Just another manic Monday
By David Ertischek/ Staff Writer - West Roxbury Transcript
Thursday, August 19, 2004
City Councilor-at-Large Maura Hennigan smiles when she's asked about whether she's going to run for mayor next year. "Do you want me to announce my candidacy right here?" says Hennigan, a city councilor for the last 23 years. "It's certainly something I'm thinking about."
But Monday, Hennigan's focus was far from her possible candidacy for mayor. It was making sure that the West Roxbury YMCA was being looked after financially and that the Boston Housing Authority was doing their best at employing youth workers.
Sitting in her office overlooking Congress and North streets at Faneuil Hall, Hennigan talked with Marion Kelly, director of the West Roxbury YMCA.
"How are you doing after the fire?" inquired Hennigan, 52, formerly of West Roxbury, now residing in Jamaica Plain. "I haven't been down there since the night of the fire."
Kelly described the new boys locker room, and told Hennigan about the grants that the Y was hoping to attain to redo the gym's floor that warped in the fire.
"I brought some photos of the gym floor, you can see the bubbles in it from the moisture going under the floor. I'm just crossing my fingers we won't have to do the whole floor."
After looking at the photos, Hennigan picked Kelly's brain for what type of grant Kelly was applying for, the process and who was in charge of the grant. Hearing who was in charge, Hennigan then gave the man in charge of the application process a call. It's nice to know people in high places.
As plaques such as being the chairwoman for the committee on Hunger and Homelessness in 2003, and the chairwoman for the committee on Housing, Ways and Means: Flooding and Storm Damage in 1999, adorned the walls, Kelly told Hennigan about a possible new program at the Y.
"It's a breast cancer survivor program," said Kelly. "Hopefully, it'll be a pilot program for other Ys. It's for emotional and physical help."
Hennigan rifled off a couple of questions and thoughts, "What would you need to get that up and going...? Do you think any of the health companies would pick up the cost of it...?"
Hennigan thought that the city's mammography van could do a screening at the Y, as well as different health centers could get involved in the program. Hennigan added Kelly should talk to an 80-year woman, active in the community and a former breast cancer survivor, to get her involved. Kelly liked Hennigan's suggestion.
In the waning moments of the meeting, Mary Regan, Hennigan's legislative aide, came in to give an update about the possibility of the former Fontaine's fluorescent chicken being auctioned off and the proceeds going to the West Roxbury Y.
"It's West Roxbury's chicken," joked Maura. "And they need it as you can see in the pictures from the wave in the gym."
Kelly took off and within mere seconds Carol Kelly, Hennigan's officer manager, hurried in to give phone messages, calendar updates and confirm scheduling with the councilor.
Hennigan's next stop was more of an appearance on the steps of City Hall. An African-American political action group was holding a press conference and raising the red, black and green African liberation flag in celebration of Marcus Garvey's 117th birthday.
Hennigan stood peacefully with her hands on the small of her back talking with City Councilor Charles Yancey. The two councilors watched and listened as former state Sen. Bill Owens, the first black state senator for Massachusetts, spoke about the struggles of the African-American community.
After a couple of minutes, Hennigan headed back into City Hall for her 2 p.m. Committee on Housing meeting, led by Yancey. Hennigan eagerly awaited to talk to Sandra Henriquez, the executive director of the Boston Housing Authority. Hennigan thinks that the BHA was not doing its job to provide jobs for youth workers and, in turn, a rise in violence has occurred. Hennigan cited a brawl that killed a Vietnamese teenager a couple of weeks ago in South Boston in BHA-run housing development.
"Maybe if you had a youth worker in there who knew what was going on, they would've known what was going on."
"I think they have their priorities wrong," said Hennigan, about the BHA. "There's a lack of accountability. No one oversees their budget. It shouldn't be the BHA walking away from their responsibility."
Hennigan said the BHA decided to put its money into public safety and maintenance and not the youth worker programs, which has been a cause to the rise in youth violence this summer.
Henriquez defended her group, saying the BHA has helped with ABCD camps, the boys and girls clubs, Girl Scouts and other outreach programs. Henriquez added that despite budget cuts, there had been no cuts to BHA police units.
Hennigan retorted with figures that she had personally attained from HUD's Washington office that day which showed the BHA's budget had risen from 2002 to 2003. Hennigan added that with an added $3 million, it could go to youth worker programs.
Henriquez pointed out that benefits have gone up, too. The two then debated upon the use of BHA-owned properties and the deployment numbers of BHA police. Hennigan called for the BHA to create a range of activities for youths, especially because more than 5,000 youths live in BHA housing.
After the hearing, Hennigan felt Henriquez had given her the runaround, but she felt like there were ways for the BHA to provide services even during trying financial times. The councilor added that organizations need to get creative and find ways to fund programs.
Hennigan was then pressed about her possible mayoral candidacy. "I really feel an obligation to make this city a better place, when you see policies you don't agree with, especially when you're not the policy-maker. And if I was the policy-maker, there are a lot of things I would change and do differently."
But the councilor added that she has a good professional and respectful relationship with incumbent Thomas M. Menino. She added that she felt that mayor's term, no matter what mayor, should only be eight years long, adding that whatever they can't do, they should step aside and let someone else give it a try.
Hennigan wanted more pilot schools and more kindergarten to eighth-grade schools. And that she also wanted the school committee to be elected by the people, like how it used to be.
But Hennigan knows what she likes best about her job.
"Every single day you get up, it's different. After 23 years, whenever you run into a problem, I can reach back into the fountain of knowledge to solve that problem. Sometimes it's easy to say 'We don't have the money.' With limited resources, oftentimes you have to change the way you do things to create efficiency and allocate resources well."
David Ertischek can be reached at [email protected]