Regional Ballot Initiatives and the promise of local autonomy

Currently, a major transportation bond bill sits before a conference committee in the Massachusetts legislature, and in it are provisions for regional ballot initiatives. If passed, RBIs would give voters across the state the ability to raise funds for transportation investments that improve their communities and develop their regional economies.

Our two guests today represent the “before” and “after” of RBIs. Mary Waldron is the executive director of the Old Colony Planning Council in Brockton. Waldron would like for regions like southeastern Massachusetts to be able to take advantage of the autonomy RBIs afford to improve their transportation systems. “Particularly in this pandemic, where resources are no longer available… we really have got to be able to do something local that we’re able to control.” 

The power of RBIs are playing out all over the country, as evidenced in a conversation Dr. Tracy Corley had back in February. Denny Zane, executive director of Move LA, a transportation advocacy organization, saw the potential of RBIs come to life back in 2008 with the passing of Measure R that created a long-term revenue stream for major transportation projects and improvements. He tells Tracy, “the logic of a county-based sales tax measure made a lot of sense” to the people living in the county and experiencing the gridlock. “Everybody saw the problem. Everybody knew the problem,” he explains. 

Listen to the full episode here:

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