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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BOSTON MAYOR RACE : 18 FORUMS UPCOMING … AND A NEW STATE REP FOR THE 12TH ?

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^ John Connolly vs. Marty Walsh : big battle shaping up

In case you doubt that the “sprint to Primary day” is really under way for the 12 Mayor candidates, get this : there are no fewer than eighteen — 18 ! — Mayoral Forums on schedule between today and September 19th.

No one wants to downgrade any Forum, but clearly, of those coming soon, the Main street Coalition’s Forum at the Strand Theater in Uphams’ Corner, on August 19th is key. Important, too,  are the Ward 10 (Mission hill and Hyde Square) Candidates Night on August 27th, the South End Business Alliance Forum on August 29th, and the Wards 19 and 5 Democratic Committee night on September 5. After that, it’s all big stuff, especially these : the NAACP’s Forum, 650 Dudley Street, on September 10th; Action for Boston Community Development’s Forum, 178 Tremont Street, on September 11; the Boston Teachers Union Forum that same night, at the BTU headquarters, 180 Mt Vernon Street near Columbia Point (Dorchester). Then comes the Back Bay Association’s Forum on September 16, and on September 19th, two biggies ; the Dorchester Board of trade, 780 Morrissey Boulevard, off Freeport Street, and a WBUR and Boston Foundation Forum at U Mass Boston in Columbia Point.

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^ Former School Committee member John Barros ; impressing many, and a chance to be heard on the big stages coming up

For some of the twelve, these Forums will be a last chance to get voters thinking beyond the “major” hopefuls. For the “majors,” it will be a voice-exhausting exercise in saying over and over again the themes and details that they are already speaking about, again and again, every night now.

Having had few opportunities to say their say in detail and at length, the last-chancers will doubtless impress many. Still, without meaning to sound dismissive, this writer feels, from long observation of major City campaigns, that for the last-chancers, these forums’ big significance will be that they catch the attention of the “majors,’ so that after the Primary, their support will be sought after. Which accords them and their supporters some palpable share in the agenda of whichever candidate finally becomes Mayor. Given that Boston has a strong-Mayor charter, by which the mayor appoints almost every key administrator and runs almost every City department, having skin in his or her game is no small thing for a last-chancer to gain.

There will also be some last-chancers who either do not get the point or who mishandle it. So be it in the political major leagues.

For the “majors,” the objective will be to not stumble, as Dan Conley now infamously did at a recent Black Community Forum, and to not misstate or overlook a policy position. Preparation will not be an issue; with so many forums coming on, no one is going to lose his or her forensic mojo. Still, these forums do not — cannot — overwhelm a major candidate’s time and thinking. He or she has several of his or her own campaign events on schedule, every day and night. it’s one huge, daily rush-rush-rush from here to there and everywhere, a series of stop-and-speak’s, strung across 17 hours of driving like knots on a rope. Such a candidate finds himself cramming on the ride to a Forum — when he or she’s not trying to catch 40 winks.

The good times of this campaign are over for the “majors” — the one on one talks with voters, the casual visits to city parks, neighborhood groups, restaurants, and small house parties. From here on, it’s thirst, palm cards, remembering voters’ names; it’s punishment, exhaustion, endurance, awareness missing nothing, plumping for funds — and reporters bothering them. But hey — this is the biggest of big leagues. Bring on the Forums.

As far as who the Big Two will be after Primary time, we saw nothing yesterday to change our view : John Connolly and Marty Walsh are it, with Rob Consalvo a credible alternative.

I give Consalvo that much because, at yesterday’s special Primary election to choose the 12th Suffolk State Rep’s Democratic nominee (to replace Linda Dorcena-Forry, now a State Senator), he had the most visibility of any mayor hopeful. At the seven city polling places (the District also includes also two precincts in Milton) and in lawn signs all over the Mattapan part of the District, Consalvo showed up.  So far as this writer has observed,he has all along  run the most thorough visibility campaign of the twelve. Were it not that a battle royal is already shaping up between Connolly and Walsh — political people throughout the City are talking about it; we’ll discuss why in future reports — Consalvo’s visibility effort would make all the difference. But that battle royal is taking shape, and fast, and the man from Hyde Park may get squeezed out.

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^ Rob Consalvo ; visibility dominant

The 12th Suffolk being a Dorchester/Mattapan thing, local favorite Marty Walsh had workers displaying his name — enthusiastically — at several of the seven polling places; supporters of Bill Walczak and Mike Ross also made a few appearances. John Connolly people, however, were not seen. This could not have been accident. Clearly Connolly had no intention of being measured against Walsh on Walsh’s home turf.

Now to that 12th Suffolk District special election. As we reported on our Facebook page at 9:00 PM last night, the Democratic nomination was won by Dan Cullinane, a former Marty Walsh aide from the Lower Mills neighborhood of Dorchester — as politically active a community as any in Boston. Surely Walsh had to be pleased.

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^ Dan Cullinane : Lower Mills victory

Cullinane’s victory party at the Ledge on “Dot Ave” was packed with about 100 supporters, including State Senator Brian Joyce as well as several members of the large and well-known Lower Mills O’Neill family, one of which, Catherine O’Neill, is running for Boston city Council city-wide. The O’Neills too had to be pleased.

Cullinane announced “diversity is the strength of our district’; and thanked, in particular, voters of Haitian origin, several of whom celebrated at his party : “merci, merci, merci,” Cullinane said, ‘and I can’t wait to visit Haiti !”

The new nominee won more than 60 percent of the vote against Stephanie Everett, who waas an aide to State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, and Marydith Tuitt, an aide to State Rep Gloria Fox. Cullinane now faces, on September 10th, two independent candidates, one from Milton and one from Mattapan, in a District as Democratic as almost any in the State. If elected, he will join the Boston delegation and bring it to full size again.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere