Welcome Summer 2018 Interns

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This summer, we are proud to welcome fifteen students to our internship program. Each of our interns represents a different school as listed below:

  1. Georgetown University
  2. Boston University
  3. University of California, Los Angeles
  4. Brown University
  5. Auburn University
  6. Quinnipiac University
  7. Syracuse University
  8. University of Massachusetts Amherst
  9. Clemson University
  10. Saint Anselm College
  11. Loyola University Maryland
  12. Suffolk University Law School
  13. Boston College
  14. Clark University
  15. St. Lawrence University

Throughout the summer, our students will be paired with mentors who will help them gain valuable skills and insight into the world of public relations, federal and government relations, and marketing. During the internship program, there will be opportunities to work on client projects and on-site events. We look forward to seeing all that our interns will accomplish!

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute: 50 Years of Advocating for People Living in Poverty

The Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) is one of the nation’s leading nonprofit statewide poverty and law centers.  Its mission is to advance laws, policies, and practices that secure economic, racial, and social justice for low-income people and communities. For 50 years, MLRI has helped to shape policy that has had a significant impact on both the state and national levels, including helping to develop the Commonwealth’s Chapter 40B housing law and advancing CORI reform in Massachusetts.

O’Neill and Associates Vice President Suzanne Morse interviews Georgia Katsoulomitis, MLRI’s executive director, about the organization’s advocacy work and its 50-year history of developing policies that help people living in poverty.

Governor Baker and Mayor Walsh Join Community and Business Leaders to Mark Opening of Boston East Residential Community

AED_0156 2Developer Trinity Financial marked the opening of its new residential community, Boston East, with a ribbon cutting celebration on May 21. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh joined Trinity Financial executives, representatives from the East Boston Community Development Corporation, local elected officials and community leaders to welcome the opening of the new residences.

Located directly on Boston Harbor and in close proximity to Downtown Boston and the MBTA, Boston East is a $71 million, boutique, mid-rise residential community that features 200 units, including six artist live-work-sell units and a community art gallery. DbfU85AW0AEMnGIBoston East also embraces and engages the waterfront with the development and expansion of the East Boston Harborwalk, which was made possible in part by a $3 million MassWorks Infrastructure Program grant to East Boston.

“Today we are celebrating the results of innovative public-private partnerships and the significant role they play in our Administration’s efforts to develop and create housing opportunities across the Commonwealth,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “I am pleased to see the successful work that has been done to transform this site into a residential community, which will deliver new housing units and public spaces, open access to East Boston’s waterfront and maximize infrastructure investments in the area.”

Trinity Financial utilized its experience in creating successful market rate luxury living spaces to develop a unique and desirable residential community at Boston East. Among the luxury communities Trinity Financial has developed or has currently in development DdvCKVNV0AA_c0Tinclude the One Canal and Avenir buildings in Boston, 66 Summer Street and Vela on the Park in Stamford, CT and Foundry Square in Newburyport.

Boston East, which is designed by ICON Architecture, features an acre of open space that includes a number of community outdoor features – including multiple decks and a large rooftop lounge. A harbor walk trail extends around and past the development, and residents also have access to an onsite kayak and stand up paddleboard launch.

“This project showcases what can be accomplished when we work together with our partners to transform vacant, city-owned property into beautiful, thriving and welcoming spaces,” said Mayor Walsh. “Boston East has helped to revamp the waterfront by providing affordable as well as market-rate rental units, more open space, as well as increased access to the Harbor meeting the City’s sustainability criteria.”

Boston East is located in one of Boston’s fastest-growing neighborhoods near restaurants and a variety of arts, cultural and outdoor amenities and activities. The development features studio, 1, 2 and 3-bedroom units, along with loft units located close to the MBTA DdWT3DgWkAA_0J8Blue Line, downtown Boston, and Logan International Airport.

“This project is the result of more than a decade of planning and hard work by a variety of public and private partners,” said State Senator Joseph Boncore. “The result is a new residential community at Boston East that provides much needed new housing and features outstanding cultural and waterfront amenities that benefit the entire community.”

CEO Thomas P. O’Neill III Speaks at the Annual MassAccess Conference

TPO MassAccess ConferenceOn Friday, May 4, O’Neill and Associates CEO Thomas P. O’Neill III served as the Keynote Speaker at the annual MassAccess Conference.

MassAccess is the nonprofit trade organization representing community media stations throughout Massachusetts. The membership group works to ensure the future vitality of Massachusetts based community media centers. There are over 200 local access cable TV centers in Massachusetts, the highest concentration of media centers in the country.

Community media professionals, local filmmakers, vendors, industry experts, and producers come together each year to learn from the best in television, film, and management. Each year, the conference provides MassAccess members the opportunity to meet, learn, and exchange ideas.

In his keynote address, O’Neill addressed the importance of free speech – particularly in today’s world of 24-hour news cycles, social media, and diminishing newspaper presence. The number of reporters in newsrooms is dwindling and, as a result, less news is being covered. Local Cable Access Centers and PEG stations are of vital importance now more than ever…they serve as one of the last lines of defense of transparent and free speech. “Local television may very well be our last gasp of free speech, we must protect it,” said O’Neill.

Community media centers across the country are being attacked and, in some cases, pushed out of their communities and out of business. But the work being done at these centers is vital. It doesn’t end with cable access. These centers are not only the last hyper-local outlet for citizens, they also provide educational and media literacy training, while serving as community hubs and centers and a training ground for students who want to pursue careers in TV and film.

As part of their ongoing advocacy efforts to ensure the vitality of community centers, MassAccess has been working to advance their Bill, ‘An Act to Support Community Access Television,’ filed by Senator John Keenan and Representative Ruth Balser. The Bill seeks to allow community media stations access to Electronic Programming Guides and channel signal quality that is comparable to local broadcast stations – now and in the future. Passage of the Bill would require cable companies to allow for broadcast of PEG channels in HD format and inclusion of programming in viewers’ electronic guides. These two changes would allow for PEG channels to be on par with most other offerings in cable television, and allow for greater access for viewers.

In addition to legislative advocacy, MassAccess works to develop educational workshops, utilize technology to inform and enhance community media centers, and acts as government liaisons to inform supporters across Massachusetts regarding the current political landscape in regards to media.

Interview with Dr. K. David Weidner of the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum

In 1620, when the Pilgrims made the transatlantic voyage and landed in the New World aboard the Mayflower, they dropped anchor in Provincetown Harbor first, for five weeks, where they drafted and signed the Mayflower Compact which created what is considered to be the first democratic government to be established in the colonies.

Almost 400 years later, the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum stands as a beacon of democracy and a symbol of freedom.  The Monument and Museum is a wonderful place to learn more about the Mayflower Pilgrims and about the history of Provincetown, where diverse groups have called it their home including the fishing industry, artists, writers, actors, and where tourists flock to during the summer months. O’Neill and Associates SVP Ann Murphy interviews Dr. K. David Weidner, Executive Director of the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum about the organization’s history and more.

 

Mississippi State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine Conducts First-of-its-kind Survey on Dog Shelters

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Last week, Mississippi State University (MSU) and its College of Veterinary Medicine announced that it is conducting a first-of-its-kind survey of dog shelters in five states across the country. The survey, which is funded by the Stanton Foundation, will provide valuable information about dog populations in shelters in key geographic regions across the country. The goal of the survey, which will be one of the most comprehensive shelter surveys in U.S. history, is to gather detailed information on the number and physical characteristics of dogs entering shelters and what happens to them.

“The lack of reliable data makes it difficult to most effectively serve and help dogs in need. This survey will ultimately enable organizations that seek to promote canine welfare to help the greatest number of dogs,” said Dr. Kent H. Hoblet, Dean of MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “The information will be beneficial to shelter operators, policymakers and ultimately dog owners across the nation because it will provide vital insights into patterns and behaviors regarding dog ownership, adoption, transfers, outcomes and resource distribution.”

The team conducting the survey will be reaching out to more than 400 shelters in five states – Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Colorado, and Oklahoma – that they have identified as eligible to participate. The five states were chosen because they each have a registry of shelters and provide a diverse geographical representation of the U.S. The college is offering an honorarium of $100 to each participating shelter.

MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine will build on previous work measuring and assessing dog shelters. For this current study, MSU’s team of researchers and students will visit shelters in person to gather data, which will help ensure the quality of data is strong. The individual data gathered will be kept confidential. Additionally, the researchers are interested in hearing feedback from stakeholders and others about this initiative.

“People in all regions of the country care very much about canine welfare, and we believe that this study will help dog owners, elected and appointed officials and shelter operators make informed decisions,” said Dean Hoblet. “We appreciate the shelters that are partnering with us to help us acquire this data and are looking forward to working with them.”

Located in Starkville, Mississippi, the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine is one of thirty veterinary colleges in the United States. Founded in 1974, they take pride in offering an outstanding education to the next generation of veterinarians and scientists, providing compassionate care to animals, and conducting world-class research in animal and public health. MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at  www.msstate.edu.

Interview with Boston Pride’s Jessie DeStefano – Social Media Manager, Boston Pride Guide Co-Editor-in-Chief

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Boston Pride Week will be held June 1 – June 10 and the Pride Committee is gearing up for lots of events, programs and festivities for the LGBTQ community and its allies. Pride Week culminates with the annual Pride Parade, New England’s largest continually operating parade that features 20,000 marchers, hundreds of floats and an estimated 500-thousand spectators that line the route from the Back Bay to the South End to Beacon Hill ending at City Hall Plaza where the Pride Festival takes place. O’Neill and Associates SVP Ann Murphy spoke to Pride Committee Member Jessie DeStefano who gave us an update on Boston Pride Week.

CEO Thomas P. O’Neill III Congratulates the Class of 2018

Dear Friend,
Commencement season is once again upon us. It is an exciting time but one that is often met with mixed emotions as students face uncertainty when looking towards the future. Notable speakers will provide encouragement and advice to graduating classes as students enter the next stage of their lives. As I think of words of wisdom to share with aspiring graduates, I am reminded of the commencement address Former First Lady Barbara Bush gave to the Wellesley College Class of 1990, which is considered one of the top 100 American speeches of the 20th century by university scholars.
 Mrs. Bush discussed the importance of remaining true to oneself. She offered three pieces of advice: get involved in the movements that will shape your world, find joy in life no matter the path you choose, and invest in your relationships with others. My grandfather offered similar guidance upon my graduation: “Meet someone new every day” and, “It is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.” That advice has served me well. Building new relationships and making connections are important -in politics, in business, and in life- but it is essential, too, to nurture your relationships with those who matter most.
Similarly, finding success takes time, hard work, and commitment. I recently had the pleasure of joining the graduating students of Cristo Rey Boston High School at their Academic Signing Day where they revealed their college selections. Many Cristo Rey students are the first in their families to attend college, and all Cristo Rey Boston graduates are accepted to college. Their life journeys thus far are defined by challenge, audacity, and determination. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of watching Cristo Rey students graduate high school, then complete undergraduate and graduate school, and go on to do incredible things. I look forward to seeing how they will change the world.
To me, the most important trait students can learn is to never stop being a student – of work, of politics, of the news, and of the world. Keep an open mind in all aspects of your life, embrace new experiences, new challenges. Being a lifelong learner will allow you to better understand others and help you establish your place in the world. Opportunity abounds. Now is the time to take risks, seek adventure, and chase your dreams.
I wish congratulations to the Class of 2018 and their parents for all their hard work and success in achieving this impressive accomplishment. To echo the words of Mrs. Bush in her commencement address, “May your future be worthy of your dreams.”

 

Sincerely,
Tom O’Neill

“The Three A’s” of Identifying a Twitter Bot

By: Account Executive Brook O’Meara-Sayen

1.jpgIn my last blog piece, I discussed what a Twitter bot is, provided an extremely basic overview of how they’re made, and discussed how Twitter bots can make and change sentiment online. Much of the recent social discourse regarding bots has been negative, mainly due to revelations that Russia utilized a veritable army of bots in 2016 in their attempt to influence the US Presidential Election. Russia used its bots to move online sentiment, creating the impression that hashtags campaigns and other orchestrated social media content were coming from actual voters, and not a shadowy office building in St. Petersburg, Russia. To do this, they relied on the assumption that the everyday American Twitter user wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a bot and person. In many cases, they were right. Russia also had a dedicated team of ‘professional trolls’ working in tandem with the bots, making it hard to discern who was mechanical, and who wasn’t. However, most bots are still relatively easy to find–and ubiquitous. An estimated 9-15 percent of all Twitter accounts are bots.

So, how is one able to identify a bot in your feed? Attempting to weed out bots isn’t foolproof, and the tips I’m about to give will not always work. They will allow you to analyze and think critically about the suspicious accounts you may come across. One of the easiest ways to identify a bot is by looking at post frequency and identity, by using “The Three A’s”, a system coined by the Digital Forensics Research Lab.

THE THREE A’S

  1. ACTIVITY, or how much do you post?

Machines are great because they can perform menial tasks much faster than any human ever could, just ask Henry Ford. This is in part why bots who retweet original content are so pervasive on the web. You can create a ‘retweet bot’ in a matter of minutes. Once it’s on, it won’t turn off unless you tell it to. This leads to a twitter account with an abnormally high number of tweets – the first red flag. The Digital Forensic Research Lab treats any account that tweets more than 40 times a day as suspicious, and anything over 140 as highly suspect.

  1. ANONYMITY, or who are you?

Creating a convincing fake online person can be tedious, so most bots tend towards vague anonymity. They might use generic names, false locations, and minimal or misleading bios that lack personal information. Most human twitter accounts will include at least cursory identifying information, such as a verifiable name and profile picture. They may also tweet identifying characteristics out about themselves unknowingly, such as a picture of their dog, child, car, etc., or a complaint about the weather or commute in a specific location. This is not to say that all anonymous twitter accounts are bots, but used in conjunction with other warning signs, anonymity can be a helpful indicator.

  1. AMPLIFICATION, or what are you saying?

Bots cannot easily create lucid, fully-formed thoughts on a subject. They rarely provide the nuance needed to trick a human user. So, what do they do instead? They cheat. Bots might post content written by real people. They retweet, copy news headlines verbatim, and you hope no one questions why there is no obviously original content on their page.

Using the three A’s when looking at a suspected bot account can give a user a good sense of its authenticity, but it is not foolproof. In addition to the three A’s, users should look for other indicators such as stolen pictures, accounts with very few followers and insanely high engagement rates, and usernames that appear to be randomly generated.

It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s fake on the internet. If you’re interested in becoming a full-fledged bot-finder, I would also point you to some of the source material for this blog post, “12 Ways to Spot a Bot” by the Digital Forensics Research Lab.

Spotlight on Framingham, the Commonwealth’s Newest City

April was an exciting month for Framingham, the Commonwealth’s newest city, as an important milestone for its downtown redevelopment was achieved and the city’s newly-elected – and inauguralShovels at Framingham.jpg – mayor, Dr. Yvonne Spicer, had the opportunity to lay out her economic vision to Framingham’s business community.

On Tuesday, April 3rd, Wood Partners, a national leader in real estate development and construction, celebrated the groundbreaking of Alta Union House, which is the first large-scale development to be built in Framingham’s Downtown in decades.  Mayor Spicer was joined by Mike Gatlin, chair of Framingham’s Economic Development and Industrial Corporation (EDIC), City Councilor Cheryl Tully Stoll and Wood Partners Director Jim Lambert at the event.

Alta Union House will include 196 rental units, 20 of which will be designated as affordable housing and will include 2,600 square feet of ground-level retail space. “I can tell you – you have picked the right place to grow. Framingham is a city on the move, and I’m excited to be a part of it,” said Mayor Spicer in her remarks at the event. It is this Alta Housegrowth that brought Wood Partners to Framingham.  “Downtown Framingham is full of exciting possibilities,” said Jim Lambert, Wood Partners Director. “This is a welcoming place for us to do business, and we know it will be a wonderful place for our residents to live, work and play. It has a unique and exciting blend of economic opportunity, cultural diversity, urban amenities, but with a small-town feel.”

In 2015, Special Town Meeting members voted overwhelmingly to support zoning changes to Framingham’s Central Business District with the goal to make Downtown Framingham an attractive, vibrant, diverse center that will be a hub of economic activity for the MetroWest region. Previous zoning laws had discouraged developers from creating the kind of new units that appeal to young professionals and others who may otherwise be attracted to Framingham.

The rezoning has been critical to encouraging transit-oriented development (TOD) projects like Alta Union House.  In addition to this project, Mill Creek’s Modera Framingham development at 266 Waverly Street, permitted for 270 new units of multifamily housing, is expected to begin demolition in the near future. Framingham’s Planning Board has also permitted 411 new units for downtown.

Two days later, Mayor Spicer outlined her economic development vision to more than 75 Mayor Spicermembers of Framingham’s business community at an event at the Sheraton Framingham organized by the EDIC as part of an ongoing series of panel discussions and events as part of its Choose Framingham campaign.

“We’ve got great bones, we’ve got to build the meat on these bones,” said Mayor Spicer at the afternoon event, which also featured remarks from Mike Gatlin and Paul Joseph of the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce.

After mentioning the Alta Union House groundbreaking and the fact that Framingham has permitted 877 units of housing, Mayor Spicer mentioned that she has seen an ebb and flow with regard to the downtown in the more than 30 years she’s lived in Framingham. She proclaimed the development activity as “exciting” and talked about the advantages that the city has, in terms of its location to both Boston and Worcester. She also discussed the city’s importance as an economic engine for the MetroWest region, saying “we are in a sweet spot” and pointing out that more 50,000 workers are employed at Framingham businesses.

Acknowledging that “economic development is a driver of our community,” Mayor Spicer also said that “of everything we do, my underlying question is always ‘how does it benefit Framingham?’”

Framingham has recently launched a comprehensive economic development plan that the city anticipates will help this new city grow even more. For more information, please visit www.chooseframingham.com, Like the Choose Framingham initiative on Facebook and Follow Choose Framingham on Twitter.