Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 210]: Quite a fright for WRTA and its riders

It’s not easy being in the bus business these days.

Everybody wants faster, cleaner, quieter — but nobody wants to pay for it. In Worcester, it seems, riders have been spooked.

The trick RTA administrators pulled earlier this year, hiking fares while trimming stops, has treated the organization’s coffers about how one might expect.

Hitch digs deep into his bag of goodies for this one.

Sina-cism: Worcester — the mayhem on main streets

For some time, Worcester city officials have been talking about making Worcester a more walkable city. That’s a nice dream, but it’s not one that is going to come true anytime soon.

Chris Sinacola

Chris Sinacola

It’s not going to happen as long as the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles continues to insist on licensing new drivers who would be a threat to themselves and others if they were driving electric golf carts on lonely stretches of Interstate 90 in Montana.

Have you ever tried to cross Main Street at Chatham Street with the “Walk” light?

Your odds of a successful crossing are about the same as those enjoyed by Columbus when he tackled the Atlantic in 1492 — he knew he wanted to reach the other side of the water, but the conditions were often decidedly unfavorable.

Even prior to the rise of the machines — those handheld demons that occupy the attention of most motorists some of the time and some motorists all of the time — such an endeavor was hazardous. Today, it’s more or less a suicide attempt.

Editorial: Courting Amazon, and all that comes with it

Amazon plans quite a delivery to a North American city next year, and it’s not coming in a UPS truck.

It’s the recently announced second headquarters, or “HQ2,” for the famous Seattle-based company, and Worcester is one of many cities vying to be chosen for the site.

The city decided last month to apply — competing locally against Boston and a dozen or so other Massachusetts cities. In addition to Boston, the list of major-player hopefuls reportedly includes Chicago, Denver, New York City and Washington, D.C.

The application deadline is Thursday, Oct. 19. Some competitors for the headquarters are bending over backwards in lavish or quirky ways to get Amazon’s attention.

Will Amazon look Worcester’s way for more than a glance?

Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 205]: Last stop, Union Station

Whether it’s failed nightclubs or high-speed trains, improved commuter rail service to Boston or deficit spending, Union Station has a way of staying in the news — and in the hearts of so many residents and decision makers in our city.

It’s a monument not only to history but to the possibilities of tomorrow. But much like the covert entrance to its parking garage, there is another side rarely seen.

For far too many of our friends, coworkers, uncles and sisters it’s become the final destination of a life overtaken by opioid addiction. Hitch has thoughts.

Bancroft Tower

Inbox [Oct. 1-7]: News and notes from Park Spirit, city of Worcester, You Inc., Becker, Clark, Greyhound, UniBank and St. Peter-Marian

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.

Bancroft Tower open Sundays in October

Bancroft Tower at Salisbury Park will be open to the public today and every Sunday in October. The event is sponsored by Park Spirit.

The inside of the tower, normally closed to the public, will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Park Spirit members are eligible for early access at 9 a.m.

Within the tower, historical displays created by students from Bancroft School will highlight the landmark’s past and pay tribute to the tower’s namesake, George Bancroft. Individuals will be guided to the turret to take in one of the best views of Worcester and enjoy the fall foliage.

Volunteers will also be on site to supervise the visit, while surveying visitors’ thoughts on Bancroft Tower, Salisbury Park and what kind of programming they would like to see there.

State of Politics: Cannabis commissioners eye swift director hire

State of Politics is an occasional collection of news and notes from on and around Beacon Hill compiled from the latest reports by State House News Service.

CCC HOPES TO INTERVIEW DIRECTOR FINALISTS OCT. 17

The Cannabis Control Commission aims to hire an executive director to run the marijuana oversight agency by mid-October and has pledged to conduct public interviews of the finalists.

More in the Sun: Flanagan opens up on role regulating legal pot

“This is an incredibly important job,” said CCC Chair Steven Hoffman, who is serving as acting/interim executive director. “We’re going to run an expeditious process to hire a full-time executive director, but we’re going to do it the right way. It’s going to be public, we’re going to allow applications from whomever might be interested and we will do what we can in open commission meetings.”

Watch: Charlie Baker on Graham-Cassidy and being ‘presidential’

On Beacon Hill: No way, Jose — a cloudy forecast for health care

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

Storm clouds were moving in, literally and figuratively, when Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker walked out of Faneuil Hall and met the quartet of reporters waiting by his car last Wednesday morning.

After the governor posed for a photo with a group attending the Recovery Day event he just addressed while taking a few questions, his press aide told the reporters the governor had to get going and had time for just one last question.

Baker added as the wind picked up, “it’s also going to start raining on all of us.”

The literal storm clouds threatening to drench that cobblestone scrum were from Jose, the spitfire tropical storm moving up from the south. Behind that storm loomed the specter of another redrafted Obamacare repeal bill in Congress that could harm Massachusetts to the tune of billions of dollars — this one taking the name Graham-Cassidy — on its way to the Senate floor in Washington, D.C.

“Graham-Cassidy would be, as it’s currently conceived … a huge problem for the commonwealth of Mass.,” said Baker, the popular governor whose party has been promising to pass such a bill for years. “And it’s my hope that it doesn’t pass.”

About five miles away in Chelsea last week, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren warned of a “staggeringly irresponsible” bill that would turn Medicaid into a block-grant program and reduce federal funding to Massachusetts, according to the senator, by an estimated $5 billion over 10 years.

“We are looking at the perfect storm in terms of education budgets in the coming year,” Chelsea schools Superintendent Mary Bourque said, not in reference to the approaching tropical storm. Graham-Cassidy would result in a loss of $700,000 in Medicaid reimbursements that go into her school budget, she said.

(With U.S. Sen. John McCain’s Friday announcement that he would not be supporting the Graham-Cassidy bill, the forecast for Bay State health care — and Baker’s popularity — got a bit sunnier. If only for a while.)

In about 13 months, Baker and Warren will most likely be the highest-profile candidates on their respective party’s ticket. But last week, with the threat of block-granting Medicaid bearing down, they were on the same page.

The Republican governor has joined with Bay State Democrats in resisting GOP-sponsored healthcare bills targeting Obamacare, a position that U.S. Senate Democrats have made part of their resistance to the new GOP bill.

Baker’s friends in the GOP, such as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, are using Massachusetts as leverage to try to drum up support for the bill.

“Four states under Obamacare get 40 percent of the money — New York, California, Massachusetts and Maryland,” Graham said. “If that bothers you, this is a chance to do something about it.”

The U.S. Senate, despite the McCain blockbuster, is still planning to vote on Graham-Cassidy this week, before the Sept. 30 deadline to pass a repeal bill with a simple majority. At the end of the week, depending on how the Senate votes, only one of the following will be cheering: the Republican Party or Baker, a GOP member.

While Baker still hasn’t said whether he is going to run for reelection next year, plenty of others have turned their sights to the 2018 election.

Activists are trying to compel action on a state sales tax cut, a new income surtax on millionaires and an increase in the minimum wage, issues that don’t lend themselves very well to a governor taking a firm position — and remaining the nation’s most popular state leader — heading into an election year.

Unlike his advocacy on federal health care reform that’s made some waves, Baker has tried to calm the waters back home. He hasn’t staked out a firm position on those three issues he could be sharing space with on next year’s ballot.

— Colin A. Young

ALSO ON THE AGENDA

  • Health care in the crosshairs
  • Markey and Sanders on Graham-Cassidy, Healey on DeVos
  • Challenging Baker, Warren eyes Worcester-Amazon marriage
  • Watch: Polito on ‘Fight for $15’
  • Evangelidis named head of Massport board

Inbox [Sept. 20]: News and notes from Worcester Public Schools, WPI, Antiquarian Society, You Inc., MassDOT and New England Beauty Expo

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.

Patriots, SNHU help upgrade technology at two schools

The New England Patriots Foundation and Southern New Hampshire University joined students at Elm Park Community School and Goddard School of Science & Technology to unveil state-of-the-art technology labs.

The schools each received a $25,000 grant from the Patriots Foundation and SNHU earlier this year to help improve technology resources for schools in need.

The tech labs will include new Chromebooks, charging carts, a Smart TV and a Chromecast. In addition, the Foundation and SNHU have completely renovated the labs, purchased new furniture, and added Patriots-themed décor and wall decals.

Registration open for WPI Tech Girls program

Editorial: Oohs and aahs for ofo

Oof, those seven hills!

Other than that, ofo’s arrival in Worcester signals a city coasting smoothly forward.

On Thursday, the Beijing-based company launched its bike-sharing program in a ceremony at City Hall, capping months of preparing and research helped by local leaders and scholars. The stars of the cheerful kickoff were dozens of bright-yellow ofo bikes, ready to get going under the guidance of anyone over the age of 18 with a smartphone, a dollar and an hour.

A little ofo 101 is in order. Don’t be fooled: These substantial, simply styled bicycles may look old-fashioned, but they’re as high-tech as they come.

Editorial: Bring the ‘A’ game

Mailings have gone out, supplies have been bought, and new principals have been assigned. Crosswalks are being painted, and even murals. Inspirational posters have been stapled to walls, and squeaky new sneakers are set to walk the freshly waxed halls.

Also, at last, the school administration and the Educational Association of Worcester have contract negotiations off their plates for the time being. Union members, however reluctantly, approved a new contract last week after working last year without one.

Next up: the first day of school.

Here, and for the entire school year, is where we really must bring the “A” game.

For Worcester school kids, vacation screeches to a halt tomorrow, assuming Durham School Services and the local bus drivers union come to their senses (and agreement on a new contract) to avoid an ill-advised labor strike. (Kindergarten and pre-K have until Sept. 5, according to the the Worcester Public Schools calendar.)