^ the now legendary Red Line, a driverless service haunted by a real-life ghost

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Yesterday Bostonians were treated to the fact of a driverless Red Line train rumbling through four stations before having its power snuffed — and the emergency presser Governor Baker called to explain what seems to have caused it. The day before, many Bostonians took part in a conference, hosted by Lieutenant Governor Polito, on sexual assault and domestic violence crime.

Two days before that, Governor Baker led a large rally of municipal officials in support of his landmark bill to reform city and town administration. At the same time, Baker had to decide whether to terminate, or merely admonish, the DCF social worker who failed to follow procedure when overseeing the mother of Baby Bella. Meanwhile, Polito spoke to hundreds attending Massachusetts Conference for, Women.

Sometimes, administering state government looks a lot like CEO-ing a huge conglomerate of very dissimilar parts cobbled together. It’s dizzying for us, the public, to keep up with the various segments — the DCF, the RFMV, the T, DOR, Energy, Conservation, Public Safety, Economic Development, etc. — yet somehow we expect Governor Baker to command the hubbub — no sweat, baby ! After all, he campaigned as the expert manager, Mr. Fix It, who had fixed big knots and could whiz through a whole kettle of state government wigglies.

To do this — to fix all  of what needs fixing — Baker has to rely on the state’s 85,000 employees (including the Red Line conductor whose “multiple errors” seem to have enabled the ghost train); and to oversee then, he has to hope that the 2,000 or so higher-ups who he has appointed share his diligence, caution, and foresight. None is perfect at this, not Baker even; and we see just what even a slight crease in the wave gives rise to.

Meanwhile, the Baker team moves forward on matters not yet reduced to practice, policies still in the conversation stage. Baker and Polito have no peer at initiating ideas from conversation; I’ll discuss their latest after I tell of the runaway Red train.

If what we read is correct, the Red Line conductor who tied off the train’s accelerator control and failed to set the safety brake did not have evil in mind. He had readied the train to begin its trip, only to find that the signal system at Braintree terminal wasn’t working. This required him to request by-pass. T conductors request by-pass all the time; if they had no such option, trains would wait forever, stuck by signals on the fritz — an every hour occurrence somewhere in the T. Unfortunately, in order to enable by-pass the driver had to get out of his cab and flip a toggle attached to the outside of his car. So he did it, kind of in a hurry probably, forgetting to set the brake. Just an error,  can happen to anyone.

Haste does in fact make waste.

What is the T’s manager to do about this mistake ? is there ANY good response ? Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack says that henceforth a driver will not be allowed to use by-pass except in the presence of a senior T official. That would be  a huge mistake. Without driver by-pass discretion,  trains will sit forever at broken signals, and as I said above, these happen all the time. Does the T then fire the forgetful driver ? That seems a hard penalty to assess. After all, everyone forgets at some time or other.

My own feeling is that the ghost train has aroused so much attention that no one will ever forget it, least of all T conductors. The solution thus has already occurred.

And now to Lieutenant Governor Polito and the matter of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, addressed by Chapter 260 of the acts  of 2014. A link to chapter 260 provides the full language of the law : https://malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2014/Chapter260

The law calls itself an “emergency act,” and its language suggests the emergency is to get court and law enforcement personnel up to speed on how to recognize domestic and sexual assault; how to best respond to it; and, notably, to recognize that much of such violence is visited upon gay, lesbian, and transgender people.

I find it significant, considering that, in the minds of those who oppose the transgender public accommodatio0ns bill currently before the House, transgender people do not exist, to read the first paragraph of Polito’s press release : “Polito presented a report from the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence on the implementation status of Chapter 260.  In April, the council was re-launched and elevated to the Governor’s Office to improve the administration’s ability to address the important issues involving domestic violence and sexual assault.  Per Executive Order 563, the council was first tasked with the assessment and implementation of Chapter 260.”

Only the Governor can issue an Executive Order. Baker thus agreed that the emergency nature written into chapter 260 is indeed such; that said emergency includes violence against gay, lesbian, and transgender people; and that court and law enforcement personnel need, in the process of learning, to comprehend all three communities.

Polito’s press release continues : “…The report includes status updates on numerous provisions related to newly implemented trainings and reporting requirements for members of law enforcement and district attorneys.  The Trial Court will also provide biannual domestic violence training to trial court personnel and enforce a series of stricter laws for offenders, such as tougher penalties for domestic assault and limited visitations for a parent convicted of rape.  Additional support services for survivors have been enacted through the Attorney General’s Office to establish employment leave for domestic violence victims.  

“…At their first meeting in June, the Governor’s Council reviewed each provision of the legislation and created work groups whose charge included an analysis of the provisions of Chapter 260 implementation across the Commonwealth and provide recommendations.  Today …the Council reported on the substantial accomplishments by agencies in the areas of training, guidance to law enforcement and courts, and development of materials and resources for victims and perpetrators.  It also notes areas for improvement and contains recommendations.  The section summaries were developed with assistance from Jane Doe Inc. and the Attorney General’s Office, and the section statuses and recommendations were developed by the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.”

Much, if not most, domestic violence and sexual assault occurs in private places, or in social gathering spots — the most difficult loci to monitor without overreaching by police persons. Almost all violence against transgender people occurs in such locations. The energy being devoted to this urgency by Polito, by Attorney General Healey and by the entire legislature — chapter 260 was enacted unanimously — makes it all the more inexplicable that the legislature has not yet seen fit to enact transgender public accommodations protection for fear of a small number of persons who deny that transgender is even a thing.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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