Maura In The News

Pol fills pothole problem with crater-complaint Web site

by Robin Washington and Ellen J. Silberman
Tuesday, October 21, 2003

City Councilor Maura A. Hennigan yesterday unveiled a potent new weapon in Bostonians' war against potholes, a Web site pressuring the Department of Public Works to fix urban craters.

Hennigan's Web site,, also takes direct aim at Mayor Thomas M. Menino's reputation as an urban mechanic by giving the public a way to report cracked streets and sidewalks and track their repair - or the city's inaction. ``What we should be doing is being a consumer-friendly city,'' said Hennigan, adding that under Menino, ``squeaky wheels'' and the politically connected get their potholes filled first.

Hennigan, who plans to run against Menino in 2005, broke her ankle when she fell into a pothole in May. Since then, she has made fixing Boston's streets a crusade.

The Menino administration dismissed Hennigan's site, saying it was unnecessary since the city already takes pothole complaints on the mayor's 24-hour hotline and the city's Web page.

Since January, the city has logged 1,087 pothole complaints and closed 748 of them, said Menino's spokesman Seth Gitell.

But those transactions are private and Hennigan's site makes its reports public. By yesterday evening it listed 10 potholes, some with vivid descriptions. Joe Green of the Beacon Hill Business Association pointed to one example on a particularly pockmarked section of Cambridge Street. ``That's the one I fell in, right there,'' he said.

The site forwards its complaints to the Department of Public Works. And Hennigan has asked DPW officials to log onto the site and record the fate of each hole in the street. Thus far, they have been noncommittal, she said.

``A lot of people feel that Boston potholes are a fact of life. Actually, they don't have to be,'' Hennigan said, explaining most are caused by street openings that have been improperly refilled. Many of those are left by utility companies, which are only required to temporarily patch the holes for the DPW to permanently repair. The companies pay into a city fund - now holding $22 million - earmarked for those jobs.

The Herald reported yesterday the city plans to spend $8 million fixing potholes over the next nine months.

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