1,000 local leaders, key state and federal officials, attend MMA Annual Meeting

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Emerging Issues ForumsMore than 1,000 local officials gathered in Boston on Jan. 25 and 26 for the MMA’s 34th Annual Meeting & Trade Show.
The Annual Meeting kicked off Friday morning with Gov. Deval Patrick discussing his ambitious budget, revenue and transportation proposals, which were released in the days before the meeting.
Noted speakers included keynote Neal Petersen, who urged local officials to adapt in order to best serve their communities, and Carmen Ortiz, the first woman and first Hispanic to serve as U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, who promoted collaboration between all levels of government.
During the closing session on Jan. 26, National Public Radio correspondent Mara Liasson presented a not entirely optimistic forecast for breaking gridlock in Washington.
Personnel and economic development issues were the focus of many of the 20 Annual Meeting workshops. Other topics ranged from electronic billboards and disaster recovery to clean energy projects and the medical marijuana law.
Attendees participated in lively discussions during three Emerging Issues Forums, a new feature this year.
Congressman Jim McGovern was a panelist in the “Finding a New Normal in Local, State and Federal Relations” session, where he urged local officials to speak up about issues that are vital to their communities.
Federal budget cuts are likely, he said, so cities and towns need to take a close look at what is vital to their communities.
Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan, a former legislator who served for six years as the chair of the House Committee on Transportation, moderated a forum about the state’s roads, bridges and transit systems.
Transportation Secretary Richard Davey took numerous questions from local officials as he promoted the administration’s 10-year, $13 billion transportation plan.
“I think we have put out a very credible and comprehensive plan,” he said. “I think it is our time to capture this moment and make the investments.”
Shrewsbury Town Manager Dan Morgado moderated a session on post-employment benefits, a looming unfunded liability for cities and towns.
“This problem is huge,” he said during the forum. “People have to go back to their communities and say, ‘Either we fix this problem, or they will fix it for us.’”
Morgado was the MMA’s representative on a special state commission that issued a report on “other post-employment benefits” in December. The report recommended reforms that could save cities and towns between $9 billion and $12 billion over the next 30 years.
Five constitutional officers spoke briefly during the Friday dinner. Lt. Gov. Tim Murray, Attorney General Martha Coakley, State Treasurer Steve Grossman, State Auditor Suzanne Bump, and Secretary of State William Galvin addressed officials about the importance of partnership between state and local government.
Galvin said he has proposed legislation that would allow some communities to combine the special election to replace U.S. Sen. John Kerry on June 25 with their spring town elections.
Grossman discussed his work returning $892,000 in unclaimed property to 260 municipalities last year. Grossman shared his goal of returning all unclaimed property to every member of the Commonwealth and offered his help to return property to municipal workers, asking municipalities to send him a list of everyone who works for them.
MMA Annual Trade ShowThis Annual Meeting was green for the third straight year. Constellation Energy supplied green energy-certified renewable energy certificates from wind energy facilities located throughout the country and matched 100 percent of all the electricity used during the conference.
The Trade Show featured roughly 200 exhibitors, including a GIS consulting company, a recreational specialist, educational institutions and various green-energy and engineering companies.
The city of Boston displayed its “City Hall to Go,” a converted police van, on the trade show floor. The van brings roughly 20 services to neighborhoods throughout Boston so residents don’t have to make a trip to City Hall.
Local and state officials at the Friday dinner also honored the winner of the MMA’s seventh annual sixth-grade student essay contest. Folk musician Tom Rush provided entertainment, performing to a packed room.
The Beezlebubs, an all-male a cappella group from Tufts University, entertained attendees at the Saturday evening banquet with a mix of musical styles that included pop, rock, and rhythm and blues.
The MMA Annual Meeting & Trade Show, the largest annual gathering of municipal officials in the state, also featured the business meetings of MMA member groups for mayors, selectmen, councillors and managers.
This year’s theme was “Pathways to Progress and Prosperity: Local Leaders Look Ahead.”
“Congratulations to our members, Board of Directors, and every member of our staff on an exciting and record-breaking annual meeting,” said MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith. “We had more local officials and exhibitors than ever before, and everyone contributed to making this our best conference yet.”
Next year’s MMA Annual Meeting will be held Jan. 24-25, also at the Hynes Convention Center and Sheraton Boston Hotel.