Saturday, October 25, 2008

Some positive things about Boston Government

After going to Michael Flaherty's Kitchen Table Talk the other night and hearing about how he has a tracking system in his office to keep track of constituent complaints and how vigilant his office was on following up on things, I decided to call his office and ask what was going on with a complaint about an illegal roof deck in my neighborhood that I talked to Michael directly about 3 years ago. I figured 3 years was a reasonable amount of time to get back to me on something, although for some reason I hadn't heard back from him.

I had a nice talk with John in Councilor Flaherty's office who said that they had only started tracking stuff within the last couple years. (7 or so years into Councilor Flaherty's term) He said he would look into it and get back to me. He also said that he sometimes reads my blog, and he wonders why I don't write more positive things, and why I don't critique the Mayor more often.

Well, I agree with him about the Mayor who is the real problem with progress in Boston, it is true that the Council doesn't have much power, and what power they have they don't use or leverage. I have also called the Mayor's office about this illegal deck thing many times over the years, and of course they have done nothing. I recently called the Mayor's office about the status of the Winthrop Square garage. This is the 100 million dollar or so property that the City is going to give away for free, and in the meantime we maybe giving away the millions in parking revenue a year to the BRA. It is hard to tell because no one answers any questions, and most of us have jobs and can't do the checking up on this which we should have the press and our elected officials to do. Anyway, I called the Mayor's office and a nice lady said "Oh, I will get you in touch with the parking garage guy". She transferred me and I got a disconnected line. I called back and got the same lady and explained the situation a bit further and she said, "oh, you have to talk to the BRA about that" and I got transferred to a gentleman's voicemail at the BRA". I left a message (this is at least a couple weeks ago) and surprise, surprise I have received no reply. To say that the Mayor's office is nonresponsive is an understatement.

But, this is a blog about positive things. John got me thinking about positive things about Boston government and two people immediately came to mind: Gary Moccia and Harry McGonagle. They are the number 2 and number 3 people at the Boston Building Department. They are both professionals who have degrees in the construction field and who have worked at 1010 Mass Ave. for many years. They deal with all sorts of construction problems and issues in the City, and they do it in a professional, helpful, cheerful way. My hat is off to them for the great way they deal with all the different people, competing interests, and favor wanting politicians who tug and pull them in different directions. They are an excellent example of why government should hire non-partisan professionals to do professional work.

However, it is my understanding that there is a city or state statute that the head of a building department be an engineer or architect. Instead, Mayor Menino has filled it with political cronies like the former head Kevin Joyce who didn't know a 2x4 from a hammer, but he knew how to answer the phone when the Mayor called and put the vices on people the Mayor was unhappy with. I think he ended up costing the City about $500,000 grand in legal issues before he was shown the door.

Next time you have an inspector visit your house ask him or her how they feel about calls from City Hall from the Mayor's office or City Councilors telling them how to do their jobs, whose house to look into, or more importantly whose house NOT to look into!

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