For Immediate Release
January 12, 2011
For More Information Contact:
Mayor's Press Office
In front of an audience of residents, local leaders and dignitaries, Mayor Thomas M. Menino tonight delivered his annual State of the City address at historic Faneuil Hall. As the City continues to make strides toward economic recovery, Mayor Menino emphasized the need for shared prosperity and recounted the progress of the last year. Mayor Menino highlighted education reform and development growth and laid out an agenda to create jobs, reduce disparities in healthcare and education, and strengthen public safety. The Mayor also emphasized the need to cut costs amid very challenging fiscal circumstances.
“One year ago, I stood here and laid out an ambitious innovation agenda. By so many measures, given all that we’ve faced, it’s been a year full of progress,” said Mayor Menino. “Even with the challenges behind us and the big ones that remain to tackle, I’m upbeat about our prospects, confident in our neighborhoods, and energized for the coming days.”
Noting that Boston has fared well under tough circumstances, and much better than other cities and towns nationwide, Mayor Menino declared the state of the city, “exceptionally strong and resilient.” “However,” he added, “there remain exceptions to that great strength…I believe true progress should be shared widely.”
Mayor Menino named job creation as a top priority over the next year, vowing to help Bostonians who still do not have work find it. To promote job growth and the economy, Mayor Menino announced a $100 million “stimulus” to green city buildings and other assets. The work could be financed through energy savings and would generate approximately 1,000 new jobs in construction and other sectors. The Mayor also pledged to ease the complex permitting process for small businesses by cutting red tape and reviewing permit requirements.
Highlighting education reform as one of the major successes of 2010, Mayor Menino pledged to continue aggressive transformation efforts so that educational opportunity is shared across the city. Having in the past year secured landmark education reform at the State House, the City began making use of the new authority to create in-district charters and put the best educators in struggling buildings.
“Turning around underperforming schools is the best way to provide great schools in every neighborhood. It lays the groundwork for us to tackle changes to student assignment. But we can’t stop there,” said Mayor Menino.
The Mayor called for doubling the number of early education seats in the Circle of Promise and invited non-profit institutions and private sector partners to help meet that challenge. He noted that full day kindergarten for four-year olds has been successful, and that increasing early education seats in the Circle of Promise would help young children who live there and create capacity across the city.
Access to Quality Healthcare
The Mayor announced NeighborCare a proposal to increase access to affordable, quality health care. The initiative is designed to increase the use of community health centers by providing more hours and more services in the neighborhoods.
“I am asking our Public Health Commission to team up with hospitals, health insurance companies and the community health centers to help the centers extend their hours and access,” Mayor Menino said. “America’s first community health center was established on Dorchester’s Columbia Point. A long tradition across the city continues to this day… While some in Congress now seek to limit access to health care, in Boston we remember what a good man told us: healthcare is a right, not a privilege.”
New Public Safety Tools
After a year marked by an increase in homicides, including several high-profile cases, Mayor Menino pledged resources to public safety, including a second police academy class in addition to the one already in the academy now and a new Anti-Gun Task Force with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).
“In Boston and around the country we’ve seen too much mayhem from the wrong guns in the wrong hands,” said Mayor Menino, noting that although violent crime is down for the fourth year in a row, criminals in pockets of our city have contributed to the tragic increase in murders.
Mayor Menino also called for better coordination of re-entry programs with the state prison system.
Another item atop Mayor Menino’s agenda for the new year is reform to the design of municipal health care plans. Boston taxpayers currently cover approximately 82-percent of health care costs totaling nearly $300 million. The State, on the other hand, pays only 67-percent of healthcare costs for new employees. Mayor Menino noted his proposal for a Boston Group Insurance Commission, which – following the state version – would produce savings of more than $1 million a month and approximately $17 million a year.
“In this economy, it’s tough enough for our neighbors to cover their own healthcare costs. We should not ask them to cover the vast majority of ours,” Mayor Menino said.
“Our budget challenges next year will be as harsh as they have ever been, and our healthcare costs are an enormous strain on an already grim financial situation. Municipal union leaders can make this right at the negotiating table. The City Council can make this right by approving my home rule petition for a Boston version of the state’s Group Insurance Commission. The State can make this right by granting us the power they gave themselves.”
“As we navigate 2011, let us make sure the recovery we have is a recovery for all of our people, that our progress is shared widely… the year we, too, decided not just to come back, but to come back better,” Mayor Menino said in closing.
The event program included a moment of silence for the victims of the recent tragedy in Arizona, as well as performances by the Boston Arts Academy and Boston City Singers and an invocation by Fr. David I. Convertino of St. Anthony’s Shrine and Ministry Center.