Many stories in fire hose of Mass. Ave. public record

Here’s what one Grafton Street resident told the Massachusetts Department of Transportation about crossing Mass Ave.:

student_crosswalk_sign_2I would like to tell you a true story of crossing that street with my son when he was nine, and two other boys as I was taking them to the Hardy School in the morning.

I am an extremely safety conscious person and yet, at the other end, as we were approaching Sabatino’s, it just so happened that one of the three boys who was with me was hit by a car.

I had taken every precaution, as had the children. It was a slow circumstance and, thank goodness, there was no damage to the child physically.

I have been there. Many of us have had near misses more times than we can count in a four-lane pedestrian crosswalk. So,… if I am left to weigh…additional travel time in the morning versus the life of that little boy who was crossing with me, I will chose the pedestrian safety every time….

Her story is on page 97–98 of the official transcript of the February 26 hearing, posted at the Town’s web page for the Mass. Ave. project last Tuesday.

She was one of some 49 supporters of the new design (13 opposed) who spoke at the hearing.

But wait, there’s more! The massive hearing transcript provides the entire public record of the hearing. That includes all the written comments and all the sign-in sheets. There are hundreds of stories and viewpoints from this past hearing alone.

The file includes hundreds of robotically identical letters from opponents, and a few score of such form letters from supporters. There are also plenty of individual letters and emails from real people and businesses.

The transcript even includes the entire transcript of the 2011 MassDOT hearing. Maybe this time the Federal Highway Administration will read it.

All together the document weighs in at 70 MB, an astonishing 1,119 pages (the actual February 26 transcript covers the first 162 pages).

It’s too much for me right now, but here are a few highlights.

HearingCrowd

The view from the back of the hall at the February 26 hearing.

At page 112 another resident describes being “hit by a car three-quarters of the way across the street” again at the Grafton-Orvis crosswalk (which would be much improved under the new design).

At page 49–51, opponent Eric Berger defies MassDOT to stop him from speaking for longer than his allotted 3 minutes (“I am telling you right now, I  am going to keep going…. You can arrest me.”)

At page 55 it is the audience, not MassDOT, whose prolonged applause (not jeers) forces Berger to yield the mic to the next speaker.

Senator Ken Donnelly’s wake-up call about funding for this project begins on page 33. He says (35) “There is not enough time to redesign the project and meet the September deadline” for funding, and he expressed doubts that we would qualify for a later funding cycle.

Lots more, obviously. Mostly support, some enthusiastic and some qualified, for instance (at 122):

I don’t think it is the best plan…. but it is a compromise…. So, I think this is a good compromise, a good solution, and I look forward to seeing the final product.

Both candidates for Selectmen spoke at the hearing. Kevin Greeley’s comments begin on page 38, and those of Maria Romano, who is also denied extra speaking time, start at 82.

One man reads his report from the field, written while observing traffic from his Capitol Square business, at page 160–162. The manager of the Capitol Theater has similar observations at pages 123–125. If you want to know who entered the 2011 transcript into the record of the 2013 hearing, that’s on page 71.

These are just fleeting impressions. I am not going to have time for a more systematic review. If you see anything in the transcript you’d like to highlight, please share it in the comments.

But don’t click that transcript link unless you are ready for a 70MB download! Links to that and many other documents at the Town’s Mass. Ave. Project page.

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6 comments so far

  1. GRD on

    I was generous and counted even a sentence on a form letter as an individual letter. The number of individual letters for and against the project is

    for – 120
    against – 59

    The rest are signatures, some illegible, on form letters.

    But the most interesting thing may be on page 1062, from Mark Kaepplein.
    His otherwise predictable screed contains the sentence ‘Any loss of funding is [town officials’] fault.’ A primary project opponent is conceding the threat to the funding!

    • Adam Auster on

      GRD, you are even more fanatic than I turned out to be! Thanks you for filling in.

      I do feel that an actual letter carries more weight than a form letter, collected and handed in en masse. It’s really just a kind of petition, only one that uses one sheet of paper per signature.

      Mark’s statements are typical and I think revealing. I think that he and his co-conspirators believe that if they can monkeywrench things, they will be hailed as liberators. I think rather the reverse, but do not care to find out.

  2. Mark Kaepplein on

    After finding out of order pages from letters and removing duplicates, the numbers are:

    for Selectmans’ Plan – 161
    against Selectmans’ Plan – 418

    for – 5 out of town’ers, 14 duplicates, 3 triplicates, 2 children, 2 unidentifiable authors
    against – 8 out of town’ers, 4 duplicates, 0 children, 0 unidetifiable

  3. GRD on

    Your counts show just how much the anti-Mass Ave side has to leverage form letters. And the anti-Mass Ave ones are undated, which is a problem. For example, Mr. Charles Scacca of Vital Signs appears on a undated anti-Mass Ave form letter on page 456. But he appears on a pro-Mass ave letter dated 2/28/13 on page 1118. Who else was tricked or bullied into signing a form letter before and has changed their position? That’s why personalized letters have so much more weight.

    And no unidentifiable anti-Mass ave signatures? Care to tell us who signed on page 541?

    • Adam Auster on

      @GRD: That’s great digging! I am definitely in favor of this “crowdsource the transcript” thing.

      Its been clear for a long time that most businesses would prefer to be left alone on this sort of issue. There is no way they can win with their customers by taking a strong stand either way. Twisting arms is just bullying.


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