Tuesday was a tough day, with a shootout, school lockdowns, and a multi-city response. The shooting incident happened in my neighborhood and my kids were part of that lockdown at the Healey School, where they later told me they thought they were going to die. We need to be aggressively working to address the root causes of this violence. Until we're able to do that, we're only going to have more days like Tuesday here.
Here are some of the other issues I’ve been working on and that I'm hearing about from constituents:
90 Washington Street
Wednesday night’s second community meeting for this project saw a large attendance and I continue to hear from constituents about that meeting and this project in general. With the current Public Safety Building at the end of its life and that parcel slated for development, we need to find a new home for both the Somerville Police Department and Engine 3 of the Somerville Fire Department. The questions are whether 90 Washington Street makes sense given its proximity to the East Somerville stop on the Green Line; and if not there, where? As the City Council’s representative on the Public Safety Building Project Building Committee, I’m looking to get answers to those questions.
I also have serious concerns about the estimated costs of this project, as $100 million far exceeds what neighboring communities have spent on similar projects in recent years. It might feel as though our city is flush with cash right now thanks to our new growth, federal funds from ARPA, and the return of our extorted GLX contribution. However, there’s a lot of demand for those monies, so we’ll need to make sure we’re spending wisely.
Outdoor Dining Program
Our Licenses and Permits Committee heard from the Administration last week about their Outdoor Seating Proposal for 2022. At that meeting and at Monday night’s Licensing Commission meeting, the chair of the Commission for Persons with Disabilities (SCPD) expressed frustration at not being more involved in the crafting of those guidelines. In my public comments on Monday night, I urged those involved in the creating of this proposal to collaborate with SCPD. I also spoke in favor of more rigorous enforcement by the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) to ensure compliance. Additionally, I support the proposal to offer financial and planning assistance to local businesses in the form of grants and waiving application and permit costs for 2022.
What I really want to see is the city provide business owners with long-term certainty around outdoor dining to give businesses the confidence that they can make investments in the parklet and platform infrastructure that will make outdoor dining in our city better for everyone.
I was encouraged by what I heard at Tuesday night’s meeting of the council’s Rodent Issues Special Committee. Between the comments of our new Environmental Health Coordinator (aka The Rat Czar), the transfer of that position from HHS to ISD, the hiring of a new full-time position in ISD tasked with tackling rodent issues, planned pilot projects, and discussion of actions taken and underway to address specific problem sites, there is real cause for optimism. After feeling like we're losing The War on Rats, I'm hopeful this represents a shift in the tide. I’m looking forward to the next committee meeting to hear about the progress on all of these fronts.
Boards & Commission Appointments
Following the Administration's pause on new appointments last month, I was eager to read the Mayor’s plan to make our city’s boards and commissions more inclusive. These are honorable goals no doubt shared by everyone, and I support the outreach efforts described in the plan and the having clear standards in place. My concern is that this plan must be implemented in a way that doesn’t leave any of these bodies hamstrung with quorum issues. The Commission for Persons with Disabilities, for example, is set to lose two members and a badly-needed new appointment in on pause. We need to make sure as a city that these boards and commissions are able to do their important work without interruption.
On a related note, I’d love to see the city adopt a compensation scheme for those serving on our boards and commissions to compensate these folks for their time. Some of these positions are compensated while others aren’t. Recognizing that different bodies and roles require different amounts of time, it would be great to affirm that everyone’s work on these boards and commissions has real value to our city.
New Somerville YMCA
The Somerville YMCA is working with the city to find a site to rebuild. The current YMCA facilities are over 100 years old and badly in need of replacement. The Y provides vital recreation and social space for our residents -- as well as an important housing option for those in need -- and we need to make sure they’re a part of our city for the next 100 years. The new site should be accessible by bus and by the new Green Line when it opens.
Central Hill Parking Changes Public Meeting
Proposed changes to parking on the north side of Highland Avenue include converting 15 spots in front of the 1895 Building to City Hall or School Permit Parking Only Parking for one year and converting eight spots near Walnut Street to metered parking between 8 AM and 8 PM. The Traffic Commission is holding a public hearing on these proposed changes via Zoom on Thursday, February 25 at 6 PM. Members of the public also can submit written testimony prior to 4 PM that day by emailing [email protected]
Bicycle Network Planning Virtual Workshop Series
The city’s work on creating a bicycle network continues with a series of virtual workshops. Additional dates will be added, but here's the initial schedule:
- Tuesday, February 22 - 6-7:30 p.m.
- Wednesday, February 23 - 6-7:30 p.m. (Held in Spanish)
- Thursday, February 24 - 12-1:30 p.m.
- Saturday, February 26 - 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.
- Monday, February 28 - 6-7:30 p.m.
- Wednesday, March 2 - 4-5:30 p.m. (For residents age 24 or younger)
Advance registration is required here. Space is limited and registration is limited to one workshop per person.
The Administration and City Council are looking to work together on a Fiscal Year 2023 budget that best reflects the priorities and values of our city. As part of that process, the Administration recently requested that the council communicate our budget priorities for FY23. At the February 10 City Council meeting, I asked colleagues to submit individual resolutions for their budget priorities. We’ll be taking up those resolutions at a special Finance Committee of the Whole meeting in mid-March, with a goal of determining a consensus on budget priorities to communicate to the Administration.
I’m finalizing my budget priority resolutions, but they’re going to deal with issues of safe streets, fare-free public transit, rodents, families, participatory budgeting, and other areas where I feel like our city can do better.
If there’s anything specific you’d like to see me advocate for on the budget front, please email me at [email protected]
Meetings I’ll be attending this week:
- Tuesday, February 22 (6 PM) - Finance Committee
- Wednesday, February 23 (6:30 PM) - 299 Broadway/15 Temple Street Neighborhood Meeting
- Thursday, February 24 (7 PM) - City Council
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