Friend:

I was deeply saddened by the death of Steve Conley on August 15. Mr. Conley was killed when he was "doored" by a driver while bicycling on Broadway in West Somerville. What made it particularly tragic was how preventable this loss of life was. If that section of Broadway had protected bike lanes or if the driver had been trained to look for passing cars/bikes/pedestrians before opening the door, it's extremely likely that Mr. Conley would still be with us.

I was doored while riding in a bike lane in Philadelphia in July 1997. I was in college at the time and was fortunate to walk away with a sprained wrist, a sore neck and shoulder, some scrapes, and $80 in necessary repairs to my bike. But the experience has stayed with me. Even 25 years later, I'm skittish about this happening again and I find myself constantly scanning for people potentially opening their doors when I ride alongside parked vehicles.

Ghost Bike

We need infrastructure that reduces the odds of these and other similar incidents that threaten cyclists in our city. We need to be putting in protected bike lanes wherever they're possible. I believe Broadway and Powder House Boulevard in West Somerville are excellent spots for these protected bike lanes, and I was encouraged to hear the City is proceeding with a quickbuild solution there. Thank you to everyone who contacted the Administration, the City Council, and City staff about this. Your voices matter and I believe they were heard loud and clear.

We also need to make sure drivers understand that part of urban driving is safely opening doors. Massachusetts General Law Chapter 90 Section 14 states:

No person shall open a door on a motor vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so without interfering with the movement of other traffic, including bicyclists and pedestrians. Whoever violates the preceding sentence shall be punished by a fine of not more than $100.

The practice of using one's opposite hand to open a vehicle door to remind ourselves to scan for passing cars, bikes, and pedestrians is called The Dutch Reach. My colleague At-Large, Kristen Strezo, just happened to introduce an order at the July 14 City Council meeting regarding an annual public education campaign about The Dutch Reach, and I enthusiastically supported this. This latest fatality on our streets shows just how sadly necessary this education is.

Here are some other things I want to touch on:

Primary Voting
Our 2022 primary election is happening now, and there are three ways you can vote:

1. Vote Early. In-person Early Voting in the Council Chambers on the second floor of Somerville City Hall (93 Highland Avenue) began Saturday and runs through Friday, September 2, 2022. Here are the hours:

  • Tuesday, August 30: 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM
  • Wednesday, August 31: 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM
  • Thursday, September 1: 8:30 AM to 7:30 PM
  • Friday, September 2: 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM

2. Vote by Mail. No reason is required to vote by mail and everyone is eligible to do so. Click here for full information and instructions on voting by mail.

I recommend dropping your completed ballot in an official ballot drop box, particularly if Primary Day is close. Those locations are as follows:

  • City Hall concourse (93 Highland Avenue)
  • East Somerville Community School (across from 68 Glen Street)
  • Argenziano School entrance (290 Washington Street)
  • Somerville Community Baptist Church entrance (31 College Avenue)
  • West Somerville Neighborhood School entrance (177 Powder House Boulevard)

3. Vote on Election Day. Polls will be open from 7am-8pm on Election Day, Tuesday, September 6. Please note that many polling places have changed because of redistricting. You can find your polling location here. Please note that many of us will have new polling locations beginning with this election due to the new precincts and re-drawn ward maps.

My Primary Endorsements
Governor: I had endorsed Sonia Chang-Díaz for governor, as her progressive values matched up well with mine and I appreciated her courage in declaring before Charlie Baker announced he wouldn't seek re-election. But with Sen. Chang-Díaz ending her campaign earlier this summer, Maura Healey should be our next governor. I was generally impressed with what she did as Attorney General and am looking forward to having a Democratic governor here once again. It definitely will make some things we're looking to do in Somerville that much easier to get approved at the state level.

Lieutenant Governor: I've endorsed Eric Lesser for LG. You've probably heard me rail against the decades of underinvestment in our transit system. Well, Sen. Lesser has made transit one of his top campaign issues. The fact he's from Western Massachusetts and is a strong advocate for a high-speed east/west rail line makes this even more important, as it's historically been difficult to convince the parts of the state outside Eastern Massachusetts to fund transit at the state level. I want someone who will prioritize transit on the ticket this November and in the LG office the next four years.

Attorney General: I'm all in on Shannon Liss-Riordan for Attorney General. Her track record of fighting (successfully!) for the little guy against large corporations is exactly what I want to see from The People's Lawyer. She'll help level the playing field by making our state a better place for workers and will help to fight the scourge of wage theft. I'd say Shannon is ideally suited for this role.

Secretary of the Commonwealth: I hosted an event for Tanisha Sullivan earlier this summer and I'm extremely excited about her candidacy for Secretary of the Commonwealth (State). After 28 years, it's time for some fresh ideas in the office, and anyone who has heard Tanisha talk about what she wants to do with the job comes away impressed with her vision. Anti-choice incumbent Bill Galvin touts the stability he provides, but I see that more as a reluctance on his part to take things forward. I blame Galvin for these dumb sub-precincts we now find ourselves with in Somerville, and I hope these are the last straw for voters. 

Auditor: I first learned about Chris Dempsey back in 2014 when his No Boston Olympics grassroots movement stood up and called out the potential boondoggle that the 2024 Olympics would've been for the regions. I credit Chris with changing the entire conversation and have been impressed and grateful ever since. He has a background in data transparency and I think he'd be an amazing Auditor. (For those unfamiliar with the role, the Auditor oversees an operation that prioritizes accountability, transparency, efficiency, and productivity.)

Finally, while I stay out of endorsements in local races, I'll simply note that I've found Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven to be a good ally on some shared priorities and I appreciate her willingness to take principled stands on Beacon Hill.

Orange & Green Line closures
The extremely painful dual closures of both the Orange and Green Lines are making it extremely tough to get around the metro area. The City of Somerville is looking to cushion the blow with a number of measures. I've been following the surprisingly excellent daily email updates of the work being done on the Orange Line and I'm eagerly awaiting the return of "normal" service to both. This is a cautionary tale of what happens to our vital transit infrastructure when it's neglected for decades. I'm hopeful that this is rock bottom for us and we change our ways.

Applications open for 66 affordable units at Assembly
The City's Inclusionary Housing Program is holding a lottery for 66 studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom income-restricted units at Alta Revolution in Assembly Row (290 Revolution Drive). There are three income eligibility groups for households at or below 50, 80, and 110 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). The first apartments will be ready for occupancy this December.

Alta Revolution Inclusionary Housing Lottery

There is a virtual information session on at 6 PM on Tuesday, August 30 on SEB Housing's YouTube channel. You also can call in  at 425-436-6200 Code: 862627 at the meeting time. Applications must be submitted by 2PM on Monday, September 12, with the lottery taking place Wednesday, October 19. More information -- including income eligibility charts and multilingual applications -- is available at somervillema.gov/inclusionaryhousing.

Overdose Awareness Day
I sponsored a resolution last week in observance of International Overdose Awareness Day on Wednesday, August 31. Every year we see too many lives impacted and cut short by overdose, and I want to remember those we've lost while vowing to do better at preventing future overdoses. For a month beginning on Wednesday, Somerville City Hall will be illuminated in purple in observance of Recovery Month, and 15 purple flags will be on display in memory of the 15 Somervillians lost to overdose in 2021.

Overdose Awareness Day

We are working to bring in overdose prevention centers (or safe consumption sites) to our city. You can help keep your neighbors safe by attending virtual overdose prevention trainings, like the one on Thursday, September 6 from 3 to 4 PM. Additionally, the City is holding Narcan distribution events:

  • Wednesday, August 31 (10 AM - 4 PM) @ City Hall (93 Highland Avenue)
  • Thursday, September 15 (10 AM - 7 PM) @ Union Square (90 Union Square)
  • Friday, September 30 (8 AM - 4 PM) @ Foss Park (corner of Broadway & McGrath)

Resident Parking Permits 
In my previous newsletter, I had talked about the recommendations of the consultants brought in for the Citywide Parking & Curb Use Study. I'm concerned about the idea of going to strictly zoned permits, so if the City did introduce zoned permits, I argued for continuing to offering an "all zones" permit as well, and put together an example of what that fee structure might look like.

I'm still catching up on social media, but I hear there were lengthy debates on Facebook, where the conversations even sometimes veered into "productive" territory despite that chart being misrepresented as an official proposal from the City. Wherever you fall on this question, I hope that you weigh in on these recommendations by completing this survey.

Area water quality grades
The latest water quality grades were released earlier this month by the EPA and the Mystic River Watershed Association, and it's a mixed bag for Somerville. While the Mystic River itself is looking decent, the Alewife Brook doesn't fare nearly as well.

Mystic River Water Quality Grades 2021

If you didn't catch the recent Boston Globe piece on kayaking the Alewife Brook, it's well worth a read and extremely illuminating on the sorry state of the brook. The Citywide Drainage and Water Quality Master Plan looks to address this, while sewer separation work being undertaken by the City is a key initiative in the battle to improve our water quality. It's going to take continued work and investment in our sewer infrastructure, but I believe this is well worth it.

Fire hydrant flushing
The annual fire hydrant inspection and testing process is taking place around the city through Saturday, September 3. Fire hydrants are flushed as part of this, sometimes disturbing sediment and resulting in some discoloration of the water. This does not post a health hazard, but can stain fabric if it comes into contact with with lighter laundry. 

Get paid to study air quality in your home!
Researchers at Tufts University and UConn Health are conducting a Home Air Filtration for Traffic-Related Air Pollution (HAFTRAP) study to learn about whether installing an in-home air filter will lower exposure to air pollution. Researchers are looking for study participants who are at least 30 years of age, speak English or Spanish, and live full-time within 200 meters of Interstate 93 (colored in purple below).

HAFTRAP Study Eligibility

Study participants will:

  • Have an air filter installed in their home to use for three months
  • Agree to have your blood pressure measured and a blood sample taken
  • Participate in four interviews

There is no cost to participate and participants will be paid as much as $300 in compensation. COVID safety procedures are in place. For more information, please call 860.571.1317 or email [email protected].

Get involved in your city!
One of the new wrinkles in this year's City budget is $1 million earmarked for participatory budgeting. If done right, this can be a great way to give the people of Somerville a direct voice in how our city allocates funding. The Participatory Budging Working Group is tasked with determining how this new initiative will look and work, and they're currently seeking members of the public. This is an eight-week commitment of 90-minute weekly meetings and applications are due Friday, September 16. To apply, please send a statement of interest to [email protected].

Additionally, the following boards and commissions currently are seeking new members:

Wanted: Poll Workers
It's Election Season and the City of Somerville badly needs poll workers for Primary Day on Tuesday, September 6, to make sure our elections are safe, secure, and run smoothly. These positions pay $200 for the day and work is from 6:30 AM until after polls close at 8 PM, with a two-hour break. Please email [email protected]rvillema.gov, or call 617-625-6600 x3317 to apply.

Additionally, the City still is looking for crossing guards with the new school year just around the corner. Apply for those or any of the many other City of Somerville positions and Somerville Public Schools openings currently posted.

Did You Know...
The Taxi to Health program offers free cab rides for Somerville residents to access food and medical care. Funded by our city's ARPA funds, the program is administered jointly by the Council on Aging and the Office of Food Access and Healthy Communities.

Residents can book rides directly through the City or request vouchers to use in the future. Vouchers are valid through February 2023. Rides should be booked at least two business days in advance. To learn more and request vouchers, click here or call 781-747-8502. Residents age 60 or older can book rides directly by calling the Council on Aging at 617-625-6600 ext. 2319.

Office Hours
Group office hours are taking the holiday weekend off, but they'll return on Sunday, September 11. I'm continuing to offer on-demand office hours at a date/time that's convenient to you via my Calendly.

Another Fundraising Plea
These newsletters are one of the ways I'm looking to increase engagement between the people of Somerville and their government. The tools involved in this work -- NationBuilder, Google Workspace, Linktree, Calendly, and Zoom -- all carry subscription costs. With the 2023 campaign just around the corner, I'm looking to re-build my campaign account balance, so anything you're able to contribute is much appreciated!

ActBlue donation form

Click here to donate -- and thank you for your support!

The Week Ahead
It's a relatively light week meeting-wise before things really kick off next week:

-Jake

Jake Wilson

About

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