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Martin Desmarais

Stories by Martin

Bank of America pulls out of Massachusetts affordable mortgage progam

Bank of America announced it would no longer participate in the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance’s ONE Mortgage program

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Dudley Neighbors Inc. celebrates 25 years building community through land trust

Dudley Neighbors Inc., a community land trust under the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, last week celebrated a quarter-century of success as one of the ground-breaking land trusts in the country.

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Department of Children and Families vows changes in wake of audit report

The Child Welfare League of America has found that the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families is seriously lacking in its abilities to help the state’s children due to the department’s out-of-date policies, high caseloads, inadequate technology and no system in place to make things better.

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Chinatown development brings rare affordable units

As real estate costs skyrocket around Boston, Chinatown has been at the center of housing advocates’ fight to keep long-time city residents from being forced out of their neighborhoods. Last week, Chinatown residents got a boost with the groundbreaking on a long-awaited project to add more affordable housing to the neighborhood.

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Election reform legislation modernizes Massachusetts’ voting

With the signature of Gov. Deval Patrick, a new Massachusetts election reform bill became law last week and has advocates heralding the legislation as making the state a leader in voting modernization.

Boston Redevelopment Authority changes aimed at transparency

The administration of Mayor Martin Walsh announced changes to the Boston Redevelopment Authority last week officials say will bring greater transparency to the development process.

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Boston Housing Authority to redevelop Whittier Street housing

The Boston Housing Authority plans to revamp the current Whittier Street public housing development and the surrounding Roxbury neighborhood in a $339 million project that includes housing, commercial development, health and human services, public safety initiatives and job development.

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Pioneering entrepreneur Denise Jones expands engineering systems firm

Denise Jones, president and CEO of Dnutch Associates Inc., has been a trailblazer for women entrepreneurs in Massachusetts, running and growing her company successfully for over 20 years. The recent growth earned Jones and Dnutch the Massachusetts Small Business Association 2014 Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year award.

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Advocates fighting cut to Massachusetts youth job funding

Last month, youth job advocates were put on high alert when the Massachusetts House proposed budget contained cuts in funding for youth job programs, despite a battle to keep the funding. Now the fight turns to the state Senate.

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Philanthropy group conducts study on black giving in Boston

New England Blacks in Philanthropy has a message — that the black community gives back at a much higher level than most people think. To back up its claim the organization is conducting a study examining the level of giving in the region, called "Giving Black: Boston," and plans to release its findings by August.

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Rising rents eat larger share of Boston incomes

While much of the debate on housing costs in Boston centers on the atmospheric rise of luxury condos or the middle-class being squeezed out of the picture, housing advocates say the real crisis is the lack of housing stock for renters across the city — a problem that results in some 50,000 renters in Boston now spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent.

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Minority and Women Business Certifications

How to benefit from getting a MBE/WBE certification

The Commonwealth is a rich source of revenue for certified businesses. Last fiscal year, certified businesses received more than $1 billion in sales from the state.

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Plan calls for apartments, storefronts in Four Corners

Vietnamese American Initiative for Development is slated to start construction this fall on a $14.5 million housing and commercial development project in Dorchester’s Four Corners neighborhood that proponents are hoping will kick start revitalization of the area.

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Activists rally to stop Massachusetts prison expansion

Hundreds of prison reform activists gathered on Boston Common on Saturday afternoon to show state lawmakers that prison policy must be changed and to decry the estimates from Gov. Deval Patrick’s office that the state will spend $2 billion by 2020 to build 10,000 new prison units, as well as $150 million each year to fill them.

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Immigrant activists arrested in Boston protesting U.S. deportations

Activists blockied the Suffolk County House of Correction in Boston

Immigration activists blocking the Suffolk County House of Correction in Boston were arrested last week as a part of a national protest of the Obama administration’s immigration policies, which have resulted in the deportation of 2 million undocumented immigrants.

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Simmons College professor Afaa Michael Weaver wins prestigious poetry award

$100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award

Some might be surprised that the most recent winner of the prestigious $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the 62-year-old Afaa Michael Weaver, grew up in one of the most notoriously dangerous neighborhoods in America — the Baltimore ‘hood immortalized in HBO’s acclaimed "The Wire." However, for current Simmons College professor and Somerville resident Weaver, poetry was just always part of who he was.

Mayor Martin Walsh announces increase in Boston Main Streets funding

Mayor Martin Walsh gave a big boost to Boston Main Streets organizations, announcing that funding will increase $400,000 city-wide for their efforts to support local businesses. Walsh’s budget has allocated $75,000 for each of the city’s 20 Main Street organizations, which is a 30 percent increase from last year.

City updates CORI reform ordinance

Last week, the Boston Workers Alliance capped a two-year effort of working with the city that has resulted in improved Criminal Offender Record Information regulations for businesses working with the city.

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Entrepreneurs set to launch Dorchester business lab

Set to open later this month and modeled after business lab concepts very common in the high tech startup world in Silicon Valley and Cambridge, the Fields Corner Business Lab contains about a dozen small private offices, several conference rooms, private work stations and flexible work areas, as well as office amenities including a printer/copier room, reception area and a kitchen. The lab takes up the entire top floor of the historic Lenane Building in the heart of Fields Corner and has 8,000 square feet of office space available.

Coalition pushing for criminal justice reform

Prison reform advocates in the state are gearing up for a busy month. The Jobs Not Jails Coalition has a Boston rally planned on April 26 and will return four days later to present a petition to Massachusetts Legislature — all the efforts targeted to show decision-makers the groundswell of support to change prison policy.

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Somali nonprofit struggles to meet immigrant community needs in Boston

After almost two decades as the only social services organization serving Somali immigrants in the Boston region, the Somali Development Center in Jamaica Plain is facing a looming challenge as the population of immigrants it is helping grows, while the funding continues to diminish.

Boston Public schools cites gains with new assignment policy

Boston Public Schools got a first look at the numbers from its new home-based, school-choice system and reported that the average distance a new kindergarten student will travel to school next year dropped 18 percent compared to the old plan — from just over a mile to just under a mile.

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Sen. Warren convenes local businesses, U.S. agencies

Small businesses in the Boston area got a chance to pitch their services to government agencies and government contractors in a bid to get a piece of the multi-billion-dollar pie that is offered by the federal sector every year.

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School department intervenes at Madison Park

Boston Public Schools publicly stepped in last week to try and save troubled Madison Park Technical/Vocational High School, which has been plagued by poor test scores, poor attendance and hardly any internship participation from its students. With the backing of Mayor Martin Walsh, Interim Superintendent John McDonough began what BPS is calling an "immediate intervention" at the school.

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Boston Foundation earmarks $100K for Fairmont projects

The Boston Foundation is gearing up for year two of its Collaborate Boston grant program and is looking to give a total of $100,000 to resident-led efforts to strengthen the Boston neighborhoods of Dorchester, Hyde Park, Mattapan and Roxbury.

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Mass. Governor candidates air views in labor forum

The five Democrats gunning for the Massachusetts governor’s office were in Dorchester on Saturday for a forum held by the Service Employees International Union at the organization’s headquarters and all candidates pledged to be labor friendly and offered different ways to pay for the state’s needs from increased taxes to boosts from growing the economy to savings from health care reform. The candidates also addressed the hot topic of immigration reform.

Boston Public Schools ramps up search for new superintendent

After nine months with an interim school superintendent in place, city officials are ramping up the effort to hire a permanent superintendent — kicking off the search with a number of public hearings to find out what parents and the community want in the school system’s new leader.

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Boston Community Capital moving into clean energy

After nearly 30 years supporting community development through innovative lending and financing schemes, Boston Community Capital is continuing to expand its role in helping nonprofits build and preserve secure housing, schools and community institutions in the Boston area.

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Immigration reform on GOP agenda for 2014

It has been an up and down start to the new year for immigration reform advocates. With Republicans going public with party standards for immigration reform in late January, there was hope that House GOP leaders might move on immigration reform, but immediate party backlash had them backpedaling — though immigration advocates still believe the increased Republican debate on the issue is a good thing.

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Expats participate in Venezuelan protests in Boston

Twice in the last two weeks, Venezuelan national Cristina Aguilera has taken to the streets of Boston to show support for the anti-government protesters back in her native country.

Minimum wage backers get boost from Obama

Political support for a hike in minimum wage is high, with President Obama, Massachusetts lawmakers and political leaders across the country proffering different versions of wage hikes for the nation’s lowest-paid workers.

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Business leaders discuss opportunities, challenges in Boston

On Monday night the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center hosted a Black History Month community forum that featured an impressive panel of speakers examining how Boston can be more effective at providing economic development opportunities for businesses run by people of color. The biggest message was clear — talking about economic strategies is not enough, decisive business development action for minority-run businesses is needed.

BPS seeks edge in teacher hiring process

Officials at Boston Public Schools are looking to improve the odds in their competition with other cities and towns for the best teachers.

Boston Public School central staff jobs at risk as new budget falls short

This past week has been a difficult one for Boston Public Schools as officials proposed an initial budget that fails to keep up with rising costs and drops in state and federal funding — and also told central office staff that their jobs are not guaranteed after the end of this school year on June 30.

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SBA training gives boost to Boston business owners

The U.S. Small Business Administration is stepping up its efforts to connect with budding local Boston small business owners to help them get their young companies rolling.

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Minority hiring figures vary for Boston contractors

An examination of the numbers, shows that much of the work done in Boston still falls short of the expectations for using city residents, workers of color and women, but some recent projects have begun to set a strong example of how to find success in adhering to the city’s job policies.

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Obama puts spotlight on growing income inequality

President Obama called on the country’s leaders to make 2014 "a year of action" to address the growing wage gap in the United States during his State of the Union address last week.His call to action mirrors moves in Massachusetts and cities and states across the country to apply public policy to the deepening wage divide.

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Gov. Deval Patrick’s budget prioritizes education, human services

Gov. Deval Patrick is calling for increased support for education, human services and health care in his fiscal year 2015 budget.

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Interior designer Denise Rush follows passion into academic role at Boston Architectural College

Denise Rush, the director of undergraduate interior design at Boston Architectural College’s School of Interior Design, reflects back over 25 years in her field — an uncommon career choice for a young black girl growing up in Grand Rapids, Mich. — and says the advice she gives her students is to follow their passion.

Lawmakers shoring up voter rights laws

Civil rights advocates — including the NAACP — have been scrambling since last June when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and delivered a serious blow to protections for black voters in the United States. But they got a boost earlier this month when legislation was introduced in Congress to restore some of the protections of the Voting Rights Act.

Minorities underrepresented in Hub corporate leadership

While people of color make up more than 50 percent of Boston’s population, the city’s corporate leadership remains overwhelmingly white, according to a University of Massachusetts, Boston study.

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CDC proposes Fairmount Line housing development

Southwest Boston Community Development Corporation went public at a meeting last week with plans for a new 27-apartment development on Nott Street in Hyde Park near the MBTA’s Fairmount Station, and reaction was mixed.

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Diversity a top priority for New England carpenters union

New England Regional Council of Carpenters Executive Secretary Mark Erlich says the Massachusetts building trades’ future will reflect a workforce that is diverse and inclusive — if for no other reason — based on the need to add younger workers and the pool of talent available.

Polls: public confidence in government down

According to several recent polls, Americans’ trust in the government and belief that it can solve pressing problems — the economy, health care and the budget — is at an all-time low. But pundits suggest this is no surprise on the back of the government shutdown and caution that widespread dislike of political leaders does not equate the inability of the government to function.

Boston school department stands by teacher evaluation process

Prior to the launch of Boston Public School’s new evaluation system last school year, the city had strong support across the board, but now the Boston Teachers Union is crying foul. The union is demanding in a grievance that BPS rehire 30 teachers who were removed for poor performance and it has stated claims that the evaluation system is discriminatory.

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Year in Review: Politics of polarization dominated U.S. news

On the national stage, the politics of polarization were on display with Democrats and Republicans locking horns over the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act, voting rights laws and myriad other issues.

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Boston Fair Housing Commission documents Hub housing discrimination

Boston may be a majority minority city, but when it comes to finding housing, the playing field is tilted toward white professionals, according to a housing discrimination testing program conducted by the city’s Fair Housing Commission. The test of over 20 housing listings found strong evidence of discrimination in 40 percent of cases examined.

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Recess now mandatory for Boston public schools

The city’s school department is getting serious about playing, this year requiring that all Boston schools, kindergarten through eighth grade, have recess.

Voter rights activists pin hopes on Mass. Senate

Voter rights activists are hoping the Massachusetts Senate will pass electoral reforms next year after the House approved online registration and early voting measures.

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Marty Walsh team solicits views on economic development

Discussion of jobs and wages dominated Mayor-elect Marty Walsh’s first public hearing on economic development Monday night at English High School.