Monday, November 17, 2008

No Freedom of Speech on Boston Common?

The Boston City Council is exploring the option of taking the Boston Common-THE BOSTON COMMON!!!!! and turning it over to a Conservancy. In other words giving control of this, perhaps the most historic and important public park in the country, over to a private group to control. This is what was done with Post Office Square and the Greenway.

Just try and carry a board that says "No more War", or "City Hall is Dirty" in those public spaces, or get a permit to have a peace rally, or call for citizens rights.

Mike Ross, Mr. Lamattina and Mr. Linehan held a get together on this last week. Since all three of these guys are close to the Mayor you can be pretty sure that the Mayor is aware of this, if not behind it.

The assault on Freedom of Speech, and the rights of the citizens to own and control their own property in this country is very troubling.

Please call your city councilors and the Mayor and let them know where you stand on this. 617-635-4000.

1 comment:

shirley kressel said...

A blogger at UniversalHub on this topic opined that privatization might not be such a bad thing, stating that the Public Garden is partially administered privately. This is not true.

The City is custodian equally of the Garden and the Common. The Friends of the Boston Common and Public Garden is a group that started as advocates for the public spaces and in recent years began to raise money for them. They make financial contributions, but the City has control of park use and policy.

In Post Office Square, on the other hand, a private (for-profit) group calling itself the Friends of Post Office Square (actually, it's the Post Office Square Redevelopment Corporation) runs the "park" (actually a private garden). It is on City-owned land, which they "lease" for free. They built a huge parking garage underneath, but the profits from that are not what pay for the park; they get a multi-million-dollar property tax exemption (because it's a "blighted" area!!), which more than pays for the care of the park. And they don't legally qualify for that tax exemption, because they make too much money from the garage and the tax break disappears if the business makes over 8% return annually; so they created phony sub-corporations to siphon off the profits, leaving the Friends "poor" enough to keep qualifying for the subsidy (which we homeowners and renters subsidize). And that group, using public land and public money, prohibits free speech and free assembly. The Greenway Conservancy stems from the same group of real-estate interests, and they plan to control and socially sanitize the Greenway for the benefit of its corporate abutters.

The legislation that was just passed to give the Conservancy Control over the Greenway, plus millions of public dollars a year more than is needed to run the park, allows this group to set its own "reasonable regulations" for the park's use. It also provides that the City can contract with them to maintain other public land.

I believe they are already preparing to sweep the Columbus Waterfront Park into their bailiwick; they've extended both of their big fiesta events into it.

And now, maybe the Mayor is thinking to hand the Common over to them. This will assure that it becomes a tourist attraction and profit center (e.g., restaurants), and that it will be cleansed of "undesirables" (homeless/poor-looking people, agitators (that's your "free speech,") black teenagers who are, at the same time and by the same business interests, being driven out of Downtown Crossing by a budding Business Improvement District (sort of a non-park conservancy), etc. One more thing will surely happen: the City will end up paying the Conservancy five times as much to maintain it as it would have cost to maintain it ourselves at the same standards of quality.