Boston could follow New York City’s lead in appointing a rat czar, a high-paying job that would focus on eradicating rodents.
This rat bureau chief would oversee all aspects of the city’s pest-control operations, working closely with municipal departments, residents and civic organizations “to hopefully one day eliminate rats in Boston,” said Council President Ed Flynn, who made the recommendation.
Flynn said he is still doing research to determine what the job would look like in Boston, which involves studying the rat czar position appointed by New York City Mayor Eric Adams last Wednesday. He plans to take the train there “sometime in the next 30 days” to observe the Big Apple’s pest-control operation.
Prior to selecting anti-rat activist Kathleen Corradi for the $155,000 position, New York sought “bloodthirsty” applicants with “killer instincts” who could commit to the “wholesale slaughter of rats,” the Associated Press reported.
“I have followed the work they’re doing closely,” Flynn told the Herald. “But I also know Boston has exceptional staff currently that are doing the job, and they’re doing the job well. We just need more resources and to prioritize the importance of working together to deal with this public health emergency in Boston.”
Today, a number of city departments are involved in pest-control operations, including inspectional services, water and sewer, and parks. A rat czar would oversee the entire operation, ensuring all pertinent employees are working together out of the same office to focus solely on this “quality of life issue,” he said.
Rats are a “serious problem” in Boston, Flynn said. The city’s rodent problem worsened during the pandemic, he said, as residents were confined to their homes and accumulated more food-related trash from takeout meals.
“It’s impacting every neighborhood across Boston,” Flynn said. “It’s one of the top issues that we receive calls and emails about from constituents.”
Boston’s 311 system received more than 3,500 rodent complaints through mid-October last year, a 12.6% spike from the same point in 2021, according to apartment search platform RentHop, which reported the 2022 rate was the highest since it began collecting this data in 2015.
A hearing order filed as part of last week’s City Council meeting, where rats and trash were briefly discussed, also pointed to COVID-related restaurant closures creating a higher rat infestation, due to the critters losing their food sources.
At this meeting, City Councilor Kenzie Bok said getting rid of rats will partly hinge on eliminating their food source, through a better trash removal strategy.
Under the city’s current five-year contract with East Boston’s Capitol Waste Services, residents can put out trash beginning at 5 p.m. the night before pickup, which starts at 6 a.m., an hour earlier than what it was before 2019.
Bok said the $28 million trash contract, which expires in June 2024, “isn’t working ideally,” and the city plans to start soliciting new haulers next fall.
“In my part of the city, there’s a particular focus on how to shift the dynamic in neighborhoods, where we don’t have consistent containerization of trash out overnight in thin bags,” Bok said.
“Because it really is just like telling the rats, come and get it. We know they’re nocturnal and we know they can chew through 2-ply plastic bags.”
Bok said discussion at the council’s city services subcommittee meeting earlier in the week also centered around trash being removed during the day, rather than the early morning hours, so that it wasn’t sitting out overnight.
Flynn said a rat czar would be focused on these issues, saying that responsibilities would involve expanding the city’s “educational outreach to residents to explain the proper way of taking out trash.”
He wouldn’t comment on whether the salary would be comparable to the $155,000 New York is paying for the new position, but did say “we would have to pay someone a decent salary.”
“Certainly a salary for this person would be appropriate, but the main point is we need one person in Boston that has the overall responsibility and authority on all matters relating to rats and pest control.”
Flynn said he’s talking to Mayor Michelle Wu’s administration about the position, but “we haven’t come to any conclusion or decision right now.” A Wu spokesperson remained mum on whether the mayor would support such a hire.
“The administration looks forward to continuing to work with the City Council to address pest control and other quality of life issues affecting Boston residents,” a city spokesperson said on Saturday.