I've been working hard across the city, going to community meetings, speaking at the school committee hearings, and knocking on doors. Somewhere around 10,000 so far, a long way behind Doug Bennett but we are catching up.
The BRA is waging war on the public's interest on many fronts. In Brighton on Lake Street, in Allston with the giant hole in the ground built by Harvard, in Fort Point Channel, downtown at One Congress Street, in Downtown Crossing with another giant hole in the ground. All of these projects have a similar theme: the builder or developer is getting what they want, which includes zoning variances, and the community is not feeling that their voices and concerns are being heard.
Part of the problem is that there is no connection between these communities, so the BRA can take a divide and conquer approach. Someone in the North End is not going to go to a community meeting in Brighton so that a joint approach to how the citizens can advocate for community needs can be accomplished. In all my 10 plus years of going to the BRA meetings I have never once seen the Mayor at any one of them, even though everyone knows that he is the kingmaker, the decision maker on these projects.
I have been going around for years telling community groups to "GET IT IN WRITING"! If you are promised a park, or a playground, or an alley being redone, or sidewalk getting new bricks, make sure that the BRA and the developer gives that to the community in writing, and that the sign off, and the certificate of occupancy are not given to the developers until the community benefits are provided.
Second, building permits are only good for a certain amount of time. If a developer or institution gets a zoning variance and a permit, but then they halt the project, the city can use as leverage the fact that they might not allow the variance to continue past the period of time given for that permit. Since these zoning variances are often worth tens to hundreds of millions of dollars that provides a huge incentive for these organizations to get their work done or sell to someone that will. We should also make sure that proper taxes and PILOT payments are negotiated before code variances are provided.
I was in Pope's Hill last week giving my stump speech and I was proceeded by a wave of bad news. The state trooper and local police officer both talked about increased gang activity, specifically the '1937' gang. They warned the assembled crowd to be wary because one of their kids was "going to bring a mouth to a gunfight and someone is going to be shot". A very passionate man and his elderly father asked what the police were doing about all the break ins on Freeport Street. They said that 6 out of the 7 buildings in their neighborhood hand been broken into, and they were clearly upset with the response of the police. His father had lived in the house for 70 years and he said it had never been this bad. Someone had broken in to the house while his wife was home alone, and it clearly was traumatic. They thought people were scoping their neighborhood. It was quite a poignant moment. There was silence in the room as the police officer did his best to empathize and offer suggestions such as a neighborhood watch and calling 911 with anyone suspicious they see.
Then a Superior Court judge came to talk about how the crime he sees in the courtroom is worse than it has been in his 20 plus years on the bench. He highlighted the crimes he sees are more violent than ever before, and that the sexual abuse is worse, in both cases much of it with family members.
Then a knowledgeable gentleman from the Mayor's office gave a rundown on all the foreclosures going on in Boston and what they are trying to do about it. If you are facing issues please call the City numbers set up to help 635-rent and 635-home.
Finally some people were there to ask for volunteers for FEMA response people to help in times of great emergency!
What could I say after that plethora of bad news? I started with "we've heard tonight about crime in the neighborhood being up, foreclosures being up, great disasters to prepare for, and horrible crimes in our courtrooms. Isn't it time for a change???" That got some good laughs and smiles, before I launched into my program for changing this downward trend.
I did an interview with a magazine which had a premise that 'Do you think all these new candidates are getting into the field because of the recent corruption in Massachusetts?". I asked the reporter, "what new candidates?" I think people are disheartened, don't believe a thing any politician tells them, but also don't believe it is worth the effort because they won't be able to change anything. In a way, I believe they are almost ready to throw in the towel on democracy. It is really difficult being a candidate talking about ethics, accountability and transparency because they have heard it before from other candidates who, once they are elected, just become part of the system and hire cronies. How does one know who to believe?
I was at the State House rally urging the Governor to provide money to the Boston Public Schools and I just have to take my hat off to the Mayor. Here is a guy who proposed a 100 million dollar cut to the schools, refuses to turn over budget information to the public or the teachers union, but still gets a round of applause from parents fighting to save their schools???!!??? He is a master manipulator and politician, and with the press in a downward spiral and afraid to write anything critical of him, lest they be cut out of the circle of information, the public has a difficult time finding out the truth about the budget. One parent introduced me to her husband by saying "here is Kevin McCrea he's running for Mayor and he supposedly has top secret information about the BRA which no one else has." At which point I handed her husband a printout of facts and figures about what I am talking about. All the numbers I cite, and the real estate deals gone bad have been noted and vetted and anyone interested in more facts just needs to contact me. I provide this information (which often is old Globe and Herald articles) to the Globe, Herald and other papers. If they choose not to inform the public, it is hard for me to feel remorse that they are not getting the readership they need. I think they need to do a better job of asking these politicians the hard questions and not letting up until they have an answer.
One reader wrote in to ask why we are paying to have American Sweeping driving down the middle of this street when no cars need to move from the sides of the street where the trash is? We must just have excess money lying around I guess.
Finally, Clara and I did the spring cleaning on our garden and for the first time we were graced with a live bullet amongst the perennials.
We need a change.