Editorial: Hubway welcome, secrecy not

October 11, 2013
By

The Hubway bike share system is a welcome, long-requested addition to JP. That only makes the City of Boston’s arrogant secrecy over choosing its locations all the more perplexing.

Hubway has been a success by any measure, and stations in such outlying neighborhoods as JP are an important part of its expanding web, to make it a truly useful transportation option.

But Hubway also involves handing over public streets to a private corporation with limited or no public say, and that has directly resulted in Hubway stations in dangerous places. Despite advance public input being an obvious and simple cure, the City has obstinately refused. At most, it has held private meetings with friends and, supposedly, small abutter meetings with no media notice. Ask for more detail, and the Mayor’s Office starts talking like the CIA.

Taking away parking directly in front of JP’s busy post office, which is heavily used by seniors and people carrying big packages, is at least a debatable decision. But the City made sure there would be no such debate.

It’s not just Hubway. It’s school closures, library closures, parklets, community centers, almost everything the BRA does, and on and on. This administration treats the general public as an obstacle rather than an asset, an audience rather than a partner. Many insider activists are willing to play along with the ends justifying the means, oblivious to how that will inevitably come back to bite them with a change they don’t like.

The paranoid, technocratic political style over 20 years has had a corrosive effect on public discourse. Local activism is increasingly marked by a conspiratorial style of secret meetings, cliques, mistrust and cynicism. Those who curry favor may end up pleased; those who don’t end up disengaged. Is anyone really surprised at how low mayoral election turnout is in this environment?

The fact is, normal public meetings and public notices would have led to the best spots for Hubway and excellent publicity for the service. It’s just common sense. It’s also the responsibility of officials using public resources and public funds.

Instead, the City says that favoring a corporation and select buddies over the general public is “transparency” and that any problems can be fixed ad-hoc later—an irresponsible and inefficient approach that is actually still more likely to react to dubious special interests.

We welcome Hubway. We also welcome a new mayoral administration on the horizon, with both John Connolly and Marty Walsh expressing frustration with the mess that is public process in Boston.