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Politics in Practice: Snapshots from Rappaport Fellowship Alumni Part II

Originally published in the HKS Citizen

November 18, 2011
Cristina Garmendia (Newswriter, HKS Citizen

This is the second part of a new Harvard Citizen series: Politics in Practice. This week, Cristina Garmendia interviews two Boston-area alumni of the Rappaport Fellowship, which matches students from area graduate programs to state and local government positions for a summer. These two graduates continue to work in government agencies that manage infrastructure financing at the state and city level.

Keeping the Lights On

Matthew Mayrl is a 2007 Rappaport Fellow who graduated from the Harvard Kennedy School in 2008. He is the Chief of Staff for the City of Boston Commissioner of Public Works Joanne Massaro, another Harvard Kennedy School alumna. As Chief of Staff, Mayrl says, "You have to be able to juggle a large number of varied tasks. We do the day-to-day of managing budget, personnel, performance, and planning."

"I work very closely with Commissioner Joanne Massaro. When she was appointed she hired me as her Chief of Staff because we worked really closely when I was at my fellowship the year after I graduated from the Kennedy School. We literally shared a cubicle wall. We developed a good working relationship."

On November 3, the Senate blocked the President’s infrastructure proposal. Mayrl comments, "In the culture we are in now, it was dead on arrival." Mayrl explains why the Department of Public Works is attuned to what happens on the federal level: "We manage about 800 miles of roadway in the city. When we do road reconstruction efforts, we use city funds and state funds [that] come from the federal government. Federal government plays a large role in infrastructure financing and in our operation because we are the ones who would build [infrastructure]."

In 2008, Governor Deval Patrick approved Chapter 169, commonly known as the Green Communities Act. Patrick recently cited this act as the reason why Massachusetts was ranked the nation’s most energy efficient state in a report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. On the city-level, Mayrl explains, "It takes money from the regional carbon creating initiative [the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative] and redirects it to cities who achieve a set of benchmarks."  Boston is one of those cities. The Green Communities Act is piloting the installation of solar-powered on/off switches for Boston’s gas streetlights. Mayrl notes, "Gas streetlights date back hundreds of years so they were never built with the infrastructure to turn them on and off. They are on 24 hours a day and they cost a million dollars a year to run. With a projected payback time of less than 3 years, this will help us balance our budget in a time of constrained resources and is good for the environment."

Making Money Work Harder

Jessica Casey is a 2011 Rappaport Fellow from Northeastern University who, upon completion of her internship at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, was immediately hired as its Director of Policy Development and Implementation.

Casey’s current work is a direct continuation of her summer fellowship projects. She supports the policy development and implementation for Patrick administration goals and objectives for job and housing growth. Governor Deval Patrick has identified the following three priorities for his overall strategy of planning ahead for growth: (1) Identifying places for growth with community support and consistent with regional considerations and sustainable development principles, (2) creating prompt and predictable permitting in those places, (3) and making the public infrastructure investments to support that growth.

Infrastructure financing is becoming more and more challenging in an era of tightened budgets at all level of government. Casey reports, "We are in the midst of the first MassWorks Infrastructure Program grant application round" that will fund municipal level infrastructure investments that also support economic development and job creation. She received 158 applications in the week the form was online in September and is in the process of selecting projects to fund.

OTHERS:
Amanda Stout is Senior Economic Development Planner for the City of Newton Office of Planning and Development.

Amy Moran Lowe is an analyst for the Government Accountability Project.

Leah O'Neill is the Long Island Sound Coordinator for Environmental Protection Agency of New England.

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2011 Rappaport Institute Public Policy Summer Fellows