Most poll stations stay put, including closed Dot schools

By 
Gintautas Dumcius and Mike Deehan, Reporter Staff
Aug. 27, 2009

Polling locations in Dorchester – and South Boston - will stay the same for the 2009 municipal elections, the city’s election chief said this week. City-wide, there will be only one move: from the BPL’s Academy Hill branch, which is undergoing extensive repair, to the Veronica Smith Senior Center, around the corner and on Chestnut Hill Ave. in Allston-Brighton.

City election officials have backed off a proposal to move the polling location at St. Matthew the Redeemer, an Episcopal church in South Boston, a stronghold belonging to mayoral candidate Michael Flaherty. Three precincts vote at the 825 E 4th St. church, which had been closed earlier this year as the church seeks a buyer for the property.

Geraldine Cuddyer, chair of the Boston Board of Election Commissioners, said officials with the Episcopal Church have agreed to keep St. Matthew open for the 2009 election cycle.

Two Dorchester schools slated for closure this year – the Pauline Shaw Elementary School on Norfolk St. and the Lucy Stone School on Regina Rd., - will still be used as polling places, Cuddyer added.

The potential move of St. Matthew drew concern from the Flaherty camp about the possible effect on turnout. The worries echoed those of former Sen. Dianne Wilkerson’s unsuccessful 2008 re-election campaign, which saw the relocation of ten polling places within the Second Suffolk District before the Democratic primary. Her staffers charged that the shift affected her base in Roxbury and Dorchester, leaving voters confused as to where to go.

Mayor Thomas Menino is facing three challengers, including Flaherty, and fellow City Councillor At-Large Sam Yoon, along with South End developer Kevin McCrea.

Natasha Perez, a Flaherty campaign spokeswoman, said they were pleased things were staying put. She said that the change would have “adversely affected voter turnout at that late of a date.” “We should be doing everything we can to encourage people to vote and participate in making Boston a better city,” she said.

Yoon campaign officials did not respond to a request for comment. Yoon in past elections has questioned the preparedness of the Election Department, which was plagued with problems in the first half of the decade.

Cuddyer said Election Department staffers had searched for alternatives to St. Matthew, but most places either did not meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act or would have created a “domino effect” in moving other precincts.

The last day to register for the preliminary election is Sept. 2. The preliminary is scheduled for Sept. 22.

More information is available at the city’s election website: cityofboston.gov/elections/.

Feeney faces off against City Hall critic

Fireworks came at the tail end of an Aug. 20 hearing on raising Boston’s meals and lodging taxes, as City Councillor Maureen Feeney angrily engaged in a back-and-forth with a frequent City Hall critic.

Shirley Kressel, one of several residents who successfully sued the City Council for violating the state’s open meeting law, argued that that the tax hikes were unnecessary since the city can cut waste.

Among the last to testify on the Menino administration’s meals and hotels tax proposal, Kressel said that hotels were given tax breaks and city council staffers were allowed to take bonuses, boosting their salaries beyond what’s allowed under statutes.

Feeney, chair of the Government Operations Committee, interrupted Kressel several times. “I think we’ve heard more than enough,” Feeney said at one point. “No matter what the topic is, this is the testimony you deliver.”

Kressel then asked to finish her testimony and Feeney said she had 30 seconds.

The City Council was expected to have signed off on the proposal yesterday.

Amid crosstalk, Kressel made a remark directed at several youngsters who, as members of Sociedad Latina, pleaded for the money raised from the increase to be used to help Boston Public Schools. Kressel said they were being used by City Hall officials and questioned who had asked them to be at the hearing.

“You are so disrespectful,” Feeney yelled, slamming down the gavel. “This hearing is adjourned.”

Feeney then came over to where Kressel was sitting and rapped her pencil on the desk. “You should run for City Council,” Feeney fumed.

“Then I’d have to work with you,” Kressel shot back.

Feeney and Kressel are also on opposite sides of the mayoral race. Feeney is supporting incumbent Mayor Thomas Menino; Kressel is supporting South Ender Kevin McCrea, a former City Council candidate who was among the residents waging the open meeting law suit.

Lisa Signori, Menino’s budget chief, said the tax increase will pull in $18 million ($11 million from the meals tax and $7 million from the hotels tax) for this fiscal year, and between $26 million and $28 million in the next fiscal year.

Endorsement Corner: Dropkick Murphys’ Casey for Flaherty

The lead vocalist for the Dropkick Murphys is supporting City Councillor At-Large Flaherty for mayor. Flaherty is a “hell of a guy, hell of a politician,” said Ken Casey, bass guitarist and lead vocalist for the group, last week. He added, in a release circulated by the Flaherty campaign: “As an artist, I fully support Michael Flaherty’s plan to stimulate the city’s creative economy.” That plan includes the creation of a “cabinet level position for culture,” artist workshops, and requiring one percent of construction costs for city-funded development projects to be set aside for public art works.

(Casey lives in Hingham, according to campaign finance records. He and his wife have contributed to Flaherty in the past, with $500 each in June 2008. He also donated to incumbent Mayor Thomas Menino a month later.)

Casey called this morning into the “My Song is Better than Your Song” contest between Flaherty and fellow mayoral contender Sam Yoon on WFNX radio, where he voiced support for Flaherty.

Both Yoon and Flaherty picked the same song: “Shipping Up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys. The picks are made in advance, and Yoon, who has been on a five-week winning streak with the contest, said he chose the song because it was in one of Flaherty’s YouTube videos, setting up Flaherty supporters to vote against the band.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Material from State House News Service was used in this report. Check out daily updates on Boston elections at The Lit Drop, located at dotnews.com/litdrop.