JPNC weighs disbanding Youth Committee


The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) at its May meeting considered a self-generated proposal by its Youth Committee to discontinue that committee.

The proposal was written by JPNC and Youth Committee members Mark Pedulla and Sol Tangvik. Pedulla is a Hyde Square Task Force staffer who devotes much of his energy to that organizations youth initiatives, and Tangvik is a high school student.

The committee’s written proposal states that, “The landscape of relationships amongst youth and youth organizations has shifted since the inception of the committee. Currently there is a youth organization coalition effort called JP Unidos where youth providers share information and resources and strategize neighborhood-wide around youth issues.”

That coalition effort, as well as “ad hoc and informal meetings and collaborative efforts of youth-based organizations, such as recent meetings that have taken place around violence issues,” might render the JPNC’s Youth Committee redundant.

JPNC member Steve Backman said he did not support, “dissolving the committee when youth issues are at the forefront. It’s not the right time.”

Backman, in fact, volunteered to join the committee. Attending a discussion on “Youth as Community Leaders” at the May 17 JP Community Summit, “One of the things they asked people to do is go back to their organizations and ask them to make a strong commitment” to include youths and youths perspectives, Backman said.

JPNC member Michael Reiskind also expressed reservations about the proposal on the grounds that it is unclear how long the local nonprofit community’s current focus on youth issues will last.

“Funding gets cut, and all of the people you thought were volunteers it turns out were not volunteers, “ he said.

The JPNC, as an all-volunteer organization, should have a different focus, he said. “For me the question is what is the most natural, grassroots way to grow this committee so it grows from the community, not from funding cycles,” he said.

A number of council members said they would like to see youths more involved with the council’s other committees.

“How can we make them more interesting for young people to come to?” asked council member Andrea Howley.

“How can we make them more interesting for me to come to?” member Francesca Fordiani quipped in response.

While Tangvik offered to serve as a liaison between youth organizations and the JPNC, council members were not entirely satisfied with that proposal either.

Council member Pam Bender said she wants to see more concrete mechanisms in the Youth Committee’s proposal to encourage youth participation.

Turning the tables, Pedulla asked the council for concrete proposals.

Depending on what the council comes up with in the next month, the Youth Committee, instead of disbanding, may start focusing on “some ways for youth to think about ways to make the council more relevant for them politically,” he told the Gazette.

New member

In the meantime, the council approved 19-year-old Beatriz Rivera to fill a vacant Area C (Pondside/Jamaica Hills/Forest Hills) council seat left when Yawu Miller moved out of JP some months ago.

Rivera is co-founder of the Spontaneous Celebrations youth group Beantown Society, and is currently studying social and political systems at Pine Manor College, she said in remarks to the council.

Other business

Michael Reiskind reported that the Public Service Committee this month approved a liquor license transfer for Forest Hills Mart to Terengo Argaw.

Neither Argaw nor the store’s new owner, Ifeanyi Menkiti, have previous experience running a package store, Reiskind said. Argaw works at Project Place, a non-profit service provider for homeless people in Boston, and Menkiti is a professor of philosophy at Wellesley College, a renowned poet and the owner of Grolier poetry book shop in Harvard Square.

Menkiti “plans to redesign the look, smell and condition of the present establishment,” according to the committee’s letter to the city Licensing Board.

The new management will not sell nips, single beers, fortified wines or malt liquors, Reiskind said.

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