Friday, August 16, 2013

Mayoral candidate Dan Conley offers 5-point East Boston Action Plan

From the Conley campaign prepared for August 15 press conference at LoPresti Park, East Boston:

East Boston is one of our city’s great neighborhoods.  It is also, for many Boston residents, one of the least visited and explored.  This is a shame because East Boston is a place unlike any other in our city.  It is rich in history and culture and physical beauty.

It also holds a special place in my heart because it was in East Boston, at Jeffries Point, that my grandfather, Severo DeNapoli, landed here from Italy.  Jeffries Point was Boston’s own Ellis Island and for years welcomed immigrants from around the globe to our city.  To this day, East Boston lives out its history and tradition as it remains home to new generations of new Bostonians.

Like every neighborhood, East Boston has its challenges.  I’m proud of my work and partnerships in this neighborhood that I’ve built over the years, and in the last few months I’ve undertaken a lot of new conversations with residents and business owners about what they love about this neighborhood and how they envision their future.

What we are announcing today is not a complete or comprehensive list of all that we would hope to accomplish here.  We are all concerned about issues ranging from public health to education to trash and other basic city services.  But a number of ideas emerged that made such good common sense for improving the quality of life in East Boston.  So today, we are announcing what we call a 5-point action plan to address quality-of-life issues in East Boston.

First, let’s move the toll plazas onto Logan Airport land.  The tolls were originally meant to capture airport traffic, but today, any one from anywhere leaving East Boston through the tunnels pays the toll.  Boston residents shouldn’t have to pay a toll to visit one of their own neighborhoods, and East Boston residents who don’t own an EZ Pass certainly shouldn’t have to pay a toll to leave their own neighborhood.  It’s also unfair to East Boston’s restaurant and business owners who have difficulty attracting visitors from the rest of the city because of the exit toll.  If I’m elected Mayor, I’m going to fight put the tolls back where they belong, on airport land, to capture revenue from airport users, as intended, and stop penalizing East Boston residents businesses and visitors this great neighborhood.

Second, the East Boston waterfront is an unrealized gem.  It holds what I think is the single best view of the Boston skyline and holds unlimited potential.  From this very spot you can see how amazing- and how underutilized - the waterfront is.  Too much of the East Boston waterfront is simply inaccessible to residents, large swaths of broken concrete, chain link fences complete with No Trespassing signs, and vacant, boarded up buildings.  It’s time to bring the East Boston community back to its own waterfront  create places for parents to take their kids fishing, put a canoe or a kayak in the water.  As Mayor, I’m going to use every tool in my chest to force landlords to make use of these properties in a manner that makes sense and benefits the neighborhood, or get out of the way for those who will.  We’re going to bring a mix of residential, commercial, retail and recreational uses to this waterfront - not to mention jobs and economic opportunity!  And we’re going to do it the right way, with the full participation of the East Boston community.

Third, I will prioritize the creation of a thoroughfare linking Maverick Square with Orient Heights.  Great communities tend to have main arteries joining their important commercial and social hubs.  East Boston has these locations, but they need a Main Street to link them all together and encourage growth in between them.  I will push for this Main Street as Mayor and will advocate at the state and federal levels for whatever additional resources we might need to get it done.

Fourth, I intend to bring back the "Little City Hall" to East Boston.  This idea is fondly remembered by a lot of longtime Boston residents, but few neighborhoods seem to love and miss this more than East Boston.  I think that partly because of East Boston’s geography, it is physically a virtual island, the Little City Hall allowed residents to resolve issues without having to go downtown.  But it’s also because of the unique pride that defines East Boston.  They felt that much more connected to their city government and exerted greater influence over the services and decisions that affected this neighborhood.  Finally, if elected, I'll fight to bring the Little City Hall back to East Boston.

Finally, I want to improve taxi service for East Boston.  Right now, there are a number of issues with cab service here: a minority of drivers take advantage of the confusion surrounding tolls to charge inflated fares; some other drivers are reluctant to serve East Boston for fear of not finding a fare back to the rest of the city; and still other drivers use residential streets as cut-throughs to avoid tolls.  Although these may sound like minor inconveniences, they actually make East Boston a harder place to visit, which harms residents and businesses.  As mayor, I will crack down on price fixing and these other practices.

Some of the agenda items we’ve laid out today are big, and some of these ideas are more particular to this neighborhood.  But the job of the Mayor is to make big decisions and to make fixing the smaller issues your purpose and priority because those are the things that often have the greatest impact on the quality of life in a neighborhood.  It's to have an ongoing conversation with residents, to understand the unique needs of a neighborhood, and find ways to fix them.
I am so proud and so appreciative of the way this package of ideas was created: through conversation and discussion with people all over East Boston.  Those are conversations I will continue with residents here and in every neighborhood each and every day as Mayor. Because when we make a great neighborhood like East Boston strong, we make our entire city even stronger.