Letter to the Editor: Let's Work Together to Make Whole Foods a Good Neighbor

City Councilor Matt O'Malley, who lives in and represents Jamaica Plain, explains his position on Whole Foods coming to the neighborhood.

While I am sad to see the departure of Hi-Lo from Hyde Square, the to the neighborhood can and should be a good thing for Jamaica Plain. Working across socio-economic, racial and cultural lines, we can join together as one community, one Jamaica Plain, to ensure that Whole Foods is a good neighbor and community partner.

Contrary to what many believe, was not forced out. The owners of the building and the business, the Knapp family - non-Latino and non-Jamaica Plain residents – decided to close the business and lease their space to Whole Foods. The owners of the building are the same individuals who have left a large grocery space vacant on Route 9 for nearly a decade. Whatever one’s feelings on the departure of Hi-Lo and entrance of Whole Foods, an empty storefront of that size would have been the most devastating option for Hyde Square. Given past practice of the Knapp family, I am relieved that this site won’t go the way of Omni Foods.  

Certainly there are concerns about the arrival of Whole Foods that are real: employment opportunities for the former employees of Hi-Lo, community benefits, traffic, parking, the impact on local businesses. These issues can and should be addressed collaboratively with the community and Whole Foods. Simply wishing that they “go away” will not make it so, nor would it in and of itself stop the demographic changes that have occurred in Jamaica Plain. There are proactive ways to preserve, protect and make even more vibrant the diverse Jamaica Plain we all love, and yes, Whole Foods can be a part of that.

Get involved  – perhaps you can help promote literacy with our kids, work on affordable housing initiatives, assist in a , advocate for the , or support . Whole Foods must be accountable as part of the solution. From direct financial contributions for our neighborhood organizations to more broad-based initiatives such as access to healthy, locally-grown foods for everyone, we cannot only survive but thrive with Whole Foods in the neighborhood.

Matt O'Malley

City Councilor, District 6


Rira April 01, 2011 at 03:05 PM
I would love to hear a reply from just 1 of the political leaders to this point. It begs the question - why does anyone support any such programs if at the end of 22 years, those kids are then told to stop achieving, in fact, to reverse their achievements and go back down hill , back down the ladder - by their district's elected political leaders from local to state reps and senators? For that matter, where is the Governor's office on this ? I think JP deserves a statement from the Governor's office - 100 jobs in an economically depressed area - that is certainly worthy of a policy statement. And unless I'm mistaken, Sanchez, once he achieved - moved up and out of Hyde sq to Moss Hill!! I'd love to hear him "Romney" his way out of that inconsistency! What message do his actions send to his Hyde Jackson constituents. Yet he has the audacity to tell us who still live right in Hyde Sq how we should manage our immediate neighborhood. I believe O'Malley does live here in Hyde sq ? .. and that give his words so much more profound weight.
AV April 01, 2011 at 03:09 PM
Chris, would it help if I stated here that I'm not a troll? I've been trying to get some answers from people who are opposed to Whole Foods, but unfortunately, other than rhetoric and ideology and maybe a sense of righting some previous wrongs, I haven't got a convincing or logical answer as to why they choose to oppose a store like Whole Foods, but not other businesses like The Haven (which is right there in Hyde Square), Ten Tables, City Feed & Supply etc. The other point that keeps appearing is a dogma of supporting local businesses. Yes, supporting local businesses is good, but I don't turn that into a blind faith irrespective of the quality of service, or ignore other factors. Besides, in today's world, a local economy is just not possible - make a list of the gadgets you use on a daily basis and let me know how many of them were made locally using local resources, and how many you bought from a local shop. In other words, I find the action hypocritical and irrational, and seems to me that it is activism - inconsistent at that - for the sake of activism (self-serving), rather than trying to achieve some measurable goal which will benefit all. It is your prerogative to not answer the questions I and other have asked you, but it will just strengthen my personal view that activists like you are misguided and cannot back up their stance in a logical manner when asked to do so.
AV April 01, 2011 at 03:17 PM
BTW, Chris, I hate to break it to you, but going by your own logic, when you *chose* to move to Jamaica Plain, you *actively* contributed towards that very gentrification which you're now railing against. That is, if you define gentrification as white people moving into a neighborhood. And assuming that it is a necessarily bad thing.
Principal April 01, 2011 at 03:49 PM
Chris, you shouldn't have posted your article on multiple networking sites (Facebook, Patch, UHub - am I missing any?) if you aren't able to confidently defend it and answer sincere questions about it. Surely you expected to generate questions and commentary? Isn't an earnest inquiry supportive of an open dialogue something you want for this issue? Or are you just trying to stir the pot and walk away?
Matt April 01, 2011 at 03:54 PM
Chris, like members of WhoseFood shows an admirable amount of idealism and ideology, but that’s about where it ends. No argument is supported by a fact or a figure, but by feelings and beliefs. They start the conversation with ‘no’ rather than trying to see where the community as whole can benefit from this. They deny that this store will open and hyperbolically compare it to a highway coming through their neighborhood. They talk about a phantom business that can take the space, a store which no one can name but all have heard about. Their entire foundation is built not just on false assumptions and lies, but such a palpable condescending attitude towards the disadvantage, unfortunately for whom they are pretending to represent. They are creating an aire of fear that Latino families are going to be evicted by the butlers of the incoming rich whites, who are going to pelt them on fair-trade organic whole wheat crackers as they are kicked to the curb. They are also telling these same families that they wants and deserve only a dirty, smelly market that sells nearly-rancid meat.
Rira April 01, 2011 at 04:20 PM
WOCKET & PRINCIPAL So well said! I really do not like to use such words, but when people like Chris, "put it out there" then "walk away" as you have said so well - they are simply just cowards. It is like school children who hang up the phone, when they cannot answer a question - once you hang up, "walk away" - you admit defeat - classic definition of losing an argument. If you are going to put a topic out for discussion in an academic environment, Boston ( in the shadow of the planet's finest universities) you must expect to defend your thesis in an academically rational method point by point with hard evidence - , real, actual, measurable facts on paper AND on the ground. If you cannot back up each and every point with sound irrefutable quantifiable evidence, you have not made your point. It is not persuasive. Point to a 3rd party study, that is unbiased, not commissioned by an organization with a vested interest in the result and cite the information - those results can then persuade. A Gallup or Harris poll for example. Specifically, naming a real , economically viable organization that has the means to lease the space on terms acceptable to the Knapps would be a great start -
Rira April 01, 2011 at 05:14 PM
Jullieanne, Is your comment general .. or for me? I see you are from the Mayor's office, yes? What is the Mayor's official policy statement on Whole Foods bringing 100 jobs to Hyde Jackson and eliminating the possibility of a vacant scar here - such as plagues Chestnut Hill? Is he for or against this? I think we are overdue for a specific letter to the JP Patch from Mayor Menino such as Councilor O'Malley has just published - please have the Mayor publish a letter either in clear favor and support of or clear rejection of 100 jobs, economic vitality, improved property values, an enhanced tax base for critical city services and opportunities for area residents and entrepreneurs coming to Hyde Jackson - 1,000's are waiting to hear from the Mayor with his specific position published.
Jack Litwinsky April 01, 2011 at 05:17 PM
now lets get a traders joe in West Roxbury instead of all those f***ing banks !!
Marc near the Park April 01, 2011 at 05:21 PM
I think Jullieanne's comment is for Matt O'Malley.
David Hannon April 01, 2011 at 07:02 PM
How about a Trader Joe's in Forest Hills?
Rira April 01, 2011 at 07:04 PM
it was ? for who? O' Malley or me , Rira or everyone who has commented generally? Can you pass along my request for a policy statement from the mayor, please?
Jack Litwinsky April 01, 2011 at 07:04 PM
close enough!! anything but another bank!
Marilyn April 01, 2011 at 11:11 PM
Thank you Matt! Very well said. You are doing a great job and keeping an eye to the future of Jamaica Plain. 57 year resident of Jamaica Plain (third generation)
Deselby April 02, 2011 at 05:56 AM
I think you got your answer. Jullieanne Doherty's comment has apparently been deleted. I remember it, you saw it, I can't find it now. Wow. Down the memory hole. What's up with that? Was she just expressing her own opinion, and then, as the mayor's community representative, was she ordered to have it removed?
David Hannon April 02, 2011 at 01:02 PM
It seemed that someone had been using Julianne's web browser to surf the net and had commented on the thread (under Julianne's name). Julianne probably deleted the post when she saw it.
David Hannon April 02, 2011 at 01:09 PM
I would like to add my voice to the chorus in asking our electeds to come out with statements regarding Whole Foods coming to JP as well as issues regarding the displacement of lower income residents from JP. Felix? Sonia? Tom? Jeffrey? Please stand up against the potentially violent rhetoric that has been tearing into the fabric of our community. Kudos to Matt and the others who already have.
Deselby April 02, 2011 at 01:19 PM
David, do you know that for a fact, or are you speculating? Kind of weird, someone using your browser (and by implication computer) and sign-in to comment in your name. Forgive me if I'm skeptical, as I believe Menino is playing ethnic and shakedown politics with this behind the scenes, based on his early demand, reported in the Herald, for a "private meeting" with Whole Foods.
Jullieanne Doherty April 02, 2011 at 01:31 PM
It was a just a mix up all, sorry for any confusion. Have a great rest of the weekend!
Steve Garfield April 02, 2011 at 01:39 PM
When you reply to a comment, you should click REPLY, under the comment you are replying to so we know what you are talking about. That will make your replies less confusing. #ironic
gretchen van ness April 02, 2011 at 01:51 PM
Hi David. Our elected officials have now received over 600 emails from the over 600 people who signed the JP For All petition (www.jpforall.org) , and JP For All's founder has specifically invited our elected officials to make a statement on this issue, without success. I, too, am disappointed at the failure of our elected leaders to lead our community and help keep this debate from becoming even more divisive.
David Hannon April 02, 2011 at 01:52 PM
@ Deselby. A comment followed Julianne's (also under her name) almost immediately after the original comment that said something to this effect (I'm paraphrasing): "Sorry. This is not Julianne, just an older friend who is using Julianne's browser to surf the web." Later, both comments were removed. Maybe a web-illiterate elder? That being said, we are all still waiting for Tom to come out with a statement, along with Felix, Sonia, Jeffrey and the other electeds that represent us.
Deselby April 02, 2011 at 01:53 PM
Well, Jullieanne, what is your opinion on Councillor O'Malley's letter? Or, as Mayor Menino's neighborhood representative, can you tell us what the mayor's stand on Whole Foods is? Will he let this routine change of ownership of a supermarket proceed without city government impediment?
Deselby April 02, 2011 at 01:59 PM
Thanks, agreed that the elected officials need to make a stand.
Steve Garfield April 02, 2011 at 01:59 PM
I missed this whole commenting problem. Would be nice if when a comment was deleted, it left a trail so people coming back later could see that something was deleted. Otherwise it makes no sense. In fact, when I just went to comment, it wasn't working. I had to refresh my browser to make this REPLY comment. Note to Chris: It would me nice if you could comment directly on a reply. Are any upgrades planned for the commenting system.
Bob from JP April 02, 2011 at 03:28 PM
it's not even a change of ownership..... WF isn't buying the building, they are just signing a lease......
Ken Pope April 02, 2011 at 03:52 PM
Felix Arroyo called me a week ago after I sent him an email about WF. He told me that he hadn't really come to a decision as of yet about it until they answered a few specific questions which he wanted clarified. He wanted the parking issue made concrete, and he wanted to know exactly how many JP residents would be given jobs there. It was a sometimes heated talk, as I pointed out that the video of him discussing WF certainly made it seem like he was dead against them moving in... Just an FYI.
Rebecca Greening April 02, 2011 at 04:39 PM
Thanks for this letter Matt! I am so glad voted for you to represent JP. As a someone born and raised in JP, I agree we should not let this Whole Foods issue be as divisive as it has become. The character of the neighborhood is important and it is a credit that a lot of people in the community care about the quality of life here. But, the deal is done. A private legal deal real estate deal between the Knapp family and Whole Foods cannot be undone by the masses - check the law if you disagree. Rallying against something because it is a large corporation, you think its too expensive, you dislike their business practices is your right. I have no problem with that. The issue is that there has been major polarization during this debate. To me it seems the anti-WF crowd has been demonizing people in support of Whole Foods by insinuating that if you are for Whole Foods you are for pricing lower income members of our community out. Having Whole Foods come to this community will actually benefit community based orgs here. We should be taking advantage of this opportunity to leverage corporate gain for the betterment of the community. Whole Foods has been pretty good about communicating with the community and I think we should be better about presenting ways for them to get involved. I also agree that more elected leaders should vocalize their opinions as Matt has.
Rebecca Greening April 02, 2011 at 04:40 PM
Also, what happened to the possibility of local bodega owners opening a mini Hi-Lo in the empty Blessed Sacrament space. JPNDC?? If this were to happen, what a great thing for small, local business owners to come out of this Whole Foods issue.
Chris Helms (Editor) April 02, 2011 at 06:14 PM
Hi Steve and all who have asked about improvements to our commenting system. We have an experienced team of engineers who work on these things and I suspect, over time, things will get better. And our new relationship with HuffPo is giving us access to some of their best practices, including setting up comment systems. Wish I had more specifics to give, all I can say is that I expect improvements!
Pat Roberts April 02, 2011 at 06:50 PM
I had a good laugh a couple of weeks ago when I read an interview with Felix Arroyo, who said he is a regular shopper at the Dedham Whole Foods--but he doesn't want us to have one here? And his posturing about "questions WF has to answer", as if he's so important, WF is surely cowering before him. Is this a normal practice when a business wants to open here, that they have to promise to hire all local people, and that they have to meet any parking demands an elected official makes? I don't know if City Feed has only hired local residents, but somehow, the parking issue must have been forgotten by our elected officials, because it's a challenge to park near there. I wonder if Arroyo will figure out a face-saving position on the WF question, or if he'll just continue to look ridiculous.


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