Michael S. Dukakis Forward

Foreword by Michael S. Dukakis, Former Presidential Candidate

 It has been nearly four decades since I first met Paul Zucker when Jack Howard hired him to be the resident planner in Brookline, Massachusetts. A lot of water has flowed over the dam for both of us in the ensuing years.

 He spent several years working to help us cope with the pressures and challenges of an older suburb that bordered the City of Boston and was fighting hard to preserve its reputation for good living and good schools. I was an up and coming young politician who had plunged into the political life of his community after returning from military service in Korea and had already run successfully for my first local office while still in law school.

 Paul was our second resident planner. His predecessor, Justin Gray, had taught me my first lessons about how a community goes about the business of trying to stay healthy and affordable. Paul picked up where Justin left off, and we worked together on a whole host of issues during the time that he was with us. Fortunately, he decided to try his hand at elective office in Marin County, California, not Brookline, Massachusetts. Otherwise, my political career might have been over before it began.

 The 1950s and ‘60s found most urban communities struggling with the post-World War II surge of suburban growth and urban deterioration, and metropolitan Boston was no exception. Our capital city began experiencing all of the symptoms of urban decline that were infecting older, industrial cities across the nation. State transportation planners were literally paving the way for disinvestment in central cities by building expressways and freeways that not only failed to solve our transportation problems but literally invited businesses and developers to building in the suburbs.

 Lovely, historic buildings and precious urban parks were leveled to accommodate the automobile. Public transportation systems like Boston’s, which included the oldest subway in America, were permitted to deteriorate, and we were told by the highway engineers that unless we covered cities like Boston and its neighboring suburbs like Brookline with eight-lane expressways and parking garages, we could never compete with the newer suburbs and their shopping malls.

 It was people like Paul who helped me to understand just how wrong that advice was and how a great, old city like Boston and its Brookline neighbor could survive and prosper. Sadly, I lost my first major battle on the subject. I led the fight to preserve that wonderful old town hall of ours from the wrecker’s ball and its dull and sterile replacement (see Chapter 21), but I lost that battle by a handful of votes in the Brookline town meeting.

 I learned a lot of lessons from that experience, and I was one of a handful of young legislators who took on the highway builders and their allies; stopped the so-called Master Highway Plan for metropolitan Boston, which would have put an eight-lane elevated expressway through Boston’s famed Emerald Necklace and one of Brookline’s loveliest parks; took that highway money and poured it into what is now one of the best transit systems in the country; and helped transform Boston into one of the nation’s – and the world’s – great cities.

 The rest, as they say, it history. I went on to the governor’s office for 12 years and a failed campaign for the presidency. Paul’s experiences as a planner, one-time political candidate, nonprofit developer, and management consultant have given him an invaluable fund of knowledge, experience, and wisdom, which he shares with us in this book – a book that should be must reading for planners, politicians, and would-be planners and politicians.

 Unfortunately, the problems with which he and I were wrestling in the ‘60s are still with us, only more so. In fact, urban sprawl has now become a national issue. Some cities and metropolitan areas have learned their lesson, but too many of them are making all the mistakes, and then some, that too many of us were making 35 years ago.

 The results are perfectly predictable: declining centers and sprawling suburbs; expressways that are moving parking lots at three in the afternoon; congested airports that drive travelers nuts; and neglected or nonexistent public transit systems.

 State governments still don’t understand that it is state policies that in too many cases are the culprits. Very few states have coherent growth policies that guide infrastructure investments, the locations of major state facilities, state environmental decisions, and state financial assistance to local governments. Regional planning can help, but it is state governments that can really make the difference as we head for a new century.

 I loved this book for two reasons.

 First, it brought back some very special memories from Paul’s and my youth.

 Second, it gives us the kind of food for thought we need as we work to plan and build communities of the future that provide real economic opportunity for all of their citizens and the kind of quality of life that Americans need and deserve.

Michael S. Dukakis
Boston, Massachusetts
April 1999