The new year brings with it unsettling divisions in the nation’s electorate, record low approval ratings for President Trump, and wild swings in federal policy aired on Twitter. The press is under attack from purveyors of fake news, often abetted by tech platforms like Facebook. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe is at a slow boil. Public discourse, more than uncivil, seems to be roiling out of control.
Closer to home, the Commonwealth’s popular Republican governor, Charlie Baker, faces a delicate balancing act as he ramps up his 2018 campaign — weighing what is in the best interest of Massachusetts voters against the toxic demands of a hard-right national GOP.
But Boston — and Massachusetts — have reason for optimism. Mayor Walsh, fresh from a landslide victory, now has running room to make good on his promise to improve Boston Public Schools and build even more housing. The state remains a remarkable crucible for social policies that benefit residents and fill gaps left by federal retrenchment.
In 2018, the Globe’s editorial page will give readers a factual framework to analyze issues in their community — as well as the nation and the world. We’ll aim, as usual, to provoke discussion and air differing points of view on our op-ed page and in our letters column. In fact, over the course of the year, you might be likely to read something you disagree with. Please take a moment to respond with a comment, an e-mail, or a phone call. This mission, so vital for a democracy, has never felt more essential.
In that spirit, here are our 2018 resolutions:
• Hold Facebook and Google accountable
Goal: Advocate for more transparency and tighter regulations for Google and Facebook — companies that have molded the public’s very definition of news.
1. Advocate for smart antitrust regulation that protects users and other businesses from monopolistic practices, yet does not choke off innovation. Together, Google and Facebook accounted for 73 percent of all digital advertising in the United States in 2017, according to data compiled by Pivotal Research Group.
2. Push Google and Facebook to shoulder the social responsibilities of a media company, with tighter curation, transparent policies, and a robust fact-checking operation. A year ago, Facebook partnered with Politifact, vowing to verify more of its vast river of content. Yet Politifact says the effort has been opaque, underpowered, and has produced less than satisfactory results. The impact of fake news on politics, civic dialogue, and the public’s understanding of science is well documented and alarming; urgent solutions are needed.
3. Advocate for more civic engagement in Greater Boston by Google and Facebook, which have a significant workforce and corporate presence. Push for partnerships with Boston schools that result in real-life training and a pathway to employment in tech.
4. Advocate for Internet privacy guidelines like Europe’s “Right to Be Forgotten,” balancing First Amendment rights with every individual’s right to control his or her personal information.
• Help foment a transportation revolution in Greater Boston
Goal: Here’s the shorthand: Make your commute better. Accessible, working mass transportation is an economic engine that serves workers and helps new neighborhoods — and new business districts and startup clusters — take root. The region should tap into big data and conduct innovative experiments in order to radically reinvent transportation in a city laid out on a 17th-century plan.
1. Use big data to inform experiments with driverless electric cars that ferry passengers in and out of high-congestion areas — making sure that underserved areas get equal access.
2. Push for dynamic pricing via open-road tolling at peak hours on heavily used roads. Forty cities already have dynamic pricing; without a hike in the gas tax, it is a way to finance other much-needed transportation access projects.
3. Advocate for expanded water transit — perhaps coupled with affordable housing construction in towns like Hingham, which are already served by water taxi.
4. Push for safe and pragmatic solutions for trips that aren’t taken in personal motor vehicles but by bikes or buses. Advocate for solutions like municipal cycle tracks or bike lanes separated by barriers.
• Strengthen our blue bulwark
Goal: The Trump administration has passed or attempted to pass measures designed to hit Blue Staters where they live: Expanding the right to carry a concealed weapon into Massachusetts; limiting deductions for state and local taxes; and taxing endowments at universities, central pillars of the Commonwealth’s “eds and meds” economy. In the face of regressive federal policies, the State Legislature, governor, attorney general, and a multitude of mayors can and must push back.
1. Climate change. Boston and other coastal cities bear a special responsibility to protect against rising sea levels and king tide storm surges. Advocate for bolstering infrastructure to make the city less vulnerable to flooding. Push for the region to become less dependent on natural gas and a leader in solar, hydro, and wind power.
2. Gun laws. Massachusetts has the strictest gun laws in the nation. Push for action to keep our borders safe from those who have concealed carry permits issued by other states. Because Congress has stripped federal funding on gun violence, push for renewed research into gun-related homicides, suicides, and domestic violence by state-funded efforts and private university consortia.
3. Immigration. Immigrants contribute to the region’s workforce at all levels. Push for policies that keep the economy vital, including H1B visas and protection for Dreamers.
4. Fiscal policy. Rebalance state and municipal tax laws to ease the burdens created by federal tax policy. Ensure that the most vulnerable children, families, and seniors have access to affordable health care.
5. As Charlie Baker, the Commonwealth’s popular GOP governor, mounts a reelection campaign, he faces a delicate balancing act, weighing state policy against a national party headed by Donald Trump. We’ll weigh in on whether his policies benefit the Commonwealth or toe the party line set down in Washington.
• Address racism in all its forms
Goal: Mayor Walsh has vowed to continue Boston’s conversation about racism. We’ll push to expand that conversation to include not just African-Americans, but also Latinos and Asians — and advocate for policies that foster diversity and attack structural racism in Boston and other communities in the Commonwealth.
1. Health care disparities and access to treatment. Boston is a medical mecca, drawing patients from all over the world. Yet the Globe’s 2017 Spotlight series revealed cracks in the firmament: The patient populations are by and large segregated, and access to insurance coverage and health care varies widely. We’ll push to expose health care disparities and uneven care, and advocate for maintaining affordable health insurance as federal benefits shrink.
2. Affordable housing. Advocate for continued expansion of affordable housing — not only in the rental market, but also in terms of home ownership, to allow lower-income Bostonians to build wealth.
3. Hiring and mentoring pipeline. Advocate for diversity in hiring for all sectors — in government, in union jobs, and in the tech and life-sciences sector. Create a robust pipeline by expanding summer jobs programs and mentoring opportunities, and by investing in schools and early education.
4. Social life. Advocate for opening up Boston neighborhoods to new restaurants and commerce. Push for a streamlined liquor permitting system that benefits underserved neighborhoods by allowing new restaurants to thrive. Push for more city-sponsored cultural events that bring Bostonians together. Renew efforts to diversify existing festivals and promote more events like the BSO’s community engagement program, which brought the orchestra to Franklin Park last fall for a free concert.
Have an idea for us in 2018? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.