An aggressive approach to school improvement and pay equity for Boston’s women were two pillars of Mayor Thomas Menino’s 2013 State of the City address.
“Our progress is real, our future is bright. The state of our city is striking, sound and strong,” he said.
Walking slowly with a cane and with a chair positioned behind his lectern, Menino told the assembled crowd his administration would push to convert more than 1 million square feet of city property into affordable housing for families.
Menino was met by a thunderous and sustained ovation as Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” played during his entrance and he tried, in vain, to start the speech on time.
“You don’t want to hear my words of wisdom, do you?” joked Menino as the cheering continued unabated.
Menino thanked the medical staff that treated him for his recent prolonged illness.
“Man, do they do a good job," he said. "They did a fabulous job. I was an easy patient, let me tell you.”
Menino touted economic expansion in the city, pointing to companies like Paypal, Converse and New Balance who are moving to or expanding in the city.
Menino also took pride in the 2,000 housing units in development across the city, emphasizing progress in one of the city’s long sought-after projects.
“Here’s the best part: There is a crane over Dudley Square,” he said.
Menino said he wanted the flexibility to change hiring and hours for Boston public schools. He also wants to end the mandated cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the district.
“Our most important collection of talent lies in our young people. And so, our first task is improving public education in our city,” said Menino.
The administration will also back school improvements with funding to the tune of $30 million.
“This year, I will include in my budget new quality improvement funds. They will support great teaching, leadership training, extended time, partnerships and upgraded facilities in our schools that need a higher level of support,” said Menino.
Equality for Women
Gender equality was another theme in the address. Menino said the city would do more to unlock the potential of women in the city.
“In 2013, we will also make Boston a premier city for working women,” said Menino. “Women make up more than half of Boston’s residents, but less than a third of our business owners. We can do better.”
To help achieve his goals, Menino announced Woman on Main, a networking forum for women in business. He also earmarked a $1 million fund for better child care options. The city will also create a women’s workforce council to advocate for Boston women.
“We’ll make Boston the first city in the country to achieve pay equity for women,” said Menino.
To help Boston’s workforce, Menino announce free Harvard and MIT courses offered at community centers.
“Open and online learning has made the whole world a classroom. We should give our residents a front-row seat,” said Menino.
Menino envisioned community centers as “little campuses” to help residents learn.
Gun Control and Safety
During the speech, Menino asked Shirley Clarke to stand. Clark’s son Gabriel was shot walking to choir practice earlier in January. He told her and the rest of the assembled crowd he would continue to work with mayors across the country on gun control. He also said the task force, that earlier in January performed a sweep of gang arrests, would continue to work for the rest of the year.
“Those who bring guns and drugs into our neighborhoods should know, we will bring you to justice,” said Menino.
Menino wrapped up the speech rattling off several more initiatives to help improve the quality of life in the city, including programs for autistic teens, seniors, improving city services, climate work and converting 1 million square feet of city-owned property into affordable housing.
“If we help our neighbors learn more, produce more and succeed more, we’ll do more to help Boston than anyone can do for us,” he said.
“I’ve never in 20 years been more optimistic about our future,” said Menino. “If all this sounds too difficult, I can say to you with complete confidence it is not. Just pull for each other as much as you pulled for me.