Expanding Financial Support in Gateway Cities
Massachusetts legislators urged to expand financial support of aging urban centers in gateway cities
As the first speaker, Springfield MayorDomenic J. Sarno said his city is grappling with economic and social problems common to many of the 26 designated gateway cities.
Springfield needs to diversify its economy, build more market-rate housing and attract younger professionals to downtown, the mayor said.
Currently, 90 percent of Springfield’s downtown housing is subsidized, and the city has a disproportionate share of resettled refugees, placing a burden on city services already strained by state and federal budget cuts.
“You can’t just keep piling poverty on top of poverty,” Sarno said, adding that cutbacks in social programs hurt Springfield more than suburban and rural communities. “As Springfield goes, so goes the region,” he added.
The Gateway Cities are: Springfield, Holyoke, Chicopee, Westfield, Pittsfield, Attleboro, Barnstable, Lawrence, Quincy, Brockton, Leominster, Revere, Chelsea, Lowell, Salem, Lynn, Everett, Malden, Taunton, Fall River, Methuen, Fitchburg, New Bedford, Worcester, Haverhill and Peabody.
The hearing was led by state Senator Gale D. Candaras, D-Wilbraham, and Rep.Joseph F. Wagner, D-Chicopee, co-chairs of the Legislature’s joint committee on economic development and emerging technologies.
Speakers offered views on 13 separate bills on everything from rail trails and privacy of health records to creation of a special commission on young professionals.
But most of the testimony centered on a bill providing financial assistance to Gateway Cities through funding increases, tax credits and a development fund.
Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash said many of the 26 Gateway Cities are struggling to create new businesses to replace their lost manufacturing and industrial base.
He said providing new economic assistance and incentives to the Gateway Cities will build on progress made the past few years.
“There’s a bright future for the Gateway Cities because we are working together,” he added.
Committee member Rep. Aaron M. Vega, D-Holyoke, said rebuilding older urban cities is an investment in the overall state economy.
“If we get this help (now), we’re going to need less in the long run,” he said.
Both Candaras and Wagner thanked each speaker and asked them to submit written comments for review by committee members.
Wagner said the message was clear, but also noted the many demands on the Legislature for new funding.
“We get it. And we’ll try to provide the assistance that my community and many other communities need,” he said.