It’s that time of year again: New Year’s resolutions.
For the past two years, the Globe editorial board has outlined resolutions to hold ourselves accountable so that issues that matter the most get aired and vetted. That means writing editorials, as well as running diverse opinion pieces from contributors and letters to the editor from readers. To ring in 2019, we’ve crafted resolutions that will help us stay on top of Congress, Beacon Hill, and City Hall. As always, we invite you to be part of the debate.
#1 Pass new immigration law with protections for dreamers and TPS holders. With Democrats set to take control of the House, their immigration agenda should be two-fold: to investigate and legislate. First, they must launch probes into President Trump’s immigration actions, such as the zero-tolerance policy that led to family separations and to the tragic deaths of children in custody at the border. American taxpayers deserve to understand how their resources have been used — potentially in wasteful and inefficient ways but also in a manner that contradicts our values. On the legislative front, the priorities should be to enact protections for the so-called Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status holders from countries whose legal status has been canceled. The Dreamers are the unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States as children; TPS is the humanitarian program extended to citizens of designated nations facing armed conflict, natural disasters, or other extraordinary conditions. Between those two populations, the administration wants to expel more than 1 million people. The Massachusetts economy, according to one estimate, would take a $650 million annual hit if most TPS holders were forced to leave — they’ve become a vital part of our workforce.
#2 Fix America’s crumbling infrastructure. It’s one of the few issues the Republicans, Democrats, and President Trump can agree on: Our roads, bridges, and mass transit need upgrading. With new blood in Congress, it’s time to break the logjam. Trump’s first attempt failed miserably because he wanted states to pick up most of the tab. Trump’s not wrong to revisit the traditional funding formula — 80 percent federal contribution, 20 percent local — he just went too far. Time for Trump to show he knows the art of a deal.
#3 Act on gun control — before the next mass shooting. Democrats should move swiftly to lift restrictions on federally funded gun research, expand background checks, and close the gun show loophole, which allows private sales to go unregulated in some jurisdictions. They should also consider legislation proposed by US Representative Katherine Clark, a Melrose Democrat, that would curb gun sales to people who have abused animals — a reliable predictor of violence against people. Senate Republicans may refuse to approve any of this legislation. But amid signs that the National Rifle Association’s grip on Congress is slipping, it’s incumbent on Democratic lawmakers to apply maximum pressure.
#4 Hold tech giants Facebook and Google accountable for the way they do business. It’s not enough that CEOs testify before Congress and pledge they will be better corporate citizens. Time for more regulation to protect users and other businesses from monopolistic practices. Are they utilities? Are they news organizations? They can’t hide behind the “platform” designation anymore. More also should be done to protect users’ privacy along the lines of what Europe has already done with its “right to be forgotten” guidelines. To ensure social media platforms are free from foreign intervention, there needs to better coordination among US intelligence agencies to monitor infiltration.
#5 Protect the Mueller investigation. Congress needs to ensure that special counsel Robert Mueller is allowed to finish his investigation into any potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 election. Lawmakers also need to demand that the public gets to see the results; that’s true no matter what Mueller finds. In the event that there is evidence linking the president to crimes, the country will need to have a tough conversation about how to proceed, and whether impeachment is warranted. But if Mueller’s investigation exonerates Trump, we need to hear that, too.
#1 Kids can’t wait another year. Once the centerpiece of landmark education reform, the state’s education funding formula is broken. There was agreement last year that the existing formula underfunded employee health care cost and the cost of educating students with special needs. Putting a price tag on a fix for those two items was fairly straightforward. But adjusting for the cost of English-language learners and better serving the needs of low-income students was harder to calculate. The total cost was estimated at anywhere from $1 billion to $2 billion, and most lawmakers were not willing to sign a blank check — nor should they. More dollars need to bring better results for improving classroom education — instructional coaches, professional development, and innovative programs.
#2 Zoning reform, finally. If the state is to add the 400,000 new housing units it needs by 2030 just to keep pace with demand, it’ll need a robust zoning overhaul that goes beyond the modest start offered by Governor Charlie Baker. No one’s proposing to pave over every bucolic town green, but neither should the burden always be on Boston and its neighbors. Somewhere there is the sweet spot of compromise, and lawmakers need to find it this year. The high cost of housing puts the region at an economic disadvantage as skilled workers move to states where they don’t have to worry about whether they can afford a roof over their head, and sprawling housing patterns defeat the state’s environmental and climate goals.
#3 Fix the T faster. For commuters, taking the T means waiting in crumbling stations, watching helplessly as four or five packed trains go by before finally being able to squeeze onto one — and then waiting some more when the train grinds to a stop due to signal problems. It’s time for quicker action. Hopefully, the new T general manager — Steve Poftak , the fifth under Baker — has some ideas. The Baker administration put together a five-year, $8.1 billion capital spending plan for the T, so the money is available. Now it needs to be spent. For that to happen, infrastructure projects need to be executed on a more timely basis, even if it requires more hiring and inconveniences commuters during construction projects.
#1 Let 2019 be the year Boston’s ambitious climate resiliency initiative takes off. Mayor Marty Walsh announced a major plan in October that would guide the city’s planning along its 47-mile coastline. “Resilient Boston Harbor,” which includes East Boston, Charlestown, and the Seaport District, is aimed at using raised and reinforced parks, improved seawalls, and better design of even private construction to prevent major flooding, which has already caused havoc during several storms. The plan is a sound one — some of it reaching decades into the future — but it will require follow-through at every turn of the shovel whenever developers come calling. It will also require a sustained level of public, private, and philanthropic partnership.
#2 Who has the X factor to become the next Boston Public Schools superintendent? For the second time in Walsh’s five years as mayor, Bostonians are searching for a new school leader. Boston Public Schools needs a leader of color to connect with the youth of color who make up more than 80 percent of the student body (black, Hispanic, and Asian-American kids); an experienced manager with a strong record on issues of equity and making hard decisions alongside community stakeholders; and someone who’s willing to confront Boston’s long-established power structures. That’s a tall order, but the most important factor may be Walsh himself. The mayor must get out of the way and commit to a hands-off approach. The manner in which former superintendent Tommy Chang was dismissed last summer, and the few troubling instances in which the mayor undermined him, are teachable moments. If the mayor can assure prospective candidates that he will fully let them do their job, then Boston can attract top candidates.
#3 Diversity matters. Mayor Walsh should continue what he started: doubling down diversity within City Hall, convening city-wide conversations about race, and launching initiatives that push the private sector to close opportunity gaps.
RESOLUTION FOR ALL
Become media literate. How many reports from how many different sources do we need to remind us that social media is a double-edged sword? Sure it connects us to loved ones, but it also puts our privacy at risk and leaves us vulnerable to the worst kind of fake news imaginable — outright propaganda and manipulation by foreign entities working hard to exploit our admitted divisions. Social media remains the Wild West, and only a well-informed public will be able to sort truth from fiction. The best way to fight fake news is to support good local journalism — and yes, we will be the first to admit that’s somewhat self-serving. Defending real journalism — and the hard-working reporters who practice it here and around the world — is another way of saying that a free and robust press means something. That it is a valuable tool — perhaps the most valuable tool — in the defense of democracy. Just ask those who have lost it.