Black holes

In the 35 years since National Urban League conventioneers last ventured into Boston, the city has made galactic strides in race relations. Boston is finally getting control of the one troubling narrative that has permeated the Hub’s modern history. With tensions far less searing than they were during the busing era, educational and professional opportunities for African-Americans here have broadened.

But even as the Hub wrestles its historical demons to the ground, that optimism has to be tempered by other social realities. The 2010 State of Black Boston Demographic and Community Profile found that African Americans continue to suffer high rates of poverty. More than 20 percent of all black families and 25 percent of black individuals are poor, compared to 7 percent of white families and 13 percent of individuals.

Another report issued this week by the Pew Research Center confirms that blacks’ economic gains continue to slide. The tumult of the Great Recession led to drops in median wealth for all Americans, but among minorities the declines were catastrophic. Median net wealth is now 20 times greater for whites than for blacks and 18 times greater than that of Hispanics.

Median wealth plummeted 53 percent for African-Americans (and a staggering 66 percent for Hispanics) producing the largest gap in wealth between blacks and whites in 25 years. Whites’ wealth declined 16 percent. “It’s not so much that the wealthy were busy getting richer – it’s that they slipped back less than those at the other end of the ladder,” Rakesh Kochner, one of the Pew co-authors told The Christian Science Monitor.

Blacks suffered so deeply because most of their wealth is tied to the equity in their homes. The median value of blacks’ home equity dropped from $76,910 in 2005 to $59,000 in 2009. Others fared still worse: A quarter of blacks could only point to a vehicle as their sole major asset, compared to 6 percent of whites.

Though the State of Black Boston demographic data covers the period from 2006 to 2008, a betting person might wager that Boston blacks fared as poorly as blacks nationally in the downturn, even though Massachusetts did not suffer as much as some other states. (Black median household income is $33,420; white median household income is $63,980.)

The economic meltdown hit black men the hardest. In June, joblessness was twice as high for blacks as for whites, 16.2 to 8.1 percent. But 17 percent of black men were unemployed compared to 8.1 percent of white men. In a separate examination of how black men have been frozen out of the limping economic recovery, the Monitor reports that unemployment among black men that threatens their movement into the middle class. About 1 in 6 men older than 20 do not have jobs. In some cities, like Detroit, African-American men have unemployment rates of more than 20 percent.

Plenty of black men looking for work have the odds stack against them. Many have criminal records; college graduates are few and far between; blue collar positions and unskilled jobs continue to disappear; and the cost cutting mood in Washington and state capitals threatens the very job training programs that they rely on. As the Black Boston and Pew reports show, identifying the symptoms is far easier than coming up with a real cure.

                                                                                                                                            –GABRIELLE GURLEY


State Treasurer Steve Grossman says that Massachusetts can pay its bills until September if Washington fails to raise the debt limit. After that, who knows?

The state pension fund posted a huge gain for the fiscal year ending June 30, its best showing in 25 years.

Boston magazine throws cold water on Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposed parole overhaul.

The State House News Service reports on the Legislature’s push to ban shock therapy in Massachusetts. Via the Patriot Ledger.

The Department of Revenue changes the way it calculates sales tax on cell phones, raising some eyebrows on Beacon Hill.


The Lowell City Council votes to raise a number of fees charged for inspecting gas pumps, grocery-store scanners, taxi meters, and other devices. The Sun reports that the fee increases were sought by the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments, which is adding Lowell to the list of communities for which it handles inspections.

Western Mass can’t get a break. Severe thunderstorms cause more damage in some of the same communities that were hit by a June tornado. More here from The Berkshire Eagle.

Thousands are still without power in the region, NECN reports.

Three Brockton city councilors support new hiring rules for city workers after an Enterprise investigation found family relations were pervasive in the city’s public works department.

Fall River could lose two post offices if the Postal Service implements its proposed closings in an effort to cut costs.

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council dissolved its Whole Foods Ad Hoc Committee, but formed a bargaining committee to push for a community benefits agreement from Whole Foods, the Jamaica Plain Gazette reports. Via Universal Hub.

The Berkshire Eagle says expanding broadband access in the rural Berkshires will improve the quality of life for businesses and residents.


House Speaker John Boehner faces a rebellion among his herd of wild cats. Here is the Globe account of Boehner’s woes. Sen. Tom Coburn, known as Dr. No, becomes Dr. Maybe in the budget impasse gripping Washington, Newsweek reports. The US Chamber of Commerce, which pumped millions of dollars into the campaigns of House Republicans, now seems to regret what it has wrought. Companies hoard cash ahead of next week’s debt ceiling deadline. The problem, David Bernstein argues, is that the know-nothings don’t even know what they don’t know. In a Globe op-ed, economist Ed Moscovitch says the whole premise that tax increases are bad for the economy is plain wrong, and he says he has the facts to prove it. Talking Points Memo’s take on the GOP’s “civil war” is here.

Meanwhile, US Rep. Richard Neal of Springfield says he can’t get traction on an effort to close a glaring tax loophole used by foreign insurance companies, even as Congress struggles to reduce the national debt.

Do-it-yourself redistricting begins to take hold, Robin Young reports on WBUR’s Here & Now.


Mitt Romney goes out on a limb and names some of the men he’s considering as running mates if he gets the Republican nod.


New Hampshire cut its cigarette tax by 10 cents on July 1, but few smokers noticed because tobacco manufacturers raised their prices by the same amount, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Home sales are down locally and across the state compared to a year ago, but real estate agents tell the Lynn Item the market is starting to recover.

Jon Chesto notes that most of the proposed post office closings in Massachusetts are in urban areas, while nationwide, most locations considered for closure are in rural areas.

The state is trying to jump-start air-rights development projects above the Mass. Pike, the Globe reports.

Home sales continue to slide in Massachusetts.


Peabody gets no takers when it opens its schools to out-of-town residents. The Salem News reports the municipality had been counting on $120,000 in revenue from out-of-towners.

PCB contamination was found at Westport Middle School, the New Bedford Standard-Times reports.


MBTA Silver Line service to the South Boston waterfront booms, while the bridge leading to the neighborhood crumbles.

The Springfield Republican calls for more transparency in the transportation sector after the latest Big Dig fiasco.


Swampscott approves a $2 sticker fee for trash put at the curb beyond the current three-barrel limit, the Salem News reports.


Jessica Stern, a rape victim herself, reports on the double standard of sex crimes, in Time.

Whitey Bulger girlfriend Catherine Greig has made multiple moves in recent weeks to protect real estate assets from any legal action, the Globe reports.


Truthsquad is the latest entry into the cottage industry of media fact-checking. It uses the crowd as well as professional journalists to check for accuracy, reports the Nieman Journalism Lab.