CEO’s Corner: July/August 2016

220px-Thomas_P_O'Neill_IIIIn 2015, the number of mass shootings in the United States outnumbered the days in the year – not to mention the hundreds of people injured each day from gun violence. From Baton Rouge and Orlando to Newtown and Virginia Tech, the carnage and innocent lives lost in mass shootings have become an all too frequent part of the national news cycle.

As a result, the question of how to stop the spread of preventable gun violence has once again emerged as a top policy issue. Despite a 25-hour sit-in by House Democrats, a 15-hour filibuster by Senate Democrats, and a bipartisan compromise proposal in the Senate, Congress has been unable to enact any legislation to increase gun safety. In the midst of this void, some states are taking steps to try and stem the wave of gun violence that claims the lives of more than 33,000 Americans every year.

Here in Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey announced a new effort to enforce the Commonwealth’s ban on assault weapons. This July, she sent a directive to gun makers in Massachusetts ceasing the sales of “copycat” or “duplicate” assault rifles. The Commonwealth is one of just seven states and the District of Columbia that bans the sale of high-powered assault rifles like those used in recent mass shootings. And enforcement of these bans works too – the rate of gun fatalities in Massachusetts is one of the lowest in the country.

Unfortunately, gun manufacturers have been circumventing Massachusetts law by making and marketing copycat assault weapons to Commonwealth buyers under the label “state compliant.” The Attorney General’s office estimates that about 10,000 copycat assault rifles were sold in the Commonwealth in 2015 alone. While this commonsense directive is not a new law, it closes a critical loophole that gun manufacturers have exploited for over a decade.

Attorney General Healey’s courageous and reasonable approach on gun control has had a ripple effect nationally. She has earned support from Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, the entire Massachusetts delegation, 5 former Massachusetts Attorneys Generals, many Commonwealth mayors, law enforcement, and a whole host of public health and community leaders, among countless others. She has also won praise from assault weapon opponents, who are desperately seeking ways to stop the spread of these weapons.

However, Attorney General Healey has also – predictably – been the subject of hysterical attacks from the gun lobby and second amendment activists, many of which don’t even live in Massachusetts. A quick Google search shows how the National Rifle Association and others are leveraging Attorney General Healey’s enforcement effort to raise money, while also personally attacking her with language so offensive and reprehensible that it is unfit to print or repeat.

Rather than contributing solutions to help prevent gun violence, this vocal minority has been hurling personal attacks in an attempt to mislead the public about what the directive does and does not do. Attorney General Healey deserves credit for her courage and willingness to truly enforce the laws that protect our citizens and ultimately save lives. That spirit and commitment is especially important in this current climate and election cycle.

Farewell to Summer and Welcome Back to the Students!

RCN Ice Cream Truck

By Ann Murphy

WebRes_120403_ONeill_AnnMurphy-0085.jpgEvery year, Bostonians breathe a sigh of relief when summer begins: not only does vacation season ramp up, but also the 300,000+ college students temporarily vacate the city.  The MBTA is less crowded (especially the Green line!), restaurants and bars in college neighborhoods have ample room, and the bleachers at Fenway Park are taken up by an older crowd.

But we also know that this reprieve is temporary and even as we say goodbye to a great summer of sun-filled vacation days, we warmly welcome the return of one of the biggest economic engines of the region – college students. Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, we brace for the onslaught of college students returning at the end of every August.

With more than 360,000 college students enrolled in higher education institutions in the Boston Metropolitan area, employing 70,000, they are responsible for an economic impact of an estimated $31 billion. Higher education is a vital part of our local economy and will continue to be a key factor in the future growth of the region.

Over the next few weeks, as we try to maneuver around the double-parked moving vans on Commonwealth Avenue, we also celebrate the fact that every year, Boston gets a big dose of vitality returning to the city.  Many businesses are also rolling out the red carpet for the return of these college students. Our client, RCN Boston, an industry-leading provider of high speed internet, digital TV and phone service, will be out in full force in the predominantly student-occupied neighborhoods of Kenmore Square, Allston-Brighton, Mission Hill, Somerville, downtown Boston and more, offering great deals for college students moving into their new apartments.

Students want and need what RCN provides: lightning fast Internet speeds of 155 Mbps plus digital television for $49.99 per month so that they can surf, game, stream and connect wirelessly to multiple devices through RCN’s powerful fiber-optic network. With same-day free installation, and no contract required, students have the opportunity to be connected to the #1-ranked ISP in PC Magazine for speed and reliability. The RCN Ice Cream truck will also be joining the fun giving out free ice cream to returning students and their parents who are helping them move their belongings and get settled into their new apartments.

Remember, enjoy the last days of summer and be thankful for the return of college students who make Boston such a great city.

Ann Murphy is a senior vice president at O’Neill and Associates, providing public relations and media strategy to clients such as RCN Boston

Boston Comic Con 2016 Attracts Over 40,000 Fans of All Ages

Boston Comic Con 2016 offered something for every comic book fan from in-person meet and greets with A-list celebrities, to panel discussions with comic artists including Frank Miller, to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek with a VIP appearance from the original Captain Kirk, actor William Shatner. During the three-day comic extravaganza at the Seaport World Trade Center, from August 12 – 14, more than 40,000 fans enjoyed the show that was put together by Nick Kanieff, a small business owner from Framingham.  When Nick and his friend Jim Talbot started Boston Comic Con nine years ago, it was a one-day show with only 900 attendees.

Nick attributes the explosion in attendance and in the popularity of comic con shows to Hollywood. In an interview with the Boston Business Journal, Nick told reporter Sean McFadden that Boston is a great city for Boston Comic Con because of the passionate fans:

“Take a look at Boston sports fans, just as an example. They eat, sleep and drink their sports. Bostonians have the reputation of being the most hard-core fans in the country. I’ve got news for you: The comic book fans in Boston are no different. I don’t know what it is. It must be something in the water here. When Bostonians decide they want to be a fan of something, they want to do it better than everybody else.”

Boston Comic Con was showcased throughout the city prior to the main event.  On August 4, Faneuil Hall Marketplace hosted the 4th Annual Boston Comic Con Costume Parade and Contest where the public was invited to join the fun and dress up in their favorite superhero and enter to win tickets to the show.

First place went to Cindy Tran of Lowell, Mass. As “Postman Link” from the Legend of Zelda series; Second place went to Kelsey Entder of Boston as “Supergirl”; Third place went to Jennifer Williams of Salem, Mass. As “Judy Hopps” from Zootopia; and the kids winner was four year old Niah Roy from Winthrop, Mass. as “Hit Girl” a Marvel Character.

On Thursday, August 11, Boston Comic Con cosplayers made a special visit to the Pediatric Unit at Spaulding Rehabilitation Center in Charlestown, Mass.  Iron Man, Spider Man, Black Widow and two Dr. Whos (No. 6 and No. 10) visited with the kids and brightened their day.

On Friday, August 12, Boston Comic Con opened its doors to throngs of fans, many of them moms and dads with kids in tow for the first Family Day at the show.  It was a huge success and offered kid-friendly programming and special events throughout the day.

It was “Batter Up” for Boston Comic Con Cosplayers who joined actor William Shatner on the field at Fenway Park for the ceremonial first pitch as the Red Sox hosted Boston Comic Con night for the second straight year.  Shatner also did an interview on NESN and stayed for the game as the Sox played the Arizona Diamondbacks.

O’Neill and Associates is proud to provide communications services to Boston Comic Con. 

St. Francis House and the Planning Office for Urban Affairs Announce State Funding for 46 Units of Affordable Housing

Development will convert the historic
Boston Young Men’s Christian Union into housing

sfh-logoSt. Francis House (SFH) and the Planning Office for Urban Affairs of the Archdiocese of Boston (POUA) are excited to announce the award of funding from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to create 46 units of affordable housing at the former Boston Young Men’s Christian Union (BYMCU) building at 48 Boylston Street in Boston.

On behalf of the Baker Administration, DHCD will support the project with a combination of Federal and State Low Income Housing Tax Credits that will leverage approximately $11.8 million in equity, and $4,000,000 in various subsidies from DHCD. The City of Boston is also providing significant funding for the development.

“These affordable housing awards reflect our administration’s commitment to a stronger, more prosperous, and more inclusive Commonwealth,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “By increasing affordable housing production, and stabilizing working families, low-income senior citizens and homeless families or those at risk, these housing awards will strengthen communities across Massachusetts.”

In April 2016, SFH and POUA purchased the historic building located near the Boston Common and on the edge of Chinatown on Boylston Street. Together, SFH and the POUA will undertake the rehabilitation of the now-vacant building.

“This funding will help create affordable housing in the heart of downtown Boston in a neighborhood that has seen rental costs skyrocket,” said Karen LaFrazia, Executive Director of St. Francis House. “Without an affordable home, finding a job and being an active member of the community can be impossible. This development will strengthen our mission to provide pathways to stability for individuals experiencing homelessness.”

The property will be redeveloped by SFH and POUA to provide much needed affordable housing in the community.  The completed development will include units to serve people who have experienced homelessness, and others with very modest incomes. Twenty-six of the units will be reserved for individuals earning less than 30% of the area median income.

“Providing permanent housing for the homeless and workers priced out of the market is a critical need. We’re redeveloping this building to provide permanent housing for individuals who can’t afford Boston’s very high housing costs,” said Lisa B. Alberghini, President of POUA. “Our goal is to carry on the mission of the BYMCU by providing for people in need, and by offering housing for those who would otherwise be forced out of the neighborhood.”

A designated Boston Landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building was constructed in 1875 and was operated by the BYMCU for more than 150 years to provide a variety of social, recreational and service programs.

In keeping with the building’s history, the development will also provide benefits beyond housing. A street-level business venture will established by St. Francis House to add to the vitality of the neighborhood and create important employment opportunities for the people they serve. Additionally, SFH will relocate its corporate offices from 39 Boylston Street to free up space to provide more robust support services. Taken together, the award of DHCD funding for this project creates badly needed affordable housing, employment training and new jobs for homeless individuals, and expanded social services for vulnerable populations.

O’Neill and Associates is proud to provide St. Francis House with communications and government relations services. 


About St. Francis House

Located in the heart of Boston, St. Francis House rebuilds lives by providing refuge and pathways to stability for adults experiencing homelessness and poverty.

St. Francis House is a welcoming and inclusive community. For over thirty years, every day of the year, we meet guests’ basic needs for food, clothing and shelter. We transform lives by using a holistic approach to understanding and addressing the behavioral health, housing and employment needs of people.  We commit ourselves to helping those we serve achieve renewed lives of dignity and self-determination.

About the Planning Office for Urban Affairs

The mission of the Planning Office for Urban Affairs, a non-profit housing developer affiliated with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, is to serve as a catalyst for social justice through its work in housing development, commercial development and neighborhood revitalization, and affordable housing advocacy. POUA has completed over 2,700 units of affordable and mixed-income housing. The emphasis of the Office is not on numbers, though, but on having a qualitative impact on the harsh reality of housing deprivation for all those we serve.

Flight Attendants Critical to Safety and Security of Today’s Travelers

By Peter Goelz

Peter GoelzThe accident that occurred on August 3, 2016 at Dubai International Airport highlighted a number of important aspects of commercial aviation that need to be underscored.  First and foremost, today’s commercial airplanes are extraordinarily rugged and are designed to withstand accidents like the one we saw in Dubai with the high likelihood that passengers will be able to exit without serious injury. Reduced insulation burn rates, non-toxic and nonflammable interior components, and most importantly 16G seats are just some of the technical improvements that make today’s airliners safer than ever.

Video taken on board the Emirates plane after the crash does show one disturbing trait in aviation crises: passengers trying to remove their overhead bags rather than following the flight attendants’ commands to immediately exit the aircraft. Frankly, there is nothing more irresponsible than trying to save your suitcase instead of yourself. Today’s flight attendants are trained rigorously to respond to this exact kind of emergency. By simply following their commands, you and your fellow passengers will more than likely walk away from an aviation accident unharmed. Saving your bags puts you and your fellow passengers in danger by delaying the evacuation and by clogging the aisles. In any evacuation, there is no way to know the extent of the danger, so time is critical. Fully loaded planes are designed to be able to be evacuated in 90 seconds after coming to halt. The insulation and skin of the aircraft will keep flames outside and if you have used your seatbelt correctly, as instructed, you will be able to escape safely.

During the accident in Dubai, the rear of the aircraft exploded in flames only minutes after the plane came to a halt, but the flight crew was still able to evacuate everyone without serious injury. However, it emphasized the importance of following flight attendants’ instructions, exiting quickly and leaving belongings behind.

After September 11, 2001, when flight attendants were the first of many to lose their lives, their roles as essential safety and security team members were finally fully acknowledged and understood.  Brave flight attendants like American Airlines’ Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney, both of whom perished on American Airlines Flight 11, helped us all gain a better understanding of how atrocious the hijackings were as they were unfolding. Their brave calls back to headquarters gave us the first glimpse of exactly what we were facing as a nation. Flight attendants are now rightly seen as the last line of security in the aircraft cabin. Tragic events like 9/11 are unlikely to ever happen again because flight attendants, aided by passengers, are stepping up for the safety of others.

Today’s flight attendants are trained extensively in safety and evacuation procedures, security and even in techniques to combat human trafficking. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants and its members are actively fighting to stop human trafficking and have advocated passionately for the training of all flight attendants to be able to identify the trafficker and their young victims, so that law enforcement can intervene.

So when you board your next flight, I hope you can view your cabin crew in a slightly different light and perhaps thank them for the work that they do. And remember: try and pay attention to the safety briefing, particularly when they identify where the closest exits are to your seat- it really could end up saving your life.

Peter Goelz is a Senior Vice President in O’Neill and Associates’ federal relations practice and a leading expert in transportation safety. He is the former managing director of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and a sought-after commentator on aviation issues appearing regularly on national television and print media. 

O’Neill and Associates is proud to represent the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the world’s largest main line flight attendant union in the world, for over six years. We work with them on wide variety of issues including safety, security, communications and government relations.

OA and Boston Harbor Hotel Host NYT Bestselling Author Larry Tye

With a spectacular view of the Boston Harbor at sunset, O’Neill and Associates hosted a wonderful evening at the Boston Harbor Hotel with New York Times bestselling author and former award-winning Boston Globe reporter Larry Tye to celebrate the release of his new book, Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon. At the reception, Tye entertained attendees by offering an oral preview of his book which details Bobby’s personal and professional transformation after his brother, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated.

Following a welcome by Boston Harbor Hotel General Manager Stephen Johnston, Tom O’Neill introduced the author and highlighted his successful accomplishments to date. Tye then followed suit and graciously gifted Tom a Superman t-shirt, inspired by his book, Superman: The High-Flying History of the Man of Steel.

One of the greatest takeaways of the night, as Tye shared, was that Bobby Kennedy’s story resonates more today than he could have ever anticipated when he first started writing the biography. He drew parallels between the tension that plagued the country during the 1968 elections and the growing internal divisions that we are experiencing now.

Tye carefully recounts the specific events that he believes shaped Bobby Kennedy into not only a liberal icon, but also the most loved white man in Black America in 1968 and a Democratic presidential candidate. Specifically, Tye brings attention to Bobby Kennedy’s speech to the grieving crowds of Indianapolis after MLK’s assassination:

“Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.”

Kennedy delivered his powerful speech from the heart, as he too was grieving. That night, Indianapolis was the only city in the country with a large black population to not riot. Tye adds that this is exactly the tone that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, President Obama and many other influential leaders are trying to channel today. Nearly forty years after these events took place, Tye encourages us to reflect on the lessons of Bobby Kennedy to help us “understand with compassion and love” and to continue to build bridges rather than erect walls.


Tufts Medical Center Performs Four Heart Transplants in 24 Hours

TMC Doctors

7/21/2016 – Boston, MA – From left to right: Gregory S. Couper, MD Cardiac Surgeon; Yong Zhan, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgeon; Hassan Rastegar, MD, Senior Cardiothoracic Surgeon; Frederick Y. Chen, MD, PhD, Chief, Cardiac Surgery; Kenneth G. Warner, MD, Senior Cardiothoracic Surgeon

In an exceptional display of dedication and skill, surgeons at Tufts Medical Center performed four heart transplants within 24 hours last month. Never before have as many as four heart transplants been performed at a New England hospital in one 24 hour period.

Boston Globe article explained that there is a short, four-to-five hour window in which hearts can “sit on ice” before being transplanted into recipients. When these organs became available, Tufts Medical Center— which performs more heart transplants than any health care provider in New England– mobilized immediately. The recipients were among those with the greatest need on a list of 122 patients awaiting heart transplants. Doctors worked in separate, dedicated teams to bring this life-changing opportunity to all four individuals.

Dr. Gregory Couper, who was among the team of surgeons that day, told the Boston Globe that the hospital was driven to do what was best for its patients. He said: “We didn’t want our patients to lose out on transplants that could be a once-in-a-lifetime offer.” In addition to the Boston Globe article, you can learn more about this tremendous achievement via Boston.comWCVB-5, and Becker’s Hospital Review.