Letter to the Editor

Thank YOU

Dear Editor:

Monumental Cupcakes has closed. Jamaica Plain has lost a lot more than a great bakery, caterer and coffee shop.  Monumental Cupcakes and Art Market, its predecessor, were owner Patti Hudson’s babies, real Jamaica Plain, community-focused institutions.  Patti has always been generous with her time and money, donating goodies for events, supporting regional and neighborhood battles and being a great neighbor for more than a decade. 

The sign in the window explaining the closure ends with, “We love this community!”  Well, to Patti and the crew at Monumental, thank you for helping make JP great.  We love you too!

Anne McKinnon

Jeffrey Ferris

For the record

Dear Editor:

I believe my comments were misinterpreted in the article, so I would like to clarify. The article said “the group also discussed mitigation for [Bill at Wentworth Service Station], which led to a discussion of community benefits vs. helping out one individual. Jennifer Uhrhane said that any community benefits that would come out of this project should be different than helping Bill, since he is one person. Others in the group disagreed…”

At the meeting I further explained (but was not quoted in the article) the difference between the problem of displacing a local business, and having the developers commit to a community benefit. A community benefit could be traffic calming measures (like the SNAs recent pilot of BTDs Slow Streets Initiative), sidewalks beyond the development’s property (Stedman is a private road partly without sidewalks), or other improvements which benefit the entire neighborhood. Helping a local business can’t be a community benefit unless every single person in the community patronizes it.

I am very concerned about Bill losing his building to yet another condo project. His is a well-established, popular car repair garage, which has been keeping my 21-year-old car alive for at least a dozen years. The SNA discussions about this development have always included both helping Bill and a community benefit; not one or the other. The article misinterpreted my intentions, indicating this was a one-or-the-other choice, which is not the case.

Jennifer Uhrhane

We need someone listening to us

Dear Editor:

As I read Tony LaCasse’s letter in the latest Jamaica Plain Gazette, I had to agree with him fully. The photo doesn’t give the ugliness enough justice. I’ve seen this ugly box on Burroughs Street up close and personal. Why don’t developer at least make an attempt to blend in with the existing neighborhood rather than smack any thing down on a plot of land? Is it really only about making money as much as you can and dam what the end product looks like?

Boston Planning and Development Authority has not been doing to well lately across the city and not just in Jamaica Plan. This building boom that City Hall keeps praising is actually have negative effects on the livability of our many diverse neighborhoods from one end of the city to the other.

Officials at the BPDA have been making a number of bonehead decisions of late especially when it comes to variances on parking needs. Everybody doesn’t take the T to work but BPDA seems to have made that a number one priority. Lessening the number of parking spaces only creates more congestion in neighborhoods after a project turns to reality. Making it harder on existing street neighbors and the new folk moving in to new housing. It’s a lose-lose for all.

I hate bad looking housing and I also hate pretending off street parking isn’t needed for new housing units, condo or rentals. We need someone listening to us at City Hall and making Boston work for everyone. The boom is not all that say it is.

Sal Giarratani

Op-Ed Climate Change Action within Reach

Recently I’ve been anxious about our trajectory as a society, a nation, and a global community with respect to climate change. It seems that we all have a responsibility to contribute to averting our impending climate crises. The magnitude of the roles required of us to limit massive calamity is, admittedly, numbingly overwhelming. However, there are modest measures individuals can take that have the potential to effect meaningful change.

One of these actions is composting. Food rubbish in landfills decays and releases methane, a major greenhouse-gas emission. Composting returns nutrients to the soil and reduces the volume of waste hauled to the landfill, thereby avoiding methane gas emissions from decaying food, and reducing or offsetting carbon emissions from transporting waste (lower waste weight, greater fuel economy).

Some may balk at the suggestion to compost, thinking it’s a hassle. But there’s an accessible way: Each household can have discarded food and other biodegradable castoffs composted by a second party. There’s the popular pay-for-service Bootstrap Compost program, for example.

And in Boston there is now a composting pilot program called Project Oscar. The program consists of dedicated large bins for community-wide composting in strategic locations.

Residents collect compost at home, then dump it in the bins. One group of bins is located in Jamaica Plain at the back of the Curtis Hall parking lot. Other locations include East Boston, the North End, Brighton, and City Hall Plaza. (Visit https://www.boston.gov/departments/environment/project-oscar for additional information.)

Kitchen compost containers ranging from 1-2 gallons are available on Amazon for $21, from Boston Building Resources for $10; it’s also worth checking local hardware stores.

Composting alone is not a solution to global climate change. But if a majority of an entire neighborhood’s (or city’s) residents composted, the potential reduction in waste, reduction in emissions from methane gas release, and reduction in CO2 emissions from truck transport, is substantial. The act of composting could spur enthusiasm to take other common-sense steps in the fight against climate change. Right now the federal government is not a partner in solving this daunting problem, so it is the responsibility of local communities to take every action possible.

Jonathan C. Ellowitz is a JP resident.

No Sunshine Coming from the City on the Hill

As a common saying goes, every system is perfectly designed to produce the results that it gets.

This line may be familiar to residents of Jamaica Plain because it was a core part of the message of State Rep Nika Elugardo in her campaign last year. That is, systemic problems in our Legislature, rooted in a lack of transparency, are a big part of why progressive policy so often hits a roadblock. From the Safe Communities Act that aimed to provide protections to immigrants to Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz’s Education Funding bill that aimed to fully fund our schools, it was lack of open democratic process that allowed these critical pieces of legislation to die behind closed doors.

We are proud to see that Elugardo’s first votes as a new legislator were in support of a more democratic and transparent State House. In particular, she voted for a set of three amendments that, although common sense to any voter, are earth-shattering for the Legislature.  JP’s other State Rep, Liz Malia, bucked House leadership on one of the votes as well, a clear sign that she understands how important good government and transparency are to her constituents.

Unfortunately, none of the amendments passed; the toxic culture of the State House won’t change overnight. But in seeing representatives stand up for transparency measures that would empower both themselves and their constituents—and have real debate on the House floor—it was clear that another way is, indeed, possible.

The three amendments, filed by Representative Jonathan Hecht of Watertown, all no brainers, and in our opinion, represent just the beginning of many additional reforms. The first two amendments would have required that lawmakers could have 72 hours to read a bill before voting on it or 30 minutes to review amendments before voting. We think most reasonable people would agree that we want our lawmakers to have time to read and fully understand the bills they are going to be voting on! Opponents argued that this would slow down the system, but this was a clear attempt by the current leadership to maintain their stranglehold on a corrupt system.  

The third amendment, even more important for countering special interests, would have required that committee votes and testimony would have been made public, i.e., we would be able to see which special interest groups were submitting testimony in favor or opposed to a bill and we would see how committee members voted.  Why should these votes and this critical information be withheld from the voters? We pay the taxes that pay the salaries of these lawmakers and we vote them in, we need the information to hold them accountable when elections come around. At a time when there is increasing lack of confidence in democratic institutions, increased transparency and democracy is critical to restoring confidence in our institutions.

From the Massachusetts Senate to the U.S. House of Representatives, roll calls are the norm –  everywhere but the Massachusetts House of Representatives. It’s unfortunate that the famed vision of Boston as the ‘City upon the Hill’ offering “light to the world” has become a place where lawmakers legislate in the dark.

We were unsuccessful this time around, but it’s time to spread the word to friends and family members in other districts whose representatives failed to stand up for Democracy. We will come knocking when it’s time to vote on the rules in 2020 and during election season in 2021. Lawmakers need to be more accountable to the voters in their district than to the leadership of the House which means we need to get educated and make our voices heard.

Enid Eckstein, Andrew Breton, and Ziba Cranmer are members of the JP Progressives.

The State of Our City is Strong

Earlier this month, I gave my State of the City address at Symphony Hall. It’s one of my favorite events because it’s a chance to speak directly to the people of Boston about the progress we’ve made, the challenges that remain, and where we’ll go from here. It’s also a time to talk about how Boston’s leadership is needed now more than ever.

Right now is a pivotal time for our country: too many people, in too many communities, are being left out. But here in Boston, we remain committed to moving our city forward, expanding our progress, and throwing open the doors of opportunity for all. In our first five years together, we’ve made great strides toward building a strong future for our city.

We are committed to leaving no one behind. In Boston we’ve created more affordable homes than in any other five-year period on record. And in the next five years we’ll create 1,000 new homeowners by building more affordable homes and providing more financial help. We’ve gotten more than 1,600 chronically homeless people into safe, supportive housing. To build on this success, last year we launched the Boston’s Way Home Fund and set a goal of raising $10 million over 4 years for supportive housing. After just one year, we have already raised $5 million.

We are committed to lifting people up, not locking people up. Over the last five years, our police officers have taken more than 4,100 guns off the street. Through partnerships with the community, we’ve put thousands of young people on pathways to opportunity. As a result, we’ve seen arrests come down by 25 percent, and crime has gone down by 25 percent as well.

We are making sure that social progress and middle class opportunity grow together. That’s why we’re creating a Mobile Economic Development Center designed to strategically engage with residents on economic development policy around job training, business development, placemaking, and community economic development.

We are welcoming more voices and expanding our democracy. We’re reactivating the Human Rights Commission to provide a forum for Bostonians to address discrimination and secure the promise of equality. I’ve also appointed a Census Liaison to make sure that every resident of Boston is counted, because every resident of Boston counts. We will also lead the way on addressing inequities in our city: later this month, I’ll sign an executive order that requires all City employees be trained on how to recognize and correct disparities in city services.

We are a community for every generation. “Elderly” isn’t the right word to describe the thousands of vibrant, active, and hard-working older residents who call Boston home. That’s why we’re renaming Boston’s Elderly Commission. It will now be known as the Age Strong Commission. The new name better reflects our commitment to making Boston more inclusive and accessible for people as they age. The Commission will serve our seniors’ needs and draw on their tremendous strength.

We are not just surviving — we are thriving. Boston is rebuilding roads and bridges, making our streets work for bikes and buses, opening parks, and investing over $100 million in libraries all across our city. Smart fiscal management has unlocked these historic investments — while keeping homeowner taxes the lowest in the state. We’re investing $28 million in Boston Common and $28 million in Franklin Park. In addition, we have more than doubled the building budget for schools — with over $300 million already spent on brand new schools, major renovations, energy efficient roofs, boilers, windows, and modern furniture. Another $800 million is on the way through BuildBPS, our 10-year, $1 billion investment in Boston’s schools and students.

Today, Boston is stronger than ever because we are drawing on more of our people’s strength than ever. Our city’s success is our motivation to aim higher, work harder and make sure every single person in our city gets a full, fair shot at the opportunities we are creating. At a time when gridlock and division is holding our country back, Boston is showing a better way forward.

Serving as your Mayor is the honor of my life. I will continue to work hard each and every day to serve the city I love. Let’s never lose sight of how far we’ve come; how far-reaching our leadership has been; and how deep our obligation is now, to stand together, and keep leading.

Martin J. Walsh is the Mayor of Boston.

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