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Top BRA planner wants city to fire him

The Globe reports Mayor Walsh wants Kairos Shen to quit, but Shen is all, yeah, well, fire me then, because of a state law that can boost the pension of public workers fired by incoming administrations.

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The mayor has clearly shown his unwillingness/inability to work with many of the offices of City Hall. Imagine Boston 2030 is a clear example of this. Rather than run planning through the cities planning department he sets up a new department, with no apparent staff. So just run by him. The mayoral position in Boston is so powerful and having this mayor, who is somehow manages to be antagonistic to the people who work for the city and incredibly cack handed at reforms is so frustrating.

The lead may be Shen's pension. It could also be how the Mayor has yet to manage to release these widely vaunted reviews of the BRA. How it is widely expected that the reviews will be focused on getting his developer friends what they want, not focusing on what the people in the neighborhoods of Boston who are seeing crap buildings going up everywhere with no regard for transportation or services.

The city needs real planning just like every major city in the country. Some flashy feel good website run isn't how you get that. We need a professional planning department staffed by trained planners who will work with the city towards a goal, rather than the haphazard "you want it so build it" way things have been.

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your stance in regards to the Mayor having WAY too much power; however, the BRA has been letting developers with no community ties legitimately rape this city for decades. Population density steadily rises while infrastructure crumbles and the public education system continues to struggle.

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I agree with much of what you say too. The problem that I see is a lack of planning. A citywide size of Boston should have a plan for the city to guide development. Most big cities have these--Chicago seems to have done a particularly good job at it. We, on the otherhand, have neighborhoods being developed beyond the capacity of roads and transportation (South Boston proper and the seaport) Development is driven by what people want to build rather than thinking long term about the city as a whole.

Development needs to be tied to services:schools, parks, police and fire stations, transportation. Replacing one guy at the BRA isn't going tobfix the "it's who you know" way things are done in Boston.

We deserve better.

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If anything the BRA has been strangling Boston for decades by holding development back. Density isn’t rising fast enough (thus the rent price problem). Public education is a victim of other forces for the most part though.

If anything, this is a great example of how broken public pensions are. It boggles the mind there isn’t more uproar that they exist for public employees at all, considering the private sector paying for them lost them and their unsustainable benefits long ago - yet time and time again is hoodwinked by crazy stipulations sending compensation through the roof like this one. (not to mention how they can usually collect while going back into private industry anyway…)

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As a public employee (fed, not city), it boggles my mind there isn't more uproar by private employees to try and get the system of pensions back; just because all of you allowed corporate 1%ers take yet another thing from you doesn't mean everyone should be in a race to to bottom. The middle class was built on the backs of unions, pensions, etc.

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When private companies go bankrupt the pensioners get NOTHING. Government employees with pensions don't usually have that problem.

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Government employees with pensions don't usually have that problem.

"Usually" being the key word.

Looking at you, Detroit.

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Spent any time in South Boston lately? As far as I know its borders have not been expanded over the past 15-20 years but the population has grown astronomically; soooo population density as well as rent prices both have skyrocketed. Man those bar owners are as happy as a possum eatin peach seeds tho...

P.s. Both of my elementary schools have been/are being developed into housing.

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....most of the planners/architects with whom I have worked on design projects are very well-trained. And they are pretty smart too. This doesn't mean that I or anyone else agrees with their design recommendations or requirements. And if not everyone one is perfectly and concurrently happy with their direction, then maybe they're doing their job. As you infer, however, good planning and good design review is often threading a needle in political winds and development pressure. We could insist on the dictatorial design dense of a "master builder" (Haussmann in Paris or a Robert Moses in NYC) but let's not pretend that this would work so well in this city of enclaves, oops, I meant neighborhoods.

Some folks want to bring back a Stephen Coyle, but he wasn't exactly universally loved either.

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He got lots of good press, particularly from the Globe editorial board. Part of it was due to his being the first post-Kevin White BRA director.

He was not particularly open to neighborhood concerns or listen to the BRA staff. Most of them are good, competent professionals. He could be just as much of micro-manager of project designs as Menino.

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What if they eliminate the entire department instead?

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no way, that would be far too logical and useful.

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Walsh made a campaign promise to replace the BRA with a city planning department. Then he got elected.

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Does anyone believe the BRA isn't above the law and accountable to no one anymore?

And these are the people that want continued Urban Renewal powers in a city which is anything but blighted.

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Does the BRA still offer parking spaces in the North End for $55/month?

http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2008/12/15/a_par...

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You know what would be awesome?

What if every month you work over the course of your employment, they were to deposit x% of your salary in a fund from which you could draw when you retire?

Period.

That would be awesome.

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That's kind of what Shen is doing, and could keep on doing for years to come until retirement time comes, except that Walsh wants him to leave.

Usually in employment law, if you want someone to leave and they have a contract and/or you do not have cause for termination, you have to buy them out of their contract. Shen is letting them fire him. If they don't want to fire him, he should keep on working at his job until the time comes for him to get a pension. Since the law says that he gets the bump if he gets fired due to political reasons, it's up to the city to work this out.

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... are (largely) seaparate from Shen's performance of his particular job.

Another question: Is "director of planning" a political appointment -- or a career-type appointment?

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With the length of Menino's rule political appointments became career appointments.

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The clear political appointees are the members of the Board. Presumably they are the people who are supposed to hire and replace BRA employees -- and decide of BRA employment policies.

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Kairos Shen, graduate of MIT School of Architecture, started out almost as an entry level planner and got lots of plaudits for redesigning the convention center so it worked (no he didn't design the arby's visor). He has successfully risen up thru the ranks...smart guy, talented guy, tough job.

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I am so sick of the lofty few cashing out with bonuses, special bumps, catch-22s, essentially harming those of us who actually contribute their share for years and years, and anticipate only getting a standard return. All these exceptions draw money away from the standard contributor. How are the rest of us compensated for that???

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What if every month you work over the course of your employment, they were to deposit x% of your salary in a fund from which you could draw when you retire?

You're not kidding. Take a look at someone like Bill Bulger. He had a modest salary for decades, then gets an appointment to President of UMass and stays for 8 years until pressured to retire.

Because of his short stint at UMass, he gets $198K/year from his pension. Really?

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figured out that the extra 'bump' in his pension will be more than offset by having "I was fired" on his resume.

Because I suspect that when prospective employers contact the BRA, they're going to say "We fired him", but will omit the "But it was actually for political reasons." disclaimer.

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Most of the places he would be shopping himself would be familiar with his situation. He isn't in a "call my references" category at this point.

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Actually this situation probably makes him even more interesting and employable. He could get a new job like yesterday - no reference check needed. He's probably gonna dig in his heels out of principle, not for the extra $35k annually at this point. Shaming him with a press leak has left a lot of people in the development, planning and design world with a bad taste in their mouth.

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... a totally bush league operation.

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That our current mayor learned political skills from his predecessor.

Trust me, Blessed Tom would have ran Shen's name through the mud long before this whole pension thing came up. At least Marty isn't badmouthing the guys work, just wanting to go in a different direction.

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Most places won't discuss anything beyond start date, end date, job title, and MAYBE salary about their ex employees.

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