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Through its Middle Cities Initiative, the Pioneer Institute has identified 14 cities in Massachusetts that are struggling with a number of related issues, including fiscal management, crime, education, and the need for lasting community and economic development. This paper will explore the use of municipal benchmarks in Massachusetts, with particular reference to the 14 identified Middle Cities. Importantly, as with the original surveyor's marks, the development and application of municipal benchmarks will require to become comfortable thinking in relative terms - not always a simple task in a world where statistics often fly about faster than the speed of thought and the attractions of "Absolute" comparisons (and judgements) tend to be hard to resist.
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