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Whither - or wither - Southie?

Posted in: Boston politics   Civic engagement
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Once a center of political power with a reach that extended well beyond its own boundaries, with clout at the city, state, and national scenes as well, South Boston’s outsized influence, identity, even its footprint, are waning.

A new website promoting “Boston’s New Waterfront” has been launched to draw visitors and residents to the redeveloped area. But as Patriot Ledger business editor Jon Chesto notes, the site does little to bring attention to the neighborhood where the waterfront resides. Chesto, a former Boston Herald reporter who still lives in the city, points out the phrase “South Boston” only pops up six times on the site, either in press release quotes or in directions.

The site touts other areas of the neighborhood, including Fort Point, where apartments and condos catering to the yupscale are coming on line; Fan Pier, with the new shops and restaurants; and the Marine Industrial Park. The term “Seaport District” shows up more than Southie and you can bet that would never have happened in Jimmy Kelly’s, Billy Bulger’s or Joe Moakley’s time.

And it’s not just developers drumming up a new neighborhood. Mayor Thomas Menino has tried his hand at annexing and branding the inner harborside of South Boston. Menino launched a website declaring a section of what everyone once considered South Boston to be the Innovation District, to draw science and technology businesses, and a map on the site shows it distinctly separate from its one-time host.

In Southie itself, there’s a battle going on for the heart of the neighborhood, with natives bemoaning the loss of identity and newbies pointing fingers at the locals for the problems. Herald columnist Peter Gelzinis, a lifelong Southie resident, bemoans the code of silence that continues in the neighborhood, a remnant from the neighborhood’s dark past, in the wake of the stabbing death of 67-year-old Barbara Coyne. But the comments on Gelzinis’s column are revealing for what people are thinking in the neighborhood.

Part of the rebranding effort may be to separate the redeveloped area from Southie, which is seeing a spike in crime, mostly aimed at newcomers. Former mayor Ray Flynn lays it on the increase of drug use and says part of that problem is the lack of police presence in South Boston, again something that would not have happened even 10 years ago with the power of its pols. Flynn talked about how his own home was broken into while he and his wife were at a funeral.

It’s a world of difference for the neighborhood whose fame is legend internationally.

                                                                                                                                    --JACK SULLIVAN



BEACON HILL

Despite tremendous political and popular support, an expansion of the bottle deposit law is in danger of going down in defeat again, reports CommonWealth.

State Republicans, after doubling their numbers in the House in 2010, are looking to build on that success this year, the Lowell Sun reports.

New England states join forces to collaborate on technology challenges, Governing reports.

Auditor Suzanne Bump fires a warning shot at nonprofit state contractors.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A candidate for selectman in Somerset owes the IRS $118,000, according to a lien filed against his home by the federal agency

The Quincy Housing Commission is starting a search to replace the current housing director after he accused the city of falsely inflating the housing agency’s water and sewer bills and demanded $2 million in repayment.

A Fall River City Council committee has voted to recommend lifting the cap on the number of taxis in the city.

A Cape Cod Times editorial considers the impact of dueling casino bids by the Aquinnah and Mashpee Wampanoag.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

A state legislative committee in Minnesota rejects a $975 million plan to build a new Vikings Stadium, AP reports (via Governing).

The Vatican goes to war with “radical feminist” nuns.

Senate Democrats stand with women, over and over again.

ELECTION 2012

Why the Hillary for veep rumors just won’t die.

The American Spectator says it’s the left, not the right, that holds the most hate towards Mitt Romney’s Mormonism.

In the National Review, Michael Barone says another scoop of vanilla for the Republican presidential-vice presidential ticket is not necessarily a bad thing.

The Atlantic asks whether President Obama is in trouble with young voters. A New York Times/CBS poll finds deep anxiety about the economy, leaving an opening for Romney. Romney takes a swing through the swing states, as the Times editorial page tries to paint him as the teen pregnancy candidate.

Norman Ornstein outlines the collision course ahead for Mitt Romney and his supposed GOP congressional allies.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The state’s jobless rate fell to 6.5 percent last month, down from 6.9 in February, and significantly below the national rate of 8.2 percent.

The Berkshire Eagle wants to see purchases through online retailers like Amazon subject to the state sales tax.

Pennsylvania is now number two in gaming revenue.

EDUCATION

The Boston public school system is lagging in the federally-mandated review of special education plans for more than one-quarter of the 10,000 students receiving special education services, the Globe reports.

With a five-year grant nearing completion, leaders of an effort to offer more Advanced Placement classes in Massachusetts high schools are looking to the state for funding.

Framingham State University debates arming its campus police.

The Republican weighs in on what a Springfield school superintendent search panel needs to look for in a new head for the system.

HEALTH CARE

The abrupt exit of longtime community health leader Bill Walczak from his position as president of Carney Hospital in Dorchester has ratcheted up worries about plans the hospital’s new corporate owners may have for the facility.

TRANSPORTATION

Lynn seniors on very tight budgets complain they can’t afford to pay $4 instead of $2 for a ride on The Ride, the Lynn Item reports.

MEDIA

In a dawn raid in Britain, The Sun’s editor for royalty coverage is arrested along with two others on charges of making illegal payments to public officials, the Telegraph reports.

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