Axios Boston

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February 15, 2024

It's Thursday. Hope you had a sweet Valentine's Day.

Today's weather: High-30s with wind and clouds.

Situational awareness: Milton voters rejected a zoning plan yesterday that would have encouraged construction of new multifamily housing.

  • The vote is a setback for efforts to build denser housing in towns with MBTA stations and means the suburb is out of compliance with state housing law. (Globe)

Today's newsletter is 923 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Northeast snowstorm uncovers forecasting weak spots

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The storm that brought New York City the most snow in more than two years was also one of the biggest forecast busts in recent memory for New England and the rest of the highly populated I-95 corridor.

Why it matters: The miss, with computer models shifting significantly on all aspects of the event within 24 hours of the first flakes flying, calls into question scientists' abilities to anticipate extreme weather events, Axios Generate author Andrew Freedman writes.

The big picture: When some of the country's biggest cities are involved, the economic consequences of a forecast miss can be significant.

  • From Sunday into the middle of Monday, the forecast for Boston called for up to a foot of snow, with some areas potentially picking up more than that.
  • The last-minute shift had practical consequences: Boston Public Schools ended up closing Tuesday for only a trace of snow.

Shovel deeper: How to prevent another major miss

2. 💸 Boston faces dilemma for revenue, services

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The City of Boston is facing an irreversible decline in revenue that could lead to permanent decreases in funding for education, safety and quality of life, according to a new report on the floundering commercial real estate market.

What's happening: Working with the Center for State Policy Analysis, the Boston Policy Institute, Inc. found that Boston could face a budget gap of up to $1.5 billion over the next five years as highly-taxed office buildings remain empty in the new remote era.

Why it matters: Report author Evan Horowitz describes an economic "doom loop" for the city, in which decreased spending makes Boston less appealing, and then leads to lower property values and even more service cuts.

One solution, or at least deterrent, to the doom loop could be increased aid for Boston from the state.

  • Suburbs that are seeing higher tax collections as remote workers spend more money where they live could help keep Boston from sinking.

Keep reading: Avoiding an economic "doom loop"

3. 🔙 Back that Mass. Up: Steward Health on life support

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The state's top public health official expects "reorganization, reconfiguration, transition and potential closures" within the nine hospitals Steward Health Care System owns in Massachusetts. (BBJ)

Biogen is predicting flat sales growth in 2024, beating expectations that the local pharma giant would forecast a slump. (Axios)

  • Demand for the Alzhiemer's drug Leqembi is giving Biogen a lift this year after it backed off another promising Alzhiemer's drug, Aduhelm.

Here's a roundup of what Boston's favorite boyband — the DunKings — have released so far:

  • The Super Bowl commercial
  • A whole bunch of orange and pink apparel. The tracksuits are sold out.
  • A "Making the Band" behind the scenes video with Tom Brady, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's very convincing Cantabrigian accent.
  • And of course, the real reason for the media blitz: the branded iced coffee flavor, Munchkins Skewer and other new menu items like the Hazelnut Heartthrob.

💭 Deehan's thought bubble: Okay, guys, the DunKings thing was fun. Now let's forget it ever happened.

4. 🦾 Healey launches AI task force

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Gov. Maura Healey signed an executive order Wednesday launching a task force on AI implementation in Massachusetts.

Why it matters: AI has the potential to transform the state's largest industries, higher education, state operations — or could upend those sectors, if Massachusetts falls behind.

Driving the news: The Healey administration tapped nearly two dozen business leaders, college administrators and local government officials to join the strategic task force.

  • Leading the task force are four co-chairs, including Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao and Technology Services and Security Secretary Jason Snyder.
  • The task force includes tech veterans like C10 Labs co-founder Patricia Geli, Duckbill founder Meghan Joyce and and Jeffrey Leiden, executive chairman of Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

The big picture: The Healey administration not only wants to understand AI's influence, but also turn Massachusetts into an applied AI hub.

Keep reading: The quest to make Mass. an applied AI hub

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5. 🍻 Winter craft beers to try

Photo: Mike Deehan

Even though we're not exactly snowed in from this week's storm-that-wasn't, it's still a great time to take a look at some of the beers local breweries have come up with for the winter season.

  • These selections from New England breweries are mostly seasonal or one-off recipes and widely available where craft beers are sold.

Fog Nog by Abomination Brewing Company, North Haven, Connecticut.

  • Imperial IPA

Deehan's quickie review: I'm not a hop guy, let alone a fan of double dry hopped double IPAs like this. But I am a fan of the right spices and lactose that make this 9.1%er easily sippable.

Grade: B

Eros by River Styx Brewing Company, Fitchburg, Mass.

  • American imperial stout

Deehan's quickie review: From the dearly departed River Styx Brewing, this is the darkest stout I sampled this season.

  • The foamy head on this thing alone is darker than any beer most people have tried.
  • It really does have a hint of Oreos to it. Split this one with three or four friends in tiny sipping glasses since it's 11% ABV.

Grade: B

Keep sipping: See the rest of our seasonal brew reviews

6. 🙌 Paw-ston: Speedy saved

Photo: Courtesy of the Brockton Police Department

A Brockton family was reunited with their dog Speedy after she'd been missing for three months.

What's happening: Brockton Police arrested a 32-year-old man on a litany of charges last Monday, and in his backseat was a female dog.

  • Authorities scanned the dog's microchip and alerted Speedy's family that she'd been found.

Why it matters: Those RFID chips implanted in pets really do work when a four-legged loved one goes missing.

Watch Speedy wiggle herself silly when she first sees her owner.

Share this tail

Deehan knows this discussion of why we add a possessive S to businesses for no reason gets to the heart of Massachusetts culture.

Steph was out.

This newsletter was edited by Jeff Weiner and copy edited by James Farrell.