Plan Charlestown Meeting was a Disgrace

To the Editor: What has happened to social discourse?  What has happened to civility?  Sadly, on Thursday night’s Plan Charlestown meeting I bore witness to the most disgraceful display of disrespect for the BPDA Team leading the discussion as well as the community members who wanted to participate in the process.  A small but vocal and persistent group of individuals hijacked the meeting to insert their own agenda into the process.  The express purpose of the meeting as publicized by the Plan Charlestown Team was “to discuss your vision and goals for the future of Charlestown. At this workshop, we will report back and build on the values, hopes, and concerns Charlestown members identified in prior engagements to finalize a community vision statement and land use goals.” From the outset of the meeting a half dozen ill-spirited individuals chose to use first the “Chat” function of Zoom and then the Q&A discussion to undermine the credibility and intentions of the BPDA team. It was clear their intent was to divert the explicit purpose of the meeting to take control of the dialogue and demand answers regarding current projects either under review or with initial letters of intent.  The demands ranged from “exactly how many housing units have been proposed for Sullivan Square” to “what transportation studies have they reviewed.”   Good questions, not the right meeting or necessarily the right individuals to whom these questions should be addressed.  I am not sure anyone knows right now the answer to the former, and the latter will be answered in the next steps of the process. We are all concerned with the number of new projects proposed and the impact they will have on our community.  It is exactly for this reason we petitioned and pushed Mayor Walsh to commit to a more systematic approach to community development and support a comprehensive planning effort for Charlestown.  While we would like to stop all new development until the plan is completed, legally, it is not possible to prohibit private developers on privately owned property to continue to move forward on specific projects.  While the planning team can influence the Article 80 process for these proposed efforts, they do not own the process.  This is a planning group, not the project oversight group or the Zoning Board or the Boston Landmarks Commission.  The plan will hopefully influence all these groups downstream, but what I heard last night was not a response to the vision, it was an attempt to undermine the process and to frankly discredit the team.  It was vicious and unproductive. I was embarrassed for the rest of us who wanted to speak but knew we would be shut down as the person who tried was.  Where do go from here?  If I were on the Planning Team, I would wonder if it was worth it?  I am hoping they have enough emotional armor to weather the abuse and continue what is an extremely important plan for Charlestown.  I for one, will continue to show up at meetings, and frankly be a stronger voice for civility and respect. Perhaps we can then have a real discussion. This is our best chance to affect development and ensure all our wants and needs are heard. Let us be the inclusive community we can all respectfully be part of. Ellen Kitzis

Letters to the Editor