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A tough standard for 2012

A tough standard for 2012
“It makes you feel good when the government is working in your interests.”

A tough standard for 2012

Average citizens have an often unrequited desire for elected public officials to act in the best interests of the general public. There is a belief that only the rich and powerful have access to the realms of government. However, there was considerable evidence in 2011 that some elected officials were actively serving the electorate.

Steven Grossman — State Treasurer

One would not think that the domain of high finance would provide much opportunity to benefit citizens unless they were enrolled on the lists of the wealthy. However, as chairman of the nine-member Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management (PRIM) Board that manages the $48 billion fund to finance state pensions, Steven Grossman has found a way to have an impact for change.

PRIM investments in corporations are substantial. As major shareholders, PRIM reviews the hiring policies of companies to assure that they provide equal employment opportunities. PRIM also campaigns for racial and gender diversity on the boards of directors.

Indeed, the Treasurer’s Office must also meet the tough standards for diversity in employment that they have set for corporations in which PRIM invests. According to employment records, more than half of all new hires at the Treasury have been African American, Hispanic, Asian or Native American.

In meetings with small business groups around the state, Grossman found that they had difficulty in getting bank loans. To help solve the problem, he removed $154 million in state funds from major banks and put up to $5,000,000 in deposits in each of 36 small banks throughout the state. The banks can keep these low interest deposits, provided that they lend to small businesses.

In 2011, Grossman employed an imaginative use of the powers of the Treasurer’s Office to benefit small business and those seeking employment.

Mayor Tom Menino

Cities across the country have been facing financial crises in recent years. Boston is no exception. Nonetheless, Mayor Tom Menino has not let financial concerns unduly influence policies that are best for the city.

When Wal-Mart tried to build a store in Roxbury, it would have been easy to cut a helpful financial deal and let the project proceed. But City Hall understood that the issue was very complicated, and the project was tabled.

It has long been recognized that development of the Ferdinand’s site is essential for the revival of Dudley Square. Few in the community expected much to happen in this economic environment, but the mayor found a way to proceed. Menino even expanded the project to include two adjacent buildings that were not in the best condition.

Menino has always held himself out as the education mayor. He demonstrated the breadth of his commitment to education by appointing Meg Campbell, the founder of a charter school, to the public school committee. This is a major acknowledgement by City Hall of official acceptance of the charter school approach to education.

During 2011, Menino’s positive and upbeat demeanor was an inspiration to Boston residents struggling with unemployment and mortgage foreclosures.

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