From Governor Patrick's State of the State address to the passage of the transportation bond bill, it has been a big week on Beacon Hill. For Gateway City leaders eager to partner with the legislature on economic development policy, however, the event to take note of was Speaker DeLeo's call for an economic development bill that spurs growth in regions of the state that have struggled to gain traction in this recovery:
"Massachusetts has a storied history and a hopeful future. There is much to be proud of here. Yet, jobs and opportunity are sometimes harder to come by outside Route 495. We need to change that. We need to make sure we extend the circle of opportunity from Boston to the Berkshires, Cape Ann to the South Coast, Fall River to Fitchburg in each city and town in the Commonwealth."
In the coming weeks and months, it's imperative that Gateway Cities leaders see the Speaker's words as a challenge to come forward with ideas for smart economic development policies that seed growth and vitality across our state.
- Winthrop Roosevelt
Government Affairs Coordinator
Gateway Cities Innovation Institute
The statewide dropout rate fell to the lowest level in decades, according to a report released by the Department of Education this week. We've created a table of the dropout rate in the Gateway Cities.
Urban districts like Boston, Lawrence and Springfield saw sharp declines in their dropout rates, and in New Bedford and Worcester progress was being made. Taunton maintained its low dropout rates, but in Lynn, English High School saw an increase.
The Chicopee School Committee and City Council raise concerns about the growing number of homeless children attending school in the area. MassINC has researched the effect that housing insecurity has on student mobility in the Gateway Cities.
The Pittsfield School Building Commission is considering several different proposals for a new or renovated Taconic High School.
A jump in the number of autistic students will cost the Worcester public schools an estimated $1.2 million, the Telegram & Gazette reports.
A report commissioned by Steward Health Care System, which runs Saint Anne's Hospital in Fall River and Morton Hospital in Taunton, touts Steward's $8.4 billion dollar impact on the region. Although the growing healthcare industry in Fall River promises to boost the economy, City Officials remain hesitant and seek a strategy to diversify the city's economy.
A deal was announced between Foxwoods and Fall River to create a $750 million dollar casino project that is projected to bring 3,000-5,000 jobs to the area.
Meanwhile, the state Gaming Commission held a public hearing for the Cordish Companies' proposal to construct a slots casino in Leominster.
UMass Lowell student runs a start-up that envisions a global 'lost and found' smartphone app to connect people with forgotten items over distances.
Late Wednesday night, the House passed a $12.7 billion transportation bond bill. Among the earmarks are $2.2 billion for South Coast Rail, $30 million for rail improvements to the Knowledge Corridor in the Pioneer Valley, and $300 million for local road improvements - a $100 million increase over the level set by Gov. Patrick in the initial bill.
Massport makes improvements at Worcester Regional Airport to improve visibility for pilots. Former Lt. Gov. and now head of the Worcester Chamber of Commerce Tim Murray heralded the improvements as "maintaining the momentum that began with JetBlue's arrival" at the airport last year.
Business owners and their employees lobbied the City Council of Haverhill to consider additional parking spaces to accommodate for growing business.
ENERGY, ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH
In Pittsfield, Berkshire area residents are voicing their concerns regarding the development of commercial wind farms.
New Bedford was one of nine Massachusetts communities to receive a $250,000 dollar grant from the Patrick Administration's Health and Wellness Trust Fund over the next three years.
Leominster's Tobacco Agent spearheads a campaign for smokeless public housing in the tri-city area.
Fall River community member Al Lima received the Kuehn award for leading the city to adopt the Community Preservation Act.
Alarmed by a spate of fires destroying historic landmarks in New Bedford, a preservation group has teamed up with area legislators to push a bill that would give a 50 percent tax credit to organizations that install fire suppression systems in historic buildings.
A grassroots effort has sprouted to keep the USS Salem in Quincy, after the MBTA announced it will not fix the damaged commuter boat wharf it owns where the former Navy ship is docked because the costs are too high.
The YMCA in Pittsfield is receiving a facelift to reshape how it presents itself to the community.
GOVERNANCE & POLITICS
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll wants to remove the city's police and fire chiefs from civil service, giving the mayor more flexibility in hiring, the Salem News reports.
The City Council in Leominster ordered a salary review of town employees.
Newly elected Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera attended the State of the Union Address as a guest of Congresswoman Nicki Tsongas.
Worcester announced the city Democratic caucus dates.
The five Democrats running for governor shared a stage to woo voters in Pittsfield.
Speaking at a roundtable at Suffolk University, Joseph Avellone, a Democratic candidate for governor, cited the United Teen Equality Center in Lowell as a model for helping at-risk youth, the Sun reports.
The Journal of the American Planning Association published an article by Daniel Chatman in its winter issue called, "Does TOD need the T?" In the study, Chatman explores the suggestion that Transit Oriented Development is not a direct result of rail access, but rather a combination of other factors such as housing type and density, parking availability, and the built environment.
ON THE HILL...
The Joint Committee on Ways and Means has scheduled eight public hearings on Gov. Patrick's $36.4 billion budget proposal for FY2015. The first will be at the State House in the Gardner Auditorium on Feb. 4 at 11AM. The February 25 hearing in Amherst will focus on education and local aid.