It’s not easy to discern who will be Boston’s next Mayor — at least four appear poised to get there — but whoever wins out should strongly consider the agenda I am about to set forth.
There is, first of all, a great deal of bad policy consequences to undo, mistakes that have festered for as long as 50 years and compounded to the point of absurdity. I address these in my list.
There is also a serious call to change direction. The City has, for the past 28 years, since the election of Tom Menino, opened the floodgates of land speculation and luxury housing and has also done away with an elected school committee. Both these decisions must terminate NOW.
And now to my agenda :
Housing — the most mal-administered factor in all of current City government — ( a ) there must be an end to zoning variances except in case of true hardship. Apply the law. No other exceptions. ( b ) prioritize and subsidize the construction of single-family and two-family houses, especially along waterfronts ( c ) admit three-family dwellings where feasible ( d ) plant trees on all residential streets and encourage trees and foliage generally in as much open space as is available and isn’t a ball field or marsh ( e ) no more huge-box apartment blocks (f ) rigorously enforce building codes so that builders cannot cut corners on quality of materials. (Note : These reforms would render moot all of the so-called “affordability” ordinances and regulations that have rendered Boston houses LESS affordable ! )
Public Safety — the very foundation of our having a City at all — : ( 1 ) clear the “methadone mile” and keep it cleared ( 2 ) expand the police force’s gang unit ( 3 ) increase police presence in Downtown, especially late night ( 4 ) appoint Nora Baston the next Commissioner ( 5 ) accept the State’s $ 850,000 crime-fighting grant ( 6 ) expand the youth worker force ( 7 ) support neighborhood crime watch groups ( 8 ) curb the use of so-called “dirt bikes” on City streets by enforcing laws against public nuisance and disturbing the peace; create a specific task force to police these regulations. ( 9 ) support our police men and women — and show it !
Schools : which are crucial to the City retaining families who now move to the suburbs because they have no coinfidence in the school system — ( 1 ) eliminate busing, thereby saving $ 100,000,000 annually ( 2 ) re-establish neighborhood schools and set up parent-teacher associations, which before 1974 were so important to school morale and quality ( 3 ) change the City charter to give us a school committee elected in part — 13 members plus two appointed by the Mayor ( 4 ) toughen the examinations required for students to gain admission to the “exam schools” and allow no dilution thereof [yes, neighborhood the student lives in can be a discretionary factor in admission, as it is for most boarding schools] ( 5 ) do a comprehensive, on-site appraisal of all facility maintenance and upgrade need, including air conditioning an d heating systems, some of which has been undone for 40 years, and allocate the monies to repair all such over a budget cycle of no ore than four years, with deadlines written into the order ( 6 ) consolidate school facilities to account for reduction in student numbers from 92,000 [present capacity ! ] to 54,000, which is the current enrollment; sell off excess buildings and apply the proceeds to the Capital Fund ( 7 ) allow principals to hire (and fire) their entire pedagogic staff ( 8 ) appoint a Superintendent from within the system only
Roads : are for cars and buses. Any other vehicles use the City’s public roadways at their own risk.
City hiring : bring back ;patronage to a degree. A mayor must be able to have her own close people in house to assist her work and to promote her politically.; merit is essential, of course, to technically skilled positions, but much City work isn’t that hard to master. There should never be any stigma attached to one’s acquiring a City job because one worked on a Mayor’s election campaign. If anything, work on the campaign teaches the campaigner a lot about City government that can’t be readily learned any other way. Lastly, patronage hires relieve the present concentration upon ideology, which, since the elimination of patronage, has all but monopolized the political sphere and not in a healthy way.
Fifty years ago Boston had over 30,000 public employees. They and their families, living almost all in one, two and three family houses, constituted a permanent community of interest and neighborhood connection that made the City stable and vibrant. Today much of the Boston voter list is singles living in apartment or condo blocks and high rises barely knowing each other, working in 10,000 different jobs and having no community except the social media-generated ideology of the moment. It is of course their free choice, but I don’t think the current custom is in any way preferable to what was our City.
This is hardly a complete list, but it will do for a start.
— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere