Chamber News

Needham / Newton
November 17, 2020 Likes Comments

Your vaccine awaits and so do MBTA cuts

This fall and winter will challenge us in ways we’ve never experienced. More loss of lives. More loss of businesses. More loss of jobs.

And yet there’s optimism today too, following vaccine trial news from Moderna and similar news last week from Pfizer.
 
Dr. Anthony Fauci said this week that the nation could return to "relative normal" in "the second and third quarter" of 2021.
 
Which just happens to be when the MBTA's proposed $128 million MBTA service and capital funding cuts would take effect.
 
The cuts would end bus and subway service at midnight, reduce subway frequency by approximately 20 percent, and eliminate weekend commuter rail service. Multiple local bus routes, including routes in our communities, will end or merge.
 
At best, cutting public transportation slows our recovery. At worst, it accelerates the health crisis by making public transit less safe.
 
And while the T is right to prioritize service in under-served communities, the cuts will make it harder for our workers to get to and from jobs here. (Prior to the pandemic, 85 percent of Newton residents left the city each day to go to work while 89 percent of our workforce commuted in.)
 
"It will undermine our environmental goals, our ability to reduce congestion and the promise of transit oriented housing, retail, restaurants and offices," Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said of the T's plan. "Without frequent public transit, reviving the economy becomes even more difficult. We need the MBTA to provide more service, not less.”
 
The MBTA is holding a virtual public meeting to collect input from our region tonight (Tuesday) at 6 p.m. Go here to register. There’s also an upcoming systemwide virtual meeting for all affected communities on Thursday (Nov. 19) at 6.m. Go here to register.
 
And, you can share your concerns with the MBTA by completing this survey before Dec 4.
 
Mayor, City Council does businesses a solid
 
The Newton City Council voted last night to give business a break in the form of a smaller-than-typical commercial property tax increase.
 
Rather than what would have become $952 annual tax bump for the median commercial property under the city's traditional tax levy split, the council voted for a median increase of $595 on commercial properties.
 
This is the first time in memory that Newton did not adopt a commercial levy at the maximum 175 percent shift. The decision followed a lengthy discussion last night where councilors expressed concerns for restaurants, retailers and other business owners. Ultimately they chose a 172 percent shift. ( Page 22 here)
 
Mayor Fuller also signaled she supported the action.
 
The chamber is grateful to the council and mayor for their consideration of the challenges facing our commercial tenants.
 
Today’s three need-to-knows
  • MA Small Business Development Center offers free and confidential one-to-one business advice to prospective and existing small businesses focusing on, business growth and strategies, financing and loan assistance as well as strategic, marketing and operational analysis. In addition, low-cost educational training programs are offered across the state targeted to the needs of small business.
  • Looking for Thanksgiving dinner options now that you won’t be going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house? We’ve created a directory of area restaurants offering dining or a special takeout menu on Thanksgiving. Get your orders in ASAP.
  • 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” tonight (Tuesday). 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.
That’s a lot of masks!
 
Two million and counting.
 
That’s how many masks the Needham-based chamber member Rafi Nova reported making as of last month, according to this report on NBC10.
 
Marissa and Adam Goldstein launched their company in February 2020 with ethically sourced products bags, pouches and fanny packs until the pandemic hit one month later.
 
It wasn’t until one of their four-year-old daughters suggested making masks that the husband-and-wife dreamed up what would become a fruitful pivot.
 
Then in August, they partnered with deaf actor Millie Simmonds (“A Quiet Place”) to launch their smile mask, which offers a clear cut-out to allow for lip reading.
 
Drivers license bill gains interest
 
Legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a drivers license has been kicking around Beacon Hill for years.
 
But the pandemic may provide advocates with added arguments for Massachusetts to follow the lead of 15 other states and D.C., including Connecticut, New York and Vermont.
 
“Hailed as heroes during the pandemic, essential workers have cared for the elderly in nursing homes and kept food supplies going from farms to supermarkets,” reports Chris Burrell for WGBH. “But thousands of these workers in Massachusetts are also undocumented immigrants facing a hard choice — risk driving illegally to keep these essential jobs, or stop working.”
 
For the rest of us, more unlicensed drivers on the road means more untrained drivers and uninsured vehicles on our roads.
 
“In any of the states that have passed this, the sky has not fallen,” Sen. Brendan Crighton, a sponsor of a bill to change the law recently told the Globe. “They’ve seen increased road safety. They’ve seen economic benefits. The time for action is now given the pandemic.”
 
Incoming, outgoing and fighting the good fight
 
Nothing makes me happier than to report on new businesses openings, except when there’s also chocolate or fried chicken involved.
  • Cacao, the Jamaica Plan based maker of chocolates, truffles, assorted chocolates and roasted nuts just opened a second store at 23 Lincoln St. in Newton Highlands (also home to Indulge, making the Highlands, Newton’s must-stop destination for sweet teeth).
  • And in Watertown, Boston Restaurant Talk is reporting that Buttermilk & Bourbon plans to open at Arsenal Yards. It’s a second location for the Southern-influenced restaurant which has a Back Bay address and a menu featuring biscuits, pork belly, fried chicken and, yes, bourbon.
  • And in Watertown, the owners of Deluxe Town Diner are trying raise $100,000 through GoFindMe keep the Coolidge Square institution afloat, reports Watertown News. Donors who give $100 or more will get a gift card worth $110 to used at the diner. As of Monday, more than $29,000 had been raised. Go here to donate.
Proposal would fund extra COVID PTO
 
The state Senate will consider an amendment to the budget providing all Massachusetts workers access to paid sick time if they are diagnosed with or quarantining due to COVID-19, State House News reports.
 
The emergency paid sick time amendment would allow workers not covered by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act to access an additional 10 paid sick days for immediate use during the pandemic.
 
The employee would be paid by their employer at their usual rate, with a maximum of $850 per week or $1,700 total.
 
Employers would be fully reimbursed by the state, through a trust fund that would be seeded with $55 million through the budget amendment.
 
On one hand. On the other hand
 
Now sure what to make of these two headlines:
Be back tomorrow . Dine out. Take out. Shop locally. Mask up. And tip generously
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

 

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