By Ling-Mei Wong
Gov. Charlie Baker hosted ethnic media representatives for a press roundtable on June 19 at the Statehouse.
Baker talked about his work on infrastructure, with added funding for winter preparedness after record-breaking snowfall. A total of $63 million was approved to upgrade the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) equipment for heating the MBTA’s electrified third rails, snow removal and power generation.
“Next winter will be much better than this one,” Baker said.
Boston direct flights
Baker praised the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) for its efforts to bring more direct flights to Boston’s Logan Airport, including Hainan Airlines’ service to Shanghai launching on June 20 and Cathay Pacific’s service to Hong Kong in May. Hainan added service to Beijing last year, bringing Boston’s number of nonstop international and domestic destinations to more than 100.
“Partnerships like this are terrific for Massachusetts,” Baker said in a prepared statement from Massport. “By gaining new international flights, the Commonwealth is able to compete for more international business opportunities and travel options for our citizens, stimulating economic growth across the region.”
Boston is the largest U.S.-Shanghai air travel market without nonstop service, and Shanghai is Boston’s largest unserved international market, with more than 76,000 passengers travelling between the two cities last year, said Massport in a prepared statement. The total Boston-Shanghai air travel market has grown 48 percent since 2010, and is expected to grow more as a result of the nonstop service. Since May, Boston to Beijing service on Hainan Airlines has operated daily.
Asian American discrimination
Baker said he was unaware of the Asian American discrimination case against Harvard University, which is a federal lawsuit brought by more than 60 Asian American groups representing Chinese, Korean and Indian individuals.
“I don’t support any institution that … discriminates against anybody, especially for something as important as admission,” he said. Baker added he would address concerns to the higher education community.
Baker is looking at using federal funds from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act for workforce training in Massachusetts. He has met with employers and career centers to discuss what job markets lack trained workers.
“I want this to be demand-driven process,” Baker said. “The training needs to be consistent with what employers are looking for.”
In March, Baker created a task force for the chronically unemployed, including African Americans, Hispanic or Latino Americans, persons with disabilities and recently returned veterans. As of December 2014, these groups continued to experience higher than average rates of unemployment — ranging from 7 percent to 12 percent — both nationally and in Massachusetts as compared to the overall national average rate of 6.2 percent and the Massachusetts average rate of 5.8 percent as reported by the United States Department of Labor, according to Executive Order No. 561.
“We need to think different on how reach out to those folks to participate more fully in the workforce,” Baker said.
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