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May 22, 2006


Martin Edin

I think it was Churchill who said something like “first we build our cities and then they build us”. Well, I guess that is kind of like saying “you are what you eat”. And for Somerville it is a lot of BS. We all dish out and eat our share. A lot of outsiders have us eating right out of their hands. Right now it is the “phased approached” and “Jobs”, just yesterday it was the “stolen” and then “lost” money episodes. For the last 10 years it has been “the green line is coming”. The biggest problem with this diet of BS is when we start believing it. We let ourselves down and don’t do our part, and then blame it on someone else when we don’t get what we want; “The state is screwing us” is what you hear from everyone right now about the Green line extension. I guarantee you that at the time of the next election we will all hear and read a lot of positive spin about the green line coming. And we will all do our best to believe it too, we start raising our rents and trying to sell for more. And if it does'nt just magically happen like promised, we will hear we were screwed by the State again. And then chant it like a choir.

Well how many of you are writing the candidates for governor and asking them how they are really going to help us get our green line? How many of you actually know which candidate is best for us when it comes to the green line? Why aren’t we getting these guys to speak up on this issue and then running it up the flag pole like it was more important than any other issue in the State? If we don’t make it important you can bet no one else will.

And wake up. Development plans have remained in the control of private business interests. The number of troubling stories continues. What the development of these stories all have in common is a lack of democratic process. Instead, business and political elites ignore protests from neighborhood groups, the interests of the poor, and the advice of planners… Unless you look at the neighborhoods that actually put the horse in front of the cart first --- In areas that already had a public transportation system development evolved more favorably. Not because of the local alderman or who was Mayor but because of the forward thinking people who moved into these neighborhoods. They got involved and made things happen in their favor. If you want to believe some Alderman or Mayor did it, then you will just be BS-ing yourself again. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying our elected officials did not work hard to help make things happen, I am saying having the T fist and then having neighbors who care and get involved are more important.

Need to KNow

But Mr. Bill, what about the bunking arrangements when the group went to Cuba? Rep. E. Story must have a great story to tell.

Fulgencio Batista

Why ask Bill about the bunking arrangements in Cuba? Ask Mayor Joe, Natasha Perez or Barrios...better yet just think of all the different combos that could have gone on in my former land. Gross!!!! Stuff like this would never happen if that little punk Fidel hadn't taken what was rightfully mine. Oh well, who's throwing those pies???

Truth Teller

Come on, Bill. I know that you know the Cuba story. And I know that you have the sources to back it up. And I know that you're willing to tell the truth, no matter who it pisses off. So, are you going to tell us about it, or not?

Wild Bill continues to push Tony L's Agenda

Bill Shelton should stop using the Somerville News to push Tony L's Agenda. Its starting to get obvious that he is in Tony's pocket. I used to be a big Shelton fan, although now I am starting to question his motives and credibility. Its unfortuate because I used to think that he was a political activist but now I know he's a fraud.

A. B. C.

There's a name we haven't heard in a while. Tony L. Why Wild Bill commentator needs to associate Tony L. with the editorial of Bill Shelton is beyond belief.

This Administration has to be running scared to do what they try to do, when they want to do it. The irony of it all is when the Mayor goes down the Parade route and sees all the signs of a "No Confidence Vote" in the crowd. Hundreds of residence holding the black and white signs saying "No More Joe" will show the lack of confidence in the Mayor's Administration. Pictured on the plaque will be none other than the following pictures:

Naughty Girl, parking meters, $10,000, a desk, Assembly Square facsimile, Lincoln Park School, Engine 4 station, a Volvo, ER @ Cambridge hospital, passed Appointees: Voutour, Stevens, Vitello, Walsh and much more.

As the Mayor waves down the Parade route with the Seven Dwarfs, S. O’Donovan, W. Roach, Tom Taylor, M. Heuston, B. Desomond, R. Trane and D. Sullivan, all you will hear are the clanging of chains as they walk and wave. What a sight. What a view. What a DAY.

Bill Shelton

Need to know, Presidente Batista, and Truth Teller: No.

Paul Reese

Well, the Rabbling babbling Right has found itself a Righteous Rebellion – the fight against socialism. It’s an easy cause to take up, really. So why don’t we point the battle in the right direction? Eminent Domain matters should the be the real target here. Government vs Private Property. Simple as that. It’s like standing up to the bully who’s kicking the kids out of the sand box? Actually, there is little data out there about it in general and even less here in Somerville. Eminent Domain instances are sorted out in sealed settlements between public and private parties. Like Late Term Abortion, these are private matters for which the details are not to be made public. Our local politicians love those sorts of issues, because the privacy of the details precludes dealing with the truths of the matters. So why don’t we get to the bottom of it? After all these guys are not heroes, just capitalists taking advantage of socialism.

Eminent Domain (ED), can be broken into two types demographically and two types politically: rural and urban / public and commercial. The lines between these are far from stark.

Conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans, generally agree that ED is a very powerful tool of government – up there with raising taxes and going to war – that should only be employed as a last resort. But whose tool is it for? Is it a Tool for the stockholders and owners of home depot, the Christmas tree shop and local contractors or a tool for the residents of Somerville? We all agree that ED should only be used for public improvement and that better than fair compensation must be made to those who lose properties in the process. If you tear down a neighborhood to build a new school, a road and some condos (a typical mixed-use type of plan), then condos, classroom seats and jobs in the commercial development should be proffered to the prior residents. It’s just plain ol’ give and take. Commercial interests, of course, will be involved. Private contractors are going to do the work, after all. And they may well want a stake. We can all agree that mixed-use ED is just common sense. If you redevelop an area, you should include housing, public service, and commercial space. Those things together make a functional community.
But there’s a line that can’t be crossed.
When the government steps onto someone’s property without showing that the property was dilapidated or dangerous, when the government contracts out work on the land without bidding or vetting the process, when the government imposes political, demographic and infrastructural development on a community that the community neither wants nor needs, when the government excludes the prior residents from partaking in the redevelopment, when the government usurps the domain over the resources of the land, when the government takes land that is not directly a part of a dilapidated or dangerous area but rather near it in the vain belief that somehow that proximity will improve the real problem, and when the end result is further dilapidation and danger – that’s when Eminent Domain is wrong. Folks this is carnivorous, predatory business running the real socialism in conjunction with our municipal government and their contractor friends.

Tim Payne

Emminent Domain is just totally wrong. The worth of a thing can only be established by the price for which two parties are willing to transact in that thing at a particular time. If one of the parties is being forced to enter the transaction, then by definition the price he is being paid is less than it is worth to him. Namely, he’s getting ripped off. The whole lynchpin of eminent domain is that certain circumstances warrant ripping people off in that manner in the interest of serving a sufficiently important goal. Society does what it can to compensate the ripped-off individuals, but they are not being paid what their land is actually worth.

James Norton

Paul and Tim -

Finally some intelligent discussion on this issue. I agree with you both. Eminent Domain is wrong - there's no way to arrive at proper value when there is undue, non-market related stress of any kind introduced into a transaction. Also, the process of arriving at settlements via sealed instruments encourages misconception in the public eye.

Unfortunately, it is what it is and it won't be changed by you or me or anyone else. I guess there's a small amount of comfort that the Fifth Amendent is in place to try to help steer the process in the fairest possible way, but the cold hard reality is that it doesn't always work the way it should.

Hey, there are differentiating opinions on the matter and it shouldn't be taken lightly, the only thing we can do without seeming like we are bashing our heads against a cold and unyielding wall is to call for a more open and fair process locally.

That's my two cents.


Fulgencio Batista

Well James, that won't be your two cents if Pat Jehlen and that punk Castro get their way and socialize this city like they socialized my country. Protect your two cents James -- kick pat's ass.

Gordon Sims

I know what you guys mean. When the Supreme Court said eminent Domain was Ok, well, I’m still shaking my head over this one and I bet there are a lot of developers and city managers out there that are doing their best imitation of me while muttering “excellent” under their collective breath. Yeah I know being a liberal I’m supposed to be against the whole idea of property rights, but that’s an area where I tend to show my conservative side. I was brought up with the idea that a person’s home is their castle and this decision pretty much destroys that comfortable illusion. Pretty much any half-assed rationale can be used to justify the loss of your property now and there’s not a shit load you’ll be able to do about it unless you’re wealthy yourself; and when was the last time you heard of a wealthy person having to give up land to eminent domain? We should see the results of this boneheaded decision pretty quickly. Over at CNNMoney they’re trying to paint an optimistic picture that retailers would be smart not to abuse eminent domain too much:
Craig Johnson, president of retail consulting group Customer Growth Partners, said that retailers shouldn’t interpret the high court’s decision to be a green light to aggressively expand even into those neighborhoods where a big-box presence is unwelcome.
“Even with the Supreme Court’s decision potentially in their favor, smart retailers would rather go into communities wearing a white hat rather than a black one,” said Johnson.
The appropriate move for companies would be to selectively use eminent domain as a last resort, he said, not as a first course of action. “I think companies have learned a few lessons from Wal-Mart’s public relations struggles,” he said.
Maybe, but then again maybe not. One retail analyst up here makes it clear she thinks it’s going to become a much more common practice:
"Expanding for big box store is a challenge, especially in the Northeast. Therefore, retailers will have to devise a strategy for using eminent domain,” said Candace Corlett, retail analyst with WSL Strategic nRetail.
And down in Houston, Texas it did not take long to get started:
FREEPORT – Right after the Supreme Court decision, Freeport officials instructed attorneys to begin preparing legal documents to seize three pieces of waterfront property along the Old Brazos River from two seafood companies for construction of an $8 million private boat marina.
One of the seafood companies have been in operation since 1946 and generates around $40 million annually, but the marina is “expected to attract” around $60 million in hotels and a couple hundred jobs so the seafood company loses out. I can see how the marina, if it actually attracts the other businesses it’s “expected” to, would be a boon to the city, but taking land from private individual(s) and then turning around and selling it to different private individual(s) doesn’t seem like the sort of thing the Founding Fathers had in mind when they came up with eminent domain in the first place. At least not based on anything I’ve read from them about it. With this decision any developer that can lay claim to big tax benefits for the city can probably expect to find things going their way and I’d hazard to guess it won’t be long before they stop bothering even asking folks if they want to sell their property.
So enjoy that property while you can. If it happens to fall under the gaze of a developer some day who thinks it’d be perfect for his next set of strip malls/condos/office buildings then you may find yourself wondering where it went. Nothing is below them from skipping the usual notification process so residents can not object to just plain stealing through eminent domain. Forget being morally right, they don’t even really try to be legally right it a lot of cases.

Typical Haters

Shame on the haters for organizing individuals to hold political signs at a family/community parade. Its not the time or the place for such hate. Actually, I would expect nothing less from such malcontent, jealous, bitter, envious, obsessed haters. We all know who's behind such rumors. THE LITTLE PEOPLE!

Ron Newman

Regarding eminent domain: is any of the land at Assembly Square actually owned by "individuals", as opposed to corporations? If not, that discussion is sort of beside the point.

Tiny Tim

Hey, "Typical Haters",

I read your post:

"We all know who's behind such rumors. THE LITTLE PEOPLE".

Leave us dwarves out of it.


Mrs. McCarthy


What's all this talk about Eminent Domaine?

I don't understand why anyone would want to take away Cardinal O'Malley's house. He may have the worst wardrobe in town but that's no reason to take away the guys house.

Doctor Mrs. McCarthy

Barney Mccloud


I believe the whole point behind the discussion of eminent domain is to illustrate that we are using this important tool the wrong way. We should instead use it like the Town of Hercules California is -- in order to take property from Big Box retailers (Walmart) and a make better community use of the property while increasing their tax base. google it.

This won't be a problem once we get our new officials elected into office. Hopefully they can build the office space and park within two years though.

Bill Shelton

A couple of week ago, Jamie observed that the discussion at our humble website had gotten more subtantive over the last year. I think this conversation about emminent domain is a good example.

I do believe that there are some instances when the public interest trumps an individual's property rights, but I believe that they are rare, and they rarely involve taking someone's property to give it to a developer.

To answer Ron Newman's question: Yes. Central Steel, Green Cab, and Amerigas are family-owned enterprises. Central steel operates a thriving business that has provided good jobs to Somerville residents without college educations for generations.

Whatever you think of Mystic View, its plan called for leaving these businesses in place, and letting market forces deal with them in the future. That is, at some point, the value of the propserty would become worth it for, say Walter Lipsett and John DeVries, to sell Central steel and relocate. This is far more realistic than the fairy tale that IKEA would sell out twenty years from now for a one-time property sale gain.

Central Steel's business is not based on location in the way that big boxes are. Nevertheless, the city's plan is to take Central Steel and give it to IKEA.

Central Steel has Jim Materman, the best emminent domain attorney in MA, on their side, and the Supreme Judicial Court has reached down to take up their case. I wish them every success.

BTW, Walter's daughter, who was Jim's wife, recently passed away at the age of 43. If any of you know Jim or Walter, please pass on your condolences.

And as always, thank you Mrs McCarthy for leavening the discussion with humor.


Funny how things turn out...

Funny how things go sometimes. Two commodities that are heading in different directions; Real estate prices are sputtering, while steel prices are shooting up like crazy. Few people remember that Central Steel rebuilt on the same site after a disastrous fire 20 or so years ago. During the time they were rebuilding on Foley Street, they continued to operate out of space in Malden. Who wants to make a bet that Central Steel is there 10 years from now. My money's on them all the way!

Also, Bill S. is right. They are a very good employer which takes care of their people. IKEA or anyone else would do well to follow their example. For that reason and a bunch of others, they deserve to stay there.

And Mrs. McCarthy... I think your da Bomb sugar. I wanna hang with you!!!


bill.your information in your last article had many,shall we say liberties, in it.when you hear a story from a friend and you ask another friend to colaborate it,thats a little like asking the fox what went wrong in the hen house.
if you were not at the table having dinner with alderman joe,and im quite sure none of your friend were, then you would have to admit your info was second, maybe third hand and also highly perez never lived in a property owned by mr oconnor and if she stayed there, what of it,she worked for him. also she worked for him years before gravistars acqisition of assembly sq. which by the way owned and operated millipns of dollars of retail property for many years before assembly sq was purchased by them.
the trip to cuba?were you on that trip or are you spreading more second and third hand information?ya know what bill? i hear lots of stories about you so maybe it is time i start posting them as fact like you do.if you want to be a soap opera queen then go to hollywood and look for work, show then what you have so far,youll be hired on the spot.
one more thing,when i say something on this post IT IS FACT,i was there or i heard it with my own ears,and if you knew who i was you would know this to be true.

Nose, you are starting to smell

I allways find Bills reports honest and very refreshing. I know many others do too. Compared to the all the spin BS coming out of city hall, Bill should get an pultizer prize.

Jay O'Callahan

This reminds me of an old story I still tell ocasionally.

In January of 1996, I stood with a former steelworker on fourth street in the steel making city of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania at sunrise on a freezing winter morning. It is a lot like Somerville too. The streets were still empty. A block away the great black blast furnaces looked like frozen black castles. They sat silent. I looked up at Webster Street, one of the many steep streets on the South Side. My friend, Francis, in his late seventies said, "Forty years I came down this street for my shift. For a hundred years steel workers came down these streets going 'to work.

"Different nationalities?" I asked.

"Oh yeah. Down Hayes Street, you had Italians. Ridge Street was Polish and Russian. Maybe some Lithuanian. Then you had the Windish."


"Yugoslavian. Then Irish, German, and Greek. You had everybody. There used to be a Mexican village right on the steel property. That was way back."

"Hey, Louis," Francis called to a spare man in an overcoat. "How about some coffee? My friend, Jay, here is writing a story about steel."

Louis was a thin, black eyed man in his late seventies.

"I worked in the steel in 1936," Louis said. "The beams we made became the Golden Gate Bridge."

I was standing on the frozen street because I'd agreed to create and perform a story about steel making and the steel making community of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Bridget George, managing director of the Touchstone Theater, had asked me and Lehigh University then commissioned me to do the story.

I interviewed steelworkers, historians, waitresses, engineers, a former president of Bethlehem Steel, steel salesmen, professors, waitresses, union organizers and former superintendents and foremen. After two years I knew a lot about steel and thought the story was too big to do.

The story had become so overwhelming, I wrote Bridgett George of the Touchstone Theater saying the story was too big to do. Bridgett wrote back saying, "Trust that you'll find the story in one moment. And if you don't do the story, you'll break my heart." That was the perfect thing to say. Bridgett supported me, she believed in me. No one, certainly no artist, can create without support. That was the first lesson. Get support.

The second lesson was realizing that I could only provide a window into the steel making community. I couldn't do all the stories. I had to choose who it would be about and let the story be. Taking Bridgett's advice I was on the lookout for one moment.

I sat down with 82 year old John Waldony in his living room and felt warmed by his humor. John, who had been a local union president at Bethlehem Steel, told me stories about his dad, Fritz, working all his life for Bethlehem Steel. John talked of his dad's drinking to "cut the dust." John also told me of his involvement in the violent strike in 1941. John said, "The State Police came in on horseback and broke up the strike with clubs. They called them the Coal and Iron Police." His details were vivid and sharp. I was onto the story.

The next crucial step was sitting down with John Waldony's sister, Mary Soltysiak, in her kitchen at 721 Ridge Street. Ridge Street is at the top of one of the steep hills, and from Mary's kitchen I could see the blast furnaces far below. "Yeah," Mary said, "We had the flecks all over the vegetables." Mary's voice is bright and strong. "Our mother got us through," Mary said. "In the Depression our mother got us through. She was tough."

Mary and John's mother, Ludvika Moskal, came to American by herself when she was eighteen. I was struck by the image of a young woman setting out on her own with little money, little education and no English. Ludvika became a force that nothing, including the Depression, could defeat. The image of that young woman standing on a ship coming to America, was alive to me. I had my moment. I could see the story in her eyes.

I learned several things that are crucial to creating a big story. I mentioned support and not trying to do too big a story. I also learned the importance of commitment. For two years I felt I could back out of the project, but the day that I made a firm commitment things began to move.

Trust the images. Imagining steelworkers coming down those steep hills, brought the whole South Side alive to me. The image of Ludvika on the ship had fire for me. Images are like torches leading us through the dark. I had to remind myself over and over to trust the images.

I learned once again that having a feeling for the place of the story is all important. I walked the South Side of Bethlehem over and over. I visited the union hall. I toured the steel plant. I sat in Mary's kitchen where Ludvika had spend so much of her life. Kitchen talk is the real thing.

I knew the story needed a chance to grow. Stories grow when they're told to people. I scheduled times to tell "Pouring the Sun" in living rooms as I toured the country. In between tellings, I worked on scenes with Doug Lipman. A full year before the Steel Festival, I told "Pouring the Sun" as a Work in Progress at the Touchstone Theater.

I also had many rehearsals at my house. I invited neighbors and they brought friends.

Making the story was like climbing the Appalachian Trail. There were times I could not believe how steep the hills were. There were times when the fog was thick and I lost my way. And there were times when I just loved the beauty of the characters.

I finally performed "Pouring The Sun" at the Steel Festival. The night was blustery, a hurricane was sweeping over the east coast. Mary Soltysiak and John Waldony came with the Waldony family. Steel workers came, community people came. Mary said after the story, "You're part of our family now." The story had grown up. "Pouring the Sun" gave me a deep respect for the immigrants who built the great cities of this country.


Dot who?

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