Contributing Editors

Jerome Lyle Rappaport

Jerome Lyle Rappaport
Founder and Board Member
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Edward Glaeser

Edward Glaeser
Professor of Economics at Harvard University
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Stephen P. Johnson

Stephen P. Johnson
Executive Director of Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport Foundation
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Greg Massing

Greg Massing
Executive Director for the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service
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Alasdair Roberts

Alasdair Roberts
Professor of Law and Public Policy at Suffolk University Law School
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Joseph Curtatone

Joseph Curtatone
Mayor, City of Somerville
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Tim H. Davis

Tim H. Davis
Independent Research Consultant
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Scott Harshbarger

Scott Harshbarger
Senior Counsel, Proskauer Rose LLP
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Vivien Li

Vivien Li
Executive Director of The Boston Harbor Association
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Guest contributors

Monika Bandyopadhyay
Suffolk University Law Student

David Barron
Harvard Law School and former Deputy Counsel for the Office of Legal Counsel in the US Department of Justice

Linda Bilmes
Senior lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Assistant Secretary of Commerce during the Clinton Administration.

Brandy H.M. Brooks
Director, Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence, Bruner Foundation

Felicia Cote
Rappaport Fellow, Harvard Law School/Harvard Kennedy School.

Amanda Eden
Suffolk University Law School student

Sara Farnum
Student, Suffolk Univ. Law School

Kristin Faucette
Student at Suffolk University Law School

Benjamin Forman
Research Director, MassINC

Arthur Hardy-Doubleday
JD/MBA student at Suffolk University Law School and the Sawyer School of Business

Theodore Kalivas
Boston Green Blog, Dukakis Center for Urban & Regional Policy

David Linhart
Student, Boston University School of Law

Antoniya Owens
Research Analyst, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

Susan Prosnitz
Senior Advisor, TSA, Washington, DC

Ben Thomas
Boston Green Blog, Dukakis Center for Urban & Regional Policy

Matthew Todaro
Student at Boston College Law School

Alexander von Hoffman
Senior Researcher, Joint Center for Housing Studies

Brett Walker
Student, Boston College Law School

Margarita Warren
Student at Suffolk University Law School

Articles in Politics/Governance

Steven Poftak to Direct Rappaport Institute

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
By Stephen P. Johnson

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A View from Tremont Street

Friday, February 17th, 2012
By Bob Dion for the Author

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We are deeply saddened by the loss of Lowell

Friday, February 10th, 2012
By Jerome Lyle Rappaport

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Lowell Richards, Boston visionary, dies

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012
By Posted by Jannelle Cioffi for the Author

The following article was authored by Brian MacQuarrie and appeared in The Boston Globe of February 7.

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Kevin White, mayor through era of change, dead at 82

Saturday, January 28th, 2012
By Posted by Jannelle Cioffi for the Author

Kevin Hagan White, a colossal political figure who helped transform Boston into a world-class city during 16 often turbulent years as mayor, died last night.

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New Executive Director for the Rappaport Foundation

Friday, January 13th, 2012
By Posted by Jannelle Cioffi for the Author

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The Impact of Rappaport Public Policy Fellows Program on Career Trajectories

Monday, November 7th, 2011
By Posted by Jannelle Cioffi for the Author

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Republicans Must Embrace Education, Not Tax Cuts

Monday, October 24th, 2011
By Edward Glaeser

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Better Government Isn't Smaller or Bigger

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011
By Edward Glaeser

The 2012 election is shaping up to be an ugly battle fought along familiar, uninspiring lines: Democratic believers in big government against Republicans determined to cut taxes. This is the wrong fight. The important challenge today is to make government smarter and more effective, not slightly bigger or smaller.

Voters don’t need a simplistic choice between a new Franklin Roosevelt and a second Ronald Reagan, but rather competing visions of how the federal government can better fulfill its core missions.

The attached figure shows the time path of federal spending and revenue relative to gross domestic product over the last 40 years. Until the 2009 explosion, the ratio of spending to GDP stayed within a narrow range between a low of 18.2 percent (in 2000 and 2001) and 23.5 percent in 1983. Until the recent, recession-related, ballooning of public expenditures, the Gipper held the post-1946 record.

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Environmental Budget Cuts: Passing the Financial Burden to Future Generations

Friday, September 23rd, 2011
By Matthew Todaro

On July 11, 2011, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law the 2012 state budget. Included in the budget were significant cuts to environmental programs; so what, you may ask, is the big deal? By making such cuts, policy makers succumbed to the temptation of a short-term solution—one that ultimately will cost Massachusetts tax-payers dramatically more in the long-run.

As lawmakers strip short-term funding, they run the risk that environmental agencies will become unable to uphold even the most rudimentary protections of public health and the environment. If Massachusetts cannot sustain a healthy environment, health-related costs will rise, corporations will struggle to attract and retain a well-educated work force, farming and fishing industries will decline and the state’s $14 billion tourism industry will be jeopardized.

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Harshbarger releases "Top 10 Areas of Concern Surrounding Proposed Casino Bill"

Monday, September 19th, 2011
By

Former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, and Citizens for a Stronger Massachusetts, have recently released a special report on the proposed Casino Bill. According to Harshbarger, the bill as currently written invites a potential for abuse and lack of accountability. He claims there are “a plethora of significant legal, drafting, process and policy conflicts, ambiguities, loopholes and details that invite full employment for lawyers, law firms, lobbyists and consultants, and ongoing challenges and litigation at every stage, in addition to the potential for undue influence in the selection and licensing and siting process.”  The report also examines the proposed Gambling Commission and states “Anything less than a fully-established regulatory body devoted to the oversight and control of the gambling industry invites another wave of patronage and corruption scandals, a run-away train of continually expanding gambling, social harms, and criminal activity.” To read the full report, click here.

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Why the Commonwealth’s Affordable Housing Law, 40B, Works

Monday, September 12th, 2011
By Arthur Hardy-Doubleday

Chapter 40B is the Commonwealth’s affordable housing law. Since 1969, it has helped create affordable housing by expediting the permitting process for developers in exchange for their designation of up to 25 percent of the units developed as affordable.

This past November, the law was threatened with repeal in a referendum question on the statewide ballot.  It offered voters the chance to completely gut the law and to end the state’s ability to create new affordable housing.  While the law’s administration is not perfect, 40B has accomplished its major public policy objective of developing affordable housing. Apparently recognizing the value of the law, a substantial majority of voters in November rejected repeal of Chapter 40B.

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Boston City Council Redistricting: No Easy Task!

Monday, September 12th, 2011
By Tim H. Davis

September 7th was the last day to register to vote for Boston’s preliminary City Council elections. While much of the current focus in Massachusetts political circles has been on the redistricting of Massachusetts U.S. Congressional seats, it is also time for redistricting of state legislative and city council districts. The redistricting of Boston’s nine city council districts faces some interesting challenges. Population increases in downtown areas were offset by population declines in other neighborhoods, and given physical geography, the residences of current city councilors, and concerns about fair representation of people of color, the task of redistricting is difficult.

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Is the ‘Governor Effect’ Real?

Friday, September 9th, 2011
By Edward Glaeser

Rick Perry of Texas is the latest in a long-line of governors who tout their states’ performance as evidence of their ability to supercharge the national economy. But how much impact does a governor really have?

 

While we can’t control statistically for every bit of luck, we can at least control for year-by-year changes in the national economy and long-term trends in a state - both of which affect state economies no matter what an individual governor does. With these corrections, it’s a mixed record for three Republican governors running for president: The Perry years look about average for Texas; Mitt Romney’s term looks bad for Massachusetts; and Jon Huntsman’s tenure seems better than the Utah norm.

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SJC Task Force Issues Action Plan for Hiring & Promotion of Trial Court Administrative Employees

Friday, September 9th, 2011
By Scott Harshbarger

The Supreme Judicial Court has reviewed the recommendations presented in the "Action Plan for Hiring and Promotion of Trial Court Administrative Employees " recently delivered to the Court by the SJC's Task Force for Hiring in the Judicial Branch, led by former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger.  This is the fourth report in a series of comprehensive Task Force reviews of hiring and promotion practices in the Judicial Branch.  Last December, the Justices charged the Task Force "to make recommendations designed to ensure a fair system with transparent procedures in which the qualifications of an applicant are the sole criterion on hiring and promotion" in the Probation Department and throughout the Trial Court.

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Adapting Massachusetts' "Housing First" Policy for Family Homelessness

Thursday, September 8th, 2011
By David Linhart

David Linhart was a Rappaport Fellow in Law and Public Policy in 2011. He is pursuing a J.D. at Boston University School of Law. He received his B.S. and M.Eng. in Biological Engineering from Cornell University. As a Rappaport Fellow, David worked at The Community Builders, Inc., a nonprofit affordable housing developer.

The administration of Governor Deval Patrick is midway into a five-year campaign to end homelessness in Massachusetts. On July 11, 2011, Patrick signed a law intended to move families into permanent housing quickly, rather than offering temporary shelter first. No one really knows what will help families who receive assistance to stay housed for the long haul, but encouraging supportive relationships with other assisted families is certainly a step in the right direction. 

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Refinancing Mortgages Won't Fix Housing Market

Friday, September 2nd, 2011
By Edward Glaeser

Originally published in Bloomberg News

The New York Times reported last week that the Obama administration was considering a proposal to "allow millions of homeowners with government-backed mortgages to refinance them at today’s lower interest rates, about 4 percent."


The measure’s supporters tout this as an almost cost-free way to stimulate the economy, boost the housing market and reduce foreclosures. But universal refinancing is far from free, and is poorly designed to stimulate either the economy or the housing market. Certainly, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the huge finance companies now under government control, will have to allow some mortgage modifications in order to reduce their foreclosure losses. That calls for smart, selective policies, not universal refinancing.

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Scott Harshbarger on the Regulation of Casino Gambling in Massachusetts

Thursday, September 1st, 2011
By

In a new Rappaport Center podcast, Scott Harshbarger discusses a report recently released by Citizens for a Stronger Massachusetts: Situation Critical: The Urgent Need for Independent Analysis, Regulation, and Oversight Before Massachusetts Legalizes Casinos.  Harshbarger, Senior Counsel in the Proskauer law firm, is a former Attorney General of Massachusetts and member of the Rappaport Center’s advisory board.  “We’re starting fresh,” says Harshbarger.  “We have nothing that enables us to even begin to regulate this massive change in the way we deal with gambling.”  Listen to the podcast. 

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SCN Interview with Harvard Economist Edward Glaeser

Thursday, September 1st, 2011
By

Edward Glaeser, an economics professor at Harvard University, recently sat down with Spare Change News editor Tom Benner to discuss his myth-shattering book about cities, Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier.


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Tax Breaks Shouldn't Be Sacrosanct

Friday, August 26th, 2011
By Edward Glaeser

All six Republicans on the debt-reduction super committee have signed a no-new-taxes pledge, and that means the panel can only dig up extra revenues if some of those six decide that eliminating some tax breaks doesn’t count as raising taxes.

But getting rid of ethanol subsidies, the low-income housing tax credit, and many other tax breaks ought to be an easy decision. Some tax breaks are really just government expenditures in disguise, and should be subject to the same scrutiny as any other spending program. Other tax breaks do let people keep more of the money they’ve earned, as antitax activists might prefer, but create a plethora of other problems.

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Removing Barriers to College Education for Disabled Veterans

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011
By Felicia Cote

When veterans of the wars Iraqi and Afghanistan return home with disabilities they often face long delays in getting the educational services their county promised them. There are several reasons for this: backlogs in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) paperwork, discrepancies in defining the term “disabled,” and lack of advocacy for veterans.  Campus disability service offices must take active steps to remove these barriers.


An estimated two million veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will enroll in college or other educational institutions in the coming years, according to the American Council on Education. About twenty percent will have suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI) and about twenty  percent post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depression, according to Rand Corporation. This influx of veterans with unique disabilities is catching many educational institutions unprepared. More than forty percent of administrators of disability services offices say they are ill-prepared to one degree or another for these veterans.

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Gateway Municipalities Continue To Be Among the Hardest Hit by Foreclosures

Monday, August 15th, 2011
By Tim H. Davis

This is the second entry in an ongoing series on the 24 Massachusetts municipalities known as the “Gateway Cities.” The foreclosure crises started in the sub-prime mortgage market. Nationally, these loans were concentrated in two types of real estate markets: 1) urban neighborhoods, especially those with weak/distressed real estate markets, and 2) new neighborhoods built on speculation. A 2006 joint Pioneer Institute/Rappaport Institute report identified local zoning policy as a major constraint on new housing production, creating the conditions for the upward spiral of Massachusetts housing prices from 2000 to 2005. As a result of this lack of new production, unlike the housing booms in the sunbelt states of Arizona, Florida and Nevada (which have the highest foreclosure rates in the country), there were few neighborhoods built on speculation, limiting Massachusetts exposure to these types of foreclosures.

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Free the FAA: Accident Prevention & Safety Should Be the Agency’s Only Job

Friday, August 12th, 2011
By Edward Glaeser

Reprinted from The Boston Globe 8.11.2011

THE FEDERAL Aviation Administration does a fine job at its main duty - making air travel safe. But it’s is also involved with a lot of things it shouldn’t be, from disputes about unionization to subsidies for rural airports. If Americans want to keep flying safely, Congress must free the FAA from obligations unrelated to preventing accidents.

The agency got back to work recently after a two-week, politically charged shutdown that had nothing to do with safety. To continue some operations related to planning and maintaining airports, the FAA needed new authorization from Congress. But the Senate initially balked at a House plan that also capped “essential air service’’ subsidies to rural airports at $1,000 per passenger. Some Senate Democrats also opposed a House plan that, by reversing a pro-union ruling last year by the National Mediation Board, would make it harder for workers on airport projects to organize.

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From Old Factories to New Hope: Mass. gateway cities must tally up their tremendous assets — and make the most of them

Thursday, July 28th, 2011
By Edward Glaeser

Reprinted from The Boston Globe July 28, 2011


About six years ago, the City of Haverhill decided to count its blessings. After decades spent wishing for new factories to replace those that had closed in the 1970s, the city chose another direction. Like an addict struggling to turn his life around, Haverhill forced itself to tally its assets and debits honestly.

Those empty mills whose turrets soared above the deserted downtown? Since the ’70s they had been a sad symbol of lost prosperity; but their architecture pointed in another direction, as loft apartments or space for smaller, more innovative companies. Then there were train lines. Haverhill, fortunately, had two: A well-traveled MBTA service to Boston, and a stop on the then-new Amtrak “Downeaster,’’ which journeys north to Maine and south to Boston. 

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Despite Long Term, High Unemployment, Gateway Cities Out-Performed State on Jobs during Recession

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011
By Tim H. Davis

The Gateway Series will be an occasional posting on issues related to the 24 cities identified by the state at Gateway Municipalities, with a focus on the economy, housing and demographics. This is Series #1.

High unemployment persists in the Gateway Cities, and these cities are worse off today compared to the state today than they were before the recession. Although you might expect that this deterioration is due to a greater loss of jobs that other parts of the state, this is not the case. The Gateway Cities actually have outperformed the remainder of the state on employment during the recession. While unemployment has declined in the rest of the state due to a decline the labor force, the labor force has grown in the Gateway Cities, highlighting the importance of these cities to the regeneration of Massachusetts’ total labor force.

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Boeing's Uniquely American Right to Take Flight

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
By Edward Glaeser

Orignally published in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, July 19, 2011

Americans, and their companies, have long benefited from their freedom to move throughout our country.

In the 19th century, we moved in search of natural resources, exchanging the stony soil of New England for the rich soil of Iowa. In the 20th century, Americans were more likely to migrate in search of better political environments, like the blacks who fled the Jim Crow states of the South.

The profound role that mobility has played in our country, enabling repeated reinvention, causes me to be deeply worried about the possibility that a National Labor Relations Board complaint will prevent Boeing Co. from moving plane production from Washington state to South Carolina.

I am an economist, not a lawyer, and I have nothing to say about the legal issues surrounding the NLRB’s complaint. I am sure the NLRB is doing what it understands to be its legal duty, preventing retaliation against union activity.

Yet I also dearly hope that the judicial process will affirm the right of companies, and people, to freely choose their locations. The U.S. economy -- especially our challenged manufacturing sector -- needs more, not less, freedom to adapt and innovate.

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Boston Fed Bosses: Mid-Sized Cities Face Unique Challenges

Friday, July 15th, 2011
By

Originally published in the Worcester Business Journal
July 13, 2011
Matt Pilion (Staff Writer, Worcester Business Journal)

New England's former industrial cities like Worcester, Springfield and Hartford face intense challenges as the economy continues a weak recovery, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston said today in Worcester.

Eric S. Rosengren, CEO and president of the bank, told a roomful of business, education and nonprofit leaders that New England's "mid-sized" cities are, on average, younger, less advanced in education and more diverse than the rest of the region.

Those characteristics present both challenges and opportunities, he said.

While unemployment is much higher among the undereducated, the large population of younger residents in New England's cities could help redefine the economic identities of those hubs.


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France and US: Vive la Difference

Thursday, July 14th, 2011
By Edward Glaeser

Originally published in The Boston Globe

In France, unlike in the United States, prevailing in the capital city has been enough to remake the whole country, and not just in terms of political power.

Two hundred twenty-two years ago today, Parisians stormed the Bastille - the citadel and prison in the heart of their city. While the American Revolution required years of fighting from the fields of Concord to the woods of the Carolinas, an upheaval in Paris alone ensured major shifts in power in France in 1789 - and again in 1830, 1848, and 1871.

The stark contrast between the French and American revolutions back then sheds light on differences in how the two nations have governed themselves ever since. It also holds a lesson for President Obama and others who have called for improvements in America’s human and physical infrastructure: The smart investments we need will require not just winning in Washington, but also a long, arduous ground war across America’s far-flung state legislatures.


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A Precipitous Situation, Not Without Precedent

Monday, July 11th, 2011
By Alasdair Roberts

Reprinted from the Boston Globe, July 10, 2011

Unless Congress acts, the United States will reach a statutory limit on federal debt in early August. The US Treasury might then default on its loans. This, says Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, would be “an unprecedented event in American history’’ that would inflict catastrophic damage on the economy.

But it isn’t entirely unprecedented. While the federal government has never defaulted, we’ve had a very similar experience.

Between July 1841 and December 1842, eight of the country’s 26 states defaulted on their loans. Other states and the federal government also struggled to avoid insolvency. The entire nation quickly became a pariah in international financial markets.

In 1842 the country was in the midst of its first great depression. A real estate bubble fueled by easy credit had burst in 1837. American banks that financed this speculation collapsed two years later. The economy ground to a halt.

Many states were caught up in the mania of 1836-37. They borrowed in Europe and competed with each other to build infrastructure that would open their markets. Legislators spent indiscriminately. Every new canal, railroad, and turnpike was supposed to pay for itself. But when the economy collapsed, so did the projects.

There was no toll revenue to repay the loans. Foreign creditors pressed the states to raise property taxes instead. But voters resisted new taxes, and many states simply lacked the capacity to collect them. So the states defaulted.

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Situation Critical: The Urgent Need for Independent Analysis, Regulation, and Oversight Before Massachusetts Legalizes Casinos

Friday, July 8th, 2011
By Scott Harshbarger

Once again, the pundits and prognosticators are saying that Massachusetts is on the verge of forever changing the Commonwealth’s cultural and economic landscape by legalizing casinos and expanded gambling.

A key legislative committee recently held a hearing on bills to vastly expand gambling – a hearing which, even at six hours, was remarkably shorter and less contentious than previous years. News reports and public comments tell us that the “Big Three” of Massachusetts government – the Governor, Speaker of the House and Senate President – are negotiating this issue, “behind closed doors” and might, in fact, emerge with a nearly completed bill presented as a fait accompli for members of the legislative branches and public to simply support or oppose.

Before this happens, it is absolutely essential that the Commonwealth establish a regulatory and enforcement regime capable of regulating, administering, and if necessary, restraining such a dramatic expansion. While Citizens for a Stronger Massachusetts (CSM) is not convinced that expanded gambling will be good for our economy or our taxpayers, we are is certain that an independent analysis of the costs and benefits should be undertaken, and appropriate regulatory controls adopted, before any expansion occurs.

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A First Step Toward Controlling Health Care Costs: Medical Loss Ratios and Chapter 288

Monday, June 27th, 2011
By Margarita Warren

Cost-containment may well prove to be the Achilles Heel of health care insurance reform. In Massachusetts, health care insurance premiums are rising at an unsustainable rate with no end in sight. One aspect of recently-passed legislation that may do little in the short term but bring real long-term results is the requirement that health care insurance providers spend less on administrative and other non-medicals expenses.

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Economists Argue Over Mortgage Interest Deductability

Friday, June 24th, 2011
By

The Rappaport Institute's Ed Glaeser recently spoke at an important conference on mortgage interest deductibility. Coverage by Jann Swanson, reporter for the Mortgage Daily News is below:

The Next Generation conference featured three presentations on the topic of the future of the mortgage interest tax deduction (MID). This feature of the tax code allows homeowners to deduct interest paid on one or more mortgages on up to two homes and its elimination is suggested in current attempts to reduce the budget deficit. It is, in fact, the only tax increase to have come under wide discussion.

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Rappaport Urban Scholars and Rappaport Institute Co-Host Briefing on “Pay for Success Contracts”

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011
By

More than 50 people – including several legislators – attended a special State House briefing on "Pay for Success Contracts (aka Social Impact Bonds)” by Jeffrey Liebman, a Professor of Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, who is a Rappaport Institute faculty affiliate. Held on June 8th, the briefing was sponsored by the Rappaport Institute and State Representative Charles Murphy (D-Burlington), the House Majority Whip who also is a former Rappaport Urban Scholar. Gregory Mennis, director of Infrastructure Programs and Financial Policy in the state’s Executive Office of Administration and Finance, also spoke at the event.

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Foreclosure Monitor: Signs Point to Long Recovery Road

Monday, June 20th, 2011
By Tim H. Davis


The following article was written by Tim Davis, a former Rappaport Urban Fellow, for the Massachsetts Housing Partnership. Foreclosure Monitor is designed to help public officials determine how best to use their resources to help homeowners and neighborhoods hard-hit by foreclosure. MHP issues Foreclosure Monitor quarterly.

BOSTON, June 13, 2011 --- When monthly foreclosure statistics dipped in February 2011, Foreclosure Monitor decided to dig into the numbers to see what caused this and to analyze just when we might see a full real estate turnaround.

In a report released Friday, Foreclosure Monitor found that February's dip was a one-time event similar to other temporary slowdowns and that the long-term distress and economic data point indicate that a full turnaround won't begin until at least 2014.

Boston Globe: Experts discuss report

In addition to this report, Foreclosure Monitor also released its quarterly report of distress activity by community, zip code and census tract. The news here is that while distress continues to shift into suburban and rural areas, Gateway cities like Lawrence, Lowell, Chelsea and New Bedford are seeing significant declines in foreclosure activity. To read this report, click here.

What is Foreclosure Monitor?

Foreclosure Monitor is an ongoing effort by MHP to give policy leaders and local officials the latest data on how foreclosures and distressed properties are impacting communities and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Foreclosure Monitor is able to provide this information through the CHAPA/Warren Group distressed property database. For previous reports, check out Foreclosure Monitor.

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The Locavore’s Dilemma

Thursday, June 16th, 2011
By Edward Glaeser

Reprinted from The Boston Globe 6.16.11

All that is grassy is not green. There are many good reasons to like local food, but any large-scale metropolitan farming will do more harm than good to the environment. Devoting scarce metropolitan land to agriculture means lower density levels, longer drives, and carbon emission increases which easily offset the modest greenhouse gas reductions associated with shipping less food. 

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Large Turnout for First StatNet Training Day

Monday, June 13th, 2011
By

More than 120 representatives from New England municipalities, state agencies, and non-profit organizations attended the first StatNet Training Day, which was held on Wednesday, May 18th at the University of Massachusetts Boston. The training was sponsored and organized by New England StatNet, a network of municipal officials using CitiStat or other data-driven performance management approaches that is coordinated by UMass Boston’s Collins Center for Public Management in collaboration with the Rappaport Institute and the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research. Speakers at the training session included HKS Lecturer Robert Behn, who is a Rappaport Institute faculty affiliate; Devin Lyons-Quirk, a former Rappaport Policy Fellow who is now Senior Project Manager for Performance for the City of Boston; and Stephanie Hirsch, who supervised several Rappaport Policy Fellows and also worked closely with students from an Institute-supported class on budgeting and management that carried out several projects for the City of Somerville. Amy Dain, another former Rappaport Fellow, coordinates the StatNet initiative. For more information about New England StatNet (formerly known as MassStat) click below.

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Containing Health Care Costs: Small Steps in the Right Direction

Monday, June 13th, 2011
By Kristin Faucette

Attempting to mitigate rapidly escalating health care costs, the Massachusetts legislature recently enacted Chapter 288, “An Act to Promote Cost Containment, Transparency, and Efficiency in the Provision of Quality Health Insurance for Individuals and Small Businesses.” Some provisions in the law are a small step in the right direction. But the majority of the provisions in Chapter 288 are short-term solutions that will only marginally assist small businesses in controlling future health care costs. Not only does the legislation fall short of containing costs, it actually adds costs to an already overburdened system.

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Why Massachusetts Needs a Romeo and Juliet Law

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
By Amanda Eden

Massachusetts needs a statutory rape exception to protect minors from unjustified prosecution for consensual sexual acts with peers. Statutory rape exception statutes are accepted in a vast majority of states in the U.S. and should be accepted in Massachusetts as well.

Only Massachusetts and two other states have no exception to statutory rape laws. As a result, teens in Massachusetts face severe adult penalties if convicted, including serving a life sentence in adult prison, court-ordered monitoring and registration as a sex offender. Conviction potentially limits where they live, work and travel.

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Reforming Parole by Getting Smart on Crime

Monday, May 23rd, 2011
By Ben Thomas

The Massachusetts’ legislature is still considering how best to reform parole after the tragic death of Woburn Police Officer Jack Macguire in December 2010. Macquire’s murder occurred at the gun of Dominic Cinelli, a repeat offender released on parole in 2008 after serving 24 years of three concurrent life sentences. Officer Maguire’s murder and similar violent crimes committed by repeat offenders reflect a need for parole reform in Massachusetts.

In response to the outcry that followed Macquire’s death, state legislators and Governor Patrick filed parole reform bills. One bill, H.000434, would eliminate the option of parole for all three-time felons. Alternatively, Governor Patrick’s bill (H.00041) would eliminate parole for three-time felons convicted of specific, serious violent felonies. Following a House committee hearing in March, it is still not clear what reforms will be undertaken.

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Bargaining for Reform: Changing Course in Underperforming Schools

Friday, May 13th, 2011
By Monika Bandyopadhyay

The Massachusetts legislature recently passed a bill providing superintendents unprecedented flexibility to change teacher collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) in under-performing schools. The bill ushers in a new kind of collective bargaining that could be effective in closing a persistent achievement gap. Whether these changes will successfully address one of today’s most complex and urgent public policy challenges will turn on implementation.

Massachusetts is plagued by an achievement gap along racial and socioeconomic lines, even while on average Massachusetts’ students are among the highest performing in the United States and internationally. In 2009, just 35 percent of low-income students were proficient in English/Language Arts compared to 65 percent of whites and Asians; 15 percent of low-income students were proficient in math compared to about 50 percent of whites and Asians. Students at the losing end enter society ill prepared for higher education and skilled jobs.

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The Role of Economics in an Imperfect World

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011
By Edward Glaeser

Originally published in The New York Times

All good things must come to an end, and after more than two and a half years of producing an Economix post every week, it is time for me to move on. I have greatly enjoyed writing these posts, and I am grateful for the opportunity.

Economix began during a period of great popular interest in economics, spurred on, in part, by the tremendous success of Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. Initially, many of us thought the blog would be quirky and fun and would focus on the application of economics to the issues of everyday life.

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Can the state and its communities meet their obligations without raising taxes, cutting services or reneging on benefits?

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011
By

The Conference on Public Employee Pensions on May 11, 2011 at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Worcester, MA included a panel discussion with

  • Jean-Pierre Aubrey, Research Associate, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College; Co-author, “The Impact of Public Pensions on State and Local Budgets,” and several other CRR Working Papers on pension related issues
  • James DelSignore, Worcester City Auditor and Ex-Officio Member of the Worcester Retirement Board
  • Phillip X. Puccia, Executive Director, Public Finance, J.P. Morgan Securities LLC and former Executive Director, Springfield Financial Control Board
  • Moderated by David Luberoff, Executive Director, Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, Harvard University
Reporters from the Telegram & Gazette and the Worcester Business Journal covered the event. See their stories below:

Expert: Most public pension plans are solvent for the next 20-30 years

Reprinted from the Worcester Telegram & Gazette
By Dave Greenslit

WORCESTER — The public pension system cannot be sustained, but it can be fixed. That was the consensus of panelists this morning at a forum sponsored by The Research Bureau and the Rappaport Institute at Harvard's Kennedy School. The discussion was held at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences.

While the debate over public employee benefits has not been as rancorous in Massachusetts as elsewhere in the country, the state is grappling with the same issues, said moderator David Luberoff, executive director of the institute.

He asked: Can the state and its communities meet their obligations without raising taxes, cutting services or reneging on benefits?

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Local Pension Funds Should Invest Farther Afield

Friday, May 6th, 2011
By Edward Glaeser

Originally printed in the Boston Globe

We all have a local bias. We root for the Patriots, invite our neighbors for dinner, and, if we invest, we bet on US companies. Public pensions have a local bias too: 44.2 percent of private equity investments by public pensions in Massachusetts are placed with funds headquartered in the state.

This is troubling, because those investments have historically earned, on average, 8.62 percent less annually than out-of-state investments, which means that local bias could be costing our pension funds more than $150 million each year.

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Bogged in Bureaucracy: Lessons Learned from Cape Wind

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011
By Sara Farnum

This commentary is part of the Rappaport Briefing, a student publication supported by the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service. Click here for a link to the entire "Rappaport Briefing." 

The recently completed approval process of the offshore wind farm Cape Wind was a 10-year bureaucratic nightmare.  There must be a better way of vetting such proposals — for the benefit of proponents and opponents alike. And with many similar proposals on the horizon, the government ought to act quickly to find better ways of reviewing and approving such projects.

In 2001, Cape Wind Associates LLC developed the proposal to build a wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts.  The wind farm would be located on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound and consist of 130 wind turbines arranged in a grid pattern covering 25 square miles.  The project was expected to produce an average of 170 megawatts, enough to satisfy 75 percent of Cape Cod’s electricity demand.  It was expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 734 tons of carbon dioxide per year.

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Measuring Happiness in Somerville

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011
By

The annual city census forms distributed in Somerville this year had some unexpected queries, reported a front-page article in Sunday’s New York Times. In addition to the usual questions about occupation and age, the forms also asked residents questions like, on a scale of 1 to 10, “How happy do you feel right now?” and “In general, how similar are you to other people you know?” and “Taking everything into account, how satisfied are you with Somerville as a place to live?”

“Cities keep careful track of their finances, but a bond rating doesn’t tell us how people feel or why they want to raise a family here or relocate a business here,” explained Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone, who currently is attending the Kennedy School as a Rappaport Urban Scholar, in the article.

The article adds that the city will use the data to develop a happiness index and other data that can be analyzed as part of the city’s SomerStat performance management program, which was developed with assistance from the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston. “We want to see what the baseline data tell us and then expand,” explained Tara Acker, director of that program. “Is there a correlation between happiness and open space or green space? If we see low levels of satisfaction correlated to low levels of income, perhaps we want more programs aimed at low-income people.”

The full article is available by clicking on "read more."

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Costly Inheritance - How to tackle the triple root of US debt that has been passed to us

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011
By Linda Bilmes

Originally published in the Boston Globe

With deficit-reduction fever gripping Washington, it is easy to forget that the stunning turnaround in America’s finances — from budget surpluses in the late 1990s to today’s sea of red ink — is largely the byproduct of successive presidents trying to fix yesterday’s crises.

President Bush launched the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in response to 9/11, enacted Medicare Part D to help seniors cope with the rising prices of medicines, and cut taxes across the board in an effort to lower tax burdens. President Obama bailed out the banks to save the financial system, rescued the auto industry, and extended tax breaks to pull the economy out of recession.

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WikiLeaks: The Illusion of Transparency

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011
By Alasdair Roberts

It has been said that the 2010 WikiLeaks disclosures marked "the end of secrecy in the old fashioned, cold-war-era sense." This is not true. Advocates of WikiLeaks have overstated the scale and significance of the leaks. They also overlook many ways in which the simple logic of radical transparency - leak, publish, and wait for the inevitable outrage - can be defeated in practice. WikiLeaks only created the illusion of a new era in transparency. In fact the 2010 leaks revealed the obstacles to achievement of increased transparency, even in the digital age.

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Somerville Mayor "Challenges" Remarks by Cambridge City Councilor

Thursday, April 14th, 2011
By Joseph Curtatone

Originally printed in the Somerville Journal 4.14.2011

Somerville Mayor presents 'Interesting City Challenge' to Cambridge

Somerville — I just read yesterday that Cambridge City Councilor Ken Reeves doesn’t think Somerville has many interesting places. I suppose the honorable Mr. Reeves never has bothered to sully himself with travels north of the Cambridge border or he’d know better than to say such things, but this is an insult we will not tolerate in Somerville. I want to declare here and now that Somerville is a far more interesting city than Cambridge with far more interesting places to visit. And I’m willing to back that up with an Interesting City Challenge to Cambridge. It’s really not fair of me to issue this challenge. Cambridge stands no chance. For instance, I remember in my youth when Harvard Square used to be fun and funky. You know, back before it got turned into a mall. Seriously, when did Cambridge become Natick? And when does Harvard Square officially change its name to The Cambridge Collection?

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Cost of State and Local Pensions Underestimated, Finance Expert Says

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011
By

State and local governments in the United States have badly underestimated the cost of pensions promised to their employees, warned speakers at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) on Tuesday night (April 12).

Even with the recent upturn in the economy, fiscally strapped state and local governments still have approximately $3 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities, asserted Joshua Rauh, associate professor of finance at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management at “The Fiscal Crisis of State and Local Government Pension Systems,” a lecture co-sponsored by HKS’ Taubman Center for State and Local Government, Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, and Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government.

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What Crisis? Inadequacies with the nation’s infrastructure have been oversold

Friday, April 8th, 2011
By Edward Glaeser

Does America suffer from an infrastructure gap that requires spending hundreds of billions of tax dollars rebuilding America? Is President Obama right that the nation needs "the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information" to attract new businesses? Of course, battered bridges and ruined roads should be repaired, but any larger federal infrastructure agenda should be approached with caution because the crisis has been oversold, and the current political climate practically ensures massive misspending.

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Which Places are Growing?

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011
By

In a new Rappaport Institute/Taubman Center Policy Brief titled Which Places are Growing? Seven Notable Trends From Newly Released Census Data, Edward Glaeser, director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, identifies seven key facts about county-level population growth that emerge from census data that were released on March 24, 2011. The seven facts are:

  • Population growth was much higher in counties with higher incomes as of 2000.
  • January temperature continues to be a strong predictor of population growth.
  • Population growth was faster near ports.
  • People are moving to dense areas, but not the densest areas.
  • The education level of a county as of 2000 strongly predicts population growth over the last decade.
  • Manufacturing employment predicts lower population growth.
  • Limits to housing supply also limit population growth.
  • Glaeser concludes by noting that while these trends do not dictate any particular public policies or suggest any particular course of action, they should be relevant for policy-makers at both the local and the national level.

The full policy brief is available here

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And Justice For All

Monday, April 4th, 2011
By Susan Prosnitz

Governor Patrick continues to make history and to reshape our state's highest court, with his nomination of Massachusetts Appeals Court Justice, Barbara A. Lenk, to the Supreme Judicial Court. By choosing to nominate an openly gay justice - yet another Massachusetts first - the Governor is establishing a legacy of diversity in positions that will influence policy long after the Governor leaves office. With the nomination of Lenk, the Governor is sending a clear message that diverse backgrounds and experiences are encouraged in public service and key positions of power. He has also taken a step towards further balancing the gender composition of the court and seeking to ensure that our state's highest court reflects the population it is serving as it administers justice. Click here to read Martin Finucane's Boston Globe article.

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Behind Census Numbers

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011
By Edward Glaeser

We have known since December that Massachusetts' population grew by an anemic 3.1 percent between 2000 and 2010, but this week the census released data that demonstrate the diversity within the state. Outlying areas, like the Berkshires and the Cape, lost population, while Boston and Worcester County grew. These patterns remind us that the state's future is a battle between great economic energy and profound opposition to new construction, especially in areas around Boston.

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What Happened to the Cows on Boston Common?

Thursday, March 24th, 2011
By

Most Bostonians know that cows once grazed on Boston Common and some even know about the great celebrations that occurred on the Common in 1848, when potable drinking water began flowing through the city's new public water system. But very few of us know how Bostonians decided to rid the Common of cows or of the intense and passionate debates that preceded construction of the new water system. In Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston, recently published by Harvard University Press, historian Michael Rawson, offers rich accounts of five key decisions: turning Boston Common into a park, providing potable drinking water, creating independent suburbs, regulating uses of Boston Harbor, and creating suburban parks.

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Recession Requires Fundamental Changes to Municipal Government

Thursday, March 24th, 2011
By

While many localities - particularly older industrial cities and towns - have faced major budget challenges for many years, current economic conditions are so powerful that "it's difficult to see how 'normal' budgeting and spending practices" will be sufficient for many years to come, according to Philip Puccia, executive director of public finance for J.P Morgan Securities LLC who also is a member of the Rappaport Institute's Advisory Board. Writing in the March 2011 issue of The Journal of Corporate Renewal, Puccia draws on his experience as executive director of the Springfield Financial Control Board to show how localities can address their structural budget problems by a forceful combination of "management and efficiency improvements, changes to wage and benefit packages, and the use of common sense."

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How Serious is the Public Pension Crisis?

Thursday, March 24th, 2011
By

Virtually everyone agrees that virtually all states and localities have "unfunded pension liabilities" (i.e. the money they have set aside to pay for pensions is less than the amounts already promised to retirees. However, scholars and analysts strongly disagree about both the size and significance of those funding gaps. On the one hand, Joshua Rauh, an associate professor of finance at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management who will be speaking at the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston on April 12th, has written or co-authored a series of provocative papers and articles contending (in the words of an essay he wrote for the Milken Institute Review) the unfunded liabilities have been greatly underestimated and are "a fiscal disaster in the making, one that will eventually force states and localities to choose among the unpalatable options of cutting services, raising taxes or wriggling out of solemn promises to employees."

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Back Off From Our Housing Choices

Thursday, March 10th, 2011
By Edward Glaeser

In February the Obama Administration took two modest but welcome steps toward toward reducing federal subsidies for suburbia by proposing changes to the home mortgage interest deduction. But President Obama should go further, and make the case that the American dream is found as easily in a skyscraper as in a ranch house. He should even ask his libertarian opponents to join in a fight against paternalistic public programs that artificially subsidize suburban life. The administration's report "Reforming America's Housing Finance Market" argues that the public role in housing "does not mean our goal is for all Americans to be homeowners." Instead, it says, "Americans should have choices in housing that make sense," and, "This means rental options near good schools and jobs." The report wants to "responsibly reduce Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's role in the market and ultimately wind down both institutions." While they exist, the report urges them to charge more for mortgage guarantees, as if they were "private banks or financial institutions."

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Collective Bargains: Rebuilding and Repairing Public Sector Labor Relations in Difficult Times

Monday, February 28th, 2011
By

Perfect timing for an event co-sponsored by the Taubman Center for State and Local Government and the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston at the Harvard Kennedy School. Katie Koch reports for the Harvard Gazette in the following article: "Labor's Love Lost: Local Leaders Mull Ways to Repair Public Unions' Image."

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Beyond Fannie and Freddie, a New Approach

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
By Edward Glaeser

The report on Friday on "Reforming America's Housing Finance Market" left me feeling downright giddy. While the report is hardly a finished plan for Freddie Mac (the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation) and Fannie Mae (the Federal National Mortgage Association), and going forward, countless opportunities will arise for everything to go awry, it is a very good start. The report clearly explains the role that these entities, known as government-sponsored enterprises, or G.S.E.'s, played during the housing crisis, and it sensibly maps out a future with less pro-homeownership nonsense and a more responsible public sector.

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Glaeser's Book Spurs Discussion on Cities

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
By

Cities are actually the healthiest, greenest, and richest (in cultural and economic terms) places to live, argues Rappaport Institute Director Edward Glaeser in his new book, "Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier." Glaeser's analyses and policy recommendations - which include scaling programs that encourage suburbanization (such as the home mortgage interest deduction) and scaling back policies such as historic preservation that limit new development in cities - have been drawing significant media coverage since the book was released last week with reviews in such publications as The New York Times and The Economist, articles by Glaeser in The Atlantic and The Boston Globe Magazine; a New York Times column by David Brooks, and appearances on The Daily Show with John Stewart, NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday, and NPR's The Takeaway. More information about the book is available at: www.triumphofthecity.com. Click on "read more" for links to all the reviews.

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Academics from US, Canada Look at Large-scale Policy Change

Monday, February 14th, 2011
By

Academics from fifteen US and Canadian universities gathered at Suffolk University Law School on February 11 to discuss the challenges of large-scale policy change. The symposium was hosted by the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service and the scholarly journal Governance, which is co-edited by Rappaport Professor Alasdair Roberts. "Our aim was to examine how the big ideas that shape policy -- for example, economic globalization -- rise and fall," said Roberts. "We looked at the role of entrepreneurs in selling new ideas, and how old ideas are shaken by crises." Peter Hall, the Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies at Harvard University, wrote an influential article on policy change that served as the basis for many of the February 11 papers. Hall examined how current ideas about the role of government became established after the turmoil of the 1970s.

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Party Chiefs Square Off In 2012 Preview

Friday, February 11th, 2011
By Susan Prosnitz

Reprinted from The State House News - Democratic and Republican officials offered a preview of their 2012 campaign strategies Thursday at a discussion of campaign trail lessons. Democratic Party chair John Walsh and Republican Party chair Jennifer Nassour used their joint appearance at a Suffolk Law's Rappaport Center panel to spare over Scott Brown's upcoming defense of his U.S. Senate seat and the 2012 GOP Presidential field which includes former Gov. Mitt Romney. "I think for people who like politics... what you're hearing today is 2012 is going to be a year you're really going to love, because this is going to be a serious campaign," Walsh said.

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It’s Always the Urban Pot That Boils Over

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011
By Edward Glaeser

Will the conflict in Cairo end with a free and peaceful Egypt? Or is it Tehran 1979 all over again, where anti-American theocracy trumped secularism and freedom? Whatever course history will follows, the momentous changes in North Africa remind us that our world is shaped by its cities. The poorer and less democratic parts of the planet have become increasingly urban and that makes change, full of hope and fear, inevitable. That recent uprisings have been assisted by electronic technologies like Facebook and Twitter only reinforces the point that technological change is making cities more, not less, important.

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Technology in City Government: The Case of Somerville

Monday, January 31st, 2011
By Joseph Curtatone

Powerpoint presentation given by Joseph Curtatone, Mayor, City of Somerville at Somerville and the MBTA Put "Tech" in Technocrats: Using Technology to Empower Citizens and Improve Local Governance on January 31, 2011.

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The Challenge of Ensuring that Localities have Enough Money for Education and Basic Local Services

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011
By

Three recent reports from some of the state's leading thinktanks and non-profits provide a useful framework for understanding the state of the state's economy, the challenge of ensuring that localities have enough money for education and other basic local services. The State of Working Massachusetts 2010, recently published by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, reports that that in contrast to previous national economic downturns, Massachusetts is doing somewhat better than other states during the current downturn. In particular, Massachusetts has lost a smaller share of jobs than most states, experienced better trends in wages and incomes than most of the nation, and did not experience a discernable increase in poverty. The report goes on to note that state's record is linked to the fact that over the past 30 years the state's workforce has become the best-educated in America. However, the report warns that there are significant segments of our population with very high unemployment rates and very low long-term wage growth.

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Where to Draw a Line on Ethics

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011
By Edward Glaeser

Last week, The New York Times reported that "faced with a run of criticism, including a popular movie, leaders of the American Economic Association, the world's largest professional society for economists, founded in 1885, are considering a step that most other professions took a long time ago - adopting a code of ethical standards." As the American Economic Association begins its annual convention in Denver this week, should creating an ethical code for economists be at the top of its agenda? Economists are no purer than anyone else, and I share the view of my fellow Economix blogger Nancy Folbre that we all have room to become better people. But I'm skeptical that the A.E.A. is well suited to arbitrate the ethics of the economics profession. In one area, however, the A.E.A. can act productively: It can create clear conflict-of-interest disclosure rules for its prestigious journals.

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The WikiLeaks Document Dump

Friday, December 17th, 2010
By Susan Prosnitz

Rappaport Professor of Law and Public Policy Alasdair Roberts, an expert on government transparency, discusses the WikiLeaks document dump and its ramifications in a recent edition of the Rappaport Center Public Policy Podcast Series. Click the Podcast link at the top of this page.

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Citizens’ Committee on Boston’s Future Report Just Released

Friday, December 17th, 2010
By

Streamlining regulatory processes for everything from new development to food trucks, providing late-night weekend transit service, and increasing support for the arts, were among the ideas highlighted by Rappaport Institute Director Edward Glaeser in his "chairman's report" summarizing the work of the Citizens' Committee on Boston's Future, which was created last January by the Boston City Council. The Committee, which was appointed by City Council President Michael Ross, was charged with developing recommendations for the Council on "what Boston must do to compete effectively to be the best city in America." Among the other ideas highlighted in the final report were ending state control of liquor licensing in Boston, continuing efforts to use new technologies to improve city government, and increased support for urban farms that could serve as teaching tools and sources of green pleasures for residents of the city.

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To Preserve and Protect: Land Use Regulations in Weston, Massachusetts

Friday, December 10th, 2010
By Alexander von Hoffman

This working paper is part of the research project, The Evolution of Residential Land Use Regulation in Greater Boston, carried out under the auspices of Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies and the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston. The goals of this project are to identify and understand the reasons that towns and cities in eastern Massachusetts have made Greater Boston a highly regulated urban region and to help devise residential planning policies that advance general, rather than parochial, interests, and what some call "Smart Growth." In particular, the project aims to discover precisely why and under what circumstances particular communities adopted residential land use regulations by studying the evolution of regulations in residential real estate development in four different Boston-area communities and in the legal interpretation of the state laws of Massachusetts.

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Prosnitz Appointed to Probation Task Force

Thursday, December 9th, 2010
By

Rappaport Center Executive Director named to Probation Task Force The Supreme Judicial Court has appointed Susan Prosnitz, Executive Director of the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service, to serve on the task force examining the hiring and promotional practices of Probation and other departments of the Massachusetts Judicial Branch. The task force is chaired by former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger.

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Prosecutors and Public Defenders

Monday, November 22nd, 2010
By Susan Prosnitz

Prosecutors and public defenders will face off again Monday over budget funding differences in a panel discussion hosted by the Rappaport Center at Suffolk University Law School. Last month, the two opposing sides lashed out at each other in a heated, impromptu debate at the State House during a press conference prosecutors called to talk about budget disparities. The state spends three times more money to represent criminal defendants as it does to prosecute them, district attorneys argued. But defense attorneys said prosecutors distorted the numbers, and neglected to include money and assistance they receive from police investigators.

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A reform both parties should love

Friday, November 19th, 2010
By Edward Glaeser

Reducing the national debt is a great test of our political system. Passing that test will require the best parts of both parties, such as the affinity for balanced budgets and smaller government that lies deep within the GOP's DNA. The Democrats have a more recent track record of actually balancing the budget, and they bring a commitment to equality, which can help ensure that the most vulnerable Americans don't bear the brunt of budget cuts.

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Economics Offers Tactics, Not Strategy

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010
By Edward Glaeser

Last week, the two chairmen of President Obama's bipartisan deficit reduction panel produced an eminently sensible preliminary report that was greeted with derision from both left and right. On Sunday, The New York Times invited everyone to weigh in, posting a deficit puzzle that lets you play budget czar, making spending cuts and tax increases in an attempt to wipe out the deficit by 2040.

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When Privatization Increases Public Spending

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
By Edward Glaeser

What should the G.O.P. do after last week's recapture of the House of Representatives? "Real spending reductions, an extension of the Bush tax cuts, ending earmarks, using the returns from the bailouts to reduce the debt and turning Fannie and Freddie into private companies should all be at the top of the G.O.P.'s agenda," Karl Rove wrote in a commentary published in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday.

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A Great and Revolutionary Law? The First Four Years of India’s Right to Information Act

Thursday, October 28th, 2010
By Alasdair Roberts

India's 2005 Right to Information Act (RTIA) is among dozens of national laws recently adopted similar to the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. Drawing on several large studies examining the act's implementation, the author finds that Indian citizens filed about 2 million requests for information under the RTIA during its first two and half years. However, use of the law was constrained by uneven public awareness, poor public planning, and bureaucratic indifference or outright hostility. Requirements for proactive disclosure of information are often ignored. The necessary mechanisms for enforcing the new law are also strained by a growing number of complaints and appeals. Nonetheless, RTIA advocates demonstrate its transformative potential and continue to press energetically for more effective implementation. Public authorities and civil society organizations have developed a number of practical innovations that may be useful for other developing countries to adopt when considering similar laws.

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The Information Economy Powers Wage Increases

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010
By Edward Glaeser

What large county in the United States experienced the largest increase in weekly wages during the generally bleak 12 months between early 2009 and 2010? It's a long, narrow island with some very tall buildings, and many observers thought the recession would wreck its finance-based economy.

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Holding Elected Officials Responsible for Unemployment

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010
By Edward Glaeser

We approach the midterm elections, and the unemployment rate is 9.6 percent. Inevitably, economic policy will play a major role in voting decisions, but wise voting and wise policy require us to recognize two central, almost contradictory, truths about the government and the economy: economic policy does affect people's lives and the economy, and, less obviously, most of what happens in the economy has little to do with government policy.

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What Happened to Argentina?

Friday, September 3rd, 2010
By Edward Glaeser

A century ago, there were only seven countries in the world that were more prosperous than Argentina (Belgium, Switzerland, Britain and four former English colonies including the United States), according to Angus Maddison's historic incomes database. In 1909, per capita income in Argentina was 50 percent higher than in Italy, 180 percent higher than Japan, and almost five times higher than in neighboring Brazil. Over the course of the 20th century, Argentina's relative standing in world incomes fell sharply. By 2000, Argentina's income was less than half that of Italy or Japan.

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Did Credit Market Policies Cause the Housing Bubble?

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010
By Edward Glaeser

Many economists have argued that aspects of the credit market, including low interest rates, can explain the boom. The evidence summarized in this Policy Brief casts doubt on the view that easy credit can explain the bubble. It isn't that low interest rates don't boost housing prices. They do. It isn't that higher mortgage approval rates aren't associated with rising home values. They are. But the impact of these variables, as predicted by economic theory and as estimated empirically over many years, is too small to explain much of the housing market event that we have just experienced.

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The US had a default crisis too, you know

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010
By Alasdair Roberts

As the Eurozone contemplates the possibility of Greek default, American pundits are boasting about US federalism. American states, they say, would never allow the fiscal irresponsibility that plagues Eurozone countries. And when states do lapse, the country's leaders do a better job of putting accounts back in order. These pundits ought to know their history. In fact, the US has experienced a very similar crisis, in which one third of state governments defaulted. That crisis only ended after years of wrenching political change.

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The Rise and Fall of the Guardians

Monday, January 25th, 2010
By Alasdair Roberts

The recent financial crisis has battered the credibility of technocrats. It is no longer clear that, left to their own devices, they will produce the one thing that justifies giving them authority: better decisions.

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Right to Information: Need for an Enforcement Strategy

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010
By Alasdair Roberts

The right to information is only meaningful if the law is properly enforced. We know this from common sense. Government officials who dislike the law will be tempted to ignore it if they believe that there will not be any consequences. Citizens will not make requests if they do not believe there is a quick remedy against stubborn bureaucrats. The findings of some recent evaluations of the Right to Information Act are therefore worrisome. The report completed by the RTI Assessment and Analysis Group finds that information commissions received 86,000 appeals in the first two and half years of the law's operation, but issued only 50,000 decisions. Inflow exceeds outflow, and the result is a growing inventory of cases within some commissions, and delays in handling individual investigations. The special committee that reported to the Fourth National Conference on RTI last October found a "huge pendency in disposal of appeals and complaints" in some places. The PriceWaterhouseCoopers study on RTIA said that rapid growth in number of appeals is "creating a grave situation which requires urgent intervention."

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The Dangers of Guardian Rule

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010
By Alasdair Roberts

Economic liberalisation was supposed to bring with it democratisation and the will of the crowd. Instead we had monetary policy governed by an elite few in independent banks and powerful finance ministers such as Gordon Brown. What went wrong?

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Small Change for Cities and Towns

Sunday, June 28th, 2009
By

THE HOTLY debated tax increases in the budget that the Legislature sent to Governor Deval Patrick are small change, which is both good and bad. On the plus side, the per-dollar provisions - which raise the meals and sales taxes from 5 cents to 6.25 and allow the state's cities and towns to add another 75 cents to the meals tax and to raise hotel taxes by 2 cents as well - will add only small change to the cost of goods, meals, and rooms. Yet the new taxes also represent only a small change for the state's cities and towns, because the money will mitigate - but not eliminate - painful cuts to basic public services. And because the budget lacks other needed reforms, the taxes are only small change for local governments that need much larger and more systematic changes, not only in funding but in governance as well.

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Transit Projects Taxpayers Can Trust

Saturday, December 13th, 2008
By

On Election Day, voters from around the country showed Massachusetts how to prevent imminent fiscal train wrecks at both the Pike and the MBTA and to fund other transportation needs as well. Specifically, in states where voters must approve tax hikes that fund new borrowing for capital projects, the electorate approved more than 80 percent of proposed measures that together will provide more than $50 billion for roads, trains, schools, libraries, parks, hospitals, sewers, and other forms of infrastructure. The successful measures included sales tax hikes for transit in both Los Angeles County and the Seattle metro area and property tax hikes for roads in Charlotte, Tulsa, and Denton County, Texas.

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The High Cost of Affordable Housing

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008
By

Is it getting too expensive to build affordable housing in Massachusetts? On average, it costs more than $200,000 a unit to build such housing and many projects cost significantly more. A new proposal in the state Senate would make those projects even more expensive. The Senate housing bill would require nonprofit entities and for-profit firms that build most of the region's affordable housing to pay construction workers the "prevailing wage," a legal term for whatever unionized workers get for doing the work. (Construction projects carried out by most public-sector entities have long been subject to this provision.)

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A Grand Bargain for Local Aid

Monday, March 26th, 2007
By

The Bay State's time-honored system of local governance is teetering on the brink of disaster. From ailing satellite cities to thriving suburbs, the costs of local government are rising faster than revenues from property taxes and local aid. While more money might solve some problems, cumbersome rules and outdated management practices often mean that money isn't being spent as wisely and efficiently as possible.

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Regulation and the Rise in Housing Prices in Greater Boston

Thursday, January 5th, 2006
By Edward Glaeser

In well-functioning markets, when prices rise, supply increases, and then prices stop rising and sometimes even fall. By this defi nition, the housing market in the greater Boston area is not working.

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Think Again on New Green Line

Monday, May 23rd, 2005
By

Just as carpenters are told to ''measure twice and cut once," state officials should recheck key assumptions before they go ahead with plans to extend the Green Line to Somerville and Medford. They should start with claims that the project will greatly reduce air pollution. Air quality was the main reason state environmental officials required construction of 14 transit projects, including the Green Line, when they approved the Big Dig's key environmental permit in 1990, ruling that the projects were ''absolutely necessary to achieve greater air quality improvements in metropolitan Boston."

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Learning from Ammann: Politics as a Design Problem

Thursday, July 1st, 2004
By

Many architects study Othmar Ammann, the well known engineer, because the bridges he designed which include the George Washington Bridge and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge - are exemplars of economy, efficiency, and grace. Virtually no architect (or anyone else for that matter) studies Othmar Ammann, the political entrepreneur. In a feat unnoted in most architectural history books, Ammann designed and carried out a brilliant campaign to have the Port Authority of New York build the George Washington Bridge and to hire him to design it and oversee its construction. Ignoring this lesser known side of Ammann is a mistake, because he can teach usefull lessons to architects, who often mistakenly view policics as an irrational and immutable process that just gets in the way of good architecture.

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Dispelling the Myth of Home Rule: Local Power in Greater Boston

Tuesday, March 16th, 2004
By David Barron

Massachusetts is a strong home rule state, it is commonly believed. It is, people say, a state that gives its cities and towns a great deal of local autonomy. This view is so widely held that efforts to promote regionalism in the Boston metropolitan area are often dismissed as impossible. But is this view right? Over the last two years, we have investigated whether the 101 cities and towns within the Boston metropolitan region have "home rule" in the local autonomy sense of the term. To do so, we have examined the provisions of the state constitution that purport to give home rule to Massachusetts' local governments and the numerous state statutes that grant and limit local power. We have also interviewed officials from more than half of the cities and towns in the region to find out how home rule functions in practice. The results suggest that the standard story about home rule in Massachusetts is largely a myth.

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Former Lt. Governor Kerry Healey speaks about political parity at the Rappaport Center
Arianna Huffington and Alan Khazei speaking at the Rappaport Center
U.S. Representative Barney Frank speaking at the Harvard Kennedy School, cosponsored by the Rappaport Institute.
HKS Professor Jeffrey Liebman (left) spoke about new ways to spur policy innovation at a State House briefing sponsored by State Representative (and former Rappaport Urban Scholar) Charles Murphy (right).
Mayor Menino attends Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Course for high school students
 MA Attorney General Martha Coakley Hearing on Sexual Exploitation Online
Gov. Deval Patrick speaking at the Rappaport Center's Gubernatorial Speakers Series
Triumph of the City: Ed Glaeser talks about his new book on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Statnet panel of current and former heads of local performance management programs including Stephanie Hirsch (far right), former head of SomerStat and Devin Lyons-Quirk, third from right.

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