THE MOST SERIOUS MUNCIPAL LAW REFORM IN DECADES

 

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^ Governor baker leading rally in support of his municipal finance and administration reform. Lt Governor Polito on left, Secretary of Administration and Finance Kristen Lepore on the right.

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Yesterday about 150 prominent municipal leaders from across Massachusetts gathered on the State House’s Grand Staircase to rally for a reform of municipal finance and administration proposed by Governor Baker. If I read its provisions correctly — follow this link to the Governor’s press release :  http://www.mass.gov/governor/press-office/press-releases/fy2016/administration-introduces-municipal-modernization-bill.html — it’s the most comprehensive reform of our state’s town and city governance in decades, since the creation n of the Lottery “cherry sheet” at least and maybe since the creation of municipal zoning law in 1956.

Geoff Beckwith, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, says “The Act to Modernize Municipal Fimnance and Government is history-making in itys deo0th and breadth.” He should know, having once been a State Representative himself. Baker’s proposed bill scraps outdated laws, smooths state oversight, allows cities and towns greater leeway in procurement, taxation, and debt restrictions, and steps back from the micro-management of municipal finance that has frustrated city and town executives for so long.

Baker’s bill bears his signature attention to detail. Among its provisions : (a) updating boat evaluations to allow more accurate boat excise taxes (b) permits towns and cities top enforce removal of “double (telephone) poles” (c) gives cities and towns right of first refusal when a property owned by a charity is to be sold or developed for a non-exempt purpose.

In addition, the bill enacts more sweeping reforms : (a) electronic advertising of required notices and Civil Motor vehicle infarctions (b) creates a statutory formula for evaluating State-owned land and (c) allows cities and towns to borrow funds for up to ten years from the present five.

Beyond its specifics, Baker’s municipal reform bill broadcasts his policy of empowering our state’s most local governments, supporting their discretion to make decisions, and signaling them to work efficiently above all.

Credit Lieutenant Governor, Karyn Polito, for the grunt work that enabled this bill. All year long she has traveled all across Massachusetts to sign “best practices community compacts’ with towns and cities. To date, about 68 of our 351 municipalities have signed onto. Now comes Baker’s bill incorporating much of what Polito has worked out with local governments. It was appropriate for baker to allow Polito the spotlight at yesterday’s rally.

Two days ago I saw a comment on a facebook page top the effect that Governor Baker appoints panels, smiles a lot, then does nothing. Really — has this person been travelling in Mongolia all year long ? Baker has accomplished more in his first eleven months than our last Governor got done in his full eight years — and, so far, without a flaw. And if many of Baker’s initiatives remain stuck in legislative disputes, that is hardly his fault, except to the extent that reform of any vested interest is difficult and contentious.

Keep the reforms coming, Governor !

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

 

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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