Will Lancaster Board Find Common Ground on Bandstand?

December 2, 2018

THE FATE OF WHAT IS possibly the most controversial gazebo in New England may be announced at Lancaster’s next Board of Selectmen meeting.

The wooden bandstand was erected as a prop for a recent Netflix production that filmed in the town’s center this fall and was given to the town as a gift by the TV show’s producers. The gazebo was left on the historic Town Green where scenes were shot, however not everyone was happy with the location.

Several town residents shared their concerns at an October selectmen meeting, during which one audience member posed the question, “Are we going to be a town remembered for a horror movie gazebo or the beautiful green we’ve always had?”

Historical Commission Chairwoman Heather Lennon also took issue with keeping the gazebo on the green.

“Once you put the gazebo up and you start having functions, people are going to want to have benches. What kind of benches? How many? Where will they be placed?” she said at the time. “And then why not have a few statues? Or a fountain? Or an ATM machine? Where does it stop?”

HE WAS STANDING on a corner in Scottsdale, Arizona, when someone asked the governor why some Republicans may lose, and some may win.

“I don’t know why some of the federal folks didn’t talk about the economy. We sure did because we have a good story to tell,” Gov. Charlie Baker told reporters, breaking with his usual habit of avoiding national media at confabs like the Republican Governors Association meeting this week.

But while the governor slunk away to the American southwest to help his party lick its wounds and plot a strategy for 2020, the Republican Party in Massachusetts was busy wondering if the secret sauce that has worked so well for Baker is as appetizing at it seems.

Baker boasted in Arizona to his colleagues about being “the most boring governor in the history of Massachusetts.” And for Baker, boring (and distancing yourself from President Donald Trump and national Republicans) has worked.

But it has also only taken the MassGOP so far.

AFTER SIX YEARS in the chair, Kirsten Hughes told the Republican State Committee earlier this month that she would give way to new leadership of the party in January. And one of her would-be successors, Spencer Rep. Peter Durant, said Republican candidates need to feel free to be who they are and what fits with their districts.

“Charlie Baker had a good formula for winning but it doesn’t work for everyone,” Durant said. “So we need to broaden this party,” he told the News Service. Durant said it’s not enough that the MassGOP hasn’t backslid since making huge legislative gains in 2010. “You win a few. You lose a few. It’s just kind of static,” he said.

Hughes kept her decision under wraps for little over a week, all the while a competition for her job has been quietly intensifying in Republican circles.

Conservative Rep. Geoff Diehl, who is preparing to exit the Legislature after losing his campaign against U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, is still mulling his options, while his GOP colleague in the House, Durant is all in, along with MassGOP Treasurer Brent Andersen.

Andersen said he wants to “unite Republicans under Ronald Reagan’s big tent.” Baker, so far, is not getting deeply involved in the contest, though Durant said he has reached out to the governor.

IN THE REALM of big-tent uniting, Attorney General Maura Healey and federal regulators stepped out of the way of a megamerger in the health care space this week, allowing Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Lahey Health to join together.

Beth Israel Lahey Health System is now poised to become THE competitor to PartnersHealth Care, but the green light from Healey didn’t come without conditions. The new system will be subject to a seven-year price cap and $71.6 million in financial commitments over eight years to support health care services for low-income and underserved communities, among other stipulations.

The Federal Trade Commission said it was a “close call” whether to allow the merger to proceed, but came down against intervention because the end result may prove to be an instructive test case.

“We will continue to keep a watchful eye on this and other health care transactions and take action as appropriate,” the agency said.

COLUMBIA GAS WAS also under close scrutiny this week as U.S. Sen. Edward Markey brought the Senate Commerce Committee to Lawrence for a hearing into the deadly Merrimack Valley gas disaster in September that still has families cooking on hot plates.

The promises of recompense forthcoming from Columbia Gas Massachusetts President Steve Bryant and parent company NiSource President Joe Hamrock were not well received, as Congressman Seth Moulton told Bryant he should resign, Warren challenged the justification for Hamrock’s $5 million salary and Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera said Columbia Gas as a company should be dissolved.

FROM THERE, MOULTON went back to Washington to pick up his crusade to get another leader -- Nancy Pelosi -- to step down as in Democratic Minority Leader.

With many in the Massachusetts House delegation popping champagne at their good fortune with Democrats and Pelosi poised to return to power, Moulton has been mounting an undermanned coup, and it’s not going well.

Pelosi emerged from a private caucus this week as the overwhelming choice of Democrats to return as speaker, and though she still lacks the 218 votes on paper to formally become speaker in January, the resistance is waning.

The California Democrat has been unreceptive to Moulton & Co. demands that she either step aside or outline a clear transition plan to eventual new leadership. Meanwhile, Reps. Richie Neal and Jim McGovern are poised to become chairmen of influential committees, and Rep. Katherine Clark won her leadership race to become vice chair of the Democratic caucus, making her the sixth ranked Democrat in House leadership.

And whether Pelosi was trolling Moulton or not, when it came time to nominate her for speaker before the caucus, it was U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy who did the honors, the same Kennedy who was tapped by Pelosi last year to deliver the Democratic response to the State of the Union and who on Monday in Boston gave a speech about the need to embrace an economic message of “moral capitalism” to win back blue collar voters who abandoned the party for Trump in 2016.

KENNEDY WAS NOT the only Congress member giving speeches this week, either. Neal also addressed Boston business leaders at a New England Council breakfast, speaking optimistically about the prospects for a major infrastructure bill getting done in the next two years. At American University on Thursday, Warren laid out a foreign policy vision that included bringing American troops home from Afghanistan and opposing Trump’s redraft of the NAFTA trade deal.

The 2020 clock is ticking.

STORY OF THE WEEK: The merger of Beth Israel and Lahey Health, for better or worse, will disrupt a major sector of the Massachusetts economy.

All contents © copyright 2019 The Associated Press.All rights reserved.