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."

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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