Downtown View: We’re Not Good Enough

Downtown Boston residents, do you feel insulted? Mayor Walsh has backed off for now, but he wanted to change Boston’s residency requirement for department heads. Apparently he’s having trouble filling important jobs because his picks don’t want to move into Boston.

First, one wonders why, in this city of smart folks, the mayor can’t find enough qualified people who already are residents. Second, what’s so wrong with Boston that these appointees don’t want to move here? Norwell can’t be that good.

To help Mayor Walsh persuade potential top officials that living in Boston would be desirable, I’ve prepared some talking points for him about why Boston, especially downtown Boston, is an ideal location for a residence. He can present this list to the outsiders he is considering.

• Living in downtown Boston is more convenient than where you live now. We can walk everywhere. Even if you choose an outlying neighborhood, the T still takes you mostly to where you want to go.

You’ll save time doing your errands. You won’t have to drive, park and negotiate those large grocery stores where it takes two hours to drive your cart down every aisle. Our stores are small, but they have everything you need. Some of them deliver.

• You’ll save time commuting. Almost 100,000 people come into Boston every day, many by car. No longer will you be stuck in traffic on I-93 or the Pike. If you live downtown, you can, like about half of us, walk to work. Your work place will be city hall, which no one likes, but is still in the center of town.

• You’ll have better city services. I’ll wager that your trash and recyclables don’t get picked up for free twice a week, a benefit several downtown neighborhoods enjoy. Our library system will beat the one in your home town any day. Most American cities would kill for the private civic institutions we enjoy. You get to have the MFA and the Children’s Museum and the Aquarium practically at your doorstep. Your kids won’t have to take a field trip to enjoy them. They can go there every day.

• You won’t need a car since you won’t have to take your garbage to the town’s “transfer station,” the downtown shops deliver to your home and you will walk to work. In fact, more than half of the households in the downtown don’t own any vehicle, according to the city’s transportation department’s “Access Boston 2000-2010.”

According to AAA, owning a car costs on average $9,000 a year. I’m betting, however, that you have more than one car, since every person I know who lives outside of Boston has one car for each person in the household. Think of how much money you will save by ditching your cars.

• You’ll need the extra money because downtown Boston housing isn’t cheap. That means your Boston home will probably be smaller than your suburban home. But you have too much junk anyway. Get rid of it and the obligations to clean that junk and store it. As an experienced parer-downer of possessions, I can attest to how much easier life is with only the basics. Besides, Mayor Walsh has promised to create more affordable housing. Maybe he could start with housing for the team he wants to attract.

• You’ll have better scenery, especially when compared to Norwell. In Charlestown, the North End and South Boston, you’ll live next to the ocean. On Beacon Hill, in the West End and in the Back Bay, you can enjoy the river. We’ve got good parks in the center city. What’s not to love?

You might not want to give up your grass, but some parts of the city—think JP or West Roxbury—have detached housing surrounded by yards. If you still want to get out the mower, you can do so in those communities. But you might find that grass is over-rated. Most of us downtown Bostonians don’t miss it at all.

• The schools aren’t that bad, despite the fact that they stopped serving salad without telling anyone. Well, maybe compared to Newton’s they aren’t so good, but you probably don’t live in Newton anyway. Mayor Walsh has promised to improve the schools, and he might start in the neighborhoods in which he expects his staff will live. So we really want you to move here, since we have only a couple of downtown schools, and they are oversubscribed. If you’re here with us, we might get more good downtown schools faster.

• You don’t want to leave your friends and neighbors? We understand that, but we’re not the haughty, insular, grumpy people Bostonians are often assumed to be. We like people moving in. It confirms our good judgment that we chose to live here. Welcome to Boston.

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

2 Replies to “Downtown View: We’re Not Good Enough

  1. No argument or persuasion will convince families to uproot and move here. They live outside the city for valid reasons. A city worker should not be ‘required’ to relocate. After all, there are commuter trains.

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