JPNC vote lacks consensus

April 15, 2011
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Some weeks ago a community forum was held, led by a number of local elected officials, including our state senator, state representatives and city councilors (“State of JP considered at local forum,” March 4). After opening statements, the audience was invited to comment. A variety of topics were addressed, including youth problems, public safety, mortgages, budget deficits, schools and libraries. The chair of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council said that the best idea that she heard all night was for a compost pile.

To the degree that compost shares its definition with manure, the JPNC has, since that meeting, figuratively created its own pile. On the issue of Whole Foods coming to Jamaica Plain, by a “majority” vote of nine of its 20 members, they decided that they had a consensus against it, due to the gentrification that was sure to follow (“JPNC: Whole Foods is not a good fit,” March 18). However, there was no discussion of what’s wrong with neighborhoods getting cleaner, safer and more livable.

According to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, consensus is “group solidarity in sentiment and belief” or “unanimity of opinion.” When 11 members out of 20 fail to support a motion, consensus is not achieved. When state reps., city councilors and the mayor state that they will not interfere with private business investment in the neighborhood, when Boston Globe columnists write derisively of objections to the project, when opponents gather unverifiable signatures representing less than 2 percent of the population of JP, when the majority of blogs, e-mails and letters to the editor support Whole Foods, the ship has sailed, the water is over the dam, consensus is near.

Commerce follows demographic change; it does not cause it: shopping malls in suburbs, businesses catering to the elderly in retirement areas, upscale boutiques in revitalized neighborhoods, City Feed, Boing!, J.P. Licks, The Midway, JP Knit & Stitch, Ula Café.

When the neighborhood councils around the city were created during the Flynn Administration, their intended role was to give the mayor advice on issues affecting each neighborhood. It was not to affirm ethnic or economic preferences; it was not to involve itself in private transactions; it was not to tell its neighbors where they could shop. If Whole Foods fails to attract customers, it will leave on its own. If it succeeds, the JPNC will have been shoveling its own compost against the tide.

When an elected body cannot get enough candidates to fill all its seats by election and has to appoint its friends to fill them, as has the JPNC repeatedly, it does not and cannot represent the community, and is proving it with its Whole Foods fiasco. Perhaps it should not embarrass itself any further but just declare victory and leave, by consensus!

Bob McDonnell
Jamaica Plain

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