Gov. Baker Discusses Aid to Communities, Touches on Politics

Salvatore N. Lupoli, chairman of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, Gov. Charlie Baker and Chamber President Joseph J. Bevilacqua. Lupoli noted Bevilacqua was recently honored by the U.S. Small Business Administration with its SBA District Director Award. (WHAV News photograph.)

Former Rep. Brian S. Dempsey.

While his talk touched on several serious matters (see separate story), including the opioid epidemic, Gov. Charles Baker took time out Wednesday night to touch on local politics.

His kindest comments during the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner were reserved for former state Rep. Brian S. Dempsey, who resigned this summer from the legislature.

“He did a very difficult job for a very long time. It’s hard to be the Ways and Means chair. You are constantly confronted with tradeoffs, all the time, every day.”

Baker told Dempsey, who was in attendance, “we miss having you around.”

One of the contenders to replace Dempsey, Republican Shaun P. Toohey, also got a shout out from the governor.

“I also wanted to say to my buddy Shaun Toohey, God bless and good luck and thank you for throwing your hat in the ring.”

Following Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s welcome, the governor took time to talk about his interests in working with communities. He explained he learned much about local needs when he was elected a selectman in the Town of Swampscott.

“If you want to create a great Commonwealth, you’ve got to create great communities from one end of Massachusetts to the other.”

That is why, Baker said, he created his Community Compact program. The compact provides a tech support, administrative assistance and bonus points to use when communities apply for state grants. Haverhill was one of the earliest cities to take advantage of the state program when it adopted its 311—one call to City Hall—help center.

Besides 311, the governor discussed how his administration has set aside more money for the MassWorks grants program—which saw Baker deliver $9 million last November for a second phase of Harbor Place, a riverfront restaurant and market rate housing. He said he also delivered $17 million to Haverhill in housing tax credits—something, he remarked, Fiorentini had lobbied for when Baker visited the city as a candidate for governor.

Baker said he also spearheaded the municipal modernization act, which removed, what he called, “pain in the neck state laws.” He said the Massachusetts Municipal Association called it the “single biggest change in municipal law in 50 years.”

He also boasted local school spending is up $375 million over the past three years—now totaling $4.6 billion. He said this is the sixth year in a row Massachusetts ranks number one nationally in education. The state has a 89 percent graduation rate and a 2% drop-out rate. He jokingly stopped short of higher aspirations when comparing the state to the world.

“If we were a country, in math, English and science, we’d be a top 10 player. Of course, we’re not a country. That be kind of cool. Then, I get to be a king,” he said to applause.

Baker pointed to the City of Lawrence starting an early college program. He said 200 high school students there will be able to earn college credits from Northern Essex Community College. The college’s president, Lane A. Glenn, was in attendance to receive the Chamber’s Ralph B. Wilkinson Good Citizenship Award.

4 thoughts on “Gov. Baker Discusses Aid to Communities, Touches on Politics

  1. Interesting that it was the Merrimack Valley Chamber holding this event. Where was the Haverhill Chamber? Mustn’t of been a big enough beer bash for them.

  2. Imagine how much better Haverhill schools could be if taxpayers didn’t get stuck paying over $13MILLION EVERY year to educate the children of parents illegally trespassing in this country and living in the city?

    Imagine how many more jobs would be available to millennials if Lane Glenn didn’t set up a program with community colleges in the Dominican Republic to support residents of that country in the USA illegally to get degrees at NECC?

    Imagine how much lower tuition would be for UMass students if they weren’t stuck paying off Harbor Place and lining the Fish Family’s pockets?

    Imagine if Joe Bevilacqua had to get a real job?