Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito visited Northampton on Tuesday to discuss the "Community Compact Cabinet," created earlier this year. The cabinet is the focus of a January 23 Executive Order signed by Governor Charlie Baker in an effort to "elevate the Administration’s partnerships with cities and towns in all communities of the Commonwealth," according to a press release on the order.
The purpose of these "community compacts" is to open and establish clearer channels of communication and accountability between the State House and the cities and towns of Massachusetts. According to Polito, a majority of the cabinet's attention will focus on state-wide issues, while around 20% will be community specific.
"The idea of the compact is to make sure we're spreading state funds throughout our commonwealth; that they just don't land in Boston, that we spread that money west of Boston," said Polito. "You know I'm from central Massachusetts and we want to make sure the dollars reach every region of our state."
This would include things like "an online, streamlined permitting process" implemented locally, suggested by Polito, which could be funded by smaller state grants like the Technical Assistance Fund.
"In the compact, we'll outline the mutual understanding between what this community has to do, what the state can do, and then what's the specific thing that we want to accomplish together," said Polito. "When it comes to unfunded mandates, compliance requirements, you know, just being a better partner around decision making - those are things that we know that we can set the bar a little higher on the state side when it comes to dealing with our communities."
Polito also discussed the governor's March 13 order to distribute all $300 million in Chapter 90 funding for cities and towns to use for municipal repairs, like highway construction and improvement. Governor Deval Patrick had budgeted the same amount for Chapter 90 in 2014 but only released two-thirds of those funds to towns and cities. This year marks the first time all budgeted funds have been allocated since 2012, and represents the highest amount allocated to Chapter 90 yet. Of this, Northampton received $1,510,863 for fiscal year 2015.
The Lt. Governor also discussed the governor's Winter Recovery Assistance Program, announced on March 19. This allows towns and cities to seek reimbursement from the Massachusetts Department of Transit for costs associated with road and bridge repair. Under the WRAP program, Northampton received $151,086.
This visit, Poltio's second to Northampton, was part of a state-wide tour in support of these programs. The visit brought the Lt. Governor to City Hall for a meeting with Mayor David Narkewicz, who expressed enthusiasm toward signing a "community compact" with the state.
"I'm looking forward to working with them... I know they've committed, for example, to the commitment (sic) to being a 'green commonwealth' and supporting that work, which we've been very successful at," said Narkewicz. "So I think that we'll continue to work together."