Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Senator Petruccelli Approves Overhaul of State Economic Development Agencies

From the Senator's Office:

BOSTON (April 12, 2010) – Senator Anthony Petruccelli and the Senate, with a 37-0 vote last Thursday, passed a major overhaul of the state’s network of agencies charged with developing business interests and economic activity in Massachusetts. The legislation creates a streamlined, cohesive model with built-in oversight and transparency measures to reduce redundancy and waste, and promote a more business-friendly environment that will ultimately help stimulate job growth in the Commonwealth.

“It is critical that we grow jobs in the Commonwealth,” said Senator Petruccelli (D-East Boston).  “Measures were taken, in this bill, to ensure that our state’s business support system is fine-tuned, effective and, most important, putting people to work.” 

“It’s time to tighten up this model and get a real sense of direction in terms of business development here in Massachusetts,” Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said. “Most of our agencies do a great job, but the current model isn’t working. We need to get lean, improve communication, and start growing businesses, creating jobs and building a stronger Commonwealth. That’s what this legislation does. We’re proud of it.”

The legislation creates a ‘one-stop shop’ for businesses seeking to expand or locate in Massachusetts by requiring the existing Massachusetts Office of Business Development (MOBD) to contract with regionally-based economic development organizations.

These private organizations would act as the primary contact for businesses seeking assistance from the state and perform business prospect management services on behalf of the Commonwealth. MOBD would oversee the efforts of these organizations, provide leads, and share information about state programs and services.

The goal is to increase competition among regions for new business to ensure businesses find the best fit in Massachusetts. With MOBD and the regional organizations providing clear direction for accessing economic development services, there will be less confusion about how to access technical assistance, grant and loan programs, and expansion support.

The legislation also increases accountability, communication and oversight of state agencies, quasi-publics and state contracts with private organizations engaged in economic development activities. It requires every governor to publish a written economic development policy by December 31 of the year he or she is elected to help the Commonwealth strategically assess economic development goals over the long-term.

The bill further requires the Secretary of Housing and Economic Development to act as chair of the boards of all state authorities engaged in economic development and business assistance activities. Those authorities will also be subject to performance management reviews that take into account both output measures, such as the average length of time to return a call, and outcome measures, such as the number of jobs retained.

All organizations involved in economic development activities, including quasi-public authorities, will be required to submit annual reports to the Secretary of Housing and Economic Development and publish audited financial statements.

The legislation merges organizations tasked with marketing the state nationally and internationally, including the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism, into the newly-created Massachusetts Marketing Partnership.

The Partnership will serve as a central marketing organization for the entire state and will be charged with increasing the Commonwealth’s efforts in the areas of tourism and international trade. The Massachusetts Film Office and the Massachusetts Sports Partnership will also be included in the Partnership.

Through the creation of the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation, a larger number of small businesses will gain access to working capital so that they can continue to grow even in times of tight credit. For those small companies that receive financial assistance from the state, finance and management consulting will be mandatory to help keep companies afloat and prevent job losses.

The legislation also consolidates the Economic Stabilization Trust, which provides financial assistance and consulting to struggling businesses, with the existing Community Development Finance Corporation, further streamlining state assistance to small businesses.

The legislation also requires an economic impact statement to be filed by administrative agencies planning to adopt new regulations that details the cost of the proposed regulations to small businesses before public hearings on those regulations. Additionally, it requires a rolling review of regulations to identify and modify those which prove too costly.

The bill expands the state pension fund’s investment authority by creating a $25-50 million credit program to support lending to fast-growing small businesses in Massachusetts. It also promotes beneficial competition for the issuance of tax-exempt bonds by non-profit institutions by providing parallel authorization to both MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Health Educational Facilities Authority.

Further streamlining the state’s approach to economic development, the Department of Business Development is eliminated within the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, allowing MOBD a direct reporting line to the Secretary.

Several other agencies, including the independent Massachusetts Sports and Entertainment Commission and the Massachusetts Industrial Development Authority, are eliminated, with an estimated savings to taxpayers of $1 million a year.

Finally, to ensure that all state agencies and authorities in the Commonwealth stay true to their stated mission and goals, and to avoid waste and ineffectiveness in the future, the bill establishes a Sunset Commission to conduct regular reviews and analysis – a measure supported by the Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

The commission would consider the continuing need for agencies and authorities in state government, based on their performance, and assign “sunset” dates, or elimination, for any that are found to be unnecessary.

Other provisions of the bill include:
•    Prohibiting the use of state funds to pay for registered lobbyists;
•    Stopping agency executive salaries from exceeding the amount of the Governor’s salary;
•    Improving low-cost access to small claims courts by raising the limit on filings from $2,000, where it has been for many years, to $7,000;
•    Providing a three-year permit extension for development projects struggling with tight credit conditions; and,
•    Calling for a study of business energy costs, as well as a study to determine the feasibility of a state-owned bank.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives.

Friday, April 9, 2010

It's official: BPL to close Orient Heights Branch Library in East Boston

A shameful day in the cultural life of East Boston; Orient Heights Library to Close. People of Boston urge Mayor to reject BPL Trustees move.

From the BPL press office:
Boston – April 9, 2010 – The Boston Public Library Board of Trustees today approved a proposed $38.9 million budget for the upcoming 2011 fiscal year. The plan keeps twenty-two branches of the Boston Public Library open with their current hours. It also closes four branch buildings: Faneuil (Brighton), Lower Mills (Dorchester), Orient Heights (East Boston), and Washington Village (South Boston).

“After much study, the board has come to what I deeply believe to be a judicious and prudent decision for the Boston Public Library in a difficult time,” said Jeffrey B. Rudman, Chairman of the Trustees. “We are very grateful to President Ryan and her team for the rigor, fairness, and wisdom they have brought to this budgetary process.”

The Trustees further voted that the Boston Public Library would establish as the first priority in its capital projects expenditures the construction of a brand new branch library in East Boston. Earlier this week, the Trustees announced that the City of Boston would fund the library at the same level as the current fiscal year, adding nearly $300,000 to help close what had been a $3.6 million gap. The Boston Public Library Board of Trustees also approved the submittal of the library’s budget recommendation to Mayor Thomas M. Menino to be included in the total City of Boston budget to the Boston City Council. Funding from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will be finalized in the coming months.

Boston Public Library President Amy E. Ryan expressed her confidence that FY11 budget would begin to move the library forward. “While we understand the natural attachment that people have to the branch with which they are familiar, all of the efficiencies in this plan will lead to a more robust, sustainable, and modern library system,” said Ryan.

At the morning meeting, Ryan reiterated that the BPL’s FY11 budget also includes significant reductions at the Central Library in Copley Square and in administrative services and support. Two-thirds of the library’s budget gap is being closed by cutting back in these areas, including the reduction of up to 69 positions. Non-personnel reductions and efficiencies identified in the FY11 budget range from reducing the library’s leased vehicle fleet by one-third to cutting back on maintenance contracts. In the branches, up to 25 positions are expected to be eliminated.

Even as the library sees a decrease in overall revenues, the demand for books and programs is on the rise. In the last three years, the number of books, CDs, DVDs borrowed from the library is up 31%. “Today, half of Boston residents use their Boston Public Library card,” Ryan noted. “With our resources aligned properly, we can reach even more. The plan approved today is a significant step forward in making the library the reliable and responsive institution that the people of Boston deserve.”

In the months since her preliminary budget presentation in January, President Ryan and the Boston Public Library staff hosted multiple community and Trustee meetings, and solicited feedback about the proposed budget. More than 1,000 email messages and letters were sent to the Boston Public Library, and more than 100 community members spoke at Trustee meetings at the Central Library and community meetings in the neighborhoods.

Meanwhile People of Boston is urging the mayor to reject BPL trustee's budget move.

For Immediate Release
Press Release

Contact Information:
Brandon Abbs

April 9, 2010

People of Boston Branches Calls on Boston Mayor to REJECT the Boston Public Library Budget Recommendation

Boston - Today the Trustees of the Boston Public Library authorized President Amy Ryan to submit a budget to the city that includes in its plans to layoff 90 workers and the closure of 4 branch libraries: Lower Mills in the Dorchester neighborhood, Washington Village in the Old Colony Housing Project in South Boston, Faneuil in the Brighton/Oak Square neighborhood, and Orient Heights in East Boston.  An amendment to delay a vote on the Orient Heights closure until September 2011 failed on a 3-3 tie.  Both votes come as no surprise to people who have been following this process closely, but are a failure of the democratic process.  The vote was 5-0-1 in favor of closure, with one abstention from Trustee Paul LaCamera due to the failure of his amendment.  Trustee Jeff Rudman was visibly upset at LaCamera for the proposal.

Not one voice from one person who has spoken up about these plans has called for the closure of these libraries.  No public official who is honestly representing their constituents concerns has said to close these branches or lay off workers.  The decision by the Trustees is unilateral and should be rejected by Mayor Thomas Menino for not representing the voice of the people.

The people elected Mayor Menino so that he could appoint Trustees that would represent them in their decisions.  Today they failed in representing the public and now Mayor Menino must reject their budget and give the library the democratic choice.  It is clear that the democratic choice is for Option 1: reduced hours in the branch libraries.

A candlelight vigil will be held at Faneuil Branch library tonight at 5:30 P.M.  The Faneuil Branch is located at 419 Faneuil Street in Brighton, MA 02135.  The phone number for this branch is 617-782-6705 and the branch librarian is Dorothy Keller.  Maria Rodrigues is organizing the event mrodrigu@holycross.edu.  Councillor Mark Ciommo represents this district and is chairman of the Ways & Means committee, which will hold a hearing on the city budget's funding of the library sometime after April 14, 2010. ---
"Today is not THE END"
Phone: 617-942-1692

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association to hold monthly meeting on April 12.

Residents of the Jeffries Point /East Boston Community are cordially invited to attend the monthly meeting of the Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association on Monday, April 12 the meeting will start at promptly 7:00 PM.

The meeting will take place at the Jeffries Yacht Club.

Senator Anthony Petruccelli and State Representative Carlo Basile will attend to discuss what is happening on Beacon Hill and what is on the minds of their friends and neighbors.

Election update for Jeffries Point Neighbor Association
Incorporation of Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association
Historical Museum and Information Center for East Boston
City of Boston Library Cut backs-closings
Satellite dishes in our community
City of Boston Neighborhood clean up April

Friday, April 2, 2010

Community Meeting set for April 21 on $90 million New Street project

A community meeting to discuss the $90 Million New Street Development Project will be held on Wednesday, April 21 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at the Maverick Landing Community Center, 31 Liverpool Street, East Boston.

All members of the public are welcome to hear about the next stages of the development of New Street near Central Square.

Please contact Ernani DeAraujo at 617-635-3485 with any questions.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

New business registrations for East Boston

Local Economic News: Twenty-one (21) new businesses in East Boston were registered with the Office of the City Clerk.