^ 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.


^ 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.”


^ 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



^basic democracy : Democratic state chairman Tom McGee of Lynn instructs West Roxbury’s ward 20 caucus

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There may be secret money in the Big Picture, but at the small level where actual people live, vote, and run for office, the money doesn’t taint. Whether it’s caucusing in West Roxbury or manoeuvering a run for State Representative in Dorchester, you find politics basic, the real deal, activism for its own sake. So it was, this morning at Boston Ward 20’s Democratic Party caucus, attended by almost 200 people. So it has been the past two days, since the House expelled Carlos Henriquez, leaving the 5th Suffolk State Representative seat vacant awaiting seekers.

But first, the caucus. I chose Ward 20’s because it is Boston’s biggest voting ward; many were sure to attend to elect 29 delegates to the Democratic convention. The caucus met in the community room at West Roxbury’s Police Station. Attendees and candidate volunteers filled every nook — the hallway too. The State Party chairman was there, Tom McGee of Lynn; so were two competing slates of delegates, a Don Berwick group led by Helen Bello — who hosted the huge Berwick house party that I wrote about recently — and a Juliette Kayyem list led by an old friend, Paul Nevins, an employment lawyer. A group of independent names was nominated too, well known people sure to draw votes on name alone; and attendees voted as much for names they knew as for any slate; there wasn’t at all the structure that I had expected of this meeting. It seemed as much a meet and greet as an election.


^ Ward 20 state Representative Ed Coppinger discusses matters with Here and Sphere follower Michelle Von Vogler

There was voting, but mostly there was conversation as faces familiar or new worked the room. State Senator Mike Rush was there, as was West Roxbury State Representative Ed Coppinger. Governor candidate Martha Coakley worked the room for about 20 minutes, then left. District Attorney Dan Conley shook hands. So did Congressman Steve Lynch. Old friends Carole White (Kevin White’s sister in law) and Marilyn LaRosa were elected; I noticed Helen Greaney in the room and Greg Haugh also — two other Haugh’s sought election as delegates — and Ann Murphy, still glamorous as ever, now working as an aide to Mike Rush. A couple of Boston Teachers Union activists signed in — but I did not see Ward 20’s biggest BTU name, Ed Doherty — and people from both the Connolly and Walsh mayor campaigns.

Circulating as well were four who ran last year for City Council : local resident Marty Keogh, Jack Kelly, and winners Steve Murphy and Michelle Wu. It was a “good hit,” as pols say of an event well worth being seen at.

UPDATE ON DELEGATES ELECTED : Thanks to Rob for posting to me the entire list, mostly of the usual Ward 20 activists (including two Haugh’s and a BTU active, City Council candidate Marty Keogh, a Marty Walsh cabinet member — Alejandra St. Guillen — and at least one State Employee) and two Don Berwick delegates. Take a look :

Female Delegates:
Alyssa Ordway – 75 votes
Carole White – 74
Ann Cushing – 71
Cathy Fumara – 68
Helen Haugh – 68
Diana Orthman – 68
Marilyn LaRosa – 65
Patricia Malone – 65
Anita Salmu – 65
Margaret Sullivan – 63
Josiane Martinez – 60
Alejandra St. Guillen – 59
Sue Anderson – 58
Heather Bello – 26
Hema Kailasam – 21
Jennifer McGoldrick (Alternate)
Pamela Keogh (Alternate)

Male Delegates:
Robert Orthman – 69 votes
David Isberg – 66
Steve Smith – 66
Marty Keogh – 65
Bill Smith – 64
Kevin Walsh – 64
Bill MacGregor – 63
George Donahue – 62
Joe Haugh – 60
John Fumara – 59
Leo Connell – 58
Tom Hanktankis – 58
Patrick Murray – 58
Larry Connolly – 56
Bob Tumposky – 56

(UPDATED 02/09/14 at 10.45 AM)

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And now to the 5th Suffolk District, in Dorchester, where the expulsion of Carlos Henriquez has left a gaping hole…


will he be the first Uphams Corner state Rep since Jim Hart 40 years ago ? John Barros may become a candidate in the 5th Suffolk special election… But so might the woman pictured below, Karen Charles of the Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood :


The 5th Suffolk State Representative seat in the Massachusetts House won’t be vacant for long. Already the hungry are circling, impatient, guessing and out-guessing. The big news is that John Barros, who ran for mayor last year and impressed many, is seriously considering a run. Barros lives in the heart of the District, owns a successful restaurant in it,. and would be an elite voice for 40,000 people very much in need of one. Barros is not, however, the only notable who is thinking publicly about running. There’s also Karen Charles, who works at WGBH (full disclosure : WGBH’s Peter Kadzis was my editor at the Boston Phoenix and remains a friend professionally and personally), and who, with her husband Kevin Peterson, an NAACP activist, make a formidable team of articulate reformers and who are said to be close to Charlotte Golar-Richie, who once represented the 5th Suffolk, still lives in it, and who was, like Barros, a candidate in last year’s Mayor campaign.

In that Mayor campaign, Barros won 2,072 votes in the 5th District’s 20 precincts; Golar-Richie won 1,465. Barros thus starts with a 600 vote advantage. That isn’t the entire story, though, Felix Arroyo won 570 votes in the District; and Carlos Henriquez, of Hispanic origin like Arroyo, is said to intend running again to reclaim his seat. Even if he does not run, the 570 Arroyo votes seem up for grabs, not to mention the 313 won by Charles Yancey and the 495 won by John Connolly. (Marty Walsh’s 640 votes might split between Barros and a Golar-Richie-backed candidate, as both she and Barros helped Walsh win the Final).

That said, Barros certainly would enter the race as the favorite no matter who else decides to run — including Henriquez himself. The two men are said to be close friends as well as political allies, and some speculate that if Henriquez runs — and he probably will — Barros will not. We shall see. Whatever the case may happen, this is a District that badly needs an A-list voice. It has always had a working-class majority even in the days, not too long ago, when much of it was Roxbury Red Raider country. The “5th” includes the entire Bowdoin-Geneva neighborhood, one of Boston’s most impacted by gang violence; a stretch of Blue Hill Avenue that Red Raiders knew as “Cherry Valley,” once almost entirely blighted but, of late, enjoying the beginnings of a resurgence (as anyone familiar with local hot-spot Merengue Restaurant knows); Upham’s Corner and half of Jones Hill (where I had my first adult job, working as go-fer to state Rep. Jim Hart); and, of Roxbury, the north side of Dudley Side from Hibernian Hall eastward, all the way past the Governor Shirley mansion to and including “the Prairie” ball field (where Red Raider teams played Park League baseball and football). None of the district is high-income; not much of it is middle-income. Everyone benefits from having an eloquent and respected voice in the legislature, but the people of the 5th Suffolk would benefit more than most.

There will be a special election to fill the vacancy. It will be called soon — the date of it as yet unknown but probably early May. It will be a short campaign, a local effort, politics at its most basic and not much different from that Ward 20 caucus that I attended this morning. More voters to reach, yes, but not much more structure. It also looks now to be the most attention-getting time that the 40,000 people of the “5th” have gained in many, many years if ever. Let the democracy of it begin.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere