Looking Back at the People and Events that made 2014

Most readers probably think 2014 has been a year of bad news and more bad news. I won’t bore you with the details. You know what they are.

But there have been a few bright spots for Bostonians that should help 2015 be more satisfying.

Cleaner streets are the best news. This has been a long time coming. In the early 2000s, city officials finally decided to tow cars blocking the street cleaner. Downtown neighborhood leaders had been pestering them to do this for a long time, but transportation department officials were afraid of the backlash. And there was a backlash. Inattentive drivers set up a hue and cry about their cars going missing. And then things settled down.

Next, city officials finally extended the street cleaning dates through December in some neighborhoods. So we now have those big cleaners grinding down our streets nine months of the year, as long as snow doesn’t impede their progress.

Finally last summer, in some downtown neighborhoods, one recycling day was added and one trash pickup day eliminated. So now instead of trash bags sitting on the sidewalk and spilling out their contents for up to 19 hours three times a week, legally they can now sit out only twice a week—still for up to 19 hours each day, but who’s counting.

Getting trash off the sidewalks on only that one day has made a difference. The rats and the bag pickers have one less opportunity to strew around the stuff inside the bags. Perhaps it is only my imagination, but it also seems that the doggy doo has been reduced too. Maybe doggy doo is subject to the broken windows theory of crime fighting—less trash on the street has made those dog owners with low IQs more aware of how their dog’s mess dirties the sidewalk.

Another interesting development that could make our lives better if Boston’s Olympics bid is successful is the focus on walkability and public transportation. The Olympics bid is a first—usually plans for big events or large real estate developments focus on cars, even when the organizers are taking walkability into account. If Boston is chosen as the 2024 Summer Olympics location, I hope such a focus will improve walkability and public transportation in the long term. No promises yet, but nevertheless promising.

Finally, Market Basket’s situation has resolved in a way that provides welcome lessons for other businesses. I have yet to enter a Market Basket store, since the long fight between the Demoulas brothers’ families put me off. Maybe now, however, I’ll give them a try.

Not only did the workers prevail, but the head of the company, who is now carrying a big debt burden from buying out the other part of the family, apparently gave his workers a holiday bonus. It must have been a stretch for him.

I’m still not sure I’d like to be friends with any of the members of this belligerent crew, but on the surface at least, this is a company that has decided that doing good will help them do well. It’s such a relief from companies that reduce services to customers, shrink package sizes gradually so customers won’t notice, and replace local service companies with national companies requiring long-time employees to take pay cuts. Such steps may be legal. They may be “good” business. But they are immoral—and they may not even be good business. Market Basket has shown there is another way to profitability and good management.

I’m still wondering, however, how much Market Basket had to pay those supposedly brilliant “co-CEOs,” who, over the summer, allowed things to get so screwed up.

            Finally, on both the city and state fronts, affordable housing seems to have entered the realm of a crisis, and funding seems to be appearing. Will someone actually make that happen? If so, that will be good news for next year.

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