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Oh, ho, ho – It’s (Not) Magic: a few principles to observe when lobbying our legislative leaders

January 19th, 2017 by David Bryant

It’s January, a new Congress has convened in Washington ahead of a new Trump Administration, and a new legislature is in place in Massachusetts. There is a swirl of activities – meetings with legislators, strategy sessions with allies, and the sharing of gossip and ideas across the spectrum – before the true crush of legislative work and budgeting begins.

As we prepare to advocate for new resources and policies with the advent of a new legislature and a new legislative session, there are certain norms to adhere to as we work through the process to build support for our favored initiatives. During these first, frenzied weeks, I spent a few hours working with a group of graduate students from Harvard’s Kennedy School on a public policy project. Essentially, I briefed the team of students on a MACDC policy issue – our desire to restore higher funding for the Small Business Technical Assistance (SBTA) program – and shared some background information about the program and the Massachusetts legislative process. Overnight, they developed an advocacy pitch and sought feedback before delivering the presentation the following day to a few retired legislators.

I joined the team as an observer, and, while both presentations went well they achieved mixed results. In one instance, they secured support for their “ask,” while the other representative was noncommittal about her support. In the subsequent debrief, the students learned important lessons about advocacy, community engagement and the legislative process. As an observer, I gained renewed insight to the process as well. There is nothing magical about lobbying our legislative leaders, and I believe there are a few basic principles to follow that may help to demystify the process:

* Be direct with your appeal and always be honest in your approach – avoid exaggerating ideas or a misstatement of actions as facts intended to resolve the issue in your favor;

* Most legislators are moved by local concerns, so it helps if you can “frame” the problem or challenge in those terms, and show support from that representative’s community;

* Be courteous and respectful throughout the process - not fawning, yet not too familiar; don’t assume you will have the same level of support because you have gained it in the past. And be wary of unintentionally showing disrespect and jeopardizing a long-term relationship with legislator(s) by making an untenable request.

* Be mindful of any good advice or suggestions that may be offered along the way as means to advance your initiative and always be open to continue the dialogue.

Our political process often seems confusing – shrouded in ceremonial rituals, daunting language and obscure procedures. Sometimes this is true, but just as often there are straightforward ways and means to convey your policy interests (in formal meetings like Lobby Day, or informally outside of the local market, or neighborhood community center) and share your story to a kind ear, to receive a favorable result. “Never believe, it’s not so.”

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Mass Development Reopens Brownfields Redevelopment Program

January 18th, 2017 by Joe Kriesberg

Mass Development has announced that its long-standing and highly successful Brownfields Redevelopment Program is once again open for business thanks to a $2.5 million capital investment authorized by the Massachusetts Legislature and approved by the Baker Administration.

The investment follows a persistent effort by MACDC, CHAPA, the Mass. Smart Growth Alliance and many others to secure bond authorization for the program in last year’s Economic Development legislation and the subsequent allocation by Governor Baker.  The program funds both the assessment and remediation of contaminated land with the goal or creating jobs and homes for Massachusetts communities.  As part of a strategy to ensure the long-term sustainability of the program, Mass Development and the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development have announced the following changes to the program.

The new provisions are as follows:

•            Municipalities will make annual repayments to the Fund in an amount equal to 15% of the new municipal revenues from new growth on sites that have received BRF grants. The repayment obligation will apply to all grants, regardless of whether the grantee was a CDC or a municipality. The first $100,000 of a site assessment grant to CDCs for a site it does not yet own and that is not owned by a municipality will be excluded from this repayment obligation. 

•            Annual repayments would commence in the first year that new municipal revenues are realized, and stop after the earlier of 30 years or full repayment of the grant. If no redevelopment of the site commences within 30 years after the grant agreement, the repayment obligation will expire. 

•            Before closing on a grant agreement, MassDevelopment must receive a vote of the governing body of the municipality agreeing to budget for and make the contingent annual repayment, subject to annual appropriation.

•            Grantees will continue to be required to repay the Fund from net proceeds of a sale of the benefitted site; which repayments would reduce the amount to be recovered from the new municipal revenues.

“We are thrilled that this critical tool is once again available for CDCs and others seeking to put these properties back to productive use,” said Joseph Kriesberg, President of MACDC and a member of the state’s Brownfields Advisory Committee.  “We will continue to advocate for the program’s full funding so economic growth and opportunity can reach every community across the state.”

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Baystate Medical Center Announces $500,000 CITC Investment

January 9th, 2017 by Joe Kriesberg

Baystate Medical Center, based in Springfield announced earlier this month that it had made a $500,000 investment in Revitalize CDC and HAP Housing in Springfield to support their efforts to improve community health through improved housing and community development activities.  The three-year investment marks the largest CITC investment ever made by a health care institution and represents a groundbreaking milestone in the growing convergence between the community development and public health fields.

Revitalize CDC will receive $250,000 to support a three-year effort to improve housing conditions for children with asthma and to make home improvements that allow seniors to safely remain in their home.  The project will leverage Revitalize CDC’s remarkable volunteer network, enabling these home improvements to be done with high quality and low cost.

HAP Housing will also receive $250,000 to support a three-year effort to improve health in the Old Hill Neighborhood of Springfield.  These improvements will be achieved through a combination of physical improvements to parks, sidewalks, and bikeways as well as healthy lifestyle programming designed to activate the newly improved areas and advocacy to help local residents advocate for these and other health maximizing improvements in the neighborhood such as a new food store.

The investments are part of Baystate’s Better Together grant program. Baystate is able to utilize the CITC even though it is a not-for-profit without any tax liability because the CITC is refundable.  Therefore, Baystate has already announced that it will use their $250,000 CITC ”refund” to support additional community health programming in the coming years.

MACDC President Joseph Kriesberg spoke at the grant announcement and remarked that “this is a groundbreaking announcement that demonstrates the power of the CITC program to leverage new private investments.  I am so excited to see Baystate lead the way in using CITC to leverage the power of community development for improved health outcomes.  I can’t wait to tell health care institutions across the state about what is happening here in Springfield.  Congratulations.”

 

Learn more about Baystate's Community Health Needs Assessment 

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STATE TAX CREDIT GENERATES $12.8 MILLION FOR HIGH IMPACT COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

January 4th, 2017 by

More than $12.8 million in new private philanthropy was invested in high-impact, resident-led community development in 2014 and 2015 thanks to an innovative new state tax credit, according to a report released today by Next Street Financial.  The report is the first third-party evaluation conducted of the Massachusetts Community Investment Tax Credit, a program that was signed into law in 2012 and took effect in 2014.  The report was commissioned by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC) and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Boston.

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Executive Summary (PDF)

Report (PDF)

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The Community Investment Tax Credit is a 50% refundable state tax credit allocated to state-certified Community Development Corporations (CDCs) that were selected by DHCD through a competitive process to participate in the program to increase and diversify their philanthropic support. Thirty-six CDCs were selected in the program’s first year (2014) and another 14 were added in 2015.  Over the first two years of the program, the CITC attracted over 2,500 donations and $12.85 million.  The program successfully attracted 1,316 new donors to the field, including individuals, businesses, foundations and nonprofit institutions, with donations ranging from $1,000 to $500,000.  Over $5 million came from individuals – a new source of funding for many CDCs who have traditionally relied on foundations, corporations, government contracts and earned revenue.  The United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley was designated as the state’s Community Partnership Fund and raised over $2.4 million for the program over those two years – nearly 1/6 of all the money generated.

“This new flexible private funding is empowering CDCs to lift their efforts to the next level,” said Joseph Kriesberg, President of the Massachusetts Association of CDCs.  “The report found that CDCs are investing these resources in community organizing, housing development, economic development, financial education and organizational capacity – all toward the goal of enabling residents to build a positive future for their families and their neighborhoods.”

In addition to the fundraising strength of the Community Investment Tax Credit, CDCs are achieving many of the program’s goals, such as deepening their organizations’ involvement in their neighborhoods and towns with new community organizing capacity and increased board engagement.  CDCs are also expanding and taking on new programs in the arts, small business assistance, health and financial counseling.  Finally, the CITC is spurring CDCs to establish new relationships with businesses, organizations and hundreds of individuals and families who may not have been aware of the CDC itself or its impact within their community.

“As a national organization with a strong local presence in Boston, we can tell you that the CITC is one of the most exciting new tools in the country for driving positive community change,” said Bob Van Meter, Executive Director of the LISC Boston office. “This tax credit is driving resources to the most effective community development groups and gives them the flexibility to design strategies and programs that are specifically tailored to the local context.  That’s incredibly valuable and unique.”

The Community Investment Tax Credit is contributing to the overall strength and substantial impact MACDC’s members are having across the Commonwealth.  In 2014 and 2015 alone, MACDC’s members invested over $1.4 billion in local communities, created or preserved 12,841 jobs, and produced or preserved 3,514 homes.  As the program continues to grow, more families will be supported, more jobs will be created and more homes will be built.

The CITC program is currently authorized through calendar year 2019, with up to $6 million in credits, representing $12 million in fundraising potential, available each year.  Donations must be between $1,000 and $2 million to qualify for the tax credit.  Many donors are also able to secure federal tax benefits for their donations.  Program advocates plan to seek legislation that will extend the program beyond 2019 and increase the credit cap in the years to come.

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MACDC Announces 2017 Policy Agenda

December 13th, 2016 by David Bryant

From September through October of this year, MACDC staff met with board, staff and community members of 15 CDCs from around the state to identify priority issues for our 2017-2018 
legislative/policy agenda. 

We also received input from the Western Mass. and Real Estate 
Development and Organizers’ peer groups, surveyed the 
membership and had a number of conversations with allies at 
CHAPA, LISC, Smart Growth Alliance and MAHA. 

Our Policy Committee reviewed all of this input and made its 
recommendation to the board, which approved the following 
advocacy priorities:

•    Passage of Housing Bond Bill 
•    Extending the CITC beyond the 2019 sunset
•    Restoring funding for the Small Business Technical 
    Assistance Program to $2 million 

We will, over the course of the next legislative session, work on 
other important issues as they arise.

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Youth Program Wins the 2016 NAHYP Award!

November 17th, 2016 by

You could feel the burst of joy, appreciation, and excitement spread throughout the room when First Lady Michelle Obama presented us with one of the 2016 National Arts & Humanities Youth Program (NAHYP) Awards. Many gathered for our live viewing party to celebrate all of the hard work of our staff, students, and community that has made our Youth Development Program (YDP) such a success.

The National Arts and Humanities Youth Award recognizes 12 outstanding programs from across the country. It is the Nation’s highest honor “for out-of-school arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of America’s young people, particularly those from underserved communities.” As an awardee, we will receive a $10,000 grant as well as “a full year of capacity-building and communications support;” allowing us to further strengthen our mission – to empower and engage individuals and families to improve their lives through high-quality affordable housing, education, and arts programs – by continuing to provide a unique opportunity that prepares young people for their futures.

Our YDP students come to us from communities all over Boston, including the South End, Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan with the drive to develop their leadership abilities, confidence, positive relationships, and job skills. We provide these youth participants with a platform to grow by opening high-quality arts & humanities learning experiences to them.

Continue reading on IBA's website...

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AG HEALEY ANNOUNCES NEW HOTLINE TO REPORT INCIDENTS OF BIAS-MOTIVATED THREATS, HARASSMENT AND VIOLENCE

November 17th, 2016 by

MOTIVATED THREATS, HARASSMENT AND VIOLENCE

 

BOSTON – Following reports of harassment and intimidation of racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women, LGBTQ individuals and immigrants since Election Day, Attorney General Maura Healey today announced that her office has established a new hotline for Massachusetts residents to report such incidents.

“In Massachusetts, we will protect people’s rights, fight discrimination and keep people safe,” said AG Healey. “There are reports from around the country following the election that people have been targeted and subjected to conduct that imperils safety and civil rights. Today, I am establishing a hotline for residents to report bias-motivated threats, harassment, and violence. Such conduct has no place in Massachusetts.”

The hotline will be managed by attorneys and staff in the AG’s Office. While not every incident will be appropriate for legal action, the AG’s Office will be tracking reports and appropriate matters may be referred to local law enforcement or the Attorney General’s Criminal Bureau.

Any Massachusetts resident who has witnessed or experienced bias-motivated threats, harassment or violence may call the Attorney General’s Hotline at 1-800-994-3228 or fill out a civil rights complaint form at this link. Residents may also contact the AG’s Office through its social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.

Potential hate crimes – including bias-motivated assault, battery, and property damage – should also be reported to the local police in the first instance. Residents who fear for their immediate safety should call 911. 

Most hate crimes are prosecuted by the local District Attorney’s Office. However, in some cases, the offender may also be prosecuted civilly, either in addition to criminal charges or instead of criminal charges, by the AG’s Office under the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act (MCRA).

The MCRA protects the rights of all residents and visitors to Massachusetts to be free from bias-motivated threats, intimidation, and coercion. The MCRA protects the right to use public parks and transportation, walk on public streets, attend school, live peacefully, and enjoy other basic rights. Under the MCRA, the Attorney General may bring legal action against a perpetrator who threatens, intimidates, or coerces another person on the basis of that person’s membership in a protected group (e.g., race, national origin, religion, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability) or protected activity (e.g., exercising the right to vote or the right to associate).

Whether it’s potential hate crimes, housing discrimination, or wage theft, the AG’s Office encourages immigrant communities to come forward with their concerns without fear of reprisal based on immigration status.

For more information, visit the Attorney General’s Office website.

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Structural racism is a pollutant that threatens the community development ecosystem.

November 14th, 2016 by Joe Kriesberg

“Too many Community Development Corporations have abandoned their roots and don’t empower local residents,” said one Community Development Corporation (CDC) leader, noting that the professionals on staff were driving the agenda, not residents. “That’s unfair” said another, who added, “we have to attract investments from banks and work with City Hall to get things done.” This was the summer of 1993, at my very first MACDC board meeting. This particular debate–and various versions of it–has animated community development for the past 25 years. As our movement’s founding father, Mel King, often asks: “in whose interest” are we working? Having just graduated from law school and starting a career in community development, I wondered what precisely I had walked into.

The debate manifests itself around three related but distinct tensions faced by CDCs across the country:

  • Should we focus our efforts on places or on people?
  • Should we adopt a comprehensive approach or specialize in a single area to achieve greater scale and impact?
  • How do we balance power between professional community developers and resident leaders?

Continue Reading on the Living Cities website...

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CPA passes in Boston and many other cities in Massachusetts

November 9th, 2016 by Joe Kriesberg

By a resounding margin of 73.6% to 26.4%, Boston voters approved the Community Preservation Act to enable the City to raise $20 million dollars annually for affordable housing, parks and open space and historic preservation.  MACDC and its members played an active role in every aspect of the campaign along with over 200 community oganizations, representing housing, parks, historic preservation, arts & culture, health, faith institutions, labor and business. The proposal – Question 5 on the ballot – was also strongly support by Mayor Marty Walsh and nearly all of our city’s couniclors and state legislators.

The CPA was first established by the state legislature in 2000 as a way for cities and towns to address the needs for more housing, parks and historic preservation.  Since that time, 161 cities and towns have voted to adopt CPA for their communities. Yesterday, Boston was joined by Chelsea, Springfield, Holyoke and Pittsfield in adopting CPA creating new opportunities to improve neighborhoods across the state.

For more information on the Boston CPA campaign, go to Yes for a Better Boston’s website.

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Important Changes to Get the Lead Out Program Will Improve Children's Health

October 28th, 2016 by Don Bianchi

MassHousing has announced significant enhancements to the Get the Lead Out Program (GTLO).   GTLO provides low-cost financing to owners of 1-4 family properties to remove lead paint from their homes and reduce the possibilities of lead poisoning in children.   These enhancements will make it easier for all families throughout the Commonwealth to gain access to GTLO funds.  Removing certain obstacles will also allow additional Lenders and Local Rehab Agencies to participate in the program. CLICK HERE for MassHousing memo (PDF)

Owner-occupant families with children residing in the property under the age of six, or under court order to delead their homes, will continue to be able to access 0% “deferred loans”, with repayment not due until the home is sold, transferred or refinanced.  One big change is that all income-eligible owner occupants will now also be able to access 0% deferred loans, instead of loans at 2% requiring regular repayment.  This preventative approach will result in the deleading of units that will be the future homes of families with children.  There are other helpful changes, that will lower upfront payments required of borrowers and broaden the lenders and local agencies participating in the program.

MACDC and its Members, along with our allies at CHAPA, MAHA, and the MA Public Health Association played a crucial role in advocating for changes.  We appreciate that MassHousing, the MA Department of Housing and Community Development, and the MA Department of Public Health were open and receptive to our recommendations.  Because of this, a good program is now even better, which will result in more homes becoming lead free and fewer children becoming lead poisoned.   Despite substantial gains made over 45 years of public health intervention, lead exposure remains a significant health risk for children in Massachusetts. Recent evidence suggests that for children there is no safe level of exposure to lead and that exposure to relatively low levels can result in irreversible health effects.  Fewer homes with lead means fewer sick children, plain and simple.

The enhancements to the Get the Lead Out Program will be effective for all loans reserved by MassHousing on or after October 25, 2016.  The next step will be for MassHousing to hold 5 Regional informational sessions across the state.  The locations will be North Shore, South Shore, Boston, Central/Worcester and Western MA. MACDC will work with MassHousing to plan and put the word out about these upcoming sessions.

Should you have any questions, please contact Deanna Ramsden at MassHousing at 617-854-1822 or dramsden@masshousing.com for assistance.

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