FOR 20 YEARS, Mayor Menino had the power to shape Boston's skyline. It's time for him to give his successor the same latitude he has. In that spirit, the mayor should refrain from naming a replacement for Clarence "Jeep" Jones, the longtime chairman of the board of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which is the city's chief planning agency.
Jones, who has served on the BRA board for 32 years, recently announced his retirement. Menino has until Nov. 5 to nominate new members to city boards. (Subsequent appointments can be rescinded by the new mayor.) Menino has said he intends to name a replacement for Jones. But the outgoing mayor should leave that decision — and all other decisions regarding BRA board appointments — to his successor.
In January, it will be the new mayor's turn to set a planning and development agenda. The five-member BRA board is key to carrying it out. Four members are appointed by the mayor. One is appointed by the governor's administration.
Menino has already appointed one new member recently — Michael Monahan, head of a local electrical workers union — to a five-year term on the board. In addition to the vacancy created by Jones' retirement, the terms of two other board members have expired. If Menino doesn't reappoint them, it will be up to the next mayor to replace them.
Board members will influence the agency's trajectory — and therefore the city's development agenda — for years to come. For example, the current BRA board just recently approved a $7.8 million tax break for the developer of a high-rise tower at the site of the old Filene's Basement.
Menino had his turn at setting the city's development agenda, and he reveled in it. A signature skyscraper at 111 Huntington Ave. has a crowned top because the mayor told developers, "Guys, flat roofs don't make it." In the current mayoral campaign, there's been a spirited debate about whether the BRA is too powerful — and whether the mayor exerts too much control. But whatever ails the agency, extending a departing mayor's influence over it years into the future isn't wise.
Menino's successor should be free to put forth his own vision and deserves the ability to appoint people who share it.