I detest the appearance of Boston's City Hall as much as the next person. It's a hideous building that looks like a low-budget parking garage, in the midst of a plaza that seems ideally designed to be vacant with trash blowing through. That said, though, Mayor Menino's plan to move City Hall to the South Boston waterfront was a bad one.
There are many ways to bring life to a new area of the city that officials believe is prime for (re)development. However, moving critical government services to a place that is less accessible to the citizenry is not one of them.
The waterfront is tougher to get to from many areas of the city, is served by fewer mass transit routes and is not really walkable from other neighborhoods. City Hall belongs in the heart of the city.
So, I was glad to read the news that Mayor Menino is dropping plans to relocate Boston City Hall, citing the financial situation. "I could not get value out of the City Hall property right now with the real estate market down," he told the Boston Globe, denying the decision was due to criticism of the plan.
Separately, that's why I think it's too bad Framingham town services are clustered on one side of our community. While it may make sense from a population density standpoint to have town offices, the main library and the police station downtown, it makes the pulse of our community unnecessarily far removed from a number of neighborhoods and many residents.
Framingham is a physically large community (in square miles, half the size of Boston). Combine that with too many people who believe that investment and services should be centralized (such as those South Side Town Meeting members who voted against rebuilding the grossly inadequate branch library in Saxonville, believing all of us should drive downtown for our services), and you end up with a lot of Framingham residents who are significantly separated from municipal services.
For example, I am closer to the public libraries in both Sudbury and Wayland than I am to Framingham's main library; I'm closer to Sudbury's and Wayland's police headquarters than I am to Framingham's. If I want to take an adult education class, I'm closer to Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School than I am to Keefe Tech (while Framingham High School is convenient, there are no programs for adults there that I know of beyond a fitness center open to the community 10 hours/week for a fee). And there are plenty of people who live farther from downtown Framingham than I do. When the heart of a community is off to one geographic side, it's not a good recipe for making all neighborhoods feel like they have equal access, and thus an equal stake.