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State of the State? Skip the speech and check out the budget.

Almost exactly a year ago, one sage wondered if Governor Patrick would fulfill the promise of candidate Patrick. Since then, Pioneer has welcomed the Governor to our annual Better Government Competition and been heartened by many of his initiatives. So what’s in store for year two? Glad you asked – here’s Pioneer’s take on this year’s proposed budget. Just as historians judge Presidents by their performance during wartime, we’re about to learn how our Governor responds to economic uncertainty. As Pioneer’s release makes clear, we’re pulling for him, but we wonder if he’s reading the same bad news as the rest of us.

You can still make money in Boston real estate

In today’s Metro, Mayor Menino is asked why the Hynes Center can’t be put to more productive use. In his reply, the Mayor says: …friends at the Hynes tell me in 2007, the center generated $10.1 million in revenue — the highest in the history of the building…. Ten Point One Million Dollars! 175,000 square feet of state-owned prime real estate that, in its best year ever (no inflation adjustment, please) barely makes $10 million! I bet there are a bunch of stores in the Pru mall that make that kind of money, and they pay taxes too. Imagine what another 175,000 square feet worth of clothing stores – or donut shops, or sports bars – could earn on Boylston […]

Councilor Feeney, invite some firefighters to your forum.

The Globe’s Juxtaposition Desk is really on the ball this morning. Right below an investigative piece on alleged abuses of the firefighters’ pension system, there’s a bit about Councilor Maureen Feeney’s wish for a “New England-style town meeting” in Boston. Great idea. Once the Convention Center is packed with ordinary Bostonians – all, presumably, asking for better services or lower taxes – please get some representative of the firefighters or the city up on the dais. And please, someone wave a Pioneer White Paper on pension abuse and mismanagement at that public servant. Ask if the city can distinguish citizens’ interests from those of its employees. I promise that Research Director Steve Poftak will autograph that White Paper, if not […]

Home of the Bean, the Cod, and the Free Glass of Tap Water

As much of the Sun Belt dries up, we may have to revise our tally of regional economic advantages. For generations we’ve been told to flee the Northeast for some air-conditioned car-ported open-shop Elysium. Today, though, the Quabbin Reservoir is making me feel like an early-’70s Alaskan. If we get our water-policy act together, the Commonwealth’s natural resources may, for the first time since the whale-oil days, actually give us a competitive edge. Please, though: no pipelines.

Savonarola still wrong: another lesson from the mortgage mess

I lead with a fire-and-brimstone Renaissance preacher partly to make a point, and also to provoke Director Stergios, who I hope will comment in flawless Florentine dialect. This morning’s Globe features a point-counterpoint worthy of Curtin and Belushi. Bruce Marks blames evil lenders for the mortgage crisis; Bruce A. Percelay has it in for evil borrowers. To sum up: America is entering a recession because of the stain on each of our souls. Today’s forecast: Plague, followed by a French army and some locusts. Maybe because they have no boosterish agenda (other than Microsoft’s), MSN Money tends to offer some clear thinking about the macroeconomics behind the news. This Jon Markman piece is based on a discussion with Satyajit Das, […]

A LOT of GBH tote bags

I like “Sesame Street,” as I don’t think pre-school children should be exposed to the latest in advertiser-driven brain-stem stimulation. I also enjoy “Greater Boston.” That said, I do object to the Olympian enshrinement of Ken Burns, Buster Bunny, and Emily Rooney in WGBH’s new technicolor monstrosity of a road hazard. How can a place that really, really needs $20 gifts from Inspector Lynley-loving librarians toss so much coin around? Is anyone else nervous about Boston’s annexation by Nonprofitstan? Private citizens and businesses default and run, bridges rot and slot machines jingle as colleges and “non-commercial” media outlets splurge on name-brand architects. [Black Kettle Alert: Yes, Pioneer is a nonprofit too. If anyone would like to engage Renzo Piano or […]

Some markets are more equal than others.

The subprime crisis may soon lead to a shortage of liquidity, but it’s already produced a surplus of unhelpful commentary. A happy exception is this little rant from MSN Money columnist Bill Fleckenstein, especially this bit: Wall Street, the hedge-fund community and their lap dogs in the news media continually brag about how much they love capitalism and free markets. Yet when the creative-destruction component of capitalism rears its ugly head, they want the central planners to bail them out immediately, before they take any pain. And the ones clamoring the loudest are the very same folks who behaved the most irresponsibly. This isn’t just about central banks. In trying to manage the market, municipalities and states often resort to […]

Storrow Tunnel, falling down. . .

…and the Longfellow Bridge isn’t looking too good, either. This week, both the Globe and the Governor (see below) have confirmed what everyone else who drives, rides, walks or breathes already knew: the state of the state is shaky. And leaky. And rusty, potholed and occasionally scary. From the State House News: Responding to a question about the Boston Globe’s front page story on the 56-year-old tunnel’s lack of waterproofing when it was first built, Patrick said, “It’s another example of the persistent neglect of our transportation infrastructure that goes back many decades.” …Patrick said the problem points out the importance of paying attention to the upkeep of the state’s roads and bridges “an ongoing basis and not just on […]

How to watch and listen to Gov. Patrick’s BGC address

One of the highlights of last month’s Better Government Competition was Governor Patrick’s well-received keynote address. We’re pleased that the speech will be broadcast on C-SPAN Radio, XM Satellite Channel 132, at 10 am on Sunday, July 22. If you can’t bear to wait that long, the audio is here, and also enjoy YouTube clips one, two and three.

Sure, fight the housing shortage, just not here.

Is what’s good for Springfield also good for Amherst? Friend of Pioneer Peter A. Gagliardi, leader of nonprofit housing developer HAP, Inc., has found that where one stands on affordable housing depends on where one’s property sits. Qualified families in both towns languish on waiting lists for decent homes, yet Springfield welcomes new construction, while Amherst fought a HAP project in court for five years. Gagliardi is the author of both a Pioneer housing paper and one of the best “Dear Deval” pre-inauguration Globe op-eds. He’s also a veteran, having slogged for decades through the mud hidden behind good intentions and pretty speeches about affordable housing. As proven by Gagliardi’s experience, as well as his research, those who would increase […]

Worcester’s Heroine of Education Reform

A heartfelt thank you to Dr. Roberta Schaefer of the Worcester Regional Research Bureau (WRRB) for all her hard work and efforts on the Board of Education (BOE) over the last 11 years. Roberta’s work on the BOE has been both tireless and exemplary. And, like Tom Birmingham , Roberta is worried about the future of education reform in Massachusetts. As she has told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, the appointment of MCAS opponent Ruth Kaplan to the BOE highlights a disquieting trend: This appointment, coupled with the governor’s refusal to fund the Education Quality and Accountability Board and the recent legislative hearings directed at removing MCAS as a graduation requirement, unfortunately indicate that the governor and his legislative allies […]

Teach to the test? By all means, says Tom Birmingham

As thousands of students languish on charter school and METCO’s waiting lists, the state education apparatus (including a former Commissioner of Education, former Board of Ed chairman, and former co-chair of the Committee on Education) is attacking what they think is wrong with our schools: MCAS testing. Fortunately, former Senate President (and eternal champion of better schools and common sense) Tom Birmingham will have none of that. To cite the State House News article above: …[Birmingham] called the phrase “teaching to the test” an unfair pejorative because the skills assessed by the test are universally necessary. “If you aren’t literate and numerate, I think the other subjects are going to be lost on you anyway,” he said. “It’s not like […]

School choice saves public education, in Edmonton and Boston

Edmonton, Alberta’s Angus McBeath is back in town this week, which is good news for the Commonwealth’s public school students – though it’s too bad they won’t get to see him. Pioneer is reintroducing Mr. McBeath to education policy leaders in Springfield and Holyoke, and at the Boston Foundation and BU, and his message deserves to be heard: Teaching is the most important paid work in society. – Angus McBeath, from 2005 Lovett C. Peters Lecture in Public Policy As the Superintendent of Edmonton’s public schools, Mr. McBeath presided over dramatic systemwide reforms. Each school’s performance was measured, and that data was made available to parents, who could then choose any school they wanted for their child. District funding followed children […]

If you think education is expensive, try foreclosure.

This year’s collapse of mortgage lending—also rendered as a crisis, a bubble bursting, the inevitable result of misguided policy x, and so on—has gotten a lot of press recently. In response, some have called for more regulation, tighter credit, or another solution that’ll make the problem worse. In welcome contrast, this Springfield Republican story highlights the first requisite of a healthy marketplace: well-informed buyers and sellers. HAP, Inc. led by Pioneer author Peter Gagliardi, helps both lenders and borrowers know exactly what they’re getting into. HAP’s “Yes You Can” homebuyers’ fair offers good rates and clearly stated terms to borrowers—but only those who’ve taken the time to learn more about home finance. In turn, HAP introduces those educated buyers to […]

. . . and the 2007 BGC Runners-Up and Special Recognition Awards

2007 Better Government Competition RUNNERS-UP Transforming a Bureaucracy City of Carrollton, Texas—By implementing an innovative Managed Competition program, Carrollton achieves “best value” service delivery while avoiding the problems of some competitive-contracting programs. Computerized Neighborhood Environment Tracking Worcester Regional Research Bureau—ComNET brings together citizens and technology to identify the physical problems of city neighborhoods, speeding up repairs and improving the quality of urban life. Four Proposals to Reform Special Education Special Education Day Committee—To reduce needless conflict, bureaucracy, and litigation, SPEDCO proposes a more collaborative and results-driven approach to public special education. Entrepreneurial Service Delivery Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority—Faced with declining visitation and rising expenses, NVRPA transformed its approach to deliver conservation and recreation services in a businesslike manner. SPECIAL […]

The 2007 Better Government Competition Winner is…

Now in its 16th year, Pioneer Institute’s annual Better Government Competition showcases innovative ideas and programs to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government. Implementation of previous winning entries has saved Massachusetts citizens over $400 million. This year’s winner describes one community’s unique approach to development permitting, and how their approach could benefit cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth. WINNER Unified Permitting System for the Redevelopment of Ft. Devens Devens Enterprise Commission—To speed the redevelopment of a town-sized army base, DEC is empowered to perform municipal administrative tasks that are typically splintered among many agencies. It carries out these duties in the context of a unique one-stop Unified Permitting System. This expedited approach encourages needed economic development, and similar programs […]

Spend first, ask questions later…it worked for the Big Dig, right?

Today’s Globe offers another salvo in an ongoing barrage of education news from the Administration. The story uses a thousand words to describe how the Governor “appears to be laying the groundwork” to reduce the local property tax burden. Don’t get bogged down; the story’s gist is shorter than its URL: State government will spend more on education. Okay. Onward and upward is always front-page news. The real “groundwork,” though, tends to get buried like a tunnel under Fort Point Channel. The State House News Service (reg. required) exposes an intention to “destroy” the state Office of Educational Quality and Accountability (EQA), and here’s why: “‘It just needs to thoroughly be reconstituted,’ said Glenn Koocher, MASC executive director, comparing getting […]