The Charles River Regional Chamber’s Board of Directors takes its responsibility as stewards of your chamber and representatives of our business community seriously.
To that end, our directors have been meeting over the past two months to discuss the four statewide ballot questions before voters on Nov. 8. We had many side discussions as well, listening carefully to stakeholders across our communities including, for example, local law enforcement when considering Question 4 (the undocumented drivers bill) and our independent liquor retailers for Question 3.
Ultimately, the board reached near unanimous consensus (with a few abstentions from directors who felt they had a professional conflict) on two questions and agreed to pass on two others. The board also agreed on this:
As an organization representing the businesses and nonprofits in our four chamber communities, it is mission-appropriate for us to recommend positions on referendums that directly impact our region’s economic and cultural vitality, while also fully respecting and appreciating that not all our membership will agree.
Second, legislating complex matters by referendum is often a bad approach. It occurs too frequently perhaps because our Legislative leaders are too often unwilling, or too slow, to act. And it’s particularly bad public policy to ask voters to become subject matter experts on nuanced, industry-specific, reforms.
But after much deliberation, we're choosing not to issue a recommendation on Questions 2 and 3, primarily due to a lack of data in the first instance, and a faulty approach in the other.
Question 2 seeks to remedy a real-world challenge: Providing affordable dental care to our employees and their families, while fairly compensating dentists. The question asks whether insurance companies should be required to spend the bulk of their customers' premiums — 83 cents of every dollar — on patient care.
Likely we’ve all been frustrated by how little most dental policies cover. If you’ve reviewed your statements, you’ve likely noticed how little your dentist receives for work that requires a substantial investment in staff, rent and equipment.
But an analysis by The Center for State Policy Analysis at Tufts University concluded that this first in the nation proposal “is built on relatively thin information.” There’s little data telling us how much insurers retain now, if 83% is the right amount, if it might drive up costs for employers or deductibles for consumers, or if this will remedy the problem it seeks to address.
Then there’s Question 3, the hangover no one wanted (and 2022’s poster child for why legislating by referendum is a bad practice).
As the Globe’s Jon Chesto explained this question was put forward to thwart a different expected ballot question that never materialized. Organized opposition has been limited to one chain retailer while support is soft at best.
That leaves the rest of us scratching our heads trying to figure out how the heck we should vote on a proposed law no one really asked for.
The Commonwealth should thoughtfully balance the number of retailers allowed to sell alcohol in a way that protects our smallest independent merchants. But Question 3 is random, not thoughtful.
And while we support the provision that would allow alcohol sales to those with out-of-state licenses, that’s something Beacon Hill can and should fix instead.
Then there's Question 1
That brings us to the single biggest decision before voters this fall: Question 1, the Tax Hike Amendment, also known as Fair Share/Millionaire’s tax.
This question would implement a constitutional amendment that would add a 4% tax on income over $1 million. (And unlike Questions 2 and 3, this question needs to be on the ballot, because it seeks to amend the state constitution which mandates a flat tax.) Earlier this month, the chamber sponsored a forum on Question 1. Here’s the video replay from this week’s Question 1 forum, as well as the BBJ's coverage of our event.
Next week, I will share the chamber’s thoughts on Question 1 as well.
Now, here's the rest of today’s Need to Knows:
Disability and walkability advocates run-in on Dunkin'
A proposal that pits advocates for increased walkability against those with disabilities returns to a Newton City Council's Land Use committee Nov. 1.
The Dunkin’ on Route 9/Boylston Street has been seeking a special permit to construct a drive-through window on the property.
Some city councilors had previously questioned the plan, concerned that it was not pedestrian friendly or walkable, even though -- let’s face it -- no one thinks of Route 9 as either of those.
The drive-through proposal looked all but dead in February. But this time, Alex DiPietro, the independent franchisee whose family has operated the store since 1995, has Newton’s Commission on Disability on his side.
“For customers with disabilities, a drive-through can be an essential way to get food or drink, without having to find an accessible parking space, or any parking space for that matter, or to struggle to exit their vehicle, using a mobility aid,” the Commission argues in a letter.
Customers with permanent or temporary disabilities have few local restaurant options. There's a drive-up window at Mcdonald's on California Street in Nonantum and a drive through Dunkin on Route 9 in Wellesley. (Am I missing any others?)
Seniors and parents with small children also benefit from drive-throughs. And in the COVID era, we’ve also gained awareness of people with underlying health conditions who are reluctant to enter places of business.
Here's hoping Newton’s City Council finds a way to advance this application, which also requires approval from MassDOT.
Learn about hiring opportunities
Looking for skilled and committed workers? The Mass Rehabilitation Commission is hosting a virtual symposium designed to help employers learn about hiring individuals in recovery from substance use disorders in the labor market on Nov. 2 at 10 a.m. Details
The first-ever New England Regional Job Fair is happening virtually Nov. 15-16. It’s free for qualifying New England-based and operating companies, big or small. Employers looking to fill jobs in healthcare, education, hospitality, and other industries are invited to participate on Nov. 15. The focus on Nov. 16 will be on employers with positions in manufacturing, engineering, and construction
The City of Newton Youth Services Division offers several programs for Newton businesses and nonprofits looking for employees, or interested in hosting an intern as part of the school year or summer internship programs. Details
New city manager thinking about Watertown Square
Watertown’s new city manager says he wants to focus on improving Watertown Square, which includes a focus on supporting and attracting small businesses, parking, traffic, and what to do with the old police station.
“We have done an excellent job on economic development planning as far as business recruiting, bringing lab buildings, enhancing our particular growth corridors,” George Proakis said. “I also want to take a step back and make sure that we put some attention on our small businesses and our local business districts.
The program was approved by lawmakers in August as part of a big ambitious climate bill. But it depends on funding that's part of that economic development bill which (as I may have mentioned before) lawmakers failed to approve before going on recess ... now some 82 days ago.
Other need to knows
Our friends at the Watertown Boys & Girls Club are holding its 50th Anniversary Gala one week from tonight, Friday (Oct) 28 at 6 p.m. at the Hellenic Cultural Center. Gov. Charlie Baker and First Lady Lauren Baker will be attending and Baker will be speaking. The club will also honor John Airasian of Eastern Clothing of Watertown and board member Kelley MacDonald for their service. Tickets
The SBA is preparing to distribute the unallocated dollars from the Restaurant Revitalization Funds to restaurants that applied but were not awarded a grant (there were many in our communities). If your restaurant is notified by the SBA, it's recommended you respond immediately. Contact the RRF hotline, at 1-833-853-5638 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance. Restaurants that received an RRF grant are reminded to complete all necessary reports or risk penalties.
Check out the unique new makerspace Needham Furniture Makers during an open house at 590 Hillside Ave. on Oct. 26 from 5 to 8 p.m. They’re a membership based shared woodworking studio for designers and makers that also offers classes, custom-ordered furniture and a gallery of finished pieces.
Volante Farms is hosting its annual PumpkinFest Sat. Oct. 29 from 1 to 6 p.m. A $10 ticket (kids under two are free) gives you access to pumpkin carving, entertainment, snacks and treats, a silent auction and Volante's annual lit pumpkin stroll. Proceeds benefit Cradles to Crayons.
Networking requires the right kind of dough
Finally, this morning, looking to grow your professional and personal network?
Be a croissant, not a bagel.
“Bagels” are what networking expert Robbie Samuels calls the tight clusters of people who gather in seemingly impenetrable circles at networking events and don't want to let newcomers in, according to NPR.
"Croissants” have a more open shape, reflecting “a spirit of openness, and the belief that networking is about being generous with our professional knowledge and helping each other succeed in our careers.”
Your chamber is committed to making our chamber networking as croissant-like as we can, which isn’t to say that our hosts don’t often provide platters of bagels.