Editorial: Morrissey panel will hear you, ‘time permitting’

Are the state officials charged with running the Morrissey Commission serious about getting the public’s input as they study ways to improve the boulevard and Kosciuszko Circle? Judging from how it’s been run to date, the answer is: Not really.

The commission — which includes elected and appointed officials from both city and state government — met for the first time on Nov. 28, a few days after Thanksgiving, with very little advance notice given to the public. While those who attended— mainly government employees— cheered each other for showing up, it was a poor start to engaging with the public. And it showed. There was little in the way of comment from residents and advocates, in part because many of them weren’t there.

MassDOT, the agency that’s coordinating the commission, has a page up online that includes a presentation shown during that Nov. 28 meeting. But there’s not much on their page otherwise— and there’s no effort given to solicit public input. There’s no survey to gauge opinion on what we— the constituents who are paying for the study and for the subsequent work— would like to see happen. There’s a “sign up for updates” link that has produced zero updates.

This week, MassDOT, broke its silence— after repeated inquiries from The Reporter— to reveal that a second commission meeting will be held next Tuesday, Jan. 30 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at UMass Boston’s Integrated Sciences Center. The meeting will also be accessible via Zoom, the notice said.

The description of what will actually happen at the meeting next Tuesday is vague and mirrors that of the first meeting. The “study team” we are told “will present a summary of background information being used to develop alternatives for future mobility and climate resiliency in the Morrissey Boulevard corridor.”

They add: “The meeting is the second of a series of opportunities for public engagement that will serve to both provide information and receive public input that will be critical to the successful development of alternatives and measures to address corridor challenges.” However, we are advised, that “public comment will be taken during the meeting, time permitting.”  

The concept of “time permitting” is something that state officials from top to bottom need to grasp, appreciate, and incorporate in their work. It takes time and planning for residents and other stakeholders who live or work in and around the Morrissey corridor to get to a Tuesday evening meeting. That’s made harder when officials don’t give reasonable notice. Planning means childcare arrangements, taking time off from work, preparing statements for public comment, and getting to UMass Boston during rush hour. And after all of that, maybe we’ll get to have a say after all the commissioners and paid consultants get their time.

If you’re among the concerned parties who feel that MassDOT isn’t doing a good job engaging with you so far, don’t take it too personally: Two members of the commission told The Reporter this week that they had no idea a meeting had been set for Jan. 30 until The Reporter called them about it.

None of this instills confidence in the work of this commission, which should care about getting public buy-in for infrastructure improvements that will likely cost hundreds of millions of dollars and impact our neighborhood in profound ways.

This community deserves better.


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