Beacon Hill Roars Back to Life
The Gateway Cities Journal
Summer recess is a distant memory as Beacon Hill roars back to life. Monday featured two prime-time hearings with major implications for Gateway Cities.
Lynn Mayor Jared Nicholson appeared before the education committee to testify in support of legislation to remedy inequitable flaws in school construction funding. Filed by Lynn Rep. Dan Cahill and Sen. Brendan Crighton, the bill would double the amount of sales tax revenue dedicated to school facilities, eliminate an arbitrary cap on project reimbursements that harms urban projects, and restore funding for magnet schools designed to promote integration. While the Healey Administration has jumped in immediately, providing executive leadership to remedy longstanding inequities in school construction, Gateway Cities will ultimately need legislative action to fix the outdated funding formula.
In Gardner Auditorium, members of the higher education committee gathered to hear bills targeting another problem decades in the making: the growing cost to attend public colleges and universities. Gateway City legislators offered compelling testimony, including Leominster Rep. Natalie Higgins, co-sponsor of an Act to Guarantee Debt-Free Public Higher Education, and Holyoke Rep. Pat Duffy, co-sponsor of the Cherish Act. MassINC’s Ben Forman testified in support of efforts to ensure that cost is no longer a barrier to college access and success, emphasizing the outsized role that public colleges and universities play minting a skilled workforce for regions of the commonwealth that can’t fall back on Boston’s wealthy private institutions.
Just in time for the official arrival of fall, legislators wrapped up negotiations on a major tax reform package on Thursday. Next week a compromise bill will head to the floor for a vote. No details have emerged, but Gateway City leaders are anxiously awaiting news, hopeful that the legislation contains the long-awaited increase to the Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP).
There’s much more to come this harvest season. The administration is expected to unveil a housing bond bill and major housing legislation. Several bills presented by the Gateway Cities legislative caucus are still awaiting hearings, including the Act to Promote Downtown Vitality. And of course, there’s the 11th Annual Gateway Cities Innovation Institute Awards and Summit, in-person for the first time since 2019. Whether it’s in Fitchburg or at the State House, we’re looking forward to seeing lots of you this fall.
Mayoral races are set in Haverhill and Springfield following Tuesday’s primaries. Mayor Paul Coogan and former mayor Sam Sutter grabbed the top spots in Fall River. Mayor Robert Sullivan and business owner Fred Fontaine made it through a busy preliminary round in Brockton.
Mayors renew calls for changes to vocational school admissions.
The Holyoke School Committee is asking the state to end its receivership of the city’s schools, which has been in place for eight years.
Housing and Economic Development
Jose and Wendy Estrella spend $1 million converting a former Lawrence bank that had sat vacant for a decade into a function hall called The Vault, complete with two vaults repurposed as special rooms for brides and families during events.Sen. Lydia Edwards, the Senate chair of the Legislature’s Housing Committee, tours western Massachusetts to learn about the challenges of building affordable housing.
Columnist Jack Spillane chronicles the latest maneuvers in the saga of UMass Dartmouth yanking its arts college out of the downtown New Bedford building where it helped spur the city’s arts and culture sector, and wonders whether defeatism, which once ruled in the region, is making a comeback.
Dan Kennedy seems to be reassured after a colleague at Northeastern tells him the Worcester Guardian will be independent and that the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, the biggest donor so far, will have only one seat on the board.
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