Quincy Residents, Officials in No Mood to Build Bridges with Boston

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Long Island sits in Boston Harbor, not far from the Dorchester and Quincy coasts.  A mile-and-a-quarter long by a quarter-mile wide, it consists of 225 acres.  That makes Long Island roughly twice the size of Suffolk Downs, the old racetrack in East Boston and Revere fated shortly to become its own boomtown of offices, apartments, condos, stores and restaurants.

Boston owns Long Island but access to it by land has only ever been possible through the City of Quincy.  Vehicles traveled through the populous peninsula of Squantum, in North Quincy, across a causeway to Moon Island, and then over a two-lane, 3,000-foot-long steel bridge to Long Island.

One day in October, 2014, inspectors found the bridge to be unsound and immediately ordered it closed.  Decades of exposure to the harbor's salty air had corroded its steel beyond the point of repair; five months later, the span had to be demolished.

Boston was operating two vital, heavily subscribed programs on Long Island, for treating those with substance abuse disorders and for housing the homeless,  These were shut down in a matter of hours and moved to temporary quarters in Boston proper -- or what were thought to be temporary.

We are now in Year 5 of the Long Island shutdown and the plan by the administration of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to rebuild the bridge and re-establish the much-needed drug recovery and temporary housing programs there is moving at the speed of a Galapagos tortoise.

The problem is Quincy doesn't want the bridge rebuilt and is doing everything legally and procedurally possible to slow and ultimately stop the rebuilding effort.  From the beginning, Squantum residents were united in opposing the new bridge. Their resolve seems only to have strengthened in recent seasons as they pulled off several successful stalling actions.

Fearing that re-opened (and inevitably expanded) programs on Long Island would lead to intensified use and more vehicle traffic than ever, Quincy is taking the position that (a) the bridge should never be rebuilt, and (b) the only acceptable way to administer and support the island-based programs in the future is via ferry boats running back and forth from Boston to the island.

The bridge dispute will take an unanticipated turn in April when Quincy hosts a group from the North American Indian Center of Boston, which seeks to halt any developments on the Boston Harbor islands that could disturb or desecrate the graves of Native Americans.  Quincy will be exploring how this particular Native American cause could strengthen their case against the bridge and vice versa.
Enlisting allies is standing operating procedure when you're slugging it out in the public arena.

Back in the mid-Sixties, I was lucky enough to find myself on many hot summer days on the waters of Boston Harbor, thanks to the grandfather of a good friend of mine, who had a 44-foot cabin cruiser.  He would take his granddaughter and a group of her friends, including me, for trips to the islands, most of which were abandoned and little used at the time.  We would often anchor for the day off Rainsford Island and swim off the boat.  We'd also take a 12-foot rowboat, a tender, to the shore and explore Rainsford, which had once housed a quarantine hospital.  There are graves all over Rainsford.

One day, another boy and I took the tender, equipped with two sets of oars, from Rainsford to Long Island.  I'm not sure of the distance, but it was a long haul in a small boat, too much open water to have been safely traversed by two knuckleheads from Revere.  (While on the other side of Rainsford, away from the gaze of our captain, we decided on the spur to go for it; we did not ask for permission.)

I still remember approaching the Long Island Bridge, its silver-painted beams gleaming in the invincible July sun, and pulling up to one of the concrete piers that formed its foundation in the sea.  I was impressed as much by the ingenuity that had produced such a beautiful but practical structure as by the immense height and length of the bridge and its impossibly elongated, graceful, arching shape.

Despite this warm memory, I'm ambivalent about building a new Long Island Bridge.  It's not that I don't grasp the need for and the urgency of the services that would be returned to the island with a new bridge.  It's that I treasure the unique allure of the Boston Harbor islands and the exhilaration that comes from setting foot upon them.  On these islands you feel that you can almost touch the Boston skyline.  At the same time, you are experiencing a different, primal world of ocean, wind, and sun.  You feel like you could be a thousand miles away from Boston.

Long Island without its much-needed facilities is a problem for the Boston of today. One hundred years from now, however,  a Long Island kept separate from the automobile and insulated from development pressures whose intensity we cannot begin imagine, could be a solution for every Bostonian driven occasionally mad by the metropolis.      

Once in a While, Trump Does Something Really Good, Eh Andrew Lelling?

Friday, March 15, 2019

I take a backseat to no one in skepticism of the Trump administration.  To this day, 29 months after Trump was elected, I have difficulty believing the "cheddar-colored billionaire," as Maureen Dowd of The New York Times dubbed him, is actually president of the United States, and yet I have to concede that not everything Trump has done or is doing is bad. 
Trump makes a good decision every now and then, such as when he appointed Andew E. Lelling U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts.
Lelling is a highly qualified, highly principled  public servant.  We can be glad, we can rest easy, knowing he's the top Justice Department official in the Commonwealth.
Jody Godoy of the publication Law 360 wrote an article about Lelling in September of 2017 headlined, "Boston U.S. Atty. Nominee 'Wicked Smart,' Colleagues Say." 
Godoy quoted Lelling's former boss at the federal Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, Ralph Boyd, as saying:
"In the law, and particularly in elite jobs in the law, there isn't a shortage of smart people.  But what there is a shortage of is wicked smart people with really good judgment and a high decency quotient.  And Andy has got all three of those, in rare combination."
Before his appointment as U.S. Attorney on September 11, 2017, Lelling was a federal prosecutor for more than 15 years, serving first in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department and later in the U.S. Attorney's offices for the Eastern District of Virginia and the District of Massachusetts.
On the Department of Justice's website you will find the following:
"During his time as a prosecutor in the District of Massachusetts, Mr. Lelling served as senior litigation counsel and as Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Economic Crimes Unit and on the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force.  He was the lead prosecutor in a number of complex fraud, immigration and international drug trafficking investigations, including, most recently, the successful prosecution of one of the largest pyramid schemes ever charged by the Department of Justice, which involved over a million victims worldwide and losses of $3 billion.  In addition, Mr. Lelling has prosecuted major drug trafficking organizations, domestic branches of Mexican drug cartels, and global drug traffickers based in Eastern Europe.  In his role as the Senior Litigation Counsel, Mr. Lelling developed enforcement policy for criminal prosecutions and trained prosecutors and law enforcement officers on criminal practice."
Lelling is an honor's graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Class of 1994. 
If you think that U.S. Attorney is not an especially important job, please think again.
A U.S. Attorney has tremendous power and influence.  The decisions he or she makes, in fact, have billion-dollar consequences.
Case in point:
During the 2018 federal fiscal year, the District of Massachusetts collected more $25,028,095 in criminal actions, and $4,906,284,211 in civil actions.
The District of Massachusetts also worked with other U.S. Attorneys' Offices and units of the Department of Justice to collect an additional $282,208,233 in cases they pursued jointly.
In total, the Justice Department collected $14,839,821,650 (nearly $15 billion) in civil and criminal actions during the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2018.  That was nearly seven times the appropriated $2.13 billion budget for the 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Office that year.
Massachusetts collections accounted for more than one-third of all the fines, penalties and charges assessed by federal authorities in FY 2008!
In addition to these civil and criminal collections, the District of Massachusetts was also responsible for the forfeiture of $20,788,659 in criminal proceeds, or other property involved in crimes, in Fiscal Year 2018.
“I’m proud of the work the prosecutors in my office have done to secure more than $5 billion in civil and criminal collections, and asset forfeitures, in 2018 alone,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “The District of Massachusetts has long been a leader in financial recoveries in the areas of health care fraud, securities fraud and civil settlements, and we will continue to aggressively pursue collections that return money to victims of crime and U.S. taxpayers, and that deprive criminals of their ill-gotten gains.”
The largest civil collections were from affirmative civil enforcement cases, in which the U.S. government recovered government (public) money lost to fraud or other misconduct, or collected fines imposed on individuals and/or corporations for violations of federal health, safety, civil rights or environmental laws, or fines for other fraudulent conduct. In addition, civil debts were collected on behalf of several federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Internal Revenue Service, the Small Business Administration and the Department of Education.
To give you an idea of how busy Lelling's office is, look at the headlines on the press releases issued by his office on just one recent day,  Thursday, March 14: