Power 2008: The Elements of Influence
The 50 most powerful people in town, as ranked by the most powerful people in town.
Try to gauge whether one Bostonian is more powerful than another, and you inevitably wind up with a series of infuriating Zen koans, such as “Is MFA chief Malcolm Rogers more powerful than über-philanthropist Barbara Hostetter?” Power changes, it overlaps, it leeches off of other power to sustain its growth. It can be intimidating, inspiring, and, most of all, fleeting. But it’s also nearly impossible to quantify.
Which is why this year, we’re taking a different tack. Breaking the Hub power structure into its 13 essential elements, we profile the local potentate who epitomizes each one: from power gained from philanthropy to power gained from coercion and domination; from those establishing Boston as a cultural tastemaker to the development titans sending a resolutely squat city vertical. Taken together, these case studies give a good sense of the kinds of people who make things happen around here, and — more interestingly — how.
What these case studies are not, though, is a ranking. So to those featured: No, you can’t go make up T-shirts touting your being named among the 13 most powerful people in town. For that sort of validation, you’ll have to consult this roster. It’s based on the one criterion you actually can use to construct a reasonably accurate power hierarchy: how well a practitioner’s peers think he or she plays the game. —Joe Keohane
Case Study: Thomas Menino, mayor of Boston
TOM MENINO OWNS THIS TOWN.
He can steer public works projects and contracts, raise or level buildings, make zoning laws vanish with the wave of a hand. The network of allies he has installed in elected office or on municipal boards over the years (“wholly owned subsidiaries of the Menino Machine,” as one City Hall insider describes it) can sway votes, deliver jobs, and send enemies like Bernie Margolis, the soon-to-be-former Boston Public Library head, to the breadline at a moment’s notice. His name is ubiquitous, on everything from city signs to umbrellas to hospital wings. And woe unto those who forget this. “Nothing is beyond or beneath his focus of what he needs to know and control,” says a second City Hall insider.
Constitutionally, Boston’s mayors are among the most powerful in the nation. And that, coupled with his unmatched political instincts, has made Menino one of the most powerful in city history. The former Hyde Park city councilor saw Mayor Ray Flynn leaving earlier than anybody else, and put himself in the position to take over long before prospective rivals could even think of trying to use the council presidency to get next in line. He quickly cemented his authority by applying the ethos of a district councilor to the mayor’s office, shaming would-be challengers with a drive that even now has him pulling 16-hour days and fielding calls from constituents at home — a regimen that’s to thank for his ballyhooed grassroots support. “He outworks everybody,” says city Councilor Rob Consalvo. “He’s at every event he’s invited to, whether there are two people there or 2,000.”
But most importantly, Menino, in stark contrast with old-school Boston bosses like James Michael Curley and Kevin White, has kept his nose clean and his aides out of jail. This allows him to “play offense, not defense,” in the words of one City Hall observer. Plus, he’s never entertained notions of running for higher office. “His sole focus has been on city government,” says a second observer. “He’s never had one eye on another office. And over time, when you’re not distracted, you accumulate an enormous amount of knowledge of how to use your power to attain results.”
Because Menino is for the most part politically invincible, there’s no real need to build consensus, or don the velvet glove, or engage in any of the sort of undesirable obsequiousness to which less well-situated leaders must condescend from time to time. The final word is always his.
“Anything that happens in this town runs through the fifth floor,” another City Hall insider says, referring to the mayor’s office. If the proper channels aren’t strictly followed, the boss gets mad, and “projects get delayed.” Menino’s temper can be explosive, his memory long. And for those still tempted to cross him, well, recent history is littered with object lessons.
Consider John Hynes, the would-be Seaport Square developer who ran afoul of the mayor for talking too much to the press, floating a City Hall land swap to a Boston Redevelopment Authority official on a napkin (which, naturally, got back to Menino), and proposing to build a private school on his property. “All of a sudden, Hynes has a dozen calls in to City Hall and can’t get one returned,” the second insider says. “[The mayor] fucks around with these people, threatens them and bullies them.” Abusive tirades even for lesser transgressions are commonplace. “He gives no quarter to anyone else in elected office,” the second insider says.
Tales abound in City Hall of Menino mugging councilors who might be garnering a little too much favorable press for their ideas. (Most recently, that was Consalvo himself: His smart plan to require lenders to register and maintain properties they’ve foreclosed upon has been neatly repurposed into a new signature Menino initiative.) The first insider complains, “A lot of it is personal. People shouldn’t be getting phone calls because they’re not clapping enough at an event. On a personal level, he’s a good guy. But when they want to be, [his people] can be real ball-busters.”
But then, Menino, peerlessly shrewd politician that he is, wouldn’t employ such tactics if they didn’t work. And work, they do. As he approaches the record for longest-serving mayor next year, his grip on the city looks as secure as ever. As Consalvo notes: “He’s unbeatable.” —Paul McMorrow
Because even urban mechanics feel the itch to step off the block (and into the national spotlight) once in a while.
While Menino hasn’t used his high favorability ratings to chase higher office, he’s made sure his big initiatives get the attention of wider audiences, in places where the letter “r” is fully enunciated.
—Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the advocacy group that Menino cofounded with New York City’s Michael Bloomberg in 2006, has swelled into a national powerhouse. In its biggest victory so far, the bipartisan group last month convinced Wal-Mart, the country’s largest firearms seller, to join a sweeping database that helps track gun criminals.
—As head of the U.S. Conference of Mayors from 2002 to 2003, Menino took affordable-housing demands to Congress and the White House. He’s also been a vociferous critic of federal aid cuts for housing and antiviolence initiatives.
—Menino’s wildly successful Main Streets program, the cornerstone of his focus on neighborhood-level development, won him recognition as one of Governing magazine’s public officials of the year in 2001. The magazine, a national force for policy cross-pollination, has also hailed Menino’s new Foreclosure Intervention Team as a model, and this spring Harvard’s Kennedy School named that same effort one of the 50 best government innovations of the year.
Case Study: Martha Coakley, Massachusetts attorney general
WHEN REPUBLICAN LAWYER and local Machiavelli Dan Winslow first met Martha Coakley, he was struck by how the state’s first woman AG had never come uncoupled from her Catholic upbringing in North Adams. There she was, “fretting about whether to eat meat on a Friday,” he laughs. In fact, Coakley’s good-Catholic-girl persona is key to her effectiveness, as she’s marshaled a growing list of big-ticket wins in her first year and a half in office.
Though she made her name in the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office on high-profile cases — prosecuting the likes of notorious nanny Louise Woodward and lecherous priest Paul Shanley — Coakley has taken a less flashy line as AG. In her biggest case so far, she defused predecessor Tom Reilly’s noisy and futile attempt to bring criminal charges against the Big Dig contractors responsible for the death of Milena Del Valle, opting instead to negotiate behind the scenes to secure a $458 million settlement. But like pre–gubernatorial candidate Reilly, she also knows the im
portance of picking critical public fights, which for her meant introducing healthcare reforms and installing some of the nation’s more aggressive regulations for subprime mortgages.
To the frustration of her fans, Coakley tends to play down such triumphs in the press. “My only criticism is that she isn’t quite as political as she could be,” says an insider in the AG’s office. “If her goal in life were to be governor, she could be doing more.” Still, strategically, her stance is a canny one: The chronic weakness of the corner office’s current occupant is that he talks big but doesn’t deliver, and by keeping her head down, Coakley (who a source suggests has begun fundraising for a possible gubernatorial run) has already built a track record that eclipses his. —Julia Reischel
Case Study: Reverend Ray Hammond, pastor, Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church
IT’S BEEN 20 YEARS since Reverend Ray Hammond founded Bethel A.M.E. in his Dorchester dining room, and until his upcoming move to the former St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Jamaica Plain is complete, he’ll continue preaching to his flock on folding chairs in an old school gym. If it seems a little odd for the city’s most connected preacher to have spent so long in such rude lodgings, well, that’s just Pastor Ray, says Reverend Richard Richardson, associate pastor of St. Paul A.M.E. in Cambridge. “He didn’t rush to try to become something bigger than what God would have him be.”
Hammond may be humble (he declined to be photographed for this story), but he’s deeply dug in: He chairs the board of the Boston Foundation, is a trustee of the Yawkey Foundation II, and is also chairman of the Ten Point Coalition, the community group behind Boston’s successful efforts to quell gang violence in the ’90s. That combination of reticence and diverse alliances makes Hammond emblematic of the evolution of religious power in this growingly secular city, with its history of soapboxing religio-political leaders. It also sets him apart from fellow clergy like Bruce Wall and Eugene Rivers, whose barnstorming verbosity won them entrance into the halls of power — and later, summary banishment. “Ray has had a relationship with everybody who’s shared an office on the second floor since Weld. He walks in those circles,” says his friend Horace Small, head of the Union of Minority Neighborhoods. While often frustrated with what he sees as Hammond’s reluctance to upset the city’s largely white power structure, Small understands it’s based in strategy as well as temperament. “With Ray, it’s like, ‘I won’t stick my neck out, because I want to be here to fight another day,'” Small says. “I understand it. I understand that this is Boston.” —Lissa Harris
Case Study: Michael Widmer, president, Massachusetts Taxpayers Association
THE BUDGET CRUNCH on Beacon Hill has meant boom times for Michael Widmer, the go-to for expert commentary on the state’s bottom line. Every day, it seems, the 15-year head of the business-backed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation (MTF) is in the papers, weighing in on everything from Turnpike reform to universal healthcare to Patrick’s casino push (which his group’s research helped torpedo). “The governor’s people get all fired up when Widmer gets quoted,” says one State House observer. Though they may not like it, he’s just filling a vacuum unique to blue Massachusetts, where, with no credible opposition party in place, the vital task of kiboshing half-baked initiatives often falls to analysts like him.
Widmer started his career working for United Press International and then the Sargent and Dukakis administrations. He uses his press and policy savvy to win attention for the MTF’s excruciatingly rigorous research. Its casino report, for example, “went through at least 40 edits,” says Andy Bagley, a senior policy analyst at the foundation. Steve Silveira, a government relations consultant at ML Strategies, worked with Widmer on the blue-ribbon Transportation Finance Commission responsible for last year’s damning report on the state’s $20 billion infrastructure shortfall. That one went through 17 drafts. “We probably would have done it in 12 but for Mike,” Silveira says. Even Citizens for Limited Taxation’s Barbara Anderson, who considers MTF “our number one enemy in the antitax movement” due to its opposition to tax cuts, admits that she uses Widmer’s research “all the time.”
“I do relish the role,” Widmer says, “but what I’ve tried to do here has been focused on trying to solve public policy problems.” As to whether the class of fauna roving Beacon Hill is actually capable of taking steps to reverse the deepening economic funk, he says, “I think the capacity is there. And the crisis may be there soon enough to force that kind of action.” In the meantime, count on Widmer to continue popping those balloons. —Joe Keohane
Case Study: Jan Saragoni, founder, Saragoni & Company; Michael Goldman, senior consultant, Government Insight Group
ALL POWER IS DERIVED in large part from relationships, but in Boston — where media, politics, and PR are connected to the point of symbiosis — those who manage to move gracefully among the three (i.e., schmooze like a champ) may find themselves disproportionately successful. Exhibit A: Jan Saragoni and Michael Goldman.
Saragoni professes hatred for the word “schmooze” because it sounds “slippery and superficial.” She prefers to describe her job as “czarina of public relations.” Whatever you want to call it — working a room, chatting up the press, making introductions and connections, trafficking in information — she’s got a gift. A former Associated Press reporter, she worked for Kevin White and Michael Dukakis before founding her own boutique PR agency; combined with her service on the boards of the Greenway Conservancy and the Mass. Women’s Political Caucus, it’s a résumé that’s ensured she’s always got juicy gossip to share with journalists, many of whom then become happy to return the favor. “When I was at the Globe, everyone took her calls, and everyone was talking about what she was pitching,” says Doreen Vigue, now a NECN spokeswoman. “She’s a news junkie. She’s everywhere. And she knows every power broker in town.”
For his part, Goldman does not share Saragoni’s reservations about the dirty word: “Schmooz” is actually in his e-mail address. After 200-odd political campaigns and untold numbers of panicked phone calls from reporters on deadline, he remains constantly available to trade gossip, unleash a devastating joke, provide contacts, or relay a story about an old legislative battle. (Over the years, he’s turned up in so many articles that the Globe has had to periodically ban reporters from quoting him.)
One Democratic operative recalls being in a campaign meeting when Goldman received a tip. “I watched for 12 minutes while he made 15 phone calls. He turned one bit of information into seven hits. It was a flurry.” It was for that aptitude that Deval Patrick’s chief of staff, Doug Rubin, tapped Goldman to serve as an informal adviser to his boss, who’s certainly needed the help. “He really believes what he says. It’s not just spin,” Rubin says. Though at meetings, he adds, “it’s tough to get a word in edgewise. You’ve got to set aside a little bit more time for the conversation.” —Paul McMorrow
Case Study: Steve Belkin, founder and chairman, Trans National Group
BOSTON ISN’T ORDINARILY a place where people can use the sheer force of money to get what they want. But Mayor Menino inadvertently provided the opportunity to do just that with his call for a Hancock-dwarfing, 1,000-foot downtown skyscraper — and it was Steve Belkin who had the pluck to seize it. Never mind that the 61-year-old entrepreneur and philanthropist had no applicable development experience whatsoever. (“Most people don’t decide to build their first project, beyond their home and renovations in their bathroom, on this scale,” one local developer grouses.) He had the financial resources and, as luck would have it, the deed to an integral property next door to the proposed site. When the mayor called for bids, Belkin’s was the only one.
He remains singularly in charge. After Belkin’s bid was accepted, a number of more experienced hands knocked on his door seeking a partnership, but he opted to build his tower (to be named Trans National Place, after the company that has earned him an estimated personal fortune of $300 million) on his own, raising the equity to secure the loan himself. “You get to a certain point and you can’t spend all the money you made,” says the local developer. “He doesn’t need to do anything anymore, so for him this is probably a hobby.”
Belkin, though, insists he’s for real, and he’s got a highly specific vision for his tower. Going it alone has allowed him to maintain complete control of the project, which last year lost its original architect, the famed Renzo Piano (who reportedly quit over creative differences with the boss), and now lags a year behind schedule. And if renewed pushback emerges at the prospect of such a giant structure, not having co-owners’ worries to massage should help Belkin stay focused on his prize. Let the NIMBY nabobs complain about the threat of a large new shadow descending on Boston Common. The tower, says Belkin, is “really a reflection of Boston in the future.” —Jesse Noyes
Case Study: George Regan, president, Regan Communications Group
HE’S A ONE-NAME bogeyman, known all over town simply as “George.” His firm reps some of the biggest brands in New England (among them the Celtics, the Pats, Dunkin’ Donuts, Mohegan Sun, Bank of America, New Balance, and, we are obligated to note, this very magazine). But in certain circles what he does for his clients is never discussed so much as what he might do to them. In a lot of ways, George Regan is thought of as a rottweiler on a leash: He may be guarding your yard, but if he breaks his chain you’re as likely to get bitten as anyone else.
“He runs a protection racket,” says one former employee. “Clients pay him not to screw them over.” But someone else familiar with Regan’s volatile style notes it’s important to consider it within the context of Boston’s broader power dynamics, in which clout shifts slowly, grudge-holding is an honored pastime, and everyone knows everyone else. “There’s a method to the madness,” says the source. “This is a small town — when he goes crazy for them and acts like an asshole, clients like that. He has a battle mentality. He gets into the fray so his clients don’t have to. You love a guy like that.” —John Gonzalez
Blind quotes (what other kind would they be?) on three other things renowned for scaring the bejesus out of eminent Bostonians.
—Tom Nee, president, Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association: “He’s a yeller, he threatens people,” says a City Hall watcher. “He’s an absolute bully. And apparently, it works.” After famously terrorizing Mayor Menino throughout much of 2004 — picketing Democratic National Convention work sites and sending an army of cops to forcefully occupy the city council chambers — three years later Nee got what he was after when the city, fearing another blowup, finally relaxed its long-standing requirement that BPD cops live within city limits.
h;Howie Carr, columnist, Boston Herald; radio host, WRKO: “If he’s writing about you, he’s killing you,” says a local power player. Adds a City Hall insider: “People take a deep breath, open up the Herald, and pray that their names aren’t in there. He’s vicious.” And because of that, sources feed Carr information in the hopes not that he’ll help them down the road, but that he won’t murder them day in and day out, on the radio and in the paper, sometimes for years, before a reliably jaded and pissed-off audience.
—Page One: It may be a little low on cred these days, but as public humiliation goes, the Herald‘s front page is still unrivaled in its merciless effectiveness. Consider the unfortunate city councilor whose crackdown on ice cream truck music was splashed on the tab’s front page last year. “All of a sudden, I was the butt of jokes on every radio station in the state,” says the councilor (okay, it’s Sal LaMattina, who deserves credit for putting his name on the unhappy memory). “It went national. I was getting prank phone calls with ice cream truck music!”
Case Study: Paul Grogan, president and CEO, the Boston Foundation
IN NEW YORK, power is money; in L.A., it’s fame. In Boston, it’s philanthropy. “It’s fundamental to how we think of ourselves as a city,” says Geri Denterlein, founder of Denterlein Worldwide Public Affairs, a stalwart of the scene. “It’s central to our self-image.”
Few understand this better than Paul Grogan. Since taking the reins at the Boston Foundation in 2001, the former aide to mayors White and Flynn has doubled the foundation’s assets to nearly $1 billion and shifted it into a policymaking force — taking the lead on pilot schools, affordable housing, and inner-city crime, to name a few. Currently, Governor Patrick is using a foundation study to support his push to reform the state’s controversial criminal-records law. “[Grogan] is absolutely key to the progress that this city is trying to make,” says Jack Meyer, founder of Convexity Capital Management and a Boston Foundation board member.
Grogan frequently turns up as a possible mayoral candidate, and while he has pledged not to run in ’09, that’s done little to ease the long-standing tension between him and Mayor Menino. He is “very interested in being a leader, and being viewed as a leader,” says Cindy Rizzo, a former foundation director of grantmaking. “He’s strong-willed, and the mayor’s strong-willed. That’s a difficult dynamic.” The friction springs in large part from the media’s affinity for Grogan, a prodigious (and often bracingly candid) quote machine. “The press has made him viable by talking about him all the time,” says one political insider, “and he’s made himself viable by being smart, and by playing himself well politically.” Indeed, it’s a testament to Grogan’s clout that he’s the one potential threat the mayor can’t publicly move to squash: The veritable cloak of benevolence makes him politically bulletproof. —Joe Keohane
Case Study: New England Sports Ventures
For two years now, media critics have been up in arms over the Globe‘s fawning coverage of Red Sox Destinations travel packages, Eagle Destinations travel packages for BC athletics, and, most notably, NASCAR’s Roush Fenway Racing team. All of which are owned by John Henry and company’s New England Sports Ventures (NESV), and by extension the New York Times Company, which — hence the squeals — owns both the Globe and a stake in NESV. “It’s obnoxious,” says one local sports industry veteran. “It wouldn’t have happened in the old days.” Such gripes miss a crucial fact, though: When you’ve assembled the devastatingly effective machine that Henry has, you get to write your own rules.
Along with the travel packages and the NASCAR team, New England Sports Ventures also encompasses the Red Sox and the team’s marketing arm, Fenway Sports Group, as well as Fenway Park and New England Sports Network. It makes for a ton of leverage, and Henry’s people aren’t shy about using it. For years, they quietly worked to stall developer John Rosenthal’s plans for his Kenmore property, relenting only once his designs were more to their liking (and after they’d acquired a stake in the project). When not busy reshaping the city blocks around the stadium, NESV is jacking up Sox ticket prices — already the priciest in baseball before they went up another 9 percent this year — to scant complaints from the true believers helping to fund the Epsteinian master plan that looks likely to ensure winning teams (and continued hikes) well into the future. In a further demonstration of synergistic prowess, Fenway Sports Group also takes on its own advertising clients, many of whom are already in partnership with the Sox. In the spring of 2005, after longtime Sox advertiser Dunkin’ Donuts hired it to develop a campaign for iced lattes, Fenway Sports Group dreamed up a spot starring Johnny Damon and Theo Epstein that aired in a seemingly endless loop on NESN during games. This spring, it’s Jonathan Papelbon hawking the new line of Dunkin’ flatbread sandwiches and personal pizzas.
With Boston College as another big client, NESV has access not only to New England’s baseball fans, but also to local students. Throw in the NASCAR crowd drawn by Roush Fenway, and John Henry is building a coalition broad enough to support a run for office. If he ever does, he’ll already have his campaign infrastructure in place. —Jason Schwartz
Case Study: Jill Medvedow, director, Institute of Contemporary Art
THE FAR-REACHING waterfront view from Jill Medvedow’s third-floor office at the ICA is a remarkably poignant reminder of the endless possibilities and serious longshots that marked seven years of her life. In 1999, when the newly named museum director began her campaign to move the ailing institution out of its sad-sack Back Bay space and into a modern, architecturally groundbreaking structure, everyone said it couldn’t be done. With $50 million to raise, a city of skeptical old Brahmins who never really liked or understood contemporary art, and the desolate Fan Pier (Fan Pier?) as her targeted promised land, she was branded a crazy optimist at best.
In the end, Medvedow blew past the fundraising goal by $15 million. And now former naysayers call her something else: the velvet hammer. “When they sense someone’s coming to ask for money, most people run in the other direction,” says ICA overseer and Back Bay gallery owner Barbara Krakow. “Jill had to go out and engage the visibly reluctant. But then she was like the Pied Piper.” The new building drew upward of 300,000 visitors its first year, 272,000 more than the average at the ICA’s old digs. Membership has increased sevenfold. And seldom does a day pass when someone isn’t touting the ICA building as the jewel of the waterfront, the very essence of all that’s possible for a once stodgy city. (Everyone wants to take credit for the fact that Boston’s a-changing — with that change adopting the form of everything from big-name retail outposts to risk-taking chefs — but let’s be clear: Out-of-towners don’t come here for Barneys.)
“In a word,” longtime museum trustee Steve Corkin says of Medvedow, “she’s a force.” —Alyssa Giacobbe
*A dizzyingly multifaceted approach to influence, as popularized by Jack Connors.
Case Study: John Fish, CEO, Suffolk Construction
TIME WAS, JOHN FISH was just a hard-nosed construction brute whose pursuit of cheap labor meant pissing off unions and slapping around subcontractors. Then he got wise to a much better way to get ahead in this town — not merely with hard work, but also with equally relentless pleasantries. “To me, everybody’s a client,” he tells a reporter, sitting in his Roxbury office. “What can we do to exceed people’s expectation? My hope today is to exceed your expectation — what did you expect when you came to see John Fish?”
The answer: a man diligently following the playbook of his mentor, Jack Connors, the preternaturally involved Hill, Holliday founder who now serves as chairman of Partners HealthCare and all-around éminence grise. Fish is on the board of 11 nonprofit community groups, and is known for giving his time and money zealously. And like any smart Boston operator, he uses relationships developed through those efforts to fatten his bottom line. While he talks about his charity work with conviction, he admits it’s part of a strategic plan. “There are three circles of influence: political, business, and nonprofit. We try to make sure we have a very good handle on the three.”
Ask developers where they first met Fish, and it’s likely to have been at a board meeting or philanthropic event. That’s how he connected with real estate titan Steve Samuels, who was originally reluctant to go with Fish. The two sat down, and Fish, showing flashes of Connors-grade salesmanship, admitted it all: He’d made mistakes early on, and built his company on the lessons learned. “It was such an honest approach that I totally related to it,” Samuels says. He’s since given Fish more than $350 million in business — some of which is part of the nearly $1.25 billion worth of projects Fish now has in motion in Boston alone. —Jason Feifer
Case Study: Joshua Boger, founder, president, and CEO, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
IF YOU TALK ABOUT BUSINESS in Massachusetts, you’re increasingly talking about science, as well. If you talk about science, you’re also talking about academia. And if you talk about the interaction of these three things, you end up talking about one guy: Joshua Boger.
Boger holds outsize clout despite the fact that his Cambridge-based biotech firm isn’t nearly the size of Henri Termeer’s Genzyme or Jim Mullen’s Biogen Idec. That’s mainly because, unlike many of his peers — who feel that since they represent the future, politicians should come to them — he sees the value of involving himself deeply in Beacon Hill affairs. It was Boger, for instance, who took the lead in pushing Deval Patrick to take up his $1 billion life-sciences incentives package, doing so in a way that wisely recognized the broader benefits: The more jobs created, the more tax dollars for funding the governor’s many campaign promises.
The same MO informs Boger’s pull-enhancing extracurricular pursuits. He is the first biotech guy in nearly a decade to chair the board of the Massachusetts High Technology Council, and also chairs a national biotech trade organization. He sits on the board of fellows at Harvard Medical School, is a contributor to the Greater Boston Food Bank’s capital campaign, and last year flew to China with Patrick to drum up business for Bay State companies. As the man himself notes, “I don’t see boundaries all that clearly.” Whether his industry counterparts become big civic players, too, depends on their ability to develop the same tendency. —Paul Kix
BRAINS AND BRAWN
How Harvard’s new president is proving the doubters wrong.
When she was picked for the job last year, detractors wondered whether an unassuming history scholar would have the chops to run the World’s Greatest University at a time of such upheaval. But Drew Gilpin Faust has proven a savvy operator. With Congress making noises about forcing schools with multibillion-dollar endowments to offset tuition costs for middle- and low-income students, Faust unveiled a program that allowed families making between $120,000 and $180,000 a year to pay 10 percent of their income, and families making under $120,000 to pay less, down to free tuition for those at $60,000 and below. The plan was only a minor improvement on the school’s former policy, but the timing permitted the normally rapacious Harvard to seem downright benevolent—even though, had Washington been dictating the terms, it would have been compelled to shell out considerably more. No fewer than seven colleges have since aped Faust’s move.
Case Study: The Beacon Hill Civic Association
NOT TOO LONG AGO, City Hall was in the habit of steamrolling neighborhood opposition to development, and indeed, whole neighborhoods. It’s since decided there are more votes in appeasing constituent discontent than in hurling a wrecking ball at it. And so it is that anyone looking to put up a building, serve booze, or so much as engage the services of a valet company in Boston’s politically active quarters first has to meet the locals and kiss their rings. “Some residents are more interested in preserving the character and quality of their neighborhood,” says someone close to the development industry. “Then there are professional community activists. For them, it’s a sport.”
While similar groups in the Back Bay and Brighton have exerted plenty of influence in the past, at the moment it’s the Beacon Hill Civic Association that’s flexing its muscles better than anyone in town, led by chairman
John Achatz, president Lori Bate, institutional planning committee co-chair Ania Camargo, and executive director Suzanne Besser. “It’s amazing the way they’re organized, their depth,” says the development source. “It’s fantastic. I don’t envy Suffolk, having to deal with that.”
Suffolk, of course, would be Suffolk University, which two years ago, with the mayor’s support, tried to plop a 500-bed dorm by the Adams Courthouse—not a charming residential block by any stretch. Neighborhood residents, spurred on by the association, rose up against the plan, waging a campaign the Globe neatly summarized as “bruising.” Menino withdrew his support; the university shifted the dorm project to Downtown Crossing, where, not for nothing, there are few neighbors to mount uprisings. Suffolk is now drafting long-range development plans that will include the target of housing most of its students on campus; Achatz’s group, meanwhile, continues to push the school to “channel expansion” away from Beacon Hill. As one City Hall source says: “It’s clear where they won’t be able to build.” —Paul McMorrow
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2008/04/power-2008-the-elements-of-influence/