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Shelter money struggles

Presented by Choose Who You Use: Lisa Kashinsky's must-read rundown of what's up on Beacon Hill and beyond.
Sep 18, 2023 View in browser

By Lisa Kashinsky

Presented by

‘DRINKING FROM A FIREHOSE’ — The unexpected arrival of 49 migrants on Martha’s Vineyard last year laid bare immigration issues that are now fueling unprecedented strain on the state’s emergency Shelter system and roiling its politics.

But warning signs of the shelter crisis were already showing before the Venezuelan asylum-seekers touched down here last September.

A week or so earlier, state Sen. Julian Cyr, who co-chairs the Legislature’s public health committee, had toured Boston Medical Center, where dozens of migrants were sleeping in the emergency department each night. (BMC would later stop letting people shelter at the hospital unless they were seeking medical treatment.)

Playbook asked Cyr — who, as the senator for the Cape and islands, was also involved in the Vineyard migrant response — if anyone could have predicted that the state would now be scrambling to provide emergency housing and services for more than 6,400 families (more than a third of which are estimated to be migrants).

“Yes,” he said. “All of these issues were [already] being talked about. The trends were emerging and have continued in this direction. … The Baker-Polito folks were struggling with it then. The Healey-Driscoll folks have been really trying their best from Day One, but they’re drinking from a firehose.”

Now Gov. Maura Healey is asking the Legislature to prop up the strained shelter system — again. Lawmakers have already given Healey $410 million to buoy the shelter system through next year. They're now weighing her request for an additional $250 million, as the governor says the state is burning through some $45 million a month on shelter and services.

It’s unclear how quickly they’ll move on it. Healey’s latest ask is part of a $2 billion supplemental budget that remains under review by the House Ways and Means Committee. Representatives haven’t penciled in any formal sessions for this week. Neither have senators.

Representatives also want answers to what House Majority Leader Mike Moran described as 11 “extensive” questions on the finances and mechanics of the shelter system — a list chamber leaders sent to Healey last week in response to her administration's recent briefings on the matter. Among their queries: whether homeless individuals and families are being displaced from shelters and emergency housing to make room for migrants, and whether the emergency she declared over the migrant surge supersedes local housing ordinances and bylaws.

“It is our hope those questions get addressed in a thorough manner so we can move forward with the $250 million,” Moran told Playbook. "We want a better understanding of the $250 million — and if it's going to be another $250 million in three months."

Top House Democrats have already warned that the state can't keep pouring money into the shelter system without more help from the federal government (the Healey administration, for instance, recently secured $2 million from FEMA for shelter services).

“The state is bearing a significant cost,” Assistant Majority Leader Alice Peisch told reporters after one of the Healey administration's shelter briefings. “And at some point, that can have an impact on other services that the state provides.”

GOOD MONDAY MORNING, MASSACHUSETTS. Healey is about to roll out new climate policies just after 8 a.m. at a Clinton Global Initiative "Spotlight Session" on ocean conservation. Watch it here.

TODAY — Boston Mayor Michelle Wu attends the Raffles Boston Hotel & Residences opening at 10:30 a.m.

Tips? Scoops? Email me: [email protected].


A message from Choose Who You Use:

Last winter, customers of Massachusetts utility companies saw the largest electric rate increases in recent memory. If those customers had contracted with a retail electric provider instead, they would have saved nearly a billion dollars. Now is not the time to give the utilities a bigger monopoly in Massachusetts. Join the Choose Who You Use coalition to protect electricity choice and give Massachusetts ratepayers the ability to choose the most affordable, renewable options for them.


— PROMISES MADE, PROMISES KEPT: Maura Healey is gearing up for her first state Democratic convention as governor by reminding party activists of everything she’s accomplished over eight months in the corner office.

Healey’s campaign sent an email to supporters just minutes ago outlining the promises she made on the campaign trail and in her inaugural address that she’s already delivered on. They include appointing a climate chief, making community college free to certain students and hiring new overseers for the MBTA (though she technically blew her self-imposed 60-day deadline for hiring a transportation safety chief).

There’s not much riding on off-year conventions like Saturday’s gathering in Lowell. But it's still good for Healey to show she can fire up the Democratic base both for her own benefit and for that of Sen. Elizabeth Warren and President Joe Biden as they head to the 2024 ballot.

— “Shannon O’Brien, the state’s top cannabis regulator, suspended from role a year into her appointment,” by Matt Stout, Boston Globe: “State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg suspended Shannon O’Brien as the state’s top cannabis regulator, removing the former treasurer and one-time Democratic nominee for governor only a year after Goldberg tapped O’Brien for the position. O’Brien’s suspension throws into doubt whether she will return to lead the Cannabis Control Commission at a crucial time for the agency."


GO INSIDE THE CAPITOL DOME: From the outset, POLITICO has been your eyes and ears on Capitol Hill, providing the most thorough Congress coverage — from political characters and emerging leaders to leadership squabbles and policy nuggets during committee markups and hearings. We're stepping up our game to ensure you’re fully informed on every key detail inside the Capitol Dome, all day, every day. Start your day with Playbook AM, refuel at midday with our Playbook PM halftime report and enrich your evening discussions with Huddle. Plus, stay updated with real-time buzz all day through our brand new Inside Congress Live feature. Learn more and subscribe here.


— FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: The Boston Teachers Union is endorsing Enrique Pepén for District 5 city councilor. Pepén faces former police officer Jose Ruiz in November after incumbent Ricardo Arroyo was knocked out in last week’s preliminary election.

— FLYNN’S VIEW: Boston City Council President Ed Flynn said on WBZ’s “Keller @ Large” that voters' rejection of Arroyo and Councilor Kendra Lara shows they “want us to provide positive, ethical leadership, and to put the city back on track.” Flynn had criticized both of his colleagues ahead of the election and called on Arroyo to resign. He also backed Ruiz against Arroyo in D5.

REWIND: CommonWealth Magazine’s Jennifer Smith and I joined GBH’s Katie Lannan on “Talking Politics” to break down the state of play for Boston progressives heading into the general election.


— ENDORSEMENT CORNER: Springfield City Councilor Justin Hurst has picked up the support of one of his former rivals, psychotherapist David Ciampi, as he attempts to unseat Mayor Domenic Sarno in November.

— “In Worcester, political vandalism marks tense election season,” by Sean Cotter, Boston Globe: “Etel Haxhiaj and her family were sitting down for dinner Friday when they heard it: a bang against the side of the house. … Outside, they found a baseball in the shrubs by the porch, and the nine political lawn signs she had, for herself and others, were strewn about the yard. Also at the end of last week, another city councilor, Donna Colorio, a Republican, said her car was egged while it was outside of her home a couple of days after someone scrawled ‘racist’ on one of her signs in front of another house.” Dive deeper with the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.


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— HOW SWIFT SEES IT: Former Republican Massachusetts governors Mitt Romney and Jane Swift finally “found something to agree on” — that “both parties need a new generation of leaders,” Swift said on WCVB’s “On the Record” when asked about the Utah U.S. senator’s retirement.

"Both parties have lost their minds" if they nominate 80-year-old President Joe Biden and 77-year-old former President Donald Trump as their nominees, Swift said. “Once you hit 70, I don’t think you should be able to run for office again.”

Swift also decried federal inaction on immigration: “We have old people in charge at the federal level, but we have no grownups in charge that can come to a solution,” she said. “Until then, it is just emergency after emergency.”

And how does Swift think Democratic Gov. Maura Healey is handling that emergency, and others like last week's flash flooding in Leominster? “I think she’s doing a great job,” Swift said. She even texted Healey to say how important it is "that people see you out there" after a disaster — "and she knew it."

— “GOP hopeful sues to keep Trump off 2024 Mass. ballot,” by Christian M. Wade, Eagle-Tribune: “[L]ong-shot Texas Republican presidential candidate [John Anthony Castro] has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to keep former President Donald Trump off next year’s Massachusetts ballot.” Castro filed similar 14th Amendment-based legal challenges in New Hampshire and other states.

— “Former Attleboro City Councilor, congressional candidate [Julie Hall] running for seat on Republican state committee,” by George W. Rhodes, The Sun Chronicle.


— "In the dark: RMV records restricted with immigrant driver’s license law," by Chris Van Buskirk, Boston Herald: "The state department of transportation will no longer release driving records to the public after the implementation of an immigrant driver’s license law this summer, which has given the agency cover to deny records requests for the documents."

— "MBTA was slow to repair or replace standpipe systems used to put out fires," by Laura Crimaldi and Taylor Dolven, Boston Globe.


Enter the “room where it happens”, where global power players shape policy and politics, with Power Play. POLITICO’s brand-new podcast will host conversations with the leaders and power players shaping the biggest ideas and driving the global conversations, moderated by award-winning journalist Anne McElvoy. Sign up today to be notified of the first episodes in September – click here.


 — “Taunton mayor fines migrant hotel $1,000 per day for overcapacity amid shelter crisis,” by Kate Wilkinson, WPRI: “Taunton Mayor Shaunna O’Connell is fining the Clarion Hotel for being over capacity with migrants at the same time the state is grappling with a lack of shelter as demand grows.”

— “Questions raised about migrant housing at ICC, downtown vitality,” by Melanie Gilbert, Lowell Sun: “The anticipated repurposing of the 252-room UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center into housing for migrant families has business and community leaders worried about the economic future of Downtown Lowell.”

— "'We started getting just planes of people': Logan Airport team scrambles to help newly arrived migrants," by Gabrielle Emanuel, WBUR.


— “On tony Martha’s Vineyard, a center of Black political power grows,” by Samantha J. Gross and Tal Kopan, Boston Globe: “Martha’s Vineyard’s rich Black history, especially in and around the town of Oak Bluffs on the east shore, has made it a growing center of Black political power. Up-and-coming and established politicians alike travel there to raise money and mingle with influential players from across the country and cultural sectors. That has never been more the case than it was the past few summers.”

— “Reckoning looms over ‘home equity theft’,” by Jennifer Smith and Colman M. Herman, CommonWealth Magazine: “In late May, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of 94-year-old Geraldine Tyler, a Minnesota woman who did not get the surplus back after her condo was foreclosed on and sold off for $40,000 — $25,000 more than what she owed. … Lawmakers on Beacon Hill are moving to change the law going forward, to bring the state into compliance with the Supreme Court decision, but there’s also a very real possibility that the people who have had their equity stolen will file suit to reclaim it, which could cost cities and towns across Massachusetts millions of dollars.”

— “Cambridge City Council asked to oppose ‘Cop City’ in Atlanta, 1 thousand miles away,” by Lance Reynolds, Boston Herald.

— “Uxbridge selectman who criticized superintendent told to stay away from school buildings,” by Jeff A. Chamer, Telegram & Gazette.

— “Mass. sees uptick in births during pandemic,” by Christian M. Wade, Gloucester Daily Times.


— EYES EMOJI: Rhode Island’s term-limited attorney general, Peter Neronha, appears to be doing some early flirting with running for governor (presumably against fellow Democrat and incumbent Dan McKee) in 2026, per WPRI’s Ted Nesi.

— “Republican presidential candidates mostly overlook New Hampshire in an effort to blunt Trump in Iowa,” by Steve Peoples, The Associated Press.

— "In bid to stop Trump, one group is making different pitch to independents and Democrats: Vote GOP," by Matt Stout, Boston Globe.


A message from Choose Who You Use:

Last winter, customers of Massachusetts utility companies saw the largest electric rate increases in recent memory. If those customers had contracted with a retail electric provider instead, they would have saved close to a billion dollars. Competition means more choices for consumers. Now is not the moment to give the utility companies a bigger monopoly. Join the Choose Who You Use coalition to protect electricity choice and give Massachusetts ratepayers the ability to choose the most affordable, renewable options for them.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY — to former Rep. John Tierney, Daily Hampshire Gazette alum Emily Cutts, Jen Migliore, Kathryn Burton, Corey Lewandowski and Mark Walsh.

Want to make an impact? POLITICO Massachusetts has a variety of solutions available for partners looking to reach and activate the most influential people in the Bay State. Have a petition you want signed? A cause you’re promoting? Seeking to increase brand awareness among this key audience? Share your message with our influential readers to foster engagement and drive action. Contact Jesse Shapiro to find out how: [email protected].


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Lisa Kashinsky @lisakashinsky


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Shelter money struggles


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