UEP Colloquium: Tales from the Boston Fed
| November 9, 2014 | 9:52 pm | Colloquium | Comments closed

Research and Policy Engagement in New England

At this week’s UEP Colloquium we welcomed Darcy Saas, Deputy Director of the New England Public Policy Center. The NEPPC was established in 2005 by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston with the mission of promoting “better public policy in New England by conducting and disseminating objective, high-quality research and analysis of strategically identified regional economic and policy issues. When appropriate, work with regional and Bank partners to advance identified policy options.” The Boston Fed serves all of New England, and the NEPPC works with an advisory board from around the region to identify economic and policy issues and disseminate research findings. The advisory board consists of universities, private research and consulting firms, government offices, and the Pew Charitable Trust. The NEPPC and the Boston Fed work toward two goals: maximum sustainable output and employment, and stable prices with low rates of inflation.

Saas spoke about the research process before delving into some of the details of their research. Because the NEPPC is funded through the Federal Reserve budget, and not through particular stakeholders, they are able to provide relatively objective research on economic policy. Because they have no funding-related external deadlines, they are free to complete detailed and exhaustive studies of complex issues. Saas did admit that this framework makes it difficult to work within short-term policy cycles. Many of NEPPC’s research projects have taken years to achieve their intended impacts.

Municipal Aid Reform: This study, conducted by the NEPPC, looked at the process by which cities and towns receive state and federal aid. The proposed new process would compare resources to expenditures, and analysis the municipal gap between them. A 2013 proposal by Governor Deval Patrick used a similar formula to that proposed by the Center.

Retaining Recent College Graduates: What factors effect whether or not college students remain in town after graduating? Boston brings in many student, but has a lower retention rate than many other cities. The NEPPC has looked at housing prices as one possible factor, but found that employer workshops and internships have a greater effect.

Labor Market Trends in Massachusetts: Is there a mismatch between employee skills and employer needs in the Massachusetts labor market? The Center’s study found that the supply of skilled workers is not likely to keep pace with demand in coming decades.

The NEPPC has researched, and continues to research many other topics affecting New England. A complete listing of their research can be found on their website: http://bostonfed.org/economic/neppc/

Audience members questioned the true objectivity of the Center, which is likely to carry some neoliberal agenda. Saas addressed this by saying that, since former fed chairman Alan Greenspan’s departure, the expressed neoliberal agenda has not been as powerful a force in the Boston Fed.

Another source of bias in the Center’s approach could be in their method for choosing research questions. According to Saas, the NEPPC conducts surveys among key stakeholders. Research proposals are vetted by senior management in the Fed.

We also heard about the Working Cities project, which provides grants to cities that emphasize collaborative leadership. The grants have benefited 20 Massachusetts cities with lower income levels and higher poverty rates. It is hoped that projects pioneered through these grants can be applied to other cities, and scaled up to the state level.

map of massachusetts working cities

Be sure to attend next week’s colloquium on Wednesday, November 12, featuring Yuting Liu. Liu will be discussing affordable housing settlements and living environments in Chinese large cities. See you there!


UEP Colloquium: UEP Professor James Jennings
| November 3, 2014 | 5:55 pm | Colloquium | Comments closed

Exploring the Status of Black and Latino Young Males in Boston

Longtime UEP professor James Jennings presented his research at this week’s colloquium. Jennings has published extensively on urban and neighborhood politics, social welfare, race relations, and community development. His most recent research report, from April 2014, is on the Social, Demographic, and Economic Profile of Young Black and Latino Males in Boston, Massachusetts. Jennings uses data from the 2010 Decennial Census and the American Community Survey to come to a number of findings on poverty, education, household characteristics and other demographic factors. Some themes from the Jennings’ findings:

1. Black and Latino youth of Boston reflect a demographic bubble. They represent a dominant group, demographically speaking, that is an important part of Boston’s future

  • Blacks and Latinos comprise 61% of all males 19 and under in Boston

2. These two groups have vastly different household experiences than their fellow Whites, and to a certain extent, Asian persons.

  • Almost half of Black and Latino grandparents (45.4% and 42.9% respectively) are responsible for their own grandchildren, compared with 31.4% of White grandparents and 14.6% of Asian grandparents.
  • 10.1% of Black households and 12.3% of Latino households report having young non-relatives living with them. Corresponding numbers for Whites and Asians are 8.9% and 9.4% respectively.

3. School and educational experiences are very different from that of Whites, and in some cases Asians.

  • 31.8% of all Black students and 36% of Latinos in grade 11 and 12 work at a job, while the citywide figure is 19.5%.

4. Continuing economic vulnerability for young Black and Latino persons in the city of Boston.

  • The Black male unemployment rate is at 21.1% and the Latino male unemployment rate is 13.7%. White males who are not Latino have an unemployment rate of 6.1%.
  • 85.3% of all impoverished people in Boston who are 17 years and under are Blacks and Latinos.
  • 49.8% of Latino children and 44.6% of Black children age 1-15 receive public assistance. For Whites and Asians, the numbers are 22.4% and 24.2% respectively.

Jennings also emphasized the importance of addressing ethnic and language diversity within different Black and Latino communities, and addressing similarities and differences between Black and Latino communities. Additionally, Jennings sees this work as complimentary to other efforts aimed at responding to the needs facing young girls of color in Boston.

The complete report can be found here on Jennings’ web site. Be sure to attend next week, when Darcy Saas (UEP ’05) will be discussing her work as Deputy Director of the New England Public Policy Center (NEPPC). Come to the Sophia Gordon Hall at 12pm on Wednesday, 11/5, to find out more! Lunch will be provided!

UEP Alum Liz Holden on MIT’s CoLab Radio Blog
| October 27, 2014 | 6:16 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

Can anchor institutions save New Hampshire’s polluted Great Bay?

Liz Holden’s article, which can be found here on MIT’s CoLab Radio Blog, shifts the historically urban focus of anchor institutions to a more rural setting. Specifically, how can the University of New Hampshire use its position as an anchor institution to improve the condition of the nearby estuary, Great Bay?

Holden details the problems of nitrogen loading pollution and lack of state funding for UNH, as well as highlighting the work being done by nonprofits and small businesses in the region. As an anchor institution, the university could act as a uniting and legitimizing force in the effort. Read more, and be sure to check out MIT’s CoLab Radio.

Map Credit: www.flyfisherman.com

Map Credit: www.flyfisherman.com

UEP Colloquium Panel Discussion
| October 27, 2014 | 5:37 pm | Colloquium | Comments closed

Beyond Public Policy-Private Sector Responses to Climate Change

UEP students, faculty and community members convened Wednesday to hear from a panel of local representatives from private sector consulting firms working with companies striving toward sustainability. The guests briefly summarized their work and then took several questions from the audience.

Eleanor Ford is a policy consultant for Ceres, a non-profit that mobilizes private sector companies toward a sustainable global economy. Ford works to engage companies on sustainable investments and educate them on the risks resulting from climate change. Through the BICEP coalition within Ceres, companies and policy-makers work together to produce legislation that will stimulate a transition to a sustainable energy economy.

Christina Becker-Birck works in the Boston office of the Meister Consultants Group (headquartered in Germany), specializing in renewable energy policy and climate adaptation. Becker-Birck’s efforts have been directed largely toward governments, such as Boston, Saudi Arabia, and several island nations. She has aimed to lower barriers to investment in renewable energy sources, especially in developing countries where the business case for investment is not as clear.

Dan Von Allmen is a senior analyst at Sustainable Energy Advantage, which helps private, public, and non-profit organizations to access clean, sustainable energy. Their focus is largely on state level renewable energy markets.

When asked where someone can have the most impact in expanding the renewable energy market, all panelists agreed that there was a need for more representation across the board. All levels of companies and governments need to have a focus on sustainability, not just a sustainability office within a large organization. Ford gave the example of the U.S. military, which sees the climate as a security risk. Not coincidentally, the Department of Defense is one of the largest solar energy purchasers. Von Allmen emphasized the need to focus on implementation of clean energy policy.

Addressing the role of the private sector in shaping policy, Becker-Birck spoke to one of the main limitations of private sector approaches: If the goal is social justice related, the private sector will not participate at the same level. Ford agreed, adding that a policy will fail if businesses are not behind it. They suggested amplifying the voices of alternative energy providers and those working at the intersection of energy and social justice in order to drown out the powerful and moneyed voice of the fossil fuel industry.

Seeking advice on differentiating companies truly seeking sustainability from those merely conducting a greenwashing campaign, Becker Birck recommends investigating how far removed their sustainability officer is from the CEO. It would seem that any company trying to achieve real change knows that sustainability should be a top priority, one on which the CEO should be kept up to speed.

The panelists discussed natural gas markets in general, as well as in Massachusetts specifically, and how it has affected investment in renewable energy. Von Allmen stated that the northeast has a relatively successful wind market, but expansion of natural gas pipelines could diminish those benefits by lowering gas natural prices. Ford went on to explore the issue of oil and gas reserves. Fossil fuel companies use these vast reserves to inflate their stock prices (carbon bubble). Maintaining atmospheric carbon at agreed upon levels would forbid companies from fully tapping their reserves. Chevron, as one example, isn’t worried about this stopping their extraction, since developing countries will soon begin demanding full use of their fossil fuel reserves.

From a sector that can be viewed as the bad guy in so many environmental discussions, it is refreshing to hear from people and companies working toward sustainability. It is also important to keep in mind that the private sector is not likely to go far enough, and their idea of sustainability may not be the same as that of the surrounding community, whose voices are even less likely to be heard.

Be sure to attend next week’s UEP Colloquium: James Jennings – “Black and Latino Young Males in Boston” at 12pm in Sophia Gordon Hall. Lunch, as always, will be provided.

UEP Alumni Panel: Cultural Competency in Practice
| October 20, 2014 | 5:07 pm | Colloquium | Comments closed

The Tufts UEP Intercultural Practice Group (IPG) hosted this week’s installment of the Fall Colloquium Series on Cultural Competency in Practice. A panel of UEP alumni gathered to examine aspects of interculturalism in the workplace. Interculturalism, in contrast to multiculturalism, promotes dialogue across cultures rather than mere acceptance of other, separate cultures.

Libby Mahaffy, working with as the assistant director of conflict resolution at the MIT Division of Student life, brought advice and anecdotes from her experiences. She underlined the need for people in privileged positions to gain practice engaging in contentious issues, something they are not frequently obligated to do. In the context of racial issues, this term is referred to as white fragility.

Michelle Moon has worked with a range of organizations in the Boston area, including the Watertown Health Department and the Fairmount Greenway. She stressed the importance of developing strategies to keep people involved in dealing with issues in their communities.

Sarah Howard has worked on creating sustainable food systems, and emphasized the importance of communication across lines of gender, class, race and ethnicity, but also urban and rural lines.

All three panelists highlighted the need to work on negotiation strategies, especially in efforts to avoid backing people into a corner. It is important not just to point out the problems within someone’s statements or actions, but to provide a way of working on it and moving forward.

The next UEP Colloquium, Beyond Public Policy-Private Sector Responses to Climate Change, will take place at the Sophia Gordon Hall from 12-1pm on Wednesday, October 22.

Winning Hearts and Minds: Anti-Racism, Feminism, and the New Economy
| October 18, 2014 | 2:19 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

As part of the nationwide New Economy Week, Tufts welcomed organizer, educator and public speaker Chris Crass to explore what it takes to achieve a just and sustainable economy through inter-movement cooperation. With the goal of Collective Liberation, students at Tufts, MIT, along with interested community members, came together to discuss their shared experiences and frustrations with the status quo.

More importantly, Crass encouraged the audience to focus on individuals and movements in their lives and throughout history that have inspired them to seek change. The frustration and loneliness felt by many in the audience was channeled into small group discussions, helping to build a feeling of unity among the audience. Drawing from the history of anti-racist organizing, feminist praxis, and class struggle, Crass demonstrated the overwhelming similarities and overlaps between these movements and the power available to create change through their collaboration.

Crass emphasized the need for organizing people of privilege in the building of a movement, specifically white anti-racist organizing and bringing more men into feminist work.

Crass’s book, Toward Collective Liberation, can be found at his website, here.chriscrass

Securing Affordable Housing in Hot Market Areas
| October 11, 2014 | 2:07 pm | Colloquium, MassAPA | Comments closed

4P+MassAPA Annual Conference

The annual meeting of the four Massachusetts planning schools and the Massachusetts American Planning Association took place on Wednesday, celebrating the career of UEP Professor Rachel Bratt. Convening in the Cabot ASEAN Auditorium, professors and experts from the 4P schools and MassAPA discussed issues of affordable housing. 

Professor Bratt, who has devoted her career to housing and community development, outlined the roles of social justice and the public sector in housing markets.  Hot housing markets don’t “just happen,” according to Bratt, who claims that they are usually the result of some public investment. A public sector that is held accountable to their populace should have some stake in encouraging racial and economic integration, especially as economists increasingly document a growing wealth gap and its detrimental effects on the economy.

Professor Bratt suggests alternative forms of social ownership, such as co-ops and land trusts, and taxing new developments for community preservation funds as possible strategies for achieving greater social integration in a hot market. She also proposes better zoning processes for affordable housing, including even the controversial idea of reinstating rent control.

The keynote address was followed by a panel of representatives from each school and MassAPA:

Kristin Haas, a Tufts UEP second-year, spoke about her field project on Section 8 rentals and the difficulty that some landlords have with agency compliance, rather than with tenants.

Dr. James Buckley DUSP/MIT spoke about his time in San Francisco and the issue of tenant eviction for AirBNB rentals or through the Ellis Act.

Dr. Christopher Herbert, Joint Center for Housing Studies/Harvard, advocated for a better subsidy system for middle income communities, as current subsidies disproportionately benefit rich homeowners.

Professor Darrel Ramsey-Musolf, LARP/UMass, highlighted the need to seek solutions in addition to taxing the rich.

MassAPA representative Judi Barret, of RKG Associates discussed the political issues around affordable housing as the “third wheel” of planning. She mentioned how developers and governments alike are hesitant to construct affordable housing on the grounds that it won’t increase potential tax revenue.

UEP Colloquium: Fair Food Access Is Urban Planning
| October 3, 2014 | 4:42 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

The second installment of UEP’s Fall Colloquium series, hosted by the Food Systems Planning Coalition, featured Joan Squeri, founder of Healthy Communities Capital Consulting.

Bringing together farmers, urban planners, public health officials and business owners, HCC Consulting aims to work around the barriers of getting healthy, local food to urban communities. The opportunities and benefits, as well as the general excitement surrounding farmers markets, make working on this an important task.

Squeri touched on many of the barriers facing equitable food access:

  • Legal restrictions around food vendors on private property
  • Lack of municipal support
  • Burdens on farmers in transporting their products to the market
  • Lack of adequate planning in the implementation of farmers markets
  • Difficulty incorporating the SNAP program

Many farmers markets have waiting lists of vendors trying to bring their products to new customers, while hasty implementation of other markets have left some farmers worse off. Issues of perceived exclusivity mean that farmers markets are frequently seen by residents as something for foodies, not for “regular people” or the community at large.

HCC Consulting seeks to bring all parties to the table in an effort to spread the benefits of the farmers market equitably. Members of the audience discussed how Shape Up Somerville and ‘Reverse’ Food Trucks have been/could be influential in improving fair access to healthy food.

Next week’s colloquium (10/8) will be a special afternoon meeting of the four Massachusetts urban planning programs regarding affordable housing in hot market areas. The rest of the schedule can be found here:

Fall 2014 Colloquium Schedule

Tufts UEP Professor Julian Agyeman in Time Magazine
| October 3, 2014 | 3:08 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

A recent article by UEP professor Julian Agyeman and co-author Duncan MacLaren has been featured in the latest issue of Time Magazine. The article, titled ‘Smart Cities’ Should Mean ‘Sharing Cities’ highlights issues of inequality in cities’ attempts to develop technology and attract businesses.

“After researching leading cities around the world, we’ve concluded that truly smart cities will be those that deploy modern technology in building a new urban commons to support communal sharing.”

Cities that invest in modern information and computing technology without accounting for social externalities miss the point of urban living.

The physical nature of urban space demands—and in some ways, facilitates—sharing: of resources, infrastructures, goods, services, experiences and capabilities.”

As “sharing technologies” are increasingly co-opted by venture capital for rapid growth and competition, they lose sight of their original social purposes.

“Humans are natural sharers. Traditional, old-fashioned face-to-face sharing still happens in communities everywhere, but it has largely broken down in modern cities in the face of commercialization of the public realm, and of rapid, destabilizing economic and technological change.”

More on this topic can be found at Agyeman’s blog and in his and MacLaren’s forthcoming book, Sharing Cities (MIT Press 2015).

First UEP Colloquium of the Season – Alumni in Local Government Planning
| September 26, 2014 | 4:24 pm | Colloquium | 1 Comment

UEP Colloquium - Local Government Planning

The Fall 2014 UEP Colloquium series has officially begun! The Student Planning Association brought together four of the area’s UEP alumni working within local government planning offices:

Brian Szekely (2013) discussed his experiences in Winchester and Swampscott, MA, stressing the importance of land use planning and surveying public opinion.

Kristen Kassner (2007) has spent several years working in a range of capacities for the planning office in Burlington, MA . She emphasized the need for more recognition and representation of planning in government.

Alison LeFlore (2012) highlighted the need in Chelmsford, MA for communication with both residents and civil engineers, each with their own sets of jargon and needs.

Brad Rawson (2007) discussed his career in Somerville, MA and Burlington, VT. For him, success has come through achieving a balance between short- and long-term goals.

A question and answer session followed, giving current UEP students an idea of what to expect in the realm of local government planning. Come to the next presentation on Wednesday, October 1, from 12-1:15pm, at Sophia Gordon Hall for a talk on food policy.