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INDYMASS: MARCH 15, 2024

A biweekly roundup of articles from the Massachusetts independent press


Commentary: Strike at Art Museum Throws Economic Crisis in NW Mass Into Bold Relief

There is a lot to unpack in the latest fine investigation by my colleagues at the Shoestring, “MASS MoCA Strike Continues Into Second Week.” For readers that don’t know how the former industrial city of North Adams came to be the home of the cutting-edge Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA), the piece functions as a helpful “explainer.” But the real meat of the article is its coverage of the labor struggle dragging on at the museum between its unionized workforce and its management.

Further complicating an already difficult labor fight is the fact that Mass MoCA is a nonprofit with relatively limited funds—which struggles to keep donations flowing year to year like every other nonprofit. The union workers, meanwhile, are clearly trying to be careful about how they run their “indefinite strike;” so as not to drive potential donors away … even as they attempt to improve their wages and working conditions with a series of public protests.

In the background looms an uncomfortable truth: The museum has never been a substitute for the shuttered electronics concern that once employed over 4,000 area residents on the same site. And trying to replace hard manufacturing dollars with soft tourism and “cultural” dollars rarely works as a regional economic strategy. A point made manifest by the number of workers currently employed by MassMoCA—a mere 150 overall, 120 represented by UAW Local 2110. A small fraction of whom managed to jump from their former industrial jobs to new museum jobs, yet never managed to achieve economic security as they approach retirement. 

One can only mourn for the vast majority of former Sprague Electronics workers who had no choice but to uproot late in their careers and move elsewhere for gainful employment (starkly reflected in the drop of the North Adams population from 18,063 in 1980 to 12,777 in 2022). Because, as one of the Bay State’s least populous regions, northwest Massachusetts still doesn’t have enough jobs to go around decades after it lost its main employers like Sprague and General Electric. Leaving the massive environmental destruction wreaked by such companies as a discussion for another day.

A real downer of a situation all around, but an absolute must-read of a story.

ARTS
Meet the semi-finalists for the Lex250 Monument
The Lexington Observer
The Town of Lexington and Metropolitan Area Planning Committee have whittled down a much larger field to four semi-finalists competing to “receive a grant of $250,000 to develop and install their artwork at Belfry Park” commemorating the 250th anniversary of the first battle of the Revolutionary War.

Dot artist ‘gbfree’ finds stride with a unique neighborhood art series
Dorchester Reporter
Very interesting Dorchester painter gets some ink.

Dance Review: Flamenco Dance — Unapologetically Sexy
The Arts Fuse
So rare to see dance reviews these days. And this is a fun one.

COURTS
Boss in Court Accused of Assaulting Worker
The Local News (Ipswich)
Amazing that, in an era where we’re all on camera 24-7, no one has a video of this incident.

EDUCATION
New report examines investment into WPS’s infrastructure
The Worcester Guardian
Worcester is among the best of the so-called Massachusetts “Gateway Cities” (read former industrial cities that lost their manufacturing base decades back) at leveraging public funds to rebuild its schools, but “additional support is needed from state and federal governments.”

Brookline schools planning layoffs, cutting world language classes for K-5 students
Brookline.News
Brookline is the latest Massachusetts community to face cuts to its education budget.

ECONOMY
Coalition seeks increase in worker-owned companies
The Bay State Banner
In a 2022 “census of employee-owned businesses in Massachusetts,” 40% of respondent worker-owned businesses in the Commonwealth “had a majority of workers/owners of color.”

ENVIRONMENT
Zoning and Planning Committee approves electrification ordinance
The Newton Beacon
Newton moves into compliance with the state’s “Municipal Fossil Fuel Free Building Demonstration Program.”

FOOD
Heights restaurant operating for nearly 13 months without license, Select Board learns
YourArlington.com
It’s apparently the wild west for restaurants in Arlington lol …

Wellesley readies to test curbside food waste pickup service
The Swellesley Report (Wellesley)
Interesting that municipal governments like Wellesley’s are making it easier for people to contract with private food waste pickup service. Would be even more interesting if it were just a public service.

GOVERNMENT
‘Zoom bomber’ disrupts Concord FinCom meeting with antisemitic outburst
The Concord Bridge
Ew.

Triffletti can’t act as a lawyer before town boards while also serving as moderator
Plymouth Independent
Without reading too much between the lines, local politics can be just as messed up as state and federal politics.

Bidders again push restaurant, wind center, fish market at State Pier
The New Bedford Light
Yet another reminder of how squirrelly “quasi-state” agencies like MassDevelopment can behave when handing out public goods to private companies. 

Franklin Park Coalition Survey Shows Neighborhood Support for White Stadium Renovation
Jamaica Plain News
The support “was remarkably consistent across neighborhoods.”

Gov. Healey signs law, changing Select Board terms to three years, effective immediately
Marblehead Current
While three-year terms for select boards may be more practical for towns like Marblehead, one-year terms were certainly more democratic and prevented entrenched bureaucracies from developing. But they are now a thing of the past in Massachusetts, as “Marblehead was the last remaining Massachusetts town to elect its Select Board members to one-year terms, a practice dating back to 1649.”

GUNS
Select Board Votes to Support Firearm Business Bylaw
Sudbury Weekly
Sudbury sets the stage for potentially ending up with more than one new firearms business.

LABOR
MASS MoCA Strike Continues Into Second Week
The Shoestring
See above for full commentary.

POLICE
Officers’ social media posts shaking public trust can be punished by police department, court says
Cambridge Day
Police officer disparages George Floyd on social media post that is quickly taken down. Officer gets suspended for a few days by the City of Cambridge then sues on First Amendment grounds. Judge rules that Cambridge police have a responsibility to “maintain the public trust” and the post violated that trust. So the city’s “motion for summary judgment – to resolve the issue early based on agreed-upon facts without going to trial – was granted.”


IndyMass is produced for HorizonMass, the independent, student-driven, news outlet of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, by Jason Pramas and is syndicated by BINJ’s MassWire news service. Copyright 2024 Jason Pramas.


Jason Pramas is executive director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and editor-in-chief of HorizonMass.

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