Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Unofficial vote: Brownsberger Wins Senate Race

According to the Twitter-universe -- actually the Watertown TAB's Twitter feed -- the unofficial vote totals for the special senate primary election for the full district are:

William Brownsberger 4958
Jonathan Hecht 3849
Robert McCarthy 3436
Timothy Schofield 2887

Schofield Wins Big in Allston-Brighton

Tim Schofield has taken a big lead in the special senate primary election results today, winning the 28 Boston precincts (mostly in Allston-Brighton) with nearly 64% of the vote:

Votes Percent
2061 63.79%
602 18.63%
370 11.45%
181 5.60%
Write-in Votes
17 0.53%

Allston-Brighton's historically low turnout, however, means that Schofield will have difficulty holding onto this lead. While Boston's total number of votes cast was 3203, Belmont already 2858 votes cast as of 3 pm -- with around 4400 expected by the time the polls closed at 8 pm.

State representative Will Brownsberger of Belmont is the favorite to get the lion's share of those Belmont votes.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Other Links for Background on Senate Candidates

Boston Globe has profiles of all four candidates through a questionnaire:
Boston Globe stories on 11/30 candidates forum, 12/8 candidates forum, and a more general story.

Watertown Patch and Belmont Patch stories on the same 11/30 candidates forum.

Patch also has questionnaire reponses:
WickedLocal Watertown analyzes campaign finances reports from the candidates and has stories on the 11/30 candidates forum and 12/6 candidates forum.

Boston Globe and Boston Herald endorsements both of Brownsberger.

BNN had a video camera at the Brighton candidates forum, which they were supposed to start streaming online over the weekend -- but which I don't yet see posted.

And BlueMassGroup has an open thread on the race.

Boston Globe Coverage of Senate Candidates Forum

The Brighton senate candidates forum was covered by the Boston Globe -- currently linked to only through its Belmont or Watertown "Your Town" websites, natch.

On state funding for the Faneuil branch of the Boston Public Library:
Candidates agreed at a forum in Brighton last night that the Faneuil branch of the Boston Public Library in Oak Square, which teetered on the edge of permanent closure last year, should continue to be state-funded and kept open.
On MBTA funding:
Candidates also went head-to-head on solutions for bailing the MBTA out of debt, since the area is heavily dependent on both the Green Line and multiple city buses.

Schofield said he did not think fares should rise, but that the state should funnel money into the T...

Brownsberger said he thinks the state should raise the gas tax to increase revenue dollars, which could then help fund the MBTA.

Friday, December 09, 2011

State Senate Candidates Websites

It was a pleasure to hear from all four candidates at last night's candidates forum, sponsored by the Brighton Allston Improvement Association.

It is encouraging when we hear from a slate of candidates for a particular office where every single person has an interesting background, understands many of the varied issues before our community and state, and can speak eloquently on the issues.

Many thanks go out to the BAIA for sponsoring the candidates forum, and especially to those in the organizing committee who put it on: Ruth Scheer, Joanne Laplant, Mary Cronin, Abigail Furey, Lauren Mattison, and BAIA president Anabela Gomes.

Unfortunately, we appear to have had such strong attendance that we ran out of handouts at the forum. Here are links to the four candidates websites, information that appeared on the handouts:

Boston Globe Endorses Brownsberger for State Senate

The Boston Globe's editorial page has endorsed state representative William Brownsberger (D-Belmont) for the special election to replace Steven Tolman in the state senate's 2nd Suffolk and Middlesex seat.

Tolman stepped down in October after he was elected as president of AFL-CLO in Massachusetts.

In their endorsement, the Globe's editorial board wrote:
[S]tate Representative Will Brownsberger of Belmont has a progressive record on social and environmental matters — but also a history of creative thinking about making government more effective, honest, and transparent.
In making their endorsement, the Globe seems to have given an honorable mention to state representative Jonathan Hecht (D-Watertown):
[Hecht] shares Brownsberger’s emphasis on open, efficient government... He and Brownsberger have voted in similar ways.
But the Globe criticized the other two candidates in the race, Timothy Schofield (D-Brighton) and Robert McCarthy (D-Watertown), for their positions on paying for health care for employees of local government:
[Schofield and McCarthy] have criticized recent efforts to help cities and towns save on spiraling employee health costs. Digging in to defend unsustainable costs shouldn’t be mistaken for progressive government; if anything, it leads to more layoffs of public workers and worse services for citizens.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

State Senate Candidates Forum Thursday, 12/8 at 6:30 pm

The Brighton Allston Improvement Association will be hosting a candidates forum for the special election for state senator in the Second Suffolk and Middlesex district seat recently vacated by Steven Tolman.

The special primary election will be on Tuesday, December 13th. Since all four candidates for the seat are Democrats, the winner of the December 13th primary will be unopposed in the January special election.

State Senate Candidates Forum

Thursday, December 8th

Meet-and-Greet: 6:00 pm; light refreshments contributed by Athan's
Candidates Forum: 6:30 - 8:00 pm

Brighton Elks Lodge
326 Washington Street, Brighton Center
Parking at rear of building (enter lot from Winship Street)

Sponsor: Brighton Allston Improvement Association
Candidates: State Rep. Will Brownsberger, State Rep. Jon Hecht, Bob McCarthy, Tim Schofield
Moderator: Michael Pahre, editor, Brighton Centered Blog

To check if you live in this district, visit www.wheredoivotema.com

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

State Senate Special Election in Allston-Brighton in Early 2012?

The Boston Globe reported earlier today that Steven Tolman, state senator from Brighton, appears likely to step down from his position in order to become the next president of AFL-CIO of Massachusetts.

Tolman's new job would mean that Allston-Brighton -- as well as Belmont, Watertown, the South End, and part of Cambridge -- would probably have a special election in early 2012 to fill his seat. Tolman has told the paper that he would resign his seat if named president of the labor organization.

Tolman's path to its presidency was cleared when his only opponent for the position, lobbyist Tim Sullivan, dropped out of the running.

I will venture to guess that among the names from Allston-Brighton likely to run for the senate seat would likely by state representative Michael Moran, who has been accumulating campaign cash of late concident with his role as head of the legislative redistricting committee. Also, I expect that District 9 City Councilor Mark Ciommo will likely take a pass, because he is running for reelection in November (albeit unopposed).

Outside Allston-Brighton, I can imagine that Rachel Kaprelian of Watertown, who runs the Registry of Motor Vehicles and is a former state representative, might be looking closely at this race.

Any other names out there? Drop suggestions in the comments field below.

Update: David Bernstein at the Phoenix's Talking Politics blog has more names for consideration.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Brighton Garden Tour 2011

I've put a slideshow of images from last weekend's Brighton Garden Tour 2011, sponsored by the Brighton Garden Society, over at the Shades of Bright Town blog.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Correlating Mayor Curley With Governor Patrick

From an amazon.com email I received recently:
Dear Amazon.com Customer,

Customers who have purchased or rated "The Rascal King: The Life and Times of James Michael Curley, 1874-1958" by Jack Beatty might like to know that "A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life" will be released on April 12, 2011. You can pre-order yours at a savings of $9.96 by following the link below.

A Reason to Believe: Lessons from an Improbable Life
Governor Deval Patrick
From this I surmise that people who are interested in the totally corrupt and personally profitable political machine known as Mayor Curley will also be interested in the political life of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick? Not even the governor's enemies would make that connection...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Brighton Fourth-Grader Wins City Spelling Bee

Zachary Doiron, a 4th grader at the Edison K8 School in Brighton, yesterday won the City of Boston's spelling bee by correctly spelling the word "toboggan."

Fourth- through eighth-graders in Boston compete in the annual event. Edison K8 School students held their qualifying event last month.

As the winner, Zachary now has the opportunity to compete in the national spelling bee in Washington, D.C. in May.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Highly-Effective Fundraising Letter

In these days of electronic communication I still get a phenomenal amount of snailmail asking for donations for this or that worthwhile cause. Sadly, my income is finite, so I cannot respond to most.

But one local institution has managed to send me a fundraising letter to which I just can't say no.

The Oak Square YMCA Y put a cute picture of a gap-toothed 7-year-old on a newsletter that came along with a request for a donation. The same adorable picture that the Y also used last year on one of their seasonal programming guides.

How can a father say no to that? The check is in the mail.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Brighton Death of Globe's Latest So-Called Trend

CupcakesAnother week, another so-called trend appearing in the pages of the Boston Globe. Today's trend: cupcake stores in Boston, poised for an even greater surge.

While the story hyped the number of cupcake stores in Boston (six) and pointed to new stores possibly coming soon, it failed to point out at least one cupcake business that has gone bust.

That would be right here in Brighton Center, where Cherry Bomb closed its doors recently at 379 Washington Street after what appears to have been less than one year in business. Bye-bye bacon, beer, and pepper cupcakes.

You would think that balancing the busting, not just the booming, of cupcake stores would be a necessary journalistic ingredient in assessing whether or not there is a local trend.

Image by lamantin provided through CC by 2.0 license.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Soft, Naked Opening

No, not what you think.

Friday night the new Naked Pizza at 433 Washington Street (corner of Foster Street) near Brighton Center -- formerly a gas station that often ran out of gas! -- had its soft opening. Inside it looked very crowded for this take-out only joint.

So, if your insides are craving pizza crust made from oats, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, teff, spelt, tapioca, and two kinds of wheat -- as well as prebiotic agave fiber and probiotics -- you can get your fix now. Just prepare to wait in line.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fantastic! A Fox This Morning in Brighton Back Yard

Startling but lovely sight this morning to see a fox trotting into my Brighton back yard. He wandered around a bit, hopped over the fence into the neighbors yard, stretched out and scratched. A chorus of crows surrounded him in the trees, and he left soon after.

Methinks he was looking for rabbits, a few of which live on this block. I've tracked them recently in the fresh snow.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bike Lane on Brighton's Lake Street

City workers were seen painting bike lane -- and shared bike lane -- markings on Brighton's Lake Street last Saturday morning. The stripes were painted from the beginning of Lake Street at Commonwealth Avenue down to the bottom of the steep hill at Lake Shore Road, approximately a half mile.

The striped pavement looks to be approximately: 0.1 mile of exclusive bike lane; 0.25 mile of shared bike line on the right hand side of the street; and 0.15 mile of exclusive bike lane.

The street was recently re-paved, which meant that a number of potholes larger than a newborn baby were filled in. Several dangerously protruding manhole covers are also now level with the asphalt, although one bad one still remains at a location halfway down the hill.

For those who know the one-way street: it is fairly steep downhill such that a cyclist can easily speed over 40 mph unless braking steadily the whole way. In the past, I have had to ride in the center of the lane, blocking vehicular traffic -- weaving left-and-right because of the horrendous condition of the road surface. The resurfacing and bike lane are welcome improvements.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

MWRA Workers at Chestnut Hill Reservoir

Word is that MWRA workers have been over at the Chestnut Hill Reservoir -- including a boat and a truck -- who look to be preparing for the reservoir to be used as part of the city's water supply should the water main in Weston need to be closed off for repairs.

Earlier today the Boston Globe reported that the city's main water line had sprung a leak in Weston at a location only 75 feet away from the major leak that disrupted the city's water service back in May.

The Boston Globe's story notes that the MWRA is preparing unspecified backup plans:
"Right now, there are no service interruptions of any kind, but we are making ready our backup plans just in case," said Ria Convery, an MWRA spokesman.
In May the CHR was used as part of the backup water supply. The MWRA activity over there today suggests that it may be called into service again soon.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Judge Rules BC Task Force a Government Body -- At Least For Now

The City of Boston was dealt several setbacks recently in a lawsuit against them over the city's approval of the Boston College institutional master plan.

In the case of Galvin et al. vs. Boston Zoning Commission et al., Superior Court Justice Charles Spurlock [right] issued a preliminary ruling on June 29th that there are "sufficient facts to support an inference" that the BC Task Force, an official advisory body of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (or, in the judge's words, "a subcommittee of the BRA"), is a government body, and hence subject to the state's Open Meeting Law. The ruling was issued in response to a series of pre-trial motions by lawyers on both sides of the case.

The ruling is significant in that it is consistent with the ruling of Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley in June 2007 that the BC Task Force and the Harvard Allston Task Force are government bodies that are subject to the state's OML, a ruling that the city continues to dispute.

Two Brighton residents, Patrick Galvin and Mark Alford, filed their lawsuit against the city in July 2009 in response to the city's approval of BC's IMP. The BRA Board voted in January 2009 to approve the IMP; the Boston Zoning Commission approved it, with modification, in June 2009; and Mayor Thomas Menino subsequently signed it.

Justice Spurlock's order, while not a final ruling in the case, indicates that the task force will continue to be a defendant in the lawsuit. To date the task force has not, to my knowledge, responded at all to the complaints nor have they been represented in front of the court by legal counsel.

Implicit in the judge's ruling is that the lawsuit will go forward into additional phases, such as discovery and, potentially, trial. This alone suggests that there may be a protracted legal battle over BC's IMP that could impact the university's ambitious expansion plans.

This preliminary ruling by Justice Spurlock appears to be a major headache for the city, since its lawyers argued strongly to try and keep the task force out of the lawsuit. Now not only is the task force in this lawsuit as a defendant, but the judge has made an initial ruling that would appear to imply that all of the BRA's task forces are subject to the state's OML -- and, by extension, the state's Public Records Laws and ethics laws.

Let's hope the task force members -- now confirmed by the preliminary ruling to be part-time, unpaid municipal employees -- are doing a better job at retaining their emails than some other city employees who have recently been in the news.

Other Rulings by Judge

The judge also turned down two separate motions by the defendants that would send the case to Land Court and expedite it.

While not noted in the ruling, the judge appears to have allowed Boston College earlier this spring to join the lawsuit as a defendant without objection from the plaintiffs (as expressed in a December 2009 hearing). BC's lawyers have been filing motions repeatedly with the court -- including the Land Court and expedition motions -- actions that are normally allowed only for parties to the case.

The plaintiffs did not, however, win on every issue. The judge: ruled that their allegation of OML violations were filed too late according to the statutory 21-day limit; rejected their attempt to make a claim for violations of civil rights and their rights under the Equal Protection Clause; said that he would not consider possible criminal violations of the state's ethics laws, since those should be brought in front of the district attorney instead; that the individual members of the task force could not be named separately as co-defendants in the lawsuit, appearing to lift their individual liability (while not ruling on the government body's collective liability); and that the task force itself did not impact the rights of the plaintiffs, because the task force was only an advisory body to the BRA.

I suspect that that last ruling will be hotly contested in the case, and that we haven't heard the last of it.

The ethics issue, too, promises to be complicated as the case moves forward. While ruling that this civil action is not the appropriate venue for a criminal allegations of conflict-of-interest against individual members of the BC Task Force, the judge also stated case law that ethics civil violations are administrative matters that are rectified by processes within governmental agencies. But if the BRA Board and BZC relied upon recommendations from their advisory panel (the task force) that were allegedly biased due to financial conflicts-of-interest, then nothing in the ruling appears to prevent the plaintiff's arguments from going forward in seeking to invalidate approval of BC's IMP in a tainted process.

Spurlock was assigned to the case earlier this year after the previous judge, Christine Roach, recused herself after repeatedly suggesting her potential conflicts to the lawyers.

Update: The Boston Bulletin has a story on the ruling.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Catastrophic Failure of Boston's Water Main -- In 1859

While today's catastrophic failure of the water main supplying drinking water to Boston may seem unprecedented, it's not.

The city's water main also had a major failure once before -- in 1859. Allston-Brighton historian William Marchione wrote in Allston-Brighton in Transition: From Cattle Town to Streetcar Suburb:
In 1859 a major break occurred in the aqueduct at the point where it passed across the Charles River at the westerly end of Needham. Since the capacity of the four small storage reservoirs ringing the city was quite limited, it became necessary to thut off water service to Boston for all but domestic uses while repairs were being made. Had a major fire broken out at this point, the fast-growing metropolis might have found itself without water, with devastating consequences. This emergency prompted the Cochituate Water Board to recommend the construction of a much larger storage reservoir just outside of Boston.
That new reservoir would be the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, the site of which was selected in 1864 and construction began in 1865. Its location was straddling the border between Brighton -- then an independent town not part of Boston -- and Newton. The purpose of the new reservoir was to provide a much larger backup water supply in case of catastrophe.

The reservoir consisted of two basins; the larger one still exists, while the smaller one was granted to Boston College, which, over time, filled it in to make way for an expansion of its campus (the "Chestnut Hill Lower Campus"). The main water pipe, however, continues to pass underground at the same location on the BC campus.

The reservoir is no longer used as part of the water supply system for Boston, but is reserved as a backup in case of emergency. Such as today.

Chestnut Hill Reservoir at Half Capacity Before the Emergency?

Earlier this year I repeatedly noticed that the water level of the Chestnut Hill Reservoir has been much lower than it usually is at this time of year.

I estimated by around six (or so) feet lower than normal. William Marchione, in his book Allston-Brighton in Transition, gives the size of the Bradlee Basin as 125 acre (5.4 million square feet or 1.56 mile circumference) and a storage capacity of 550 million gallons. Using the conversion of one gallon to 7.5 cubic feet, I estimate the reservoir's "standard depth" as 13.3 feet. That means current water level of 7.3 feet, instead of the usual 13.3 feet.

So the Chestnut Hill Reservoir this spring might only have been just over 50% capacity? Ouch. That extra water would have come in handy right about now.

I wonder if the people at the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority and Department of Conservation and Recreation might now be kicking themselves for letting the reservoir's level get so low earlier this year.