1 Thanksgiving 1621

William Bradford, Edward Winslow, Elder Brewster, Myles Standish, and Thomas Morton — names all Massachusetts knows well — led the Pilgrims in giving thanks for survival and for bounty on that November day in 1621, with Indians as fellow participants.

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On this day, the 393rd Thanksgiving since our Pilgrim predecessors first celebrated survival in their new home overlooking Plymouth Harbor, we give thanks, as all of you are doing, for all that we have and all that we are.

We give thanks for being alive, active participants in the great experiment we call “America.”

We give thanks for having friends and family, as most of us do; and to those who do not have friends or family today, we ask that you give us the privilege of being friebnds and family to you.

We give thanks for the food that we have been accorded today; and to those of you who do not have food accorded, we ask that you allow us the honor of bringing it to you, so that you can smile as we are smiling.

We give thanks for our democracy, which even when imperfect is always capable of being more perfected ; because at the very least, that’s what democracy has that no other society knows : an invitation to every hand on deck to set the ship of state better on course.

We give thanks for all of our neighbors and community, the more diverse the better ; for every person bears within his or her soul a precious part of human society, human ways, human wisdom.

We give thanks for the amazing safety in which most of us live, protected by two vast oceans that make it very difficult or those who hate us to get at us. And we give special thnaks for our troops serving duty overseas, far from home and family, so that our nation may breathe easier, prosper and sleep well at night.

For all this we give thanks and say thank you; and hopefully we, and many more of us, rescued from want or loneliness, will do the same next November.

And now that we have said our thank yous, it is time to go eat, and drink, and toast good cheer. We’ll get back to you tomorrow.

— The Editors / Here and Sphere


Ferguson protesters

^ hands up ! — Ferguson protesters took to the streets all across a stunned nation

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The news from Ferguson, Missouri yesterday was to say the least disappointing. A grand jury refused to second-guess a police officer’s actions that led to the death of an unarmed teenager.

I purposely left out the names here, of Michael Brown and Darren Wilson, because this sort of event has happened a lot these past few years. The Brown and Wilson confrontation was not an exception. Just the opposite. It happened in Westchester County. Happened in North Carolina. Happened in New Orleans at the time of Katrina. Happened in New York City, more than once. I doubt that these are the only instances.

Some of those instances were, if anything, even more grievous than Brown and Wilson. The officer who killed a college football player, a young Black man in North Carolina killed a man who had been in an auto accident and was approaching the policeman’s car seeking help.

Can there be any doubt that too many police see young Black men as dire threats simply because they are young, Black men ? And if few young Black men get killed by police, hundreds — thousands — more get stopped, or frisked, or hassled in some way simply because they are young, male, and Black.

The situation is hardly limited to police. President Obama has recounted, sadly, eloquently, his own experience, as a young Black man, of car doors being locked as he crossed a street, or of pedestrians moving out of his way. Black taxi drivers talk of rides who pay their fare but shy away from touching the driver’s hand. Black shoppers get hassled all the time by salespeople at high-end stores. Even Oprah has told of being the recipient of such treatment.

Too many Americans see Black people as a danger, not a neighbor. Police grow up in that environ. And yes, most of America’s police are not Black.

But, some will argue, Michael Brown actually was a danger. He was big, he was the aggressor at first, he had a long criminal record, he was hardly Trayvon Martin. True enough. No one, I hope, is suggesting that Darren Wilson should have offered him a cup of coffee. Wilson seems to have had plenty of cause to use force.

Yet the situation need not have escalated that far. When Wilson saw Brown walking in the middle of the street he did not need to wise-ass him, as his words sure sound like. Nor did he need to back up his cop-car and block Brown’s path. Those were inflammatory actions.

Doubtless Wilson had learned, as a Ferguson police officer, that the way to keep the peace on his city’s streets is to intimidate people. It works, because most people being intimidated by an armed policeman do whatever the cop orders. Most people know that if they do not do that, bad things might happen. Unfortunately for Wilson, Brown was not intimidated but inflamed.

Brown’s attack took Wilson by surprise. Clearly it did. Nothing in his experience as a Ferguson policeman had prepared him for a man who would not be intimidated, who would, in fact, attack back.

A serious attack it was : Brown simply lost it. Surprised, Wilson lost it too. Whatever training he had undergone in handling confrontations, it went out the window. There seems scant need to shoot Brown twelve times — once in the top of his head would have been enough — to have stopped Brown’s attack, but twelve bullets Wilson did fire. This was anger, not police work. This was road rage.

One can speculate all over the place as to why Wilson lost it. One can also speculate about why Brown risked his own life by attacking. Fact is that neither man acted in a vacuum. There was clearly a history, in Ferguson, of animosity between police and the Black community. We saw this animosity in full force in the aftermath. We saw it last night.

Hopefully the anger that has arisen, much of it fully justified, will force America’s police departments to change their entire cultures. First, police forces need to hire many more people of color : every community, including communities of color, deserves to be policed by its own citizens. The next step is to require police people to honor the communities they protect; to see those whom they are protecting as allies, not foes.

This step is a must. It has to be done and done now.

Some observers have pointed out that many young Black men are in fact a threat, that 90 percent of Black men who get murdered are killed by other Black men. Sadly this is true even in parts of Boston. But how does it help, if the police in communities of color treat all of its residents as if they too are criminals ? Residents should be a police force’s eyes and ears; but because there is so much disconnect between many police forces and the communities they work in, eyes stay shut and ears hear nothing. It is simply easier to adapt to truly badass young men than to invite an alien police into the situation.

The cry went up : “black lives matter.” yes they do. all lives matter. All lives should matter, first of all to police forces hired to protect those lives. Police departments need to be reconfigured from the ground up, communities and police need to be knitted together; Mayors and the Courts, Civil Rights attorneys, clergy and concerned citizens — police officia;s too — must demand it and see that it gets done — now. Otherwise we are done as a civil society.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


We were at last night’s Neighborhood Innovation District Committee meeting and found its session unhelpful, even contrary, to what is needed. Read our report.

Roxbury Here

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^ lots of committee, not much connection ; the “NIDC” meets at Boston Public Library

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Last night I attended a meeting of the so-called “Neighborhood Innovation District Committee,” a group of about 15 well-knowns who have been tasked with etablishing an “Innovation District,” as we now call technology research parks, in Roxbury. Unhappily, the meeting made the creation of such a district harder to achieve, not easier.

The committee couldn’t even define what “innovation” means without swerving well off the rails. Committee member Ed Glaeser — who has written brilliantly about Boston’s history and surely knows better — asserted that “innovation; should apply to all kinds of business enterprises : food stores, handicrafts, retail. This is nonsense, as was his assertion that what was wanted is “an innovation district with a heart.”

Dear Ed Glaeser : what an innovation district needs is a profit.


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^ Charlie Baker today at Tito jackson’s Turkey Give-away; Juliette Kayyem may just be his toughest 2018 opponent

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The good thing is that he knows it. That plus his mere 40,000 vote victory, assure that as Governor, Baker will be extremely focused on mastering the task that he set himself and of which he became the symbol : making state government perform better.

H has another task that is driving him, a mission. Baker was surely disappointed to receive only about 9 percent of the vote in Boston’s Black community. That was nicer than Scott Brown’s 2010 special election total of about four percent; but considering the many, many campaign stops that Baker made in Roxbury, Grove Hall, and Mattapan, 9 percent had to hurt.

What has Baker done about this ? Plenty.

He has returned to Boston’s Black community numerous times since the election. He visited The Base at least three times, the Reggie Lewis center at least twice, and Grace Church of all Nations on one spectacular Sunday. And these are only the events that I am aware of. Surely I missed some, as I am not privy to the Governor’s schedule.

Baker is relentless about this. I think he wants actually to win Boston’s 40 or 50 black majority precincts come 2018. That would be a revolution. I see much evidence that he is determined to accomplish it.

Baker has also visited numerous other Boston events, of all types and in almost all neighborhoods. I see no reason to think he won’t continue to do the same all the way to the 2018 re-election year.

For all his Boston effort, Baker won only 30 percent of the City’s vote — the exact same prcentage that Scott Brown carried in 2010 when he won a US Senate seat. if Baker is to expand his re-election margin beyond the tightrope two-percent that he won three weeks ago, he can find no better place to get that done than in the communities of Boston where his vote has almost no place to go but up.

Granted that on november 4th he received about 19,000 votes from Bostonians who otherwise vored a straight Democratic ticket. Senator Ed Markey and Maura Healey for Attorney General won 80 and 81 % respectively; Coakley only 66 %. Baker has already won a significant vote bloc to his side.

Can he keep it ? Expand it ?

The voters of Boston are as connected to the real deals as any in Massachusetts — much more so. Baker is raising their expectations of him high, high, high. Granting him an A for effort will not be enough to meet those expectations; and the Capitol city has a Mayor who did everything he could to prevent a Baker victory. Mayor Walsh has much incentive to keep Baker from brandishing any policy that he, Mayor Walsh, does not agree with. For the time being, as the Baker administration remains an unrealized, big vista, Walsh is playing the friendship card with all the smile that he has in him. Baker, too. Soon enoiugh we shall see the next phase.

For now, Baker probably has the advantage : in 2017, when Walsh seeks re-election, his chief opponent is likely to be a person of color, and, very likely, given Baker’s full scale romancing Boston’s Black voters, a Baker ally.

Outside the city of Boston, the 2018 campiagn — yes, already begun — isn’t so personal. There, all that Baker need do is to get the job done, and to do it in a way that the voters see it. So far his cabbinet appointments met that test. All are well able, some superbly, to change Beacon Hill from sloppy tpo smooth. The only entanglement that may annoy voters in the Route 128 belt and east of Route 495 is policy. Many pressing issues have potential to throw Baker’s re-election way off track : charter schools, transportation funding, clean energy initiatives, in state tuition for undocumented immigrants (or for those given work perniots pursuant to President obama’s executive order). Baker has already signalled that he will play these divisive matters cautiously. Some voters may not like that.

The personal will also arise outside Boston (and in it) if the 2018 Democratic nominee has a better grasp of current social norms than Martha Coakley did. Coakley seemed even more of a 1990s person than the sports-bar-loving Baker : a hair-do’d cocktail party conversationalist In comparison, Juliette Kayyem and Maura Healey spoke the language of now, looked up to date, sleek as a Fort Point bistro.

Right now Maura Healey looks like Baker’s 2018 opponent; but the work of an attorney general, as we have seen time and agian, runs in the opposite direction from that of a governor. i see Juliette Kayyem as much the more plausible candidate, if she is of a mind to run again. She knows policy, she thinks outside the box, she understands the appeal, in Massachusetts, of Republicans as Governor and is not afraid to borrow Republican governor ideas — and to say so. Which makes her much more electric than the other Democratic candidates — even Healey — who don’t seem to grasp what the Massachusetts Republican party is about and why it has Governor appeal : non-ideological, good-government reform.

She’s also a realist. As she tweeted, to discouraged Democrats on November 5th : “this election is not a tragedy, it’s democracy.”

Her only weakness is that she seems so quintessentially a north-of-the-Charles River, academic, think-tank-y presence quite different from what Boston voters are used to. But then Mike Dukakis was like that, too, and he won three elections as governor.

He was also the embodiment of good government reform.

No wonder Baker is paying so much attention to the voters of Boston.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


1 President Obama 1

President Obama says “benvenido, amigos !” to 5 million of us. A great night in our nation’s history

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Last night President Obama took it upon himself to open five million doors to five million people who have waited a long, long time for those doors to open. They have waited worrying every minute, unsure of anything besides a hope and maybe a dream. Those dreams have now come true, the hope made good.

Republicans, caught unable to take even a first step toward a single one of those doors,. erupted in volcanoes of outrage that the President would do such a thing. By executive order, no less. They called him Emperor, Tyrant, Dictator. Probably some called him names unprintable. All because the President stepped forward to do a doorman’s job; to welcome five million among us as the guests they are and to offer then a chance to stay. To work. To get ahead with their lives minus fear of being sent back to the awfulness whence they came.

This is what Republicans railed against.

To hear them talk, their complaint is all about process. The President overrode the law, they say. He acted hastily. He overstpped his powers.

David Gergen wrote a piece for CNN in which he said that although Executive Order is quite OK for a President to use in times of emergency and as commander in chief, the presence in our country of 11 million undocumented, technically “illegal” immigrants is no emergency; and that therefore President Obama had no justification for taking emergency action about it.

The presence of so many millions of people, on insecure status and subject to immediate deportation, is not an emergency ? Really ? I say that Gergen is wrong.

We are talking about 11 million people without drivers’ licenses, yet many of whom do drive, without license or insurance, a great risk to those who drive on the roads alongside them.

We’re talking 11 millilon people who can only work under the table, defenceless against wage theft, extortion, blackmail.

We’re talking 11 million people who cannot get public assistance, whose children cannot be certain of going to school, who cannot legally work, who often work off the books and thus pay no taxes ; who cannot get health insurance and thus are 100 percent a taxpayer cost in emergency rooms; 11 million people who comprise a good three percent of the entire economy — because everyone in an economy is part of it, legality making no economic difference– and whose deportation would by itself throw the economy into recession.

That, dear reader, sounds a lot like emergency to me.

As for the Republicans, who hate Federal spending and want to shut down every program except their own, they’re ready to waste billions and billions of dollars sending National Guard troops to the Mexico border, along with thousands of newly hired border agents, all in search of an impossibility. Billions of dollars that could be spent on infrastructure, on health care, on veterans’ services, on NLRB enforcement, on OSHA, on Civil Rights and voting rights enforcement, on national parks and the Coast Guard.

That, dear reader, sounds a lot like insanity to me.

So, no : i do not agree with David Gergen. I do not agree that the continued precarious existence, year after year after year, of Congress refusing to do anything about it, in America of 11 million people and their families is not an emergency. It is one.

Last night was maybe the best of Obama’s Presidency. He has often missed the bus, frequently mismanaged the Federal bureaucracy, almost always fails to explain his policies, compromises them to pieces; but last night he expressed his policy eloquently, addressed a crisis boldly, took the best of this nation’s soul and gave it shape, measure, and tone. He made us a moral nation again, a nation of welcomers, where before we had turned our backs upon those who risked all to get here and be part of us.

Six million still remain in the shadow. There is work to be done. Maybe someone will do it. Maybe not.

That said, America’s soul sleeps tonight in peace. It basks in harnony. Thank you, Mr. President.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


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listening : Charlie Baker is doing a lot of that lately

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Charlie Baker hasn’t even taken office yet, and the voters of Massachusetts are already besieging him with their wish lists of what he should do; what he should prioritize; what he shouldn’t do; and probably who he should and shouldn’t be. I suppose it’s only natural for everybody to bring forth their personal petitions. For many, the Baker administration presents an as yet open vista of possibilities upon which all can gaze, dream, implore.

That everybody — of an electorate that barely accorded Baker a majority — seems to feel that he will listen to them is a good thing and a bad thing. Good it is that everybody has faith in the system, that those who we elect, even by a slim number, will take our petitions sincerely to heart. bad it also is, however, that universal expectation must surely lead to almost universal disappointment ; because Baker is governor, not god. He cannot do much more than reform state administration. All else will be advocacy of matters where the ultimate Decider is the Speaker of the House.

Let me pour the cold water of numbers on the heat of petitioning the Governor :

1. The new House of Representatives will have 35 Republicans, 125 Democrats. That’s a veto-proof majority by far.

2. The Speaker of the House apppints all members of every committee. Robert deLeo has never been known to fail, when he cares to get involved, at wielding his total command of every member.

3. Much of what the voters are petitioning the Governor about — civil rights, the 2024 Olympics, transportation funding, transportation construction, charter schools, energy policy — are matters of legislation. The Governor has a bully pulpit to speak from, yes; but the Speaker was never much moved by Deval Patrick’s bully eloquence; I doubt he will suddenly crumple for Baker’s.

I see no sign that legislative progress is going to be any more generous in the coming session than it has been in the priors. Most legislators actually agree with the Speaker that reforms on all fronts probably aren’t much good if the state can’t deliver the services already enacted into law.

The priority for Baker is to put into shape the one task that he (very properly) made his campaign theme and which he can actually do : reform the way the state delivers its services, alter the culture of state agency task sheets, make the state budget transparent, build user-friendly online interfaces between the state and those who live in it. These things, Baker needs no legislative permission to accomplish. They’re all his.

Other than that, Baker can continue his mission to city people, especially people of color and ethnicity, for whom state government often feels like something alien than a boon that belongs to them. This is a calling that Baker obviously feels deeply. His visits to city communities haven’t stopped even after election day. Nor has he failed even once to talk about the crisis of addiction afflicting our state and the mission of recovery.

If Baker can infuse people of color and, or ethicity, or those suffering from addictions or who are beginning recovery, with a strong dose of optimism about career, health, family, and life work, he’ll be a very significant governor even if nothing else of his agenda gets past the bogs and obstructions he will almost certainly face.

Let Charlie Baker do HIS work. There’ll be plenty of opportunity later for him to do yours.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


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^ the seaport Square project; Mayor walsh saying it’s a great day

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Attending Friday’s ground-breaking party for Seaport Square’s 60 million dollar development, I could not but think of the meeting, only two nights prior, held barely a mile away,at which was discussed the situation at Long Island, where a homeless shelter for hundreds was closed without notice because the bridge to the Island was condemned.

At the Seaport Square event hundreds of well dressed developers, architects, executives, elected officials — Charlie Baker came by, as did City Councillors Flaherty and Linehan, State Representative Nick Collins, and State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry — and friends of the Seaport District drank complimentary, high-end beverages and ate delicious hors d’oeuvres as they talked about, or viewed photigraphs of, the Square’s ambitious, multi-use edifices. There will soon be hundreds of residences; thousands of feet of retail space; and a commodious theater, the first to be built in Boston in many years.

No expense was spared to make this ground-breaking a party to savor.

John Hynes of the Boston Group, who emceed the ceremony, called the project “as transformative to Boston as the Prudential and Copley place.” It would, he said, create 3,000 construction jobs and lead to 1,300 jobs on site once open.” Mayor Walsh, the event’s key speaker, said “this is the largest development this city has seen in decades.”

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Charlie Baker spoke with Michael Flaherty amid a crowd of over 100 celebrants

Big it is; maybe as big as Hynes and Walsh assert, though the Prudential Center was prettty darn impressive in its own right. It created something where before there had been basically nothing (just rail yards). Seaport Square will not create a neighborhood, simply top it off. Still, yes, impressive.

Hynes also said “the Seaport is the darling of the international investor commnity right now.” And that, I want to say, is the point. Money goes to money : and the Seaport is all about capacious money. It houses, entertains, invites meetings of the many younger Bostonians who work in the city’s prosperous technology, financial, legal, and architectural professions; in consulting and public relations; in networking and trade shows; in the restaurant industry and, yes, in government;  and almost all of whom earn lavish incomes that can handle 40-dollar dinners, 25-dollar parking fees, and 3,000 to 5,000-dollar rents to live there.

Scant wonder that the “international investor community” views the Seaport as a “darling.” Money likes investing in money. It likes those who have money to spend and who do spend it.

City Hall likes money, too. Huge tax revenues will accrue to Boston’s city budget from Seaport Square. The construction jobs that begin today support Mayor Walsh’s core constituency. They can only be grateful that Walsh’s administration has guided the Square project past what Hynes called “years of disappointment and delays” to the beginning of work at last.

Yes, it was a happy crowd of one hundred.

Meanwhile, at Blackstone Community Center scarcely two nights prior, an even larger crowd of desperately homeless people and harried service providers screamed, begged, insulted a room full of City officials to get them somewhere to live as winter approaches them huddled on streets, curled up under bridges, heat-hunting on subway grates and sewer vents. At that gathering there was no food, no happiness, few people well dressed, no congratulations, no ceremony, no money. No international investors smiled; and the several elected officials who did attend seemed to offer an “I have no words” personal presence in support of people who have very little of anything, not even of hope; people living on the edge of health crises and utterly vulnerable to robbery and assault — because that’s how it is when one is homeless. Predators do not feed on Seaport Square, with its security staff and surveillance cameras. They prey on undefended bodres sleeping on slabs of stone in blanket packs.

By no means do I claim that Mayor Walsh does not give a damn about Boston’s battalion of suddenly homeless evictees from a closed long Island shelter. He does care. But any assistance his administration accords to Long Island’s people will be hard to put in place. It’ll be scraped together in buildings now unused and, most likely, out of the way (as was Long island itself). That’s how it is when you’re a dishevelled embarrassment and your life’s a cost burden to a society that can’t move fast enough when the clientele is people who look fabulous and carry acres of diamonds in their pockets.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


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^ homeless veteran tells his story; Michael Kane testifies

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Hundreds of concerned residents of Boston, many of them homeless, crowded into a fourth story auditorium last night at the Blackstone Community Center, in Boston’s South End, to decry the crisis that the October closure of Long island Bridge has occasioned.

Condemnation of the bridge — a structure well beyond safe usage — let several hundred shelter seekers without the Island hospital as a place of refuge. Equally as many people, recovering addicts and alcoholics, depended on the hospital for treatment and care; they too found themselves cast adrift by the bridge closure, which happened with — so it seems — without any notice at all to those affected.

A month later, and still homeless or without the care they need, the hundreds who remain shut out testified 0ne by one : pleaded, demanded, ranted at City officials and at the four City Council members who put themselves on the firing line — Frank Baker, Ayanna Pressley, Charles Yancey, and Michelle Wu. Some who testified did so politely, but none spoke without intense emotion.

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^ from the left : Councillors baker, Pressley, Yancey, Wu

Several advocates for the homeless spoke, and several people who operate shelters — none more purposeful than long-time housing activist Michael Kane, who, a while ago, was a City Council candidate himself and who demonstrated detailed knowledge of the City’s housing issues : the new Mayor’s affordable housing plan, which Kane argued is inadequate; funding issues for placing homeless people in homes; and suggestions how to add new funds — Kane called for the City to create 500 housing vouchers for the 500 evicted from Long Island.

Kane, like most of the speakers, addressed question s directly to the our Councillors; but few answers were given, even by Pressley, probably because not even she had any answers to give. Nor did the City’s representatives, who included former Mayor candidate Felix G. Arroyo — now the City’s Director of Human Services — who as a candidate made the City’s housing crisis his signature issue. Yet not even he seemed to have any answers to the crisis questions : when will the bridge be reopened ? when will the hospital operate again ? Where will the displaced people live ?

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^ testifying — pleading, shrieking even; State Representative Byron Rushing listens

Several State Representatives were in the room. The speakers they listened to must have shocked : women in recovery, suddenly cut off from treatment; a homeless veteran, looking much older than his years, who testified to life on the streets in cold weather; another homeless man who has bounced from one shelter to another dealing with untrained counsellors and burdensome shelter rules; and several women whose testimony ranged from pitiful to shrieking, as they acted out their crisis situation.

Not often do we get to hear frrom, and see, homeless people gathered, testifying to City officials. For most of us, these folks either don’t exist, or do’t count, or annoy. Last night those who were in the Blackstone auditorium had to sit for several hours and listen to many, many witnesses to what it means to battle one crisis after another, hardness that most of us never have to deal with.

The bridge will be fixed. That was promised. But when ?

The crisis continues. people are living in gymnasiums, without lockers for their valuables and goods, without caregivers and with no idea of when their ordeal will end.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

NOTE : the following lknk takes you to the Bridge Closing story at WBUR.