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Front Page – Thursday, May 5, 2016

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Inside This Week’s Quincy Sun: Historic Quincy

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Free Dental Care For Veterans In Need May 17

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Report: Adams Park Tourism Created $10.5 Million In Economic Benefits

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 183,632 visitors to Adams National Historical Park in 2015 spent $10.5 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 155 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $14.9M.

“Adams National Historical Park welcomes visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Superintendent Marianne Peak. “For some 70 years now, being part of the National Park System, we have shared the story of the Adams legacy, this place and the experiences it provides spanning 140 years of our country’s history from early colonial times, to the Industrial Age.

“Rich in its cultural resources and landscape, John Adams’ Peace field is a retreat where one can become engaged in civic virtue and pride in America.  We also feature the park as a way to introduce our visitors to this part of the country and all that it offers as a gateway to local tourism from our NPS Visitor Center at 1250 Hancock St., Quincy.  National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it’s a big factor in our local economy as well. We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities,” Peak said.

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service.  The report shows $16.9 billion of direct spending by 307.2 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 295,000 jobs nationally; 252,000 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $32 billion.

According to the 2015 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (31.1 percent) followed by food and beverages (20.2 percent), gas and oil (11.8 percent), admissions and fees (10.2 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (9.8 percent).

Report authors this year produced an interactive tool. Users can explore current year visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage: go.nps.gov/vse.

The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

To learn more about national parks in Massachusetts and how the National Park Service works with Massachusetts communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to www.nps.gov/MA.

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Proposed Ordinance Targets Underground Economy

By SCOTT JACKSON

An ordinance introduced by Ward 4 Councillor Brian Palmucci would allow Quincy officials to take action against contractors and subcontractors found violating labor laws by issuing stop work orders.

Palmucci’s ordinance, introduced March 21, was referred to the council’s ordinance committee for further review. The council’s oversight committee, which Palmucci chairs, has held two meetings on the so-called underground economy in recent months, including one Thursday night. The underground economy is a term used to describe the misclassification of workers, such as those on construction sites. Misclassification occurs when companies treat workers as independent contractors instead of employees, or pay them under the table.

Palmucci’s ordinance would apply to projects awarded special projects by the City Council, Zoning Board of Appeals or Planning Board.

Under the proposed ordinance, any contractor, subcontractor, person or other entity that had been debarred or suspended from performing construction work by any federal, state or local agency in the prior three years would not be allowed to perform any work on a project that had received a special permit.

A firm that would had been found in violation of any laws applicable to its contracting business – such licensing laws, tax laws, prompt payment laws, wage and hour laws, prevailing wage laws and environmental laws – would likewise be prohibited from working on a project that had received a special permit.

Firms would also be required to maintain proper industrial accident insurance, comply with laws regarding the payment of wages and applicable terms of the 2006 Massachusetts Health Care Reform Law, and classify workers as employees rather than independent contractors and treat them accordingly in terms of taxes and insurance.

If any firm working on a project with a special permit were found violation of those conditions, the city would be able to issue a stop work order until the issue was remedied.

At Thursday’s meeting, the oversight committee received a presentation from Cynthia Mark, chief of the Fair Labor Division under Attorney General Maura Healey, on the misclassification of employees. More than 100 union workers attended the two-hour hearing.

“Misclassification is a growing problem, not only in Massachusetts but throughout the country,” Mark said. “I really commend Quincy for holding a hearing this important issue.”

Mark said communities across the country have passed wage theft ordinances in recent years. The city of Chelsea, she said, passed one this week, and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh issued an executive order on wage theft in 2014.

She also outlined several other steps Quincy can take, such as checking all references for contractors who bid on public projects, selecting companies with a history of not misclassifying employees, and checking payroll records. Suspicions, Mark said, should be reported to the Attorney General’s Office for investigation.

She also suggested the council voice support for legislation proposed on Beacon Hill that would hold contractors responsible for the actions of their subcontractors.

Palmucci said he plans to hold at least one more hearing on the issue of employee misclassification. The two hearings held to date, Palmucci stated, have made it clear Quincy can do more to address the matter.

“While this may be a [problem] that’s better solved at the federal level, at the state level, it’s a solution that we’re going to seek at the city level, because that’s our job here, to provide some sort of leadership,” Palmucci said.

“And if we can do that and lead the way for other municipalities and eventually the state to take action, then it’s our responsibility to do so. I think it’s clear from these hearings there is more we can do as a municipality to close the loopholes at the city level to root out those committing fraud.”

Councillor Joseph Finn, who co-sponsored with Councillor Noel DiBona a resolution seeking the hearings on the underground economy, said this is not an issue of union labor versus non-union labor, but one of fairness.

“I can hear people out there who will say this is a union issue. It has nothing to do with that. This is a fairness issue,” Finn said. “There are many reputable non-union contractors and developers who play by the rules, but those who are gaming the system wind up costing everybody else, so it becomes a critical issue.

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