Op-eds:

December 8, 2017
By

How we’re supporting small businesses during the holidays

By Mayor Martin Walsh

I grew up in a neighborhood of hardworking families, where everything seemed within reach. It was thanks in large part to our incredible small and local businesses. For years, these local landmarks have carried on the traditions of my neighborhood, and generated the prosperity that’s helping Dorchester thrive to this day.

I know my experience was not unique. Small businesses are the lifeblood of all Boston’s neighborhoods. They hire locally; they reflect our rich diversity of cultures and languages; and they care deeply about being good neighbors. Boston’s 40,000 small businesses are also vital to our economy: they account for more than a third of business revenue, and nearly half of all private-sector employment. They are economic and cultural resources that keep Boston running strong.

Boston’s local entrepreneurs work hard every day of the year—but the holiday season is especially important. Often times, it accounts for as much as 40 percent of their yearly sales. That’s why my team and I are committed to making sure the holidays are a time when local businesses can truly shine.

This holiday season, we’re doubling down on our efforts to help all of these businesses have their best holiday season yet.

We’re introducing a shuttle that allows people to do their shopping while Main Street hopping. The Main Streets Explorer is a free shuttle that will circulate between the Roslindale Village, West Roxbury, and Hyde Park Main Street Districts, making it easier to explore more great businesses and great neighborhoods. This new pilot program will operate on Thursday evenings this December. Learn more at boston.gov/explorer.

The Boston Main Streets Foundation is rolling out a one-stop online portal for local shopping options. A brand new website (bostonmainstreets.org) compiles all the information you need about Boston’s 20 Main Street Districts. It’s got great district-specific information like business directories, maps, and upcoming events.

I’m challenging everyone to participate in the Mayor’s #LetsAllShopSmall Campaign, and to make their list, check it twice, and then head to their local Main Street District to cross off their items one by one. The goal is to purchase items, dine out, or attend events at small and local businesses, snap photos, and then post them to social media with the hashtag #LetsAllShopSmall. It’s a great way to support local businesses, explore your community in a new way… and maybe even get your shopping done early this year!

These initiatives are in addition to the work already underway, including a Small Business Center where residents can learn the skills that will help them start, maintain, and grow their business; capital loans that are within reach for entrepreneurs; a Business Capital and Finance Unit to expand access to loans; on-site technical assistance; and more.

We know that while their operations may be small, small businesses play a big role in keeping communities strong over many generations. I thought back to the holidays when I was growing up — local businesses would decorate their storefronts, donate to local fundraisers and have sales where kids like me could afford to get something nice for our loved ones. I’m proud that now I’m able to help them thrive all year long. I can’t think of a better return on investment than that.

For more information on how you can support your local Main Street District, please visit bostonmainstreets.org.

A call for carbon pricing in Massachusetts

By Emma McGrath

Two thousand seventeen has been a challenging year for the environment and those who work to protect it. This year, the United States withdrew from the Paris Agreement, making us the only country on earth to do so. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Donald Trump has moved to repeal the Clean Power Plan, scrubbed its website of all references to climate change and silenced the voices of climate scientists when they are needed most.

To make matters worse, after three years of plateau, levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — the driving force behind climate change — are expected to rise once again.

As a young American and Jamaica Plain resident working in the environmental sector, the actions of our federal government on these issues concern me deeply. It is times like these that I feel particularly grateful to live in Massachusetts, a historic trailblazer on matters of social justice and a national leader on climate policy.

Now more than ever, Massachusetts has a unique opportunity to serve as a living example for the rest of the nation. When the Commonwealth adopted the Global Warming Solutions Act in 2008, we committed to a 25 percent reduction of CO2 emissions from 1990 levels by 2020, and an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

If we intend to fulfill these commitments, we need increasingly bold action from the State House. And the boldest, most effective solution we have to our climate challenges is to put a price on carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels.

Pending legislation currently moving through the State House could put in place a fair, revenue-neutral carbon price designed to charge big polluters and return the money to people and local businesses. Under the legislation, most low- and moderate-income Massachusetts residents and small businesses would receive more money in rebates than they paid in carbon fees.

The renewable energy sector in the Commonwealth is thriving. Solar is booming, wind is growing, and our leaders are exploring new ways to incorporate hydropower and organics-to-energy programs into our energy portfolio.

But these technologies are designed for the electricity sector, which already has a carbon price via the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an emissions-reduction program covering all the northeast states. In Massachusetts, close to three quarters of our emissions come from transportation and heating. Carbon pricing legislation would include these two dominant sectors. The funds raised by the measure could also create revenue for green infrastructure and energy efficiency programs, enabling a positive feedback loop of sustainability.

Carbon pricing, at its core, accounts for the undeniable truth that pollution isn’t priceless; it has wide-ranging effects on public health, on our natural resources, and on everyday people whose homes and businesses are threatened by extreme weather. In the wake of Hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey, we are seeing firsthand the personal and economic effects of climate change. Grave environmental risks are no longer mere possibilities. They are happening right in our backyard, to our friends and neighbors.

The people of Jamaica Plain have a lot to be proud of, especially their commitment to activism and social justice. The chorus of voices both inside and outside of the environmental community grows louder each day: we need a price on carbon if we want to reduce emissions effectively over the long term.

To slow the pace of climate change, it’s time polluters paid their fair share. The people and local businesses of Massachusetts deserve nothing less.

Emma McGrath is the Communications Fellow at the Boston-based Climate Action Business Association.

 

 

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