Tale of Two Cities

Poverty, Not Just Wealth, Skyrocketed During Menino Era

If James Michael Curley and Ray Flynn were known as mayors of the poor, Thomas M. Menino may become mayor of the rich.

tale-of-two-cities-conwayA few weeks ago, The Boston Globe highlighted the great divide in our city that has grown over the last 20 years. The article, written by Don Gillis, the former executive director of the Economic Development Industrial Corporation of Boston and Andy Sum, director of Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies, detailed how, over the last twenty years, city hall’s policy focus has been toward real estate development, sparked largely by tax breaks to high end condo, office and apartment projects that have been focused in certain neighborhoods, and on one half of the city. The other half, when it comes to housing and economic development, has basically been ignored. Instead, swaths of the inner city are dealing with crises that include foreclosures, crime, lack of investment and barren land.

The article reviewed an analysis by Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies.  The analysis found that income inequality was growing dramatically. While the incomes of the wealthiest Bostonians grew exponentially, poverty was rising as well. The study said that the top 10 percent of Boston income earners took in more income than the bottom 75 percent combined.


They state, “After 30 years with the most progressive linkage program in the nation, and strong growth downtown and in the Seaport, fueled by tax breaks, now is the time for developers to reach deeper to promote greater opportunity and equality in Boston for jobs, housing, and training. It could have a big impact on the lives of thousands of poor families.”


The article also shed light on the lack of enforcement on the Boston Residents Job Policy. Bear in mind that city hall has a department set up for this exact reason. The city ordinance holds that 50% of workers in the city must be residents of the city. Nonetheless, “the percentage of Boston residents working on projects subject to the Boston Residents Jobs Policy has averaged only about 30 percent”. Why hasn’t city hall fully enforced this ordinance?

These numbers are alarming and need attention. Could not The City of Boston and its residents have benefitted from an enforced the Jobs policy? Would this not have helped improve the situation economically for all of those living in our city?

Gillis and Sum seem to believe that keeping an eye on the interests of all neighborhoods, not just those who can produce big dollar real estate deals, is an important part of the equation.

Gillis and Sum added, “Yes, Boston’s prosperity depends on openness to new possibilities, but this prosperity must be shared. Before we worry too much about access to late-night bars, might we for a moment focus upon reducing joblessness and poverty? The candidates for mayor who do not address these issues do not deserve to lead the next stage of the city’s history.”