Sunday night saw the latest incident of gun violence in our city, with bullets hitting the window of a bedroom with children sleeping inside. Much of this recent outbreak of shootings has happened right next door to my home. My neighbors, my friends, and my kids' classmates in the Mystics and St. Polycarp Village are experiencing this trauma on a regular basis now, and the community is rightfully asking what is being done to address it.
This violence between Somerville and Cambridge isn't new. It's plagued our two cities for decades. But now easy access to firearms has made it an even more dangerous situation and the death toll -- and psychological toll from shootings -- is mounting.
Our country's gun addiction sickness might be a national societal issue, but that's not to say we're powerless at the local level. We need to get real about the problem and do what it takes to end the cycle of violence. We know what works and what doesn't, so we have to be focused on pursuing these proven, community-based strategies.
This morning a number of us on the Somerville City Council attended a breakfast held by Roca, a highly-acclaimed organization out of Chelsea that specializes in addressing violence in cities. Roca's work concerns the root causes of this violence, and they work with young people in these situations to learn to reprogram their brains to not choose violence. I'd love to see us try this approach here.
Cooperation between our two cities is vital. Fortunately, following a previous high-profile incident, Cambridge and Somerville mayors and city councils are due to hold a summit to address the violence happening in our cities. I'd love to see community groups like Teen Empowerment in Somerville and Cambridge's HEART program brought to the table for this discussion.
Speaking of Teen Empowerment, they're organizing a Somerville Youth Peace March for next Friday (May 13) from 6 to 8 PM that will start at Foss Park and end at City Hall. The event will lift up youth voices speaking about the impact of the violence on them, and I encourage everyone to turn out for that.
Here are some other items I want to spotlight:
101 South Street opening
Yesterday I attended a ceremony celebrating the opening of 101 South Street, the first purpose-built lab space in Somerville. It was a joyous occasion, with Mayor Ballantyne and Ward 2 Councilor Scott pointing out the role that community activism played in shaping the nature of the commercial development happening in our city. When we stand up and demand community benefits, these developments can be something happening for us instead of something happening to us.
These life science buildings are creating jobs here in Somerville, and this means we can continue to move away from being a bedroom community. When Somervillians' jobs don't require us to leave the city, it greatly improves our mobility situation and makes The 15-Minute City much more realistic. And the new growth is going to increase our commercial property tax base and allow us to do more with our budget.
Route 16 traffic calming
Last night an 11-year old soccer player who I coach and her parent narrowly avoided being hit by a car that ran a red light as they were crossing Alewife Brook Parkway near Dilboy Stadium after a game. When I posted about this on social media, I immediately saw replies reporting similarly near misses on Route 16. It's only a matter of time until tragedy strikes again in our city, and we need the Department of Conservation and Recreation -- the state body responsible for what are technically parkways -- to act quickly. Walking around one's city shouldn't be a high-risk activity.
Stay on top of Mobility news
Our Mobility Division has a monthly newsletter that highlights key initiatives and priorities. I highly recommend subscribing to that, as well as any other City of Somerville mailing lists and newsletters that interest you.
Coming soon: Budget Season
I'm currently working with the Administration, Budget Director, and colleagues on the Finance Committee to iron out the schedule for Budget Season in June. For those who are unfamiliar, the City Council's Finance Committee -- occasionally as a Committee of the Whole with all 11 councilors participating -- will hold series of meetings on the budget. The Administration will present their proposed FY 2023 budget to the council, then department and division heads will appear before us to present and answer questions from us. The City Council will make any cuts deemed necessary, and then the budget will be approved -- ideally at the June 23 City Council regular meeting.
We encourage public engagement in the process. In addition to following the meetings closely, I expect that we'll be holding a night of public comment on the proposed budget, likely on an evening in the first full week of June. We've heard time and time again that a budget is an expression of a community's values, and having community members involved in the process ensures that this is the case for all the right reasons.
I hear from constituents quite a bit about the condition of our street surfaces. Our tough New England winters, the heavy usage of our streets due to cut-through traffic, and all the construction and utility work in our city are really punishing. We're struggling as a city to maintain the condition of our street surfaces, and fixing that is a rare unifier for motorists, cyclists, and even pedestrians. Here is the list of scheduled street re-paving projects for FY 2022. As always please continue reporting potholes to 311.
Did You Know....
Mopeds and scooters are classified as motorized bicycles in Massachusetts. These vehicles are legally allowed to operate in bike lanes on streets and roads, but not on restricted bikeways like the Community Path.
299 Broadway Ground Floor Activities Survey
Along with Ward 4 Councilor Jesse Clingan and other neighborhood residents, I'm a member of the Winter Hill Civic Advisory Committee. The city currently is looking to gather community input on what we'd like to see in the ground floor spaces of a proposed development at 299 Broadway, the former Star Market site in Winter Hill. Please take a moment to complete the survey!
The City of Somerville currently has the additional following surveys open for responses:
Board & Commission Applicants Wanted
Serving on a board or commission is a great way to be involved in your city, and there are a number of vacancies. Here's a the current 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
Due to the Mother's Day holiday, we'll be taking the week off from group office hours this week. Group office hours will return next Sunday (May 15) at the usual time of 10 AM to noon.
I'm continuing to offer on-demand office hours to fit your schedule or for those who prefer to meet separately. I enjoy face time with my bosses, so please book a time to meet in person or virtually directly on my calendar via my Calendly.
The Week Ahead
Here are the events I'll be attending this week:
- Tuesday, May 10 (6:30 PM) - Finance Committee meeting
- Wednesday, May 11 (12:00 PM) - Gilman Square community meeting
- Thursday, May 12 (7:00 PM) - City Council meeting
- Friday, May 13 (6:00 PM) - Somerville Youth Peace March
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