Left field for the Boston Red Sox. As major-league baseball positions go, it’s legendary. From 1940 to 1990, only three guys played left field for the Sox, all of them All-Stars. Ted Williams played it for 22 seasons from 1939 to 1960. Carl Yastrzemski, 23 seasons from 1961 to 1983. Then Jim Ed Rice, 15 seasons from 1974 to 1989. And all that was before Manuel Aristides Ramirez Onelcida.
Being Mayor of Boston is not unlike playing left field for the Red Sox. We’ve had three mayors in 45 years. Kevin White, four terms, 1968 to 1984. Ray Flynn, 2-1/2 terms,1984 to 1993. Then Thomas M. Menino, five terms, 1993 to 2013. And that’s saying nothing about James Michael Curley.
We love our Mayors. Maybe even more than our left fielders. So when Mayor Menino recently decided to call it a career after 20 years, it was very big news for Bostonians.
Forget that TMM was the only Mayor many of our city’s residents had ever known. To the architects in Boston who signed the AIA 2030 Commitment, the bigger question was whether Boston’s next mayor would keep us on track to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. Would Boston’s next Mayor bail from the Green Communities act and the stretch code? Would great programs like the city’s E+ Buildings, Greenovate Boston, and Renew Boston Solar continue to exist?
We can’t answer these questions yet. But lemme tell ya folks. All our Mayoral candidates would feel right at home in Fenway Park, because they’ve all become Green Monsters.
In early June, the Boston Society of Architects hosted a public forum at BSA Space for nine of the aspiring mayors. We framed the central question to the candidates as one of leadership on climate change adaptation, greenhouse gas emission reduction, transportation equity and environmental justice. Later, we delivered a huge “best practices” resilience scan (with many thanks to Linnean Solutions’ crack team of researchers, the Barr Foundation, and the Boston Foundation for Architecture) to the Boston Green Ribbon Commission in the hope that Mayor Menino would leave it on his desk for the next occupant to see.
And truly, many of our fellow citizens have also been carrying the environmental advocacy flag. The Conservation Law Foundation and the Environmental League of Massachusetts hosted an excellent public forum on “Energy, the Environment, and the Innovation Economy”. The Mass League of Environmental Voters (@massenvirovoter) has kept up the social media pressure. Boston’s Foundation for a Green Future hosted a Mayoral “EcoForum” on August 16th. Heck, we haven’t seen this much green in Boston since – oh – last St. Patrick’s Day.
And the candidates have heard us. The Boston Globe recently sent ten questions on environmental policy to a dozen candidates for the City Hall position. Nine responded, and their answers were unanimous. Yes, absolutely, and without question the city should continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. All answered yes to questions on building energy use reporting and disclosure, on resilience and adaptation planning, and on promoting renewable energy.
Some of the candidates are now saying carbon-neutral by 2050. Most call for curbside composting and “pay as you throw” trash handling. They’re also talking more bike lanes, more photovoltaics, more trees, more electric vehicle charging stations. One candidate described coastal marshlands functioning as buffer zones against catastrophic storm surge. One mentioned property-assessed clean energy bonds. Several pointed to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC as a model of progressive policy.
So now the question is: will these claims translate into real state-wide and regional leadership after the election? We can hope. And we’ll be here to remind the new Mayor of promises made!
But for now, Boston’s climate-change activists can take a moment to pat ourselves on the back. Sustainability has traction.
This post originally appeared on the blog of Principal Mike Davis, FAIA.