Cosmopolitan, formally attired guests of the City of Boston danced away the evening in three tents on Copley Square. Outside, with the massive John Hancock tower brooding over the moonlit scene, teachers and parents of Boston public-school children marched with picket signs protesting Mayor Kevin H. White's handling of the school budget.
It was the opening event of the "Great Cities of the World Conference," a climactic event in the year-long celebration of Boston's 350th birthday.
Key attraction of the week-long conference is its series of panel discussions relating to public issues in most of the cities accepting invitations: cities in the year 2000; multicultural populations in relation to the entire urban community; development and updating of decaying and rotting waterfronts and ports; growth despite fiscal restraints, and the future of urban governments.
Mayor White's problems with the schools are attributed to his determination to hold down spending and taxes.
Deputy Mayor Katherine Kane explained how financially strapped Boston handled conference expenses: She recruited sponsors, contributors, and hosts who subsidized the meeting through providing services as well as funds. This cut the city's share of the $450,000 cost of the Great Cities Conference to just $46 ,000.
"This is more than a ceremonial affair," says White. "Our hope is that we will make new friends with other cities and continue . . . an ongoing exchange of ideas."