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Speed limits on Denver’s neighborhood streets would drop to 20 mph if councilman’s push succeeds

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Speed limits on Denver’s neighborhood streets would drop to 20 mph if councilman’s push succeeds

Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post

Contractor Tracy Barker installs a warning beacon on a speed-limit sign in Denver on Wednesday, May 27, 2009.

Denver drivers could soon see speed limits on every neighborhood street drop from 25 mph to 20 mph if an upcoming City Council measure is successful.

The proposal, which Councilman Paul Kashmann plans to introduce in the next month, follows more than two years of campaigning by a local advocacy group to reduce speeds in Denver’s residential areas and an effort by the city to eliminate traffic deaths.

The change to thousands of Denver’s streets could be implemented as soon as next year.

“We get neverending calls from neighborhood residents that cars are going too fast,” Kashmann said. “Part of what we can do is encourage people to slow down.”

City data shows that the per-capita rate of traffic deaths has grown steadily from 5.7 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2012 to 8.4 deaths per 100,000 people n 2019.

Fewer people died or were seriously injured in traffic crashes last year than the previous year as people stayed home at the beginning of the pandemic, but the rates of injuries and deaths have rebounded in 2021, data published by the city shows.

Sixty-six people have died in traffic crashes so far in 2021 and 296 more people have been seriously injured. That’s an average of 36 people injured or killed every month, which exceeds the rate seen in 2019.

Reducing speed limits is a relatively easy, cheap and effective way to quickly prevent traffic injuries and deaths, said Jill Locantore, executive director of Denver Streets Partnership, which has pushed for the speed limit reduction since 2019. But the speed reductions need to be followed by additional infrastructure, like speed humps and raised intersections, she said.

“It’s a statement of values, saying we value safety and human life over the convenience of driving,” Locantore said.

The proposal comes four years into the Denver government’s five-year plan to eliminate traffic deaths in the city by 2030. The plan, Vision Zero, states reducing speed is a priority and cites a study that shows there is a 13% chance a pedestrian will be seriously injured or killed if struck by a car traveling 20 mph. That chance increases to 40% if the car is traveling at 40 mph.

If Kashmann’s proposal is successful, it will take the city between three and five years to swap out the more than 2,700 signs stating the speed limit is 25 mph, said Nancy Kuhn, spokeswoman for the Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure.

The department does not have an estimate on how much it will cost to replace the signs, nor does it have money earmarked to do that. Neighborhood streets are typically smaller streets without any yellow center lines.

Kashmann said reducing the speed limit is not a silver bullet and that further changes to street design are necessary.

Reducing speeds is the best way to reduce the risk and severity of injury on roads, said Wes Marshall, associate professor of civil engineering and affiliate professor in urban and regional planning at the University of Colorado Denver.

“Changing the speed limit is a baby step, but the reality is people drive the speed the road is designed for,” he said.

Factors like road width and whether there are cars parked along the street have a greater impact on how fast drivers go, Marshall said.

“We need to make it difficult to drive 20 or 25 mph, and that’s where we get the impacts,” he said.

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Shelley Joseph’s appeal goes before First Circuit Court of Appeals

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Shelley Joseph’s appeal goes before First Circuit Court of Appeals

Suspended Newton Judge Shelley Joseph’s case finally went before the First Circuit appeals panel with justices questioning why she let an illegal immigrant escape from ICE agents in her court.

The panel questioned the intent behind Joseph’s actions, according to the National Law Journal. “Judicial immunity” was front and center at the hearing Monday.

“The way you laid out the case, you would say that there was no possible argument for corruption. But suppose that that is a jury issue, and the government says, ‘Actually we can and we’ll make a case of corruption.’ And so there are issues of fact, and that makes this fall into the usual category that you can never dismiss an indictment if there are issues of fact,” said Judge Sandra Lynch, the Journal reported.

No decision was announced. Joseph is trying to overturn a lower court’s denial of her appeal to have all her charges dismissed.

Joseph, still receiving her $184,000-a-year paycheck while facing a federal obstruction of justice charge, is accused of aiding an illegal immigrant’s escape from an ICE agent in her Newton district courtroom in 2018.

Retired court officer Wesley MacGregor is also facing the charge for allegedly leading the illegal immigrant through the courtroom’s lockup and exit.

The Journal reported the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts has argued that Joseph and MacGregor were corrupt because the purpose of their actions was to “frustrate the ICE agent.” The feds add judicial immunity typically extends only to civil cases, not criminal ones.

In a motion filed last year, Joseph criticized an alleged “extraordinary sweetheart deal” granting immunity to the illegal immigrant’s defense attorney, who Joseph pins as the “architect and ringleader” of the plan to allow his client’s escape through the courthouse lockup.

Joseph’s motion filing also alleged claims of bias by then-U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling in a Herald op-ed and television interview as well as former President Donald Trump’s public criticism of judges.

Thomas Hoopes, Joseph’s attorney, also cited in the motion 16 interviews of Todd Lyons, ICE Boston acting field director, by Herald columnist Howie Carr dating back to September 2018.

Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins has been nominated by President Biden to take over at the federal court in Boston now that Lelling is gone. A vote on her appointment is now heading to the full Senate. Rollins advanced through a preliminary vote in the U.S. Senate last week.

But Republicans, most centrally Arkansas U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, are seeking to make an example out of the progressive Rollins, making her the avatar of what Cotton characterized as “pro-criminal Soros prosecutors” hell-bent on “destroying our legal system from the inside.”

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Michelle Wu calls reinstatement of Boston Police officer fired over allegations of racial slurs ‘unacceptable’

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Michelle Wu calls reinstatement of Boston Police officer fired over allegations of racial slurs ‘unacceptable’

Mayor Michelle Wu is calling the reinstatement of a police officer who was accused of calling a group of Roxbury Prep students racial slurs “unacceptable” but said her hands are tied by union contract language that prevents her from intervening.

“It’s unacceptable that this officer was brought back on after the actions that were taken and that the city’s department took as well. An important part of how we are looking to contract negotiations for public safety will involve changes in policy here,” Wu told a Herald reporter, following an unrelated event at City Hall on Monday.

The Herald first reported on Friday that Officer Joseph Lynch is in the process of being reinstated following a decision in September, per a November memo from the city’s legal department obtained by the newspaper.

An arbitrator ruled that the Boston Police Department must reinstate Lynch, saying that the officer was just giving a “truthful accurate report” to school staff at the time of the alleged incident in the summer of 2019, per the memo from legal adviser Anthony Rizzo.

Lynch was fired following a BPD investigation for conduct unbecoming a department employee, unreasonable judgment, and the use of racial epithets, but the arbitrator ruled the department “did not have just cause to terminate.”

Boston Police union contracts expired in June 2020 and remain unfinished business. For the newly sworn-in Wu administration, negotiations represent an opportunity to inject unprecedented levels of police accountability and transparency in a department rife with scandal.

Wu said current contract language prevents her “from stepping in on situations where an arbitrator has made a decision.”

Union officials did not respond to questions.

The last year has exposed a police overtime abuse, covering up of allegations of child rape by former Boston Police Patrolman Association’s former president Patrick Rose and buried reports of domestic abuse by former Police Commissioner Dennis White, who was quickly appointed by former mayor Martin Walsh on his way out the door to serve as President Biden’s labor secretary in Washington.

Lawmakers in Boston and on Beacon Hill have taken steps in the past year to bring greater accountability and consequence to police forces long protected by powerful unions and the contracts they procure.

A state-run Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission will begin certifying police officers next year and decertifying those with serious disciplinary allegations deemed credible. In Boston, a Civilian Review Board charged with reviewing and recommending action on complaints will be up and running “soon,” according to Wu.

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Robbins: New winds change Mass. political landscape

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Robbins: New winds change Mass. political landscape

“The more things change, the more they stay the same,” wrote a French essayist in 1849, and the expression has become part of our common parlance. But it isn’t always true, and recent events have demonstrated that if the saying once applied to the norms of Massachusetts political life, it no longer does.

Ranked 15th among the states in population, the Bay State always punches well beyond its weight on the scale of national impact, which is why its political doings receive outsized attention. This makes sense: what happens in Massachusetts doesn’t always stay in Massachusetts, politically speaking. Four of America’s 46 presidents were born here, and seven others studied here. In the last nine presidential elections, three major party nominees – Michael Dukakis, John Kerry and Mitt Romney – were Massachusetts politicians. In 2020 alone, five candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination – Elizabeth Warren, Deval Patrick,  Michael Bloomberg, Seth Moulton and Bill De Blasio – were either Massachusetts officeholders or were raised here.

Then there are the armies of campaign operatives and public policy types that hail from the state. The result: Massachusetts politics is not only a local blood sport but an ongoing national spectacle. Just as a now defunct financial services company’s advertisements once proclaimed “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen,” so too do political professionals ascribe tea leaf qualities to what happens here.

Two recent developments have generated national attention. The election of 36-year-old City Councilor Michelle Wu as Boston’s new mayor has excited young Bostonians and communities of color, punctuating their ascendancy. The daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, Wu’s election has made it clear that the days when white men ruled Boston’s roost are over. “The old Boston is gone,” Democratic strategist Mary Ann Marsh told the Washington Post last month, “and there’s a new Boston in terms of political power.”

Census figures tell part of the story. In 1970, 79.8% of Boston’s population was comprised of non-Hispanics whites. Now it is 44.6%. Only 2.6% of Bostonians were Hispanics; now it is 18.7%. Asian Americans numbered only 1.3% of the city’s population 50 years ago. Their proportional representation has increased almost tenfold since then.

Wu’s election has electrified Bostonians. Whip smart and seemingly limitless in her energy, the mother of two small children has been everywhere since winning the mayoralty four weeks ago. She doesn’t appear to have much choice in the matter: every group in every neighborhood in the city has been clamoring for her appearance at every ceremony that Boston’s robust holiday season has to offer, and there are a lot of them. This goes beyond the normal “Wouldn’t it be nice to have the mayor come?”; there is a slightly frenzied “Do you think we can get Michelle?” aspect that has taken hold. Nor is this simply a testament to Wu’s personal vibrancy. Her push for free public transportation, cost containment for renters and environmental protection has resonated widely.

Also marking the end of a political era was Republican Governor Charlie Baker’s announcement that he would not seek reelection. Baker is the latest in a long series of moderate Republicans who have won the governorship in dark blue Massachusetts over the past century, and he may be the last. Since his election in 2014, Baker has been one of the country’s most popular governors, not merely projecting but displaying a steady hand, decency and thoughtfulness. These qualities have not endeared him to his own state party which, like the Republican Party generally, is now dominated by election-deniers. The odds that Baker would have lost his own party’s nomination for a third term were likely a big factor in driving a good man from public service.

In Massachusetts, the Gods of Good Governance have both given and taken away, all in the same month. It’s plain that politics here has actually changed and not stayed the same.

Jeff Robbins is a Boston lawyer and former U.S. delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Commission

 

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