From the local headlines:

Source: Jack Foley, Herald News (at http://www.heraldnews.com/topstories/x2086542615/Fall-River-Housing-Authority-approves-plan-to-revamp-Watuppa-Heights)

October unemployment figures

The good news? Unemployment is down in New Bedford and Fall River. The bad news?  These cities still have the second and third highest unemployment rates in the state, with New Bedford’s at 12.2% and Fall River’s at 12%. Lawrence continues to hold the bottom spot with a 15% unemployment rate. Here’s how the Gateway Cities look based on the October 2011 numbers:

Source: MA Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

Federal budget watch

Unsurprisingly, this will be a lean year for federal grant programs, if they continue to exist as well. The Obama administration’s neighborhood revitalization initiatives are of particular interest to the Urban Initiative, since these programs have given major boosts to some of the country’s toughest urban communities while contributing to the knowledge base of what works. Choice Neighborhoods has squeaked through with $120 million, almost double the $65m allocated last year. Promise Neighborhoods has a still uncertain future–the program based on the Harlem Children’s Zone was allotted $60m by the Senate Appropriations Committee, while their counterparts in the House recommended zero funding. Stay tuned to the United Neighborhood Centers of America”s great Building Neighborhoods blog, which provides great updates on the status of these programs.

Meanwhile, HUD’s Sustainable Communities program has been axed, despite its ability to promote regional conversations about transportation, livability, growth, and civic engagement. Another transit loss is funding for high speed rail. However, the TIGER program made it through: $500m was approved to fund transit projects that support economic recovery. New Bedford benefited from this project in 2010, using TIGER funds to replace railroad bridges throughout the city to advance the prospect of South Coast Rail. Read more about the status of transit funds at Transportation for America’s website.

Gov. Patrick’s education goals focus on Gateway City needs

Governor Deval Patrick announced a “renewed education strategy” today that places much-needed emphasis on the state’s Gateway Cities.* The plan is centered around four goals:

“1) getting every child to reading proficiency by the third grade;

(2) providing every child with a healthy platform for education;

(3) creating a differentiated education system that meets each student, particularly English Language Learners, where they are; and

(4) preparing all students for college and career success.”

To help Gateway Cities achieve the first goal, Gov. Patrick will establish a “Kindergarten Readiness Literacy Pilot Program” in these cities to provide intensive preparation for “at-risk” students during the summer before entering Kindergarten.

A “healthy platform for education” will be created through the creation of Student Support Councils and Counselors to address non-academic needs of Gateway City students and parents.

The third goal will be addressed through the Gateway Cities Summer English Learning Program that will provide intensive ELL support between school years.

Finally, career academies at Gateway City high schools are proposed to promote career and college readiness.

It will be interesting to see the plan, outlined in this press release, in greater detail to understand what implementation will look like and how its success will be evaluated. Nevertheless, it’s great to know that our smaller industrial cities will be getting some much needed attention, particularly in the areas of early literacy, ELL, and wraparound support.

 

*In this case, that means Brockton, Chelsea, Chicopee, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, Lynn, Malden, Methuen, New Bedford, Pittsfield, Quincy, Revere, Salem, Springfield, Taunton, Westfield and Worcester, according to the State House News Service.

I Wish This Was

New Orleans artist Candy Chang created this project to engage city residents in a conversation about what to do with vacant storefronts. Read more about this innovative project here, and see the sticker for yourself below. Better yet, buy the sticker and start the conversation in your own community!

Source: http://candychang.com/i-wish-this-was/

This sounds a lot like a conversation my husband and I have when walking around our New Bedford neighborhood (our conclusions are almost always a bakery or a Jewish deli). But the idea of putting those ideas on a sticker is quite appealing, especially because the stickers are designed for easy removal by the person who puts those ideas into action.