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Vote total for land taking upsets some city counselors

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 8/12/2000

everal Boston city councilors said yesterday that they were surprised and disappointed to discover that Mayor Thomas M. Menino may need fewer of their votes to seize land for a new Fenway Park.

However, ballpark opponents insist they still have enough councilors lined up to block the $665 million project.

"When all is said and done, five city councilors remain in the driver's seat on the new stadium," said Peter Catalano of the Fenway Action Coalition and a leading opponent of the project. "Because to buy the land, they have to authorize bonds," which will require a two-thirds vote.

Nonetheless, councilors were unhappy to learn the ballpark bill requires only a simple majority of the 13 members to approve the land takings, not the two-thirds vote that ballpark opponents had counted on.

"It's shameless," said City Councilor Maureen E. Feeney of Dorchester. "It's clearly written to get around the two-thirds vote they would otherwise need to take the land."

As the Globe reported yesterday, instead of calling for the land takings as a separate step, the bill includes the city's eminent domain proceedings in a so-called economic development plan that the Menino administration will draft during the next few months. It is that wide-ranging plan, and not the single issue of land takings, that will be placed before the council.

Since the plan requires only a majority vote, a councilor could oppose the land takings on principle and still not derail the project as long as the member then agreed to appprove bonds for the project.

Even potential supporters of the proposed ballpark were disappointed that the bill forfeits the council's right to dispose of land by a two-thirds vote.

"It's one way to whittle away the council's power," said Councilor Paul Scapicchio of the North End.

A few city councilors noted the ballpark legislation was modeled on the convention center bill, which also required a simple majority vote on land takings and a two-thirds vote on bonding.

City Hall observers said the Fenway Park bill gives Menino more opportunity to horse trade, but many predicted it will still be a close vote. "The language gives the mayor room to maneuver because getting one two-thirds vote is easier to get than two of them," said Sam Tyler of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau.

This story ran on page A10 of the Boston Globe on 8/12/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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