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Dear Jamaica Plain Residents,

I want to thank you for being so engaged in the discussion around our new Jamaica Plain Whole Foods Market. Many of you took the time to attend the June 2nd community meeting or write to me with your feedback. I want you to know that your letters have been read and your input has been heard.

Though the meeting did not end the way that any of us had hoped, we still feel that it was a productive evening filled with valuable dialogue with our future neighbors. We look forward to the meetings we will be having with community groups in the coming weeks. We are also awaiting the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council Ad Hoc Committee’s report. We are appreciative of all of the feedback that we receive as it helps us to create the store that best serves the community.

Those of you who attended the meeting got the opportunity to meet our Jamaica Plain Store Team Leader, Mike Walker, and Associate Store Team Leader, Wanda Hernandez. The emails that they have been receiving have offered great suggestions for ways we can support the local community as well as what products you are eager to find on our shelves.

SITE UPDATE: Over this summer you will see a lot of activity at the store site as we continue the extensive project of bringing the building up to code. The interior of the building has been cleared out and we will be completing the new roof in the coming weeks. It is very exciting to see the store beginning to take shape!

HIRING: As we approach the late fall opening, we will host our hiring event in the store parking lot. This event will be advertised in the local media as well as on Facebook and Twitter. As was mentioned in the community meeting, the Jamaica Plain store will have very limited employee parking, therefore we are hopeful that our store presents employment opportunities for folks who live within walking or biking distance of the store, or via public transportation.

COMMUNITY: It has been wonderful to hear from a number of non-profit organizations and community groups in Jamaica Plain. We are looking forward to the opportunity to support them with our community give-back programs.
We are also continuing to pursue the possibility of hosting a farmers market in our parking lot this summer. We love to support our local farmers and the opportunity to offer easy access to healthy, local produce is at the heart of who we are! Stay tuned for more updates on that.

FEEDBACK: I want to encourage you to continue sharing your feedback with us. Email us your product suggestions at JP_Products@wholefoods.com, or contact Mike and Wanda directly at na.jmp.stl@wholefoods.com or na.jmp.astl@wholefoods.com. Follow us on Twitter @wfm_jp.

Wishing you a happy and healthy summer!

Regards,
Laura Derba

Regional President
Whole Foods Market – North Atlantic Region

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In the spirit of complete transparency, we are publishing a comment from Universal Hub that was directed on a recent GUEST POSTthat JRV.com posted about the latest Whole Foods June 2 meeting in Jamaica Plain.

To post an account of “what happened” by Gretchen Van Ness, someone who has been publicly pro-WF for many months online and publicly, is not a way to give an objective perspective on what really happened. It is a complete lie for her to state that she saw someone, anyone, hitting a police officer once or repeatedly at that meeting. That did not happen. If it had, that person would have been swiftly arrested and charged.

Here are the facts:

“Three persons were arrested and will be summonsed on charges of disrupting a public assembly and trespassing, in the case of two persons, and disrupting a public assembly in the third” (JP Patch). Where in that statement is there anything about assaulting a police officer or anyone else at that meeting? It’s not there because it never, ever happened. If the only people who were arrested were charged with these charges, then how would someone who allegedly hit an officer not be arrested and charged? How would a police officer have just let a person off for hitting him/her, and not for displaying a banner? This is complete nonsense for Gretchen to write. Lies, lies, lies.

And for blogger Julio Varela to congratulate Gretchen (when he knows that she can’t be objective) and to use her account as one that is objective and real is completely unfair, too.

And, may I add, that displaying a banner peacefully is called freedom of speech. The folks on the balcony did it peacefully.

The folks downstairs who never got to display their banner (separate incident, which happened later) did not storm down any aisles and they did not disrespect anyone. They were standing in line waiting to speak and were trying to unfurl the banner (silently) when the cops came and grabbed it. That’s unconstitutional. Period.

Dear JPLatina11, like we have said from Day 1, we have offered anyone who opposes Whole Foods in JP the opportunity to blog about it here on our page. Under this one very IMPORTANT condition: You need to use your own name and not hide behind a anonymous posting.

And by the way, JPLatina11, last time we checked, we are a personal blog, we aren’t The New York Times, but your comments flatter us nonetheless. At least people in JP care. Don’t ever lose that passion.

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A GUEST POST BY JP RESIDENT GRETCHEN VAN NESS

On Thursday June 2nd, 13 representatives of Whole Foods Market came to Jamaica Plain for their long-awaited meeting with the community. I met my neighbors on Cranston Street and we walked down to the Curley School together to hear what Whole Foods had to say. On the way, a brief, light summer shower broke out and a rainbow graced the sky over the Acapulco Restaurant.  I was filled with optimism about the evening. Now, finally, the community would come together, meet the people behind the Whole Foods name, get their questions answered, and finally, possibly, begin to move forward together.

As we approached the site of the meeting, however, I realized that our unexpected rainbow wasn’t about JP that evening. The broad steps of the Curley School were littered with people in blue t-shirts and boxes of blue t-shirts. A few people were handing out blue flyers.  It was the Whose Foods/Whose Community group that was formed in opposition to Whole Foods last winter. I recognized some faces from previous community meetings, but many of the young faces were new to me. A couple of people handed out yellow flyers that read, “Hyde Square and J.P. Welcomes Whole Foods” in English and Spanish.

I watched as people approached the building, confused about the array of blue stretched across the stairs. Some people walked away. But others bravely navigated the WF/WC obstacle course, and soon I followed them into the auditorium. Most people were seated and were waiting patiently for the meeting to start, but there was a flurry of WF/WC blue up and down the aisles and back and forth across the rear of the auditorium. There were police officers everywhere. On each of our seats was a reusable Whole Foods shopping bag with various brochures and a pre-paid postcard for sending food suggestions to the company.  Damn — we were hoping for cookies!

The meeting started with the Whole Foods folks introducing themselves. We met the mangers of the new store and many others, including Laura Derba, the current VP of the North Atlantic Region who started out working part-time at the salad bar. There was a brief PowerPoint presentation. Each speaker sounded upbeat, but one young woman’s voice wavered slightly. It was then that I realized how intimidating the auditorium must have looked to the people sitting in front of us. Someone in a blue t-shirt also picked up on this moment of weakness and shouted out an anti-Whole Foods comment. The presentation continued and the blue t-shirted folks all suddenly raised their blue flyers into the air. We looked around and couldn’t figure out what prompted the action until we saw two people photographing the crowd from the stage in front. An older couple a few rows down from us raised their Whole Foods shopping bags in the air, as they had apparently missed getting a yellow flyer at the door.

Then there was movement and sound above us. Two people were attempting to unfurl a banner from the balcony. It was upside down at first, but when they got it straightened out, we could read its message:  “Displacement:  What is Whole Foods Going To Do About It?” In all of the commotion that followed (this was when the first two arrests occurred and Chris Helms, editor of the JP Patch, almost got himself arrested, too, because he had chosen that moment to check out the view from the balcony), I remember thinking that this was the first anti-Whole Foods banner I’d seen that wasn’t also in Spanish and how strange that seemed. The people in the blue t-shirts were chanting “No Whole Foods! No Whole Foods!”

But the chanting died down and the meeting continued with the Q&A session. The first speaker was the Executive Director of the Hyde Square Task Force. He was very, very angry that the meeting was not being held in “Hyde Square” and accused Whole Foods of arrogance in having the meeting at the Curley School. Everyone around me sat in mystified and uncomfortable silence. Wasn’t this the organization that had just received a $8,500 donation from Whole Foods? Why wasn’t the Executive Director thanking Whole Foods for its support and telling the community how the money had been put to use? And we had just walked the few blocks from our homes in Hyde Square to a school attended by kids who live in Hyde Square where Whole Foods has donated a salad bar. What was wrong with meeting here?

As the speaker continued, at first one by one and then in larger numbers, people got up from their seats, walked quietly to the front of the auditorium, shook hands with and thanked each of the Whole Foods representatives, and left. The speaker never even paused. After he had far exceeded the allotted two minutes and hadn’t asked a question, some people in the audience started shouting, “Question? Question?”   I never heard one.

But subsequent speakers did have questions and Whole Foods had answers. Despite countless interruptions and chanting and name-calling, we learned a few things. That the JP store is considered a small store and that the parking lot holds 65 cars, which is sufficient for the store size. That Whole Foods has entered into a long-term lease with the MSPCA/Angell across the street for overflow parking; that they are hiring locally and expect most of their employees to get to work by foot, bicycle, or bus. That they are already in discussions with the city to improve and expand the bus stop in front of the store. That as soon as possible after the store opens and they can assess how the parking is working, they will make their lot available to neighboring businesses. That a complete delivery service will be available from day one. That they will have a trailer in the parking lot this summer where people can apply for jobs.

And that was about it. Although the police had earlier arrested the two people with the banner, they had not confiscated the banner. As one of the WF/WC members spoke, several people in blue t-shirts charged down the aisle, attempting to unfurl the banner again. The police were close behind and grabbed a corner of the banner. There was a brief tug-of-war, which the police won. As they retreated, a woman followed after the officers, hitting one of them repeatedly. Laura Derba then announced that the police were ending the meeting.

As we filed out of the auditorium, the blue t-shirted folks who remained started chanting “No Justice, no peace!  No justice, no peace!” On the steps outside, a young man called for people to march to Washington and Green Streets, where the police had taken the people they arrested. “Where is that?” several young people in blue t-shirts called out, as they entered the address in their smart phones. A few of my neighbors remained. As police cars converged on the Curley School from every direction, we started the walk home. I looked for the rainbow again. It was gone.

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The Whose Foods? organization has release a video about the June 2 Town Hall Meeting where 3 arrests were made and Boston Police shut down the meeting earlier due to disruption and interruption of residents’ comments.

As the Whose Foods? email we received tonight states:

Whole Foods’ packed Town Hall meeting on June 2nd at JP’s Curley School was met by a large presence of residents who continue to express their concerns and demands about the potential arrival of the store. The meeting marked the first official visit of Whole Foods to Jamaica Plain since the January announcement that the upscale grocery store would be taking over the Hi-Lo Foods space in Hyde Square.

In a statement on behalf of neighbors concerned about the planned store, Martha Rodriguez of Hyde Square asked Whole Foods: “We were promised a forum such as this one as soon as you had access to the store. You gained access and erected a fence in late March, but waited over two months to host this meeting at which the community is allotted a deplorable 30 minutes to speak. Is this your idea of being a good neighbor?” and “What are you going to do about the displacement of our families, friends, and neighbors…?”

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Here is the video of  that “same white lady” who talks about her support for Whole Foods in Jamaica Plain. Seems that Twitter protesters forgot that this “same white lady” also said “passion is good, rudeness is not.” No wonder that the Whose Foods? campaign is losing major credibility in the ast 48 hours, to the point that even Mayor Tom Menino is speaking out.

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Boston Mayor Tom Menino said on June 3 that he supports Whole Foods coming to Jamaica PLain.

Maybe it had to take a fiasco Whole Foods Town Hall Meeting to FINALLY have Boston Mayor Tom Menino to publicly comment about the new Whole Foods store that will open in the Hyde Square section of Jamaica Plain, and we want to commend Mayor Menino for doing so.

At his weekly roundtable session with reporters, Menino, who has been facing criticism by JP residents for not making a public comment about the new Whole Foods store, clearly stated his support for the company’s arrival to the neighborhood. As reported by the Jamaica Plain Gazette:

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino today told the Gazette that he wholeheartedly supports Whole Foods’ planned move to Jamaica Plain and that local opposition to the store is the work of “a few [people] trying to make it an issue.”

“I think Whole Foods is great for the neighborhood. They have done a lot to work with the neighborhood,” he said.

Referring to the arrest of three protesters at a meeting Whole Foods hosted June 2, he said, “The folks who caused the problems were lashing out.”

In an apparent joke, the mayor suggested that the commotion at the meeting had been caused by agitators from outside the community. “We are trying to figure out if they are from Philadelphia, Chicago [or] Washington D.C.,” he quipped.

At least one of the people arrested, Peter Blailock, told the Gazette he lives in JP.

Menino said Whole Foods is going to be a vast improvement over Hi-Lo, the grocery store that formerly occupied the 415 Centre St. space that Whole Foods is moving into.

He praised Whole Foods for working closely with the city on reaching out to former Hi-Lo employees and hiring many of them after Hi-Lo closed in February.

Hi-Lo “did not do its duty, they were disrespectful to their workers,” he said.

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This banner led to arrests at the June 2 Whole Foods Town Hall Meeting in JP

It was indeed a sad night for the Jamaica Plain community as what was billed as a opportunity for positive, civil dialogue with Whole Foods, the Boston neighborhood’s future tenant in the Hyde Square section of JP, turned into a night filled with shouting, disrespect, disruption, arrests, and eventually an early shut down by Boston Police.

Later today, JRV.com will be posting RAW video of the first hour of the event to give it the context it deserves, since Whole Foods representatives did indeed show up to the event with the best of intentions. We will also be getting comments and statements from several interested parties, since it is clear that the level of discourse regarding this debate reached a new low level as members of the Whose Foods? organization were more interested in creating havoc on the event that actually trying to voice their concerns against the new Whole Foods in civil manner.

We did receive a statement last night from JP for All/JP para todos founder Rick Stockwood:

There were a great number of us in the room tonight that were excited to hear that issues such as parking, traffic, public transportation, after-hours parking, providing healthy foods to children, and product availability are being addressed by Whole Foods. It’s unfortunate that a community meeting designed to address neighborhood concerns and solutions to address those concerns was hijacked by a group of people who have no other plan than to cause a distraction. We look forward to hearing more about Whole Foods plans and how we can work together to build a long-term partnership that will benefit Hyde Square and Jamaica Plain.

We also emailed Whole Foods, We Are All Foods, Whose Foods? and other parties last night for a statement and once we receive them, we will share.

One final note to add: we want to THANK Boston Councillor Matt O’Malley for being the ONLY BOSTON ELECTED OFFICIAL to attend the event. This issue has become hugely important for several residents of JP, and it is a sad statement when elected officials like Boston Mayor Tom Menino, State Representative Jeffery Sánchez, State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, and Boston Councillors Felix Arroyo, Tito Jackson and Ayanna Pressley chose not to show up.

For more coverage of last night’s event, see today’s JP Patch and Boston Globe.

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