Dear Santa: Here’s what I want for Christmas. Er, no…
Dear Mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh: Here are a few wishes for Jamaica Plain (and environs) in the new year under your new administration. Please:
1. Keep the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services and Jullieanne Doherty, its Jamaica Plain Coordinator. They are both unique and terrific. Little City Halls you advocate in neighborhoods can be expensive and a drain of staff time, as was shown in the Kevin White administration. In the cell phone and coffee shop “office hours” era, we prefer our neighborhood liaison to be out and around with us—not minding an actual office space.
2. Put up signs and enforce “Don’t block the intersection” laws at key intersections, especially Forest Hills. Most people in Boston don’t know the law. Last week, I separately saw an MBTA car and two school buses left blocking intersections when the light changed. People behind me honk when I don’t crowd in, too!
3. Persuade the legislature to allow Boston to collect a small income tax from the estimated 1.9 million commuters who come into and out of Boston to work or school every day by car. Commuters who can show they carpool, and others who bike or take public transit, would be exempt. (Drivers who short-cut through residential neighborhoods should be taxed double.)
4. Hire a new schools superintendent whose employer doesn’t/didn’t want him/her to go. Same for police commissioner.
5. Train at least one staff person in every school in how to do good public relations. Encourage them to spotlight good teachers, students, programs, etc. in their local communities and elsewhere.
6. Hire lots of hokeys (people with brooms and rolling barrels) to sweep up trash in neighborhood business districts and other popular gathering spots. I saw hokeys cleaning up sidewalks and gutters everywhere I went in New York City in early November. Boston residents and business people are not extra sloppy. We have been given extra cleaning to do.
7. Keep your promise to create a cabinet-level commissioner for the arts. Give the arts department a large staff and a hefty budget to reflect Boston’s strong arts economy. Establish a permanent part-time poet laureate position with a job description, budget and set term of office. Involve community people as well as arts administrators in building this department.
8. Do studies on how Jamaica Plain should be prepared for possible climate change catastrophes as you have promised.
9. Support creation of more middle-income housing here. Like many other neighborhoods and cities across the country, JP and Boston are losing unsubsidized moderate-income residents because of high market real estate prices.
10. Make sure all large, land-holding, revenue-earning non-profits are asked to participate in the PILOT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) program.
11. Continue listening. Meet regularly with neighborhood newspaper staff so they talk to you about local issues and tell readers what you have to say. Keep asking the people of Jamaica Plain—many of whom are paying close, caring attention—what they want and need.
Sandra Storey was the founding editor and publisher of the Gazette and lives in Jamaica Plain.