This is the third in a series of articles from an interview with District 1 City Councilor Salvatore LaMattina following his recent inauguration. Councilor LaMattina is beginning his second full term representing the North End/Waterfront neighborhood as well as East Boston, Charlestown and parts of Beacon Hill & Downtown.
Click here to read Part I of this series.
Click here to read Part II of this series.
Role of Neighborhood Groups
Councilor LaMattina is well aware of the strains between neighborhood groups that represent the interests of residents and businesses. “I don’t like the divide,” LaMattina commented, “Neighborhood groups are good if they are working on important issues. Businesses are important to any neighborhood as long as they give back to the neighborhood. Having a Chamber of Commerce is very important. Each time there is an event, the businesses are asked to give, and they do. Each group needs to understand the concerns of others. The residents live there so they are my priority. And the businesses provide a lot of jobs. So, we have to come up with a balance.”
The Councilor supports the “one joint group” proposal to combine the presentation of liquor licenses and zoning requests. “I will have this discussion with the Mayor now that he is back.” The three individual groups would still vote separately at their own meetings, but there would be one joint presentation to reduce the legal costs and increase the efficiency of the process. Currently, each applicant presents separately to each group including the North End/Waterfront Neighborhood Council (NEWNC), the North End/Waterfront Residents’ Association (NEWRA) (as well as the Zoning, Licensing & Construction Committee of NEWRA) and optionally to the North End Chamber of Commerce (NECC). All the groups are advisory to the City licensing and zoning agencies that rule on such issues. LaMattina hopes to work with all three groups to get feedback on the “one joint group” proposal.
NEWNC is an elected group of 12 residents that form an advisory council, NEWRA is a group of 300+ residents that join the organization with $10 annual dues to work on residential impact issues and NECC is a group of restaurant owners and retail merchants that collect dues from its members and advocate for the businesses. All votes by these groups are “advisory” to public officials, licensing and zoning authorities.
In answer to a question about the recent tax rate increase on residents and businesses, LaMattina said the economy has pressured the budget while the need for services has increased. He supports re-examining the PILOT program for non-profit universities and hospitals to contribute more. Cuts in local aid to cities has also been painful making the City more reliant on property taxes.
The Councilor reflected on how satisfying it is to see the Greenway parks come to fruition after the neighborhood struggled through the Big Dig. The opening of the Greenway reconnected the North End/Waterfront to the rest of downtown bringing more visitors and activity to the neighborhood. Regarding its management, he favors private/public partnerships when it is clear the City or State cannot fund the appropriate maintenance. He believes that is the case with the Greenway, which is managed by a private, non-profit organization, the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, that receives half its funding from the State. The risk is that such an organization can indirectly privatize the parks by charging fees to raise money for its own needs and projects well beyond that of a regular public park. LaMattina noted that City Council members went on a tour in New York City and visited Bryant Park which is also run by a Conservancy. He liked their use of the parks and believes that more tables and chairs could benefit the Greenway. LaMattina expressed his desire to keep the Greenway mostly open space without significant development.
LNG Tankers in Boston Harbor
Nearly all of the Councilor’s district is adjacent to Boston Harbor and he is very concerned about the weekly LNG tankers coming through the inner harbor. He supports Mayor Menino’s desire to have the tankers unload off-shore. In today’s dangerous world, it does not make sense to have such a risk so close to Boston’s dense population.
Balancing the Neighborhoods
There are many common issues throughout Boston’s neighborhoods including public safety, city services, good schools and parks. But each neighborhood has certain unique challenges and District 1 has a wide diversity, including the richest and the poorest residents in the City. In the North End and Beacon Hill, the Problem Properties Task Force addresses the specific needs of communities dealing with student issues. In East Boston, there is a large immigrant population with language issues and challenges that require a different approach to providing city services. LaMattina is part of an active neighborhood response team there. In Charlestown, Sullivan Square is a focus for the Councilor where he is supportive of efforts to develop more of a business district.
The Councilor noted that the North End is a small neighborhood but it is very congested. From May through October, it is overflowing with tourists. This causes unique concerns. “For some residents, it is frustrating with the crowds while others love the excitement.” LaMattina likes to walk the streets of the North End and meet people. He referenced how in East Boston there is less pedestrian use than years ago and that has hurt the neighborhood.
The Councilor credited his staff for keeping up with all the neighborhood issues and fielding the calls from residents.
Coming up in the fourth and final part of this interview series with the Councilor: “A Day in the Life,” technology, the Hanover Street initiative and closing thoughts.
Click here to read Part I of this series.
Click here to read Part II of this series.
6 Replies to “Part III – LaMattina on Neighborhood Dynamics, Greenway, Taxes & LNG”
The Chamber of Commerce should NOT be making anybody go before them to get their support. The PURPOSE of any Chamber of Commerce is to support and promote the business interests of its members. I would expect, as a matter of fulfilling its mission, that the Chamber of Commerce would vote yes on any license request that was presented to it. This was a none too obvious ploy by the former president of the CC to try to marginalize the two residents organizations and make HIS organization THE group holding power over everything that happens in the North End. The Chamber of Commerce HAS NO BUSINESS asking a property owner or developer to appear before the Chamber on zoning issues. THAT IS OUTSIDE THE CHAMBER’S MISSION and is an issue for RESIDENTS and CITY GOVERNMENT to decide. What needs to happen is that a SINGLE Neighborhood resident group be formed. Any business owner is welcome to attend any neighborhood resident meeting. If a business owner is a resident he or she can join NEWRA and/or run for a seat on NEWNC. A non-resident can attend any public meeting and voice an opinion but not vote at a NEWRA meeting or run for the Council.
With all due respect to Sal, he is off the mark in suggesting that a single organization composed of THREE groups needs to be formed. This idea was suggested BY THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE and as far as I have heard, not widely accepted by either NEWNC or NEWRA.
The ballooning illegal population in East Boston and the criminal element among them, is why there is less safety and, thus, less pedestrian traffic.
I agree with the excellent points made by Joyce regarding the Chamber of Commerce.
Regarding the LNG’s, name a person who DOESN’T want them to unload offshore? The question is, what is anyone doing about it to make that a reality?
I question what "risks" are involved with transporting LNG through Boston’s inner harbor.
"In today’s dangerous world, it does not make sense to have such a risk so close to Boston’s dense population."
LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) is NOT flammable. For LNG to burn, it must first vaporize, then mix with air in the proper proportions and then be ignited. What scenario can you dream up that contains a real risk to Boston residents?
I agree that it might be prudent to offload the LNG offshore for various reasons, but the perceived threat of a terrorist attack on an LNG tanker seems ludicrous and perpetuates bad science and fear.
The city raised my property taxes this year because colleges and hospitals haven’t been paying taxes for over fifty years? Interesting logic by the Councilor.
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