Councilors Make Bold Bid To Save ‘Feeding Grounds’ For Endangered Developers!

Last Minute Order of Maher, McGovern, Benzan A Brilliant Move                                                   To Kill A Meaningful Master Plan!

Cambridge, MA — Fearing the ecological and financial damage an honest Master Plan might bring to the already threatened Cambridge Hawk, a developer species known for flying tight circles around the City of Cambridge, veteran City Councilor David Maher, and two freshman councilors, Dennis Benzan and Marc McGovern, proposed a policy order they hoped would deflate and defeat a rival call for a Master Plan.       hawk

That rival Master Plan, as proposed by councilors Dennis Carlone, E. Denise Simmons and Nadeem Mazen, would have threatened the status quo of microwave development in the city, as well as the security and livelihood of the vulnerable developers.

“SAVE THE DEVELOPERS!” resounded throughout the staid, marble-floored corridors of City Hall, as the Maher proposal was introduced. Aside from consigning the process to an endless succession of motivation-killing meetings, the Maher proposal would put responsibility for the Master Plan in the hands of the Cambridge Community Development Department (CDD), whose concern for the prosperity of Developers has been proven repeatedly. Most recently in the CDD’s pursuit of 16- and 18-story towers for Central Square.

The Maher Proposal refuses to acknowledge the high level of public unrest and dissatisfaction with current development policies, pretending residents are merely disturbed over ” recent projects.” With an unstinting blind eye to the realities all around, the Maher proposal seeks to preserve “a sensible approach” to future development (read undiminished).  It completely ignores resident outrage at the clogged roadways and, most notably, the city’s lack of honest planning.

But the most important element in the proposal is the way it will derail the Carlone proposal and keep residents from speaking their mind to the City Council on April 7th, at 5:30PM. Just as important, it will leave the Cambridge Hawk once again safe to hunt for his meal ticket in our city.

Why We Should Scrap K2C2 and Start Some Real Planning. And do it NOW!

In case you haven’t noticed, the residents of Cambridge are fed up! They’ve had their fill of the city collaborating with developers and business interests to cash in on Cambridge’s rocketing real estate values at the expense of families, the middle class and the diversity that makes this town so special.

Fresh Pond/Alewife residents at the Tobin School

Fresh Pond/Alewife residents at the Tobin School

Something Brewing In Fresh Pond (in addition to more traffic)

Earlier this week at a meeting of the freshly-minted Fresh Pond Residents Alliance, 150 residents from the Fresh Pond and Alewife areas joined together to call for an honest response from our municipal leaders—our city managers, City Council and Planning Board—to what has become an almost non-stop and overwhelming tide of development. Development that has clogged roadways from one side of the city to the other. Development that has traded on Red Line proximity to justify the approval of more condos and apartments than the existing infrastructure can accommodate. Development that is changing the makeup of the city’s population, its rhythms, and its basic livability without anyone stopping to question where we’re going or whether we want to go there.

It was clear—to those newly gathered folks at least—the game needs to be changed. The old rules won’t work anymore. No longer can inclusionary zoning serve as a convenient excuse for up-zoning giveaways worth millions. No longer should we accept an anemic inclusionary zoning formula that results in far fewer affordable units than the numbers gentrification will ultimately displace. And no longer should our city councilors be allowed to hide behind that same inclusionary zoning argument while green-lighting developments that sacrifice the well-being of current residents to benefit affluent people who don’t even live here yet.

Jan Devereux

Jan Devereux

Let’s Talk About The K2C2 Planning Process

I came along too late to witness the K2 (for Kendall Square) part of the process, but if it was anything like C2 (for Central Square), it was flawed, biased and flagrantly disinterested in the participation of the affected neighborhoods. Without a single advisory committee representative from either the Cambridgeport or Area IV neighborhood associations, C2 pretended to seek resident input while aggressively pushing for increased densification and towering building heights.

K2C2 is a prime example of how not to plan for Cambridge’s future. The fact that a city planning department would submit recommendations for massive zoning increases without first studying the impacts of their recommendations is not only shocking, but unconscionable. To act as if decisions made concerning Kendall or Central Squares would not have consequences citywide—on traffic, public transportation and public safety—is an indicator of how hard the sponsors of K2C2 were working toward a desired outcome, and feared doing anything that might undermine it.

With inclusionary zoning, in its current formula, obviously a Trojan Horse for developers, there are fewer meaningful arguments one can make for continued over-development. So-called ‘Smart Growth’ quickly becomes Stupid Growth once you admit the Red Line is maxed out, or when new residents are asked to risk life and limb to access the ‘nearby’ Alewife station. Also stupid, if not downright criminal, is that NOBODY in charge in Cambridge, up till now, has asked for an honest look at what’s going on; or what’s coming down the road. Our Planning Board and City Council have approved thousands of new apartments and office units without comprehending the impact of their decisions or the context of growth within which those decisions are being made. Nobody apparently wants to discover, yet alone admit, that development is not just leading to gentrification, but is actually microwaving gentrification.

Microwave Gentrification 

In a report soon to be released by the Cambridge Residents Alliance, Richard Krushnic, Alliance member and an analyst with Boston’s Dept. of Neighborhood Development, projects over 22 million square feet of new commercial and residential construction in Cambridge between 2011 and 2035—half of which has already been built, permitted or begun the permitting process in just the last three years!*

No, you didn’t read it wrong—half of the construction anticipated between now and 2035 has been built, permitted or applied for a permit in the last three years!

The Need For An Honest Master Plan

Above all that construction noise, if you listen carefully, you can hear the sound of…change, though it may at first sound like angry raised voices. What’s happening in Fresh Pond and Alewife is happening all around the city. In East Cambridge, Central Square, Cambridgeport, North Cambridge, too. City residents are banding together to question the wisdom of recent decisions and ongoing policies. At the same time, newly-elected City Councilor Dennis Carlone is circulating a petition calling for a comprehensive citywide Master Plan, something the Cambridge Residents Alliance has been promoting for over two years. A Master Plan that calls for the input and support of the people most affected by such a plan, we the citizens of Cambridge.

If you want to give Cambridge a chance to grow without sacrificing its character, diversity and livability, sign Dennis’ petition. And plan to participate in the resulting process which, if done right, should finally provide a cohesive and integrated approach to growing our city while protecting our neighbors and our quality of life.

It may not generate untold millions for our city’s coffers or turn developers into millionaires, but it will result in a city we can all afford to love.

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*These figures do not represent a citywide total, as they only reflect larger sized projects in the hot spots of Alewife, North Point, Central Square, Kendall Square and The Osborn Triangle. They do however account for half of the city’s projected 22 million square feet.

Tales From An Overheated Planet (a poster series)

aTornado_SFTW(See below for more posters)

The posters on this page were created by Paul Steven Stone and Bill Dahlgren to help sound the alarm about global warming in a way that would both engage the reader and make the issue indelible. Keep in mind, with a little more work and expense, these could be billboards or subway posters. As they are, they could be immediately used as digital advertisements or email campaigns or—and something especially powerful to consider—as baseball-type collectors cards for kids. We’ve created twenty-eight of these posters to date (of a planned 30), some of which relate to future realities, others to what is happening today. All of them use humor or irony to engage and hold the attention.

It’s almost indecent that we’ve been as complacent as we have about Global Warming. This is our children’s future at stake. It’s also the greatest planetary challenge the human race has faced in our lifetime.  There is no more room at the conference table for Global Warming deniers; no more time left on the game clock for their obstructionism or their resistance to making the hard decisions. It’s time we blew the whistle and threw them out of the game.

a6-Ways_SFTW

Forgive me for being immodest, but the posters on this page represent the beginnings of a Global Warming Awareness Campaign worthy of the size and scope of the colossal disaster we’re facing. It is a campaign that uses shock, humor and a hard look at the future to shake the viewer out of his or her complacency. It is a campaign that reminds us we’re all in this together, whether we’re swimming in the streets of our hometowns, watching our crops wither to dust in a drought, fighting wildfires, or dodging twisters in our once tornado-free cities and towns. The campaign’s message is solemn and its clear: nobody escapes the wrath and destruction of Global Warming.

If your group or organization would be interested in using/sponsoring these posters, or dovetailing them into your own campaign, please let me know. I can be reached at PaulStevenStone@gmail.com.

Do yourself a favor and review each poster BY ITSELF. Stop and absorb the entirety of one concept before you move onto the next. Do not quickly scroll through them. Most likely the posters will be viewed one at a time when they’re out in the world, and should be seen that way here for their full effect.

aWave_SFTWBear_SFTWaBostonMarathon_SFTWaLiberty_SFTWaGreatLakes_SFTWaPontoons_SFTWaWreckage_SFTWaForestFire_SFTWaSpoiler_SFTWaLettuce_SFTWaSharks_SFTWaOzone_SFTWTimeLapse_SFTWaDetroit_SFTWaPanda_SFTWaSubway_SFTWaBeetles_SFTWaSkul_SFTWlaUN_Report_SFTWaCarton_SFTWaWeapons_SFTWaFence_SFTWaStacks_SFTWaLifeguards_SFTWaEyeChart_SFTWaSkier_SFTWaMailbox_SFTW

Can We Just Send Finneran The Bill? Please!

Representative Thomas Finneran will go down in local history for a variety of egregious acts committed against the best interests of the Commonwealth and its citizens. First, of course, he will be remembered as the politician who terminally wounded Clean Elections in our state by refusing, as Speaker of the Massachusetts House, to honor the referendum vote that legally established publicly financed elections and limits on campaign spending for public office.Finneran

Then, of course, the Stalinist Speaker from Dorchester will most be remembered for his conviction on obstruction of justice charges. The obstruction was committed in a trial where he professed ignorance of redistricting decisions that he himself dictated to his dutiful minions. The fact that those decisions discriminated against black and minority voters to the benefit of himself and other incumbent white legislators was a mere coincidence, according to an unrepentant and defiant Finneran.

And most recently, in Federal Court we are witnessing the real legacy of Thomas M. Finneran at the racketeering trial of former Probation Department officials. Though John O’Brien, former Probation Commissioner, and two of his deputies are the ones on trial, it’s really Finneran’s legislative shadow that falls across the proceedings. Because it was Finneran who empowered O’Brien, thus enabling the allegedly rigged hiring system that  favored well-connected applicants over more qualified candidates. A system that fed on a vicious cycle of yearly budget increases voted by a patronage-hungry legislature. A system that poured millions of tax dollars down a sink hole of cronyism. Millions of dollars funneled to friends and relations of politicians rather than the state’s under-funded schools, broken down bridges or its struggling transportation system.

Of course, the biggest cost was paid by those lawbreakers in the probation system who for years were denied the value of honest guidance and supervision by highly qualified probation officers. Who can calculate the price they paid?

But back to our story…

Finneran was Speaker of the House in 1997, when O’Brien was appointed to run the Probation Department. Increasingly frustrated by a system that required the approval by local judges of all probation officers assigned to their courts, Finneran, in late 2001, pushed through a bill centralizing hiring and promotion decisions in O’Brien’s office.

It was Finneran who knowingly created this honey pot for his legislative colleagues. Finneran who enabled John O’Brien and his Probation Department to become the alleged disasters they ultimately became. Finneran who should be sent an invoice for every dollar paid by the state to every under-qualified probation department employee. And if you read the list of the department’s politically-connected employees, you’ll find a select inventory of relatives and friends of the state’s high and mighty, from two sons of former Senate President William Bulger, to children, nephews, friends and campaign workers of more politicians than ordinarily show up for work on a normal day at the State House.

As Finneran explained at the time of his 2001 legislative push to give O’Brien unchallenged hiring authority, “If you scan a list of probation officers, there might be sons and daughters of politicians and judges there. That’s not going to go away. And, honestly, I don’t think it should. They shouldn’t be excluded because of the achievements of their parents.’’

To which I’d like to add, “Nor should a politician be excluded from paying for the cost of his political crime, even if he’s merely its unindicted legislative enabler.

So, please, can somebody figure out how many millions of dollars the Commonwealth has spent in the last dozen years to fund a Probation Department strong on political connections but almost bereft of professional focus or substance?

And then, please, I beg you, send an invoice for that amount to Thomas M. Finneran.

In lieu of our sincere “Thanks!”

I Am A Ukrainian

How can you not stand up and cheer at what we’ve just witnessed in Eastern Europe? To see an entire populace rise up against injustice, autocracy and the armed lackeys of a corrupt police state reminds me of what real courage looks like, especially when it’s bolstered by the adrenaline of outrage and moral authority.Ukraine

I couldn’t watch this impoverished proletariat fighting so valiantly—and risking so much—for their rights, their country and for the future of their children’s children without thinking about how far we Americans have drifted from our own revolutionary and democratic ideals. So far that we would allow George W. Bush to twice steal the presidency of the United States (see michaelparenti.org/stolenelections.html) staring impotently with our mouths open, too afraid of the consequences that might come from shouting out the truth and fighting for our rights. Too comfortable, in all likelihood, with our material possessions and modest successes to risk any of it by standing up and shouting “Fraud! Thief! Liar!” as we should have done—as we have an obligation to do as legatees of our revolution and its democratic values!

And so we turned over in bed, having taken a sleeping pill to deal with any discomfiting after-effects of watching our country hijacked by these lackeys of disgruntled billionaires.

Yes, we’ve fallen so far from our American ideals that we would allow almost every state legislature controlled by Republicans to institute laws designed to deprive citizens of their voting rights in the name of preventing voting fraud. A fraud admittedly non-existent and clearly invoked as a fig leaf to conceal the pathetic conniving of a fastly-shrinking political minority.

Where is our outrage? Where are the barricades we would mount to fight for the democratic ideals our forebears died to secure and preserve? Where indeed! Instead of mounting barricades we sit docilely in front of our TV sets while this minority band of politicians gerrymander themselves into the power of the majority and attempt to dismantle every right and protection built up to protect the poor, the weak and the elderly.

Why do we allow these cynical enemies of democracy to determine the national conversation? Why do we allow them to first dismantle our economy under Bush, raid the treasury to protect the banks and  tycoons who created the crisis, then block almost every attempt made by Obama to prevent the poor and the middle class from falling off the game board entirely?

Once I was proud to say “I am an American.” Admittedly it was a time of innocence. A time before Viet Nam. A time before we unnecessarily declared war against Iraq. A time before banks and bankers were allowed to destroy our economy with impunity. A time before Republicans and their billionaire puppeteers were allowed to dictate the national agenda. And, yes, a time before drones were sent to foreign skies to kill enemies and civilians alike without due process.

It was also a time before the events of this last week. A week when I was able to watch breathlessly—with equal measures of hope and trepidation—as a country of 46 million people shook off the chains of corruption and domination that a small group of tyrants had imposed. This was what a fight for democracy and freedom really looked like. It was a week where true-life heroes, brave enough to challenge bullets and riot police, were arrayed before the world in a laughable contrast to the Olympic ‘heroes’ who captured most of the media’s attention.

There was only one international event truly worth watching this week. One event where the human species was shown to reach its most brilliant and most memorable heights.

And it didn’t take place in Sochi.