A push for 30,000 new housing units by 2020. $11 million for an overhaul of a park in his rival’s neighborhood. Some 10,000 mobile devices in Boston Public Schools over the next two years in a bid to promote “electronic learning.”
Mayor Thomas Menino, who has not yet publicly said whether or not he will be running for another term, laid out those initiatives this week at the annual meeting of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau before an audience of business leaders and potential contenders for his seat
“As I speak with you today, I have never been more committed, more confident about our city,” Menino told the gathering of about 500 people at the Seaport Hotel.
Noting that the city has created 20,000 housing units in the last ten years, along with thousands of dorm beds, Menino said “groundwork” is needed for the additional 30,000 in the next 7 years. “We will work with experts inside and outside of government to prepare our city for the housing needs of all of our people, not just some of our people.”
The speech came days after City Councillor At-Large John Connolly held a rally at the Omni Parker House Hotel, with about 400 supporters in attendance, where he charged that Boston is losing working and middle class families even as its population has grown. He cited City Hall for a “disconnected, piecemeal economic development strategy,” despite a pharmaceutical company like Vertex moving into the growing “Innovation District” on South Boston’s waterfront.
“We need to focus more on transit-oriented development, more on workforce housing that prioritizes middle market 3-bedroom units for young families and affordable lofts for young artists and young professionals,” Connolly said.
Seated in the back of the room inside the Seaport Hotel for Menino’s speech, Connolly said it was “hard to disagree” with what Menino sketched out in his address. “The real question is where was the housing policy to keep young families and young talent ten years ago,” he said.
A top critic of the city’s school department, Connolly sat with the department’s chief financial officer and Superintendent Carol Johnson’s chief-of-staff, along with other late arrivals to the luncheon. Other attendees viewed as possible mayoral contenders were elsewhere in the room, including state Rep. Marty Walsh (D-Dorchester) and Councillors Rob Consalvo and Tito Jackson.
Menino’s speech was in some ways a continuation of his State of the City speech in January, highlighting the city’s economic growth over the course of his term and announcing the head of a new Women’s Workforce Council, Cathy Minehan, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, who will help young women negotiate for better pay.
The mayor also announced the co-chairs of a “quality advisory panel,” which was the recommendation of a group of academics and parents who advised the mayor on overhauling the city’s complex and unpopular school assignment process. Meg Campbell, a Dorchester resident who serves on the School Committee and is a founding member of the Codman Academy Charter Public School, will co-chair the new panel, as will Boston University Dean of Education Hardin Coleman, who also co-chaired the school assignment group.
Menino returned to his Hyde Park home on Saturday, after a three-month stay at the Parkman House, the city-owned house on Beacon Hill to which he headed after a two-month hospital stay at the end of last year.
In the speech, Menino reiterated his opposition to changing the make-up of the mayorally appointed School Committee. District 3 City Councillor Frank Baker has proposed a switch to a committee with three members who are elected and four who are appointed, arguing that it would bring more accountability to an unelected body.
The Boston Municipal Research Bureau has registered its opposition to the proposal. “You advocate for many good ideas,” Menino said at the beginning of his speech. “You rightfully push back against bad ones, like re-politicizing the Boston School Committee. This proposal would only put the special interests ahead of our kids’ interests.”
The mayor, who has served five terms, did not provide a hint of his elecgoral plans at the luncheon, instead offering a variation of what he has said at recent fundraisers. “We pile progress on top of progress,” he said. “And that job is never done.”