From the Beacon, January 2023

The calendar has turned another page, as it inevitably does, ushering in a new year filled with new promise, enduring challenges, and the steady drumbeat of change.

The work of government is frequently described as “three yards and a cloud of dust,” meaning that forward progress requires a lot of steady effort and teamwork, and large, easy gains are pretty rare. That’s the way the founders intended our public systems to work, putting in place checks and balances, and giving voters a regular say in who is on the field.

As we enter another January (my 31st at the MMA), I feel the same level of excitement and enthusiasm that every new year brings. Cities and towns are striving to address current challenges, focusing on the best ways to make progress on the critical issues of the moment, and looking ahead to identify new questions and problems that will need attention downfield. Thousands of elected and appointed municipal officials are doing this all at once, and the energy generated by this dedication to advancing and improving our communities is palpable and contagious (in a very good way).

The MMA has worked to set an ambitious agenda for the coming year, designed to address the most pressing issues that communities face. The MMA Board of Directors convened this fall to set a number of key priorities, which I shared with you in my December column. These issues cover a wide range of major concerns, including revenue sharing and Chapter 70 school funding, municipal infrastructure, municipal workforce recruitment and training, increased education funding beyond the Student Opportunity Act, housing and zoning, and addressing rising incivility at the community level.

Providing a deeper dive on fiscal 2024 funding priorities, the MMA has provided the Healey-Driscoll administration with a detailed outline of the central budget needs for cities and towns, including revenue sharing (Unrestricted General Government Aid), a wide range of school and municipal funding needs, and the need for early and enhanced Chapter 90 funding for local roads. These budget priorities have been set to provide communities in all parts of the state with the resources necessary to provide world-class municipal and education services to 7 million residents and tens of thousands of businesses.

2023 is also ushering in a very big change at the State House, with Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito departing after eight years of partnership with cities, towns, and the Legislature. Local leaders are deeply grateful for the very close working relationship they enjoyed with the Baker-Polito administration, and are equally excited by the opportunity to forge a powerful and fruitful relationship and partnership with Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll. We know the state-local partnership will be outstanding, because these two leaders have demonstrated their positive and collaborative leadership style time and again during their service as attorney general and mayor.

This past fall, the MMA outlined 10 partnership principles that build a strong state-local partnership, and we are fully confident that these will thrive under the Healey-Driscoll administration, from the very first day they take office.

Just 15 days into their new administration, Gov. Healey and Lt. Gov. Driscoll will be joining more than 1,000 local officials from across Massachusetts at the MMA’s 44th Annual Meeting & Trade Show in Boston. Gov. Healey will be speaking at our opening session on Friday, Jan. 20, and Lt. Gov. Driscoll is the featured speaker at our WEMO luncheon on Friday, and will also provide remarks at our Saturday business meeting.

We hold the MMA’s annual conference in January so that we can start the new year off with energy, aligned on an agenda to help all 351 of our cherished communities thrive. This year’s theme is “Connect, Engage, Be Inspired,” because that’s what happens when more than 1,000 leaders get in the same room to talk about their common cause and passion to build strong hometowns everywhere. If you haven’t registered for the meeting, please do so right away, as you’ll want to be there to connect, engage, and be inspired by the new administration, and by your colleagues from across the state.

I look forward to seeing you at our Annual Meeting, as we usher in a new year filled with new promise, explore ways to address enduring and emerging challenges, and harness all the opportunities that change can bring.

Written by Geoff Beckwith, MMA Executive Director & CEO