Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Extra whipped cream for my nephew, David, as my mom and baby Peter look on.
North Stonington, Conn.
November 26, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Preparing for Holiday Decorating

One of my favorite neighborhood events of the year is Beacon Hill Holiday Decorating. The first weekend of December each year, hundreds of neighbors head out on the streets and decorate the 1100 lamp posts on Beacon Hill with a garland and two bows. Everything about the event is volunteer. The event is funded through donations from neighbors and businesses. The garlands are prepared, counted, delivered and hung by volunteers. I have been involved in the weekend since I first moved to the neighborhood. For the past few years I have delivered garlands throughout Beacon Hill.

This year, the event has gone high-tech. I narrated a video earlier today, soon to show up on the Beacon Hill Civic Association website, that demonstrates the proper way to decorate a lamp post.

Myrtle Street in front of the Myrtle Street Playground
Beacon Hill, Boston
November 21, 2009

Those interested in participating in the holiday decorating weekend should contact the Beacon Hill Civic Association. Or just look out on December 5 and 6 for your neighbors hanging garlands, and join in!

A Good Sports Year

Earlier this year I listed off my sports' allegiances. Looking back, I had a good year for my teams. Let's review them here as I had ordered them back in the spring (with the higher ranked team the team I cheer more passionately for):

1) UCONN Huskies basketball.
FINISH: NCAA Tournament Final Four
The Huskies made it to the dance for the third time. If not for an emotionally charged Michigan State team and the spirit of Detroit, they would have had the chance to topple the mighty Tar Heels.

2) New York Yankees.
RESULT: World Champions
Order is restored to the baseball universe. 27 World Championships.

3) New England Patriots.
RESULT: Season in progress, Patriots leading AFC East
I am so used to them winning EVERY game that I overlook the fact the Pats are well on their way to another playoff berth. Colts fans-- you must admit you were outplayed this past Sunday.

4) Boston University Hockey.
RESULT: NCAA Champions, Hockey East Champions, Beanpot Champions
In the greatest hockey game I have ever seen, the Terriers flipped in a wrister in overtime to win their fifth national championship. BU won the coveted local "triple crown" by capturing the Beanpot (or is it the BU-pot?), the Hockey East (conference) championship, and the NCAA crown.

5) Hartford Whalers.
RESULT: No sign of the Whale in the insurance capitol of the world.
Whalers fans, unite! The Whale will be back!

All Politics is Local

Helping out a political campaign means dialing a lot of numbers. I could not even guess the number of phone calls I made this year.

Political phone calls can be annoying. People don't like to talk politics. They say they are eating dinner (even though it's 3 p.m. in the afternoon). While I don't blame them, calls from a campaign volunteer are far less invasive than many other uninvited conversations.

At least when I call I am not selling something.

At least I am advocating for a cause I believe strongly about.

And, for the most part, at least I am a neighbor.

Former House Speaker Tip O'Neil was right. All politics is local. During this past political campaign, the most effective conversations I had were with people who lived on my street. Voters who lived in the same precinct as me.

I guess it should be the case in a municipal election (like the one we just had in Boston), that people care about the issues that they see on their block or that they talk about when they are getting a cup of coffee.

On Beacon Hill, where I live, the biggest issues are trees, trash and a neighborhood school. Cleaning up my streets is an ongoing battle, not helped by the amount of time trash can legally be placed on the curb, and the fact that there's little space in the average Beacon Hill apartment for storing trash. That being said, neighbors seem to be appreciative of recent efforts to keep streets tidy, including the city's strict enforcement of posted street sweeping signs.

One of the most innovative partnerships between Beacon Hill and the city involves trees. The Beacon Hill Civic Association has a process to allow neighbors to efficiently prune and replace trees on their streets, based on a close relationship with the Boston Parks Department.

Young families on Beacon Hill are very interested in a neighborhood school. While improving Boston's schools is not as simple as building more schools, the energy from these families is refreshing.

Every conversation I had this campaign season with a Beacon Hill neighbor focused on a local issue. Tip O'Neil would be proud.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

An Odd Combination of Victories

I might be the only person on the planet who over the past weekend was cheering (often loudly) for both the New York Yankees and Boston Mayor Tom Menino.

Not a bad week for me. Mayor Menino earned a fifth term, easily defeating City Councilor Michael Flaherty. One night later, the Yankees captured their 27th World Championship.

Such apparent conflicts of allegiances can only happen for someone from an in-between state (Connecticut) who is also very interested in local politics.

A unique combination of victories, suited perfectly to me.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Day After

Congratulations to Mayor Tom Menino for winning yesterday's Boston Mayoral election. I look forward to working with his entire administration in the months and years ahead. It was a privilege and a pleasure to volunteer with the Mayor's campaign team!

Congratulations to John Connolly, Steve Murphy, Ayanna Pressley and Felix Arroyo for winning at-large seats on the Boston City Council.

I spoke to my brother Brett in Virginia, and he says that the gubernatorial result there-- the Republican won-- should not be interpreted as any sort of referendum on the Obama administration. He had some very good points, and I hope to see them on his blog soon.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Signs of Multi-Use at Phillips Street Park

Phillips Street Park
Beacon Hill, Boston
November 1, 2009

I walked by Phillips Street Park this morning and witnessed the perfect result of the long public process regarding the park's redesign. A gentleman sat reading a book with his dog on the upper part, while children used the new playground equipment in the park's lower area.

When local residents began to invest countless hours discussing the park renovation, the intent all along was to create an area suited to multiple uses and to a varied set of neighbors. As one can tell, Phillips Street Park is not very big, so catering to multiple uses is a challenge. I was very happy the process created a compromise---catering to children as well as dog owners and those who wish to just take a break from the busy day. The picture above is the first evidence of the success of this approach. (I stopped in the park to chat with my mom on my cell phone.)

Kudos to Boston Mayor Tom Menino, his Parks Department, City Council President Mike Ross, his staff, park abutter Rob Whitney, neighbor Phyllis Brown and the countless others who made the new Phillips Street Park a reality. And special thanks to the Beacon Hill Civic Association for hosting the meetings throughout the process.