Saturday, June 30, 2007

Bicycling Storrow Drive

Someone was bicycling down Storrow Drive recently at 11:30 pm without wearing any bright or reflective gear.

I have to admit that I have ridden my bicycle down Storrow Drive westbound -- twice.

I did so during daylight (not 11:30 pm), always with bright clothing (not dark blue), wearing a helmet, bicycling with traffic (not against it), etc.

I did so legally, but received dirty looks and gestures from the State Police. I don't think they believed someone would ride along there on a bike. Yes, it is legal to ride a bicycle along Storrow Drive (MGL 85-11B):
Every person operating a bicycle upon a way, as defined in section one of chapter ninety, shall have the right to use all public ways in the commonwealth except limited access or express state highways where signs specifically prohibiting bicycles have been posted...
Storrow Drive has no postings prohibiting bicycles, so they are therefore allowed.

Why would I do something so crazy as to ride on Storrow Drive?

I did it in the Esplanade section during massive daytime, weekend events, like something-or-other "Walk For [Against] Hunger." Otherwise I would've had to walk my bike through wall-to-wall people along the Esplanade, whacking people the whole way with my tires and handlebars. I hopped back onto the Paul Dudley White Bikepath somewhere near to the Harvard Bridge (i.e., Mass Ave). Storrow Drive traffic was so slow due to the events (especially with all the cars parked along the right-hand-side) that it wasn't dangerous at all.

Riding Soldiers Field Road west of the Eliot Bridge, and Memorial Drive (or Greenough Boulevard) all along the Charles are actually quite nice rides. Wide lanes, smooth surfaces, great for doing "time trial"-like training in the City. But don't try Nonantum Road eastbound... potholes the size of beavers line the right-hand lane. And I once saw a beaver along the side of the road there, where it approaches Brook Street, though he wasn't trying to build a dam in one of the potholes.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Casino Trachtenberg Open for Business: Schofield at "Even Money", Ciommo at 3-2

In an opinion piece in this week's A-B TAB, Mark Trachtenberg places odds on the seven candidates for this fall's election for the open Allston-Brighton District City Council seat. The article is quite a fun read, not just the guide to betting.

Here's a toast to Allston-Brighton's newest economic development project: Casino Trachtenberg!

Trachtenberg's odds on the candidates are:

Tim Schofield, even money
It’s rather surprising that somebody as “plugged in” as Tim Schofield wouldn’t have studied Felix Arroyo’s proposal to tame the BRA, an agency that can be quite a rogue elephant sometimes.
Mark Ciommo, 3-2
His lawn signs are quite an impressive display, but lawn signs don’t vote, as At-Large City Councilor Steve Murphy found out the hard way when he lost to Andrea Cabral when he ran against her for Suffolk County sheriff in 2004.
Gregory Glennon, 3-1
[While Glennon] pretty much ran [State Rep.] Golden’s office when Golden was doing his U.S. Army Reserve duty in Iraq, [he] gets viewed by many “progressive” activists as the enemy because he’s a devout Catholic and has trouble dealing with sexual politics issues such as abortion and gay marriage which the city of Boston has virtually no jurisdiction over anyway.
Rosie Hanlon, 4-1
While Rosie Hanlon readily agreed to provide the BAIA with a list of businesses in Brighton which do not sell any alcoholic beverages and thus qualify to be promoted free of charge to incoming college students as part of the BAIA’s planned alcohol-free entertainment marketing drive this coming Labor Day weekend, she also has supported various bar and restaurant owners in their applications to expand and/or extend their hours of operation.
Alex Selvig, 4-1
If you’re in the mood for a hard-core protest candidate... Alex Selvig would seem to be your best bet... Alex Selvig’s core message may be exactly what many voters in Allston-Brighton want to hear from their next city councilor, so if he can raise enough money and avoid making any “rookie mistakes,” he could be in a position to pull off the upset of the millennium.
James Jenner, 8-1
[Trachtenberg's] advice to Jenner: do the best you can in your campaign for City Council this year, go to night school to finish your college degree, volunteer for as many neighborhood organizations as you can, and come back the next time a seat opens up.
Mark Alford, 1000-1
Rosie Hanlon asked, ”Have you seen Mark Alford anywhere?” Well, I [Trachtenberg] haven’t, and, at that time, neither has virtually anybody else in local politics since the campaign began.

Well, I have seen Alford at a few meetings, including some that I ran, and I can tell you he usually sits in the back row. But then again... I didn't remember seeing Trachtenberg at those meetings. Maybe they are the Jekyll/Hyde of Allston-Brighton?

Rescheduled: Walking Tour of History of Brighton Center Area

Rescheduled Walking Tour of Central Brighton

Because of inclement weather, the walking of Central Brighton led by Bill Marchione as part of his Bicentennial Lecture Series had to be rescheduled to the following date and time:

Sunday, July 1, 3:00 pm: The tour will begin from the front of the Brighton Branch Library at 40 Academy Hill Road. It will take in the historical high points of the Brighton Center area. It should last about 90 minutes. The tour is free and all are cordially invited.

Other Brighton-Allston Bicentennial Events coming up:

Saturday, July 7, 10am - 4pm: Allston-Brighton Garden and Horticultural Club Bicentennial Garden Tour. Tickets at Minihane's Flower Shop and Amanda's Flower Shop, or call Wilma Wetterstrom 617-787-9844.

Saturday, July 7, 7:00 pm: Brighton-Allston Bicentennial Concert at City Hall Plaza, free concert by the Drifters and the Tokens. Contact Theresa Hynes for more information 617-782-1718.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sickening Smack, Part III: MBTA D-line

The MBTA has recently been cutting down trees along the D-line, particularly close to the Reservoir station. Writes Ben Ostrander:
One would think the T would order new trains that fit on the tracks it currently had rather than buy the trains, discover that someone couldn't measure, and then replace all the tracks! At least that is how I understand the problem. Well, the T has recently been shutting the D Line down every weekend to cut down all the trees at all the stations (at least from Resevoir to Fenway). You can especially notice the difference at Reservoir (where we used to have a mini forest on the inbound side of the station) and at Brookline Village where a whole hill of trees was chopped down leaving a whole hill of stumps.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Q/A With Dan Conley, Suffolk County District Attorney

A local blogger, Adam Gaffin (adamg) of "Universal Hub", has arranged for a written question-and-answer with Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley.

People have submitted questions already, and he has whittled it down to ten. Vote for your top five; the top five questions go to the DA. Conley will have a week to answer those five questions.

No, I did not submit any questions to Gaffin's project. But I did vote.

Update (6/30/07): Journalist and commentator on the media, Dan Kennedy of Northeastern University (and blog MediaNation), refers to this process of voting on the questions as "crowdsourcing." I've never heard the term before, and the poor wikipedia entry doesn't seem entirely applicable. A neat word to watch, though.

Accusations and an Admission at the BC Task Force Meeting

The June 19, 2007 meeting of the BRA's Boston College Task Force was a lively, noisy, and, at times, unruly sideshow. While I previously reported on the substantive material presented as part of the unannounced agenda -- and also on a past police log incident apparently related to the individual who caused a disturbance late in the meeting -- there was more going on in the meeting than has been reported to date.

After Mark Alford objected to the meeting being held on account of the failure to provide advance, public notice of the agenda, Patrick Galvin levied a general accusation that -- here, I'm guessing on a few of the details because it was hard to hear clearly over the air conditioners -- one or more members of the BC Task Force had accepted "gratuities" in the past from BC. No specifics were given as to the individuals or the gratuities, although I heard somebody, I believe, mention something like, "tickets for athletics events."

Now, normally I wouldn't post an unsubstantiated accusation like that on the blog, except that task force member John Bruno later responded with some specifics. First, Bruno admitted that he had, in the past, received some tickets to BC games (like hockey) which he had then handed out to youth players when they showed up to practice and/or games. These kids thus got to attend a college athletics game. He expressed the opinion that this was a pretty good thing, and it's hard to argue with him on that; BC even touts such giveaways as part of their community benefits. It is unclear if these youth ticket giveaways were the gratuities implied by Patrick Galvin's comments, or if Galvin meant something else, since I believe Galvin had let the room by the time that Bruno made these comments.

Bruno's second admission, however, was a whopper. He confirmed that his son currently attends Boston College on a full, tuition-free scholarship: "Yep, my son is there. I see $40,000 a year" in benefits from the scholarship. I assume he means $35,150/year for 2007-8, which is the tuition cost to attend BC as an undergraduate. Since Bruno is a resident of Allston-Brighton, his son's scholarship is presumably one of the ten "Allston/Brighton Scholarships" allocated annually by BC to A-B residents as part of community benefits agreed upon through past Article 80 master planning processes. (It was touted as such by Thomas Keady, Jr., BC's VP for Governmental and Community Affairs, at the January 16, 2007 meeting of the BC Task Force.)

I must say that I was personally surprised to hear a member of the BC Task Force acknowledge that he is the recipient of $35,000-$40,000 per year from the very institution whose master plan he is supposed to be studying, discussing, and eventually voting up or down to recommend to the BRA for approval or disapproval. I also find it rather odd that the A-B TAB's article fails to mention this admission by Bruno, although their reporter appears to have been present both at the beginning of the meeting (for Alford's and Galvin's comments) and the end of the meeting (for the ejection/scuffle with Costello). Strangely, they reported the unsubstantiated allegations of "gratuities" without reporting the response later in the meeting.

What do you think about all this? I welcome comments to this post -- as I do to all posts -- but the comments cannot be anonymous (or offensive), and I note that they are moderated.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Dueling Campaign Fundraisers Thursday Evening

James Jenner:
Campaign Kickoff Fundraiser
June 28, 2007 7-10PM@The Kells 161 Brighton Ave,Allston MA
Food, Music and Cash bar
All are invited
Suggested Donation- $25, $50, $100, $250.

Tim Schofield:
Please join us to kick-off my campaign to represent Allston-Brighton on the Boston City Council. The event is this Thursday, June 28, 2007 from 6:30PM-8:30PM at the Green Briar, 304 Washington Street, Brighton. No donations required.

Secretary Stick Mosquito Tries to Block Mayor Imbecile From Ballot

The 2005 agreement between the U.S. Justice Department's voting rights division and the City of Boston Elections Department required the City to print ballots in Chinese, including both Cantonese and Mandarin dialects.

The problem, according to Secretary of State Stick Mosquito, is that proper nouns are usually translated into Chinese using Chinese words or characters that are phonetically similar to the sounds of the names, according to today's edition of the Boston Globe. Many candidates' names are then transliterated to sound like good, unfavorable, or nonsensical strings of words in Chinese, according to Secretary High Prominent Noble Educated, who has taken oversight of the City's elections department after embarrassing events of the 2006 election.

Secretary Stick Mosquito wants to keep Mayor Barbarian Mud No Mind of His Own off of the ballot, instead inserting the boring the name of Mayor Thomas Menino in its place. Secretary Stick Mosquito also wants to avoid having Mayor Imbecile or Mayor Sun Moon Rainbow Farmer on the ballot, as well as Former Governor Uncooked Rice Sunny Nun of Massachusetts and/or Utah, Senator Whole Boundary Oh Bus Horse of Illinois, and Former Senator Virtue Soup of Tennessee.

According to Glenn Magpantay, whose name I cannot determine as being romanized or transliterated Chinese, these kinds of transliterations into Chinese have worked well in other big cities with large Asian populations, like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. This "success" is quite apparent, since all have Chinese-Americans serving as Mayor.

Note (added 7/6/07): The Boston Herald has picked up the story. Secretary Stick Mosquito's argument is "ignorant":
“It’s like saying that an English speaker would see the name ‘Mr. Green’ and think he is a green man,” activist Lydia Lowe said. “The argument that transliteration has all these other meanings is actually quite ignorant.”

Monday, June 25, 2007

Harvard's Outgoing President on the New Allston Campus

Outgoing Harvard President Derek Bok has released his June 2007 President's Report to the Board of Overseers (covering the 2006-7 school year). It was also published in hardcopy form as an insert to the most recent issue of the Harvard Gazette.

In his June 2007 report, President Bok writes:
Work on developing Allston has also gone forward on schedule. In December, the University filed a master plan to describe how the property might be developed over the next 50 years. Under the direction of Stefan Benisch, architectural drawings for the first complex of science buildings are nearing completion so that construction can begin within the year. Architectural plans are also underway for extensively renovating a large building in Allston that will house the University’s art collection during the long-awaited renovation of the Fogg Museum and then provide permanent space for Museum staff and for galleries dedicated to modern and contemporary art.
Hmmm... he seems to have gotten the date wrong for the release of the master plan, which actually came out in January, not December. I wouldn't blog on this little technical mistake if he hadn't continued on writing about...

..."renovating a large building in Allston that will house the University’s art collection."

For those who have been paying attention in the last six months, Harvard is currently still on record with a proposal to put their art storage/museum in a new building at Barry's Corner. In December 2006 they discarded their April 2006 plan to renovate a large building in North Brighton (not technically North Allston) in favor of the Barry's Corner idea.

Has Harvard's President just served notice to the community that they are returning to their April 2006 building renovation plan for the art storage/museum facility, abandoning the December 2006 Barry's Corner plan?

I have heard a number of people say that President Bok has been generally uninvolved in the Allston Campus project, at least in comparison to former President Larry Summers. My guess is that Bok used old information when writing his June 2007 report, and just hasn't been paying much attention to the Allston Campus this past year.

I can just imagine a memo from Chris Gordon, head of Harvard's Allston Development Group, to President Bok after reading this report. (Note for the uninitiated: this is known as satire... or at least an attempt at it.)

June 19, 2007

To: President Bok
From: Chris Gordon

Re: Allston Campus Talking Points

Have you read the latest report that I left on your desk about Harvard's 50-year master plan for its Allston Campus? We wrote a version of it as an Executive Summary (draft), so that it wouldn't take you much time to scan through it.

Did you read through all the other stacks of documents I keep leaving with your secretary? Or are you just piling them in that corner of your office under the sign labelled, "Drew"?

Let's make a few things clear. I suggest memorizing the following talking points, so that we can try to be on the same page when speaking or writing publicly:
  1. We want the art museum to go into Barry's Corner in a big new building close to neighborhood houses, not an empty, mothballed, existing building further west. It's important to leave those empty buildings empty. The empty buildings have a very important purpose called the "interim use plan." Very, very important.
  2. The Allston Campus is a focused development: focused on being, well, a little bit of everything. Originally, we thought it would be a "science campus," but other people had other ideas, like professional schools, cultural activities, or housing. So we decided to define "science campus" as including systems biology, chemical biology, bio-inspired engineering, innovative computing, public health, education, athletics, business, art museum, performing arts, undergraduate housing, and graduate housing. Just don't say "science campus" anymore -- it's so 2002. Or, if you do, be expansive in your definition.
  3. "No significant impact" on the neighborhood. Approximately 1000 employees will be moved into North Allston to work at the Science Complex, but we'll be reducing traffic, not increasing it. Read our traffic study. Or just repeat: "No significant impact." I'll get you a bumper sticker for your car, or we can have someone paint the phrase on the back of your car.
Please read this memo, as well as those other documents in the corner. It's important that we avoid misunderstandings like that in your 2007 President's Report.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Globe Sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy on BC Baseball

The "Eagle in Atlanta" blog -- written by a Boston College sports fan living in Atlanta -- recently interviewed Boston Globe sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy about his upcoming book about his son:
[ATL_eagle:] Despite being a high-profile member of the Boston Sports Media, Dan Shaughnessy is rarely on the BC fan radar. It wasn't until I found out that he was writing a book about his son (current BC Baseball player Sam Shaughnessy) that I pursued him for this interview.

ATL_eagle: You mentioned big-time football and big-time basketball…BC is obviously trying to upgrade its baseball program and facilities. And that’s been a hot button with the Brighton residents. You’re a long-time Newton resident. From a BC grad and BC student perspective it seems like we have the worst town-gown relationships in Boston. Harvard, Northeastern and BU can kind of do what they want without objection. Why do you think BC gets so much antagonism from Brighton and Newton and the locals, especially something like the new baseball stadium which wouldn’t be that big of an impact in the neighborhood?

DS: I’d quarrel with the distinction that BC gets a hard time. I think the people at Harvard would certainly say they get a hard time. But I also think that BC is bordering communities where people have money and they have means and they have voice and they have clout. It’s a little different if you’re bordering Chestnut Hill, Brookline, Newton as opposed to bordering Alston, where perhaps the constituency is not as loud and powerful. And [Alston] is more transient. Those factors go into it.

It doesn’t surprise me what BC goes through. A lot of people have been living in these regions a long time. When the school expands, you’re going to get that.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sickening Smack at 1954 Comm Ave

The owner of 1954 Comm Ave has chopped down all the beautiful trees on his property during the past week. I saw many of the stumps on Sunday morning, and it looked awful.

You might think this to be the owner's right, but it apparently isn't, according to reporting by the A-B TAB: since the property is protected with a deed restriction and has landmark status within the Aberdeen Architectural Conservation District, he needed prior approval.

This is the owner who has applied first to demolishing the house to build a large development, then to move the house to another location. He was rejected both times. He has listed the property with a real estate agent among "commercial" or "land" properties, not residential.

Before (photo: Meaghan Ackermann of A-B TAB):

After (photo: Karen Elowitt of A-B TAB):


New City Council Candidate Blog

James Jenner now has a blog up and running (using the free site!), as well as a website, as part of his candidacy for the open Allston-Brighton District City Council seat.

Brighton-Allston Bicentennial Riverfest Last Saturday

Last Saturday was the Brighton-Allston Bicentennial's Riverfest at Herter Park along the Charles River. Event co-chairs Catherine McGarty and Tim Schofield put on a great event with lots of activities oriented towards families. Many, many volunteers contributed their time, too, so that the event seemed to happen without a hitch.

View of the festivities from the Charles River:

Boat ride on the Charles, with tour guide Charlie Vasiliades:

Many adults quickly figured out that this boat was the only place in the event that had a (cash) bar.

Pony rides:

And, of course, the requisite "moon walk" -- actually a castle:

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Scuffle at BC Task Force Meeting

There were more things going on at Tuesday night's meeting of the BC Task Force than just talking about BC's upcoming master plan.

The A-B TAB reported on the June 19, 2007 meeting of the BC Task Force:
One member of the public, Steve Costello, who identified himself as a founding member of the Boston College Task Force, spoke loudly throughout the meeting, calling the BRA evil and referring to the task force as corrupt. The man’s behavior angered residents, and when residents questioned who he was, he became belligerent and was asked to take a seat. When he refused, a member of the task force began to contact the police, at which point a scuffle ensued outside the meeting room and the man was ejected.
During the meeting, Steve Costello identified himself as a resident of Lake Street. A quick googling produces a crime beat story from 10/29/02 from BU's student newspaper, The Daily Free Press:

Police responded to a call for a domestic violence dispute and assault at 120 Lake St. in Brighton around 5:30 p.m. last Saturday. According to the victim, his brother, 45-year-old Stephen J. Costello, became aggressive during a domestic dispute.

Costello allegedly spit in the victim's face and proceeded to hold a kitchen knife to the victim's throat threatening to stab him. The victim reportedly wrestled the knife from Costello, and immediately called the police. The victim also told officers Costello has a substance abuse problem. Costello admitted brandishing the knife, but denied holding it to the victim's throat. Police arrested Costello and informed the victim of his rights under the Family Abuse Law.

Boston College Details Building Uses for Latest Land Purchase from the Archdiocese

At the BRA's BC Task Force Meeting last night (June 19, 2007), Boston College officials described the land purchase of the remaining St. John's Seminary land (and all but one building).

Boston College will not file their Institutional Master Plan Notification Form (IMPNF) until late August or early September 2007, according to Thomas Keady, Jr., BC VP for Government and Community Affairs. The delay is due to the Archdiocese recently exercising their sale option on most of the remainder of the St. John's Seminary land; while this was expected to happen eventually, the timing appears to have been more rapid than anticipated. The sale is currently slated to be completed around late August, according to Jeanne Levesque of BC's Office of Government and Community Affairs.

In particular, BC will be purchasing Bishop Peterson Hall (but not St. John's Hall), which means that they are planning moving some uses around among buildings on the Brighton Campus. Here's a map from a previous post:

Here's a breakdown of the new uses for buildings on/around the Brighton Campus:
  1. St. John's Hall: remain as property owned and operated by St. John's Seminary, although its form of ownership will be re-classified as confdominium unit(s). BC will own the land under and around St. John's Hall, while the Seminary will own the building itself. BC and the Seminary will jointly run a kitchen. St. John's Hall has four floors plus a basement level.
  2. St. John's Seminary will receive an exclusive easement for parking and access to St. John's Hall. They currently have approximately 40 parking spaces; there was no indication of the number of spaces to be included in the deal.
  3. Bishop Peterson Hall will convert to BC ownership and use for offices/classrooms of the Weston Jesuit School of Theology. There will be no residential uses for the building. These offices/classrooms for WJST were originally slated for St. Williams Hall (which BC already owns).
  4. St. Williams Hall will now be used for academic, administrative, and/or business offices. It sounds like More Hall offices, for example, will now be moved to St. Williams Hall to free up the More Hall site for a new development.
  5. St. John's Library will be used jointly between BC and the Seminary; WJST will relocate their library collection into this building.
  6. Chancery will remain administative offices for Archdiocese for one year after BC purchases the property, prior to the Archdiocese's move to Braintree. BC's long-range plan shows that the Chancery will eventually be razed to make way for new buildings (e.g., academic) and their new access road into the campus. Ditto for the Creigh Library, as best as I could tell.
  7. Parking garage (?) and parking uses will remain for the time being.
Jeanne Levesque also announced that they would have a master plan website go public on July 16, 2007. Tom Keady said that the IMPNF and IMP would be made available on their website. Gerald Autler of the BRA said that BC Task Force meeting minutes will eventually be made available on the BC website; he planned on sending them out electronically to "everyone on his list" in the meantime.

The meeting had a lot more activity going on, though... and that will have to wait for post #2. Unless the A-B TAB beats me to it with their teaser:
"We know BC task force meetings can generate a lot of anger, but last night’s apparently took the cake is word on the street –at least as far as the amount of yelling and screaming it generated. One person apparently even felt the need to call the cops. We’ll have a story later."

Friday, June 15, 2007

St. Elizabeth's Starting Site Preparation for New Emergency Room

No sickening smack yet, but it's probably just around the corner: St. Elizabeth's Medical Center has conducted their formal, photo-op ground-breaking for the site of their new Emergency Room. No excavation yet while they still do site preparation. Fences have been seen blocking off access to the hillside site.

Few in the neighborhood doubted the need for St. Elizabeth's to update their aging ER facility.

The project's associated loss of open space (and trees), however, didn't please everyone:
“I realize that the hillside will disappear and I accept that,” [said Charlie Vasiliades], “but I don’t feel that St. E’s offered enough in return to compensate for the loss of that green space.”

Vasiliades wanted the hospital to grant a permanent easement on the land behind the campus abutting the future new access road, in order to prevent any future development there.
Thneeds 1, Brown Bar-ba-loots 0.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Woman Assaulted During Purse-Snatching on Chestnut Hill Avenue

Boston Police Department report on a purse-snatching and assault at Chestnut Hill Avenue and Strathmore Road early this morning (via UniversalHub) :
Woman Assault During Purse Snap

This morning at about 12:09am, officers from District 14 responded to a larceny report at 1925 Commonwealth Avenue. Upon arrival, officer spoke with the victim who stated that while walking home on Chestnut Hill Avenue she was assaulted and robbed by two unknown black males (mid 20's med build, suspect #1 red shirt blue jeans, suspect #2 white shirt blue jeans). The victim stated that she approached by the two suspects at the corner of Chestnut Hill Avenue and Stratmore [sic] Road. Victim states that suspect #1 punched her in her face while the other suspect #2 ripped her handbag from her hand and fled on foot down Stratmore [sic] Road toward Commonwealth Av. At this time, the victim ran to an apartment at 1925 Commonwealth Avenue were she called 911. The descriptions of the suspects were broadcasted. Victim reports that her I Pod and other important documents were inside her bag. Officer observed victim with a swollen lip but she declined medical attention. Officer searched the area to no avail.

MetroWest Daily News Op-Ed: The Good Old Days of Strict Jesuit Discipline

The MetroWest Daily News published an op-ed about BC expansion plans and the latest property sale by the Archdiocese.

Brighton seems a bit far a-field for a TownOnline paper based in Framingham. But the author, Frank Mazzaglia, can remember back to days when there weren't loud off-campus parties, drunken students falling face down in the middle of the street, on-campus students setting a dumpster afire, and so on:

Of course, there was a time when discipline at Boston College was so tight that it wouldn't have made much of a difference. Older alumni can still remember a code of conduct with such strict Jesuit discipline that it even involved appearance. Male students came to class wearing a shirt, tie, and suit jacket.

The no-nonsense culture of campus life demanded respect that extended not only to each other but to area residents and private property. In those days, it is doubtful that neighbors would have raised much of a fuss about an extended campus. Things have changed.

Now the best that B.C. seems capable of doing is to support a Neighborhood Center which provides services to the community. It's an attempt at bandaging relationships, but doesn't come anywhere close to resolving neighborhood concerns over sleepless nights because of rowdy students, late-night parties and disrespectful behavior.

The good old days, I guess, for those long-term residents who can still remember them.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A-B TAB Reports Extensively on Open Meeting Law Issue

The Allston-Brighton TAB has published a substantial piece on the Open Meeting Law issue and the BRA institutional task forces. It's nice to see extensive reporting like this in the local paper!

The TAB article quotes Ray Mellone, chair of the Harvard Allston Task Force, as still planning on holding private meetings as a periodic part of that task force's metings. It also quotes Jean Woods, chair of the Boston College Task Force, as confirming both that a private Executive Committee meeting had occurred recently and that private meetings were an integral part of BC Task Force operation.

There are obviously some legal arguments to be sorted out, since both the DA's office and the anonymous, third-party attorney quoted in the TAB article have cited case law in support of their opposing conclusions.

It'll be interesting to watch how this all plays out. When the issue came up on Monday, it sure did cause a lot of strong emotions to be expressed.

Liberal and Conservative Catholics In Conflict Over Archiodecsan Sale to Boston College

The Boston Globe reports that the Rev. John Farren, a Dominican friar who resigned May 24 as head of St. John's Seminary, has written a letter to Sean Cardinal O'Malley objecting to the sale of most of the remaining seminary land to Boston College. It seems to be pitting at least one prominent, conservative Catholic against the more liberal Jesuits about to move in.

While Rev. Farren raised a number of "financial and legal concerns," he saves his harshest words for his staunch opposition to having Jesuit seminarians (from BC's new affiliation with the Weston Jesuit School of Theology) alongside St. John's Archiodesan seminarians:

The Rev. John A. Farren... warned in the letters last month that the "doctrinal integrity" of St. John's is at risk because of increased proximity to two Jesuit-run Catholic institutions, Boston College and Weston Jesuit School of Theology, which are expected to move into buildings currently held by the seminary.

"A sign of this is found in the fact that several professors of WJST are currently under investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith," [Rev. Farren] wrote, referring to the Vatican agency that investigates theologians accused of doctrinal error. "Several professors at WJST are self- professed gays or lesbians. Collaboration at such an institution is not good policy for St. John's Seminary."

Weston Jesuit and Boston College are generally considered liberal institutions open to a wider range of theological views than St. John's. Under Farren's leadership, several members of the seminary faculty perceived as liberal were ousted.

Cardinal O'Malley explained the sale on his blog and, in more detail, in a letter to Boston's Catholic newspaper, The Pilot. He has apparently written another letter to Archdiocesan priests in response to Rev. Farren's comments, but it appears not to have been released.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Riverfest This Saturday (6/16) at Herter Park Along the Charles River

Brighton-Allston Bicentennial 2007

Riverfest at the Charles River
Saturday, June 16, 2007
10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Herter Park
Brighton, MA
A-B TAB Community Notes listing

We expect thousands to attend this major outdoor family-friendly event, which will offer fun, food, and festivities for all ages including music, pony rides, face painting, clowns, art exhibits, and boat rides on the Charles River. The River Fair will take place in Herter Park, which hugs the Charles River in Allston-Brighton and includes playgrounds, picnic tables, a theater, and ample free parking.

How to find it? Located between the Arsenal Street Bridge and the Eliot Bridge on the south side of the Charles River. Direct access from North Brighton/Allston via Everett Street.

Children’s Activities 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Get free tickets at the “Welcome Tent.”

10 a.m.-4 p.m.(tentative) — Fishing lessons along river;

10 a.m.-4 p.m. — Pony rides-four ponies at the Children’s Grove;

10 a.m.-4 p.m. — 20-by-20 moonbounce at Riverside;

10 a.m.-4 p.m. — Children’s Hi Striker Children’s Grove;

10 a.m.-4 p.m. — Speed Pitch-attended at Riverside;

10 a.m.-4 p.m. — Inflatable Obstacle Course at Riverside;

10:30 a.m.-4 p.m.— Magic Shows, 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. at the Children’s Grove Tent; between magic shows— Additional child games and entertainment in the Children’s Grove Tent;

11 a.m.-2 p.m. — Face decorating and stamping in the Children’s Grove;

11 a.m.-2 p.m.Bubble Entertainment and Bubble Blowing in the Children’s Grove;

11 a.m.-2 p.m. — Balloon entertainment in Wandering;

10 a.m.-4 p.m. — Boat rides on the hour, $5, river dock (buy tickets at the Welcome Tent);

10 a.m.-4 p.m. — Adult Hi Striker at Children’s Grove.

Music Stage 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

10-10:55 a.m.Phil Ayoub;

11:15 a.m.-12:10 p.m. — Grupo Chevere;
12:30-1:25 p.m. — Half Moon;
1:30-2 p.m. (tentative) Mayor Thomas Menino;
2-3:45 p.m. — Joshua Tree;
4:05-5 p.m. — Soul City;
5:15-6 p.m. — Sinha Capoeira.

Volunteers are needed. Please call Tim Schofield at 617-557-4545 or Theresa Hynes at 617-782-1718.

Harvard Allston Task Force Chair Will Defy District Attorney's Instructions

The Boston Globe ran an article on Friday that the Suffolk County District Attorney's office wrote a letter to the Boston Redevelopment Authority declaring that the BRA's institutional task forces are subject to the Open Meeting Law. As I blogged on Friday, the June 1, 2007 letter by Assistant District Attorney Janis Noble also directed the BRA to instruct the task forces that they were subject to the OML, and agree to conduct future meetings in public.

We learned at last night's public meeting of the Harvard Allston Task Force that the BRA intends to do neither.

Gerald Autler, Senior Project Manager for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said that it continues to be the position of the BRA that the institutional task forces are not subject to the OML. He said that he wanted to let the lawyers from the BRA and DA's office sort out the legal issues; in the meantime, however, he would "leave it up to the chair [of the Harvard Allston Task Force] to decide" if they would continue to hold private meetings without public notice or attendance. Strike #1: no instructions to the Harvard Allston Task Force on applicability of the OML. I don't believe he even provided them with copies of the letter, or copies of the OML, or anything like it... he's keeping them in the dark.

Ray Mellone, chair of the Harvard Allston Task Force, said that he would continue to hold meetings closed to the public as he saw fit. "I have no reason to suspect that [we] don't have the right to meet in Executive Session... I am not going to say that we are not going to do it again." He even stated that they would meet privately next Monday, June 18, with Harvard representatives... conveniently failing, of course, to tell the public when and where the meeting will take place. Strike #2: the Harvard Allston Task Force will continue to hold private meetings with the developer, Harvard.

While Autler and Mellone appeared to want the meeting to end on a positive note, a number of attendees of the meeting voice their concerns and objections over this defiance of the DA's instructions.

"District Attorney Daniel Conley is the chief law enforcement officer in this district," said Gregory Glennon, a candidate for Boston City Council and an Assistant District Attorney himself. "To disregard the chief law enforcement officer is outrageous."

Allston resident Tommy Lally offered an explanation for why the community wants all the meetings to be open: "It is not that we don't trust you," he said, speaking directly to task force chair Mellone. "There is a lot of mistrust in this room, but it is not directed towards you. [It is] directed towards the BRA and Harvard."

A solution was offered by two task force members, who said that they saw no reason that next Monday's meeting couldn't allow public attendance (although without opportunity to comment during the meeting). Their suggestion was brushed aside by Mellone.

As Glennon noted, the next step in the process is for the BRA to respond formally to the legal opinion expressed in the letter from the DA's office. Stay tuned.

Goldstein Furniture Building Imploded in North Brighton: No Notice Given?

A resident brought the issue up that the Goldstein Furniture building, at 156 Lincoln Street in North Brighton, was imploded on Friday, June 8th. Her brother abuts the property, and was not notified in advance of the demolition. Pretty disturbing, if true.

I drove past the site on Sunday, and can say that there are large piles of debris all around. Lots and lots of bricks. A big mess.

If anybody knows if there was, or wasn't, proper notice and/or permitting for this work, I think a lot of people would like to know. Post comments below here or send email.

NOTE (June 13, 2007): some of the details are getting murkier. And the owner seems to claim that everything was properly permitted. Not sure what exactly to believe.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Blogging the City Council Race

First in the Allston-Brighton District City Council race to have a blog: Tim Schofield. Don't get too excited about it: it ain't got no content (yet)... oh, wait, I spoke too soon. He just posted!

Boston Globe Letters to the Editor: "Brighton fears thud of BC expansion"

Two letters to the editor of the Boston Globe, written by Maria Guadalupe Rodrigues and Glory Dalton, appeared in this morning's paper under the heading: "Brighton fears thud of BC expansion." The copy editor chose an odd title since the letters comment on non-thud-like sounds which the writers consider disruptive to the community.

Ms. Rodrigues writes:
The level of arrogance of these institutions is best illustrated by the BC student's statement to your reporter: "If you choose to live there, you have to expect it's not a perfectly quiet area. You knew that coming in." Many residents of the neighborhood have links to the area that go back more then three generations. It was really quiet back then.
Ms. Dalton continues:

MY FAMILY has lived in the same house near St. John's Seminary for four generations. This has always been a quiet neighborhood with young families and senior citizens until recently, when we suffered the invasion of so-called well-behaved BC students.

Their revelry is not "harmless" when they wake up and frighten young children with their singing "Sweet Caroline."

It is not "harmless" when they urinate on your front lawn or try to pry open your front window calling out some unrecognizable girl's name.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

City Council Campaign Phone Survey: Should Candidates Run Towards, or Away From, the Mayor?

I occasionally see quotations, information, and the like from the Brighton Centered blog appear in other places in the media. But this week I saw it appear in a different form: as part of a political phone survey conducted in Allston-Brighton.

I got a call last Monday night (June 4) from a market research guy working for Connections Strategies doing a phone survey related to the race for the open Allston-Brighton District City Council seat.
  • Only seven candidates' names were given in the survey: Benjamin Bloomenthal and Paul Creighton were omitted.
  • Several key issues questions in the survey were related to institutional expansion.
  • An interesting question (approximately): Do you want a City Councilor who will work with Mayor Menino and other elected officials, or who will stand up independently despite the consequences? The poll had several questions related to Menino, suggesting that this candidate has some interest in whether to run towards, or away from, the Mayor.
  • Fairly accurate descriptions of each candidate were read, asking for a response. I recognize some of that information as having flowed off of this Brighton Centered blog (or the A-B TAB), since there has been little additional information on all the candidates.
  • Nothing was blatantly a "push poll," where a poisoned grape is placed in the question to try to build opposition to a candidate, instead of doing actual polling. (Like: "What would you think if Candidate X were found to have twenty-seven wives?")
My guess right after hanging up the phone, based on no insider knowledge: it was paid for by the Schofield campaign. I only base this on: (1) a few pieces of information for various candidates that were included or excluded (probably intentionally); and (2) he's the candidate with the strongest fund-raising record in previous elections, and hence is most likely to be able to afford this substantial expense particularly this early in the campaign. I won't mention the exact items leading me to the conclusion in #1, and I'll defer to a future posting the campaign finance data which form the basis for #2.

I am gratified that at least the information from Brighton Centered did not get used in a push poll. Things could've been worse... And it's a sign that the campaign has not turned negative.

The fact that only seven candidates were identified in the poll led me to call up the Boston Elections Department and write about how the other two candidates did not submit sufficient signatures to get onto the ballot. The winnowing of the field from nine to seven had not been reported prior that blog post.

What do you think about the Mayor Menino element in this phone survey? Is the Mayor enjoying high popularity ratings in Allston-Brighton? Or have residents grown weary of his long tenure and the perception of him being pro-development?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Free Children's Bicycle Helmets at Franciscan Hospital: Monday 6/11 at 2-5 pm

From the Boston Globe Sidekick (and A-B TAB Community Notes):
When we see kids riding bicycles without wearing a helmet, we become everyone's mother. Our "Hey, where's your helmet?" cry has been known to turn a few unprotected heads.

The good folks at the Franciscan Hospital for Children want to protect noggins, too, and today from 2 to 5 p.m., they will distribute 100 free bicycle helmets on a first-come-first-serve basis to kids from Greater Boston.

Bikers ages 5 to 11 will be measured for their headgear and also receive educational safety material. The helmets were donated by the Governor's Highway Safety Bureau. At other times, helmets are available for $5 by appointment.

Franciscan Hospital for Children, Pediatric Clinic, 30 Warren St., 617-779-1500.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Suffolk DA: BRA's Institutional Task Forces in Violation of Massachusetts Open Meeting Law

The Boston Globe reported today on an opinion issued by the Office of the Suffolk County District Attorney, Daniel Conley. The June 1, 2007 letter states that two of the Boston Redevelopment Authority's institutional task forces -- the Harvard Allston Task Force and the Boston College Task Force -- are subject to the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law (G.L. c. 39, Sections 23A,B,C). The argument follows closely the Attorney General's Guidelines on interpreting and applying the Law.

The DA's office's opinion further identifies a series of violations by each of the two task forces. The most serious of the alleged violations were holding secret meetings -- not announced publicly in advance, and to which the public was not allowed to attend. In at least one meeting by each of the two task forces, they met privately with both the BRA and the institution (Harvard University or Boston College).

The DA's office's opinion was the result of two complaints lodged by me on March 1, 2007 (regarding the Harvard Allston Task Force) and April 18, 2007 (regarding both task forces). A more recent complaint of a violation was not included in the opinion, presumably because insufficient time had elapsed to provide the BRA to respond to the factual basis for that allegation. I have reason to believe that there have been one or two additional complaints filed with the DA's office from persons and/or organizations.

No, I did not tell the Boston Globe about the DA's opinion; they found out about it on their own, decided to write a story, and then called me.

I think the opinion issued by the DA's office can be summarized very simply:
The BRA's institutional task forces should conduct their public business in public, not in private.
The opinion instructs the BRA:
  1. To fix the various past violations by publishing minutes of all meetings, both public and private, that have been held;
  2. To instruct the task forces on the applicability of the Open Meeting Law and its requirements;
  3. To take steps to prevent future violations; and
  4. To agree to conduct future meetings in public.
Personally, I don't understand why the BRA might be motivated to encourage those advisory bodies to hold secret meetings -- which are now clearly identified as in violation of the Law -- with the BRA and the universities. Maybe such speculation should be left to conspiracy theorists, but it sounds like they are trying to push processes, such as secret meetings, to pursue some "unknown" agenda of the BRA. I wish they would go back to the regulatory duties of their agency "reviewing proposed development projects," rather than possibly pushing the agenda of "encouraging growth industries."

Transparency in government is a good thing that should be supported by the public and public officials alike. It dismays me that our public agency, the BRA, seems opposed to the concept. Even if they argue that the task forces are not subject to the Law, they could easily instruct the task forces to follow all of the Law's requirements voluntarily as a matter of good public policy.

Finally, I sincerely doubt that the members of these two task forces were knowingly conducting their meetings in violation of the Open Meeting Law. The burden should rightly have been on the BRA's legal counsel to advise the task forces accurately on the Law and what it requires of them. I hope that BRA's legal counsel now puts this problem behind them by issuing clear guidelines to the task forces on how to conduct their meetings consistent with the Law.

See a previous posting for more information on the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A-B TAB Op-Ed: "Neighbors ‘frustrated,’ ‘exasperated’ over lack of BC response"

The Allston-Brighton TAB published an op-ed, written by me, in their current edition: "Neighbors ‘frustrated,’ ‘exasperated’ over lack of BC response."

The piece tries to present the audience mood that I observed at the May 15, 2007 meeting of the Boston College Task Force: “distressed,” “energized,” “frustrated and determined,” “extremely concerned,” “exasperated,” and concerned to the point of “panic.”

What caused these emotions? The general feeling that "BC has been unresponsive to community input" in their master planning process to date.

I sincerely appreciate the TAB's editorial decision to run the piece, since the audience mood described in my piece contrasts significantly from how the TAB reported the same event.

A Sad Side Story to the Globe's Article

I was quoted in the Globe today:
"This is a tipping point," said Michael Pahre, who lives on Foster Street near the property and who blogs about BC's expansion plans. " will drive people out of the neighborhood."
Sadly, moments after I muttered those words, the group of us met yet another anecdotal example of that broader exodus out of the community.

We passed by an elder gentleman working on his car on upper Foster Street. Alex Selvig, switching to campaigning mode, spoke to the man for a few minutes; the man revealed that he had recently decided to sell his house. He lives very close to several houses with off-campus undergraduates from Boston College, and you can only imagine what kind of upheaval it took to bring him to this decision.

Boston Globe: BC expansion called too close for comfort

The Boston Globe reported today on Boston College's expansion plan into the Brighton Campus (former St. John's Seminary land) and the neighbors response to it. One BC proposal is meeting much neighborhood opposition: construction of two or three dormitories containing a total of 600 beds of undergraduate housing in the Brighton Campus.

The concern is that undergraduate dormitories so close to neighborhood houses will drive families away.
[BC Vice President for Governmental and Community Affairs Thomas] Keady said the college is trying to assure residents it is a good neighbor and is meeting with them regularly to hear and address their concerns.

"There's a trust factor here," he said. "But what we don't want is people selling their homes."

Neighbors are unconvinced... "It will destroy the neighborhood," [Lake Street resident Alex] Selvig said. "If there are dorms across the street, I don't want to live here."


"People said, 'You knew there was a college over there when you moved here,' " said Sandy Furman, who lives on Lane Park. "But we didn't know there was going to be a college over here."


"I can time the closing of every saloon in Oak Square from the parade down the street," [said William F. Galvin, secretary of the Commonwealth, who has lived on Lake Street for 25 years]. "This plan would be a disaster for neighbors."


Neighbors said they recognize the university's right to develop the property, but insist that academic or administrative buildings are more appropriate for a residential neighborhood.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Down to Seven Candidates for Allston-Brighton District City Councilor

Two of the nine candidates for the open Allston-Brighton District City Council seat have not submitted sufficient signatures in order to appear on the ballot this fall, according to Doug Currie of the Boston Elections Department.

Paul Creighton did not submit any signatures, while Benjamin Bloomenthal submitted fewer than the required 139.

Withdrawal of Creighton appears to throw a major curve into the election: he got more than 30% of the vote for the seat in 2005 against incumbent Jerry McDermott. Since most of the other candidates live in Brighton, Creighton's withdrawal seems to open up many Allston votes that would have gone to him.

This brings the total number of candidates for the seat down to seven. Objections to ballot certification are to be filed by July 3.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Conservatory Lab Charter School

The Boston Globe ran a story about Brighton's Conservatory Lab Charter School, located on the St. Columbkille's property. Conservatory Lab is the only state-chartered school in Brighton, and includes elementary grades kindergarten (K2) through five. As a charter school it is required to hold a lottery for entrance when the number of applicants exceeds available spaces.

Its innovative feature is that every student, beginning in grade one, is given a violin to learn to play. All take daily music classes, two music lessons a week, perform throughout the year, and have music topics integrated into other subjects. An interesting approach to education to say the least, especially in this age of No Child Left Behind and MCAS.

Is it working? Yes and no.
[Executive Director Jonathan] Rappaport admits, though, that it has been a struggle to raise the MCAS scores of the students... Last year the school finished below the state average in a number of categories. However, it improved from the previous year, prompting the state Department of Education to say the school had achieved "adequate yearly progress" in math and English language arts. Rappaport says he expects further improvement this year.
The school's MCAS scores can be found online for 2006 and compared with Boston Public Schools and state-wide averages, as he noted. Here I'll pick out the CPI for comparison. The Composite Performance Index (0-100 with 100 being highest) is the degree to which students are progessing toward proficiency. MCAS starts with grade 3.

In grade 3 reading/math the school scores 82/65 compared with a BPS average of 66/63 and state average of 83/78. In grade 4 the school scores in ELA/Math at 76/70 compared to 62/62 for BPS and 79/73 for the state. In grade 5 the school scores in ELA/Math/Science at 70/45/52 compared to 69/57/57 for BPS and 84/70/78 for the state.

The school is therefore performing around the state average for half the indicators, and below the state average for the other half; grade 5 is below the state for all three tests. Comparison with BPS is more fair, though, because it is always a problem to compare urban with suburban or rural schools. The school is performing at or above the BPS average for all tests except for grade 5 math. A mixed bag.

As a state-chartered school, it has performance metrics to meet as part of its regular review: a five-year accountability plan (MS Word document). As the school moves forward, it will be interesting to see if this experiment in music-based education can beat its competition in Boston and Massachusetts.