‘Millionaire’s Tax’ Money Brings Extra Road and Sidewalk Money to Haverhill, Other Communities

Haverhill and area communities are receiving big boosts in state aid for roadway and transportation projects with additional money coming from last year’s voter-approved “Fair Share” amendment, commonly known as the “millionaire’s tax.”

Haverhill, which already receives about $1.5 million from the state in road aid—known as “Chapter 90”—is set to receive another $769,765 from the $100 million statewide allocation. Gov. Maura Healey said Friday in a press release the state is not putting any strings on the money. “This funding is particularly impactful because we are empowering cities and towns to decide how to use it to address their unique needs. We are grateful to the legislature for making this funding available and look forward to seeing how the municipalities will use it to strengthen their communities,” she said. Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini told WHAV Saturday morning that while he is pleased the city is receiving the extra money, he would have preferred the state to make the allocation an ongoing part of the Chapter 90 formula.

Supplemental State Budget Provides $15 Million in Local Disaster Aid Sought by Finegold, Payano

Disaster aid coming to area communities impacted by last summer’s flooding was among the benefits coming from last week’s final approval of a $3.1 billion state supplemental budget. As WHAV reported last month, Sens. Barry R. Finegold and Pavel M. Payano thanked their colleagues for supporting $15 million in aid for local communities, but the amount was held in limbo when legislators debated a separate provision putting $250 million more into the state’s strained emergency shelter system. “I’m thankful for the $15 million earmarked for municipalities affected by storms and natural disasters in 2023, offering crucial support to communities grappling with the aftermath of heavy rainfall and flooding. My heartfelt thanks also go to Sen. Finegold, Senate (Minority Leader Bruce E.) Tarr and Sen. (John J.) Cronin for their steadfast advocacy in response to these disasters,” Payano said in a statement.

State Awards $15,000 to Haverhill’s Riverfront Cultural District

Haverhill’s Riverfront Cultural District was one of 54 areas awarded state grants last week to “encourage the development and success of the cultural districts and foster local cultural preservation.”

The Riverfront Cultural District, which covers Washington and Wingate Streets in downtown Haverhill, is administered by Creative Haverhill. It received $15,000 during a ceremony by the Massachusetts Cultural Council at Gloucester Stage Company. The grants are intended to encourage the development and success of the cultural districts and foster local cultural preservation. “Using creativity as a foundation, our cultural districts have proven themselves as drivers of economic activity within communities,” said Massachusetts Cultural Council Executive Director Michael J. Bobbitt. “With this investment, we’re not only supporting the creative and cultural sector, but the communities that host cultural districts as they continue to leverage their unique character to attract visitors and support economic growth.”

Cultural Districts may use the money for marketing and promotion; capacity building, artist or vendor fees, creative community placemaking or public art, collaborative cultural policy or strategic planning and data collection and/or reporting.

Brothers in Arms Men’s Support Circle Wins $40,000 State Restorative Justice Grant

Lawrence-based Brothers in Arms Men’s Support Circle was one of 13 community organizations sharing last week in $380,000 in state grants to support restorative justice programming. Brothers in Arms Men’s Support Circle was awarded about $40,000 from the Commonwealth Restorative Justice Community Grant Program. “Restorative Justice practices can help those who have experienced harm and those who have caused it on their journeys toward healing and accountability. This grant program allows us to invest in community-based service providers as they deliver programming tailored to the needs of the communities they serve,” said Gov. Maura Healey. The Lawrence group is described as “volunteer-based” designed to “provide local men with mindful tools, awareness and peer support that help (participants) become the fathers, husbands, brothers, neighbors, friends and leaders our communities need.”

Grants were awarded through a competitive application process.

Merrimack Valley Area Gains Jobs While State Sees Overall Seasonal Drop in October

The Merrimack Valley area, including Haverhill, Methuen and Lawrence, gained the highest percentage of jobs last month, while there was a slight overall drop statewide. The revised job report shows a statewide seasonally adjusted preliminary jobs estimate decrease of 800 jobs in October, but an over-the-year gain of 77,100 jobs. Of the 15 areas for which employment estimates are published, 13 areas gained jobs compared to the previous month. The largest percentage increases occurred in the Haverhill-Newburyport-Amesbury statistical area at 1.6%; Lawrence-Methuen-Salem, 1.1%, and Peabody-Salem-Beverly, 1%. From October 2022 to October 2023, 14 areas gained jobs.

DiZoglio Effort to Force Audit of Legislature Advances with Report of Collecting 100,000 Signatures

Chris Lisinski, State House News Service. State Auditor Diana DiZoglio and her hodgepodge of political allies took a major step toward asking voters for the authority to probe the legislature, announcing they gathered enough signatures to remain on track for a 2024 ballot question. The ballot question campaign backed by the Methuen Democrat said this week it collected signatures from more than 100,000 registered voters, significantly more than the 74,574 certified signatures required to be filed with local election officials by the end of the day Wednesday. “Our campaign resonates with the people of Massachusetts because they want our leaders to fix the numerous, simultaneous crises our Commonwealth is facing—whether that’s in housing, healthcare, transportation, mental health, addiction or others,” DiZoglio said in a statement circulated by the ballot question campaign. “Beacon Hill cannot continue its closed-door, opaque operations with so much at stake.

Democratic Party Insiders Back DiZoglio’s Quest to Audit Legislature

Party insiders are bucking Beacon Hill’s Democratic leadership in backing Auditor Diana DiZoglio’s quest to audit the legislature, including any court action required to achieve the goal. The Democratic State Committee on a unanimous voice vote accepted a resolution last Wednesday night backing the Methuen Democrat’s efforts to hold the legislature accountable. The resolution states the party “endorses the state auditor’s initiatives, including any necessary legal action against any impediments to their audit efforts.”

For months, House Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen E. Spilka have resisted DiZoglio’s audit attempts, arguing she lacks the authority under state law—and that the information she’s seeking is available for public review or is already audited by other entities. The diverse committee is composed of 400 Democrats from throughout the state, and about half participated in the hybrid meeting held at First Parish Dorchester, a MassDems spokesman said. Under party rules, members are not required to disclose conflicts of interests ahead of voting because resolutions are non-binding, the spokesman said.

Sens. Finegold and Payano Praise Addition of $15 Million for Storm-Damage Aid in Budget

State Sens. Barry R. Finegold and Pavel Payano Tuesday night thanked their colleagues for advancing a supplemental budget that includes $15 million in aid for local communities still reeling from this summer’s storm damage. Senators voted 36-3 to approve the amount as part of a roughly $2.8 billion supplemental budget bill that comes in the final hours of this season’s formal session. Holding up approval was debate over putting $250 million more into the state’s strained emergency shelter system. Payano said, “This year, we saw heavy rainfalls and flooding have a disastrous impact on communities across the state.