Neighborhood Council election July 12

June 8, 2007
By

David Taber

Nomination papers available soon

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC), at their May 29 meeting, set dates for their 2007 election cycle.

The timeline, proposed by at-large councilors Jesus Gerena and Michael Reiskind, and approved by the council with a few minor amendments, sets July 12 as Election Day.

The councilors’ two-year terms end in June, “so we are only a few weeks behind,” Gerena said.

Two council members announced they will not seek reelection at the meeting. Council Chairman and At-Large Council Member Nelson Arroyo is giving up his seat after an eight-year tenure. Adam Burrows, who represents area B east of Centre Street, is ending his 20-year residency in Jamaica Plain when he moves to Brookline at the end of the month.

Gerena said three other council members will not be seeking reelection, leaving two open seats in area A, which covers Hyde, Jackson and Egleston squares, two open seats in area B, and one open at-large seat.

Arroyo said the council is much more diverse and is paying attention to a broader array of issues than it was when he first joined.

“A lot of issues weren’t making it to the council, or the council wasn’t paying attention to them,” he said.

He listed successful opposition to plans to build a K-Mart in Jackson Square and an increased focus on youth services in underserved neighborhoods as memorable accomplishments of the JPNC during his years of service.

“It has been a 100 percent team effort. We didn’t always agree, but we always gave different voices a chance.”

For example, after initial debate about changing the by-laws to lower the minimum age requirement to sit on the council to 16, the JPNC voted unanimously to lower the age requirement, Arroyo said.

“Diversity has many definitions. It doesn’t necessarily mean the color of your skin or where you came from. There is social and economic diversity, sexual orientation. There are dog lovers and park lovers. I would like to see the council remain diverse and continues to represent everybody’s JP,” he said.

He said his biggest accomplishment has been the friendships he has forged with other council members.

“I break bread with a lot of these people. I have met a lot of people from different neighborhoods who I never would have met,” Arroyo said.

At the height of his community involvement, Arroyo served on six different community boards and committees. He said his resignation is part of an effort to focus his energy more and spend more time with his family.

Burrows said he is proud of his tenure on the council.

“The council has little political power and it has done an amazing job representing community interests and providing a counterbalance to corporate and political interests and the forces of human avarice,” Burrows said.

Neighborhood residents interested in running for a seat of the JPNC can pick up election packets at any of the three branch libraries in Jamaica Plain, at the Curtis Hall, English High or Hennigan Community Centers or at the Hyde Square Task Force office. Candidates must collect 25 verifiable qualified signatures for a spot on a district ballot, and 50 signatures for the at-large ballot. Signatures must be turned in to Curtis Hall by 7 p.m. on June 13.

Balloting will take place on July 12 at Jamaica Plain Orange line stops, as well Hi-Lo Foods in Jackson Square, J.P. Licks, and in the parking lot next to Star Fish in Egleston Square. Polls will be open between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and again between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

DCR to replace trees

The Parks and Open Space Committee reported that 20 red oak trees planted by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) on the Arborway last year are faring poorly and slated to be replaced.

In an interview with the Gazette, DCR Spokeswoman Wendy Fox said the DCR is bound to planting red oaks by mandate from the Boston Historical Commission, but the trees are notoriously hard to transplant.

Only five percent of the over 150 red oaks the DCR has planted over the last 15 years have survived, she said.

Red oaks were originally planted along the stretch in 1911 but, due to pollution, their projected lifespan in urban environments is only 100 years.

The original decision to plant red oaks in 1911 was made by Boston’s then Public Works Director, who apparently preferred them to the tulip and cucumber magnolia trees Fredrick Law Olmsted called for in his Emerald Necklace plans.

With red oaks all along the necklace reaching the end of their lives, DCR is considering petitioning the Historic Commission for permission to plant the trees called for in Olmsted’s original plan, Fox said.

Forest Hills Planning

The Housing and Development Committee reported on a meeting with Boston Redevelopment Authority and MBTA earlier this month regarding the community planning process around the Forest Hills Improvement Initiative (FHII).

Committee members Francesca Fordiani and Steve Backman said they came away from the meeting with a somewhat better handle on what role community planning guidelines being developed will play in the FHII.

As Backman explained it, the community guidelines will be attached to the MBTA’s request for proposals (RFP) when it puts three properties around Forest Hills up for sale. Once it has collected proposals, the MBTA is required to sell to the highest qualified bidder but not required to demand bidders adhere strictly to the community guidelines.

The developers, however, will have to hold a community process to get their plans approved and get the parcels rezoned. The guidelines attached to the RFP will give developers a clear idea of what they will likely be able to do with the parcels.

Fordiani said she was frustrated that BRA officials are not putting more effort into outreach for FHII community meetings. This frustration led members of the FHII Working Group to independently distribute between 1,700 and 1,800 flyers for an upcoming FHII community meeting, she said (see related article).

Booze, Outdoor Seating

The Public Service Committee reported overwhelming community support for licensing applications from Alchemist Lounge and Bon Savour at their last meeting. The Alchemist Lounge plans to install outdoor seating for their location at the corner of South Huntington Avenue and Centre Street. Bon Savour was seeking a liquor license to serve alcohol with food or while patrons are waiting for a table at their restaurant at the corner of Pond and Centre streets. Both applications have been approved by the City of Boston’s Licensing Board.