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National Guard expands school transportation assistance as Boston continues to pass

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National Guard expands school transportation assistance as Boston continues to pass

The National Guard is expanding its school transportation assistance to more cities and towns, but Boston still hasn’t taken up the state’s offer to help with its busing issues, which one school committee member called a “fiasco.”

National Guard members who transport students in 7D vans are providing assistance in 13 districts, up from 11 with the addition of Haverhill, Revere, Wachusett and Worcester, the Guard announced Thursday.

But Boston Public Schools hasn’t jumped on the offer despite a bumpy start to the school year with many kids left lingering at bus stops and arriving late to school.

A district spokeswoman cited several reasons for passing on the offer, saying BPS does not currently have 7D vans in its fleet and National Guard drivers are not fully trained to serve its student population, such as those with special needs.

In addition, National Guard assistance is short term, which could pose more disruption and transition when it is terminated, according to BPS.

On-time bus performance on the first day of school was 57%. As of this week, it is about 90% on average.

However, parent complaints are still rolling in, school committee member Rafaela Polanco Garcia said during a Wednesday meeting.

Member Ernani DeAraujo called the bus issues “a fiasco” that happens every year.

DeAraujo continued, “I’m not going to vote in favor of a policy or of a collective bargaining agreement with respect to the busing policy until I have in writing, verifiable, that all of these stakeholders are aligned to make sure the fiasco that we have happen every year doesn’t happen again. … I’m not confident that we’re anywhere near that.”

The comments from the school committee members followed an announcement from BPS Superintendent Brenda Cassellius that she will form a working group on transportation.

The group of BPS employees, students, teachers and community stakeholders will be tasked with coming up with solutions to on-time performance, operational concerns and finding a 30% cost reduction so those dollars can go toward other education costs, Cassellius said.

BPS has continued to hire more drivers and bus monitors and has consolidated routes.

“Although we have made some progress, we know that any missed stop or late bus is one too many,” Cassellius said.

She identified several problem areas the working group will tackle including start times, route assignments, the hiring process and collective bargaining agreements.

“I am forming this group because I believe it will take political will and public support to make these necessary changes,” Cassellius told the school community.

She later added, “It is a big challenge and a big task ahead to begin to think about and reimagine Boston Public Schools and the transportation operational issues we have each and every year.”

BPS currently has 664 active drivers with 628 buses operating daily.

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Suspect arrested after attempted shooting in Encore Casino parking garage

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Suspect arrested after attempted shooting in Encore Casino parking garage

A trip to Encore Casino in Everett ended unluckily for Steven Gonzalez, 33, who was arrested after allegedly firing shots at a group of men after a fight.

A State Police spokesperson said that, on Dec. 1, the State Police Gaming Enforcement Unit and Everett Police officers responded to a report of shots fired in Encore’s garage. When they arrived, the group found ballistic evidence, but no victims, leading them to believe that no one was struck by gunfire.

A later investigation revealed the alleged shooter to be Gonzalez, who police say fired multiple rounds at a group of men following an altercation. After he shot at them, Gonzalez fled on foot and was later picked up by someone in a motor vehicle.

The Malden District Court granted a warrant charging Gonzalez with armed assault with intent to murder, discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building, carrying a firearm without a license and unlawful possession of ammunition.

Although Gonzalez’s last known address was in Peabody, he was not immediately found in the aftermath of the shooting. A team comprising the Massachusetts State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section Troopers, Gaming Enforcement Unit Troopers, members of a U.S. Marshals Task Force and Everett and Salem Officers used intelligence to locate Gonzalez at a Salem apartment. He was arrested there without incident, and transported to the Salem Police Department for booking.

An Encore spokesperson confirmed the incident but declined to comment further pending the ongoing investigation.

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Revolution playmaker Carles Gil named MLS MVP

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Revolution playmaker Carles Gil named MLS MVP

The MLS electorate is diverse by design but it spoke with one voice in favor of New England Revolution midfielder Carles Gil.

The Revs’ star was presented with the Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player Award on Tuesday afternoon during a ceremony inside the Optum Field Lounge at Gillette Stadium.

The event was hosted by former Revolution striker Taylor Twellman, an ESPN soccer analyst who won the award with New England in 2005, and Revolution owner Robert Kraft, team president Brian Bilello and sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena participated in the presentation.

Gil was accompanied by his wife Maria and the proceedings included video highlights of his big plays from the Revolution’s historic 2021 regular season, which saw the team win its first Supporters Shield with an MLS record 73 points.

The Landon Donovan recipient is selected by an electorate of current MLS players, club technical staff members and the media, and Gil won each faction in a landslide. With 37% of the players’ vote, he was the only one to reach double digits. Gil also got 57.6% of the vote from club officials and 61.6% from the media. Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar, Seattle’s Joao Paulo, Sporting Kansas City’s Daniel Salloi and Valentin Castellanos of New York City FC rounded out the top five.

“The award is voted on by really three groups,” said Bilello. “It is the players, sporting staffs from the different clubs and the media that covers soccer in our country and Carles won all three of those votes running away.

“Whether it is Carles’ peers, whether it is his foes or the media which covers the teams, all of them unanimously chose Carles as their MVP for the season.”

Gil had the numbers to win over the undecideds. The 29-year-old Spaniard led MLS in several significant offensive categories including 18 assists, an MLS record 130 chances created, 25 big chances created, 81 chances created in open play and 49 chances created from set pieces.

The Revolution were 10-2-4 when Gil scored a goal, 22-0-7 when he recorded an assist and 5-0-1 when he had a goal and an assist. Great playmakers need finishers and Gil had his choice of three phenomenal international goal scorers in Adam Buksa (Poland), Gustavo Bou (Argentina) and Tajon Buchanan (Canada).

Buksa led the team with 16 goals in the regular season while Bou was tied for fourth in MLS with 24 combined goals and assists. Buchanan had eight goals and five assists in 27 games. Bou and Buchanan were Gil’s targets in open play while Buksa was his header of choice on set pieces.

Buksa and Bou were the goal scorers in the Revs’ 2-2 shootout loss (5-3) to NYCFC in the MLS Cup Eastern Conference semifinal on Nov. 30 at Gillette Stadium.

“It is a pleasure to play with those types of players and all of them really are incredible to me,” said Gil, who showed emotion during his acceptance speech.

“They make my role easier with the guys we have up top. Adam has a great game in the air and can capitalize on those passes and Gustavo and Tajon are incredible players.”

Arena, who was named MLS Coach of the Year, has a unique perspective on the award as he has coached Gil for parts of three seasons and Donovan over seven campaigns (2008-2014) with the LA Galaxy. While Donovan was a finishing forward and Gil creates scoring chances in the midfield and on set pieces, they were both impact players in their own right according to Arena.

“Landon was goal scorer and Carles is a supplier of goals,” said Arena. “They are both outstanding players and obviously their value to their teams were great and are great. They are different players for sure. But they are two outstanding players for sure.”

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Report: Amid COVID, demand for lab space surges, leading to higher rents

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Report: Amid COVID, demand for lab space surges, leading to higher rents

Demand for Boston-area lab space is surging, but the supply is scant, leading to soaring rents, according to a new report.

Demand is far outpacing available space in the Boston area, with a record number of large biotech and drug companies seeking 100,000 square feet amid a global race for new drug development, according to the report from CBRE, a Dallas-based commercial real estate services and investment firm.

“The Boston lab market is expanding at an unprecedented pace,” said Jonathan Varholak, the firm’s vice chairman. “With over $9.3 billion of venture capital funding having flowed into Boston area life science firms in the first three quarters of this year, demand from startups is at an all-time high. We’re seeing record-setting rents and historically low vacancies as a result.”

The vacancy rate for existing lab and research and development space is just 1.1% in the Boston-Cambridge market, as average asking rents soar, jumping 7.5% to $94.62 per square foot in September compared to March 2021.

In Boston and Cambridge, where vacancy is 0.1% and 0.3% respectively, the average asking rents are now $100.00 per square foot in Boston and $112.79 in Cambridge, according to CBRE. The leasing of lab space has been pushed into the suburbs, including Watertown and Route 128 West.

“As we see in housing, space is scarce,” said Joe Boncore, CEO of the industry group MassBio. “But as we add more space to the economy, we expect the price of lab space to level off.”

Ten million square feet of lab space is under construction in the Boston area, which includes 9.3 million square feet of “spec” construction, where developers broke ground with no tenants signed at the time, the report said. Six million square feet is expected to deliver by the end of next year, and 3.2 million square feet is being converted from other uses such as office or warehouse space.

In Boston, life sciences employment has grown faster than the U.S average over the past 15 years, although Boston has only about a sixth of the life sciences employment as Middlesex County, including Cambridge, Waltham, Lexington, among others. Yet Boston has grown more rapidly over the past year: 7.5% vs. 5.2%, according to CBRE.

“Life sciences labs quickly have become a highly sought-after property type for both tenants and investors,” said Ian Anderson, CBRE’s Americas Head of Office Research. “This intense demand for lab space is the natural result of a global push for new medicines begetting strong funding and hiring in the life sciences sector.”

Global demand for vaccines for COVID-19 and viruses like it has led to initial public offerings for life sciences companies in the on pace for a record year, raising roughly $13 billion, according to CBRE.

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