City Councilor Matt O'Malley: Whole Foods Debate Has "Broken the Neighborhood in Two"

O'Malley addressed questions at a "Town Hall-style" meeting regarding JP's future.

hosted a "town hall" style meeting at the to hear resident questions, concerns and complaints. Unsurprisingly, one of the big issues was ' arrival in the neighborhood. More than 40 people attended.

O'Malley explained his purpose for the meeting, "About three months ago, you all voted —not necessarily for me, but people across the district voted for me — and hired me for this job. This is a great opportunity for me to check in with my employers. Show my employers, 'this is what I've been working on,' and get direction from you."

O'Malley, who lives on the Arborway, described the councilor position as his "dream job." He represents District 6, which includes Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury.

In his opening remarks, O'Malley addressed the Whole Foods issue, "I don't want to see, continuing to happen, what has been happening, which is that it's broken the neighborhood in two. You're either a Hi-Lo person or a Whole Foods person. This neighborhood is bigger and better than that. We need to come together."

Several  to the Whole Foods Market, which will replace  were present. Responding to several anti-Whole Foods comments, O'Malley observed that the lease has already been signed. It is a private business deal, and there isn't anything he can do to affect it. His role deals more with zoning and variances, which he must take on a case-by-case basis, regardless of neighborhood opinion of Whole Foods.

O'Malley noted, "My biggest complaint in this whole thing has been the lack of a community process."

He pointed out several ways Whole Foods is working to become part of the community. So far, they have hired 12 of the 44 displaced Hi-Lo employees. O'Malley said he has organized a meeting with Whole Foods to talk about the possibility of using their buying power to resell some products, at cost, to the smaller bodegas. O'Malley described Whole Foods as "amenable" to this plan.

"I cannot accept the premise that Whole Foods coming is going to completely destroy the neighborhood. We've been through too much before." O'Malley added, "We can't let a supermarket divide us."

At-Large City Councilor Felix Arroyo, who also lives in JP, noted, "JP is one of those neighborhoods where everyone cares about our neighborhood, and we care about our neighbors."

O'Malley said he is working on other issues in the neighborhood. He notes that crime has seen a "marked drop," in part due to cold weather. Public safety initiatives, including more police officers on foot or on bikes, will help keep things that way. With regards to education, O'Malley's plans to find out what will happen to the . He is also talking about ways to bring more kids to the parks in JP.  City Council was scheduled to have a hearing on the subject this week, but it has been postponed.

According to O'Malley, throwing trash out costs the city $80 per ton, while the city is paid $3 per ton of recycled material, noting that "it's not only the right thing to do, good for the environment, but it's also good for the economy as well."

One neighbor commented on Jamaica Plain's dual personality, that parts of the neighborhood feel radically different compared to other sections. In order to address this split-nature, O'Malley said he would continue to hold office hours at a variety of neighborhood locations ranging from to . He will be at those locations five times a month.

The meeting began with a special guest, , who represents Jamaica Plain. His comments focused more on his work in the nation's capitol, bringing up a couple of the larger stories from across the country.

"I don't see how you can possible compromise Social Security. I don't see how you can compromise Medicare. I can't compromise WIC, I don't understand how anybody can look at a poor, nursing mother and tell her that this society doesn't want her to have adequate nutrition." Capuano's impassioned comments continued, "I want to live in a society that deals with these issues, and doesn't ignore them."

Said Capuano of unions, "We need to make a decision. Are we going to allow and encourage collective bargaining? I want to be really clear, for those of you who are not in unions, you benefit from their existence as well. Do you really think that a non-union carpenter would be getting $20 an hour if a union carpenter wasn't getting $25... If a union carpenter gets knocked down, the non-union guy gets knocked down too."

Rick S March 08, 2011 at 01:05 PM
There are a lot of us who don't feel like it is an either or situation, but an opportunity for everyone. Visit www.jpforall.org and click to sign the petition. Let our elected officials know that we are not a broken neighborhood, but a thriving place to live and do business.
Dougie M March 08, 2011 at 02:24 PM
We do not need more police officers on the streets. This will only result in more arrests, which is not the solution. We need a stronger commitment to community policing in which the community (including young people) and police work together to resolve issues. And we need quality, year-round jobs and youth programming for young people.
Shawn F. March 08, 2011 at 03:02 PM
Dougie, great points. remember when Boston put a focus on community policing a number of years ago. I believe that along with other factors (better economic times etc) helped decrease crime significantly. Let's see the time, effort, and dialog being used in the whole foods debate be used in getting Jackson Square developed with some more programs for families and the youth of JP.
Pat Roberts March 08, 2011 at 06:49 PM
Dougie, you must not live in Hyde Square, and you must not have been reading the papers in the last year. The Hyde and Jackson Square areas have a problem with some dueling gangs (as well as conflicts with a gang from Egleston Square). One of the more destructive things they do is shoot each other, and even worse, shoot others who happen to get in the way. While it would be nice if there were more efforts made to reform those members of the gangs and to persuade them to change their harmful lifestyle, in the meantime, having a strong police presence in Hyde Square has made all the difference in the number of shootings and other violent crimes we had been experiencing. It might also be worth noting that not every young (or not so young) person who can't find a job joins a gang and gets into wars with other gangs.
CCM March 09, 2011 at 01:16 AM
Dax-sorry to hear about your partner. Must have been (& possibly continues to be) a traumatic experience. Sure, police may catch criminals but I don't think they deter crime especially in an urban city environment. the fear of the police catching me for doing something wrong never factored into the decisions I made. We need more opportunities for everyone-jobs, positive programming, mentors, engaging schools, etc-that wld make our neighborhoods much healthier. I'd rather spend money on an after-school program for 20 youth or a job-training program for 20 adults than one police officer (just an example-I don't know the cost equivalent). That said, I'm cool w/ agreeing that we have different philosophies on this topic.
JohnD March 09, 2011 at 02:50 AM
One major argument for opposing Whole Foods is that it will likely raise local property values, which is almost certainly true. But does that mean we should only support businesses that will lower property values? Or somehow extract promises from new businesses that they will magically have no effect on property values? Clearly that reasoning doesn't make sense, and thus neither does that particular argument against Whole Foods.
Rira March 09, 2011 at 04:11 AM
Speaking of the evils of gentrification - where is the outrage over the new awnings at the corner of Day and Centre that uplifted that Beauty supply store, hyde sq liquor, Food Wall etc - Where are the protests - why didnt the Hyde sq task force, La Vida Urbana and the 'whose fooders' come out in force and fight to keep the old awnings - keep property values low and hyde sq blighted and true to its ungentrified roots. ... and a bit further a field on the edge of Hyde square at Canary Square - the brand new shiny full color signage for Quisqueya Bakery - where is the outrage - gentrification at it's worse - and to add insult to the new signage, a new fresh paint job and spot lighting on their beautiful displays - outrageous - they must be stopped! Did they raise pricing on their cakes - did any one check - there should be cake price controls - are they being monitored by " the committee " .
James LaFond-Lewis March 09, 2011 at 12:20 PM
Rira, I have begun to read your comments looking for the wise-cracking smile that underlies them. Not that I can't see your teeth, but I'm smiling, too.
Rira March 09, 2011 at 11:01 PM
Bagged! You got me James - and I thought people would think I was being serious - cuz you know the whose fooders ARE serious- they think fresh paint and new awnings are clear signs of the devil's ascension to terra firma - Lucifer cometh via shiny new bus enclosures and of course the brooms on the street sweeping machines are witch's brooms, all part of the grand evil conspiracy - to clean up earth for possession by the devil of socio economic opportunities for all. BUT the JPNC is here - to save us from ourselves - oh happy day. What do we know- they are the great ones - saving earth from evil, the JPNC - vanquishing Satanic Whole Foods and those awful wage paying 100 jobs with benefits - preserving the Hyde Square garden of vacancy & joblessness for all of us.
John Stephen Dwyer March 10, 2011 at 11:09 PM
I have lived in Jamaica Plain off-and-on since 1967 and, obviously, I have seen more changes than I can count. All of them were opposed (sometimes violently) by someone. Ultimately, all have been widely accepted and contribute to the character of JP in the 21st Century. We should be uncomfortable with the assumption that anything viewed as “a threat to the current neighborhood” should be resisted. Wouldn't it be wrong to (for example) oppose the creation of a Hispanic supermarket in a mostly Irish-American section of West Roxbury on the grounds that it would change the character of the community and possibly change housing values? In the area of Hyde Square, some of the people who benefit from increasing property values are part of the same Spanish-speaking population people are trying to “protect.” No matter what your ethnic background, how would you feel to learn that someone was actively engaged in a campaign to stop the value of your property from increasing? While gentrification has a downside, the ghetto-izatio of JP's Hispanophone community has a downside as well. Let's be careful what we wish for. We are all entitled to opinions, and here's mine: Without us having a strong, feasible and promptly-implementable alternative to Whole Food's arrival, actively opposing it is deeply misguided.
Pat Roberts March 11, 2011 at 12:19 AM
Even if people did have a strong, feasible and promptly-implementable alternative to Whole Foods, it was a private business transaction between Knapp Foods and Whole Foods. We aren't invited into the conversation. So far, even in JP, one business can make a deal with another, and as long as they follow the normal rules and procedures, they are allowed to do that. We don't have a Central Committee here that gets to decide what stores open here, what housing is built here, etc.--fortunately.
alfonzo Cantor March 17, 2011 at 02:23 PM
Wow!! They would rather see vacant businesses than WF, at least that is what it sounds like to me. I go to WF in a few places to get my burritos and other ethnic foods. The prices for much of the items I buy are the same of lower than at the supermarket. What a wasted opportunity which will send a message to other businesses looking to relocate. Maybe we can get some more convenience stores to maintain the obesity levels we've become used to seeing.
DirtySouth March 17, 2011 at 04:15 PM
Don't mean to pick on you for this, Alfonzo, but can't we just be cool about this topic for like a day. It's St. Pat's, and in this neighborhood that always means great things. Even moreso in Hyde Square this year, as the Behan crowd finally gets some company at the Haven. So much Guinness and Belhaven, so little time.
Pat Roberts March 17, 2011 at 07:31 PM
They would definitely rather see nothing where Hi-Lo used to be. Some of the motivation behind this no Whole Foods push is from the people who make a living providing services and housing to low-income people. They worry that their low-income population is diminishing, and that a Whole Foods store in Hyde Square might accelerate the process. That will mean smaller paychecks for them, if their target population is smaller.
Eric March 17, 2011 at 09:14 PM
Yes, Pat, because as we all know, people flock to work for non-profits serving low-income people because of the tremendous financial opportunities. You have no basis for your allegations besides what appears to be your unbridled cynicism and that's really unfortunate.
Bob from JP March 17, 2011 at 09:21 PM
Let's leave conjecture aside and focus on the facts. To date, WF opponents have not presented a single viable alternative to WF occupying this space. So, it follows that they would rather have it sit empty than have a WF there.
DirtySouth March 17, 2011 at 10:54 PM
Well, so much for that. Thank you Pat, Eric and JP for not being able to keep your traps shut for a measly 24 hours. Better to feed the beast than starve it to death, eh "supporters?"
DirtySouth March 18, 2011 at 12:22 PM
Hey, look who held off until Friday! Good boy, Marc! I'm gonna go to Polka Dog and get you the specialest little biscuit!
Pat Roberts March 18, 2011 at 12:26 PM
You know, if you don't want to read any comments about an issue because a particular day is special to you, you could just turn off your computer. It's a little odd that you think others should necessarily share your ideas about what days are special and how they should be observed.
DirtySouth March 18, 2011 at 01:06 PM
Funny, some would find it a little odd that you think others should necessarily share your ideas about which classes "clean up the neighborhood," but that didn't stop you from speaking your mind, did it?
ctp March 18, 2011 at 01:38 PM
Hey, if you kids want to yell insults at each other and be generally uncivil, do it in a neighborhood council meeting.


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