Last week, Mike Monahan, the Vice Chair of the Boston Planning and Development Agency was heard asking, “Will white and colored people be paid the same?” I don’t know the context, and I don’t really care. It stings to hear a racist word, loaded with violence against the Black community.
For so many Black Bostonians, myself included, it’s just another reminder that the BPDA is as outdated as the term “colored people.” It’s hardly surprising to hear racist language from an institution that has its roots in the racist urban renewal that literally bulldozed Black, Brown, and Asian neighborhoods, ignoring our opposition.
The BPDA, Marty Walsh’s rebranded Boston Redevelopment Agency, holds a huge amount of power over communities — and has used it for personal gain as recently as 2018, when one official was caught on film accepting $50,000 in cash bribes. But it’s not just corruption that’s the problem here — the BPDA caters to developers while steamrolling over neighborhood concerns. It’s not accountable to voters, and it gets all its funding from developers.
Planning and development in our city shouldn’t be in the hands of unelected power brokers who answer to no one but the developers. We demand a transparent, democratic planning process. The BPDA should be dismantled, and in its place, we should build a democratic, accountable planning system. I’m hopeful that as Kim Janey is poised to make history in Boston, we’re heading for a new regime around planning. I expect to hear from every mayoral candidate about how they’ll end the BPDA’s unaccountable reign.
Oh, and Mr. Monahan should apologize immediately if not sooner. If he wants to continue in public service, he should learn a thing or two about how to discuss race in 2021.