Category: Community News

City Considering Sept. 22 for Car-Free ‘Open Charles Street’

To dovetail with the Beacon Hill Civic Association’s Fall HillFest, city officials are exploring the idea of closing Charles Street to vehicular traffic and transforming it into a pedestrian-only walkway for the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 22, for “Open Charles Street,” according to Jacob Wessel, the city’s public realm director.

But Wessel told those in attendance at a special meeting of the BHCA Traffic and Parking Committee on July 30 at 74 Joy St. to address the matter that the city hasn’t yet committed to the event, which would be modeled after “Open Newbury Street.”

Now, in its fourth year, “Open Newbury Street” “puts the “park in parking,” as Wessel said, by temporarily converting Newbury Street, along with some side streets, into a car-free zone. It has expanded from a one-day event in 2016 to three days each summer this year, with the next taking place on Sunday, Aug. 25.

For “Open Newbury Street,” Wessel said some restaurants in the neighborhood receive one-day license extensions that allow them to temporarily transform the sidewalk outside their storefronts into outdoor patio space. No vendors from outside the Newbury Street area are allowed to participate either, he said, so only neighborhood businesses profit from the events.

State Rep. Jay Livingstone pointed to the many road closures caused by “Open Newbury Street” and suggested that the city look carefully at who will be most impacted by the event in planning “Open Charles Street.”

Ali Ringenburg, co-chair of the Joint Charles Street Committee and a Beacon Hill Business Association board member, requested that only neighborhood businesses, be allowed to participate in the event, and that no vehicles whatsoever be permitted on the street (except in case of emergency).

“The five blocks on Charles Street are very conducive to having events like this, maybe even more than Newbury Street,” Ringenburg said, “and the businesses want to support this event and have it correspond with HillFest.”

Ben Starr, chair of the Traffic and Parking Committee, suggested that if “Open Charles Street” comes to pass, the event should adhere to the same hours – noon to 4 p.m. – as the Fall HillFest, the annual block party held between on Mt. Vernon Street between Charles and Brimmer streets.

Starr said the proposal would go before the BHCA Executive Committee for a vote of opposition or non-opposition prior to the next board meeting on Sept. 9 while an informal poll of those in attendance at the Traffic and Parking Committee meeting found that 13 of 14 of those surveyed supported the idea, and one opposed it.

In another matter, Starr said the installation of a curb-cut at 28 Pinckney St. could result in the loss of two parking spaces while expressing frustration that the neighborhood didn’t have an opportunity to weigh in on the decision.

“Unlike with the [Zoning Board of Appeal] and zoning variances, there’s no process for curb-cuts; it’s just administrative approval,” Starr said. “They don’t seek neighbors’ thoughts and opinions…and to me, this is just a flaw in the system.”

Meanwhile, Starr said the installation of a new station for the Blue Bike metro bike-share program at the corner of Charles and Mt. Vernon streets would also likely result in the loss of two more parking spaces, and that a Blue Bike station now located outside Panificio Bistro and Bakery at 144 Charles St. will be relocated to the side of The Whitney Hotel.

http://beaconhilltimes.com/2019/08/08/city-considering-sept-22-for-car-free-open-charles-street/

Legislators seek to protect Sea Grant

Heard recent chatter of an uptick in local shark activity? Curious why your fishing lines haven’t been twitching recently? When something peculiar happens in the water around us, our questions are usually answered by marine science experts at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution or Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Last week at the State House, Fernandes and Livingstone hosted a presentation by both WHOI and MIT scholars, showcasing recent research findings and valued partnerships within the commonwealth. State legislators noshed on oysters from Wellfleet Oyster Co. to highlight Sea Grant’s impact on local shellfishing industry.

“The Sea Grant program is administered right here in our district by the Woods Hole Oceanographic [Institution], and helps communities across Cape Cod preserve and protect our ocean,” said Fernandes in a press release. Fernandes is a Democrat from Falmouth representing the Cape and Islands. A vocal environmentalist, Fernandes has focused much of his time in office on protecting the natural health of the Cape and Islands.

Massachusetts is one of only two states to have both a college-based program and an institutional program.

“We appreciated the opportunity to highlight Massachusetts Sea Grant programs’ role in sustaining and growing the Blue Economy in the commonwealth,” said Dr. Matt Charette, director of Woods Hole Sea Grant, in the release. “We look forward to partnering with the state in the future on job creation, water quality, coastal resiliency, and sustainable fisheries, as well as providing innovative solutions to the many challenges our coastal communities will face with changing climate.”

Metro-Boston Communities Endorse Cape Bill

    
From MassDivest…

FALMOUTH – Rep. Dylan Fernandes’ bill to allow the 104 independent retirement systems in Massachusetts to divest from the fossil fuel industry (H.3662) has gained the support of two cities in the Metro-Boston region. The city councils of Cambridge and Somerville have passed resolutions calling on the Legislature to pass the Cape bill.

Somerville City Council President Katjana Ballantyne introduced the resolution April 25 and gained unanimous support from the Council. According to Ballantyne, “We all need to get out of these fossil fuel investments before we lose everything. We need to invest in alternatives to fossil fuels before all is lost.”

This development came on the heels of a similar resolution passed in February by the Cambridge City Council.

“I support H.3662 to give cities and towns local control over divesting their retirement funds from fossil fuels,” said Jan Devereux, vice mayor of Cambridge. “Many Cambridge residents, businesses and municipal employees are working hard to reduce their carbon footprints, and it sends a mixed message for the city’s retirement fund to hold investments that are in direct conflict with the goals of our Net Zero Ordinance and action plan.”

MassDivest introduced these resolutions in Somerville and Cambridge.

“With climate risk increasingly threatening the future, it is important for retirement systems to have the option to protect their assets from the decline of the fossil fuel industry,” said Jessica Hanway, of MassDivest.

Fernandes’ bill provides legislative authorization deemed necessary by the Public Employees Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) via a local option mechanism that allows independent retirement systems to divest from the fossil fuel industry. The bill does not mandate divestment in the way that the Legislature has previously done with regard to tobacco and apartheid South Africa.

“The local option bill would allow fossil fuel divestment to move forward in Massachusetts,” said Randi Mail, legislative director of MassDivest. “Instead of a top-down approach, it would be bottom-up. This bill would empower 104 independent retirement systems at the city and county levels.”

Cambridge and Somerville have long histories of supporting fossil fuel divestment. Somerville has advocated for this move since Mayor Joseph Curtatone called for it in 2014.

“The need for urgency when it comes to cities addressing climate change cannot be understated,” Curtatone said. “Every city and town needs right now — not later — to be taking a close look at their carbon output, setting ambitious carbon reduction goals, and following through. Some of that work will be challenging and complex, but fossil fuel divestment is an impactful and fiscally responsible step we could all easily take right now with the help of Rep. Fernandes’ important bill.”

Fernandes cited this legislation in remarks to the organizers of Harvard University’s recent Heat Week event: “Investing is putting down money now for a long-term future gain, and you can’t name a worse long-term future than one where climate change continues to ravage our cities and towns. That’s why we need to divest from fossil fuels. As a millennial, there is no greater issue that’s going to impact my generation or my children’s generation than that of climate change, global warming and sea level rise. We need to get serious about this, and we need to get serious about it here in Massachusetts, which is why Rep. Jay Livingstone and I filed a bill that allows our 104 independent retirement boards to divest from fossil fuels.”

About MassDivest

MassDivest is a coalition working to divest pension funds in Massachusetts from fossil fuels. They have partnered with Rep. Dylan Fernandes and Rep. Jay Livingstone on H.3662. MassDivest also works with Senator Marc Pacheco, who has introduced S.636, a similar bill in the Senate.

State Unveils Conceptual Plans for Craigie Bridge Bike Lane

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) unveiled conceptual plans for the installation of a bike lane on the Craigie Bridge (a/k/a Charles River Dam Road) at a community meeting on Wednesday, May 1, at the Museum of Science.

MassDOT Highway Engineer Andy Paul outlined the state’s proposal to add dedicated the bike lane from Land Boulevard to Leverett Circle, which would reduce the existing six travel lanes to five.

The 5-foot bike lane and 11-foot travel lanes would be separated by a 1½-foot buffer area with flex-posts and painted markings. In the opposite direction, the travel lanes would measure 10 feet wide.

Bike signals would be installed at Land Boulevard and Museum Way, as would a new left-turn lane to provide access to the Gilmore Bridge, Paul said.

Also, the left-turn lane from Land Boulevard onto Charles River Dam Road would be modified from double-left to a single-left.

At Museum Way, the buffer between the travel and bike lanes would be reduced to a single lane.

Flex-posts would be removed coming over the bridge past the museum towards Leverett Circle while the bike lane would be reduced to 4 feet and travel lanes would be narrowed to 10 feet, Paul said.

A left-turn would also be installed to provide a bike crossing at Martha Road.

Heading towards the museum, the bike lane would measure 6½ feet over the bridge.

The project is scheduled to start next month after ongoing construction on the Gilmore Bridge wraps up, with Phase One entailing the addition of new pavement stripings, signage and flex-posts while the second phase would involve the modification of traffic signals.

The first public meeting on this matter took place at MIT last December, followed by a “Road Safety Audit” the following month, Paul said.

“MassDOT and [the Department of Conservation and Recreation] did a great job of taking feedback from all stakeholders,” State Rep. Jay Livingstone told this reporter. “I think the final product will greatly improve the experience for both bicyclists and pedestrians.”

Should ‘lifers’ get a chance for parole?

Bill would make those serving life sentences eligible for hearings after 25 years

 SARAH BETANCOURT Feb 28, 2019

SOME BEACON HILL LAWMAKERS are making another push for legislation that would allow the 1,050 Massachusetts inmates serving life prison sentences to be eligible for parole hearings.

Rep. Jay Livingstone of Boston and Sen. Joseph Boncore of Winthrop have filed legislation that would allow all those serving life sentences – most of whom are in prison for murder – to be eligible for a parole hearing after 25 years of incarceration.

Livingstone on Thursday participated in a panel discussion on the issue before the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Reform Caucus; joining him were Marc Mauer, who leads the Washington, DC-based Sentencing Project, and Donald Perry, a former inmate who served over 18 years in prison.

Mauer, one of the country’s leading experts on sentencing policy, said a record number of 206,000 people are serving life terms in prisons across the US. “Life without parole is not an alternative for the death penalty. It’s an alternative for life with parole,” he said.

The only other way an inmate serving a life sentence can get out of prison is to have his or her sentence commuted, but no governor has commuted a life sentence in Massachusetts since 1997, according to data from the Governor’s Council.

A 2016 Department of Correction annual report shows that $50,000 a year is spent on housing an inmate, with sick and elderly inmates costing up to three times as much. Mauer said older and sicker offenders in their 70s pose a diminished public safety risk and should be released and reintegrated into society to save on these costs.

A number of states are considering proposals to reduce their prison populations. In Missouri, bills have been filed that would grant a parole hearing after no more than 30 years in prison for lifers, and allow early parole for certain offenders over 65 in geriatric units. Both were proposed by Republican legislators.

“President Obama, in his last two years, issued 1,700 sentence commutations,” said Mauer. About a third of those who received commutations had been sentenced to life in prison, often as a result of the “three-strikes” laws mandating life imprisonment for some third-offense drug cases.

Perry received the maximum penalty for armed robbery in 1983, and was on parole for 14 years following nearly two decades behind bars. He now works on criminal justice reform and is a co-founder of Black Behavioral Health Network, which addresses a gap in health services for African-Americans who face incarceration.

Perry said some lifers were classified by the Department of Correction in the 1970s as no longer a threat to society, and could go out on weekends to teach at local universities. “That doesn’t exist now,” he said.Meet the Author

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, who attended the State House event, said afterwards that she is in the “information gathering phase” when it comes to the bill to establish parole for those convicted of first-degree murder. “None of us would ever want to be defined by the worst acts of our lives. And then you have to think about that victims’ families are suffering,” she said.

“Our goal is the protection of the public’s safety,” Ryan said, but added that it’s worth assessing “when or if a person is ready to come back out into society.”