After 462 days, the state of emergency that Gov. Charlie Baker declared on March 10, 2020, in response to the coronavirus will end.
As the number of coronavirus cases more than doubled to 92 and the first evidence of community transmission was found in the Berkshires, Baker at that time decided to cut short a vacation in Utah and returned to Massachusetts to declare an emergency and to begin imposing restrictions that would shape life in Massachusetts for more than a year.
“There’s no question that the efforts to mitigate the spread of this virus will be disruptive,” he said.
Up until then, the governor and other state officials had said the coronavirus risk in Massachusetts was “low.” But between “the Berkshire issue” and the increase to 92 total cases, Baker said he “would have to say the risk is increased” on the day he declared an emergency.
Compared to the 92 cumulative cases at the time the emergency was declared, Massachusetts was averaging just more than 97 new COVID-19 cases each day as of Thursday, though the limits on testing mean that it’s likely there were far more cases in March 2020 than was known at the time.
When the state of emergency is gone, it will take with it all of the pandemic policy adjustments put on the books by the governor or lawmakers and tied to the emergency declaration, like remote public meetings, eviction protections, health care flexibilities and to-go cocktails.
But when Baker announced in mid-May that the state of emergency would lift on June 15, he made clear that the end of government-mandated restrictions does not necessarily mean the end of the public health threat.
Arguing within the Massachusetts Republican Party reached a boiling point this week.
“It’s the political Twilight Zone, that’s what it is,” MassGOP Vice Chairman Tom Mountain said the morning after a contentious gathering of Republicans in Marlborough.
Warring factions of the party gathered behind closed doors and at odds over how to respond to state committee member Deborah Martell telling gay Republican congressional candidate Jeffrey Sossa-Paquette it “sickened” her that he adopted children with his husband.
At the center of the maelstrom is MassGOP Chairman Jim Lyons, a social conservative who was already in a middle of an intraparty fight over how warmly to embrace Gov. Charlie Baker, who is popular but moderate. Lyons has called Martell’s comments “offensive,” but has defended her right to express her beliefs, rooted, he says, in Catholicism.
But by refusing to demand Martell’s resignation, Lyons has heard calls from elected Republicans — including 29 of the 30 House members and seven past party chairs — for him to resign instead.
It didn’t do much to foster party unity for Lyons to accuse House Republicans, all except Billerica’s Marc Lombardo, of bowing to the “woke mob.”
Dems fighting, too
Democrats were at odds as well.
In the House, Democrats voted to reverse the order of operations for redistricting by having the Legislature redraw the boundaries of state and federal districts before cities and towns adjust their own local precincts based on new population trends.
So instead of using precincts as the building blocks for legislative and congressional districts, lawmakers in charge of redistricting would use Census blocks. Precincts would be molded to fit after the fact. The change pitched by Assistant House Majority Leader Michael Moran would also remove the June 15 deadline for municipalities to reprecinct, which no one expects them to meet because the actual Census data they need has been delayed until later this summer.
Voting and civil rights advocates agree this change will lead to more cohesive districts, but Secretary of State William Galvin, who like Moran comes from Boston’s Brighton neighborhood, has called it a “power grab” by House Democrats to strip municipalities of local control in the name of self-preservation.
Baker has said that politics is supposed to be a “team sport.” But at the moment, both teams clearly have some clubhouse issues that need to be resolved before the 2022 season starts.
Case not running
There will be at least two new faces on the Framingham City Council come 2022.
District 5 Councilor Robert Case Tuesday announced he will not seek a second term on the council. He was elected in 2020 after defeating Noval Alexander, 463-385.
“It has been my honor and privilege to serve as the District 5 councilor on the City Council,” Case said in a statement, in which he thanked District 5 residents “for putting me into office and always supporting me.”
Case went on to say that his decision was spurred by increased work commitments.
“Between work and family commitments, I would not be able to devote the time needed to fully represent the residents of District 5 for another two years,” he said.
Case’s current term will end in December.
Alexander has pulled nomination papers for the District 5 seat, according to the City Clerk’s Office.
Earlier this spring, District 7 Councilor Margareth Shepard announced she will also not seek re-election. Shepard is not seeking a third term to spend more time operating her business, Golden Cleaners, and with her family.
Deeley, Pillsbury are out
It isn’t just incumbents who have decided against running for office in Framingham this fall.
Stephanie Deeley and Jim Pillsbury, who each pulled papers to challenge two-term incumbent City Councilor Michael Cannon in District 4, said this week that they do not intend to run after all.
In a statement to supporters, Deeley said that “just pulling nomination papers seems to have been enough to shake some people up,” and that “the fact that my integrity and ethics were even called into question gave me pause, as it is completely unjustified.”
Deeley and Pillsbury serve as co-presidents of the Framingham chapter of the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan group that pushes for more informed and active participation of citizens in government.
The group organizes a series of candidates forums ahead of city elections. The Daily News has partnered with the LWV in that effort.
Offense and defense
It was a case of going on offense — and defense — for the Natick Select Board.
This week, the board voted 5-0 to approve a statement that condemned the display of a Confederate flag during a Memorial Day observance on the town common.
That was the offense.
The defense came during the same meeting. Several board members weren’t happy about Facebook posts that blasted them for not speaking out earlier against the display — specifically, during the board’s June 2 meeting, which occurred two days after the incident.
Board members said the state’s Open Meeting Law made that impossible, because agenda discussion points must be publicly posted 48 hours in advance of a meeting. In addition, other established procedures prevented the board’s repudiation of the flag display.
“I’m disappointed, angered by some of the reaction online,” said board member Paul Joseph, who along with his colleagues stressed that the body’s earlier silence does not signal an endorsement of the flag display.
“In no way, shape or form do we condone or endorse that behavior,” Joseph said.
Within about an hour of the display on Memorial Day, a joint statement condemning the action was issued by board Chairwoman Karen Adelman-Foster and state Sen. Becca Rausch, D-Needham. That, of course, was not part of a public meeting.
They said it…
“I just don’t want Framingham to be known as the pot city.” — District 7 City Councilor Margareth Shepard, commenting on a letter written to the council from a cannabis company that requests that Framingham increase its number of marijuana licenses.
“There would be nothing worse in my mind for candidates who are planning on running based on certain information to discover that suddenly they no longer live in the district they’re planning to run in.” — state Rep. Alice Peisch, D-Wellesley, speaking in favor of a bill that reverses the order of decennial reprecincting and redistricting, allowing the Legislature to redraw districts for the House, Senate, Governor’s Council and U.S. Congress before cities and towns craft their own voting precincts. Peisch pointed out that candidates must live in their districts for at least a year to get their names on the ballot.
“Any claim of urgency is a false flag intended to stifle debate and rush this legislation through. There’s technology that allows for instantaneous reformatting with the click of a mouse, so to say that we’re in a horrific time crunch and that the cities and town clerks won’t be able to get this done on a timely basis is nonsense.” — state Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, who spoke in opposition to the bill, which passed along partisan lines.
Contributors to the Political Notebook this week include Deputy Director of Multimedia Dan O’Brien, multimedia journalists Jeff Malachowski and Henry Schwan, and the State House News Service.