Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Priorities...or Lack Thereof

From the front page of today's Boston Herald, we read the story of 10-year-old girl named Christina, who wrote a letter to Boston Mayor Tom Menino asking him to do something about the disturbing violent crime rate in the Old Colony Housing Development in South Boston where she lives.

The mayor reportedly dislodged his head from his colon long enough to flip through his dog-eared copy of the John Kerry Playbook and offer this courageous response: "I blame Bush."

Menino said he read the letter. "I was moved. It took a lot of courage for her to write it." Menino said cuts by the federal government have resulted in fewer police officers to patrol the city's housing developments.

Meanwhile, back in the beautiful people section of the city where Menino hangs out with his taxpayer-funded, armed security detail and his gushing entourage of local media rumpswabs:

Warning: this is the dumbest thing you're likely to hear for a while, be warned.

It started late Sunday. At Old City Hall, a set of roller skates appeared on Benjamin Franklin. In the Public Garden, George Washington got a pair of purple velvet boots, his horse a set of gold heels. By midafternoon yesterday, Samuel Adams at Faneuil Hall had been transformed into a rapper, with a do-rag and a Boston Red Sox cap, worn sideways.

Well, Mumbles is a big hip-hop fan, we know.

"It must be a prank," sniffed one passerby yesterday as he eyed Adams's new, red-striped running shoes.

I wish.

Turns out, it was Mayor Thomas M. Menino's idea. Skyrocketing gas prices got him thinking that people in Boston should ditch their cars to walk more, the mayor says. So he brainstormed with a Boston advertising agency, raised money from local business leaders, and asked a team of artists from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts to fit the founding fathers and just about any other city icon with new shoes. The four artists finished yesterday at 2 p.m., just in time for the mayor's arrival at Faneuil Hall to promote the project.

"Walkability is what this city's all about," Menino said, smiling as he showed off his own pair of Reeboks, size 9 1/2 wide.

But it's not all about gas prices, he admits. The "Sneakers on Statues" campaign is part of a $50,000 tourism scheme, financed by organizations including state and city tourism bureaus and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. It is akin to Chicago's Cows on Parade in 1999 and Toronto's Moose in the City in 2000, during which life-sized animal sculptures were credited with drawing 3 million visitors and some $600 million to those cities.

For those of you keeping score at home: Doing something constructive to make life better for the city's poorer children exposed to violent crime on a daily basis in their own front yards? Why that doesn't sound like fun at all. Besides, we all know that's not the mayor's problem to deal with - it's Dick Cheney's.

Washington now boasts what 20-year-old artist Ashley Ware calls "fetish boots" with black feathery trim -- because the founding father was "so stiff."

"We wanted to lighten him up a bit," Ware explained.

Franklin got the skates and a set of elbow pads because of his reputation as an innovator. Artist W. Thomas Porter, 25, said Franklin wouldn't have worn ordinary sneakers.

"That bro' would have put wheels on them," Porter said. "We had to give him something that would distinguish his intellect."

But, we've get ample time and resources to get a bunch of "artists" to run around and dress our founding fathers in roller skates and fetish wear. This sounds like a lot more fun that running a bunch of gun-toting crackheads out of town. Besides, which is more important for improving the quality of life for all Boston residents?

Well, we've now seen Menino's answer.

The campaign includes a website, boston.com/walkboston, with sightseeing videos that city officials are calling "the sneakers' view" of the city. An interactive game converts the cost of a tank of gas into a list of activities that could be enjoyed for the same price.

You want to lower fuel costs and explore alternate sources of energy? Try coming up with a way to harness the energy being generated by our Founding Fathers rolling over in their graves underneath this once-proud city.