Commentaries

Letter in Response to Globe Editorial on Noise Ordinance

The following letter was sent to the Boston Globe in response to a November 5th editorial in the paper, Party ordinance would be harsh on young Bostonians.

Dear Editor,

I strongly object to the editorial of November 5th concerning the noise ordinance proposed by Councillor Sal LaMattina. This editorial displays ignorance of the seriousness of the noise problem in the North End, and evidences no serious consideration of the problem.

As an attorney and longtime journalist who has written both news articles and op-eds for the Globe, I ask that I be given leave to write an an op-ed that provides meaningful consideration of the ordinance from the perspective of a community member. This is clearly needed as an antidote to this grossly ill-considered editorial.

The editorial fell below the standard of thoroughness and reason that your readers have a right to expect.

The editorial was obviously based on reportage at the City Council hearing on the ordinance; however, the facts were presented in a partial and misleading way. In sum, the board concocted a thesis and then fixed the facts around that view. An editorial writer has an inherent license to her opinion, but not to a manipulation of the facts.

Needless to say, if the editorial was written all or in part by a beat reporter, that would be gravely troubling. The Globe should clarify how the editorial board obtained the facts presented in the editorial, because it appears that the same reporter who attended the meeting wrote the piece.

The editorial opines that existing ordinances are sufficient to address the problem, and yet omits testimony at the hearing from a decorated police captain that this ordinance offers an essential new tool for the police. The author clearly witnessed this testimony, and yet chose to ignore it.

The editorial notes that the youth presence at the meeting was “conspicuously lacking,” seeking to imply that this lack of representation was the fault of the council. The meeting was well publicized, and only two younger individuals attended. They testified, in sum, that they have a right to disregard noise ordinances because they are artists.

These facts were all ignored by your editorial board.

Most fundamentally, the editorial ignores the seriousness of the problem. Residents of the North End have been deprived of sleep and have been treated with gross disrespect, and are out of patience with this problem, which threatens quality of life and property values in Boston’s most historic neighborhood.

The editorial, by characterizing the problem as one of “hanging out after dinner,” shows contempt for the concerns that residents have been raising for months. Jeremy C. Fox’s boston.com article of October 26 catalogued these concerns well, but the editorial board does not appear to read such articles before putting pen to paper.

The noise and disturbances are of course even worse in Allston-Brighton. The coarsening of that community has led to an epidemic of crime. In recent weeks, multiple BU students and others have been held up at gunpoint. It is well-understood that deterioration of quality of life in a neighborhood brings with it crime and a drop in property values. Near-riot conditions are not infrequent in Allston-Brighton — and indeed, such conditions also recently occurred in the Paul Revere Mall in the North End, another fact of which you were likely aware but chose to ignore.

Your editorial offered nothing by way of a constructive alternative to the ordinance. It suggests, using unprofessional language, that landlords should be punished for “blowing off” community meetings, which is an absurd suggestion.

I am prepared to offer a reasoned discussion about the ordinance in an op-ed. The ordinance is not designed to stigmatize students, but to deal with recalcitrant individuals that have proved impervious to police warnings.

In the meantime, I respectfully ask you to publish as much of this letter as possible. I believe you should also seriously reflect on whether this piece passed a basic threshold of through and fair editorialization. It unfairly played with the facts of the hearing; failed to acknowledge the seriousness of the problem, which is a matter of public record; and offered no constructive alternative to the ordinance. It was written in a cavalier manner which shows disrespect for Boston residents who are also your readers. The board should reconvene and seek to present a more thorough and fair argument, even if it continues to oppose the ordinance. Alternatively, the board should have the courage to admit that an error in judgment and analysis was made, and reverse its stance on the ordinance.

Very truly yours,

Alex Hahn

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10 Replies to “Letter in Response to Globe Editorial on Noise Ordinance

  1. Did you have a thesaurus on your desk when you wrote this, Alex? recalcitrant? Do you talk like that in normal conversation?

    Alex, if your op-ed is going to “opine” that the Boston Globe is too quick to put “pen to paper”, maybe you should take a mulligan, go back to the drawing board, and take another stab at this sentence:
    “I believe you should also seriously reflect on whether this piece passed a basic threshold of through and fair editorialization.”

  2. I agree the Globe editorial was poorly thought out.

    But I also have a problem with holding landlords responsible to the degree the proposed law suggests.

    From what I’ve heard, eviction takes months or longer.

    So if a landlord rents to kids thy host a loud party now and then, what exactly are they supposed to do about it beyond nagging hi or her tenants to shut up and then not renewing their lease?

    And then to answer my own question- how about making noise citations discoverable on a background check. That way the next landlord would know who they are leasing to.

  3. I get your point but you are way off base going after the BU incidents. Those were during the day and committed by high school kids (including minors) that were not even from that part of the city. I will leave you to figure out which ones. And for the record I didn’t even go to BU and don’t even like the school.

    Finally, as a former resident of Brighton/Allston, I highly doubt there are “near riot conditions.”. When you use such over exaggerations, you lose credibility. There are other parts of the city that are worse off than us. Using over the top arguments makes you sound like a petulant child stomping your feet for attention instead of an educated adult. That said, good luck with the ordinance, even though my street isn’t that bad.

  4. “So if a landlord rents to kids thy host a loud party now and then, what exactly are they supposed to do about it beyond nagging hi or her tenants to shut up and then not renewing their lease?”

    Very simple…don’t rent to kids.

  5. They should just have the schools agree to harsher punishments. It’s quick and effective. Going after the landlords is a long process and it sounds like they will be able to get out of the fines in a number of cases. They could also just take the fines out of the security deposits and it won’t matter to them. Threatening to expel or suspend the students after the 2nd or 3rd offense would get the students attention quicker than any fines or a phone call from the landlords.

    1. If the people causing the noise were all college students, the schools could possibly do more to solve the problem. Suffolk and Emerson already do what you suggest anyway. However, there is a significant group of 22-25 yr olds who seem to be the worst offenders. They are working but have not yet made the transition from college student mentality to “I am now an adult and need to start acting like one”.
      With college kids, a landlord could make a call to the parents (who probably co-signed the lease and pay the rent) and get positive results. Parents probably do not want an eviciton on their credit report or to give up their security deposit, The only people who can do something about the “Just out of college” crowd are the landlords. If you hit them in their P&L statement enough times, they might take responsibility for the people who live in their property. One can only hope.

  6. Also, the property values argument goes both ways. If the city makes it too difficult/painful for people to own North End investment properties, then they will look elsewhere and there will be less buyers. A lot of these investors have kept the property values from decreasing even lower over the past 5 years. A number of these “absentee landlords” are not the foreign investors everyone complains about either. There are tons of older former North End residents who own apartments and have moved out to the suburbs and rent to students.

    1. Name a neighborhood where the city has made it too difficult to own property?

      The pros far outweigh the cons for most investment opportunities. City property is one of the few spots where a place maintains its value.

      The pols need to put some teeth in the noise ordinance. First offense, $500 fine to the landlord. You will quickly see property owners renting to fewer students.

      1. Everyone wants to make it so difficult on the landlords to rent to anyone under the age of 25 without thinking this through. If they stop renting to that massive demographic, then they will have to drop rents to attract renters. These lower end apartments that are typically rented to students will not simply attract regular North End families if the students go. Rents will drop without the students, which will attract lower income residents and the associated truly serious crime that typically arises with that demographic.

        Everyone thinks this is as simple as all landlords refusing to rent to students. This will never happen and we all know it.

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