Thanks to local Main Streets organizations and JP-based housing nonprofits for staging important mayoral forums to raise the neglected issues of small business development and Boston’s staggering cost of getting a roof over one’s head. Those conversations should continue, and in as much detail as possible.
A lack of policy detail has allowed these and other problems to fester in Boston. This city tends toward a politics of charity—policies that make us feel better—rather than a politics of justice, which are policies that actually make us better.
Thus we talk about “affordable” housing actually targeted to households making $80,000 a year or more. We talk about “neighborhood schools” in neighborhoods with dysfunctional schools or none at all. We talk about promoting Main Streets while issuing licensing documents written with typewriters in a process no one can explain. We plot “outreach” to gang members instead of doing some listening of our own and learning that gang life is often the most expedient way to get a job, food and a place to live.
How, exactly and precisely, will it be easier for a first-time business owner to open a restaurant, or for a blue-collar kid fresh out of high school from Roxbury or Hyde Park or Charlestown to find a decent home, in the Boston of 2014? Just getting those issues on the table is a great start. Going beyond the old feel-good buzzwords is what will make a would-be mayor really stand out.