At last night's City Council meeting, my colleagues and I sounded the alarm about legislation currently on Beacon Hill and a potential ballot question facing Massachusetts voters this November. These are efforts by ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft and delivery companies like Instacart and DoorDash to classify their workers as independent contractors. Lyft recently made headlines for the largest political donation in Massachusetts history in support of the ballot question.
A similar ballot measure, Proposition 22, recently passed in California after special interests poured in over $200 million to successfully bamboozle voters. That ballot measure eventually was ruled unconstitutional by a California judge, but we can't leave it up to chance in the courts here. We need to prevent a repeat of that ballot question passage in Massachusetts, so we're looking to get out in front of this.
Massachusetts voters are going to be bombarded with television and Internet advertising, newspaper op-eds, and social media posts extolling the virtues of The Gig Economy and the supposed flexibility it provides workers. The reality is that this is nothing more than a blatant attempt to strip workers of their rights and relieve employers of their responsibilities to their workers, and even shield these companies from legal liability.
Fortunately, there's an effort to fight back against Big Tech's attempt to buy the vote here. A coalition of workers, consumers, advocates, labor unions, civil rights organizations, and other public interest groups called Massachusetts Is Not For Sale has sprung up to combat the misinformation campaign and stand up for workers and corporate accountability here. I'm proud to support the work of this group. Last week I attended a virtual strategy meeting of local electeds and we're organizing to counter the powerful special interests here.
So I'm asking you to bring a critical eye to the messaging onslaught coming your way over the next six months, and to not fall for the slick Silicon Valley propaganda. There's a reason these companies badly want this to happen, and they're very cynically manipulating the narrative by pretending this is supported by their workers. Let's rise above the bad-faith talking points and stand up for workers in Massachusetts.
Here are some other timely things I want to highlight this week:
City Council Spotlight interview
I was honored to appear on Somerville GovTV's City Council Spotlight series this week. Host Sarah Fishman and I discussed a lot over a 30-minute interview -- including favorite topics of mine like the Finance Committee, COVID policy, equitable redevelopment, safe streets, housing stability, and my emphasis on communication and engagement with constituents.
Last call for Charter Review Committee survey responses
I've made no secret of my support for badly-needed charter reform in Somerville. Your opportunity to share your view on some of the central questions in the charter review process ends at midnight tonight when the Charter Review Committee's survey closes. Don't miss out!
And while you're at it, here are two other City of Somerville surveys currently open for responses:
Observing firefighter training
I had the opportunity on Wednesday morning to join the Somerville Fire Department and some guests from the Cambridge Fire Department as an observer of their Basement Fire Training classroom session and training exercise. It was fascinating to learn about new approaches to firefighting and then see it all in action in the basement of a property slated for demolition. I came away impressed by the professionalism of the men and women of the SFD and I'm thankful to have them keeping our community safe.
Vision Zero project map
On Monday in our Traffic and Parking Committee meeting, we heard updates from Brad Rawson of the Mobility Division about a number of items before us. One thing I was very enthused to find out about is a custom Google Map showing all the past, present, and future Mobility and Safety Improvement Projects across the city. This is a welcome step forward and really informative and encouraging to see everything in the works to make our streets safer.
Somerville Open Studios
This weekend is one of my favorite local events each year: Somerville Open Studios. From noon to 6 PM on Saturday, April 30, and Sunday, May 1, nearly 300 local artists across Somerville will participate. It's a fantastic opportunity to participate in our great local arts scene. I've found art that I fell in love with at Somerville Open Studios and ultimately purchased. So I encourage everyone to come out and explore our city's art studios this weekend.
Celebrating independent bookstores
Saturday, April 30, also is Independent Bookstore Day. You have choices when it comes to where you buy your books, and shopping locally keeps your dollars in our community. We're fortunate to have two independent bookstores in Somerville: All She Wrote Books in Assembly Square and Wild Child at Bow Market in Union Square. So celebrate Indie Bookstore Day by paying a visit to one or both of these shops!
Prescription drug take-back
As part of National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, the City of Somerville is hosting events at two locations (220 Washington Street and 6 Newbury Street) from 10 AM to 1 PM on Saturday, April 30, for residents to drop off unused or expired medications. Just remember to remove any personally identifying information from labels before dropping off medications.
I'm thrilled to see a new Mutual Aid Medford and Somerville (MAMAS) garden spring up my own neighborhood at 36 Sewall Street -- also a Somerville Community Fridge site! The MAMAS Gardening Collective is looking for volunteers to help out with watering, weeding, planting, harvesting, and transporting dirt. So if you're into gardening or have space for a garden and want to offer it in solidarity, please check out their website and fill out the interest form.
Save the date: Job & Resource Fair
Looking for a job or want to network? Mark your calendars for Thursday, May 26, when Somerville Community Corporation is hosting a Job & Resource Fair at the Mystic Activity Center (530 Mystic Avenue) from 10 AM to 2 PM.
Did You Know....
Often used together and frequently conflated, licenses and permits really are two separate things. A license allows an entity to operate, while a permit typically requires an inspection, often for a safety-related issue.
Board & Commission Applicants Wanted
Want to get more involved in your city? Serving on a board or commission is a great way to do that. Here's an up-to-date list of the board and commission vacancies the Administration is looking to fill:
- Somerville Historic Preservation Commission
- Somerville Zoning Board of Appeals
- Somerville Wage Theft Advisory Committee
- Somerville Public Library Board of Trustees
As usual, I'll be holding group office hours on Sunday morning from 10 AM to noon.
I also offer on-demand office hours to fit your schedule or for those who prefer to meet separately. I encourage you to book a time to meet in person or virtually directly on my calendar via my Calendly.
The Week Ahead
Here are the meetings I'll be at this week:
- Tuesday, May 3 (7:00 PM) - Route 16 Traffic Calming Coalition meeting
- Wednesday, May 4 (6:00 PM) - Confirmation of Appointments and Personnel Matters Committee meeting
- Thursday, May 5 (6:00 PM) - Licenses and Permits Committee meeting
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