Whole Foods debate could affect JPNC election

August 26, 2011
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It has been one of the most controversial issues in Jamaica Plain in recent memory, and it looks like Whole Foods’ planned move to Hyde Square could shape the future of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC).

At least two active members of the anti-Whole Foods group Whose Foods? Whose Community? The Coalition for a Diverse and Affordable JP and one pro-Whole Foods activist are running for seats on the 20-member JPNC this year. And Steve Laferriere, who headed the JPNC’s Ad Hoc Whole Foods Committee, is not running for re-election.

Laferriere said he chose not to run again not because the Whole Foods issue “bothered” him, but because he will not have time in the next two years to devote proper attention to the council.

“I and many other people spent a lot of time” on Whole Foods, Laferriere told the Gazette. But, “I view the JPNC seat not as a political position, but a service position,” he said.

At least two pro- and anti-Whole Foods candidates said they are eager to continue conversations that Whole Foods’ planned move to the neighborhood started—conversations about gentrification, displacement, development and the overall character of JP.

“I feel that we should continue to have people on the neighborhood council who care about the negative effects of gentrification and who care about affordable housing,” said Martha Rodriguez, a member of Whose Foods who is running for an at-large seat on the council.

Another active Whose Foods member, Brian Squadrille, is running for an Area A seats.

Previously, Rick Stockwood, founder of the pro-Whole Foods group JP For All, told the Gazette that “a number of people” who support Whole Foods were interested in running for seats on the council. The number of active Whole Foods supporters running turned out to be one—Richard Parritz, who is running for an at-large seat.

Speaking to the Gazette, Parritz was extremely critical of the JPNC’s role in the Whole Foods debate. “In my opinion, on all levels, the JPNC mishandled the conversation, and continues to mishandle it,” he said.

Parritz said he is not looking forward to working with other members of the council, whom he repeatedly described as being on the “far, bizarre left,” politically.

Parritz said he hopes to bring “good sense” to the council.

Laferriere said he chose not to run again not because the Whole Foods issue “bothered” him, but because he will not have time in the next two years to devote proper attention to the council.

“I and many other people spent a lot of time” on Whole Foods, Laferriere told the Gazette. But, “I view the JPNC seat not as a political position, but a service position,” he said.

JPNC members are selected by popular vote in an election that is required by the groups’ by-laws, but not legally mandated.

The group mostly functions as a liaison organization between the community and city and state government, hosting unofficial community hearings on zoning and licensing issues, for example. JPNC meeting also serve as an opportunity for city officials to meet with the community to discuss new initiatives.

Stockwood told the Gazette that one reason he ended up not running for a seat or encouraging anyone else to run is because he questions “the relevance of the JPNC in 2011.” City government is much more transparent and accessible than it was when the JPNC was formed in the 1980s, he said, particularly thanks to new communication technology.

JP For All members will continue to “sit on the sidelines and act as a watchdog to ensure that the JPNC is applying its guidelines fairly and evenly,” he said.

Correction version: The original version of this article incorrectly identified candidate Oliver De Leon as a Whose Foods member. De Leon is not a member of that organization. The Gazette regrets the error.

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  • JP Guest

    I remember Rich Parritz — he showed up to one JPNC meeting (the first meeting of the committee on Whole Foods), consistently interrupted and talked over the council members, accusing them of various things and preventing other participants from speaking.  From his numerous comments on the Patch, I figured he’d be disruptive, but wow…let’s make a better choice in the upcoming election.