Letter to Mayor Menino

It is important that the mayor reassure citizens about the capability of Boston to efficiently respond to real emergencies. Recent statements indicting Turner Broadcasting and local artists for their part in a guerilla marketing campaign gone awry do little to ease our fears.

In this “Post 9/11 World,” as the Mayor puts it, it is important that we know authorities are trained and prepared to respond appropriately and proportionally to potential terrorist threats. That the city was shut down yesterday by a marketing gimmick that had been in place for 2-3 weeks speaks more to problems with local disaster preparedness and emergency management than it does to the any miscalculation on the part of Turner Broadcasting.

I am heartened to hear that police called to the scene of a hospital where one of the devices was found chose wisely not to evacuate the area — a highly disruptive act — based on a cool-headed assessment of the situation at the scene and the determination that the potential threat posted to patients and workers was minimal. But that such restraint could have been exercised elsewhere in the city where small circuit boards with some flashing lights were found, we wouldn’t have a $500,000 police bill to contend with.

If a terrorist wanted to blow up a bridge, or a T stop, or a hospital, there are far more inconspicuous and devastating ways to do it than to use flashing lights and D-cell batteries. A bomb in a cardboard box or garbage bag or a motor vehicle would be disastrous, yet we do not live in fear of every lumpy trash bag or ugly Vespa be see around the city. If we did, we would not be able to live our lives at all.

The last thing we, as a neurotic and on-edge society need is fear-mongering by our public officials. In this Post 9/11 World, to once again resort to hyperbole, the terrorists have truly won when we can’t go about our lives without an irrational paranoia of little magnetic signs with wires sticking out. Mr. Menino, please grow up. Please react rationally. Please don’t get caught up in the ridiculousness of this situation — use it as an opportunity to re-evaluate city response and tactics, not to prosecute hapless bystanders who happened to participate in one of the many “guerilla marketing” campaigns to which this city has been subject in recent years.

A cool, measured, and introspective response is what would best serve your citizens. Yelling will do no good to anyone, except, perhaps, the terrorists themselves, who see their handiwork of five years ago in New York continuing to pay dividends across American each and every day.