New Web site to help Mass. drivers cope with gas prices
Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration has launched a new Web site to help state residents trying to cope with sky-high gasoline prices.
The site — www.mass.gov/gastips — includes tips to help residents increase their car’s gas mileage, find the cheapest gas prices in their community and explore alternative means of transportation.
Various state agencies are also working with the Office of Vehicle Management to reduce fuel consumption by increasing the number of hybrid vehicles in the department fleet.
The office says it has increased from 33 hybrid vehicles in 2005 to 247 today. The Massachusetts Highway Department also has started using bio-diesel in heavy-duty equipment to further reduce consumption.
The University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees has revoked an honorary degree awarded two decades ago to Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.
The trustees unanimously voted to pull the degree last Thursday.
Mugabe was awarded the honorary doctor of laws degree at UMass-Amherst in 1986, when many saw him as a force for democracy and reform in Africa.
But university president Jack Wilson says Mugabe’s human rights violations have proven him the opposite. In recent years, he has been accused of holding onto power through elections marred by fraud, intimidation and rigging, and of overseeing his country’s economic collapse.
The university has never before rescinded an honorary degree.
Settlement approved in Hartford desegregation case
HARTFORD, Conn. — A judge last Wednesday approved a plan to add magnet schools and school choice options in the Hartford area to settle a longstanding lawsuit over racial isolation in the city’s schools, lawyers for both sides said.
The deal reached in April requires the state to develop a detailed plan to address racial disparity. It calls for more magnet schools in Hartford suburbs and an increase in the number of spots available in suburban schools for Hartford students.
The agreement also requires that at least 80 percent of Hartford students who want to attend integrated schools are to be accommodated by 2012.
The decision by Superior Court Judge Marshall Berger Jr. was the last step needed to implement the agreement.
“This significant step marks another key juncture in ending racial isolation and raising educational achievement in the Hartford Schools,” Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said.
The legislature’s Education Committee overwhelmingly approved the settlement during this year’s regular legislative session.
The plaintiffs, 10 families representing 19 children, first brought the case in 1989. They argued that the racial makeup of the city’s schools violated the state constitution’s guarantee of an equal education. The state Supreme Court ruled in their favor in 1996, but left it up to them to reach a compromise with the state on a remedy.
A 4-year-old settlement in the case failed to reach its goals and expired in 2007. A report by Trinity College last year found that only 9 percent of Hartford’s students — who are primarily black and Hispanic — attend schools that have enough white students to qualify as racially integrated under terms of that settlement.
Dennis Parker, director of the ACLU Racial Justice Program, who represented the plaintiffs, said he was hopeful the new agreement would lead to improvements.
“For the first time in the 12 years since the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Hartford’s schools to be unconstitutionally racially segregated, the state must adhere to a definitive framework for ensuring that it meets its constitutional obligations,” he said.
Vermont marks end of slavery with Juneteenth state holiday
MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermont has become the 29th state to recognize the end of slavery in the United States with a state holiday.
The third Saturday in June will be designated as Juneteenth National Freedom Day.
Gov. Jim Douglas signed the bill into law on June 10.
Although the law doesn’t take effect until July 1, the state will celebrate its first Juneteenth on the State House steps on Saturday.
On June 19, 1865, the last slaves in Texas learned that slavery was over, more than two years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
Texas is the only state where Juneteenth is a paid day off for state workers. Vermont’s new holiday will not be an official paid holiday for state employees.
Five-year deal for Springfield’s new police commissioner
SPRINGFIELD — Nearly two months after being sworn in to the job, Springfield Police Commissioner William Fitchet has signed a five-year contract.
Fitchet, a 35-year veteran of the department, said last Wednesday he was happy with the negotiations and satisfied with the terms of the deal.
The Republican newspaper of Springfield reported that Fitchet will earn $160,000 in his first year on the job, with future pay increases tied to performance.
Fitchet was selected by the city’s Finance Control Board to succeed Edward Flynn, who was less than two years into a five-year contract as police commissioner when he left to become the new police chief in Milwaukee.