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 by Edward Glaeser

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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E-Ties That Bind

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011
By Edward Glaeser

Will electronic connections make cities obsolete? In the giddy early days of e-mail and the Internet, some prophets proclaimed that humans would no longer bother with the inconveniences of density and would instead retreat, in Alvin Toffler's phrase, to "electronic cottages." Fifteen years ago, I wrote a paper with Jess Gaspar suggesting that cyberspace connectivity could make face-to-face interactions, and the cities that enable them, more valuable than ever. In the language of economics, the core question is whether face-to-face interactions and electronic connections are substitutes or complements. If they are substitutes, we should expect cheaper, better e-contact to make personal meetings rarer; if they are complements, new technologies will strengthen the value of interpersonal contact - and of cities.

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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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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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Why Green Energy Can’t Power a Job Engine

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011
By Edward Glaeser

Evergreen Solar announced last week that it was closing its plant in Devens, Mass., laying off 800 workers, and moving production to China. Evergreen's factory had received more than $40 million in subsidies, which led many to see the plant closing as lesson in the futility of green energy and industrial policy. But what does Evergreen's story really teach us about solar energy, public subsidies and the future of American manufacturing? Evergreen Solar's story begins in 1994, when three alumni of Mobil's solar division broke away to form their own company. They started in a 2,500-square-foot lab in Waltham, Mass., which has long housed innovative industry, including America's first integrated textile mill and the Waltham Watch Company, which pioneered high-quality watches with interchangeable parts. Today, Waltham is a venture-capital hub that succeeds by providing abundant commercial real estate and easy access to the scientific community of greater Boston.

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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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Does Economic Inequality Cause Crises?

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010
By Edward Glaeser

Did inequality cause the recent housing and financial crisis? For decades, a growing literature has tried to establish links between inequality and adverse outcomes, such as low economic growth, weak social cohesion and mortality and, most recently, financial crises. If true, these arguments would provide even more reasons to worry about our unequal income distribution. If false, we should still worry about income inequality, because in a just society everyone should have a decent standard of living and the opportunity to succeed. Empirically, it is true that inequality has risen since the 1970s, and, by many measures, America was a more unequal country in 2005 than it had been during any year since the 1920s. The echo of the Roaring Twenties reminds us that inequality also seems to have risen during that decade, in the years before the crash. These two periods have suggested to some people that inequality was actually playing a role in generating overpriced assets.

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How Republicans Might Improve Education

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010
By Edward Glaeser

The Republican Party historically achieved electoral success by championing both limited government and national security, and they will have to do that again in 2012. During the 2010 election, the Republicans and their allies raised the powerful specter of national decline. I, too, worry about the future of a nation whose 15-year-olds scored in the bottom quarter of participating nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in one major test of "mathematical literacy."

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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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No Man Is an Island, Updated

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010
By Edward Glaeser

Will information technology make face-to-face contact and the places that enable that contact obsolete? Or will improvements in information technology make meeting face-to-face more effective and more valuable?

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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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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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» Show all posts

Arianna Huffington and Alan Khazei speaking at the Rappaport Center
Triumph of the City: Ed Glaeser talks about his new book on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Former Lt. Governor Kerry Healey speaks about political parity at the Rappaport Center
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.
Gov. Deval Patrick speaking at the Rappaport Center's Gubernatorial Speakers Series
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).
 MA Attorney General Martha Coakley Hearing on Sexual Exploitation Online
Mayor Menino attends Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Course for high school students

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