JP Observer: Counting Our Public Blessings

By Sandra Storey / Special to the Gazette

The national mid-term and state-wide elections earlier this month gave lots of us reasons to be thankful, if not complacent. The week before Thanksgiving, my positive mood inspired me to create a list of “public” things (as opposed to personal—a different list) I’m thankful for.

1. Recommendation 2.6 and Action Item 2.6A in the Boston Urban Forest Plan released in September calls for Boston having its own municipal tree protection regulations as many other cities do. The regulations would apply to trees on public and, for the first time, privately owned land. The UFP was developed through a months-long process involving community members, expert consultants and City of Boston Parks Department staff. It would have to be carefully crafted. The plan points out the City would need to fund the management of such an ordinance.

2. The existing MBTA 39 bus route between Forest Hills and Back Bay will remain and graduate to being the T39, meaning buses will arrive no more than 15 minutes apart. It was announced in late summer that the 39 bus was going to be changed veer off at the Longwood Medical Area to go to Somerville and Cambridge starting months from now. The community complained loudly to the MBTA about the proposed change, and late last month the T decided not to do that after all.

3. All the businesses and non-profits in JP made it through the pandemic panic and continue to serve the community.

4. I’m with JP resident Elsa Bengel, who said last week, “I am thankful for young voters who turned out to protect women’s rights.” For years, many people looked forward to the “youth vote” making a big difference at the polls. Often, they were disappointed. Not this time. A big exit poll after the Nov. 8 election showed that Gen Z and Millennials (ages 19-29) voted Democratic by the widest margin ever and made a real difference in the outcome.

5. The same exit poll showed that 16 percent of voters said they specifically voted to support Donald Trump, while 28 percent said they voted to oppose him.

6. “Democracy” itself and its current condition became a topic politicians and voters felt they could and should talk about.

7. The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council and its committees continue, after 37 years, to spend time and energy dealing with public issues important to them and their JP neighbors.

8. As winter knocks on our doors, it’s great to know many small and large non-profits, as well as the City of Boston, are working hard on the complex and costly actions necessary to get homeless people into permanent, safe shelter.

9. Massachusetts added more highly qualified women to its roster of state elected officials, including Maura Healy (AG to governor), Kim Driscoll (lieutenant governor) and Andrea Campbell (attorney general) joined Diana DiZoglio (senator to auditor) as state executives.

10. The internet. We have so much more (and often good) information available to us than we did years ago, literally at our fingertips!

Every time I think this blessings list is complete, I think of something else, but I have to stop somewhere. Almost all of these items continue to need positive attention; some need repairs or expansion. Everyone is invited to make a list of what they are thankful for in the public realm. Hoping this list leads to the creation—or relieves the pressure—of making New Year’s resolutions soon.

Sandra Storey is the founder and former publisher of the Jamaica Plain Gazette.

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