Maura In The News

Street repairs eyed for July convention

By Rick Klein, Globe Staff, 10/21/2003

Mayor Thomas M. Menino is considering spending an additional $2.7 million on road improvements and repavement projects to buff up Boston streets for the Democratic National Convention next July.

Menino said yesterday that he is not yet sure whether he will approve the request for additional funding, which is being prepared by his public works commissioner, Joseph F. Casazza. Casazza has said he wants additional funding for the areas around the Fleet Center, the new convention center in South Boston, and the downtown hotels that will house convention delegates.

Even if that money isn't approved, the city will spend about $22 million to improve city roads and sidewalks this fiscal year, which runs through next June. At least some of that work will come in the areas that will be used heavily during the convention, particularly areas that are being affected by the end of the Big Dig, Menino said.

"That's part of the overall plan," the mayor said.

Today, Menino is scheduled to outline a citywide beautification project that includes substantial road improvements in neighborhoods across the city, as part of his "Boston Shines" initiative. The mayor's initiative is meant to target existing resources more efficiently; the only new money is $350,000 for pavement markings and tree trimming, said Lisa Signori, the city's chief financial officer.

"The city is trying to focus and target the resources it uses to keep the city clean," Signori said.

Still, the attention being paid to road paving and maintenance is upsetting several of the city's public employee unions. Nearly all of the city's 17,000 workers are now without contracts, and are locked in tense negotiations for raises with the city. The mayor is anxious to finish talks with more than 30 unions well in advance of the Democratic convention, when Menino wants to showcase Boston for some 35,000 visitors.

Boston this fiscal year budgeted $17 million for collective bargaining raises, and Menino has said repeatedly that the city can't afford much more than that. But the fact that he can find more than $20 million to improve city roads and sidewalks proves that the city's fiscal crisis isn't as severe as the mayor has indicated, said Richard Stutman, president of the Boston Teachers Union.

"We have spent six months listening to the mayor say there's no money, and there's obviously money," Stutman said. "Concentrating on street paving instead of core services is sort of like giving someone a facelift when they need a gallbladder operation. This shows where the priorities are, and it's going to make people upset."

Maura Hennigan, a city councilor at large, said she is glad to see the emphasis on beautification. But she questioned the wisdom of any program that directs resources disproportionately to some areas of the city at the expense of others.

Gearing road repairs and cleanup to the Democratic National Convention puts the priorities of delegates who will be in town less than a week ahead of the needs of tens of thousands of residents, Hennigan said.

"We should be treating everyone the same, whether someone's here for the week, or year-round," she said.

Yesterday, Hennigan unveiled a new website designed to help Boston residents track potholes. The site, www.boston.potholeweb.com, allows users to report potholes and gauge the city's response. She said several neighborhood newspapers have agreed to print lists of unfilled potholes until they are repaired.

Globe correspondent Sasha Talcott contributed to this report. Rick Klein can be reached at [email protected]

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

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