Boston’s Business Interests Brace for Post-Menino Era
March 28, 2013
March 28, 2013
The scramble to shape the post-Menino era has begun, and the stakes couldn't be higher for companies and organizations in the real estate industry, healthcare and mission-driven, non-profit sectors. Today's announcement by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino that he will not seek re-election means the city has the chance to elect only its fourth mayor in 45 years. Since 1968, the year before the Mets won a World Series and America put men on the moon, only three people have led Boston government – Kevin White, Ray Flynn and Menino. There will be no shortage of candidates for the job, but the seminal question is: Will Bostonians go “big” or small in choosing Menino's successor? While actual Boston residents will cast the ballots, everyone knows the money and blessing of the city's business interests will exert disproportionate weight – especially if most of the key influencers wind up unifying behind a favorite candidate. Is Boston's next mayor a Paul Grogan, the head of the Boston Foundation, a Peter Meade, the head of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), a Stephen Lynch, the congressman from South Boston now running to succeed former U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry? Or it is City Councilor John Connolly, the only official candidate who had the temerity to get in the race early. Or Councilor Michael Ross, a bridge builder with a strong personal story to tell? Or Councilor Ayanna Pressley, the first African-American woman to serve on the Council? Or any of the dozen or so other councilors and state representativeswhose names are being floated today? Menino has always been perceived as friendly to the development community and the city's real estate industry is booming as a result in Boston's core. Menino's administration has been wildly successful masterminding a relentless PR push touting the promise of the Fort-Point-Innovation District-Waterfront area. Favorable financial conditions will continue to propel commercialdevelopment in the oldest real estate market in country, but the next mayor will also control the BRA, which is where the rubber meets the road for commercial real estate and affordable housing. Boston's globally renowned network of hospitals and academic medical centers provide the jobs that employ one in five Boston residents, driving a big slice of the city's economy, so you can bet that institutional executives in the healthcare sector will want to exercise some control over the destiny of their workforce and expansion plans. The policies of the next mayor also loom large for mission-driven non-profits, including the city's colleges and universities. A mayor who is friendly to labor uniongrowth and who demands more or larger payments-in-lieu-of-taxes, for example, would have a major impact on the business models of institutions already struggling for stability in the post-recession economy. And then there are the neighborhood voters, who want crime kept low, their streets plowed free of snow, better family housing, a better urban transportation system, especially in the poorest neighborhoods, and, of course, better schools. There's never a dull moment when politics and business intersect in Boston, and they haven't had the chance to collide like this since Menino succeeded Flynn in July 1993 and then won election outright that November. The next nine months will produce a political spectacle that most of the city's residents and many of its business leaders have not experienced in 20 years. One ironic and telling anecdote, the “Menino Won't Run” story was broken Wednesday on Twitter by David Bernstein, the sharp-eyed former political columnist for the Boston Phoenix, which folded a few weeks ago. Bernstein's scoop is a good reminder of how the media environment has changed since the days when an army of beat reporters and columnists from city's two newspapers and major television stations controlled the flow of game-changing information. It's no longer about where you work or who you work for; when you are online, breaking news is about your connections. Based on a look at today's papers, it appears the Boston Herald, led by former Boston City Hall Bureau Chief and now Editor-In-Chief Joe Sciacca, had the story early enough to produce a package of blanket coverage in today's edition. The Boston Globe's new editor, Brian McGrory, also a former City Hall reporter and Metro columnist, appears to have paid a personal visit to the Mayor to make sure his paper remained competitive on Menino's departure plans.