A 'rat czar' in Boston? Why one city councilor says it's 'desperately needed'

A worker holds a rat inside a bag as part of a "Rat to Cash" program in Marikina city, Philippines. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
A worker holds a rat inside a bag as part of a "Rat to Cash" program in Marikina city, Philippines. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

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This city is crawling with rats — and unlike “The Departed,” we’re not using any heavy-handed metaphors. We’re talking about literal rats.

Boston City Council President Ed Flynn wants the city to follow in the footsteps of New York City and get its own “rat czar” to take on the pest problem. Flynn plans to set those moves in motions today. During this afternoon’s City Council meeting, Flynn will file an order to hold a hearing on the possible formation of a new Office of Pest Control led by a single point person (a rat czar) to focus on what he calls a “critical quality of life issue.” So, how did we get to this point?

  • Rats are an age-old annoyance, but complaints have ballooned since the start of the pandemic. From 2020 to 2022, pest complaints to Boston’s 311 line jumped from 1,212 to 2,253. And the city is on track to see even more complaints in 2023.
  • Why? In cities across the country, restaurant shutdowns at the beginning of the pandemic forced rats to migrate to new places to find food — like residents’ homes. And as one urban ecologist told NPR’s Short Wave podcast, “once that flag is there, it stays.”
  • Why is a new department necessary? Pest control in Boston is currently spread across several departments, like Public Works and Inspectional Services. But as Flynn told WBUR’s Amy Sokolow, he thinks the task requires “one specific department to coordinate all aspects of pest control,” from rats to mice to bugs. “I think it’s desperately needed in Boston,” he said.
  • Do you have what it takes to become Boston’s rat czar? If the proposal wins approval from the City Council and Mayor Michelle Wu, Flynn says he’s looking for someone who’s well-organized, a good listener and dedicated to the city. Willing to work on the weekends is also a plus, because rats don’t take nights off.

Massachusetts state education leaders are moving to ease regulations to make it easier for licensed educators to teach other subjects, like English as a second language and special education. The hope is to address a statewide teacher shortage.

  • Education Commissioner Jeff Riley says those two areas have been particularly short-staffed, but suggested the change would only be temporary. “What we’re trying to do is be a little more flexible than we’ve been in the past with the understanding that at some point we’re probably going to back up later,” Riley said.
  • What’s next: The state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is taking public comment on the rules, ahead of a final vote in June.

Easthampton school officials are pausing their turbulent search for a new superintendent and are instead looking to hire an interim leader for the next year.

The late Mel King already has a square named after him in the South End. Next up: a school. Wu and local school leaders will join King’s widow, Joyce, at 10 a.m. today to celebrate renaming the McKinley Schools complex after the political legend. The new name: Melvin H. King South End Academy.

The Bruins will look to do tonight what the Celtics couldn’t last night: close out their first-round playoff series up 3-1 at TD Garden. They play at 7 p.m. against the Florida Panthers — and a win would definitely help erase visions of that Trae Young shot from Boston sports fans’ minds.

P.S.— The penultimate episode of our podcast Violation is here. It takes a close look at the revocation of Jacob Wideman’s parole and asks: was he a master manipulator, the victim of a misunderstanding — or something worse? Listen wherever you get your podcasts.


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Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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