The Code of Ordinances requires a public hearing on the mayor's proposed budget every June. But at that point the community is left commenting on a meticulously prepared budget that already has made tough decisions about how to allocate limited budgetary funds. when the City Council added language requiring a public hearing on budget priorities prior to the beginning of the budget creation process, it seemed like a good idea to give that a try this year. So on Tuesday, March 19, the Finance Committee -- meeting as a Committee of the Whole -- held a public hearing on exactly that.

The meeting was held remotely on Zoom, and we had interpreters on hand for Spanish and Portuguese interpretation. I tried to periodically remind everyone to speak slowly so the interpreters could keep up with what was being said. Each speaker allotted a maximum of two minutes.

Despite this being a novel concept, we had 37 community members turn out and speak during the 81-minute public hearing. The Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS) and Mutual Aid of Medford and Somerville (MAMAS) both had organized supporters to make public comments, and we also had a number of members of the Winter Hill Community Innovation School (WHCIS) community speak as well.

Some themes we heard about repeatedly during the public hearing included:

  • affordable housing creation
  • housing stability programs like the Rental Assistance Flex Fund
  • tenant organizing and legal assistance for tenants
  • continuing the work on the Edgerly to get the WHCIS community under one roof
  • funding transportation for the WHCIS community on the City side of the General Fund, not the School budget
  • a Green New Deal for Somerville Public Schools
  • fair contracts for municipal employees
  • an unarmed civilian response program
  • medical debt forgiveness
  • municipal composting
  • invasive plant species removal
  • overdose prevention
  • public transit affordability
  • increased staffing

I want to give a big thank-you to everyone who showed up and spoke up, as well as to our clerks and the interpreters who made the meeting run smoothly.

You can watch the full video of the proceedings here.

Jake Wilson


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