Showing posts from May, 2018

Conscious Capitalism -- on the environment

Today, I moderated a panel on how corporations engage with the environment for the Conscious Capitalism Boston chapter’s latest “conscious conversation.” It was a great panel, with Namrita Kapur, Managing Director of EDF+Business, and Kyle Cahill, Director of Corporate Responsibility for John Hancock. They each shared great tidbits on the things they’re working on and facilitated small group breakouts. “1 out of every invested dollar in the US is tied to #ESG goals.” via @namrita_kapur Investors have – and can continue to – make a difference by pushing companies to improve environmental impacts. — Conscious Cap Boston (@ConsciousCapBos) May 31, 2018  

Shared Nation semifinals

I’ve been participating in the Shared Nation crowdsourcing platform; read about it here and here . Today, I voted in the semifinals. The two organizations I chose were Library for All , which is trying to build “the world’s largest collection of mother-tongue language ebooks designed to help children across the world learn to read,” and  Thrive Communities , “a community-based response to the challenges faced by adults returning from prison.” Excited to see interesting organizations vying for funding here. The finals are tomorrow and I’ll be voting, of course, but I might not be posting about it.  

More on the Tufts PILOT

Last week, I testified before Somerville’s Board of Alderman on the importance of climate as part of the City’s negotiations over Tufts University’s payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT). Today, I missed a hearing but submitted additional testimony to the Mayor’s office. After all, it’s the Mayor who will actually be conducting the negotiation.

Memorial Day remembrance 2018

It’s important to remember our fallen solders on Memorial Day, which makes this a solemn weekend for a holiday. Today, as with last year, I visited the monument on Boston Common, at which 37,000 flags are planted to represent each of the Massachusetts service members who gave his or her life defending our country.

Shared Nation voting

A few weeks ago , I joined Shared Nation, which is an interesting crowdsourcing site that directs grants to lucky organizations picked by vote from Shared Nation members. Today, I voted in an open round, choosing among interesting organizations in five head-to-head races. (You’re not presented with every organization in the running, just five head-to-head races.) Quarterfinals will be announced soon for the next round of funding. I’ll start talking about the organizations I vote for as we get closer to the finals.

Herring Monitor shift

Today, I went back to the Mystic Lakes Dam for my shift counting herring for the Mystic River Watershed Association. It was a beautiful day and the fish are running.

New England Impact Investing Initiative

Impact investing is coming on strong as an investing theme focused on social impact, in addition to financial returns. Practitioners are banding together to learn from one another. Today, I donated to the New England Impact Investing Initiative , which is a local group that has great leadership and enthusiastic participants taking part in regular meetups.

Testifying to the Board of Alderman

Today, I testified before Somerville’s Board of Alderman (aka city councilors) about Tufts University’s negotiations with the City of Somerville over their payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT). Yes, the school should pay its fair share of taxes for the land that it owns, despite the fact that it’s a non-profit. More importantly, I pointed out, the process of negotiation is an opportunity to align the university’s and the city’s vision and values. Right now, differences in, for example, emissions reductions targets create perverse outcomes. Case in point is Tufts firing up a new natural gas power plant in 2016, which runs counter to the City’s goals to become carbon neutral by 2050.

Chapter updates

I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but the organizations I’ve joined take some care and feeding. Today, I convened a conference call for the Programming Committee of Conscious Capitalism Boston to begin to plan our summer. We settled some a few open questions and ratcheted back on our expectations for summer events. Today, I also pulled together a survey of Climate Reality Project Boston members, so we can begin to get the administrative house in order there.

Governance updates

Today, I took some time to review the bylaws and articles of organization for the Conscious Capitalism Boston chapter, whose I board sit on. I also tended to some administrative work for the Climate Reality Project Boston chapter, whose founding committee I sit on. And I met with a board member from Indivisible Somerville, an organization that is splitting into non-profit and activist arms right now. I’m up to my eyeballs in governance right now.

Chapter meeting updates

Today, I attended calls for the Climate Reality Project Boston chapter and Conscious Capitalism Boston chapter (two calls for them actually). The former was to continue planning for some events in early June. The latter were to debrief what happened at the Conscious Capitalism national conference earlier this month.

Better Bus Project

The MBTA is not just about the subway; its bus network is arguably a more important part of the system, reaching more people and providing rapid transit for neighborhoods that have no access to trains. Yet, as the MBTA writes: Nearly 450,000 people in 50 communities rely on MBTA bus service every weekday. Recent research has shown that despite efforts to meet the needs of bus riders, there are still significant gaps in service. To fill these gaps and provide the level of service our customers expect and deserve, we will be working within these communities over the next few years. Today, I provided feedback to the MBTA’s “ Better Bus Project ” listening tour. I ride buses regularly to get around in Somerville and I certainly think service can be improved, notably by improving schedules and frequency.

Mass Climate Action Network

I represent Indivisible Somerville in the Climate Coalition of Somerville, and I’ve signed up the Climate Coalition of Somerville as a chapter of the Mass Climate Action Network (MCAN), a coalition of grassroots organizations working to fight climate change around the state. Got it? Today, I went to an MCAN fundraiser and got to mingle with a number of MCAN chapter leaders. Even better: the fundraiser was held at the Distillery, which is an apartment building that was built to passive house standards . So we got to ask a lot of questions about how passive houses work. Interesting stuff. Today, I also did my weekly shift counting herring as part of the Mystic River Watershed Association’s herring monitor program.

Somerville investment

Today, I invested in Somerville mini-bonds, as I wrote about a few days ago after I went to an information session. The bonds, offered through Neighborly , are yielding 2.125% with a five-year maturity, and the City continues to carry an investment-grade rating. Feels good to invest in my city.

Boston Narrative Arts Center

Boston’s literary heritage runs deep, as Grub Street points out : Boston has been a city of writers, readers, thinkers and innovators since our earliest days. In the 19th century, as the saying went, you couldn’t throw a stone without hitting a writer. We’re a city that built one of the country’s first public libraries, where Maria Stewart, a black abolitionist, gave the first public talk by a woman on politics and women’s rights; where the Old Corner Bookstore – an early literary center – published the likes of Stowe, Thoreau, Emerson and Longfellow; where such storied writers as Phillis Wheatley, Louisa May Alcott, Elizabeth Bishop, and Robert Lowell lived and worked, and where the computer and internet revolutions were born at our great universities, and at the Route 128 technology companies. Which makes it a surprise that the city’s institutions seem to have passed by the art of narrative storytelling. But Grub Street has a plan: In a city bursting at the seams with ideas and talen


#BanTheStraw has become a national movement, after conservationists rescued a sea turtle with a plastic straw up its nose. And I stand with it. An estimated 500 million plastic straws used in the US each day, not to mention 35 billion plastic water bottles thrown away each year in the US. Plastic doesn’t degrade, it just breaks into smaller and smaller pieces, which are eaten by plankton and fish. Today, I went one step further and signed a plastic pact , with Whale and Dolphin Conservation. I pledged to reduce my use of plastic in my everyday life to help the entire ocean ecosystem. And the WDC will email a challenge each month to help me out.

Somerville mini-bonds

Last year, I signed up to be informed about the City of Somerville’s approved issuance of municipal bond for retail investors through the Neighborly platform. See my post about it here . Fifteen months later, the issue is finally ready to go. Today, I went to an information session co-hosted by the City and by Neighborly . Why the 15-month delay? It turns out that the original offering was linked to project financing, and the City couldn’t come up with the right project for a $500,000 bond. (That’s not a lot of money.) But Neighborly has since shifted to offer general obligation bonds — the funds aren’t earmarked for anything in particular — which made it much easier for the City to offer. This $500,000 offering to residents is being bundled with a $12 million institutional round. The bonds will go on sale this Friday.

Climate Coalition of Somerville (May 2018)

Today, I went back to the Climate Coalition of Somerville’s monthly meeting. We had a lot of updates to work through, which unfortunately didn’t leave much time for some weighty discussions that we needed to have. But it was to get an update, in particular, about Tufts University’s negotiations with the City of Somerville over their payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT), in essence, getting the school to pay its fair share of taxes for the land that it owns, despite the fact that it’s a non-profit.

Shared Nation

Today, I joined Shared Nation an interesting variation on a crowdsourcing theme. Here’s the general idea: “Every month Shared Nation citizens pool their money. Great causes and organizations vie for the money in that ‘pot.’ One organization wins about 80% of the group’s shared money while every organization gets some small amount just for taking part.” All citizens who contribute to Shared Nation get a say in deciding where the bulk of funds ultimately are directed.

Public Citizen

CEOs like to say they’re doing the right thing, but I’m increasingly cynical about those statements, largely because their lobbying dollars are saying something completely opposite to what their leaders are saying. And those lobbying dollars have a huge influence. People need advocates too. Today, I donated to Public Citizen , which is providing that advocacy in Washington.

Eyewear made in Flint from recycled water bottles

Muddling through the water crisis  in Flint, Michigan involved delivering bottled water to the city’s population of nearly 100,000 for almost two years. This was a city already in economic decline, of course, desperately in need of a helping hand. Today, I donated to an interesting Kickstarter project , to help build a new eyewear company in Flint, which will make eyeglass frames out of the tons of recycled water bottles that made their way to the city.

Cultivating Qualities of Conscious Leadership

Today, I attended a workshop, as part of our Conscious Capitalism series, on “Cultivating Qualities of Conscious Leadership.” The speaker, Tarra Mitchell, author of The Yoga of Leadership , made an interesting case for what I would describe as a combination of mindfulness and purpose, in the workplace. And the informal discussion that followed, with a pretty diverse group of attendees, was fascinating.

Somerville Commission on Energy Use and Climate Change

Today, I went to the monthly meeting of the Somerville Commission on Energy Use and Climate Change. Actually, I first went to a sub-committee working group that I’m participating on, to work on renters’ initiatives. I wrote about that here . We came up with a range of ideas, ranging from the simple to the very complex. And we spent some time discussing them in the commission.

Ward 6 Resistat

Somerville has a diligent process of presenting statistical updates to each neighborhood. Today, I attended the twice yearly Resistat presentation in Davis Square. The Mayor gave his two cents on this year’s budget. But the more interesting presentations were on the Davis Square Master Plan, which I wrote about here and some upcoming traffic changes because construction will start early next year on the Green Line subway expansion through Somerville. Spoiler alert: expect delays.

Let's Talk About The Climate

Climate Ready Boston is a community outreach and education program designed to empower residents to speak with peers in the community about climate change, and more specifically about resilience in Boston. I haven’t been that involved because I’m a Somerville resident, but of course climate adaptation will take regional solutions so it’s good to know what’s going on. Today, I attended a Climate Ready Boston talk, held by a friend I know from the Climate Reality Project. Good to get an update on what’s happening in Boston. Someone raised an interesting point that all the images of solutions that we saw were essentially renderings. Would be good to come up with some examples of things that are in place now, and working they way they’re supposed to.

Refugee Immigration Ministry and the ArCS cluster

There was an amazing story in today’s Boston Globe , about a group a volunteers in Arlington, Cambridge and Somerville who are helping refugees acclimate to the area. Some provide housing and transportation, others take asylum-seekers shopping or make lists of appropriate social services, or just plain make themselves available to be a friend. Today, I made a donation to the “ ArCS cluster ,” which is the umbrella the group is known by.

Herring Monitor shift

Today, I went back to the Mystic Dam for my herring monitor shift. The herring monitor program was suspended for a couple of weeks because the water levels were too high. So unfortunately, we missed the start of the migration. My count this morning was 121, and some of the counts from yesterday were several times higher. The herring run makes the birds very happy, of course.

Report for America

The crisis in journalism has become a crisis for our democracy. We are calling on a new generation of journalists to serve in community news organizations across the country. It is time to Report for America. Today, I donated to Report for America . Because journalism is important and someone needs to find new ways for reporters to do their work.

Climate Reality Project Boston chapter meeting

Today, I attended the quarterly meeting of the Climate Reality Project Boston chapter. Actually, I more or less hosted the event, at Workbar Arlington. We’re still forming so there’s a lot to go through in terms of finding our footing. Fruitful meeting. And a fascinating dinner afterward when I was able to ask some questions of some folks who know a lot more about renewable energy than I do. Oh, and also today, I attended a two-hour board meeting for Conscious Capitalism’s Boston chapter. Again, lots to go through.

Comments for the Davis Square Master Plan

Two days ago, I went to the City of Somerville’s presentation of the draft Davis Square master plan . Today, I downloaded and read the actual plan. And I’m impressed with the approach they took and with the detail that’s been thought through. I submitted a couple of comments during this public comment period, but they weren’t that significant.

Indivisible Somerville strategic update

Today, I had a sit down with Indivisible Somerville leadership to get an update on its strategic plans and understand the potential future direction it will take. Not much I can report here, to be honest, but it was valuable to be included in this process.