THE PIONEER BLOG

More Drapes? Enough with the drapes!

Sometimes smart people cannot learn. We are smart people in Massachusetts. We all know that. Jim Rooney, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, is a smart and also capable guy. And he’s done a great job with the bad hand he was dealt. We have two convention centers and the market isn’t big enough to fill them. Jim R’s worked hard to fill the convention centers with events, any events, including meetings of law firms and boat and flower shows. There are some big shows, but still far too many events where people drive in and out of town, leaving in their wake not enough spending and too much traffic. Room nights is the coin of the realm […]

What a Difference 100 Days Makes……

Remember the early days: “We strongly believe that good governance means taking the best ideas from the best people, no matter what their Party.” Ehh, maybe not so much anymore: [The Governor’s informal group of advisors] agreed on a major priority: to crack the whip on the administration’s lagging efforts to replace Republican-appointed government managers with a team loyal to Patrick. Hey, he’s the Governor, he gets to pick his own team. But his major priority? Not sure that’s what the Administration needs to focus on right now.

The Winter Moth

As winter turns to spring, or the day of it, anyway, we can expect before summer arrives, I would like to turn my attention to nature. The winter moth was introduced to North America from Europe and has now spread over much of the northeastern United States and Canada. Like the gypsy moth, the winter moth loves to eat trees, but not just shade trees. No, the winter moth likes fruit too, particularly, I understand, apples and crabapples. Now this may not seem like all that big a deal. Unless, of course, you own or work in an orchard and depend on apples for your living. I suppose then it would be a very big deal. The reason I bring […]

School Choice in Boston

A brilliant author has crafted a masterwork on school choice, entitled School Choice That Works For Boston in this week’s Dorchester Reporter. Oh, that was me, wasn’t it? I’ve been interested in this issue from a policy and a personal perspective for awhile. The lottery system for Boston’s district public schools has long been a source of controversy. It was so complex (and flawed) that it spawned a series of analyses by economists from Harvard, MIT, BC, and Columbia. They are not for the faint of heart but you can find them here, here, here, here, and here. A blue ribbon panel came in and made some fixes, as well as generating a lot of feedback and data. But the […]

Earmarks and Elections

As a young man I always marvelled that the day for filing my taxes was as far as can be on a calendar from election day. Whatever politician dreamt that up is a genius. But taxes aren’t the only things located around the other side of the electoral mountain. Earmarks are a way our representatives acquire state aid for their districts. Some of this aid is needed; some of it – well, not so much. And none of it is handed to localities as a block grant, which would give cities and towns the flexibility to spend it on what they think they need. No, that money must be spent on what it has been written into law that it […]

Be Careful What You Wish For: Participatory Democracy Dept.

The relaunch of devalpatrick.com was accompanied by great fanfare, with high hopes for energizing the netroots and building coalitions on-line. But as of today, the top issue on the site is a ‘fathers’ rights’ proposal. And among the top 15 issues on the site are 3 anti-gay marriage entries, an income tax rollback proposal, a contract proposal for corrections officers, a call for eliminating gun control, a request to expand use of off-road vehicles in state parks, and a ‘9-11 was a hoax perpetrated by conservatives’ entry. I’m guessing this is not what they had in mind.

BAKER – LEVY HEALTHCARE SMACKDOWN!!!!!

Ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. Or a lot dramatic, but interesting nevertheless. Paul Levy and Charlie Baker Jr. are two of the state’s healthcare leaders. And each is blogging. Charlie just started his, and Paul has been going for awhile (and writing very interesting stuff). They have a back and forth on healthcare cost drivers on Charlie’s blog that is fascinating. I won’t summarize it here, but they get into the issue of cost transparency and how Massachusetts’ current healthcare reform may play a role in cost control.

Budget Minutiae – Part 2 of a 700 part series

More interesting fun with amendments and earmarks — What if your favorite non-profit isn’t getting the state funding it so richly deserves? Hire a lobbyist (type “International Institute” into here). Get three amendments to the House budget for $150,000, $100,000, and $163,642 . Not a bad days work, eh? No judgment from this corner on the merits of the particular non-profit. But who is better placed to determine the level of need and the most effective means of meeting that need — the staff at Mental Health, Social Services, and Workforce Development or these legislators? And a question — if you codify a transaction between a private provider and a state agency into law — What leverage does the state […]

Crime in Urban Areas – Perception and Reality

At Pioneer’s February conference on Revitalizing Middle Cities (where we released this paper), we had the opportunity to hear from the Police Commissioner and Economic Development Director for Springfield. Dave Panagore, Springfield’s Economic Development Director, noted that the police force (and public safety) were the most important components of economic development. Ed Flynn, the Police Commissioner, explained his approach to policing that goes beyond just reviewing crime data and seeks to find out how citizens perceive the level of crime in their neighborhoods. The importance of this issue is highlighted in the crime statistics for the city of Boston. This data compares the crime rate over the first few months of this year, against the same period last year. With […]

Budget Minutiae – Part 1 of a 700 part series

Spring in Massachusetts! Ahh, the joys… Opening Day, bulbs blooming, and, of course, budget season. House Ways and Means filed last week and amendments are due to be debated next week. The power and specificity of these amendments are little noticed and that’s unfortunate. Governor Patrick ran on a platform of minimizing earmarks to save money ($100 million in first year savings, if his now-very-hard-to-find press release is to be believed.). And to his credit, his budget did cut back on earmarks and rolled up a number of line items. However, the amendment season is now upon us and we’ll see how many earmarks make it back into the budget. A few of my favorites: Your town needs a new […]