Baker, Bump continue to clash over DCF audit

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker delivered a forceful rebuke of Auditor Suzanne Bump’s review of the Department of Children and Families, calling the claims in the audit released last week “irresponsible” and in some cases “simply not true” in a letter to DCF staff.

Baker wrote a nearly two-page letter to the DCF staff thanking them for their work and applauding their efforts over the past two years to improve the agency. But he also outlined his problems with Bump’s focus and messaging.

“I appreciate that the Auditor also cares about ensuring these children are safe. But for this report to ignore nearly everything you have done for the past two and a half years to improve the agency’s ability to do its work strikes me as wrong,” Baker wrote.

The charges and counter-charges back and forth between Baker’s administration and Bump over the days since the audit was released highlight the sensitivity around an agency whose well-documented problems at the end of Deval Patrick’s eight years in office served to sour his standing with the public.

From the Sun archives: The road to tragedy at DCF

Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 223]: Worcester’s winter gripes piling up

The list of things in Worcester more fun to do than find a convenient parking spot is a long one, indeed — once the leaves fall and the snowbanks rise, it’s pretty much infinite.

And when the forecasters usher in a conga line of declared parking bans, well, all bets are off. Thing is, in many neighborhoods, the city’s upkeep generally leaves Worcester residents wanting more, no matter the season or the weather.

Hitch, accordingly, has a question.

Mass. buoys transportation security following Manhattan bus bomb

Massachusetts planned to up the visibility of law enforcement at transportation hubs following the detonation of a bomb in New York City’s main bus terminal Monday, but Gov. Charlie Baker said there were no known threats to the state.

Baker told reporters his administration had been in touch with the Fusion Center, an information-sharing cooperative of state and federal law enforcement, following the morning explosion that injured five, according to the New York Times, including the suspect who was taken into custody.

On the scene: 40 hours with the Worcester Fire Department

The dispatch goes out at 12:40 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2. “Attention, Engine 4. Number 35 Kilby Street. First responder.”

Three Worcester Fire Department firefighters on duty at Engine 4 in the Park Avenue station respond. Thirty-five seconds after the initial call, they’re en route to the bike path adjacent to the Boys & Girls Club of Worcester on Tainter Street.

“Female having difficulty breathing.”

At 12:43, Engine 4 arrives almost simultaneously along with paramedics. A young woman is sitting, her back against a wall, her head down.

Fearing the position of her head is restricting her breathing, first responders lift her head. She’s breathing, but not well. Her pinpoint pupils are the telltale sign of someone under the influence of an opioid.

Paramedics inject one dose of naloxone, more commonly known as Narcan, into the young woman. She begins to come around, but paramedics determine she needs a second dose.

With the second dose, she begins to rouse. Then she starts to cry.

“Not again,” she says.

Polito: Commonwealth makes inroads against opioid crisis

When Gov. Charles Baker and I ran for office, the opioid epidemic was not an issue we expected to focus on. But we’ve heard heartbreaking stories from people about loved ones struggling with an opioid-related addiction everywhere we’re gone.

Trump vows to fight ‘fake news’ by cutting funds to cities

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

WORCESTER, Jan. 17, 2019 — President Donald Trump shot back this week at what he calls “fake news” by threatening to defund cities in which “subversive or treasonous” media are based. “Met with GOP lawmakers to discuss setting up a Dept. of Truth. Must weed out fake news outlets before 2020 Election – Bad for Democracy!” President Trump tweeted yesterday morning.

At a White House press conference later in the day, White House Press Secretary Troy Chamberlain justified the move and outlined how the administration could apply pressure to make the so-called “fake news outlets” unwelcome in communities.

“Nothing is more important to America than its voters making well-informed choices based on facts,” said Mr. Chamberlain. “Rogue media that chooses to ignore the facts or make up its own truth is a poison. The last administration failed to take action, so it’s time we eliminate the threat to our citizens.”

Mr. Chamberlain went on to suggest steps the White House and Congress could take to wage the battle. These included withholding payments from the Highway Trust Fund. This was the carrot Congress dangled in 1984 to get states to raise their drinking ages to 21. All but five states acceded to that request.

Mr. Chamberlain also mentioned working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to deny grants to law enforcement agencies in cities and towns that “harbor fake news outlets.”

More What if … Worcester: Nothing but net profit — St. John’s hoop star scores big-league video game endorsement

Editorial: Sexual abuse out of the shadows

There is no doubt: Sexual abuse has been happening throughout human history, and will continue to happen. In large part, that’s because there will always be power inequities between people.

It’s not OK.

That’s the message these recent weeks of serial sexual misconduct claims have boiled down to. It’s simply not OK to sexually intimidate, coerce, or humiliate anyone.

This topic will inevitably die down from the headlines. But the message must last, and it can.

Unlike gun violence, immigration and many of the other issues that rise and fall in our national consciousness, sexual behavior and attitudes are under our control as individuals. We can’t blame “culture” or “politics,” or any other broad scapegoat. This is something we can change — and have been changing, gradually, for decades.

We’ve heard a lot recently about allegations of sexual misconduct involving men in the public eye: Matt Lauer; Charlie Rose; Roy Moore; Bryon Hefner, the husband of state Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg; Louis C.K.; Harvey Weinstein; Kevin Spacey and Mark Halperin. And the list goes on. We know the problem goes far beyond the sphere of celebrity and fame into our own communities, companies, schools and homes.

The accusers are not usually in the spotlight, but for the many victims with valid claims, the pain, shame and damage to their self-esteem can be deep and lasting. Victims deserve our attention and empathy, and one great way to give it is to resolve to prevent sexual trauma from happening to others in the ways we can.

On Beacon Hill: Sins of the husband [+video]

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

BOSTON — The national sexual harassment scandal got a face in Massachusetts last week – the visage of Senate President Stanley Rosenberg’s husband.

All other dealings on Beacon Hill were blocked out like an eclipse by the bombshell report in The Boston Globe that Rosenberg’s husband of one year, Bryon Hefner, had allegedly sexually assaulted at least four men.

Three of the men, who all work in the political arena and shared their stories anonymously, claim that Hefner grabbed their genitals in social settings, sometimes with the Senate president mere feet away. Another alleged that Hefner forcibly kissed him as he bragged about the clout he wielded over a legislative body for which he didn’t work and never served.

Gov. Charlie Baker, who has worked closely with Rosenberg for years, was the first to call for a full investigation hours after the story broke, but he was followed by others, including Rosenberg himself, who gave his blessing for Senate Majority Leader Harriette L. Chandler, D-Worcester, and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, to spearhead a full probe that Rosenberg, who intends to retain his title for now, will recuse himself from.

An Amherst-based Democrat, Rosenberg seemed to be clinging to the edge of a cliff Friday as staff, Chandler and Tarr huddled in the office next to the president’s hashing out a plan to bring on a special investigator to look into the allegations against Hefner, including impacts on Senate operations.

Watch: Rosenberg addresses Hefner accusations

Visibly shaken by the allegations against his husband, Rosenberg faced the cameras roughly 24 hours after Hefner’s alleged transgression were put on public display in what Rosenberg called the “most difficult time” in his political and personal life.

Rosenberg announced in a prepared statement that Hefner would be seeking in-patient treatment for alcohol dependence, and he encouraged anyone with a story to tell to come forward without fear of retribution. The Globe reported the four men were still not ready to take that step, but the door has been opened.

Rosenberg also said he was confident the investigation would show that Hefner had no influence over Senate business. “If Bryon claimed to have influence over my decisions or over the Senate, he should not have said that. It is simply not true,” Rosenberg said.

The only two men to call outright for Rosenberg to resign or step aside as Senate president were Republican candidates for office. U.S. Senate candidate John Kingston and state Senate candidate Dean Tran spoke out on Thursday, while the Democrats running for governor remained silent.

MassGOP followed up Friday with blast emails to local media posing a series of questions that it said Democratic senators should answer, the first being, “Do you still have confidence in him and his leadership of the chamber?” The party also suggested that Rosenberg’s claims of being unaware of his husband’s alleged behavior were “dubious.”

“Democrat Senators have questions to answer about the Senate President’s leadership — given that they have the ability to determine his future. The MassGOP is committed to holding these Democrats accountable on behalf of voters, who deserve answers,” said MassGOP spokesman Terry MacCormack.

The State House may have been lousy with rumors of succession planning and senators angling to fill the void if and when Rosenberg were to step aside, but those senators were adamantly denying the water-cooler talk … for now. Succession talk is not a topic lawmakers usually like to go public with — loyalty playing the role that it does in politics — but there’s a time and a place for everything, and senators appeared to be struggling with that question.

— Matt Murphy

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • More on the Hefner harassment accusations
  • Markey on World AIDS Day, McGovern on Russia probe
  • Legislature OKs $2.7 million for pot panel operations
  • Watch: Tarr on Hefner, Rosenberg and what’s next
  • State DAs poised to reverse thousands of tainted convictions

Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 220]: Dreaming of a green Christmas

No matter whom you direct your prayers to, the holiday season is a time of giving and sharing, and doing one’s level best to find and spread a little more joy — especially in these divisive times.

And as the state continues to go to pot, marijuana advocates and entrepreneurs are poised to spread their particular brand of contentment as far and wide as cities and towns are willing to accept.

Worcester leaders have an idea of their limits, and Hitch, for one, has certainly reached his.

WPI professors: Data science can help us fight human trafficking

Traffickers leave a data trail, however faint or broken, despite their efforts to operate off the grid and in the shadows. There is an opportunity – albeit a challenging one – to use the bits of information we can get on the distribution of victims, traffickers, buyers and exploiters, and disrupt the supply chain wherever and however we can.