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Council bid to rebuke Fenway plan fizzles

By Stephanie Ebbert, Globe Staff, 12/7/2000

our months after some City Council members insisted they couldn't wait for the chance to formally oppose the mayor's initiative for a new Fenway Park, their resolve to register a symbolic early rebuke of the plan crumbled.

Council opponents failed to muster even five votes - the minimum necessary to demonstrate that the loan order for the Red Sox plan would never receive the two-thirds vote it would require to advance.

''Rather than take a defeat today, we'll take a victory tomorrow,'' said Councilor Michael Ross (Beacon Hill), who represents Fenway constituents, more than 20 of whom were in the council chamber yesterday expecting a vote. The Fenway activists who showed up to encourage opposition left disappointed but hopeful.

''I think that when push comes to shove, people can't in good conscience support it,'' said Carl Koechlin, executive director of the Fenway Community Development Corporation. ''Most councilors feel this thing could fall under its own weight, and they'd just as soon let it come to that.''

Seven councilors have already said they will not approve the proposal for $212 million in city funding and the seizure of private land needed to build a new stadium next to Fenway Park's current location.

But the Menino administration does not plan to send the plan to the council for several months. So in August, Council President James M. Kelly and six colleagues demanded immediate hearings and questioned whether land could legally be taken under the city's eminent domain rights.

A few councilors yesterday privately acknowledged that the body had wanted to hold public hearings only to give the council a role in the high-profile proceedings.

Some councilors doubt the Red Sox can obtain the financing necessary for such a massive project, and they now say they would rather wait for the plan to collapse rather than risk their reputations in a sensitive vote on the future of the city's beloved baseball team.

Councilor Maura A. Hennigan (Jamaica Plain) - who has spearheaded opposition, though she does not represent the Fenway - hoped to call for a vote yesterday. But several colleagues complained that she was overreaching and putting them in an awkward position for an unnecessary vote.

Hennigan decided not to call the vote after talking to labor leaders, who are eager for the construction jobs that would be generated by a new ballpark project. Hennigan said councilors hoped to meet with union leaders this week to review opponents' arguments that the park should be built, but not in the Fenway.

Joe Nigro, head of the Building Trades and Construction Union, said his group wouldn't be inclined to attend such talks.

''There's no way that that is ever going to happen. Councilor Hennigan is way out of her own jurisdiction,'' Nigro said. ''I don't know what she is running for, but we are not sitting down with Councilor Hennigan.''

Also yesterday, the council unanimously voted to demand that the city provide legal documentation on its seizure of City Hall Plaza for redevelopment as a public arcade. Though several councilors said they took no issue with the proposal, they say the land was taken unlawfully and arbitrarily by the mayor without prior City Council approval, and threatened a lawsuit.

Kelly, who is suing Mayor Thomas M. Menino over another development plan, said Menino intentionally violated the rules. ''The mayor of this city has a bad habit, which is thumbing his nose at the members of this body time after time after time.''

This story ran on page B01 of the Boston Globe on 12/7/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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