Diversity in Boston police, fire department staff lags, report states

A report examining the diversity of Boston’s municipal employees found that the Boston Police and Fire Departments, among others, have low minority representation, according to a Tuesday press release.

The Workforce Profile Report, released by the city’s Office of Diversity, found racial and gender disparities in the city’s municipalities and posed possible solutions to remedy the issue.

The report also compared the racial and gender makeup of Boston municipal workers to those of other cities nationwide.

“We were able to take an in-depth look at each department to see where we can improve and specifically what we need to do to reach our goals,” said Boston Mayor Martin Walsh in the release. “It is our priority to not only improve the numbers but to create a strong pipeline that will ensure we are finding the best talent and cultivating that talent for positions throughout City Hall.”

Approximately 58 percent of Boston’s municipal workers are white, 26 percent are black, 11 percent are Hispanic and 4 percent are Asian, the report stated. Overall, 47 percent of municipal workers are male.

“These reports allow local government to track the diversity of their workforce,” Shaun Blugh, the city’s chief diversity officer, wrote in an email. “As representatives of the residents of the respective cities, it is important for the composition of the local government employee base to be reflective of the constituents and neighborhoods they serve.”

Boston’s police and fire departments, which possess more than half of the City’s turnover opportunity for the next five years, were among those with the least minority representation, Blugh said. This is something the city is working to address, he said.

The report outlines possible steps to abate the issue, such as increasing diversity training and employee research groups, creating a diversity officer position for the Boston Fire Department and reinstating the Boston Police Department’s cadet program, Blugh said.

“We will collaborate internally and externally to recruit more diverse talent to the City of Boston workforce and create pipelines for internal talent to advance within the organization,” he said.

Peter DiDomenica, lieutenant detective at the Boston University Police Department, said recruiting diverse workers for the department could establish trust within the community.

“When we have an opportunity to hire, we’re seeking out publication and means of communication, between social media, Internet, and community groups to get the word out that we’re hiring and we would like people in this community to work for us,” he said. “It takes a proactive approach and it takes active recruitment to reach the levels of diversity that we should be achieving and we’re trying.”

Blugh said the lack of diversity in municipal workforces is an issue nationwide.

“The Workforce Profile Report was an essential step in outlining the key areas in which we, at the City of Boston, can improve,” he said. “The Office of Diversity has also been working with [human resources] to aid the recruiting efforts for open positions, as well as meeting with department heads internally discussing ways in which we can develop internal diverse talent for opportunities for upward mobility in City government.”

DiDomenica said BPD is working hard in its efforts to reach out to communities in order to establish trust and recruit from them

“When I’m looking at the Boston Police, I think they’re doing a really good job in trying to build that level of trust, trying to get the word out that we represent the people, we want our department to represent the people we protect,” he said. “We want you to trust us, we want you to be a part of us.”

Several residents expressed surprise about diversity in city municipalities and a desire for change within the Boston workforce

Evelyn Friel, 74, of Brighton, said it is time for a change to occur in the workforce in order to allow room for a larger minority presence.

“I would assume that the majority of the workforce is white,” she said. “It’s time to change, you know, give everybody an equal chance and break the pattern.”

Jason Milton, 39, of Roslindale, said he has experienced great diversity in Boston and would like to see how the city compares with the rest of the nation in regards to the issue.

“I’ve been a Boston resident all my life, and I grew up in a very diverse area. I grew up in Roslindale, which is as diverse as it gets,” he said. “I know that, you know, in certain jobs sometimes things like underrepresentation happen, but I have friends who work on the police department, fire department, who are of all nationalities.”

Erin Long, 26, of Allston, said if there is any sort of underrepresentation of minorities in Boston, then it should be addressed and fixed.

“I don’t know too much about the issue, but if there is any racial inequality or underrepresentation being perpetuated within Boston, then that’s definitely a bad thing,” she said. “I’m glad it’s being looked into and, hopefully in the long run, ended.”

Mina Corpuz contributed to the reporting of this article.

This article was originally published on April 17, 2015.


Massachusetts one of seven states to earn ‘F’ rating in welfare reform

Massachusetts has been deemed one of the states with the worst overall reform policies, according to national report released March 19.

The Commonwealth was one of only seven states in the nation to be given an “F” overall grade and was ranked 49 out of the 50 states for its welfare reform, the Heartland Institute  determined in its 2015 Welfare Reform Report Card.

“Massachusetts’s current set of welfare and anti-poverty programs disincentivizes work, trapping welfare recipients in long-term poverty,” wrote Logan Pike, the Heartland Institute’s state government relations manager and one of the report’s producers, in an email. “Legislators should reform Massachusetts’s welfare system by adopting policies that improve opportunities for upward mobility and self-sufficiency.”

The conclusions were drawn by examining five aspects of each state’s welfare reform policy: service integration, or the way in which services are delivered to the public; work requirements; limits on eligibility; cash diversion programs, or the policies that allocate cash to applicants for short term needs; and sanctions to secure compliance, the document states, he said.

The report was produced by Pike, Diane Bast, Matthew Glans and Gary MacDougal, all from the Heartland Institute, who, over a two-year period, compiled and analyzed data from each state’s department of social services, U.S. Census  reports, state budget information and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services , Pike said.

“Successful welfare reform can save lives and produce positive effects on multiple generations,” the report stated. “It can save taxpayers billions of dollars and help address such serious social maladies as crime, alcoholism and teenage pregnancy. And it can demonstrate that government programs can be successfully devolved from the national government to states.”

Massachusetts received an “F” grade for four of the five individual policies, excluding service integration, for which the Commonwealth received an “A.” Overall, the Commonwealth’s welfare reform conditions have deteriorated over time, according to the report.

“Massachusetts fell 10 places from 2008 to 2015. Its grade for work requirements fell and the state has done little to change policies while other states have improved theirs,” Pike said. “Massachusetts should adopt work requirements, empower caseworkers with a cash diversion option, impose time lifetime limits on eligibility for aid and do more to enforce eligibility rules.”

Other poor-performing states include Missouri, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington, according to the report.

“Many states that earned an A or a B overall have adopted policies that move more people from dependency to self-sufficiency and incentivize work,” Pike said. “These states have immediate work requirements, a cash diversion program, strict sanctions in place, strong integration with other social services and have limited lifetime aid eligibility.”

Pike said states’ welfare aid should include policies to help individuals become more independent. The most successful states, although each state is different, implement policies and integrate services that aid recipients in permanently transitioning into the workforce, Pike said.

“Lawmakers should consider strengthening welfare work requirements, tightening lifetime limit eligibility requirements, providing a short-term cash diversion program, implementing strict sanctions and integrating other social services,” she said.

The Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance assists individuals and families in need by working to meet their basic needs, increase their income and ultimately improve their quality of life, wrote DTA spokesman Thomas Mills  in an email statement. In 2014, the legislature executed a welfare reform law  to foster economic independence among low-income individuals.

“[The 2014 welfare reform law] focuses on workforce training for DTA’s clients, among other issues. Since the law was signed, the Department has been meeting with stakeholders as we begin to implement the changes the law makes,” Mills said. “The Department plans to fully implement the law over the course of 2015. The Governor’s FY16 [2016 fiscal year] budget proposal supports the Department’s efforts to implement the law.”

On March 4, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker  and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito  proposed  a fiscal year 2016 budget, which increased local aid by 3 percent, according to the budget overview.

Later, on March 12, Baker signed an executive order to target chronic unemployment by establishing a task force dedicated to “economic opportunity for populations facing chronically high rates of unemployment.” The task force, a March 12 press release stated, is responsible for creating a strategic plan to combat the issue.

Ed Walz, communications vice president at First Focus , a Washington, D.C.-based organization focused on child welfare, said there are other areas of welfare reform that should also be of concern to state legislators nationwide, especially child welfare.

“The policies that were adopted in the mid-‘90s emphasize incentives for parents, the work incentives and lifetime caps, without ever really considering the potential harm to children,” he said. “I don’t think there is as much of a thoughtful conversation about ensuring that we can meet the needs of children and families … It’s an issue of concern for folks, but I don’t think that leaders are generating a thoughtful conversation about how to get there.”

Several residents said Massachusetts should be doing better in welfare reform and those who are more privileged need to rethink those policies.

Joe Corrigan, 39, of the South End, said those not affected by welfare policies tend to not think about them.

“We live in a very privileged society, so our exposure to programs like that is limited, and frankly, people who are in that privileged position don’t take a lot of time to stop and take stock in how those programs are actually being affected and how those dollars are hitting the ground, so I suspect that there’s always need for improvement,” he said.

Natalie Wittenburg, 24, of Allston, said she was surprised by Massachusetts’ low grade.

“I would think that Massachusetts would do pretty well, but overall, we could definitely do better with the homeless and providing homes,” she said.

Cailtin Hemdal, 20, of Kenmore, said it is extraordinarily difficult to make a life in Boston while being paid minimum wage.

“I work a minimum wage job, and I know others that work minimum wage jobs, and I know it’s really hard for them to make rent, especially living in the city,” she said. “It’s expensive to get places, it’s expensive to pay rent, so I think reexamining that could definitely be beneficial.”

This article was originally published in The Daily Free Press on March 26, 2015.

Panel discusses Selma 50th anniversary, Ferguson

A panel of theologians convened Tuesday in Boston University’s School of Theology to reflect on the history of the civil rights movement in Selma, Alabama on its 50th anniversary in conjunction with the ongoing #BlackLivesMatter movement, as part of the Lowell Lecture: Selma at 50, Ferguson Today.

Approximately 70 BU students and Boston residents congregated for the lecture that featured STH alumnus Don Messer, Rev. William Bobby McClain and Rev. Pamela Lightsey, associate dean of community life at STH.

“[I’d like to welcome you to] a celebration and a mourning,” said STH dean Mary Elizabeth Moore. “Celebration for what courageous, justice-minded people did as they marched from Selma to Montgomery, mourning for what is yet to be done. Celebration for what courageous, justice-minded people have done in Ferguson, in New York and … throughout the U.S. and throughout the world, mourning for what is yet to be done.”

McClain, who was raised in Alabama, said he noticed at a young age at school that black people were limited in what they were allowed to do compared to white people.

“My teachers stressed the importance of the founding of America as a democracy and a government of the people, by the people and for the people,” he said. “Yet, none of our wonderful, educated, talented teachers … could register to vote. [They] couldn’t exercise that responsible citizenship and to marvel for us in the community that remarkable freedom they taught us about in the classroom.”

Messer said about 50 years ago, he and McClain traveled with 42 seminarians and students from STH to Selma for a weeklong trip. The seminarians took two buses and two cars, and students paid $40 for the bus fare and the cost equivalency of one month’s rent for housing.

He recalled a phone call with his typically supportive parents during his trip to Selma and how they expressed disapproval of his “demonstrating with that agitator Martin Luther King.”

“The ethos of racial superiority lurked in unexpected places and people,” he said. “Naively and idealistically, I had joined in the struggle for equality for all Americans, not realizing the depth that racism had impregnated white society, even my own family.”

The group was ultimately unable to participate in Selma’s Great March because the historic event was unexpectedly postponed, but Messer said he and the others still marched on two of the three days in nonviolent protest.

Lightsey recalled her own experience in Ferguson, Missouri in the aftermath of the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in August 2014.

“Some have asked how the killing of one black man in Ferguson ignited such a tumultuous turn of events,” she said. “Frankly, I feel that question is inaccurate. Black citizens in Ferguson and many other cities have been bearing an internal rage kindled by poverty and discrimination for quite some time.”

Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed by white police officer Darren Wilson, causing violent protests in the immediate aftermath of his death and after the St. Louis County grand jury made the decision in November 2014 to not to indict Wilson for his actions.

Lightsey visited Ferguson in the first 21 days after Brown was killed, and again in November, on the day the grand jury decision was announced, she said. During her address, Lightsey showed footage she had taken during her visits. After seeing people being sprayed with pepper spray and tear gas, she said she thought, “not much has changed” since Selma.

“The connection can and should be made, from Dred Scott, to Selma, to Ferguson,” she said. “Black people in the United States have brought their demands before the legislative processes of our country. We must continue to push for justice through public policy, and I believe it is the work of activists then and now to see it to fruition.”

Several attendees said they were glad they were given the opportunity to have a conversation surrounding the civil rights movement, and they hope to make it a more prominent conversation among their peers.

Haley Jones, a graduate student in STH, said she agreed with the panelists’ belief that the church must take part in the civil rights conversation.

“We have to have those spaces in which we can have those really difficult conversations, and I don’t think we do that well yet,” she said. “There are so many ways that we can begin to do that, and we learn a lot of those here at the School of Theology.”

Ashley Johnson, 29, of Dorchester, said the panel discussion left the audience with the responsibility to step up and start the civil rights conversation among their own peers.

“I am an elementary school teacher, so this definitely has me thinking about what I do to teach our history,” she said. “I feel that very frequently we too, as teachers, are handed a curriculum of what we should teach and what we should read. There definitely needs to be a revolution of sorts in our schools and what is being taught in social studies classes and history classes, as well.”

Katie Omberg, a second-year graduate student in STH, said the people of the technological generation must figure out how they are going to be activists and speak out in favor of civil rights.

“Because this is the first generation to do this [activism] work with the Internet, we are still finding what our footing is,” she said. “There is a lot of talk about civil rights and about racism in the classroom, but there is not a lot of talk about the action items and what we are actually going to do about that.”

This article was originally published in The Daily Free Press on March 4, 2015.

Hundreds gather at second Boston Olympics community meeting

Approximately 300 members of the Greater Boston community convened Tuesday at South Boston’s James Condon Elementary School for the city’s second community meeting regarding Boston’s 2024 Olympic bid.

The community panel featured Boston Mayor Martin Walsh; David Manfredi and John Fish, co-chairs of the Boston 2024 Master Planning Committee; and Richard Davey, CEO of Boston 2024. Moderated by John Fitzgerald, Walsh’s liaison for the bid, the meeting covered a range of topics encompassing Boston’s 2024 Olympic bid. The United States Olympic Committee chose Boston as its bid city for the 2024 Olympic Games on Jan. 8, The Daily Free Press reported.

Tuesday’s panel included issues of transportation, security and the use of buildings after the 2024 Olympics, and emphasized the potential lasting legacy on the city as a result of the construction and improvements made in preparation for the Olympics.

“It’s not about 16 days or 30 days in the summer of 2024, it’s about 2030 and … 2040 and 2050,” Manfredi said during the panel. “And the plan wants to address issues like housing, issues like improved infrastructure, transit and transportation, reinvestment in public parks and recreation spaces that are committed to the youth of the city.”

Potential venues include the University of Massachusetts Boston — proposed as Boston’s Olympic Village — Franklin Park and White Stadium, Manfredi said. Some of the intended venues, Manfredi said, already have plans to be expanded or renovated regardless of whether or not Boston is chosen by the International Olympic Committee as the host city for the 2024 Olympics.

“The Olympics needs 16,500 beds for athletes themselves, for coaches and trainers, for the immediate team,” he said. “UMass Boston is planning to build somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 beds over the next few years. So there is a real legacy. The Olympics [and] the Olympic movement can be the catalyst for helping get those done.”

Manfredi said Boston already has the transportation infrastructure needed to be successful in the 2024 Olympics as a result of the Central Artery/Tunnel Project, the Boston Logan International Airport expansion and the Boston Harbor clean-up.

The fate of Boston’s 2024 Olympic bid is partially hanging on the question of federal financial assistance offered to the city, Davey said in the panel.

“We need the federal government to provide the funds to have the security at the Olympics games,” he said. “In fact, any American city would need that. This isn’t necessarily about Boston hosting the Olympics. It is about if the United States ever chooses to host the Olympics again.”

The issue of security throughout the duration of the games relies largely on the funding provided. Walsh said he envisions the security model for the Olympics being similar to that of Marathon Monday, utilizing security checkpoints to ensure Boston’s safety.

“In light of what happened last year here in Boston at the marathon, we take security very seriously,” Walsh said during the panel. “Last year at the marathon, we were able to contain large areas of land by having checkpoints at certain areas. What I would envision here in the city of Boston is around Olympic Village, wherever that ends up being, and around where the stadium is … there will be checkpoints to get into those areas like we have on Marathon Monday.”

Residents expressed concern that the process of Olympics preparation would result in a situation similar to the Big Dig, in which more money was spent than expected, and in a longer period of time. Davey, in response, said the City officials have learned their lessons and plan on incorporating private sector dollars to prevent such a scenario from happening.

“We did lose a lot of ground. It was a mess, there’s no doubt about it,” he said during the panel. “We have the ability in this city and state to do things the right way.”

The meeting was also attended by Boston City Council President Bill Linehan, Councilor Frank Baker, Massachusetts Rep. Nick Collins, Massachusetts Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry and David Silk, a member of the Gold Medal-winning 1980 U.S. Olympic men’s ice hockey team.

Silk wore his medal from the 1980 Olympics, which were held in Lake Placid, New York, as he recalled the sense of pride he felt upon returning to Lake Placid.

“What struck me more than anything was this [Lake Placid] is where dreams came true. This is where miracles happened. This is a hallowed ground. For generations to come, this isn’t just a winter wonderland. This is an Olympic village that spawned dreams and careers and made lives and changed lives,” he said. “Through sports, incredible things can happen, personally collectively and to whole communities.”

The Boston 2024 plan will be in development over the next year-and-a-half. The next community meeting will be held at the Harvard Business School on March 31.

Several attendees said the meeting was successful because so many people of the community asked questions, but the panelists did not fully answer many of those asked.

Louise Baxter, 69, of South Boston, said she was eager to hear about how the panelists proposed to solve issues dealing with transportation during the Olympics.

“A lot of questions were asked, but the panel beat around the bush a lot, and I have a feeling they weren’t completely honest,” she said. “I’m concerned. I came to Boston as a young person. People nowadays don’t have affordable housing.”

Elizabeth McCarthy, 34, of the North End, said it was important f0r her to attend the meeting to hear the panelists’ ideas.

“I know they have information on the website, but I wanted to learn more,” she said. “The Olympics would be a great opportunity, and I think it would be good for the city.”

Edmund Schluessel, 36, of Somerville, was concerned with how the panelists would propose handling the potential rise in child trafficking rates during the Olympics, among other issues.

“I had a couple of questions lined up, others were housing and transportation,” he said. “People came away more informed. In terms of influencing, I don’t know if that really happened. While they were reaching a couple of hundred people now, really the job would have been to reach thousands of people six months ago. These are concerns people have been raising for months.”

This article was originally published in The Daily Free Press on Feb. 25, 2015.

BU arts community contributes to city’s cultural, artistic hub

With galleries, studios and concert venues scattered across Boston University’s campus, the city of Boston has been named a top cultural and artistic hub, according to the Arts Vibrancy Index report by the National Center for Arts Research, released Jan. 21.

Lynne Allen, the director of the College of Fine Art’s School of Visual Arts, said students and faculty at BU can contribute to a vibrant arts community both on campus and in the city. Events such as the School of Visual Arts’ Faculty Exhibition, opening Friday, give members of the school art community opportunities to display their work.

“We [BU] contribute through relationships with many non-profit arts organizations, by hosting music events, master classes, visiting artist lectures open and free to the public, art exhibitions of professional artists from around the world, plus we are educating the next generation of art professionals and leaders,” she said in an email.

The “Boston, MA, Metro Division,” as it was called in the report, ranked fourth out of 20 large cities nationwide, and included Norfolk, Plymouth and Suffolk Counties. Boston was trumped only by the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria area, ranked number one, the Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin area, ranked number two, and the New York-Jersey City-White Plains area, ranked number three.

Ty Furman, the managing director for BU’s Arts Initiative, said BU contributes to the culture of the city in distinct ways by providing education, training and experience through programs offered through CFA, the College of Communication and the College of Arts and Sciences.

“As a relative newcomer to Boston, I can only say what I have seen and experienced and that is the energy, commitment and enthusiasm around how city government can affect change in the arts sector,” he said in an email. “It is a great time to be an artist in Boston, and our office is committed to continuing to participate in city-wide dialogue around these issues and providing increased access and support for our students to engage with the arts both on and off campus.”

Boston’s large student population and the presence of art institutions contribute to Boston’s classification as an artistic hub, Furman said.

“The Boston area not only has more colleges and universities than any other U.S. region, it boasts some of the best arts training programs in the U.S. including those at Boston University,” he said. “There are several arts service organizations that … provide invaluable resources to large and small arts organizations and provide countless opportunities for artists and arts administrators to come together whether in celebration or for advocacy.”

Meg Tyler, a professor of humanities in the College of General Studies said the arts initiative leads a concerted effort for the university to maintain the artistic presence in an “art-rich environment.”

“We have so many young people coming in and out of the city who are inspired to make their mark and try something new,” she said. “We have such a variety of educational institutions, which impress upon those young people the wealth of the western tradition so they learn about the tradition. They try to perceive their place in it, and then they want to try to do something a little bit new or some kind of mixture of what people have done.”

Tyler said the increasing presence of technology and the high entrance cost into many institutions affects the city’s cultural and artistic environment and the ways in which art is experienced.

“The problem is, there are so many distractions in the city, and I worry a little bit about the addictiveness of screens. I fall prey to that myself,” she said. “It’s harder to drag people away from their machines now. You have some exhibitions online, but it’s really not the same as seeing it in person.”

Several CFA students said they found value in their arts education and the relationships they’ve made as a result of their hard work and time spent at CFA.

Michelle Pizzo, a senior in CFA, will soon have her work, along with the work of one of her classmates, featured in an upcoming gallery show called “Flu-Like Symptoms,” which premieres on Feb. 25.

“It’s a show of paintings and mixed media pieces,” she said. “Some of the themes are the obscurity of meaning and emotions, collaging imagery and ideas. The title is basically a joke about art school and how 90 percent of the time, it feels like getting sick.”

Kelly McCabe, a senior in CFA, said she appreciates the shows throughout the year that allow other students to see her work and allow her to see her classmates’ work.

“I like that BU has a student-run gallery and gives us the opportunity to have a thesis show in 808 [Gallery]. The thesis show is a final undergrad senior show, which will be up around April and May. It’s a culmination of all of our work,” she said. “The alumni show was just up, but is now taken down, and that had alumni from all over the world and of different graduation years.”

Julianna Hoff, a sophomore in CFA’s five-year Art Education Masters Program, said CFA is a community of artists and has an atmosphere of growth and learning.

“Being in both studio and art education courses, I can really see how the whole of CFA puts being an artist first and foremost,” she said. “Both professors and students are pretty invested in their own work.”

This article was originally published in The Daily Free Press.

Mayor Walsh appoints BRA director at Chamber of Commerce Breakfast

Business executives from throughout the Greater Boston area joined Boston Mayor Martin Walsh Wednesday morning as he emphasized a need for improved housing plans and greater opportunities for Boston’s veterans, and announced the appointment of a new director of Boston Redevelopment Authority at his second Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce address.

“Mayor Walsh provided members of the business community with a comprehensive review of his first year in office, announced several new policy initiatives and responded to the audience questions,” said Charles Rudnik, a spokesman for the Chamber of Commerce, in an email. “The mayor’s announcement that he was appointing Brian Golden as permanent director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority was a welcome surprise and prompted a standing ovation.”

As director of the BRA, Golden will manage all aspects of the organization to maintain its core values of community engagement planning, responsibility and economic development, according to the BRA website.

Walsh detailed his vision of Boston as a city “that’s thriving, healthy and innovative” at the Westin Copley Place Hotel. He began his address to the crowd with a commemoration of his predecessor, former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who died from cancer on Oct. 30.

“The outpouring of affection for Mayor Menino last month was a testament to his legacy,” he said. “It was here at the Chamber of Commerce that he put his stamp on the City’s relationship with its business community.”

New homes are being built throughout Boston, Walsh said. Having exceeded the city’s yearly number of annual housing starts, Boston is on track to achieving its goal of building 53,000 units by 2030.

The Boston Police Department, along with other public safety agencies, have striven to maintain the city’s reputation as safe and secure, Walsh said.

“We’re proud of these results,” he said. “We hit the ground running, and we didn’t let up. We set new 
standards in development, education, public safety, housing, public health and infrastructure — the building blocks of our great city. And we are going to reach even higher next year. We are going to keep pace with Boston’s expanding population and soaring economy.”

While the City has already made strides in the areas of housing and development, Walsh outlined his upcoming housing plan, with an emphasis on growth zones.

“Boston needs more housing. But there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every neighborhood has its own character. In some places, density is not only appropriate — it is badly needed,” he said. “It is needed to bring prices back within reach. It is needed to spur retail investment. It is needed to breathe new life into under-developed streets.”

Walsh highlighted the expansion of commercial districts in Boston’s neighborhoods. In 2014, 93 new businesses were founded in the city, creating approximately 687 jobs, but he highlighted the need for greater business-venture opportunities for veterans.

“I’m proud of the City’s support for women and minority owned businesses. But I was surprised to find out we offered no similar program for military veterans. We owe it to veterans — and to our communities — to draw on their character and leadership,” Walsh said. “So I’m going to issue an executive order that guarantees veteran-owned businesses get that same first chance at City contracts.”

Massachusetts is in the midst of change, Walsh noted, as expiring leaders conclude their terms in office, and the Commonwealth welcomes new office-holders, including Gov.-elect Charlie Baker, who will take the place of current Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

“Truly, it’s an exciting time for Massachusetts. And it’s an exciting time for Boston. It’s a time of new leadership and new growth. It’s a moment of change in our history. It’s an opportunity to define a new era, as we build a new vision for our city,” Walsh said. “To all our new office-holders: The City Council and I look forward to a productive partnership with you, to move Boston and the region forward together.”

This article was originally published in The Daily Free Press.

People of Boston, public officials mourn the loss of former Mayor Menino

Former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who was also co-director of Boston University’s Initiative on Cities, left a lasting impact on the city he looked after. He died Thursday morning after a battle with an advanced form of cancer. Those who knew Menino honored him for all that he was: a politician, role model, family man and friend.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh honored Menino at a press conference at City Hall Thursday afternoon.

“Today, the city of Boston mourns together,” Walsh said. “To all that knew him, it’s no surprise that more than half of Boston has met Mayor Menino. I can tell you about the last conversation I had with him. He was laying in the hospital bed and we were talking, and he said, ‘You’re going to be a great mayor as long as you take care of the people of Boston.’ His last concern was of the people of Boston. Tom Menino is a fighter, he went down fighting and we all knew where Boston stood in his heart.”

In his time as mayor, Menino put the city on the world stage, while maintaining his local outreach and service, Walsh said.

“He was a man of the neighborhood,” Walsh said. “He had a deep understanding of the power municipal government had on the lives of the people. Even in the last stages of his illness, he put Boston and its people first. To many people here at City Hall he was a mentor and a father figure.”

As Boston’s longest-serving mayor, Menino garnered the respect of public officials and residents nationwide.

“Bold, big-hearted, and Boston strong, Tom was the embodiment of the city he loved and led for more than two decades,” said U.S. President Barack Obama in a statement Thursday. “As Boston’s longest-serving mayor, Tom helped make his hometown the vibrant, welcoming, world-class place it is today. His legacy lives on in every neighborhood he helped revitalize, every school he helped turn around, and every community he helped make a safer, better place.”

Séan O’Malley, cardinal of the Archdiocese of Boston, said Menino often attended several church services on a given day and maintained close relationships with the “ecumenical and interfaith brethren.”

“Mayor Menino placed family, faith and public service above all else,” O’Malley said in a statement Thursday. “We pray for Mayor Menino as we give thanks for a life so well lived, for his wife Angela, their children and grandchildren, for the people of the city of Boston and all who mourn his passing. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.”

Richard Stutman, president of Boston Teachers Union, spoke on behalf of the union’s 11,000 members in saying Menino’s love for the city was unmatched.

“Mayor Menino felt and shared a bold compassion for Boston and its people,” he said in a statement. “His presence and his imprint were everywhere. His feelings for us were pronounced, and his love for the city was unmatched. He touched warmly hundreds of thousands of our citizens and now they all return the same care and love to Angela and the Menino family. He adopted our schools and proudly promoted them. He stood by us; now we stand by his family. Rest in peace, Mr. Mayor.”

Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates Charlie Baker and Martha Coakley chose to suspend their campaigns for two days and one day, respectively, to pay respect to the former mayor.

“Today, Boston has lost the greatest mayor in its history,” Coakley said in a statement. “He was a friend and mentor, and a shining example to me and countless others of what it means to love and serve your community. What made Tom Menino so remarkable was his connection to the people he represented — he understood their lives, their hopes, and their dreams. And he fought for them every day. He never forgot where he came from and stayed true to who he was to the very end.”

Baker said in a statement that Menino, who was dedicated to his work and to the city, deserves a “satisfying retirement,” as he engrossed himself in his job as mayor “with an enthusiasm and intensity that may never be duplicated.”

Boston City Council President Bill Linehan worked closely with Menino during his time in office and praised him as “arguably the most dedicated public servant [he] had ever met.” Menino improved the quality of life for Boston residents, Linehan said in a statement, and provided vital city services.

“Mayor Menino’s greatest legacy lies in his devotion to the people of Boston, and his focus was always on ensuring that every single resident received essential city services,” he said. “This, more than the revitalization of so many parts of this city on his watch, or his leadership during the Boston Marathon bombing tragedy, is what he would want to be remembered for.”

Menino and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg co-founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns in March 2006 with 13 other mayors. The coalition grew to have more than 900 mayors crusading against illegal gun use.

“Tom Menino was a terrific mayor and a close partner for me,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “I got to know Tom well as we worked together to keep cities safe from gun violence. Whether it was tackling illegal guns or reviving neighborhoods, Tom was never afraid to take on tough issues. He cared deeply about the people of Boston, and he was tireless in making his city a better place to live and work. Tom was at his best when his city needed him most.”

Several residents gathered at City Hall Thursday night to pay homage to the man who brought so much change to the City and made a lasting impact on the Commonwealth as a whole.

Josephine Erewa, 62, of the South End, said she was shocked to turn on her television and see Menino’s picture.

“Mayor Menino did a lot for the city,” she said. “He was a people’s mayor. I hope our current mayor will learn a lot from what the mayor did for the city and condolences to the family. For this city, we all need to be strong. He is a Boston Strong person, so we need to be strong. We need to use some of the work he’s done to continue to stay united and bridge diversity and to continue to move the city of Boston forward.”

Thomas O’Connor, 57, of Middleton, said Menino was an active part of the City, and was always there to help the people of Boston.

“I have to say that over his tenure, I always knew him to be hands on,” he said. “He was always here whether it was sunny or stormy he was always there to serve everybody. He did a fantastic job on housing in the city; made homes for a lot of people that wouldn’t have them otherwise.”

John Irvin, 28, of Wakefield, said Menino “brought the city to life,” and made Boston a more desirable place to visit

“He was mayor for a good portion of my life,” he said. “Growing up in the city, I’ve seen all of the positive things happen. Boston has really become a world-class city and a lot of that is his doing. Boston has sometimes had such a jaded past and now he brought us to looking positively to the future. He was one of us. And we’ll miss him, and you’ll rarely see the likes of that in politics.”

Monika Nayak contributed to the reporting of this article.

This article was originally published in The Daily Free Press.