Archive for the ‘Boston’ Category
To: Shawn Williams, Massachusetts Supervisor of Records
Cc: Lori Sullivan, the staff attorney in Williams’s office who research my appeal
Cc: Susan Krupanski, the MBTA employee who denied my legitimate public records request
Cc: Will Brownsberger, my state senator and an all-around good guy
Cc: On the Media
Cc: The Boston Globe
Cc: The Boston Herald
Dear Mr. Williams,
I have received your letter dated May 28, 2013, in which you denied my appeal of the failure by the MBTA to provide me with records I requested under the Massachusetts Public Records Law. A copy of your letter is attached for reference.
The legal justification you provide for denying my appeal is specious. Furthermore, your denial of my appeal flies in the face of available facts. Finally, on a purely common-sense level, your response is simply absurd.
A side effect of my attempts to get information from the MBTA about toxic fumes in the passenger compartments of their buses (I will write more about that later, after a followup meeting I’ve been invited to by the MBTA) was my discovery that the MBTA is not terribly good at responding to public records requests within the time frame required by law. Since I view that as a serious problem in its own right, I attempted to shine some sunlight on it in my February 13 letter to the MBTA:
I would like to add an additional item to my request, or if you wish you may treat this as a new, separate request under the public records law. Please tell me how many public records law requests the MBTA has received in 2013, the date on which each was received, and the date on which an initial response was sent. There should be no significant cost for satisfying this request, since there could not have been that many requests so far this year (mine, after all, was only the ninth) and all such requests are presumably handled through your office.
In a letter dated February 22, the MBTA lawyer who handles public records requests informed me that, “… after a thorough and diligent search of files, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has no existing, responsive documents.”
A public service announcement for my readers in Massachusetts…
Several years ago, the Massachusetts RMV stopped mailing out paper letters reminding people to renew their driver’s licenses. Not mailing these letters supposedly saves the RMV about $600,000 per year; if that’s true, then stopping them seems like a reasonable thing for them to do.
Because this is the digital age, and people really do need to be reminded to renew their licenses, the RMV offered an email reminder service to replace the paper letters… You could go to the RMV web site and enter your email address and license expiration date, and the RMV would email you reminders as that date approached. Great idea, right?
Well, it was a great idea, until they silently discontinued the service this past winter without notifying the people who had signed up for it. If you were one of them, you shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for a renewal reminder from the RMV.
I heartily recommend Colonial Shoe Repair in downtown Boston, MA. They took my wife’s pair of leather boots which were scuffed and salt-encrusted and had a broken zipper, and in a week replaced the zipper perfectly and cleaned, reconditioned, and waterproofed the boots to make them look almost like new.
In my meeting today with the MBTA about the air quality inside T buses, I suggested that the fact that we sometimes see exhaust smoke coming from underneath the buses, despite the fact that the buses’ exhaust pipes are on top of the buses, might indicate a broken exhaust system which might explain how exhaust fumes are getting into bus passenger compartments. As evidence of this, I pointed to an article by Doug Tillberg on TransitBoston.com.
In response, the T employees at the meeting explained to me that it’s actually normal for exhaust smoke to come from underneath the buses, because there are actually two engines in the back of the bus that burn diesel fuel, one of which exhausts out the pipe at the top of the bus, and the other out from underneath.
Today, I met with the MBTA to discuss my concerns about poor indoor air quality (IAQ) inside some T buses. I am extremely grateful to Michael Buckley, Sen. William Brownsberger’s Legislative Counsel and Policy Advisor, for arranging the meeting and attending with me.
The following T employees were present: Jeffrey Gonneville, Chief Mechanical Officer; Dave Carney, Director of Bus Operations; Erik Scheier, Project Director; and two other people whose names I’m sorry to say I didn’t write down and can’t recall. (If they read this, I hope they will forgive me. If I am going to keep doing this kind of thing, I really need to get better at remembering people’s names, which I’m really awful at.)
I learned several things at the meeting, and I obtained commitments from Jeffrey Gonneville to take concrete steps to look into my concerns. I wish I’d learned more, and I wish the T had committed to do more, but progress has been made.