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Opinion: Greenway Conservancy … Leadership ‘Adjustment’

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It is but one opinion, that of René Loth’s mid-summer Boston Globe article, “Public space, public cash” (Opinion Page, Globe, Saturday, August 4, 2012), regarding the topical state of the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Some blooms did appear back then; but Loth must have been smitten with a whiff of some obscure fragrance, notwithstanding the Greenway’s lack of same or of its managed creativity.

Whatever bloomed then in Loth’s viewpoint is now dormant, time to plant anew. And, also, Executive Director Nancy Brennan, ex parte if one might say – is now disconnected from the Greenway and her $185,000+ annual compensation package.

Sadly, Loth apparently swallowed the full ‘Kool-Aid-bucket’ of the Conservancy by opining in his article’s sub-headline: ‘Greenway is well-loved but severely underfunded, and someone has to pay’.

This is hardly the case, though the current Greenway swath does show better than the steel-girders and the bridge abutments of years past.

This is the topical largess of our mock world-class-greenway-gardens. It is a dangerous overrated high-speed median strip, baked in the August-sun, brusquely windswept come October, dancingly-frostbitten with First Night celebrations. Even all the ‘love’ and estimated ‘70,000 increase in pedestrian use’, year-to-year, date-to-date, per RKGC paid-scribes, is an unsubstantiated Conservancy people-to-pigeon count.

No René, we do not love it, and we (taxpayers) do not have to pay for it!

In fact, the recent MBTA/DOT rate increase equates to $100 per rider toward the banality of white-washed cement and granite blocks we are all led to believe is a ‘world-class-garden’, a horticultural oasis within the city swirl.

The Greenway is an enigma surrounded by a three-lane auto maze, shrouded under the cloak of a mysterious management mantra pickled in patronage. The latter now patronizes its ‘constituents’.

The Greenway Conservancy manages a cement slab for pedestrian respite in-between poorly timed traffic lights. Enough is enough. It’s the roof of a highway tunnel! Its budget is $4.6 million annually with $2.4 million for incumbent management salaries.

In fact René, the eventual success of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, as a world-class urban garden in which we all may be proud and use, lies in the abundance of ‘friends-groups’ poised in its contiguous surround to care for it, leverage world-renown talent, and creative outreach programming – Friends of the North End Parks (FOTNEP), Friends of the Armenian Park, Boston Harbor Island Association, Wharf District Friends, Friends of Chinatown, to name a few — collectively they will minimize costs and eliminate State, MBTA/DOT and taxpayer expenses.

The Rose Kennedy Greenway is selfishly managed by its own Conservancy. Now sans its eight-year veteran Executive Director Nancy Brennan, its Board just recently adopted revised ‘By-Laws’ more noted for exclusivity and barriers to citizen entry and participation than an abundant embrace of neighborly constituents. No creativity and vision here; save for the saving of $185,000+ with Brennan’s exit.

The current management of the well advertised and promoted private, non-profit has pulled in an aggregate of $11 million in State compensation over the four+ years (2008) of their current ‘lease’ with the Department of Transportation (DOT). $16 million sits in a ‘pledge-pot’ ostensibly being nurtured for future plantings; more than enough to support the free services of area “Friends” groups.

At the Greenway, under initiate management, hierarchy, now seen historically, anecdotal, less than one percent (less than <$500,000), has been spent for plantings and horticulture. The deteriorating plantings as well as other stone-placements were original constructs of the Department of Transportation (DOT), i.e. Fountain of Rings, assorted multiple non-shade Pergolas, and the Mass. Horticultural inspired fully-funded botanical garden opposite the Boston Harbor Hotel and former James Hook Lobster building.

Where is/was the creativity and vision of the highly paid RK Greenway Conservancy management, then/still now a burgeoning 30-plus management group costing taxpayers $2.4 million+ annually?

Where is the expertise? Where, in all the conversations and recent exercises toward husbanding Department of Transportation budget resources are the real-world staffing adjustments and/or fiscal downsizing of the Conservancy, or to the embrace of the nearby constituency, those more than willing to volunteer labor, resources, and funding?

The absurdity of the Conservancy has them requesting an additional $11 million in annual funding for the banality of the non-observable.

Now, where do we begin, AGAIN? Simple, let’s stop drinking the Greenway public-relations-sop. THAT of and by itself for the Conservancy is a funded by several thousands of dollars annually just for marketing! Now of course the public and Conservancy will save with the exit of its Executive Director.

Let’s insist, at the least, sans iterant Board resignations, which is preferred, that the Conservancy pare its budget to less than $600,000/annually ($500K is currently contracted to a grass-cutting non-profit; the City of Boston DPW handles snowplowing). The rest can be water-spray-brushed with the help of a neighbor’s hose. Permits for activities, parades, celebrations, and fundraising groups may be ‘okayed’ by the nearby headquartered Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

Citizens groups, ‘Friends’ groups from several contiguous neighborhoods already exist. In the last 60-days the Conservancy has turned aside horticulture-specific donations of $130,000 to $140,000+, along with its attenuated ‘volunteer-labor’.

The Conservancy is insulating itself with revised By-laws, demanding allegiance from their community Board members separate and distinct from relevant and community constituents. Costs are skyrocketing; the Conservancy is demanding $11 million for their next budget. Then there is the conundrum of a proffered Business Improvement District (BID), the euphemism for lets sop in more funds from somewhere. The Conservancy has a ‘note-due’, a mortgage if you will for a picturesque though underfunded Carousel, short $2 million plus in craftsman-construct costs. It had been vendor-leased, and successful as an $85,000/annual profit center. Now it’s a cost center.

Enough is enough.

The Board of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, with the exit of Executive Director Nancy Murray should resign. Let’s start over. Let’s have Board members reapply, and from a constituency of ‘Friends’ and members of the surround.

Establish the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) as the ‘report-to’ clearing house. ‘Friends’ groups can and will deliver their ideas and their non-partisan selflessness to Greenway oversight; as well as the volunteer funding. Look to the ‘Friends of the North End Parks’, FOTNEP, as one sprout ready to burst forth.

This spring, 2013 because of prescient FOTNEP efforts on the Greenway the latter will be resplendent in color thanks to its voluntary Friends. As it should be! Why? Because it’s a friendly place, a meeting place, in a few years potentially a place of tranquility. What else is needed? Bicycles and pedestrians. Lots of bicycles and pedestrians to get in the way of and to slow down aberrant auto traffic patterns meandering atop an Interstate highway tunnel.

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