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 BostonColumn.com.