Friday, August 31, 2007

Burning Artificial Turf in Arlington

An odd story from beyond the borders of Brighton:  vandals set fire to the artificial turf at the football field at Arlington High School.  Apparently, artificial turf does burn; WHDH's anchor, if shecan be believed, used the term "highly flammable" for the surface.  Unclear if cigarettes ignited the turf by themselves.  See the video story at WHDH-TV's website.

This story may have an impact on Boston College's IMP planning process, since they have proposed three artificial turf fields on the former St. John's Seminary property ("Brighton Campus").  Emergency services will have to plan to deal with burning turf, not just burning buildings.

Annual Trash-Picking Day Underway in Brighton

The annual Allston-Brighton holiday known as Moving Day is already underway. This year, it also coincides with Boston College's move-in "day" (August 30, 31, and September 2).*

The U-Hauls have started circling the block, and double-parked cars and trucks are all over the neighborhood already. I've already gotten stuck behind two double-parked cars on the Comm Ave carriage road. Walking is always a better way on days like this.

Last year's event saw a sofa and loveseat, identical to the set in our living room but in far worse condition, out on the street three houses away. No trade-up.

Remember that those old mattresses and cloth furniture are best left right where they are: on the street, full of bedbugs. Better idea: look for lamps, books, solid wood furniture (not raining today). Avoid heavily used children's toys, since you don't know about hidden damage.

Way back in college, I once scored a large, black-and-white TV in working condition from a dumpster, and watched the 1986 World Series on it with half the dorm. Yeah, the good old days. We put the TV next to the unearthed parking meter in the corner of the room.

Post below your favorite trash-picking "finds" this week-end!


* Why is BC not having official moving-in on September 1st? It's the date of their first home football game, against Wake Forest.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

City-wide Police Officers Walking the Beat

Six new teams of nine police officers each will be walking the beat in high-crime areas of the city. These 54 officers are in addition to 18 who are already walking beats in similar, crime-infested areas of the city. Stories last week from the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe.

Allston-Brighton D-14 police officers walking the beat appear to be in addition to these numbers referred to in the Globe story. Brighton Center is not a "high-crime" area like parts of Dorchester or Mattapan. So the Boston Police Department's community policing initiative is likely a larger overall program than the teams they are touting to work the high-crime areas. As previously reported, Captain Genevieve King of D-14 is a proponent of community policing.

Still Fuming About Your Newspaper Delivery in the Summer of 1968?

For those long-term Allston-Brighton residents who are still fuming about that newspaper that missed the porch, landed in the garden, and flattened their impatiens in the summer of 1968, you can see what your paper "boy" is doing now: leafletting your door again. And not leaving her flyers in the puddle on the front walkway.

Vote for Questions for the City Council Candidates

RSS readers: you will have to load the full website (click here) to see the questions (at the top, right-hand-side of the page). Poll closes August 31 at midnight.

The top 5-7 questions in the poll will go to the six candidates who will then have until September 10 to respond. All candidate responses received by September 10 will be posted at the same time on the Brighton Centered blog; none received after that date will be posted.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

S&M Prostitution Dungeon Unearthed on Leicester Street

Ummm... not your usual story in the Police Blotter: an S&M dungeon being used for prostitution on Leicester Street in Brighton Center, according to the Boston Herald and the A-B TAB. In true Herald fashion, the article provides a complete price breakdown.

BPS Countdown to Kindergarten Event in Oak Square: Thursday 8/30 at 5:30 pm

On Thursday, August 30, Presentation School Foundation, WGBH, and Boston Connects are pleased to be co-sponsoring the Allston-Brighton Countdown to Kindergarten event beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the Faneuil Branch Library in Oak Square, Brighton.

Immediately following a story-time led by Vicki Burr, children and their families will visit the Oak Square Firehouse and will then proceed to the park behind the Oak Square YMCA for activities and dinner.

This event is one of several being held over the next couple weeks in neighborhoods across the city. If you know a student entering kindergarten in the Boston Public Schools system, please pass the word about the event and tell them to make sure they wear their Countdown to Kindergarten yellow t-shirt.

Monday, August 27, 2007

One more week for camping -- at $595/night

For those who "only sorta kinda want to rough it," you can have artwork in your heated tent and huckleberries on your chef-prepared French toast for only $595/night. Roughing it with a high thread count.

Volunteer to Combat Bedbugs in A-B on Moving Day

A-B TAB has a story on how you can volunteer to help the ABCDC in its bedbug initiative in Allston-Brighton on moving day. Call by 8/29.

Citizen Alert: Alzheimer Patient May Be Wandering Near Corey Road

Please be on the look out for a white female who goes by the name of Cathrine Hayward of 249 Corey Road Brighton, MA, she may be suffering from [Alzheimers].

She is described as being approximately 5’-06", 170 lbs., short brown hair, (may be in a ponytail) last seen wearing a multi colored dress and last seen sitting on the steps of 249 Corey Road at 9:00 PM

BPD D-14 Citizen Alert: online version


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Last of the A-B City Council Candidates' Websites Up and Running

Mark Ciommo's website is now up and running. And not a moment too soon: the preliminary election is a month away. The website includes background on him, a summary of his positions on various issues (actually quite a few issues), no blog, and no way to contribute to the campaign electronically. His website is the final installment in the six-candidate series; see previous initial report and followup.

When clicking through various hyperlinks on his website, I found that his "News" page contains a link to a post at Harry Mattison's blog that has some rather, shall I say, unflattering comments posted at the end. He might want to remove this link... or convince Harry to delete the comments posted by "anonymous" on his blog.

Friday, August 24, 2007

New CRI Boathouse Under Construction Along Charles River

Construction has recently started for Community Rowing, Inc.'s (CRI) new boathouse along the Charles River, next to Daly Field. The Boston Globe's City Weekly recently ran a background piece:
Of the 10 boathouses along the Charles between Watertown and Boston, Community Rowing is the only one that will be open and fully accessible to the public, said Magian. "We don't have it gated off to the water, unlike other boathouses," she said.

Indeed, increasing public access to the river is a big reason why the project got such strong backing from state legislators, Magian suggests.
The project sits on three acres of land leased from the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Here's what it will look like from Nonantum Road (picture from PNF):



Site Construction Status

Here is a view from the southeast corner of the site:



Here is a view from the northwest corner of the site:



I'll try to update with new pictures every month or two from the same vantage points.


Dangerous Design for Bicycles on Charles River Bikepath

I sent in a public comment to CRI's small project PNF last fall, where I noted that their design of an angled vehicular entrance to the parking lot was extremely dangerous to bicyclists riding in the same direction along the Charles River Bikepath. Cars would just whip into the parking lot, probably slowing down little if at all because they only have to navigate a 45-degree angle off of Nonantum Road. They also would have poor visibility of bicyclists behind them as they turn. Bicyclists probably will have the right-of-way in such a design, but that won't help the cyclists squashed by speeding trucks pulling trailers with a dozen boats entering the parking lot from Nonantum Road westbound.

Here was my suggested modification:

I contacted John Fitzgerald of the BRA (project manager for this) recently to inquire if the suggested modification was implemented into the final design. He said no -- apparently BTD wasn't worried about it, even though one of CRI's consultants admitted at the public meeting last fall that they had some of their own concerns.

How Walkable Is Your House's Location?

There is a cute little gadget on the web: a site that will take any street address and calculate the "walk score" for it, i.e., how "walkable" your location is. Scores are 0-100, with 100 being the most walkable location imaginable and 0 being the North Pole.

It factors in the distances to the nearest parks, grocery stores, libraries, etc.

The Global Center of Universal Brighton Centered-ness, not to be confused with Brighton Center itself, gets an 88. That's why my wife and I wanted to live in a place like this: she commutes to work on the bus (hates driving rush hour with Masshole drivers), I bike to work, we both walk whenever possible to shop for daily things. Brighton Center itself gets an identical score of 88.

Harvard Square: 97. Our old address near Central Square: 98. Cleveland Circle: 97. Walden Pond: 15 (Thoreau would be proud).

Courtesy of Newton Streets and Sidewalks.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Two BC Football Players Charged in Bar Brawl Near North Station

The Boston Herald reported that two Boston College football players, Gosder Cherlius and DeJuan Tribble, as well as off-duty state police Sgt. Joseph Boike, have been charged with assault and battery for a brawl at the Greatest Bar near North Station in early July.

In a previous post, I tried to sort out the mess of details in the original Boston Globe report. I couldn't figure out what to believe:

Depending on whose story you believe, the 6-foot-7 and 318-pound Cherilus may have only been breaking up a fight by one-arm bear-holding/carrying Maney, or he may have been strangleholding Maney while Tribble punched Maney. Maney may have initiated the fight by sucker-punching Boike, or not. Boike may have hit Maney over the head with a bottle, or not. Everyone seems to deny that they did anything wrong. I had to read the Globe article several times to figure out all the accusations and counter-accusations.

Based on the charges that have now been filed, the police appear to believe the story of Maney, the victim who suffered spinal injuries requiring emergency surgery, not the story by BC footballers Cherilus and Tribble or off-duty state police officer Boike. Based on the little information we have, though, I would doubt that any of us know the true story yet.

The football players' status for playing this season, as well as their status as students, may be in question based on BC's new "zero-tolerance policy" on undergraduate student behavior. But BC appears to have already decided that they can play ball, according to the Boston Globe:
A BC football spokesman said that Cherilus, 23, a 6-foot-7-inch, 319-pound former standout at Somerville High School, and Tribble, 22, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound cornerback from Cincinnati, remain in good standing on the team. Both are graduates who remain eligible to play as fifth-year seniors. They practiced with the team after testifying at the court hearing.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bad Traffic Circulation is Good for the Neighborhood: Bring the Streetcars Back to Washington Street

The Urban Man on Los Angeles radio station KCRW writes in "The Joy of Poor Circulation" that lousy traffic circulation is just what is needed to make an area a good neighborhood.

The olden days had people walking around their neighborhood making it feel personal, but lots of efficient traffic flow puts people into cars driving to Costco:

On Monday you walked around the block for coffee and croissants, down where narrow streets filled pleasantly with a confusion of people and cars. There you idled in front of a flower shop and popped into a tiny market for apples, where you joked with the beautiful cashier.

Then lo, Tuesday morning you step out your door and find that someone has widened the street and added an onramp. At the end of the block, an Office Depot looms.

Just like that, romance flees. Soon you're driving to Costco for apples and croissants. Soon, you forget the beautiful cashier.
Instead of having wide boulevards with many lanes of efficiently moving traffic, people stuck in lousy traffic on overburdened streets begin to think about walking, riding bikes, and using mass transit. And the neighborhood is all the better because of it.

Brightonians have been complaining a lot lately about the horrendous traffic that is building up on Washington Street between Oak Square and the Police Station. It's so bad that 3-5 cars are regularly stuck in gridlock-mode in the middle of the intersection of Foster Street and Washington Street.

The Urban Man thinks that bad traffic is good, so let's apply his arguments: keep Washington Street one lane in each direction, have no dedicated left-hand turn lanes, install lots of raised crosswalks, make it one-way in a few places, set the traffic signal programs on "random" (so that some unlucky cars have to wait several light cycles), and plop a trolley line right down the middle of the street...

...But wait, the street used to have the trolley, so let's bring it back! Brighton Center might then return to feeling like a neighborhood instead of way station for Newton commuters. Wouldn't the return of the streetcar be a beautiful sight?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Brown and Dying Pine Trees in Former Seminary Property



Along the northern side of Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton, in the land currently owned by Boston College (or about to be purchased by them from the Archdiocese), are many pine trees. A lot of these pine trees -- but not all -- appear to be browning and dying.

What is going on? Disease or pests? Inadequate watering? Chemicals being used on the soil?

It long seemed like the Archdiocese didn't have the financial resources to maintain the Seminary property (e.g., trees along Lake Street), but Boston College probably does. And they have a highly knowledgeable Urban Ecology Institute who ought to be able to figure out what to do to save these trees.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Vote for Questions for the A-B City Council Candidates

RSS readers: you will have to load the full website (click here) to see the questions (at the top of the page). Poll closes August 31.

The top 5-7 questions in the poll will go to the six candidates who will then have until September 10 to respond. All candidate responses received by September 10 will be posted at the same time on the Brighton Centered blog; none received after that date will be posted.

I received 30+ questions, combined some, rephrased others, eliminated duplicates, etc., and chose the "best" 14 to appear in the poll. Thank you to everyone who submitted a question.

City Council Campaign Events: 8/20 - 8/29

Note to readers: I have offered all six candidates for the Allston-Brighton seat on the City Council the opportunity, on a weekly basis, to have up to three of their campaign events listed on the Brighton Centered blog. If they do not have a listing here, it is due to their failure to provide event details by the deadline, not my favoritism.

Publishing dates for candidate events on Brighton Centered blog: 8/20 [today]; 8/29; 9/4; 9/10; 9/17; 9/24.

-Mike


Wednesday, August 29
TITLE: Alex Selvig for City Council celebration / fundraiser
DATE: Wednesday, August 29th
TIME: 7.00 PM
LOCATION: SoHo, 386 Market St., Brighton.
RSVP REQUIRED: None
REQUIRED DONATION/ENTRY PRICE: None
CONTACT NAME: Alex Selvig
CONTACT PHONE NUMBER: 857-654-8708
CONTACT EMAIL ADDRESS: info@AlexSelvig.com
WEBSITE: www.AlexSelvig.com
DESCRIPTION: Campaign celebration / fundraiser for Alex Selvig where no speeches, fanfare or parades will take place, where we will celebrate citizens taking back their neighborhood, and where donations are not required but will be gratefully accepted.

Innovation and Suspicion in North Allston

In response to last week's Boston Globe metro column by Yvonne Abraham on architectural innovation and neighborhood suspicion amongst Harvard and their North Allston neighbors, the Globe published a series of letters-to-the-editor in today's edition.

Brent Whelan:
We are indeed suspicious of Harvard's secretive and high-handed response to community review. But we would love to see a radically new approach to campus architecture in our neighborhood.
Jason Karakehian:
...She forgot to point out one architectural success in which the citizens of Allston had a direct hand with Harvard: the Honan/Allston Public Library, which was funded by the university as reparation for those very land purchases. This building, with its facade of slate, concrete, glass, and mahogany, all honestly presented to display their inherent varieties of texture and pattern, is a tribute to craftsmanship in public spaces.

I suggest Abraham spend a little time in Allston talking with the people and looking around before presenting us with an opinion based on the most cursory of examinations.

My own comments were quite similar.

Running Wearing Headphones: Always a Bad Idea

It must be a slow news day, because the Boston Globe ran a front page story, "A running debate: Competitors split on headphone ban at road races."

The reason for the story is that the USATF (the U.S.A. Track & Field organization, not the the Waco-busters) decided in 2004 to institute a new policy at the end of 2006 banning runners from wearing headphones in USATF-sanctioned road races. Some race organizers, and news editors, are just now realizing that the ban is in place, although enforcement appears sketchy at best.

I read the whole story without finding the most compelling reason never to wear headphones while running: the risk of becoming the victim of assault, particularly sexual assault. While victims of sexual assault are never at fault for the crime because they wore headphones, it is, nonetheless, a bad practice. Many advocates recommend women do not wear headphones while running or jogging. Simply googling "sexual assault jogger headphones" gives a wealth of resources and recommendations along this line. One added tidbit: the music listening device itself is a target for theft.

Road racers aren't likely to be assaulted sexually during a race, so the USATF bases their requirement on another reason. As a frequent racer myself, I can tell you that it is a lousy idea to wear headphones among the packed crowd of runners during the first 1/4 of a race. The problem is exacerbated by slow runners who line up in the front of the crowd at the front, causing the faster runners and slower runners to dodge each other for a while. Sometimes, it can be a mess. Runners with headphones are making it even worse.

Most races also do not allow running strollers for the runner who wants to participate with a young child. The usual reason: insurance requirements. Always ask in advance of the race organizers. When they do allow strollers, it's usually best to line up in the back of the pack. Except, of course, when you expect to be one of the top finishers despite pushing a 35-pound child on a 25-pound stroller. (BTW: runners hate to be passed by a stroller in a race...)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tree Removal Hearing for St. Elizabeth's: Friday, 8/24, at 10 am

From the A-B TAB community notes listing:

Tree removal hearing

The Boston Parks and Recreation Department will be hosting a public hearing to discuss the removal of seven public shade trees at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Brighton on Friday, August 24, at 10 a.m. The hearing will be held in the Conference Room of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department located at 1010 Massachusetts Avenue, 3rd floor, Roxbury.

The hearing will discuss an application for seven tree removals on Cambridge St. due to the interference with the expansion of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. The trees to be removed are thornless honey locusts and have a combined diameter at breast height of 27.5”.

The public hearing will be held by the City of Boston Tree Warden (or designee), who may accept or deny the application. If you have any questions or comments regarding this hearing, please contact the Boston Parks and Recreation Department at (617) 635-4505 or by submitting written comments to: Boston Parks and Recreation Department, Attn: Cambridge St. Tree Hearing, 1010 Massachusetts Avenue 3rd Floor, Boston, MA 02118 no later than Friday, August 17, 2007. A decision regarding the tree removals will be made within two weeks of the hearing.

For further information, please contact Greg Mosman of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department at (617) 635-7275.


BC Task Force Meeting: Tuesday, 8/21, at 6:30 pm

Meeting of the BRA's BC Task Force
Tuesday, August 21
6:30 - 8:30 pm

Brighton Marine Health Center
77 Warren Street, Brighton, MA 02135

Agenda:
  1. BC IMPNF update (Boston College [BC] Institutional Master Plan [IMP] Notification Form)
  2. Student Behavior Plan
For more information: apparently they want you to contact BC, not the BRA or the task force. (See BC Neighbors Forum posting.) At least we know who's in charge now...
These are all BC Office of Governmental and Community Affairs contacts: (617)552-4787, gca@bc.edu, http://www.bc.edu/imp/ .

Friday, August 17, 2007

BC's Alumni Stadium Will Now Be Able to Wake the Dead at Evergreen Cemetery

Apparently, Boston College has spent seven months installing a new sound system in 44,500-seat Alumni Stadium:
Boston College is known for its passionate sports fans, and being heard over the roar of the enthusiastic crowds at Boston College's Alumni Stadium is no mean feat. The 45,000-seat stadium recently completed a seven-month sound system renovation that included a new, state-of-the-art distributed audio system to get the announcements everywhere they need to be.
Eagle in Atlanta probably would like to be able to hear the games from 1000+ miles away. No word on whether or not the new system is louder than the old one... or just better sound quality. I can hear some of the noise from games from 1.0 miles away, particularly in the evening air.

Warning: Rabid Racoon Near Chandler's Pond

I just got a report in this evening (8/17/07) from a resident who:
saw a large sick racoon crossing Kenrick near Larch this afternoon around 4. At around 7:30 we were barbecuing in the back yard and the raccoon came stumbling within feet of us...

we actually had to leave the yard. I reported it to animal control, but it wandered away (up the hill behind houses on Larch) before anyone bothered to call back. Animal control said if it was stumbling around and acting drunk, it probably has rabies, and would probably be spotted around the neighborhood for the next couple of days, and to report it to them if anyone sees it.
Boston Animal Control can be contacted via the Mayor's 24-hour hotline: 617-635-4500. (Don't use the online form on the weekends -- it might not be read until Monday.) Animal control always has a person on-call for emergencies like this.

Another A-B District City Council Candidate Website Up-And-Running

While the internet revolution train steamed out of the station a few weeks ago, A-B District City Council candidate Greg Glennon has managed to chase it down and jump back on. His website is now up-and-running.

It includes the option to donate online using PayPal, and gives his positions on a number of issues -- emphasizing tax relief. No blogging for Glennon. No big deal, though, since the three candidates with blogs have fewer than a dozen posts combined.

As noted at the end of this post, Rosie Hanlon's website went live within 24 hours of my posting. One other candidate, Mark Ciommo, has a website that has still not launched.

Harvard Wants a "Green" Science Building? Have the Computers Use Blackle, not Google

From Furious George in the Wild West:
...When your screen is white, being it an empty word page, or the Google page, your computer consumes 74 watts, and when its black it consumes only 59 watts. Mark Ontkush wrote an article about the energy saving that would be achieved if Google had a black screen, taking in account the huge number of page views. According to his calculations, 750 mega watts/hour per year would be saved. In a response to this article Google created a black version of its search engine, called Blackle...
http://www.blackle.com/

Thursday, August 16, 2007

BostonNOW: Blog Use Not All Its Cracked Up to Be

Earlier this year, BostonNOW burst on the local newspaper scene with an innovative approach: integrating blog content directly into the online and print versions of the paper. And paying the bloggers, too.

Now that they've been up and running for a few months, I think it's a good time to ask: Is their new concept of integrated blog content working?

The publisher's answer: sort-of yes, sort-of no. The Boston Herald reports that the editor-in-chief has lost his job, although he'll "continue to work on 'the blog side' of the business as a consultant." A letter from the former editor, John Wilpers, says that they are still trying to figure out how to reimburse bloggers.

My answer: no, it's not working very well.

I base my position on:
  1. an unimpressive experience with having them pick up a blog entry of mine last month;
  2. idiotic policy requiring duplicate blogs;
  3. unclear instructions for suggesting blog entries to be included in their paper; and
  4. printed content so short that it barely qualifies as newsworthy.

My Experience: Part I


On July 9, I blogged on two alternatives that Boston College should consider for the three houses at 188/192/196 Foster Street. BC wants to raze all three houses; I suggested they consider building around them or moving them. Fair enough. Not breaking news, but ideas worth talking about.

A BostonNOW reporter, who either reads my blog or monitors an aggregated feed (like UniversalHub or outside.in), contacted me about their interest in running the post. OK, you have my permission, run it. No, that's not what they wanted -- he asked me a few questions in order to put together a story himself. All right. Oh, and he wanted to get a photo of the house(s) with me in front of it(them). OK. We made the arrangements, he took the photo, etc.

How was my blog going to fit in to this? Isn't including blog content the niche for BostonNOW? I was told that, in order for any blog entry to be included in the paper, I must create an entirely new blog on the BostonNOW website. I could just copy over my existing blog entry verbatim, or write something different, etc. But it had to be a blog on their website.

I proceeded to do just that. They have a neat tool that will upload everything from your blogger.com blog automatically. It uploaded all my posts, the drafts of future posts, the labels -- everything. Nice and smooth.

I notified BostonNOW's reporter the post was on their website, but nothing out of the blog post made it into the July 11, 2007 print edition or the online BostonNOW Blogger Roundup for the day. (The print edition wasn't even delivered to newsboxes in the Brighton Center area that day.) They just wrote a story using my blog post as a starting point, and that was it. No blog content anywhere to be found, despite the fact that I wasted an hour or two setting up a mirror blog on their site and uploading content to it.


My Experience: Part II


Not completely discouraged, I tried a new tact: let's post some "local news" on my blog on the BostonNOW website, and see if they pick it up. Now that we're in campaign season for the open A-B District City Council seat, I asked every candidate if they supported or opposed Boston College's proposal to site two undergraduate dormitories on the former St. John's Seminary land recently purchased by BC. The neighborhood is totally opposed to this proposal, and all of the candidates stated their opposition to it, too. Not Earth-shattering, but a clear indication of a neighborhood rising up in vocal unison against a particular institutional expansion proposal. (The BC dormitory story is, in general, a big one: the Boston Globe ran it on the front page back in June.)

I uploaded the story to my mirrored blog on the BostonNOW website. It immediately showed up in their sidebar of new blog stories under "local news" (how I tagged it). In fact, it stayed there for a long, long time. There weren't other "local news" blog entries popping up to bump it down the stack. There aren't that many active bloggers on the BostonNOW website, and very few of them label their posts as "local news."

Look at the current "local news" blog entries at BostonNOW. When I wrote this there were only six entries in the last two days, eight in the last four days; inspection of them shows that half or so are crackpots, duplication of other newspaper's content, or written by someone at BostonNOW. That's it, two-a-day or fewer.

It's immediately obvious that BostonNOW's awful hurdle -- requiring bloggers to create altogether new blogs on BostonNOW's website -- has resulted in very little blog content being posted there. They are failing at being a clearing-house of local news blog content, such that they cannot rely on it for any significant portion of their day-to-day news content.

Unsure if they would pick up this blog entry to include in the paper (or the online version), I thought: How do I inform the editors that there might be a local news blog story on their website? There's no button to push on the "blog dashboard" (or account management page), no links anywhere I could find, etc. All I could find was an old page, written right around the time they launched the paper, with an email address for the editors to send them blog content. They created this page when their site wasn't fully functional. So I sent email to the black hole and never heard back.

The blog post never made it into their print or online version. It died there. RIP.


Brief Blog Content

One problem BostonNOW has in using its blog content is that they opt for very, very short stories. On everything. A few stories will get a half-page or a few paragraphs, but many of their articles are just briefs containing exactly two sentences.

I went through the August 8, 2007 print edition to look at how they used the blog content. Eleven blog entries total 27 paragraphs. That's 2-and-a-half paragraphs per entry. About half of them read like letters-to-the-editor, rather than news or op-ed. The other half were entertainment, sports, or gadgets.

The newspaper is just not much of a read. Their stories are so brief it's hard even to get the sketchiest outline of an issue. I can't imagine how shallow I would be relying on it daily for my news... er, well, how much shallower I would be.


Why is BostonNOW Not Succeeding in Using Blog Content?

More than anything else, their model of requiring users to create a blog on their website is probably driving 90% of their blog content away. Boston is the bloggiest city in the country, yet they can't seem to get more than two "local news" blog postings a day. BostonNOW needs to revise their policy so that they can use a far broader array of blog content.

The paper also doesn't have a clear way for people who think they have good content to notify the editors, or fast-track it onto the site. Partnering with outside.in, or with Adam Gaffin of UniversalHub, would be a good way to ensure local and/or quality content on a daily basis.

Finally, the paper strives to include mostly short stories or blurbs, often only two sentences or two paragraphs. BostonNOW is a little of a lot of things, but a lot of nothing. They should instead focus on fewer stories. Only then will they have content that people want to read -- and can't get anywhere else in print. Think Boston Phoenix, but without the masseuse ads.


Oh, and by the way, those BostonNOW guys seem to have gotten into a bit of a sticky mess over covering -- or creating -- a news story related to how Ron Jeremy's bus got banged-up.

Boston is Bloggiest City -- According to Lousy, Statistically-Invalid Sampling

Boston is apparently the "bloggiest" city in the country, according to a "study" by outside.in, a blogging clearinghouse, as reported in the Boston Globe:
OutsideIn.com said it tracks blogging activity in about 60 urban areas. It based its rankings on a "blogging quotient" that factored in a metropolitan area's population with the number of blog posts tied to specific locations.

By that measure, Greater Boston had 89 posts per 100,000 residents, edging out Greater Philadelphia, which had 88 posts.

What is wrong with this statistic? Here in Allston-Brighton we have nearly 70,000 residents as of the 2000 census. I sampled a bunch of blogs I know about in Allston-Brighton, then counted the number of blog posts in July 2007 -- or a full month period starting with the first post remaining in my aggregator's cache, or a full month estimated based on only a partial month's cache. I believe these all to be A-B blogs, based on how their locations were listed on other websites. Mis-attribution of the location is likely unimportant, since the total numbers of blog posts are dominated by a few near the top which are known to be A-B blogs about A-B.

Brighton Centered: 50
Allston-Brighton Community Blog: 60
Allston-Brighton TAB (news): 65
Everybody's A Critic (A-B TAB, entertainment): 43
Sean Cardinal O'Malley: 4
EagleAction.com Headlines: 100 [estimated]; location unclear; topic: BC sports
The Redstar Perspective: 34
Double Helix: 24
Shoot the Duck: 24 [estimated]
bloogs blowing by: 12 [estimated]
Auntie Scotch Raves: 7 [estimated]
Ben Ostrander's Blog: 6 [estimated]
The Schlog: 6
Il Filosofo: 1
yesh omrim: 2
The Life and Times of Sooz: 1
Universal Hub - Brighton: 16 [estimated]
---------------------------------------------------------
Total: 454 posts for 70,000 people = rate of 649 posts per 100,000 people

outside.in's rate of 89 posts per 100,000 people is low by a factor of at least seven in Allston-Brighton! It's probably off by a much larger number if you factor in all the blogs I don't read or even know about.

Note: I did not count the outside.in RSS feed for Brighton, since it only repeats verbatim other content. But I did count Universal Hub for Brighton, since they add comments to their posts about other Brighton-related content.

The big problem with outside.in's statistical sampling? They require: (1) a blog to be entered into their database; (2) each blog post to have specific information to pinpoint its location. Brighton Centered is entered for #1, but only a (small) fraction of Brighton Centered's posts gets picked up as "Brighton" content by outside.in. Harry Mattison seems to have a higher hit rate with his Allston blog. (Maybe he'll pass along advice!)

A couple of weeks ago, I experimented with using the "georss" tag appended to all my posts, but my aggregator (reader) didn't recognize the tag (nor did Google Reader), and outside.in still didn't seem to pick it up properly. In order to get postings correctly identified by outside.in, I find it necessary to provide a full street address in the body of the post. But for many posts, it's just silly and clumsy to try to enter a street address, even though the content is clearly centered on Brighton.

Many bloggers just haven't done step #1 above. That requirement creates a systematic error in their methodology, since some regions of the country may rely on (or visit) outside.in's service at far higher rates than other regions of the country. Other bloggers fail to use location-specific tags (#2 above). This is also a systematic error in their methodology, since usage rates of location-specific tags -- and bloggers' knowledge of how to use them -- can easily vary by region of the country and education background. Those two systematic errors both systematically bias their statistical sub-sample, although the trends introduced by the biases are unknown without further investigation.

Boston may be a bloggy place, but outside.in's statistical sampling -- which may be systematically biased -- is not definitive proof. They are only picking up an unrepresentative tip of the iceberg and extrapolating from there.

Students at Brighton's Another Course to College Travel to Ghana on Cultural Exchange

From the Boston Public Schools PR:
Six students from Another Course to College (ACC) recently returned from a two-week trip to Ghana, West Africa, as part of a cultural exchange program between ACC and the Achimota Secondary School, a boarding school in Ghana’s capitol city of Accra. The students, all members of the Class of 2008, spent two weeks immersed in the culture and history of Ghana, living with Ghanaian students in dormitories and attending classes at the school.
Another Course to College in Brighton is part of the Boston Public Schools -- a pilot school since 2003 -- and occupies part of the former Taft Middle School building at the intersection of Warren Street and Cambridge Street. It shares the building with another pilot school: Boston Community Leadership Academy.

More Phone Surveying for Allston-Brighton City Council Campaign

Harry Mattison mentioned earlier this month that he and his wife received phone calls surveying their preference for A-B District City Councilor. Back in June, there were at least two such phone surveys going on, one of which I received and blogged about.

Mattison's calls appear quite different from the extensive survey I received: his asked for little more than who he would vote for, while mine asked questions about the Mayor, provided dispassionate summaries of the candidates, and tried to see how those summaries might influence how I would vote. (I think it may have been a subtle case of push polling, since the summaries were all quite reasonable, not inflammatory. Exclusion of a well-known personality trait of one candidate led me to believe it was, however, an attempt to judge the importance of that little nugget in the campaign.)

Have you received a phone survey? If so, comment below and describe what kind of questions were asked.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

More Campaign Literature: This Time From Boston College

Last night I found yet another piece of campaign literature on my front porch. Not from a candidate for City Council, though. This one was a copy of the Boston College Neighbor newsletter -- a gift from BC's Office of Governmental and Community Affairs, part of their campaign to win approval for their institutional master plan. It's the first such newsletter I've ever received from BC. It should not be confused with the separate "Boston College Neighborhood Newsletter" issued by the Boston College Neighborhood Center.

Don't get me wrong: this flyer is a welcome piece of literature. One City Council candidate, Alex Selvig, complained in the 7/23 forum about lack of notification from BC about their expansion plans:
Meetings have been going on for Boston College's expansion for two years before I found out about it. I live across the street.
I live a quarter-mile from the corner of the former St. John's Seminary land, not across the street, so the fact that I just received this flyer is a sign of BC's good intentions to communicate better with the neighborhood. Kudos.

The newsletter leads off with a quick description of their institutional master plan, stating that they intend to file the Institutional Master Plan Notification Form with the BRA in "early September 2007."

One of the six pages was, well, an advertisement for BC football games. And the newsletter had a large refrigerator magnet insert, also advertising the football games. But this magnet was not the same one they are presumably distributing to alumni and students: ours had a sticker attached to the top-right giving the [BC] "Community Hotline" phone number: 617-552-2443.



Inside the newsletter, they let on: the number is the hotline "During Football Games." Up late because of a rowdy undergraduate party next door? Try the BC Police instead at 617-552-4440. To BC's further credit, they include an article on page 2 about Stephen Montgomery and the Community Assistance Program (CAP), along with instructions to call the police number above for "neighborhood disturbances." They are distributing this newsletter in advance of the August 31 student move-in date, so that neighbors know what to do from day one if noisy undergraduates start partying on their street.

Finally, for the first time BC announced the names of the newest recipients of the "Allston/Brighton Scholarships" -- up to ten full-tuition scholarships for Allston-Brighton residents who were admitted to BC, provided as part of the Community Benefits under Article 80 of the zoning code. Only seven A-B residents qualified this year as having "institutionally determined need of greater than $10,000," so the other three awards went to city-wide students.

This new transparency by BC is a fine change of heart; Vice President Thomas Keady, Jr., claimed in the January 16, 2007 meeting of the BC Task Force that the recipients' names could not be disclosed due to privacy concerns.

The 2007-8 recipients are: Su Yu, Boston Latin School, Allston; Bilal Ahmed, Boston Latin School, Brighton; Rachel Buckley, Ursuline Academy, Brighton; Nairobi Oller, Brighton High School, Brighton; Tara Prince, Boston Latin School, Brighton; Colby Riordan, Boston Latin School, Brighton; Jennifer Hartin, Boston Latin School, Brighton; Angela Caputo-Papastamos, English High School, Roslindale; Jean-Baptiste Errgy, English High School, Dorchester; and Janet Yu, John D. O'Bryant School, Boston.

No names were given, however, for the sophomores, juniors, and seniors at BC who are continuing to receive these scholarships (they are "renewable annually"), one of whom was mentioned at a previous BC Task Force meeting. Those names would be a fine addition to the next edition of the newsletter... or for their Boston College institutional master plan online website. (Hint, hint: also put an electronic version of this newsletter on the website!)

North Allston Neighbors Suspicious About Harvard? Sure. Just Not About Architectural Designs

New Boston Globe Metro columnist Yvonne Abraham had a piece in today's paper on how Harvard should be daring in their architectural design as they re-design and redevelop North Allston. She relies exclusively on Harvard Allston Task Force member, and president of the Allston Civic Association, Paul Berkeley to be an expert and critic on architecture.

Abraham points to MIT's campus as a model for Harvard's future buildings. I love MIT's architecture as much as the next guy -- whether his name be Frank or Renzo or Stephen or Stefan or Alvar -- and personally would be happy to see more architectural adventurousness. Point taken.

Harvard's proposed Science Complex, however, ain't visually progressive architecture. It is an awfully ugly thing: chimneys sticking up to nearly 150 feet above street level; building mechanicals forming extended roofs; parts of the outer walls canting open-and-closed; and the whole thing towering over the neighborhood like a beige Godzilla. Those ugly things, however, are key elements in Harvard's insistence that this building be a "sustainable" design. Chimneys allow passive air circulation out of the building, louvered outer walls provide variable air intake, etc. This building will be a marvel of sustainable engineering design, not of architectural whimsy. Harvard wanted a "green" building; their strict requirements resulted in this behemoth:



Abraham then bizarrely implies that the problems Harvard might be having with their neighbors in North Allston is over architectural design:
But they must contend with two things MIT doesn't appear to have encountered: conservative faculty members who prefer red-brick, Georgian reproduction to real innovation and active, suspicious neighbors.
That just isn't the case. The North Allston neighbors are suspicious of Harvard over a lot of things: withholding information; not engaging them on many elements of the process; exceeding the zoning building heights envisioned by the North Allston Strategic Framework by 50%; putting the green space in an interior courtyard poorly accessible to the community; not including sufficient parking for the complex's occupants' let alone the massive needs of future construction projects; and so on. The neighbors have made only modest progress despite their incredible efforts.

Contrary to Abraham's thesis, the North Allston neighbors have been trying to reason with Harvard over virtually everything except for architectural design! Architecture is really low on the list of suspicions.

(The exception: neighbors would like to see the mechanicals and chimneys on the top reduced in scale, but no word really on their design per se. Nobody looking at the artist's conception [above] would say that the design of the top of the building would make or break it as an architectural gem.)

I have been enjoying Abraham's columns in the last month or so, but not this one. I think she needs to venture into the neighborhood and attend a meeting (or two) to see what is really going on. We have lots and lots of meetings these days in Allston-Brighton, sometimes up to five on a given night; she can take her pick. Or read the meeting minutes, which she could do from the comfort of her office on the other side of the city. There's a lot of pages of minutes from the last two months of meetings of the Harvard Allston Task Force; architectural design takes up very few of them.


NOTE (added 8/16/07): Adam Gaffin of UniversalHub considers that Abraham's column "channels the ghost of Brian McGrory in Allston." Har! Allston blogger Harry Mattison, and Harvard Allston Task Force member, wonders "when did we start trying to stifle innovation?" I think this column has got a lot of people twisted around like a Moebius strip.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Award for Ugliest New Business in Brighton

A new Dunkin' Donuts opened recently on Washington Street in Oak Square, right across the street from the YMCA.

I am giving them an award: The Ugliest New Business in Brighton. (NOTE: edited 8/17/07, see below)

Check out the finely-crafted details on the roof:



Needless to say, it is out of character with the neighborhood's architecture. I'm praying for a windstorm. Or that the owners get a conscience.


NOTE (added 8/17/07): roof appendage removed. Award taken away. Looking for a new recipient.

Monday, August 13, 2007

There Are Too Many Campaign Signs in Allston-Brighton

I think it is fair to say that there are too many campaign signs in front yards in Allston-Brighton.

So many that, a week or so ago, my 4-1/2-year-old daughter asked me why there were so many signs in people's yards. I asked her to point out the ones she meant; she identified the campaign signs, not the realtor signs.

We have spent the last week or so identifying those candidate signs everywhere, and she pretty much has the names and colors down pat. She is assisted, of course, by the fact that she has met most of the candidates -- more than once -- so she can connect names with faces with signs and colors.

What is disturbing is her play during bathtime last night. She wanted the (male) elephant plus a series of whales (and shark) for the tub. She lined them up, called them the Water Animals Mayor and City Councilors, and assigned names to each one. (I think she actually meant the candidates for the Water Animals City Council.) I only had to remind her of one name she had missed. Here are her associations:



Not bad, eh?

Obviously, there are too many lawn signs if they are causing young children to play-act with the candidates' names. Ah, but that's democracy in action.

Secretary of the Commonwealth Stick Mosquito convinced a Federal three-judge panel that Boston need not include Chinese transliterations of candidate names on the ballots. I propose we do something a little different: let's use their water animal identifications on the ballot instead. Killer Whale Rosie Hanlon vs. Manatee Tim Schofield vs. Beluga Whale Alex Selvig... you get the drift. Put the images right on the ballot to avoid any confusion whatsoever.

The heavy rains in the last couple of weeks have caused a number of candidates' signs to fall apart and off of their wood posts, including the Ciommo sign next door and a Jenner sign on the next block. Maybe we should pray for rain to get rid of all these signs.

Boston College Gets $177 million in Tax-Exempt Bond Financing

The Boston Globe (boston.com) reports that Boston College has been approved for a $177 million, tax-exempt bond financing package for land purchase and building construction:
MassDevelopment, the state's finance and development authority, announced today a $177 million financing package for Boston College.

The school will use proceeds from a tax-exempt bond to finance several construction projects and purchase 18 acres of land and buildings from the Archdiocese of Boston; the property is the archdiocese's former Brighton headquarters, Mass Development said.

Projects include the construction of three new academic buildings on BC's Chestnut Hill campus, Mass Development said.
I have personally wondered where BC was getting the money they needed for their $172.400001 million land purchases since 2004 from the Archdiocese of Boston.* They are somewhwat financially poor relative to other area universities, having a comparatively small endowment of $1.6 billion as of May 2007. Their institutional master plan projects probably run, in sum, $500 million to $1 billion, but those are only poorly-informed, ballpark estimates. It is well-known that they are currently trying to raise large amounts of money from donors (particularly alumni) to fund their land purchases and expansive building and stadium construction projects, but I am not aware how much money they have managed to raise for that campaign.

Securing the tax-exempt bonds announced today are probably a major route for them to raise cash very quickly to fund their building boom.

Notice how the press release / Globe article only states: "Projects include the construction of three new academic buildings on BC's Chestnut Hill campus." I wonder if they will also use some of the funds raised by these bonds to pay for their proposed undergraduate dormitories and baseball stadium on the former Seminary land.


One last note: the Globe article quoted above includes hyperlinks. This has been something that online Globe articles have lacked (or been spotty to include), despite repeated criticism from the online blogging community. Nice to see them inserting hyperlinks!


* $99.4 million in 2004 for part of St. John's Seminary land and 192 Foster Street, $8 million in 2006 for tribunal building and parcel, $1 in 2006 for 188 Foster Street, and $65 million in 2007 for remainder of Seminary land and all buildings except for St. John's Hall.


NOTE (added 8/14/07): The press release provided by MassDevelopment includes other projects which are clearly part of BC's future, unapproved institutional master plan:
The school will use proceeds from a tax-exempt bond to finance several construction projects and purchase 18 acres of land and buildings from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese’s former Brighton headquarters. Projects include the construction of three new academic buildings, a recreation complex and student center on the school’s Chestnut Hill campus.
The recreation complex is certainly part of the master plan, the "student center" probably also is (i.e., probably referring to something contained within the recreation complex), and the 18-acre land purchase is slated to be completed later this month.

A-B TAB Publishes Obituary of "The Death of the Neighborhood"

Check out the Allston-Brighton TAB's "Obituaries" online. Scroll to the bottom. There you will find the Op-Ed I wrote for them in June titled, "Neighbors ‘frustrated,’ ‘exasperated’ over lack of BC response."

People have often said and written that Harvard's and Boston College's expansion plans could cause the "death of the neighborhood." The TAB has now published the obit. I believe the undead will soon rise up...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Submit Your Questions for the A-B City Council Candidates' Questionnaire

Most of the candidates for the Allston-Brighton City Council seat have agreed to respond to a "crowdsourced" questionnaire generated by the online citizens of A-B.

The idea: you submit possible questions; the online community votes for the best ones; then the candidates get a week (or so) to answer the top 5-7 questions. Their responses are posted on the Brighton Centered blog.

The method worked well recently when Adam Gaffin crowdsourced questions for Dan Conley, Suffolk County District Attorney: blog readers were requested to submit questions; ten of these questions were submitted to a vote; the top five vote getters were listed and sent to Conley; Conley answered them.


Here's What You Do

Submit your questions one of four ways:
  1. Post a comment at the bottom of this blog entry
  2. Email them to me: pahre@comcast.net
  3. Email them to the AllstonBrighton2006 Google Group (membership required)
  4. Email them to the BC_Neighbors_Forum Google Group (membership required)

Rules for the Questions
  • No candidate names in the questions: the questions should be general enough so that all candidates can respond.
  • No rude language, profanity, etc.
  • Up to three questions submitted per person. Candidates may submit questions, too.
  • I will edit questions as necessary to make them clearer. I will remove duplicate questions.
  • Questions should be relevant to a City Councilor's role; questions about legislation facing the Congress, for example, would usually be off-topic unless you can convince me otherwise.
  • City-wide issues are relevant, not just issues facing Allston-Brighton.
  • I will personally whittle the list of questions down to 15 (or so) for the voting round. I will try to choose a broad array of topics.

Dates for the Project
  • Now - August 20 (noon): submit your questions
  • August 20 - August 31: vote for the best questions at the Brighton Centered blog
  • August 31: top 5-7 questions sent to all six A-B City Council candidates
  • September 10: all candidates responding to the questionnaire by COB on this date will have their full set of answers posted on the Brighton Centered blog. Late responses will be posted only at my discretion (so that candidates cannot see each other's responses before submitting their own).

Pose your questions now! Get answers for your questions about the most pressing issues facing Allston-Brighton!

Friends of Rogers Park Awarded Crime-Fighting Honor

At the National Night Out celebration at the Franklin Park Zoo last Tuesday night, the Boston Police handed out a series of citizen crime-related awards. Brighton's park advocacy group, the Friends of Rogers Park, was awarded one of the Top Ten Neighborhood Crime Watch groups of 2007.

The group was cited for working "with Boston Police District 14 and other City agencies to alleviate public drinking, vandalism, drug activity and traffic problems which were plaguing the area." Additional accomplishments include opening a dialogue between dog owners and other park users, and initiating the new master planning process for the park.

The Friends of Rogers Park is a nascent group -- formed only last year -- so this award will hopefully offer encouragement and impetus for a more expanded presence in the years to come. It is not officially a crime watch group (apparently there are only two currently-active crime watches in A-B, one of which is at Ringer Park), but the recognition highlights the overlapping activities of park advocacy groups and crime watches in urban settings.

Photo below with Commissioner Ed Davis, Mayor Menino, yours truly with 4-year-old, and Sgt. Bill Fogerty of D-14. The wildebeests (fenced area behind) were nowhere to be found with the large police presence and estimated 9,000 attendees at the zoo.



NOTE (8/15/07): A-B TAB posted a story on it.

MBTA Head Grabauskas Avoids Riding T Because It Is Not Convenient

OK, OK, OK... this is old news. I have read many people disparage MBTA head Daniel Grabauskas for not riding the T because he finds it inconvenient. So many, that I thought it important to dig out where this little nugget came from. Here it is from the Boston Globe 1/22/06:
But winning over the car commuter has always been the challenge. Even Grabauskas, the MBTA's general manager who lives in Ipswich, a town served by commuter rail, usually drives to work. "Where I live in town is right off the highway," he says, "and my schedule is erratic enough that it tends not to be convenient for me."
I think we should pay him minimum wage and give him a performance bonus (to his current salary) if he gets a guy named Grabauskas from Ipswich to commute daily on the T. Making this guy head of the MBTA is kind-of like naming William Bennett to head the U.S. Department of Education, or James Watt to head the Department of the Interior, or... [complete this listing yourself]

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Gardner School's Summer Enrichment Program

The Gardner Extended Services School, at 30 Athol Street in North Allston, has concluded its Summer Enrichment Program for 115 K2-G5 students. The program was conducted in collaboration with Harvard Business School, who provided funding for 40 of the students.

The Gardner School has been rolling out their conversion to a Pilot School within the Boston Public School system; they will officially be a pilot when school opens this September. A science teacher at the school, Dean Martin, was recently awarded an Excellence in Environmental Education award from the state.

The BU Bridge Redivivus

When I posted Tuesday a photo of the BU Bridge's sorry state of concrete holes, I didn't realize that the Boston Herald had posted a story two days earlier on the BU Bridge. Stupid me, I don't read the Herald on a daily basis. The Herald's story was a response to their request for "Citizen Inspectors"; I responded to them two days earlier than that, on Friday 8/3, telling them about the BU Bridge (see comment #3). People have been discussing online the Boston Herald article on the BU Bridge. The Herald also posted a database of the 560 Massachusetts bridges classified as "structurally deficient" in the National Bridge Inventory.

So why do I revive this over-done story on the BU Bridge?

In the Herald article, the DCR spokesperson said that the bridge is safe, and is not structurally deficient:
The Boston University Bridge - an urban eyesore of rusting metal, crumbling concrete and perilous sidewalk cracks - is due for rehabilitation work but is not considered to be one of the state’s 560 “structurally deficient” spans.

“It may need work, but it can still take the statutory loads,” said Wendy Fox, spokeswoman for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which owns the bridge connecting Boston and Cambridge. “The point is, it’s not on the list because it’s not considered to be structurally deficient.” [italics added]
Yet the Herald's database lists it as structurally deficient (see last entry that page), my extraction from the NBI database finds it to be structurally deficient, and I even included a Google map link based on the latitude and longitude in the NBI database to show which bridge the NBI is referring. The NBI classifies with a "1" (="structurally deficient") in character #427 of each entry line in its database to identify this class of bridges.

Assuming I haven't made a mistake in figuring out which bridge is which, or in understanding the entries and classifications in the NBI, then it sure sounds to me like the DCR doesn't even know which of their bridges are classified as structurally deficient. How embarrassing, if not outright incompetent on the part of the DCR.

At-Large City Councilor Stephen Murphy May Step Down Next Week

At-Large City Councilor Stephen Murphy seems to have spent his years in office unsuccessfuflly trying to land any other job he could get. He appears to have finally gotten his wish. The Boston Globe reports that he is considering a job offer with the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency, and could leave his job as City Councilor as early as next week. Yes, next week -- possibly leaving his job even sooner than A-B City Councilor Jerry McDermott.

If Councilor Murphy steps down, his job will be taken by the fifth-place vote-getter in the last At-Large City Council election in 2005: John Connolly, who is already in the race this year for one of the At-Large Council seats. Connolly would hold the job until January 2008, at which point whomever won the November 2007 election would move in (or keep the seat).

Quick background on John Connolly: son of former Secretary of the Commonwealth Michael Connolly; former school teacher, including at state-chartered school Boston Renaissance Charter School; attended Boston College Law School; currently practicing as an attorney with Schofield & Campbell (& Connolly?); married to Meg Kassakian Connolly, a graduate student at BC; resides in West Roxbury. The Boston Globe profiled him in 2005. Has a fully-functional website and a YouTube commercial from 2005 (thanks to Harry Mattison for this).

Why can't these guys just stay in their Council jobs a couple more months until the end of their terms?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Past Contributions to Allston-Brighton Election Campaigns

Campaigns for elected office in Allston-Brighton have been surprisingly expensive in the recent past, according to public filings with state and city agencies.

The last time a State Legislature seat was open, in the 2005 special election to replace Representative Brian Golden, more than $150,000 was raised or contributed out of the candidates' own pockets. And when the Allston-Brighton District 9 City Council seat was last open in the 2002 special election following the death of Brian Honan, nearly $200,000 was raised by the candidates or loaned by them to their campaigns.

Four of the six candidates for the Allston-Brighton District City Council race have run for office before, raising a whopping $163,000 among them in their last run for office. Tim Schofield leads the field, having raised more than $65,000 in his 2005 race for State Representative; Mark Ciommo is a distant second at more than $37,000 in his 2002 campaign for City Council.

If past campaign contributions are any indication, the current election campaign for City Council promises to be an expensive one.


Personal Contributions to Campaigns

Several candidates have sunk large amounts of their own money into their previous campaigns. Ciommo wins this "John Corzine" award, having put $14,500 of his own cash into his 2002 campaign in four loans from "Mark and Laura Ciommo" dated 8/14/02, 8/20/02, 9/14/02, and 12/5/02. The last loan for $7,500 appears to have been to keep the over-spent Committee to Elect Mark Ciommo out of the red after the election; three payments to "ETC Consulting" totalling $13,067 were made between 11/26/02 and 12/11/02. The 2002 loans totalling $14,500 appear to have been personally expensive, since public records indicate that they represent 23% of his 2006 salary of $62,730 as Executive Director of the Veronica Smith Senior Center.

Tim Schofield takes second place in this "Corzine" category with a single $10,000 personal loan to his campaign on 2/25/05.

Personal contributions or loans to election campaigns are typically not restricted, while contributions by other individuals are limited by State law to $500 per person per year to a particular campaign. Most campaigns that receive "loans" from the candidates themselves will list those loans as both receipts and liabilities; well after the race, the loans may be officially forgiven, thereby turning it into a personal contribution to the campaign. Councilor Jerry McDermott bucked this trend on 6/7/05 and 11/15/05 he repaid $15,000 of the $25,000 in loans he had previously made to his campaign committee on 9/5/02 and 10/29/04.


Paper vs. Electronic: Follow the Money (or not)

Candidates for Boston district city council seats file their campaign finance reports on paper, unlike the candidates for at-large seats on the council, mayor, state legislature, and state-wide offices, who are required to file electronically with the Masschusetts Office of Campaign and Public Finance. What this means is that the only way the public can access campaign finance reports for the Allston-Brighton District City Council race is to go, in person, to the Office of the City Clerk at City Hall. The reports can be inspected for free on-the-spot, or copies made for -- get this -- 50 cents per page. (I had to take a few hours off of work to visit the City Clerk during their business hours.)

Since the District City Council candidate finance reports are not available electronically, it is difficult to generate statistical data on who those contributors are. Harry Mattison has noted that only a small fraction of Tim Schofield's and Gregory Glennon's contributions in the 2005 State Representative campaign came from people living in A-B zip codes 02134 and 02135. Similar analysis of Ciommo and Hanlon's contributions hasn't been performed, but cursory inspection of the reports indicates that they have far higher percentages of contributions coming from individuals living in A-B zipcodes.

The origin of this difference in donor zipcode is unclear. Could it represent outsiders contributing to campaigns to further their own interests which may be in conflict with A-B's interests? Or is it a reflection of who has lived most, or all, of their life in A-B (e.g., Ciommo and Hanlon)? Mattison worries that the former might be true, but I speculate that the latter is far more probable. Lobbyist and other special interest contributions appear to flow into campaign war chests after the individual has been elected to office, although this point is difficult to substantiate because of the failure of so many candidates and office-holders to properly document the occupations of their contributors -- even though legally required to do so (or at least request the information in writing a minimum of three times) when the contribution is $200 or more in a calendar year.


Tables Summarizing Past Campaign Contributions by Candidate in A-B

Here are tables the summaries of campaign contributions for past elections. In each case, the contributions represent sums of those detailed in reports filed eight days prior to the preliminary (or primary) election, reports filed eight days prior to the final (or general) election, and reports filed at year-end for the election year.




2002 Allston-Brighton District 9 City Council Special Election
Candidate Raised Own_Money
John A. Bruno 5,115.00 1,163.00
Cathleen Campbell 6,396.00 0.00
Mark S. Ciommo 37,925.00 14,500.00
Gary W. Dotterman 5,219.07 0.00
Rosie Hanlon 10,315.62 1,273.82
Jerry McDermott 57,462.76 10,000.00 loan repaid on 11/15/05
Dan McLaughlin 19,685.83 1,500.00
Mark David Trachtenberg 2,753.50 3,929.18
Arturo Vasquez 8,410.00 15,260.11 loan + credit card expenses liabilities
--------------------- --------- -------
Total 153,282.78 + 46,626.11 = 199,908.89







2005 Allston-Brighton District 9 City Council Election
Candidate Raised Own_Money
Jerry McDermott 37,790.00 0.00 Also reimbursed on old loans
Paul Creighton 13,250.00 5,000.00
Daniel Kontoff 210.00 0.00
--------------------- --------- -------
Total 51,250.00 + 5,000.00 = 56,250.00







2005 State Representative Special Election
Candidate Raised Own_Money
Michael Moran 56,284.46 500.00
Timothy Schofield 65,641.05 10,000.00
Gregory Glennon 19,680.00 4,100.00
--------------------- --------- -------
Total 141,605.51 + 14,600.00 = 156,205.51








Funds Raised by 2007 A-B District City Council Candidates in Their Last Run for Office
Candidate Raised Own_Money
Race
Mark S. Ciommo 37,925.00 14,500.00
2002 A-B City Council
Gregory Glennon 19,680.00 4,100.00
2005 State Representative
Rosie Hanlon 10,315.62 1,273.82
2002 A-B City Council
Timothy Schofield 65,641.05 10,000.00
2005 State Representative
--------------------- --------- -------
Total 133,561.67 + 29,873.82
= 163,435.45

U.S. Air Force Band of Liberty Plays at Chandler Pond



The U.S. Air Force "Band of Liberty" celebrated its 60th year -- and Brighton-Allston's 200th -- with an outdoor, evening concert Thursday night (8/9) in Gallagher Park next to Chandler Pond in Brighton. I would guess that 400 or so people were in attendance.

Following the opening number, the Air Force Band had a well-timed fly-over. Not by a Stealth Fighter or the Blue Angles, but a flock of Canada Geese headed towards Chandler's shores to make their 1-pound daily deposit. Actually, the grass and sidewalks near the pond currently have less goose-goo than in recent years, although that may be a function of our recent, heavy rain.

The guest conductor was none other than Senior Master Sergeant Bill Drury, better known locally as a conductor of wind ensembles at New England Conservatory and the Boston Conservatory. His standard military post is conducting the Air National Guard Band on Cape Cod.

As you might expect, the Air Force Band played nothing but American music, but it had a surprisingly wide range of styles:
  1. Star Spangled Banner, *sung by Michelle Felicia
  2. Paul Creston: Celebration Overture. A mid-20th century composer known for many changes of meter and diatonic writing, this work is popular among wind ensembles
  3. Henry Fillmore: Men of Ohio March. Early 20th century band composer known for "Lassus Trombone"
  4. Leonard Bernstein: "Tonight" *
  5. Bernstein: West Side Story Suite (un-attributed arrangement for wind ensemble)
  6. George Gershwin: "Someone to Watch Over me" *
  7. Gershwin: "I Got Rhythm" *
  8. unannounced big band number, maybe Lionel Hampton
  9. Major Glenn Miller: "In the Mood". Perennial crowd favorite, especially the dancing children
  10. Benny Goodman: medley, ending with "Sing, Sing, Sing"
  11. "Freedom", first popularized by Wynonna Judd *
  12. Service Marches: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Goast Guard, and Air Fforce
  13. God Bless America, in a power ballad arrangement
  14. [encore] John Philip Sousa: Stars and Stripes Forever March
The event was put on as part of the Brighton-Allston Bicentennial celebration, co-sponsored by Boston Parks and Recreation, Brighton Main Streets, Brighton Board of Trade, and Chandler Pond Preservation Society. Rosie Hanlon claims to have extracted a promise out of Master Sergeant Drury to return again next summer.

Deet bug spray provided by Boston Parks and Recreation Department. Bravo!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

BRA Public Meeting on Traffic Issues Regarding Proposed Lowe's Brighton Store

The Boston Redevelopment Authority will hold a public meeting regarding:

Lowe's Brighton, 38-40 Guest St

Wednesday, August 15, 6:00PM
Brighton Landing East
New Balance Headquarters
20 Guest Street, First Floor Cafeteria, Brighton

Project Proponent: Lowe’s Companies Inc.

Project Description: The proposed project will consist
of a Lowe’s Home Center retail store and garden center
containing approximately 180,000 square feet on two levels.
Parking for approximately 403 cars will be provided, 194 spaces
on the ground level and the remaining spaces on the second
level open air parking deck. This meeting will be specifi cally
focused on traffi c related issues. A representative from the
Boston Transportation Department will be in attendance.

Close of Comment Period: August 20, 2007

MAIL: Jay Rourke, Boston Redevelopment Authority
One City Hall Square, 9th Floor
Boston, MA 02201
FAX: 617.3742.7783
PHONE: 617.918.4317
EMAIL: jay.rourke.bra@cityofboston.gov

A-B TAB Story on the A-B City Council Candidates Forum 8/7

The six candidates for the open Allston-Brighton District City Council seat participated in a forum Tuesday night sponsored by the Allston Brighton Community Planning Initiative, a group organized by the Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation.

The A-B TAB has a story up on their site about the event, and made a few additional comments on their blog. Bewarned: their blog links seem to disappear after a while (or get archived to a different URL).

Former BC Linebacker May Be Indicted Soon

BostonNOW reports that former Boston College linebacker, Ray Henderson, "is expected to be indicted this week on a variety of drug charges, prosecutors said yesterday."

Details on his arrest were given here in a previous post.


UPDATE (8/10): He has been indicted, according to the Boston Herald:
Originally from Cresskill, N.J., Henderson, who amassed 263 tackles and nine interceptions in 49 games, has been jailed for seven weeks.

Boston police executed a search warrant at Henderson’s home May 17 and he was arrested. He posted $5,000 cash bail, only to be stopped for speeding on June 25. Police said they found cocaine on Henderson then, too. His bail was revoked.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Governor Patrick Defying Public Records Law

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has requested advisors to assemble a set of "completed studies" of gambling for his perusal, as he ponders what to do with the Wampanoag proposal to put a casino in Middleborough. (Not Middleboro, as the Boston Herald thinks to spell it.)

The Boston Globe got wind of this and took the obvious next step: requesting copies of those documents under the Massachusetts Public Records Law. The request certainly falls within the public interest: I would be interested in knowing what information is contained in them in order to understand the reason why the State should, or should not, allow slot machines in the proposed casino.

Governor Patrick's lawyers have decided to refuse to provide the documents, citing an exemption clause for executive privilege. (Oh, no, Governor Patrick sounding like President Bush!) This clause is described in the "Guide to the Massachusetts Public Records Law."

The Supervisor of Public Records, in the Public Records Division off the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, oversees compliance with the Law. The Boston Globe has appealed to the Supervisor the Governor's refusal to provide the documents.

While it is possible that a few pages of documents might have been written by advisors to Governor Patrick in order to help him understand the gambling studies and their impact on policy-making, the gambling studies themselves are most likely public records and hence not exempt. The executive privilege exemption in the Guide reads:
Exemption (d) provides a limited executive privilege for policy development. It applies to:

inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda or letters relating to policy
positions being developed by the agency; but this sub-clause shall not
apply to reasonably completed factual studies or reports on which the
development of such policy positions has been or may be based.
Factual studies are not exempt from the public records law, but memoranda or letters relating to them may be. The "completed studies" on gambling sure sound like the former, not the latter. I think the Governor is going to lose this one, but who knows how long it will take for the Supervisor to order the records released.


In an odd coincidence, the Boston Globe also reported on how the executive director of the state's pension, Michael Traviglini, will propose for a boost in his salary -- and possibly also extremely lucrative performance bonuses. Traviglini doesn't want to release his salary proposal in advance of a meeting with the Pensions Reserve Investment Management Board. "It is just a proposal, and there is nothing in the public meeting law that proposals are public," he said. I think he meant the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law.

Yes, his point might be valid, but the copy of the proposal is public under the Public Records Law at the moment it is in the hands of a state official, which he is. A better argument of his should have been that the salary proposal represented a personnel document, some of which can be exempt from the Public Records Law under exemption (c) as described in the Guide:
Generally, personnel information which is useful in making employment decisions regarding an employee is sufficiently personal to be exempt pursuant to the first clause. Such information may include employment applications, employee work evaluations, disciplinary documentation, and promotion, demotion, or termination information.
But note the other point made in the Guide:
Historically, this office has broadly interpreted the personnel exemption, however, based on more recent judicial decisions, a more narrow interpretation is necessary. The nature of some materials and the context in which they arise take them beyond what the Legislature contemplated when exempting personnel information.
The salaries of state employees are public information, which is quite obvious when you know that the Boston Herald requested them and published them in an online database. But is a salary proposal a public document? I suspect yes, but I'm not sure; it would, nonetheless, be a stronger case for Traviglini to argue for an exemption via this route.

A day later, the Glober reported that State Treasurer Timothy Cahill killed the salary proposal.


These two cases show how often public officials, even a lawyer Governor, often mis-understand the State's Open Meeting Law and Public Records Law.


UPDATE (8/9/07 9:00 am): The Boston Globe ran an editorial this morning furthering their argument that Governor Patrick should release the gambling studies under the Public Records Law:
The administration is splitting hairs by arguing that the completed studies are exempt from public disclosure as part of the governor's "deliberative process." Transparency will be essential if casino gambling is to succeed in the Commonwealth.

For more information on the state's Open Meeting Law, click on the label below.