Making Campaigns Matter

June 24th, 2014 by Joe Kriesberg

An Op/Ed Column by Joe Kriesberg, MACDC's President

As this year’s gubernatorial campaign heats up, community developers, like others, are beginning to focus on the different candidates and considering what this election will mean for our field and our communities. Many non-profits, including MACDC, want to do more than simply observe the process and speculate on the outcome.  We want to engage and shape it. But how can we do that? As non- profits, we cannot endorse a candidate; and no matter who wins, we have to work with the new Administration.  Indeed, during my time at MACDC, I have worked closely with five different Administrations (Weld, Celluci, Swift, Romney and Patrick) and fully expect to work successfully with a new one next year regardless of who wins.

But political neutrality does not mean that we should sit on the sidelines.  Campaigns don’t just determine who will govern, but they also shape how the winner will govern.  Campaigns help identify the top tier issues for the next Administration and campaigns often generate promises and commitments from all the candidates, including the eventual winner.  Do they keep all of those promises? Of course, not. But do their campaign promises influence their behavior after the election? Absolutely.

In 2006, Governor Patrick, and two other candidates for Governor, came to the MACDC convention at the Hynes Convention Center on October 14.  At a candidate forum moderated by Pam Cross from WCVB, we asked each candidate three questions: (1) Would s/he fund the Affordable Housing Trust fund at $40 million? (2) Would s/he fund the state’s newly established Small Business Technical Assistance program? And (3) Would s/he enact legislation to preserve expiring use properties?  Candidate Patrick said “Yes”, “Yes”, and “Maybe”.  He expressed skepticism about expiring use legislation and whether it would be fair to both owners and tenants, but he promised to listen and to work with us to explore possible solutions. (Side note: We did not ask about the Community Investment Tax Credit because we had not even come up with the proposal yet!)

So what happened? In his first capital budget, the Governor proposed just $35 million for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. After a short, but vigorous response from the housing community, he quickly restored full funding. I can assure you that his campaign promise was a big reason for the quick turn- around. He then funded the Trust Fund at $40 million for the next seven years.

With respect to the Small Business program, the Governor kept funding the program even as the state budget crisis unfolded during the recession. He kept the program alive by funding it “off-budget” through the Mass Growth Capital Corporation and then this year he helped secure a $2 million appropriation from the legislature, restoring the program to full funding:  8 years of funding – just as he promised in 2006.

Expiring use legislation was harder, but the Governor kept his promise and listened to the views of all stakeholders and then helped to fashion a compromise bill that was enacted in 2007 as MGL Chapter 40T.   This law has now helped to preserve nearly 10,000 homes as affordable housing.

Three for three, by my count.

MACDC is thankful that Governor Patrick kept these commitments and we know it reflects his commitment to these issues. But we also know that a Governor has to balance hundreds of competing priorities, so we were glad to help the Governor fulfill these commitments by working closely with his Administration (and the legislature) throughout the process.  In other words, campaign commitments matter, but they don’t complete the task. Advocates have to stay with the process after the election too.

So as the 2014 campaign heats up, MACDC and its members and allies need to engage the gubernatorial candidates.  The MACDC Board of Directors has already met with six of the candidates (Baker, Berwick, Coakley, Falchuck, Grossman and Kaymen) to have thoughtful discussions where we were able to introduce them to the CDC field, learn about their priorities and discuss important issues to our communities.   We are now cosponsoring a major Candidate Forum on Affordable Housing with our colleagues at CHAPA and throughout the housing field on July 9 at 2:00 at Faneuil Hall.  And on October 25, 2014, MACDC will host another convention, this time at the Westin Hotel in Back Bay, where we expect to hear from all the candidates who make the final ballot. 

What questions should we ask them this time? What commitments will they make? Which ones will the next Governor keep?

My plea to community developers and nonprofit advocates around the state: Don’t just wait to see what these answers are. Get involved and help shape the answers.

I hope to see you on July 9 and October 25. And most of all, plan on voting on November 6, 2014. 

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MACDC Joins Coalition in Opposing Gas Tax Repeal

June 11th, 2014 by Kristina Egan

Last year, MACDC worked hard to secure new revenues for public transportation, which is so critical to many of the residents CDCs serve. The state made significant progress toward meeting the state's transportation needs with the 2013 Transportation Finance Act, which secured an average of $600 million in new funds for transportation. But now that progress is threatened by a ballot question. A group called “Tank the Gas Tax” is likely to qualify a question for this November’s ballot that would repeal the recently-passed law that ties the gas tax to inflation. 

A broad and strong coalition of organizations, including MACDC, has come together to oppose a ballot question that would repeal gas tax indexing. The coalition includes public safety, public health, and consumer advocates, businesses, the construction and engineering industries, and environmental, social justice, and civic groups. 

If the ballot question passes this November, it will cut transportation funding that would be used to enhance regional bus service, make the MBTA more reliable and safer, and improve the safety of the state's crumbling bridges and congested roads. 

What We Stand to Lose: 

  • $1 Billion. Gas tax money is constitutionally dedicated to transportation. Without gas tax indexing, we will lose over $1B in the next 10 years for transportation.
  • Our Safety.  According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 42% of Massachusetts roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and 43% of bridges are functionally obsolete. Our top ten most traveled, structurally deficient bridges carry an average of 1.2 million cars each day. For the safety of all Massachusetts residents, we need to fix our roads and bridges now.
  • Jobs. Losing money for transportation means that we won’t have adequate resources for critical transportation investments that will grow jobs and the economy. For instance, if the legislature had not acted, Massachusetts could have faced losses of up to 15,000 jobs and as much as $11 billion in increased operating costs due to a deteriorating transportation network.
  • Momentum for better transportation. Legislators intended to invest significant new resources in our transportation system and spoke of the new law as an important first step that needs to be followed by further legislative actions to improve transportation. Rolling back a significant piece of transportation funding will put a full stop to the momentum that has been built and significantly reduce chances of addressing the remaining transportation funding gap.

Please spread the word to your family, friends and neighbors that this ballot question will move the state backwards.  Ask them to vote “no” in November on this repeal.

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