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On Wednesday, I presided over my final meeting as Council President. These last two years have been as challenging as they have been productive. They have demanded the very best of me, and for every one of my colleagues.
We brought a new level of transparency and accountability to the Council. We rewrote our rules to fully comport with the open meeting law and now require every document that passes through the body to be posted online the same day. Just consider that when I became President two years ago, Bostonians had to come to City Hall, take the elevator to the 6th floor, walk into the clerk’s office, and pay 50 cents at the counter to get a copy of what their government is working on. No longer.
That was a big step forward, and we’re still making strides. Starting in January, the Council will use new technology that will enable us to work smarter as we each work from computer tablets at our desks. Residents will also be able to watch and search meeting videos online.
We weathered one of the worst economic storms in modern history, working closely with the Mayor to enact two of the toughest budgets this City has ever seen. Additionally we facilitated vital economic activity and innovation – creating legislation that will allow a long-term lease on an abandoned structure on the Boston Common, approving patio opening privileges for restaurants in warm weather and potentially creating a whole new industry – food trucks.
We reached outside this building – and outside ourselves for inspiration and problem solving input. We held the first council meetings in the community, traveled to both New York and Los Angeles to learn about best practices, and tapped some of the area’s best minds—from institutions like Harvard, MIT, Northeastern, The Boston Foundation, and the Federal Reserve—to suggest how we might continue our quest to be the best city in America.
At the final meeting of 2010, we accepted a report from Harvard Economist Ed Glaeser—Chair of the Citizens’ Committee on Boston’s Future—and yesterday afternoon, we held a joint meeting with the Cambridge City Council to consider how we might compete more effectively as a region to attract and retain the best talent and the best businesses.
In the past two years, the Council has become more relevant and more responsive to our residents. It served as their voice in the debate over several tough issues. We stood up to both labor and the administration, insisting that a firefighter arbitration award be reworked, saving the City $45 million. We demanded that libraries providing vital community services remain open. We prevented a contract that would put a multinational corporation in charge of the cafeterias that feed our children and continue to work to give all our children access to healthy, fresh foods.
And we managed one of the saddest and most difficult tasks a legislative body like ours will ever face—invoking newly written rules to remove one of our own. It was a difficult decision, but it was made with dignity and respect.
I was able to accomplish all this – and more, with your support, your input and your generosity. I look forward to the year ahead and to your continued friendship.