This is our fourth year picking a Bostonian of the Year, and we've learned a few things by now: There will be years like 2004 (Theo Epstein) and 2006 (Deval Patrick), when our decision is so obvious that we can make it over our morning coffee. But there will also be years like 2005 (Edward Ginsburg) and this year, when no one stands out in such singular fashion and our decision takes about a month's worth of morning coffees.
Looking back at 2007, we had plenty of big stories. Casinos moved closer to reality. Harvard tapped its first female president. Celebrities turned Newbury Street into our very own Rodeo Drive. A UMass professor tried to broker an Iraqi peace. Shoppers rejoiced as Nordstrom arrived. Our local teams were so dominant, they owned the cover of Sports Illustrated for a stretch. A cop finally caught a killer he had chased for 12 years.
But in all the stories we reviewed, one word kept popping up: homes. Across Massachusetts, real estate prices dropped, sales slowed, and a tidal wave of homeowners found themselves in trouble when their mortgage payments ballooned and their lenders came knocking. Pay up or move out. The sad result was a record number of foreclosures.
It was a trend that one man had seen coming. Bruce Marks has made his share of enemies in his relentless push to get banks to provide fairer loans. But what is inarguable is that his tactics kept many people in their homes and convinced some mighty big lenders to change their ways. He's showed how one very determined person can make a difference. Neil Swidey's portrayal of Marks reveals a man who fights for those feeling overburdened and outmatched. And for that he is our 2007 Bostonian of the Year.