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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WITH THE MINIMUM WAGE NOW RAISED, HERE’S WHAT’S NEXT FOR MASSACHUSETTS

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^ the Democrat with fewest weaknesses : Juliette Kayyem

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^ the best potential governor, on an across-the-board basis : Charlie Baker (with Nightline’s Dan Rea)

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Two days ago, the Massachusetts House passed a big rise in the minimum wage, to $ 10.50 in 2015 and $ 11.00 in 2016. The House legislation included, however, a provision that the Senate bill does not : a give back of five percent, on the unemployment compensation portion that employees pay. That portion will rise from 15 % to 20 %.

Because the two bills do not mesh, a conference wil be held at which the two bills will be reconciled. Almost certainly the reconciliation will adopt the House version: because Senate President Murray is leaving, whole Speaker DeLeo is very much staying.

Such is the way of things in the Massachusetts legislature. The big result, however, is that the base wage for every Massachusetts worker now earning minimum wage will rise by over $ 3.00 an hour. Minimum wage earners will no longer need as much public, taxpayer-paid assistance as before; taxpayers will get some relief; and workers will have some money to spend into the discretionary economy. In Boston, $ 10.50 to 4 11.00 an hour is still nowhere near enough; not with  rentals costing $ 1,600 and up; but in outlying cities such as Worcester, New Bedford, Holyoke, and Fitchburg, the new minimum wage will provide a real boost to many, many families and thus to the economy of those cities.

There were 24 votes against the Raise. Their message was the same : the higher wage would mean fewer jobs.

Businesses that have been able to short-change employees and pass them off to taxpayers will now not have that taxpayer subsidy. Will these businesses close ? To ask the question is to answer it. What then will they do ? Easy. They will change their business model.

These businesses will be operating in a very different economy, one that will grow quite quickly at first as the boost in wage checks gets spent into the economy. And this is good all around. But it is far from being enough. Massachusetts needs much more reform in how it operates ; some of it economic reform, a lot of it structural.

Here’s what we would like to see happen ;

1.economic : expand the earned income credit to childless families who qualify on an income basis.

2.economic : give Boston granting authority over its liquor licenses. A home rule petition, by Councillor Ayanna Pressley now sits in the legislature awaiting action.

3.economic : enable innovation districts in neighborhoods of Boston, and in outlying cities, on the model of those currently operating in Cambridge and Seaport Boston. Local aid funding can help here.

4.structural : reconfigure the website interface and interactivity of every State department, from health connector to DCF to Secretary of State and permitting. Publish the State Budget online. Embed a mobile phone app into the State’s most-used Department websites, such as the DCF, RMV, DOR, and Transitional assistance.

5.encourage and establish the full range of public school reforms now being put in place in Boston by Superintendent John McDonough

6.human rights : eliminate mandatory sentencing; establish a prisoners’ bill of rights that would provide for legal remedies — including assigning public defenders to each state or county lock-up — to prisoners who are abused by incarceration personnel; pay minimum wage to prisoners doing work they are required to do by the institution; assure re-entry procedures that are fair and helpful to the released prisoner; restore voting rights to convicts who have finished their sentences;.

7.civil rights: extend the state’s transgender rights law to include places of public accommodation. grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and pass the Trust Act

8.gun control: require owners of guns (other than antique) to purchase liability insurance, as we now require owners of vehicles; require smart gun technology

9.transportation : review all transit and road budgets and cost-cut administration where feasible; repair and replace MBTA cars and buses, lines,a nd equipment; expand Green Line to West Medford; complete new stations on Fairmount Line; finish the South Coast rail Connector

10.DCF : hire sufficient case workers so that the state-mandated maximum case load is never breached; pay social workers a professional salary; require the DCF chief to circuit-ride from DCF office to office and to use mobile phone and ipad communication as a regular feature.

All of what we’d like to see is more than enough to challenge two governor terms, much less one. Some of this year’s Governor candidates want still more. That’s OK, for a wish list but not for the campaign, which we hope will be about now and the next four years, not times still over the horizon. After all, our list doesn’t even talk about climate change, alternative fuels, conservation, affordable housing, in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant kids, and local aid — any one of which could occupy an entire editorial.

— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere