Letter: JPNC is irrelevant

I agree with Mr. Rick Stockwood that it’s time to reconsider the relevance of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (“Whole Foods debate could affect JPNC election,” Aug. 26).

I was present at its creation 25 years ago by the Flynn administration, which also established the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services at the same time.

In 1984, these were new ways to involve and include for the first time a wider spectrum of residents and advocates in the affairs and issues affecting Jamaica Plain

A year earlier, in 1983, the first district Boston city councilors took office. We then had three avenues to get issues resolved: The district councilors office, the neighborhood services representative and allegedly the elected council member for the area in which you lived. The latter has never worked. My wife Martha and I have lived in two Forest Hills neighborhoods in 40 years—on Forest Hills Street and for the past 20 years on Bourne Street. In both neighborhoods, my area council member has not once stopped by to ask our opinions or even say hello.

Mr. Stockwood rightly points out that city government today is far more accessible and attentive to neighborhoods than it ever was 35-40 years ago, in large part due to electronic media, but also to a bevy of active community groups and two dedicated community development corporations. I would add that the district city councilor (of which we in JP have had three of the best in 25 years) as well as a hard-working Neighborhood Services staff person, have also made government more responsive. In addition, there are three active Main Streets organizations that we have access to, for example in Egleston Square.

The current JP Neighborhood Council is far more self-absorbed than any of its predecessors and far less responsive to the opinions of the majority of those of us who live here. Moreover my sense is that the council is tripping over duly elected and appointed city officials who are more accountable than the Council. The several council committees are redundant to legally authorized sitting city boards.

I would suggest that the first order of business for the next neighborhood council be to join with Councilor Matt O’Malley and Councilor At-Large Felix Arroyo and convene a public referendum on whether we in Jamaica Plain want a neighborhood council. After all, many neighborhoods don’t have one.

At this point I would vote no. I have access to a very good city councilor, a very good city councilor at-large (who lives in my neighborhood), a very good state representative who lives here in JP, and a dedicated Mayor’s Office staff person. They answer my emails and my calls. Council members do not.

Richard Heath, Jamaica Plain

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