$23,500 in Bribes Traced to Mass. Senator

Oct 30, 2008 9:36 PM. All work by , , , ,

“I am a firm believer in the notion that you can do good and do well at the same time,” Mass. State Senator Diane Wilkerson told undercover agents. Five weeks prior to that conversation, FBI agents witnessed, recorded and photographed Wilkerson stuffing a $1,000 bribe up her shirt, according to an affidavit released Monday.

The 32-page document accuses Wilkerson of accepting $23,500 in cash from civilian and undercover agents, as well as of delaying legislation to leverage a personal agenda. The affidavit follows Wilkerson from Dec. 2006 until the present and claims that she had illegally accepted money in return for legislative favors as early as May 2007. The details of the allegation are prefaced by a history of Wilkerson’s prior infractions, which include tax evasion, failure to adhere to campaign filing laws and for providing false testimony in a state court.

The case made against Wilkerson circles around political bullying to acquire a liquor license and real estate in Roxbury called “Parcel 8.” Earlier this month, Wilkerson filed legislation to lease the property to developer TrinMA Development and Management LLC.

Senate President Therese Murray told reporters today that Wilkerson should resign if she "values the integrity of the Senate."

Wilkerson was not at the Senate Caucus today, but instead, sent a letter to Murray regarding the allegations against her.

“I apologize to you and the members [of the senate] for being drawn into the madness that has become my life,” Wilkerson wrote. “But I can say that there is much more to the story than you have been told.”

Wilkerson has not announced whether she will continue her plan to run for reelection through a “sticker campaign” against Democratic nominee Sonia Chang-Diaz -- the underdog who unseated the senator in mid-September.

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PUBLISHED by the Fenway News

BOSTON—Over the next six months, residents and visitors to the Fenway area can expect to see, hear and interact with what project representatives called a "decent-sized" makeover of Fenway Park. The renovation will only be a slight intrusion upon the community, Red Sox spokespeople said.

The project plans were unveiled to a room of about 40 community members at an open meeting held yesterday evening in the Absolut Clubhouse attached to Fenway Park. The discussion was organized to prepare the ballpark's neighbors for disruptions that come with construction, said Fenway Affairs officer Larry Cancro.

"There are inconveniences to this process," Cancro said, "and we always find that it's best to explain...what that's gonna be so we can minimize the impacts."

The project officially began the day after the Red Sox's season closer. A majority of the renovation is scheduled to complete in late March, while other parts may run into early April. The project is being overseen by developer Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse (SBER), who did work on Fenway in 2002.

SBER spokesperson Tom Kugel said he was very confident that he will meet his deadline, saying that he has never missed one yet. The bulk of the project is due on March 27, just ten days before the Red Sox season opener at Fenway, which drew a chuckle out of many of the attendees who are too familiar with the inability of Boston contractors to meet deadline.

Local business owners can expect to see dumpsters and building materials on all sides of the ballpark. Trucks and heavy machinery will be coming in and out, mostly around mid-morning, with the possibility of others later in the afternoon. Bill Olsen of William A. Berry & Son, Inc. (WBS) said they do not plan to work past 4 p.m., however, contractors may decide to turn the ballpark lights on at 6 a.m. once daylight savings begins.

Contractors and ballpark officials repeatedly stated that the construction will not interfere with parking in Fenway. Workers from WBS said they may have 40-50 people working on any given day, which would normally mean more metered spots taken by contractors and pickup trucks. Kugel and Cancro promised that every measure has been taken to locate parking facilities for construction workers.

“We’ve written in every single one of their contracts that they have to provide offsite parking for their employees,” Kugel said. “I think we’ve got it fairly well covered.” He also mentioned that SBER will be circulating information to locals on how to report parking problems to the BTD. Fenway Park security guards will also be monitoring the metered spots in the morning to assure that sub-contractors are not occupying visitor spots, Kugel said.

Bob Richard of SBER mentioned earlier that while plans are in place, infractions could still arise.

“They have to tell us where they’re going to be parked,” Richard said. “So far, we haven’t gotten a whole lot of answers…but we told them ‘No parking around Fenway Park.’” At one point or another, Richard, Kugel and Cancro all reminded attendees that the plan is not perfect.

Janet Marie Smith, a planning executive for both SBER and the Red Sox, said that they’ve done everything they can to behave like good neighbors.

“We’ve worked hard to make sure there’s a minimum of one lane,” Smith said, “and where we can, we’ll put [the dumpsters and raw materials] on our sidewalks.”

Smith said she does not forsee any complaints due to noise and did not receive any during last year’s restoration, which she said was of similar size to this year’s.

“We’ve been blessed that our neighborhood is pretty tolerant. It is one of the virtues of having night clubs as neighbors,” Smith said.

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BOSTON—Massachusetts residents took their transportation complaints 'on the record' at last night's MBTA public hearing. Of the eight citizen speakers, five voiced concerns about poor handicap access.

Like Somerville resident, Tom Gilbert , who spoke about his hazards of waiting at the bus stop. According to Gilbert, the buses in his area are unable to pull up to the curb because illegally parked cars block the bus stop. The cars are seldom penalized, if at all, said Gilbert, and the state has done little to prevent it. These illegally parked cars force Gilbert to stand further into the road in order to flag down bus drivers.

Standing on the street rather than safely on the curb is a different experience for Gilbert because he is legally blind. He said that improving the condition of curbside stops is a small change that can improve the overall rider experience.

"When services get better and better for persons with disabilities," said Gilbert, "it should get better for everybody else too." He went on to list illegally parked cars, deteriorating bus stops and filthy trains as a few of the things that may be making mass transportation unappealing for potential customers.

"More people would get out of their cars and use the buses and trains more often if they knew that they weren't going to get on a train that smelt like urine," said Gilbert.

Another speaker, Roxbury resident Robert Palmer, claimed he represented over 100 other residents from his housing complex at 125 Amory Street. The building is managed by the Boston Housing Authority and rented to “low-and-moderate income elderly and disabled persons,” according to the BHA website.

The 48 bus that stops immediately outside of 125 Amory St. is one of the four routes that are will no longer run during the weekdays due to low ridership. In addition, route 48 is the only one that will also have its Saturday trip cut, thus running only on Sundays.

When Palmer spoke at the podium, he held up a stack of petitions with his left hand and forcefully said that the MBTA would be bombarded with complaint calls by every resident at 125 Amory St. if the 48 bus schedule is appended as planned. Palmer went on to explain that the bus is the main source of transportation for him and his neighbors who need it to go to work and grocery shopping.

Due to the nature of the hearing, neither Gilbert‘s nor Palmer’s issues were formally addressed by the MBTA Service Plan members. Instead, both got a chance to talk with the Service Plan Manager Melissa Dullea, and other MBTA employees after the meeting. In an aside interview, however, Dullea mentioned that the issues brought up in last night's meeting will probably not be added to the list of scheduled changes.
"We'll only withdraw proposals," said Dullea, following the meeting. She went on to explain that the process is only a filtering process that her team uses to retract extremely controversial proposals.

While Dullea said that it was still likely that route 48 would be cut, an example of a saved route – the 8:30 p.m. boat from Boston to Hingham, route F2/F2H – was announced at the beginning of the hearing.

“After the completion of [the Service Plan], we’ll be getting back to our interest groups,” said Dullea. “If we are moving forward with a proposal, we’ll get back to them.”

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The Monthly Jazz Band

Oct 18, 2008 3:45 PM. All work by , , ,

Published by the Fenway News

BOSTON—“Whatever comes next, comes next,” said Shah Hadjebi as he leaned in to be heard over the bar chatter. He had a glass in his hand and seemed eager to get back and celebrate with the other members of his band – Persian Blue – after their show at Bill’s Bar on Lansdowne street.

The jazz-funk-rock band has been working its way up the entertainment ladder and have two sold out shows under its belt, the latest of which came from a show at the Boston Hard Rock Café in August. Hadjebi is the mastermind behind the musical group and uses a relaxed approach to manage their performances and balance their personal lives.

“It’s a revolving door,” Hadjebi said. Band members come and go as they please, and play almost completely unrehearsed, mentioned Hadjebi. “These guys are pros,” he said, adding that it is usually he who needs the rehearsal time. Even that, said Hadjebi, happens only once before a show.

Persian Blue's performance was well received and attended by roughly 75 people, according to the doorman's count. Hadjebi said he plans to keep things small.

"Once a month," said Hadjebi, “[the fans] don’t want to hear you play every week.” He does not consider himself a professional musician, but more of a passionate hobbyist. “I need my work, I need my marriage and I need the music,” Hadjebi said.

Richard Dolabany and his friend, who simply went by Sam D., stood near the bar but kept their eyes focused on the stage. Dolabany had been to the Hard Rock show and has been a big fan of Hadjebi’s music. Dolabany and Sam D. said that Persian Blue had such a unique sound, although it was not the kind of music they normally listen to.

People familiar with Persian Blue say the band has real star potential. Marc Friedman, a writer with the music review magazine, “The Noise,” said that Persian Blue might have success in its future.

“As big of a future as any Boston band,” Friedman said. He has gone to two-thirds of Hadjebi’s shows, even before the creation of Persian Blue. Friedman, sporting a black Persian Blue t-shirt, was one of the first people inside Bill’s Bar when it opened for the show. He mentioned that the band has undergone a few “revisions” of its members, but that the group that played at Bill’s Bar was the best yet.

The current cast includes drummer Zeke Martin, bass guitarist Rozhan Razman, keyboardist Peter Hanson, singer Nina Evans and the multi-talented Tucker Antell, who played tenor sax, soprano sax and flute during the ten-song set.

Hadjebi said he does not plan more than one show at a time, despite praises from people like Friedman that the band could do much more.

“It’s just a matter of how big [Hadjebi] wants to get,” Friedman said.

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BOSTON—The Department of Conservation and Recreation found strong opposition from a small group of environmental activists, who claimed that the DCR is using the restoration of the B.U. Bridge as a guise to intentionally destroy the last sanctuary of the Charles River white geese.

Robert LaTrémouille spearheaded that attack on the DCR at the public hearing held last night at Boston University. The meeting was meant to unveil the DCR's plans for the bridge renovation but more than two hours of the meeting was spent on the question-and-answer period. LaTrémouille was standing by the microphone with a scripted speech even before the DCR spokesman began taking questions.

“In the past five years, the DCR, through its agents, has destroyed every piece of vegetation between the BU Bridge and the BU Boathouse,” LaTrémouille said, “except for the vegetation…which this project proposes to destroy.” He claimed that the DCR’s proposed staging area, just east of the bridge, is a deliberate attempt to exterminate the white geese.

Renovation on the B.U. Bridge sidewalks has already begun, and a staging area for raw materials and equipment is located beneath the Reid Overpass, on Memorial drive. The area has been fenced off and does not interfere with the habitat of the white geese, according to a May press release by the DCR. However, a three-way fork and an intersection divide the staging area from the B.U. Bridge, making it less convenient than the area directly east of the bridge.

“If use of the staging area under Memorial drive delays the project, that is the fault of the DCR,” LaTrémouille said, adding that if the current staging area is good for the sidewalk project, it should be good for the remainder of the restoration.

Lakes and Ponds Coordinator James Straub was at the public meeting and tried to abate LaTrémouille’s concerns but received shouts of “Nonsense! Nonsense!” when he responded that the white geese would endure the DCR’s temporary encroachment.

“I have not encountered this gentleman before,” Straub said in an email, “but [I] can say that there are many people that have similar environmental concerns across the state.”

Straub said that animal inhabitants always return to the site after construction unless the DCR continuously chases them away. Constructing fences or scaring the geese away with trained dogs are the methods used “99 percent of the time,” Straub said. Currently, the DCR does not plan to permanently remove the geese.

“My goal is to try and show them that DCR wants the best for the environment and that we would not harm wildlife that is such a resource to the aesthetics of the area,” Straub said, “[but] there are times when people’s safety has to take priority over other issues.”

"I'm sure we'd all like get home to catch the end of the [Red Sox] game," said Deputy Commissioner Jack Murray after about an hour of questions. "Or at least make use of the lull in traffic."

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Wrestling Fans Rush to Bookstore

Oct 10, 2008 9:38 AM. All work by , ,

BOSTON—"I've been a wrestling fan for about 35 [years]...my son said to me last night, 'Bret Hart's is doing a book signing at B.U.' I just had to go."

Not something you'd expect to hear from a working mother of three, but that's exactly what you'd get if you stopped to chat with Claudia Carney, one of the first people in line at the signing of Bret Hart's new book, "Hitman." The retired wrestling entertainer signed books for over 200 adoring fans at the B.U. Barnes & Noble last night.

Carney pulled out a fading photograph that she asked Hart to sign. The picture was of her and her three smiling kids with Hart, fifteen years ago. Carney’s son, who told her about the event, still shares her passion for wrestling.

"And this little youngster is now a 27-year-old who goes to everything," she said as she pointed to him in the picture. Carney’s son bought her Hart's book for Mother's Day, which she said she could not put down. "I literally stopped short, I was like, I have to slow this fun-journey down," Carney said. "I just have to because it's almost over!"

Carney arrived two and a half hours early for the event to secure her spot in line, but others were not as lucky. The marquee of wrestling enthusiasts wrapped around humor section, through the social sciences and between current affairs — a span of roughly two-thirds of the wall space on that floor of the store.

The chatter among the crowd kept focused on Hart and wrestling. Questions of whether Hart could still put someone in a headlock, what his best move really was or whether he’ll accept an apprentice were passed about in whispers. None of the fans challenged Hart to an arm-wrestling contest, but a handful had a picture taken while in Hart’s trademark “sleeper hold.”

When asked if he would put the wrestling superstar into a headlock when he made it to the front of the line, Northeastern graduate James Brown did not hesitate for a second.
“Nope, not gonna do it,” said Brown, confidently. He and friend Bobby Imperato drove from Saugus, Mass. to meet Hart, whom they said, still has some fight left in him. Brown said he has no questions for Hart, whom he met 10 years ago in Boston. Brown, 22, and Imperato, 23, said they have been fans of wrestling since they were seven years old and that wrestling was a major part of their childhoods. When asked if they had any questions for the graying superstar, the two said they just wanted to say “thanks.”

“Just for signing the book, being willing to take the picture,” said Imperato. “Just for being here!”

The pair said they were confident that last night was Hart’s last time coming to Boston, and that this was their opportunity to see him one last time. Perhaps others in the room felt the same urgency, because the number of attendees almost doubled what the bookstore management expected, said Trade Department Manager Lisa Eaverone.

“We expected at least 100, but we weren’t sure how many more than that would come,” said Eaverone. “We’ve had some wrestlers before and we expected a big crowd from that past experience.” Triple H and Chris Jericho have come to the bookstore within the past two years and have helped it stand out as a successful stop for wrestlers.

“Just like last time we other wrestlers, we had [people bring] belts,” mentioned Eaverone. “That wouldn’t be weird to a wrestling fan, but it’s so unusual to see that in a bookstore.”

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Local Grocers Asked to ID for Eggs

Oct 8, 2008 9:41 PM. All work by , , ,

BOSTON—Police are cracking down on vandalism in West Roxbury after multiple business owners reported that their property had been egged last week Monday, according to a statement released yesterday by the Boston Police Department.

Police and local business owners are convinced that the egging was a common Halloween prank executed by unruly adolencents. Regardless, store managers like Tom Moynihan were stunned to see it happen so early in the month.

"Basically just around the Halloween there, that Friday" is when the eggings start, said Moynihan. "I usually just pull [the eggs] back and not sell 'em to the kids."

Moynihan is one of the managers at the Roche Bros. supermarket in Roxbury, located about one-fifth of a mile away from the District E-5 Police Station in West Roxbury. Moynihan said that he traditionally cards kids just few days before Halloween, but he has not yet been asked to do so by BPD officers. The statement released yesterday said that grocers in the area had been notified of last Monday's act of vandalism and urged not to sell eggs to minors, but today was the first that Moynihan had heard of either.

Store manager Ahed Rajeh of White Hen Pantry was asked to stop selling eggs to minors by police officers who visited the shop. The store is located immediately next to the the police station in Roxbury.

Although he said that he will comply with the BPD's requests, Rajeh said he fears more restrictions may come soon. Rajeh mentioned that police officers appeared eager to hold him accountable for vandalism if he did not agree to the requests of the officers.
"The accusation they throw at us is not true" said Ahed Rajeh about a comment a police officer made to him that grocers were knowingly selling eggs to kids who could shell out the cash.

The BPD has pledged to arrest and charge anyone caught throwing eggs. Violators who throw eggs at other people will be charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon -- a crime with a maximum penalty of two and a half years in jail or up to $1,000 in fines.

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Classes Taped for Jewish Holiday

9:10 AM. All work by , ,

BOSTON—Video recordings of classes may be available to B.U. students who miss class for religious holidays if a new pilot program from the Provost's office is implemented.
As part of the new program, biology professor Ulla Hansen was asked to record one of her classes last Monday in observance of Rosh Hashanah, a Jewish holiday celebrating the New Year. The recording is not yet available to her students, but Hansen said that it will be accessible online.

But for COM sophomore Rachel Udwin, Prof. Hansen's recordings are of no help. Udwin did not attend her classes on Tuesday and Wednesday in observance of Rosh Hashanah. She spent both days in prayer at Morse Auditorium, an experience that took up roughly 11 hours of her time, according to her estimate.

"I think [recordings] would have definitely helped," said Udwin, "because all I have now are someone else’s' notes."

Udwin explained that although she has been able to catch up, borrowed notes were still inferior to seeing and hearing her professors give the lecture. And although Udwin gave her professors advanced notice of her absence, it was her responsibility to acquire notes from her classmates.

Ahmed Abdelmeguid, a junior in CAS, had a different opinion from Udwin. According to Abdelmeguid, recorded classes are asking too much of professors and may encourage students to simply skip class without fear of falling behind.

"It would require a lot from a professor, who’s probably doing research, to provide every lecture for classes that a student has missed," said Abdelmeguid. "I have never heard of teachers doing this before, nor do I think that it should be required of them."

The IR major missed three classes on Wednesday to participate in the Islamic holiday, Eid ul-Fitr, a day of celebration that marks the end of the month-long fast, Ramadan. Like Udwin, Abdelmeguid also got notes from a classmate but added that even if the notes weren't enough, he could easily seek first hand instruction by going to his professors' office hours.

Students who attend college in Massachusetts are protected by state law when they miss classes to observe religious holidays. The law (Chapter 151C of the General Laws of the Commonwealth) states that students who miss class because of religious duties "shall be excused from any such examination or study or work requirement, and shall be provided with an opportunity to make up such examination, study, or work requirement." The provision goes on to state that "no adverse or prejudicial effects shall result to students" if they do miss class.

But not all professors adhere to that policy, said Kip Lombardo, the director of student activities at the B.U. Hillel House.

"We have had to work with Marsh Chapel to remind faculty and staff about that," said Lombardo, who also teaches writing seminars at B.U. The responsibility of balancing academic and religious lifestyles also falls upon the student, said Lombardo. He advocates that students plan ahead to avoid conflicts. On Yom Kippur, for instance, participants are not supposed to eat, drink or do work for 26 hours.

"If you have a test of Friday, you can't tell your professor you can't take it because Yom Kippur was on Thursday," said Lombardo. "You'd better have studied the weekend before."

According to Lombardo, there are roughly 3,500 Jewish undergraduates at B.U., and about 80 percent of them observe Jewish holidays. Yom Kippur is only one of 115 religious, ethnic and civic holidays that was recently published by Purdue University for the 2008-09 academic year. Of the 115 holidays, 18 occur in October.

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Successes Abound at Nonprofit Bike Recycler

Oct 1, 2008 9:35 AM. All work by , ,

BOSTON—Dozens of volunteers floated in and out of the non-profit bicycle refurbishing warehouse of Bikes Not Bombs for the weekly volunteer night held on Wednesdays. The number of participants has more than tripled in the past year, said senior volunteer Kit Transue.

"It's all word of mouth," Transue said, proudly. Although there was no formal list, newcomers accounted for about a quarter of last night's group, Transue estimated. He added that another quarter of the group were people who had only been there one or two times before. Transue manages BNB’s volunteer nights with fellow cyclist Christopher Adams. The two attributed the explosion in popularity to the growing number of bike owners popping up all over the Boston area and a trend toward humanitarianism.

Groups from Fidelity, City Year (an Americorp branch), MIT, and Boston University, to name a few, have helped out at BNB, squeezing 30-40 people into a workshop meant to hold far less, said Adams. The assistance is still dearly appreciated by the older volunteers who sort, deconstruct and pack used bicycles that they collect from all around Boston. The bikes that are in usable condition are put into shipping crates and sent to impoverished communities by the hundreds. Since it’s creation in 1994, BNB has shipped over 32,000 bikes to nine different countries. All of this has been accomplished by volunteers like the ones that show up on Wednesday nights.

The nonprofit has had successes in other areas as well. This year was the 21st BNB Bike-a-Thon, which saw a 250 percent increase in money raised, said Adams. The event had roughly 400 registered riders, each held to a minimum pledge of $150 to participate, according to the BNB website.

"And that's just one year's growth," commented Adams. He mentioned that the organization has matured over the years from a “scrappy punk thing” that was funded by small alternative rock concerts to a growing enterprise with two locations – the workshop and a self-sustaining used bike store further down the street.

Jasmine Laietmark is an office assistant who has been with BNB for four years. She attributed the nonprofit’s success to the workshop space that they acquired in late-December of 2006.

"We're now taking in more bikes than ever each year, and this year, that'd be about 6,000 bikes," said Laietmark. She added that the shop is also “booming” and has its own blog website to display specialty bikes the shop finds.
Laietmark said that it would not be possible without the cooperation from individuals and institutions who help to donate, locate or process bikes that might otherwise end up in landfills.
"It's pretty amazing how many bikes just get abandoned,” said Laietmark. “Boston's just full of people... who live here only for a few years and then move on and leave their bikes behind." Coincidentally, it is also a diverse group of “seasonal” members who process and care for these bikes, said Laietmark.

"People do come from pretty far,” Laietmark said. “Most of them bike here, of course."

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