On June 1, 2011, the Joint Committee on Small Business and Community Development held a hearing at the Massachusetts State House on the Community Development Partnership Act. This bill, which is MACDC’s number one priority this year, would create a donation tax credit designed to spur public/private investment in high performing community development initiatives across the state. The hearing was a critical step in the long process of taking an idea, crafting it into legislation and ultimately getting it enacted into law. So, I was very happy to see how well the hearing went. Why was it a great day?
1. Our members have really engaged with the campaign to pass the CDPA and they helped us generate over 70 letters of support from a wide array of nonprofit organizations, community leaders, municipal officials, private businesses, and local CDCs. We also had four members deliver powerful and compelling testimony about how the legislation would enhance their communities. I encourage you to read the testimony from Gail Latimore, Elizabeth Bridgewater, Danny LeBlanc, and Emily Rosenbaum.
2. Eighteen people testified in person at the hearing, representing an equally broad array of people who understand the importance of community economic development. We heard that day from Mayor Kimberly Driscoll of Salem, Mary Borque, the incoming superintendant of schools in Chelsea, from Tom Kiefer, Executive Director of the Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center, Melissa Hoffer, Vice President of the Conservation Law Foundation, Boston Police Officers Lacey Seighton and Izzy Marrero, and Sean Caron from CHAPA. Their testimony provided powerful evidence that community development does more than build homes and create jobs, it also improves educational and health outcomes, and reduces crime and pollution. As Mayor Driscoll said, community development is essential to creating great cities and great places to live.
3. We were also joined at the hearing by some of our CDC colleagues from New Jersey, Philadelphia and Pennsylvania who came up to tell us about their experience with similar programs in their states. In fact, MACDC originally came up with the idea to draft and file this legislation precisely because of what we learned from our colleagues in other states. This was a powerful reminder of why national networks, like the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA) are so important to our work. Without NACEDA, these connections, and indeed this bill, would not exist.
4. The hearing also provided an opportunity to partner in a new and deeper way with some of our long time funding partners, including the United Way, the Boston Foundation and LISC. Each of these organizations testified in favor of the bill and have been helping us to advance the legislation.
5. Finally, June 1 was a great day because it offered us an opportunity to talk about the importance of community development on its own terms. Since the CEED program was eliminated nine years ago (CEED was a state budget line item that provided flexible funding for CDCs from 1978 to 2002), MACDC has successfully advocated for many programs and laws related to housing, small business development, foreclosure and economic development. However, this was the first time we were able to break out of those particular silos and talk about comprehensive community development - to talk about communities and neighborhoods, to talk about civic engagement and community participation, to talk about creating great places for families to live, work and play. This is what our members work to achieve every day so it was a thrilling to have the chance to “state our case” to the legislature.
As we move forward from the June 1 hearing we hope to celebrate more great days, including hopefully, a day sometime in the next year when Governor Patrick signs the Community Development Partnership Act into law.