JPNC picks new officers, vows web site by January

November 6, 2009
By

David Taber

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) picked new officers and announced a fast-track plan for its new web site at its Oct. 27 monthly meeting.

Veteran members Andrea Howley, Pam Bender and Michael Reiskind were the sole nominees, respectively, for the chair, vice-chair and secretary positions. They were all approved by acclamation.

The council’s ad hoc web site committee reported that it plans to have a web site constructed by Jan. 1, 2010.

The site will include a description of what the Neighborhood Council is; biographical statements from the current council members; listings of upcoming meetings; and minutes from past meetings, said council member Emily Wheelwright, who sits on the committee. The committee also hopes to have a feature allowing people to sign up for e-mail alerts when the site is updated, but it is not immediately proposing to include a public comments section on the site, she said.

Council member Ben Knappmiller, another committee member, said the goal of the web site would be “not trying to decrease, but increase face time,” between the council and the community. It would be a means to keep community members up to date about when council committees are meeting and what they are working on, he said.

Council member Steve Backman, who is also on the committee, said he is also interested in setting up a password-protected discussion forum for council members, but that he might set that up as a separate site.

Vacancies

The JPNC came up four members short after its September election. Three people officially nominated themselves to fill vacant seats at the October meeting.

Jay Zoldak and Peggy O’Connor nominated themselves for Area A (Hyde/Jackson/Egleston Square Area). Noting that she lives on the same street as Zoldak, O’Connor said she would focus on outreach if she gains a council seat. “I would like to help people in my neighborhood understand what this group does and get more people involved,” she said.

If the council votes to seat both of them, there will still be one Area A vacancy.

Former council member and zoning committee chair David Baron officially put his name forward to fill a vacancy left in Area B (east of Centre Street between Egleston Square and Forest Hills). An Area B seat became open when Carlos Icaza resigned in September shortly after being reelected.

At the council’s September meeting, there was some controversy about whether the bylaws allow the council to accept nominations for vacant seats prior during the required 60-day window between announcing vacancies and approving new council members. But the council accepted official nominations this month.

Baron, who last year headed up an ad hoc committee to revise the bylaws, said confusing bylaws language about filing vacancies was one of the issues the bylaws committee, whose work has not yet been approved by the full council, set out to address.

All three of the nominees said they would miss the next meeting on November 24, when the council plans to consider the nominations. The meeting’s proximity to Thanksgiving did not present a problem for any of the sitting council members, but all three of the nominees will be out of town.

Youth and parents

At the September meeting, Backman said he would like to set up a new JPNC committee focused on youth and family issues and public schools in JP.

This month he said he had been approached by a handful of new council members who were enthusiastic about the idea. He plans to form an exploratory group to come up with a formal proposal for the council, he said.

Speaking to the Gazette, Backman said he envisions the committee focusing on “both schools in JP and the conditions of parents and young people in JP…There are a ton of new young parents [here],” he said.

Pointing to an Oct. 23 daytime brawl at the Forest Hills T station that ended with six teens being arrested, Backman said he hopes the committee could help build stronger relationships between local high school students, many of whom commute from other neighborhoods, and JP’s residential community. [See www.jamaicaplaingazette.com.]

Backman, whose children all graduated from Boston Public Schools, said the group could also explore strengthening ties between families with youths in public and private schools.

The goal right now is to explore ways the potential new JPNC committee might “contribute to [JP’s] social cohesion,” he said.

The JPNC used to have a Youth Affairs Committee, but it was fairly inactive and was dissolved last year. Council seats are open to JP residents over the age of 16, but there are no teenagers currently serving.

Anyone interested in participating in those conversations can contact Backman at sbackman@gmail.com.
Other Business

Reiskind, who heads the JPNC’s Public Service Committee said the committee—at its November meeting—plans to review an application from the local restaurant Ten Tables at 597 Centre St. to expand and open a bar that would serve beer, wine and after dinner lacquers. [See related article; JP Agenda.]

Howley, who heads the council Parks and Open Space Committee, said the committee is still working with utility company National Grid to deal with underground gas leaks on the Arborway that many suspect are suffocating tree roots on the parkway. The committee is trying to develop a list of locations where there are noticeable gas leaks—which are identifiable by smell—in JP, Howley said. Anyone with a leak to report can contact Howley at andhowcc@aol.com. Leaks should also be reported to National Grid at 1-800-892-2345.