Some say Bump DCF audit misses key issue: caseloads

Once again, the elephant in the room with the state Department of Children and Families is the high caseload each social worker carries. The upshot is that the number remains higher than recommended federal standards despite the hiring of more than 300 new social workers.

December’s DCF-focused dustup between state Auditor Suzanne Bump and Gov. Charlie Baker, a Democrat and Republican respectively, and both running for re-election, was not about caseload size. It had more to do with the contents of Bump’s audit of the agency and Baker’s objections that it was sloppy, reliant on old data and unfair to the social workers.

Sam Doran / State House News Service

Auditor Suzanne Bump recently released a report critical of the current standing of DCF.

The audit produced four findings:

  • DCF does not effectively identify and investigate all occurrences of serious bodily injury to children in its care.
  • DCF does not report all critical incidents affecting children in its care to the Office of the
    Child Advocate (OCA).
  • DCF does not report incidents of abuse, neglect, and/or sexual abuse of children in its care to district attorneys’ (DAs’) offices for investigation whenever it is required to do so.
  • DCF does not complete its fatality investigation reports and submit them to OCA within the established timeframe.

The governor’s approach was notably unlike the standard political mea culpa that follows criticism of the child protection agency. Instead of a meek promise to do better and some targeted firings, Baker fired back at Bump.

Cannabiz: Potential billion-dollar industry had its pot stirred in Worcester

Massachusetts’ effort to legalize marijuana had an aspect of its origins in Worcester, where James Smith, a former state legislator turned consultant, met up with Matthew Huron, a Coloradan and CEO of Good Chemistry with local roots who had come to Massachusetts to assist with the legalization effort.

Today, marijuana is legal and some medical marijuana dispensaries have already sprung up, including Worcester County’s first dispensary, Cultivate Holdings, which opened for business in Leicester on Dec. 1.

The past week brought more news from the state’s Cannabis Control Commission: The panel passed preliminary approvals to allow specialty marijuana cafes and bars that would allow the use of pot products on site; would allow restaurants, cinemas, yoga studios and other businesses to apply for licenses to host the sale and consumption of marijuana-based products in specific areas within their establishments; and permit pot to be home-delivered.

Canal District medical marijuana shop to follow a Coloradan path

She is from Colorado, and last year was named one of the 50 most important women in the cannabis industry. And now she is coming to Worcester.

Meg Collins will be opening one of the city’s four medical marijuana shops – hers will be located in the Canal District. She will bring expertise from operating a similar facility in Colorado and through her work as vice president of public affairs for Good Chemistry, a Colorado-based nursery company that describes itself as “… dedicated to creating the world’s finest cannabis.”

Collins said Massachusetts’ marijuana skeptics should give the new industry time. In a short while, she predicts, they will be won over by its professionalism and profit margin.

“I have worked with many communities to make sure they are educated and confident in what they are doing,” she said in an interview with the Worcester Sun. “Proprietors need to see it as their role to make their communities comfortable with what they are doing.”

Flanagan, ex-senator, opens up about her role regulating legal pot in Mass.

Following her first meeting as a member of the new commission, former Leominster lawmaker Jennifer Flanagan faced a barrage of questions from reporters about whether she had ever smoked marijuana. Find out what she told veteran Worcester reporter Richard Nangle about that, Milford’s vote to ban retail marijuana facilities, and the difficulties of getting the fledgling industry off the ground.

Flanagan, ex-senator, opens up about her role regulating legal pot in Mass.

Don’t be too hard on the towns that aren’t ready to ride the Massachusetts recreational marijuana train, said new Cannabis Control Commission member Jennifer Flanagan.

“For them, it’s not coming down to money. That’s what I think is interesting,” said Flanagan, the former Democratic state senator from Leominster, in an interview last week with the Sun.

“I understand there are taxes to be had from this and there is money to be gained, but some towns are not comfortable having it on Main Street,” she said in reference to pot shops. “We need to allow them to get there and not force their hand with it.”

Gov. Charlie Baker made Flanagan the first of five appointees to the commission, which will oversee implementation of the new state law legalizing the use, sale and growth of marijuana, based on her background as the Senate chairperson of both the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee and the Special Senate Committee on Opiate Addiction.

Anti-marijuana towns to retail facilities, consumers: Your money is no good here

As Massachusetts communities consider whether to allow recreational marijuana dispensaries inside their borders, one thing is clear – those that say “no” could be leaving significant money on the table.

For supporters of the Question 4 ballot initiative that voters solidly supported in 2016, local prohibitions seem to make no sense. They also run counter to the will of that majority of voters, which favored recreational marijuana by nearly 54 percent.

In some communities, local government bodies have passed moratoriums on non-medical dispensaries or outright bans. In June, Southbridge voters said no to marijuana production, cultivation, manufacturing and retail. That was during a 19 percent turnout for a local election. In the 2016 state election, with a much higher turnout, 56 percent of Southbridge voters voted yes on Question 4.

It is that very contradiction that puzzles supporters of the law, who note that marijuana users who live in every Massachusetts community will effectively be contributing to the economies of the nearest towns that approve dispensaries.

That was a point that Worcester officials had in mind when they approved four medical marijuana sites. The sites could all transform into recreational marijuana facilities down the road, according to Jacob Sanders, coordinator of the city’s intergovernmental affairs and municipal initiatives.

Access Denied: Mounting opposition, pricetag bury pipeline plans

For activists fighting the suspended Access Northeast pipeline project, their arguments about its incongruity with green energy conversion have finally borne fruit.

Developers Thursday withdrew their proposed $3.2 billion Access Northeast pipeline project, which would cut through nine communities as it works its way to the state’s coastline south of Boston.

The decision was cause to celebrate for pipeline opponents. But they do not believe their work is done as pipeline supporters indicate they may submit plans down the road if they can find a way to pay for it.

“Over the last three years, we have seen a truly incredible wave of grassroots resistance to new fossil fuel pipelines in Massachusetts,” Craig Altemose, Executive Director for 350 Massachusetts for a Better Future, said in a statement. “Thousands of concerned citizens have called and emailed their legislators, submitted public comments, packed into public hearings, and taken to the streets for massive rallies and multi-day marches.

“Spectra recognized that their deep pockets were no match for grassroots power. It’s only a matter of time before other fossil fuel companies come to the same realization. We look forward to Spectra similarly abandoning their plans for the similarly offensive and unnecessary Atlantic Bridge project.”

Birthday cake

Requiem for Dissent: McGovern-ing in the era of Trump

“We ought to look at this moment as a privilege to be on the playing field and to engage in these battles. … Ten years from now people are going to ask what you did at this time. I think it’s important for people to stand up and to resist when it’s appropriate.”

If the 2nd Congressional District were carved into Worcester County only, U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, might have a problem. Many of those towns voted for Donald Trump in the presidential election.

But the 2nd has roots in Franklin and Hampshire counties as well, with liberal enclaves like Northampton and Amherst that combined with Worcester should keep McGovern safe as long as he wants to hold office.

The 2nd voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent. So that would indicate that the district is safe for McGovern for at least the time being.

To that end, it’s not your imagination: McGovern, one of the most unabashed liberals in Congress, has been ubiquitous in active resistance in the weeks since Donald Trump was elected president — calling for, among other things, an independent investigation into Russian influence in the election.

“If you don’t have an independent investigation,” he said, “people aren’t going to believe the results.”

His higher-than-normal profile has been a conscious course of action.

“There’s so much happening that I think it requires more responses and more action, more resistance,” he said in a wide-ranging exclusive interview with Worcester Sun. “I want to protect the values I think are important to the country.”

PCBs: Where Worcester delayed, Princeton was decisive

Indignant at potentially exposing town residents and workers to PCBs through no fault of their own, Princeton officials wanted payback. They decided they would go for it in the form of a lawsuit directed at Old Monsanto, the company that made virtually all of the potential human carcinogen (98 percent, according to the lawsuit). To do so, they hired a heavy hitter in the environmental field: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Richard Nangle reports.

Nangle: Why Trump Won

OK, about the headline: It was my suggestion. It suggests I know why Trump won.

I don’t.

But I offer some theories involving negligent journalism and the Electoral College’s expiration date.

Donald Trump

Flickr / Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump

First of all, there was no Trump revolution. It didn’t happen. It didn’t happen in Massachusetts, or Texas, or Wisconsin or Pennsylvania or anywhere. Donald Trump ran a strong enough campaign to benefit from the work that had been done before him. But he didn’t tap into anything new. It was already there waiting for him.