Richard Taylor — longtime fixture of the black business community and former state secretary of transportation — would appreciate it if everyone would just shut up about the fried chicken.
A few years ago Taylor owned a Popeyes across the street from Fenway Park, the one later famously patronized by Josh Beckett and John Lackey. The venture did not go well. Taylor was fined by the state in 2010 for failing to pay his employees, many of them struggling immigrants. Eventually his restaurant ended up with new ownership that did not include him.
“It was a business I never should have been in,” Taylor said last week, groaning. “I hope I don’t have to hear about it every time I try to do something.”
I mention all this because the “something” Taylor is now seeking is far more ambitious: a partnership with the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. in its effort to land a second term running the state’s commuter rail service. A French-owned company named Keolis is also competing for that contract.
The battle between MBCR and Keolis had been, until recently, a typical state contract battle — which is to say, of interest to about 37 people, many of whom have done business with or against each other for decades. But now the commuter rail contract has, with little notice, become something else: a racially charged lightning rod.
The first sign that the commuter rail contract was heading into unexpected territory came a couple of weeks ago, when a group of ministers led by the Rev. Bruce Wall released a letter questioning Keolis's track record on diversity in its overseas operations. A second letter stressed neutrality, maintaining that the ministers were not supporting MBCR or Keolis, though their actions could only bolster the bid by MBCR.
Now MBCR has joined forces with Taylor and a group of partners who say they have formed a company called Tubman Transit LLC. If MBCR succeeds in winning the commuter rail contract for a second time, it says, Tubman Transit LLC will operate a new $65 million train maintenance facility in Hyde Park. In addition, MBCR says it would move its headquarters, now located downtown, to Roxbury.
Meanwhile, the Keolis group remains tight-lipped about its plans, other than to say it plans to enter into a partnership with community colleges to train transportation workers. Beyond that, a spokesman has maintained that procurement rules preclude discussing the company’s outreach plans.
Access to jobs is a huge issue, and an extremely legitimate consideration. But MBCR's sudden public announcement of plans that had previously been under seal reflects a certain desperation.
It’s unusual to see ministers involved in a fight over a state contract, typically the domain of elected officials. When the Tubman Transit plan was announced, some of them wondered if they had naively been drawn into a messy battle, one that seems to be playing on racial issues. At the least, they wondered why they had been left in the dark about MBCR's plans. They are right to want minority participation and a fair opportunity at sharing the wealth, but aren’t convinced this is the group to deliver that.
T officials are expected to recommend a winner for the contract in the next few weeks. Here’s a thought: Maybe the contract should go to the company that can do the best job of making the trains run on time. Amid the drama, that consideration has nearly faded from view.
If the public decides you should not be held accountable for what you did as a drunken 17-year-old, some wondered, what message does that send today’s 17-year-olds?Continue reading »
Lost and alone, Deb made a decision to reclaim the only home she’d ever had, whatever the risk.Continue reading »
The gas lines that wend through the state, beneath city streets, and into people’s homes are overseen by a patchwork of bureaucracies and a regulatory system that largely trusts utility companies to police themselves.Continue reading »
A man later called police and said he had “accidently left the child” in a shopping cart after a trip to the store.Continue reading »
The bizarre case of a Red Sox division title banner that went missing came to an end Wednesday when a Malden man who says he found it in Somerville brought it to Fenway Park.Continue reading »
Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound in Southwest Harbor can no longer let customers request meat from lobsters sedated with marijuana.Continue reading »
Monday will see the launch of a massive gas pipeline replacement project and the distribution of thousands of space heaters.Continue reading »
The civil commitment release procedure for sex offenders has been under scrutiny since two psychologists concluded that convicted child rapist Wayne Chapman, 70, was no longer sexually dangerous and could be set free.Continue reading »
In Boston, a high temperature Saturday was 73 degrees at 2 a.m., and gradually dropped to a 68 degrees by 3:59 p.m., the National Weather Service said.Continue reading »