MassForward: Advancing Democratic Innovation and Electoral Reform in Massachusetts
At a well-attended Boston Foundation forum earlier this month, MassINC opened up a new area of research inquiry: the state of governance in Massachusetts. Years of work on a range of policy matters led us to believe that it was time to examine how we counter the trends negatively impacting state and local government. Fewer people are running for office. Voter turnout in municipal elections is abysmal.
From school committees to the leadership of the state legislature, women and people of color are dramatically underrepresented. Across the country, state and local governments must tackle increasingly complex policy challenges in an environment characterized by the decline of quality local news coverage, the nationalization of politics, hyper-partisanship, and growing inequality.
Our research partner, Peter Levine from Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life, gave a broad overview of the study and our research findings. His presentation was followed by a panel of respondents with diverse perspectives on the topic. Jay Kaufman, a former state representative and Founder and President of the Beacon Leadership Collaborative, spoke about how the legislature struggles to function as a deliberative body. Beth Lindstrom, former Executive Director of the Massachusetts Republican Party, described the challenges Republicans candidates face competing in a state where Democrats have a stronghold. Laurie Nsiah-Jefferson, Interim Director of the Center for Women in Politics & Public Policy at UMass Boston provided insight on research on why our elected institutions lack women and people of color and what we can do to address this problem. Pavel Payano, an at-large city councilor in Lawrence, described the heavy constituent demands elected leaders shoulder in disadvantaged communities, and the challenges they face winning office when facing more affluent opponents.
Fortunately, the Boston Foundation captured excellent video of this wide-ranging discussion. If you were unable to attend, we encourage you to take the time and watch. You can read the report here.
MassINC would like to thank The Boston Foundation, our panelists, and everyone who participated in the event.Click here to read The Salem News’ editorial on the report and watch the panel discussion. You can also read more about the report from MassLive, WGBH, WBUR, CommonWealth, NEPR, WPRI, and SouthCoast Today.