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Be inspired, be afraid, laugh (it's free)

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Be inspired, be afraid, laugh (it's free)

It’s possible we’ll look back upon this week as a milestone toward addressing our state’s severe housing shortage.

Or, it will go down as yet another squandered attempt.

One day after sounding the alarm about our inability to shelter our growing migrant population, Gov. Maura Healey unveiled her ambitious $4 billion five-year housing bond bill.

It includes 28 policy proposals and combined with her just passed tax relief bill aims to create more than 40,000 new homes, including 22,000 for low-income households and 12,000 for middle-income households.

Globe editors rushed to gush in support, which can only be helpful. And it's heartening to see both the editorial page's, newsroom's and Spotlight Team's laser focus on this crisis, while Shirley Leung raises some questions here.

The bill also gained quick support from an impressive list of business leaders, housing activists and faith leaders (check out the many, many early endorsements at the second half of this release) who recognize the need to collaborate and compromise to make Massachusetts more competitive and welcoming.

Of course, as we’ve learned after so many years of "I support housing just not this housing;" after so many years of lawmakers running out the clock; after so many years of inertia; this won't be easy.

It never is.

It’s going to take a full-fledged, fully-committed coalition of many stakeholders to get Massachusetts building.

Be inspired, be afraid, have a few laughs and a drink with us next Thursday 

Larry Gennari, curator and moderator of the annual Authors and Innovators: Business Idea Festival, has a knack for finding thought-provoking, entertaining and inspiring authors.

The finale event next Thursday (Oct. 26) at Watertown’s awesome Mosesian Center for the Arts boasts all three. Here’s who you'll hear from:

  • AI technology and availability is exploding – but the pace of innovation brings implications for our businesses and our privacy. What don’t we know? How do we put in place guardrails to protect our privacy while harnessing the power of technology? Those big questions are tackled by New York Times reporter Kashmir Hill, author of "Your Face Belongs to Us." Check out this Storyteller’s Studio feature for a fascinating overview.

  • On a less ominous note, explore the role of comedy both in the workplace and as cultural commentary with Saul Austerlitz, Clayton Fletcher, Steve Cody Fletcher (a NY-based standup) and Cody have penned "The ROI of LOL" on the importance of laughter and humor for healthy workplaces. Austerlitz’s "Kind of a Big Deal" chronicles the history of the movie "Anchorman." With interviews with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, Austerlitz is sure to have some good stories.
  • Closing out the program will be Ron Shaich. A Brookline resident, Shaich founded Panera Bread and basically invented the fast-casual restaurant concept. He’s also a lead investor in Cava, Tatte and Level99 and shares insights, stories and best practices on leadership, entrepreneurship and management in his new book, "Knowing What Matters," was featured on Inc’s 5 New Books You Should Read That You Won’t Find in Business School

While there's a virtual option (and great events at Wellesley Books next Tuesday and Wednesday), join us in person for cocktails, small bites and prizes (free books!). But really, come to engage, brainstorm and be inspired.

Oh, and it's free.


Merchants hoping for debit card fee relief

In a move that could save restaurants, retailers and other small businesses billions of dollars annually, the Federal Reserve is expected to vote next week on a proposal to lower the fees banks can charge retailers for processing debit-card transactions.
Merchants currently pay large card issuers 21 cents plus 0.05% of the transaction amount, the level set by the Fed in 2011, the Wall Street Journal reports.
But even if the Fed votes to lower the rate, the change wouldn’t be immediate. 

There would still be a public-comment period that would likely include heavy lobbying from card issuers, merchants and Congress.

Friday grab bag 

  • The dreaded spotted lanternfly has been spotted in Wellesley, the Mass. Department of Agricultural Resources reported this week. The nasty invasive insects have also been seen in Newton but no infestation was found there yet.  This map shows where else they’ve discovered across the state. Report sightings here. (Swellesley Report)

  • Bills aimed at closing gender and demographic wage gaps by requiring employers with 25 or more employees to disclose pay ranges when posting a job opening or offering certain promotions or transfers have now passed both houses on Beacon Hill. (State House News)

  • Ugh. Another mom and pop retailer is calling it quits: The Magic Beans Store in Wellesley is closing at the end of this year after 19 years supplying families with everything from kids clothes to toys to cribs to strollers. (Swellesley Report)

  • Live Well Watertown is hosting a series of free Thursday walks along the Charles River, 1-2 p.m. Oct. 26 and Nov. 3. Meet up by the Watertown Dock near the Galen Street Bridge. RSVP

  • FAQs about Massachusetts’ new 4% surtax on taxable income over $1,000,000, are now available on the Department of Revenue website. You’ll find information who’s affected, how to calculate income subject to the surtax, filing requirements and more.

  • Needham Street from Winchester Street to Tower Road in Newton will be closed to traffic starting at 8 p.m. this Sunday (Oct. 22) through 6 a.m. the following morning as part of the Newton-Needham Corridor Project.

  • MassBay Community College is hosting a free Cybersecurity Festival tomorrow (Oct. 21) from 10 to 1 p.m. at its Wellesley campus for high school and college students, their families, and adults interested in learning more about cybersecurity. Register.

  • Don't forget, it's the Head of Our Favorite River this weekend. But it's the weekend, so that means don't forget your umbrella either.

Watertown talks about the walk at kickoff event 

Jeff Speck

Watertown planners hit a home run Tuesday night with a thoughtful kickoff event looking at the future of Watertown Square.

Improving Watertown Square has been top priority for City Manager George Proakis and a cornerstone in the city’s just-approved updated Comprehensive Plan.

And the timing dovetails nicely with Watertown’s need to comply with the MBTA Communities Law by the end of 2024. (The law calls for zoning part of Watertown to allow for 1,700 housing units to be built by-right, which is when I add the standard disclosure: Rezoning to allow for 1,700 units does not mean 1,700 units will be built.)

In addition to creating more opportunities for multi-family housing, the plan hopes to make the square more walkable, bike friendly and business friendly.

You can watch the event video here but I at least recommend watching the presentation by chamber friend, urban planner, Jeff Speck, who is part of the project’s consulting team, which begins at the 45 minute mark.

And if you've never seen the interesting video about Poynton, England, that's at 28 minute mark.

The next big event in the endeavor will be an interactive three-day planning charrette on Nov. 28-30.

Watertown News has a recap.

Elisif Brandon photo.

More on the New Rep Theater's closing 

WBUR provides more context on this week’s news about the closing of New Rep Theater after 40 years of performances, first in Newton, and more recently in Watertown.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges to the arts, with many organizations still struggling to bring audiences back while navigating changes in consumer habits, reduced revenues and an altered arts economy," Catherine Peterson, the executive director of ArtsBoston tells WBUR.

“In talking to many arts organizations, I worry that New Rep is not an isolated case.”

The New Rep news comes just as a newly released national Arts & Economic Prosperity study  found that nonprofit arts and culture organizations and their audiences generated over $151 billion in economic activity nationally last year. This activity supported 2.6 million jobs and generated over $29 billion in tax revenue.

Somehow, something needs to be done to address this disconnect.

The latest workplace trend: Using sick days 

Finally this morning, were you one of those people who, pre-pandemic, took pride in showing up at the office even when you were sick?

How about nowadays?

The number of sick days Americans take annually has soared since the pandemic, employee payroll data show.

COVID-19 and RSV are two reasons why. So is the growing mental health epidemic, writes e-Ping Chen at the Wall Street Journal. But those aren't the only factors.

"....unlike older workers, who might have been loath to call in sick for fear of seeming weak or unreliable, younger workers feel more entitled to take full advantage of the benefits they’ve been given, executives and recruiters say. That confidence has only grown as record low unemployment persists." 

So far this year, 30% of white-collar workers with access to paid leave have taken sick time, up from 21% in 2019. Employees between 25 and 34 are taking sick days most often, with their use rates jumping 45% from before the pandemic, Chen adds.

That’s what you need to know for today, unless you need a list of 350 places to buy a cider donut in New England.

There will be no newsletter next week. (No, I'm not calling in sick.) But I hope to see you all at the Authors and Innovators program next Thursday at Watertown’s Mosesian Center.
Greg Reibman (he, him)
President & CEO
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