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Sen. John Kerry Speaks at BBA Annual Meeting

The neighborhood business organization met on Monday at the Mandarin Oriental. Sen. John Kerry was the keynote speaker.

Senator John Kerry spoke about establishing a national energy grid and the importance of private sector investors to more than 250 Back Bay Association members during the business organization's annual meeting on Monday morning at the Mandarin Oriental. 

Board members also updated the group on local developments, neighborhood issues and projects, and the health of the Back Bay Association. 

Development

Bill Taylor, general manager of the Four Seasons and Chairman of the Back Bay Association, spoke about development in Back Bay, highlighting in particular the 'Shadow Bill," which members fought hard to stall. 

"A bill which, at it's core, is an anti-development bill," he said. "The legislature has decided not to take action." 

President Meg Maizner-Cohen also added: 

"We won, but only for now. That bill can be resubmitted anytime. We'll keep our eye on it." 

Taylor also provided an update on local development projects: 

  • Liberty Mutual expansion is expecting a ribbon cutting in the summer
  • The Avalon Exeter project should be complete in Dec. 2012
  • The Copley Place/Neiman Marcus 300-unit tower is underway
  • Project plans for the Air Rights Parcels over the Mass Pike (by the Hynes Convention Center) should be in place by the summer
  • Work continues on the Christian Science Plaza and Berkeley College of Music dorms. 

Neighborhood Issues 

Taylor highlighted local collaboration, including teaming up with the Friends of Copley Place and Newbury Street League to combat graffti and efforts to clean up the neighborhood. 

The Association is also working with the Newbury Street League to create unified signage for Newbury Street businesses. 

"There's no doubt the neighborhood is greatly enhanced when these groups work together," he said. 

President Meg Maizner-Cohen mentioned the three-day blackout caused by a transformer fire in March, saying it caused "unprecedented losses" to local businesses. 

But she applauded the emergency preparedness plan that was in place, and the effectiveness of police, fire, security and other personnel working together to manage the situation. 

Back Bay Association News

Bill Kenney, treasurer and general manager of Copley Place, had good news about the Back Bay Association's finances. With an income of $395,637 and expenses of $308,757, the organization is running a $86,880 surplus, he said. 

They also gained 50 new members this year, and raised a record $200,000 during their annual Best of Back Bay fundraiser. 

The Back Bay Association is also in the process of designing a new website and logo, and is developing paid search initiatives and a structured social media strategy with the plan of becoming a portal for visitors interested in exploring the neighborhood. 

Awards

  • Lt. Detective Michael Conley of the Boston Police Department received the Security Network award
  • Antonia Pollak, Commissioner of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, received the Heavy Lifter award. 

Sen. John Kerry

With all that good news, Senator John Kerry opened with a twist. 

"This is as bleak, this is as disturbing a moment in our politics that I can think of," he said. 

With Boston steeped in a great history of caring for ideas, "We've lost a little bit of that in Washington," he said. 

But (and there is a but) "Despite that, I'm optimistic because of you," he said to the Back Bay Association members. "Because of what the private sector is doing." 

The senator spoke about job creation and 26 month of consecutive growth in the economy, but said the amount of jobs that were lost before the Obama administration (840,000 the month Obama he was sworn in, Kerry said), continue to strain the nation.

"We are spending at 60 year high, and our revenues are at 60 year low," he said of federal finances. "That's a pretty clear equation." 

His main message to members was the importance of establishing a national energy grid that can be shared across the country. 

"We don't have an energy policy in the United States of America," Kerry said. With different grids on the West Coast, East Coast, Texas and Midwest, there's no way that Cape Wind energy, for instance, can be used to power California. 

But to build such an infrastructure would cost $2.2 trillion, he said. Kerry highlighted an infrastructure bank bill he's sponsoring, where an investment of $650,000 from the private sector in energy, transportation and water projects would leverage $10 million in federal loans to create a national grid system. 

The idea would be to "make good money off of revenue generating projects," and he said he could see private investors from China and Dubai - or Back Bay - helping to rebuild the country. 

Kerry also talked about not renewing the Bush tax cut for the 1 percent, and the willingness for Washington to budge on ideas and compromise in order to move forward. 

"There's a lot of working needing to be done staring us in the face," Kerry said. "If we would just put in place the formula to make it happen." 

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