Neighborhood Council Picks Team to Negotiate With Whole Foods

City Councilor Matt O'Malley opposes a Community Benefits Agreement based on the recommendations in a Neighborhood Council report.

The , a volunteer elected body, has deputized five of its members to negotiate a potential agreement with Whole Foods on what sort of benefits the grocer will provide.

"Community Benefits Agreements" are sometimes crafted when big developments come to a neighborhood. The idea is to mitigate any negative impacts of the new development and enhance positive ones.

The Neighborhood Council voted 11-2 on Tuesday night to create a smaller group to handle any talks with the grocery chain, which plans to open in Hyde Square in late fall. The grocer's arrival has splintered public opinion in JP, with some welcoming the store while others argue it will increase the negative effects of gentrification, like pricing long-time residents out of the neighborhood.

The push for a benefits agreement could help heal those divisions, said Neighborhood Council Member Red Burrows.

"Can we make something positive of this and stop the venom that's being pushed around our neighborhood?" said Burrows.

The move to form the negotiating team came after council members reported the feedback they'd gotten from various community groups and politicians on the recommendations made in a (PDF) on Whole Foods' arrival.

Some of the recommendations in the report include that Whole Foods should provide "affordable, healthy and culturally-appropriate food," that it commit to hiring 75 percent Jamaica Plain residents and that it create a fund for "anti-displacement work."

Another of the recommendations is that Whole Foods create a "JP Bucks" program, a kind of food stamps for low-income JP residents which would be redeemable only at locally-owned JP food sources like bodegas and farmer's markets.

Reaction from stakeholders contacted by the JPNC was mixed. Jamaica Plain's district city councilor, Matt O'Malley, flatly rejected the idea of a Community Benefits Agreement forged from the recommendations in the report.

"While I appreciate the hard work that has gone into preparing the Ad-Hoc Committee’s report, I do not support this community benefits agreement," he wrote in a statement to the JPNC. "It is unenforceable, and several of the requests made therein are unreasonable. It could also set a precarious precedent."

However, the most vocal anti-Whole Foods group, Whose Foods, embraced the idea of a Community Benefits Agreement.

In a letter to the Neighborhood Council, Whose Foods proposed five criteria for a proposed agreement. [Editor's note: That letter will be posted at right as soon as possible, pending resolution of technical problems.]

One of those five points is support for "tenants' rights and affordable housing."

"Due to the Whole Foods' stores documented reputation as accelerators of gentrification in urban areas, we feel that low and moderate income residents of Jamaica Plain deserve a slice of the pie, so to speak, " the letter reads. "We demand that a small fraction of the Jamaica Plain store's annual revenue — 1 percent — be dedicated to a trust fund for the creation and preservation of affordable housing as well as anti-displacement and tenants rights organizing."

A trust fund along those lines was . Her office declined to discuss the JPNC's report, according to Dave Baron, the Neighborhood Council member tasked with seeking out her opinion of the Whole Foods committee report.

Baron said that it seemed to him that the Neighborhood Council has an "optics problem" with people's perception of the report. He said those who actually read the report will find a "pretty neutral report" that makes recommendations in many areas where "pro-Whole Foods" and "anti-Whole Foods" people can agree.

The JPNC continues to reach out to various community groups on the subject.

The negotiating group is made of five council members who volunteered:

  • Jesse White
  • Francesca Fordiani
  • Andrea Howley
  • Karly Ausiello
  • Pam Bender

The two council members who voted "no" to forming the negotiating cadre were Michael Reiskind and Jeremy Harold.

A meeting between the JPNC and Whole Foods has been set for early September, according to Howley, chairman of the advisory board. She declined to give the exact date. However, she said it would be the five members of the negotiating group who would be meeting with the grocer.

JP Pragmatist July 27, 2011 at 03:25 PM
For that matter, the Harvest has food rotting on its shelves ... I guess that is a JP standard. Will the JPNC require that 'rotting food' be in the Community Benefits Agreement?
Leman July 27, 2011 at 03:46 PM
Actually I've noticed much better produce at Harvest lately. Competition is an excellent motivator! City Feed should just expand their seating capacity and add table service. Their groceries/dry goods are crazy expensive, and quite possibly culturally inappropriate!
JP Pragmatist July 27, 2011 at 04:20 PM
Customer feedback, followed by sales turnover is the best test for 'culturally appropriate' . That is what has worked for merchants for millennia (sp?) literally. Study the history of trade.
Leman July 27, 2011 at 05:22 PM
My reference to 'cultural appropriateness' was strictly tongue-in-cheek. It's actually about as condescending a term as I've ever heard, so I can't make reference to it except sarcastically. My point was that competition (i.e. from the entry of WF into the JP market) is a good thing, and existing stores will find ways to compete, or they won't. I learned this principle from my study of trade over the past millennium or so :)
Maura July 27, 2011 at 05:26 PM
Jamaica Plainer...how do you feel about 7-11 and CVS and Stop & Shop and Rent-a-Center and Ace Hardware? Big corporations one and all. They must be gotten rid of, no? Where is the organizing around that?
Pat Roberts July 27, 2011 at 06:37 PM
JP Pragmatist: Thanks, but I think the neighborhood council is an idea whose time had come, and now is gone. It would be better for them all to resign, turn off the lights, and go home, and let everyone get on with their lives without this self-important group of toadies trying to run things.
JP Pragmatist July 27, 2011 at 06:49 PM
Pat, I agree, but they do have the incredible power of the spotlight and the media loves to cover them. So diluting their craziness is of profound importance especially now and from what I;ve seen of your powerful voice, JP needs YOU on the council to balance off the moon bats - please re-consider helping to take back JP from those leftists lost in in the 60's, Please Pat, consider it.
Michael Christopher July 27, 2011 at 07:05 PM
You know, this thread is really telling. A few months ago, the comments section would have been dominated by Whose Fooders, people decrying the overtaking of their neighborhood by the big bad corporation, and clowns that work at Trader Joe's who try to hang anti-Whole Foods banners at what was supposed to be a peaceful community meeting. I don't know if some of them have given up, come to their senses, or decided to waste their energy elsewhere, but one would hope that they are embarrassed by the ridiculousness of the JPNC, have maybe realized that Whole Foods will be a positive element in JP and are willing to embrace what the majority of residents in this town are excited to welcome. Then again, it is only 3pm, and maybe now that many of them are just waking up after a long night of listing "culturally-appropriate food," will smoke a few American Spirits to go with those first cups of joe for the day, then begin making nonsense per usual up in here.
Deselby July 27, 2011 at 07:10 PM
I think they thought they would roll out their nonsense, stun everyone into silence and collect the shakedown easily. When they met opposition, the politicians like Chang-Diaz, Arroyo and Sanchez bailed on them, the non-profits officially "disavowed any knowledge" and they were left alone. Their websites haven't been updated in weeks. It could be the kids who do them are home in Westchester and Greenwich counties for the summer.
Bill July 27, 2011 at 08:31 PM
"The JP Neighborhood Council, a volunteer elected body, has deputized five of its members to negotiate a potential agreement with Whole Foods on what sort of benefits the grocer will provide." (quote from article) Sounds like a Cold War policy, ahem... 'We have established a group of selected volunteers and you will follow their orders, comrades.' "A volunteer elected body" seems a contradictory phrase. They volunteered and then elected each other? They volunteered and continue to elect each other? ACK! What continues to mystify me is why other legitimate groups and corporations give them any attention at all. Is it possible to oust these people or at least take from them the ability to claim to speak for the community? If not, why not? I'm from an era of more direct action: flash-mob their meetings with genuine community activists -- no politicians.
JP Pragmatist July 27, 2011 at 08:50 PM
Yes, Bill you CAN 'oust' them. Run for a seat, I'll vote for you. if everyone here ran for seats, this whole thing would over. All of you DO realize that, don't you. You do realize that no normal people run for seats, so we are stuck with these loonys . if everyone here ran and signaled to JP that we can change our community and take it back from the 60's idealogues, we would have an entirely different JP - but it takes a 2 year commitment . If any of you mean what you say here, put your words into action, take JP back from the fringe leftists & run for seats!
Ken Pope July 27, 2011 at 11:47 PM
Perhaps I'm wrong,, but I heard that Red Burroughs (wife of current JPNC member Pam Bender) was appointed - not elected? Can anyone confirm or deny this?
Rick S July 28, 2011 at 12:53 AM
Ken. Not sure about Red or Pam, but Dave Baron was appointed after originally losing his seat in the last election.
Pat Roberts July 28, 2011 at 03:02 PM
Ken: How it works is that they hold elections for the neighborhood council seats. Those who get the most votes in their district (JP is divided into districts for this event) are on the NC. If there aren't enough people for the available seats, which is a frequent occurrence, then those elected to the NC appoint whoever they want to fill the vacant seats. While that seems undemocratic, remember that even those who win the election are elected with a tiny number of votes. I think the total votes cast in NC elections represents around .01% of the JP population. So it's pretty much all a few people and their friends, whether they are elected or appointed.
Damian Fabia July 28, 2011 at 08:21 PM
Matt O'malley is the only one with a brain here. The whole committee should be fired!! Last time I checked it's a free country that practices capitalism......this whole topic from day one has been absolutely ridiculous. You people can not be serious ? a fund for displaced workers? How about a fund for you to go back to school and get an education that you are clearly missing!!!!
Damian Fabia July 28, 2011 at 08:22 PM
your right it is nothing short of extortion! I'll vote for you too if you run!!
JP Pragmatist July 28, 2011 at 08:47 PM
I hope all of you are running! You do know that if even the few people HERE run, the JPNC as it exists now is done. It's over. No one normal has run for years, no one even knows there are elections. For decades, there has been so little interest that existing JPNC members have to appoint people, so guess who they appoint? Their pals .. they do not do a search to balance the ideology - no way - they pick like minded moon bats. So if we run and get normal people on the council we can take JP back from the brink of lunacy. We can then start to attract normal people, businesses and jobs here. We can start to fill some of the vacancies in Hyde square. I'm sure businesses are terrified to even consider opening here for fear of the looney squad they'd face at the JPNC. So run for seats guys and gals! Then tell all of your friends to get out and vote for you !!! The talk here is meaningless if you do not run for seats and take back OUR JP.
Bill July 28, 2011 at 09:32 PM
Well stated, JP. Let me add my favorite quote on normalcy --"Normal is a cycle on a washing machine; it doesn't apply to people." =) I like the term 'Moon Bats,' and maybe 'poseurs' will fit to a degree. Those being the most inoffensive terms that come to mind, I'll leave it there. I agree, there's big grumbling about a coup and overthrowing the existing junta, but it has to go beyond all that. It's clearly not possible to rhetoric the JPCN out of existence, they appear to be impervious to outside input and opinions. Time to "get up or shut up!" as the old street saying goes.
JP Pragmatist July 28, 2011 at 09:44 PM
Zackly, my point. So Bill, will you run for a seat? Shake up the council? Freshen the air with some balance? Show some ole career JPNCers the door? Show the world that JP is not 37,400 looney tuners, because we all know that these moon tunes have painted ALL of us with that brush. People outside of JP think all of us IN JP are all lunar cycled anti gravity kumabaya singers!
Bill July 28, 2011 at 10:54 PM
JJP, believe me, I'd enjoy that -- I have few reservations about engaging in an uproar, even if I had to start it. BUT, sigh, after living in JP for decades, we were finally condo-ed out twice in a year and drifted into 02131. My heart is for-evah in JP, but my arse is now physically in Rozzy, nay-bah. I'll cancel my connection to the JP Patch and leave quietly... Clop, clop, clop...
Pat Roberts July 29, 2011 at 05:56 PM
JP Pragmatist: While it is attractive to think we could have a neighborhood council that would help and encourage market-rate housing, and more businesses, in Hyde Square, and so it would be a good thing to elect people with that agenda, the stumbling block in my mind is that the neighborhood council actually has no real function (except the one it has taken on, of being a servant of the left). The neighborhood councils were started by a previous mayor as a form with no content, to get residents to think they were influencing local decisions. The neighborhood councils don't make binding decisions. All the real decisions are made downtown. This is just window-dressing. Thinking of that, it seems to me JP would progress faster and further if we just got rid of the (extraneous) neighborhood council, and got out of the way of people who wanted to invest in our community.
JP Pragmatist July 29, 2011 at 10:54 PM
Well living IN JP didnt stop one specific person who we all know from participating on the infamous 'ad hoc' committee - and the JPNC turned a blind eye to it - but of course his politics aligned with theirs so they gave him a free pass.
JP Pragmatist July 29, 2011 at 10:55 PM
oops I mean NOT living IN JP didnt stop him - from serving on the ad hoc commitee! (confusing double negatives) i.e. a Roxbury resident served on the ad hoc committee by special privilege.
JP Pragmatist July 29, 2011 at 11:08 PM
In theory true, Pat. no question. by the letter of the law - you are right. BUT as we all know too well, the councils DO have a profoundly powerful SPOTLIGHT. That is all that matters. Spotlights are power. This council shines spotlights in bizarro directions and has the entire state abuzz and that gives them far more power than any vote downtown. Businesses are terrified to step foot here. THAT is power. They have the power to terrorize businesses. Scare away employers and new residents. We need to nip their power, by shining that spotlight in other directions. Pat and others, run for seats, wrest control of that spotlight and shine it in more productive directions. Shine it on issues that we want our politicians and the media to focus on that will do great things for JP. It is up to us to shine that spotlight where we want to in ways that more fairly represents our 37,400 residents ... or passively sit back and let them pick the issues that they want to devote our time to. They have so much power, very real power, they have 1,000's of people all over Massachusetts talking about JP in ways they never did before. In ways that no newspaper or politician ever did. We need to take that power from them and re-direct it to better causes. Pat, use your voice from a seat on the council, you still have a few days to get your name on the ballot, please make a real difference in JP, please bring the voice of reason to JP.
Bill July 30, 2011 at 03:27 AM
JPP, nice idea but unlikely I'd get 'grandfathered in' under the existing cult regulations. I'm hardly a loyal fan of the Jamaica Pain Nepotism Cult and would definitely raise my voice for the neighborhood, but my reality it is what it is. I now fear that'll be a tough nut to crack unless folks are really, honestly fed-up and want to jump into the fray. Peace on.
JP Pragmatist July 30, 2011 at 02:40 PM
Tue true Bill, but we all know if you were a Marxsist, they would give you a free pass, on a silver platter that they lifted from the palace .. in the name of liberating the platter 'for the people' of course.
Amy BB July 30, 2011 at 02:43 PM
Pat - I agree with you mostly, but I think that the JPNC could become useful once again. I think of them as a 'weather stick' for the decisions made downtown (as you so aptly pointed out - decisions are not made here). But as you and many others have pointed out, their opinions have become useless and ignored (witness how the check cashing place did not get their license to buy gold for cash despite the JPNC approving it). I think if the NC were formed with people with logical / critical thinking abilities, the group could be seen as useful once again. The point is that those Downtown don't know us and the NC's opinion was to help them make a decision that would be in line with the community's wishes or sensibilities (as it were). The issue at hand is that the NC needs to keep in mind is that anything they issue is merely an *opinion.* With the overriding goal to help Downtown make their decisions. **Opinion.**
JP Pragmatist July 30, 2011 at 03:38 PM
Amy BB, My ( and I think many people's) point exactly. I have heard from dozens of downtown people, they they do not take the JPNC seriously for just that reason. They know that the JPNC does not represent the true diversity of our 37, 400 people, so they essentially don't even look at JPNC opinions and havent for decades. and that is a fact. I have been told that personally. so we really do need to have a balanced NC so that we cant start to be taken seriously downtown and by businesses and hopefully future residents.
Bill July 30, 2011 at 03:39 PM
Tis a scene right out of Animal Farm. The platter of Community Control, comrade? Of course, it is stored here for safety and only the Inner Circle may use it. This is done for the good of the community, because we said so. As Napoleon and Squealer dance happily... JP good! JPNC better! Your ideas okay! Our ideas better! Our ideas good! Your ideas bad! "All animals are equal, but some animals more than others."
Mary Hannon July 31, 2011 at 02:19 AM
Go Matt! and about the JPNC - they can serve a purpose as facilitators for downtown boards and decisions and neighborhood associations opinions ... I recommend that every neighborhood association get together and elect a member to represent their neighborhood to the council. "Neighborhood Council" We could have some "at large" seats. The Jamaica Pond Association, the stony brook Association, Sumner Hill, AMSNA, you get the picture.. yes, true that there might not be neighborhood associations in every area but each person should actually represent their neighbors..and right now I see some rogue activists feeding their interests and patting each other on the back - not all, but there are quite a few.


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