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Embargoed for delivery: Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 8:25 a.m.
Remarks of Mayor Martin J. Walsh
Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce
As prepared for delivery
Thank you, Bob [Gallery]. Bank of America has joined with the Highland Street Foundation and others to help ensure Boston’s world-famous First Night celebration takes place for the 39th consecutive year. Thank you for all you do for our city.
It’s a great example of the civic partnership fostered by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. Two people had a lot to do with building this partnership. The first is Mayor Thomas M. Menino. The outpouring of affection for Mayor Menino last month was a testament to his legacy. It was here at the Chamber of Commerce that he put his stamp on the City’s relationship with its business community.
His partner in growing that relationship was Paul Guzzi. Paul, I want to thank you for your service – not just to the Chamber, but to all of Greater Boston. Because of your hard work, I know your successor – whoever that is – will take over a dynamic Chamber.
Speaking of transitions: I want to thank Governor Deval Patrick for 8 years of outstanding leadership. And I want to congratulate Governor-elect Charlie Baker; incoming Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito; Attorney General Maura Healey; and Treasurer Deb Goldberg.
Congratulations as well, to our new state legislators. You bring to the Statehouse deep talents and diverse perspectives, from all across Massachusetts. I’ve been in your shoes, and I know how eager you are to start making a difference.
To all our new office-holders: The City Council and I look forward to a productive partnership with you, to move Boston and the region forward together.
Truly, it’s an exciting time for Massachusetts. And it’s an exciting time for Boston. It’s a time of new leadership and new growth. It’s a moment of change in our history. It’s an opportunity to define a new era, as we build a new vision for our city.
That vision is of a Boston that’s thriving, healthy, and innovative.
It’s thriving – an economic powerhouse and an equitable community. It’s a city of opportunity, where businesses reach new heights – and everyone has access to the good jobs and safe homes that are the foundations of middle-class security.
It’s healthy – a city where pathways for young people; green technology; and world-class healthcare make for the greatest neighborhoods and most productive workforce on the planet.
And it’s innovative – a global hothouse of ideas for solving the hardest problems in the world, from curing disease to solving income inequality.
At City Hall, we are building this vision from the inside out, by installing a responsive, innovative, data-driven culture in city government.
I’m going to talk today about our progress. I’ll start by sharing some metrics. It’s the kind of data I track on the new dashboard that was designed by my tech team, and mounted in my office by the students from Madison Park High School.
In housing: I’m thrilled to announce that with 3,859 units under construction, we have broken the record for annual housing starts in Boston. These new homes will be in every part of Boston. And they put us on pace to meet our target of 53,000 units by 2030. Anyone who wants to help make Boston better should be able to find a home here.
In public safety: Boston remains one of the safest big cities in the country. And this year, we have removed a record 1,015 guns from our streets. This total reflects dedicated daily police work, as well as a successful buyback program begun in March. Violent crime is down this year, and so is property crime: we’ve seen 449 fewer burglaries this year compared to last, and 163 fewer robberies.
The Boston Police Department continues to set a new standard for community policing. We saw the difference it makes in the aftermath of the Ferguson and Staten Island decisions. Instead of standing apart in fear, police and community leaders came together in trust. It took dedication to earn that trust. Commissioner Billy Evans, Chief Willie Gross, and I are always challenging ourselves to do better – to listen more, to learn more, to build more trust and more hope.
Education is where hope begins. So this year we launched a process – with community partners – to ensure that every 4-year-old in our city will have access to high-quality, full-day pre-kindergarten by 2018. We are making Early Childhood Education universal in Boston for the first time. Research proves that this strong start closes achievement gaps and puts children on pathways to long-term success.
A culture of excellence extends from the hardest social challenges to basic city services. And our Public Works Department has had a record-setting year also.
We’ve repaired more than 4,000 sidewalks, a 52% increase.
We paved a record 60 miles of roadway.
We filled 18,000 potholes, 48% more than last year.
By the end of the month, we will have replaced 10,000 streetlights with LED bulbs, for energy savings of more than 7.5 million kilowatt-hours and cost returns of close to $2 million.
We achieved these results with strong new leadership and smart new digital tools.
Finally, development. Through November, we have seen $4 billion worth of new construction break ground – a 16.4% increase over last year’s 12-month total; adding 7.5 million square feet of new floor space and more than 12,000 construction jobs. And the BRA this year has approved $3.7 billion more, for an expected 10 million square feet of floor space; 4,700 units of housing, and 11,000 construction jobs.
We kept the pipeline wide open. And we matched the blistering rate of approval that kicked off last November.
We’re proud of these results. We hit the ground running, and we didn’t let up. We set new standards in development, education, public safety, housing, public health, and infrastructure – the building blocks of our great city. And we are going to reach even higher next year. We are going to keep pace with Boston’s expanding population and soaring economy.
I want to talk more about what that growth means for our city. The fact is: to build a truly thriving, healthy, and innovative Boston – growth by itself isn’t good enough.
It isn’t good enough, if middle-class families can’t afford to make a home in our city.
It isn’t good enough, if small businesses are struggling, and neighborhoods aren’t reaching their potential.
And growth isn’t good enough, when Standard & Poor’s, the Federal Reserve, and expert after expert all tell us: inequality is slowing our economy and undermining social mobility.
Future generations depend on the decisions we make now. Our duty at this moment is to make sure our city doesn’t just grow bigger, it grows better.
Planners talk about “Smart Growth.” But it goes deeper. It’s about our identity. Our values.
Our vision. We should show America there’s a better way to grow. A Boston way.
Growth should enhance the best qualities of our city.
Neighborhoods should reflect our historic tradition and our bold innovation.
Our economy should be world-class and inclusive.
New buildings should be creative, sustainable, and inspiring.
I want to share with you some new policy initiatives that illustrate how we are shaping our growth around these values.
We start by moving forward one of the key strategies in our Housing Plan: Growth Zones for transit-oriented workforce housing. Boston needs more housing. But there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every neighborhood has its own character. In some places, density is not only appropriate – it is badly needed.
It is needed to bring prices back within reach.
It is needed to spur retail investment.
It is needed to breathe new life into under-developed streets.
We’re starting with two transit corridors. One Growth Zone will run along the Red Line, on Dorchester Avenue between Broadway and Andrew stations in South Boston. Another will follow the Orange Line in Jamaica Plain, from Forest Hills to Jackson Square. The T stops in these great neighborhoods should be embedded in thriving, healthy, walkable communities. And they will be.
More zones will come. When other neighborhoods see the kind of vibrancy that smart density produces, the conversation about new housing across our city will change for the better.
Great city neighborhoods need more than housing. They need thriving commercial districts. This year we helped 93 new businesses open, creating 687 new jobs. And we provided technical support to over 2,600 more. But some neighborhoods still struggle to fill empty storefronts. One reason is that complex zoning rules put up roadblocks to new investment.
We’re in the midst of a comprehensive zoning review. But we’re going to make some necessary changes right away. On low-impact uses, like art galleries or bakeries; and on improvements, like take-out service or televisions in restaurants: we’ll flip from an automatic “no” to a thoughtful “yes.” We’ll make sure Boston is open for business. And we’ll empower the community to help drive this growth.
I’m proud of the City’s support for women and minority owned businesses. But I was surprised to find out we offered no similar program for military veterans. We owe it to veterans – and to our communities – to draw on their character and leadership. So I’m going to issue an executive order that guarantees veteran-owned businesses get that same first chance at City contracts. And I want to take this opportunity to thank veterans; the men and women of our armed forces; and their families, for your sacrifices and your service to our country.
Our goal is to create – for the first time – a predictable and transparent development experience in Boston. That requires internal reform. Early on, I challenged my team to modernize City Hall from top to bottom – in every service and every operation. That’s what we’ve been doing, every day.
It started with permitting – the key to a welcoming business climate. In March, I announced aggressive new benchmarks: resolve 75% as-of-right permits within 20 days; and return phone inquiries within 24 hours.
So we brought in new leadership. We reformed our systems. And we invited Boston’s innovation community to re-invent the online customer experience.
I’m pleased to report today that we’ve met those goals.
Median turnaround time for as-of-right permits has dropped by 25%, from 27 to 20 days – even while ISD has processed 18% more applications.
And we are responding to over 90% of calls within 24 hours.
The Board of Appeal has cleared a 4-month case backlog. Appellants now receive a hearing date within one month.
Fire Department permits will be available online for the first time.
An online status-check tool will connect you directly to the staff member working on your case.
And a new web platform will guide customers through the entire process.
The end result is that pulling permits is getting easier and faster than ever. And starting this January, the Registry counters in City Hall will be open 5 days a week. How about that for innovation? For the first time, you’ll be able to get a birth certificate on a Wednesday in Boston!
Innovation is about more than improving performance. It’s about shifting paradigms. In Boston, we are proving that you can grow greener as you grow bigger. Starting next year, we’ll take it a step further, with the Renew Boston Trust. Renew Boston will manage energy retrofits of public buildings that are self-financed by future savings. This step marks a historic turning point in municipal energy efficiency: from the era of incentives, to the age of true investments. Renew Boston will reduce costs, increase resilience, and create jobs. And it will set a standard for private property owners across the city. Environmental action is no longer a burden we accept. It is an opportunity we embrace.
Finally, great cities aren’t made by investments alone. They are made by the talent and creativity of the people who live and work in them. Boston is home to the world’s most innovative thinkers – in science and technology, and in business, art, and architecture.
Our City’s built environment should reflect this culture of imagination.
Too often, in recent decades, new buildings have been merely functional.
I believe Boston can do better. We should aim for world-class design. Our historic buildings reflect our unique past. New buildings should project the values and aspirations of our growing city. We can balance the old and new. And we can do it with imagination.
Let’s make sure bold design is part of the conversation – for every building, in every neighborhood.
Let’s talk about what’s going to rise above the concrete garages downtown: from the Harbor, to Winthrop Square, to Haymarket.
Let’s talk about the streets that will grow around the Fairmount Line, and at Beacon Yards in Allston.
Let’s talk about our waterfront. The water’s edge is where Boston was born and where it continues to be renewed. What kind of development will fulfill the potential of the Seaport; of East Boston; of the Wharf District?
All across Boston, we have opportunities to imagine new landmarks; new spaces; and new gateways to our city.
So I challenge every developer working in our city to take design to a new level. Reach beyond your comfort zone. Boston’s design community is a driving force in our creative economy. Invite these innovators to dream up new images and new icons. Let’s build inspiration in our landscape.
As we enter this new era, there’s a powerful force driving all of us forward. It’s Boston’s thriving innovation sector. Through 3 quarters, Boston startups received over $1 billion in venture capital funding. That puts us 4th in the nation and first per capita on the East Coast.
At City Hall we are not standing by and watching. We are pro-actively supporting our innovators and inviting them to form a new generation of civic leaders. I’ve been visiting their workspaces and hosting these entrepreneurs in my own office. I want to know what they need to thrive, and grow, and be Boston’s next success story.
We know what those success stories lead to, here and elsewhere. Once upon a time, Greater Boston had a chance to keep Facebook. We can’t afford to lose that kind of opportunity again. We have to be in dialogue with these innovators from the moment their dreams take shape. And if there is something we can do to help them stay and grow in Boston, we shouldn’t hesitate.
So I’m pleased to announce that – working with the City Council – we are taking steps to make sure cloud computing leader LogMeIn expands their worldwide headquarters in Boston. Not only will we retain 350 jobs in their Summer Street office, they will add 450 new ones over 5 years.
Our relationship with these innovators is not just about growth. It’s taking city government itself to the next level. We’ve never had access to more powerful tools for improving our performance. That’s the story behind our new permitting platform. And it’s quickly becoming the story of basic services and civic engagement.
We introduced TicketZen in September, allowing thousands of drivers to pay parking tickets instantly on their mobile devices.
We set up the RunKeeper app to let the public track Engagement Walks by our Office of Neighborhood Services.
And we released a new version of Citizens Connect that allows users to see the final repairs and a picture of the crew that made them.
It’s technology adding a human touch. It’s helping to make city services a driver of civic engagement. That’s what innovation in government should do. Online engagement should make City Hall more personal, not less so.
The City of Boston’s website receives an average of more than 23 thousand visitors each weekday. Our social media community totals 1.5 million users across departments. That’s vastly greater than the number of people who walk into City Hall each day. The internet is truly our new front door. We have to make it a welcoming, useful portal.
New Chief Digital Officer Lauren Lockwood, hired last month directly from a Boston startup, is charged with doing just that. Across all our digital platforms, we are harnessing technology to empower people.
And that’s a story we are making sure gets repeated across all Boston’s neighborhoods. Our schools and streets are filled with energy and talent. All they need are the right pathways and the right tools.
So earlier this year, we created 18 new Wicked Free WiFi hotspots in our Main Street districts, with another 17 to come by next summer.
We are currently reviewing proposals to manage the Roxbury Innovation Center that will open next year alongside the new Boston Public School headquarters in the Bruce Bolling Building in Dudley Square.
And we have formed a Neighborhood Innovation District committee, to develop a plan for seeding a startup support network across the city.
By wiring our City for STEM success, we’ll make smart growth even smarter. We’ll set the standard for a thriving 21st Century workforce – by being as inclusive as we are innovative.
That’s what we’ve been working on all year at City Hall. Last week I appointed Shaun Blugh as our Chief Diversity Officer, and Freda Brasfield as Deputy. They are going to keep us moving toward our goal of a more inclusive Boston. It’s not just the right thing to do. It’s the only way we’ll succeed over the long haul.
Inclusion is a performance issue. For example, research shows that companies with women in leadership are more profitable than those without. And I don’t have to tell you why. Just look around.
You all know Karen Kaplan, who worked her way up from receptionist to CEO at Hill Holliday – not to mention Chair of the Chamber’s board – one job at a time.
Colette Phillips is another member of the Chamber’s board whose success tells a story. For over 2 decades Colette has been proving that multi-cultural marketing – and networking – make a winning formula.
Also here is Cathy Minehan, the first woman to lead the Boston Federal Reserve Bank, and now dean of the Simmons School of Management. Cathy heads up our Women’s Workforce Council. And I’ve asked her to grow the Boston Women’s Compact, our region’s most effective program for addressing gender gaps in the workplace.
Women are leading transformative businesses across our city. Carol Downs was an anti-crime activist in Jamaica Plain. She decided that what Hyde Square really needed was more job opportunities. So she and her partners Kathy and Meg Mainzer turned the Bella Luna Restaurant and Milky Way Lounge into a catalyst for revitalization and an anchor of community life.
Lastly, a member of our team at the City: Trinh Nguyen. Trinh and her family escaped Vietnam by boat. She spent 2 years in a refugee camp before making it to America. Her journey took her from public housing all the way to M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management.
And she never forgot where she came from. I worked with Trinh when she was Chief of Staff for the Boston Housing Authority, putting together a plan that created better housing and better jobs for tenants. So when I became Mayor, I asked her to direct Jobs and Community Service for the entire City – where she is spearheading our new Office of Financial Empowerment. Trinh told me she is driven to give back, to make the American Dream she lived possible for everyone.
These are just a few of the powerful stories that lie behind Boston’s success. There are thousands more. But we know there aren’t enough. So I want to ask for your help.
We are creating paths to success from pre-school through college and career. But it takes more than policy. It takes the personal guidance that only a caring community can provide. I know the difference these relationships have made in my life and career. I want every single young person in Boston to have that support.
That’s why, in response to a call to action by President Obama, we created the Mayor’s Mentoring Movement. Our goal is to recruit 1,000 mentors over the next 2 years for the youth of Boston. That’s where you come in.
Our partners from Mass Mentoring are here, sharing information about the many different ways you can get involved. In schools, in communities, or in your workplace – you can sign up today, to forge a connection that will change a young person’s life.
Remember, none of us succeeded by ourselves. Passing along the gift of mentorship is something you can do personally: not only to give back; but to help ensure Boston is thriving, healthy, and innovative for generations to come. Thank you and I wish you and your families a happy and healthy holiday season.