Wednesday, July 12, 2006

North Brother Island

Many of my Masshole brethren have been following the fallout, literally and figuratively, of the ceiling "panels" in the 90 connector to the "Dead Williams" Tunnel these past few days.

For those of you unaware, on Monday night, a large "tile" made of concrete about the size of my livingroom floor (10x20ft) fell on top of a car. Killed in the accident was Milena (sometimes seen spelled Melina) Del Valle, a 38 year old woman. Her husband Angel barely escaped with his life. There was nothing he could do to stop the car, move out of the way, or otherwise escape the fate that befell his wife, and him.

The sad thing is, hardly anyone who lives in the Commonwealth was shocked or amazed that this happened. The tunnels and project have been rife with problems ranging from cement falling in on peoples' sunroofs and smashing them in, to a fatal car accident the first day the tunnel was open, to water rushing in and flooding the damn things due to leaks in the slurry walls, to ice forming inside the tunnel where the persistent leaks flow.

A little background as to why this has become the complete disaster that it is can be found by simply researching the "Big Dig" on many websites. There used to be a major elevated highway cutting through the middle of Boston. Many years ago it was decided it needed to be "suppressed" under the city, because that would make the city look nicer.

The engineering feat to suppress this highway is considered by some to be the greatest modern marvel of highway engineering in the universe, or by others the greatest boondoggle pissaway of billions of dollars and feat of futility since the Tower of Babel.

Currently, the Chairman of the MTA (Massachusetts Turnpike Authority) is a man named Matt Amorello. For the past several years he has been in charge of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and the Big Dig. But with the collapse of this massive "tile" and the subsequent safety inspections which have revealed that there are over 200 damaged or questionable bolts holding up similar tiles. Many people are calling for Matt's head on a platter, or his resignation. Neither of which he wants to tender.

Matt may not be entirely to blame here. Some of the problems with this project date back to when he was a run of the mill hack cutting his teeth on Beacon Hill. He inherited a mess, and has simply rolled with the signing off process and the 200,000 dollar plus paycheck that he receives for being "in charge" of this project and all that that implies. Which to many means the responsibility and culpability when something goes horribly wrong like it did Monday night.

I would like to clarify something before I go further. The tunnel itself didn't collapse, a tile fell down. The tile was huge and heavy and crushed a car, but it isn't like the full thing buckled and everything on top is now in rubble in a huge hole that used to be a tunnel.

A woman died, which is horrific, but based on the time it happened it is miraculous that it wasn't in a mid-day period when more people were in there. And the safety investigators are coming back with bad news reports to heap upon bad news report.

Matt continues to stand in front of the crowd and declare the tunnels safe. He had the audacity at a news conference Tuesday morning to proclaim that the tunnel would open by noon the following day. Upon what authority? A wild guess or an attempt to sound like he had a clue?

The man is delusional, and while I can't blame him solely for what has happened, when you're the head guy on a shit project, you take the fall.

Ken Lay squandered millions upon millions of dollars and got a jail sentence. I don't know that he had a hand in killing anyone, even by accident. And people were calling for Ken Lay to be skinned alive because of his greed and crimes.

Matt Amorello, he's worse than Ken Lay.

He is like a modern day Typhoid Mary (the link goes to wikipedia where there is a really good history on Mary Mallon. You should go read it). Typhoid Mary didn't believe she was causing any problems, and fought with people to keep her job. No one understood fully what she was capable of, and she insisted upon going back and stirring pots of soup and serving them up to families from Mamaroneck to Long Island.

In her case, one person died too.

She was exiled to North Brother Island, where she spent three years in quarantine. She was released under the agreement that she would not work with food again. But because jobs for Irish immigrant women (and I'm thinking that the same goes for hack politicians in Boston) were scarce, she found herself back in the kitchen, infecting more people... To her dying day, Typhoid Mary didn't think she did anything wrong and insisted she was a great cook.

Matt Amorello has stood up in front of the media, the taxpayers of the state, and has stirred a huge pot of lies, graft, and corruption. An exile to North Brother Island is too far so I suggest one of those little islands in the middle of Boston Harbor where he can look across at the Zakim Bridge and the suppressed highway, and ponder what he has played a role in.

Instead, they are working on a "deal" to get him out of his job. A "deal" which will probably ensure he has income for the rest of his life if he just goes the hell away. A "deal" that will mean he'll go somewhere else, like Typhoid Mary, lie about his achievements and successes and get another job where something else awful will happen on his watch.

Just you wait and see.

I would like to be offered a "deal" to go away sometimes.

Anyway -- the past several days have been consumed by what is going on in the city with the situation, and all I can do is sit back and watch and say a prayer for Melina's family. There but for the Grace of God go I.

As for Matt Amorello, it is criminal what he has played a part in, and if he walks away with a parachute of any sort it will be a crime perpetuated by lawyers and politicians who just want to fix things and not point fingers and call blame.

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