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Wilkerson indicted on new bribery charges

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Wilkerson indicted on new bribery charges

A federal grand jury has indicted former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson on 23 new counts of mail and wire fraud that accuse her of taking money from a businessman in exchange for supporting a proposed development in Boston.

Wilkerson already faces eight counts of attempted extortion under the color of official right and one count of conspiring to extort for allegedly accepting $23,500 in bribes from undercover agents she thought were businessmen.

According to an indictment released Tuesday, another businessman made a series of payments to Wilkerson ranging from $500 to $1,200 between 2002 and 2006.

Prosecutors say Wilkerson eventually filed legislation that would have given a long-term lease to the man’s company.

A message left Tuesday for Wilkerson’s attorney, Max Stern, was not immediately returned.

Mass. weighs labor agreements on stimulus projects

The Patrick administration is weighing whether to require contractors bidding on certain federally funded stimulus projects to enter into deals with local unions.

The use of “project labor agreements” would mandate contractors sign collective bargaining agreements for specific projects. In return, unions would agree not to strike.

Labor leaders are pushing the administration to require the deals, especially for big ticket stimulus-funded projects. But nonunion contractors say the agreements stifle competition and drive up construction costs.

The agreements have been used on two of the state’s biggest undertakings: the Big Dig and the cleanup of Boston Harbor, including construction of the Deer Island waste treatment plant.

UNH makes progress in increasing diversity

DURHAM, N.H. — After more than a decade spent recruiting and building a support base for minority students, the University of New Hampshire remains a very white school in a very white state.

Minorities made up about 6.5 percent of the school’s undergraduates as of last fall. That’s more diverse than the state as a whole — which is about 95.5 percent white — but below the goal set in 1998, when a group of students staged a sit-in at the university president’s office to demand more diversity.

To end the sit-in, then-President Joan Leitzel agreed to 11 objectives, including increasing black student enrollment to 300 by 2004 and increasing the number of black tenure-track faculty members to 10 by 2003. By fall 2008, there were 197 black undergraduate and graduate students at UNH and UNH-Manchester, and eight tenure-track faculty members.

The school has responded to the challenge with a range of minority recruitment programs and a support system that includes the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, the Black Student Union, and the Diversity Support Coalition. In 2007, the university was one of two dozen colleges and universities around the country recognized for its diversity programs by Minority Access Inc., a nonprofit educational organization.

Some students say the culture shock of arriving on campus was nearly unbearable. Things improved for senior Nina Reyes of Westchester, N.Y., after she helped form Delta Xi Phi, a multicultural sorority in 2007.

Reyes said she’s turned any negative experiences she’s had at the school into learning experiences.

“I am passionate about diversity and social justice, and coming to UNH has challenged me in ways that I would not have been if I had gone to a different school,” she said.

Bay State announces $108M for affordable housing

Gov. Deval Patrick has designated $108 million in state and federal funding to build affordable housing units throughout Massachusetts.

Patrick said last Friday that money from affordable housing programs and tax credits will build about 2,500 rental apartments.

The bulk of the units will be affordable for low- and moderate-income workers. The administration is reserving 350 units for families transitioning from being homeless.

Patrick says the new apartments will be energy efficient, using energy-saving appliances, plumbing fixtures, heating systems, windows and insulation.

Fine increases for drivers parked in MBTA stops

Drivers who park in an MBTA bus stop will now be fined $100 for the violation.

The higher fine began Tuesday. Previously, each city set its own fine, with Boston’s set at $55. A spokesman for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said the new law makes the $100 fine uniform throughout the state.

Officials say the law is designed to improve access and safety at MBTA bus stops. They hope heavier fines will ensure the bus stops are open, allowing buses to pull the curb and allow customers to board and exit safely.

(Associated Press)