Back on the Road Again: The Gateway Cities Legislative Caucus Tour
Gateway Cities Journal
After 18 months confined to the home office, we jumped at the chance to join the Gateway Cities Legislative Caucus on their South Coast tour. In Attleboro, Fall River, and New Bedford, we listened in on firsthand accounts of valiant efforts to help residents through the pandemic. We also heard serious concerns about the problems these communities must still inevitably confront. Above it all, what came through is that familiar feeling of optimism, a can-do energy that exemplifies the Gateway City spirit.
At each stop on the tour, civic leaders shared perspective on a range of opportunities and challenges. A unifying theme was the problems posed by the cap on the state’s Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP). The state’s extremely tight housing markets have brought opportunities to transform parcels in Gateway Cities on the South Coast that have been vacant and underutilized for decades. In many cases, these redevelopment projects were years in the making. But now they are threatened by the oversubscribed HDIP program. Local leaders urged legislators to help lift the program’s extremely limited cap of just $10 million annually.Gateway City legislators were also greeted with good news and gratitude for recent budget victories. Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan and school superintendent Maria Pontes powerfully outlined their strategy to build a large Early College program at Durfee High. With strong backing from Gateway Cities legislators, the FY 2022 budget doubled Early College funding to enable this kind of growth. The New Bedford visit included a briefing from Corinn Williams, Executive Director of the Community Economic Development Center (CEDC). With support from the Small Business Technical Assistance Grant, CEDC provided support to help immigrant businesses weather the pandemic. The FY 2022 budget nearly doubles funding for this grant program to ensure that organizations like CEDC are poised to help entrepreneurs of color grow their businesses in the recovery.
Gateway City legislators will continue their tour throughout the fall, traveling together to different regions of the state, meeting with constituents, and learning more about their various needs. They will bring what they hear back to Beacon Hill, where intensive discussions are underway to decide how the state will apportion the $5 billion it received through the American Rescue Plan Act. These resources are intended to help the hardest-hit communities build back stronger. The caucus has a vital role to play ensuring that we structure this finding in a way that positions Gateway Cities to get the most out of this unprecedented opportunity for transformative investment.