The End

We started the Dorchester Think Tank blog back in 2008 to put a spotlight on activism and create a place to discuss new ideas for positive change in our neighborhood. Since then so much has happened: Dorchester was named one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the U.S., Boston elected a Dorchester resident mayor for the first time in over 50 years, and there have been so many general improvements to the neighborhood. However, there is of course still so much more to be done...

During that same time, there have been many changes in our life, including new jobs and, most importantly, the birth of our two daughters. This has reduced the amount of time we have to write about our passion for Dorchester (you may have noticed there have been no posts since 2013) and express our visions for positive change in the place we call home.

So today, we bid farewell to the Dorchester Think Tank in this final post.


Marty Walsh for Mayor

Previously, we endorsed Felix Arroyo for mayor. We felt he was the best candidate for mayor, but the voters of Boston did not choose him to continue beyond the preliminary election. After the preliminary election, it was relatively easy to make a decision as to who we would support in the general election. Marty Walsh's Dorchester roots and his working class upbringing helps him understand the problems that many Bostonians face. As a colleague said, "John Connolly thinks about poverty, where Marty Walsh feels about poverty." This level of empathy is hopefully a sign that if he becomes mayor, Marty Walsh will not forgot those who are most in need. Unlike the Boston Globe or other new outlets, we believe Marty Walsh's pro-labor union stance is a good thing. Labor unions are a powerful force in lifting up the income levels of those who often live below the poverty line (custodians, hotel workers, etc.) or are undervalued (teachers, nurses, construction workers, etc.). We believe he will continue Mayor Menino's legacy of focusing on the neighborhoods. Lastly, Marty Walsh has gained the support of the three leading candidates of color (including Felix Arroyo) from the preliminary election. We believe he is the best candidate to represent all of Boston.


Ratings Back to Dorchester Think Tank!

The Internet company that hosts our post ratings folded. After some searching, we have finally found an acceptable replacement. Sadly, we lost all of the ratings that blog readers left over the past 5 years. We encourage everyone to sift through the Dorchester Think Tank's blog posts and re-rate all of your favorite (or not so favorite) ideas.

#13 Expand Free and Consistent Wifi to Dorchester

Many cities nationwide, including Seattle, San Francisco, and Boston, have established free wifi for residents and visitors. In Boston, many parts of downtown, Dudley Square, and Grove Hall have free or low cost wifi. Even in these areas, the wifi can be spotty. Yet, there continues a clear and persistent digital divide between the rich and the poor in Boston. Mayor Menino's first step was commendable, but Boston must continue its expansion. There are many young and old residents that have limited access to the Internet. For many, using the Internet is restricted to the operating hours of local libraries or coffee shops. The city should start with its most populous neighborhood, Dorchester, and provide free wifi campaign through the entire neighborhood. It can be funded through partnerships with tech company sponsors, and, if that cannot provide the full funding, by having moderate and high income users pay a fee to help subsidize low income residents. This could encourage local business to consider relocating to the neighborhood and attract people to spend more time (studying or working) here.

Do you think this is a good idea? Rate below.

Felix Arroyo for Mayor

There are several candidates that Dorchester Think Tank believes will make great mayors of Boston. Marty Walsh's Dorchester roots and appreciation for labor is a plus. Charlotte Golar-Ritchie also lives in Dorchester and her strong government resume and intellect made her a contender (it would also be important to have a female mayor who looked like our majority-minority city). Although we are not from Hyde Park, Rob Consolvo has some great ideas on education improvement and other social justice issues. However, after serious deliberation (this is the first election in a long time that we actually feel several candidates are excellent), we have chosen to vote for Felix Arroyo.

Felix Arroyo is the most progressive candidate in the race for mayor. He grew up in the city, attended BPS, and comes from a family of Boston teachers and public servants. After attending several mayoral debates in person, we also believe he is the smartest person in that room. Unlike other candidates, he does not offer simple solutions or hollow promises. He doesn't believe in silver bullets. His background as a community organizer and his work with the SEIU is commendable. His age and energy is an asset. His campaign message focuses on decreasing the gap between rich and poor in Boston by focusing on lifting everyone. He has strong proposals related to middle income and lower income housing, job training, and school improvement. His environmental plan would divest in fossil fuels, make the city more energy efficient, and push the state to invest more in public transit. He will continue Mayor Menino's focus on the neighborhoods. It is an added bonus that he is Latino and speaks Spanish, since Latinos are the fastest growing demographic group in the city. For all these reasons, we are "Forward with Felix."


Boston Marathon Tragedy

Our hearts go out to all the victims of the Boston Marathon tragedy... The Governor and Mayor have announced the establishment of a fund to help the people most affected by the tragic events that occurred on April 15, 2013. For more information or to donate, click here: www.onefundboston.org

UPDATE: The Richard family of Dorchester was watching the Boston Marathon when bombs exploded nearby. Their young son Martin was killed. His younger sister and his mother remain seriously injured. Many people have asked how they can help the Richards. This campaign has been created to provide an avenue of assistance by friends at St Mark's Area Main Street and the Center for Civic Media: www.richardfamilyfund.org


Elizabeth Warren for Senate

Elizabeth Warren's opponent has a campaign slogan of "He's for Us," but when you look at the issues, it is clear that "She's for All of Us!" From her position on jobs, taxes, education, health care, anti-poverty measures, and Wall Street regulation, we are convinced that she will be the best person to hold Ted Kennedy's old seat and we strongly endorse Elizabeth Warren for U.S. Senate. She is backed by the vast majority of the state's labor unions and would truly fight for the middle and working classes in D.C. In fact, only Warren has a Dorchester office and from the looks of yard signs across the neighborhood, she has a majority of the neighborhood's support. Whoever you support, make sure to get out and vote on November 6th!


#12 More Quality and Affordable Housing

Dorchester may already have some of the most affordable housing in the city. Despite this, there are still large variations in the quality and price of the housing available in the neighborhood. Over the past decade, various projects have helped to improve this, such as The Carruth, a Transit-Oriented Development at Ashmont Station, or the A B & W Building in Codman Square. Yet, if Dorchester is to continue to attract new residents to the neighborhood, while supporting those who have long lived here, there needs to be more quality and affordable housing available.

Housing can be improved through a mix of private and public investment. Private developers should increase the number of quality rental apartments and renovate preexisting condominiums and single family homes to attract new residents to the area (especially in areas with access to bus, subway, or commuter rail). The city should renovate current Boston Housing Authority complexes in Dorchester (similar to the renovations of developments in South Boston or Roslindale). This would truly help elevate the neighborhood and make our already strong community stronger.

Do you think this is a good idea? Rate below.

(Top photo courtesy of St. Mark's Area Main Street and bottom photo courtesy of Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation.)


Spotlight on Activism (Update): Occupy UMass Boston

There is yet another Occupy Movement in Dorchester. Students at UMass Boston have begun protesting cuts in public education spending and hikes in tuition. Here is the Boston Globe story: Students Set Up Camp and Occupy UMass Boston

UPDATE: Two Weeks Later, UMass Boston Still 'Occupied'

(Top Photo courtesy of Patrick D. Rosso)


Spotlight on Activism: Occupy the Hood - Boston

It has been a while since we highlighted activism in Dorchester, so here is a new post... When Occupy Wall Street was taking over NYC and Occupy Boston was claiming Dewey Square for the people, a group of Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan residents were occupying the 'hood of Boston (pictured above is a demonstration on October 21 in front of a police station in Roxbury). Illuminating the inequity that this current economy has created and emphasizing the impact of the mortgage meltdown on the working class and poor, as well as communities of color, Occupy the Hood (which is part of a greater movement across 'hoods nationwide) brought this recent movement for social justice from downtown to Dorchester. We only hope they can keep the momentum going through 2012, as we need more public protest that represent the people of Dorchester.

Occupy the Hood - Boston
Occupy the Hood - Boston @ Facebook

(Top photo courtesy of Jacob Leidolf/Occupy the Hood Boston)


Spotlight on Activism: Dorchesterites Heading to D.C. Over Education

Dorchester is home to many public school teachers, parents, students, and political activists and many of these folks will be heading to the nation's capital on July 30th to express their concern with the direction of public education in the United States. The Save Our Schools March hopes to give voice to the many parents and students upset by recent school closings here in Dorchester and other neighborhoods. The march will give a platform to those concerned by an agenda that is privatizing education, through charter schools and pressure from corporate America. The march is further motivated by the damaging educational policies embedded in No Child Left Behind and more recently Race to the Top that focuses heavily on standardized testing. The rally and march will include a diverse array of parents, students, teachers, and educational thinkers (including Jonathon Kozol, Diane Ravitch, Pedro Noguera, Cornell West) who will speak and we encourage you to attend.

Where: Washington, D.C. - The Ellipse near the White House
When: Rally July 30, 2011 at noon and march to the White House at 1:30 pm
Website: www.saveourschoolsmarch.org

#11 Convert Unused Lots to Public Gardens

One issue in the urban environment is the vacant lot. That is because vacant lots seem to have a love affair with trash. However, some people are proposing innovative solutions to these unintentional dump sites. Many cities around the country (including Boston) have begun to convert these vacant lots to public gardens and in some bolder projects urban farms (with the obvious soil safety tests). In fact, Revision Urban Farm has been doing this for years and more farms are in the works for city-owned vacant lots.

We think that people should not only support these community gardens and urban farms, but encourage this to be taken a step further. Many of the empty lots in Dorchester are owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (for example, below are known dumping areas on top of the Shawmut Tunnel and next to Ashmont station). We would love to see these areas also opened to community gardening (much like those in the Fenway area) and urban farming. This would prevent dumping and create a way for neighbors to work together to grown good food, flowers, and plants.

Do you think this is a good idea? Rate below.

(Top photo courtesy of Gown 2 Earth Boston.)


Highlight on Activism: Dorchester Food Coop Initiative

When we heard a group of Dorchesterites were working hard to create a community-owned food store to provide healthy, local, and natural food for Dorchester, we were excited and felt their efforts had to be highlighted. If you are unfamiliar with the food co-op model, think Harvest co-op in Somerville or Jamaica Plain.

The Dorchester Food Coop Initiative is encouraging area residents to buy shares for $100 or $200 in the company to help get this community owned store off the ground. The co-op needs 500 owners to break ground and currently they are in the planning stages, including looking for possible sites. We encourage you to go to their website to learn more: http://dotcommcoop.wordpress.com

(Top photo courtesy of green Dot!.)


Dorchester Coast Trail Survey

A group of graduate students who focus on urban and environmental research are gathering data about a perspective biking/walking/running trail connector called the Dorchester Coast Trail (aka "The Missing Link" between Greenway in Port Norfolk and Harborwalk at UMass Boston). We encourage you to go to the linked site and complete the survey! Dorchester Coast Trail Survey


Help! We Want Our Moon's Chef Hat Back!

A chef's hat that was placed on the Sleeping Moon sculpture in Peabody Square has been stolen and we'd like to get it back! It was a memorial tribute to a recently deceased neighbor, who meant a lot to not only his family (who made the hat), but our whole neighborhood!

An anonymous donor is offering a $250 reward for the return of the "Real Men Fry Turkies" chef's hat. No questions asked. Email joyce@ashmontmedia.com or call 617-265-8444.

For Joyce Linehan's original post on this: $250 Reward - Sleeping Moon tribute to dead neighbor stolen. Help us try to find it.


Help Save the Lower Mills Library! Part 2

As we had previously posted, the Trustees of the Boston Public Library are threatening to close the Lower Mills Branch of the library. Where they should be finding ways to equally distribute the budget issues caused by the poor economy across the system, instead they are targeting a vibrant part of our community for closure. There will be an important public working session on Monday October 25 at 6:30 pm at the Lower Mills Branch (27 Richmond Street in Dorchester) and we encourage everyone to come and make their voice heard.


Mac D'Alessandro for Congress

Since this blog is meant to highlight the activism that occurs in Dorchester and the hopes we have for future action, we believe that our success for community improvement is completely linked to the actions of those in politics. As a result, we have decided to make our first endorsement of a person running for political office.

This Tuesday (September 14th) will be the Massachusetts Democratic primary and we are urging support for Mac D'Alessandro as the future representative for the 9th Congressional District (which covers most of the eastern part of Dorchester). We think Mac offers a new perspective and the progressive values that will help Dorchester (and the other neighborhoods of Boston) continue to make progress. He is the candidate who is most likely to support the grassroots work that has been started by so many of our community members. However, we ask you to consider doing your own research on his positions. This can be found at his website www.mac4congress2010.com.

Whomever you choose, we strongly encourage you to vote this Tuesday, because having your voice heard is the most important way we can support Dorchester. If you need to find out your polling place, the Secretary of the Commonwealth has a website: wheredoivotema.com. And thank you for participating in our democracy!


Calling All Dorchester Artists

The Dorchester Arts Collaborative (DAC) has an open call for participants in their 2010 Open Studios on October 23rd and 24th. Please consider registering for Open Studios. For more information, go to www.thedac.org and click on “Open Studios.” Registration before September 1st is only $40 and guarantees that your name and site location will be on the map and all collateral materials (registration after September 1st goes up to $65).


#10 Art and Music Performance Spaces Needed

It is clear from the numerous artists in our studios, to the plenitude of singers, bands, and hip hop acts that practice in our basements, to the all of our young people attending Boston Arts Academy and the other art and music programs in our schools, that Dorchester has talent! And Dorchester needs more places for our musicians, poets, and artists to display their amazing art in our neighborhood.

Although there are some local establishments that display our artists' work (such as the Ashmont Grill, Flat Black Coffee, Dot 2 Dot, and of course the Dorchester Community Center for the Visual Arts), this should become more widespread throughout Dorchester and be expanded to include open mic nights for musicians and poetry slams for poets (not to mention helping them creating more art here, as opposed to taking the Red Line out to the other neighborhoods of the city or Cambridge). At the same time, this will help foster a boom of art appreciation among residents and give our teenagers a safe and productive place to spend their time. As a result, we propose the following ideas:

1. If you are a coffee shop or local restaurant, offer one night a week to be an open mic night or poetry slam. Not only will it bring more people into your place of business to hear live music (and purchase things from you), but it will also help local musicians and poets.

2. There are a number of vacant store fronts along Dorchester Ave., Blue Hill Ave., and the other thoroughfares in the neighborhood, these are all prospective places to open an art house to display local artwork and provide a space for musical groups and poets to perform. If you rent property (especially in places that are T accessible) and you have not been able to rent it out for some time, consider offering it for free (or low rent) to a local music and art groups for performances.

3. If you have a local business or restaurant, encourage local artists to display their work on your walls. We have a list of the websites of many local artists on this website. Send them an e-mail if you like their work and invite them to display their artwork (and post contact info if people are interested in adding to their own collections).

4. The MBTA should create designated performance areas for musicians at the four MBTA stations in Dorchester that currently do not allow performances (Savin Hill, Fields Corner, Shawmut, and Ashmont - JFK/UMASS already has a designated performance space), allowing a free place for our neighbors to perform (We would also like to highlight that fact that all red line stops in Cambridge and Somerville have performance spaces... Why not Dot?). Let the T know by contacting them at: MBTA Customer Feedback.

Do you think this is a good idea? Rate below.

Highlight on Activism: DotOUT

Continuing our segment that highlights those who are activists in our community. Our second featured group is DotOUT.

DotOUT is a local organization committed to acceptance, inclusion, and equality for all. The group focuses more specifically on activism related to issues facing the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. Dorchester's gay and lesbian residents have a long history of contributing to the neighborhood, but in the last decade this community has become more visible and vibrant. DotOUT is also highly engaged politically, including a passionate debate over mayor candidate endorsements at a meeting in 2009 that stirred the local press, such as the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Boston Phoenix, Bay Windows, and Dorchester Reporter. With important national debates over marriage rights and anti-discrimination legislation, we are proud that our community has such a strong LGBTQ voice!

To find out more about DotOUT or attend their meetings, check out their website: www.dotout.org

To read more about the history of DotOUT, check out this Boston Globe article from 2005: Under a rainbow flag, linking the Dots

DotOUT's float in the 2009 Dot Day parade. Possibly one of the greatest floats in parade history. (Picture by Dottie Hottie)


"Dorchester People" in the United Kingdom?

Our brothers and sisters on the other side of the pond (the original Dorchesterites in the UK) have recently contacted us about their local community website. We encourage you to check it out... www.dorchesterpeople.co.uk


Help Save the Lower Mills Library!

The Trustees of the Boston Public Library (BPL) have made a purposeful choice to close the Lower Mills library (and branches in East Boston, Brighton, and South Boston) and we are asking that as community members you take action to help prevent this from happening. In Lower Mills, the library serves such an important role as place for both education and community building and closing it jeopardizes the centerpiece of this section of the neighborhood, one that has existed since 1875.

What can you do:
1. Attend the benefit at Ledge (2261 Dorchester Avenue) on Wednesday, April 14th at 6 pm. Cost is $15. Call Vic Campbell at 617.822.4046 for more information.
2. Go to the Lower Mills Library and find out how to sign the petition.
3. Write the mayor, our city councilors, and state representatives to tell them your personal stories about the Lower Mills library.

For more info read: the Dorchester Reporter Story with Video.


Haitian Earthquake Relief

Our hearts and prayers go out to the people of Haiti and our neighbors here in Dorchester with family and friends there, who have suffered through this tragic earthquake.

Please consider making a donation to help with the relief work:
Doctors Without Borders*
Habitat for Humanity*
The Red Cross*
Partners in Health (Local Boston-based organization)

*=Received an A+, A, or A- from the American Institute for Philanthropy - a charity watch group.


Highlight on Activism: Dorchester People for Peace

The Dorchester Think Tank is starting a new segment to highlight those who are activists in our community. Dorchester is one of the most politically active neighborhoods in the city and we want to illuminate the contributions of our fellow residents who are on the ground making our community and world better. Our first featured group is Dorchester People for Peace.

For years Dorchester People for Peace has been organizing opposition to the war in Iraq and US militarism in general. Their mission states they are building, "a multi-racial peace movement throughout the neighborhoods of Dorchester that can work against the war at home, including violence, budget cuts, racism and political repression." Recently, Dorchester People for Peace held a protest against President Obama's expansion of the war in Afghanistan, sadly only a few media outlets covered it (NECN for example), but never-the-less their activism needs to be commended. Every year we have seen this group tirelessly marching in anti-war protests on Boston Common and in the Dorchester Day Parade. As the radical historian Howard Zinn has said, "the day must come when there will be justice for women, for people of color, for the poor of the world, when the stupidity of war will be recognized, and military machines dismantled, and the world made safe for children." In a sentence this is the essence of the Dorchester People for Peace.

To find out more about Dorchester People for Peace or attend their meetings, check out their website: www.dotpeace.org


ADORE-chester! Top 5 Reasons Why Dorchester Is Progressing Boston Forward

Boston is America’s quintessential colonial city with its old world charm and quaintness, but it is also the country’s bastion for progressive reform. The last decade has brought many changes to Boston, pushing this hub of the universe into the next century. Dorchester Think Tank focuses on community change and activism, so our theme for our ADORE-chester! project posting is reasons why Dorchester is the neighborhood that leads the way on progressing Boston forward!

1. Dorchester is about social improvement. From the health care centers (like the Codman Square Health Center and Dorchester House, to improvements of our wonderful city parks (like Dorchester Park, Ronan Park, and Franklin Park, improvements to our thoroughfares (Dorchester Avenue Project), our plentiful farmer’s markets (Dorchester Farmers Markets), and urban farms (The Food Project and Revision Farms), we care about our neighbors' health and livelihood.

2. Dorchester is green. From environmentally sensitive restaurants like Ashmont Grill and dbar, to the always active DotBike, and transit-oriented and green building projects (such as The Carruth) in the neighborhood, and the thousands of Dorchesterites that ride the Red Line daily, we are doing our part to help make this world more sustainable.

3. Dorchester is one of the most politically active neighborhoods in the city. You can’t have an election without seeing the thousands of signs lining the avenues. You can’t vote in this neighborhood without shaking (or quickly dodging) the hands of many of Boston’s pols. And more importantly, you can’t win a citywide office without courting our neighborhood’s residents.

4. Dorchester supports its locally owned businesses. Whether it is family owned restaurants, the neighborhood mechanic, local hardware stores, or small ethnic groceries, Dorchesterites know supporting locally owned businesses is key to our neighborhood’s economy. It also means trying to avoid chains, who often take from us and not give us anything in return.

5. Dorchester is the most diverse neighborhood in Boston – and we love it that way! Dorchester’s cosmopolitan population makes us feel like we are walking through the United Nations everyday. Our ancestors came from so many different places: Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, South and East Asia, and Latin America, and we have made Dorchester that great salad bowl, were our cultures retain their individual characteristics, but also interact in a smaller version of globalism.

To read the other ADORE-chester! postings, please check out their blogs:
Lower Dot
The Dottie Hottie
The Dot Matrix
Dot Boston
Local Spice
Candeliera Silva
Social Butterfly Experiment
Greening of Dorchester


#9 Expand Grocery Options for Dorchesterites

Dorchester (and the rest of Boston) should follow the lead of cities like Paris, Tokyo, New York, Montreal, and even New Haven, Connecticut and promote development in their small grocery stores. In each of these cities you can't walk more then 5 or 6 city blocks without running into a small grocery store (often they are family-run or locally-owned). Although Dorchester is ahead of many other Boston neighborhoods with its growing number of ethnic shops run by our Vietnamese, Latino, Caribbean, Greek, and Irish residents, sadly for many Dorchesterites there are no grocery stores in walking distance and the nearby convenient store is where they must purchase most of their food. As a result, many of our fellow residents are essentially forced to have unhealthy diets. We encourage:

1. Local entrepreneurial-minded people to consider opening grocery stores in Dorchester that carry healthy and organic options (one good example is Jamaica Plain's Harvest Co-op) and small grocery stores in sections that have a major shortage of healthy food options.

2. The establishment of more ethnic eateries that carry the produce and products that many of our immigrant and migrant residents desire (after all Dorchester is Boston's more cosmopolitan neighborhood).

3. Dorchester demands the chains that offer reasonably-priced healthy and organic produce to our neighborhood, such as Trader Joe's (see our Lower Dot posting) or Foodie's Market. This also includes persuading our grocery conglomerates (Shaws and Stop and Shop) to carry more healthy and organic products (When I go into the Shaws or Stop and Shop in the 'burbs, they always seem to have a better selection of everything, why is that?).

4. In the warmer months, support the many farmers markets throughout Dorchester (and help the local farmers) at Bowdoin Square, Codman Square, Dorchester House, Fields Corner, Franklin Park, and Peabody Square or join a Dorchester farm share like Re-Vision Urban Farm or The Food Project.

Do you think this is a good idea? Rate below.

(Pictures of (top to bottom) Dorchester markets taken by the Dorchester Reporter, a grocery store in Paris, and Trader Joe's)


New Choir in Dorchester?

Peter Vaughan, a Dorchester resident and member of numerous Boston choirs is interested in finding others who want to organize a Dorchester choir. If you are interested, please contact him at bachfan23@gmail or petevaughan@gmail.com.


Follow Up: A World Class Zoo

Back in June of 2008, we suggested that Zoo New England close the Stone Zoo to strengthen its focus on the Franklin Park Zoo in Dorchester (the much larger of the two, located in the heart of Boston's Franklin Park). We have to admit we did not come up with this idea, it has been something we have heard from our neighbors for years. Finally, the Boston media has joined us in this idea.

Globe Article: One Zoo, Not Two

Original Post: A World Class Zoo


Dorchester Community Websites

Chad Baker, Melville Park resident, suggests we spotlight several websites that have sprung up allowing people in Dorchester to communicate and participate in the community. We encourage you to visit... Neighbors for Neighbors Dorchester, SCI Dorchester, and DotWell.