Tackling the racial wealth gap in Greater Boston can be so daunting, it’s hard to know where to start.
The Boston Foundation has decided where it will begin: homeownership.
Toward that end, the foundation just hired Courtney Brunson to be the first director of its Greater Boston Partnership to Close the Racial Wealth Gap, or the Wealth Gap Partnership for short. The partnership started meeting last December to brainstorm about ways to make it easier for people of color to buy their first homes. The roster includes volunteers from a mix of banks, foundations, business groups, and housing activists. They hope to help a new generation with building wealth through home equity, and potentially sharing some of that wealth with their children in the future.
Boston Foundation president Lee Pelton wanted to focus on a singular approach to reduce racial inequities, and homeownership seemed the most effective way.
“If we want to make the most amount of difference in the shortest amount of time, we want to make sure we focus on one lever,” Brunson said. “It’s the largest opportunity in our country to create intergenerational wealth.”
Brunson, who is Black, sees this role as a natural extension of the public policy work she has done since she interned in Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Springfield office while attending Mount Holyoke College. Brunson went to work for Warren on a full-time basis after graduating in 2016. She went to Harvard Law School in 2019 and while there, worked part-time as a public policy adviser for the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts. During the past year, she worked for Washington-based Elias Law Group as an associate focusing on political law, before joining the Boston Foundation in late August.
The 30-plus member Wealth Gap Partnership has been divided into subcommittees with three focus areas: increasing the supply and production of housing, expanding down-payment assistance, and increasing access to affordable mortgages. Results could include legislative changes, for example, or steps to improve or enhance existing first-time home-buyer programs. By bringing bankers together with groups that oversee some of the state’s largest home affordability programs, the Boston Foundation hopes this new partnership can develop ways to expand the most effective efforts.
“We’re not starting from scratch,” Brunson said. “We already have, in a lot of ways, the resources to get us across the finish line.”
The group started meeting at Pelton’s suggestion. Focusing on improving homeownership levels among people of color in one of the nation’s priciest housing markets, he said, gives the group a tangible goal that can be measured over time.
“We’re trying to bring all the major players to the table,” Pelton said. “There is no single sector that can do this on their own.”
Campbell outlines her vision to business leaders
Please don’t refer to Attorney General Andrea Campbell as the state’s “Top Cop.” She prefers “The People’s Lawyer.”
Campbell spoke to the New England Council last week, at the Seaport Hotel, about this rebranding for the AG’s office that she has been attempting throughout her first year in the job, to focus more on the role’s consumer protection and regulatory aspects.
“I don’t want that label,” Campbell told New England Council CEO Jim Brett. “It misses the mark because it does not speak to the breadth and scope of the work that the office does.”
Campbell addressed this in her remarks to the council. For example, she just filed a bill with Representative Brandy Fluker Oakley and Senator Adam Gomez that would create a new environmental justice trust fund, allowing her to use settlement money from cases her office has pursued to subsidize projects in communities disproportionately affected by pollution. She’s also hiring someone to be a point person on artificial intelligence issues, and hopes to convene a discussion with the business community about that topic.
And on Monday, Campbell announced details about her plans to start a reproductive justice unit. Other new units will tackle elder justice, gun violence prevention, and police accountability.
She also told the council she is prepared to crack down on municipalities in the MBTA catchment area that flaunt a new state law to create new multifamily zoning. That could involve “shaming” reluctant towns, she said, or suing them outright. In other words, municipal leaders looking to dodge the law should expect the Top Cop, not The People’s Lawyer.
Analog Devices CEO to take a ride with Uber
In May, Analog Devices announced that chief financial officer Prashanth Mahendra-Rajah would be stepping down after six years to “explore other opportunities.”
Last week, we learned about one of those other opportunities: ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies hired Mahendra-Rajah to be its chief financial officer, as of Nov. 13. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, in a press release, called the departing Analog exec “an incredibly skilled and dynamic finance executive, with decades of experience across a variety of complex industries.”
Mahendra-Rajah’s compensation package includes an annual base salary of $800,000, and a signing bonus of $1 million. But most public company executives get the bulk of their pay through equity, not cash. In this case, Mahendra-Rajah will get a restricted stock award of $10 million, and an option to purchase up to $4 million in additional shares. (In comparison, he earned $8.3 million during his previous year at Analog, a figure that includes a $622,500 base salary and $5.5 million in restricted stock.)
His last day at Wilmington-based Analog will be Oct. 31, the end of the chip company’s fiscal year. A spokeswoman said “we wish him well and greatly appreciate his experience, commitment, and many contributions to ADI.” The search for his replacement remains underway.
BC launches a big fund-raising campaign
It was just seven years ago when Boston College trustees completed a $1.6 billion fund-raising campaign. Now, the trustees are looking to double that amount, with a goal of raising $3 billion by May 2030. As is the case with these gargantuan university campaigns, BC has already quietly raised a significant portion — $1.1 billion — before going public with the effort. BC kicked off the new campaign, dubbed “Soaring Higher,” with a gala on the main campus in Chestnut Hill last week.
Five couples will co-chair this campaign, including two in the Boston area: Suffolk Construction owner John Fish and his wife, Cyndy Fish, and Kraft Group executive Jonathan Kraft and his wife, Patti Kraft. (John Fish and Patti Kraft are BC trustees.)
The Rev. William Leahy, BC’s president, said funds will go to a variety of causes. They include, among others: financial aid, curriculum improvements, doubling the number of faculty chairs, and a new 500-bed dorm. The campaign will also support Messina College, the new two-year residential program for underserved students that will open in 2024 resulting from BC’s absorption of Pine Manor College.
Leahy said he’s already seeing strong interest among potential donors.
“A number of our alumni have done well, and they understand BC’s mission and support it strongly,” Leahy said.
New leadership coming at MassBudget
There’s a changing of the guard at the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center now that president Marie-Frances Rivera stepped down after five years managing the left-leaning think tank. Phineas Baxandall, who leads MassBudget’s research team as policy director, will serve as interim president during a search for Rivera’s replacement. The organization employs about a dozen people — and a number of academics, union leaders, and foundation executives sit on its board.
Baxandall came to MassBudget in 2015 from the US PIRG. He’s fascinated with state policy, no matter how wonky, namely because of its significant impact on important issues such as education, transportation, and housing.
That’s one reason why he has no plans to throw his hat in the ring for Rivera’s job.
“While I’m excited for the months ahead,” Baxandall said, “I know how much I care about getting deep into the weeds on policy issues.”