Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Top Five Beacon Hill Issues-- June 2009 Issue

Every six months, I have gotten into the habit of providing a brief summary of the top five stories affecting Beacon Hill. You can review the list from late December of 2008 and the end of May 2008.

Here is the 1H 2009 edition. (Apologies for being a tad late; I meant to post this last week.)

5) Single-stream recycling

We could not have a top-issues-on-Beacon-Hill list without something about trash. And here it is. Single-stream recycling basically means not having to separate your recyclables. You place them all in a plastic bag and put them on the curb ten feet or so away from your regular trash.

The great thing about single-stream is it makes recycling easier. And it's catching on. Beacon Hill started single stream recycling last year, and now the plastic bags used for recycling are the hottest items to buy in the neighborhood. For the record, one can find them at Charles Street Supply.

4) 3rd Suffolk House Election

We had an election that affected part of Beacon Hill during the first part of the year. It was to fill the seat left vacant when former State House Speaker Sal DiMasi left office in January.

The election had a local candidate, Lucy Rivera, but she never really was in the running. This race came down to two candidates hailing from two other neighborhoods. Aaron Michlewitz from the North End, and Susan Passoni from the South End. In truth, the district only includes a tiny portion of Beacon Hill, though I can tell you many of the neighbors on those four or five streets are very active.

Michlewitz won the Democratic primary by a fairly close margin and went on to win the special election easily.

3) Robberies

Crime is rarely an issue on Beacon Hill. Except when there are a couple of robberies clumped together, residents get worried.

The Boston police have stepped up patrols on Beacon Hill, following robberies that happened in the Spring. Let's be honest-- we're not talking a lot of incidents here. But the connection between the robberies and youth gangs in Downtown Crossing is a bit unsettling.

2) Protecting the Esplanade

Last year, the Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) board of directors (I am a member) voted to support making the Esplanade a historic landmark (in colloquial terms, a process called "landmarking.") At the time, the effort was so that the State would not decide to turn the Esplanade into a highway- diverting Storrow Drive while the Storrow Drive tunnel was rehabilitated. While that threat has abated (in fact the fate of the tunnel is, for now, on hold), it does make sense to landmark the Esplanade. And I am happy to hear the process is moving forward.

However, landmarking the Esplanade does directly impact an effort by neighbors to place a locked fence around the Teddy Ebersol Fields. On a portion of the Esplanade, the fields are used by children who live on Beacon Hill. While I can understand the need for a fence, I cannot understand why the fence needs to be locked. Such an occurrence only extends the long-held belief that Beacon Hill residents feel privileged.

Supporters of the fence want to get it approved before the landmarking occurs, since at that point making any changes to the Esplanade would get a lot harder.

1) Navel gazing

The BHCA has launched a noble effort to define priorities for the neighborhood for the foreseeable future. While still in its early stages, the process has yielded some interesting facts. For example, a significant percentage of my neighbors are young. As in younger than 30. I think you can expect the BHCA will make an effort to get these young residents involved.

The BHCA's vision for the future is fairly conservative. I was especially interested in a proposed phrase from the planning process that supports development efforts "around" the Hill. As long as you don't touch the neighborhood itself, and as long as the development doesn't affect us in any way, we're ok with it.

In truth, the BHCA's conservative streak has long been noted in the meetings I have attended (I have been a Board member of the group for many years). As a former board member once said often, "If Beacon Hill isn't Heaven, it's at least in the same zip code." Why change it? Of course, the conservative nature of the BHCA might soon come into conflict with the younger residents it's trying to court.

Obviously I speak someone facetiously, and I do support the planning effort, though I wish my neighbors were a tad more open to new ideas that might in the long run benefit all of its neighbors, even if they do represent the dreaded "change."

And it's great that the BHCA is opening itself up more to younger neighborhood residents.

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