Letter Prompts Firestorm Among Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council Members
A letter written by several Neighborhood Council members as private citizens sparked fierce debate about the role of the members as residents and elected representatives of JP.
A letter written by several members of the elected advisory board that represents JP — but distributed by them as private citizens — has become a major flash point.
On Tuesday heated words filled the JP Neighborhood Council meeting. At issue was a letter issued last week that pointed out campaign contributions made to local politicians by developers seeking to erect big apartment buildings along South Huntington.
On one hand, chairperson Ben Day and his supporters said they have a right not to muzzle their opinions simply because they serve on the council.
On the other, critics said a letter that was "highly inflammatory and embarassing to [local] officials" undermined the JPNC's ability to work with those politicians to advocate for the neighborhood.
The letter was careful not to identify the writers as belonging to the JPNC, but to emphasize their roles as concerned neighborhood residents.
Veteran Council Member Resigns
One of the JPNC's longest-serving members, Francesca Fordiani, felt strongly enough about the issue to tender her resignation.
"This was no mere misstep by a well-intentioned few," she wrote in her resignation letter. "This was a dramatic departure from how the JPNC has functioned, and how its members have conducted themselves. A damaging precedent is being set and, if it is allowed to stand, the implications may prove to be profound and long-lasting."
Ben Day, the chairperson of the JPNC, defended the actions of he and several other council members.
"We don't have a policy about when to use our JPNC affiliations," he said.
Another council member involved with the letter defended it on grounds that neighborhood advocates shouldn't have to care how elected officials feel.
"If we don't organize," Oliver De Leon said, " it's never going to change. We have to keep fighting for the purposes of the press release, which is affordable housing."
Martha Rodriguez, a signatory of the letter, sounded a similar theme.
"It's just the opinions of residents who also happen to be Neighborhood Council members," the council member said.
Former Council Member Seeks Day's Ouster
After Tuesday's meeting, a group met to hash out whether a new policy is called for when council members speak publicly.
One former council member called for nothing less than Day stepping down as chairperson.
"I've decide to do a JP wide signature campaign to have him resign," Stephen Lussier emailed Patch. "My goal is 6,000 signatures. The mission of the JPNC has always been to listen to the residents of JP- It is my hope when I deliver the signatures to the November meeting they will have to listen."