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Before we spent billions on public construction…

…would it be worth it to reexamine the contracting process? Barry LePatner thinks so. (Plus he gets bonus points for citing Pioneer in the article.) He questions why the contracting process insulates the service providers from almost all risk. Then partially answers his question by noting that the structure of the construction industry is almost unchanged from 100 years ago. I don’t pretend to have expertise in the subject, but its a provocative read. And probably a conversation worth having before we embark on any more mega-projects.

CPA Point and Counterpoint

We take a break from our usual self-promotion, to promote another think tank’s work — the Rappaport Institute has authored a study on the Community Preservation Act that has several major findings: 1) the CPA transfers funds from poor urban communities to affluent ones, particular to Middlesex County and the Cape, 2) it does not seem to promote affordable housing very effectively (particularly relative to open space), and 3) there’s not enough data on what the funds are being used for. The authors of the study make their case in this Globe op-ed. And are rebutted in this Globe op-ed. Both sides seem to agree that some reform is needed. They agree on the need for better data. The Rappaport […]

We should pay certain farmers to keep farming

Sunday’s Globe brings us a long editorial praising the Administration’s commitment to the acquisition of open space in the Commonwealth, including a paragraph-length paean to the Agricultural Preservation Restriction program. This program seems innocuous enough — purchasing the development rights to key strategic parcels of farmland to preserve their agricultural usage. Even I can see some limited utility for this program, in concept, if it protected parcels in rapidly developing areas or that had important environmental qualities. But doesn’t this preservation compete with things like housing or commercial development? (Aha, the countervailing incentives for these programs are elsewhere in the capital budget.) Most tiresome for this observer is the location of many of the selected parcels, typically they are indistinguishable […]

Let the handwringing begin…

CVS has sought state permission to open MinuteClinics in a number of its retail stores. Minute Clinics provide a limited array of medical services (think simple illnesses, like ear infections and strep throat and vaccinations) at set prices or through insurance. They operate in 19 states and offer an interesting alternative — transparent pricing, convenient locations, and no hassles with doctor’s appointments or emergency rooms. Not to sound like a shill for the company — there are some questions about how these clinics would affect continuity of care (i.e. its better to have a single point of contact for medical services who has an overview of your entire medical record) and screening for more sophisticated diagnoses (e.g. a case of […]

Will they return the money?

Today’s New York Times reports that the ethanol boom, among other reasons, is driving up the price of farmland, particularly in corn-growing areas of states like Iowa. Good thing we’ve subsidized agriculture to the tune of $164.7 billion from 1995 to 2005. Click here to get the searchable database of farm subsidies by almost every imaginable category. And to address the story’s point more directly, farmers in Iowa have received corn subsidies of $9.9 billion during the same period.