Regional News

News from the region from New England Public Radio, NPR, and other NPR stations.

It took Rich Scalora and his crew four days to drive from Connecticut to the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation in northwest California. Normally they’d hop on a plane and be there in a day. But this year COVID-19 forced the 10-person crew onto the road, for a drive out west that contained hints of what they’d face in California. 

Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday afternoon that certain communities defined by the state as “lower risk” for COVID transmission will soon be permitted to loosen several mandatory restrictions on gatherings and recreational activities.

The Baker administration released its decision in a statement minutes before his coronavirus press conference.

The West Branch of the Housatonic River on Mill Street in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, after an old dam was removed in the spring of 2020.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

Over the past two decades more than 60 dams have been torn down in Massachusetts with the goal of restoring river habitats and improving safety. One came down this year on the West Branch of the Housatonic River with yet another – more neighborhood-focused goal.

The Springfield City Council has voted to authorize a lawsuit seeking to force Mayor Domenic Sarno to appoint a police board of commissioners. It's the latest turn in a years-long disagreement between the council and mayor over control of the police department amid reports of officer brutality and corruption.

Berkshire County District Attorney Andrea Harrington earlier this week became the latest Massachusetts DA to publicly release a list of police officers her office tracks whose past conduct may raise questions about their credibility in court.

Harrington sent her office’s newly compiled list to staff in a memo Friday evening, and provided it to WBUR in response to a public records request.

The list contained the names of eight officers, from four different departments.

Governor Ned Lamont has called Connecticut lawmakers back to the state Capitol for a special session this week to consider allowing local election officials to begin processing absentee ballots the Friday before Election Day.

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey at left, and Republican challenger Kevin O'Connor.
Markey: Official U.S. Senate portrait by Rebecca Hammel / O'Connor: Courtesy Kevin O'Connor for U.S. Senate

President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden meet this week for their first debate. And we’re just a week away from the only scheduled U.S. Senate debate in Massachusetts between incumbent Democrat Ed Markey and Republican challenger Kevin O'Connor.

Mass. Attorney General Maura Healey is bringing criminal charges against the former superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, Bennett Walsh, and the facility’s former medical director, Dr. David Clinton, for their roles in the deadly COVID-19 outbreak that swept through the facility earlier this spring and killed 76 veterans.

Baystate Health CEO Mark Keroack.
Don Treeger / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

Massachusetts officials report the rate of COVID-19 infections in the state has been relatively steady in recent days. But the head of Baystate Health Systems says the number of patients admitted to his hospital has increased slightly during the same period.

Despite New England's progressive reputation, residential segregation still exists in communities throughout the region. 

In this second episode of a special radio series on "Racism In New England," we look at how housing laws and discrimination influence where we live — from the predominantly white states of northern New England to cities and suburbs in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

A video featuring a police encounter with a Black person -- this time a Hartford woman -- is again highlighting the tense relationship between law enforcement and the communities it serves.

About 15 years ago, Zee Johnson opened what is one of only a few Black-owned bookstores in Massachusetts. She still does outreach work in the city for Springfield's Department of Elder Affairs.
Jill Kaufman / NEPM

Walking into Olive Tree Books-n-Voices on Hancock Street in Springfield, Massachusetts, is like walking into someone’s home. It's one of only a few Black-owned bookstores in the state.

Dana Nestor and Nina Fernandes at their new Northampton, Massachusetts, house.
Karen Brown / NEPR

Home buying and selling slowed down in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, but realtors in western Massachusetts say the market has picked up. 

Mohawk Trail Regional School in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

Some western Massachusetts school districts — in areas deemed by the state to be "low-risk" for COVID-19 — are responding to a push to return to in-person learning.

Connecticut Bill Would Invite Competition To Run Energy Efficiency Programs

Sep 23, 2020

A proposal buried at the end of Connecticut’s so-called “take back our grid” legislation would potentially make utilities compete for control of the energy efficiency programs they’ve operated for more than 20 years. 

And that has some lawmakers and contractors asking: Why?

Shane Dillon attends his school in Springfield, Massachusetts, from home.
Christine Dillon

Updated at 12:35 p.m.

At the end of the first week of this log-in-from-your-bedroom school year, Shane Dillon said it isn’t bad — yet.

Judge Nullifies Firing Of Bennett Walsh As Head Of Holyoke Soldiers' Home

Sep 22, 2020
Bennett Walsh, superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, speaking at a memorial service in 2017.
The Republican / masslive.com/photos

Updated at 5:17 p.m. 

Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders did not have the authority to fire Holyoke Soldiers' Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh following a COVID-19 outbreak at the home, and Walsh's termination should be considered void, a Hampden County judge ruled Monday.

Union officials are raising concerns that retail giant Amazon is unnecessarily exposing Connecticut residents to COVID-19 -- as well as taking jobs they believe should go to local workers.

State officials are stepping up pressure on school districts to resume in-person schooling as soon as possible this fall, even as they have signaled deference to local control.

Local authorities say the latest escalation poses a threat to months of detailed planning, and could force risky changes even after the school year has begun.

AJAY SURESH / CREATIVE COMMONS / FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/AJAY_SURESH

A western Massachusetts group focused on opioid abuse is offering this week the first in a series of online trainings on administering an opioid overdose reversal drug.

U.S. Representative Richard Neal, at an event promoting participation in the U.S. Census, outside the Sergeant Kevin A. Dupont Memorial Middle School in Chicopee, Massachusetts, on September 18, 2020.
Alden Bourne / NEPR

Massachusetts U.S. Representative Richard Neal said he hopes the courts force the government to continue collecting information for the census.

A consumption advisory posted on the Housatonic River, in a file photo.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has turned down requests to give the public more time to comment on the agency's proposed cleanup of the Housatonic River.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker on August 7, 2020.
Office of Gov. Baker / State of Massachusetts

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the fight over the vacancy has political implications in New England — and it comes as the highest court in Massachusetts also faces upheaval.

Legalizing recreational marijuana in Connecticut could generate nearly $100 million in four years. That’s according to the latest study by an economics professor at UCONN.

Kevin O’Connor is picking up where Rep. Joe Kennedy III left off: hoping to convince Massachusetts voters that Sen. Ed Markey has been in Washington too long and spends too little time in Massachusetts.

“He’s been there for 44 years,” O’Connor told WBUR. “Congressman Kennedy presented to the Massachusetts voters — and I will present to the Massachusetts voters — that relative to the amount of time he’s lived in the Washington bubble, he’s accomplished very little.”

Connecticut Sun All-Star center Jonquel Jones decided to sit out the 2020 WNBA season due to COVID-19 concerns.
Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

It’s a big weekend for playoff basketball in New England.

Police cruisers in Springfield, Massachusetts.
File photo / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

This week, city officials in Springfield outlined changes they've made to the police department, following a scathing report this summer from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood.
Greg Saulmon / The Republican / masslive.com/photos

Springfield, Massachusetts, officials say they've been making changes in the police department in response to a scathing report by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Barbara Cianfarini in October 2014 near a stretch of the Housatonic River in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, that she helped get cleaned up.
Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPM

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s New England office announced this week awards for people who have worked to protect the environment. Three received lifetime achievement awards, including the late Barbara Cianfarini, who for decades fought to clean up PCBs in the Berkshires.

For their daughters and themselves, Mustafa and BeckyJean Thompson said they're relieved there's now more structure to the West Springfield, Mass., online school day.
Jill Kaufman / NEPM

Most Massachusetts public schools began classes this week after a delay due to the coronavirus. Districts,  independently of one another, developed their plans and many schools are teaching remotely. That means parents and caregivers are again juggling their work schedules while also acting as teacher helpers.

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