ABOUT THE REGION
The collaborative will initially represent the region of the 14 communities of Boston’s inner-core. The region is mostly urban with some suburban areas, and includes significant coastal areas. Many of these coastal areas lie at low sea-level, which is vulnerable to impacts of climate change. In addition to dangers of coastal flooding, several rivers run through the region, including the Charles, Mystic, and Neponset, which raises concerns about inland flooding. Additionally, because this is an older region, many of the buildings and infrastructure will require special attention as the area addresses adaptation concerns.
Although the collaborative consists of 14 communities, much of the infrastructure is shared. For instance, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority serves nearly all of the communities, and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority public transit system extends to all of the communities. Partially because of this shared infrastructure, it is crucial to plan regionally. The impact of ever-intensifying storms, such as hurricanes, is a growing concern. The region narrowly missed a direct hit from Hurricane Sandy. Had Sandy hit, the results would have been dire. Climate change means that this type of storm will be ever more likely.
Demographically, the region is generally diverse, but there are differences among the cities and towns. Boston is 53 percent non-white, Quincy is 24 percent Asian, Revere is 24 percent Hispanic or Latino, while Braintree is 94 percent Caucasian. The economy of the Boston region is generally strong, but there are less wealthy areas and significant economic diversity. The region includes a range in median household income, from Chelsea ($43,155) and Everett ($48,319) to Newton ($109,724) and Brookline ($97,250). Particularly in lower-income areas, extreme heat is a concern.
ABOUT THIS COLLABORATIVE
This regional climate collaborative is just starting out. The coming months are crucial for its development and longterm viability. Initially, the collaborative will consist of the municipal CEOs (mayors, town/city managers) that make up the Metro Mayors Coalition. Metro Mayors Coalition, formed in 2001, is a groundbreaking coalition of 14 mayors and town managers in the inner-core of the Metro Boston Region. It is a voluntary forum where members exchange information and create solutions to common problems. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), the regional planning agency for the 101 cities and towns of Metro Boston, helped to establish Metro Mayors Coalition, and provides staff support and financial administration. The municipal officials comprising the coalition represent over 1.3 million constituents. Metro Mayors has become an effective vehicle to address common issues confronting urban core governments and has made significant strides in overcoming the obstacles that hampered past attempts at inter-local cooperation. The coalition’s success demonstrates the tangible benefits achieved through collective action.
Through this coalition model and past successes in a variety of areas including municipal health insurance reform and transportation funding, Metro Mayors would like to create a climate resiliency collaborative, with a high-level, high-profile summit on climate adaptation to be held in the spring of 2015. This summit would bring together local, state, and national elected and appointed officials, academics, businesses, and others to discuss and commit to coordinated initiatives. This dialogue would lead to an intergovernmental working group on climate change adaptation. Many of these communities are eager to hit the ground running. The timing of this summit will coincide with the early stages of a new gubernatorial administration, and one year of Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s administration. The collaborative aims to work closely with both Mayor Walsh, an active member of Metro Mayors, and the new governor.
As the collaborative is just getting started, they are in the stages of identifying specific goals and objectives. The summit they are planning for Spring 2015 is intended to solidify the collaborative moving forward. Individual cities and towns have taken steps already and the collaborative will leverage the considerable interest, expertise, and political will into coordinated, concrete action.
PROMISING PRACTICES AND INNOVATIONS
The Metro Mayors Coalition, which will house the collaborative, is a unique group of municipal CEOs, facilitated by a regional planning agency. Some of Metro Mayors’ successes include:
- Hosting a forum to rally for increased transportation funds at South Station that drew more than 300 people and significant media attention. Metro Mayors was actively engaged in the transportation finance debate, which resulted in the legislature passing a major package of transportation reform and revenue ($600 million in additional funds annually, on average, over a five-year period).
- Actively engaging with the legislature and governor to pass municipal health insurance reform that is saving cities and towns $200 million per year while ensuring high-quality, low-cost health insurance to municipal employees.
- Establishing the Shannon Grant Community Safety Initiative and getting the program passed and funded by the legislature and governor. Shannon Grants require neighboring municipalities to work together to address gang violence, which does not recognize municipal boundaries. It also requires enforcement and prevention partners to collaborate to find regional solutions to gang and youth violence problems, as well as to provide programmatic opportunities to help local at-risk youth. There are two Shannon Grants within the coalition.
THE CHALLENGES AHEAD
The Boston team is eager to learn how best to set up and coordinate a climate adaptation collaborative, including learning from best practices in other regions. Massachusetts is a home-rule state with limited regional government, so the team is always eager to learn about other positive examples of productive collaboration among partners with no specific statutory authority. They would also like to learn more about strategies of working with partners in the business sector. The region has civilly-active business leadership and we believe working with them will make our efforts more effective. Finally, the collaborative is looking for ways to keep attention on these important issues, when more immediate and short-term crises can take the headlines.