Category Archives: Community Action Agency of Somerville

When 20 Becomes 6 It’s Time to Drain the Swamp

Missing the Parade

Kate was visiting her folks for the weekend, so I offered to feed her cat. The weather Sunday afternoon was picture postcard perfect, so walking over to Highland Ave was a pleasure. The City’s Memorial Day parade had just left Central Hill for Davis Square. People, couples and families with small kids carrying little American flags were walking done Prospect Hill as I walked up. I spotted an old friend. She & I worshiped at the same church back in the day. She had a poster with a picture of her dad on it. Her dad had served in the Tenth Mountain Division during World War 2.

Remembering Jack…

After tending to Kate’s cat, I was walking home, with nothing on my mind, and I remembered Jack Hamilton. “Jack,” I thought, “must be spinning in his grave.”

I met Jack as he was nearing the end his 30-year tenure as the executive director of the Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS). CAAS runs the Head Start program in Somerville and Cambridge and it helps people navigate the social safety net system – food stamps, fuel assistance, housing subsidies. Need to find a food pantry? CAAS has a list. Bedbugs? Someone at CAAS knows who to call. If Jack weren’t already dead, the recent decision by the Planning Board to cut Federal Reality’s affordability requirement by more than half would have killed him.

…And a lot of other folks

And then I thought of the other good people of CAAS, and Somerville Community Corporation, and the Somerville Homeless Coalition, and the Cambridge-Somerville Health Alliance, and Save Our Somerville, and all the other organizations and people who devoted years to pass legislation that requires a 20% set aside for affordable housing in our city. All the time and the meetings, the motions and the minutes and agendas, the conversations and arm twisting, the sweet talking and ego stroking – all the road races and walks to save our homes and gala benefits, silent auctions and 50/50 raffles – all that hard work, commitment to community and good will has been rendered meaningless. Wow. This gives a whole new meaning to “government waste.”

You Consider Us Simple, But We’re Not Stupid

Is it any wonder why we no longer trust our government? Do our elected officials not hear what we are saying? Do they think we get involved CAAS and SCC, and the Homeless Coalition because we’re bored, or hoping to build our resumes, or that we’re just fuzzy headed moon-bat liberals who don’t understand the reality of free market economics? Do they really expect us to believe that influence isn’t bought? All of City Hall’s happy talk about “diversity” and “community engagement” are empty words. By turning the 20% affordable housing requirement into 6%, all those star-spangled flags and banners – “One Somerville” says the one hanging on the high school-  become fig leaves, covering up the selling out of Somerville’s residents and the values that we share. Let’s vote these guys out of office.


Annual Meeting Notes – Community Action Agency of Somerville

On Tuesday evening, at the annual meeting of the Community Action Agency of Somerville, I headed a slate of executive officers that was elected to lead the Board of Directors.  CAAS , the leading anti-poverty agency in our city, works to end poverty where we live.  The annual meeting, which included live music, a generous meal, and stand-up comedy by Vinnie P., marks 30 years since the founding of CAAS.  We are very fortunate that in 1981 community leaders  John Ciampa, Pat Jehlen, Gene Brune, Donald Norton, John Buonomo and Paul Duhamel had the foresight and will to start CAAS.

The 2010 Census documents an increase in the number of families living in poverty, both nationally and in Somerville.  Economists have called the years between 2000 and 2010 the lost decade. 46.2 million people in this country live in poverty – a record since the Census Bureau started tracking the number of people living below the poverty line.  During this Lost Decade, in Somerville the number of people living in poverty has increased from 12.5% to 18%.  The need for CAAS has never been greater.

On behalf of the Executive Committee,  Sonja Darai, Justin Moeling, Rui Domingos and Kellee Middlebrooks, and the entire CAAS board, we hope that you will support CAAS and its vital mission with your time, talent and treasure. To find out how you can help, click here; thank you!