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A biweekly roundup of articles from the Massachusetts independent press

Commentary: The Planned Shuttering of Harvard Square’s Democracy Center Was a Predictable Surprise
The latest generation of left-leaning activist organizations to make their homes in the former Harvard frat house known as the Democracy Center in Harvard Square were caught off-guard with the April 6 announcement that the facility would be shutting down on July 1, according to the Cambridge Day article “Democracy Center tenants are being cleared out in favor of one nonprofit called Democracy House.” It seems the board of the nonprofit that owns the building, the Foundation for Civic Leadership, has decided to shift the mission of the facility to house its youth program Democracy House (that looks like a campus-focused, “nonpartisan” in a way that screams “but really Democrat,” get-out-the-vote(rs) campaign to my eye).

However, having been around when the Democracy Center was founded in 2001 by a then-recent-Harvard graduate, Ian Simmons, who had been part of a particularly vociferous mini-generation of student labor activists at the elite school who I had worked with a bit when I was a (rather unconventional version of a) labor organizer, I’m amazed that he kept the space going along its original lines for over two decades. 

After all, my understanding is that Simmons has always been a wealthy fellow. And the property he purchased in his early twenties was worth in the low gazillions even then, given typical Harvard Square real estate prices. By now its asking price must be in the high gazillions. Yet rather than just flip it and become even more wealthy, he has held onto it under the nonprofit he heads. And continued to let successive mini-generations of activists rent relatively cheap office space and hold public events of all kinds there. So, honestly, I’m surprised he kept the largely unreconstructed Democracy Center going even five years, let alone almost 23. 

Now Simmons and the other board members of his nonprofit have at last decided to do something else with the building. I’m certainly sympathetic to the tenants being displaced and definitely think maybe the Foundation for Civic Leadership can give them like six months to vacate the premises instead of three. But this is one of those situations that kind of “is what it is.”

The Democracy Center had a good run. That run is now coming to an end. Folks currently using the building can certainly protest for a softer landing, but pushing too hard can quickly turn into the kind of “circular firing squad” behavior the broad American left is infamous for. Perhaps, then, the tenants might think about doing what tenants in similar centers in the area have had to do repeatedly in much shorter time frames with much worse landlords: migrate to a new space and start afresh. And perhaps Simmons can help financially to make that move easier. Which would be a better ending to what might come to be considered the end of the first chapter of the Democracy Center’s story … and a fine beginning to the next chapter.

Boston Compass
OG Swaggerdick is now MARQUISE! 

Film Review: “Civil War” Crimes — A Boutique Catastrophe
The Arts Fuse
A sharply critical take on the movie of the moment.

Group files lawsuit against Newton police over 2023 Boston Marathon incident
The Newton Beacon
A widely reported incident in the Newton stretch of last year’s marathon has resulted in the mostly Black runners and spectators allegedly harassed by the Newton Police Department at that time filing a lawsuit  accusing “the police of exhibiting racial bias.” 

Town to Move Forward With Municipal Aggregation in Burlington
Burlington Buzz
Burlington has filed with the state to reinstitute municipal aggregation—“the practice of having a municipality purchase electricity at a reduced rate for all residents, with the opportunity for residents to opt out if they prefer to go with a different provider.”

Northampton Students Walk Out Over Proposed School Budget Cuts
The Shoestring
High school students hit the bricks to attempt to fight to defend current staff-to-student ratios and a variety of services now under threat.

Teachers stage ‘walk-ins’ at schools demanding more paid parental leave
Marblehead Current
Meanwhile, Marblehead teachers have been staging rallies before entering their school in support of a better parental leave system that doesn’t force them to use up limited sick days.

Climate concerns hit Cuttyhunk
The New Bedford Light
Worsening storms, driven by global warming, have been pushing sand into the near-shore island’s federal navigation channel—almost cutting off its ferry line at one point. Dredging the channel is getting tougher for the US Army Corps of Engineers and getting the necessary funding for that and related remediation work takes time. So, what is the tiny vacation community to do?

Franklin Park neighbors divided over Shattuck redevelopment project
The Bay State Banner
Communities around Franklin Park—an area also in turmoil over the White Stadium fracas mentioned in the last installment of this column—are engaged in fierce debate over expanding the mandate of the public Lemuel Shattuck Hospital to include 400 “supportive housing” units. Some neighbors agree with the plan (which could help relieve Boston’s homelessness crisis), but others feel that the hospital’s mission to offer care to recovering addicts will be thwarted by having people living on the site that can, in essence, drink and take drugs at will.

Town Meeting appropriates $1 million from state opioid settlement
The Lexington Observer
Perhaps showing the broad reach of the ongoing opioid tsunami, wealthy Lexington has received $1 million from the settlement between the Mass. Office of the Attorney General and “big players in the opioid industry. The town is using the money to establish an Opioid Mitigation Special Revenue Fund that “will be used for education, prevention, treatment, and harm reduction programs.”

Wellesley librarians get to the bottom of the Wellesley lake monster legend
The Swellesley Report
Scotland claims to have the “Loch Ness Monster.” And Wellesley has apparently had the “Lake Waban Wiggler” slithering around since 1935. Wacky. 

Independent bookstores enhance Worcester’s culture
The Worcester Guardian
Worcester has two indy bookstores … neat.

Democracy Center tenants are being cleared out in favor of one nonprofit called Democracy House
Cambridge Day
See my commentary above.

Non-fatal temblor a friendly reminder
Dorchester Reporter
The recent spate of seismic activity reminds us that Boston is still due for our first “big one” since 1755 sometime between now and 20,000 years in the future.

IndyMass is produced for HorizonMass, the independent, student-driven, news outlet of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, by Jason Pramas and is syndicated by BINJ’s MassWire news service. Copyright 2024 Jason Pramas.

Jason Pramas is executive director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and editor-in-chief of HorizonMass.

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