Pro-Whole Foods slate to run in JPNC election

July 8, 2011
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Rick Stockwood, founder of the pro-Whole Foods group JP For All, told the Gazette last week that his group is planning to run a slate to unseat the current members of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council in the September election.

“Among our supporters, a number of people are interested in running,” Stockwood told the Gazette.

As for the current council, “All of them have not done their job. They have not been able to control the process around Whole Foods effectively,” he said.

Current JPNC chair Andrea Howley told the Gazette she welcomes the public interest in the race.

Stockwood also told the Gazette he has requested minutes from all JPNC meetings, including working committee meetings, since 2008.

At the heart of that request, Stockwood told the Gazette, is the question of whether the JPNC is subject to the state’s Open Meeting Law. He said he is also eager to learn more about how the council functions, and, particularly, in reviewing what happened at the council’s Ad Hoc Whole Foods Committee meetings. The committee recently completed a report about the potential impact of the grocery store’s move to Hyde Square.

Stockwood was invited to join the Ad Hoc Whole Foods Committee when it formed last spring, but turned down the offer.

At its June 28 meeting, council members David Demerjian, Ben Knappmiller and Michael Reiskind delivered a report concluding that that the council is not subject to the law, but could do more to increase its transparency.

Knappmiller said the law only applies to government bodies. The JPNC has no official authority or mandate.

The law also specifically exempts neighborhood organizations, he said.

Stockwood said he sent an email to the Attorney General’s Office asking whether the JPNC is subject to the law. AG spokesperson Brad Puffer told the Gazette he did not have any information about Stockwood’s inquiry. The first step in lodging a formal complaint about an Open Meeting Law violation, he said, is to contact the organization accused of violating the law directly and get an official response from it.

The council’s own by-laws oblige it to follow the open-meeting rules, and council members spent much of the meeting discussing how they could do that better. They include posting sub-committee meeting minutes online and posting meeting notices at local community centers and libraries.

The council also discussed requiring working committees to record and post minutes from all of their meetings, a practice which has not been standardized.

Howley, at Stockwood’s request, had compiled a binder that included the full council’s minutes since 2008, but he did not attend the meeting.

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