EVERYTHING WAS QUIET & BUSINESS-LIKE AT MATTAPAN TRANSPO MEETING, AND THEN …..

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^ the community has questions : last night’s Fairmount Line (MBTA) meeting in mattapan

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Last night “the community” filled much of the Mildred Avenue Community Center auditorium to hear an MBTA project team outline plans for a new Blue Hill Avenue – Cummins Highway T stop on the Fairmount Line. State Representatives Dan Cullinane and Russell Holmes were there, as was State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry. City Councillor Tim McCarthy came too. It was all set to be a very genteel, slide show presentation of the much-talked-of new Fairmount Line, featuring many local stops so that the line can serve Boston’s communities of color; through which the Fairmount runs and which, until recently, it had not served at all.

Genteel it was, as the project manager showed photos of new Fairmount stops at Newmarket, Uphams Corner, Four Corners, Talbot Avenue, Morton Street. Beautiful they were, and handsome, almost, the newly rebuilt bridges (there are 41 bridges on the Fairmount, said the project guy) over Columbia Road and Massachusetts Avenue. All of it done and the stations open, operating and doing just fine.

Then came the renderings of the proposed Blue Hill to Cummins Highway station.

Good-bye to genteel.

The audience was not happy to see what they saw : a T stop running between Woodhaven Street and Regis Road, all the way from Blue Hill Avenue (at SIMCO’s) to Cummins Highway (on the other side of Mattapan Square). Of course the line already runs that route and impacts those homes; the only new factor is the T stop. It seemed not that big a change, but to an audience waiting to pounce, it was big enough.

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^ They lined up at the microphone to ask questions. Well, not so much questions as to rant against the T in general.

“It seems to me that we’re always having stuff imposed on us,” said one woman. “We need honesty. we’re the abutters.”

Said another man, “We never get anything !”

“In 2005 they promised us cameras and a phone at the Morton street,’ said another. “Came 2007, the phone was in, but not the camera.”

“Why isn’t there even one station between Blue Hill and Fairmount avenue ?” asked a man. “Three mile stretch and you can’t do even one stop ?”

“i do not trust the T,” said an older woman, speaking to Russell Holmes directly next to her.

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^  St Rep Russell Holmes listens to grievances

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“Where were you when all this was being done,” a man asked of Holmes, who pretty soon had had enough. He stood up, addressed the questioner directly. “You’re for it,” he said to the man, who obviously knew Holmes — addressing him “Russell.” “And I’m for it. So what is the problem ?”

“If the community wants it, it should have it,’ answered Holmes’s friend. “if it doesn’t, then not.”

Holmes certainly was right to stand up a he did. the Fairmount has been in works for over three years now — as Senator Dorcena Forry pointed out in a fierce, extensive speech during which she challenged the nay-sayers and defended the project — which, as the T’s spokes-gal said, is wanted by at least 60 percent of local residents.

Her speech not only quieted the crowd but even garnered extensive applause. But then the questioning continued. There was much talk of the T stops being for “outsiders.” And so it went.

Silly me, I guess, for thinking that the Fairmount line’s addition of several local stops, to serve those who need public transit to get to work, was an unmitigated good thing. I should have realized that even indisputable benefits to a neighborhood look like an imposition to some when they are delivered from the State House by a government in which very few people of color have any direct voice.

The objectors were not, however, playing a race card. One woman loudly praised State Senator Jack Hart, of South Boston (who represented Mattapan before Linda Dorcena Forry) for his work with the neighborhood’s concerns. Rather, the race component lay far deeper in the anger than that. It was directed to the State House in general. And it was hard not to see that every one of the Fairmount Project staff was white — except for its “neighborhood outreach advocate.”

It was also hard not to agree with the woman who talked about promises made in 2005, when Mitt Romney was still governor. The disconnect between State plans and state performance is not Democrat or Republican. It is systemic. it arises from budget traffic jams, departmental conflicts, the constant buffeting, from one crisis to another, of governors by the public. It is very difficult for a complex, 21st century government to do anything quickly or well, and that is how it is with a democracy in which everybody votes and voters get listened to, as they should be.

Some call this performance traffic jam “waste.” I call it democracy in action. Community meetings and neighborhood input are now a core part of the process by which public improvements are brought from concept to built. Onward we go, anger and conflict and all that.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

below : “the community” gathers to listen and object

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