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Rolling in dough, execs take bread out of residents’ mouths

By Margery Eagan
Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Here’s hoping the Boston Chamber of Commerce won’t soon be giving a “good guy” award to Nstar chief Tom May.

But you never know.

Few seem particularly outraged by the juxtapositions here:

• On one side there’s Tom May, an $8 million man. On the other there’s Kiffe Alemu, an $8-an-hour parking lot attendant who lost two days of pay last week and showed up at the Boston Public Library yesterday looking for help. He went to the Nstar resource center ordered opened by Mayor Menino. No word yet on whether Alemu will get any help.

• On one side there’s the top four Nstar executives who, together, made nearly $20 million in 2010, reports the Security and Exchange Commission. On the other there’s Franco Marzo, who dressed up in a suit and tie to politely ask for help from Nstar yesterday. He’s a manager at the Emack & Bolio’s in the Transportation Building. He lost about $5,000 of ice cream. Nstar said businesses like his should be covered by insurance. Well, Marzo’s claim was denied, he said, noting that Nstar has insurance, too. “We pay our bills. ... They have to help us.”

He left with no assurance that they would.

Were Tom May taking home, say, a mere $1 million a year and were the executives beneath him squeaking by on a tad less, this wouldn’t all seem quite so heartless. Were big monopoly utilities such as Nstar, Unitil and National Grid not spending millions more lobbying Beacon Hill, our legislators might actually pass a bill to ease the way for competition.

As it is?

On one side we have Nstar, its rolling-in-dough executives and the legislators who have been seduced by them. On the other we have Linda Owens, 70, retired from the Chicago Police Department and living in low-income housing at Morville House in the Fenway. Last week she lost all her refrigerated food and her computer hard drive with all her records.

She said elderly tenants at Morville survived because “Morville House was so exemplary. They catered in supper Wednesday and Thursday and Friday morning we had coffee and donuts.”

She said she’ll make it to her next food check by sharing with neighbors. “We’ll pool our resources and help each other out,” Owens said.

Asked about the $8 million man, she just chuckled. “I’d just like my hard drive back.”

Hear Margery Eagan from 7 to 10 a.m. on 96.9 Boston Talks.