THE PIONEER BLOG

You are Fired!!??

Submerged three paragraphs down in the Globe’s “New England in Brief” section is this little nugget: Two top state officials — Registrar of Motor Vehicles Anne L. Collins and MassHighway Commissioner Luisa Paiewonsky…are back on the job, after being fired Thursday…Top sources in the Patrick administration said the mistake was the result of a mix-up in communication with the governor’s office; they said that the administration is considering whether Collins and Paiewonsky will remain in place.

Deed restrictions, indeed

According to Commonwealth Magazine’s 2007 spring edition, the Patrick administration is a receptive audience for Pioneer’s policy paper, Housing Programs in Weak Market Neighborhoods: Developing the Right Tools for Urban Revitalization, written by Peter Gagliardi. The report details how well-meaning state policies may actually hurt the revitalization of poorer communities. The study finds that most state programs are intended to ensure affordability in the state’s heated housing markets. In neighborhoods with weak housing markets, vacant properties, abandoned buildings, and aging infrastructure, these programs are counterproductive: restricting homeowners’ equity, discouraging the sale of redeveloped properties and concentrating poverty. The good press is encouraging. Much work remains to get the right set of policy tools in place for urban revitalization. Pioneer continues […]

Traitors In Our Midst

Pioneer is a think tank dedicated to the work of making Massachusetts a better place to live. So, it’s with a heavy heart that we open today’s paper and learn the sordid truth about one of our beloved colleagues: Charles Chieppo, a senior fellow at the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research, while conceding that the Yankees are “so pathetic this year,” points out that the current squad is not the first underperforming Yankees team in history. Chieppo first became a Yankees fan in 1966, when they finished last in the American League.

Baker-Levy Smackdown, Part Two

Paul Levy runs Beth Israel, an academic medical center (and a good blog in his spare time). Charlie Baker runs Harvard Pilgrim, one of the state’s largest health insurers. They’ve chatted online from time to time and their latest exchange covers a few of the hot topics in healthcare. Charlie notes that people in Massachusetts use academic medical centers (read as higher cost providers) disproportionately more than other states. And that several of these centers are aggressively expanding. Paul responds that many of these centers are effectively neighborhood hospitals, that many people perceive them as providing higher levels of care, and that there is not enough good quality, current data available.  He’s right, but we’d point to our 2004 report […]

Who will improve our health care blues?

Today’s Globe editorial lays out the health care riffs of the Democratic presidential bluesmasters, noting some pretty big refrains: $90 to $120 billion for John “Pretty Boy” Edwards and $50 to $65 billion for “Sweet Talk” Barack Obama. Seems everyone’s in love with the Massachusetts mandate. Edwards, the Globe reports, would require that everyone obtain health insurance, a national version of the individual mandate that takes effect in Massachusetts July 1. Businesses would have to offer insurance or make contributions (amount not specified) so workers could get it on their own. When I hear riffs like these, it makes me want to run, or to stay in tune, uh, go “down to the station, suitcase in my hand.” I have […]

Today, I want to be…

Veronique de Rugy of the American Enterprise Institute. Why? I’ve long been a booster of small business creation and the need for government to improve the general business climate. The problem is the debate has morphed into a maniacal focus on access to capital. That is important, but the folks in the small business cheerleading squad, generally because they lack strong experience in business creation (otherwise they wouldn’t be doing what they are doing…), ignore the numbers. Along comes Veronique with a tremendous article in the Cato Institute’s magazine Regulation, which deconstructs the practices of the multi-billion dollar Small Business Administration. (The SBA provides government-sponsored loans and loan guarantees, as well as technical assistance and advocacy to and for small […]

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 […]

Supply and Demand — Is it really a law or just an opinion?

The Commonwealth is funding an innovative program to replace our current strain of cranberries with higher producing vines. This makes perfect sense because just a few years ago, the Federal government had to bail out the industry to the tune of $50 million because of a glut of cranberries on the market. See, government interference in markets makes us more efficient.

No more fat to cut

Watching the Sox-Yankees game last night (the local feed on NESN, not the national feed on ESPN), taxpayers were treated to not one, not two, but three sets of advertisements from state agencies. The Commonwealth Connector (the universal health coverage people) had a series of ads. Makes some sense — they want to get the word out to folks, given the individual mandate. Then an ad for the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. I always find these in-state ads odd — I’m already here, aren’t I? Finally, the billboard behind home plate kept showing “www.masstech.org“, which I learn this morning is the website for the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. And that’s where I absolutely object. Why does a state economic […]

Go Newton Go

A year ago, Pioneer released a report that put the cost of local pension fund underperformance at $1.6 billion over the past 10 years. We recommended folding all underperforming funds into the state pension fund. Some people appeared to notice, the Governor has put forward a less muscular version of this reform in his Municipal Partnership Act. Now Newton is jumping on board, with plans to roll the assets of its pension fund into the state system. We estimate that Newton has left $20 million on the table, in underperformance, over the last ten years. In the Globe article on Newton’s move, there are two quotes from officials in other cities defending their current practices: “Recently they’ve done very well,” […]

More budget minutiae

A close reading of the Outside Sections in the Senate Ways and Means budget provides a few more nuggets: Possible Pension Shenanigans: Pioneer is well-versed on the gaming of the state pension system, so our finely tuned antennae go up whenever suspicious language involving the pension fund goes into legislation. The specificity of the following clause makes us extremely curious: including individuals formerly in the service of the division of employment security whose compensation for that service was paid in full from a grant from the federal government, and for the cost of medical examinations in connection therewith, We are hopeful that an enterprising journalist can determine the precise identity of the individual named above. $20 Million Set-Aside for Hospital […]

A non-conventional pain in the butt, but. . .

Jeff Jacoby was right on in his Globe op-ed of May 6th on the rush to get even more subsidies for the Hynes Convention Center. In the piece, Jeff compares Patrick Lyons’ private investment proposal on Lansdowne Street to the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) proposal for more subsidies to prop up the Hynes and asks why one is being done with private financing and the other one requiring more subsidies on top of old ones, on top of a big chunk of money thrown at the new South Boston facility. Now, I’ve received a number of queries asking why Pioneer hasn’t continued to hammer away on Convention Center subsidies and turning the Hynes over to a higher and better […]

Congrats to 3 Mass charters and a Big, Open Question

At a ceremony held at the Capitol Building in DC yesterday, the Center for Education Reform named three of Massachusetts charter schools among the 53 National Charter Schools of the Year. The day’s events included a press conference, a National Press Club lunch, and meetings with reps and senators. The three award recipients were Excel Academy Charter School (East Boston), MATCH Charter Public High School (Boston), and Roxbury Preparatory Charter School (Roxbury). These are schools that are inspiring and changing the expectations of minority students. They are also outscoring on achievement tests many of the “W” communities that have so many more advantages. To anyone who has been in these schools, it is clear, however, that the students’ impressive results […]

And then there were two

The Senate Ways and Means Budget contains a provision (scroll down to section 48) allowing two of the twelve public skating rinks in Greater Boston to be put out for long-term leases. That’s down from the twelve that the Governor’s budget (to his credit) allowed, but up from the zero allowed in the House budget. We looked at the effect of long-term leasing on the public skating rinks outside of Greater Boston and what did we find? – Increased Availability: Rinks operated under competitive contracting are now available an average of 43 weeks per year in fiscal year 2005, versus 34 weeks per year under the previous management system in fiscal year 1991. – Continued Affordability: The average hourly cost […]

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 […]