JPCC chair criticizes City partnership

Jamaica Plain Community Centers (JPCC) chair Kerry Costello is criticizing the relationship between Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF) and the local councils that run the community centers, saying the City is attempting to garner more power over the partnership.

The partnership is still governed by a 1974 “Plan of Operations” document. The document gives the local councils the authority to run the community centers, including the managing of rates, according to Costello. BCYF was in a different form then and was called the Boston Community Schools and Recreation Centers. Some organizations that run the community centers now did not exist back then.

The Gazette reviewed the “Plan of Operations” and other documents, which were provided by Costello. They have no mention of rates explicitly, but do give program and budget authority to councils.

Costello cited that nobody from the councils is on a committee formed earlier this year to create a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the BCYF and the councils. An MOU is a document formally describing a relationship.

“They want to change the nature of the relationship: ‘Let’s exclude them,’” said Costello. “You can see their mindset. It’s all top-down. They want to take more and more control.”

BCYF did not respond for an immediate comment.

Costello said by the mid-1990s, Evelyn Riesenberg, former director of Boston Community Centers (BCC), another forerunner to BCYF, decided there was a need to update the original “Plan of Operations.” A task force was formed, which Costello was a part of, and she said they were “really moving along” on the document, but “that never came to fruition.”

She said there was a lot of change happening within BCC as the agency was transitioning from being under one of the mayor’s cabinet heads to being its own department. She said when the agency changed from BCC to BCYF, the City started to move away from the original “Plan of Operations” and to a more top-down structure.

She said that the councils had no input on the transition and this was when the “trust began to recede.”

Costello also said that the citywide board of community centers, which has overseen the partnership since the 1970s, has been diminished. Costello, who was voted off the board she once chaired, said Daphne Griffin, executive director of BCYF, put people on the board who were favorable to her viewpoint. She said board members became people “who would do the bidding of the City and not question them.”

She said that the theory was some members were good fundraisers and that had some validity.

“Those of us of the ‘old guard’ were ousted,” she said.

She added that she does not hear anything from the board except about a yearly fundraiser it holds in the fall.

Costello also criticized BCYF for its information flow, saying she hasn’t received any updates about what it is doing for about a year and hasn’t had several of her phone calls and letters returned. She said she gets most of her information from reading the newspaper.

“That certainly speaks to the nature of the relationship. It’s not a partnership in my book,” said Costello.

She added, “They just hope you will go away.”

The issue of an agreement between the City and community centers arose after the HCC bumped up rates in January and two youth groups complained. One group left HCC while the other group has asked to come back for next year, according to Costello.

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