A key player behind the scenes of a turning point for East Boston
Bryan Marquard’s obituary for Jim King captured the sadness of many who will miss him and brought back many stories about this brilliantly competent political manager (“Jim King, 84, guiding force behind the scenes for top Democrats,” June 14). Jim never forgot where he came from, and he imbued politics with a purpose of giving voice to the needs and aspirations of low- and moderate-income communities.
Here is one example.
In 1968, the Massachusetts Port Authority planned a number of projects that would affect East Boston, including runways directing low-flying aircraft over residences and schools, highways through Maverick Square, elimination of the Jeffries Point community to create air freight facilities, and petroleum storage tanks surrounding Orient Heights. No serious programs were proposed to abate excruciating noise levels.
Jim convinced his boss at the time, Senator Ted Kennedy, to hold hearings and give East Boston residents, community leaders, and clergy a forum to air their grievances.
Jim lit a candle of hope for this one beleaguered community. That candle kindled a fire of passion for what today is called environmental justice. His involvement led to brave mothers parading baby carriages to stop trucks ravaging neighborhood streets, and slowdown caravans led by Catholic clergy effectively shutting the airport. It’s my understanding that when there was ambivalence at City Hall about the protesters, it was Jim who phoned to say: Support the protesters — they have been harassed for too long, and they deserve our support.
Today, the Ted Williams Tunnel goes to Logan Airport, not through Maverick Square, and Jeffries Point is still a vibrant community. Belle Island Marsh is an ecological refuge, not a fuel tank farm. Massport has the most extensive airport noise abatement program in the United States. Several parks provide friendly buffers between Massport facilities and a bustling, multi-ethnic, mostly affordable East Boston.
All because Jim King listened to a community’s concerns.
The writer served East Boston under Mayor Kevin White and later was state secretary of transportation under Governor Michael Dukakis.