WEST ROXBURY : THE QUARRY MEETS AND GREETS

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^ proposing quarry reclamation laws : State Senator Mike Rush (in black sweater)

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Like a candidate seeking election, the West Roxbury Quarry held a kind of meet and greet last night at St. Stephen’s Church on Washington Street. Into the church’s downstairs meeting room, where posters for the parish’s AA meetings hang on the wall, two Quarry people — including Laura Lorusso Peterson, of the long-owning Lorusso family — spoke to members of the West Roxbury Civic association (with old friend Larry Boran at the head table) and took questions from about 75 people, standing room only.

The message : the Lorussos want to drill for another 20 years, and they want to fill the Quarry’s huge hole even as they continue to drill. And to fill it, so it seems, with dirt that many local residents consider contaminated, even if recently changed state regulations don’t.

The Quarry people talked reclamation; but local State Senator Mike Rush, hard as a cinder block, noted that “what I’m hearing isn’t about reclamation, it’s about extra operations.”

Was he right ? It wasn’t easy to tell. Most of the conversation was about fill ; lines of dump trucks trafficking Centre Street, unregulated fill, noise, dust, pedestrians at risk.

At this point State Representative Angelo Scaccia, elected from the District immediately to the Quarry’s east, entered the room and took his seat. Scaccia said not a word; his colleague Ed Coppinger, did the talking, Mike Rush and City Councillor Matt O’Malley too; both constantly nodded toward Scaccia as they spoke, as if seeking his blessing on the content of their conversations. (Perhaps justly, because Scaccia has sat in the House for over 40 years and has seen it all.)

Among the stuff Scaccia has seen all of is the Quarry. Noise from Quarry blasting has been an issue since both he and I had a full head of black hair. Dust from the quarry has been an issue that long too. An end to quarry operations has been spoken of since Bobby Orr played hockey. Yet the quarry does not end. It goes on. Today it commands a huge hole in the ground covering about 50 acres of what would have been prime West Roxbury land. If filled in — with dirt that doesn’t harbor chemical contraband — it would command huge money from housing developers who gladly pay $ 200,000 for a buildable house lot.

All of the above was mentioned with cold specificity by Steve Smith, of the West Roxbury Community Council.

Much else was said, with icy specificity, by people who face the Quarry up front : that the trees along Centre Street have all died of dust; that the blasting draws ever nearer to houses along its perimeter; that the Lorussos can’t be trusted because all of their previous promises haven’t been kept; and so on. Someone even suggested that there would be fill brought in from the Everett casino project, fill very contaminated indeed.

That was scary and raised all kinds of issues that none of the elected officials in the room chose to touch.

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^ the Quarry’s Laura Lorusso Peterson meets and greets

Laura Lorusso Peterson offered to pay $ 50,000 a year to “the community” as mitigation. Some scoffed ; asked one man standing on the opposite side of the hall, “are we really ready to sell West Roxbury that cheaply ?”

Peterson offered a “90 day moratorium” on bringing in new fill. “We can bring in fill whenever we like,” she said, ‘but we don ‘t want to do that. We want to give the community a chance to work out an agreement with us.”

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^ proposals to slow the fill : State Rep ed Coppinger and City Councillor Matt O’Malley

City Councillor Matt O’Malley wasn’t having it. “I’ve sponsored an amendment to our zoning code,’ he said, “All twelve of my colleagues have signed it. It will require that you seek community approval, then full neighborhood approval, then a zoning board of appeal hearing.” He then added : “i’m not trying to stop what you’re doing, just to assure a proper process.”

Many Americans complain of bureaucracy and red tape as it is, much less of new red tape. Not the people in the St Stephen’s room, however. This was a night to celebrate red tape.

Sensing the theme, Senator Rush took the floor to deliver an almost five minute speech on Massachusetts’s lack of laws governing quarry reclamation. He said that he would introduce extensive legislation to govern it and outlined his proposals. Applause was his, and more applause.

There was no mention in Rush’s speech of the taxpayer cost to hire people to monitor and enforce the new laws; but it sounded good, especially when Rush noted that “other states have quarry reclamation laws, so should we !”

As the cliche has it : “there oughta be a law.”

The meeting continued well past two hours long, but the theme of it was fully established in its first hour. There would be a new law, maybe or maybe not enforceable. City Zoning would acquire an additional layer of obstacle. The neighbors would continue to live with the Quarry, like it or not. New fill would be withheld for a time — but maybe not. And the blasting and drilling would continue for another twenty years.

And there would be a study committee formed.

Perhaps Angelo Scaccia summed it up best : “Michael, they talk fill, but they want to drill. This isn’t about reclamation at all. Same old.”

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR : MANAGEMENT IS THE MESSAGE

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^ probably the most-viewed face in Boston today : 29-year old Daniel Koh, who will be Mayor-elect Marty Walsh’s Chief of staff

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“Management” is the message that Mayor-elect Walsh is sending so far. Changes in polkicy may be coming; certainly his core supporters insist on it; but for now, the prioority is to manage better what already is.

We saw the message previewed at the Transition Team Hearings, in which each Task Force found its suggestions divided into “keep,” “implenent,” and “dream” components. Categorization helped task force participants to appraise the impact of their ideas — and to traffic-cop the discussion toward flow, not tie-ups. Still, it wasn’t clear then that traffic-copping would become a policy in itself; but it looks that that is what has happened.

The selction of Huffington Post chief staff manager Daniel Koh to be Walsh’s chief of staff confirms it. Koh is a manager, not a politician. He holds an advanced degree in management; method is his milieu, application his brief. Havard; Phillips Andover (disclosure : my school too). He worked in Mayor Menino’s administration prior to joining Huff post. His selection assures that the policies will be Walsh’s, the implementation, Koh’s. Sometimes chiefs of politicians’ staffs inject policy ideas of their own. It’s all too easy for an office holder’s office manager to control the action. Koh will not — probably can not — do that to Walsh : or maybe I should say, he and Walsh agree completely, that management will be the policy and thus Koh will have free rein to make it happen as he deems best.

(to learn more about Daniel Koh, follow this link to his Huff post bio : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-koh/ )

The selection has won almost universal applause. Nearly everyone understands that, despite Tom Menino’s remarkable popularity with voters, his City Hall abounds in seat of the pants. “Temperamental” is its key. Who knows what, or who, will be the priority tomorrow, or the next day, of Menino’s impromptu, grudge-freckled mind ? As for the BRA, the less said the better. Developers either got aboard Mayor Menino’s Indiana Jones-like chase horse or they risked getting poofed, or cornered. Communities into which developments were to be deposited found themselves labyrinthed, door-locked, sweet-and-sour talked. One heard it at all the Mayoral Forums during the campaign, in every part of the city. Heard also was an almost universal demand to simplify the City’s permitting process — or should I call it “permitting adventure” ? Permitting should eanble enterprise,l not discourage it, much less laugh at it.

Nobody much mentioned the taxi scandal during the campaign; it wasn’t laid at Menino’s door; but nowhere in City governance was Menino’s managerial unavilability more on view. For how many years had the City’s taxi drivers been allowed to be cheated, gouged, disrespected by taxi medallion owners, with not a whisper of investigation undertaken, much less corrective action ? It happend on Menino’s watch, and he knows it did. So do we.

Walsh appears determined to not let that sort of sinkhole exist on his watch. This is a good thing, and a wise one. Walsh knows that the City is divided on most of the major policy areas he will eventually have to face. School reform, City unions, staffing diversity, traffic and bikes, poverty and achidvement, public safety — all portend division that Walsh, elected by a coalition internally mjuch at odds, cannot afford to take hold. On management of what the City does already do, however, there is almost no disagreement : it needs dramatic improvement. Order out of anarchy, simplicity from confusion.

Improving City management was the message of two Mayoral campaigns that did not win : Rob Consalvo and Dan Conley. Walsh won almost all the Consalvo votes : voters who don’t like Walsh’s charter schools record and don’t readily comport with his trade union style but who chose him nonetheless. These voters must be happy to see Walsh adopt Consalvo’s signature theme. As for Dan Conley voters, Walsh won hardly any. His emphasis on City administration first can only be a pleasant surprise to voters who did not envision Walsh as an administrator of anything.

You all know that we at Here and Sphere favored John Connolly. But I saw in Dan Conley a very capable second choice. Thus I too find Walsh’s “management first” message a wise one. The policy decisions can wait while he — and we — fix the process by which those policy decisions will be implemented.

Meanwhile, Councillor Ayanna Pressley has announced that she will seek the Council Presidency. She is said to have Matt O’Malley’s vote and Tito Jackson’s. The wheels are turning. Oh yes they are.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE : Now I am getting reports that Bill Linehan will have no less than 8 votes out of 13.  Even so, Ayanna Pressley has made her move. And a statement.