Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from WBUR's daily morning newsletter, WBUR Today. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here.
We like to think WBUR is as good at reporting local news as this guy is at identifying the location of highway telephone poles. But it takes him less than a second; reading this newsletter might take you a little longer, so let’s get to it:
Maura Healey and Geoff Diehl will meet tonight for their second and final scheduled debate in the race to be Massachusetts’ next governor. The 8 p.m. debate — hosted by The Boston Globe, WCVB and your very own WBUR — will be televised on WCVB. You’ll also be able to listen live on WBUR, and we’ll have a livestream on wbur.org.
The big question: Can Diehl do anything to make it a competitive race, especially as a Donald Trump-aligned candidate in a state where Trump is deeply unpopular? Earlier this week, a Boston Globe poll showed Healey with 56% support and Diehl with 33% support.
ICYMI: WBUR’s Anthony Brooks has a full recap of the first debate between Healey and Diehl last week, which featured a heavy national focus from both candidates.
Expect more of the same tonight. Diehl’s campaign says the GOP former lawmaker will continue to link Healey to what it calls “Biden-like policies.” Meanwhile, the Democratic attorney general is expected to continue to link Diehl to “Trump-ism” and conservative policies that are out of step with most local voters.
Meanwhile, as Gov. Charlie Baker prepares to leave office this January, he’s working to further leave his mark — especially when it comes to the courts. State House News Service reports there are at least another eight judicial vacancies that the Republican could fill in the coming months. The seats include two lifetime clerk magistrate appointments, as well as replacing two Superior Court judges and two Appeals Court judges.
Zoom out: Baker has picked all seven Supreme Judicial Court justices during his two terms. According to State House News Service, the remaining vacancies are a light lift compared to the steady stream of nominees he’s already pushed through this year.
Zoom in: The Governor’s Council also quickly approved four pardons Wednesday that Baker had issued to men with decades-old criminal convictions. He said they show commitment to their communities and rehabilitation.
The Haverhill teachers strike is stretching into its fourth day today — meaning another day of no school for the city’s 7,700 students. WBUR’s Max Larkin reports that the teachers union and school committee again came close to reaching a new contract agreement yesterday but hit a stalemate over school safety issues. The local union and the Massachusetts Teachers Association both face court-ordered $50,000 fines for the strike going into today.
The good news is that the two sides have tentatively agreed to the union’s financial proposal, which school officials say put teacher salaries “on par” with similar districts.
Check out this visual chart showing how Haverhill’s salaries compare with other school districts across the state — and how they loosely correlate with teacher retention.
We’re going to have to wait a little longer for the new Washington Street bridge linking Boston’s North End and Charlestown. The Boston Herald reports that the replacement of the 124-year-old bridge won’t open to cars until the end of 2023 — and won’t fully reopen until 2024. It was originally slated to be back this coming spring.
Officials say they have good reason for the delay. Inspectors found cracks in the welding job done by contractors, “a serious issue for bridges like this.” It will take a year (and a lot of money) to fix.
Up next: MIT is planning to announce its new president this morning, replacing the institution’s current leader, L. Rafael Reif, who is stepping down at the end of the year. Head to wbur.org later for the announcement.
P.S.— Massachusetts has an official state bird, state flower — even a state muffin. And now, at long last, we have an official state dinosaur. After a social media campaign and vote, Baker signed a bill yesterday making the podokesaurus holyokensis — a “swift-footed lizard” that used to roam prehistoric Massachusetts — the state dinosaur. It may be the smallest state dino in the country, but Baker says it was “a tough, spunky underdog from Holyoke.”