22 Feb 2014
in Boston, economy, Free Markets, politics
Tags: Boston, class warfare, economy, politics
This isn’t exactly something to be proud of:
Boston has the fourth-largest gap between rich and poor among the nation’s 50 largest cities, according to a study released on Thursday by the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit. Only Atlanta, San Francisco, and Miami had wider income divides between the top 5 percent of earners and the bottom 20 percent.
If you go to the study, you find the numbers: the 20th percentile for household income in Boston was $14, 604 in 2012 while the income for the 95th percentile was $223,838. The city of Boston mandates that 15% of the units of new housing is ‘affordable’–there’s not even enough affordable housing being made for the bottom 20%. It’s pretty obvious why inequality is so bad in Boston, almost all of the housing is being made for the rich and near rich–some of the poor can find housing through federal and state subsidies (which are being cut) but the middle-class is out of luck.
03 Dec 2013
in Boston, craziness, wealth
Tags: affordable housing, Boston, craziness
I’m on the BRA’s affordable housing email list. Here’s the latest:
Unit Size: Three studios, three one-bedrooms.
Price: $1,724/month for studios, $2,008 per month for one bedrooms.
Maximum Household Income: One person HH: 120% at $79,300; two person HH, 120% at $90,600; three person HH, 120% at $101,950.
That’s right, a studio that costs $1724 is listed as ‘affordable’. I guess I won’t be living in Boston in the near future.
31 Oct 2013
in Boston, craziness, Free Markets, politics, wealth
Tags: Boston, craziness, Free Markets, redistribution, wealth
In some ways this is refreshing:
Rosenthal said he has also approached Governor Deval Patrick’s office of housing and economic development to ask for help with his $7.8 million shortage but has not received a reply. Greg Bialecki, Patrick’s secretary of economic development, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Rosenthal said the money would fill a gap in funding needed to satisfy his primary financial backer, Bentall Kennedy Group, a major real estate investment firm that wants a 6 percent return on the project.
But by the time the deal was finalized, the project’s construction costs had risen by $48 million. Rosenthal said that increase threw off the expected return of Bentall Kennedy, requiring tax assistance to get the firm to commit money for construction.
This is always true, but usually the actors aren’t quite so direct in saying that they want a tax break so they can get bigger profits. This isn’t much better:
Participating in the event was Jeffrey Simon, the head of real estate for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which owns the 4.5-acre property on which Rosenthal is seeking to build, and which stands to collect $226 million in rent from the development.
Earlier this year, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation approved revised lease terms with Rosenthal, who has committed to pay rent to the state for 99 years.
The state built the highway through the middle of neighborhoods against the wish of the neighborhoods, left it open and ugly because that was cheaper, all to benefit commuters. Now they want to make lots of money off of it which is why this project is so big and so complex. Thanks state of Massachusetts.
07 Oct 2013
in Boston, politics, unions
Tags: arbitration, Boston, unions
The Boston Globe has really been pushing stories like this:
Under current law, arbitrators must consider what a municipality can afford. Walsh’s bill includes that same provision, but his campaign could not identify any new fiscal safeguards in his legislation.
The campaign maintained that the threat of binding arbitration could force compromise. But the campaign could not explain how the shift would better ensure that a community could pay for an arbitration award. Under Walsh’s proposal, an arbitrator’s ruling would be final, and the city council would have no say.
“That’s a major difference from current law,” said Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a budget watchdog funded by businesses and nonprofits.
“Taking the city council out of the equation gives much more power to the arbitrator. It’s really a step backward for financial accountability to the taxpayer. It would seriously weaken the city’s hand.”
The idea is that binding arbitration is bad because it weakens the hand of the city, of course that means that the current system gives the advantage to cities but I guess that’s ok. In any case this is a complex situation–to decide which side we favor we would need to know how objective the arbitrators have been in the past (do they tend to favor one side) and the nuances of what happens when one side strongly objects to the decision.
What makes this interesting is that the Globe has not said much about binding arbitration that is much more common and definitely slanted to one side:
Stephanie Mencimer, noticed when she went to buy a car that there was a clause saying that she couldn’t sue for any reason, but would have to go through mandatory binding arbitration for any problems. This doesn’t sound too bad, but since the businesses hire the arbitrators there’s a built in conflict of interest. Here are a few bits:
Public Citizen found that in 94 percent of 19,000 cases, NAF arbitrators ruled in favor of the businesses that hired them. One arbitrator handled 68 cases in a single day, awarding every penny that the big companies were seeking. In one case Public Citizen looked at, the NAF also charged $1500 for a three-page document explaining the arbitrator’s decision, something unheard of in regular courts.
One reason businesses often come out on top in arbitration is that arbitrators who rule for consumers have a tendency to find themselves out of work. Such was the case with Richard Neely, a former chief justice of West Virginia’s Supreme Court, who worked briefly as an arbitrator for the NAF. In an article called “Arbitration and the Godless Bloodsuckers,” Neely reported that he had refused to award a bank arbitration-related fees that he judged to be far in excess of what a court would have charged. He never got another case. Neely is not alone. A 2000 study of forced arbitration in HMO contracts found that on the rare occasion that an arbitrator made a significant award for a patient, the HMO never hired that person to arbitrate a case again.
There have been bills to try to get this changed, but the Globe hasn’t been writing a bunch of editorials for those (though they do publish an occasional article). This has been amplified fairly recently:
The issue of arbitration fairness is front and center after a Supreme Court decision in April 2011, which allowed companies to use forced arbitration clauses to ban class actions against them. Senator Franken recognizes the fundamental unfairness of the court decision, remarking that the decision “essentially insulates companies from liability when they defraud a large number of customers of a relatively small amount of money.”
I wonder why the Globe cares about one situation and not the other–it couldn’t be that the Globe cares more about corporations than unions could it?
17 Sep 2013
in Boston, politics, reporting, unions
Tags: Boston, Boston Globe, Boston Mayor, reporting, unions
The Boston Globe has now endorsed the two candidates for Mayor of Boston that it thinks should move on to the next stage. They talk about what the new mayor should emphasize:
■ Increase the pace of reform of Boston schools. The hopes of the middle class and the frustrations of low-income families, caught in the vortex of an achievement gap, come together in the city’s schools. Boston cannot sustain a thriving middle class, or ensure that low-income children will have the chance to reach their academic potential, without more early-childhood education, a longer school day, higher standards for teachers, better-quality principals, and greater after-school enrichment.
■ Build far more housing, especially in the neighborhoods. Boston’s rising housing prices are a serious impediment to economic growth, and the city’s lack of planning and excessive deference to the most outspoken opponents have left too many neighborhoods underdeveloped, lacking both the housing density and Main Street vitality to reach their full potential.
■ Embrace a more innovative, entrepreneurial economy. With a more livable downtown and a more welcoming culture, Boston can attract and retain the brainpower that will fuel tomorrow’s technology-driven industries. By making it easier for all types of businesses to thrive, the city can make every neighborhood more prosperous. And since many key innovators live, work, and go to school in Cambridge, Somerville, and other nearby cities and towns, Boston’s next mayor should take the lead in crafting a regional approach to enhancing growth and opportunity.
If you go through their rationale though you’ll notice that one requirement is that the candidate needs to work against the public unions. The Globe basically takes it as a given that the public sector unions are bad.
16 Sep 2013
in Boston, craziness, wealth
Tags: Boston, craziness, housing, luxury housing
This is kind of funny:
Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s administration has agreed to give a $7.8 million tax break to help with the $630 million redevelopment of the former Filene’s property into a towering complex of offices, stores and luxury homes.
The tax incentives will be spread over a 13-year period and will be passed along to retail and office tenants who agree to open on the property. A spokeswoman for Menino said the money will not directly benefit the developer or the eventual owners of luxury condominiums on the property.
“In order to attract premier office and retail tenants, this level of tax certainty is needed for the first few years of the project,” said the spokeswoman Susan Elsbree. “Many projects receive 30- and 40-year tax agreements, so this is very modest by comparison.”
Given the lower taxes for the tenants, my guess is that Millennium will be able to charge more for the space. For some reason I think this money will benefit the developer and the owners of the luxury condos. There’s always some excuse to help fund the rich and well-connected.
12 Sep 2013
in Boston, craziness, education, Free Markets, politics, unions
Tags: Boston, Free Markets, Massachusetts, politics, unions
Shorter Shirley Leung:
The government needs to be tough on unions and cave in to business demands.
She had two columns yesterday. Here she is on Marty Walsh and unions:
As a state representative, he carried a prolabor agenda on Beacon Hill, and as the former union leader who has become a serious mayoral hopeful, he has accepted so much money from unions — about one-quarter of his $1.3 million war chest — even he is self-conscious about it.
“I didn’t think I’d get a question about unions,” he said dryly, during a televised debate the other night. “I haven’t heard about it the whole race.”
It’s a stock response to a central question of Walsh’s candidacy, one that doesn’t get old because it never gets answered: How tough can he be on unions, particularly municipal unions, after they tossed several hundred thousand dollars at his campaign?
In my attempt to answer this question, I strode into the lion’s den, which is McKenna’s Café in Savin Hill, to have breakfast with Walsh himself. We both ordered the oatmeal. If nothing else, we lowered our cholesterol for the day.
She better be careful of those union thugs. Here she is on the new software tax in Massachusetts:
I have only one question for Deval Patrick: What took you so long?
You knew, back in June, about growing opposition to the software tax tucked into your transportation finance bill. Tech and business leaders warned the levy was so broadly written it would have a devastating impact, not only on the tech industry, but on any company that buys sophisticated software. These days, that’s just about everyone.
So, maybe after all these years, it is true. The tech industry has been that unloved stepchild under Patrick, who in his first term showered the biotech industry with a much ballyhooed $1 billion initiative. The message: You save lives, you get tax breaks and grants. If you just make lives better with technology, who cares.
It wasn’t always like this. Or so I thought.
Four years ago, the governor created what has become the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative in an effort to recapture our high-tech glory days, when Wang Laboratories and Digital Equipment Corp. made us the computing epicenter of the world. His administration also created tech internships to grow and retain talent, launched a big data initiative, and set up a $50 million research and development fund for new technologies such as robotics.
Just last August, the Patrick administration stepped in to reverse a state ban on Uber, a cutting-edge online car service, even giving us a heads up via tweet: “With all @massgovernor has done for the innovation economy, we’re not shutting down @uber_bos. Working on a swift resolution.’’
When the ban was lifted, Patrick tweeted: “Problem solved. @Uber_BOS is all set. Thx for your patience.’’
How cool is our governor?
Fast forward a year later, and I don’t think that anymore. But hopefully this is the week that Patrick begins to get his tech cred back.
They didn’t get absolutely everything they want, it’s terrible to be them.
I shouldn’t pick on Leung for the union bashing with respect to Walsh though, it’ a Boston Globe constant:
Walsh, who speaks eloquently about education and gay rights, doesn’t want to be typecast as “the union guy.” But since unions can give $15,000 — compared to $500 for individuals — this is where he gets his edge. In the last two weeks of August, more than 30 percent of his funds came from unions, not counting donations from individual union members. He’s gotten $14,999 each from the Bridge and Structural Ironworkers Union Local 7 and the Teamsters Local Union #25. Boston firefighters gave him $15,000. It’s hard not to wonder how this will translate at the bargaining table if Walsh becomes mayor.
For much of this crowd, winning means electing Walsh. Which raises some questions for him. What will he owe labor for victory, if it comes? As mayor, could he say no to union supporters once he is sitting across from them at the negotiating table?
In his breakfast speech, Walsh went out of his way to address the elephant in that ballroom packed with union backers: “Certain people,” he said, “are going to claim that labor unions are just another bunch of people looking out for number one. That couldn’t be more wrong. But just in case there’s anyone out there following this race who might wonder, let me state in the most direct and certain terms possible: I can and I will represent all the people of this city to the utmost of my ability, with fear or favor for none and with fairness for all.”
After the event, Walsh said that he could “absolutely” stand up when necessary to union supporters. As mayor, he said, “the voters and the taxpayers are the first priority for me. . . I’m not going to be the person giving the city away.”
In a Thursday sit-down, Walsh said he’ll neither reject (or offset) the big-dollar union contributions nor declare that he doesn’t want supportive groups like the firefighters to run independent-expenditure ads on his behalf.
Walsh stressed that he has more than 4,000 individual contributors. Still, his big haul of union money raises this question: What degree of independence would he bring to the mayor’s office? As we’ve seen before, powerful public-sector unions sometimes help create a dysfunctional political dynamic. Those unions help politicians get elected — and then push the politically beholden office-holder for wage-and-benefit packages (or other advantages) that aren’t affordable over the long term.
It’s a constant refrain: taking money from unions is bad, obviously because unions are bad. Of course all these anti-union rants are offset by the union section in the paper … ha ha, I kid.
If I still lived in Boston, each of these columns would make me more likely to vote for Walsh.
09 Sep 2013
in Boston, Free Markets, politics
Tags: Boston, Free Markets, housing, Menino, politics
Mayor Menino has a new plan to build more housing:
Mayor Thomas M. Menino is proposing to reach his ambitious goal of building 30,000 homes in Boston by allowing taller structures with smaller units, selling public land to developers at a discount, and using subsidies to spur development of more affordable housing, according to a blueprint to be released Monday.
The plan, which calls for $16.5 billion in public and private investment, begins with a series of quick steps that could significantly alter the housing landscape before Menino’s term ends in four months. Those steps include selling large chunks of city property, increasing fees on developers to help fund affordable housing, and approving some of the 3,600 housing units awaiting city permits.
First, given the national and state situation, this isn’t bad. But a few notes (the percentage of ‘affordable’ housing in all lthe neighborhoods is here):
Although 25,000 of the new units would be priced at market rates, Menino is proposing to increase subsidies and other assistance to make homes more affordable to middle-income households. About 26 percent of Boston’s households are classified as middle-income — below the national average of 30 percent — and the city’s housing costs are rising much faster than incomes.
In South Boston, once filled with moderately priced homes, only 7 percent of the units sold in a recent 18-month period would be considered affordable to a two-person household earning the area’s median income of $75,500 a year.
Notice a bit of sleight of hand here–26% of households are middle-income but , of course, 50% are below the median income. Now note that this plan is building one sixth of the housing (5 out of 30 thousand) for half the population–is this progress?
Also note this:
Getting cooperation from unions and developers to help build below-market-rate housing will be no easy task.
Why exactly will there be a problem with unions? Labor costs haven’t been increasing that much, as the article states, the problems are in terms of the cost of land and material. On the other hand, developers make much more money with luxury housing so they will want to build that if they’re given the choice.
As I said this isn’t too bad considering things like this:
The federal government has drastically cut spending on affordable housing, with Boston losing nearly half its funding for some programs over a decade.
Still, it’s not nearly good enough.
10 Aug 2013
in Boston, Free Markets
Tags: Boston, Fenway Neighborhood, Free Markets
The old Fenway neighborhood will be no more in a few years. There are proposals for development at 1271, 1282, 1325-1341 (Fenway Triangle), 1350, and 1383-1395 Boylston Street. There is also a development above the air rights behind Fenway Park and now a proposal to expand Landmark Center. When I lived in the neighborhood there were no tall buildings along Boylston, now the entire stretch seems destined to be tall and not taller like was proposed but really tall (at least a few of the buildings are over 20 stories and all are over 12). The other problem is that pretty much all of it is luxury housing–don’t listen to the talk of affordable housing, their idea of affordable housing 5 years ago was $1600+ for a one bedroom.
When I lived there, the Fenway was mixed in many different ways. Now it will be just like an extension of the Back Bay: very expensive. Of course this is true of the entire city, Boston is fast becoming a city exclusively for the wealthy. It’s too bad.
15 Jul 2013
in Boston, Free Markets
Tags: autos, Boston, Free Markets, Parking
There really is an entitlement society:
The city now requires just .75 parking spaces per unit at large residential developments in many areas of the city. And planners are starting to look with favor upon large-scale housing complexes with no parking requirements whatsoever in neighborhoods with abundant public transit options, such as Brighton.
By definition, reducing or eliminating the number of required on-site parking spaces at new developments will make street parking scarcer for residents who rely on cars to support themselves and their families. The dozen candidates competing to be the next mayor of Boston should consider that there are still plenty of voters out there with more to do after work than walk to a nearby restaurant and decide which craft beer to match with which sushi roll.
You can’t really trust anyone over 30 who doesn’t own a car. They talk a great game of sustainability. Next thing you know they are romantically involved with some guy who owns a Ford Ranger truck and sleeps over half the week. They are keen to beautify their homes with money otherwise spent on car loans and insurance. You can be certain, however, that none of those hardwood floor sanders, cabinet restorers, or kitchen island designers will be pulling up to condo developments in the South End, Jamaica Plain, or the Back Bay in vehicles from the Hubway bike sharing system.
Given that it’s the poor that are more likely to be carless, it’s funny that he’s arguing that it’s the people pushing for fewer parking spaces wo are the elitists. It’s also funny because by including more parking in new developments, it makes the development more expensive.
If Boston officials are so confident of a car-free future, they should charge a small fortune for new on-street residential parking permits in densely settled neighborhoods. Theoretically, there should be few takers. Current sticker holders, meanwhile, would retain permanent rights to free on-street parking. Upon sale or vacancy of their units, the sticker could be transferred to a new owner or tenant. It’s a way to bring the city’s planning principles in line with the concerns of longtime residents who don’t have the luxury of living without a car.
Basically, he’s arguing that we should continue to subsidize his parking space. It’s also interesting to note that it’s mostly conservatives that are arguing that the government should mandate that developers should include a minimum number of parking spaces.
14 Jun 2013
in Boston, Free Markets
Tags: Boston, Free Markets, Red Sox, urban renewal
This is kind of funny:
Joseph P. Marchese Jr. wrote a letter to the BRA last month — one day after the Globe reported that the Sox were seeking a permanent extension of their current concession rights — saying he would pay $3 million for a 10-year contract. His offer is roughly double the annual rate paid by the Sox since the franchise began leasing the public street during the 2003 baseball season.
Marchese shared the letter with the Globe after the BRA failed to acknowledge his bid within four weeks, and said he is considering suing the agency on the grounds that he is being denied “the opportunity to be competitive and make a living.”
This is not so funny:
Cunha’s predecessor, Gregory W. Sullivan, wrote in a December letter that the BRA’s claim to rightfully control the street is dubious because it is based on a determination that the thriving area around Fenway Park is a slum in need of redevelopment. If the city grants another license after the Red Sox contract expires at the end of this season, it should conduct open bidding, he added.
The original arrangement was not subject to the state’s open bid law because the BRA — technically independent of the city government — took control of the street by eminent domain and labeled the Red Sox deal a demonstration project meant “to protect against urban blight.”
To sign another no-bid contract with the Sox, the BRA would have to exercise its eminent domain power again, maintaining that the strip of Yawkey Way is a blighted area.
The only reason Yawkey Way has had problems in the past is that the Red Sox have been such bad neighbors, not controlling their fans. I also find it interesting that the BRA is going to continue to call the area a blighted area. The whole idea behind this designation is to improve the area, if the area is still blighted then this ‘solution’ hasn’t worked and should be dropped–10 years is long enough to decide if something works isn’t it?
Of course, that isn’t the point. It’s really a gift to the Red Sox, as Marchese points out:
Marchese, who runs a law practice in Revere, contends that such a designation is “ridiculous and a means to circumvent the open bid law.”
“My take is if it’s a public way and we’re all taxpayers, we should have the same right to bid as the Red Sox,” said Marchese, a former alderman in Everett.
03 Jun 2013
in Boston, craziness, politics
Tags: bicycles, Boston, craziness, politics, transportation
This is hilarious (I’m not going to link directly to the video). This is a private program run with no government money, but it’s socialism. She says “We now look at a city whose best neighborhoods are absolutely begrimed, is the word, by these blazing blue Citi Bank bikes — all of the finest, most picturesque parts of the city.”, but doesn’t seem to mind how ugly many of the roads are … and they are paid for by the government–Socialism.
My favorite quote is “The bike lobby is an all-powerful enterprise”. The system in Boston, Hubway, is doing better than expected so far, but it’s only a matter of time until the bike lobby takes over complete control of Boston. You have been warned.
Also, see here.
24 May 2013
in Boston, Free Markets, Transportion, wealth
Tags: Boston, Free Markets, MBTA, Public Transportation, wealth
I take the Orange Line branch of Boston’s MBTA to work. The T is in the middle of adding a new station at Assembly Square, because Somerville is adding a new neighborhood there (well, really, a private company is). In general I support these types of developments–this really will be a city neighborhood ( it will have 500,000 square feet of retail, 2100 residential units, and 1,750,000 square feet of office and R&D space) and it will be connected directly to public transportation–but I haven’t really looked at it much. The last few months though the construction has started to affect me a bit more (the subway is closed some weekends and some nights for construction and the subway slows to a crawl as it moves inbound out of Wellington station), so I started looking at it. Now that I have, I’ve changed my mind a bit mainly because this will be almost entirely luxury housing and it’s being subsidized by the government–this says that roughly $73 million will be used in the development and $35 million for the T station, where these might not be the most up to date figures.It also comes at a time when funding for the T is up in the air (fares were increased by 23% last year and there will be another fare increase if the state doesn’t increase funding, it seems it will) even though ridership continues to grow. So, here’s another plan to increase ridership, but with no plan to increase service–I guess I’ll have to get used to even more crowded trains with more delays (and this is ignoring the possibility that a casino might open in Everett which would also add riders to the Orange Line). All to make things more convenient for the rich people who will live in this new neighborhood.
12 May 2013
in Boston, pictures
Tags: Boston, Malden, pictures, Waltham
Here are some pictures I’ve taken of Boston over the years
From Malden, taken today:
this past February:
and some fall:
from the Harbor Islands from a beach:
and from a hill:
from Boston itself:
and from Waltham in the summer:
and the fall:
21 Apr 2013
in Boston, pictures
Tags: Boston, nasa, pictures
Now that, hopefully, the Boston Marathon terrorists are now in custody or dead, we can again look at the beauty of Boston. Here’s a picture taken from the International Space Station of the Boston Metro area (taken on April 6; Credit: NASA):
20 Apr 2013
in Boston, craziness, politics
Tags: Boston, craziness, Grassley, immigration, politics, terrorists
Today is a day to celebrate, but it seems that some people want to use this tragedy to their advantage. Whenever there’s a gun tragedy, gun rights activists push back against any new legislation by saying it’s too soon or we shouldn’t pass laws on emotion:
“It’s dangerous to do any type of policy in an emotional moment,” said Senator Mark Begich of Alaska, a Democrat up for re-election next year who voted with three other Democrats and 41 Republicans against the compromise. “Because human emotions then drive the decision. Everyone’s all worked up. That’s not enough.”
Of course that rule doesn’t apply to conservatives:
“How can individuals evade authority and plan such attacks on our soil?” said Grassley, the top Republican on the committee. “How can we beef up security checks on those who wish to enter the United States? How do we ensure that people who wish to do us harm are not eligible for benefits under the immigration laws, including this new bill before us?”
Others went further.
“It’s too bad Suspect No. 1 won’t be able to be legalized by Marco Rubio, now,” conservative commentator Ann Coulter wrote on her Twitter account, referring to the suspect killed in the shootout. Rubio, a Florida Republican, is one of the main Senate authors of the legislation.
Sure, it turns out, the two suspects were here legally and one became a US citizen last year, but … ok I don’t see how this applies to the current debate on illegal immigration. Ask Grassley, I’m sure he can explain it.
19 Apr 2013
in Boston, security
Tags: Boston, terrorists
I had planned to go to Northeastern today, but there was a bit of a thing going on:
According to Alben, the night’s outbreak of violence began when police received reports of a robbery of a convenience store in Kendall Square near MIT. A few minutes later, an MIT police officer, later identified as Collier, was shot multiple times while in his cruiser at Main and Vassar streets, near Building 32, better known as the renowned Stata Center on the MIT campus. Collier was later pronounced dead at Massachusetts General Hospital.
A short time after the Cambridge incident, two men carjacked a Mercedes SUV at gunpoint, and the owner of that car was able to flee at a gas station on Memorial Drive.
The SUV proceeded out Memorial Drive toward Watertown followed by a long train of police vehicles in pursuit. At one point during the pursuit, the two suspects opened fire on Watertown police and other officers and the Transit Police officer, Donahue, was shot. He remains in stable condition with a gunshot wound at Mt. Auburn Hospital, the hospital said this morning.
During the gunfight, one suspect was wounded and taken into custody. This morning, Dr. Richard Wolfe said the man was brought to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center emergency room about 1:10 a.m. with multiple traumatic injuries.
As the search goes on, the MBTA has shut down completely, no T, buses, or commuter rail. I hope this ends soon with no more loss of life. As I said a few days ago, it is still much too early to be talking about why this happened (not because it’s too soon, but because we don’t know the facts yet).
Update: And the second suspect has been caught. In an interesting bit, he was found not all that long after police had basically given up finding him in the area. In any case, this is very good news.
16 Apr 2013
in Boston, sports
Tags: Boston, Boston Marathon, terrorists
I’m back at Northeastern University today and things seem pretty normal, which is a bit weird. The investigation into yesterday’s bombing continues, but at this point little seems to be known about who did it. My guess is that speculation at this stage is pointless and likely to be wrong, so I’ll just wish for the best for all the injured and their families.
02 Apr 2013
in economy, Free Markets
Tags: Boston, economics, Free Markets, taxis
The Boston Globe has the first of a three article series on taxi drivers in Boston. It’s probably what you expect, the owners are doing quite well but the actual drivers are not:
For the owners, there’s a steady stream of money, a vast amount of it cash. For each cab an owner rents for two shifts a day, 300 days a year, he earns about $60,000 annually.
“Regardless of how busy a day it is, regardless of how the work is . . . or whether there’s not enough passengers out there, [the owner] knows he’s going to get that shift fee from every driver, every 12 hours, rain, shine, whatever,’’ said attorney Shannon E. Liss-Riordan, who has filed a class-action lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court challenging the independent contractor system.
In sharp contrast, it is not uncommon for drivers to spend nearly half their work day earning just enough money to break even. Some days they can’t even do that. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics puts an average Boston cabbie’s income at $27,000, just slightly lower than the city’s own estimate. With drivers often on the road for 60 hours a week or more, it can amount to minimum wage work — or less than that. Some sleep in their cars during shifts, or work 24 hours straight in what the drivers call “iron shifts.”
It’s an indictment of the current system and yet this is what caught my attention:
“It’s entirely run for the owners’ benefits,’’ said Edward Rogoff, a professor of management at Baruch College in New York who has studied the taxi industry for years. “The question is: Who does the system work for? And it works for these medallion owners. It’s a socialist system. It’s like Russian oligarchs.’’
This is the classic capitalist set-up where the people with money have all the power while the workers have none and so have to fight to make a living. I really don’t understand how Rogoff can believe this is socialist. And doesn’t he know that the Russian oligarchs came into being as the communist system was ending when the US and IMF pushed through privatization and shock therapy. The quick transfer of enterprises to private owners made some of them very rich, these are the Russian oligarchs–thus the oligarchs came into being when Russia stopped being communist.
Anyway, this is an important article–the type of muckraking article that’s needed to show how modern capitalists rig the system.
03 Mar 2013
in Boston, Free Markets
Tags: Boston, Free Markets, housing
The Boston Globe has an article about the growing appeal of living in Boston:
Almost everywhere you look, it seems, is a new building site: A dozen towers are rising in the downtown area, and city-wide some 5,300 homes are currently under development. Boylston Street near Fenway Park is humming with construction during the day and crowds of diners at night. Downtown Crossing has lured fine restaurants and hundreds of luxury residences. And even once rough-hewn neighborhoods such as South Boston are increasingly drawing gourmet food stores, hip bars, and tony apartments.
The population surge has thoroughly reversed the suburban migration that began in the 1950s, when Boston peaked at about 800,000 people. Head counts in the South End and downtown have jumped by 20 percent since 2000.
In just one year alone — 2010 — Boston’s population grew by 7,500 people, and is now above 625,000, its highest level since the 1970s, according to city data.
They bury the lede, Boston is becoming a city for the rich:
“It’s virtually impossible for someone of my income level to own or rent in the city,” said Quinton Kerns, a 27-year-old urban designer who pays $600 a month to share a Harvard Square apartment with five roommates. And with $150,000 in student loan debt, Kerns doesn’t see himself moving up in the housing market anytime soon.
Even though Boston added more units of housing in the last decade than in the three previous decades combined, the pace of new development is not keeping up with all the people who want to live here. The Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University predicts that unless annual housing production in the Boston area doubles — from 6,000 units to 12,000 units a year — already sky-high prices will soar.
Average rents in Boston are about $1,700 a month. But much of the new housing built in the past few years are luxury residences that command monthly rent of $4,000 and more. Both the city and state have launched initiatives to build more moderate-priced housing; the Compact Neighborhoods program by the Patrick administration aims to spur construction of 10,000 multifamily housing units a year in Massachusetts, largely to retain young workers being priced out of the market.
Mayor Thomas Menino’s administration has begun encouraging developers in the South Boston Innovation District to build micro-housing units — tiny apartments with rents that people just starting out can afford.
Yet here too that goal is proving elusive. At Factory 63, a newly renovated building with units as small as 375-square-feet, so many people applied for its first group of apartments that a lottery was required to parcel them out. The prices ended up at $1,700 to $2,400 a month, a few hundred dollars higher than officials had initially hoped.
The problem with all this luxury housing is that it actually makes the situation worse. The new units are made for people who live outside of the city and then drive up prices in the nearby community. And the talk of ‘affordable housing’ becomes silly when a $1700 one bedroom apartment is considered affordable. Here’s an example of the way the city is looked at:
One of the fastest changing neighborhoods is the Fenway area, where the population increased 15 percent from 2000 to 2010. For decades its main boulevard — Boylston Street — was a scrubby, traffic-choked row of gas stations and repair shops. But in just a few short years, several modern, sleek apartment and retail buildings have gone up, and the strip now boasts a sushi place, Southern barbecue restaurant, and popular nightspots that spill crowds well into the night.
And it’s made the Fenway area much more expensive. Is this progress? Where do all the people who work in the Fenway and nearby Longwood area live? None of the lab workers, nurses, or other support staff can afford to live in all those ‘sleek’ apartments. Ah well, they don’t matter in the scheme of things.