Democrats’ Platform of Opportunity

There’s an old quip that a camel is a horse designed by committee. In June, Massachusetts Democrats will affirm a new state platform – the camel meant to guide federal and state party officials from Massachusetts for the next four years, including the gubernatorial candidates. Like 2013’s version, it will be a laundry list, not a vision.
Here is the horse that Massachusetts Democrats should ride forward instead: 
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Massachusetts Drone Regulation

NEWTON, MA (WHDH) – Drones have taken off in Massachusetts, with nearly 10,000 registered with the Federal Aviation Administration in our state last year.
But a battle is brewing between drone pilots and the cities and towns they’re gliding over, and 7NEWS discovered one city’s new rules may fly in the face of the federal government.
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The Dissonance of Zoning and Immigration

Newton recently became a sanctuary city. I was proud to co-sponsor the ordinance and gratified by the legion of residents who rallied at City Hall in support of their immigrant neighbors. The next night, I listened to some of those same residents decry a request to build housing and retail near the Newtonville commuter rail station. They did not want the influx of people, with the attendant traffic and school children, and they did not want the bigger building. read more

 

Auchincloss: Choice in education helps fulfill the American promise

The American promise is that the condition of your birth should not determine the outcome of your life.
Much of our history is the struggle to make good on that promise for those who were left out of the 18th century social contract: women, immigrants, African-Americans, those with disabilities and those without inherited wealth, among many others. It is a good struggle. As an American, I am proud of the American promise; as a Democrat, I am proud of my party for protecting it during this election season.
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Newton Election 2015: Auchincloss unseats Johnson; incumbents prevail elsewhere

Jacob D. Auchincloss unseated longtime incumbent Marcia Johnson in the four-way race for Ward 2 aldermen at-large — the only challenger to win election among the five contested aldermen races this election cycle.
With 4,797 votes, Auchincloss came in second in the race for two spots to incumbent Susan Albright, who earned 5,370 votes. Johnson trailed with 4,328 votes, while Lynne LeBlanc, another challenger, finished with 3,488 votes, according to unofficial results.
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Ward 2 Candidates Forum

 

Newton’s Ward 2 challengers in focus

For the first time in a decade, there is a contest for the two alderman at-large seats in Ward 2.
In what has become the most competitive race of this election cycle, three newcomers are challenging incumbent aldermen at-large Susan Albright and Marcia Johnson, who have a combined 28 years experience representing the Newtonville-centered ward.
In interviews with the TAB, challengers Lynne LeBlanc, Jake Auchincloss and Jess Barton cited development, infrastructure, schools and the city’s unfunded retirement liabilities as among the issues most important to Newton.
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Auchincloss’s Grassroots Campaign

 

Baker Transition Report

A central finding of each advisory group is that government is too fragmented to
deliver on its promises, either to beneficiaries or taxpayers. Although there is
undoubtedly room for consolidation of programs and agencies, committee
members are in agreement that smarter management can yield significant
improvement, both in terms of better outcomes and lower costs. Programs and
funding streams tend to be narrowly defined, leading to inefficiencies and
needless duplication. More important, since most of the challenges we face
have interconnected and varied causes, solutions have to be flexible enough to
fit specific circumstances. Disconnected piecemeal programs just can’t get the
job done.
Solving this problem is not straightforward, but the advisory groups are all in
agreement that the new administration needs to make a priority of finding ways
to integrate overlapping state initiatives in order to create greater leverage from
available resources and empower front-line decision makers to develop
customized solutions.
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Auchincloss announces bid for Newton alderman

A 2006 Newton North and 2010 Harvard graduate, combat Marine and current MBA candidate at the MIT Sloan School of Management has thrown his hat in the ring for the Ward 2 alderman at-large seat in November’s election.
Jacob “Jake” Auchincloss said he would bring a fresh perspective and sound judgment to the board
“Newton is a great city and I am a proud product of its public schools,” Auchincloss said. “The farther I got from Newton in the Marines, the more fortunate I felt for having grown up here. But we’ve grown complacent. Many of the aldermen on the board are content to stand still while the rest of municipalities are moving ahead.”
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Pre-K for every Newton child

Newton’s hard-won reputation for academic excellence will erode if the city does not invest in universal access to early childhood education. We are already behind by neglecting to provide bona fide full-day kindergarten, as 85 percent of the state’s school districts do; we are falling farther behind by ignoring low-income families’ demand for high-quality preschool.
The science is irrefutable and the civic obligation is compelling: immersing children in intellectually and socially stimulating environments before kindergarten improves the trajectory of their lives and careers. The city’s initial investment would be returned with interest in the form of fewer resource-intensive, under-performing students and through a boost to property values once more Newton schools regain their Level 1 rating by closing performance gaps between socioeconomic levels.
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Living Large on a Small Footprint

Engineers at MIT’s Media Lab may soon offer cities another lever to increase both workforce housing and urban density. The CityHome is a transformable wall system that integrates furniture, storage, exercise equipment, lighting, office space, and entertainment hardware. Critically, the CityHome is both modular and scalable: it is smart architecture that can be inserted into a “dumb” chassis, thereby relieving risk-averse developers from up-front overhead costs. read more

 

The Best and the Brightest of Local Regulatory Reform

The $18 billion valuation of Uber is, in the words of L. Gordon Crovitz writing in the Wall Street Journal, a market estimate of the value of the waste caused by taxi regulations around the world. And taxi regulations are but one of myriad anachronistic, duplicative, or unduly cumbersome rules that have turned many American local codes into demoralizing puzzles. Beyond headliners like Uber that have challenged regulatory landscapes, though, these local codes have been subject to much less scrutiny than their federal counterparts.
Some of the best theorists and practitioners behind the movement for local regulatory reform met at the Harvard Kennedy School on July 15th to help chart the way forward. The Regulatory Reform Committee, chaired by Professor Stephen Goldsmith, former Mayor of Indianapolis and Deputy Mayor of New York City, drew together leading scholars of the subject with senior policy-makers from Boston, Chicago, and New York City, which have been among the most innovative cities in the country on the issue.
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Old Town, New Tricks

Casco Viejo is the beating heart of a booming city. At the southwestern tip of Panama’s capital, the vibrant neighborhood overlooks the Pacific entrance to the Canal, through which hundreds of millions of tons of containerized freight pass each year. The success of the Casco and the Canal represent the same approach manifested at the local and the global scale: Operations that serve an international clientele demand logistics beyond the means of the Panamanian government. The Panama Canal Authority is a patrimony unto itself; it coordinates tariffs, cranes, locks, and docks with constitutionally protected autonomy. There are no such formal mandates in the Casco. But there is Casco Parking.
Casco Parking is a private-sector partnership to solve public-goods problems in Panama’s Old Town. The colonial-era enclave hosts architecture worthy of a World Heritage Site designation from UNESCO in 1997, plus walkability and nightlife unmatched downtown. All this attracts a surge of tourists and locals to complement residents drawn from over 30 countries, one of whom is K.C. Hardin, an American developer committed to sustainability who, with partner Ramon Ricardo Arias, has built the most notable hotels in the neighborhood.
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#ThisWeekInData:
A Weekly Roundup of the Latest Civic Data News

Here on Data-Smart, Stephen Goldsmith profiled Seattle’s open data policy, developed with the help of What Works Cities’ partner the Sunlight Foundation and the input of Seattle residents. In creating the policy, Seattle put an emphasis on privacy, drawing upon the expertise of a number of academic institutions and non-profits to create a set of privacy principles and a system for examining data before publication. The city has also promoted engagement with its open data by holding events to publicize applications of data, instituting trainings, and creating the position of Civic Technology Advocate.  read more

 

Social Physics As A Public Utility

Prime innovation ecologies are at a premium these days, as both municipal and private-sector officials scout out sites to host the next innovation district or biotechnology firm. A new branch of science, social physics, will help them develop innovative neighborhoods to deepen their bench of prospects.
Developed by MIT Professor Alex Pentland, one of the world’s foremost experts on big data, social physics derives fundamental rules of social interaction from the “statistical regularities in human movement and communication” made tractable by information technology and big data. This is the descriptive aspect of what Prof. Pentland terms “reality mining”: Who is going where, with whom, in what mood, for how long, by what route, to buy what – and all the patterns of conversation along the way.
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Regulatory Climate Index 2014

A small business in Dallas can secure a construction permit in 50 days, for just under $10,000. Its twin in San Francisco? More than six months at ten times the cost.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation released its 2014 Regulatory Climate Index at the Harvard Kennedy School earlier this week. The Index assesses five areas of regulation that a typical small business encounters as it opens and operates across ten major cities in the United States. The cities are scored by the cost, time, and number of procedures necessary to (a) start a business, (b) deal with construction permits, (c) register property, (d) pay taxes, and (e) enforce contracts.
Harvard Professor Edward Glaeser, who moderated a panel discussion of the findings, presented evidence that the number of small firms within cities is an accurate proxy for the entrepreneurial activity that is critical to their long-term job growth; he further observed that those cities with pro-business and pro-housing policies tend to have a larger number of small firms.
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