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Taking on Boston's fun police (and the mayor)

Posted in: Boston politics   Civic engagement
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Skim over most of today’s Herald story on the launch of the Future Boston Alliance, a new non-profit geared toward loosening the city’s regulations and making Boston a more lively, more entrepreneurial, more fun place to live. Blow right past Greg Selkoe, the streetwear kingpin who is funding the effort and tweaking Mayor Tom Menino. The most revealing passage in the Herald piece is the quote from former Boston city councilor and veteran politics sage Larry DiCara. Specifically, DiCara doesn’t reflexively dismiss Selkoe, and he doesn’t dismiss the notion that a block of city residents who don’t normally turn out in municipal elections could coalesce and bring political pressure to bear on City Hall. In fact, DiCara says, Boston’s most famous boss, James Michael Curley, got broomed out of office by John Hynes because Curley was on the wrong end of a youth-driven reform movement.

Selkoe is an obvious face for a movement to loosen bureaucrats’ grip on Boston. He’s Kanye West’s go-to guy in Boston for sneakers and T-shirts. He’s also a longtime critic of Menino’s long reach. Selkoe backed Michael Flaherty for mayor in 2009, and he provided a damning anecdote for an election-season Globe piece on the way Menino uses the levers of power inside City Hall. He tells the Herald today he has no interest in running for mayor, but adds he expects a “strong, young candidate” to challenge Menino. Since Flaherty’s loss, Selkoe and his wife have been maxing out to a trio of Boston city councilors: Tito Jackson, Felix Arroyo, and Mike Ross.

Still, it looks like Selkoe is merely tapping into discontent with City Hall, not ginning it up himself. Witness the recent uproar over the treatment of the Green Street Vault clothing truck, or Globe editorial writer Larry Harmon’s befuddlement at the fact that Bostonians have to cross the river and go to Cambridge to find racially integrated nightclubs. At a recent Globe-sponsored forum, Harmon asked a Boston Redevelopment Authority official why the city wouldn’t let food trucks serve club-goers at closing time, and couldn’t get a straight answer.

The debate Selkoe is tapping into turns mostly on small-bore regulations -- the Herald leads with a story about a nightclub that, in classic Banned in Boston fashion, didn’t have a license for dancing -- but it’s unfolding against a broad economic development backdrop. Massachusetts has historically struggled to retain young residents and recent college graduates. High housing prices have been one frequently identified culprit. But New York City didn’t just pass Boston and Cambridge as a technology hub based on its affordability. New York has made big business out of selling its quality of life. It remains to be seen whether it takes a political coup for Boston to respond.

                                                                                                                                                    --PAUL MCMORROW


BEACON HILL

WBZ-TV (Ch. 4) rips off CommonWealth magazine’s reporting on the state’s poor oversight of property leased to private interests. To read the original work and some follow-ups (as Joe Shortsleeve undoubtedly did), go here and here and here and here.

Dorchester native Sheldon Adelson becomes the latest casino mogul to announce he won’t be vying to bring a gambling hall to Massachusetts.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Methuen City Council approves a .75 percent meals tax, but requires that all the funds raised go into the city’s stabilization fund, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Quincy city councilors are concerned that taxpayers may be on the hook if tax revenues from the planned $1.6 billion downtown redevelopment do not meet projections to pay for the $50 million bond from the state’s Infrastructure Investment Incentive program.

Holyoke looks at creating a position for a city arts director.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

A total of 43 Catholic groups file lawsuits around the country challenging an Obama administration rule that requires coverage of birth control in most health insurance plans, NPR reports (via WBUR).

The incoming head of Boy Scouts of America says his prime goal is to increase declining membership but insists the organization will not revisit its controversial policy of excluding gays.

ELECTION 2012

Keller@Large examines an internal poll from Richard Tisei’s campaign that not only shows the challenger ahead of incumbent US Rep. John Tierney but has some big numbers that, if believed, do not bode well for Democrats in general in Essex county.

William Koch, a major bankroller of the campaign against Cape Wind, has donated $2 million to the super PAC Restore our Future that is backing Mitt Romney. North Shore fundraiser Steven Roche has banked nearly $3 million raising funds for Romney’s super PAC.

Slate argues with Cory Booker over Bain Capital, while President Obama says Romney’s business career “is what this campaign is going to be about.”

Karl Rove resists the urge to pull a Full Rove on Obama.

US Rep. Richard Neal’s primary opponents are upset with the state Democratic Party for sharing office space with his campaign.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Radio Boston considers the pro and con sides of building a Suffolk Downs casino.

Rhode Island learns the hard way about loan guarantees and The Berkshire Eagle pats Massachusetts officials on the back for not succumbing to Curt Schilling’s bloody-sock charms. Politicians find the lure of investing in individual companies irresistible, writes Jay Fitzgerald. Related: Indiana woos California’s tech community.

Massachusetts home sales continued their rise in April.

Facebook takes one on the chin.

EDUCATION

A rigorously-controlled randomized study of college online learning found that students learned just as well in an online introductory statistics class as in a standard classroom-based course. CommonWealth’s current issue includes an in-depth look at the burgeoning online learning sector in K-12 education.

State education officials said students at Somerset’s Wilbur Elementary School were “betrayed” by adults when they determined the answers in 74 MCAS exam books were tampered with, though investigators have not discovered who is responsible.

Fitchburg approves a K-8 innovation school.

A Washington Post report explores whether college is too easy.

HEALTH CARE

A federal advisory panel is recommending against routine PSA testing among apparently healthy men to screen for prostate cancer, concluding that the harm from misdiagnosis and overtreatment that results outweighs the statistically small benefit of the test.

Cohasset voters rejected a proposal to ban stores with pharmacies from selling cigarettes but the town’s health inspector said earlier the health board has the power to impose policies regardless of what happens at town meeting.

Paul Levy says one unintended casualty of payment reform may be the non-profits that assist patients in non-medical life counseling efforts.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Hawaii becomes the first state to bar retailers from offering plastic bags to customers, Governing reports.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Marlborough’s police chief tries to allay fears among immigrants about enforcement of Secure Communities.

A Maryland economics consultant has been charged with a 2004 sexual assault on the Green Line after investigators matched his DNA with that of the alleged assailant’s. The DNA profile from the assault was preserved and indicted shortly after the attack even though the assailant was unknown at the time.

The Haverhill police patrolmen’s union says the force is so understaffed that officers don’t have enough time to investigate crimes properly, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

A Level 3 sex offender in Andover is jailed for two weeks for violating his probation by talking briefly to a 10-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

MEDIA

MinnPost tracks legislation with Bill Explorer, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports.

A new book portrays the darker side of CBS newsman Walter Cronkite, writes Howard Kurtz for the Daily Beast.

Leonard Nimoy talks to Radio Boston about the West End and growing up in Boston.

PASSINGS

Thomas O’Connor, the unofficial dean of Boston historians, has died at age 89.

1 Article Comments
Recent Comments

meterman

Says on 5/22/2012 2:03 PM
Having read all the excellent articles written by CommonWealth regarding the handling of leases by the DCR I was shocked when I watched the WBZ report by Joe Shortsleeve. To say the least, it was a total rip-off, an almost word for word account of what Colman Herman previously wrote. I understand that ideas/concepts are used (borrowed/taken/stolen) by other media outlets, often without acknowledgment, but they usually contain some added information and insight. In this case…it surely didn't. Shame on you WBZ.
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