JPNC election draws few candidates

May 29, 2009
By

DAVID TABER

Only 10 of the 19 current members of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) attended the current council’s final meeting May 26 at Curtis Hall. But that number may constitute a full house when the new council convenes in June.

Ten candidates have taken out papers to run in the JPNC elections June 12 and 13. [See sidebar.] Only one of them, David Branham, is not a current JPNC member. The council aims to seat twenty members, five each representing three different sections of JP, and five “at-large” neighborhood-wide representatives.

“Jeez, I think it really points to our needing to get out into the community and do better outreach,” said JPNC member Francesca Fordiani, who is seeking reelection. “We have talked a lot about that, but we have not followed through.”

Longtime member Michael Reiskind, who is also running, agreed. “That’s not good,” he said.

Among those not seeking reelection are 13-year JPNC veteran Kevin Leary who, until recently, headed the JPNC zoning committee, and JPNC chair Jésus Gerena, who served on the council for eight years. Felix G. Arroyo, another long-time JPNC member, is currently running for an at-large seat on Boston’s City Council, and is not seeking reelection to the JPNC.

Sol Tangvik, Mark Pedulla, Jessica Taubner, Kathy Holland, Peter Sermabeikian and recently appointed member Khari Farrell did not return election papers by the May 13 deadline. Pedulla, who is going to law school, and Tangvik who is entering college, will not be seeking reelec-tion. Candidates are allowed to run write in campaigns, though. For all candidates, there is a minimum threshold of 25 votes for area seats, and 50 votes for at-large seats. Those numbers are also the minimum for signatures candidates must gather to be place on the ballot.

The May 26 meeting was a low-key one. Council bylaws require that at least half of the sitting members, plus one, be present for a vote to take place, and that threshold was not met until Leary showed up halfway through the meeting.

It did provide a preview of upcoming business before the council when the new council takes over begins in June. Committee chair Pam Bender and Jessica Taubner from the Housing and Development committee and David Baron, chair of the Zoning Committee reported that they have been working to integrate “healthy home building” guidelines into the JPNC’s zoning review process.

The Zoning Committee delivers recommendations to the city zoning Board of Appeal when property owners seek variances to exceed zoning rules. The home building guidelines, developed by the Boston Urban Asthma Coalition, mostly include recommendations to reduce condensation in homes. They have been adopted by community groups in other neighborhoods and include things like insulating all water pipes, and not using foundation materials or insulation that traps vapor. They also recommend not installing dust and mold trapping wall-to-wall carpeting.

The conversations between Housing and Development so far have mostly been explanations of the zoning process, Baron said.

They have also had preliminary conversations about whether it makes mores sense to push builders on all 30 of the recommendations, or to pick a few important ones, and get, “the most bang for your buck,” he said.

The council voted to support the guidelines in principle.

JPNC member Carlos Icaza reported that the council Parks and Open Spaces Committee is planning to look into longstanding allegations that gas lines running under the Arborway are leaking and suffocating trees on that parkway. The Gazette first reported community concerns about the leaking gas lines, which produce a noticeable odor, in 2007.

Reiskind, chair of the Public Service Committee, reported that the committee intends to start working in earnest to find ways to maintain the 48 bus, known as the JP loop, which the MBTA plans to discontinue after this year. As the Gazette previously reported, other neighborhoods have, in the past, found private partners to help fund neighborhood bus services not provided by the MBTA. The T has provided financial sup-port for those efforts but funding might soon dry up due to state budget cuts.

The JPNC’s last order of business was to approve a gag proposal by outgoing member Mark Pedulla to, in perpetuity, declare the May JPNC meeting the “David Baron Zoning Committee” meeting.

Responding to that proposal, Baron said he appreciated the sentiment of the amendment “proposed by Mark Pedulla who is outgoing and feels he can do whatever he wants.” But offered a friendly amendment to instead call the May meeting the “Kevin Leary Zoning Committee Meeting.”

Leary, who chaired that committee for 12 years before Baron took over this year “deserves it far more than I,” Baron said.

The council compromised, settling on the title of “Kevin Leary Zoning Committee and David Baron By-Laws” meeting, honoring Baron for his work revising the JPNC by-laws this year.

After the meeting Baron told the Gazette that he had voted against a few of Pedulla’s proposals at recent JPNC meetings, and had agreed to support the next motion Pedulla proposed.

That plan was thwarted. Baron could not vote on the motion because of personal interest in the matter.

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