It might not feel like it with all the snow still on the ground, but happy first week of meteorological spring!
Speaking of snow, I've generally received favorable feedback from constituents on the city's snow removal efforts in response to last week's snowstorm. I'm always interested in hearing more about this, so I encourage you to reach out and share your perspective with me.
With so much going on in our city, here are some key things I want to call to your attention:
Mask Mandate Ending
Thursday night our local Board of Health voted 3-0 to end Somerville's indoor mask mandate effective Saturday, March 5. The decision was made in light of recently-updated guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and our state Department of Public Health. I understand this is upsetting for some in our community -- particularly the immunocompromised and those with children too young to be vaccinated. Please consider voluntarily continuing to wear a mask in indoor public spaces, so our vulnerable neighbors feel seen and supported right now. I'm personally vaccinated (and boosted) and already had Omicron back during the holidays, but I intend to continue wearing my mask when grocery shopping or picking up my takeout order or prescription.
FY23 Budget Priorities
The Mayor asked members of the City Council to submit our individual budget priorities for Fiscal Year 2023 ahead of budget season. As Chair of the Finance Committee, I want to go one step further and provide the Administration with a list of the council's shared budget priorities, so they know ahead of time what we'll be looking for in a proposed budget. Accordingly, I've asked my colleagues to submit their budget priorities for the next fiscal year as individual resolutions. We'll be taking up these items at a special Finance Committee of the Whole meeting later this month. If there's something you'd like me to submit as a budget priority, please let me know ASAP!
Public Safety Building
At Wednesday's Public Safety Building Project Building Committee meeting, I was asked by a colleague on the committee for my read on the City Council's stance on the proposed Public Safety Building at 90 Washington Street. I responded that I do not see anywhere near the required level of support on this council required to bond out the funding for this project. I expressed my concerns about the cost of this proposed PSB and my opinion that this would be better sited elsewhere in our city.
With the East Somerville stop on the Green Line opening in the coming months just a stone's throw away from this site, I believe 90 Washington Street is perfect for high-density, mixed-use (commercial on the ground floor with residential above), transit-oriented development. I'd also like to see a community center or possibly a new YMCA constructed on that site as well. Engine 3 does need to be located in that area for response time purposes, but I don't feel like a large Public Safety Building would be a good use of that land.
Along those same lines, I also don't believe 220 Washington Street (the site of our current Public Safety Building) is a good site for that purpose. So I'm encouraging the Administration to look at other sites in the city and pushing for a fresh site selection study. As the council's representative on the PSB Building Committee, I'm looking to work with the Administration to try to find the best outcome for our city here.
Boards & Commissions
At Wednesday night's Confirmation of Appointments and Personnel Matters committee meeting, my colleagues and I discussed the state of boards and commissions in our city. I was glad to see the Administration release their eagerly-awaited plan to improve inclusivity of Somerville's boards and commissions. After spending some time Wednesday crunching numbers in a spreadsheet, I'm alarmed by the current number of expired terms and vacancies. I'm particularly concerned about quorum issues and what it says about the value we place on the work of these important bodies. So I've offered to work with the new Administration to assess areas of most urgent need and to move quickly to address these issues.
If you have the time, interest, and qualifications to serve on one of these boards or commissions, please be on the lookout for information on openings and application instructions once the recruitment process begins.
Union Square GLX Opening March 21
After a decades-long wait, it's hard to believe we're about to see Green Line service begin in Somerville. The Union Square spur is set to come online on Monday, March 21, with the remaining stops scheduled for a May opening. A Boston Globe article this week looked at the changes and challenges surrounding the GLX that are impacting our city. It's a good reminder of the double-edged sword that the Green Line is proving to be in Somerville and the need to move proactively to limit the negative impacts.
The city recently placed 50 SMART rat electrocution boxes in four locations around the city with the highest concentration of 311 reports for rodent activity. I support this initiative as one part of a multi-pronged approach to reducing the number of rodents in our city. I'm eagerly awaiting additional measures from the Administration around enforcement of regulations, education of residents and businesses around best practices, elimination of rat-friendly habitats and infestations, and impairment of rodents' ability to breed. This problem won't be solved with one or two initiatives, but rather a comprehensive plan and the will and resources to fully implement that plan.
MAMAS Gardening Collective
Want to set up a garden and help grow food for our community? Mutual Aid of Medford and Somerville (MAMAS) is looking to expand on a first year of their Gardening Collective program that saw over 80 volunteers help establish 14 new gardens here. You can volunteer to help set up and maintain gardens or get more information here -- including translations en español, Portuguêse, and Kreyòl Ayisyen.
Bicycle Network Planning Virtual Workshop Series
The city’s work on a bicycle network continues with the two final events in a series of virtual workshops via Zoom. If you're a parent or a Spanish speaker, I encourage you to attend one of these meetings:
Please join me on Monday, March 7, from 7-9 PM for group office hours. I'm continuing to offer on-demand office hours convenient for your schedule to meet outside of group office hours. If you'd like to book a time on my calendar to meet in person or virtually, you can do that directly on my Calendly. And i can't stress enough how much I enjoy meeting with constituents, so please don't feel like you're taking up my time when you book a slot on my calendar!
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