JPNC postpones election to Sept.

June 12, 2009
By

DAVID TABER

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council this week decided to postpone its election—initially scheduled for this weekend—until September.

The 20-seat community group, which often acts as a liaison between the community and city government, only drew 10 candidates for its 2009 election. Only one of those candidates, David Branham, is not a current council member.

And hitches related to recent election rules changes meant that, as of this week, none of the signatures candidates collected to get their names on the ballot had been verified.

“Given the circumstances as far as not being able to verify signatures and not having volunteers [to run the election], this weekend we have decided to postpone the election,” JPNC chair Jesús Gerena told the Ga-zette on Monday.

He said the council is considering rescheduling the election to coincide with the city’s preliminary election or the JP World’s Fair in September.

Gerena said the hope is hitching the JPNC election to one of those civic events will boost voter turn-out. The extra time will also give the council an opportunity to focus on community outreach to let people know about the election and possibly recruit new candidates, he said.

The election had earlier been scheduled for June, but postponed because of organizational issues. Before that, a proposal to hold it in May during JP’s Wake Up The Earth Festival was voted down for the same rea-son.

“We will be starting to work on a plan tomorrow,” Gerena said on Monday.

Between now and September, the current council will continue its duties, he said, but he will resign as chair in order to help organize the election.

Gerena previously announced that he was not seeking reelection to the council.

In the past, when the JPNC chair has not been seeking reelection, that person has taken the lead in run-ning the election. Changes to the election rules this year prohibit that, though, and instead call for an independent ombudsperson to run the election.

Colleen Keller from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services was recruited for that job in April, but she already has a significant workload, and said at the May JPNC meeting that she was planning to be out of state on June 12 and 13, the dates set for the election.

Keller did not respond to Gazette phone calls for this article.

Gerena’s resignation will leave chairing the committee up to vice-chair Felix G. Arroyo, who is currently seeking an at large Boston city council seat. Despite his busy schedule, he has committed to chairing the JPNC’s June and July meetings, Gerena said. The council does not meet in August.

The election delay is “not ideal, but it will give the council and the community a chance to get behind the election and have greater participation,” Gerena said.

The council seats five members from three “areas” in JP. Roughly, Area A covers Hyde, Jackson and Egle-ston Squares; Area B covers west of Centre Street between Egleston and the Forest Hills T station area; and Are C covers Pondside, Jamaica Hills, the Forest Hills area and Woodbourne. There are also five “at large,” neighborhood-wide seats.

David Branham, the one candidate for an Area A seat who turned in election papers who is not a sitting member of the council, will, along with any other person interested, have the opportunity to present himself at the next meeting to be appointed by the council to fill a vacancy—a common council practice when vacancies occur between elections.

In addition to its elected body the council also has committees for Parks and Open Spaces; Zoning; Public Service and an ad hoc community for Housing and Development. Those committees are chaired by council members but seat both JPNC members and other community members.

The committees perform a range of functions. The Zoning Committee and Public Service Committee provide the city with community recommendations about zoning variance and business license requests, for example. And the parks and Open Spaces Committee does advocacy work and organizes park clean ups.

The committees “really can affect things…they really have an impact on JP,” said JPNC member Steve Backman.

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