime, there is no alternative but to depend heavily on fossil fuels and the remaining nuclear plants.

To address the challenge to competitive markets, the states, the organization representing market participants (NEPOOL), and the ISO are mulling how to accommodate the states’ clean energy requirements in the competitive market structure, but those solutions also are probably several years away.

Until large transmission lines are built to reach hydro and wind resources, and unless additional fuel infrastructure is added to meet the ever-increasing demand for natural gas to heat homes and businesses and to generate the power that lights those homes and businesses, we see a future with challenges that may require the ISO to employ suboptimal solutions.

The time is fast approaching when the region’s fuel infrastructure constraints and continued non-gas power plant retirements may push the ISO to further strengthen market rules to incentivize generators to contract for fuel infrastructure. Other steps the ISO could take to ensure reliability during the winter could include—as a last resort—trying to stop some non-gas power plants from retiring. The measures required to ensure fuel security or induce generators to postpone retirement will be costly. Progress on lowering emissions may falter due to increased dependency on oil, and the region should expect significant energy market price volatility when natural gas pipelines are constrained.

The ISO is supportive of the states’ environmental and clean energy goals, and has developed many operational and market solutions to accommodate renewable resources and emerging technologies. Additional solutions will be needed to ensure reliability through the wholesale markets. However, the region’s fuel infrastructure needs have the potential to seriously affect ongoing power system reliability and impede the efficiency of the wholesale markets that have brought the regional system this far. The ISO will continue to strive for a reliable power system through competitive markets, while seeking solutions that are compatible with state environmental requirements.

Gordon van Welie is president and CEO of ISO New England Inc. ISO New England operates the six-state power system and oversees the region’s wholesale electricity marketplace. 

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