Case #1799.0

Bringing Smart Growth to Massachusetts: Douglas Foy and the Office for Commonwealth Development

Publication Date: January 01, 2005
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In December 2002, Massachusetts Governor-Elect Mitt Romney raised eyebrows when he appointed Douglas Foy to the newly created cabinet-level position of secretary of commonwealth development. Many assumed that Romney, a "pro-business" Republican, and Foy, arguably the most prominent conservationist in the state, would make a poor match. But the two shared an interest in "smart growth," an effort to steer development toward city and town centers, while preserving open space, to curtail the negative effects of urban sprawl. As Commonwealth Development Secretary, Foy was given influence over the transportation, environmental affairs, and housing budgets, and a strong mandate from the governor to promote statewide "smart growth." Advancing this agenda would, however, be a challenge in states where cities and towns depended on property tax revenue to fund most government services, and had prerogatives to zone as they saw fit. Moreover, Foy would be starting at a time of severe fiscal crisis in Massachusetts.

Learning Objective:
This case describes both the goals of, and the challenges to, Foy's "smart growth" agenda. The case provides background on past efforts to manage growth in Massachusetts, and a prospective look at issues of zoning and municipal finance in the state. The sequel outlines Foy's chief initiatives during his first two years in office. Beyond the specifics of planning policy, this case explores what happens when an issue advocate joins the governmental sector, and must seek ways to gain results. In this instance, the advocate/protagonist's challenge is complicated by his limited authority, often requiring the Governor's support to overcome resistance from other state agencies, with their own goals and mandates, and from local governments, which have greater authority over land use. Thus the case, although nominally about land use planning, focuses on a leader whose responsibilities exceed his authority.

Other Details

Case Author:
Esther Scott
Faculty Lead:
David Luberoff
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States
Funding Source:
New England University Transportation Center (which is supported by the US Department of TransportationÂ’s Research and Special Programs Administration) and the Robert G. Wilmers Local and State Government Case Studies Fund