To the editor: Pipelines under pressure in Massachusetts

“Today’s ‘natural’ gas is loaded with carcinogens injected during the fracking process. Should Spectra construct an extremely high-pressure pipeline which might leak or explode, Grafton assumes enormous risk while Texas-based Spectra benefits.”

Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 159]: Grin and bear with us

Black bears are on the comeback in Massachusetts. Down to about 100 in the early 1970s thanks to wide-open hunting regulations, New England’s only bear species now numbers more than 4,000 — which is fun until one of them shows up in your backyard.

Generally unwilling to engage with us humans, the powerful creatures are still a bad match for the ever-sprawling suburbs.

If only we could find them a permanent home devoid of two-legged adversaries. Hitch, ever the nature-lover, has an idea.

Sina-cism: That serpent, fear, stalks America

The international and global problems we face require much more cooperation and are not wholly within our control, but even they are merely variations on past problems.
Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

What are you afraid of? Terrorism? Illegal immigrants? Losing your job to a robot? Donald Trump’s latest tweet or executive order? North Korea? A rattlesnake attacking you while you’re hiking around the Quabbin Reservoir?

Some of these fears could be realized.

Terrorism is a grim reality. Some illegal immigrants commit crimes. Technology replaces some jobs (and creates others). Trump has made and will make mistakes. North Korea could be the flashpoint for a major conflict.

But in most cases, even when such things come to pass, they are unlikely to directly affect the vast majority of those who worry about them. Tragedies are tragic enough without compounding their pain through constant worry.

The least likely on the above list, rattlesnakes, serves to illustrate how irrational we humans can be.

Worcester Weekly: ArtsWorcester Biennial, WooLax + more, April 30-May 6

Don’t forget Jane Week in Worcester this week!

Music

Tuesday, May 2 — Yefim Bronfman in recital, 7:30 p.m., Mechanics Hall, 321 Main St.  Just like Ed Sheeran or the Weeknd, Drake or Taylor Swift, Yefim Bronfman — of course — needs no introduction to the Sun’s ultra-tuned in and musically savvy audience. But just in case … “Fima” is a virtuoso of the keyboard, “internationally recognized as one of today’s most acclaimed and admired pianists.”

He’s won the prestigious Avery Fisher Prize — and a Grammy, too, if you’re into that sort of thing. Featuring a suite from legendary composer Bela Bartok, Bronfman will also play Schumann, Debussy and Stravinsky. Tickets are $49 adults, $17.50 students, $7.50 youth.

For more information

Mandell: Five great ideas to nurture the Worcester Renaissance

“Each of us living or working in the city has an important voice in shaping Worcester’s future development. Jane Week (May 1-7) is designed to prompt deep discussions and debates on our urban design and to give people a chance to think about the variables that make Worcester come alive.”

Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 157]: Jim McGovern’s imperfect storm

Local pundits like to joke about U.S. Rep Jim McGovern’s “crime family,” deriding what they see as his undue influence over city government and politics.

Forget Worcester, though. This side of Elizabeth Warren (and due respect to the longer-serving Richard Neal and legacy-holding Joe Kennedy), no state lawmaker wields more D.C. influence than the 11-term congressman.

And in general he uses that high ground to laudable effect. A little birdie tells Hitch, though, that McGovern might be slipping from his lofty perch.

Editorial: Quabbin snakes’ rejection rattles faith in environmental reasoning

In cities around the world yesterday, people marched and held rallies in favor of science.

That’s a great show of support for reason, facts, discovery, and looking the world squarely in the eye.

Locally, though, science seems to have lost out to fear in the matter of Quabbin Reservoir’s would-be new residents, the timber rattlesnake.

The endangered [in Massachusetts and six other states] species won’t be slithering around a secluded Quabbin location in search of chipmunks anytime soon. The state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife last week shelved its idea to introduce the snakes — which are venomous but rarely harmful to humans — to Mount Zion Island in the reservoir, after more than a year of trying to persuade Quabbin-area communities of the proposal’s safety and ecological value.

Public backlash won, despite wildlife officials’ vetting of the plan, the independent Rattlesnake Review Working Group the state formed, and the information — intended to fight fears and provide reassurances — experts patiently provided communities close to the Quabbin.

On Beacon Hill: No breaks for Baker when it comes to making the grade

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

Schools broke for April vacation, but midterm grades started to come out this week and had to leave Gov. Charlie Baker wondering what a guy needs to do to get an A.

It seems everyone in Massachusetts is a tough grader, the governor included.

It probably did not shock the governor or his team when, for the second straight year, a coalition of environmental advocacy groups gave Baker a “mediocre” grade of C for 2016.

Despite solid marks for energy efficiency and electric vehicle promotion, environmental activists have been unimpressed with the progress Baker has made toward a campaign promise to boost funding in the state budget for environmental issues.

The governor’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal actually backslides from the target of 1 percent of total spending, and the governor’s support for natural gas pipelines has not endeared him to those in the green community.

So he got one C grade. But surely, the governor’s performance would be looked at more kindly by the woman with whom he shares a home? Apparently not.

Sam Doran / State House News Service

Gov. Charlie Baker

First Lady Lauren Baker, it would seem, was equally unimpressed by her husband’s recent 75 percent approval rating in a Morning Consult poll, which made him once again the most popular governor in America, now more than two full years into his first term.

“Congratulations. You got a C,” the first lady reportedly told her husband. Ouch.

All of that tough love must have rubbed off on the governor who, when asked this week to grade his own administration’s performance with the MBTA, handed down a grade of …. C+.

“I would argue that that’s because a big part of the investment that we are going to be making over the next several years in the core system is just getting started,” he said. Baker gave his team an A- for organizational improvements at the T.

Judgment will also be coming soon for the state Department of Correction following the shocking suicide of former New England Patriots tight end and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez.

Just days after being acquitted of a separate double homicide, Hernandez was found dead in his Souza Baranowski Correctional Center cell in Shirley where he hanged himself using a bedsheet. Leaving aside the question of why Hernandez took his own life, Gov. Baker said he would wait to form judgements on how it was allowed to happen until after the full investigation.

“Anytime anybody kills [themselves] in a prison, something clearly went wrong,” Baker said, nevertheless extending his “full faith and confidence” in state Correction Commissioner Thomas Turco.

[Watch video of Baker’s comments on Hernandez below.]

The Hernandez suicide rocked an otherwise sleepy news week as Beacon Hill slipped into its pre-budget debate slumber, and marathon runners gave Bostonians something to cheer for as summer temperatures briefly warmed the Patriot’s Day holiday.

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Robust tax collections spike sluggish revenue pace
  • Legislature stares down impending budget imbroglio
  • McGovern scoffs at Trump; Polito honors top teacher
  • Trump to nominate Scott Brown for ambassador to New Zealand
  • Video: Baker on Hernandez
  • Grant provides boost for energy efficiency upgrades

Mariano: Mayor Petty responds to PCB concerns with comprehensive plan

The plan presented is not perfect. The suspect materials remain in the building. But with an aggressive program of cleaning, encapsulating and monitoring, the risk is substantially reduced.

Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 154]: Hopping down the bunny trail

Your job is the worst, right? Everybody thinks that at some point, but let’s face it: some occupations are harder than others.

Coal miners. Nuclear submarine engineers. Sean Spicer. Be glad your thankless 9-to-5 keeps you out of those depths. But the Easter Bunny — how cool would it be to have that gig?!

Funny you ask, because Hitch was wondering the same thing.