From the Beacon, March 2019

It’s hard to believe, but six weeks have passed since the MMA’s record-breaking Annual Meeting. Fortunately, our conference gave us a very fast start as we look to tackle the challenging and exciting year ahead.

2019 will be challenging because Massachusetts has a stable economy here at home, yet we are experiencing a great deal of volatility in tax collections, uncertainty at the national level, and mounting investment challenges in education, infrastructure and municipal services. Questions surrounding municipal and state finances will only be answered over time. In the meantime, we are living in a “new normal,” where it is persistently unclear how local and state governments can match the rising cost of delivering high-quality services to residents. Every community, from the smallest town to the largest city, is confronting difficult choices and hard decisions.
2019 will be exciting, because in challenging times, committed and passionate municipal leaders can make the greatest difference, add the most value, and help each other and all communities succeed and build a stronger future. We have key priorities to overhaul and increase K-12 education funding, boost road and transportation resources, and enhance local management and decision-making authority. These will not be easily won, but they will make a huge difference in building a stronger Commonwealth.

Our elected and appointed municipal leaders and employees are also working very hard to foster civility in our city and town halls, encouraging their neighbors to be engaged in their hometown government. But this is in the context of what seems to be a constant maelstrom of ill will on the national stage. Many people are baffled that these two realities – engagement locally and polarization nationally – can exist at the same time. I truly believe that local government – hometown government – can show our nation how to come together and make government work for citizens.

Community building transcends the borders of any one municipality, and that’s why the MMA was established 40 years ago – because the fundamental truth is that we all have a stake in each other’s future.

Sometimes this truth is revealed when we least expect it – for example, during a vacation several thousand miles away.

This past summer, my family and I were in Alaska for a couple of weeks, and we were visiting the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage. It’s a fabulous and rich place that shares the history of how the very first Americans managed to survive and flourish in the most extreme of conditions.

The exhibit that had the greatest impact on me was by the Alaska Native Knowledge Network, which identified the 10 Universal Values of Alaskan natives, values that still guide their Native American tribes and customs today. I believe they are the universal values of community building, and are necessary for a civil and just society. When I reflect on them, I am inspired, because I see these Alaskan native values at work every day here in Massachusetts, in the elected officials, municipal professionals, and volunteers who lead our towns and cities.

I encourage you to review and reflect on the 10 Universal Values of Alaskan Natives, and see which ones resonate deeply with you:
Show Respect to Others: Each person has a special gift.

Share What You Have: Giving makes you richer.
Know Who You Are: You are a reflection of your family.
Accept What Life Brings: You cannot control many things.
Have Patience: Some things cannot be rushed.
Live Carefully: What you do will come back to you.
Take Care of Others: You cannot live without them.
Honor Your Elders: They show you the way in life.
Pray for Guidance: Many things are not known.
See Connections: All things are related.

These are not merely individual values to guide our lives, they are attributes and actions that build strong families, neighborhoods, communities and nations. I see these values come alive when local leaders devote countless hours working to make their hometowns better.

As we move forward, the MMA will be right by your side all year, working hard, fostering an agenda for investment, economic recovery, community unity, and, when necessary, making our own good fortune instead of simply waiting for it to come to us. The successes we win together will come from our collective efforts to plan, organize and push.

On behalf of all of us on the MMA staff, I want to thank the municipal leaders of Massachusetts for making our work so rewarding, so challenging, and so inspiring. All we need to do is look at the talent, passion and devotion that you bring to public service, and we know there is nothing we would rather do than advance your great work.

Public service requires a lot of time, patience, love, and support. If we use these 10 Universal Values as a guide for our actions, how can 2019 be anything less than great for our communities?

Written by Geoff Beckwith, MMA Executive Director & CEO