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Opinion: Menino, don't ignore FBA. Listen.

Posted by Alex Pearlman  May 23, 2012 05:34 PM

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Screen Shot 2012-05-23 at 5.32.52 PM.pngBy Alex Pearlman

The little video making waves across Boston today is a critique of Mayor Menino's muscle in the city, and an example of the continued clamoring of young people to City Hall: listen up, or else!

The animated video is the mission statement of Future Boston Alliance (FBA), a new-ish non-profit helmed by Greg Selkoe, CEO of super-hip online streetwear retailer Karmaloop. The organization aims to take on the challenges facing Boston, like the brain drain, transportation and lack of late-night cultural venues.

"The regulations, out-of-date outlook, and power structure are holding our city back from being the best it could be," says the video, which (although he hasn't seen it), has drawn the Mayor's ire. Well, it does compare him to Russian President Vladimir Putin, so I guess we're not surprised he's not on-board.

But he should be.

The video is a representation of the frustration young Bostonians feel every day. Even the Boston Globe tries to tap into the feelings of Boston's youth with it's on-going, luke-warm series of forums called Building a Better Commonwealth.

The difference is that unlike BABC and other programs desperate to tap a young audience, FBA is run by young people, it looks at our issues, and it's entirely motivated in the interests of building a 21st century city that caters to it's younger residents.

"This is not us versus them," said Malia Lazu, FBA's Executive Director, who was a panelist at BABC's event, Loosen Up Boston. "It's about finding what we all need to make Boston better for everyone."

The video/mission statement is a call to the people of the city to come together to make positive change, and work together for unity against the old boy bureaucracy that runs the city with an iron fist, telling people where and how they can dance and what they can put in their store windows.

"We wanted to have fun with the video, and we wanted to use humor to address the 800 pound gorilla in the room," said Lazu. "How do you solve a problem like Menino?"

FBA hopes to look critically and the difficulties the city faces, even those many may be uncomfortable discussing, issues perhaps Menino's buttoned-up allegedly youth-oriented Onein3 program are too afraid to breach, such as the taxis, permits and liquor licenses.

The Mayor responded to the video in an interview with the Boston Herald insisting the Boston lifestyle must have some kind of draw for young people - after all, "we're the youngest city in the country!" Newsflash, Mr. Mayor, that's because we have all the colleges. The city faces a dismal brain-drain. It's the post-college crowd we have to worry about.

He seems clueless, which could be the root of the problem. As a CommonWealth article about the FBA video pointed out, "Boston’s most famous boss, James Michael Curley, got broomed out of office by John Hynes because Curley was on the wrong end of a youth-driven reform movement."

Menino should be trying better to understand where FBA is coming from and what the young people are after, instead of writing them off as nay-sayers and insisting the hospitality industry in Boston is an example of how hip this city is. (See video below).

Lazu, 34, is an Emerson College alum, and has dealt with the city's strict outlook for a long time. At 19, she attempted to organize a hip-hop concert in Boston Common, but was denied a permit by – guess who? Mayor Menino.

She sees the video as political satire, and doesn't hold a grudge, but the event certainly had an effect on her outlook on the city.

"We're not trying to fight the mayor," said Lazu, who sees FBA as understanding the frustration of a new generation. "We're trying to shake things up and he's an impediment. But we have to come together as a people, or else it doesn't matter, does it?"


About Alex: I love the John Adams miniseries, the Disney version of Peter Pan, and 'A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.' My heroes include Aaron Sorkin, Audrey Hepburn, Gloria Steinem, Woody Allen and Allen Ginsberg. I don't like the two-party system, I do like crossword puzzles. I like red wine, I don't like fascists. I like big ideas, I don't like apathy. I like Wikileaks, I don't like censorship. I believe journalism needs a full-blown revolution to survive. Also, I'm the Editor in Chief of The Next Great Generation. Twitter: @lexikon1

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