The Gateway Cities Journal
News and information for leaders who care about Gateway Cities


Promoting the good, not the bad


The buzz this week in education circles was not the Massachusetts House's vote to lift the charter school cap in underperforming districts. Instead, Dale Russakoff grabbed the spotlight with an article in the New Yorker chronicling the failures of former "rock star" mayor Corey Booker in the land of ed reform. Booker, working with Gov. Chris Christie, landed a $100 million gift from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg with a promise to make Newark the best urban school district in the nation. Rusakoff's in-depth piece raises real questions about whether the transformation effort-fueled by big ambition and philanthropic dollars-did more harm than good. 


Newark bears little resemblance to our Gateway Cities, but the story is sure to linger in the minds of many in a way that could adversely impact them. Influential readers of the New Yorker may jump to conclude that more resources for urban schools will be squandered by dysfunctional bureaucracies. It doesn't help that Russakoff emphasizes repeatedly that the Newark Public Schools are already the beneficiaries of a one billion dollar budget, while neglecting to mention that, on a per pupil basis, Newark has less to spend than Governor Christie's affluent hometown. To add sizzle, he includes events that feature blood and mayhem, no matter how loosely related they are to his investigation.


Russakoff's article is the long-form journalism equivalent of "ruin porn", playing up all that is broken in struggling communities and overshadowing the good. Urban communities are loaded with innovative learning models. These programs could benefit many more youth, but for lack of resources.


In public opinion polling of Massachusetts voters that we'll be releasing soon, it is easy to pick up on the tension this kind of reporting creates in the minds of taxpayers when it comes to urban education spending. Voters clearly believe that helping students build skills for a 21st century economy will require more intensive training. And they see investing additional resources in education as the surest way to grow our economy. At the same time, they express doubts about whether money will be a difference maker in Gateway City schools.


Up against stories like the one in the New Yorker this week, we need to be at the top of our game promoting the good work happening in Gateway Cities.

-- Benjamin Forman




Writing for the Berkshire Eagle, Jim Therrien interviews outgoing Pittsfield Cultural Development Director Megan Whilden on the economic impact of a decade of focused investment in creative placemaking. (Megan's a Fellow of the Gateway Cities Innovation Institute. We wish her luck in her new role at Berkshire Community College).




Flatts at 44 in Chelsea becomes the first housing project completed as part of the Housing Development Incentive Program. The project turned an old industrial building into market rate and affordable housing for residents.


The Boston Globe looks at MGM's potential to provide an "economic engine" for the city of Springfield.


Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham writes about revitalization taking hold in Chelsea.


Governor Patrick announces an additional $1.2 million dollars grant for the Acushnet Avenue Improvement Project in New Bedford.


The Lowell Sun reports on local officials' enthusiasm regarding Governor Patrick's proposal to lift the liquor license cap.


We missed this big story last month, UMass Lowell's Medical Device Development Center (M2D2) is coming to the downtown Hamilton Canal District.


Worcester is honored by the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials for a pilot program to provide public housing to recovering substance abusers.


The MacArthur Foundation releases a set of research briefs on housing, including a paper looking at the link between housing quality and social-emotional development.


Writing for The Atlantic, Richard Florida describes Joe Cortright's new study demonstrating how rare it is for American cities to experience gentrification leading to displacement.




The State House of Representatives approves legislation raises the cap on charter schools. The bill now move on to the Senate.


After two incidents, the Fall River School Committee says they have tightened protocol on student transportation, but the Committee voted not to fine the bus company responsible for the most recent incident.


Innovation School funding was awarded to Worcester and Malden by the state to help turn around low performing schools.


New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell prioritizes school spending in his recent budget proposal.  As a result, a tax increase is likely to ensue in order to fund the budget.


Attleboro school officials are facing transportation fund shortages in conjunction with high costs associated with transportation of homeless students back to their communities.


Brockton school officials are estimating an increase in class sizes and a decrease in district course offerings as a result of nearly 200 teacher layoffs.  The layoffs were issued in an attempt to close a $5.7 million budget gap.


The Lowell School Committeeapproves the return of foreign language education, the Sun reports.


New Bedford will be the latest community to offer free breakfast and lunches to all students including those in five local private and parochial schools to make sure the focus is on learning, not hunger.


Michael Jonas covers the election of a new MTA president in Commonwealth.




After a long delay, the construction of the Willimansett Bridge connecting Holyoke and Chicopee is set to begin, with a target completion date of July 2015.


The Housatonic Railroad Company and the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission brief the Pittsfield City Council on potential train stations to connect the city with New York City via the Metro North rail.


The Massachusetts Department of Transportation awards Fall River the largest statewide grant to be used for a new bicycle and pedestrian safety awareness and education program




Leominster receives high recognition from the state for steps taken to transform the city into a desirable destination for biotech companies.


In an effort to beautify downtown Taunton, a massive tree planting effort was conducted by local landscapers.


Pittsfield receives state grant money to revitalize urban playgrounds in two parks.




The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will hold a final public forum on MGM's Springfield casino proposal before launching its own assessment of MGM's application.


An extended casino application deadline has prompted Foxwoods Casino Resort to seek out new waterfront property in Fall River for an expanded proposal for the southeastern regional license. Foxwoods' original proposal sought out the New Harbour Mall in the South End as a possible building site.


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