Jackson Square CAC disbanded

June 21, 2013
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Jackson Square Community Advisory Committee (CAC), which was formed in 2006 to oversee a massive redevelopment of the area, has been disbanded by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), according to that agency and to Rodney Singleton, the former chair of the group. The reasoning behind why the group was disbanded is disputed.

Singleton said the CAC was disbanded because the group was criticizing a developer over minority hiring practices, while the BRA said that the group had served its function and it was time to end. Both sides agreed that membership attending meetings was low.

The Jackson Square CAC has been controversial in the past, banning the Gazette from meetings in 2009 and with Singleton sending out strongly-worded letters. But it has also been effective recently at advocating for minority hiring improvement.

BRA spokesperson Susan Elsbree took issue with the term “disbanded,” saying the correct term is “ended,” but would not explain who ended it or why.

It is unclear when the BRA disbanded the CAC, but it appears to be several months ago. In April, John Fitzgerald, a senior project manager at BRA, sent an email to Singleton that said, “You cannot sign your name as chair of the Jackson Square CAC anymore, nor can you place your own ads for meetings in the paper with you as the contact person.”

Several more buildings are slated to be built as part of the redevelopment, including at 75 Amory Ave. There was a community meeting June 12 to discuss the 75 Amory Ave. project, as part of an Article 80 process. Article 80 zoning code requires a community review of a major construction project.

After receiving Fitzgerald’s email, Singleton said he stopped holding CAC meetings and learned that it was officially disbanded at the 75 Amory Ave. meeting. Singleton said that the remaining members of the CAC were himself, Dan Cruz and Ron Hafer.

BRA spokesperson Melina Schuler said that that Article 80 process will be used on the smaller Jackson Square projects, while impact advisory groups (IAG) will be used for the larger Jackson Square projects.

The Jackson Square CAC was an IAG, which must exist to review the type of projects at Jackson Square. But it appears within City rules to disband the CAC.

Singleton said he felt the BRA disbanded the group because it was being critical of minority hiring practices at 225 Centre St., a construction project part of the Jackson Square redevelopment.

“BRA is all-powerful and they do what they want,” said Singleton. “There’s a democratic way to do it. That is not the democratic way to do it.”

Singleton said the BRA told him one of the reasons it disbanded the group was because too few members were attending meetings. He agreed with that, saying only about four people attended the last couple of meetings. But, Singleton said, a list was sent to the BRA of 12 potential new members two years ago. He said the agency, which appoints members to the group, never acted on that list.

“While attendance was low, our board was excellent at holding developers accountable because we never forgot the community members, of which there are many, we were representing,” said Singleton in a follow-up email. “We were committed to always bringing those interests to our meetings.”

He added, “Developers and the City didn’t like the persistence of the advocacy, which is the bigger reason the CAC was disbanded, not because of low attendance at our meetings.”

Schuler said that small number of members attending meetings was “certainly a piece of” the CAC disbanding. She was not aware of the list of 12 potential new members. But, Schuler said, now that the master plan for the redevelopment had been completed, the group could be disbanded. The master plan was done years ago.

The Gazette noted that there are still projects underway. Schuler said that individual community meetings would cover those projects.

Schuler complimented the CAC on doing a “great job” on creating the master plan and that the BRA was grateful for its “great effort.”

CACs are appointed by the mayor and BRA to give advice on major development projects. Jackson Square CAC was formed in part from remnants of an earlier community group called the Jackson Square Coordinating Group, which was formed by the City in 1999.

John Ruch contributed to this article.