Friday, July 31, 2009

The picture in Bogota

I've been in Bogota for a week for a family funeral. I thought I'd write a couple notes on my observations.

Bogota is large city of about 7 or 8 million people. It has had some recent progressive Mayor's who have tried to deal with 'urban' problems. Mass transit here has been lagging and is mostly diesel spewing buses, with tons of vehicles. Because Bogota is high in the mountains (8600 feet) and surrounded by peaks, the pollution can tend to settle in the area. The car problem has become so great that now you can only drive on certain days, depending on what the last number of your license plate is.

The city has installed bike lanes in many parts of town, usually in the median strips or protected by Jersey barrier type objects. They have started high speed buses down the middle of the highways, with high platforms (handicapped accessible) to help keep turnover times down. They also close off many parts of the street systems on Sunday so that people can walk, roller blade and bicycle around town. These appear to be very popular.

The Bogota river is nastily polluted. About 50 miles from the city where we crossed over a bridge you could smell a strong sulphur like smell, the river was grey, the boulders in and out of the river were covered with a slime, and toxic foam abounded in the eddies. A true disaster, which makes one appreciate the clean air and water act in America.

The economy is clearly doing much better than the US, the currency is strong against the dollar and construction is going on all over the City. There are high end malls and restaurants, clean parks, and lively streetscapes. The banks here did not get caught up in the subprime mess so they are in decent shape.

It is clear that education and access are the keys to success here as much as anywhere. All of Clara's family members and acquaintances are bi-lingual if not more, with many having been schooled or even live part time in the States. I often feel like a fool trying to communicate in my basic spanish, especially when they just cut me off and answer in english. There was a framed picture of one of her aunt's on the cover of the Boston Herald American from sometime in the early 70's about an international conference.

Life goes on, people here wish the US economy would do better because it is good for exports but there are other countries and other markets. They are concerned about Chavez and internal safety, but all agree the country has made great strides in the last decade.

I highly recommend a visit. The countryside is beautiful with all sorts of diversity, both animal and vegetable. The people are friendly, the food is delicious, what isn't there to like?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Menino Clamping Down on the Elderly

It really appears that Menino is pulling out all the stops to make sure we don't have an open, honest discussion of the ideas and that the citizens don't get a chance to hear all points of view. Sam Adams, Paul Revere and John Adams would be so proud of our fearless Mayor.

Back when I was collecting signatures I was in Charlestown and I met a very nice woman, Bev Gibbons, who helps out doing activities for the Golden Age retirement home in Charlestown. We spoke for a awhile and she invited me to come speak to all the seniors at the Golden Age and talk about my ideas for the city. She told about the good time the seniors recently had when Sal Lamattina came and visited and brought some treats.

We followed up with her and set up a time for me to visit. But, in just the last two weeks she got back to us and said that the policy had been changed and now no politicians are allowed to come and meet with the seniors. Bev told us that she has been doing this for 20 to 25 years and has never had a problem. She told us that this decision came from 'high up in City Hall'.

It really is nice to know our Mayor cares so much for an informed electorate.

Scam of the week: Sam Conti

Months ago a Sam Yoon supporter who used to work at City Hall read my blog post about how the City Councilor's hire staff and pay them different amounts of money for different time periods, essentially giving their staff bonuses which public employees are not supposed to get. This Yoon supporter read my blog and saw that one of the recent hires was Councilor Steven Murphy hiring a gentleman named Sam Conti (whom I had never heard of). This Yoon supporter wrote to me and told me that insiders knew that Sam Conti was a patronage hire, and that he was someone who almost never came to City Hall except to get a paycheck, and that he was a vote getter for Murphy in Hyde Park.

The first question in my mind was: if this guy supports Yoon why doesn't he tell Sam Yoon about it since Yoon is only a few feet away from Murphy's office and if Yoon is allegedly a reformer he would want to do something about it. Yoon has said we can't afford to waste any money in these tough times. I'm just an outsider who hates to see money wasted while we are laying off teachers, but I have no power. Yoon could actually do something about it.

But, my curiousity was piqued and over the course of a couple months if I had a spare moment I would call City Hall and ask for Steve Murphy's office and ask to speak to Sam Conti. Sure enough he was never in. I would ask when he would be in, or when he was last there and was never given a definitive answer. I saw Councilor Murphy at the elections department and asked him who Sam was and Steve said that Sam was his chief of staff. Maybe I'm naive about government, but wouldn't you want your chief of staff to come to the office every once in a while?

So, if you are wondering where all your increased taxes are going, why not call up Councilor Murphy's office and ask to speak to Sam Conti and ask him? Maybe you will have better luck than me.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Please help support a great Charity: The Travis Roy Foundation

Kevin pitching at 'mini-Fenway'

Last year I became involved in a great charity, the Travis Roy Foundation. Mario Fontana, who helped me coach in the South End Baseball League, invited me to come up to Vermont for their big annual fundraiser. It was the most fun I've ever had at a fundraising event: a weekend competitive charity whiffle ball tournament!

Many of you will remember Travis Roy who tragically had a spinal injury 11 seconds into his first shift playing for the BU hockey team. Since that time he has become a motivational speaker and dedicated himself to helping others like himself and to try and find a cure for spinal cord injuries.

A generous family in Vermont has built a replica of both Fenway Park and Wrigley Field in their backyard to 'whiffle ball' dimensions. 24 teams from around New England and NY gather to raise money and battle for whiffle supremacy. Last year I was placed on a team whose pitcher could not make the tournament, and despite not having played whiffle ball in almost 30 years, I pitched every inning on the way to a 2-1 record with our only loss to the eventual champions. I could barely walk for 2 days afterward, but it was a great, uplifting and worthwhile event.

Stars such as Red Sox pitcher Bill Lee came by to pitch the home run derby, and many people donate items for auction, their time and their money to help raise money for the Travis Roy Foundation. This year we hope to set a new record, and we even are having NESN come and do a piece.

I was most inspired by Travis Roy himself, who hasn't lost his sense of humor or his sense of perspective. The winner of each year's tournament gets their name inscribed on a granite stone and he was told that we would need a new granite stone soon and he was asked for his input on type and size. He said "I don't want another stone, I want this tournament to end because we've found a cure and I can get out of this damn wheelchair!" He got a huge round of applause for his speech and many have been inspired to raise even more this year.

Some information:

Talking Points
* Travis is the Boston U hockey player who was paralyzed 11 seconds into his first college shift in 1995
* Foundation started in 1997. Half the money goes to spinal cord injury survivors [ramps, wheelchairs, bathroom modifications, etc], half goes to research for a cure.
* Over $3 million distributed by Foundation since inception
* Wiffle ball tournament started in 2002 and is entering its 8th year.
* Nearly $500,000 raised in 7 years, including over $180,000 last year
* By far, it's now the Foundation's largest fundraising event each year
* NESN will be there this year to film a special to air later this year.
* 24 teams, 250+ players mostly from New England & New York. Our team has a player from France & one from Indiana
* Many teams have Boston ties. Examples: 1) Last year's champ, the Jack Hammers, are a team of high schoolers from Braintree 2) Boston Beef, last year's fundraising champ and the 2006 tourney champ, have played all 8 years and are run by one of the trustees at the Foundation 3) Boston Terriers, the 2007 fundraising champ 4) Comets Express, which won the tourney in 2004, was runner up twice, and won the fundraising title three times, is from Tyngsboro, MA near the NH border

Please consider donating. I have a goal of joining the top tier of fundraisers by getting 30 people to donate $30. You can send a check to me, or even easier please go online and donate:

You can scroll down to my team: Bananas for Travis Roy and link to my name, or just give a general donation.

Thanks for your generosity!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Death in the family

Kevin McCrea will be attending the funeral of his wife’s brother

Kevin McCrea and his wife, Dr. Clara Lora McCrea will be attending the funeral of her brother Luis Lora in Bogota, Colombia. Luis, 38, died suddenly late last night. They will be with their family in Colombia for about one week.

I'm opposed to the tax increases

As I have said many times before, the city is not in a fiscal crisis, just a crisis of management. I am opposed to the meals tax increase that the Mayor is proposing. If, unfortunately, the tax increase is passed remember that the Mayor promised to have it offset the residential property tax. If he doesn't include that in his legislation, you will see yet another example of him saying one thing and doing another.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Change is a sign of life

So said the moderator at tonights meeting in Chinatown at the "Chinatown Tomorrow: Visions and Goals 2010" forum that was attended by about 100 local residents. If this is true, then our local political institutions are nearly dead.

We broke up into individual groups to talk about what is good, what is bad and how to improve Chinatown. People definitely felt that they had not received their fair share of development promises, and as one woman said to me: "I've learned to not trust the BRA".

There was something very odd about the circumstances of the meeting to me however. The meeting was being run by Taintor & Associates for a group called the Chinatown Gateway Coalition. They want to redo the Master Plan for Chinatown in 2010, after it was redone in 2000 and in 1990.

I asked where the funding for this group came from to work on this revised Master Plan and I was told it was from an anonymous source! Definitely something strange (to me) going on. An anonymous group is funding some urban planners made up in part with former city officials to craft a Master Plan for Chinatown and they are in talks with the BRA? Can anyone initiate talks with the BRA about rezoning their section of the City? Certainly not very transparent.

Will Boston ever have open, clean government processes?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

WFNX tomorrow!

Listen to me on the Sandbox at 8:30 tomorrow morning on 101.7

It's time to stop wasting Police Expertise on Construction Details

***Focusing Police Expertise on Fighting Crime***

According to the FBI, the rate of violent crime in Boston is twice the rate of violent crime in NYC, and the rate of violence against women in Boston is four times the rate in NYC. The number of shootings in Boston through June is above the levels of last year, despite the wet weather. The rate at which we are solving crimes, such as murder, in Boston is not acceptable. The Boston Phoenix concluded “Simply put, the BPD’s homicide unit has the worst track record of any big city police department in the country.”

We understand in America that police work is a dangerous, stressful, professional job that requires qualified and committed individuals who are willing to stand on the front lines in protecting citizens. Each applicant to the Police Academy spends six months of intensive training learning how to serve and protect, becoming the finest public safety officers we can produce.

While the City of Boston ordinances require 2,500 police officers to be on the police force, Menino refuses to obey and instead he short staffs the police department at the expense of the City’s safety. It makes sense that we maximize the limited staffing of the police force and the comprehensive training they receive by concentrating their efforts on crime prevention and law enforcement. It is not logical to make a police officer work additional time doing detail work at road construction and other projects that can be done by less skilled members of our work force. In order To qualify to be a flagger in Massachusetts, a person merely has to pass four hours of training and pay a $175 fee to get certified. Clearly, our police officers are over qualified for construction details. It is hard enough for our police force to fight crime, without having to work additional hours directing traffic.

If I am elected Mayor, I will stop the practice of requiring police officers to handle non-crucial detail work. Instead, I will hire and train Boston residents in accordance with the Boston Jobs Policy (at least 10% women and at least 25% minorities) to do this work. I would also like to make this work available to Police Cadets who have passed through the Police Academy but can’t be hired as police officers until positions become available.

The benefits of this are many. We allow police officers to be at their best for their important job of public safety. We help to lower the unemployment rate in Boston by hiring residents to fill these jobs. We lower taxes for Boston residents by lowering the costs of construction to our roads, bridges and buildings in the City of Boston. This can help lower the cost of building housing as well.

Kevin McCrea says “We need to cut costs and find ways to make our streets safer. Ending police details accomplishes both objectives.”

Globe describes why Menino giving the Banner money is bad.

The Globe today had an editorial about the loss of independence when the Mayor gives the Banner a loan to continue publishing.

I had dinner at Mr. Miller's house a number of years ago. A very worldly and knowledgeable man. He clearly is no fan of the Mayor's and he had some amazing stories about the Mayor that are not fit for print. Even back then he talked about the financial difficulties involved in running a community newspaper.

I've been a Banner reader for a long time, as it covers my neighborhoods of Roxbury and the South End more than any other, and writes and advertises about events that no other media sources cover. However, this loan from Menino who cries poor on one hand but miraculously finds millions or hundreds of thousands of dollars under rocks all the time is not good for the independence of the press or good for electoral politics either.

Menino has proven himself someone who can talk out of both sides of his mouth at the same time, and because the media is so afraid of him, they never call him on it. How many other businesses in this city could use a $200,000 shot in the arm.

I have sent a FOIA request for the paperwork involved in this loan to the City and BRA. I often wonder how these deals happen. Was there an application? Is there collateral? What are the loan terms? Citizens should demand this type of transparency.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Maybe the Mayor thinks Mass Vote can put on a debate!

Cheryl Crawford from MassVote just came over to our campaign headquarters to drop off the questions for the Mayoral Debates they are hosting in September. They handed all the candidates the questions on the same day and had us sign for them.

I was the last to receive them, and so I was able to see that someone from Flaherty, Yoon and Menino's campaign(!) had accepted.

So, although Menino has not officially accepted the invitation, he is keeping his options open. Who knows, maybe he might be able to handle an actual question from the citizens.

Now Flaherty stealing my ideas!!

Between Flaherty and Yoon taking my ideas, and then the Mayor saying that he is already working on those issues after the Councilors bring them up, we may yet end up making this City better run!

Today in the Globe there is an article about Flaherty calling for the City to change over to the State health care plan.

The Financial Commission and the Boston Municipal Research Bureau have been telling the City to do this for quite some time.

Here is a link to my blog where I suggest we do this back in March.

The quality of coverage by the Globe might lead one to believe that they are not worth the $1 entry fee if one is interested in City politics.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Harvard, in a more eloquent and lengthier way, agrees with me (and Yoon) that the BPS rezoning plan isn't good


Post-PICS Coordinator & Research Director
Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School
125 Mt. Auburn Street, Third Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138,

Staff Attorneys
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law of Boston Bar Association
294 Washington St., Suite 443
Boston, MA 02108,

Attorney/Racial Justice Advocate & Equal Justice Works Fellow
American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts
211 Congress St.
Boston, MA 02110

MAY 29, 2009


The Boston Public School system is at a crossroads. It is considering the adoption of proposal that would change the way students are assigned to their schools. This proposal is designed around cost-cutting measures, rather than access to quality schools, at a time that the district is becoming more segregated, both by race and class. As recognized in the Boston Public Schools Achievement Gap policy, adopted during the 2006-2007 school year, educators can use their knowledge about inequality as a tool to enhance educational opportunity by identifying where the highest needs students are, and developing a targeted response. Fortunately, technological tools exist that can assist Boston in developing that response. These tools have proven useful to other districts in studying the impact of racial and economic isolation and school diversity and in designing school assignment plans responsive to these trends. Instead of rushing to approve a student assignment policy that remains ambiguous and does not seem connected to a long-term school reform plan, we recommend that BPS continue to use the existing three-zone plan and work toward a solution that can address some of the challenges BPS has in educating all of its students.

As it is currently structured, the educational benefits of the proposed BPS five-zone student assignment plan are not apparent and do not seem to justify the disruption the changes would cause. This plan appears to exacerbate existing (and already troubling) inequalities rather than reduce them.


School assignment policies are the initial “gatekeepers” that determine whether or not all students have access to quality schools. Equity-minded school assignment policies allow school administrators to help shape environments conducive to learning. A well-designed student assignment policy assures that all schools share equally in the benefits and challenges of educating children who live in district boundaries. Taking steps to prevent schools from becoming disproportionately overwhelmed empowers educators to chip away at the conditions that give rise to unequal educational outcomes.

For these reasons, when changing its student assignment policies, school districts should consider a host of factors, including the impact of racial and socioeconomic isolation upon student achievement; the effect that changes in transportation and choice will have on its most vulnerable students; whether parents have equal access to English Language Learner, special education, and innovative school options; and whether there are ways to improve efficiency within the existing framework, without the disruptions associated with redesigned attendance boundaries.

Just this year, the Education Trust observed that “disturbing patterns exist in virtually every state and the nation: 1) educational performance is too low, and big gaps separate low-income students and students of color from others; and 2) improvement, while real, is far too slow.” It continued, “too often, our system takes those who start from behind and gives them less of everything they need to succeed.” Put simply, the structure, culture and operation of schools often exacerbate, rather than reduce, inequalities. A district’s school assignment policy is part of this equation. The five-zone plan under consideration appears to exacerbate existing inequalities rather than reduce them.

Boston could become a model for other cities struggling with the related conditions of intense racial and socioeconomic segregation and low achievement. With the community’s input and by using successful tools and models, BPS can design a policy that is more capable of addressing the achievement gap and distributing opportunity more evenly among students in the City of Boston. To achieve this, BPS must view any new student assignment policy as a mechanism of more meaningful long-term reform, rather than merely a short-term cost-saving measure. Most importantly, BPS must engage in a conscious and transparent consideration of the factors that contribute to the challenges it faces in educating all of its youth and the strengths from which it can draw. Any new student assignment plan should aim to repair disconnections that continue to impact the educational opportunities of Boston’s students.

1) The Importance of Quality Schools and Equal Access to Them
Massachusetts has long recognized the value of education to its citizenry. In fact, the education clause of the Massachusetts Constitution imposes on the Commonwealth an “enforceable duty” to “provide education in the public schools for the children there enrolled, whether they be rich or poor and without regard to the fiscal capacity of the community or district in which such children live.” In 2005, the Supreme Judicial Court reaffirmed the Commonwealth’s obligation to provide “a consistent commitment of resources sufficient to provide a high quality public education to every child.” Similarly, No Child Left Behind imposes an obligation on schools to provide students with: 1) an accelerated and enriched curriculum aligned with challenging state standards for what all students should learn; 2) effective instructional methods, used by qualified teachers who in turn receive ongoing, effectively designed professional development to better enable them to do so; and 3) effective and timely individual attention whenever a child experiences difficulty in mastering any of the skills or knowledge articulated in the standards.
Like the Massachusetts Constitution and No Child Left Behind, the Boston Public Schools Achievement Gap policy recognizes the importance of quality education. It states, “All policies and practices will reflect the goals of eliminating achievement gaps and achieving academic proficiency, explicitly and emphatically,” partially by “maximizing access for all students to high-level educational opportunities.” It describes this goal as a “primary and urgent priority.” The Achievement Gap policy assures parents and community members that it will incorporate certain elements related to quality education into its delivery of services.
With the federal statutory and state constitutional mandates in mind, in addition to its own policy, BPS must take care to ensure that its students receive a high quality education regardless of their race, socioeconomic status, or zip code. The goal of providing students with the type of education contemplated by the Massachusetts Constitution and No Child Left Behind is only accomplished by ensuring that all BPS students are able to attend quality schools—not merely sometime in the future, but at the present moment. Because Boston is home to many struggling schools, it remains important that students within the district have equal access to quality schools. The recent proposal for rezoning raises serious concerns regarding equal access, along race and class lines, to quality schools for Boston’s student population.
It is difficult to measure many of the intangible, invisible, and inter-related factors that contribute to a quality school. These include school climate, administrator and teacher training and commitment to students, parent involvement, student satisfaction, and the like. One measure, however, that does indicate failure to provide a quality education is continued inability to make adequate yearly progress pursuant to No Child Left Behind.
The recent rezoning proposal contemplates five zones, two of which have an overwhelming percentage of Commonwealth Priority Schools, or schools identified by the Commonwealth as “Chronically Underperforming” pursuant to No Child Left Behind. Under the current BPS proposal, students who live in high-poverty, historically Latino and Black neighborhoods are far more likely to be forced to attend such schools at a pivotal time in their academic formation—during their elementary and middle school years.
According to the Superintendent’s own analysis, 58% of the schools in proposed Zone 3 and 57% of the schools in Zone 4 are Commonwealth Priority Schools, compared with 46%, 48%, and 17% in Zones 1, 5, and 2 respectively. This is a range of 41%, leaving Zones 3 and 4 (with disproportionate minority and low-income populations) with the largest share of underperforming schools. Under the current three-zone plan, there is only a 6% differential between the zone containing the highest proportion of Commonwealth Priority Schools (54% in the East Zone) and that containing the lowest proportion (48% in the West Zone). The closing of certain schools and rezoning of the remaining schools will have a disproportionate impact on certain communities and may have a disproportionate impact on minority and low-income students in relation to their access to quality schools.
In trying economic times, equal access to quality schools is especially important for communities that have been historically disenfranchised and underserved. There is ample research that demonstrates the strong link between education and poverty, crime and health. Each of these socioeconomic indicators ties the quality of education received to the increased likelihood of employment, lack of criminal involvement and good health. It is unreasonable to expect that students matriculating through institutions that have been identified as “Chronically Underperforming” will be able to reach their full potential.
We commend Boston Public Schools’ stated commitment to expand excellence, increase access, and ensure equity for all BPS students and families. Consistent with this commitment, before it alters the way in which students are assigned to schools BPS must consider (and explicitly articulate) how it will improve consistently underperforming schools, develop more concrete plans to expand and explore programs that work, and ensure that students from all neighborhoods in Boston have access to quality schools.

Recommendations: Consistent with its commitment to expand excellence, increase access, and ensure equity for all BPS students and families, as stated in the Guiding Principles of Pathways to Excellence:

1) BPS should fully implement its own Achievement Gap Policy;
2) Until it is able to improve the quality of additional schools in the district, BPS should not reduce access to successful schools on the basis of geography; and
3) If and when BPS redraws its attendance boundaries, it must do so with attention to the distribution of quality schools and the burden of underperforming schools available to students.

2) The Importance of Access to Two-Way Bilingual Programs for All BPS Students

More than one third (38.1%) of students who attend the Boston Public Schools have a first language other than English and approximately one in five (19.9%) have limited English proficiency. BPS recognizes the importance of improving services for English Language Learners (ELLs), as reflected in acceleration targets that include mastery of academic language fluency by, and the expansion of language support programs for, ELL students. Community members have expressed a desire that BPS expand program options for ELLs. Consistent with this goal, BPS acceleration strategies include the expansion of service model choices throughout the district. Because of demonstrated success in assisting students to attain academic proficiency in both English and another target language, an essential piece of this strategy is access to two-way bilingual programs, also known as the two-way immersion model of bilingual education.

Under the current three-zone student assignment plan, all students have access to two-way bilingual programs. The Sarah Greenwood is in the East Zone, the Hurley is in the North Zone, and the Hernandez (a citywide school) is located in the West Zone. If BPS adopts the five-zone plan and ends the Hernandez’ citywide status, families in three of five zones (Zones 1, 2 and 5) will be unable to choose to attend a school with a two-way bilingual program. The planned addition of a program at the Dever school located in Zone 4 during the 2009-2010 school year, though a commendable step, does not address this problem. Although “Pathways to Excellence” proposes exploration of additional bilingual programs, until these programs are fully functional BPS should not reduce access to existing programs. Moreover, changing the zones (and thereby –at least without free transportation – the students who attend each school) will cause substantial disruption to each program. If a zoning change affecting access to the Sarah Greenwood, the Hurley, and/or the Hernandez is to be made, it is essential that staff at these schools be consulted in order to minimize disruption to successful programs. These staff should also be consulted as new two-way bilingual programs are opened in order to build on the success of BPS’s current initiatives. Also, transportation must be provided to enable students to continue in their current two-way bilingual programs while new students enroll from new zones.

a. The Two-Way Immersion Model of Bilingual Education Yields Positive Results

Research strongly suggests that two-way immersion programs, which integrate native English speakers and speakers of other languages by providing instruction in both languages for all students, “promote[] bilingualism and biliteracy, grade-level academic achievement, and positive cross-cultural attitudes and behaviors in all students.” Students who receive some instruction in their native language, a key feature of two-way bilingual programs, have positive attitudes toward themselves as learners, school, and other cultures and languages. Studies demonstrate that students who participate in two-way bilingual programs tend to have higher relative test scores in English reading and math, higher grades, and lower drop-out rates than ELLs who receive more limited language support through, for example, time-limited sheltered English immersion or transitional bilingual education.

As with most educational programming, faithful implementation of a working model is key to student success. As evidenced by high demand for BPS’s current two-way bilingual programs, particularly the Hernandez, Boston Public Schools families recognize the value of high-functioning, well-implemented two-way bilingual programs. Yet the five-zone plan decreases access to these programs for many BPS families and endangers their continued success.

b. Implementing the Five-Zone Plan Without Providing Transportation for Current Students Endangers the Success of this Model

The two-way bilingual model relies on student retention. With few exceptions for students who test in, programs at the Hernandez, the Hurley, and the Sarah Greenwood only accept students in the lower grades (kindergarten through second grade) because students must be prepared to learn in both languages at each academic level. For example, children who enter in kindergarten are prepared for instruction in both English and Spanish at the appropriate grade level each year. However, for a student to enter in fourth grade, she must demonstrate through a language test that she is reading, speaking and comprehending on or close to grade level in Spanish.

In 2009, more than half (56%) of the approximately 400 students at the Hernandez reside outside of the proposed Zone 3. Without transportation (see Section 4, below), it is unlikely that many of these students will be able to continue to attend the Hernandez. As a concrete example of the impact of the five-zone plan on this school, during the current (2008-2009) school year, 50 students attend third grade at the Hernandez. When these students reach fifth grade in the 2010-2011 school year, when the proposed zoning changes are scheduled to go into effect, approximately 28 students of the 50 will no longer reside within the appropriate boundaries. Assuming that these children, like most BPS students, cannot afford their own transportation, for its program to remain viable the Hernandez would have to recruit 28 new students capable of performing fifth grade work in both Spanish and English. All 28 of these students would need to reside within the boundaries of Zone 3. This problem will be replicated for the Hurley and the Sarah Greenwood, both of which would lose students due to rezoning.

And what of the students who have begun two-way bilingual programs, only to be “zoned out?” The development of advanced oral proficiency in a second language takes three to five years, while it takes five to seven years to develop the cognitive academic language proficiency necessary to succeed in “context-reduced, cognitively demanding” activities such as reading, writing, mathematics, science, and other school subjects. Many students currently attending the Hernandez, the Hurley, or the Sarah Greenwood who transfer in 2010 because they cannot get to school will not have had sufficient time in bilingual programs to reap their benefits.

Perhaps with these points in mind, last October the Superintendent recognized the importance of keeping the Hernandez citywide, stating in that proposal, “I am not recommending a change in citywide status for . . . Hernandez K-8 School (a two-way bilingual program), given the limited availability of these programmatic offerings throughout the city at this time.” Although the five-zone plan as presented in its latest iteration does eliminate citywide schools, it notes potential exceptions for ELL students to the proposed policies eliminating citywide status and application to schools outside of assigned zones.

If the five-zone plan is implemented, exceptions for transportation similar to those for magnet schools could be provided for students attending two-way bilingual programs, at least until two-way bilingual programs exist in each zone. This would permit current students to complete their courses of study through the sixth or eighth grade and ensure ongoing access to a broader range of language support for all BPS families.

Recommendations: Consistent with acceleration strategies set forth in Pathways to Excellence, BPS should:

1) Expand neighborhood access to language support by ensuring that two-way bilingual programs are offered in and/or accessible to students in all zones;
2) Maintain citywide status for the Hernandez school until similar opportunities are fully implemented and functional for students in all zones; and
3) Should the five-zone plan be implemented, draw narrow transportation exemptions for two-way bilingual schools to allow students to remain in their current programs.

3) Using Racial and Socioeconomic Data Technologies for Rezoning, School Reform, and Resource Allocation Purposes

There's a lack of moral, political, and intellectual integrity in this suppression of awareness of how social and economic disadvantage lowers achievement. Our first obligation should be to analyze social problems accurately; only then can we design effective solutions.

It is widely accepted that social conditions such as racial isolation, poverty, inadequate housing, and exposure to violence affect schools and student performance. Children of color are disproportionately affected by such conditions. Most importantly, research has shown that “the poverty rate of a school influences educational outcomes far more than the poverty rate of an individual” and that Blacks and Latinos tend to be isolated in low-income neighborhoods at rates far higher than their White and Asian counterparts. These trends exist nationwide, and Boston is no exception (see Figure 7, showing the racial concentration of non-White populations in low opportunity neighborhoods).

As recognized in the BPS Achievement Gap policy, educators can use this knowledge about race, poverty and inequality as a tool to enhance educational opportunity by identifying where the highest-needs students are, and then developing a targeted response. We believe BPS overlooked important data when drawing the boundaries of the proposed five-zone plan. Instead, administrators focused upon the natural and/or man-made boundaries (including roads) of the City of Boston. A careful consideration of the following data could lead to a solution capable of addressing systemic issues that give rise to low student achievement for most BPS students (see Figure 5, comparing overall district and state performance) in addition to significant disparities between racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic subgroups. We urge BPS to take a more principled, carefully considered, approach to drawing new boundaries if indeed administrators and school board members consider new attendance zones necessary.

The Education Trust noted in 2009 that “most constructive conversations [about education reform]… begin… with a careful look at hard evidence.” Even a cursory glance at BPS statistics suggests that the school district as a whole is growing more segregated, both by race and by socioeconomic status. As Figure 1 suggests:

• While the low-income student population in BPS was roughly 50% in 1993-94, it is now nearly 75% low income;
• Since 1993-94, BPS’s White student population has declined from 19.3% to 13.1%; and
• The overall combined Latino and Black student population has grown from 71.1% to 76%, with the Latino student population growing significantly while the Black student population has declined.

Meanwhile, student populations in nearby suburbs are characterized by less racial and socioeconomic isolation, and higher performance. For example:
• Newton—69.8% White, 14.5% Asian, 6.1% Hispanic, and 5.1% Black, with 10.8% low income students
o 2008 AYP Performance Rating Language Arts: Very High Math: Very High
• Cambridge—36% White, 34.6% Black, 14.1% Hispanic, and 11.3% Asian with 43.9% low income students
o 2008 AYP Performance Rating Language Arts: High Math: Moderate
• Arlington—79.4% White, 9.5% Asian, 4.6% Hispanic, and 3.6% Black with 10.8% low income students
o 2008 AYP Performance Rating Language Arts: Very High Math: High

This is all happening in the context of a state that is generally considered high-performing and has an overall student population of: 69.9% White students, 14.3% Hispanic students, 8.2% African American students, and 5.1% Asian students, with 30.7% of all students considered low income. With the advent of NCLB’s accountability framework, the landscape of urban education and the consequences for failing schools have changed, too. A student assignment plan (alongside targeted resource allocation) based on what is known about the detrimental effects of concentrated poverty and racial isolation would be a step toward closing the achievement gap in Boston.

a. Considerable Evidence of Between-Zone and Within-Zone Segregation Already Exists Under the Three-Zone Plan

Within the current three-zone plan, there is already considerable evidence of between-zone segregation, particularly racial segregation (see Figure 2). Specifically, a comparison of the populations residing in each zone demonstrates that across zones:

• The African American student population ranges from 24-56% (range = 32);
• The Latino student population ranges from 24-49% (range = 25);
• The White student population ranges from 10-14% (range = 4);
• The Asian student population ranges from 4-12% (range = 8);
• The free lunch student population ranges from 67-73% (range =6); and
• The reduced lunch student population ranges from 8-9% (range =1).

Even within a system generally characterized by small White and Asian student populations, several schools have relatively high proportions of White students, as outlined in Figure 3, and a handful of schools have relatively high proportions of Asian students. This data reminds us that one cannot get an accurate picture of racial and socioeconomic isolation and its impact on learning outcomes by relying solely on the demographics of attendance zones—racially isolated school environments often exist in close proximity to one another.

Were this evidence of within-zone isolation to exist outside of the context of a considerable achievement gap between Black/Latino students and White/Asian students, this physical separation may not be so troubling. This racial and socioeconomic separation, however, has implications for student performance. Schools with higher concentrations of White students frequently have lower concentrations of poverty, which often translates into higher academic performance. This generalization seems to apply to BPS.

The data we reviewed pertaining to BPS’s racial and socioeconomic composition reveals evidence that should be considered in the design of a student assignment policy. Figure 3 lists schools in Boston that have higher relative concentrations of White students (at least two times the BPS average for 2008-09). Among these 18 schools (one is a charter school, and thus is not subject to the same analysis in many instances):
• Only one of these schools, Eliot Elementary, is a Commonwealth Priority school;
• 14 of these schools rank among the top 18 schools in Boston with the lowest concentration of “low-income” students, as defined by BPS, with low-income concentrations ranging from 20.6% to 49.5%; and
• Spatially, these schools are located on the outskirts of BPS boundaries, and tend to be clustered together.

This data suggests a relationship between minority status and low-income isolation within BPS schools. Figure 4 begins to assess whether less racially and socioeconomically isolated schools perform better than state and BPS averages. We looked at the 2008 MCAS English test results for fifth graders, finding that, of the 14 schools where students took this test:
• All but two schools (Roosevelt and Eliot) had lower percentages of students identified as “Needing Improvement” (hereinafter “NI”) than the BPS average (45% NI), with eight schools having lower percentages of NI students than even the state average (30% NI); and
• All but three of these schools (Clap, Eliot, and Manning) had lower percentages of students identified as “Warning” (hereinafter “W”) than the BPS average (26% W), with two schools having lower percentages of W students than the state average of 8%.

While our analysis was not exhaustive, we believe our findings signal a legitimate need to study more closely school and neighborhood trends before adopting a new assignment policy. This data will help BPS devise a policy that minimizes both between-zone and within-zone isolation of minority and low-income students.

b. The Five-Zone Plan Exacerbates Already-Existing Racial Isolation, and Produces a Large Socioeconomic Diversity Gap Between Students

Under the proposed five-zone plan, between-zone segregation will increase, both in terms of race and socioeconomics. Specifically, under the plan, across zones:

• The African American student population ranges from 8-50% (range = 42) (+10);
• The Latino student population ranges from 28-67% (range = 39) (+14);
• The White student population ranges from 7-21% (range = 14) (+10);
• The Asian student population ranges from 4-22% (range = 18) (+10);
• The free lunch student population ranges from 59-76% (range =23) (+17); and
• The reduced lunch student population ranges from 7-11% (range =4) (+3).

In parenthesis above, we have indicated the increases in racial and socioeconomic isolation between the three-zone and five-zone plan. For the reasons outlined in the analysis of the three-zone plan, which is already characterized by significant between-zone and within-zone racial and socioeconomic isolation, we are concerned with any assignment plan that further isolates students who most need access to meaningful choice.

c. A Favorable Student Assignment Plan Would Attempt to Counteract The Known Negative Effects of Racial and Economic Isolation

To address the need for equitable opportunity and improved living conditions for all residents, we need to assess the geographic differences in resources and opportunities across a region to make informed, affirmative interventions into failures and gaps in providing access to critical opportunities.

We hope BPS will not overlook data and research demonstrating the educational challenges related to socioeconomic and racial isolation as they decide whether to approve the student assignment policy under consideration. We believe there is a need to assess the current distribution of resources and opportunities within BPS in order to formulate an informed school assignment policy that furthers BPS’s goals. Doing so will enable BPS to use its limited resources in the most beneficial manner. To this end, we offer some alternative tools, strategies, and considerations that might prove helpful moving forward.

Modern School Assignment Plans: Using Technology and Data

Modern technology can help school districts create more equitable student assignment plans. For example, some school districts have used GIS-mapping technologies in designing their school assignment policies. Some of the factors these modern student assignment plans take into account are: neighborhood demographics (to counteract the effects of concentrated poverty and/or racial isolation); parental income and/or educational attainment (both of which can impact a student’s access to supports necessary to succeed in school); and the school’s concentration of students performing below average on standardized tests. Consideration of such factors during the student assignment (and resource allocation) process helps make the district more effective overall by ensuring a more evenly distributed student population. With this information, school districts can also put supports in place so that individual schools are less likely to become overwhelmed with factors beyond their control.

“Communities of Opportunity” Framework
and “Opportunity Mapping” Tools

The Kirwan Institute (an organization that produces a significant body of research on the impact of racial and economic isolation and school diversity) has assisted a number of school districts in designing student assignment policies that respond to their unique historical, geographic, and social contexts. Just this year, the Kirwan Institute completed an “opportunity mapping” of Massachusetts that outlines the spatial distribution of educational, economic, and neighborhood/housing opportunity in various regions of the state (see Figures 7 to 9). Generally, Kirwan found that “racialized isolation from neighborhoods of opportunity is very evident in Massachusetts” and recommended that the state “adopt strategies to open up access to the ‘levers’ of opportunity for marginalized individuals, families, and communities.” The Institute’s mapping of the racial distribution of concentrated poverty within the Boston metropolitan region is particularly helpful as BPS analyzes the proposed five-zone assignment policy. Figures 8-9 reveal a considerable difference in Boston’s geography of opportunity, whereby significant numbers of Black and Latino Bostonians are concentrated in high-poverty neighborhoods. This particular spatial distribution of racial and socioeconomic isolation will undoubtedly affect Zones 3 and 4 more than other zones—in fact, a comparison of this map with the current distribution of Commonwealth Priority schools reveals this spatial distribution of opportunity at work. How will BPS compensate for the additional challenges face visited upon schools located in these neighborhoods of low opportunity? How will BPS ensure meaningful choice to the students who live there?

As part of what it calls the “Communities of Opportunity model,” the Kirwan Institute suggests a two-pronged approach to opportunity development: 1) to bring opportunity to opportunity-deprived areas; and 2) to connect people with existing opportunities throughout the metropolitan region. In the present context, we stress the importance of offering meaningful choice (including transportation) to students in underserved communities by taking a more balanced approach to school choice. Such an approach would take the crucial effects of racial and socioeconomic isolation into account.

The Kirwan approach identifies precisely the underlying causes of disadvantage, in an effort to counteract neighborhood conditions, which “play a substantial role in the life outcomes of inhabitants.” The Institute’s report provides an “analytical lens to view the challenges and potential remedies,” and can help BPS decide whether the proposed student assignment policy is designed to serve the best interests of its students. We believe it is not.

Promising Models of Long-Term Systemic Reform

Elements of other promising models, such as an emerging regional learning community in Omaha, Nebraska and the magnet school programs in Hartford, Connecticut may prove helpful to BPS as it formulates a long-term solution to closing the achievement gap. In addition, BPS can use the resource Still Looking to the Future: Voluntary K-12 School Integration, developed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Civil Rights Project at UCLA in 2008.

Diversity’s Role in Balancing “In-Place”
and “Mobility-Based” School Reform Measures

Given the research supporting racial and economic diversity as effective methods of counteracting concentrated disadvantage, BPS should consider maintaining as much racial and class diversity as possible when deciding where to draw student assignment boundaries. By striking the right balance between in-place (improving neighborhood schools and growing innovative models within struggling schools) and mobility-based (student assignment and choice policies) reform measures, BPS will better position its schools and students to achieve excellence. In contrast, exacerbating existing racial isolation (as the proposed five-zone plan does) will not offset the “vicious cycle of disadvantage” that students coming from low-opportunity neighborhoods bring to school. Merely redrawing attendance lines coterminous with existing neighborhood boundaries will do nothing to improve the quality of BPS schools—it represents a lost opportunity. Therefore, the proposed five-zone plan does not appear consistent with BPS’s commitment to closing the achievement gap in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

d. Improving Educational Outcomes Within Economically and Racially Segregated Districts

School districts across the country have long attempted to identify and address conditions that give rise to poor educational outcomes. Admittedly, achieving racial and socioeconomic diversity, which are effective ways to achieve improved learning outcomes, is more virtually impossible in hyper-segregated school districts. In this respect, Boston is not much different from its urban peers— large-scale racial and socioeconomic diversity within BPS would be difficult to achieve. And yet, education policy researchers have increasingly concluded that “simply fixing up segregated and poor urban schools will never solve [the] deep and structural inequalities across spaces and institutions in our society.” We can acknowledge that economic and social diversity are difficult to achieve without ignoring the well-established fact that they are important.

There is a widespread belief that if urban schools try hard enough, they can close the achievement gap. Surely, many schools have overcome tremendous obstacles and their students have achieved at higher levels than their urban counterparts. We do not want to downplay the success of these schools, yet we are cautious about accepting the notion that some schools simply must bear the brunt of educating higher proportions of disadvantaged students. Research suggests that these “beat the odds” schools are not common and/or easy to replicate and maintain—in short, they are not (and cannot be) the basis of an equitable and effective school reform strategy. In 2006, Professor Douglas Harris looked for schools serving low-income students that recorded high scores in two subjects, in two grades for two consecutive years. Using these indicators of success, he found that only 1.1% of high-poverty schools are actually “beating the odds.” Among schools that are both high-poverty and racially segregated, only .3% of these schools are actually “beating the odds.” We hope that BPS will consider this information, too, when deciding whether to approve the proposed five-zone student assignment policy.

By using knowledge about racial and socioeconomic isolation to devise a long-term strategy for change, school districts can “target and support meaningful school choices for the most disadvantaged students.” By viewing free transportation as an integral component of meaningful choice in a system struggling to overcome deep and structural inequalities, school districts can remain committed to “offer[ing] students more choice in where to attend school.” Additionally, hyper-segregated school districts like Boston might consider regional remedies, if and when possible, over the long term. At the least, such options are worthy of serious study as longer term solutions to increasing segregation and concentrated poverty.

After considering information about the impact of racial and social isolation on its students, and by using the tools that have been created to help translate knowledge into practice, BPS could devise a school attendance policy that responds to its unique history and circumstances. An effective policy would reduce the strain on schools that are tasked with offsetting the “vicious cycle[s] of disadvantage” that affect their students’ success in school and life.

Recommendations: If and when BPS redraws its attendance boundaries, it should:

1) Study school and neighborhood trends before adopting a new assignment policy, perhaps by conducting a simulation of how the new lan will affect BPS’s highest-needs students;
2) Use available GIS mapping technologies to devise an attendance zone policy that is part of an effective and coherent school reform policy that does not exacerbate existing opportunity gaps;
3) Consider replicating some of the new student assignment models that other school districts have employed to minimize the impact of socioeconomic and racial isolation, which both affect learning;
4) Use current research on school diversity (economic and racial) to guide the formation of a new student assignment policy. To the extent possible, involve urban planning, public and mental health, and community advocates in this process. Consult the range of experts in the Boston metropolitan region who study the effects of racial and economic segregation, such as:
• Dolores Acevedo-Garcia (Associate Professor of Society, Human Development, and Health at the Harvard School of Public Health);
• David Williams (Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health at the Harvard School of Public Health); and
• Teresa Osypuk (Assistant Professor, School of Health Professions at Northeastern University);
• The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute is also willing to consult and present on these issues.
5) Explore regional solutions, such as expanding the opportunities available to the highest-needs students to cross district boundaries, thus increasing their access to high-performing and low-poverty schools that are close to their homes.

Regardless of whether a new attendance plan is adopted, BPS should consider using the tools/models discussed above as it maps out a strategy for addressing the opportunity and achievement gaps that exist within the Boston metro area. This information can help inform BPS’s choices related to resource allocation, needed supports, teacher training and recruitment, etc.

4) The Importance of Transportation

a. Without Transportation, the “Grandfathering” Provision of the Five-Zone Plan Will Be Meaningless for Many Families

Access to transportation means no less than the difference between attending and missing school. The Superintendent has acknowledged that under the new five-zone plan “29% of students would be in a new zone and would no longer receive transportation to their current school.” As concerned parents of these students and the community at large have overwhelmingly expressed, ending transportation for these students effectively zones them out of their current schools by denying them any true choice of remaining there.

“[T]ransportation remains a critical component of allowing all students access to schools outside their neighborhood – to allow students the same access to schools regardless of where they live.” Researchers Amy Stuart Wells and Jennifer Holme recently concluded that federal, state, and local education choice policies enacted within the last 15-20 years “rarely [help] children from isolated poor communities gain access to schools with more resources and fewer burdens,” and that the school choice mechanisms often “[place] most of the burden of gaining access to better schools on… families themselves and thus [do] little to guarantee students’ meaningful access to better schools.” They observe that “different student assignment goals and designs lead to different outcomes.” For example, financially-driven policies will lead to drastically different outcomes than those based in equity. Most important for the purpose of the current analysis, Wells and Holme found that transportation efficiency is key, but that transportation itself “is critical to the participation of disadvantaged students.” Transportation is what makes choice meaningful to, and possible for, many families. Ending free transportation for students who choose to remain in their now out-of-zone schools under the new five-zone plan takes that choice away from them and impedes their access to equal educational opportunities. This is especially true for low-income and minority students.

While we oppose the adoption of the five-zone plan, should BPS decide to adopt the plan, it must, at a minimum, maintain current transportation for however many of the 29% of BPS students who are grandfathered in choose to remain in their current schools once these schools becomesout-of-zone for them.

b. BPS Should Consider Other Potential Transportation Efficiencies

While rezoning may allow for transportation cost-savings, it is likely that there are other ways of creating efficiencies within the current busing system to save money without causing the major disruptions of redistricting. Several school districts have used ideas such as anti-idling policies, bulk fuel purchases, and long-term contracts with fuel providers to reduce their transportation costs and save money. School districts in Texas and South Carolina have begun to invest in hybrid and EV buses to both save money and meet environmental standards. These technologies not only increase fuel efficiency, but the buses may be able to be purchased inexpensively from companies looking for pilot programs and may be eligible for federal subsidies.

Major universities and private consulting companies specialize in analyzing major transportation systems for cities and school districts. Their studies find inefficiencies in order to create improvement and implementation plans, so that cities and districts can reduce budgetary costs. We strongly encourage the Boston School Committee to thoroughly analyze its transportation system before implementing a redistricting plan. It is likely that money can be saved through a more efficient busing system instead of an overhaul of the existing district plan.

Recommendations: Because transportation is key to access:

1) If and when BPS redraws its attendance boundaries it should continue to provide transportation to students who are grandfathered into their current schools; and
2) BPS should commission a study of ways other than rezoning to save transportation money, perhaps by increasing efficiency. If BPS has already conducted such research, it should make this information available.


School assignment plan are “gatekeepers” to quality schools. Thus, when educators determine that a change in its assignment policies is necessary, they should make changes only after considering a host of different factors, including the impact of racial and socioeconomic isolation on student achievement; the effect that changes in transportation and choice will have on its most vulnerable students; whether parents have equal access to English Language Learner, special education, and innovative school options; and whether there are ways to improve efficiency within the existing framework, without the disruptions associated with redesigned attendance boundaries.

Together, seeking more community input and using available technology and/or models would enable the district to design a school assignment policy rooted in equity, which is more likely to have a longstanding positive impact on Boston Public Schools. Although BPS may not be able to achieve a highly racially/ethnically and socioeconomically integrated learning environment, there are ways of ensuring that students do not experience increased isolation, while BPS works to build quality schools for all students.

Instead of rushing to approve a student assignment policy that remains ambiguous and does not seem connected to a long-term school reform plan, we recommend that BPS continue to use the existing three-zone plan and work toward a solution that can address some of the challenges BPS has in educating all of its students.


Figure 1: Boston: Selected Racial and Economic Data

African American Asian Hispanic White Native American Low Income Free Lunch Reduced Lunch ELL ELP Special Education
1993-94 47.7 9.2 23.4 19.3 0.4 52 35.1 22.8 20.6
2003-04 46.4 8.8 30.4 14.0 0.4 73.4 35.3 19.0 18.9
2008-09 37.9 8.5 38.1 13.1 0.4 74.3 65.3 9.0 38.1 18.9 20.5

Figure 2: Current Three-Zone Attendance Plan

Racial Demographics SES Demographics
Black Asian Hispanic White Free Lunch Reduced Lunch
Boston Average 37.9 8.5 38.1 13.1 65.3 9
East Zone 56 10 24 10 71 9
West Zone 39 4 43 14 67 8
North Zone 24 12 49 14 73 9

Figure 3: Schools with 2x or More Concentration of White Students 2008-2009
(as compared to BPS average)

Among Top 18 Schools in Boston w/Respect to SES
Status Black Asian Hispanic White Low Income Free Lunch
Boston Average 37.9 8.5 38.1 13.1 74.3 65.3
Baldwin ELC 18.9 19.5 30.5 26.2 53 43.3
Joseph P Tynan 36.7 5.4 25.7 29
Franklin D Roosevelt 35.4 1.4 32.4 29.4 56.6 46.2
Boston Latin Academy 28.3 21.1 16.5 31.3 49.7 38.2
Manassah E Bradley 5.9 4.5 54.7 31.7
Richard J Murphy 28.6 25.4 11 31.9 57.5 46.3
Roger Clap 29.6 8 25.3 32.7
Patrick O'Hearn 36.5 9.4 10.7 34.3 53.2 45.1
Eliot Elementary 16.5 5.1 39.6 34.9 58 49.8
Mozart 25.3 5.1 29.7 38.6 43 32.3
Mary Lyon 13.7 7.3 31.5 44.4 44.4 30.6
Lyndon 7 2.2 41.1 48.1 40.9 32.1
Joseph P Manning 15.8 7.5 24 49.3 37 30.8
Boston Latin 11.7 27.9 8.3 49.9 30.6 21.5
Joyce Kilmer 10.2 7.2 23.8 54.8 29 20.6
Warren-Prescott 12.7 2.8 27.1 56.7 55.3 48.9
Oliver Hazard Perry 14.9 4 19.3 59.8
Boston Collegiate Charter School (Charter) 26.7 1.1 9.7 60.6 41.2 25
Figure 4: Performance of Students Attending Schools with Above-Average SES and White Student Populations—An Example of How They Compare with State and District Averages (using data from 2008 5th Grade English MCAS)

English 2008 MCAS
5th Grade
Needs Improvement Warning Subgroup Averages
State Average 30 8
Boston Average 45 26
Baldwin ELC* — — Black
Joseph P Tynan 40 23 State: 46-17
Franklin D Roosevelt* 51 17 Boston: 48-22
Boston Latin Academy* — — Asian
Manassah E Bradley 3 3 State: 25-7
Richard J Murphy* 29 13 Boston: 30-11
Roger Clap 25 30 Hispanic
Patrick O'Hearn* 40 15 State: 47-21
Eliot Elementary* 33 33 Boston: 48-23
Mozart* 25 17 White
Mary Lyon* 0 23 State: 26-5
Lyndon* 22 9 Boston: 27-12
Joseph P Manning* 29 36 Low Income
Boston Latin* — — State: 46-18
Joyce Kilmer* 15 6 Boston: 46-22
Warren-Prescott* 32 11
Oliver Hazard Perry 50 23
Boston Collegiate Charter School* (Charter) — —

Figure 5: MCAS Tests of Spring 2008:
Percent of Students at Each Performance Level for Boston

Figure 6: Proposed Five-Zone Attendance Plan

Racial Demographics SES Demographics
Black Asian Hispanic White Free Lunch Reduced Lunch
Boston Average 37.9 8.5 38.1 13.1 65.3 9
Zone #1 8 6 67 19 76 10
Zone #2 15 22 42 21 62 11
Zone #3 37 9 48 7 75 7
Zone #4 50 12 28 10 74 9
Zone #5 42 4 36 17 59 10

Figure 7: Opportunity in Massachusetts (Non-White Populations)

Figure 8: Poverty Concentration in Boston Metro Area (African Americans)

Note: Kirwan’s use of the 20% marker for poverty rates based on research regarding the relevance of certain levels of poverty, and their impact on neighborhoods. For more information, see Kirwan Institute, Strategies for Diverse and Successful Schools at 5 (“Studies show that the effects of concentrated poverty rapidly increase at two thresholds: between about 7% and 20% (when a neighborhood is “tipping” into high poverty), and over 40% (at which point a neighborhood is in extreme high poverty). The USDA Economic Research Service has also used a 20% poverty rate to delineate areas of “high poverty” in the U.S.”) (citing George Galster, Roberto et al., Identifying Neighborhood Thresholds: An Empirical Exploration 11 HOUSING POL. DEBATE 701 (2000)).

Figure 9: Poverty Concentration in Boston Metro Area (Non-Hispanic Whites)

Note: Kirwan’s use of the 20% marker for poverty rates based on research regarding the relevance of certain levels of poverty, and their impact on neighborhoods. For more information, see Kirwan Institute, Strategies for Diverse and Successful Schools at 5 (“Studies show that the effects of concentrated poverty rapidly increase at two thresholds: between about 7% and 20% (when a neighborhood is “tipping” into high poverty), and over 40% (at which point a neighborhood is in extreme high poverty). The USDA Economic Research Service has also used a 20% poverty rate to delineate areas of “high poverty” in the U.S.”) (citing George Galster, Roberto et al., Identifying Neighborhood Thresholds: An Empirical Exploration 11 HOUSING POL. DEBATE 701 (2000)).

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Menino and City Hall believe in Trickle Down economics

I was at a forum yesterday at the Burke high school about where the ARRA money would be distributed into Boston.

It was a typical Menino event. His people on stage: 8 white, one south Asian, and one black while the audience was over 80% black.

I was struck by many things too numerous to mention in my limited time, but after Menino's panel spent an hour and 50 minutes explaining things they took questions. All the questioners other than me were black.

1) One woman asked if there were any funds available for people that had been paying their mortgages, but had lost their jobs and having trouble keeping their houses.

A: No, was the answer but it was something they were going to look into.

2) Another woman asked about getting jobs for Boston residents and using Madison Park High School for job training to train adults for the jobs that are becoming available.

A: No, was the answer, but it was something they would look into.

When it was my turn, I asked why the City was taking $40 million dollars of HUD money and giving it in loans to three rich developers, in particular to the W hotel in the theater district which was already granted zoning exemptions by the BRA which are extremely valuable.

A: The answer was because one of the investors pulled out of the W hotel project and the W hotel project was in danger of foreclosure!

So, to sum up-if you are a working class black there is no money to help you out during your hard times if you are faced with foreclosure, but if you are mega-rich and can build a condo development selling properties from $700 to $1400 per square foot ($455,000 to 4.5 million dollars) then Tom Menino will come to your rescue with millions of dollars in low interest loans.

Nary a peep from Yoon and Flaherty.

Ronald Reagan's economics live in Boston City Hall.

And people wonder why developers give Menino $500 checks????

Jon Keller Fearlessly schedules a debate!

Jon Keller has scheduled a debate for August 26th, 2009. He will moderate from 7 to 8 pm. and it will be replayed the next day on TV38.

I have of course accepted, I believe Flaherty has, and I can't believe Yoon won't.

Will our fearless Mayor?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dot Joyce talks in circles about the budget

When this year started back in January, Tom Menino said that he was facing a $140 million dollar budget deficit. This "deficit" was based on the fact that he was proposing a year over year budget increase of 6.25%. You can make up any "deficit" you want by insisting you need to increase your budget by a certain amount. A large part of the increase was the 5% across the board salary increases for every single City employee.

Later, when the Mayor introduced the budget to the City Council he started off his speech by saying "the budget goes up every year by 2 to 3 percent. I was astounded that he would say this, because he was either lying or didn't know what he was talking about. In this last term of his administration the budget had never gone up by less than 4%. When 1% is 25 million dollars, that is a lot of money! The cost of living index goes up by 2 to 3 percent a year on average, and our city budget should grow accordingly with a steady population which Boston has.

Instead, our budget has almost doubled the rate of inflation: In 2005, the budget increased by 4.43%. In 2006, it increased by 6.00%. In 2007, it increased by 4.62%. And in 2008, it increased by 6.41%. Now in fiscal year 2009, we increased by about 4%.

I ran into the Mayor and Dot Joyce at a neighborhood function where the Mayor was there to answer questions. I asked if I could pose a question to him and he said "no buddy". So I asked Dot Joyce the question of why the Mayor said the budget went up 2 to 3 percent a year, when it goes up more than that. Below is her reply, listen for the citizen in the background asking her incredulously "how can you know it goes up 2 to 3 percent a year and not 4 percent?" He clearly had his BS detector on.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Another Day, Another idea stolen from me by Yoon

So, today, three and half years after becoming a city councilor Sam Yoon has decided that term limits are a good idea. He says two terms is what the Mayor should serve. Funny, but this has been on my website since day one of the campaign, and it is on all my printed materials.

When Menino was 12 years into his career and Yoon was wearing a "Labor for Menino" sticker on his lapel he didn't think 8 years was all that a Mayor should have. He didn't figure this out when he at the Kennedy School of Government? He hasn't thought it was important the last 3.5 years he has been in the City Council? He hasn't introduced anything to the council for these term limits. What changed over the weekend? Did he eat some bad shellfish?

I should think about changing my campaign theme to "Kevin McCrea's campaign ideas, as brought to you by 'Sam Yoon'.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Close the Zoo or take away the affordable tax credit for One Beacon?

Today the Globe has an article about the Franklin Park Zoo which may have to close down due to state budget cuts.

I was actually up at Franklin Park last weekend visiting cook outs and went over to the zoo. It is having a free day on July 24th (I think) for all to visit.

A few things struck me about the article. One is how the "public/private partnership" which runs the operation won't tell how much they are being paid for the movie rights. Not very public or transparent.

The other is how close the budget of the zoo is to the tax break given each year to the One Beacon Street tower for being in a blighted area. Every year they receive a tax break that was initially designed for affordable housing in blighted areas of between 5 and 8 million dollars. It is a Chapter 121A tax break. The juxtaposition of the One Beacon tower on beautiful Beacon Hill, just down from the State House and Franklin Park which is in the heart of Dorchester and Roxbury is striking.

When will our society stop giving tax breaks to the rich, while crying poor and shutting down cultural attractions in poorer sections of town?

Friday, July 10, 2009

JP Gazette chronicles Mayor and BRA lack of transparency

John Ruch has been keeping track of this and writes a great article.

Remember, if you aren't happy with the BRA and its requirements blame Michael Flaherty who wrote the rules personally that extended their powers.

Great House Party Last Night

We had about 50 people, finance people, medical professionals, lawyers at an event held for us on Beacon Hill. It was nice that my wife Clara could attend as usually she is too busy with her own doctoral duties to participate.

Many were New Bostonians, a Greek contingent from the Philadelphia area, folks from New Orleans and other places. A great crowd, we stayed until 10:30 talking policy and good stories.

Very encouraging!

Flaherty & Yoon saying one thing and doing another

In the Herald today there is an article where Michael Flaherty talks about how we need a Mayor who saves money but doesn't spend money. Well in the four years since 2005 when I ran for City Councilor, Flaherty (and Yoon) have raised the City Budget for the City Council by 20%!!! Now that they have tired of working for the City Council saying that the job has no power and is perfunctory they want to be Mayor? So, let me get this straight-you have a job that has no power so you increase the cost to the taxpayers of this useless job by 20% and then you say you want to bring cost cutting to the Mayor's office?

Who believes this stuff?

Meanwhile Yoon's blog has a picture of him at the St. Patrick's Day parade. The same parade that he promised not to march in if we elected him to the City Council. I guess he is proud of the fact that he went back on his word to join a group that excludes people based on sexual orientation. That is the type of leadership we need in the 21st century, a politician who panders and goes back on his word, which he then conveniently forgets about. We certainly didn't have any politicians like that in the 20th century.

Who believes these guys?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Boston not getting it's fair share of Federal Highway Stimulus Money

Contact: Antionetta Kelley FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Cell Phone: (857) 719-4761

July 9, 2009

***McCrea would get Boston’s Fair Share of Federal Stimulus Dollars***

Yesterday, The New York Times ( reported on metropolitan areas in the United States that are not getting their fair share of Federal Transportation Stimulus Money.

(see graph at:

Kevin McCrea says “This is a huge failure of the Menino Administration. When our roads and bridges are in urgent need of repair and we have thousands of construction workers out of work it is unbelievable that we are only getting a third to a quarter of the money of comparable cities such as Philadelphia, Atlanta and Washington.”

According to the study, Boston is only getting one quarter of the money that we should be receiving according to the percentage of Boston’s contribution to GDP. We are responsible for 2 percent of the GDP in the United States but we are receiving only half a percent of the aid.

McCrea reasons that Menino is not doing a good enough job of lobbying our local Congressmen. He says, “If I was Mayor I would be burning up the phones to make sure we received our fair share. I would even travel to Washington to lobby for those dollars if it meant bringing in millions for our transportation infrastructure.”

Kevin McCrea’s full platform can be viewed at his website Kevin McCrea’s campaign director, Antionetta Kelly, can be reached either through e-mail at or phone at (617)267-2453.

A Democratic Debate Suggestion

There are five TV stations in the metropolitan area. I believe all of them have indicated an interest in holding a debate, I have talked to four of them directly.

A natural division would be to have 3 debates prior to the primary and two between the primary and the final. It would be nice for the citizens if all the candidates could get together with the TV stations and pick five dates that work for everyone. We then put all 5 TV stations into a hat and randomly pick them out. It could even be a "made for TV event" like the NBA draft lottery, will Bill Simmons as MC!

I'm sure that Flaherty and Yoon would agree to such a format but how about Menino? Menino could even stick with his 'only 3 debates' promise and not attend two of the other debates, if he so decides.

What this would do is get rid of all the back room dealing that Menino is now doing with the different TV stations, excluding his three challengers from the discussion, and it would be an equitable solution for letting the public get good use of the "public" airwaves.

All we have now is the Mayor playing out the clock, playing the different TV stations off of one another, while nothing gets finalized. According to WGBH and others it is not easy to schedule these debates and they were already running out of time a month ago to put on the type of production that they believe this race deserves. Boston is the loser in all of this, and only Menino and his cronies gain.

Our latest Press Release


Mayor Menino has been breaking promises to the citizens of Boston for years, and as recently chronicled in the Boston Herald, Christine Colley the woman in charge of making developers keep their promises to the neighborhoods in which their work is being done hasn’t produced a single report let alone a database since being hired 5 years and more than half a million dollars ago. Kevin McCrea, candidate for Mayor says “When Colley was hired, then BRA director Maloney said ‘a promise not kept is a lie’. The Mayor has had many, many promises not kept and the citizens should hold him accountable.” McCrea continues, “Menino hired her as payback for getting the Columbus Center Parcel shepherded through, and now the citizens have paid her and her assistants around one million dollars with nothing to show for it. We simply can’t afford this wastefulness while we are threatened with police and teaching layoffs.

Other recent promises not kept by the Mayor which he could follow through on if he wanted to keep his word:

• In December 2004 Menino promised to renovate the Ferdinand Building in Dudley Square
and house City workers there. 4 years later the plan has been put on hold. In addition, two thirds of the work done on the building was done by out of town workers, not living up to the promise of the Boston Jobs Policy.

• Menino promised to debate his challengers and to meet with us by July 1, 2009 to go over formats. Instead, he has refused to even respond to Flaherty, Yoon or myself.

• On September 30, 2008 Menino promised about the Rose Kennedy Greenway not “to have the Greenway be made a canyon, Manhattanized.” and about tall buildings putting shadows over the public parkland he said“We don’t want to allow that” But, he is having his agency, the BRA, spend hundreds of thousands of dollars reviewing plans by developers wanting to put 700 foot buildings where zoning only allows 150 feet when he could just say no and save taxpayer money. (Boston Globe)

Of course, we also have older Menino promises like only serving two terms which he has reneged on. McCrea says “This is why citizens get cynical and decide not to engage in local government to the detriment of all. I have put my promises in black and white so that citizens can hold me accountable, I hope that we start holding the Mayor accountable as well.”

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

funny debate cartoon...

The Globe uses their brushes to paint an accurate look at Menino's diatribe with himself.

Big Debate announcement today

One of the major news sources in the City hopes to announce a televised debate today. I, of course, will accept.

I wonder about David Bernstein's Mayor McChicken? He has been getting hammered over refusing to participate in a forum put on by MassVOTE and other partners, so he needs something to show that he actually will answer a question.

It seems that some Menino supporters have been boosting his numbers in the poll at left, I wonder who doesn't really believe MassVote can put on a debate? Please feel free to write your comments in below, I will be happy to post them.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Bay State Banner closing

Saying that the advertising revenue is down, Mr. Miller the publisher is closing it down.

I had dinner with him years ago and we had a great talk well into the evening at his home. He had some choice stories about Menino and it was clear that he did the newspaper because of his passion for advocacy not for money. Even back then he was looking for a golden donor to put in $50,000 or so and he said he could "really do some things with that money." I hope that this action serves his purpose of getting some new blood and money interested in the weekly.

It probably isn't a direct correlation, but isn't it interesting that the one newspaper in this city which outright calls for Menino to move aside is shortly in the red and can't get advertising revenue. I wonder if there is any correlation???

Maybe this is why the Globe and Herald treat Menino with kid gloves?

BRA not doing what they promise? Blow me over with a feather

The Herald today has an article today about how Christine Colley and her staff aren't doing their jobs which is to make sure promises given by developers are kept.

Mark Maloney can't remember anything, what a surprise. What he said when she was hired was "a promise not kept is a lie." Well the BRA and the developers in this City have been doing nothing but lying according to this article. I have tried to get Christine Colley to do things for years such as take care of the alley between Mass Ave and Wellington Street which was promised to be fixed by the developers of the Mass Ave infill buildings but nothing ever happens.

The other thing that the BRA is supposed to do is make sure the Boston Jobs Policy is enforced. The truth is that most of the jobs on the monitored projects go to non-minorities from the suburbs. The most recent and egregious example of this is the City's own renovation of the Ferdinand Building in Dudley Square. In 2005 Menino promised to renovate that building to help invigorate Dudley Square. 4 years later the job is boarded up and has been put on hold. I put in a FOIA request to the BRA after driving by the site numerous times and sure enough only 34% percent of the workers came from Boston (50% at a minimum are supposed to be from Boston)

This is why we are having problems in the inner city, even when Boston does their own project they don't hire Bostonians. This is an easy way to combat urban violence, unemployment, and decay. Let's train and hire our own people to work on these projects.

UPDATE: As some people reminded me of where Christine Colley came from and why she was given this cush job, she moved the Columbus Center approval along for Menino and Wilkerson and was given this reward. A reader writes in:

Let's not forget that she was given that job (and a parking space) as a quid pro quo for the "successful" shepherding of Columbus Center through to approval. And the first committment she (and Randi Lathrop) made on her hiring was that she would give a "full accounting" of where development projects stand w/r/t committments one year after her hiring. We're still waiting.

Further update, another friend writes in:

The B.R.A. official profiled in the attached article (Colley) chaired the Mayor’s Columbus Center Citizens Advisory Committee.

In that role, she blocked screening of the developer’s qualifications, blocked competitive proposals, blocked the disclosure of project financial data, blocked citizens from videotaping public meetings, and allowed a committee member to vote in favor of the proposal, after he had missed virtually all of several hundred public meetings evaluating it.

Shortly after she voted to approve the proposal, she was given the job described in this article.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Constituent letter to Menino-you and Yoon are playing politics with our lives

This is from the Allston/Brighton blogs


Mayor Menino,

Of all of the elected officials representing the citizens of Boston you have first hand knowledge of the response matrix of Boston EMS to specific medical emergency criteria. You know full well, the need for a rapid response to cardiac or respiratory emergencies and the need for a first responder to initiate CPR or a Cardiac defibrillator within a very limited time limit of 4 minutes from receipt of a 911 call. You took pride in the article published in USA Today which highlighted the working relationship between Boston Fire and Boston EMS working in concert to increase the survival chances of Boston citizens in dire need or emergency medical intervention.

Yet with all of your vast insight into EMS you, your fire department commissioner, the Chief of EMS and the District Fire Chief of District 11 elected for political gain, placing the residents of the Oak Square section of Brighton in harms way by closing Engine 51's house last week. In doing so, it became IMPOSSIBLE for either the BFD's Engine 29 or Ladder 11or Boston EMS A14 or A9 to respond to a 911 emergency medical call within the required 4 minutes or less.

In supporting your idea, Mr. Yoon has also shown himself to be far more interested in his political fortunes then those of the residents of Oak Square. The elderly of Brighton , the cities largest concentration of citizens over 65 including myself, certainly take no comfort in knowing our safety is just another strategic move in your tool box.

The bell can not be unrung! You and your staff of Public Safety experts have made what I consider a terrible decision. You denied us a reasonable chance of survival by making a decision that is clearly outside of established medical emergency response protocols. I for one would be impressed if you simply acknowledged your oversight and insured us that it was a lesson learned and something that would never happen again. If not, then perhaps legal intervention by the taxpayers of Oak Square is the only answer we the residents have left at our disposal.

I look forward to your response,

Thank you,

John Robert Powers

Menino keeping jobs from Bostonians in an effort to get re-elected

This will be in Banker and Tradesman tomorrow:

“Mum’s the word when it comes to Hub Projects – Menino puts clamp down on city development - As he cruises toward re-election, Mayor Thomas M. Menino is pursuing an artful strategy of clamping down early on any potential controversy that might attract unwelcome attention. . ”

Examples of this are the BC expansion in Brighton, the One Congress garage which the BRA has shelved until September at the earliest, the zoning of the Greenway, etc.

Clearly putting the advancement of the City on hold for 6 or 9 months is a tiny price to pay as long as we re-elect the dictator, "Mayor McChicken" as David Bernstein calls him.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Emperor (Menino) has no clothes

How much does Tom Menino remind you of the Hans Christian Andersen children's story about how the Emperor has no clothes?

The Emperor is too vain and only cares about clothes, not his country or his people. Two tailors sell him a "suit" that is invisible to anyone who is stupid or unfit for his position. Of course, the emperor can't see the "suit" which doesn't really exist but he pretends because he doesn't want to admit he is unfit for his position.

Today in the Herald, we have Menino's excuse as to why he won't attend two debates being held by MassVote and dozens of co-sponsors, from the Boston Teacher's Union to the NAACP, to Oiste, the list goes on and on of groups from around Boston that care about our urban life. Here is his campaign "negotiator" Ed Fouey:

Fouhy, a former CBS news executive, said yesterday that it was “doubtful” the mayor would attend the MassVOTE forums, suggesting the group “lacks the organizational capacity to sponsor a debate.”

What does that mean? You mean they can't invite a bunch of people and put 4 chairs and a microphone on a stage? I would believe that Menino might not be able to handle that on his own, but MassVOTE?

The arrogance and disregard for the people shown by Menino is truly incredible. What is more incredible is how the mainstream media in this town play along with his invisible suit as well. The TV stations and the Globe and the Herald play along with this ruse because they are afraid of his vindictiveness, and they aren't doing the fourth estate's job which is to expose what is going on.

Kudos to MassVOTE for bringing the people what they want. Kudos to Mike Flaherty and Sam Yoon for accepting the invitation. Kudos to the person who points out that the Emperor has no clothes.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

How evident is Flaherty's Hypocrisy?

Today Flaherty is blasting Menino for the firefighter pension abuse saying that it is Menino's fault this is going on. Of course he doesn't say that he was City Council President at the time, and I certainly don't remember him speaking out about a problem with the contract, or the raises, nor speaking out when the Firefighter pension abuse scandal became public.

Here is his quote:

“It’s awful convenient of him to point the finger at someone else,’’ said Flaherty, who is challenging Menino along with Councilor at Large Sam Yoon and Boston developer Kevin McCrea. “This administration has taken zero responsibility for anything. It’s always someone else’s fault.

Now here is Flaherty's spokesperson Natasha Perez answering the question of why Flaherty voted to give a 40% pension boost to a long time South Boston political hack Paul Walkowski:

Thank you for your question. I think dialogue is very important. I will do my best to answer your questions whenever I can. As you stated, the decision to have Paul Walkowski provide a report was a decision made by the whole City Council. There is no one currently serving in the position filled by Mr. Walkowski and no future plan to fill that position. I cannot address the elimination of that position as it is an issue for the whole City Council.

In other words, Michael is not responsible for his own vote because everyone else voted the same way. Further, he can't take a leadership position on an issue to eliminate waste because the whole council has to do this together.

What a hypocrite.

It is time that we elect politicians who will be honest with the citizens and will remember that it is the taxpayers money, not their money that they are giving away.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Same old story out of Menino

Here is an article from 2002. Same old stories, the city employees getting huge raises that are out of line with the public sector, Menino saying that the fact that the bond rating is high shows how fiscally responsible he is, etc. The reason the bond rating is so high is because it is guaranteed by the real estate in Boston, if we defaulted we would have to sell our property to pay for it. But the press has been too timid in following up on this ridiculous line of reasoning. Our residential property taxes have doubled in the past 10 years (a 7 percent a year increase) because of his fiscal responsibility. Meanwhile the schools are still bad, management is archaic, and violence is on the rise.

Scott S. Greenberger, Globe Staff. Boston Globe. Boston, Mass.: May 20, 2002. pg. B.1

The economy was humming, property taxes and state money were pouring in, and the City of Boston was spending - a lot.

Its operating budget grew by one-quarter, or $342.7 million, between 1997 and 2002, according to a new report by the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, a business-funded watchdog group. The main reason for the increase: paying the salaries and benefits of 1,114 new city workers, a thousand of them in the public schools.

Boston spent so much so quickly during the economic boom that Research Bureau chief Samuel R. Tyler said he welcomes the forced belt-tightening of 2003 as "a necessary correction."

"It took this kind of a fiscal situation to force a re- evaluation," Tyler said. "The incentive just hasn't been there to really look carefully at how we're spending money."

The report questions why city spending on overtime increased by 35 percent, even as the work force was growing. It notes that salary hikes in collective bargaining agreements came on top of automatic annual "step" increases - usually about 4 percent - for city workers who haven't already reached the top pay grade. That means, for example, that a teacher who made $45,455 in 1999 will make $60,492 in 2002. And it points out that the school work force grew by 920 as enrollment rose by 22 students - and only half of the new hires were teachers.

When Mayor Thomas M. Menino asked city department chiefs to cut their spending for fiscal 2003, many did it by eliminating vacant positions the city had been paying for, Tyler said.

"That's an indication of budgets that hadn't really been reviewed," he said. "With this budget for 2003, there's a squeezing out of some of that excess. Some of those positions were never going to be filled - they were just there to give the departments flexibility."

Menino has said that preparing the 2003 budget plan was a healthy fiscal exercise, but he rejected the idea that the city spent too much during the good times.

"Sam is a fiscal conservative. He wouldn't have wanted us to invest as much as we did in schools, and in public safety," the mayor said. Schools, police, and firefighters accounted for almost 55 percent of the increase in spending between 1997 and 2002. "Those are the things that people in our city want. Those are the things that make the city livable," Menino added.

The mayor noted that the city's bond rating has remained high - evidence, he said, that Boston is financially strong. And most of the extra school spending, he said, was part of an increase in state education spending, meant to improve the quality of schools across Massachusetts.

"We didn't spend money recklessly - we filled a need. Now it's time to do some belt-tightening," he said.

Nevertheless, what city departments did to trim their budgets suggests there was plenty of fat. The School Department, for example, plans to cut 300 nonteaching positions, according to spokesman John Dorsey.

Boston has made a habit of binging during good times. Between 1986 and 1990 - before another recession hit - city spending grew by about 30 percent, according to the Municipal Research Bureau.

"There seems to be a continuing habit in Massachusetts, both at the municipal and the state level, of overindulgence during the good times," said Lou DiNatale, a political analyst at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.

DiNatale acknowledged, however, that as hard as it is to cut during tough times, it's nearly impossible when times are good.

"It would be very tough for a city like Boston, that was booming like Boston was, not to be spending," he said.

"The question becomes, did you spend in such a fashion that you can hang on to most of the gains you received, or do you lose the gains every time you lose the money?"