Raining Cats and Dogs: Massachusetts Local Budgets

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A Boston Globe headline today seems to imply cities and towns are being irresponsible by saving, yet many local officials appear to be anticipating dark clouds ahead. As Jim Stergios, executive director of Pioneer is quoted in the article, “They [Massachusetts communities] know the stimulus money is gone, and that in 2011 and 2012, they’re going to get hammered.’’ As the town administrator of East Bridgewater expounds, “Since the state is out of control in the way they dole out their money, you have to solidify your own finances.” When will the state get it?

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Since 2008, Pioneer has been working with 14 Middle Cities to address some of these pressing fiscal issues in post-industrial cities.  Without measuring performance, improvement becomes difficult. We have set up a website to enable data driven management decisions on fiscal management, economic development, public safety and education: masscitystats.org. Two Mayor’s quoted in the article are part of our Middle Cities Initiative, Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella of Leominster and Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong.

At the state level, in past policy briefs we have recommended gubernatorial designees be appointed to lend coherence to the granting of monies to local communities. It is time they become part of the solution. The state’s team would be responsible for:

  • Selecting anchor neighborhoods in each of the Middle Cities.
  • Leading the development of targeted anchor neighborhood plans.
  • Coordinating grants and funds.
  • Ensuring delivery of key state (technical) assistance through the undersecretaries of relevant agencies.
  • Following up on other opportunities and coordinating actions with the Massachusetts Congressional delegation.

To read the full brief see:  Driving the New Urban Agenda.