Excerpts from Globe Opinion’s online guest commentary section at bostonglobe.com/podium
SCRAP THE CAP ON TICKET SALES
In 1924 Massachusetts made it illegal to resell a ticket for more than $2 above its face value. Over the past 90 years, this policy, which was touted as protecting consumers, has turned roughly 5 million of them into criminals.
I have written about secondary ticket markets, including “Uncapping Ticket Markets,’’ which appeared in Regulation Magazine. Using data on National Hockey League games, provided by Stubhub.com, which paid me for doing the research, I found that eliminating price ceilings caused large increases in the supply of seats and only small increases in (upper-deck) prices. People don’t like breaking the law, nor being labeled criminals, and hence, repealing the price ceilings increased supply because people felt better about reselling their tickets.
In addition, the Internet has made price caps on the resale of tickets impossible to enforce.
The best way to help consumers in the secondary ticket market is to encourage markets to be more competitive, thereby making transactions more transparent and sellers’ offers more comparable. Squeeze the profits, not the transactions out of the secondary market.
Given the state of government budgeting these days, would cities be better off handing over the reins of the budget making process to teenagers?
Boston recently found out. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s office handed $1 million in city funds to a group of 12- to 25-year-olds to budget as they saw fit. These young people recently voted on projects designed by them, and the results are illustrative. There were hundreds of students at the kick-off party and many more who participated in a weeklong vote. The seven winning projects included everything from Chromebooks for high schools to security cameras and playground makeovers. The young people involved worked directly with city officials, articulating community need — and taming those who were skeptical of the whole exercise.
There’s a lot to be cynical about. With public apathy toward government and civic institutions mounting, Harvard’s Institute of Politics found young voters’ trust in government to be at a five-year low. Direct citizen engagement in the budgetary process, known as participatory budgeting, could be the answer to this democratic malaise. Given the complexity of modern municipal budgeting, particularly in larger cities, the notion of citizens making budget decisions themselves seems ludicrous on its face. Yet as citizens are increasingly disenchanted with and disengaged from government on all levels, participatory budgeting may be a tool to recapture Americans’ sense of civic engagement and rekindle our belief that government can work. It’s been called “revolutionary civics in action.”
State needs a multigenerational
Massachusetts will need hundreds of thousands of new homes in the coming decades.
Today, it is common for local permits to limit multi-family construction to one- and two-bedroom homes. The collective impact of such permitting decisions has been to systematically limit opportunities for families with children to find a place to live. This is inherently unsustainable, and morally troubling.
As a legal matter, all homes in Massachusetts will be built either through locally adopted zoning or through the state’s Chapter 40B law, yet very little land is zoned for the type of multigenerational housing needed. Therefore, unless the next governor’s multigenerational housing policy continues to rely almost entirely on 40B developments (which can undermine sound land use policy — and which have not produced nearly enough homes), the amount of construction needed will require adoption of local zoning amendments in many, many towns and cities.
Realizing local zoning reforms as broadly as we need won’t be easy, and will require significant state policy changes. But it can be done. Local planners and housing advocates need a better policy framework to secure the required two-thirds legislative approvals from town meetings and city councils. Changing the municipal financial equation will facilitate adoption of locations zoned for significant growth; effective design standards with certification of infrastructure capacity will enable local advocates to build winning coalitions. To meet the state’s need for more housing to fuel the economy and moderate house prices, this realignment of interests is needed.