By Matt Collette | Northeastern News | October 10, 2012
A 750-mile pipeline across Canada cuts through First Nation lands and pristine environments to bring oil-rich tar sands to a new terminal on the Pacific Ocean. The company behind the project, the Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge Inc., argues that the pipeline will create thousands of jobs and an influx of cash from the Asian companies that will buy and process the tar sands.
But the economic analysis presented to the Canadian government does not account for the pipeline’s environmental impact, including the potential for a spill, said Matthias Ruth, a Northeastern professor with dual appointments in the College of Engineering and the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs.
Ruth is at the forefront of the emerging field of environmental economics, which focuses on developing methods to account for unquantifiable environmental contributions to the economy.
He and his doctoral student, Rebecca Gasper, a researcher at World Resources Institute, testified before the Joint Review Panel of Canada’s National Energy Board in September. They argued against Enbridge’s economic analysis, explaining that the oil company overstated the economic impact of its project by as many 200 times.
“There are a lot of things for which there is no market, like ecosystem goods and services — from water retention and purification to carbon uptake,” Ruth said. “There are a lot of costs that come from disturbing these environments that never made it into the economic analysis.”
Ruth noted that the amount of money First Nation tribes are being paid by pipeline developers does not even begin to measure the project’s impact on the land’s delicate and long undisturbed ecological balance.
“We’re only now beginning to understand what projects like these can do to an environment and the costs that come with that,” Ruth said. “But now that we can measure it, we can include it in economic analyses.”
The project is similar to the stalled Keystone Pipeline, which would deliver crude oil from Canada to locations in the United States for refinement and export. Ruth said a similar environmental analysis could be applied to that project, to explore whether the environmental damages from a pipeline may outweigh its economic benefits — even when applying top engineering standards.
Though Ruth’s testimony may not sway the Canadian panel, it has already sparked a conversation with the general public and in the media, which has started covering the pipeline project from an environmental angle.
“It’s a total game-changer,” Ruth said. “It’s becoming clear that by pointing out these typically nonmarket goals, they become part of the national energy dialogue.”
By Megan Woolhouse | Boston.com | July 27, 2012
Massachusetts’ economy continued to grow at faster rate than the nation’s largely due to the strength of the state’s technology industry, but national and international developments are expected to slow the pace to the recovery here, according to a quarterly analysis released Friday by the University of Massachusetts.
The state economy grew at an annual rate of 4 percent between April and June, more than double the national rate, according to UMass. The US Commerce Department reported Friday the nation’s economy grew at a 1.5 percent, a sluggish pace, but slightly better than economists forecast.
“The national report was stronger than expected but still much weaker than what’s going on here in Massachusetts,” said Michael Goodman, an editor of the analysis and public policy professor at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. “With all the stuff going on in the world, the risk factors on the national horizon, one has to wonder how long this can last.”
Uncertainties on the horizon include unresolved economic crisis, including particular concerns about deep-seated problems in Greece, Spain, and Italy. Massachusetts depends heavily of European commerce. About 40 percent of the state’s exports are sold in Europe, about double what the nation as a whole exports there.
A slowing of consumer demand in another of the state’s biggest export markets, China, could also slow the Massachusetts economy, UMass analysts said.
Alan Clayton-Matthews, a Northeastern University professor who did the economic analysis for the report, noted that Massachusetts merchandise exports declined in first five months of the year.
“We’re expecting things to get worse,” Clayton-Matthews said. “It looks like we’ve been lucky so far.”
The state growth estimates are published by MassBenchmarks, quarterly economic journal published by UMass. Clayton-Matthews said the state showed unexpected strength in wages, salary, and income in recent months.
He attributed that to workers who have jobs receiving more hours and increased employment in the high tech sector, which tends to pay high salaries.
Among Massachusetts key high tech products are semiconductors and semiconductor equipment. Demand for these products slowed last year after the earthquake in Japan and flooding in Thailand, where many companies buy these Massachusetts products for manufacturing electronics. Those sales have steadied this year, though they are not growing at an “explosive” clip, Clayton-Matthews said.
Artur Mas, the 129th president of the government of Catalonia, Spain, said on Wednesday morning at Northeastern University that his community of roughly 7 million people strives to emulate Massachusetts’ economic success.
“We can learn from each other,” Mas said. “Of course we would love to have your [gross domestic product] and are envious of your universities and research centers.”
Mas addressed more than two dozen members of the Northeastern community and a contingent of reporters who gathered in the Raytheon Amphitheater for a transportation seminar with Catalonian experts from government and the private sector. Later in the afternoon at the BIO International Convention in Boston, Mas signed an agreement with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to expand Catalonia’s innovation partnership with the state.
The World Class Cities Partnership, an initiative of Northeastern’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, hosted the event. The goal of the WCCP is to bring together civic, business and academic leaders from cities throughout the globe for the purpose of creating sustainable social change through policy research, and the development and implementation of best-practice solutions to common challenges.
The all-day program featured panel discussions on the expansion of Barcelona’s public transit system and the organization and financing of public transportation infrastructure.
Catalonia, an autonomous community in northeast Spain, has become a world leader in sustainable and economically efficient transportation infrastructure, due in large part to its high-speed railway service to Paris.
Mas said Catalonia has developed one of the most-used metro systems in world, eclipsing more than 1 billion passenger rides in 2011. Children under 12 ride for free and low-income residents receive an 80 percent discount. Handicapped metro users have easy access to elevators and escalators.
“Our transportation system is truly for everyone,” Mas explained.
Catalonia, he said, must often do more with less. The Spanish community lacks natural resources and land, but makes up for its shortcomings with intellectual capital.
As Mas put it, “We have created a wealth of knowledge and technology.”
Northeastern’s Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Michael Dukakis, who has long advocated for a national network of high-speed rail lines, expressed disappointment with our country’s mass-transit system.
“We are not exceptional when it comes to transportation infrastructure,” he said in his welcoming remarks, noting the dichotomy between the transportation systems in the United States and South Korea, which he called “one of the finest” in the world.
Alan Solomont, the United States ambassador to Spain and Andorra, praised Catalonia’s high-speed rail in his introduction of Mas, saying, “It’s never been late, it’s smooth and it’s quick.”
He highlighted the close relationship between the U.S. and Spain, pointing to his political strategy of “putting economic policy at the forefront of foreign policy.”
“We have helped American companies in Spain compete on a level playing field,” Solomont explained. “Spain has more assets and the economy has more strengths” than the country gets credit for, he added.
Brains In Spain Thrive In Entrepreneur Eco-System
Monday, February 6, 2012 | Global Enterprise
By Michael Lake and Robert Buckley
Special To Banker & Tradesman
The Boston region has the opportunity to leverage the development growth at Kendall Square and Longwood Medical area while building the South Boston innovation district and, accordingly, shape the future of our region’s innovation economy.
The challenge lies in how to most effectively attract and retain talent in order to create a thriving entrepreneurship ecosystem. To succeed, we need to look at successful projects around the globe utilizing innovation-related practices.
Recently, 11 business, civic, and academic leaders from Greater Boston traveled to Barcelona and Madrid as part of the World Class Cities Partnerships’ Inaugural Policy Exchange Mission. The delegates explored Barcelona’s unique strengths, which have developed and fostered innovation in that city, with a focus on talent attraction and retention. What they found was a well-branded innovation district with government support for entrepreneurs.
New Jobs In Barcelona
Over a decade ago, Barcelona planners began to define the geography of innovation in their city. The historically industrial neighborhood of Poblenou had become obsolete. The abandoned factories that remained were transformed into 22@Barcelona. Similarly to Boston’s Innovation District, this was not accomplished without overcoming certain permitting issues. Stretched over 115 blocks, 22@Barcelona is an extensive economic redevelopment site and innovation district that today showcases new public facilities, homes, green space and businesses. There are currently 7,000 companies in 22@Barcelona with 130,000 new jobs and 1,500 new housing units.
This transformation would not have been possible had it not been for the support from the local development agency, Barcelona Activa. The first of its kind, Barcelona Activa uses government funds to invest in the local knowledge economy. It also helps entrepreneurs align their business goals with the economic development strategies of the city. The agency houses 16 projects in its state-of-the-art facilities, each of which aids in the mission of stimulating human capital, entrepreneurship business, employment and technology.
Haifa Holds Promise
In 2010, a Boston fact-finding delegation visited the innovation hub of Haifa, Israel. Haifa recognized a strong university presence in its city and leveraged the scientific knowledge and technology transfer opportunities to build its innovation economy.
Like Barcelona, the public sector in Haifa supports entrepreneurs. The Israeli government created a venture capital fund to directly assist entrepreneurs, and built the Hi Center, an extensive incubator space, to house these startups. Building an innovation-based economy began with the construction of MATAM, a business park that houses companies such as IBM, Microsoft and Google .
Unlike Barcelona and Haifa, which have strong public sector support, Boston’s innovation-related development is being funded by the private sector. Here, developers need capital before they can build, and the demand needs to be real.
To create such a demand, Boston’s innovation district must be branded and consistently marketed as a place-making space. It should be attractive to entrepreneurs. For most, attractive is synonymous with affordable. Like 22@Barcelona, on-site housing should be built side-by-side with incubator space in order to maintain an entrepreneurship ecosystem. Recent efforts to create micro-units for housing should be applauded. However, the price point has to be far lower than the proposed $1,500 per month to attract or retain the desired talent.
There are interesting models around the world, such as Amsterdam’s conversion of shipping containers into modular housing units. Imagine the opportunity for developers in the Seaport district able to make greater use of underdeveloped land by temporarily supplying housing units consisting of stacked shipping containers. Could this be our opportunity to create a living laboratory, experimenting with innovative housing models in the Seaport District or other underdeveloped land in Cambridge, Somerville and other surrounding communities?
To further brand the district, Boston should host its own big event: an Innovation Expo that calls global attention to the district as an entrepreneurship hub. Finally, because we are relying on private finance with limited demand driving development, we need to be careful not to fill the district with only larger companies that can afford to build. We need to reserve a place for entrepreneurs to fill and fuel the innovation ecosystem.
On Monday, May 23rd, the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs hosted an evening program for a dozen K-12 school superintendents visiting from Israel. The delegation met on campus as part of a program sponsored by Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) and the Boston-Haifa Connection. Throughout their stay these Israeli school officials will be visiting various Greater Boston schools to share experiences and bring back best practices for improving public education in Israel, especially for disadvantaged students. The Israeli delegation included two Israeli Arab school officials.
The program at Northeastern featured three leading educational leaders from Boston as guest speakers: Paul Toner, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association; Michael Goldstein, co-founder of the MATCH Charter School; and Abby Weiss, executive director of the Boston Full-Service Schools Roundtable.
Following dinner, Mr. Toner began the evening’s program with an explanation of the role of teachers unions in Massachusetts. More than 100,000 public school teachers are affiliated with the Mass Teachers Association which in turn is a member of the National Education Association. In addition, there are about 20,000 teachers who are members of the Massachusetts Federation of Teachers which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. These unions not only represent teachers but also instructional aides, custodians, and assistant principals.
Although clearly one of the main purposes of the MTA is to negotiate wages and benefits on behalf of their members, Mr. Toner views the mission of the union as much broader – to serve as the voice of teachers in improving public schools. Toner agrees with sentiments expressed by Dean Barry Bluestone that teachers unions must demonstrate that they are fundamentally committed to improving the quality of education for all students. The union is proud of the fact that Massachusetts students score at the very top of the annual NAEP test, the closest thing to a national standardized test in America. At the same time, Toner acknowledges that Massachusetts has a substantial achievement gap that everyone including his union must work to overcome.
Toner stressed that the MTA has worked closely with the State’s Commissioner of Education and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on policies and initiatives aimed at improving education in Massachusetts. The union participated in Massachusetts’ successful effort to win federal Race to the Top funds.
One of the key issues facing the state has been teacher performance evaluation and the role of student test scores in assessing individual teachers. According to Toner, the MTA agrees that student learning and achievement should be a component of teacher evaluation. However, he stressed that evaluation should be based on a range of data and not solely on MCAS scores. A good evaluation system would take into account observations of teacher performance in the classroom and a review of the materials prepared by teachers for their classes. Toner noted that such evaluation is rare in part because school principals do not have the resources to conduct such rigorous teacher reviews. The MTA president also stressed that performance evaluations should not be used as a “gotcha” system for firing teachers. Like any good performance management tool, they should first be used to encourage continuous improvement and to help teachers identify where and how they can improve their teaching.
Michael Goldstein, the founder of the MATCH Charter School, followed Toner’s presentation. The school is considered one of the highest performing schools in Massachusetts. Goldstein shared with the visiting Israeli delegation how he first became interested in the concept and possibilities represented by charter schools when he was in graduate school at Harvard studying education policy. One of the things that appealed to him about the notion of charter schools was the ability to create a unified team approach to helping students to succeed.
Mr. Goldstein explained how charter schools work in the U.S. and specifically in Massachusetts. As part of his presentation, he noted that of the 5,000 charters schools across the U.S., about half high-poverty students. Of these, only 200 have been demonstrated as “unusually high performing.” He was proud to note that Boston is home to seven of these among the 15 charter schools now operating in the city.
Goldstein explained that the success of his school is based on parent engagement, a school culture that pays strict attention to rules about behavior, small classes, and most importantly, tutoring for each student. Every student at MATCH receives two hours of tutoring each day. In order to provide this amount of tutoring, MATCH has full-time AmeriCorps members, college graduates who live on the top floor of the school and receive a small stipend for the work they do with students.
MATCH was recently contracted to help bring this tutoring model to eight schools in Houston that have been designated for turnaround. Early evaluations have revealed much higher outcomes for students that have received this dosage of tutoring.
Goldstein cautioned that he personally does not believe that the concept of “charters” itself is a panacea for solving the issues of improving education for low-income urban students. He believes that most of the education policy debates are focused on matters that don’t actually have that much impact on outcomes. What really matters comes down to fundamental, nitty-gritty details of how to run a good school. When asked which of the many design features of the MATCH School is the most important, Goldstein responded that “culture” was so essential – having the team of adults all “rowing in the same direction” – that he couldn’t imagine how you could have a successful school without that.
Goldstein also screened an ABC news feature about the MATCH School which demonstrated some of the points he made in his presentation. In one scene the video captured how MATCH operates under a strict set of rules regarding student behavior. There are rules even regarding posture in class. On screen, MATCH’s principal noted that if a student is slouching or has his head down on his desk, disengaged, even for a minute, then that’s a minute that they’ve lost and they can’t spare to lose a single minute. In talking about culture, Goldstein said this was an example of something where you need every teacher and adult in the school on the same page – even about shirts being tucked in properly.
Knowing that the superintendents would be visiting the KIPP School in Lynn the next day, Goldstein pointed out that they would see the importance of culture when they visit KIPP.
The third member of the evening’s panel, Abby Weiss, is the director of the Boston Full-Service Schools Roundtable. Her organization works to promote and support the implementation of schools being able to provide a broad range of services and opportunities to meet the multiple needs of their students: mental health services, health care, quality out-of-school time programs, family engagement and support, and connections to other community institutions and agencies.
Ms. Weiss noted that students arrive at school every day with a host of needs, often unmet, especially for low-income students. Although schools are not equipped to meet all of these needs directly, they can, through partnerships with non-profit organizations and government agencies, arrange to have these services and programs provided in and around the school. She pointed out how Boston enjoys an incredibly rich array of non-profit organizations whose mission is to serve children and youth. Yet navigating, selecting and managing these partnerships is a daunting challenge for school principals who already have their hands full. So the Full-Service Schools Roundtable works with principals and the Boston School Department to help them find and manage the appropriate set of partnerships.
Early in her tenure, Boston School Superintendent Carol Johnston realized that she did not have very good or complete information on all of the many partnerships throughout Boston public schools. She asked the Full-Service Schools Roundtable to help collect this information. Ms. Weiss worked with school officials to design and implement a survey of principals about the community partners in each school building. She recently completed the survey with a 93 percent response rate from principals and submitted the draft report to Superintendent Johnston.
The survey report should help both the district and individual principals have a better understanding of the extent to which each school is leveraging various community partners to better meet the needs of their students. It will help to inform district-wide strategies to better support and guide principals regarding the type of partners that are ideal for each school. It should also help to identify gaps in terms of which schools have greater unmet needs for their students.
In the closing Q&A session, several of the Israeli superintendents remarked on how similar all of these issues are to the ones they face in Israel. They appreciated being able to hear from these three education leaders and hoped to bring back ideas to their own communities. Ruth Kaplan, who is coordinating the delegation’s trip on behalf of CJP and the Boston-Haifa Connection, noted that the evening was an outstanding opportunity for the visiting superintendents to hear first-hand about the challenges facing inner city schools in Boston and share with the panel the joys and frustrations of working to overcome the education gaps that continue to exist in both countries.