The sad news, the truly disturbing and troubling news, is that Boston is a long, long way from curbing street violence, gun play, and murder on its troubled streets.
That depressing reality washed over the city in the past two weeks, as a hopeful trend — including a four-week murder-free stretch late in 2007 — gave way to a relentless horror of death and injury.
From New Year’s Day through January 18, eight young men were killed in Boston, the deadliest start to a year in more than a decade. Seven were shot to death, most in public, some in brazen midday attacks. Bullets left at least four others — including a 12-year-old boy — in critical condition.
No conclusions should be drawn from any such short span of time. But at a minimum, these incidents show clearly that any gains made by new Boston Police Department commissioner Ed Davis are incremental and tenuous.
Mayor Thomas Menino delivered his State of the City speech amid this violent spree, and in it he praised this past year’s reduction of homicides and violent crime. He sounded, if not quite satisfied, at least optimistic that the city had turned the corner in this surge of gun brutality that is entering its fourth year.
Davis likewise began the year boasting of an improved homicide-arrest rate, which rose to around 40 percent this past year. That’s still well below the national average, though an improvement over recent inexcusable rates.
This is no time for complacency. Too many lives are at stake.
Gun violence has a devastating effect on the quality of life in the neighborhoods where it most often occurs, a fact that Roslindale residents are now discovering, as some of the recent shootings appear to involve gang members in that previously immune area.
There are no simple solutions, and no budget line-item that can fix this overnight. But just because it is difficult doesn’t mean it should be glossed over. The situation remains desperate. Our city must be strong enough to confront it.
A rare display of class
In the midst of such disheartening news, it is nice to find admirable behavior in our city, especially from such an unlikely source as a politician-turned-lobbyist.
When former Senate president Robert Travaglini resigned his seat a year ago to pursue a lobbying career, it was easy to be cynical about this latest move through the revolving door of Beacon Hill. While still frowning on that culture, we find ourselves impressed by the style in which he left, as evidenced by his campaign-finance report released this past week.
Travaglini deserves our commendation not just for having his portrait painted for State House posterity, as the Boston Globe reported this past weekend. (However, we do think that’s a good thing in and of itself. Hiring a local artist, and paying him with his own leftover campaign funds, shows Travaglini to be a patron in a fundamental and old-fashioned way.)
Rather, since leaving office, Travaglini has done what few politicians ever do. While most politicians prefer to keep unused money sitting in their campaign war chests in case the urge to run for office should ever strike again, Travaglini — who had more than $200,000 left over — decided to give thousands of dollars away to charities, according to his year-end report.
Much of that money was donated to organizations in Travaglini’s beloved East Boston, including the Crossroads Family Shelter, East Boston Central Catholic School, Anthony Picarello Foundation, East Boston Little League, Salesian Boys & Girls Club, and St. Dominic Savio High School. But Travaglini also gave to those far outside his former district, including an autism charity in Woburn, a medical foundation in Braintree, Children’s Trust Fund in Boston, Children’s Hospital in North Adams, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in Dedham.
He also threw several small shindigs to thank his friends, advisors, staff, and colleagues — who weren’t even obliged to bring a campaign donation!
When Travaglini left office, this space noted that “affection for him in the Senate was real.” It’s easy to see why.