I don’t live in Boston, though obviously like everyone else in the area I’m affected by decisions made by the mayor and city council. I won’t be taking a side in the mayoral race; but the preliminary election is nigh upon us, September 26.
The bridge to Boston’s Long Island was closed on October 8, 2014. The island was the site of a major homeless shelter. The bridge has been demolished and there’s no going back. The Pine Street Inn, which ran the shelter’s programs, says that those services have been replaced on the mainland. As far as it goes, that’s good and probably an improvement. The city even intends to end chronic homelessness by next year.
The actions by the city in the last three years have become something of a political football this election season. Tito Jackson criticized the administration for losing 40 beds for Project SOAR and Safe Harbor (recovery and HIV care, respectively) and when the federal HUD has taken away support for transitional housing; and certain of the homeless men themselves wrote the Walsh administration an open letter saying they haven’t gotten the support they need. On the other hand, even while regretting the loss of federal funding, city officials and Councilor Anissa Essaibi-George (eg.) seem to actually agree that a move to permanent housing is necessary. The women’s drug treatment facility on Long Island found a (very beautiful!) new home in Roxbury.
These are folks with multiple needs: Health challenges of all sorts, including mental and substance; some are immigrants, doubtless of varying legal status. They need a lot of help: Food, shelter, medical, mental, financial, employment, legal. They are, and will continue to be under constant and savage financial, legal, and medical assault from the Trump administration and the Republican congress, which will try to cut everything from food stamps to Medicaid to housing to legal aid, all the while trying to deport those undocumented among them as well.
I started writing this as “Long Island closed three years ago and what has happened since then??” That’s a line preferred by certain of Walsh’s critics. As I researched it, the story is a lot more complex than that — and puts the Walsh administration in a better light, frankly.
But I can’t blame people like Jackson or the Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee for getting their digs in while they can — or asking for more money for housing vouchers. That’s accountability, and it’s what elections are for. More than flashy, gimmicky circuses like GE, the Olympics, Grand Prix, a new Amazon HQ, or the latest tech/med/education expansion, our concern ought to begin with those who for whatever reason have come on the hardest of times. I hope Boston voters will have that in the front of their minds as they vote.
My immediate reaction is something along the lines of:
1. The decision to locate the shelter on Long Island was itself an insult and an abrogation of society’s collective responsibility to these men, women, and children.
2. The primary objection to the 2014 closing was its precipitous nature, happening literally overnight.
3. This entire process is the antithesis of open, transparent, and reasonable government process. It was, instead, exemplary of closed, opaque, inhumane, and often — yes — corrupt government action.
In retrospect, this reminds me of the decisions to kill the “A” line to Watertown and the “E” line to JP. Both were done in a similarly dishonest and arrogant way.
Yes, we seem to have recovered. It’s still no way to run a state or a city.
Charley on the MTA says
Agreed, but I might add 4. Dilapidated and neglected infrastructure to your list.
The condemning of the bridge, well … I think that’s just how those things happen. It’s unsafe, it gets condemned. Not sure what the inspectors were supposed to do differently once they found it in that condition.
But yeah, looking backwards at a whole series of decisions, a confluence of issues that led to that particular crisis might be a productive exercise.
Your item 4 “Dilapidated and neglected infrastructure” certainly belongs there.
I am more cynical than you about the timeline of the condemnation. Sites like this remind us that the bridge was “regularly inspected” (emphasis mine):
I don’t doubt that the bridge needed to be condemned.
I do think, however, at least the following:
1. It’s unlikely that the damage that provoked the closure was dramatically worse than whatever was observed at the prior inspection
2. If the bridge served an island population of condos and vacation homes for the rich and famous, the residents would have been given more than an hour’s notice of the closing
3. The fact that the state closed the bridge less than a year of Mr. Walsh took office is not coincidental.
I remember when we discussed the bridge closing on BMG when it happened and instantly thinking why in the world are these services located so remotely in the first place?
In a nutshell, this is why I am voting for Tito Jackson. He is adopted and understands how the kids in our care are often the first left behind, and that is the social justice prism through which he examines every issue. He is committed to funding BPS, instead of cutting it to fund vanity projects like the Olympics or GE helipads. He is committed to campaign finance reform, instead of taking millions from Trump supporting developers and out of state corporate tycoons.
Is Boston going to be another corporate Disneyland for the tech worker class or are we going to stay a mixed income city where working families can get ahead? My hometown of Cambridge made it’s choice, and it’s irreversible. Boston still has an opportunity to save it’s working class from non-stop gentrification. We can truly be a city for the many, not the few.
I’m not sure those are mutually exclusive. Also, you live in Boston now?
Yep. Teaching in Roxbury and going to BU.