It is too easy for Northeastern students to tune out the city that surrounds them. While focused on academic pursuits and surrounded by all possible necessities on (or at least immediately off) campus, students rarely have to contemplate the bustling metropolis in which Northeastern is situated. Boston is on the verge of a historic transition though, so now is the time to start paying attention to the city in a capacity beyond that of Huntington Avenue.
For the first time in 20 years, Boston in is the midst of a competitive mayoral campaign. The incumbent of those last 20 years, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, is retiring, leaving a field of twelve candidates with no clear front runner. While at first glance some of the big issues being discussed, like the charter school cap and neighborhood redevelopment, may seem of little importance to Northeastern students. But the outcome of this campaign will resonate for at least the next four – if not 20 – years. Anyone who has a morsel of an interest in the well being of the city would be a fool not to tune in.
The issues being decided in this campaign will guide Boston’s growth for the foreseeable future. Will the city continue to embrace the startup industry, or will policies fail to expand on the growth nurtured by the Menino administration? Will there be a casino in East Boston? Will middle-income earners be squeezed out of Boston’s housing market? Will Boston Public Schools ever be able to compete with suburban districts? Even issues that don’t affect students directly weigh overall on the health of the city, and thus the job market upon graduation.
There are, of course, issues that directly affect Northeastern students. The next mayor of Boston will promote or inhibit the growth of the university. The next mayor of Boston will have the influence to push to make Boston a 24-hour city or continue to impose a 2 a.m. bedtime. The next mayor of Boston will have to address the city’s out-of-control rental market. All in all, the outcome of this election will likely determine whether Boston will be an attractive and viable place to work and live both during school and after graduation.
Though students number in the tens of thousands in Boston, we historically have had very little influence in city politics, simply because we do not vote; many students are registered to vote in their hometowns, while many are not registered at all. City leaders have long been wary to fight for the interests of our demographic because they know that they don’t need our support to win elections, and often issues in the interest of students are contrary to the interest of others.
Many observers and commentators believe that the young, progressive vote could end up swaying this election. Over the last decade, Boston has increasingly become a city of young professionals. Thus far, however, only the old-school power bases have backed candidates. Though there are plenty of attractive options for the taking, young people have yet to rally around anyone. If Boston’s students enthusiastically inserted themselves into this campaign, it could be a game changer. So in the interest of Boston, Northeastern and yourselves, register to vote in Boston, and pay attention to and take part in this coming election.