The Download: Sexy cities

Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter says flourishing cities have sex appeal. I hadn’t thought about cities that way, but she’s got a point. The good ones have a certain magnetism about them, attracting people, resources, opportunities, and ideas. “Cities are one big dating game,” she says.

Kanter’s perspective is showcased in an interesting series of blogs hosted by the Harvard Business Review website in advance of a think tank next week on revitalizing cities. (For details on the think tank, click here and then click the “Revitalizing Cities” tab in the left hand column.) Some of the blog postings are a little out there, but they get you thinking.

Marc Ott, Austin’s city manager, says his community is trying to develop something called a Sustainable Places Analytic Tool. The tool would gather citywide data on a host of variables – traffic, housing costs, jobs lost, children in poverty, kilowatt hours used, and on and on – and mash it all together in a way that would allow analysts to see how different development patterns would affect a series of municipal goals. A bit fuzzy, I know, but the federal government is investing $3.7 million in the project and IBM is providing technical assistance.

Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree says we as a nation spend too much on prisons, juvenile halls, and death penalty prosecutions and not enough on programs like YouthBuild, which trains troubled urban youths to build affordable housing units. Ogletree, echoing a theme contained in many of the blog posts, says society needs better  data to make wise investment choices.

For example, the cost per each YouthBuild participant is $16,000 a year, which Olgletree says is a wise investment. By contrast, Ogletree cites research in North Carolina showing that the death penalty costs the state $11 million more than if the state replaced capital punishment with life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Douglas Foy, the CEO of Serrafix Corp. and prior to that the secretary of commonwealth development in Massachusetts, makes the case that cities are the answer to almost every problem facing the nation, everything from climate change to the welfare of senior citizens.

He recounts how his mother-in-law broke her hip and had to go into a nursing home. She could have gone to a home in the suburbs where she would have been isolated with other seniors like her, cut off from the amenities of urban life. Instead, Foy says she went into a nursing home in the North End, near her family and near just about anything she could want. “The quality of those years was vastly improved, for my mother-in-law and for us, because she was part of the ‘hood,” Foy said.

But one commenter says Foy’s rhapsody on urban life forgets to mention how costly it can be to live in a city. “Yes I would love for Nana to live in the hood, but for many it is too expensive,” he writes.
 
                                                                                                                                                                             –BRUCE MOHL

BEACON HILL

CommonWealth’s Jack Sullivan reports on the start of a beautiful relationship, as House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Roderick Ireland join forces to keep the Probation Department in the judiciary. Here’s the Globe story on yesterday’s DeLeo-Ireland press conference.

In a discussion with Today’s Matt Lauer, Gov. Deval Patrick disavows any interest in other political jobs and says he will be campaigning hard for President Obama, particularly on health care issues. To see the interview, click here and then on “latest show.”

Another blow to former House speaker Sal DiMasi in pretrial hearings in his federal corruption case. The Boston Herald speculates about the impact of the DiMasi trial on Patrick’s rising political star.

A budget amendment that stalled as a stand alone bill would allow judges to place pets under the care of a restraining order in domestic disputes.

Most lawmakers from the South Shore, save one Republican, tell the Patriot Ledger they are opposed to House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s budget amendment to strip unions of most of their collective bargaining rights on health care.

Jon Keller says it’s time for Gov. Deal Patrick to “drop the baby talk” amid evidence the economic recovery is slowing down.

Scot Lehigh calls out public-sector unions and their legislative allies for trying to scuttle meaningful attempts to rein in health care costs to cities and towns. CommonWealth‘s Bruce Mohl, meanwhile, dissects the health care proposals of the governor, the House, and labor’s guy, Rep. Martin Walsh, and finds they all use the same benchmark for savings.

REDISTRICTING

US Rep. Richard Neal says that Massachusetts should preserve two western Massachusetts congressional seats.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

To cope with a $1.2 million structural deficit going into 2012., North Adams faces the unappealing choice between deep cuts to municipal services or an override vote

Take the money and…maybe not: Newton Mayor Setti Warren decides not to accept pay raise.

Adams selectmen register “no confidence” in one of their fellow officials, Paula Melville. After a Melville email persuaded MassDevelopment to temporarily stop work on a local project,  The North Adams Transcript suggests it might be time for the town to inform state agencies that she doesn’t represent the views of the board or any other town officials.

Scituate teachers have agreed to take a two-day furlough next year to save jobs if voters fail to pass a $2.2 million override.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

US Sen. Scott Brown raises $264,000 from political action committees in just three months as he bulks up his already large campaign war chest, WBUR reports.

According to a Pew Research Center poll, religious affiliation of congressional members mirrors the general public and in politics, Protestant Christians are more likely to go Republican while more Catholics and non-Christian denominations side with Democrats.

Slate’s David Weigel wonders why nutty town hall meltdowns haven’t greeted US Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget.

US Sen. John Ensign quits the Senate. Here’s the straight take, and here’s Wonkette’s bluer version. FiveThirtyEight weighs the implications of the resignation on the Senate’s makeup.

ELECTION 2012

Now we have some data to help push ahead the complaints about this wicked boring Republican presidential field.

The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne handicaps President Obama’s chances against various Republican candidates, providing the familiar critique of Mitt Romney and calling Tim Pawlenty, “the Dukakis of 2012.”

Larry Sabato, the ubiquitous University of Virginia political science professor, lays out his Electoral College map for 2012.

Sarah Palin’s point man in Iowa washes his shirts in the sink of a Des Moines Days Inn.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Globe reports that a consulting firm that is recommending a big expansion of Boston’s convention center has made similar recommendations for many other cities, with the projected economic benefits of those expansions often not being realized.  

The Wall Street Journal rounds up efforts by states to claw back business tax breaks, complete with a mention of Evergreen Solar.

EDUCATION

Two syringes found at an elementary school playground are causing an uproar in Saugus, the Item reports. NECN talks to the 12-year-old who spotted the syringes and picked one up.

Nearly 20 years after the education reform bill was passed, a majority of voters are satisfied with the state of public education, according to a new UMass Dartmouth poll.

HEALTH CARE

The MetroWest Daily News heralds  progress on reducing risky teen behaviors, such as binge drinking and cigarette smoking. There’s problems with marijuana usage, however.

Atrius Health and Fallon Clinic, two huge Massachusetts physician practice groups, are in merger talks, the Globe reports.

TRANSPORTATION

State transportation officials still don’t have a final design for the planned reconstruction of the Longfellow Bridge.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Merrimack River, a source of drinking water, is a dumping ground for cars, drug paraphernalia, tampons, sewage, and even human bones, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Many stretches of road have become illegal dumping grounds, but the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is trying to nab the dumpers with a candid camera initiative, the Lowell Sun reports.

Seven Cape and Islands towns unveil an $85 million solar power project.

A Cape Light Compact pilot program lets homeowners track electricity usage.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

One-fourth of Massachusetts middle school students say they have been bullied, according to a new federal report, and violence in the home is associated with much higher rates of involvement in bullying – both as a victim and perpetrator.  

A homeless man who was convicted of a sex crime in Iowa is fighting jail time for failing to register as a sex offender in Haverhill. The man’s attorney says state law doesn’t require him to register, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

WBUR’s Radio Boston explores the changing attitude toward marijuana.

THE CIVIL WAR

Why the North isn’t going all out to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the War Between the States. The Associated Press via The Bay State Banner.