This week’s installment of the Tufts Environmental Studies Department Lunch & Learn Program brought in Eric Hove, assistant director of regional plan implementation at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and former assistant director for land use policy at the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs.
Hove began with an outline of planning in general and the MAPC. MAPC covers the Boston metropolitan region, including 3.2 million residents and 1.9 million jobs. Its mission is to promote smart growth and regional collaboration, and it is required by law to produce comprehensive regional plans. The current and continuously updated plan is called MetroFuture. MetroFuture contains 65 goals with 13 implementation strategies, 100s of specific recommendations and 5000 “plan-builders.” It emphasizes sustainable growth patterns, housing choices, healthy communities, regional prosperity, transportation choices and a healthy environment. The Obama administration, in 2010, awarded a $4 million planning grant in order to implement MetroFuture.
Notable from the key program statistics is the number of public meetings, training and education sessions, and participation in the public meetings. This has been an important feature of the project as our region is, according to Hove and MAPC, becoming more diverse but less equal. Hove stressed the importance of planning with instead of for the region’s many vulnerable populations. This included a video game exploration of Quincy as an introduction to urban planning for local residents, and training on how to get involved and influence the conversation. The finer details on who was actually at the table for decision-making processes was unclear, but MAPC certainly makes an outreach effort in this admittedly gigantic-in-scope project.
Key Program Statistics
The full MAPC Sustainable Communities Initiative report can be found here.
UEP second-year Nathaniel Fink and Boston Hubway Bikeshare’s Pat Kelsey spent much of this past summer studying bicycle infrastructure in European cities. Cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht (Netherlands), Copenhagen (Denmark) and Malmö (Sweden) are famous for the importance their urban planning systems place on bicycle infrastructure, reflecting the cultural importance of bicycles in their society.
Things weren’t always this way. In the 1970s, like the United States, most European cities focused on car based infrastructure. People’s behavior responded as expected: more cars on the road and a high number of cycling fatalities. Nathaniel, focusing on Amsterdam, cited citizen activism as an important component leading to the transformation we see today. Popular demand for better bike lanes and an end to “kindermoord” -deaths of children in bicycle related accidents.
Pat’s research focused on Copenhagen. His research noted a constant state of construction in the city to improve bike protections. Most of the infrastructure in the city is retrofitted, including blue bike lanes painted over ordinary car infrastructure. More so than in the United States, cyclists in Denmark use cargo bikes for services and deliveries or dropping their kids off at school. Audience members noted a lack of helmets and general mediocre quality of the bikes being ridden in time-lapse video of a busy street in Copenhagen. In an informal study Pat found that women were less likely to wear helmets, but neither men nor women wear helmets more than 10-15% of the time. What the audience perceived as a lack of high quality bicycles, Pat compared to American attitudes about vacuum cleaners. Danish people see their bicycles as a tool that everybody needs to get a job done rather than a status symbol.
Pat stressed the importance in Denmark of “meeting people where they are”: creating regulations and structural changes based on people’s actual behavior rather than their ideal behavior. Copenhagen’s bicycle planning works on the assumption that “no street is ever complete.”
In the United States, Nathaniel pointed out, 40% of car trips are under 3 miles. This is a distance easily traveled by bike, Especially true considering that bikes have a greater ability to navigate and access smaller roads. In a city like Boston, where some roads are many centuries old, cycling can be faster than driving a car. An important distinction to be made between Boston or the United States and the European cycling cities is that it’s more than just infrastructure. Amsterdam and Copenhagen have a cycling culture, rather than a subculture. If American cities can foment this kind of culture, better infrastructure will go much further.
The next UEP colloquium will be next Wednesday, October 21 in the Crane Room at Paige Hall, 12-1pm. Massachusetts Senator Ben Downing will talk about state level urban and environmental policy.
This week, The Tufts Environmental Studies Department Lunch & Learn Program hosted Carolyn Kirk from the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (HED) for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She is currently the Deputy Secretary at the HED, but also spent four terms as the mayor of Gloucester, MA.
Kirk spoke about her experience as mayor dealing with increasingly hard to predict weather in a coastal fishing city. Gloucester has 62 miles of coastline with over 400 years of commercial fishing history. The city of approximately 30,000 (60,000 in the summer) has seen 10,000 lives lost at sea over the years. Obviously, unpredictable weather patterns have a large and very personal effect on the people of Gloucester.
The fishery is regulated by the NOAA and the National Marine Fisheries Service, federal agencies with limited capacity for local involvement. Environmentalists, fishermen and the agencies frequently find themselves in battle over the fisheries. Recent reports declare the fish stocks severely depleted, while the fishermen claim that their occupation has been “underscienced.” According to Kirk, fishermen know where and how to find fish, and they know that fish habits have changed in the last several years. Climate change and rising ocean temperatures mean fish are moving from their traditional grounds, so federal fish-counting science must adapt accordingly.
The increasingly regulated fishing industry has resulted in Gloucester altering its economic development strategies, focusing now on tourism (Gloucester Schooner Festival, Gloucester HarborWalk) and marine science and technology (check out the SnotBot and Robotic Tuna). Fisherman are developing markets for less common species and switching from high-volume fishing to lower-volume, high-value fish.
In recent years, increasingly dire FEMA floodmap reports have led to skyrocketing home insurance rates. Waterfront business and economic development has been difficult due to these issues in addition to planning difficult mitigation strategies for the future effects of climate change. Kirk brought together an emergency preparedness team from Gloucester’s Department of Public Works, Police Department, Fire Department, Coast Guard, Department of Public Health, the school department, and the harbormaster, which creates plans for dealing with unpredicted weather events. There is also a community emergency response program, CERT, to prepare citizens for dealing with emergency situations.
The schedule of this years Lunch & Learn Program events can be found here.
Starting things off for UEP’s Fall Colloquium series was Lisa Freeman, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and nutrition PhD at the Friedman School. She presented the basis for her research and work with One Health, which aims to bring about changes in veterinary medicine in line with 19th century German physician Rudolf Virchow’s belief that: “Between animal and human and medicine, there is no dividing line—nor should there be. The object is different, but the experience obtained constitutes the basis of all medicine.“
Freeman elaborated on the many components of One Health. Zoonotic infectious disease, transmittable between humans and animals, represents some of the most well known causes of death worldwide (rabies, ebola, salmonella, etc). According to Freeman, 20% of animals eating raw meat diets are exposed to salmonella, which can then be passed on to the dog’s owner.
There is also a focus on the effect of climate change on spread of animal borne disease. As temperatures rise, bacteria tend to proliferate while the natural range of disease-carrying animals can expand (e.g. deer ticks). Human health effects can even be felt as a result of increased arctic drilling and the subsequent effects on the surrounding wildlife.
The Cummings School puts on stress relief events for students around finals, with the next one scheduled for December 11 in Tisch Library from 4-6pm. Dogs will provide emotional support for stressed out students!
Colloquium takes place on Wednesdays from 12-1pm at the Crane Room in Paige Hall. The next colloquium will be October 16, featuring UEP’s Nathaniel Fink and Pat Kelsey discussing their experiences with cycling infrastructure in Copenhagen and Amsterdam. We hope to see you there.
“No benefit is so great that it is worth handing over the financial future of our City and our citizens were rightly hesitant to be supportive as a result,” said Mayor Walsh in a statement published by the Boston Globe. The mayor made the statement after refusing to sign a contract pledging public funds to cover Boston 2024 cost overruns.
The decision was celebrated by an opposition group, No Boston Olympics, which made the following statement in the Globe, “We are a city with an important past and a bright future. We got that way by thinking big, but also thinking smart. We need to move forward as a city, and today’s decision allows us to do that on our own terms, not the terms of the USOC or the IOC. We’re better off for having passed on Boston 2024.”
The bid experienced low levels of public support from the beginning, stemming from detail-sparse proposals and the release of information regarding huge paychecks made out to proponents and elected officials.
Boston 2024 Chairman Steve Pagliuca believed that their second attempt at a proposal would win more support, as he said in the following statement: “We believe that the benefits of hosting the Games far outweigh the risks. With more time to engage in a discussion about Bid 2.0 – about its 8,000 new units of housing, tens of thousands of new jobs, and new tax revenues for the city – along with the appropriate review by Mayor Walsh, the Brattle Group, the Governor and Beacon Hill leadership, we think public support would grow in Boston and across the Commonwealth.”
Los Angeles, which hosted the games in 1984 and 1932, is the presumptive next choice for the US Olympic Committee.
Jonathan Diaz is a rising second year Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning graduate student and this summer is a Fellow at the United States Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. The mission of the Department of Energy is to utilize technology and science to ensure the security and prosperity of America’s energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges. Jonathan has been working closely with the Office of Environmental Management (EM) and the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity (ED).
EM is charged with the task of completing the safe cleanup of the environmental legacy of nuclear weapons development and government-sponsored nuclear energy research. Jonathan has been writing a youth involvement policy for Site-Specific Advisory Boards, who provide recommendations to the Energy Department on nuclear waste clean-ups. In addition, he has been rewriting a program wide policy for Congressional Notifications regarding contractual awards administered by the Department. Other projects have included reviewing internal communication strategies and procedures, and preparing briefing materials for the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department.
Jonathan has also completed work for ED, which strives to ensure that historically under-represented communities are able to participate in the programs, opportunities, and resources offered by the Department of Energy. Jonathan is a member of a working group aimed to establish a database of minority educational institutions and businesses that can potentially benefit from connecting to the Department of Energy.
The first in a series spotlighting UEP students' summer projects and internships
Rising UEP second-year and public health planner at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Kate Ito is in Oakland, California this summer, interning with Human Impact Partners. Human Impact Partners conducts research, advocacy and capacity building to help organizations and government agencies understand the effects of their projects and policies on community health. They are one of the few organizations in the U.S. conducting health-based analyses and health impact assessments (HIA) with an explicit focus on uncovering and then addressing the policies and practices that make communities less healthy and create health inequities. HIAs utilize public health data and predictions about newly minted policies to measure its impacts, and Human Impact Partners makes recommendations on ways to mitigate negative effects as well as strengthening positive impacts.
Kate’s research at Human Impact Partners includes a health lens analysis of displacement concerns in Santa Fe, NM and a health impact assessment of a proposed bill in the Minnesota State Legislature that would regulate payday lending. Building on her experience in public health in Greater Boston, there is no doubt that Kate’s work will have important implications for policy and public health in the rest of the nation. Reports outlining the results of previous HIAs can be found here.
The new governor has proposed a $82.7 million plan for upgrades to MBTA infrastructure and snow removal equipment, according to a recent article. The plan will be funded through a mix of federal dollars for capital investment and the MBTA’s own capital and operating funds. The plan proposes formalizing the use of prison labor to assist in snow removal, which the city used during this year’s particularly rough winter. Prisoners, making a few dollars a day, worked alongside union workers earning $30 per hour. This winter’s use of prison labor quickly stirred up controversy, though one could have possibly made the “desperate time/desperate measures” argument. Formalizing this unfair system takes it to the next level, so it will be interesting to see what the MassDOT Board thinks when it is officially presented with the plan on next week.
A recent op-ed by Shirley Leung in the Boston Globe has proposed increased reliance on privatization as a way to fix the MBTA’s woes. She sites the already privatized commuter rail and ferry functions as examples of ways for Boston to shed some of its admittedly costly functions. For example, a typical bus ride costs the MBTA $2.74 per passenger, while the new late-night bus service costs around $20 per passenger. Leung suggests outsourcing some late night and low-ridership services to Bridj, a relatively recent startup with a demand-based schedule. She also suggests cutting a deal with unions in order to quell fears of job losses.
In order for this to work, it would have to overcome what is known as the Pacheco Bill, created in 1993 to prevent then governor Bill Weld’s efforts at privatization. Governor Baker is working to “free the MBTA from the constraints of Pacheco.” The devastating effects of last winter have created widespread demand for something to be done about the MBTA’s aging infrastructure, but outsourcing work to cheap prison labor and inviting corrupt race-to-the-bottom contracting with private firms means the people of Boston need to keep a close eye on MBTA politics and how the city and state respond to their demands.
Another successful academic year has gone by, and the impressive work and research conducted by several UEP students hasbeen rewarded with recognition and awards.
Kristin Haas, MA 2015, is the recipient of the Outstanding Academic Scholarship Award, given by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and School of Engineering. The award recognizes Kristin’s overall academic achievement, including course grades, paper quality, and thesis. Kristin defended her thesis “The Benefits, Drawbacks, and Limitations of Service Coordination Tools: Perspectives from Social Service Providers in Somerville, Massachusetts” in April.
Rebecca Tumposky, MA 2015, was selected for the Robert M. Hollister Award for Community Service and Citizenship for her contribution to the greater community, outside of Tufts. Becca’s thesis was on “Educating Practical Visionaries at Tufts University: A Framework for Community-University Co-Learning.”
Allentza Michel, MPP 2015, was named as the Association for Community Design’s inaugural ACD Fellow after serving as co-chair of the City of Boston’s Participatory Budgeting Project in 2014.
Jonathan Diaz, MA 2016, received the Presidential Award for Citizenship and Public Service for his work with various Tufts organizations and community service work. This includes the Tufts University Refugee Assistance Program, for whose work Jonathan and others were chosen to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University and present on a new mentorship program for unaccompanied minors in the Somerville area. Jonathan has also volunteered with Environment America and the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston.
We hope that next year’s cohort will be as successful as this year’s, and we look forward to seeing all the award-worthy work that UEP produces this Summer.
A Co-Learning Workshop on Race and Community Economies
Last Tuesday, an event co-sponsored by the Tufts Practical Visionaries Workshop, the Center for Economic Democracy and the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative convened nearly 70 people from local Boston communities, Tufts, and MIT for a chance to converse over breakfast and coffee, a tour of the Dudley Neighbors Inc. Community Land Trust and the Dudley Greenhouse.
Tour of Dudley Neighbors Inc.
The Dudley Greenhouse
The event was meant to bring together both academics and community practitioners in order to foster a better understanding of building community power, especially regarding land. Much of the day was spent learning about the community land trust model, something that DSNI has been practicing successfully for the last 30 years. In Roxbury and Dorchester, DSNI and Dudley Neighbors Inc. have provided affordable housing, open space, and urban agriculture opportunities for local residents and other nonprofits by leasing the land and overlying buildings, while owning the land in a long-term trust to preserve its affordability.
Lunch was provided by Roxbury’s own Haley House Bakery Cafe, after which was held a panel on the history of struggles for community control over land in Boston. Panelists included Diane Dujon, Chuck Turner, Suzanne Lee, Bob Haas, and Che Madyun.
Community Control over Land Panelists
The final events included educational workshops on community land trusts, run by Tufts Practical Visionaries Workshop participants Penn Loh and myself, as well as Harry Smith, director of Dudley Neighbors Inc. Following that was a workshop on community finance strategies, facilitated by Aaron Tanaka and Jennifer Ly, of the Center for Community Economics.
The day was informative for all participants, and gave a much needed opportunity to for academics and urban planning students to come together with community partners to build solidarity in meeting shared goals. This combination of theory and practice can be seen in DSNI’s work with community land trusts and collaboration with Tufts UEP through the Practical Visionaries Workshop.