Ultra Empowerment Zones

Little noticed in President Clinton’s 1998 budget is the provision for Urban Ultra Empowerment Zones (UUEZ) — a master plan of tax credits, subsidies, grants, and loan guarantees targeted to the maintenance and creation of selected areas of urban ultra-privilege. To qualify as a UUEZ, an area must show family income, schooling and employment levels of at least 90 percent above the state median, or qualify for a UUEZ statistical waiver by demonstrating highly restrictive membership requirements, a history of media over-exposure, “locked-in” full employment regardless of national economic cycles, or proof that at least 70 percent of its residents do not live there. Below, the six UUEZs approved for Boston:

1. THE BIG DIG PERPETUAL EMPLOYMENT ZONE: Envisioned to encompass the salvaged acreage of the completed Big Dig, this first-in-the-nation “non-enterprise” zone will ensure perpetual jobs for displaced Big Dig workers and their offspring. Planned are a series of innovative play activities, an experimental “make-work” jobs incubator, and, in the year 2025, Phase One of the Big Undig, a $500 billion federal program that will fill in the Big Dig, reinstall the Central Artery, and disassemble the Ted Williams Tunnel and send it back to its vendors.

2. THE BEACON HILL AHISTORIC DISTRICT: A series of grants, subsidies, and housing code waivers targeted to preserve Beacon Hill’s reputation as the state’s most cost-inflated, shoddy, and inconvenient neighborhood to live in. Legislation includes provisions allowing apartment rentals without kitchens or bathrooms, unlimited growth of VCR rental stores, sale of on-street parking to private developers, 24-hour access for “film makers” to all Beacon Hill streets, and dedicated traffic lanes for tour buses, trolleys and amphibious craft. “If we do not preserve this neighborhood’s reputation for jam-packed unliveability, a new generation of status-seeking mutual fund telemarketers, date-crazed paralegals, and mostly inebriated Suffolk students will live elsewhere,” a landlord commented by phone from Duxbury.

3. THE STARBUCKS CAFFEINE ARCHIPELAGO: A non-contiguous UUEZ with outposts in other UUEZs, the Archipelago has been given a $20 million federal Adult Head Start Breakfast grant to explore site expansion configurations at post offices, so-called “Express Registries,” and ATMs. “We want to reach those self-entitled and impacted under-employed workers with sound teeth, minimal computer skills and nose rings,” an official said. She added the plan would also provide a congenial job-training venue for another group of the highly privileged unemployed: college graduates who sit for hours in cafes writing in notebooks.

4. THE FUND MANAGER RETENTION AREA: Centered on Devonshire Street and its surrounding investment community, this zone will guarantee all Boston-based growth funds and their managers a coordinated series of tax credits, bonding authorizations, and unlimited T passes to ensure (i) that all such funds outperform relevant unmanaged indexes, and (ii) all fund managers maintain their stratospheric compensation packages, regardless of performance. “We have got to keep these hard-working, attractive, suburban, mostly non-diverse men and all seven women sited in Boston no matter how much they do not beat some dumb index,” Mayor Menino said as the program was unveiled at the Parkman House.

Meet the Author
5. THE NEWBURY STREET/ MFA/ SYMPHONY/ BPL MERIDIAN D’ ELEGANCE: Another innovative non-contiguous zone of surface transportation upgrades including decorative trolleys, horse-drawn carriages, and fleets of Land Rovers (a.k.a. The Ride) targeted to moving suburban fund-raisers and donors around designated Boston landmarks and luxury hotels while minimizing their environmental and personal contact with local streets, citizens, restaurants, and non-deluxe retail establishments.

6. THE SOUTH BOSTON/CONVENTION CENTER JOBS AND MALICE INCUBATOR: An area maintenance and upgrade zone using tiny (under $1,000) but extremely numerous state and federally subsidized development projects covering all of South Boston. “With the convention center and other major developments slated for this area, there was a real possibility that South Boston residents would just shut up and prosper,” a community activist noted. “But these micro-grants, which are small, totally unnecessary, and arbitrary, and which will operate at the ward and precinct level, will ensure continued development of imagined slights, historic feuds, paranoia, and tavern shouting matches.”

Sanford Kreisberg lives in Cambridge, a city-wide UUEZ.