The Codcast: Gateway Cities come of age

It was 10 years ago that MassINC launched its Gateway Cities initiative with a report documenting the challenges — and huge opportunities — in the state’s once vibrant industrial cities.

“Massachusetts’ proud, old manufacturing cities must be counted, on balance, as distressed,” it said. Yet, concluded the report, “For the first time in decades, these cities’ reconnection to prosperity seems at least imaginable.”

A decade later, MassINC, the non-partisan public policy think tank that publishes CommonWealth, has continued to carry out research showing some of the pathways to renewed prosperity in Gateway Cities. It has also pushed initiatives to help them get there, such as a MassDevelopment project that has placed mid-career “fellows” with expertise in urban planning and development in Gateway Cities to help with strategic planning, site acquisition for redevelopment projects, and other initiatives.

But none of that would be happening without the energy and initiative of residents in the 26 Massachusetts communities that have been dubbed Gateway Cities, says Maureen McInerney, public affairs associate at MassINC, in this week’s Codcast. “They say, yes, we are ready to take this and run with it,” she says of leaders in the communities. She says they are simply looking to MassINC as a “catalyst” to help them tap the energy and potential in their community.

One new approach to that catalyst role at MassINC is the publication this month of a magazine spotlighting interesting people, initiatives, and ideas taking hold in Gateway Cities. Gateways is a glossy 80-page magazine that tells the tale of today’s Gateway Cities through stories rather than the research reports that are the bread and butter of MassINC’s Gateway Cities Innovation Institute.

Gateways includes the tale of Seth and Mitch Nash, two brothers who grew up in Pittsfield, left for what seemed like greener pastures, only to return and locate in their hometown a successful business, Blue Q, that manufacturers whimsical “joy-bringing products.” There is also the story of a remarkable public art project that is changing the face of downtown Lynn with massive murals that have turned big brick facades into giant canvases.

One key to Gateway Cities revitalization is strong political leadership, says MassINC’s research director, Ben Forman, who joined Maureen on the Codcast. So it’s no accident that Gateways leads off with an interview with Pittsfield’s current and immediately past mayor, Linda Tyer and James Ruberto. Ben says they “have shared a common vision for a more inclusive and prosperous city, and they’ve worked collaboratively to achieve it.”

Gateways magazine tells the story of the many good things happening in the communities that were being left out of the state’s tech boom. But all is not rosy in these cities, where poverty is concentrated and economic mobility has been limited. Providing fertile ground for businesses like Blue Q and others to thrive is an important part of the current Gateway Cities story. But the goal is also to “build a middle class from within,” by helping current residents move up the economic ladder, says Ben.  “All the data we see on that question are troubling,” he says, making clear the huge challenges still facing the communities.

–MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

Attorney General Maura Healey rules that the governor’s office is not subject to the Public Records Law. (CommonWealth) Shocking as this may be, a legislative commission that was supposed to look into the question of whether the governor’s office, the Legislature, and the judiciary ought to be covered by the law is making little progress because it has never met. (Boston Globe)

Healey is also telling municipalities opposed to marijuana that their moratoriums may not be foolproof. (Eagle-Tribune)

Gov. Charlie Baker said it was “a mistake” to edit a State Police report involving a judge’s daughter and promised reprimands to the two troopers involved in the arrest will be reversed. (Keller@Large)

Taxpayers have been on the hook for nearly $1 million in legal fees incurred by the Legislature related to various “human resource related matters,” ethics investigations, and criminal probes by outside authorities. (Boston Herald)

A Herald editorial says it’s about time, after Paul Heroux gives in to mounting pressure and says he’ll resign his House seat now that he’s been elected mayor of Attleboro. (Heroux previously said he’d serve out the remaining year of the House term while also taking the reins of municipal government.)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A Lowell Sun editorial warns the city is badly divided, both politically and geographically, by the fight over a new high school. But the paper digs deeper into the recent election numbers and warns of more trouble to come for Lowell.

A Braintree Town Councilor has proposed raising the salary for mayor from $125,000 to $150,000, which would take effect after the 2019 town elections. (Patriot Ledger)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Sunday’s Globe looked at the idyllic, care-free life of the US ambassador to New Zealand, Scott Brown. (Boston Globe)

Why are evangelicals rallying around Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate accused of sexual misconduct involving teenagers? (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

Benjamin Bradlow writes about Somerville’s version of “sewer socialism” that may have been ushered in by this month’s election, which saw four incumbents swept out of office by left-leaning challengers. (CommonWealth)

The women seeking to replace US Rep. Niki Tsongas are all mounting campaigns to win the support of Emily’s List. (Eagle-Tribune)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Bedbugs are a rare sight in office settings, but they have caused alarm at a downtown Boston alarm company call center. (Boston Globe)

The lobster catch could be down as much as 30 percent this year over last year’s record haul but lower prices are hurting the industry as well. (Associated Press)

EDUCATION

A survey by the Massachusetts School Building Authority found that one in five schools analyzed need renovation or repair but out of the 80 applications submitted from districts annually, there’s only enough funding for 15 to 20 projects. (Wicked Local)

Chelmsford, eager to keep its schools chief on board, offers him a hefty pay raise. (Lowell Sun)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The US Food and Drug Administration raided nine stores in Florida that help consumers buy costly drugs from Canada and other countries overseas. Some of the stores have been open as long as 15 years. (Kaiser Health News)

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA will unveil a plan for the next generation fare collection system using a multitude of payment methods including tapping credit cards and smartphone apps as a  cost of $723 million for the next 12 years. (CommonWealth)

The winning bidder on the Green Line extension comes in $237 million below the estimate and agrees to restore portions of the project that had been put on hold as costs were pared back. (CommonWealth)

Sloppy management, decades of deferred maintenance. Sounds like the MBTA, but it’s also the story of New York City’s gargantuan subway system. (New York Times)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Like many Massachusetts municipalities, Belmont takes a “baby step” in terms of reducing trash and trash collection costs. (CommonWealth)

The Environmental Protection Agency has a plan to reduce the plague of mosquitoes — and, paradoxically, it involves releasing millions of mosquitoes. (Boston Globe)

A study by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute may provide clues to prevent dolphin strandings. There have been nearly 400 strandings of the mammals in the region so far this year, the most ever on record. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Three court officers at Brockton District Court have been placed on leave in connection with an investigation into a heroin dealing ring at the courthouse. (The Enterprise)

In the wake of a shooting by a Fall River police officer that killed a 19-year-old driver, the Herald News looked back at officer-involved shootings in the past decade in the region and found the Bristol District Attorney determined they were all justifiable. The results are similar to a statewide analysis by CommonWealth in the Winter 2014 issue that found the same results in more than 70 shootings going back to 2001.

MEDIA

Talking Points Memo says digital media are crashing; there are just too many publications and not enough ad revenue to support them.

PASSINGS

Charles Manson, leader of a cult that committed one of the most notorious killing sprees of the 20th century, has died at the age of 83 after spending nearly 50 years in prison for ordering the killing of actress Sharon Tate and at least eight others. (New York Times)