Entries by Kaila Webb

Commuter Rail Twitter Reveals History of Delays

An easy way to bond with fellow Bostonians is to complain about commuter rail. While it’s often regarded as unreliable, unexplainable, and unresponsive, a weakness in the transparency of MBTA performance data makes these claims no more than conjecture. True, the agency has made vast improvements in making its operation public in recent years, but […]

The Opioid Crisis’ Wealth Window: There’s a Network of Overdoses on the East Coast

Billerica, Massachusetts is a quaint town of 40,000 people in Middlesex County, the 25th richest county in the nation, right after Rockwall County, Texas, according to the 2016 American Community Survey.   Billerica’s town government spends its time improving their Yankee Doodle Bike Path and protecting their local wetlands. Their Council on Aging even gives out […]

A Wealth of Data: A Map of the Massachusetts Opioid Epidemic

In 2016, the rate of opioid overdose deaths in Massachusetts was more than double the national average (29.7 compared to 13.3 per 100,000 people). But Massachusetts doesn’t follow the usual trend for its users. Other states (like Alabama, Kentucky, and West Virginia) struggle hardest in rural communities, where increased availability and social networks make addiction […]

Got Milk? The Answer Might Soon Be No in Massachusetts

It’s not a good time to be a dairy farmer in Massachusetts, and it hasn’t been for years. As of 2016, 90 percent of the Commonwealth’s dairy farmers reported enrollment in federal aid programs. Their economic situation became especially critical in 2009, when the recession pushed milk prices to record lows, and farmers sold their […]

A Public Transit that Neglects Its Public

Two of a community’s most important hubs are its colleges and hospitals. Higher education keeps a population vibrant and upwardly mobile, while access to health care keeps them well. Pioneer Institute’s municipal website, MassAnalysis, classifies Lowell, Lawrence and New Bedford as peers based on population density and size.  For these cities, each with over 20 […]

Troop F Gets an A: State Auditor Overlooks DSP Corruption, Neglects Audits

The Office of the State Auditor’s (OSA’s) website describes our current auditor, Suzanne Bump, as “the chief accountability officer for state government in Massachusetts and its residents.” The OSA’s enabling statute requires the department to audit all 700 departments and organizations of the government at least once every three years. Yet in her seven years […]

“Isn’t Everything Online and Free?” The Exclusivity of MA Law Libraries

There are 15 Trial Court Law Libraries in Massachusetts to service the Commonwealth’s 6.8 million residents. Publicly funded, they are a resource on Massachusetts laws for attorneys, judges, and the public. On the libraries’ website under the “What You Need to Know” section, they ask the question: “Isn’t everything online and free?” Their response: no. […]

Which State Employees Make More than the Boss?

In 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Corrections had 20 employees who were paid more than the commissioner’s salary of $159,645. Among these 20, the median income was $172,491. This highly-paid group accounted for $1.2 million in overtime spending — enough to hire seven more employees at that six-figure median salary.   Pioneer Institute wanted to […]

Why Did the Department of Corrections Pay a Chef $166,762 last year?

Pioneer Institute’s MassOpenBooks transparency tool shows an employee listed in the Department of Corrections payroll as a “corrections officer/chef” with an income of $166,762 in 2017. His regular pay was $95,051, with $66,991 in overtime and $4,719 paid as “other”. His regular pay seems to have only been increased to adjust for inflation. His overtime, […]

Can State Pensioners Pay for Future Medically Necessary Long-term Care?

At some point many people find themselves needing help to care for themselves. For the elderly, nursing homes provide that help, either temporarily or on a long-term basis.   In 2014, there were 1.4 million individuals in nursing homes nation-wide, with 41,255 of them in Massachusetts. Nursing home residents accounted for 3.7 percent of citizens […]