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Publication

Letter from our President and Executive Director

A message to the people who live and work in Metropolitan Boston:

In 2008, we adopted our last regional land use and policy plan, MetroFuture, and it guided our work for over a decade. Although many MetroFuture recommendations have been implemented, the region still faces many of the same big challenges: increasing disparities in income, wealth, and health by race, a lack of affordable housing, growing negative impacts of climate change, and an overburdened transportation system. Our new plan, MetroCommon 2050: Shaping our Region Together, attempts to confront these threats and delineates a path to work together to create a more sustainable and equitable region.

Developing a roadmap for the region during a pandemic and racial reckoning has not been easy. However, we believe it has both strengthened and humbled us in important ways, leading we hope to a stronger guide to the future. When we began this plan, no one had heard of COVID-19 and few knew who George Floyd was. We have experienced great political, social, and economic upheaval in the past year. Many lives have been lost and the economic dislocation has hit women, service workers, and people of color particularly hard across the nation and right here in Greater Boston. Last summer, thousands marched for racial justice. Last winter, we experienced a polarizing election and a failed attempt at insurrection. These global, national, regional, and local events are affecting us all and have shaped this plan. MetroCommon is a 30-year plan for building a more equitable and more resilient region, but it is also a plan that identifies historic exclusion, oppression, and unfairness that continue today. It offers actionable recommendations for ensuring that our recovery is equitable and places our region on a trajectory to reach our shared, long-term goals.

MetroCommon is about hope for the future. At the very beginning of this planning process, the first questions we asked people were, “What do you hope for the future? What kind of region do you want for yourself, your children, and the next generation?” We turned those responses into the vision and goals of the plan. We explored the possible barriers against reaching those goals, including future uncertainties like changes in transportation technologies and demographics. And then we identified what we can do, together, to work towards the future that we all want. Together we have the power and ability to be the change that we desire.

We look forward to working with you to build a more equitable and resilient region.

i18n: Signature

Erin Wortman
President

i18n: Signature

Marc Draisen
Executive Director

MetroCommon 2050

Greater Boston’s long-range regional plan
Led by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council
(MAPC)

Shaping our region together

MetroCommon 2050 is Greater Boston’s regional land use and policy plan. It’s about ways the Boston region can become more equitable, more prosperous, and more sustainable. MetroCommon is built on goals – that is, what people have told us they want. It defines action areas that give today’s issues context, and that reveal systems that require intervention. It goes deeply into key topics, finding insight in the trends, patterns, and idiosyncrasies of the region: research. And it makes specific recommendations for policy changes that can get us to our goals.

Introduction

MetroCommon 2050 is Greater Boston’s long-range regional plan, which provides a roadmap for fashioning a more sustainable and more equitable region. That we have a plan is crucial – not because anyone is obligated to implement it – but because without a clear set of goals and actions, we’ll never reach the vision for the future that the residents and workers of Metro Boston have called for. The vision calls for a region that is prepared for climate change, that protects our natural resources, and invests in our downtowns and neighborhoods. A region that provides opportunities to thrive for all residents and workers, and a region that works together.

In our region’s governmental system, decision-making power is held by 101 distinct cities and towns, as well as an array of state agencies. For better or worse, we don’t have a central regional authority – a county government, for example, that can coordinate actions and investments. Instead, the region will need to make the progress residents want by way of many discrete acts carried out by an assortment of public- and private-sector actors.

This is the significance of MetroCommon 2050. In order for a multitude of isolated decisions to build the Greater Boston we all desire, our disparate governmental entities must be working from a common playbook. Our challenges are too great, and our potential is too boundless to engage in short-term thinking and uncoordinated – or even contradictory – actions.

Over the past three years, we created this plan in partnership with state and local officials, leaders from community and advocacy organizations, academics, and with residents and workers across the region. We also worked closely with members of populations that are likely to be most impacted by the issues the plan addresses, including low-income residents, older adults, youth, and people of color. Their expertise and lived experience have resulted in a plan that provides us, collectively, with the direction, strategies, and tools to move forward.

Since its creation by the Massachusetts legislature in 1963, MAPC has developed a decennial regional plan, as we have a statutory obligation to do. With MetroCommon 2050, we have met that challenge with a vision for a sustainable and equitable Metropolitan Boston. It is bold and it is achievable, but only if we work together to shape the region that we want.

MetroCommon 2050 Values and Commitments

What are values?

These values are the characteristics of the region we want to become. They shape MAPC’s approach to our work and allow us to assess and prioritize the projects and policies we pursue.

What purpose do values serve?

  1. Values are an organizational consciousness that we implicitly use while making decisions
  2. Values act as a tool that we used to create and assess MetroCommon activities, goals, content, and recommendations
  3. Values provide context to potential and current partners in regards to MAPC priorities and decision making

The Values

Equity: The condition of fair and just inclusion into a society. Equity will exist when those who have been most marginalized have equal access to opportunities, power, participation, and resources and all have avenues to safe, healthy, productive, and fulfilling lives. It requires restructuring deeply entrenched systems of privilege and oppression that have led to the uneven distribution of benefits and burdens over multiple generations. Read our Statement on Equity.

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Statement on Equity

Throughout MetroCommon we have strived to place equity at the center of this plan. The Equity of Wealth and Health Action Area dives deep into two aspects of unequal and inequitable outcomes found in our region. The other four Action Areas are devoted to other significant challenges facing Metro Boston, but they too seek to address the disparities that exist within those topics. We developed the plan’s recommendations by closely working with partners that are leading voices for creating a more equitable and resilient region. We also sought feedback from residents most likely to be impacted by the policy and programmatic decisions made in the future. It will take the work of many partners and allies to fashion a more equitable region. We look forward to supporting their efforts and continuing to learn and work for a more equitable and resilient region. A Greater Boston region that supports and serves all residents and workers is possible.

Achieving an equitable future requires acknowledging the inequities of our past and present. Since colonization of what is now the United States, our country has been built on the dispossession of native populations and economic and racial exclusion of low-income and BIPOC communities. This exclusion and oppression have continued over the centuries through governmental policies, programs and through our economic systems. From the federally sanctioned practice of enslavement of Black, Brown and Indigenous people, to Jim Crow era legislation, to contemporary labor, environmental, housing, and educational systems, the rules of society have been intentionally designed to create the disparities between residents in the region. The range of disparities along racial demographics include but are not certainly limited to wealth accumulation and health.

The MAPC region has its own particular history of oppression and exclusion based on race, ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation. Our region encompasses lands that are the original homelands of the Wampanoag, Nipmuc, Abenaki, and Massachusett tribal nations. The painful history of genocide and forced removal from this territory is infrequently taught by modern day curricula. And harm and erasure continue to be perpetrated against Indigenous people to this day.1, 2

Residents of African descent have experienced a painful history as well. From the history of slavery to the practice of redlining, Black residents have been intentionally excluded from the freedoms, privileges, and neighborhoods enjoyed by White residents. Even after realizing the same legal rights as Whites, Black residents continue to face systematic racism and economic exclusion. In Metro Boston, the legacies of redlining, exclusion from government programs such as the GI Bill, segregated public housing, and decisions to locate environmental hazards in predominately Black and Brown communities have led to the stark differences in health and wealth outcomes at the zip code level.

Many of the disparities Black residents currently experience in wealth and income, health, educational, and safety are similarly shared by other BIPOC populations, notably Latinx residents.3 In addition to systemic oppression and exclusion, violence and intolerance also operates on the individual level. This past year we have experienced national and regional increases in hate crimes and violence targeting Asians and members of the Jewish faith.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought even greater clarity and understanding of how some populations are at greater risks to public health and economic devastation and insecurity. This crisis compounded the already existing crises and vulnerabilities facing particular residents and workers. Residents of nursing homes, those incarcerated, older adults, people of color, and low-income service and gig workers were disproportionately affected during the pandemic. It is promising that federal and state priorities for use of recovery funds are prioritizing equity, however we have to make sure that the voices of those most impacted by COVID-19 have a say in how these funds are allocated. This is a once in a generation opportunity to begin addressing both the long-standing disparities and more acute impacts that the pandemic inflicted on certain populations.

State, regional, and local governments have contributed to this history of exclusion and are part of the systems that continue to result in widely divergent lived experiences and outcomes along racial and economic lines. The planning field is complicit in this history as land use, transportation, and housing decisions that have led to the segregation and unequal access to opportunity that persist throughout the region today. MAPC acknowledges that we are part of this system that has caused harm and are committed to doing our best to undo the practices and policies that lead to oppression. In 2015 as part of a strategic planning process, we adopted four strategic priorities. One of them is to advance equity, including a special emphasis on racial equity, in our work. While we have made strides in this work, we realize that we, like many in our field, are early in our journey and we approach this work with humility and a willingness to learn. To meet our commitment, we believe that we need to partner with - and support- allies and leaders in this work and to center the voices of those most impacted in our projects and in our advocacy campaigns. This work is rooted in long term relationship- and trust-building, which we understand will take time and resources. We are committed to prioritizing this work and helping to dismantle inequitable systems to create a Metro Boston where all can succeed.

  • O’Brien, Jean. Firsting and Lasting: Writing Indians out of Existence in New England. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 2010.
  • Gould, Rae. The Nipmuc Nation, Federal Acknowledgment, and a Case of Mistaken Identity. In Recognition, Sovereignty Struggles, and Indigenous Rights in the United States. A Sourcebook. University of North Carolina Press. 2013.
  • Regionalindicators.org.

Resilience: The capacity of communities, organizations, and natural systems to respond, adapt, and flourish no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.

Prosperity: The opportunity for all individuals as well as communities to thrive and provide for themselves in meaningful and fulfilling ways.

Stewardship: Our collective responsibility to maintain, invest in, and protect the quality of our natural, built, and social environments to support healthy and happy people and conserve environmental, economic, social, and cultural assets.

Commitments

If values help ensure that we become the region and the organization we aspire towards, commitments are processes for getting there. They are efforts to ensure that innovation, collaboration, and objectivity are present along our journey to embody our values.

Creativity: We will strive to approach our work with creativity and encourage creativity in both our process and outcomes. We view creativity as the spark of imagination, playfulness, and spirit of open-mindedness in envisioning our collective future. Creativity yields inspiration from novel connections, insightful visions, and the ability to plan for the future with inventiveness so we can ensure that our resources are used sensitively and with purpose.

Partnerships: We will center our planning process and implementation strategies on partnerships, defined as the committed, collaborative relationship and shared contributions among individuals, organizations, and municipalities that seeks to deliver practical solutions in response to societal issues.

Data-driven & evidence-based: Where possible, we will collect and analyze data, extract patterns and facts from that data, and utilize those facts to make inferences that influence decision-making.

What does making the region a better place actually mean?

What purpose do the MetroCommon 2050 goals serve?

The goals are intended to demonstrate what residents want life in the region to be like in the year 2050. The goals are intended to be bold yet achievable, not clinical or abstract. The goals avoid assuming current or anticipated systems will exist in 2050. They are also solutions agnostic. They don’t identify who will provide health care or how, just that everyone has it and it’s affordable. They reflect the values of the plan, which are equity, stewardship, resiliency, and prosperity. The goals are an idealized future and the plan’s recommendations provide a roadmap of how we can achieve the goals.

How did we decide that these would be the MetroCommon 2050 goals?

The first draft of the MetroCommon 2050 goals emerged from a thorough reassessment and restructuring of the goals in MetroFuture. MetroFuture is the 2008 regional plan that MAPC created with an immense amount of help and input from residents and experts alike. While we brought the MetroFuture goals up to date, we toured the region, asking residents, planners, and municipal and state leaders what they wanted life in the region to be like in the year 2050. We cataloged those visions, identified themes, and incorporated them into the draft of the updated goals. MAPC staff reviewed that first draft, adding context and refining terms and concepts. Next, the MetroCommon 2050 External Advisory Committee, a committee of stakeholders MAPC selected to guide our decision making throughout the regional plan update, provided feedback. We produced a second draft of the goals and turned them into a survey that allowed respondents to rate the goals, provide feedback on them, and propose new ones. We sent the survey out over social media, we included in our newsletter, we asked our partners to fill out, and we asked our partners to forward it to their partners. We received over 600 responses, which we also grouped into themes and incorporated into a third draft. The third draft was again presented to the External Advisory Committee who recommended that they be sent to MAPC’s Executive Committee for approval. On June 17th 2019 the Executive Committee provisionally approved the goals. We continued to gather feedback on the goals through May 2021 before finalizing them over the summer of 2021.

Five interrelated topics: “Action Areas”

What was the process for determining the content within the Action Areas?

The Action Areas were informed by MAPC’s understanding of key issues facing the region, combined with years of public engagement that asked questions like: what future do you want to see for Greater Boston and what is preventing us from getting there? What are the key challenges and opportunities our region is facing? Where should we, collectively, focus our efforts to generate meaningful change? The narratives were honed with the help of MAPC staff, the MetroCommon 2050 Community Engagement Advisory Committee, the MetroCommon 2050 External Advisory Committee, and hundreds of participants from action area workshops spanning the summer and fall of 2020.

i18n: Right Facing Triangle Action Areas (5)

i18n: Right Facing Triangle i18n: Right Facing Triangle Recommendations (20)

i18n: Right Facing Triangle i18n: Right Facing Triangle i18n: Right Facing Triangle Strategies (68)

i18n: Right Facing Triangle i18n: Right Facing Triangle i18n: Right Facing Triangle i18n: Right Facing Triangle Policy Actions (227)

Inclusive Growth & Mobility

    • Strategy 1: Facilitate transit-oriented and other smart growth development through incentives and requirements.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 2: Ensure site design, land use program, and development characteristics prioritize walkability and affordability.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 3: Require new developments to focus their transportation mitigation on producing fewer single-occupant vehicle (SOV) trips.
      Policy Actions: 4

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    • Strategy 1: Improve the reliability and affordability of the region’s public transit service to promote access to opportunity.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 2: Reimagine roadway corridors that connect into downtown Boston to encourage higher-occupancy modes to discourage single-occupancy vehicle travel.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 3: Create safe, accessible, and well-connected network of safe cycling and walking infrastructure.
      Policy Actions: 2

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    • Strategy 4: Shape new and emerging mobility services to support local and regional transportation goals, including safety, reduced traffic congestion, lower GHG emissions, and equitable access for all people.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 1: Provide direct relief to artists, cultural workers, and cultural organizations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and lay the groundwork to cultivate a more equitable, resilient, and cohesive sector.
      Policy Actions: 5

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    • Strategy 2: Launch a creative community development program that affirms creative and cultural expression as a basic human need, expands opportunities for creative and cultural expression and participation for people of all ages and backgrounds, and advances equitable community investment and preservation.
      Policy Actions: 4

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    • Strategy 3: Cultivate a more welcoming, accessible, and inclusive public realm.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 1: Use new and existing tools to increase financial support for acquisition and development of open space.
      Policy Actions: 4

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    • Strategy 2: Promote innovative methods for protecting open spaces (from neighborhood parks to regionally significant preserves) while also providing for the region’s housing needs.
      Policy Actions: 4

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    • Strategy 3: Ensure that all residents of the region have access to adequate quality open spaces regardless of age, income, race/ethnicity, or ability.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 4: Maximize the economic, environmental, and public health co-benefits of preserving core wildlife habitats, working forest and agricultural lands, and water supply protection areas.
      Policy Actions: 4

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Homes for Everyone

    • Strategy 1: Expand rental and homeownership opportunities by enforcing anti-discrimination protections and affirmatively furthering fair housing.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 2: Preserve affordability of the existing housing stock to help stabilize neighborhoods experiencing rapid change and to maintain housing opportunities at various cost levels.
      Policy Actions: 2

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    • Strategy 3: Help low-income households and members of marginalized groups achieve stable housing and homeownership through targeted assistance.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 1: Protect areas at risk of displacement by ensuring new public and private investments benefit long-time residents and support community ownership.
      Policy Actions: 4

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    • Strategy 2: Prevent displacement at the household level through regulations that better align the market with the needs of those experiencing housing insecurity.
      Policy Actions: 4

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    • Strategy 3: Prevent displacement at the individual level by strengthening and expanding state legal protections.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 1: Expand Housing Choice to empower localities to zone for housing diversity.
      Policy Actions: 4

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    • Strategy 2: Strengthen state funding programs to promote housing production of all types and Affordable Housing in particular.
      Policy Actions: 4

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    • Strategy 3: Dedicate resources to better equip the private market to build diverse housing.
      Policy Actions: 3

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Equity of Wealth & Health

    • Strategy 1: Enable more people to build and maintain wealth.
      Policy Actions: 4

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    • Strategy 2: Expand the social safety net to lift families out of poverty.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 3: Amend the Massachusetts Tax Code to be more progressive.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 1: Help all people achieve a healthy start in life through improved health outcomes for birthing people and infants.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 2: Invest in and expand access to programs that support families’ basic needs.
      Policy Actions: 4

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    • Strategy 3: Foster a caregiver economy with dignity and access for all.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 1: Strengthen and diversify the local supply chain to promote local and regional economic resiliency.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 2: Facilitate creative use of land to support emerging business sectors and respond to changing economic realities.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 3: Increase the percentage of local ownership and business ownership by people of color by increasing funding for business support and development and decreasing the cost of doing business.
      Policy Actions: 4

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    • Strategy 1: Adequately invest in the workforce development system structure.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 2: Integrate capacity to address upstream barriers to skill building within the workforce system network.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 3: Integrate MassHire Workforce Board activities into economic development efforts.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 4: Continue to expand workforce development and career pathways within the K–12 system.
      Policy Actions: 4

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    • Strategy 1: Develop innovative models for public safety response and intervention that rely less often on fully armed law enforcement officers as the only or primary responder.
      Policy Actions: 4

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    • Strategy 2: Reduce instances of police misconduct and/or misuse of power and provide greater transparency.
      Policy Actions: 4

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    • Strategy 3: Reduce incarceration and recidivism rates in the region, with a particular focus on at-risk youth.
      Policy Actions: 6

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    • Strategy 4: Ensure that police departments and community-based organizations have the necessary resources to work together to prevent crime and support at-risk individuals.
      Policy Actions: 2

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    • Strategy 5: Provide increased resources and education for reentry into society.
      Policy Actions: 2

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Dynamic & Representative Government

    • Strategy 1: Expand pathways for engagement to improve accessibility of local governments.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 2: Enhance resident influence and representation in local decision-making.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 3: Grow local efforts to promote diversity, equity inclusion within the municipal workforce and across government boards and committees.
      Policy Actions: 2

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    • Strategy 1: Give regional and local officials and residents more say in shaping services and infrastructure.
      Policy Actions: 1

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    • Strategy 2: Improve coordination and create new regional entities with the authority to effectively shape services.
      Policy Actions: 2

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    • Strategy 3: Reshape service provision in key sectors such as health and education.
      Policy Actions: 4

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    • Strategy 1: Ensure sufficiency & resiliency of revenue to meet local and regional needs.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 2: Provide new revenue and investment for climate, housing, and transportation capital infrastructure.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 3: Shift revenue generation and investment to provide greater fairness in funding and more equitable outcomes.
      Policy Actions: 4

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    • Strategy 1: Bolster local government’s ability to attract and retain a creative, adaptive, and diverse workforce for the long-term.
      Policy Actions: 4

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    • Strategy 2: Invest in information technology (IT) infrastructure to expand service offerings and enable communities to use and share data more effectively.
      Policy Actions: 5

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    • Strategy 3: Catalyze creative collaboration, problem solving, and partnerships within and between municipalities and with other sectors.
      Policy Actions: 4

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Climate Mitigation & Resiliency

    • Strategy 1: Direct resources and technical assistance to communities that have experienced historic disinvestment and commit to long-term climate and health planning.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 2: Prepare buildings, infrastructure, and the natural environment to withstand and be resilient to the impacts of climate change.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 3: Move out of harm’s way.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 1: Increase renewable energy generation for the Commonwealth and access for all residents.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 2: Spur equitable development of microgrids, energy storage, and demand response programs.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 3: Reform the electric and gas utility markets to support the transition to distributed and renewable sources of energy.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 1: Establish a Massachusetts Integrated Water Resources Management framework at watershed and ecosystem scales that advances from philosophy to comprehensive water policy, funding, and regulation.
      Policy Actions: 4

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    • Strategy 2: Create sustainable funding sources for water infrastructure that enable an Integrated Water Management approach and support investments in water quality and quantity and climate resilience, with a particular focus on equity.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 3: Strengthen and expand tools for minimizing and eliminating water pollution.
      Policy Actions: 4

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    • Strategy 4: Ensure all communities have access to safe, clean, affordable drinking water and wastewater services.
      Policy Actions: 4

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    • Strategy 1: Accelerate retrofits of existing buildings to achieve deep energy efficiency and eliminate fossil fuels.
      Policy Actions: 4

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    • Strategy 2: Ensure that new buildings and major renovations are constructed to meet ultra-low energy, high-performance standards and support greater adoption of distributed renewable energy resources and energy resiliency.
      Policy Actions: 3

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    • Strategy 3: Dramatically increase the share of personal vehicles and municipal and state fleet vehicles that are all electric or low carbon.
      Policy Actions: 5

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    • Strategy 4: Accelerate a commitment to expand and electrify public transportation.
      Policy Actions: 4

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