Monthly Archives: February 2015

LOCAL POLITICS PUTS PARCEL 9 AT RISK

1 karman zahedi1 parcel 9

^ developer Karman Zahedi and his project : a new hotel at Melnea Cass Boulevard’s Parcel 9

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If you were building a commercial structure on a parcel in Boston, and the local development review committee demanded that you pay your construction workers the “prevailing wage,” you’d probably be taken aback. Our state’s “prevailing wage” law applies to construction projects using public money. It does not apply to privately funded construction.

You’d be even more surprised, were that same development review committee to demand that the business to be housed in said commercial building employ only union workers. For this demand there’s no legal justification even by analogy. A union is something workers must gain on their own, by organizing, according to rules carefully set forth in laws both State and Federal. No one has any legal power to just force a union upon a business.

Yet that is precosely what the Boston Globe reports that two Boston City Councillors are demanding of the hotel that will occupy the building proposed or “Parcel 9,” a vacant strip of city-owned land on the in-town side of Melnea Cass Boulevard.

The Globe reports that the hotel partnership will scrap the project entirely rather than accede to this demand. i can’t blame them.

Killing the hotel would be a shame; even more shameful, as reported by the Globe, is that the demanders are quite Ok with killing it. There’s plenty of other developers who will agree to it, they claim. Do they really think that ?

The issue should be jobs, period. The hotel promises lots of them.

One wants to say “SMH” or even “WTF.”

Of course Roxbury benefits from more and better jobs. It is right and fair that developers investing in Roxbury provide good paychecks to workers, and that most of those workers be local folk wherever feasible. But to so impose upon developers, as a condition of neighborhood approval, is to risk losing jobs; and to require that businesses seeking to locate in Roxbury unionize is a deal-breaker. And should be.

No community approval committee has the right to tell a business how to conduct its affairs or to impose operating procedures. If this sort of thing is where community approval events are now at, it’s time to reconstruct the entire concept.

Community approval committees were first established in response to urban renewal dictatorships of the 1940s and 1950s which savaged and even wiped out entire residential neighborhoods without even a by-your-leave. This had to stop, and it did. But today, the rernedy that saved neighborhoods 60 years ago no longer works. Community approval meetings become manipulation by narrow-based advocacy cliques, often with a NIMBY or no-change agenda. Add in local elected officials who play to the crowd, and you’ve got a Madame DeFarge mob, a dictatorship every bit as lethal as the urban renewal. Caesars of the 1950s.

I’ve attended many Madison Park Development Oversight Committee meetings. i have seen the NIMBYers and the no-change agitators. I’ve heard the wage demands. I’ve listened to those who object to the radical population change going on all through Roxbury.

One rule almost always applies to meetings of this sort : those who oppose always show up, those who support mostly do not. And of course those who don’t care one way or the other aren’t heard at all. The opposition seems enormous when its 20 to 30 people domineer a smallish crowd.

The same thing is going on at the “community conversations” being held by the Boston 2024 Olympics Committee. Even though those who actively oppose bringing the Olympics to Boston are outnumbered ten to one on the ground, they show up in sufficient numbers — often the same people — at every meeting I’ve attended (so far) to make the Games look, to those who only read about in the media, like a fool’s wisp.

If Boston government does not take back its decision power, and do so decisively, it risks having big planning — traffic, housing, businesses, transportation — ground to bits by nay-sayers, extortioners, and personal agendas that should never become anything bigger than personal. And it’s all so futile. Boston is changing rapidly and enormously. The marketplace is changing it and cannot be stopped. After all the noise and grandstanding have ended, Boston — and Roxbury — will get to where they are going.

—- Mike Freedberg / Roxbury Here