School Building Authority is called to heel

Pam Hatchfield removed a newspaper from a State House time capsule in January.
Pam Hatchfield removed a newspaper from a State House time capsule in January.Brian Snyder/Reuters/File

State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg has begun her tenure with a crackdown on the Massachusetts School Building Authority, an agency she controls and one that has become a battleground for political and personal infighting.

Goldberg, who was sworn in six weeks ago, immediately moved to put one her top deputies, Maureen Valente, in charge of the agency. The treasurer has created a new position, CEO, which Valente will fill, with the charge of getting the place under control.

"In our review of MSBA, we discovered some internal organizational conflicts that are unproductive and potentially harmful to the mission of the agency," Goldberg said in a statement to the Globe.


Her office declined to offer more details.

At the center of it all is its $156,000-a-year executive director Jack McCarthy, who is at odds with board member Greg Sullivan, his onetime mentor and friend. When Sullivan was the state's inspector general, McCarthy was his chief of staff, confidant, and commuting companion.

Now McCarthy is so angry he wants his old pal removed from the board, saying Sullivan is occupying a seat reserved for a construction expert.

What sparked all this?

Sullivan raised some sharp questions over the Boston school-building plans that McCarthy and the board were developing, including a $270 million redo of the Josiah Quincy Upper School that also called for folding in the Boston Arts Academy.

That project — which would have been the most expensive school ever constructed in Massachusetts — was being pushed by then-mayoral candidate John Connolly, whose father, former secretary of state Michael J. Connolly, employed McCarthy as a top aide. The younger Connolly was hoping to deliver the new school complex to the Chinatown community, a key constituency in the race for mayor. His major rival, Marty Walsh, was skeptical.

Displaying those skills that made him by all accounts the state's most effective inspector general, Sullivan — who can bore a dog off a meat wagon with his detailed explanations of state construction issues — worked behind the scenes to block the SBA board's approval, often creating a ruckus at board meetings and fraying his relationship with McCarthy.


The board put the brakes on the project last September.

McCarthy and Sullivan declined to comment.

Sullivan has also used his expertise and skills to sharply question the city's $70 million project to tear down the historic Dearborn Middle School in Dorchester and replace it with an upgraded facility.

Valente will have her hands full. But Goldberg, according to her staff, is intent on getting things under control, believing the agency, which has made over $11 billion in reimbursements to the state's school districts for school construction, is critical to the state's economy.

Frank Phillips — Frank Phillips

Movie tax credit debate — the sequel

Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker sat at a small, round table with his opponent for the GOP nomination — Tea Party favorite Mark Fisher — and WBUR host Bob Oakes.

It was a debate that wouldn't get much notice; Baker was the heavy favorite in the race. But there were some interesting moments.

At one point, Oakes asked whether the state should keep its film tax credit. It's a boon to Hollywood studios who want to shoot in Massachusetts, but there is debate about its economic value to the state.

"The film tax credit has been capped, which I think is a good idea," Baker said. "The one thing I do think is once you establish a tax policy, you probably ought to maintain it for some period of time. I think the worst thing you can do with tax policy is to constantly rewrite it and rearrange it, because the message you then send to all businesses is you basically can't be depended upon."


Well, seven months later, Governor Baker is proposing a pretty substantial rewrite: He wants to phase out the film tax credit altogether. He says the state should use the savings to double its earned income tax credit, which benefits low-income workers.

Movie and television industry types are raising the very concern Baker raised in the August debate: Killing the film tax credit will send the wrong message to business.

Baker's reply?

"The governor," said spokesman Tim Buckley, "supports a consistent tax policy that supports low-income workers over Hollywood movie studios."

David ScharfenbergDavid Scharfenberg

Romney wades into Utah GOP fight

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, now officially a resident of Utah, this week inserted himself into an intense debate between state lawmakers and the Utah Republican Party.

The state GOP's executive committee recently voted unanimously to hold presidential caucuses instead of a presidential primary. The Legislature, meanwhile, is pushing the party to move away from that complicated system. Now the party is now suing the state over a compromise plan.

In letters hand-delivered to Utah Governor Gary Herbert and legislative leaders, Romney urged them to quickly pass a bill that would move away from the caucus system and instead bring back a presidential primary and fund it. The legislative deadline to pass the bill is next week.


"Every Utah voter deserves to have their vote counted in the selection of the Republican Party's nominee for president in 2016. It is among the most critical responsibilities and privileges of citizenship," Romney wrote. "Having participated in presidential election processes nationwide, it is clear to me that the more citizens involved, the better the result."

Romney, readers will recall, had particularly good luck with the primary system in Utah. He won the state's 2012 presidential contest with 93 percent of the vote.

James Pindell — James Pindell

Capuano is shocked, shocked

Hearings on federal monetary policy rarely get laughs — or open eyelids, for that matter. But US Representative Michael Capuano, a Somerville Democrat, tried to offer a rare bit of levity in a recent congressional grilling of Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen.

Republicans on the House Financial Services committee accused Yellen this month of cozying up to the White House. When Capuano had his chance to speak, he referenced "Casablanca" and screamed, "I'm shocked, shocked, I tell you, that you were actually meeting with the president or the secretary of the treasury or anyone else. You should be sitting in a closet making these decisions on your own."

But he wasn't done yet. "I am personally shocked that you or anyone else would care about growing income inequality," Capuano said, a further dig on Republicans' assaults. "What a terrible, terrible thing to care about."

Yellen hid a smile.

Jessica MeyersJessica Meyers

An audience with the governor

It's a new day on Beacon Hill. The governor is meeting with the Republican legislative caucus again. The minority caucus of the Legislature last week had a sit-down meeting with Governor Charlie Baker, after being cast out in the wilderness for the past two terms under Democrat Deval Patrick.


"There was actually a round of applause for the governor having the first meeting with us in eight years," said House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones Jr. He also pointed to the growing ranks of the minority party, which picked up two seats in the Senate and six in the House in November. "It was also nice to have 40 Republican legislators," Jones said. (The Democrats have 160.) "It's been a while since we had that many."

Stephanie EbbertStephanie Ebbert

You, too, can see what’s inside

More time capsule!

When Museum of Fine Arts conservator Pam Hatchfield carefully plucked newspapers and coins from a brass box long stashed beneath the State House cornerstone, there were television cameras, newspaper reporters, and assorted tweeters on hand to capture every moment.

Now, two months later, the museum is putting all the contents — from a medal depicting George Washington to a silver plaque believed to be engraved by Paul Revere — on display.

The exhibit, running from March 11 to April 22, will be housed in the museum's Art of the Americas Wing, right in front Thomas Sully's dramatic painting "The Passage of the Delaware," depicting Washington on horseback in 1776.

That is the very spot where Hatchfield used a porcupine's quill, among other tools, to pull apart the capsule in January.

Governor Samuel Adams, Revere, and William Scollay, a colonel in the Revolutionary War, sandwiched the original contents between two sheets of lead and placed them under the cornerstone 220 years ago, marking the start of the State House's construction.

The capsule was first unearthed in 1855 when a group of workers building an addition to the building stumbled upon them. The contents were cleaned and cataloged. Officials added newspapers and coins from their own era and stashed everything in a brass box.

The capsule will be reburied when the exhibit is complete.

David ScharfenbergDavid Scharfenberg