TIME People

Former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino Dies at 71

Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino
Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino W. Marc Bernsau—Boston Business Journal

Menino was the city's longest-serving mayor, who led for more than two decades

Thomas M. Menino, the beloved former mayor of Boston who led the city for more than two decades, died Thursday. He was 71, and his passing was confirmed in a statement on his Facebook page.

Menino, who served five terms in office to become the city’s longest-serving mayor, was diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer soon after stepping down earlier this year. Last week, Menino announced that he would stop chemotherapy treatment — and suspend a tour to promote his book Mayor for a New America — to spend more time with his family and friends.

“At just after 9:00am this morning the Honorable Thomas M. Menino passed into eternal rest after a courageous battle with cancer,” the statement said. “He was surrounded by his devoted wife Angela, loving family and friends. Mayor Menino, the longest serving Mayor of the City of Boston, led our city through a transformation of neighborhood resurgence and historic growth — leaving the job he loved, serving the city and people he loved this past January. We ask that you respect the families’ privacy during this time and arrangements for services will be announced soon.”

Menino is credited with overseeing the ascent of Boston’s skyline and leading the city through economic downturns to become a hub for business and technology. The city’s first mayor of Italian descent, according to the Boston Globe, Menino’s old-school political style won him the support of the city, leaving office with an approval rating of nearly 80%. A 2008 Globe poll found that more than half of the Boston respondents said they had met him personally.

Read TIME’s 2013 profile of Menino here: The Last of the Big-City Bosses

TIME People

Former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino Stops Chemotherapy

Ex-Boston Mayor Menino Cancer
FILE - In this April 21, 2014 file photo, from left, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, former Mayor Thomas Menino, and four-time Boston Marathon champion Bill Rodgers walk past the finish line before the start of the 118th Boston Marathon in Boston. Elise Amendola—AP

The announcement came as a shock to Bostonians who see Menino as an indelible presence in their city

Former Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino has stopped treatment for advanced cancer, the much-beloved titan of Boston politics said on Wednesday.

Menino’s announcement startled and saddened Bostonians, who have seen the five-term mayor — perhaps still the most recognizable person in Boston’s political scene — carry on with business as usual since he was diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer in Feb., the Boston Globe reports. Menino had left office just a month before the diagnosis.

“While I continue to fight this terrible disease, I feel it is time for me to spend more time with my family, grandkids, and friends,” Menino said in a statement. “Angela [Menino’s wife] and I are grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support and kindness shown to our family and ask that everyone keep us in their thoughts and prayers.”

The 71-year-old also suspended a tour to promote his book, Mayor for a New America.

Menino helmed Boston for two decades as the city’s longest-serving mayor, and he is widely credited with shepherding Boston through tough economic times to become a bright, resurgent city.

“It’s hard to do anything in the public eye, and even this, even this, you do with class,” said one commentator on the statement posted to Menino’s Facebook page.

“Thanks Mr. Mayor,” he said.

[The Boston Globe]

MONEY Budgeting

Guess Which U.S. City Is the Most Expensive

141014_REA_EXPENSIVELIVING
Nikreates—Alamy

Hint: It's not NYC.

On average, American households spend the largest share of their annual expenditures on housing. The average family spends $16,887 on housing per year, equating to 33% of the average household’s annual expenditures. But how much do those expenses vary from city to city, and which places are the most expensive?

Well, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released a report (link opens PDF) detailing Americans’ average annual expenditures on housing and related items. And contrary to popular belief, New York City is not the most expensive city to live in. Two U.S. cities have overtaken it.

A breakdown of housing costs

The BLS took a deep dive into all the costs of housing, rather than simply comparing the cost of rent or average mortgage payments. Their analysis also took into account utilities (electric, water, and natural gas), household furnishings and equipment (textiles, furniture, floor coverings, appliances, and the like), housekeeping supplies, and other household expenses. What they found was that average annual expenditures on housing were far higher in both Washington, D.C., and San Francisco than in New York.

most-expensive-city-no-longer-nyc_large
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The data is current as of 2012, and housing costs in the District of Columbia and San Francisco have risen since then. In D.C., the rise in housing costs is being led by the redevelopment and gentrification of the downtown area, which in turn is being triggered by the high relative number of government and government-related jobs, particularly in the defense contracting sector. Baby boomers are also moving from the suburbs into the city.

In San Francisco, housing costs have always been high, but they’re spiking because of a confluence of factors. The continued boom in technology companies in Silicon Valley — most notably Apple, Google, and Facebook — means that a growing cadre of high-paid employees want to live in the area. Add in a longtime lack of housing development in the city, and you have a rise in housing prices that has become a contentious issue in the San Francisco Bay area as longtime renters are priced out of the city. TechCrunch’s Kim-Mai Cutler provides a great, in-depth piece on San Francisco’s housing problem.

The difference in annual housing costs between the two most expensive cities and the national average is a staggering $10,000. Excluding New York City, the difference between the two most expensive cities and other major U.S. metropolitan areas is over $5,000 annually. If you’re thinking of moving, it’s smart to compare costs carefully before moving to one of the most expensive cities in the U.S.

National differences in housing cost

While the above data is just from major U.S. cities, we have other data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis showing the real value of housing dollars in each state compared with the national average.

real-value-of-housing_large

You can see that generally, coastal states are more expensive than non-coastal states, as many people enjoy living near the ocean. You can also see that the Northeast on average is more expensive than the rest of the country except for California. These high costs, coupled with better weather and low to no income taxes, are why many retirees move south to Florida, Texas, etc.

If considering moving to a more expensive city, you should be sure the benefits will be worth the extra expense. For instance, while I pay a high cost of living to live in New York City, the quality of life that I get in the city makes it well worth it, in my opinion. While New York state is ranked poorly in terms of the happiest states in the U.S., New York City is ranked in the top quartile by happiness among U.S. cities, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

The most important thing is to live in a place where you are happy. While the main determinants of happiness are the same for everyone, the specifics vary. Be sure that an increased cost of living comes with an increased quality of life.

MONEY Health Care

The Price of Health Care Is Finally Public (in One State)

Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston Michael Dwyer—Alamy

This month Massachusetts rolled out total medical price transparency. What can you learn from these new shopping tools?

Without much fanfare, Massachusetts launched a new era of health care shopping last week.

Anyone with private health insurance in the state can now go to his or her health insurer’s website and find the price of everything from an office visit to an MRI to a Cesarean section. For the first time, health care prices are public.

It’s a seismic event. Ten years ago, I filed Freedom of Information Act requests to get cost information in Massachusetts—nothing. Occasionally over the years, I’d receive manila envelopes with no return address, or secure .zip files with pricing spreadsheets from one hospital or another.

Then two years ago, Massachusetts passed a law that pushed health insurers and hospitals to start making this once-vigorously guarded information more public. Now as of Oct. 1, Massachusetts is the first state to require that insurers offer real-time prices by provider in consumer-friendly formats.

“This is a very big deal,” said Undersecretary for Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation Barbara Anthony. “Let the light shine in on health care prices.”

There are caveats.

1. Prices are not standard, they vary from one insurer and provider to the next. I shopped for a bone density test. The low price was $16 at Tufts Health Plan, $87 on the Harvard-Pilgrim Health Care site and $190 at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Why? Insurers negotiate their own rates with physicians and hospitals, and these vary too. Some of the prices include all charges related to your test, others don’t (see No. 2).

2. Posted prices may or may not include all charges, for example the cost of reading a test or a facility fee. Each insurer is defining “price” as it sees fit. Read the fine print.

3. Prices seem to change frequently. The first time I shopped for a bone density test at Blue Cross, the low price was $120. Five days later it had gone up to $190.

4. There is no standard list of priced tests and procedures. I found the price of an MRI for the upper back through Harvard Pilgrim’s Now iKnow tool. That test is “not found” through the Blue Cross “Find a Doc” tool.

5. Information about the quality of care is weak. Most of what you’ll see are patient satisfaction scores. There is little hard data about where you’ll get better care. This is not necessarily the insurer’s fault, because the data simply doesn’t exist for many tests.

6. There are very few prices for inpatient care, such as a surgery or an illness that would keep you in the hospital overnight. Most of the prices you’ll find are for outpatient care.

These tools are not perfect, but they are unlike anything else in the country. While a few states are moving toward more health care price transparency, none have gone as far as Massachusetts to make the information accessible to consumers. Tufts Health Plan Director of Commercial Product Strategy Athelstan Bellerand said the new tools “are a major step in the right direction.” Bellerand added: “They will help patients become more informed consumers of health care.”

Patients can finally have a sense of how much a test or procedure will cost in advance. They can see that some doctors and hospitals are a lot more expensive than others. For me, a bone density test would cost $190 at Harvard Vanguard and $445 at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

The most frequent early users of the newly disclosed data are probably providers. Anthony says some of the more expensive physicians and hospitals react with, “I don’t want to be the highest priced provider on your website. I thought I was lower than my competitors.”

Anthony is hoping that will generate more competition and drive down prices.

“I’m just talking about sensible rational pricing, which health prices are anything but,” she added.

Take, for example, the cost of an upper back MRI.

“The range here is $614 to $1,800, so three times,” said Sue Amsel, searching “Now I Know,” the tool she manages at Harvard Pilgrim. “That to me is a very big range.”

In this case, the most expensive MRI is at Boston Children’s Hospital and the lowest cost option is at New England Baptist, with no apparent difference in quality.

“It’s not just for choosing. It’s primarily for getting you the information, about whatever you’re having done, so you can plan for it,” she said.

Most of us don’t have to plan for anything except our co-pay. But about 15% of commercial insurance plans have high deductible plans, in which patients pay the full cost of an office visit or test up to the amount of their deductible, and that number is growing.

“As more and more members are faced with greater and greater cost share, this sort of information is really important,” said Bill Gerlach, director of member decision support at Blue Cross.

To use these tools, you’ll log in on to your insurer’s website. If you have a high deductible, the online calculator shows how much you’ve spent so far this year toward your deductible. If your coverage does not include a deductible, the tool will calculate the balance towards your out-of-pocket maximum.

All these numbers are confusing. Most of us haven’t thought about shopping for health care or paid attention to how much we spend. The state and most of the insurers are rolling out education campaigns to help us wrestle with the previously hidden world of health care prices.

One last tip: Each insurer uses a different title for its calculator. Look for the Blue Cross cost calculator under “Find a Doctor.” It’s not as easy to find as Tufts’ “Empower Me” page or Harvard Pilgrim’s “Now iKnow.”

Both Tufts and Harvard Pilgrim used Castlight Health to build and now run their shopping tools while Blue Cross contracted with Vitals.

Aetna was the first insurer in Massachusetts to offer cost and quality comparisons through its Member Payment Estimator. It’s not clear if all insurers doing business in the Bay State met the Oct. 1 deadline, but all of the major players did. There is no penalty for those who failed to do so.

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Read more on how to research and manage your health care costs:

TIME Culture

City Edgar Allen Poe Hated Welcomes Poe Statue

"Bostonians have no soul," Poe once wrote of his birthplace, where the honorary likeness was recently unveiled

What better way to honor Boston’s literary heritage than with a statue of … a writer who made his disdain for Boston, its residents and its writers no secret from the world.

This weekend, the city of Boston welcomed a new statue of Edgar Allan Poe, the Boston-born writer known for macabre stories like “The Tell-Tale Heart,” who once said that the people of Boston “have no soul,” are “very dull” and “are heartily ashamed of the fact” that they were born in Boston in the first place.

“It’s time that Poe, whose hometown was Boston, be honored for his connection to the city,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said, the New York Times reports. That “connection” includes viciously tearing apart Boston writers’ works as a notoriously harsh critic, getting into multiple liteary feuds and comparing Bostonians’ ideas and writings to the croaking of frogs (“Frogpondians,” as he called them).

“Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most important figures in American literature,” former mayor Thomas Menino once said about the writer. “We are proud to call him a Bostonian.”

If only Poe, who was buried in Baltimore, a city whose football team was named for Poe’s most successful poem “The Raven,” had felt the same way.

[NYT]

TIME cities

Boston Finds a 113-Year-Old Time Capsule but Can’t Get It Open

Time Capsule Lion Statue
In this Sept. 14, 2014, photo, a lion statue is removed from atop the Old State House on Washington Street in Boston Dina Rudick—AP

That's because it's housed inside a lion statue on the roof of the Old State House

Boston officials are puzzling over how to retrieve a 113-year-old time capsule from inside a lion statue on Boston’s Old State House.

The time capsule, mentioned in a 1901 Boston Daily Globe article, is a copper box containing contributions from local elected officials of the time, plus buttons from the presidential campaigns of William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, Reuters reports.

“The work of the coppersmith is completed, and one of the last things he did was to seal a copper box, which is placed in the head of the lion, and which contains contributions from state and city officials, the Boston daily newspapers, the name of the maker of the lion and unicorn, and others, which will prove interesting when the box is opened many years hence,” reads the Feb. 1901 article.

But the catch is the statue: an iconic, golden lion that has, for 113 years, graced the roof of the 301-year-old Old State House, a red-brick building in Boston’s downtown.

“We are determining the best way to retrieve the time capsule without damaging the lion,” Heather Leet, director of development for the Bostonian Society, which maintains the building, told Reuters.

Boston’s Old State House, where the Declaration of Independence was read to cheering crowds from the building’s east balcony in 1776, was the first seat of the Massachusetts government, and is these days a popular stop for tourists walking the Freedom Trail.

The lion statue and its rooftop neighbor, a silver unicorn — both are symbols of the British monarchy — were taken off the building for maintenance earlier this month, Boston.com says.

Leet told Reuters that the group has known about the hidden box for several years, because a descendant of one of the statue’s sculptors sent them a letter about it. A fiber-optic camera, threaded into a hole in the statue, confirms the box’s existence.

Under the hashtag #LionAndUnicorn, the Bostonian Society has been crowd-sourcing ideas from locals on Twitter, asking them for suggestions on what to add to the capsule. Current ideas include “fossilized cannoli,” Dunkin Donuts styrofoam cups, and “Boston Strong” gear inspired by the city’s pulling together after the bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013.

There was also the suggestion of a One Direction album. Sound the alarm; the British are coming. Again.

[Reuters]

TIME deals

Wynn Gets a Boston-Area Casino License

Massachusetts Gambling Boston
This file artist's rendering released March 27, 2013 by Wynn Resorts shows a proposed resort casino on the banks of the Mystic River in Everett, Mass. AP

But opponents have won the right to hold a statewide referendum on gaming in the fall

Wynn Resorts has won a license to bring a $1.6 billion casino to Everett, Mass., a Boston-area town with a polluted waterfront and a big bet on gaming to raise its middling fortunes.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted 3 to 1 on Tuesday afternoon to award the sole license available near Boston to the Las Vegas–based gaming giant Wynn Resorts — and not to Mohegan Sun, the Connecticut-based developer that had pitched to build a $1.1 million casino in Revere, another Boston-area town that is seeing tough times.

Both towns had, over the past several months, staged public relations campaigns in which each claimed to be harder-up and less attractive than the other and thus more in need of a casino’s heady injection of jobs and cash.

Meanwhile, the two gaming juggernauts had each wagered that their stimulus package was richer than the others and would lift not just the fortunes of a single town but also plug holes in Massachusetts’ hemorrhaging coffers.

“You won’t recognize the city of Everett, hopefully, in 10 years,” Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria told the Boston Globe.

“We will no longer be the butt end of the city of Boston,” he said. “We will be the entrance to the city of Everett.’’

This is the second of three casino licenses to be awarded in the state, after a 2011 law legalized gambling and created three casino licenses, plus one slots-parlor license, which has also been awarded. Contentious battles have flared among big-name casino developers vying over the licenses, as well as between the gaming giants and those in Massachusetts who oppose the state’s use of gaming as a fix for its budget woes.

Casino foes have won the right to hold a statewide referendum on the gaming law in November. Critics say casinos do more harm than good to their municipal hosts, breeding crime and tanking property values, while others worry that the Northeastern market is too saturated and competitive for Massachusetts’ proposed casinos to generate the tax bounties they are touting.

MGM Resorts International, which won the first casino license, in Springfield, is holding off on building its complex until voters go to the polls, but the winner of the slots license, Penn National Gaming, is going ahead. Early polls on the referendum have been divided.

Wynn claims its casino will create more than 4,000 permanent jobs, plus about 3,000 construction jobs, and it has pledged Everett about $30 million in local enhancement projects and $45 million in traffic improvements. It has projected that its casino would haul in annual revenue of $800 million a year, more than $200 million of which would go to the state as gaming tax.

TIME Crime

Boston Bombing Suspect Requests Trial Delay

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev FBI/AP

The trial is currently scheduled to begin in November

Lawyers for Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev filed a petition Friday asking a federal judge to delay the start of his bombing trial to September 1, 2015 or later. The defense argues that it needs more time to prepare given the volume of evidence to sort through and the severity of the charges.

“The trial in this case is currently scheduled to begin just 16 months after the defendant was indicted,” the petition said. “It is critically important that any trial be fair, which means giving both sides, not just the government, enough time to uncover and present all relevant evidence.”

Earlier this month defense lawyers argued that media coverage in Boston would unfairly harm Tsarnaev’s defense and asked that the trial be moved from Boston.

Tsarnev is accused of carrying out the April 15, 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon with his brother Tamerlan. Three bystanders were killed and hundreds were injured during the bombing. A police officer died in subsequent shootings, and Tamerlan died after he was shot in the head during a manhunt for the two brothers.

The trial on charges of using a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death is currently scheduled to begin in November.

TIME Travel

10 Things To Do Wherever You Are

Businesswoman with suitcase in airport
Getty Images

Traveling this holiday weekend? Whether you’re headed to New York or San Francisco, Singapore or Tokyo, we’ve put together a list of your destination’s must-see attractions and activities. So if you want to hit the tourist hotspots, or if you prefer to see how the locals live, these ideas will make your Labor Day planning a bit less laborious:

TIME viral

Here’s Why People Are Dumping Ice on Themselves and Posting Videos of It

It's all for science

Charity has taken a chilly turn over the past week, as more and more celebrities and other people have opted to dump ice water on themselves and record the whole thing—all to raise money for research into ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

As a part of the so-called “ice bucket challenge,” started by a Massachusetts resident who has lived with ALS since 2012 to raise awareness for the disease, after posting their own ice-bucket videos, participants nominate others to get drenched via social media to keep the cycle going. If those challenged don’t accept, or fail to post their video within 24-hours, they must donate cash to ALS research. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that impacts the brain and spinal chord, causing progressive paralysis.

Boston has taken heed, with athletes, Mayor Marty Walsh, and others recording themselves getting soaked. Boston.com hosted a citywide dousing last Thursday, challenging New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago to do the same. Celebrities have also taken part, with Lance Bass, Matt Lauer, Martha Stewart and Ansel Elgort among the more notable participants.

No word on how much the challenged has raised for ALS research so far, but the director of the ALS Therapy Development Institute in Massachusetts told the Boston Herald researchers are already seeing a boost in donations.

“We are seeing 10 times the number of online donations every day,” Carol Hamilton told the newspaper. “We are seeing an incredible number of people who didn’t know much about ALS last week and who do today.”

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