THE BOSTON mayoral hopefuls are busy attending forums on the issues that will face them if elected. Some have exhorted the candidates to direct attention to Boston’s supposed major problems — the lack of late-night commerce and access to liquor licenses, a limited innovation economy, and too stringent parking and housing space requirements. But many city residents disagree that those are the biggest problems facing the city. For them, the most pressing issues are how to lift the economic well-being of our neighborhoods and move families out of poverty.
A recent analysis by Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies found that poverty in Boston has grown over the past two decades, while the incomes of the richest Bostonians have skyrocketed. From 2009 to 2011, the top 10 percent of Boston families obtained as much income before taxes as the bottom 75 percent of Boston families combined. Families at the 95th percentile earned nearly 40 times the income of those at the 5th percentile. In order for Boston to work, the next mayor must offer a road map out of the poverty and inequality maze.
Boston’s economy is currently prospering. Policies in place include linkage, a fee paid for downtown development, which is widely credited with providing jobs and housing for some of Boston’s poorer citizens. Although the construction of luxury housing is on the rise, the percentage of Boston residents working on projects subject to the Boston Residents Jobs Policy has averaged only about 30 percent, when 50 percent is required by the ordinance. Shouldn’t the goal be to put even more Boston workers on these projects than currently required?