Arlington Board of Selectmen Chair Joe Curro (right) asks a question during the “Boost Your Downtown with Better Parking Management” workshop at MMA Annual Meeting, Jan. 20.
Invigorating local government through collaboration and innovation – and uniting under the common goal of providing consistent and high-quality local services – carried through as themes during the MMA’s record-breaking Annual Meeting & Trade Show on Jan. 19 and 20 in Boston.
The event, featuring compelling speakers, timely workshops, networking opportunities, a bustling Trade Show, and an inaugural first-time attendee orientation, saw record attendance of more than 1,200 municipal officials.
Keynote speaker David Breashears kicked things off with lessons learned about team-building and leadership on the slopes of Mount Everest.
Gov. Charlie Baker also spoke during the opening session, presenting the broad outlines of his forthcoming state budget proposal and highlights of his administration’s commitment to cities and towns.
His list of administration initiatives designed to help communities included the 2016 Municipal Modernization Act, the widely adopted Community Compact best practices program, the Open for Business program that pushes “fallow” state-owned parcels back into productive use in cities and towns, the Complete Streets program, and the LED streetlight program.
Dighton Board of Selectmen Chair John Taylor speaks with Trade Show exhibitor Robert Mercier of Municipal Resources at MMA Annual Meeting, Jan. 20.
He shared the administration’s pride in the collaborative nature of the state-local relationship. For example, he said a significant side benefit of the Community Compact program is that administration officials – typically Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, the program’s point person – hear directly from local officials all over the state about the challenges they are facing.
“There is no great Commonwealth without great cities and towns,” said Baker, a former selectman from Swampscott. “You do the really important work on the ground here in Massachusetts.”
The 2018 MMA Annual Meeting theme was “Together for a Stronger Future.” The event featured 26 workshops across the two days that explored topics ranging from climate change to municipal law and finance to preparing for recreational marijuana.
The Trade Show featured 208 exhibitors, including a number of environmental consulting, financial, energy and technology firms.
At the Women Elected Municipal Officials Luncheon, former Public Safety Secretary Andrea Cabral discussed the value women bring to elective office.
Due to the temporary federal government shutdown, U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey were stuck in Washington and unable to attend the MMA Annual Business Meeting on Jan. 20 as planned, but they recorded brief video messages.
Sen. Warren said she would work to repeal the cap on the state and local tax deduction imposed by the new federal tax overhaul, while fighting to protect Community Development Block Grants, Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants, block-granted Medicaid, and other funding sources slated for elimination under the president’s budget proposal. She also expressed concerns about the president’s transportation proposal, which is reportedly just a fraction of what was expected in federal dollars.
Markey pledged to protect the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds and said that cities and towns deserve a long-term budget resolution that provides predictability for the rest of the year. He said the brinkmanship of today needs to be replaced by bipartisan negotiations.
Dennis Lehane entertains local officials during Friday evening banquet at MMA Annual Meeting, Jan. 19.
He also highlighted the need for billions of dollars in federal aid to help cities and towns battle the opioid crisis.
“There has been not one nickel added to the budget for a year, and you know better than anyone because you see it on a daily basis, that this epidemic, this incredible scourge, is hitting more and more families in our Commonwealth,” he said. “We know that a vision without funding is a hallucination.”
During the closing session on Saturday, political analyst and columnist E.J. Dionne reflected on the current state of American politics. “We have to remember that the first word in our Constitution is ‘we,’” he said.
Friday dinner speaker Dennis Lehane, the author of 13 popular novels including “Mystic River” and “Gone, Baby, Gone,” shared stories from his youth as the son of immigrants in Dorchester and his lifetime of storytelling. To the delight of attendees, he took photos with them and signed copies of his books.
Local Beatles cover band Beatlejuice had Saturday night’s banquet crowd dancing and singing to cross-generational favorites.
“What a terrific way to kick off the year,” said MMA Executive Director Geoff Beckwith. “We had more attendees than ever before, and their energy and enthusiasm has given us fantastic momentum going into 2018. I want to thank our excellent staff for all their hard work, and I applaud our members for using the Annual Meeting to learn, network and continue their outstanding public service to the people of Massachusetts.”
Next year’s MMA Annual Meeting & Trade Show will be held on Jan. 18 and 19, 2019.