Year in review: Key events of 2013 left indelible mark on Boston
From the departure of Mayor Thomas Menino and the resulting political shakeup to the school assignment policy, Boston underwent major changes in 2013, and not all of them good. The tragic marathon bombing and ensuing days-long manhunt for the perpetrators also left an indelible mark on the city.
The year rolled in quietly, with newly-elected U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren holding a swearing-in ceremony at Roxbury Community College, a move seen by many as an acknowledgement of the pivotal role the state’s black, Latino and Asian voters played in her election.
In March, the Boston School Committee voted to change the school department’s three-zone controlled choice system for the first time since 1989. Racial and ethnic classifications had been dropped as a factor in school assignments in 1999, but parents had lobbied to keep the existing three-zone plan in place to afford families more choices. Then, in 2012, a renewed call for a return to neighborhood schools and an end to busing prompted the latest changes to the policy.
Under the new policy, which will go into effect for the 2014-2015 school year, the school department will generate a list of every school within a one-mile radius of a student’s home, and will include nearby schools in the top-tier of student performance. Parents can rank their choices on the school department generated list. The assignments will be made by lottery.
In one of the more disappointing developments, the Roxbury Comprehensive Community Health Center abruptly shut its doors in February, in the midst of federal and state investigations into the institution’s finances. Employees were left without paychecks and patients were re-assigned to other community health centers. In April, Attorney General Martha Coakley placed RoxComp in receivership. The Warren St. building is likely to be sold to cover the health center’s debts.
In March, an independent audit of Roxbury Community College detailed serious shortcomings in the administration of the school, including misallocation of resources and the underreporting of crimes on campus. RCC President Terrance Gomes resigned. In June, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education approved the RCC Board of Trustees’ selection of Valerie Roberson as the new president of the college.
Also in March, Menino ended weeks of speculation, announcing he would not run for reelection as mayor. The mayor’s announcement led to an outpouring of thanks for his 20 years of service to the city and unleashed a tidal wave of pent-up political ambition as three city councilors gave up the safety of their seats to vie for the corner office.
In all, 12 candidates threw their hat in the race for mayor and 19 for the four at-large City Council seats. And even more running for District Council seats. Menino’s announcement seemingly paved the way for a summer filled with candidate forums, mass mailings, robo calls and door-to-door campaign volunteers.
April 15, 2013 will likely go down in history as one of the most terrifying days the city has endured after brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev detonated two bombs near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring 264. Many Bostonians were gripped by fear in the minutes and hours following the bombing, wondering whether and when another bomb would detonate.
Then, after surveillance videos surfaced with images of the brothers carrying the black duffel bags containing their home-made pressure cooker bombs, the manhunt began. Thursday of that week, the pair killed an MIT security guard and led police on a chase that ended in a shoot-out and the death of Tamerlan. On Friday, Boston-area residents were again gripped by fear as several Greater Boston towns went on lockdown during a daylong manhunt for Dzhokhar, who was found hiding in the backyard of a Watertown home.
It’s hard to imagine Boston being the same after the bombing and its aftermath. And, while the public will likely endure a heavier level of security at public gatherings for the foreseeable future, the courage of first responders — professional and volunteer — and the outpouring of support for the bombing victims and their families left a more indelible mark on the city, summed up with the catchphrase “Boston Strong.”
During the summer months, politics dominated the headlines as dozens of candidates vied for city council seats and the mayor’s office. The trial of South Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger dragged on in federal court as African American Judge Denise Casper kept a cool steady hand on the proceedings as the jury made its way to an inevitable guilty verdict in August. The headline, “Whitey found guilty,” was a long time coming.
On the development front, Roxbury’s landscape changed materially. The Ferdinand Building, which will house the city’s school department, evolved as a steel frame grew behind the building’s limestone and brick facade and red brick and glass curtain walls enclosed the empty spaces that for decades have made Dudley’s anchor building an eyesore.
Colorful graffiti covered the walls of the old Bartlett Street bus yard in advance of the site’s demolition, planned to commence in 2014. New housing and commercial space is planned for the site.
And along Quincy Street in Dorchester, new housing units and commercial spaces are taking shape, the fruits of nearly $100 million in investment.
In Jackson Square, a 103-unit $53 million mixed-income development, 225 Centre, went from bare bones to almost complete.
As September rolled around, mayoral and City Council politics were front and center. The mayor’s race whittled down to at-large Councilor John Connolly, and state Rep. Marty Walsh. Black, Latino and Asian activists inserted their issues into the race, calling on candidates to diversify City Hall and the police department, bring transparency and accountability to the Boston Redevelopment Authority and work to close the achievement gap in the city’s schools.
In what could be a signal of the growing clout in communities of color, both candidates signed on to the agenda advanced by the activists.
When Walsh sailed to victory on Nov. 5, he did so with the support of 60 percent of black and Latino voters.
As Walsh began assembling a leadership team, the state Senate voted to up the state’s minimum wage to $11 an hour. Meanwhile, a union-backed coalition submitted 275,000 signatures securing a spot on this year’s ballot for a question that would up the minimum wage to $10.50, plus guarantee Massachusetts workers paid sick time.
In 2014, a new mayoral administration takes power with new faces, new policies and new possibilities. This year, we can expect to see a new Dudley Square with new office space and retail bringing renewed economic activity to Roxbury’s commercial hub.
There will be new campaigns vying for the support of voters of color, with a growing field of gubernatorial candidates and contested races for treasurer and attorney general rounding out ballots. It will be the first year for the new school assignment process. Workers may or may not see a higher minimum wage in Massachusetts.
The changes this year brings will be momentous. And the Banner will be here, bringing our readers the news. Happy New Year 2014!