Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s 2017 State-of-the-State

highres_120403_oneill_jamiedunbar-0269By: Jamie Dunbar

Having worked for two former Republican Governors in Massachusetts, I was struck by the Governor Baker’s closing remarks.  His words are a reminder of the class, collegiality and confidence we have been fortunate to witness in our great state.  At a time where our national elected leaders and political party apparatus are as divisive as they have ever been, Governor Charlie Baker made it clear that will not be the case here in Massachusetts.  Governor Baker addressed the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with his plans, commitments and strategies for the coming year.  He highlighted several accomplishments such as relocating GE’s headquarters to Boston and the efforts underway on issues ranging from economic development, combating the opioid epidemic and improving transportation infrastructure.  After extoling strides made to lower unemployment, provide predictable energy costs and improve services for children and families, the Governor spoke candidly on his vision for governing in the current political environment.  His theme was one of respect, inclusiveness and bi-partisan cooperation.  Governor Baker, a Republican in a deep blue state, has experienced high approval ratings and favorability since taking office.  He is lauded for working well with the Commonwealth’s super majority Democratic legislature and for finding areas of common ground.  While acknowledging he may not agree with legislators on every issue, the debate will be driven by respect, courtesy and compromise.  This is how the Commonwealth will be governed in his Administration.  These are not always the easiest waters to navigate, but with leaders committed to progress and civility, citizens will be better served.

Q/A with Jimmy O’Brien, President of the Boston Carmen’s Union

carmens-union-local-589In December 2016, the Carmen’s Union Local 589 and the MBTA came to agreement on an unprecedented contract that protects the jobs of the 4,100 Carmen’s members, while identifying essential cost savings for the MBTA. The agreement came after months of public disagreements prompted by the MBTA’s plans to begin privatizing the work of the Carmen’s Union and fellow MBTA unions.  Both Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s State of the City and Governor Charlie Baker’s State of the Commonwealth applauded the Carmen’s Union Local 589 and the MBTA for coming together to reach an agreement.

A lot has been made of the recent deal struck between the Carmen’s Union and the MBTA. You still had two years left on its contract, why did you open it to negotiations?

The MBTA needed to identify cost savings, and we wanted to be a part of the solution. With raised fares, riders had done their part and we knew it was our responsibility to do our part, too. We proposed an initial cost savings plan in June 2016, and after months of conversation that led to formal negotiations, we were able to reach an agreement that provides the MBTA with cost savings it needs, while protecting the work of our members– which was our highest priority.

We all know that the MBTA is in need of investment. The buses, subway trains, trolleys, and tracks are in need of repair and replacement but the MBTA can’t make the necessary investments without also identifying cost savings. For us, it was vitally important that we protect the livelihoods of our 4,100 members. Our members take a tremendous amount of pride in their work. Our members go to work each day to help the T’s riders get where they need to go. The knowledge and expertise they bring to the MBTA is unparalleled. We knew that privatization, while devastating for our members, would be equally devastating to the operations of the MBTA.

What do MBTA riders need to know about Local 589?

The Boston Carmen’s Union represents the men and women who drive and maintain the MBTA buses, subway trains, trolleys, and tracks. We are committed to our work, and we come to work every day, committed to putting riders first.

Our workers share riders’ frustration and anger when the system breaks down. The winter of 2015 was terrible for all of us, we try our hardest to keep things moving every day, but we can’t cure infrastructure failures and the malfunctions of a 100-year-old system that suffers from a lack of investment.

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about our members. People should know that the average shift of a Carmen’s Union member is 10-12 hours a day, often while getting paid for 8 hours of work. Whether it is a weekday, weekend or holiday — there is always a member of the Carmen’s Union hard at work.

What’s next for the Carmen’s Union and the MBTA?

This was a great win for both sides, but the real winners are our riders. We hope that with this cost savings, we will see a concerted effort from MBTA leadership to invest in the tracks, the signals, and equipment. It’s what the system needs.

With this contract, we have shown that you can identify cost savings without privatization of jobs, and we hope that is something the MBTA will take into consideration going forward.

I don’t know what else is next, but I hope it isn’t a lot of snow.

About the Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589
Founded in 1912, the Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589 is the largest of 28 unions with members employed by the MBTA. Over 4,100 MBTA employees are members of the Carmen’s Union, including: Bus Divers, Train (Subway) and Trolley Operators, Maintenance of Way and Repairmen, Money Room Employees, and Automated Fare Collection (AFC) Technicians, Customer Service Agents (CSA), Dispatchers, and Clerks. Local 589 is part of the Amalgamated Transit Union, comprised of over 197,000 transit workers across the United States and Canada.

Massport Holds Ribbon Cutting for Dog Park in South Boston

massport-dog-park1

The Massachusetts Port Authority today held a ribbon cutting for its new Dog Park in South Boston. The quarter-acre, fenced-in dog park features agility equipment, benches, and a pet fountain. The Dog Park is a segment of the larger Thomas J. Butler Freight Corridor and Memorial Park on East First Street. The haul road has improved the quality of life of the neighborhood by redirecting trucks away from the neighborhood streets and subsequently improving operations at Conley Terminal.  In addition to the dog park there are walking paths, trees, a water fountain and a memorial dedicated to Butler.  Tommy Butler worked for Massport for 25 years as its community relations director and was a lifelong resident of South Boston.  In attendance at the Dog Park opening was Massport CEO Tom Glynn, Mayor Marty Walsh, Congressman Stephen Lynch and numerous city and South Boston representatives.

2017-2018 Massachusetts Legislative Look-Ahead

By Lindsay Toghill

Reliability iwebres_120403_oneill_lindsaytoghill-0138n state policies and regulations is a significant priority for any business, but especially so in Massachusetts, with an active Democratic Legislature that is historically interested in effecting social change.  Changes in taxation or employment regulations can have a significant impact on the future of business investment in the Commonwealth.

The tension between the business-friendly House of Representatives and more liberal Senate in the last legislative session resulted in a number of last-minute deals on items of interest to the business community, including an expanded renewable energy bill, a bill intended to help stimulate economic development, and regulation of ride-for-hire services like Uber and Lyft.

As we look toward a new legislative session, there are a number of items on the horizon that will significantly affect the business community and its bottom line.  In planning for 2017, it is important that all businesses take the following issues into account.

  • Taxation/Millionaire Tax – Proposed as a ballot question for the 2018 election cycle, the so-called “Millionaire Tax” would amend the Commonwealth’s Constitution to allow higher taxes on any personal earnings above one million dollars in a calendar year.  With funds earmarked for the areas of transportation and education, the ballot question is the first maneuver in many years that proposes to raise income taxes, and comes at a time when the state continues to see slow revenue growth with faster-growing spending needs.  While both the House and Senate leadership has maintained a line of “no new taxes” in past legislative cycles, this dedication to such policies has begun to soften.  As the gap in available financial resources continues to grow, companies should monitor the issue of taxation closely for potential change.
  • Employment Covenants – Commonly referred to as “non-competition agreements,” employment covenants are one restriction used to inhibit the flow of intellectual property or market share.  In some cases, employers attempt to protect their customer base by prohibiting employees from working in the same industry or geographical area.  In other cases, employers are seeking to protect their significant investment in R&D or other intellectual property.  Both House and Senate passed their own versions of this bill, with inclusion of Uniform Trade Secrets Act language in each. As an issue that has attracted support on both sides, there will be a continued interest in clarifying the use of such agreements in the next session, with expected limitations on the employer side.
  • Paid Family and Medical Leave – A key Senate initiative in this past session, this measure was not considered by the House when sent to that body at the end of July.  Intended to assist employees in times of significant change, the bill would allow eligible employees up to 16 weeks of paid job-protected leave in the case of significant illness or injury, or up to 26 weeks to care for a seriously ill family member or a newborn child.  The program would create a new Family and Employment Security Trust Fund that would be administered by a new Division of Family and Medical Leave in the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.  Employer contributions to the Fund would finance the paid leave, although an employer could require employees to pay up to 50 percent of the contribution.  As this issue gains momentum nationally, Massachusetts will likely try to lead the way in finding a balance between employers and employees.
  • Climate change – An Executive Order issued by Governor Charlie Baker in mid-September requires state agencies to look closely at climate change, with new targets for greenhouse emissions and a plan that begins to address the outcomes of climate change.  Businesses can expect to see increasing municipal attention on their so-called “carbon footprint,” with perhaps new targets regarding municipal waste, recycling, energy efficiency and climate preparedness.  It is currently unclear what form this effort will take in the Legislature for the next session, but climate change will continue to be a significant issue.
  • Energy – While the Legislature did pass a measure dealing with renewable energy in the last session, there are already signs that more work will be needed, especially in the area of solar energy.  The planned shutdown of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in 2019 will enhance the need for additional energy sources to replace that capacity.  In addition, the discussion of alternatives such as hydropower and wind power have not been fully exhausted.
  • Transportation – As the state continues to invest in recruitment of new businesses, adequate transportation and transit for workers continues to be a theme.  State investment in transportation has been a touchy subject in recent years, with questions of reliability, sustainability and expansion overlaid by the significant funding amounts needed to ensure all three.  A 2016 fare increase did not go far enough to meet the needs of an aging public transportation system – expect that the funding gap as well as adequate future planning will continue to be a discussion in the new legislative session.
  • Airbnb/Emerging Technology – This past session, call for proper laws and regulation of “emerging technology” became more prevalent.  One such issue is the regulation of short-term rentals, such as Airbnb.  Currently, lodging rented through web-based applications does not fall under the same public safety and health restrictions as conventional hotel and motel rooms.  Nor are they taxed at the same level as other forms of short-term lodging, which means a significant loss of potential revenue for the state and host cities and towns.  A measure passed out of the Senate would have regulated the taxation of these short-term rentals without addressing public health and safety regulations.  While the House did not take up the Senate bill, Speaker DeLeo has stated his intention to address this issue early in 2017.  This issue is of interest to those monitoring the state’s treatment of emerging technology, as well as those who are interested in the long-term availability of transient accommodation in the Commonwealth.

A number of measures passed this last session are in the process of full implementation, and will significantly affect Massachusetts businesses, such as the implementation of an equal gender pay act and a planned January 1, 2017 increase in the minimum wage to $11.00 per hour.

Finally, the 2017-2018 legislative session leads up to the next gubernatorial election in November 2018.  Governor Charlie Baker is expected to run for re-election and will be looking for opportunities to prove his worth to the voters.  Many hot-button issues remain out of his direct control, such as inadequacies in the transportation system and stagnant revenues, both of which are two areas that can quickly become a headache during a statewide campaign.  While he has not been in favor of increased taxation, he may be amenable to regulatory or other changes that could affect businesses’ bottom line.

Close monitoring of state policies and legislative efforts will ensure that your voice is heard at the correct time.

Lindsay Toghill is a vice president in O’Neill and Associates’ government relations practice. To learn more about her or our services, click here

Inbox Journalism

Director Alex Bloom

Director Alex Bloom

Everyday, I receive 15 different email newsletters.

My inbox populates with newsletters from well-regarded reporters and thought leaders who have spent the early morning reading and curating the news before sending out the best of the day’s clips to their subscribers.

A few examples (disclaimer, I’m an avowed political junkie):

It’s an interesting concept – journalists are being recruited to lend a critical eye to already-reported news stories and send an email assessing the day’s coverage. And the formula goes far beyond politics:

  • TheSkimm, a general interest newsletter geared toward Millennial women, now boasts nearly two million subscribers.
  • The New York Times christened POLITICO’s Mike Allen as “The Man the White House Wakes Up To” for his Playbook, with over 100,000 subscribers.
  • Dan Primack’s Term Sheet, at Fortune Magazine, is one of the best places to get up to date on the latest financial news and has over 50,000 subscribers.

Here in the Boston media market, newsletters are picking up steam. POLITICO arrived last summer, making a newsletter writer their first Massachusetts hire. As the Boston Globe launched STAT last fall, one of their first moves was to seek “a stylish and engaging writer,” according to a job posting, for a morning newsletter. Megan Thielking now anchors the Morning Rounds. The Boston Business Journal has 18 newsletters, Boston Magazine has 15 and the Boston Herald offers nine.

The best and most successful newsletters, according to WGBH’s Mike Deehan, are the ones that find and cultivate a niche.

Deehan spent six years as the author of MASSterList, growing the State House News Service product to 10,000 subscribers as he injected more and more of his humor and sarcasm into the each email. His goal was to take a morning news roundup that he inherited and make it “one that’s a little more enjoyable to read.”

There’s also a difference between authored newsletters – like MASSterList – and a collection of aggregated links without explanation, such as the offering from the newly-minted Crain’s Boston.

But overall, newsletters are growing in popularity, likely because newsletters are mobile-friendly. According to 2014 data from the Pew Research Center, nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone and more than half (55%) got news on their smartphone at least once over the course of a one-week survey period.

Deehan said that the user experience of reading an emailed breakdown of the news, rather than having to open your web browser to multiple different news sites, is a key aspect of the success.

“When it is mobile-first like that and phone-centric, you’re probably going to increase your readership because it is easier to read,” Deehan said.

The trend does present a dilemma for reporters, however. Appearing in a popular newsletter – like Allen’s Playbook – will give great exposure to a game-changing story. But it could also mean that readers don’t ever make it to the full story. For Deehan, who now finds his WGBH radio reports in other newsletters, it isn’t a problem.

“It’s gravy anyway,” said Deehan, who likes to amplify a story’s reach through his own social media. “It’s added to whatever the outreach of that story is going to be.”

For brands, these newsletters represent a great opportunity to get a press release or an announcement in front of key influencers and audiences.

Deehan believes the best newsletters have highly-specific audiences, creating communities around a “high interest” topic. And industry leaders seem to be recognizing that trend, as the New York Times announced this week that it will be creating a newsletter focused solely toward college students.

“The more successful emails are the ones that get ‘nichier’ and ‘nichier,’” Deehan said.

Senior Vice President Cosmo Macero Jr. also offers a glimpse into his inbox with a few of his favorite reads:

  • Dave Pell’s NextDraft is a collection of quirky stories from across the spectrum, making it one of the few successful newsletters that offers general interest news.
  • DealBook, by Andrew Ross Sorkin, comes out twice a day as the New York Times’ mergers and acquisitions reporter/Wall Street expert shapes world financial news.
  • For media insiders, the Morning Media Newsfeed newsletter from Mediabistro plugs readers in to the latest on media news.
  • 5-Bullet Friday captures the thoughts and ideas of Tim Ferriss, an author, investor, and expert on management and leadership.
  • Muck Rack Daily keeps you updated on the latest moves and changes in the world of journalism.

Alex Bloom is a director in O’Neill and Associates’ communications practice. Connect with him by email at abloom@oneillandassoc.com and on Twitter at @AlexBloom_05

O’Neill and Associates Announces Promotion of Matt Irish to Vice Chairman

Vice Chairman Matt Irish

Vice Chairman Matt Irish

O’Neill and Associates, New England’s leading full-service government affairs and public relations firm, today announced the promotion of Matt Irish to Vice Chairman. In his new role, Mr. Irish will continue to serve as the managing director of the firm’s government relations practice, while also providing advice and counsel related to the strategic growth of the company and large-scale business development initiatives.

With over 20 years of experience with the Massachusetts state legislature and numerous political campaigns, Mr. Irish develops and implements integrated public affairs strategies, uniquely designed to assist clients in reaching and exceeding their goals on the municipal and state levels. He has represented a diverse array of clients across several industry sectors including transportation, education, nonprofit, technology, trade associations, and travel and hospitality.

“In his twelve years at the firm, Matt has been an integral and valuable part of O’Neill and Associates’ success and growth, not only for our government relations practice, but for the entire company,” said Thomas P. O’Neill III, Chief Executive Officer of O’Neill and Associates. “We are grateful to have Matt as a part of our team, and his political acumen and knowledge of Massachusetts state government is unmatched. I am pleased to recognize his achievements by elevating him to Vice Chairman.”

Prior to joining O’Neill and Associates, Mr. Irish served as Chief of Staff for Massachusetts State Senator Steven Tolman. In this role, Mr. Irish oversaw and directed all legislative, budgetary, personnel and administrative issues and acted as the media spokesman. Before becoming Chief of Staff, Mr. Irish served as Senator Tolman’s Senior Legislative Aide and Staff Director. Mr. Irish began his career as a Press Assistant to then-U.S. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.

Mr. Irish holds two graduate degrees: a master’s degree in modern Irish history from Boston College, as well as a master’s degree in public affairs from the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies at UMass Boston. He also graduated from University of Massachusetts Amherst with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Mr. Irish is a native and resident of Worcester and a graduate of Saint John’s High School of Shrewsbury.

Tom O’Neill Talks Congress, Local Politics, and more with POLITICO Massachusetts

220px-Thomas_P_O'Neill_IIIO’Neill and Associates’ Chief Executive Officer, Thomas P. O’Neill III, recently sat down with Lauren Dezenski from POLITICO Massachusetts to discuss his take on current House leadership, the state of the Congress, longevity in delegation, local politics, and more.

“When you lose seniority in Congress, even though the rules of seniority have been changed and altered, the fact is that you lose some of that leadership and the ability to deliver policy and product back home to your state.”

To read the full article, click here.