JP Observer: Cast a ballot, see art this weekend

September 23, 2011
By

Jamaica Plain—known for its art and its activism—will be the site of two significant community-wide events this weekend, Sept. 24 and 25.

One is the 18th Annual Jamaica Plain Open Studios, featuring the work of more than 220 local artists, sponsored by the Jamaica Plain Arts Council.

The other, taking place only on Sept. 24, is the biannual election of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC), the 26-year-old local group that advises government about decisions and policies that affect Jamaica Plain. Three polling locations will be open for nine hours each on Saturday.

The JPNC has been at the center of the most controversial issue in JP this year—the replacement of Hi-Lo Foods by Whole Foods in Hyde Square—but it certainly isn’t the first time the council has taken heat. As an important voice for the JP community, it probably won’t be the last.

On Saturday, everyone who lives in JP who is 16 or older will have a chance to choose up to five at-large members for the 20-member council and five from the district where they live.

Although the JPNC gets the most attention when it faces the same hot issues that face the community, it also does a lot of ongoing work on topics that resonate mostly for sub-neighborhoods and interest groups across JP.

Government officials and community members have relied on the council since 1985 to provide a unique forum for residents to learn about and voice their opinions in detail about a range of issues that affect them. Officials pay attention to recommendations from the council because it is elected and because it spends significant time and energy learning about and listening to just JP issues in detail.

Zoning variances, development plans and license requests are routinely reviewed by the community through the council. Local green space and transportation issues are discussed. Over the years the council has considered a range of community issues. Much work is done in committees, with final votes taken by the full council.

Both the JPNC election and JP Open Studios are being organized by local organizations with volunteers who have spent many hours over months planning the events, and this weekend lots of volunteers will pitch in to help run the election and Open Studios.

Residents can combine voting at the Forest Hills MBTA Station, J.P. Licks or Stop & Shop with visiting more than 50 open studios there and in between. Because more people than usual stroll down JP streets, this weekend will also be prime for some excellent people-watching as well as getting to know neighbors in person.

For more detailed information about the JPNC election, including brief candidate biographies, see elsewhere in this issue of the Gazette. JP Open Studios maps with artist locations are available around town, during Open Studios and at jpopenstudios.org.

The writer is a member of the Ombuds Board supervising the JPNC election and served as the chair of the original JPNC in 1985.

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