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Keller @ Large: Why Stay In Massachusetts?

BOSTON (CBS) – I have many happy memories of the year I spent covering Newton City Hall many years ago.

OK, they aren’t that happy, but they’re memories.

So I noted with interest Monday night’s debate over whether or not to make it mandatory that Newton residents clear a path along their sidewalk after a snowstorm so people can pass without risking life and limb.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

After three hours of debate, they approved a two-year trial period for an ordinance requiring residents to clear the walk within 30 hours after a storm, with failure to do so punishable only by a finger-wagging letter.

Pretty lame stuff, but hey, that’s just the way we do things around here so often, endless arguing and agonizing over the prerogatives of every slacker and NIMBY-ite before taking basic steps for the obvious benefit of the broader community.

I thought of Newton’s waffling yesterday as the new census results showed Massachusetts continuing to lag far behind many other states in population growth, a gap that will soon cost us a congressional seat and precious federal funding.

Watch Jon’s WBZ-TV report:

I asked Harvard economics professor Edward Glaeser what high-growth states like Washington, Utah and Georgia have to offer that we don’t, and he said the key element is new housing.

While we’re struggling through a Byzantine maze of zoning restrictions, lawsuits, and pervasive Nimbyism, other states are lapping us by providing the affordable housing that families crave.

Our seed corn for the future, in the form of young people coming out of our world-class colleges and universities, take one look at the crushing cost of living here, especially the housing costs exacerbated by the shortage, compare that with the ready housing and, often, better weather and comparable cultural resources of other states, and guess what?

They’re outta here.

But don’t worry, Massachusetts Nimbys and policymakers.

We don’t need political clout, federal funds, and a solid, growing middle-class to sustain our tax base.

Spring will come and melt the snow. And the economic growth of the future will grow on trees.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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