In an effort to establish trust in city planning, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced a plan Tuesday to reform the identity of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, according to a Tuesday press release.
“This initiative will establish an identity, mission, and values for the organization that are reflective of the Walsh Administration’s commitment to smart and sound urban planning and positive economic development, and that are reflective of the critical reforms already underway,” the release stated.
Walsh announced that the agency will strive toward a goal of transparency and accountability.
“This is another opportunity to improve city government and take a hard look at an agency that has a difficult legacy to overcome,” Walsh said in the release. “The Boston Redevelopment Authority will be an important symbol of change that underscores this progress.”
According to the release, the initiative will redefine the agency’s identity as well as “inspire greater trust and confidence in the city’s planning agency.”
Gina Physic, a spokesperson for the BRA, explained how necessary the reforms are.
“There were a series of audits that took place in 2014 that did not produce the best of results and kind of showed some inconsistencies in reporting,” Physic said. “We’ve been at this for two years, making sure that we take these positive steps and really make sure that we are turning around how the agency is viewed, because it has changed quite a bit.”
Physic also described the next steps in the organization’s process of transformation.
“We are looking to hire a strategic advisor to help craft an organizational identity and brand strategy that is more in line with the image we are trying to project under Mayor Walsh,” Physic said. “Then, we’re looking to hire the consultants during the spring and have a plan in place by fall.”
According to Physic, the goal of the reforms is to “make sure that [the BRA is] accountable in communication, in engaging the community more.”
Barry Bluestone, director of the Northeastern University Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, said the relationship between the city and the BRA is already showing improvement.
“The agency is becoming much more efficient and certainly has under this mayor,” Bluestone said. “We can see it under the billions of dollars of buildings which are going up, and my impression from meeting the developers is that they are finding it easier to work with the city today than it has been in the past.”
Bluestone said the initiative is in the best interest of the City of Boston.
“They are doing their due diligence and looking at each of these projects and seeing whether it’s good for the city as a whole,” Bluestone said. “Having a better relationship … between the developers and the city ultimately will be good for the city.”
Bluestone also discussed how the BRA’s new transparency initiative will directly affect the residents of Boston.
“It’s important for the residents of the city to understand all the projects that are going up and to see how they fit in with the needs of the community,” Bluestone said. “That’s where the BRA is moving, so that more of our private space has public aspects to those private spaces, so that all can enjoy the city, not just the very well-to-do who can afford those high rents.”
Several Boston residents shared their opinions about shedding a light on city government actions.
Daniel Meyer, 30, of the North End, said he values transparency in government.
“If the job is to make everything more transparent and honest, then I’m all for it,” he said. “The government is supposed to be for the people and it affects all of us, so I’m glad they’re trying to improve.”
Susan Simmons, 49, of Back Bay, said she believes the city will succeed in making improvements.
“I trust Walsh and his people,” she said. “If he wants to do something, he will do it, and I believe accountability is important to him. It’s good to hear that the city is working on it.”
Janet Onyak, 37, of Brighton, said citizens should be able to become involved with agencies like the BRA.
“If it’s possible, yes,” she said. “We should at least have the opportunity.”