Boston Mayor Thomas Menino officially announced Wednesday that he will be co-directing a new Initiative on Cities at Boston University once his tenure as mayor is complete.
Menino announced at a press conference at 100 Bay State Road that he will be co-directing the institute with Graham Wilson, chair of the political science department at BU, in hopes that Boston will become a place where cities come together to discuss how they are approaching problems.
“Cities are full of energy and promise, but they are also full of challenges — on environmental fronts, on educational roadblocks, on growing inequalities,” Menino said. “I hope very much to sit down with mayors and leaders around the world as I tackle these issues.”
Boston University President Robert Brown said BU has an opportunity to contribute to the vitality of cities through this initiative because BU is a university rooted in a vital, thriving city.
“The mission of the initiative will be to engage researchers, policymakers and constituents from U.S. cities, and especially from around the world, to help plan the government, manage the law and development of infrastructure and services that will be required for cities to flourish,” he said.
The Initiative on Cities falls within BU’s Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future and will have a budget of just less than $1 million funded by BU.
Menino said he turned down an offer from Harvard University to come to BU.
Wilson said the Initiative on Cities would aim to discover what makes cities thrive in order give resources and guidance to struggling cities in the country and around the world.
“It’s a case of looking at the Boston experience … a story of incredible adaptation, where this is a vibrant and successful city right now, but it was not 30 or 40 years ago,” he said. “We need to figure out how we achieved that successful transition and how other cities have achieved that successful transition so that these cities can feel like locomotives, pulling along regional or even national economies.”
Wilson said because Menino had such success is transforming the city of Boston, his talents would be best utilized at BU, where he can continue his service to cities all over the world.
“[He will be using] his experience in the last 20 years in seeing that transition with Boston, putting that together with other cities who have made that transition with some lessons on environment and education and infrastructure that cities who are struggling can look at,” he said.
Menino will be leaving City Hall on Jan. 6, 2014 to make way for mayor-elect Martin Walsh. He said he would start work at his office on Bay State Road on Feb. 1, 2014.
“I love this city and cities all over America,” he said. “I love how they bring people together, how they gather ideas. I love how when cities have a problem, they solve it. Cities make things work.”
Menino said he is looking forward to having many open conversations with world leaders, politicians and students alike, and he welcomes students to come to his office and offer ideas about city improvement.
“I want to get you young people enthused about government,” he said. “You haven’t been in [government] a long time. We want you back in.”
Brown said he could not think of anyone better suited to lead the Initiative on Cities than Menino because he has done everything from worrying about potholes to growing technology and creating jobs in order to move Boston forward.
“We can accomplish this mission better and more effectively because we live in a city that functions,” he said. “Menino has spent the last 20 years working tirelessly to improve the city he loves. Now as he steps down from elected public service, he will continue to serve by bringing his wisdom, experience, insight and optimism.”
Trisha Thadani contributed to the reporting of this article.