Visiting My Councilor

December 9th, 2008 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

John Tobin CD symbolThis is a test of your Elected Official Effectiveness System. Will Boston City Councilor John Tobin (WR/JP) make my intersection safe? If so, how quickly? What’s a reasonable period for replacing a sheared stop-sign post — a season, a month, a week?

I didn’t really mean to put him on the spot. That came as a throwaway question at the end of a session with him at JP Licks. When I asked where in City Hall I’d go to ask for this, he said “We’ll do that.” In that case, joining him in the booth was Legislative Aide Anna Sylvester, to make a we.

Here, I say:

  • Tobin is high-energy, deep integrity. I expect him to do what he says.
  • If your city councilor (or equivalent where you vote) holds regular open office hours, go from time to time.
  • If your officials don’t, ask them why and point to folk like John Tobin as examples.

Almost every month, my guy has two open sessions. One is at his West Roxbury office and the other floats from coffee shop or ice-cream joint, generally in JP. That way, he is close to both neighborhoods in his district. He announces them in the local weeklies as well as on his personal website. By the bye, you can also trundle down to his City Hall office, nominally from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days, but call first because he may be doing Council biz elsewhere.

Pix Tricks: Click on a thumbnail for a larger view. If this opens in the same browser window, use the browser back button to return.

He may or may not get takers at a session, but he’s there.When you’re there, you’re the only person he sees in front of him. That’s the right kind of intense.

This morning, there were two of us, with an elderly woman as well as I. I would gladly have shared the booth with her, but she waited until I finished. Perhaps she came with a specific request she wanted to deliver privately.

One of these open meetings a year ago is where I chatted him up and got him to come onto our Left Ahead! podcast. The full one of that is here and the short version concentrating on his term-limits for Boston officials is here.

We had a free-ranging chat today because I didn’t come with any planned business. We touched on the status of his citywide Wi-Fi proposal (he’s still pushing and sees it as an equalizer for poor families and kids), arrested-for-corruption Councilor Chuck Turner (they got off to a bad start, but Turner ended up supporting his run for Council president later, and Tobin wants Turner to have his say/day in court), and why he seems to have a ton more ideas and proposals than the other councilors (he modestly claims most come directly from activist JP residents).

When I finally realized the woman had sneaked into the booth behind me and was waiting for her audience, I fired off the stop sign question to wrap up. He promised and Sylvester took the intersection info. I’ll update here.

As background, this must be like many requests councilors get. It is a simple matter, but one that affects pubic safety. The basics are:

  • The stop sign at Bourne and Walk Hill Streets is on the street-sign pole.
  • The stop-sign post had been sheared and some easy-way-out crew moved the sign.Misplaced stop sign
  • The octagon  is 14 shoe lengths (roughly 15 feet or a car length) north of where it should be and was. (The red arrow on the sign pic shows where the pole used to be.)
  • The adjacent property fence obscures the sign until a north-bound vehicle is nearly at Walk Hill.

Cars race up Bourne and with typical Boston manners, stop just past the sign. That puts the front several feet of the vehicle into Walk Hill.

Any vehicle, but particularly bicycles, turning left onto Bourne, often find themselves stranded in mid turn by a car or truck blocking the intersection. If the stop sign was where it belonged, the tendency for drivers to go beyond it to stop would put them a safe distance back.

typical non-stop at Walk HillThe car  in the image to the left is still moving. It is in the typical place at the intersection, with bumper into Walk Hill and blocking turning vehicles. The suddenness of the stops here are particularly dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists simultaneously approaching the corner. Both Walk Hill and Bourne are very busy, so such coincidence is common.

More than once, I have almost been hit on my bike and stopped to point out the problem to the drivers. I know what to expect and am always cautious here, in car or on bike. Two of those times, homemaker types in newish SUVs have sworn at me in very coarse terms. The out-of-my-way-Jack and I’m-important-no-one-else-is types need their visual cues to act decently.

It will be far easier to install a new pole in the old place than to teach locals what their parents didn’t model or say. I’ll update this when the mini-drama plays out.

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