Tackling sugary beverages and obesity

The City created a series of advertisements meant to educate people to drink healthier options
The City created a series of advertisements meant to educate people to drink healthier options

In 2011, Mayor Menino and the Boston Public Health Commission made a major move to ban sugar-sweetened beverages from sale on City property. It was a controversial and groundbreaking step. The executive order came because of the link between sugary drinks and rising obesity rates. And in a city where 40 percent of the public schools kids are rated overweight or obese, the Mayor chose to remove this one source of carbohydrates and calories from public buildings.

“We are in the midst of a health crisis in the city of Boston,” the Mayor said at the time.

The city didn’t make the sweeping move of trying to ban soda and sugary drinks citywide; it simply made the decision not to allow city government to sell the products in its buildings.

The city also issued advertisements aimed to educate the public on healthy beverage alternatives.

In 2012, the Mayor’s policy gained high-level support when 10 Boston hospitals came together to adopt the city’s sugary beverage ban in their facilities.

Dr. Paula Johnson, a cardiologist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and chair of the Boston Public Health Commission’s Board of Health, said at the time, “Hospitals play a critically important role in public health, not only in delivering high quality medical care once people are sick, but in setting norms about how we can all live healthier lives and prevent disease in the first place. As leading institutions in our community, hospitals should be environments where making the healthy choice is the easy choice for patients, visitors, and staff.”

The executive order, ad campaign, and expansion to hospitals required teamwork across varying levels of government and the private sector, as well as proper messaging by the Mayor’s press office.

Mayor Menino has earned praise for his efforts to improve public health during his 20 years in office.

“Pulse of the City” Public Art Installation

There is plenty of room for innovation in city government, and we showed that when Mayor Menino unveiled “Pulse of the City.”

The public art installation creates music based on the heartbeats of the people who approach it and interact with it. It’s really unique, and it was unveiled by designer George Zisiadis at the Urban Prototyping Conference in 2012, Boston jumped at the chance to be the first city to host it.

Not only was “Pulse of the City a public art project, but it also tied together Public Works and the Mayor’s health and fitness campaign called Boston Moves for Health. The song generated by the device is different for every heartbeat, so Bostonians were encouraged try it during their morning runs or right after exercising.

The units are also solar powered, making them green at the same time.


“Pep” Conferences and Boston Sports

Boston sports fans are a very lucky breed.

We’ve seen World Series trophies, the Stanley Cup, Superbowls, and a 17th green banner in the Garden, and that’s just in the past decade! Boston is also a world-famous running city — a fame that is growing every day as people are training for the 2014 Boston Marathon.

A lot of work goes into making sure people get to enjoy Boston sports events. Public safety is paramount, and that takes a concerted communications effort, involving the media, colleges and universities, restaurants and bars, and the general public.

When the Boston Red Sox won the 2013 American League Pennant, the City of Boston got to work. This interdepartmental effort involved the Mayor’s Office, Consumer Affairs/Licensing, Boston Transportation, Boston Police, Boston EMS, and the Red Sox organization as well.

After all, it’s a lot easy to get a message out there, while still maintaining a sense of excitement, when Wally the Green Monster is standing with the police chief.

In addition to road closures and parking restrictions, approximately 200 restaurants, bars, and other businesses in the area of Allston/Brighton, Fenway, Back Bay, the South End, and Downtown, received detailed instructions from the Mayor’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing on directives in place, should the Red Sox reaching a clinching game.

Yeah, there were rules. But there were also no arrests made or problems reported when the Red Sox won the ALCS. So we were doing something right.


In the Press Office, we also handle the mayor-to-mayor sports bets that come when your teams are in a championship battle. A lot goes into enjoying sports in Boston!

A new way to to transition

In 2013, Mayor Thomas M. Menino decided not to seek an unprecedented sixth term in office. The election that followed was one thing, but Boston had not turned the keys over to a new mayor in more than two decades.

Typically, a three-ring binder is left for the next mayor to review — to see how the City works. That wasn’t going to do this time.

I joined a team of City Hall staffers to launch a Next Boston, a 100-day blog highlighting (in a combination of informative and incredibly creative ways) the day-to-day operations of City Government in Boston.

We covered Neighborhood Services, Food Initiatives, Environment and Energy policy, making the Mayor’s Schedule, advancing events, intergovernmental relations, and much more.

The Blog’s success was dependent on the help of dozens of City officials and department heads. It was built on Tumblr and used a variety of online tools including easel.ly, Slideshare, and Vimeo.