I know it feels like the 2021 election just happened, but we're into the home stretch of Election Season 2023, with just two months to go until Election Day on November 7. There weren't more than double the number of candidates per seat in any municipal race this year, so for the first time since 2015 there will be no preliminary election this month. It's on to the municipal election in November.
Here's list of key dates on this year's election calendar:
- Friday, October 27: Voter registration deadline (register online or by mail)
- Wednesday, November 1: Early Voting - 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM @ City Council Chamber (93 Highland Avenue)
- Thursday, November 2: Early Voting - 8:30 AM to 7:30 PM @ City Council Chamber (93 Highland Avenue)
- Friday, November 3: Early Voting - 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM @ City Council Chamber (93 Highland Avenue)
- Monday, November 6: Deadline for absentee ballot applications - 12 PM
- Tuesday, November 7: Election Day - 7 AM to 8 PM @ your local polling place
On this year's ballot, we'll have an open seat in Ward 5 and challengers in the mayoral, Ward 1, Ward 3, and Ward 6 races. Additionally, there are five experienced councilors-at-large vying for four seats in the at-large race. I have a policy of not endorsing in local elections, but if you have any questions about candidates, I'd encourage you to watch a few City Council meetings and talk to people who know the candidates.
2023 projects as a low-turnout municipal election, so getting voters energized to come out to the polls in November will be the main challenge. I really love working for you, so I'm making sure I get my message out and make my case for re-election to voters on the doors and at events around the city in the coming months. For the first time in a decade, I'm not coaching youth soccer at all this fall in order to focus on the job and the campaign. I already miss coaching, but I didn't feel like I could do that while working as your councilor-at-large and campaigning for re-election.
This is the re-election argument I'll be making to voters this year:
- I show up and do the work. The best campaigning you can do as an incumbent is performing in the role. In 20 months, I've missed one total meeting and that was when two committees I serve on were meeting simultaneously. And I still submitted questions for the chair to ask in the meeting that I missed, and then went back and watched the recording of the full meeting. I do my research and preparation for meetings to make sure I'm a productive participant and can vote knowledgeably.
- I am there for constituents. Whether through my regular Sunday office hours, on-demand office hours through my Calendly, newsletters like this, or simply responding to emails/calls/texts/messages on social media, I make myself available. I believe in listening to people and really enjoy longer conversations on the issues, particularly if someone disagrees with me. And I spring into action and help whenever there's something I can do as a councilor.
- I can turn ideas into accomplishments. Last year I engineered a new process to identify the City Council's top shared budget priorities and communicate those to the Administration. I was pleased to see a number of these priorities addressed in the FY23 and FY24 budgets. I've authored an ordinance reducing red tape for new housing creation and have worked extensively on large-scale new housing developments with huge numbers of affordable housing units. Following my resolution this past winter on funding out-of-school time programming from the General Fund, the Administration included $500,000 for this in the FY24 budget.
- I work well with others. This term I've collaborated with every single colleague on the City Council on at least one item. I make frequent use of our council's Legislative and Policy Analyst, and I've had countless meetings with the Administration and City staff regarding potential new policy initiatives. I've also worked with our state delegation and have testified on Beacon Hill to advocate for legislation that would benefit our city. I'm always looking for opportunities to partner with allies to work on good policy.
If you'd like me to continue doing these things on the City Council for two more years, here's how you can help:
- Come to my fundraiser on Sunday. We're hosting a campaign event on Sunday, September 10, from 5 to 7:30 PM at The Dragon's Lair (233 Elm Street in Davis Square). We'll have a mercifully-short speaking program, followed by plenty of time to chat about the issues. Donating to the campaign is appreciated but definitely not necessary to attend.
- Host a private campaign gathering. I love talking to folks in smaller settings, so if you'd like to put together a group of friends and/or neighbors at your home, I'll work with you to find a date and time that work, and I'll be there. Sign up to host one of these gatherings here.
- Donate to my re-election campaign. I have a goal of raising $24,600 for this year's campaign to cover campaign literature, social media advertising, and mailers. We just crossed the 20-percent mark this week, so there's some work to be done there. Please consider making a contribution through ActBlue.
- Put up a yard sign. We all know signs don't vote, but they do help increase name recognition and demonstrate a level of support in the community. Pick up a yard sign at the campaign event on Sunday or sign up to have one dropped off at your home or business.
- Volunteer with our campaign. If you like talking to others, knocking doors by yourself or with me is a lot of fun. If you prefer to talk to folks more organically or on social media, we'll give you talking points and graphics for that. And we're always looking for folks to stand out at polling places on Election Day. You can sign up here to do any and all of those things.
And now some additional things I'd like to highlight:
Back to school challenges
It's been a difficult start to the new school year for Somerville Public Schools. The year began with the scramble to get the Winter Hill Community Innovation School into their new makeshift home at the Edgerly and all the predictable wrinkles that have come with that. I want to commend City and SPS staff for all their efforts to make the best of an awful situation and get the Edgerly ready for the Winter Hill community. I'm continuing to talk to Winter Hill families to look for ways we can support them and improve things for the Wildcats.
Then came last weekend's attack on the SPS computer system that resulted in district email and district-issued desktops and laptops being taken offline. SPS has contacted law enforcement and is working at bringing the affected systems back online in a safe and secure way. Sadly, there's been a trend of ransomware attacks on schools nationwide. We've seen this here in Massachusetts with attacks on school districts in Nantucket and Swansea this year alone.
Get rent stabilization on the ballot
On Wednesday the Massachusetts Attorney General's office certified a proposal by Rep. Mike Connolly (D-Somerville/Cambridge) to put re-legalizing rent stabilization before voters as a ballot question next November. Any government regulation of rents has been illegal in Massachusetts since voters narrowly voted to ban the practice back in 1994. The three decades since that ballot measure have seen rents explode here, with housing costs now burdening a huge number of people in the region. I believe it's high time we put the question to the people again and see if today's voters want to reconsider that generations-old decision.
A successful ballot measure takes a lot of volunteers and money, first to gather the required 75,000 certified signatures by the end of November, then by getting the word out to the public to win the vote. I've signed on as a supporter of the ballot question and have committed to putting in the work to get this on the ballot and over the line with voters. I've also donated to help with the costs of the ballot measure. I'd encourage you to join me by contributing here.
Armory management update
Following the community meeting hosted by the Center for Arts at the Armory (CAA) on August 15, the Somerville Armory Master Plan Advisory Committee has determined that they have reversed the decision to only consider two operational approaches for the Armory. This previous course of action would've moved away from the CAA as the third-party operator of the facility -- a decision I believe would've been a huge mistake on the City's part.
As I stated at the August 15 meeting, the CAA has a large and talented operation that the City should be very concerned about trying to replicate internally. Ruling out the possibility of the CAA continuing to serve as the operator by eliminating the third-party operator model simply didn't make sense. I'm hopeful the CAA and Armory tenants will be given more input into future decisions by the City on this space.
Somerville Media Center & MAPS update
Following the City's closure of their longtime home at 90-92 Union Square last month, Somerville Media Center and the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS) found themselves suddenly displaced. Thanks to Somernova, the Somerville Media Center was able to find a temporary home at 12 Tyler Street and will resume operations there on September 15. This arrangement will allow SMC to continue their important work while building out a new long-term space. I recorded a candidate video at SMC on the final weekend before the building's closure, and it was incredibly sad seeing them packing up for the move out.
MAPS still is looking for a new space in Somerville, where they've operated in Union Square for nearly 50 years. For now, they're directing members of the Somerville community in need of services to visit their nearby Cambridge office (1046 Cambridge Street) or to call 617-864-7600.
Gilman Square Arts & Music Festival
The 2023 edition of the popular Gilman Square Arts & Music Festival will take place as scheduled on Saturday, September 9 from noon to 6 PM. Join me on Pearl Street and in the Mad Oyster Studios parking lot for food, music, activities, and art!
The annual Gilman Square event kicks off a busy fall of outstanding community events:
- Sunday, September 17: SomerStreets: Strike Up the Bands! (2-6 PM)
- Saturday, September 23: What the Fluff? Festival (3-7 PM)
- Sunday, October 22: SomerStreets Monster Mash (2-6 PM)
Few things bring the City Council as much joy as approving public event licenses for block parties, and the fall is the perfect time for these. Block parties are a great way to connect as a neighborhood and a really wonderful Somerville tradition.
If you and your neighbors are interested in closing off your street to vehicle traffic and reclaiming it for a good time for the entire neighborhood, the process is fairly straightforward. Learn more here -- and I hope to see you at a block party in the coming months!
A community center in Union Square?
CultureHouse recently received ARPA funding from the City to pilot a community center in Union Square. They're working with the Union Square Neighborhood Council to make this happen, but they also want to hear from the public. CultureHouse has released a survey available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole to gather input, so please take a moment to fill that out and share your vision for what this space could be!
Local music x local journalism
I've been very vocal about my alarm at the dramatic decline of local journalism covering happenings in our city. Now you can support local journalism while listening to local musical acts, thanks to a show benefitting the Somerville Media Fund. On Friday, September 29, Warehouse XI (11 Sanborn Court in Union Square) will host a benefit show, with a bill including Tuxis Giant, Otis Shanty, Mint Green, Good Judgment, Hereboy, and Shira Laucharoen. The vast majority (80 percent) of the proceeds will go towards supporting Somerville Wire, who are providing excellent coverage of Somerville news. Click here to purchase tickets.
Join the CAAS board!
The Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS) does absolutely critical work in our city. They're currently looking for community members to serve on their board of directors. You can learn more about the opportunity here.
Additionally, the City of Somerville's multiple-member bodies (boards, committees, and commissions) are a great way to take an active role in our city and contribute to the community. The Administration currently is seeking members for the following multi-member bodies:
- Somerville Fair Housing Commission
- Somerville Anti-Displacement Task Force
- Somerville Conservation Commission
- Cultural Capacity Planning (Somerville Arts Council)
Did You Know...
The City's Economic Development division offers licensing and permitting virtual office hours every Thursday from 4 to 5 PM via Zoom. Interpretation is offered in Spanish and Portuguese.
Sunday is my campaign event, so that will take the place of office hours. Office hours will return in their regular form on Sunday, September 17.
In the meantime, I offer on-demand office hours to fit your schedule via my Calendly.
The week ahead
- Monday, September 11: 9/11 Remembrance @ 8:30 AM (Community Path & Davis Square)
- Tuesday, September 12: Finance Committee meeting @ 6 PM (Zoom)
- Wednesday, September 13: 90 Washington Redevelopment Civic Advisory Committee meeting @ 5:30 PM (Zoom)
- Thursday, September 14: City Council regular meeting @ 7 PM (City Council Chamber & Zoom)
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