Allston Civic Association clarifies rules

Boston Bulletin

May 27, 2010

Allston Civic Association clarifies rules

Scott Wachtler

Chief Reporter

Although tempers ran high at the April meeting of the Allston Civic Association (ACA), there was no indication of any remaining hostility at the May 19 meeting, which saw the addition of a few new faces looking to participate.

Last month, ACA president Paul Berkeley, faced opposition from a group of Allston residents who didn’t feel as though the ACA’s decisions truly represented the residents of Allston.

Prior to last week’s meeting, Berkeley met with Allston lawyer Joshua Krefetz and Allston business owner and Allston Village Main Streets Vice President, Scott Matalon to discuss issues of membership, restaurant closing times in the business district and the goals of the ACA.

“I’m fine with the outcome of the meeting,” Berkeley said. “I think it’s good that we’re discussing these issues. I understand they had legitimate concerns and we’re making an attempt to address them.”

At the start of last week’s meeting, Berkeley began to address the issues with the entire ACA.

“We need to hear everyone’s voice,” he said and vowed to make the meeting more structured and to keep the last half hour of the meeting open to housekeeping issues and to answer questions about membership. He also handed out a copy of the organization’s Statement of Principles, first written up in 1977.

The document states that the ACA is open to Allston-Brighton residents to speak and act as an advocacy group on any and all issues that directly and indirectly affect the quality of life in Allston-Brighton.

Berkeley said he would like to model the ACA’s procedures after the way the Boston Licensing Board handles matters. “Normally we hear a presentation and then we just take questions and comments until we take a vote,” Berkeley said. “We’re going to ask those making a presentation to try to keep it less than 10 minutes and then we’ll take some time to answer any questions and then we’ll hear from those who want to speak in support and those who want to speak against the proposal.” Berkeley suggested that new members be put on a probationary period of three meetings before they are given voting rights.

“This is to prevent business owners from bringing in their friends to vote on proposals and stack the vote. There’s nothing wrong with people wanting to support a business they patronize, but if someone wants to support a business, they’d be better off writing a letter of support to the licensing board,” Berkeley said.

Although voting privileges are only afforded to members and residents, Berkeley said he encourages anyone to speak at the meetings and to say what they have to say on proposals.

Krefetz said he was very glad to see that changes seem to be taking place at the ACA and called it “a great first step.”

“This month was a world of difference,” he added. “Paul was a real gentleman when we met with him and he really listened to our concerns. He expressed a real openness to hear what we had to say.”

He said he agrees with Berkeley on the probationary period for new members and looks forward to attending ACA meetings in the future.

Matalon, who owns Stingray Body Art and is also a resident and has been a member of the ACA for over two years, also agreed that the new openness is a great first step, but he is looking to see some changes being made.

He said he is looking forward to talking to Berkeley and the rest of the ACA about unifying the closing times in the business districts.

“There is a whole new generation of business owners in the area who also live here and employ a lot of people here and they have a right to be heard,” Matalon said.

According to Berkeley, the ACA is open to Allston-Brighton residents. Business owners who don’t also live in the area would not be allowed to join. When asked if there were any business owners in the ACA who do not currently live in the area, Berkeley said that it’s possible there are some who were residents when they started, but who have since moved. In that case they will lose their membership.

Matalon disagrees with that.

“A lot of those people represent an interest in Allston-Brighton. They employ many people in the neighborhood and should have a voice,” he said.