• CW’s Bruce Mohl and Michael Jonas appear on The Emily Rooney Show

    CommonWealth Editor Bruce Mohl and Executive Editor Michael Jonas appeared on the Emily Rooney Show on WGBH radio today to discuss the new special issue of CommonWealth on Energy and the Environment.  Listen here.  You can also read the new issue in full here.

  • The art of saving a city

    The Boston Globe

    PITTSFIELD — City of art, city of funk. The SoHo of the Berkshires, the Brooklyn of the Berkshires.

    The sobriquets urban planners bestow upon this bygone manufacturing hub speak of their confidence that Pittsfield can become a center of culture and entertainment on par with Lenox and Stockbridge and Williamstown.

    “To the city’s credit, it realized that it needed to embrace the arts and culture of the creative economy that the Berkshires has been known for,’’ said John R. Schneider, executive vice president of MassINC, a public policy research organization. “Things have bottomed out, and they’re beginning the turnaround, and the rebranding of the city has taken root. The jury’s still out on what the employment prospects will be down the road.’’

  • Mohl on Broadside with Jim Braude

    Here is a link to CommonWealth editor Bruce Mohl’s appearance on Broadside to talk about the gambling impasse on Beacon Hill. The host of Broadside, a New England Cable News show,  is Jim Braude.

  • House bill seeks $50M to help revitalize Gateway Cities like Lowell

    The Lowell Sun

    BOSTON — Cities like Lowell that were once the economic engines of the state are now getting renewed attention as lawmakers look to revive these once-vibrant communities.

    A package of reforms aimed at spurring economic development across the state includes several provisions targeted specifically at the “Gateway Cities.”

    The House yesterday approved the economic-development package that originated in the Senate, tacking Gateway Cities initiatives onto the bill. The legislation will now go to conference committee in hopes of getting a final package approved before the end of the month.

  • New bill aims to brige gap for Gateway Cities

    Legislation offering financial incentives for residential and commerical development in so-called Gateway Cities, such as Fitchburg and Leominster, is scheduled for debate this week on Beacon Hill.

    The original legislation was rolled into the House of Representatives’s economic-development bill to be considered Wednesday.

  • CW’s Alison Lobron on WBUR

    CW’s Alison Lobron appeared on WBUR’s Radio Boston Friday to talk about recent developments in the race for governor and President Obama’s meeting with Scott Brown.  Listen here.

  • Economic efforts lauded

    The Berkshire Eagle

    Creative economy officials from across the state campe together at the Colonial Theatre on Friday to praise Pittsfield’s redevelopment efforts and discuss the steps that are needed for improvements.

    The meeting is one of four that will be held throughout the state by MassINC, a nonprofit think tank that uses non-partisan research, civic journalism and public forums to stimulate debate and shape public policy.

    Click here for a photo gallery of the event.

  • CommonWealth magazine plays increasingly important role as government watchdog

    Wicked Local Mass Markets

    As a publication owned by a nonprofit organization (Boston think tank MassINC), CommonWealth is a shining local example of a growing trend in an era of steep cost-cutting at the country’s big major metro papers. Nonprofit news-gathering organizations are often picking up the slack, particularly with time-consuming investigative pieces.

    CommonWealth has long been considered a must-read by the state’s political elite, even if it felt like homework at times (think of the magazine as the subtitled art-house flick to the Boston Herald’s popcorn blockbuster).

    But CommonWealth editor Bruce Mohl, a former Globe consumer reporter, has worked to liven up the pages since taking the job two-and-a-half years ago – and to break big investigative stories the way a daily newspaper would.

  • CWs Bruce Mohl on Broadside with Jim Braude

    NECN – Broadside

    CommonWealth magazine Editor Bruce Mohl appeared on NECN’s Broadside with Jim Braude last night to discuss patronage in the state probation department.  He was joined by State Senator Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and Democratic analyst Michael Goldman.  Watch the video here.

  • Rogoff Addresses Funding Backlog at Boston Summit

    Passenger Transport

    In his keynote speech at “Next Stop: A Summit on the Future of Transit,” Federal Transit Administrator Peter M. Rogoff explained that the figure is part of a new report to be released in the near future, which covers 690 U.S. rail and bus systems. This report follows a 2009 study of the seven largest U.S. rail operators, which showed a $50 billion figure for bringing the systems into a state of good repair—not, he emphasized, restoring them to pristine new condition.

  • Boston isn’t the only metropolis combating mass transit troubles

    The Boston Globe

    Crumbling rail ties. Faulty power systems. Dirty stations. Balky escalators. Reduced train speeds. Yawning deficits. Demands to expand, even when there isn’t nearly enough money to maintain the current system. Sound familiar?

    It’s the story of the T . . . and of just about every other public transportation system in the country. Leaders of five of the nation’s biggest (and oldest) transit agencies — numbers two, four, five, six, and nine in ridership — gathered at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston last week and swapped stories about the shared pressures and challenges they face.

  • The search for a national solution to our transit woes

    The Boston Globe

    RED SOX and Yankees fans can agree on one thing — how to get to the game. In New York, about 45 percent of ticketholders take public transportation. In Boston, more than 50 percent of ticketholders take the T — a percentage higher than any other professional sports franchise in any city in the country. Yet, even as hundreds of thousands pour into rail cars each season, most are unaware that the trains are running on empty.

  • CW on Broadside

    Jack Sullivan 

    CW senior investigative reporter Jack Sullivan joined Jim Braude on NECN’s “Broadside” to discuss the MBTA’s failing concrete railroad ties and the state of investigative journalism.   Here’s the link.


  • Study Brockton residents among those using high cost financial services

    The Patriot Ledger

    MassINC, a non-profit research group that did the study, estimated that the residents of its 11 designated “gateway cities” incur at least $38 million in check-cashing fees annually. Of that amount, Brockton incurs $3.5 million, the group said.

    Add to that figure the financial toll from tax-refund loans – which slap interest and fees on its customers – and the total amount incurred from these high-cost financial services soars to about $72 million annually for all 11 cities — $7.1 million in Brockton, according to MassINC.

  • Fewer bank accounts in Gateway Cities

    Boston Business Journal
    Brockton is among the state’s so-called “gateway” cities where residents are more likely to use high-cost financial services such as hock shops and check-cashers rather than traditional banks, the Enterprise reports, citing a study by MassINC.

  • Study examines impact of fees for check cashing and tax refund anticipation loans on local economies

    Springfield Republican
    Holyoke customers pay $3.1 million a year in fees to those same high-cost businesses, including $1.6 million for check-cashing, according to the study “Going for Growth.”

    “It’s a loss of income that could be used to build up these communities,” said study co-author Benjamin Forman, research director at the institute, a Boston-based think tank known commonly as MassINC.

    In Springfield, Forman and his team have estimated using national data that check-cashing fees alone cost customers $5.8 million a year.

  • Study says many in ex-mill areas lack bank accounts

    The Boston Globe

    MassINC said residents in 11 of the state’s former mill cities are less likely to have traditional bank accounts than most Bay State residents, forcing them to turn to costly alternatives such as check-cashing facilities.

    Specifically, MassINC found the so-called Gateway Cities, such as Springfield, Holyoke, and Lawrence, are replete with check-cashing stores, pawn shops, rent-to-own stores, and auto title lenders that typically charge outsized fees and eye-popping interest rates. For instance, Springfield alone has 19 check cashers and six pawn shops listed in the telephone book, the report found, even though there didn’t seem to be a shortage of banks in the city.

  • MassINC Research Director on WFCR

    A study by the research firm MassINC finds that residents in nearly a dozen older, industrial Massachusetts cities are less likely than other state residents to have bank accounts. WFCR’s Bob Paquette spoke with Ben Forman, the Research Director at MassINC.  Listen here.

  • CWs Jack Sullivan on WRKO


    CommonWealth magazine’s senior investigative reporter Jack Sullivan appeared on the Charley Manning show on March 5th on WRKO.  Listen to the audio here.  The two spoke about the proposal to bring casinos and racinos to the Commonwealth.

  • Rich towns get ‘distressed’ status

    The Boston Globe

    A 2008 study by MassINC, a nonprofit research group in Boston, found that affluent suburbs landed many of the biggest, most desirable economic development projects subsidized by the program, such as high-tech manufacturing plants and research parks. By contrast, struggling communities often used the program for discount stores, fast-food restaurants, and other businesses that generally create few high-paying jobs.

    “It’s supporting high-value economic activity in affluent locations and marginal activities in low-income towns,’’ said Benjamin Forman, research director for MassINC.

    Read the full report.

  • CW Editor Bruce Mohl on NECN Broadside with Jim Braude

    Bruce Mohl
    CW Editor Bruce Mohl was a guest on NECN’s “Broadside” with Jim Braude on March 4th, to talk about patronage in the probation department.  Bruce Mohl and Jack Sullivan recently published an investigative report on the lack of oversight at the probation office and recent debate about how to reign in commissioner John O’Brien and his hiring policies.  Mr. Braude also noted CommonWealth’s recent coverage of pension reform legislation, covered by Michael Jonas in the Winter 2010 issue of the magazine. 


  • CW’s Jack Sullivan on Carr show


    CommonWealth senior investigative reporter Jack Sullivan appeared on the Howie Carr Show on WRKO (AM 680) on Monday at 6:08 p.m. to talk about patronage at the state probation service, the focus of a recent story on CommonWealthmagazine.org. Carr, the talk show host and Boston Herald columnist, wrote a column in the Boston Sunday Herald about the Anzalone case that CommonWealth featured and  examined the issue more deeply on his radio show. He and Sullivan took calls from listeners for about a half-hour.

    Listen to Jack Sullivan’s complete appearance on Howie’s show here.

  • New Bedford shows off its cultural revival

    New Bedford Standard Times

    City leaders exercised their bragging rights Friday as the Massachusetts Cultural Council came to town along with guests from “Gateway Cities” across the state.

    They came to the former Star Store — now UMass Dartmouth’s primary arts campus — to see how New Bedford took all of the talk about building a cultural economy downtown and actually did it.

  • Commentary: College decision too often based on flawed criteria

    Patriot Ledger
    If you’ve been to college recently, or you’re the parent of a student, you know how planning for college has become a bit like the game show The Price is Right. The rules can be confusing, the price is hard to guess, glitter and glamour distract, and you’re just hoping the payoff will be big.

    But unlike the game show, students and parents are playing with their own money.

  • Paying for college

    WFCR – Paying for College

    MHERST, MA (wfcr) – The average American college student graduates with $23,000 of debt. That’s according to a new report from the public policy think tank MassINC. Tony Broh, a co-author of “Planning for College”, says it can’t be stressed enough: families need to start saving whatever amount they can as soon as a child is born.

  • Study: Families need more financial info

    The State News

    The report, released by Massachusetts-based policy think tank MassINC, found the complexity of investing money and finding ways to pay for a college education are lost in a muddle of intricate, yet insufficient information.

    Tony Broh, a higher education consultant and the study’s co-author, said information available to students and their families about ways of paying for higher education is presented in a way where they do not take the overall investment into account.

    Broh said he came up with the study’s findings by using publicly available information, such as information that might be found on a lending agency’s Web site.

    He said although the study dealt only with private and public colleges and universities in the state of Massachusetts, its findings have national implications.

    “College is not about making a living,” Broh said. “It’s finding out how to live your entire life. All of that’s important, but with the price of tuition fees … getting higher and higher all the time, it’s increasingly becoming more important as a financial consideration.”

    Broh said the lack of information is inherent in colleges and universities, lending agencies and state and federal governments.

    The problem, he said, is that throughout the past 30 years, opportunities to pay for college have become increasingly scarce.

    “What happened, I think, is colleges, and I should say lending institutions and the government, didn’t understand the responsibility they had to treat college applicants as a consumer and to think of them in the same way as someone who’s buying a house or a car,” Broh said.

    MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said she had not seen the report and could not comment on it specifically.

    However, she said the process of figuring out ways to pay higher education costs can be a confusing process. MSU specifically, she said, takes measures to increase cost transparency, such as a “budget calculator” that can be found on the Office of Financial Aid’s Web site.

    “We’ve tried to use a lot of Web-based tools to (help) families understand programs that are available,” Simon said. “We’re constantly trying to (be transparent).”

    Simon said it is possible that federal financial aid forms, such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), also need to be simplified for students and their families.

    Samantha Ayscue, a social relations and secondary education senior, said she does not feel there is an adequate amount of information about methods of paying for college for students and their families.

    Such information is needed, she said, especially with tuition costs increasingly on the rise.

    Ayscue said work could be done on all levels to make the process more transparent, such as increasing awareness of financial aid and scholarship opportunities on the college level. She said making key Web sites more concise also might help.

    “I’ve used the Office of Financial Aid’s Web site for scholarships, but some were from like 2006,” Ayscue said. “They need to update stuff like that and just make it more accessible.”

  • The Boston Redevelopment Authority’s Money Machine

    The BRA’s Money Machine – Fox 25

    In last year’s mayoral election, Mayor Tom Menino’s challengers zeroed in on the powerful Boston Redevelopment Authority, claiming the agency is out of control and should be abolished.

    Both Menino and the BRA survived, but now after the election a little-known legal maneuver by the BRA has been uncovered.

    It’s being called the BRA’s never-ending money machine.

  • You win, you’re fired

    CommonWealth magazine

    In mid-June last year, Gov. Deval Patrick and legislative leaders seemed to be tripping over each other to heap praise on a pension reform bill that the governor had just signed. “Welcome to a day we’ve been waiting for for a decade or more,” Patrick told a roomful of lawmakers, aides, and reporters, according to the Boston Globe. “Today we answer the public’s call for real reform to our pension system,” said Senate President Therese Murray. House Speaker Robert DeLeo chimed in, calling the bill “a giant step.”

    But all the self-congratulation may have been a little over the top.

  • Money Machine

    CommonWealth magazine

    Every time one of the condominiums at Flagship Wharf in the Charlestown Navy Yard changes hands, the Boston Redevelopment Authority takes a piece of the action.

    Unit 723, for example, has been sold five times since it first went on the market in 1993, including once by former Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. The BRA collected almost 4 percent of the initial sale price and 2 percent every time thereafter, for a total of about $50,000. For all 200 luxury condominiums in the building, the BRA pocketed an estimated $4.5 million in so-called resale payments, an amount that will keep growing as long as the building remains standing and the units keep turning over. In essence, Flagship Wharf is a never-ending money machine.

  • City employees cash in on Boston’s affordable housing program

    Fox 25

    How would you like to live in a luxury condo development on Beacon Hill and pay only $161,000 for a unit, a fraction of what your well-to-do neighbors paid? Or live on the edge of Boston Harbor, with skyline views, for just $148,000, less than half of what your condo is actually worth.

    Housing bargains like these can be yours if you get lucky in the city’s Inclusionary Development Program.

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