Massachusetts

The near-record amount of snow that has fallen on Boston this winter is testing one of the city's great traditions: On orders from Mayor Martin J. Walsh, the Public Works Department began removing parking space savers from city streets on Monday.

In the past, the informal rule has been that whoever takes the time to dig out a parking space gets to keep it for 48 hours. But this year, the city has gotten about 100 inches of snow and those 48 hours have turned into weeks.

As Boston slowly returns to normal following more than 100 inches of snowfall this winter — most of it in the last month — trash collectors are struggling to keep up with the waste.

Snowstorm after snowstorm have piled on the complaints from city residents. In the average month, the city gets in the area of 900 complaints about trash pickup. This month the city has received 4,600.

The city council in Springfield, Massachusetts is expected to give final approval Monday to an ordinance restricting public officials from obtaining casino jobs.

Former Westfield State University President Evan Dobelle has withdrawn his federal lawsuit against state and school officials blaming them for his departure, saying the legal fight's cost was too great.

The city council in Springfield, Massachusetts is poised to approve a casino ethics ordinance, but the city’s mayor has been silent so far on the issue.

The Springfield City Council is expected to give final approval at its next regular meeting to an ordinance that would put restrictions on public officials obtaining jobs at the new MGM casino being built in the city.  Supporters say it is intended to foster public trust in the municipal decision making surrounding the casino project.

Following dozens of arrests last year, the University of Massachusetts Amherst plans to limit the number of campus guests and increase police presence during an annual weekend party known as Blarney Blowout.

Just a little more than a month since Boston was chosen to become the next American city to put together an Olympic bid, Bostonians seem to be getting cold feet.

A poll commissioned by NPR member station WBUR found that a plurality of Bostonians (46 percent) "oppose the idea of bringing the Olympic Games to the Boston region in 2024."

WBUR's Asma Khalid tells our Newscast unit that just 44 percent of those polled support the bid.

Kevin Roche

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst has backed off  a new policy  that banned Iranian nationals from some engineering and science programs.

The school had said the ban was tied to federal sanctions designed to discourage Iranian citizens from entering the U.S. to prepare for careers in the energy sector of Iran, or in nuclear science or engineering.  In a statement released Wednesday, the school says after consulting with the State Department and outside counsel,  it will accept Iranian students into science and engineering programs and will develop individualized study plans based on a student's projected coursework and research. 

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, is continuing support for a broadband initiative started under former Democratic governor Deval Patrick. The state is releasing $50 million of previously approved capital funding to expand internet connectivity in western Massachusetts.

New England Public Radio/Naomi Volain

A Springfield public school teacher is among ten finalists for a lucrative international award often called the Nobel Prize for teachers.

Naomi Volain has taught environmental science at Central High School for 17 years; she said she uses hands-on teaching methods, and often holds classes outside.

Westfield State University

No trial date has been set yet in the federal lawsuit involving ex-Westfield State University president Evan Dobelle. Dobelle is the former president of Trinity College in Hartford.

In the 2013 federal complaint, filed three weeks before he resigned, Dobelle alleges that his constitutional and contractual rights were violated when he was placed on administrative leave and forced to resign from his post as president of WSU.

London Mayor Bullish On Boston Olympics

Feb 11, 2015

The snowy weather and public transportation gridlock have taken some of the steam out of a visit to Boston by London Mayor Boris Johnson. But while in the area, the mayor managed to make a pitch for Boston moving forward with its bid to host the Olympics.

Boston has had more than 72 inches of snow in the past 30 days, breaking a record set in 1978, the National Weather Service says. The city has repeatedly been among the hardest-hit by several winter storms — and it could get another 4 to 6 inches later this week.

In a huge vacant for sale lot in the Seaport District — on which someday there will be an office building — presently sits the city’s biggest pile of snow.

It’s Boston’s largest snow farm. The snow is dumped here from all over the city. Fifteen- to 20-foot-high piles, almost as far as the eye can see, have been moved onto this lot.

A major battle is coming to a head over the fate of a century-old Boston Public School building that most recently housed the Dearborn Middle School in Roxbury.

The building is scheduled for demolition to make way for the first new school to be built in the city in more than a decade.

Gov. Charlie Baker says metro Boston's aging MBTA subway lines will be operating on an "abbreviated" schedule and not normal workday times. Commuter trains will attempt to maintain a weekday schedule, but delays are likely.

A seven-member board has been appointed to oversee eight middle schools in Springfield that are among the lowest performing schools in Massachusetts.

The board will report to the Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Springfield Superintendent of Schools.  Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said the city and the state struck a deal on control of the 8 schools in an effort to quickly improve student achievement.

For the first time, Harvard University is banning sexual relationships between faculty and undergraduates, strengthening language in its policies on sexual misconduct. The change comes as the school examines its rules and undergoes a federal review.

Last year, Harvard was among dozens of schools the Department of Education said it's investigating for how they handle sexual abuse allegations.

MGM is planning a spring groundbreaking for the $800 million resort casino the Las Vegas-based entertainment giant is building in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts. Several important steps in the complex project will happen over the next few weeks.

Although construction cranes won’t appear in the sky for several months, workers and visitors in downtown Springfield will shortly notice changes as MGM prepares the 14.5 acre site for the project that promises to transform Springfield, economically and culturally, for decades to come.

Kari Njiiri / NEPR

The head of the Springfield Catholic Diocese says a plan addressing the future of the tornado-damaged Cathedral High School has been worked out. But Bishop Mitchell Rozanski is refusing to say what that is…for now.

Rozanski says a workshop this past weekend involving parents, alumni, and faculty produced a plan he calls both optimistic and realistic. But the bishop says he now needs do his homework and due diligence, and won’t announce his decision until mid-February.

The search for jurors in the case of accused Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is taking longer than expected.

Defense attorneys say it's nearly impossible to find open-minded, unbiased jurors around Boston. They're asking yet again for the judge to move the trial somewhere else.

From the beginning, defense attorneys have argued the entire jury pool has been poisoned by what they call "a narrative of guilt" from a "tidal wave" of media coverage. Now, Tsarnaev's lawyers say jurors' own comments on a court questionnaire prove widespread bias.

Mohegan Sun

Mohegan Sun is joining a lawsuit against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission after the decision last year to award Greater Boston’s casino license to a rival. 

Standing on Boston’s Long Wharf, John Barros, the city’s chief of economic development, recalled what the site looked like in January 2014, when a nor’easter brought record high tides.

“We’re at ground zero here,” said Barros, who was part of a steering committee that spent the past year working on a plan to prepare for storms like that one, as well as the effects of climate change and rising sea levels.

“When we think about what 2-to-5 feet means, which is some of the conservative estimates of sea rise, 2 feet, this place would probably be underwater every day,” he said.

The mayor of Springfield is calling on the administration of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to end a practice by the past administration of placing homeless families in congregate housing.

An angry Mayor Domenic Sarno said de-facto group homes for homeless families have been created in apartment buildings concentrated in a handful of city neighborhoods since last fall with city inspectors finding in some cases 3-4 families living in a single apartment.

" This is absolute BS," said Sarno at a city hall news conference.

The city of Northampton, Massachusetts is planning a number of solar power projects that would further reduce the city’s carbon footprint, while providing a new source of revenue.

As soon as this summer, Northampton is likely to join dozens of other municipalities in the state that have turned old landfills into solar farms. And, in what appears to be a first in western Massachusetts at least, solar arrays may pop up at some municipal parking lots, according to Chris Mason, the city’s energy officer.

UMass Amherst will replace its on-campus textbook store later this year with a virtual store operated by Amazon.

  Under a five-year contract Amazon will provide online textbook ordering through the UMass Amherst website, operate an on-campus pick up location and provide free delivery to off campus addresses in Amherst and five surrounding communities.  UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said the change is being made to save students money.

  "Up to about $380 annually per student based on national estimates of what students pay for books," said Blaguszewski.

The Springfield, Massachusetts city council is considering an ordinance that would put restrictions on public officials obtaining jobs at the new MGM casino being built in the city.

Under a proposed municipal ethics ordinance, the city’s elected officials—the mayor and 11 city councilors – would be barred for at least five years from obtaining a job at the MGM casino after leaving the city’s employment.  Non-elected officials who are considered “major policymakers” would face a two-year ban.

The Massachusetts doctor who was cured of the deadly Ebola virus is going to return later this week to West Africa to work in the missionary hospital where he was infected.             

 Four months after he was declared Ebola-free, and with his strength and stamina now back, Dr. Rick Sacra will leave Thursday for Liberia, where he had spent much of the last two decades working for a missionary organization.

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The Springfield, Massachusetts city council will discuss a proposal on Monday night that would restrict the city’s mayor or councilors from working for MGM for at least five years after leaving city employment. Non-elected officials considered “major policymakers” would face a two-year ban.

The U.S. Olympic Committee has selected Boston as its official bid city for the 2024 Olympics. Good for Boston, I say, and the rest of New England.

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