Category Archives: Somerville

Closing the Books on 2017

The low points on the last year are so thoroughly obvious, well documented and endlessly discussed, that there is no need to mention them here. An examination of the high points, though mostly personal, may illuminate the path ahead.

Where where you when?

On Saturday, January 21st, 2017 I was at the Cathedral Church of St Paul, watching as the Boston Common filled with people. 5 Million people, at demonstrations  all over the world, showed up for the Women’s March that day, supporting the equity, inclusion and dignity of all people.  The Cathedral, the seat of the Episcopal Dioceses of Massachusetts and house of prayer for all, is opposite – just down the Beacon Hill and across the Common from –  the State House. Church and State – one was a refuge while the other was in peril. There were three quarters of a million people on the Boston Common that day. At the Cathedral we poured coffee and served bagels. There was quiet space and clean restrooms. People met up on the front steps and eat brown bag lunches in the fellowship hall. Keeping the lights burning and the doors open – yes. This we can do.

All Politics are Local/So Get Involved in Local Politics!

The results of the November 2017 municipal election gave me back some of the hope that the national election in ’16 took away. The composition of the Board of Aldermen* shifted decisively to the left. In Ward 3, where I live,  Ben Ewen-Campen won over two-term incumbent Bob McWatters. In Ward 2, JT Scott defeated Maryann Houston; in Ward 4 Jessie Clingan, running against former City Hall staffer Omar Boukili, took that open seat, and newcomer Will Mbah won at-large. In addition running effective campaigns that identified and turned out new voters, each of these candidates was endorsed by Our Revolution Somerville. OR- Somerville also endorsed the sitting Ward 1 Alderman Matt McLaughlin and sitting Ward 2 School Committee Representative Dan Futrell.

The Mayor, though challenged, won another term, and, with our city’s stronger mayor form of governance, what he says pretty much goes. But Curtatone’s faux pas over affordable housing at Assembly Row has stirred the hornet’s nest. And while it is right and noble to speak out for El Salvadoran residents facing deportation, discerning observers point out that without more affordable housing it is increasing difficult for those who need refuge to actually live in our city.

It will be interesting to see how the sea change in the composition of of the Board of Aldermen plays out, especially as it’s tact to the left puts a spotlight on Curtatone’s reputation as a progressive. Instead of a working class hero, he might be seen as a limousine liberal. We shall see.

*Board of Aldermen = city council

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.