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Old 07-06-2007, 02:30 AM   #1
vanshnookenraggen
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Boston in the 21st Century: New Boundaries

While reading the thread about Boston annexing part of Dedham for development, whighlander posted this interesting thought:

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Originally Posted by whighlander
No Boston Annexing beyond a bit here and there is a bad idea
However, All of the Cities and Towns within and touching I-495 should be included into a new Metropolitan County
Boston County would absorb all of Suffolk, Most of Eastern Middlesex, Much of Essex, Norfolk much of Plymouth, even a bit of Barnstable
Then the Crazy Quilt of Authorities could be ceded {Debt Free} to Boston County
-Boston County would control Logan, Hanscom Airports, Parking Garages, Railroad Stations, The Subway, Water System
-Boston County would be supported by redirecting {not adding} 1 or 2 cents of the 5 cent sales tax
-Boston County would be governed by an elected County President and a bicameral legislative body {lower house 1 rep per some # of capitas something of the order of 400 reps approximately 10,000 capitas per rep}, upper house 1 per city or town no regard to population}
This moves more government closer to the people gets rid of the massive bureaucracies of the authorities, makes the State gov't smaller at least a bit
Overall a more representative government
then the Congressional districts can be realigned to get rid of the miserable gerrymandering as Boston County would still have 3 or 4 US Reps and leave one for the Cape and South Coast and one for the extrema of Essex and Middlesex by the NH Border
A dream -- but it seemed appropriate to insert it here
Westy 8)
Given how much things have changed over the last 100 years, with highways, high-speed trains, air travel, the internet, etc..., is it time for a new governmental structure too? I am not talking socialism v. democracy, that is theory and I really don't want that to come into play here, but I mean is our structure of town/city/county/state really the best way to run things when borders are almost meaningless in this day and age?

What do I mean by meaningless? I talk to people who are in Russia, Australia, Japan, South Africa, India, every day via the internet. With the advent of cheap digital cameras I can also see what their lives are like (amazingly they are very similar to mine). Hell, Europe just got rid of most of its purely administrative borders years ago. When this country was founded we were 13 SEPARATE colonies. We could have easily separated and then became 13 separate nations.

The idea of the Megalopolis is not new and I think we are all well aware of it in Boston. I can get on a train or bus in NY or Washington and arrive in Boston and have everything feel very similar (yes there are regional differences but over all things are very much the same, i.e. McDonald's). And now there are other growing Megalopolises in America, Seattle-Portland, Dallas-Ft.Worth, Chicago-most of the mid-west, Southern California, etc. This idea is far more accelerated in the developing world with mega-cities with 10, 20 million people each. We may think that is far off but remember metropolitan New York City has 20 million people in it today. That only accounts for the city proper, most of Long Island, and small areas of Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and upstate New York.

Given this new urban structure, how can current city and state governments deal with having societies exist that fall under different jurisdictions? When there is a back up on the George Washington Bridge in New York it screws up traffic from Boston to Washington. But there is nothing Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, or Virginia can do about it if the highway department in New York can't deal with it.

New York City has threatened secession a few times but these have always been seen as purely symbolic.
But perhaps what we really need is some separate governmental level to take into account the needs of these growing megalopolises; a super-county.

Why are cities like New York, Boston, Philly, and Baltimore fighting each other when we are all in the same boat. The northeast is hurting, we are losing people and jobs because it is so expensive to live here. Different cities have different development policies and different housing problems. But when you look at it regionally you see that all these cities are facing the same problems with education and traffic. But cities all have their unique problems that other cities may have an answer for but cannot change their own policies to affect. Philly can never seem to catch a break, New York is looking at more people then it knows what to do with, and Boston is too proud of it's own farts to do anything about the precarious economic situation it is in (and seems to always be in). There has to be a better way.

A super-county would be between the state and the county. The purpose of the super county would be to help streamline and iron out the differences between areas in the megalopolis and create efficient growth. A state is not going to want to give up its best parts so the rest suffers. At the same time the state needs to make sure everyone in the state gets their fare share. Many city dwellers feel that states take advantage of the city. The super-county would be a balance to this. The super-county would know what was up all along the megalopolis and thus know what it needed from each state. The states would pay taxes into the super-county rather than dolling out taxes to individual counties and cities. The super-county would use these taxes for the benefit of the entire region (like a couple high-speed rail lines). Planning, transportation, development, education, emergency response, and health care could all be coordinated along the entire megalopolan region. Freight traffic could be better transported in and out of the region if ports weren't competing with one another; and as an added benefit traffic would be better if so many trucks were taken off the road. The super-county would also address the problem where the wealthy middle class leaves for the suburbs. That loss of tax revenue is devastating to a city, especially one which needs that revenue to fund so many of the cultural programs that makes people want to live near a city in the first place. If some portion of those taxes went to the super-county then the entire city and region would be better off.

A huge area for the super-county to affect is the environment. Cities are dirty (air, water, noise, and light pollution) and they create their own weather with all the heat and energy they emit. If New York does something to cut pollution but Philly and Boston do not then the environmental impact is going to be small. If the entire region could cut down emissions then that would have a much larger impact. As it is now all we can do is have different states pass different laws that are skewed to account for the rest of the state. Would you want medicine that is good for a headache when you have a gunshot wound? We need an environmental plan that deals with the specific problems caused by large urban areas.

The point of a super-county is to have a level of government that can address the needs of multi-millions of people living close together, something that has never happened on this level ever before in human history. We need a machine to run this type of environment because what we have now is not adapted for the brave new world that is ahead of us.
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Old 07-06-2007, 08:45 AM   #2
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Super County and Hub

The ideal should be a hierarchy of government levels -- keeping as much government as close to the people who are governed, but removing wastefully redundancy and improving overall large-scale planning and coordination

You start with the village -- even a town is too large and needs to be broken-up to finer scale -- the village is responsible for local policing {cop on the beat}, a local EMS station, local library -- probably 3,000 to 5,000 residents, possibly really local taxi or jitney service to the town or city transport network

Villages are aggregated into the exiting towns and cities that are responsible for much of what they do today, BUT share little-used resources from a pool in the MetroCounty -- e.g. Greater Boston t

Metro Counties are responsible for much of the economic activity except for agriculture and mining and are responsible for supporting all of the lower level units with top-level police, fire, rescue for major emergencies and most importantly are the elements that negotiate arrangements with the megalopolis for overall services

Megalopolis support the Metro Counties with top-level services and overall development coordination -- principally they are responsible for transportation networks and communications networks that interconnect the Metro Counties into the Megalopolis that already exists.

The big advantage obvious combines of Metro Counties can arrange to jointly build the desired High Speed rail to tie all of the satellites to Greater Boston into a functional network with the goal of 1 hour point to point {non-stop} Boston to the rest of New England and New York

This high-speed non-stop rail would be overhead electric and where necessary clean hydrogen fuel cell power in self-contained vehicles -- much like the old Budliners with people and high value cargo that can make the trip non-stop point to point in New England in one hour {easy to do} and ideally Boston to New York in 1 hour {a bit of a stretch -- but possible}. These vehicles would enable high-value goods to travel at nearly the speed of e-mail {effective speed is a couple of hours as not everyone is permanently connected} -- the goal -- to and from another Metro County for a 1/2 day meeting without any air planes and shipping a package the same day point to point

Oh by the way states shrink to serve mostly rural functions eg Big Parks, State Agriculture Schools

The Federal Gov't shrinks even more to mostly Defense, State and National Parks ? in particular welfare functions all go to the Metro County level {with states picking-up loose ends in regions with minimal metro county potential {mostly agricultural or National Resource Parks {e.g.. lot?s of Alaska}

Everything else is managed and Networked through Metro Counties with the activity by private entities of all sizes -- as Jane Jacobs said so well in Cities and the Wealth of Nations

Westy

PS: one of my favorite topics
8)
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Old 07-06-2007, 01:09 PM   #3
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How about magnetically powered trains. I remember seeing a few years ago that Japan and Germany were implementing trains powered by magnet. Top speed is nearly limitless, they're silent and produce zero emissions. Are you familiar with these trains, or am I hallucinating?
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Old 07-06-2007, 01:42 PM   #4
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As a resident of the Boston inner suburbs, I do value being a separate entity from the City of Boston in most respects. The metropolitan counties work well in areas where the suburbs have no individual identity. In Chicago villages are arranged into townships for schools, water, etc. which is largely possible because the villages are just groups of subdivisions that bleed into one another seamlessly.

Boston, on the other hand, has very old and definite boundaries, and the suburbs often have different characteristics. Combining all of them into one "super-city" ruins these identifying characteristics. Boston has experimented with this before, and the result is a lack of differentiation between its neighborhoods. Who knows where Roxbury ends and Dorchester begins? Probably a whole lot fewer people than know where the border is with Brookline.

I do see many advantages of broadening the scope of agencies and unifying some systems - transportation, water, etc. There are, however some functions I would be loath to hand over.

Schools, for one. Look how well Boston has done running its annexed neighborhoods into the ground. Brookline declined annexation and it now is miles ahead of many (NOT ALL) neighborhoods of Boston in most aspects of quality of living.

This is not because Brookline was already rich and selfishly refused to give its ample spoils to the collective good. This is because schools cannot be run on a huge scale. The smaller the district, the more uniform the quality, because more attention can be paid to every student. Students in the BPS, New York PS, even in Lowell and Providence can get lost in the system and forgotten.

I would actually propose largely what was quoted above in some areas, while segmenting more in others. The counties in MA are vestigial, and could easily be reconfigured to give a Boston County or Eastern Region control over courts, utilities, and transport. Schools would be segmented by neighborhood, as they should be, with Roslindale, West Roxubry, Hyde Park, and all the rest receiving their own districts. Some sort of profit sharing plan would help the districts with less wealthy populations.

City Governments would continue to run fire, police, schools, parks, etc. The DCR would hand all parkways and scenic drives over to the regional transport authority.

Again, this is a good concept, but precedent and the sheer mountain of history behind every MA city and town demand respect in any reorganization.
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Old 07-06-2007, 02:30 PM   #5
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I'm not suggesting that we all combine into one giant county. The super-county would be largely administrative, much like the EU. While each nation in the EU benefits from the union they still all have their own national identities.

Perhaps schools are left to the small scale, it was just an example any how.

One thing that would need to fall under any new power is land use and protection. The growth of the city demands land but we also need to protect the land around us. New parks and reserves need to be created to keep the "feel" of an area and to make sure we don't over tax the local ecosystems.

But the problem with so called "green belts" (like the one in London) is that they just drive up housing costs inside the belt and make towns outside it that much farther away from the city. What I propose is a system of parks and reserves that takes into account the natural topography of the region. There are "fingers" of hills and valleys running north to south thanks to glaciers which constrains development. If we protect these "fingers" we can direct development rather than constrain it while protecting nature at the same time. Linear development is more conducive for rail travel as well which would curb sprawl.

Obviously sprawl will always happen but if we can develop sprawl that isn't so taxing on the environment and is designed to allow further growth then we could possibly create tighter neighborhoods rather than anonymous subdivisions.
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Old 07-11-2007, 06:30 PM   #6
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Quote:
Getting U.S. Regions Past Sleepwalking
July 1, 2007

WASHINGTON -- Far too many of America's metro regions have been sleepwalking into the 21st century, only mistily aware of how severely global economic competition and climate change may hit them. Or if aware, so splintered politically they're dangerously slow to respond.

Boston is trying to avoid that trap. At a Boston College Citizen Seminar last week, a cross section of hundreds of city and regional leaders heard a dramatic presentation of where the metropolitan area leads -- and lags. Each challenge, from energy dependence to excessively expensive health care, was underscored by compelling data and matched with response strategies.

The official occasion was release of the most recent Boston Indicators Report, a project kicked off by the Boston Foundation a decade ago and now co-sponsored by the city itself and the Boston Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

In most cities, an Indicators index release would draw a meager crowd. But Mayor Thomas Menino was just one of the headliners present; so were luminaries from Boston's education establishment including MIT President Susan Hockfield and an array of corporate, nonprofit and citizen action groups.

Why all this attention? Principally it's because the Boston Indicators, spearheaded by the Boston Foundation's Charlotte Kahn, have become the gold standard for U.S. regions. They're not just boatloads of raw data; rather they're framed, topic by topic, with readable, updated analysis and available online at www.bostonindicators.org. Any leader or citizen can get a clear, quick view of just where the region is progressing, where it's stalled, and potential cures.

The Boston Foundation is using the Indicators to rouse public concern and attention to unmet, pressing agendas. The new report candidly covers, for example, the area's extraordinarily high cost of living, inflation in the housing market that is pricing out median-income families in town after town, and the perils of severe labor shortages as young workers leave and the population ages.

But the Indicators also celebrate the Boston region's history of innovation and institutions and scientists ready to push it forward. The region ``is beautifully poised,'' MIT's Hockfield said, to lead in ``green, new'' technologies. Citing today's ``terrifying'' increase in global energy demand, she stressed MIT's commitment to such technology breakthroughs as new energy storage devices to correct the intermittent, often unpredictable ups and downs of energy generated by wind turbines and solar. Simultaneously, she said, MIT scientists are working to develop nuclear power with increased efficiency and safety, and coal recovery with permanent carbon storage -- ``a portfolio of energy solutions, no single silver bullet.''

Boston, Kahn noted, said ``has a history as a city of revolution,'' including the American Revolution, the Industrial Revolution and 20th Century Information Age. ``And today we're at a critical inflection point in human history where we can transition to a sustainable future, or we can crash, in ways that would hurt billions of people.'' The report's message, she noted, is ``that this small region with its extraordinary innovative capacity and still untapped potential can make a real difference in determining which road we go down.''

That's going to require, however, fundamental changes. Health is one example: the Indicators show that spending on health care in Massachusetts soared 44 percent from 2001 to 2006, even in the face of stagnant population levels. State health outlays are crowding such other priorities as local and higher education, human services and needed public transportation projects. Yet obesity and hypertension, risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes, continued to rise.

``There's something wrong with this picture,'' notes Kahn: ``We aren't aligning health spending with the actual determinants of health -- 50 percent of which are all about lifestyles and another 20 percent the environment, including exposure to toxins -- and only 10 percent access to doctors, clinics and hospitals.''

One can imagine the massive resistance of Massachusetts' mega-industry of famed hospitals, clinics and medical research institutions to the idea that health dollars are being misdirected. But when respected organizations like the Boston Foundation and its partners make the case for sweeping reform, radical change becomes more thinkable.

And listening is going on. In 2004, the city and regional leadership seemed so splintered, institutions hunkered down in their own silos, that my Citistates Group colleagues and I wrote of Boston as ``lacking a collaborative gene.'' But now there's progress, symbolized by a new LaWare Leadership Forum, co-sponsored by the Boston Foundation, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and the Sovereign Bank of New England to brief leaders on key problems and spark collaborative action.

And while the Indicators started as a Boston-centric operation, now, with immense added data, they embrace the metropolitan ring that extends far beyond the city limits. They also make reference to Boston's role as capital of Massachusetts and as the leading city in New England, and cite its role as the northernmost anchor of the 50-million-person Northeast Corridor reaching southward to Washington.

``Regions,'' the authors appropriately note, ``are the ideal geographical unit to respond to intensifying global forces.''

Neal Peirce's e-mail address is nrp@citistates.com.
Link

Here is a link to the Boston Foundation.
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