Chamber News

October 14, 2020 Likes Comments

Charlie Baker said it again yesterday

 
The governor says same thing, over and over, each time he’s asked if there’s a need for stricter regulations on dining, shopping or even going to the office.
 
And he said he has the contact tracing reports from more than 100,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 to prove it.
 
“We keep track of those metrics every single day,” Baker said at a press conference. “People get that they’re supposed to wear a mask [when they go out to eat or shop]. They get the fact that they’re supposed to social distance. They get the fact that when they go to the store they’re supposed to wear a mask and they’re doing that. And it’s working.”
 
What’s not working is people, particularly young people, socializing at parties, informal gatherings or other unregulated places without masks and social distancing.
 
I’m glad the governor keeps emphasizing this.
 
But it would be even better if he’d direct the state to release industry specific contact tracing so the public could see the hard evidence as to what’s generally proven to be safe and what’s not.
 
And it would be even better see this same information strongly incorporated into the state’s $2 million buy local local campaign.
Louisiana, Vermont and Colorado all released contact tracing data by sector or occupation.
 
We would benefit from a similar mechanism in Massachusetts that tells consumers, employers and workers which parts of our economy have proven to be safe and which ones aren’t.
 
What has COVID meant to the building business?
 
A reminder to join our chamber’s real estate committee tomorrow (Thursday) at 10 a.m. for a Zoom conversation about how the pandemic is impacting commercial construction and design.
 
Our panel will cover many of the topics project managers and prospective tenants are thinking about right now as the think about adapting to the health protocols, scheduling, budgeting and more.
 
Parking spaces removed without advance notice
 
Businesses, residents and even some Newton City Councilors were caught by surprise last week when the city removed an estimated 200 parking spaces along Washington Street, without any apparent advance notice.
 
The unmetered spaces were removed from the Mass Pike side of Washington (from Chestnut Street in West Newton to Lowell Ave in Newtonville) and replaced with a one-way painted bike lane.
 
This was “done without any input from residents, businesses, the Traffic Council nor the City Council,” Councilor Andrea Kelley wrote in an email to constituents. She said the move was “justified as providing alternative commuting methods and safe ways to get children to school. They completed the painting of the bike lane all in one day.”
 
The move was not embraced by businesses who depend on the parking for their employees and customers and probably not by express bus commuters either who, for years, had been directed by the MBTA to park there. (Not to mention that most school kids aren’t biking to school these days; they’re engaged in remote learning.)
 
“This will have an immediate negative impact on our business,” writes one frustrated business owner. “We need it to be as easy as possible for a customer to visit our store, especially when already there are such major economic and public health obstacles to normal business,”
 
Jonathan Yeo, the city’s chief operating officer, told me last night that the parking will likely return. He said the removal of the parking was temporary; a trial for only a few months that can easily be repainted.
 
There will be a community meeting tomorrow (Thursday) from 6-8 p.m. to discuss the project. Join the meeting via Zoom here.
 
Today's three bullet points
  • Is Halloween canceled in your community? NBC10 Boston has a town-by-town guide to trick-or-treating.
  • Watertown is providing a second round of grants to its smallest, small businesses. Qualified business (five or fewer employees with medium/low income) can apply for up to $10,000. The first round of this program closed Sept. 25. Applications for round two are due Oct. 23. Details here or contact Gideon Schreiber at 617-972-6417.
  • The Overdue: Confronting Race and Racism in Newton series is hosting a talk by Richard Rothstein, author of “The Color of Law, A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” on Nov. 17. Attendees will come away with a deeper understanding of the systemic issues that contribute to housing inequities, particularly as Newton engages in a comprehensive review of its zoning codes. Register here.
Biz group warns of tax increases
 
One of the state's largest business groups is urging Beacon Hill lawmakers to take tax increases off the table as they consider how to put together a state budget that accounts for major declines in revenue, Matt Murphy at State House News reports.
 
Associated Industries of Massachusetts would rather dip into the state's $3.5 billion reserve fund, or even utilize low-interest borrowing to keep programs running and employees on the payroll as they wait for Congress to provide states with financial relief.
 
"Tax increases now would further destabilize businesses, many of which are already on the edge of collapse," wrote AIM President John Regan.
 
AIM noted that employers are contributing $1 billion to the state's new paid family and medical leave program and face a looming bill coming due next year from increased unemployment insurance rates due to the state's 11.3 percent unemployment rate.
 
On top of that, the state's minimum wage, currently at $12.75 per hour, increases automatically on Jan. 1 to $13.50.
 
Newton kid following in dad’s footsteps
 
Finally today, it was exciting to read in the Globe this morning that Newton native and former Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim will be “following in the footsteps of his late father, civil rights leader Lenny Zakim, by becoming a nonprofit leader.”
 
Josh’s dad (yes the guy the bridge is named after) was best known for his work with the Anti-Defamation League so its appropriate that Josh's new nonprofit, will focus on the civil rights fight of our time: affordable and workforce housing.
 
“My father was always talking about building coalitions from people of diverse backgrounds to achieve a common good, a common interest,” Josh tells the Globe’s Jon Chesto. “I try to live to that philosophy and will definitely bring that to this work.”
 
Be back tomorrow.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
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