Yummm, 10:16 Lunch…….

The Globe Magazine has a fascinating piece on the extended school day experiment being conducted at 10 schools around the state.  It seems like such a common-sense good idea that we can only assume it will be discarded very soon. The most gripping piece of information, to this reader, was an accompanying graphic (that unhelpfully does not show up on-line) that details the change in the average school day. Before, students started the day 7:25 AM, ate lunch at 10:16 AM, and were dismissed at 1:30 PM. Plus, the sample schedule displayed allows for daily math, science, and english classes, but little else. The new schedule has the same start time and lunch time (which is still ridiculous), but adds […]

Out of the Mouths of Grad Students

Today’s Globe has two interesting articles (one unintentionally so) on our state college system. A front page article talks about growing demand from the UMASS-Boston Student Senate to build dorms, and a Derrick Jackson op-ed is a predictable call for more funding. But at the very, very end of the op-ed, a lengthy quote from a student highlights one of our major problems as a system (and one of the reasons that funding is such an issue): It feels like the flagships like Amherst are treating students more and more as consumers, trying harder to attract wealthier out-of-state students with sushi nights, lobster nights, and flat-screened TVs in lounges than figuring out how to help students who are the most […]

Will Massachusetts’ economic recovery be short-lived?

Good news, everyone. According to today’s Boston Globe, Massachusetts’ economy is growing again – and at almost 4 times the rate as that of the national economy. But, a note of caution. Massachusetts’ economic growth is imperiled by – surprise, surprise – the state’s high cost of housing. As tech companies expand, they require young, highly educated workers, precisely the demographic that has shown an aversion in recent years to settling down in old, cold and expensive Massachusetts. In a macro sense, the solution to Massachusetts’ high housing costs is a fairly straightforward one: increase the supply of housing to meet demand. The question is: does the political will exist in Massachusetts to overcome the entirely rational, though somewhat shortsighted […]

Wacky Pension Hijinks, Pt. 2?

This morning’s Globe raises some interesting questions about the recent dismissal of a legislative aide. The individual in question was fired 11 days after she had reached her twentieth year of service. The key verb is ‘fired’ (as opposed to ‘quit’). By being fired after reaching the magic 20 years of service, Section 10 of Chapter 32 is triggered, allowing employees to begin collecting their full pension before the age of 55. And curiously enough, a large percentage of those unlucky enough to be fired in this manner get fired almost immediately after reaching the 20 year mark. According to Commonwealth Magazine, one-third of the 1,100 ‘Section 10’ pensions granted since 1990 were to employees who had passed the 20 […]

Wacky Pension-Related Hijinks

Or maybe not so wacky. The estimable adamg over at Universal Hub points out this interesting nugget in today’s Herald: A veteran Boston police officer is expected to resign from the force after pleading guilty yesterday to charges he shot a fellow cop during an off-duty argument about whether he was too drunk to drive…he also indicated in court that he would turn in his badge after 27 years of service…entitling him to a city pension. [emphasis added] Pensions have been on our mind for the past year. We’ve taken a long hard look at the cost of various loopholes and the expense of underperformance at many local pension funds. We have not, however, done anything to close the loophole […]

Psst… the Speaker may be trying to tell you something.

First, Speaker DiMasi went to a Greater Boston Chamber breakfast and poured cold water on Governor Patrick’s ‘loophole closure/business tax hike‘, choosing the very venue where Patrick made one of the initial announcements about the plan. Next, the House budget amendments came out. Legislators found time to suggest the frivolous (like the much beloved Winter Moth study amendment) and the serious (eliminating the EQA by reinserting similar language from the Governor’s budget). However, precisely none of the Representatives attempted to reinsert the ‘loophole closure/business tax hikes’. A commission is being appointed to review the tax code (with an eye on business taxation), consisting of appointees of the Governor, Senate President, and House Speaker? Speaker DiMasi’s apppointees? Associated Industries of Massachusetts […]

Build it and they will come?

I think we have heard that one before. So now we are going to build a $1.4 billion commuter line to New Bedford, even though the T can’t afford it, even though that will add to the ongoing costs of the T to maintain the line, and even though expected ridership is dismally low so it won’t even pay for a tiny fraction of the ongoing costs. Okay, what else is new? Perhaps we can build a convention center at the end of the line to soak up all the excess demand for conventions in Massachusetts. Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD) and I did an op-ed on this months ago for […]

A Plea For Slightly Less Integrated Transportation Planning

The Herald’s has done a fine job pointing out one of the dumb things we do as a state — provide massive subsidies for little-used local airports that have no relevance to the transportation needs of the state.  Check out pg. 17 of this chart just to see how little usage many of these airports get. Many of these airports are home to a handful of privately-owned planes and certainly provide a service for those people, but the Herald correctly asks why the vast majority of commercial air travelers should be taxed to pay for it. The Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission is the state agency charged with the task of maintaining these smaller airports. And they have no compunction about these […]

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 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.


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.