Talkin' the Walk: Friday, August 5 - Day 27, Fall River to New Bedford
“The Fishing Industry in New Bedford”
New Bedford, once the wealthiest city in America when it was the capital of the whaling industry, has beautiful charm in some areas, but unmet needs in others. The vestiges of old wealth can be seen in gorgeous architecture and idyllic neighborhoods. Poverty and run-down neighborhoods are often just a couple of streets away.
At the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Institute, I met with Dr. Brian Rothschild, who shared his perspective on the controversial National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) oversight and management of the fisheries industry. The debate involves NOAA’s sector management / catch shares regulations, implemented in 2009, that restrict the amount of fishing that can be done in the region, which in Massachusetts involves the New Bedford, Cape Cod, and Gloucester areas. Dr. Rothschild says that because the catch shares program is so restrictive, and NOAA’s assessments of the fish and scallop stock are inaccurate, hundreds of jobs have been lost and hundreds of millions of dollars are not flowing into the New Bedford economy. His more accurate calculations of the stock have in the recent past allowed for more fishing, more jobs, and more wealth generation in New Bedford.
I look forward to hearing the perspectives of folks in Gloucester and at the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association. I have heard that the latter are supporters of the new sector management / catch shares program. I believe in hearing both sides and doing my homework before working with stakeholders to craft solutions and make improvements.
Met next with Tom Davis, who has helped managed the revitalization of the New Bedford Industrial Park over the past twelve years. Success and growth have come from:
modernized telecommunications (e.g. broadband);
park safety patrols;
improved entrance/exit access, bus service, and additional parking;
tax incentives (90% year one, decreasing 10% each year thereafter);and
streamlined permitting, which takes only 30 days instead of the typical 12-15 months.
Eleven new companies have arrived since 2008, and the park is now the 5th largest in Massachusetts. Tom and his team have actually turned away 41 companies for mostly environmental reasons. They have made a big push for life sciences and green technologies.
We also discussed the need to improve the New Bedford school system, and his perspective that our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are training terrorists more than anything else. He wants to bring our troops and money home.
Brief meeting with New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang. He wonders whether the Senate is an effective institution. Sees it as an oligarchy. He said that the country is in crisis mode, our tax code is pushing jobs overseas, and that increasing inequity is due to the economy. He’s a big fan of casinos to revitalize growth in the area.
Finished the day at “The Feast”, the Portugese (Madeira) Feast and festival, joined by friend and colleague State Rep Chris Markey. Met lots of people, and enjoyed chatting with folks while grilling our steak on the spit in the classic style. Delicious. My gratitude to Chris and his family for offering a place to sleep that night.