Friday, December 19, 2008

Boston Common-First a Conservancy, then a Fund, now a public/private partnership

So, Mike Ross has now posted the third iteration of his Boston Common committee's report on the Boston Common on the City website. He keeps changing the name, but at least this time we start to see the mud wash off of the real prime mover. Suffolk University and Emerson College want to get their hands on part of the Boston Common. They want to put astroturf or something and use the recreation fields for their usage. Finally, he comes clean with what we knew all along, there are private groups that want to control public spaces and Mike thinks that is ok. I do not. What is most unfortunate is the deceptions they went through to get to this point now. What is a conservancy? and what does it do that the Friends of the Public Garden couldn't do. Citizens must be vigilant in making sure these public giveaways don't happen.

Here is a letter from Shirley Kressel to Councilor Ross:


I reviewed your new Special Committee report, which is posted today.

I am surprised to see that it still proposes public-private partnerships, which were discussed in your previous recommendations. First it was a conservancy, then an Improvement Fund, and now it's a partnership, or a "relationship" with a "local college to maximize care and utility of the fields." These are fundamentally all the same thing: deals with private parties for public rights in return for private money. Rotch Field, which you denounce, is a partnership, or a "relationship," with "a local college" -- Emerson, in fact.

And you still recommend taking down the small fields' fencing to create one big field and install synthetic turf. You must know that, if the colleges pay for turf, that they will only do this so they can schedule their sports seasons on it. Even if they don't pay for it, they'll start asking to use it regularly, and offer other donations, which they know always works.

From my point of view, you are still doing basically the same thing.

I know Suffolk and Emerson are determined to use the park as their campus grounds, and they will never give up, just as the businesses behind the Greenway Conservancy spent years finding just the right words, the right formula, the right political allies until they got what they wanted.

If you think money is the real issue, let's really figure it out. The report should include an analysis of all the private money and other government grants coming in to the Parks Dept in general and the Common in specific, and also all the capital money, because as Marty said, most of the improvements you recommend are capital improvements. The $16 million budget figure in your graph is a small part of the resources available to the Parks Department.

Do you know what funding the Kershaw enterprise yields to the Common, relative to what it has cost the City? I can't find out, because it's a private non-profit and its books are closed; maybe you can get the information.

And I can tell you about a lot of money in the City budget that's being wasted that we could use for the park. Like the $60,000 a year paid to a non-functional Council stenographer, $600 an hour for nothing, as the hearing last night revealed. And all the "excess" money in the Council budget that is divvied up among the Council's employees in unlawful bonuses at the end of the calendar and fiscal years with those mysterious hastily-mumbled votes called with reading out the dockets, just like the ones passed today; you could stop that if you wanted to. And the millions in TIF tax breaks that the Council approves, because as you say, future taxes are not "real money." And the 121A tax break orders the Council puts "on file" and doesn't even ask about, that cost us $50-$70 million a year. A lot of public money is burned in the Ianella Chamber, while we go begging to Suffolk and Emerson and other abutters, pleading poverty.

I saw you presenting the report to the Council today. You said that somehow the idea that a conservancy was being proposed "got out there" and it was a misunderstanding. But a conservancy was proposed in that draft report; and indeed, it is still being proposed. Calling it an Improvement Fund didn't change that, and now calling it a partnership or a relationship doesn't change the basic problem of City alliances with private parties who are pursuing special interests in the park.

I would like to be notified when your committee takes up this issue next year.

Thank you.


PS I do appreciate your statements opposing the Silverline III project.

Shirley Kressel

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