Know before you go: New site gives possible wait times at Registry offices

A couple weeks ago, Jon Thompson was in line waiting to get his license renewed at an RMV branch when he wondered if he could use a wait-time data feed posted by MassDOT to show how long you might have to wait.

Massachusetts RMV Wait Times lets you pick an RMV location and time and shows you your estimated wait time, based on the data from that feed.

Thompson says that after the state released the data feed, some sites popped up to show you the live wait time, but that none collected the feed to try to let you plan out your visit in advance.

It's got 2 weeks worth of data in it now - and has been pretty good at predicting waits compared to the real-time data.

Obviously it can't predict weird out-there delays from crazy transaction backups - but as i collect more data I'll also include day-of-month in the models as I expect there will be spikes as registrations renew at end/start of month/etc.

Video-game designer's ex-boyfriend won't get the satisfaction he demands in court

The Massachusetts Appeals Court refused today to consider the First Amendment issues involved in a judge ordering a man to stop writing horrible things about his ex-girlfriend online as part of a domestic protective order against him.

The court told Eron Gjoni the question was moot because his former girlfriend, Zoe Quinn, successfully requested that the order, originally granted by a judge in Dorchester Municipal Court, be dropped. Quinn asked the order be vacated because it was failing to actually protect her from a continuing torrent of abuse, including rape and death threats, from his supporters, and was only giving him another platform from which to attack her.

In his appeal, Gjoni's attorney argued the court should take up the case anyway, because of the importance of the First Amendment issue.

The court said that while it has sometimes taken up moot issues in the past, it generally has only done so when both sides in the case are willing to make arguments on the central issue. In this case, Quinn's attorney declined to join the legal jousting and asked only that the case be dismissed as moot. In conclusion, the court wrote:

[T]he order under appeal here did not merely expire but has been vacated, and copies of the abuse prevention order possessed by law enforcement officials were ordered destroyed. The defendant therefore has obtained all the relief to which he could be entitled, and he no longer has a cognizable interest in whether the order was lawfully issued. Therefore, we dismiss the entire appeal as moot.

City tourism official arrested on extortion charges

The US Attorney's office in Boston reports Kenneth Brissette, Boston's director of tourism, has been indicted and arrested for "union-related extortion" involving the Boston Calling music festival on City Hall Plaza and the filming of "Top Chef" episodes in Boston.

According to the US attorney's office:

It is alleged that between July and September 2014, while the company was awaiting the issuance of certain permits and approvals required for its music festival, Brissette, and at least one other city official, repeatedly advised the company that it would need to hire members of Local 11 to work at the music festival. Local 11 had attempted to obtain work from the company since March 2013. The company told Brissette that it had already entered into a contract with a non-union company and hired all of its labor. Nevertheless, Brissette allegedly insisted that half of the company’s labor force consist of union members, although he ultimately agreed that eight members of Local 11 would suffice. As a result of Brissette’s demands three days before the music festival the company entered into a contract with Local 11 for eight additional laborers and one foreman. Shortly thereafter, the City of Boston issued the necessary permits.

In closely related activity in the summer of 2014, Brissette was involved in pressuring a non-union production company filming a reality television show in Boston to hire union workers. When the Chief of Operations for the City of Boston and the Director of the Massachusetts State Film Office learned that Brissette had been pressuring a non-union film company to hire union workers, they separately told Brissette that it was not legal to withhold city permits based on a company’s union or non-union status and could not discriminate on the basis of whether or not a company was union or non-union.

Brisssette could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Five Teamsters members were arrested last year on charges they tried to extort jobs out of "Top Chef" producers and, when they didn't get them, managed to force filming out of Boston and then harassed crew members at a Milton restaurant.

In the indictment against the Teamsters, prosecutors detailed phone calls Brissette allegedly made to both the Omni Parker House and Menton, a Barbara Lynch restaurant on Congress Street on June 9, 2014:

A representative from the City of Boston called the Omni Parker Hotel to inform it that Local 25 was planning to picket Company A's filming at the Omni Parker House on June 10, 2014. The city of Boston representative made similar calls to Menton.

As a result, the hotel told Top Chef not to bother showing up, and producers decided to film an episode in Milton instead.

Mayor Walsh hired Brissette in 2014 to fill the newly created job of director of tourism, sports and entertainment to " to bring major athletic and cultural events, conventions and conferences to Boston, and aggressively market the City nationally and internationally."

After news broke of the Teamster indictments, Walsh hired a former prosecutor in the Whitey Bulger case to investigate any inappropriate Teamster/City Hall connections.

The mayor's office reacted:

The Mayor asked Attorney Brian Kelly to review the city's interactions with Top Chef last year and he produced a report that concluded no city employee was involved in any illegal activities. Attorney Kelly has also been reviewing Boston Calling and he is conducting a comprehensive review of the Office of Tourism, Sports and Entertainment to ensure that the proper policies and procedures are in place.

Ken Brissette is currently on paid administrative leave.

Mayor Walsh himself said, in a statement:

I am deeply concerned about today's news. Everyone who knows Ken knows him to be a good and hardworking person. We will continue to work with the U.S. Attorney's Office to get to the bottom of this. Everyone in my administration should know that there is only one way to do things and that is the right way.

Innocent, etc.

Councilors float idea of ferry service to connect waterfront neighborhoods

Boston City Councilor Sal LaMattina says he sometimes gets frustrated with the otherwise beautiful view from Piers Park in East Boston: He can see the Seaport in South Boston, but knows the only way to get there by public transportation is via three subway lines and a bus.

LaMattina, who represents East Boston, Charlestown and the North End, has teamed up with Councilor Bill Linehan, whose district includes South Boston and downtown, on a proposal to create ferry lines to stitch together the city's neighborhoods along the water.

"It would be great that people from Charlestown would be able to come to East Boston, use our beautiful Greenway, take their kids on a bike, and go to a beach," LaMattina told fellow councilors yesterday. "There's some folks in East Boston that don't like a beach, but they could go to the North End and use the outdoor pool."

Linehan said there's a more immediate reason to develop "a really comprehensive [ferry] network and strategy:" Next year's Sail Boston, which he said will bring millions of people to Boston with no easy way to get between the ships docked in Charlestown, downtown wharves and East Boston.

The council approved their request for a hearing at which the city transportation department, MassDOT and Massport could begin to figure out how to create a Boston Harbor ferry network so that Boston is not left in the wake of cities such as New York and Baltimore.

"There's money in the BRA for two ferries and it's just sitting there," LaMattina said. Linehan said Massport currently spends $1 million a year on a ferry between Long Wharf and Logan that he said almost nobody uses and that maybe the money could be better spent on ferries people would actually take.

"With all this waterfront development taking place in the city, there has to be some money available to subsidize this ferry," LaMattina said.

It's all about the Benjamin

This morning, Paul Nutting watched workers move Ben Franklin from the sidewalk he plunged to the other day outside Old City Hall to a truck that would whisk him away for some repairs.

That's a latte money: Starbucks space on Newbury Street sells for record amount

Banker & Tradesman reports (subscription required) the commercial condo space used by the Starbucks at 165 Newbury St. recently sold for $6.25 million - a new Newbury Street record.

It was assessed by the city last year for only $4.2 million.

According to assessors and Suffolk County Registry of Deeds records, Frazer 165 Holdings, a Limerick, Ireland company, sold the unit to 165 Newbury Street Owner of Rye, NY.

H/t Jonathan Berk.