As we prepare to say goodbye to 2022 and ring in the new year, I wanted to take a moment to look back at this past year. It's hard to believe I'm now a year into this role, but time has flown and I'm really halfway done with my first term as your Councilor-At-Large.

Here's a month-by-month recap of my first year on the City Council:


Our terms began with the virtual inauguration on January 3. While it was disappointing not to get a chance to gather together in person to mark the occasion (especially after buying a tux!), going remote was absolutely the right decision in light of unprecedented levels of COVID in the region at the time, due to the emergence of the Omicron variant. It was helpful to hear the new mayor's plans for her first 100 days in office, as well as to hear what our City Council president, Matt McLaughlin, had to say to a new-look council. And it was beneficial getting some more experience with the online meeting platforms, given the role they would play in our meetings in the year to come!

2022 Inauguration group photo

Remote meeting software wasn't the only thing we had to learn as new councilors. From the ins and outs of Open Meeting Law, to the rules of our body and meeting protocols, to basic day-to-day procedural stuff like how to submit committee meeting agendas and council items (orders, resolutions, committee reports, and communications) the learning curve was steep. In the end, there was no substitute for learning by doing, as we jumped right in with our first full City Council meeting on January 13, with committee meetings starting up right after that -- including my first experience chairing a Finance Committee meeting on January 25.

By February I felt like I was getting in the swing of things and figuring out the rhythm of our City Council schedule: regular full council meetings on the second and fourth Thursdays, with Finance Committee meetings on the Tuesdays before those. Meetings for the other committees I served on -- Confirmation of Appointments and Personnel Matters; Traffic and Parking; Open Space, Environment, and Energy; and Licenses and Permits -- sprinkled in on other evenings. Of course, nothing could prepare us for a record snowfall event as the calendar turned to February. I made sure to visit the DPW to check out their snow removal operation behind the scenes.

DPW snow removal

In early February we had our first contentious issue of the year arise: a request from the Mayor's office to accept a $50k state grant for traffic enforcement by the Somerville Police Department. This was a grant that had been accepted by previous councils for over a decade without incident. But in the Finance Committee meeting where we took up the item, my colleague at-large, Charlotte Kelly, pointed out that the grant application stipulated a minimum number of traffic stops per hour. Despite everyone wanting better compliance with laws by drivers, ultimately the traffic stop quota was a bridge too far for the council and we voted to not approve the grant acceptance. (Note: The story has a happy ending, as this language requiring traffic stop quotas has since been removed from the grant application by the state.)

In late January, the mayor had taken the encouraging step of reaching out to the council and requesting councilors' budget priorities for FY 2023. The ask had been for resolutions expressing councilors' individual budget priorities, but I saw an opportunity to go one step farther by determining and conveying to the mayor our shared budget priorities as a body. So I worked with our Legislative and Policy Analyst and the City Clerk -- who went through the Law Department to the state Attorney General's office with questions about what was allowed under Open Meeting Law --  to come up with a plan to identify our top areas of agreement as a City Council. On March 30, we met as a Finance Committee of the Whole in the council chambers at City Hall, and despite some procedural and technical glitches, we did produce 10 shared budget priority resolutions for FY 2023. I was really appreciative of my colleagues' willingness to go along with this wild plan of mine, and I came away with a lot of ideas for process refinement for next time.

GLX Union Square Branch ribbon cutting

Also in March, the Green Line Extension made its initial, long-awaited arrival in Somerville when D Line service to Union Square opened on March 21. After saying for years that I'd believe the GLX was really happening only when I was actually riding it, seeing was believing. It was a day for celebrating the massive achievement of bringing new rapid transit to our city after decades of struggle by community activists, electeds, and City staff. It also was a time to ring the alarm bells about the immense damage that GLX-inspired gentrification has done to our city. I embraced this duality by attending both the celebratory ribbon cutting and a CAAS-organized protest of the lack of housing affordability protections put in place.

I made safe streets issues central to my campaign last year, and I jumped right in with orders looking to make our city safer to get around. I also made it a personal policy of mine to sign on to any colleagues' safe streets orders on general principle. At the April 25 meeting of the Traffic and Parking Committee, we took up a number of those orders. The implementation of a city-wide 20-MPH safety zone on all neighborhood residential streets has been particularly important to me, so it was encouraging to see the signage for this popping up all over the city. I've also been extremely concerned about street safety around schools, so I've been keenly interested in conversations with City staff about what we're doing to keep our kids safe on their way to and from school. Finally, the City scaling up its traffic calming work with a larger number of speed humps being installed this year provided some real hope that we can really start to meet the demand for traffic calming on Somerville streets.

20 MPH safety zone signage

At the April 28 council meeting, I introduced my first proposed ordinance: a zoning amendment that would remove the requirement of site plan approval for backyard cottages, making them a by-right option. The Land Use Committee took up the item in the months that followed, leading to a recommendation for approval following the summer recess. We enrolled and ordained this at the council's September 8 meeting and the mayor approved it the following week. This was a small tweak, but one that will reduce red tape standing in the way of adding accessory dwelling units (ADUs) while reducing work for multi-member bodies like the Urban Design Commission.

A string of shootings in the Mystics over the preceding months culminated in bullets hitting the bedroom window of a sleeping child on May 2. As a next-door neighbor of the Mystics, I hear these gunshots and I also hear from friends and the parents of my children's classmates who live there about the toll the gun violence is taking on Mystics residents. I attended the peace march and rally at City Hall two weeks later organized by Teen Empowerment. But days later we lost a bright light in our community with the passing of Stephenson Aman. This one hit hard personally. I counted Steph as a friend, having worked with him for years, both on youth sports and the Healey Schoolyard project. Seven months later, it still doesn't seem real that he's gone.

Teen Empowerment peace march & rally

On May 12, the City Council took up another contentious issue: the proposed establishment of a local historic district at 125 Highland Avenue. The First Universalist Church was due to be demolished, with a developer looking to build housing in its place. I received far more constituent feedback about this issue than any other this year, with neighbors, housing advocates, and the parties involved in the potential sale and development all making their voices heard. I pushed hard for a compromise solution that would preserve and renovate the church in the front of the property while allowing additional height in the rear of the property for a new structure. In the end, the council voted to create the LHD to stave off pending demolition. (Update: In recent months I've been hearing there's a potential proposal for developing the site in line with what I and a number of my colleagues on the council want to see done with it.)

For the Somerville City Council, June means one thing above all else: Budget Season. As a new councilor going through this for the first time, it was always going to be a lot of information to process. But then to be on the Finance Committee meant I would be right in the middle of the process of exploring and approving the FY 2023 budget. And then as Finance chair I was tasked with planning and executing a robust schedule of meetings. So it was a daunting challenge. The mayor delivered the proposed FY 2023 budget on June 2, kicking off three jam-packed weeks of budget meetings. The Finance Committee met eight times over that timespan, with three of those meetings (Public Hearing Night, Public Safety Night, and Cut Night) being as a committee of the whole. In the end, a new system of presubmitted questions from councilors answered by staff memos ahead of departmental hearings helped us set a modern record for efficiency with the fewest minutes spent in budget meetings in recent memory. And ultimately the FY 2023 budget was approved by the full council on June 23.

Proposed FY 2023 Budget

The headline from Budget Season for me was the new growth here in Somerville that saw our budget swell to $309 million (proposed). Having attended the ribbon cutting for the large life science building at 101 South Street the previous month, we then witnessed the real-life impact of this commercial construction boom in Somerville on our municipal finances. After debate around the Police Department budget dominate Budget Season in previous years, we were in a bit of a holding pattern on that front this year because of the wait for the police staffing and operations study. Instead, the departmental budget that got the most headlines this year was the School Department, who saw a whopping 10-percent increase in funding from FY 2022. There would be another $3.9 million in supplemental appropriations this fall to push the FY 2023 operating budget up to nearly $313 million, as we figure out as a city how to spend this commercial tax windfall following decades of trying to do more with less.

I started getting more and more questions about the City's plans for 90 Washington Street and the proposed Public Safety Building after meetings with neighbors and listening sessions by Mayor Ballantyne in early summer. The City had taken the blighted property by eminent domain using a demonstration project plan and now found itself looking to move forward with redeveloping the site in accordance with the demonstration project plan approved by the state and upheld by the Supreme Judicial Court. As the City Council's representative on the Public Safety Building Project Building Committee, this is something I had been heavily involved in since joining the council, so I was glad to see an important issue getting more attention. This is something I expect to be a key issue coming before the council in 2023, so watch this space!

Orange Line train fire

Regionally, the MBTA found itself as a major topic of discussion following the release of the first draft of its Bus Network Redesign, then a high-profile fire on the Orange Line at Assembly Square on July 21. The Orange Line fire was an infuriating reminder of the damage done to the MBTA by decades of underfunding and deferred maintenance. Meanwhile, the impact of the proposed new bus routes on intra-city transit in Somerville started to draw the attention of the public. Effective community organizing resulted in Somervillians making their voices heard with feedback ahead of the July 31 deadline. The chief concern was that the proposed changes improved bus service for those who commuted into and out of Boston, but reduced other routes and service. As City Council headed into our summer recess, we discussed how we'd like to see the revised draft communicated to the public when it was released in the fall.

The consultants hired by the City to conduct a Citywide Parking & Curb Use Study released their findings and recommendations in late June, and the City requested community feedback in late July. With the final report initially scheduled for a "summer 2022" release, I was concerned this important process was flying under the radar during a time the year when many are traveling and not paying as close attention as usual. So I wrote about the consultants' resident parking permit recommendations in my August 8 newsletter and included an example of what a resident parking permit fee structure might look like with these recommendations. A screenshot of that chart showed up in a Facebook group and the author of that post misrepresented this as an official proposal by the City. With some folks worried about how things like driveway parking and household status would be determined, I returned from vacation with my family to some panicked emails. In retrospect, I wish I'd been available to respond to folks' concerns in real time and to provide the context and clarifications that would've reduced their anxiety.

Holland Street revised proposal

But the worst thing that happened while I was offline for a two-week vacation was the death of Steve Conley. Mr. Conley was struck by the door of a parked vehicle while biking to work in the bike lane on Broadway in West Somerville. It was the latest avoidable tragedy on our streets and spurred an almost-immediate response from the Administration and City staff with an announcement that the Holland Street project would be altered to include protected bike lanes. The decision set up some contentious Traffic Commission meetings in the fall, as proponents and opponents of the proposal shared their often-emotional viewpoints. It was a condensed preview of what lies ahead of us as we look at the question of how best to redesign Highland Ave.

As Labor Day arrived and summer turned to fall with the return of school for families, the end-of-year push began in city government. On the municipal finance side, I was intrigued to see the supplemental appropriations that would put the finishing touches on the FY 2023 budget. I was particularly interested to see whether we would see any additional funding for the council's shared budget priorities from March or the resolutions we passed requesting additional funding for specific departments during Budget Season. I received a lot of questions about the Department of Revenue's certification of our Free Cash, so I spent a fair amount of time talking to constituents about how late-arriving FY 2022 revenues could be used to increase the FY 2023 operating budget versus excess Free Cash that could be used for one-off appropriations.

Powder House Boulevard & Alewife Brook Parkway intersection

At the September 22 City Council meeting, we took up a final $1.6M borrowing for the Clarendon Hill redevelopment project, with the funds paying for sewer improvements and a redesigned intersection at Powder House Boulevard and Alewife Brook Parkway. In June I was vocal about not being a fan of the project's use of prefabricated units constructed offsite that essentially provided an end-around the prevailing wage requirements meant to protect union labor. But I accepted that this question was decided by the previous council and voted to approve the bonding items. I'm really looking forward to seeing this project come to fruition, knowing the difference it's going to make in the lives of Clarendon Hill residents, the neighborhood, the entire city, and even the region.

Prior to the pandemic, I always looked forward to the ResiStat meetings every spring and fall. So I was thrilled to see these meetings return this fall under a new name: City Hall Community Meetings. I was able to attend six of the eight meetings live and in person, and went back to watch the video recording of the other two meetings (Wards 2 and 5) I couldn't make. I really appreciated the Administration and City staff spending all those evenings engaging directly with the public. I saw members of the public provide helpful feedback and highlight important issues impacting their lives. And sometimes I saw members of the public vent their frustration stemming from decades of feeling unheard and in the dark. In the end, I came away even more convinced that community engagement and communication remain some of the most critical things we should be focusing on as a local government.

Fall 2022 City Hall Community Meeting Ward 3

The October meeting of the Public Safety Building Project Building Committee saw the announcement that the mayor had ordered staff to go into "pens down" mode to reflect on the feedback they'd gotten about the PSB and to figure out the next steps there. There was a shift in focus to the development of the other parcels, including beginning the process of identifying a partner to build the high-density, transit-oriented, mixed-use development at the site literally next door to the East Somerville Station. This use of the land has broad support from everyone I've talked to about it. Speaking of the MBTA, the revised Bus Network Redesign proposal was released to generally positive reviews and a sense of relief. While it's not still not perfect, I think this revised proposal is a major improvement from the initial draft. And that's a testament to the power of community organizing.

The City's Charter Review Committee wrapped up nearly two years of work by sending a proposed charter to the City Council for us to take up. Chaired by my colleague from Ward 2, J.T. Scott, our council's Charter Review Special Committee is conducting a series of committee-of-the-whole meetings to allow the council to weigh in on the proposed charter and any potential changes we'd like to see made to it. Personally, I don't think the proposed charter goes far enough to correct the power imbalance between the executive (mayor) and legislative (council) branches. I've been public about wanting to see the City Council given the power to add funds to a budget and to make more precise cuts to a budget. From speaking to the Charter Review Committee, I mostly understand their rationale for not including these two pieces in the proposed charter. We'll just need to decide as a body whether to insist on those being added before we send this on to the mayor.

Somerville City Hall

Meanwhile, the Citywide Flood Mitigation and Water Quality Master Plan was released. If you haven't had a chance to read that through, I'd strongly encourage you to do so. It's not nearly as dense as you might expect, and it has some really important planning content for the short and long term as we look to address flooding problems that we expect to get worse and worse over time due to extreme weather and climate change. And very close to home for me, I was overjoyed to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony on November 30 for the Healey Schoolyard Renovation -- a project I worked on for years prior to joining the City Council. If you want to see me get emotional talking about what this means to the Healey School and the neighborhood around it, here's video from the event.

Given the decades of work that led to the moment when the GLX fully arrived in Somerville, December 12 isn't a day anyone is likely to forget any time soon. I got up at before 4 AM to go ride the first train out of Medford/Tufts Station, along with hundreds of other public transit enthusiasts. Not even the bitter cold could chill the excitement for the occasion. The mood was festive at a morning rush hour celebration at Ball Square, though again I made a point of joining the CAAS-organized protest of the unaddressed negative impacts of the GLX on our city immediately after that. Then it was back to Tufts for the ribbon cutting ceremony and remarks by local, state, and federal electeds. Finally, I was there for the community celebration at the high school on December 17. But my favorite moment that week came on December 18, when I walked nine minutes to Gilman Square Station from my house and rode the Green Line to a show at the Paradise, rather than driving and looking for parking in Allston or Brookline like I would've done in the past. I'm really looking forward to reducing my car trips in Somerville and beyond by using the GLX whenever possible.

Gilman Square Station

At our final City Council meeting of 2022 on December 8, we approved as a council the borrowing of $89.3 million in a bond to construct the Poplar Street pump station. A number of us expressed appreciation for the way City staff and the Administration proactively communicated with the council about this important bonding item. This was a massive amount of money, so it was extremely helpful to feel like we were fully informed about it ahead of time, rather than having this sprung on us as a late surprise and told we needed to approve it or else disaster would befall the city. Additionally, my colleagues and I were thrilled and appreciative to be given a heads up by the Administration and City staff about the potential to use a tool known as Tax Increment Financing to help subsidize a huge number of new affordable rental units proposed for 299 Broadway (the old Star Market site). It's so helpful to find out about these sorts of things ahead of time like this. This sort of collaboration with the Administration bodes well for 2023.

2022 by the numbers

In addition signing on as a co-sponsor for countless excellent orders, resolutions, and ordinances drawn up by colleagues, I introduced a number of my own items this year.

Here's a breakdown of my work on that front:

  • 26 items aimed at making our streets safer for everyone
  • 21 items seeking to improve our local parks and schoolyards, as well as resident recreational opportunities
  • 15 items related to climate resiliency,  sustainability, and environmental stewardship
  • 14 items looking to improve equity and accessibility in our city
  • 11 items seeking to improve communication, public information, and community engagement
  • 6 items designed to make Somerville more welcoming to families

And finally, of course:

  • 1 item about deploying rodent hormonal birth control

If you'd like to see more details on this, you can view a full list of the 79 legislative items (including 26 FY 2023 budget priority resolutions) that I introduced in 2022 here.

New Year's Day Flag Raising
Please join me on Sunday, January 1, to celebrate the arrival of 2023 with the procession departing City Hall for Prospect Hill Tower at 11:30 AM. The program at Prospect Hill will begin at noon and will feature a ceremony celebrating the 247th flag raising, as well as some light refreshments. It's an event that is very uniquely Somerville!

247th flag raising New Years 2023

A End-of-Year/New Year's donation plea
The 2023 election cycle is here, with declarations of candidacy already happening. (More news on that front soon!) I'd love to build up my campaign bank account from it's current alarmingly-low balance for what promises to be a highly competitive at-large race. So anything you're able to contribute is hugely appreciated!

ActBlue donation form

Click here to donate -- and thank you for your support!

Most of all, thanks for placing your trust in me to do this job and I look forward to continuing to serve you in 2023.



Jake Wilson


Somerville City Councilor-At-Large (he/him/él)