The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) during its monthly meeting last month held a question-and-answer session with local state Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez. The representative discussed a range of issues, including the state budget and programming at Mildred C. Hailey Apartments.
The council also reviewed a new restaurant at Forest Hills and the council’s “Good Jobs Standards” policy.
The meeting was held Feb. 27 at the Farnsworth House.
Sanchez said that JP is changing dramatically and that there is constant community engagement, which is keeping him busy and motivated.
There has been an uptick in criminal activity near the Mildred C. Hailey Apartments in recent years, and Sanchez said that it covered a variety of crimes like murders, shootings, prostitution, and gambling. Sanchez said that work is being done to improve the quality of life at the housing development.
“Drug problems in this neighborhood are isolated in one place, so the rest of the community doesn’t see the problems in their faces every day,” Sanchez said. “It feels like we’re making a difference in that development and hearing what residents envision for the future.”
There are several programs happening at the Mildred C. Hailey Apartments to support the residents there, including a New Balance sneaker drive with the company providing sneakers to youths. Sanchez said that the purpose of this is not only to provide sneakers, but also as a way of engaging with youths and students to be able to offer them further academic programming. There have also been mental health professionals providing trauma relief to families affected by crime.
“We’ve been working hard with the tenant task force [at the Mildred C. Hailey Apartments] to apply pressure to stop this crime,” Sanchez said. He referred to a big bust a couple of weeks ago that led to several arrests, and Sanchez said that residents have reported feeling a dramatic improvement in quality of life since.
Sanchez was picked last year to be chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, which helps craft the annual state budget. In January, Gov. Baker filed his budget recommendations, and the committee is now conducting hearings on that budget, seeking input from agencies and members of the public across the state, and is working on writing that budget.
The state House of Representatives authorized a $1.7 billion housing bond bill this year in order to ensure the preservation and construction of affordable housing over the next five years. These funds are authorized for Affordable Housing Trust Fund, Public Housing, Housing Stabilitzation Fund, Home Modification Loan Program, and more. For more information about these programs and this bill, visit bit.ly/2oR2eV2.
Regarding healthcare, Sanchez said that he is proud of the healthcare provisions that the state offers its residents, but he is concerned about the challenges of the federal administration pulling back on subsidies and funding.
For the Jamaica Pond Pathways project, Sanchez said that it is important to protect and enhance our green space, which is the envy of other neighborhoods in the city. He mentioned how slow-moving the parkway improvements have been with the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), but was pleased that the light on Eliot Street has finally been installed. He also said that resurfacing of Centre Street is planned for this spring.
Carolyn Royce of the JPNC asked Sanchez what he knew about transportation funding. Sanchez said that investments have been made, but that the system is so heavily compromised by the growing population already that improvements will come slowly.
“It took eight years for the E-Z pass with no tolls,” Sanchez said by way of example of how slow transportation updates take.
Sanchez also said that the new Orange Line trains are being built and tested now.
Sanchez mentioned four potential ballot questions for this November’s election and endorsed three of them: the “Millionaire’s tax,” which adds a 4 percent tax on incomes that are over $1 million; increasing minimum wage to $15, and paid family leave. He said that he was opposed to decreasing the state sales tax because of the amount of revenue that would be lost.
After the Q&A, the JPNC also discussed a petition for a new restaurant to open at Forest Hills at 3698 Washington St., the previous location of Tonic and GrassFed II. The restaurant would be called Bar Orange, and is proposed by Bob O’Guin, the same owner as Common Ground in Allston and Arlington. It would be open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. and is applying to have permission for five televisions, though it says it won’t have that many. Bar Orange would have a full liquor license.
Michael Reiskind said that his only concern was that there are many violations against the Common Ground in Allston, but was convinced that O’Guin was not ultimately responsible for many of those violations because of the camera footage that O’Guin had in his defense. The JPNC voted unanimously to support Bar Orange’s petition to open.
The JPNC also discussed the council’s standards for fair wages for local construction jobs that they would like to use while deciding whether or not to support a developer’s proposal. The draft of JPNC’s “Good Job Standards” policy asks that if a development will contain more than three units and less than 10 units, that all workers shall be paid a minimum rate of $20 per hour until a “community rate” is established. It also says that access to construction jobs shall be 51 percent Boston residents, 51 percent people of color, and 20 percent women. Some members of the JPNC, including Eric Harot, said that the standards should be revised to include incentives about training and education for the construction employees.