MassINC and the Brookings Institution gently call them the "gateway" cities. They are places like New Bedford and Fall River, Holyoke and Lawrence, Pittsfield and Lowell — former mill towns that got left out when the factories closed, leaving poverty and unemployment and all the related social problems behind. With a new governor who was not cookie-cut from the Boston-centric Beacon Hill crowd and a lieutenant governor who was the mayor of Worcester — itself a gateway city--the public policy research organizations decided the time was right to release a study that shows just how badly these old working cities have been left to wither even as Boston and its wealthy suburbs bloomed as the manufacturing economy gave way to a "knowledge" economy driven by technology and research.... Want commuter rail to SouthCoast? Well, forget it because $14 billion or so is going to the Big Dig. Merge UMass Dartmouth and the Southern New England School of Law? Not going to happen because Suffolk University and the New England School of Law don't want it to happen.The paper's solution?
Organize what the Brookings Institution's Mark Muro calls a Gateway Cities Coalition that will represent the collective interests of all these old milltowns. Then invite their municipal leaders to a Gateway Cities Forum and hold it right in New Bedford/Fall River. Bring in not only the public policy experts... and help these cities define a Gateway Cities Agenda that will articulate our shared concerns and common demands.
Then present every state lawmaker and every candidate for statewide or federal office with that agenda and its associated legislation and notify each candidate that if they desire the support of those who live in or near these old cities, then they know what our expectations are. Therein is power — and enough to compete with greater Boston on equal or near-equal footing.
Sounds good to me. It's long since time that the brink cities across this state join together. Over at BMG, whether there's whole tons of validity in it or not, people are obviously angry and the state needs to do something to relax the mood. For several years, Boston has had more than it's fair share of resources toward improving the city - improvements that were necessarily. But, it's well past time that the state focus on giving other regions of the state what they need to improve and provide a high quality of life for its citizens. That means a train in New Bedford, subway in Lynn, public law school in Dartmouth and improvements that go beyond my scope in central and western Massachusetts.
It's up to making citizens across Massachusetts realize that they need to band together - not tear each other apart, a la that Mass Pike thread - if they want any major and necessary projects to happen in their city too. What happens in New Bedford really does matter in Springfield too in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.