First, I would like to thank the mayor and councilors for offering assistance to the Hi-Lo workers who have lost their jobs and for taking steps to ensure that Whole Foods will be a good neighbor. I share the concerns that many of my neighbors have, that Whole Foods may harm local businesses, and hence the local economy as a whole, and that it will lead to higher house prices. The latest U.S. census housing tenure data shows that as of 2000, 60 percent of all housing units in the 02130 ZIP code were rental units. That is twice the national average percentage during the same time. Many JPers would more than likely be detrimentally impacted by accelerated housing value increases.
Recognizing that the housing issue is a complex one, I will leave it to experts such as the mayor’s and councilors’ staffs to figure out the best way to increase affordable housing in JP. Recent projects such as the Blessed Sacrament conversion are a hopeful sign that this can be done.
Regarding supporting local business, I would like to ask if any of you have plans to introduce novel approaches to support local businesses as a whole. Looking to our neighbors, we see the success of implementing local currency such as the Berkshares program, and of offering a local business directory and selling local business coupon books, as Cambridge does. Every local Cambridge business is clearly labeled with a sticker, so people know where their money is going. Cambridge further passed a resolution to ensure that the city would purchase from more local businesses and supply its schools with local food. Has Boston passed a similar resolution?
We have done many things right, from farmers markets to First Thursdays. But I think we can do more. There are projects from our past, including city employee residency programs and the Community Change card, that we need to revive and/or revisit. There are ideas that other municipalities in our state are executing that we could learn from. I urge you to take these ideas into consideration and contemplate how we can bring them, or similar ideas, to Boston. Whether or not Whole Foods comes, our local businesses have been here a long time, supporting us and our neighborhoods. They deserve our support, from top to bottom.