^ again, our City fails its test : IndyCar is going to Providence instead

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For the second time in less than a year, a big entertainment has been ki-boshed in Boston. We will now not have the IndyCar race that was, we thought, all set for labor Day weekend — and which this writer’s grand-kids were excited about seeing, just as they were almost giddy about seeing the 2024 Olympic games.

Today there’s sadness on my three grand-kids’ faces. As well there should be. Because of the opposition of a very few, who took full advantage of Boston’s clumsy decision making habits, they and thousands of grand-kids like them will now have to travel elsewhere to see shows that we of Boston deserve — more than deserve — to have.

When will the people who govern Boston learn that they cannot submit grand entertainments to the sharks who lurk in the waters of so-called “community,” arrogating to themselves the desires and interests of thousands who did not elect them or appoint them to speak ?

Did not City officials learn from the amateurism of catastrophe that squashed the prospects of “Boston 2024” ? Did they not see that to invite “public comment:” on grand plans is to assemble into a poisonous swarm a host of wasp-sized NIMBYs who, singly, couldn’t sting their way out of a plastic bag ?

Evidently City officials did not learn. Will they learn now ? And take steps to assure that future entertainments will sweep onto the scene before the wasps can swarm, before the stings can get their arsenal, of poisons into place ?

There was some reason, actually, to look skeptically upon Boston 2o24 : its plans were far from worked out when submitted, prematurely, to a public whose doubts the 2024 committee had no idea existed. Perhaps those justified doubts allowed City officials to conclude that no such could possibly attach to IndyCar, which did not include a plan to rebuild an entire neighborhood (Widett Circle). Unfortunately, City officials were wrong.

A year ago I wrote, in these pages, that the long standing BRA process of public comment on proposed developments has lost its usefulness; that it has become a vehicle for opposition to stop stuff, nothing more. Proponents must spend major time and effort gathering support and bringing it to the public comment hearings; if they do not do that, they’re finished : because the opposition always shows up, whereas supporters usually don’t see the need to surrender an evening’s quality time for the sake of a decision they see no problem with.  So it was with IndyCar, magnified many times by the many land-use jurisdictions involved.

I wrote then that the BRA’s development approval process needs radically to be changed; that the online, all-entry system used by imagineBoston2030 was the correct way to solicit and secure public approval. Online, the wasps of opposition get swamped by the vast numbers of people who like development and entertainment. As it should be. Opponents of change talk a lot about “residents”; but neighborhoods serve many interests, not just those of residents. Neighborhoods also serve businesses, customers, visitors, commuters. Why are these interests any less vital than that of such residents as spurn them ? In a big City, you takes your chances; you live in it knowing that you share it with all manner of stuff. If you don’t get that, maybe you shouldn’t reside in a big city at all ?

So what do I recommend to City officials ? So that the next IndyCar that comes along, happens ? Perhaps these steps :

1.Gather all the jursidictional approvals before any public unveiling is attempted.

2.Use eminent domain, if need be, to take proprietary 9albeit temporary) command of the land upon which such entertainments are to play.

3.Use the power of the Mayor’s office to push ordinances through the City Council establishing such entertainments, their location and dates and the parameters of each.

Mayor Walsh has said that he admires Montreal and sees its festivals — which almost always take place in the heart of Downtown and adjacents — as a model for future Boston. I agree; but Montreal City government has the full support of major corporations, Quebec’s province government and that of Canada, financially as well, as it schedules and hosts dozens of festivals set right in the middle of Downtown and everywhere adjacent. The people of Montreal take in millions of tourist and visitor dollars happily spent by millions of festival-goers, who crowd Downtown to the walls, diverting traffic and jamming up the city. I don’t have space enough here to list all the fsestivals that Montreal hosts every year,nor can I count the system that Montrealers seem very happy to take full advantage of.

Unfortunately, Boston people have no clue what it means to be Montreal. The worst failing of America is its isolation from what is going on in other nations and places. Isolation has been our savior in wars; but in the economic world of now, innovating every life aspect, isolation leaves us rather clueless. We will not become Montreal any time soon; it will be difficult even to begin moving Boston in that direction, and impossible to do so unless Mayor Walsh take steps to collapse the toe-jam barriers of “no” that pip and pop to stop us.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere


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