Archive for the ‘Boston’ Category

Mayor Menino: Municipal Leadership for Tough Times

December 9, 2008

Mayor Menino delivered his annual speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce this morning. He addressed an enormous crowd at the Park Plaza Hotel. The theme was leadership.

A highlight of the speech was Menino’s proposal to create a $40 million fund to keep development going in the city. I sensed a palpable feeling of excitement in the room over this plan. 

The mayor drew laughter when he likened the ceos of the Big Three auto makers trip to Washington to the film “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”

With Boston in need of revenue, he called for “equitable PILOT agreements.” These are arrangements whereby non-for-profit entities give a payment to the city in lieu of being taxed. 

The best thing about today’s speech was that Mayor Menino confronted the tough fiscal times. He did not attempt to sugar coat what is happening. That is called leadership.

I write, as always, as a former press secretary to the mayor.

The Recession: About Those Bottles and Cans

December 4, 2008

I’m just in from taking out my recycling. When I got outside, I encountered man pushing a shopping cart collecting cans and bottles for their deposits. I asked him about whether the downturn had affected the amount of money he could earn by doing these. He said two disturbing things: 1) There was a marked decline in the number of bottles and cans being left out for recycling; 2) He faced more competitors seeking to glean extra money during tough times. Scary!

Sam Adams on Tap at the Boston Public Library

November 20, 2008

Samuel Adams

No not the beer. The political leader, revolutionary and visionary. Ira Stoll will read from his new biography, Samuel Adams: A Life, at the Boston Public Library this evening at 6 p.m. He will be introduced by fellow Harvard graduate and local political history buff, City Councillor John Connolly.

Barney Frank At The Chamber of Commerce

October 27, 2008

As the chairman of the House Banking Committee, Rep. Barney Frank is one of the most important public figures in the country. Frank kept folks at home updated on the fiscal crisis with a speech before the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.

Frank pushing to get himself out there locally. He has spoken recently to Wayne Woodlief of the Boston Herald, Ross Kerber of The Boston Globe and the editorial board of the South Coast Standard Times. He’s doing exactly what a local figure should do when he or she feels their getting a raw deal on a big story. I am not surprised that he gave some of his most provocative comments to the New Bedford-based Standard Times. Frank is facing reelection next week, and the southern part of the district is voter rich.

Events like a chamber breakfast give an elected official an opportunity to reach leaders in the area’s business and not-for-profit community.

Introduced by the chief marketing officer of Bank of America, Anne Finucane, Frank took time to separate the heroes from the villains in the current fiscal unraveling. He started off his remarks calling on other banks to follow the example of Bank of America in writing down more than 600,000 borrowers.

The major targets of Frank’s comments were the financial professionals who profited obscenely by way of trafficking in mortgage-backed securities during the years of the real estate boom, walked away with huge bonuses and left the country holding the bag. “Diversification turned out to be a disaster,” he said. “Spreading around is spreading the poison.”

He contrasted those who originated mortgages with those who those who purchased them even within the same company. Citicorp, he said, recently merged the two units and put the mortgage-originators in charged. The mortgage-originators, who were playing with the company’s own money, were more careful while the other group was more reckless, Frank said.

Frank mocked the thinking behind the securities, i.e. that the value of real estate would only go up, saying it would be like “somebody went into the business of selling life insurance to vampires,” securitized the life insurance policy and “now the vampires are dying.”

He also painted a picture of where his committee’s work is going, and it means a major change for the financial services industry. “We are now going to regulate the securitization activities of all financial services,” Frank said.

My sense is that Boston’s cognoscenti received Frank well. I don’t expect him to have a problem next Tuesday. More interesting will be to see how those who make their livings engaged in the trading of various securities react to Frank’s call for additional regulation.

Corporate Responsibility: More Than Just a Hobby

October 18, 2008

Can businesses enhance their commitment to social responsibility during difficult economic times? That was one of the questions posed today at the Massachusetts Summit on Progressive Business held at the Harvard Club.

The consensus of this gathering was that these troubled times create the exact moment for business leaders to make good on their social commitments.

The president of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Josh Broger, speaking at a morning panel, raised an interesting point. He cited the Massachusetts General Laws section on shareholder responsibility. Embedded within the statute was clear language permitting shareholders to factor in community and regional concerns to their corporate duty to seek profits. “You have permission … to be socially responsible,” he said.

He was joined on the panel by the president of the Communispace Corporation, Diane Hessan. She said that the bulk of employees, who are members of the Millennial Generation, are demanding some corporate responsibility at their places of employment. Interestingly, this message directly gibes with what I heard from pollster John Zogby about younger Americans.

Governor Deval Patrick, on a day when he focused on the economy, appeared before the gathering at a lunch. In my view, both the summit and Patrick’s appearance before it make a lot of sense. If there is any good to come out of a poor business climate perhaps it is the shared sense of commitment and responsibility that I heard from members of the business community today. In some ways, the Harvard Club parley reminded me of the Vault I have heard so much about from the days of old, where Boston’s CEOs acted as public citizens with the best interest of the future our city in mind. In that case, it will be up to the new generation of leaders, such as Jeffrey Bussgang of Flybridge Capital Partners, and Jim Boyle of the Sustainability Round Table, to help forge it.

Farewell to Charles E. Doyle

October 17, 2008

Charles E. Doyle 

Occasionally this blog tells the story of the great personalities who comprise the fabric of the city, the ones who you won’t necessarily read about in the daily newspapers. One of those people died this week, Charlie Doyle of Brighton.

If I were forced to reduce Doyle’s life to headlines, which is always difficult, I’d describe him as the leader — the innovator really — of a vibrantly progressive ward committee in Brighton, Ward 21, a long-time city politico, having run the City of Boston’s Cable Office under a number of city mayors, a political visionary and a Bostonian’s Bostonian.

But I can’t really boil Doyle down to that, because he was much, much more. His story begins amid the simmering liberalism of the late 1950s and early 1960s — before it turned into the cauldron of the latter part of that decade. He graduated from the now-defunct St. Columbkille High School of Brighton and travelled down Commonwealth Avenue to attend Boston University. There he electrified fellow students with his encyclopedic knowledge of politics and history. Then he went even farther afield for a graduate program at Columbia University in New York City. New York, at that time, was a place of swirling intellectual and political foment. Charlie and I talked about that period in his life when I visited with him at the Cable Office in the mid-1990s. It helped power a intellectual engine, but he came back to Brighton to make a difference.

When he came back, Charlie put into practice his knowledge of the burgeoning field of political science. At a time when most ward committee work was limited to distributing political signs, Doyle was turning it into a science. He gathered detailed voter data, compiled demographic information, and kept the best data bases in the city.

My grandparents lived in Brighton for much of my life, and I thought I knew the neighborhood. That was until I called Doyle for a story. In painstaking — and delicious — detail, he broke down the differences between the liberal, but sometimes transient, Ward 21, and the more socially-conservative, Ward 22.

He was a skilled photographer. His work, which was on display at his wake, could serve as a pictorial history of Boston with vintage photos of Kevin White, Larry Bird and others. He was ahead of the curve on a trend that has become very popular today, bicycle riding. I remember on him tooling around his bike at Nantasket Beach in Hull. He remained a political junkie until the end, relishing WGBH’s Friday night line up of political shows, beginning with Greater Boston.

But, most of all, Doyle was the quiet creator of a political dynasty in Brighton. He took the two basketball-loving sons of his sister Mary under his wing and imparted to them everything he ever knew about politics. It was his gift. He bestowed it on the dogged and lovable Kevin Honan, who has become as reliable and earnest a representative as that neighborhood has ever had. And he delivered it to the charismatic, witty and talented Brian Honan, who served Brighton as a city councillor and then was running a rigorous campaign for district attorney, when he died suddenly and tragically at the age of 39 in 2002.

I can’t say that Charlie was the same after that. But who would be.

There was something awful about seeing many of the same faces at the funeral home on Chestnut Hill Avenue yesterday. Amidst the pain, people were talking about one of Charlie’s great final achievements. Back in 2005 and 2006 a former Clinton Administration official, little known in the Boston area, started making the rounds trying to meet people and build up a grass roots political organization. He was, of course, Deval Patrick. Most insiders met Patrick with indifference at best.

Doyle was different. He welcomed Patrick to a ward committee meeting. There he grilled the would-be governor. Why was he any different than any of the other great progressive candidates, whose candidacies failed after great fanfare? Patrick convinced many in the ward that he was different. He took 14/18 delegates at the caucuses that year.

With Doyle’s departure, like the death of Boston-chronicler Alan Lupo a couple weeks ago, the city is a poorer place, one more in danger of losing its character and characters.

No Boston Celtics Special Section in the Globe

June 19, 2008

I expected to find a special championship section in the Boston Globe today. The Globe did have one yesterday. But it has become customary in this era of championships for the paper to have a special section on the day of the Rolling Rally as well. Today’s coverage was divided between the A, City Region and Sports sections. On the website, the stories are unified.

Michael Levenson and Brian Ballou write a story about the win’s impact on city kids. They draw a contrast between the Celtics support in Jamaica Plain and Roxbury. “In Jamaica Plain, where baseball is king thanks to a large Dominican community, few wore green and white yesterday, but many said they had witnessed the Celtics’ historic run to the championship…In Roxbury, there were many more Celtics jerseys. Two men wearing Garnett’s and Pierce’s numbers rolled down Washington Street on mopeds. Store owners wore them as well. And sidewalk conversations were all about Tuesday night’s win.”

I don’t know whether the lack of a special section is a reflection on the advertising market, which it could be, or on the public’s interest in this victory. It will be interesting to watch the turn out for today’s event. I’m anticipating a very young crowd for reasons not limited to the end of the school year. I’m also interested in the sale of merchandise.

Even in the down years, the Celtics did a good job of keeping the die-hards involved. The questions are how many newer fans will this terrific team bring into the fold for the future and how many old fans have come back.

As I wrote on Tuesday when I spotted Wyc Grousbeck at Pace, the win of the downtown-based Celtics is great for civic pride. I congratulate them on an amazing turn around.

Celtic Pride

June 17, 2008

I just returned from downtown. I met the Fabulous Dana at her office in the Bullfinch Triangle and walked across the Greenway to J. Pace.

Already 9 hours before the Boston Celtics face off against the Los Angeles Lakers tonight in an attempt to win their first championship since 1986, the whole area was buzzing. Green and white balloons adorned buildings and garages from the Garden to Haymarket.

We crossed the Greenway, where young people were arrayed on the grass sunbathing, and entered Pace, the salumeria and grocery, closed during the years of Big Dig construction. As excitement over the Celtics and the downtown revival hung in the air, I noticed the next customer wearing a nifty black Boston Celtics polo shirt. It was the man largely responsible for the resurgence of the Celtics, managing partner, Wyc Grousbeck.

I credit Grousbeck for putting together an investment team to buy the club, tapping Danny Ainge to serve as the general manager, and, most importantly, for having faith. At a time when I thought the teams fortunes were without hope, Grousbeck had the vision to see what the new era Celtics could become.

Grousbeck is also a philanthropist and a decent guy. He flew back to Boston between Celtics games in LA to attend his son’s graduation from the Perkins School for the Blind.

Nobody can predict what will happen in sports. I’m hoping that Celtics, who despite all their championship banners over the years, can earn their first ever rolling rally.

In the meantime, the city is in championship form.

Goin’ Back to Cali

May 31, 2008

Epic Foes

Now that the Boston Celtics have defeated the Detroit Pistons, it is only fitting that they face their historic foe, the Los Angeles Lakers. Just as in Greek mythology, where heroes had to vanquish great enemies before being allowed to enter the pantheon, the Garnett-Pierce-Allen trio must defeat Kobe and the team from the West. To get us ready for this tremendous battle, I’m posting some links.

1. Randy Newman singing “I Love LA.”

2. 2 Pac and Dr. Dre performing “California Love.”

3. Cool J’s “Goin’ Back to Cali.”

4. Kevin McHale taking Kurt Rambis down in the 1984 Finals.

Roslindale Rant

April 26, 2008

Missing From Globe Take Out

The Boston Globe chose to focus on Roslindale as a prism through which to view the economic downturn. It’s a bit of an unusual choice, considering Roslindale’s not being particularly hard hit by mortgage foreclosures as are some communities on the 495 ring or in Southern New Hampshire, where I spent much time last fall. But the neighborhood is a vital, but often unnoticed, part of city life. I suppose the choice to center on Roslindale makes more sense with the recognition that several major executives at The Boston Globe, including Al Larkin and Brian McGrory, grew up in Roslindale.

Stephanie Ebbert, who’s been reporting on Boston since she came to the Globe from Pennsylvania some eight years ago, certainly nailed one major attribute of Roslindale Square, the food.

“The village is a food lover’s paradise, with ethnic markets, inviting restaurants, and a belt-straining six bakeries. Here, you can find burritos, baklava, bibimbop, pizza, paella, and pho. Casually chic restaurants mingle with unadorned postwar markets whose owners seem to see no need for upgrades.

“The storefronts of Greek markets dangle candles ribboned and bedecked with toys for Orthodox Easter, while the broad window at Fornax Bread Co., maker of artisanal breads, is draped with artfully mismatched aprons.

“Unlike most urban centers, Roslindale Village still feels completely real, dominated by locally owned businesses and traversed by people and a wide array of races and incomes.”

But overall I felt this take out had an arbitrary feel. For example, she makes a big deal out of the fact that Bob’s Pita Bakery has admittedly disappointedly stopped baking its own bread. (In fact, with the departure of the Near East Bakery on Washington Street in West Roxbury, there’s no place to get freshly baked pita, where previously there were two bakeries nearby.) But she neglects one of the most welcome recent additions to Roslindale Village, the Boston Cheese Cellar. Of course, a write-up of such a high end, sophisticated food shop, which has experienced an uptick of growth this year in the face of tough economic times, would have directly contradicted the “neighborhood in crisis” notion being promulgated in  Ebbert’s piece. 

When I drove through the Village last night, the neighborhood was buzzing with couples and families walking to dine at one of the many fine local restaurants.

Perhaps I’m too sensitive on this. I’m a neighborhood property owner as well as a new member of the Main Streets board. It’s great that the world has finally noticed what we have here. It’s too bad it’s taken a downturn to get them to take note.