The Skinny

| Boston Magazine |

JEALOUS

Bostonians longing for a real mayoral race, as their neighbors to the west enjoy a vigorous exercise in municipal campaigning.

Whereas Hizzoner-for-Life Tom Menino swiftly crushes his challengers before they can even spit out the word "policy," in Newton the 2009 mayoral candidates are committed to full-throated competition. So much so that they’re even blogging together.

"We’re hoping for a good, robust debate of the issues," says Newton Tab editor-in-chief Greg Reibman, who set up the blog Newton’s Next Mayor on his paper’s website. Candidates Ken Parker (a city alderman, shown above left) and Setti Warren (a former John Kerry aide, above right) both post regularly; anyone else who officially enters the race, Reibman says, will be welcome, too.

"When you’re able to share ideas in a substantive way with someone you’re running against, it works well for the voters," says Warren. Echoes Parker, "We’re going to work together for the future of the city."

It’s hard to believe things will remain so kumbaya through November. But for now, respectful civic discourse reigns. For now. - Jason Schwartz

APPEASED

Toxin-conscious moms and dads at a Cambridge private school.

When the International School of Boston decided to replace its old sand and gravel playground with artificial turf, many parents protested that the faux field would contain lead and other potentially hazardous materials. So ISB did what any self-respecting Cantabrigian establishment would do and went all-natural, dropping $300,000 to install the nation’s first artificial turf with an infill made of cork and coconut shell.

While the eco-friendly option might be too dear for other Boston-area schools (it costs 10 percent more than rubber infill), ISB head John Larner insists it’s worth it. "We were concerned about the children’s health," he says, adding that he’s also resolved "to be as environmentally friendly as possible." So far, mission accomplished—with an added bonus on the health front: Since the gravelly field was replaced, there’s been a 70 percent decrease in student injuries. "My job is definitely easier now," school nurse Christine Mabardy-Higgins reports. – Christina Koningisor

 

DATA SET

Number of "violence interrupters" Boston begins recruiting this month as part of a new initiative to reduce gang crime……25
Their expected workday……6 p.m.–2 a.m.
Year that members of a previous street-worker program unionized……1997
Their subsequent quitting time……9 p.m.

ON HOLD

Owners of more than half the new condos at the Mandarin Oriental.

Though the final sales of the 49 units in the Back Bay project closed in October, the aforementioned buyers were still waiting to move in as of mid-December. Why the delay? Chalk it up to a potent mix of ambitious plans and a level of fussiness that seems like an extreme luxury these days. 

Although residents could have outfitted their units with a base package including Poggenpohl cabinets and Portofino marble, the majority opted to go even higher-end. The building’s general contractor, Suffolk Construction, formed a division to do many of those build-outs, and sold $46 million worth of upgrades to some 43 buyers. While that finish work has been under way, other logistical details have needed ironing out. Last month one buyer hired a construction crane to move artwork in through an upper-floor window. Another is importing wood from a castle in France and repurposing it into flooring.

Even project partner Robin Brown is deciding to wait—at least until his favorite painters find time to do his walls. "This was a three-dimensional chess game; it was crazy," he says. But it’s not as though the players don’t have anywhere else to lay their well-coiffed heads: Brown points out that about half the not-yet-occupants are wintering comfortably in Florida. - Francis Storrs

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