Commentaries Government

Downtown View: A Monthly List for Mayor Walsh

Mayor Walsh has a lot to learn and a lot to do, so I’m here to help. He’ll have big problems to solve, but residents and neighborhood associations are concerned more about the seemingly little problems of daily living in Boston than they are with big matters.

Here’s a month-by-month list of the small problems Mayor Walsh can tackle that won’t take up much of his time, but will make life better for all of us.

Clear the sidewalks of snow. If the city can do a good job for cars, it should treat pedestrians with the same respect. We know that owners are supposed to shovel the sidewalks in front of their buildings. But when they don’t, it creates a dangerous situation for pedestrians. The city should systematically clear the sidewalks that owners have neglected within 12 hours after a storm. Bill the owners for the cost of the clearing.

Make some money for the city and, at the same time, reduce the number of cars. February is the month in which street parking is least available since piled-up snow takes up spaces. Parking should not be free.

Charge $50 annually for a neighborhood parking sticker. For the second car in one household, charge $150. The neighborhoods with parking stickers are on convenient subway and bus lines. Having to pay for an annual parking sticker would discourage some residents from keeping their cars.

Continue Mayor Menino’s plan to begin mechanical street sweeping as soon as the snow melts. Extend the street sweeping season through December when the streets are still free of snow.

See how nice the daffodils look all over the city. Mayor Walsh should put in an order now for an additional hundred thousand daffodils to be dug in in the fall all over Boston. Daffodils are a good investment. They multiply.

Save some money. Eliminate the buttons pedestrians are supposed to push to get a walk signal. Make all walk signs concurrent with the parallel traffic, the way every other city in America does. Pedestrians don’t believe those buttons work anyway, so we dart out whenever we have a chance. The money saved by not having to buy the push button boxes could put toward the police pay raise.

This month is trash talk time. Residents are clamoring for another recycle pick-up day. Almost everything can be recycled now, but most households have little storage, indoors or outdoors. So too many boxes and bottles are thrown out, rather than recycled.

Bostonians are lucky in that they don’t have to pay extra for trash pickup. A typical San Franciscan resident would pay $335 a year for weekly pick-up of three bins: trash, compost and recycling. Pay more and they can have twice weekly pick-up. But San Francisco residences typically have garages for storage, which most downtown Bostonians don’t have.

Get together with Cambridge, Somerville, Revere and Everett. Figure out ways for our cities to work together to attract business rather than fighting over who gets high tech companies and Partners. The casino flaps eloquently express how a business in one city affects adjacent cities. Figure out how to make all of us prosper and solve the problems together.

Encourage play. Paris turns its riverbank into a beach every summer. Boston used to have Summerthing. Not everyone leaves the city is August. Create a committee for fun and let ‘er rip in August.

Build two schools for downtown kids. Bring back neighborhood schools, and redirect the busing money to education. The argument against neighborhood schools is that some neighborhoods have bad schools. Kids are stuck in those bad schools now. Make those schools excellent. We know how to do it with effective principals, better teacher selection and a longer school day.

Encourage more play. October is still warm enough for outdoor fun. The parks are beautiful. Let the fun committee plan a month-long Octoberfest. Invite everyone. Tourists will love it.

Clean up everything before the snow hits. Encourage residents to sweep up, get city workers out painting lamp posts and curbs on the warm days. Buff the city, shine it, and hope the snow and cold hold off long enough to get it done.

Rest. We’ve all done enough for the year.

Downtown View is a regular column by Karen Cord Taylor who founded The Beacon Hill Times weekly newspaper in 1995 and served as its editor and publisher until late 2007. She also founded and served as editor and publisher of the Charlestown Patriot-Bridge and The Back Bay Sun weeklies. Her column appears in those newspapers as well as the Regional Review, which serves Boston’s North End. These weeklies are now owned by the Independent Newspaper Group. She is the author of “Blue Laws, Brahmins and Breakdown Lanes: An Alphabetic Guide to Boston and Bostonians” and the co-author of “The Lady Architects,” a book about three women who practiced architecture in New England and elsewhere in the early 20th century. She lives in downtown Boston and blogs at

15 Replies to “Downtown View: A Monthly List for Mayor Walsh

  1. So wrong here…where to begin
    January: City should absolutely not be in charge of clearing sidewalks. What you describe would require the city to send out scouts all over the place to see who has shoveled, and then have removal crews go to the trouble spots. Do you have any idea how many more people they’d have to pay to make this work? Plus, who decides whether a spot was shoveled enough? It would become just another way for the city to collect…decide you didn’t shovel enough and write a ticket.
    February: On street parking for residents should be 100% free. We pay enough in taxes and RMV fees as it is, no extra fees should be required to park. It must be nice having a lifestyle where a car is considered a luxury. Some of us have to drive outside the city for work.
    March: Street sweeping is already over the top, and is mostly used as a way to collect extra revenue from tickets.
    May: Most cities across the country have the crosswalk push button boxes, so not sure what you’re talking about. While it’s true that most serve no purpose whatsoever (like the “close doors” button on elevators…psychological benefit only), there are some where it doesn’t activate the crosswalk light until the button is triggered.
    June: Again, you seem to advocate for more taxes/fees. How about make the city do the functions they need to more efficiently instead of increasing costs?
    The rest are relatively harmless, but I’d also argue that your “November” suggestion is more for community groups than city hall.

  2. I agree with many points on this list (PLEASE shovel the sidewalks!!)…BUT I take huge exception to the suggestion of charging for resident stickers, and I am also offended that the implication is we own cars for luxury and convenience. I work all over the state, believe me a job in the city with no car WOULD be a luxury. As BL pointed out, as car owners we pay excise tax (NOT something very state does) RMV fees, and additionally you are not given a resident sticker unless ALL fines are paid off. The city must make a pretty penny off of the fines alone ( 2 hr visitor parking gets me every time! Maybe due away with THAT for residents if you must charge for a resident sticker)
    Finally….street cleaning was extended through Dec 31st at least 2 years ago.

  3. I would bet my life the author of this does not own a car and does not need to drive to get to her job. Why should city residents be penalized for having cars? Try asking folks who live on the Hyde Park line next to 128 how they would manage without a car.

  4. Sales tax, excise tax ,license fees, registration fees, State inspection fees , parking fees & of course the tax on gasoline . Charging car owners for a resident sticker? I think not an automobile for most people is a necessity not a luxury.

  5. I always praised the accomplishments Beacon Hill managed to obtain over the No. End, but
    the City charge Residents to park their cars on our streets is absurd. We need every parking space
    we can get, do away with the meters, give the residents all the spaces and let the visitors and
    tourist pay to park in lots & garages to come into the City, not the residents. The No. End Residents have paid more than their
    fair share to live here. I think they should go after the greedy landlords charging Students $1,000
    per student to live in slums, and if the snow on the sidewalks are an issue, we have had prisoners
    released to clean up our streets after the feasts, why not take advantage of them, put them on
    our streets to shovel. I do not mean cold blooded killers, , child molesters or rapists, so please do not take
    this out of context. Boston is on an all time high, taking in more revenue than most cities in this
    country, which is fine, but let us not get too GREEDY, which is a major issue in our little
    neighborhood that is just in & around a 1/4 mile sq. radius.

  6. To the whiny, selfish people leaving comments here:

    There is no such thing as “free on-street parking.” Someone is paying for it: the rest of the city is subsidizing your perk.

    I say: pay for your own parking. It’s part of the cost of owning a car. Stop forcing the rest of us to subsidize your car. If you want to own a car, that’s fine, but you should pay for the costs yourself. That may include a fee to cover the costs of “on-street parking.”

    It doesn’t matter how “necessary” a car is to you. It doesn’t matter how many taxes and fees you pay. We all pay those taxes and fees, but that does not entitle us to a 300 sq ft piece of public land for storage of personal property.

    You should be the one to pay for the cost of storing YOUR car. Not the city. Not the other taxpayers. You.

    Whine and complain all you want, it just confirms that you are a bunch of spoiled brats. Maybe you have intimidated the politicians into giving you a freebie, for now, but it won’t always be that way.

    1. Matthew, your argument does not hold up.You claim that”we all pay those taxes & fees”Explain to me how a person who does not own a car pays sales& excise,tax license,registration,inspection, & the federal & state tax [which is one of not the highest in the country] on gasoline? How do you pay my costs?The fees & taxes that automobile owners pay are used to fund many of the programs & repair the roads throughout the state with the gasoline taxes & tolls.So we are not getting any freebie I don’t know how long that you have lived in this city but in the last 20 years thousands of parking spots throughout the city have been eliminated & replaced with nothing.

      1. Wrong. The streets are paid through by property tax which is assessed on everyone (passed thru rent for renters).

        The sales&excise tax you pay for your car does not even begin to cover the costs to society of your car, much less parking.

        Parking is a cost. You should pay for it. Not the rest of us.

        And most definitely not the SUPERMAJORITY of North End residents who DO NOT own a car!

        The North End has the lowest car ownership rate in the city. You are in the minority. If you want to own a car in the North End, that’s a privilege, and it’s a cost that you and ONLY YOU should pay for.

        If you pay for your parking then I have no beef with you. If you expect other people to pay for your parking, you are a spoiled, selfish suburbanite, and I recommend that you move out of the city and into a suburb where you will be happier.

        Stop screwing the city over with your selfish demands and your space hogging ways.

        Subsidies to car really hurt quality of life in the city. They turn our neighborhoods into parking lots. They take away much needed housing. All these parking lots create more and more traffic which just turns out streets into industrially polluted zones instead of the shared public commons which they were originally intended to be. Our children can’t even walk around our own neighborhoods without being threatened by all the cars that our tax money is subsidizing!

        Enough already!

        1. I would like to see the sources where your numbers come from. Super majority? What the heck does that even mean?

          1. John, Matthew is a certified tree hugger who makes up facts as he types.He paints a picture of children scurrying for their lives to avoid the evil automobile & its “wealthy owners” he promotes a transit system that is 9 Billion dollars in debt that the taxpayers & sales tax have to bail out , that has had a history of corruption for decades, & is the # 1 consumer of electricity in the state.. that cant protect its riders in just the last week a woman is assaulted & mugged at Haymarket Sq. & a disabled man is assaulted with his own cane.Of course their are fewer car owners in the NE as compared to other neighborhoods because the NE has a much smaller population so try putting another spin on that Matthew & once again the roads, highways & toll roads repairs are financed from the gasoline tax & tolls.Every one is entitled to their opinion but telling people that their “selfish spoiled sububanites & should move to the suburbs” & that “cars take away much needed housing” is laughable.Matthew you are the one that should move I recomend Seattle.

  7. MATTHEW, I agree with Michaeld and I happen to park my car in a garage, therefore, I personally
    would not be affected, but my neighbors & other residents who are not as fortunate as I am
    would be. I am not selfish by no means, but we have had far too many changes in the
    No. End, some Great & some, Not so Great. The small cramped Neighborhood has been
    overwhelmed with in & around 100 restaurants, and if the Valet Parkers have the opportunity they
    take our resident spaces over, it is not fair to the residents. My opinion is if you want to come to
    visit Boston you either pay a lot or a garage, NOT A METER, which takes away from resident
    parking, or let them use our Transit System. I think I have lived in this neighborhood longer than
    you, and I am tired of everything being taken away for the residents to please tourists and
    visitors. Charity starts at home, let us take care of the Resident FIRST, we more than
    deserve it after what we have been through.

    1. The selfishness & arrogance was displayed by the writer who is endorsing a policy in her own words “to discourage people from owning cars” & also has determined how much the cost of the resident sticker would be.I would not take the T in this city if they paid me.Filthy train stations & trains that reek of urine ,aggressive panhandlers ,trains & trolleys that are never on time & break down frequently, women groped & photographed, people assaulted.These should be Walsh’s priorities & about whining how about having people who ride bicycles pay a fee for a license & be fined for running red lights & cutting people off in traffic & riding full speed on streets & sidewalks like their competing in the Tour de France.

    2. I agree that the visitors to Boston should use a lot or a garage, or a place with properly priced metered parking that does not affect the residents. Even better they should use the T. It seems that people like Michael are still living in the 1970s and are fully committed to the tail-pipe-sucking view of the world, completely afraid of public transit. Alas, the world has moved on.

      The vast supermajority of North End residents do not have access to a car. This data come from the Census – American Community Survey. Therefore, if you are really interested in taking care of the residents, you will be interested in reducing the impact that the few car owners have on the rest of the neighborhood. That means telling car owners that they should pay for their own parking. It is not fair to the supermajority of car-free North End residents to force them to subsidize the few wealthy car owners that also live here.

      I am happy to hear that you are one of the people who take responsibility for your car and park it in a garage that you pay for instead of expecting free land from the city. I think you are doing the right thing. And if you are interested in doing right by your neighborhood, then you will encourage other car owners to do that too.

      1. Guy, you keep using the word “supermajority” and claim to have data from some American Community Survey, but you refuse to list the actual percentages and link. As someone who has had to drive around looking for a spot for up to an hour at times, I refuse to believe that a “supermajority” of neighborhood residents don’t own cars. Please provide SOME backup for your claims that most residents don’t have cars or just drop it.

Comments are closed.