Meet Worcester’s clinical trial pioneers

“If we can relieve pain differently, and get people away from opioids by understanding how other pain pathways can be impeded, that would make a huge difference in people’s lives.”

Sen. Moore: Solving the Alzheimer’s puzzle

Alzheimer’s permeates nearly every community in our country, forcing millions of families to suffer through the pain of having loved ones gradually forget the people and memories they previously cherished. The burden placed on these families can be overwhelming.

Veterans Inc.

Editorial: On Grove Street, an enduring and worthy cause

Many of us welcome any opportunity to thank our military veterans. In Worcester, through Veterans Inc., we also have an opportunity to serve them.

That opportunity will ramp up this fall. The agency expects to begin a capital campaign to renovate its Grove Street headquarters.

This is a worthy endeavor.

Veterans Inc. has proved its mettle for more than 25 years, bringing former servicemen and women back from the brink of homelessness, joblessness, addiction and loneliness.

“This place is magic,” U.S. Navy veteran James Whitley said in a recent video posted on the agency’s website. He is among many thousands of veterans from the Worcester area and throughout New England who have found camaraderie, caring, and life-changing assistance via Veterans Inc.

Niki Tsongas

On Beacon Hill: Something to talk about

National Conference of State Legislatures

Sam Doran/State House News Service

The House Chamber was packed on Monday with legislative clerks from around the world who visited Boston for the National Conference of State Legislatures. Participating in a mock parliamentary session, from left, were Nigerian legislative officer Ramatu Ahmad, Ladi Hamalai of Nigeria’s Institute for Legislative Studies, and Aisha Mohammed of Nigeria’s House of Representatives.


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

The summer of 2007 in the Merrimack Valley was a time for backyard “PicNikis” and evening gatherings to get the latest “Tscoop On Tsongas” over a cone of your favorite flavor.

U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas was mounting her first campaign for public office to succeed Marty Meehan — now the president of the University of Massachusetts system — in Congress, and the heat was on. Anything to get a crowd.

Fast-forward 10 years, and Tsongas found a different way to break the August monotony, announcing Wednesday that she would not be seeking a seventh full term to the U.S. House of Representatives. Just like that, Tsongas plugged the void of late summer on Beacon Hill, giving its denizens something to wag their tongues about.

Many state legislators spent the week shuttling between the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and the city’s varied landmarks, playing policy wonks by day and hosts with the most by night.

Legislative leaders wined and dined 6,000 of their colleagues from around the country at places like Fenway Park, the New England Aquarium and more as the National Conference of State Legislatures swept in and out of the city, leaving solid policy ideas, first impressions of Boston, and bar tabs in its wake.

But it was Tsongas — and more intriguingly, who might succeed her — that was the talk of the town.

Niki Tsongas

Niki Tsongas

Tsongas, in some ways, rode her famous last name to the halls of Capitol Hill. Her late husband, Paul Tsongas, held the same seat before being elected to the Senate and making a failed run for president in 1992.

But over the past decade, she made a name for herself. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Tsongas became a champion for veterans and, based on the accolades that poured in, a devotee to constituent services.

Given the rarity of open Congressional seats in Massachusetts, it would be political malfeasance for anyone who has ever harbored any ambition to go to Washington, D.C., to not at least think about what it would take to win the Tsongas seat next year. That’s probably why one needs more than two hands to count the number of elected, non-elected and former elected officials said to be weighing their options.

The list starts with the cast of characters who finished behind Tsongas in the 2007 special election Democratic primary. Sen. Eileen Donoghue, who finished second in that primary, and Sen. Jamie Eldridge and former Sen. Barry Finegold all said they are considering another run at the seat.

Massachusetts Sen. Barbara L’Italien, D-Andover, also came in hot, quickly announcing that she was “eagerly exploring” the possibility of a campaign, and has been joined by 2014 lieutenant governor nominee Stephen Kerrigan; Meehan’s ex-wife and community hospital consultant Ellen Murphy Meehan; and City Hall “Boy Wonder” Dan Koh, chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, whose well-known family hails from Andover.

The Third Congressional District, thanks in part to redistricting, will surely not be a solely Democratic affair, however. Republicans weighing a run, or looked to as possible candidates, include Mass Fiscal Alliance founder Rick Green, Sal’s Pizza founder Sal Lupoli and Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke.

Central Mass. cities and towns in the Third Congressional District include  Ashburnham, Berlin, Bolton, Clinton, Fitchburg, Gardner, Harvard, Lancaster, Lunenburg, Westminster and parts of Winchendon. Also, Ashby, Ayer, Dunstable, Groton, Hudson, Littleton, Marlborough, Shirley, Stow and Townsend.

It’s hard to say how quickly the field might come together, given the ample time Tsongas has afforded her would-be successors, but many of the elected politicians and someone like Koh will have to weigh a shot at a Congressional seat against giving up the office or job they now hold.

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Senate hosts panel to discuss health-care cost containment
  • McGovern on North Korea; Chandler honored
  • Boston-area inflation hits 2.2 percent in the past year
  • Safety, profiling concerns swirl over immigrant detainer bill

Inbox [Aug. 13-19] | News and notes from Quinsigamond CC, UMass Medical School, Worcester Economic Club, Center for Living & Working, Elder Services, Kasy Auto Sales and accounting camp

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.

Quinsigamond CC adds CSET lab in Southbridge

Quinsigamond Community College’s Southbridge campus recently added a Computer Systems Engineering Technology (CSET) lab. This lab will exclusively be dedicated to the college’s growing CSET program, which is being launched in Southbridge this fall.

“We are continuing to offer more opportunities for QCC students to attain their CSET career objectives. Bringing more CSET course offerings to the Southbridge campus is something that we have been working hard to make a reality,” said QCC Dean of Business, Engineering and Technology Kathy Rentsch.

QCC has met the need for developing more skilled technical workers by developing a comprehensive CSET program that offers four CSET associate degrees and nine certificate programs.

Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 187]: Throwing the book at Worcester trash scofflaws

For years cynical visitors and disenchanted residents have called our fair city a dump.

And for far too long they all had a point, as jaded and/or careless folks turned hillside knolls, little-used parking lots and neglected street corners into their own private rubbish and recycling centers.

City officials, though, have had enough. Cameras are on the lookout and illegal dumpers are on notice.

Hitch, for one, thinks it’s about time offenders were put in their place.

Inbox [Aug. 9]: News and notes from Worcester jail, Greenwood Industries, Ball Consulting, Spectrum Health, WCTI, WCAC and Worcester Common Ground

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 County House of Correction receives funding for new opioid use program

The Worcester County House of Correction is one of five in the state that will receive $100,000 to provide a wide range of pre- and post-release treatment and recovery services for incarcerated individuals with an opioid use disorder who are within two months of release.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) announced the Medication Assisted Treatment Re-Entry Initiative for Houses of Correction (MATRI-HOC) program on Monday.

Sina-cism: Bee regulations? How about doing nothing?

It’s the height of summer, and the honeybees of Worcester and Central Massachusetts are going about their business, safe for now from the tender ministrations of the City Council, which in late June took up a reform of agricultural rules that could impose various regulations upon the city’s 60 or so beekeepers.

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

The proposed rules, which were shunted off to a subcommittee, seem innocuous enough. They include a requirement that beekeepers notify any neighbors within a 300-foot radius, limit the number of hives, restrict them to the sides or back portions of property, and keep them at least five feet from property lines. Beekeepers would be required to obtain a permit, submit a diagram of plans, and be subject to fines for violations.

Such stuff brings to mind the Monty Python skit in which John Cleese seeks a license for his pet bee, Eric.

I’m not sure whether life is imitating art or vice versa, but I am certain that anyone who grew up around or maintains beehives understands these creatures are both vital to the pollination of many of the crops we rely upon, and — when left alone — are extremely unlikely to cause any harm.

Editorial: CRISPR and the future

In the 1950s and 1960s, scientists cracked the genetic code — a breakthrough that still inspires awe and wonder for revealing the essential, powerful machinery of life.

Now science has given us something new to think about: How sacrosanct is that code? Is it OK to manipulate the unique DNA each of us carry?

Last week, a paper in Nature showed just how far scientists have opened the doors on DNA over the last decades, edging from appreciative observers to cautious participants. A global research effort lead by a team at Oregon Health & Science University used a fairly recent technology called CRISPR to edit a defective gene inside viable human embryos.

On Beacon Hill: No detour for sales tax on Holiday Road

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

BOSTON — Hotel, motel, Chatham Bars Inn?

Turns out deciding where to holiday can be more complicated this time of year than choosing between the Cape, the Berkshires or Nantucket. It also means figuring out whether to go to Best Buy in Everett or Nashua, N.H.

Lawmakers slunk away from Beacon Hill without acting on bills that would have established a sales-tax-free weekend sometime this August.

No one said a word, but one might have guessed at that point that the decision had been made to forgo a sales tax holiday this summer for just the third time in the past 14 years. After a year of wringing their hands over disappointing tax collections, leaders are loath to give up a revenue source, even if it might mean cheaper school supplies for constituents and a boon for some small businesses.

Gov. Charlie Baker, however, didn’t seem to want to play that guessing game. And despite vetoing $320 million from the fiscal 2018 budget, he apparently feels a few million dollars lost in August can be overcome.

The governor filed a bill last Wednesday to make the weekend of Aug. 19-20 a sales tax holiday. Sure, he could have just issued a statement calling on the Legislature to return from its recess and pass one of the several tax holiday bills already filed this session, But he didn’t. He filed his own, and it was just about dead on arrival.

Sam Doran / State House News Service

House Speaker Robert DeLeo

House Speaker Robert DeLeo said Baker’s decision to file legislation, especially in the first week of August, made “little sense,” and Rep. Jay Kaufman, a Lexington Democrat and Revenue Committee chairman who views these tax holidays as little more than gimmicks, said what DeLeo seemed unwilling to.

Baker’s bill would not get through committee.

So why did Baker file it?

Well perhaps it was just coincidence, but it also came the same day Baker decided that he would sign off on $200 million in new fees and fines on employers to help pay for MassHealth without the reforms that he, and groups like the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, had been insisting on as part of a package.

Rather than force House and Senate Democrats to override a veto and deal with the story line all summer that he and the Legislature were at odds, the governor chose to do something he’s hoping won’t become famous last words.

“The Legislature told us they would work with us on this, and we’re going to take them at their word,” he said.

The National Federation of Independent Business said it was “incredibly disappointed” in Baker, but other business groups, including Associated Industries of Massachusetts, struck a more diplomatic tone.

“While this is certainly not the outcome we hoped for, we recognize that the governor’s decision is carefully considered and designed to achieve the ultimate, long-term goal of substantive MassHealth reform,” AIM President Rick Lord said.

Even with the olive branch from Baker, the retailers seem to have just about reached a breaking point. With the deadline arriving to file language to reserve a spot on the 2018 ballot, the Retailers Association of Massachusetts filed four possible ballot questions for next fall.

The group, frustrated by an inability to get what it wants through the legislative process, proposed lowering the sales tax from 6.25 percent to either 5 percent or 4.5 percent, and reserved their right to couple either proposal with an annual two-day sales tax holiday.

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Legislators return, but not for legislating
  • Fiscal 2018 tax collections hit first-month benchmark
  • McGovern on ‘a better deal,’ Warren on improving GI Bill, Markey on Trump
  • Moore-sponsored disability protection bill gets public hearing
  • Baker makes choices for marijuana advisory panel