Looking up Longfellow Street this morning, I want to scream over the hill to the Boston Globe: “Again?!?!” I live in the area of Dorchester that was some time ago dubbed “Sixty-eight blocks” by the Globe in a neighborhood assassination series of articles by that name that was also ill-informed, devoid of news, and dipped in the smugness of the chattering classes. Yesterday’s (Sun., Sept. 25) editorial – “Neighborhood associations hold outsize influence” – is a rambling, circular reproach to the multitude of neighborhood associations across Boston.
First, it’s patronizing, its minimizing tone damning these associations by faint praise. It goes on to build a case for neutering their vigilance, attention to details, and demands for transparency and local control when developers propose projects in their neighborhood. The conclusion of the editorial’s arguments comes down fairly blatantly favoring the interest of real estate developers by telling neighborhood associations to “cut it out.”
The point of the editorial is summed up in one of the closing lines that says: “It’s better to involve community groups on a broader discussion of what a developer should be allowed to do by right, without jumping through extra hoops, rather than allowing them to micromanage lots of individual decisions.” And what is it that a developer should be allowed to do “by right”? What is implied here? Is it written somewhere that a developer has a right to build without transparency and scrutiny by the neighbors? Is there no right for local people to hold a developer to some standards? What if there is a conflict of interests? Doesn’t it make sense to have a ground-level forum where issues can be discussed and resolved?
When I first read the editorial, I thought, “Do those people at the Globe listen to themselves?” One day they stand for John Dewey’s maxim that “the solution to the ills of democracy is more democracy.”
Yesterday, they coyly undermined the work of our local neighborhood voices. And then I remembered that the Globe is selling its plant and property on Morrissey Boulevard – a contaminated site that abuts the Savin Hill neighborhood – to a developer. The Columbia/Savin Hill Neighborhood Association is a very active, established group with an educated eye on all issues pertaining to is communities. Was there another, self-serving, purposeful agenda behind the editorial? (Watch out, Globe, we can be coy too.)
The damning by faint praise style of the editorial masks the innuendo that neighborhood associations are really only good at “organizing neighborhood cleanup days, raising funds for parks, and promoting a friendly spirit in the city.” Have these Globies ever come to one of these meetings? The people who are members of these associations are serious people who read the fine print, who ask serious questions, and who carry the neighborhoods’ institutional memories into current discussions. The editorial asserts that a previous “eye opening,” “behind the scenes” Sept. 17 article by Globe reporters Andrew Ryan and Mark Arsenault showed that developers gave money to some neighborhood associations. How did they dig that up? By attending the public meeting of these associations where these arrangements were made? Is it a surprise that local people want a developer to invest a little money into a neighborhood where they are about to make huge profits? Is it unconscionable that a developer give these associations money “for youth sports and other specific neighborhood projects (and)… charities?” Where is the outrage coming from?
I am a proud member of the Meeting House Hill Civic Association, Greater Bowdoin/ Geneva Neighborhood Association, DotOut, the Ward 15 Democratic Party Committee, Longfellow Street Friends and Neighbors, and a former co-chair of Dorchester GALA. I can count on one hand the number of times that I have seen a Globie at any of these meetings in the past thirty years. I submit that the Globe still does not “get” the Boston where I live because they do not do the research that reaches the journalistic standards of a big city news organization.