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

Zero Tolerance Discipline Policies: A Failing Idea

Monday, August 15th, 2011
By

Children's Defense Fund president Marian Wright Edelman's Child Watch column cited research by Jennifer Vorse Wilka, a 2010 Rappaport Policy Fellow, in her recent Child Watch column criticizing zero tolerance policies for students. In the column, which appeared on Huffington Post and several other web sites, Edelman reported that in her Policy Analysis Exercize (the Kennedy School’s equivalent of a master’s thesis), Wilka found that nearly half of the 60,000 expulsions and suspensions in Massachusetts public schools were for “’unassigned offenses’ – nonviolent, noncriminal offenses, which can include behavioral issues such as swearing, talking back to a teacher, and truancy.” Moreover, of the “approximately 30,000 ‘unassigned offenses,’ two-thirds received out of school suspension, resulting in 57,000 lost days of school.”

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Rappaport Urban Scholars and Rappaport Institute Co-Host Briefing on “Pay for Success Contracts”

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011
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More than 50 people – including several legislators – attended a special State House briefing on "Pay for Success Contracts (aka Social Impact Bonds)” by Jeffrey Liebman, a Professor of Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, who is a Rappaport Institute faculty affiliate. Held on June 8th, the briefing was sponsored by the Rappaport Institute and State Representative Charles Murphy (D-Burlington), the House Majority Whip who also is a former Rappaport Urban Scholar. Gregory Mennis, director of Infrastructure Programs and Financial Policy in the state’s Executive Office of Administration and Finance, also spoke at the event.

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Large Turnout for First StatNet Training Day

Monday, June 13th, 2011
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More than 120 representatives from New England municipalities, state agencies, and non-profit organizations attended the first StatNet Training Day, which was held on Wednesday, May 18th at the University of Massachusetts Boston. The training was sponsored and organized by New England StatNet, a network of municipal officials using CitiStat or other data-driven performance management approaches that is coordinated by UMass Boston’s Collins Center for Public Management in collaboration with the Rappaport Institute and the Pioneer Institute for Public Policy Research. Speakers at the training session included HKS Lecturer Robert Behn, who is a Rappaport Institute faculty affiliate; Devin Lyons-Quirk, a former Rappaport Policy Fellow who is now Senior Project Manager for Performance for the City of Boston; and Stephanie Hirsch, who supervised several Rappaport Policy Fellows and also worked closely with students from an Institute-supported class on budgeting and management that carried out several projects for the City of Somerville. Amy Dain, another former Rappaport Fellow, coordinates the StatNet initiative. For more information about New England StatNet (formerly known as MassStat) click below.

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Stuff We Find In Historic Buildings

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011
By

What happens when an organization devoted to Historic Preservation, begins to renovate an historic building designed by H.H. Richardson that is located in what was once the heart of the Combat Zone, Boston’s “adult entertainment” district?  That’s how Historic Boston, Inc. – which is headed by Kathy Kottaridis, a member of the Rappaport Institute’s advisory board and also a former Rappaport Urban Scholar at Harvard’s Kennedy School – came to own a collection of vintage pornographic movies.  Read more at “Stuff-We-Find-in-Historic-Buildings #2: On Preservation and Pornography at the Hayden Building,” online at http://www.historicbostonblog.org/2011/04/stuff-we-find-in-historic-buildings-2.html.

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Measuring Happiness in Somerville

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011
By

The annual city census forms distributed in Somerville this year had some unexpected queries, reported a front-page article in Sunday’s New York Times. In addition to the usual questions about occupation and age, the forms also asked residents questions like, on a scale of 1 to 10, “How happy do you feel right now?” and “In general, how similar are you to other people you know?” and “Taking everything into account, how satisfied are you with Somerville as a place to live?”

“Cities keep careful track of their finances, but a bond rating doesn’t tell us how people feel or why they want to raise a family here or relocate a business here,” explained Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone, who currently is attending the Kennedy School as a Rappaport Urban Scholar, in the article.

The article adds that the city will use the data to develop a happiness index and other data that can be analyzed as part of the city’s SomerStat performance management program, which was developed with assistance from the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston. “We want to see what the baseline data tell us and then expand,” explained Tara Acker, director of that program. “Is there a correlation between happiness and open space or green space? If we see low levels of satisfaction correlated to low levels of income, perhaps we want more programs aimed at low-income people.”

The full article is available by clicking on "read more."

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Cost of State and Local Pensions Underestimated, Finance Expert Says

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011
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State and local governments in the United States have badly underestimated the cost of pensions promised to their employees, warned speakers at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) on Tuesday night (April 12).

Even with the recent upturn in the economy, fiscally strapped state and local governments still have approximately $3 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities, asserted Joshua Rauh, associate professor of finance at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management at “The Fiscal Crisis of State and Local Government Pension Systems,” a lecture co-sponsored by HKS’ Taubman Center for State and Local Government, Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, and Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government.

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Which Places are Growing?

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011
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In a new Rappaport Institute/Taubman Center Policy Brief titled Which Places are Growing? Seven Notable Trends From Newly Released Census Data, Edward Glaeser, director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, identifies seven key facts about county-level population growth that emerge from census data that were released on March 24, 2011. The seven facts are:

  • Population growth was much higher in counties with higher incomes as of 2000.
  • January temperature continues to be a strong predictor of population growth.
  • Population growth was faster near ports.
  • People are moving to dense areas, but not the densest areas.
  • The education level of a county as of 2000 strongly predicts population growth over the last decade.
  • Manufacturing employment predicts lower population growth.
  • Limits to housing supply also limit population growth.
  • Glaeser concludes by noting that while these trends do not dictate any particular public policies or suggest any particular course of action, they should be relevant for policy-makers at both the local and the national level.

The full policy brief is available here

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What Happened to the Cows on Boston Common?

Thursday, March 24th, 2011
By

Most Bostonians know that cows once grazed on Boston Common and some even know about the great celebrations that occurred on the Common in 1848, when potable drinking water began flowing through the city's new public water system. But very few of us know how Bostonians decided to rid the Common of cows or of the intense and passionate debates that preceded construction of the new water system. In Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston, recently published by Harvard University Press, historian Michael Rawson, offers rich accounts of five key decisions: turning Boston Common into a park, providing potable drinking water, creating independent suburbs, regulating uses of Boston Harbor, and creating suburban parks.

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Recession Requires Fundamental Changes to Municipal Government

Thursday, March 24th, 2011
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While many localities - particularly older industrial cities and towns - have faced major budget challenges for many years, current economic conditions are so powerful that "it's difficult to see how 'normal' budgeting and spending practices" will be sufficient for many years to come, according to Philip Puccia, executive director of public finance for J.P Morgan Securities LLC who also is a member of the Rappaport Institute's Advisory Board. Writing in the March 2011 issue of The Journal of Corporate Renewal, Puccia draws on his experience as executive director of the Springfield Financial Control Board to show how localities can address their structural budget problems by a forceful combination of "management and efficiency improvements, changes to wage and benefit packages, and the use of common sense."

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How Serious is the Public Pension Crisis?

Thursday, March 24th, 2011
By

Virtually everyone agrees that virtually all states and localities have "unfunded pension liabilities" (i.e. the money they have set aside to pay for pensions is less than the amounts already promised to retirees. However, scholars and analysts strongly disagree about both the size and significance of those funding gaps. On the one hand, Joshua Rauh, an associate professor of finance at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management who will be speaking at the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston on April 12th, has written or co-authored a series of provocative papers and articles contending (in the words of an essay he wrote for the Milken Institute Review) the unfunded liabilities have been greatly underestimated and are "a fiscal disaster in the making, one that will eventually force states and localities to choose among the unpalatable options of cutting services, raising taxes or wriggling out of solemn promises to employees."

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Glaeser's Book Spurs Discussion on Cities

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
By

Cities are actually the healthiest, greenest, and richest (in cultural and economic terms) places to live, argues Rappaport Institute Director Edward Glaeser in his new book, "Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier." Glaeser's analyses and policy recommendations - which include scaling programs that encourage suburbanization (such as the home mortgage interest deduction) and scaling back policies such as historic preservation that limit new development in cities - have been drawing significant media coverage since the book was released last week with reviews in such publications as The New York Times and The Economist, articles by Glaeser in The Atlantic and The Boston Globe Magazine; a New York Times column by David Brooks, and appearances on The Daily Show with John Stewart, NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday, and NPR's The Takeaway. More information about the book is available at: www.triumphofthecity.com. Click on "read more" for links to all the reviews.

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Urban Charter Schools and Student Achievement

Monday, February 7th, 2011
By

Urban charter schools in Massachusetts have large positive effects on student achievement at both the middle and high school levels, according to a new study by researchers from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, MIT and the University of Michigan. Results for nonurban charter schools, however, were less clear with some analyses indicating positive effects on student achievement at the high school level, while results for middle school students were much less encouraging. The study, which was funded by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education was done by a research team led by Joshua Angrist, Ford Professor of Economics at MIT and was published by the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard.

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The Challenge of Ensuring that Localities have Enough Money for Education and Basic Local Services

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011
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Three recent reports from some of the state's leading thinktanks and non-profits provide a useful framework for understanding the state of the state's economy, the challenge of ensuring that localities have enough money for education and other basic local services. The State of Working Massachusetts 2010, recently published by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, reports that that in contrast to previous national economic downturns, Massachusetts is doing somewhat better than other states during the current downturn. In particular, Massachusetts has lost a smaller share of jobs than most states, experienced better trends in wages and incomes than most of the nation, and did not experience a discernable increase in poverty. The report goes on to note that state's record is linked to the fact that over the past 30 years the state's workforce has become the best-educated in America. However, the report warns that there are significant segments of our population with very high unemployment rates and very low long-term wage growth.

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Citizens’ Committee on Boston’s Future Report Just Released

Friday, December 17th, 2010
By

Streamlining regulatory processes for everything from new development to food trucks, providing late-night weekend transit service, and increasing support for the arts, were among the ideas highlighted by Rappaport Institute Director Edward Glaeser in his "chairman's report" summarizing the work of the Citizens' Committee on Boston's Future, which was created last January by the Boston City Council. The Committee, which was appointed by City Council President Michael Ross, was charged with developing recommendations for the Council on "what Boston must do to compete effectively to be the best city in America." Among the other ideas highlighted in the final report were ending state control of liquor licensing in Boston, continuing efforts to use new technologies to improve city government, and increased support for urban farms that could serve as teaching tools and sources of green pleasures for residents of the city.

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Boston needs to attract and keep talented people of all races and ethnicities

Thursday, December 16th, 2010
By

What's the link between the controversy over how a Downtown Crossing nightclub treated a group of black Harvard and Yale alums and grad students and the Boston City Council's decision to expel Councilor Chuck Turner, who was convicted on federal corruption charges? In "The New Black: Can a new group of leaders help Boston finally shed its reputation as hostile territory for the black professional middle class?" which appears in this week's Boston Phoenix, David Bernstein argues that both controversies highlight the growing importance of ensuring that Boston attracts and keeps bright, educated, talented people of all races and ethnicities. He goes on to both quote Rappaport Institute Director Edward Glaeser and cite the work of the Citizens Committee on Boston's Future (which Glaeser chaired) on steps Boston could take - such as removing regulatory obstacles and helping build networks of young entrepreneurs - that would make the city more welcoming not only for blacks but others as well. Online at http://thephoenix.com/boston/news/112919-new-black/#ixzz18Db75Vae

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Small Change for Cities and Towns

Sunday, June 28th, 2009
By

THE HOTLY debated tax increases in the budget that the Legislature sent to Governor Deval Patrick are small change, which is both good and bad. On the plus side, the per-dollar provisions - which raise the meals and sales taxes from 5 cents to 6.25 and allow the state's cities and towns to add another 75 cents to the meals tax and to raise hotel taxes by 2 cents as well - will add only small change to the cost of goods, meals, and rooms. Yet the new taxes also represent only a small change for the state's cities and towns, because the money will mitigate - but not eliminate - painful cuts to basic public services. And because the budget lacks other needed reforms, the taxes are only small change for local governments that need much larger and more systematic changes, not only in funding but in governance as well.

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Transit Projects Taxpayers Can Trust

Saturday, December 13th, 2008
By

On Election Day, voters from around the country showed Massachusetts how to prevent imminent fiscal train wrecks at both the Pike and the MBTA and to fund other transportation needs as well. Specifically, in states where voters must approve tax hikes that fund new borrowing for capital projects, the electorate approved more than 80 percent of proposed measures that together will provide more than $50 billion for roads, trains, schools, libraries, parks, hospitals, sewers, and other forms of infrastructure. The successful measures included sales tax hikes for transit in both Los Angeles County and the Seattle metro area and property tax hikes for roads in Charlotte, Tulsa, and Denton County, Texas.

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The High Cost of Affordable Housing

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008
By

Is it getting too expensive to build affordable housing in Massachusetts? On average, it costs more than $200,000 a unit to build such housing and many projects cost significantly more. A new proposal in the state Senate would make those projects even more expensive. The Senate housing bill would require nonprofit entities and for-profit firms that build most of the region's affordable housing to pay construction workers the "prevailing wage," a legal term for whatever unionized workers get for doing the work. (Construction projects carried out by most public-sector entities have long been subject to this provision.)

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A Grand Bargain for Local Aid

Monday, March 26th, 2007
By

The Bay State's time-honored system of local governance is teetering on the brink of disaster. From ailing satellite cities to thriving suburbs, the costs of local government are rising faster than revenues from property taxes and local aid. While more money might solve some problems, cumbersome rules and outdated management practices often mean that money isn't being spent as wisely and efficiently as possible.

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Commuter Rail Can Take Us Only So Far

Friday, November 3rd, 2006
By

For people in many parts of Eastern Massachusetts, commuter rail is a convenient way to get to work. But whether it lives up to the more ambitious claims made on its behalf is another question entirely. Can commuter rail help bring back older cities like New Bedford, Fall River, and Springfield? Can commuter rail also stymie continued suburban sprawl in Greater Boston?

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The Culture of Stressing Costs Over Safety

Sunday, July 16th, 2006
By

How could a project once touted as one of the 21st century's engineering marvels have such fatal and seemingly obvious problems? In coming weeks we'll learn more details about just what went wrong. But it's already clear that part of the problem was that for more than a decade public officials in charge of the Big Dig overemphasized concerns about the projects' costs and underemphasized the need to build a safe, well-built project.

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Think Again on New Green Line

Monday, May 23rd, 2005
By

Just as carpenters are told to ''measure twice and cut once," state officials should recheck key assumptions before they go ahead with plans to extend the Green Line to Somerville and Medford. They should start with claims that the project will greatly reduce air pollution. Air quality was the main reason state environmental officials required construction of 14 transit projects, including the Green Line, when they approved the Big Dig's key environmental permit in 1990, ruling that the projects were ''absolutely necessary to achieve greater air quality improvements in metropolitan Boston."

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Learning from Ammann: Politics as a Design Problem

Thursday, July 1st, 2004
By

Many architects study Othmar Ammann, the well known engineer, because the bridges he designed which include the George Washington Bridge and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge - are exemplars of economy, efficiency, and grace. Virtually no architect (or anyone else for that matter) studies Othmar Ammann, the political entrepreneur. In a feat unnoted in most architectural history books, Ammann designed and carried out a brilliant campaign to have the Port Authority of New York build the George Washington Bridge and to hire him to design it and oversee its construction. Ignoring this lesser known side of Ammann is a mistake, because he can teach usefull lessons to architects, who often mistakenly view policics as an irrational and immutable process that just gets in the way of good architecture.

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» Show all posts

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

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