Allston Residents Talk Flexible Funds and Task Force

Harvard-Allston Task Force Meeting
John A. Bruno, Interim Chair of the Harvard-Allston Task Force, leads a two-hour discussion on the University’s development in Allston on Wednesday evening.
Members of the Flexible Fund Executive Committee laid the groundwork on Wednesday for how the organization would distribute a total of $5.35 million toward North Allston public realm improvements, as part of Harvard’s $43 million community benefits package.

The eight-person executive committee has been tasked with narrowing down applications and will meet again in mid-November to create a list of priority projects.

“We want to look at the projects that make the most sense and receive public support,” said Gerald Autler, senior project manager at the Boston Redevelopment Authority. He said the process for allocating Harvard’s funds could mirror a comparable project run by the Boston College Allston-Brighton Task Force.

Wednesday’s meeting focused on the review process for proposed projects and long-term uses of the fund.

“This fund should not been seen as the way to pay for maintenance or other capital improvements that would normally come from the city’s capital budget,” Autler said. “If there’s an area of improvement that goes above and beyond that, then it could be covered by this fund.”

After the executive committee met, the Harvard-Allston Task Force gathered to discuss workforce development and Harvard’s non-institutional holdings in the Allston area. New task force interim chair John A. Bruno moderated the meeting, taking over from former chair and longtime Allston resident Raymond V. Mellone. The task force has not set a timeline for selecting a permanent chair.

“The task force needs to work collaboratively to set an agenda, take input from the community at large, but also ensure that meetings don’t get derailed by any particular agenda that aren’t consistent with task force goals,” Bruno said.

Community members also raised concerns at the meeting about transparency in the appointment and attrition rates of task force members.

Allston resident Paul “Chip” Alford said he was confused about how task force members are nominated and how vacancies in the task force would be addressed.

“I’m just concerned about procedure—because I think before we can go anywhere about all the great stuff that’s being discussed, we need to know what the procedure is to put people in place to make those decisions,” Alford said.

Even Bruce Houghton, who sits on the task force, said he was unsure about how he was appointed.

“If I don’t—after being here all these years—understand how someone comes on here, and it’s purely a BRA advisory board, and…all of a sudden some people are looked at by the BRA, some people are talked to, some people aren’t, it looks as if it could be stacked,” Houghton said. “Transparency is best for the BRA, best for the community, best for the politicians.”

Appointments may be necessary when seats become vacant, although it is not always clear when a spot becomes open because there is no strict attendance policy.

When pressed on this issue by Bruno, Autler said he did not feel that a formalized procedure for removing task force members due to absentia was necessary.

Workforce and Economic Development subcommittee member Jane McHale also briefed the task force on the subcommittee’s achievements for the 2014-2015 calendar year, noting that with grant funding from Harvard, the subcommittee allowed the 433 residents on a Brighton English for Speakers of Other Languages waiting list to move into targeted educational programs.

—Staff writer Ignacio Sabate can be reached at ignacio.sabate@thecrimson.com . Follow him on Twitter @ignacio_sabate.

—Staff writer Luca F. Schroeder can be reached at luca.schroeder@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @lucaschroeder.

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