Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 197]: Winds of change hit downtown landmarks

Mother Nature has spared us New Englanders for now as historic Hurricane Irma mercifully sputters to her demise over the Southeast after Harvey’s similarly destructive sojourn.

But natural disasters aren’t the only thing powerful enough to spin Worcester’s world upside down.

In the span of six days we learned that Shack’s clothing store and Elwood Adams Hardware — and their combined 324 years of Main Street history — are not long for downtown.

A gut punch to the city’s soul. Hitch, for one, was whipped into a frenzy over the news.

On Beacon Hill: Mr. Baker goes to Washington

Recap and analysis of the week in local, state and federal government from State House News Service and Sun research.

BOSTON — With his purple tie knotted tightly, Gov. Charlie Baker flew to Washington, D.C., last week hoping to bring his brand of bipartisanship to the polarized capital. Few might have predicted, however, that the colors in Washington were already starting to bleed.

Ostensibly, the state Legislature and Congress both returned to work from a summer recess, but it was the gridlocked Congress — with an assist from President Donald Trump — that would make the breakthrough.

As state legislators eased into their post-Labor Day schedule (and that’s being generous), Trump struck a debt-ceiling deal with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to fund the government for three months and deliver billions in relief funding for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Trump’s shunning of Republican Congressional leaders to make a deal with the Democrats rattled Washington and seemed to put wind in the sails of the White House as it prepared to deal with Irma, another catastrophic hurricane poised to strike South Florida on Sunday.

The debt ceiling deal also distracted, if only for a fleeting moment, from the storm the president stirred up with his decision to phase out the immigration program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

The program, created by former President Barack Obama through executive order, allowed the so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the country illegally by their parents when they were minors, to apply for protected status that would allow them to go to school and work without fear of deportation.

Trump, through his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, challenged Congress over the next six months to enshrine DACA into law if its members want it preserved, while Democrats and many Republicans, including Gov. Baker, derided the move as a cold-hearted play for the conservative base that would send immigrants in the United States, through no fault of their own, back into hiding.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey joined yet another multi-state lawsuit against the Trump administration to block the decision to end DACA, while advocacy groups rallied at the State House and around Boston seeking leadership from the state to protect the futures of the Dreamers.

Antonio Caban / State House News Service

Gov. Charlie Baker

It was in this atmosphere that Baker joined his fellow governors from Tennessee, Montana, Colorado and Utah in testifying before the Senate Health Committee [see video below] on steps Congress could take to stabilize Obamacare health insurance markets in the wake of failed efforts to repeal the law.

Baker and the bipartisan cohort of governors told the Senate panel, headed by Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, that the single biggest thing they could do would be to ensure at least two years of funding for cost-sharing-reduction payments.

The CSR payments, used to keep patients’ out-of-pocket expenses down, were a part of the Affordable Care Act, but have been challenged in court by Republicans and dangled by Trump as a lever he could pull to force the collapse of Obamacare.

“I think it would be a bad idea,” Baker told U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren about Trump’s threat, responding to a softball lobbed across the plate by Massachusetts’ senior senator in what sounded like a coordinated back-and-forth designed to bloody the president.

Baker sat in the middle of the five governors as the de facto leader of the pack. He was given ample time to wonk out on healthcare policy, and just enough time to score some political points back home.

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Hoffman, pot czar, on July 2018 deadline
  • McGovern and Chandler on DACA, Markey on North Korea
  • Worcester’s Grabauskas returns to MBTA
  • Watch: Baker a key part of healthcare reform testimony
  • Still-lagging tax revenues leave budget veto overrides in limbo

Inbox [Sept. 10-16]: News and notes from Worcester Arts Council, Worcester Fire Fighters Local 1009, Clark, Assumption and Seven Hills Foundation

Have news you or your group would like to share? Let us know by emailing it to info@worcester.ma. Be sure to include a link to the full release on your site or Facebook page so we can include it and send Sun members your way.

[Editor’s note: This roundup contains a political endorsement from an advocacy group. The Worcester Sun sharing these publicly available statements in no way constitutes an endorsement on our part of the corresponding organization’s choices or opinions.]

Worcester Arts Council accepting grant applications

The Worcester Arts Council is accepting grant applications for its 2018 funding cycle. The deadline for all grant applications is Oct. 16.

Based on community input received during 2017, WAC will give preference to community projects in the following categories: Public Art (murals, monuments, street art, etc.); Children’s Programs; and Visual Art (ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography and video), However, all projects within the realm of arts, sciences and humanities will be considered. WAC will accept grant applications from the following: individuals, nonprofit organizations, associations that can establish a nonprofit objective, schools, libraries and other public agencies.

WAC will be offering two types of competitive grants in 2018: Project Grants and Fellowship Grants.

Editorial: Caring community hits back at Hurricane Harvey

It almost seems unreal that the lingering nightmare to our south is as bad as it is, while we have enjoyed calm summer weather since Hurricane Harvey hit Texas nine days ago.

But it is real. And catastrophic, affecting millions in the path of the slow-moving monster. Relentless rain, historic flooding and fierce winds and have caused dozens of deaths, widespread heartbreak and alarm, and billions of dollars worth of damage to Houston along with a swath of cities and towns in East Texas and beyond.

Once a category 4 hurricane, the storm has poured plenty of misery on Louisiana, Tennessee and Kentucky and northward, and will dump water on us today. On its heels, young Irma seems to be amassing similar power and could impact the United States.

Here in Worcester in a few days, we won’t only be watching all this but doing something about it.

Inbox [Sept. 3-9]: News and notes from Railers, WCAC, Research Bureau, GIlman Scholars and WPI

Have news you or your group would like to share? Let us know by emailing it to info@worcester.ma. Be sure to include a link to the full release on your site or Facebook page so we can include it and send Sun members your way.

Rucker, Myers rated among most influential people in New England hockey

Worcester Railers HC team owner Cliff Rucker and team president Michael G. Myers have been included in the New England Hockey Journal’s 2017 100 most influential people in New England hockey list.

The 100 most influential people in New England hockey include team owners, team presidents, coaches, writers and more.

Rucker was recognized for his success in returning a professional hockey team to Worcester, and his investment in the building of the Fidelity Bank Worcester Ice Center, a 100,000-square-foot practice facility for the Railers.

Destructive climate erupts at Clark meat-eater protest

Wondering what the future could hold for activism and divisive protests in our city? Find out with author BJ Hill in the Sun’s serial glimpse into the fantastic, sometimes troubling (and mostly fictional) possibilities of a not-so distant tomorrow.

WORCESTER, Aug. 24, 2063 — He had been sitting there for decades, but in the end, it took just a minute for Dr. Sigmund Freud to be ignobly yanked face-first to the concrete. The doctor’s statue, which until yesterday sat amiably on a low bench in Clark University’s open Red Square, was the latest victim of protesters lashing out against the culturally promoted, but environmentally destructive, practice of eating meat.

As temperatures across the country topped 105 degrees for the 13th straight day, protesters nationwide have embarked on campaigns to eradicate monuments and memorials to anyone who had both contributed to the current climate change by consuming meat and passively committed aggressions against animals.

Next to burning fossil fuels, raising livestock for meat consumption is regarded as the second-largest contributor to climate change.

“Hey! Ho! Meat Eaters got to go!” Chanted the crowd of 257 people assembled in Friday evening’s twilight on Clark’s Red Square.

Sun Serials | Ray Mariano | Free to Read

Webster 5

Inbox [Aug. 27-Sept. 1]: News and notes from Webster Five, St. Peter-Marian, WCTI, Shrewsbury Cultural Coalition, MassDevelopment and state

Have news you or your group would like to share? Let us know by emailing it to info@worcester.ma. Be sure to include a link to the full release on your site or Facebook page so we can include it and send Sun members your way.

Webster Five Foundation donates $11K to WCHR

The Webster Five Foundation announced that, as part of the Web of Caring to Make a
Difference program, it has donated $11,000 to Worcester Community Housing Resources. The one-time grant is given in honor of Webster Five’s retired president and WCHR board member Richard Leahy.

Webster Five’s donation will go toward the continuation of high-quality housing
development, abandoned housing renovation, property management and home repair throughout Worcester County.

WCHR has helped stabilize neighborhoods, increase property values, expand the availability of affordable housing options, and improve the quality of life and economic viability of the people and communities it serves.

Solar farm

Inbox [Aug. 20-26] News and notes from Assumption, city of Worcester, Greater Worcester Our Revolution, Quinsigamond CC, and You Inc.

Have news you or your group would like to share? Let us know by emailing it to info@worcester.ma. Be sure to include a link to the full release on your site or Facebook page so we can include it and send Sun members your way.

Worcester’s economy grows in 2nd quarter

Following a slow start to the year, the Worcester Economic Index, a quarterly economic analysis compiled by Assumption College Professor of Economics Thomas White, Ph.D., has shown that the greater Worcester economy grew at a modest clip during the second quarter of 2017. Since March, the WEI is up 1.1 percent on an annualized basis.

The WEI is estimated using Bureau of Labor Statistics data on employment and unemployment in the Worcester metropolitan area. The unemployment rate slightly increased to 4.6 percent in June while household employment has gone up by 6,400. The BLS payroll survey also showed an increase of 4,200 jobs since June 2016.

“The data shows a labor market that is steady but without much growth, which is the reason the WEI grew at a modest 1.1 percent rate during the second quarter,” White said.

Worcester Weekly: Solar eclipse, Holy Cross soccer + more, Aug. 20-26

Monday, Aug. 21 — Solar Eclipse on the Common, 1:30-3 p.m., Worcester Common Oval, behind City Hall, 455 Main St.  First of all the “path of totality” sounds like something out of a Superman comic story arc. (It would also make another strong entry in the omnipresent “great name for a band” debate.) Alas, it merely describes the course of a rare, awe-inspiring event, sponsored by Mother Nature.

Wikimedia Commons/Tomruen

Watch an uncommon event on the Common as people will gather behind City Hall to watch tomorrow’s solar eclipse.

While Worcester-area viewers won’t get a clean glimpse of the first total solar eclipse to dawn over America since 1979 (and the first to span the contiguous United States since 1918), there’s still reason to party. So head downtown, meet up with your favorite lawyer, social worker or purveyor of gentrification, and add a dollop of community atop your scientific fascination.

For more information

Wednesday, Aug. 23 — Canal District Music Series with Toni Lynn Washington, 6-8:30 p.m., behind Crompton Collective, 138 Green St.  It would be completely understandable for anyone to have at least a nagging case of the blues lately. Summer vacation has been usurped by back-to-school sales. Nobody has eclipse glasses in stock. Then there’s Trump v. Sanity in the High Court of Public Opinion.