Wednesday, May 09, 2007

State Senate Candidates' forum, May 8, 2007

The State Senate candidates’ forum at the LBJ apartments in Cambridge was last night.

Barrios's endorsee, Revere City Councilor Dan Rizzo was, he said, not clear on all the details of the Urban Ring.

East Boston State Representative Anthony Petrucelli seemed aware of the various Phases and repeatedly endorsed rail. There was one question on the Urban Ring (not mine) and a second reference from someone who said she would have asked about it if the first person hadn't.

I asked about plans for regulation Little League fields at Magazine Beach and the algae bloom last summer just offshore the new “Teddy Ebersol’s Red Sox” Little League fields at Lederman Park.

Runoff there from the 6 acres of commercial sod, with its necessary regimen of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides (as applied last August and September) led to the unprecedented algae bloom last August and September. I pointed out that the state Department of Conservation and Resources' plans to put in 7 acres of the same stuff at Magazine Beach. We can anticipate the same results. Petrucelli seemed very concerned about beaches, is on the Beaches committee so I'll try to follow up with him on that.

Afterwards I spoke with Rep. Marty Walz about my e-mail to her about the algae bloom and plans for Magazine Beach. She asked if she could forward my e-mail to the DCR for information and I said yes, even a denial of any relation would be useful.

I intended to speak to Marc McGovern, the former Cambridge school committee member who’s pushing for the Little League fields at Magazine Beach, to ask him his opinion of the standard and extraordinary applications of chemicals to the stressed commercial turf on those fields, but missed him. My e-mail to Representative Walz on this subject was addressed to him as well.

Heather Hoffmann in her question time referred to my comments about the algae bloom and said the power plant in East Cambridge has been pumping out hot water into the Charles and that could help answer the question about cause.

Representative Walz and I, speaking after the question session and before I spoke with Heather, agreed that we didn't know any changes with the power plant, but assuming there had been a change, it was possible the changes at Ebersol fields and the power plant could together cause the algae bloom.

Heather told me after that that the power plant has increased operation from 4 to 20 hours a day since its sale by NSTAR to the current owners and is "cooking the Charles." She says the EPA is going after the owners.

She said the current owners, in trying to get out of building the pedestrian walk along the canal in front of the plant (mitigation), has offered Cambridge City Manager Robert Healy a half-million dollar “contribution,” to be paid to the Manager and used at his complete discretion for whatever he wants, with the sole exception that it not be spent in East Cambridge. The payment would be to release them current owners from the obligation of the pedestrian walk, mitigation for an undone mitigation, I guess. (I remember being at a meeting of the Cambridge Conservation Commission or the Board of Zoning Appeal at which the owners said they didn’t want to provide the “mitigation” promised, i.e., the walkway.)

The owners cited security then and now. Heather says there is none at the plant. A group of 12 East Cambridge residents, probably members of the East Cambridge Planning Team, met at the plant and were alone there for 15 minutes while they searched for the person who was supposed to meet them there on the matter of the walkway.

Security consists of a closed gate and lock, when the plant’s owners remember to do that. Otherwise the thing is wide open.

Kathy Podgers asked a question about harborage and habitat for urban wildlife, and only Rizzo had any clue what she was talking about. Petrucelli told her after the meeting his family had had skunks under the porch, that they had had them removed, and now they have problems with squirrels.

Kathy pointed out the skunks would keep the squirrels away, but she says he still didn't understand. He seems part of the leadership, she said, and look where we are on protecting the environment.

Nevertheless I'll follow up with him on Magazine Beach and the DCR.

In the forum and afterwards Petrucelli pointed with pride to his help getting more money for the DCR. I told him I didn’t think giving the DCR more money would help anything. They use it not for maintenance of what they have but to keep Plans and its design-development constituents happy, at public expense.

He seemed aware of the DCR’s history of neglecting its assets, so as to be able to replace them at greater cost than what ordinary maintenance would cost. I pointed this is how the DCR services its design-development constituents, and also mobilizes public support for the survival of its own Planning group.

On reflection now I see DCR Plans works to identify itself in the public mind as the “good” DCR and is happy to let Maintenance, which Plans consistently underfunds so it can have its major development projects, be the “bad” DCR

Marilyn Wellons