LETTER: City Should Have Council President’s Plaque Removed from Arsenal Yards

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George Proakis, Manager
City of Watertown
149 Main Street
Watertown, Massachusetts 02472

Dear Mr. Proakis:

I am writing after seeing Ms. Maloney’s article in Charles Breitrose’s On Line Newspaper expressing several concerns surrounding Arsenal Yards; especially the Brothel that operated from a property located in Arsenal Yards.

She brings to our attention the bronze portrait of Mark Sideris which reads “without Mark Sideris Arsenal Yards and All that surrounds it may not have been realized.” Given the portrait and the citation, I surmise that is why she says, given Mark’s importance, he should know about everything that is happening on the property.

I do not see any reason why Mark would know or anticipate all of the businesses Boylston Properties had already arranged leases with, nor those who would later sign leases.

Until Ms. Maloney’s letter I had not seen anything written or in print about the bronze portrait of Mark on the property. And, even though I had serious concerns about singling out the Council President from the other Councilors, I remained quiet. I did not wish to bring this matter up out of concern people would think it only because of sour grapes or envy since I have been a candidate, on several occasions, opposing his reelection.

I speak out now because I question the wisdom of Mark’s and the City’s acceptance of a gift of this nature from the Developer. It is Tawdry and Cheapens the very highest elected office and further the City itself.

Recognizing and Honoring our Top Elected Officer should be a gift from the city. It is not the position of a Developer to do so. In the past, the Town recognized individual’s contributions that was deemed worthy and furthered the objectives and policies of the Town and Community in an outstanding manner.

However, one person’s support or advocacy in a project of this significance is not done alone. November 22, 2021 a Representative of Boylston Properties thanked the many boards that eventually approved the project while unveiling the portrait.

It would have been appropriate for the Developer to place a plaque on his property recognizing all of the various committees that had a hand in approving his project.

As you know, projects can be hung up by a committee or in court by an asunder of motions objecting to a project.

I know you were not around but many people remember the Late John Moxley. He was a mixture of Howie Carr and Mike Barnacle. He understood the inner workings of government. It is my impression he would have been disappointed that the full Council and Boards was not honored.

Furthermore, he would note the silence, on the part of the Councilors, regarding the key role they as well as others. If he was a Councilor, he would not approve a gift to the City without the inclusion and acknowledgement of the many hands that participated in the decision. Neither would I.

The deafening silence by the Councilors is baffling and conjures up a lack of knowledge of the precedence they are allowing to occur on their watch. Certainly, John would have spoofed the Council as President Sideris and the Eight Dwarfs.

When we Original Charter Commissioners were drafting the Charter, many were inclined to have the Chair decided by the Council. Our hearings bore considerable attention, attendance and input from the Community.

It is important to note, Proposition 2-1/2 was recently enacted by the State. The late-State Representative Paul Menton appeared before the Commissioners with the suggestion that one member of the proposed Council be elected separate from the others and also serve on the School Committee.

His fear was, in light of Prop. 2-1/2, our children, educators and the school’s needs would be overlooked, especially as we transitioned from Selectmen and Town Meeting into a new form of governance. The vote to establish a Council President, elected at large by the electorate, was passed by one vote creating a majority.

The Commissioners never intended the Council President to be more important than the other Councilors. We entrusted the President with presiding over and setting the agenda of the meetings, and representing the School’s and Council’s interest in providing educational opportunities for our children to the best of our ability. Of course, the President would be the Ceremonial Mayor of the Town and Act in any case of an emergency.

We did not mandate, but suggested that there be a strong relationship between the Council President and Manager. It has always been assumed that the Council President would be better tuned into the needs of the community and communicate the needs to the Manager in preparation of the budget.

We kept in mind that no Councilor was more significant than another. As we discussed how many Councilors, we decided to not have all Councilors voted At large. Therefore, District Councilors was adopted with the provision that there was no difference or distinction between District versus At Large Councilors.

I have covered certain aspects of the Original Charter and attempted to put issues in historical context. Our focus, at the time, centered on making Watertown’s Governance more efficient. We recognized and foresaw that part-time government did not work and would not be able to respond to the immediate needs we witness Day-to-Day.

We had part time Selectmen and Town Meeting. If a critical issue needed to be addressed, a Special Town Meeting had to be posted causing considerable delay.

We could have voted to have a Council/Mayor but we didn’t. I guess some today would say we created an oxymoron i.e. “City Known as the Town of Watertown.” We have Hybrid, Gas, and Electrical driven autos. They all get you to the same place. Maybe we were ahead of time recognizing semantics did not matter.

Returning to the matter at hand, I am not certain how you or the Council view this issue of a Developer singling out one Councilor. The appearance or perception of impropriety is awful. I had hoped you, as the new Head of the Executive Office, would recognize this as you came aboard and pointed out this situation to the Council.

I suggest you clean it up as quickly as possible. As the New Manager of our Community, under our Charter, only you can recommend budgetary items to the Council. A request for monies to reimburse Boylston Properties should be made.

It is important that Boylston Properties be reimbursed and the portrait removed. If the owner wishes to thank the City, he can do it by placing a plaque with the names of Councilors, the various Boards and the Town Manager.

It has been pointed out to me that this is public property. Yes, it is; however, the President is a City Official.

When I was working for the federal government, were we able to gain approval to receive a gift from a private entity of this nature, we would have to pay a tax on it.

This is a serious matter and I cannot underscore enough the dangerous precedent established. It should not be condoned for a Developer to come into the City and repeat this.

I am not saying or suggesting Mark’s advocacy reflected that he was unduly influenced. However, we cannot say this for any future President. We must guard against the possibility of a future elected official of Watertown being tempted.

Prevention is possible and we must act now.

Clyde L Younger

cc: President Mark Sideris
Watertown News

5 thoughts on “LETTER: City Should Have Council President’s Plaque Removed from Arsenal Yards

  1. With all due respect, this situation would have received no attention absent the incendiary letter written about Arsenal Yards. The “brothel” was great clickbait and tying Council President Sideris to it by not so subtle innuendo is an embarrassment to anyone who tries. This plaque is a non-issue and I hope the Council does nothing about it. Watertown is dealing with real issues and this is a complete distraction.

    • Paul, I guess you have missed the boat. Of course the portrait does not hurt anyone. I thought you were brought up to appreciate collaboration. It takes a team to approve over a billion dollar project. I am bringing attention to the optics and it is not good; however, you spin it. Yes, there are many other problems in town. Most due to people pitting one against the other. I do not consider myself an Uncle Tom, but I do appreciate what those who were here before I came and the lack and bustle of a city. I have been very comfortable in Watertown and yes I could have lived in Boston since I worked downtown. Living ten miles from Logan, ease of going to the city and traveling to the five other New England States as part of my work made Watertown a magnificent place to live. Once upon a time children could live in Watertown close to their parents and neighbors were neighbors and unlike out West where I come from or the South when someone said come over some time they were sincere. I guess my view of New England when I was growing up was Vermont. We have too many saying my way or the highway. My parents taught me to have a balance in my life.

  2. Blaming the City Council for a brothel is silly. No City Council member would be privy to rental information for a privately-owned apartment building. Also, the brothel operators rented an apartment under the name of a person, and even the building’s owner didn’t realize the renter was operating a brothel until it was busted by law enforcement.

    In the same way, no City Council member has authority to decide which businesses Arsenal Yards leases space to (within city ordinances). These are also transactions between private parties. It seems this writer simply doesn’t understand the different roles of government vs. private business. And he appears to be trying to smear the City Council President, who won the 2023 election against this writer.

  3. I don’t understand what the city council has todo with who rents from a private buisnes. This is a real streatch. It a long way to “prove a point” that doesnt’ really need to be ppointed out. My perception is that this is sour grapes. it would have been better not to have said anythiing, especail anything that was prompted by a letter in which the writer thought she was under survelliance. the city is not survelling people, but neighbors clearly are. like who needs big brother when the guy next door is video recording your business to make sure you are not parking too long in front of the hourse or playing music too loud? qucik call the neigborhood watch, city council president is buidling another buidling where 10 years from now they will be having parties with cocaine. this is really silly. it serves no purpose.

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