Archive for the ‘Massachusetts’ Category

You know it was bound to happen. Someone at the DNC had to have finally admit that the phenomenon that is Sarah Palin can be bottled up and replicated.

Yup, the Dems are thinking like Palin. With the Senate battle against Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown (a state rep from Wrentham, which for those who don’t know Massachusetts, is the home of the largest discount shopping outlet in New England), the Bay State Democrats have found a Palin-esque diamond in the rough. A young and exciting mayor who has very little national political experience, fought in Iraq, and oh yeah, is African American. And yes, he is WICKED SMART, unlike Palin.

Newton Mayor and Senate Candidate Setti Warren

Newton Mayor Setti Warren has been in office for just 18 months, but last week he jumped into the Democratic primary race. His first mission was to effectively label Scott Brown as a typical Republican, and not the maverick LL Bean Barn Jacket independent that he became when he defeated Martha Coakley in 2010 to win the late Ted Kennedy’s seat.

Well, it appears that the strategy is working, since Brown, who has a $6 million (and growing) campaign war chest, is already responding to Warren’s charges. Yup, looks like things will get interesting in Massachusetts next year. Even though Warren still has to win the Democratic primary, he has quickly become a viable candidate, especially among the supporters of Governor Duval Patrick, who won his second term last year amid predictions that Brown and the Republican machine (more like a scooter in this highly Democratic state) would topple the governor.

Today, Warren’s campaign issued an email about the early buzz:

Mayor Setti Warren burst onto the campaign trail for U.S. Senate last week and repeatedly challenged Senator Scott Brown for his irresponsible votes. After declaring his candidacy on Monday via YouTube, Setti hosted a service breakfast at the American Legion Post in Newton to share his vision with supporters for middle-class security and small business job creation.

Mayor Warren began his Bay State kickoff tour by visiting a Head Start in Brockton, where he highlighted the need for investments in education and challenged Scott Brown’s voting record on Pell Grants and Head Start. Then Setti visited M.F. Foley Inc. in New Bedford, where he discussed the importance of protecting jobs in the fishing industry.  “As a United States Senator, one of the things that I want to focus on is making sure that this industry is sustained over the long haul,” he said.

Setti started Wednesday by touring the Gateway Park biotech complex in Worcester where he discussed his plan to eliminate capital gains taxes on investments in small businesses to help jumpstart growth. Setti was asked about the recent controversy surrounding Scott Brown’s statements on photos of Osama Bin Laden, responding that “a U.S. senator has the responsibility to do due diligence when talking about sensitive national security issues.”

Setti toured National Fiber Insulation Company in Belchertown. At the factory he met with workers and discussed job creation, manufacturing, and clean energy. He called attention to the fact that Scott Brown questions the science behind global climate change, a position clearly not in line with Massachusetts values.  He also visited an innovative home heating oil company in Greenfield. There, Setti continued to highlight the importance of investments in renewable energy.

Setti finished off his tour Thursday in Western Massachusetts where he visited Soldier On, unique multi-million dollar residential housing facility in Pittsfield that helps veterans with mental health and substance abuse challenges. Warren discussed his plan to address job training and homelessness among veterans, and praised the work of Soldier On. “As an Iraq vet, I understand how important it is for veterans to come home to a home and integrate back into life,” he said.

And just today, Setti Warren appeared on ABC’s Top Line. When confronted with the NRSC’s repeated attacks, Setti clearly explained his opposition to Senator Brown’s approach of holding middle class tax cuts hostage, in order to secure tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.

Setti is energized for his campaign to bring strong leadership to the Senate, support Massachusetts families, and represent our State’s values. He will continue to hold Scott Brown’s accountable for his irresponsible record in the Senate.

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The following is a statement from the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council explaining their vote opposing the new Whole Foods store in Hyde Square:

After agreeing to amend wording – “we are convinced” to “we are concerned” and “after listening to arguments on all sides” to “based on what we now know” – and agreeing to remove the words newly vacant” before “property at 415 Centre Street,” the neighborhood council passed the release of the following statement on Whole Foods’ plans:

As a Council, we have committed ourselves to preserving affordable housing through our residential use policies, and have consistently expressed concern in our zoning and public licensing decisions to preserve the rich character of Jamaica Plain. We therefore commit ourselves to working with the established business community, community organizations and public officials to explore alternative uses of the property at 415 Centre Street. Based on what we know now, we are concerned that Whole Foods is not a good fit for Hyde Square. We hope that it will reconsider its decision to move into the neighborhood, and we hope that our community can work together to find an alternative to Whole Foods that will strengthen Jamaica Plain’s culture of diversity, locally owned businesses, and welcome to people of all economic status.

THE BOSTON GLOBE reported an excellent summary of the council’s meeting and decision, which passed by only one vote.

The Globe article did get a comment from Massachusetts State Representative Jeffrey Sánchez but did not get a comment from Whole Foods.

The move comes less than three weeks before the company will gain access to a large Centre Street commercial space that had been occupied by Latino-specialty grocer Hi-Lo Foods for over four decades. Whole Foods officials were not immediately available to comment Wednesday morning.

“[The Whole Foods store] is an as-of-right move,” said Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez by phone Wednesday morning. “I’m curious to see the council’s next steps. Where do they go from here? … I’ve never heard or seen the neighborhood council take a stand against a business coming in without [the council] having an application before it.”

He said that though he does not believe potential businesses are discouraged to move into JP at this point, “there has to be a sense within all of us that we keep an eye on the business district, it’s the backbone of the community .. There are opportunities for business here and we are a welcoming community despite this.

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Capitalism and market corrections are alive and well in Jamaica Plain, a storied Boston neighborhood known for its diversity and support of local businesses. This past weekend, the Jamaica Plain Gazette reported that at least three Latino groceries are interested in setting up shop in the Hyde Sqaure area of JP, the place where the venerable Hi-Lo market has closed and will be replaced by a new Whole Foods store.

As the article states:

“We have received inquiries from three potential [Latino food] markets. We can definitely say we are looking into that,” Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation spokesperson Sally Swenson told the Gazette.

The inquiries are for space in the JPNDC’s mixed-use Doña Betsaida Gutierrez rental cooperative at 363 Centre St. has 36 affordable residential units and 5,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space currently available for lease. The co-op is two blocks from Hi-Lo’s former home at 415 Centre St.

The co-op is named after a long-time JP activist, who is opposing Whole Foods coming to Hyde Square. And the JPNDC—a non-profit with community-oriented real estate development and community organizing as parts of its mission—hosted the first public meeting to discuss the implications of the Whole Foods move in the building’s retail space Jan. 26.

When we started blogging about the Whole Foods story, we were one of the first outlets to question Whole Foods about how they would cater to the Latino clientele that had grown to love the Caribbean and Latin American products the Hi-Lo used to carry. Even as pro-Whole Foods and anti-Whole Foods groups started to sprout up on social media, the whole issue of how to preserve JP’s “Latin Quarter” was a central one that dominated our blog postings and reader comments.

Rep. Sánchez Comments About New Developments

©Boston Herald (Nancy Lane)

Massachusetts State Representative Jeffrey Sánchez (D), who has not returned or responded to our countless requests for a statement about his position, did attend the meeting about this new development:

At that meeting, state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez pointed to the existence of a building named after Gutierrez as evidence that the Latino community is deeply entrenched in JP. He and representatives from the Mayor’s Office, including longtime JP activist Enerio “Tony” Barros, said they believe other retailers would be able to fill the commercial hole that was left when Hi-Lo closed.

Gutierrez and others have expressed other worries, though. In a video on the Whose Foods? Whose Community? Coalition web site, Gutierrez said, “Whole Foods, if it ever comes, is basically going to ruin our diversity. Already landlords are talking about increasing rents, which means they’re going to get rid of us and we’ll have to move somewhere else.”

Gutierrez also signed a letter from the coalition opposing Whole Foods in JP that was sent to the Gazette. And she joined over 100 anti-Whole Foods activists at a rally and public hearing—where Whole Foods opponents and proponents spoke—on Feb. 28 at the Kennedy School in Hyde Square.

While it is unknown if local landlords are planning to raise rents in the area, many residents have expressed concerns that the Whole Foods is an early sign that the cost of living could go up in Hyde Square.

We think this new development is a very positive one for JP and its Latin Quarter. It is also a true win-win for JP residents. Since the overwhelming majority of JP residents who took our Whole Foods survey suggests strong support for the new Whole Foods store, the potential market introduction of new Latino grocers into Hyde Square will help quell one major concern of the neighborhood’s Latino clientele: Where will I get food products from my country?

Sure, there are still several questions about Whole Foods and gentrification that have also arisen, but we are encouraged by what the Gazette reported this past weekend. Once those Latino grocers open up in JP, we will be the first in line to buy our sofritos and plantains.

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