Maura In The News

Editorial: It's shocking but true: Boston sidewalks unsafe

Thursday, March 18, 2004 - West Roxbury Transcript

We're not electrical engineers, nor did we play them on TV. Yet it seems to us a recent story about dogs being shocked on Boston city sidewalks has been woefully underplayed, mostly because everyone's treating as an issue for dog owners.

That's dead wrong. It seems to us to represent a threat to every child and senior in Boston, too.

Like we said, we're not engineers. But it seems that the power it takes to zap a German shepherd or golden lab would be enough to seriously burn, maim or even kill a kid or senior citizen. There was a case recently in New York City recently where a young woman in her 30s was zapped to death. A 116-pound dog was recently killed in Charlestown in a blow that could have killed a child.

The city's response so far has been good, but not great. Its efforts to pressure NSTAR into testing manhole covers and junction boxes seems motivated not out of a genuine concern but out of a sense of butt-covering. There needs to be new, more stringer regulations and a better system of accountability for everyone, including city repair crews.

The utility, too, needs to move beyond its leisurely approach to finding exposed wires. It, in one form or another, has been responsible for the electrical infrastructure of the city for more than 100 years, and needs to act that way. Its shameful attempt to pass the blame onto a handful of contractors, as if it were them who had not replaced the manhole covers since Babe Ruth pitched for the Sox, not NSTAR.

We are, frankly, mystified by the electric company's response. It is as if it doesn't know what the problem is, or knows and can't do it because of the massive costs of fixing it. Incompetence or cost-cutting avarice are the only explanations it can offer.

At-Large City Councilor Maura Hennigan deserves kudos not only for drawing attention to the issue but promising to hold NSTAR's feet to the fire. "The important thing is we are not going to quit until we fix this," she said recently. Her Committee on Public Utilities will hold another hearing in two weeks, and we urge all our readers to go and demand their city streets be made safe for dog and man alike.

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