Sunday, December 28, 2008

Top 5 Beacon Hill Issues/Stories to Finish 2008

With less than a week to go in 2008, I take a swing at summarizing the top five news stories or issues that have affected my neighborhood of Beacon Hill from July 1, 2008 until today. I created a similar list to review the first six months of the year, which I posted at the end of June. I figured I would start a tradition.

Here goes:

5. Street lights. Beacon Hill residents take sidewalk space very seriously, since we don't have much of it. Boston Transportation officials negotiated with the Beacon Hill Civic Association to install new street lights on Charles Street, replacing old mechanical devices with new digital ones that are connected to a central location where city officials can monitor and manage them. The problem was the new lights brought with them boxes that ate up valuable sidewalk space. Ultimately, the Beacon Hill Architecture Commission gave the green light on the project, and most of the lights on Charles Street have been upgraded.

4. The completion of Cambridge Street. It's finally done. Cambridge Street renovations, performed by the State but designed by the City, finished over the summer. More importantly, a public-private partnership with the City has emerged to maintain the plantings down the center of the street. The partnership includes the Cambridge Street Development Corporation (CSDC), funded by businesses on the street. My friend Ted Furst is among the volunteers on the CSDC, and he represents the Beacon Hill Civic Association. From what I understand, the completion of the Cambridge Street renovations ends a decades-long effort. My neighbors Peter Thompson and Karen Cord Taylor were among the most passionate shepherds of the project.

3. Clark Rockefeller. In late July, he allegedly kidnapped his daughter, Reigh Storrow Mills Boss, from their Back Bay home and fled the city. The story hit very close to home. While Rockefeller did not live in the neighborhood, he spent a lot of time on Beacon Hill. The infamous picture of him and his daughter outside a church was taken by a photographer hired by our very own Beacon Hill Times. Stories of Rockefeller sightings surfaced everywhere. He apparently attended the Beacon Hill Civic Association Winter Dance last year at the Liberty Hotel (an event I also attended). He apparently held meetings with various individuals at the Starbucks at the corner of Beacon and Charles.

2. The proper use of the Boston Common. Almost all of Beacon Hill is represented in the Boston City Council by Councilor Mike Ross, soon to be the President of the body. One of Councilor Ross's big issues in recent months was the use of the Boston Common. Along with other Councilors, he issued a report in December that provided recommendations on changes to the Common. He suggests a commercial eatery on the Common, for example. He also created somewhat of a controversy by suggesting that the Common be managed by a public-private partnership (the final set of recommendations did not contain this recommendation). The Boston Common promises to be a big issue in 2009 and beyond. The public park is heavily used, and a master plan related to the Common is incredibly out of date. A discussion on such a public space will raise many related issues, among them spending priorities given recent economic troubles, the role of public-private partnerships in managing spaces open to all, and the needs and rights of our neighborhood's pets (a dog run is among the recommendations made by Councilor Ross's committee).

No doubt you will be reading more about all of these issues on this blog in the weeks ahead.

1. The 2008 Election. The end of the year wraps up my first calendar year as a member of the Ward 5 Democratic Committee. What a year it was. Most of Beacon Hill is represented by the 2nd Suffolk Mass. Senatorial seat, a seat that was highly contested this election cycle. Sonia Chang-Diaz, a challenger and former school teacher from Jamaica Plain in Boston, defeated the sitting State Senator, Dianne Wilkerson, in the primary and went on to win in the general election. Along the way, Chang-Diaz earned significant support from Beacon Hill, where she won better than 60-percent of the vote in the primary.

The Presidential election also energized Beacon Hill. Hundreds of residents traveled north to New Hampshire during the election season to volunteer. The neighborhood is heavily Democratic, and Barack Obama signs were visible in many windows, some even hanging from window flower boxes. Lines at Beacon Hill's four voting locations (West End Library, the State House, City Hall and The Hill House) swelled during election day. The election's energy has given many a reason to be optimistic, as we look ahead to the beginning of 2009.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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