Working from within provides experience, expertise, and legitimacy. People whose career moved in professional or managerial paths have a vital role in advocacy. This includes people with a variety of roles: appointed or elected leaders, professional staff, even consultants, advisors, or “special commission” members.
There are many ways in which an inside-outside Advocacy partnership is the strategic route to success. The initial protest stages of an Advocacy campaign is almost always started by outsiders critical of what a public agency or private corporation is doing. Similarly, building the political will to force an organization to change its policy and mission often must be via an end-run around a particularly resistant agency’s staff or political leadership. Even at these times, however, internal friends can help open doors by insisting that “they’ve got a point; maybe we can lower the temperature by talking.”
It is also enormously helpful, even in those early stages, to have inside allies who can feed information or sometimes even make public statements validating the protestor’s claims. And once the campaign moves into pushing -- negotiating for specific policy, programmatic, or operational changes -- having an internal champion can make the process much more productive. Outside pressure can raise the visibility and priority of changes that inside reformers would, themselves, like to implement. Should the campaign succeed in triggering actual implementation, inside leadership is a necessity.
But there is also a role for internal activists even during quiet periods of business-as-usual. At a minimum, people on the inside can help their organizations do better by serving as a bridge to outside perspectives. At a maximum, they can push for improvements even in the absence of outside pressure.
Active Transportation and The Community Preservation Act: Funding for Livability, Mobility, and Health
This November, Boston voters (as well as those in Springfield and Holyoke) will decide if their cities will join the roughly 160 others across the state in adopting the Community Preservation Act. A positive CPA vote (item number 5 on the Boston ballot) will raise money that can only be used for open space preservation (including greenways), development of affordable housing, the acquisition and development of outdoor recreational facilities (including playgrounds, bicycling, and pedestrian facilities), and the preservation of historic resources.
If adopted, the average single-family Boston homeowner will pay about $28 per year – about $2 per month. Small business owners would pay between $100 and $250 a year. Including the projected state match, the city is expected to have roughly $20 million every year for CPA projects. It’s a small amount to pay for a very large return in increased quality of life. And voters can see exactly what their money is being used for via a database set up by the non-profit Community Preservation Coalition.
The program has been a huge success in those municipalities that have already adopted it since the enabling act passed in 2000; state-wide raising over $1.4 billion which has paid for over 8,500 units of affordable housing, 1,250 recreation projects, 21,800 acres of open space, and 3,600 historic preservation projects. Once adopted, no city has ever voted to repeal the CPA program.Read more
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR EQUITABLE DEVELOPMENT: Boston Needs To Give As Much Attention to the Low-income Fairmount/Indigo Corridor as to the High-Income Seaport
The Seaport has everyone’s attention as city and state agencies scramble to make up for the hard-to-believe absence of a Master Plan to guide the big-money area’s development into a functional neighborhood with parks, transit, stores, schools, bicycle facilities – just about everything beyond offices, restaurants, and condos too expensive for anything besides speculative flipping.
But given Mayor Walsh’s commitment to equity, to improving conditions for all Bostonians regardless of income, it’s surprising and disturbing that more attention hasn’t been paid to one of the city’s biggest equalizing opportunities – the 9-mile Fairmount/Indigo Corridor, especially the Fairmount Greenway component. This inattention is especially disappointing because there are many high-impact actions that can be accomplished at extremely low cost that would visibly improve conditions in a nine-mile stretch through many of the city’s low-income and non-white neighborhoods.
True: the Fairmount\Indigo Line has been upgraded and in-city service started (although fares to Readville are still out of scale with appropriate transit amounts and the inability to use Charlie Cards makes payment very confusing). But even though the city has played a role, the rail and the stations are state projects. What’s clearly a city responsibility is the Fairmount Greenway Project – a walking, bicycling, and family-friendly play-in-the-street route meandering through adjoining residential neighborhoods parallel to the rail tracks.
Years of community meetings organized by the Fairmount Collaborative and the Fairmount Greenway Task Force have devised and approved an extensive set of ideas for the street route and key parcels. The plans include creative designs for inexpensive improvements as well as grand plans for major projects. But with few exceptions, already overburdened city agencies have not been able to do more than provide verbal support and small actions – and it should be clear by now to everyone that they won’t do any more (perhaps, given inadequate funding and staffing levels, they can’t do any more) unless the Mayor explicitly makes this project a strategic priority. The Greenway needs to be prominently written into all the long-range plans the Administration is currently preparing – from GoBoston to Imagine Boston 2030 – but even more important, the many quick-easy-cheap ideas need to be funded and accomplished. Soon.Read more