Yesterday it was officially announced that Holyoke has signed a pact joining other gateway cities in an alliance. This alliance will provide a strong voice on Beacon Hill for Holyoke as well as the other signatories of the alliance.
In email correspondence with Mayor Sullivan last week:
I am sure that you have seen that most of the foundation adjustments need very intense intervention and cooperation from state policy makers. Changes in tax code, land & housing courts, re-thinking of "smart growth" policies. This agreement (Gateway Cities Alliance) will be under the guidance of former Mayor of Fall River, who recently came out to spend a day discussing and touring Holyoke"s assets and opportunities.
The Mayor has been steadily working on getting his ducks in a row. With the help of the City Council he has put in place a Redevelopment Authority that will be instrumental in changing the City. He told me that he has been exploring some sustainable funding mechanisms to remove the most distressed, abandoned, and blighted tracts.
There is a movement afoot to revisit the Master Plan, but I am hopeful that we are patient as 2010 is a census year and in 2012 we will get some very good information to understand how the community is changing. It does not make sense to base a plan on ten year old assumptions.
Key recommendations from the Gateway Cities Report:
1. Stabilize local finances and basic services
• Link state proposals to lock in a percentage of local aid to fund basic municipal services with serious efforts at cost control at the local level.
• Establish data systems to track government programs and services and create high-performance governance reporting and accountability systems.
• Make budget systems more transparent to compare costs from community to community.
• Focus funding and measure results on the basics — public safety and education.
2. Turn deal-breakers into “deal makers” to expand private sector investment
• Establish a partnership between Gateway Cities, state government, and regional economic development organizations to expand private sector investment.
• Create opportunities for local officials to learn from the private sector and each other new strategies for economic development.
3. Redouble efforts at urban school reform
• Refocus state efforts on urban education and use new state funds to invest in reforms that are working.
• Don’t strand kids in failing schools.
• Provide more school choice.
4. Boost the education and language skills of the adult workforce
• Create stronger links between English language classes and workforce development programs by using state funds to integrate ESOL with the workplace.
• Mobilize community leaders to support and expand literacy initiatives through media and public outreach campaigns.
• Establish high-performing community colleges linked to high-demand jobs.
• Become more welcoming to newcomers and turn diversity into strength by bringing the immigrant community into the planning process.
5. Bolster family assets to generate wealth
• Partner with employers to help Gateway City workers access EITC benefits. (earned income tax credit)
• Extend free tax preparation service.
• Build and protect assets, with programs like IDA’s. (individual development accounts)
• Provide homeownership counseling.
6. Leverage Gateway City colleges to spark economic development
• Connect to Gateway City colleges and universities to anchor revitalization.
• Charge the UMass system with sparking revitalization in Gateway Cities.
7. Grow the regional economy through “hard” and “soft” connections
• Put rail connections on the fast track.
• Promote regional, interstate, and global linkages through collaboration.
8. Develop broadband and wireless infrastructure to prepare for the future
• Don’t wait to get in the new game — plan now for the broadband future.
Full report (pdf)
Holyoke report (pdf)
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