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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Davis Square to Host ParkMobile Launch

Davis Square will host the launch of ParkMobile technology

The Communications Department (Hi, Jackie!) issued the following press release just now...

Join Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone, Director of Traffic and Parking Suzanne Rinfret, and Parkmobile on Monday, Nov. 24 to launch the latest parking technology in Somerville with Parkmobile’s smart phone app. 

The official launch ceremony will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Meacham Rd. in Davis Sq., adjacent to Seven Hills Park and the Davis Sq. T station.

Beginning the week of Nov. 24, drivers in Somerville will be able to pay for parking at every metered space in the city by using Parkmobile’s smartphone app available for iPhone, Android, Windows and Blackberry phones, or by calling a toll-free number from any phone (no smartphone needed). 

Somerville will be the first city in the metro Boston area to offer this convenience through Parkmobile.

Although a huge supporter of new technology, ya'all know how I feel about changes to parking. I'm hoping this doesn't lead to later feeding times and increased prices for meters in Somerville. From what I understand, however, the cost is .50¢ and is charged by ParkMobile. 
Have you used similar technology? Feel free to comment your thoughts below!

Like Mike from Monsters Inc., I will be keeping an eye on it. 

Giving Tuesday Somerville: Call to Volunteers

Help raise $50,000 for nonprofit organizations in Somerville! 

Volunteers are needed for Giving Tuesday Somerville, a collaborative fundraising effort between 15 local nonprofit organizations. The event will be a telethon at SCATV in Union Square on December 2 from 6-9 pm.

Volunteers are needed BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER the event: tasks will include helping with a phone bank, picking up donations, distributing promotional posters, and more! This is a great way to get involved with your local Somerville community and #GiveMore during the holiday season.

Please fill out this form if you are able to volunteer before, during, and/or after Giving Tuesday Somerville, and we will contact you with more info! Please email if you have any questions.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Giving Tuesday...Somerville Style!

15 Somerville agencies collaborate on annual day of giving
Giving Tuesday Somerville: Give Local launches!

The Somerville nonprofit community has embarked upon a new journey of collaborative fundraising -  Giving Tuesday Somerville: Give Local.  This holiday season, 15 nonprofit organizations are joining forces to collaborate on a first-annual joint fundraising effort as part of the international Giving Tuesday program.  Giving Tuesday is an annual global day of giving that helps to raise funds and awareness for important causes everywhere. In our community, Giving Tuesday will be the 21st Century version of a telethon. Hosted on SCATV on December 2nd, this telethon delivers an exciting program of live entertainment, panel discussions, public service announcements, and local celebrities, helping us to raise $50,000 for the nonprofit community in Somerville.

"The complexity of the problems facing our city calls for greater coordination and collaboration among all of us - our Giving Tuesday Telethon is just one example among many of Somerville's non-profits working together for the collective good of our city's children and families," stated David Gibbs, Executive Director of the Community Action Agency of Somerville.

Participating organizations include:

Mark Alston-Follansbee, Executive Director of the Somerville Homeless Coalition, has been working on this project since its inception in early 2014. “After Black Friday and Tech Monday, Giving Tuesday is an opportunity for everyone to focus on giving to nonprofit organizations around the world.  Here in Somerville, agencies are using this day to collaborate and tell the story of our community; we hope you'll tune in and support us in any way that works for you.”

Giving Tuesday Somerville takes place on December 2nd, 2014. Giving takes place from 12:01am-11:59pm online, while the telethon is hosted from 6-9pm on SCATV. Give a little more this season. #GiveMoreSomerville

For more information on this effort, visit To become an event sponsor, please email

Monday, November 17, 2014

Get a Piece of Magoun History...For $839K

Would you like to own a piece of Magoun Square history? If you do, you're only $839,000 away!

Bremis Realty Inc. now has the difficult task of selling the Piro Printers business and three family home located at 483 Medford Street. This comes 8 months after the business relocated in Charlestown combining with AB Printing and 3 months after the family first placed For Sale signs on the house and print shop.

Bremis tempts potential buyers by describing the location as a, "...great opportunity to own this 3F plus garage/former print shop. A large property in a fantastic location just outside of up and coming trendy Magoun Sq. Units feature large rooms, wall to wall carpeting, retro kitchens and baths and open and enclosed porches. This is a great opportunity for developers or investors to purchase a property just minutes from the proposed green line extension."

Piro Printing was every politician's first stop when setting up their campaign literature and choosing colors for yard signs, lapel and bumper stickers-including mine. Marc Piro has run the print business for many years providing print services that included wedding invitations, business cards, political signage and campaign literature for local politicians. It was through Piro that I had my yard signs, palm cards, lapel and bumper stickers made when I ran for Alderman last year.

This is the second piece of significant Magoun Square property that has gone up for sale. The first, a string of storefronts on the Broadway portion of the business district, has been up for grabs since the summer. Rumors of it being sold proved to be untrue. The property is still for sale with no agreements in place.

What would you like to see replace the shop? Feel free to comment your ideas!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Ryan Harrington Foundation Continues to Give Back

Last month, I reported on the great success of this year's Corn Toss Tournament honoring the memory of Ryan Harrington (The Somerville Times | Ward 5 Online). At the time, the foundation had given generous financial donations to such great recipients as Pop Warner, Somerville Youth Hockey and the YMCA-just to name a few.

In total, the Ryan Harrington Foundation has raised $40,000 in three years and have donated 95% of tournament proceeds.

Since the posting of that story, the foundation has given more money out, this time to Shriner's Hospital for Children and the Sean Collier Memorial Fund. Both organizations received $200, respectively.

To find out more about the foundation, please visit the website at: More photographs from the tournament and check amounts donated to organizations can be found on the foundation's Facebook page:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

City Petitioning MassDOT to Reduce Lowell Street Speed Limit

Residents, City and Elected Officials continued conversations last night on traffic calming and safety measures needed for Lowell Street that included a handout of speeding data and a presentation on options for more permanent solutions.

The data...
According to provided data, the speed on Lowell Street has dropped. Before the chicane installation and parking change, 85% of the speed averaged 23mph (Medford Street -> Highland Avenue) and 27mph (Highland Avenue to Medford Street). Installation of the painted chicanes and transferring of parking to either side of Lowell saw improvements of 21mph and 26mph, respectively. The street, itself, is 30mph with the bridge being 25mph per MassDOT. The City of Somerville did not and cannot set the speed on the bridge as it is out of their jurisdiction.

See data handouts: (Raw data was not available at the time of the meeting)

Presentation and Impact of Community Path Extension...
Transportation Director, Hayes Morrison, outlined Somerville's options for decreasing the speed limit on Lowell Street during her presentation at the Healey School meeting. Mentioning permanent solutions such as physical (and not just painted) chicanes, Morrison pointed out that the City is honing in on petitioning MassDOT to approve a decrease to 25mph. If granted, the City will install crosswalks on either side of the Lowell Street bridge with one at Princeton Street (Lowell to Highland Avenue) and the other between Wilton and Vernon (Lowell to Medford Street). The decrease will impact the entirety of Lowell Street from Somerville Avenue to Medford Street in anticipation of the increased cycle and pedestrian traffic expected with the Community Path Extension.

Although the opening of the Community Path Extension is expected in December, crosswalks on Lowell Street (pending approval) will not be implemented until the path is officially finalized in the Spring with the completion of a raised crosswalk on Cedar Street. The raised crosswalk on Cedar is part of the extension project. Morrison did agree to see if the City would allow cyclists on the portion of the path that is not currently under construction as exits into MaxWell's Green are open. She did stress, however, that people should remain off of the path until she receives an answer.

Petitioning MassDOT...
Petitioning MassDOT will prompt a Police survey of the street using radar guns to record 100 readings of cars during non-peak hours. When questioned, Morrison admitted that the City does not determine where or when the radars are used, but they have recommended four key locations according to Traffic Engineer Terry Smith. Morrison would go on to say that she is confident MassDOT will approve the reduction that will lead to two brand-new crosswalks on either side of the Lowell Street bridge.

Although Stop signs are preferred by some residents, a flashing Pedestrian Crossing sign is being seriously considered for the Albion Street crosswalk. Should the City want to move forward with permanent physical chicanes, a 6-8 month bid, interview and design period would push construction and completion into 2016. The permanent chicanes would include a curb extension and/or plantings to change the physical landscape of the street and force cars in a swerving motion. This would slow cars down and change driver perception of the street, however, this is not ideal for cyclists.

In closing, Morrison could not commit to a timeline of the steps ahead, but would work with MassDOT on the speed reduction and the City on suggested ideas from meeting attendees.

The Word Around The Ward

Big thanks to all who voted and job well done to all who ran during this past election season. Big changes are coming to Massachusetts and the voters spoke as to who they want to keep Somerville's best interests at heart beyond our borders. I didn't agree with some of the results, but it will be interesting to see what the future holds for the Commonwealth. For full results, check out this great website launched by the City

Ward 5 has a new resident as Rachel and Sue Fuller DeAmato welcomed daughter, Charlie, this past week! Congratulations!

The City of Somerville is looking to fill some key vacancies on Boards and Commissions according to a press release from the Communications Department. If you're interested, submit a resume and cover letter, as well as any relevant supplemental material by email to: indicating which one you would like to serve on. A full list can be reviewed on the press release.

Crafters, bakers and other vendors are needed for the annual Somerville Craft Fair held at Somerville High School this year. If you have items to sell, you can find more information and/or purchase a table online! The 24th Annual Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair will be held on Saturday November 29, 2014 from 9:00am-3:00pm at the Somerville High School Field House (81 Highland Ave). Admission is free to the general public.

Our last Word Around The Ward prompted some political speculation for 2015. Check out the couple of responses here and be sure to comment your thoughts.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

FLOAT Raises Big Funds for Magoun Square Storefront

Courtesy of Float's Facebook Page:

FLOAT, founded by Sara Garvin and Colin Roald, is preparing for their grand opening in Ward 5's Magoun Square in December and had some great financial news to share on their website recently!

After 360 "backers" pre-ordered over 1,000 floats, the company netted $47,750 through their crowdfunding campaign. Crowdfunding was previously used by MF Dulock and the City of Somerville who also found great success with the popular financial process.

As I previously reported... 
Upon becoming available, the interest in the 515 Medford Street storefront reached the double digits and included businesses ranging from a kettle bell trainer to a dentist. Owner, Umberto, verbalized two visions for the empty space: no food and something interesting that complimented the square. I would say that he succeeded!

For more information on FLOAT, visit their website and sign up for their email list to have the latest status on their grand opening sent right to your inbox.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Lowell Street Bridge & Corridor Community Meeting

When: Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, 6-7:30 p.m.

Where: Arthur D. Healy School cafeteria, 5 Meacham St.

Community members are invited to discuss traffic calming plans, traffic safety, and other roadway improvements with City of Somerville staff and officials. Please join us Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Arthur D. Healey School cafeteria, 5 Meacham St. For additional information, please contact Hayes Morrison, City of Somerville Director of Transportation and Infrastructure at (617) 625-6600, ext. 2522.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Get Out and Vote, Yo!

Election Day is here! Please get out and do that voting thang...all the cool kids are doing it!

Here is a link to the ballot Ward 5ers will see when they head to the polls! Posted by the Elections Department, all ballots are available for review before the election.

Some wards have new voting locations for this election. If you don't know where you are supposed to cast your ballot, the Elections Department has a handy database you can use! Ward 5 voting locations have not changed and are as follows...

Precinct 1: Department of Public Works garage (Map)

View Larger Map

Precinct 2: Brown School, Kidder Avenue (Map)

View Larger Map

Precinct 3: Engine 7 Fire Station, 265 Highland Avenue (Map)

View Larger Map

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Word Around The Ward

It's coming down to the homestretch for candidates depending on November 4th votes to further their political dreams! I'd like to wish all candidates the best of luck and encourage everyone to get out and vote. Ward 5 voting information is easily found on this website and ballots have been posted by the Elections Department in Somerville.

Crafters, bakers and other vendors are needed for the annual Somerville Craft Fair held at Somerville High School this year. If you have items to sell, you can find more information and/or purchase a table online! The 24th Annual Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair will be held on Saturday November 29, 2014 from 9:00am-3:00pm at the Somerville High School Field House (81 Highland Ave). Admission is free to the general public.

As the cold air begins to creep into Somerville, political talk starts to heat up. If you believe what you year (, it sounds like no one in City Hall is safe. The latest is that two wards will be completely up for grabs as one Alderman will be aiming for the Mayor's seat while another will not be running for reelection. Opponents will be stepping up in all other wards with three in Ward 3. We're up to four being rumored for Alderman-At-Large seats. This should be fun!

Could an old Somerville employee be heading up the Cambridge Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department? The Word Around The Ward is that Monica Lamboy will be tapped to be the interim director as current director Susan Clippinger announced her November 14th retirement date. Monica is the former head of the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

SPD Offers Halloween Safety Tips

Editor's note: The Somerville Police Department issued the following press release offering safety tips for Halloween. I hope you have a fun night on Friday and be sure to hit up the Magoun Square neighborhood for the best candy selections ;) ~Courtney  

The Somerville Police Department will once again join forces with the Somerville Auxiliary Police and School Crossing Guards on Friday, October 31, Halloween evening, to help make a safe and fun filled evening for Somerville Trick-or-Treaters.

In addition to the regular Somerville Police force, approximately 15 volunteer members of the Auxiliary Police and 40 School Crossing Guards will take up positions throughout the city, to assist residents of Somerville, particularly younger Trick-or-Treaters, cross our busy streets.

City buildings and schools will also be closely monitored to prevent any damage to public property.

Halloween Safety Tips

Please remember these important safety tips when Trick-or-Treating with friends or with young children.

Parents Should:
– Instruct their children not to open their candy until they return home.
– Inspect all candy for tampering before their children eat it.
– Make sure an adult accompanies children.
– Know what route their children will be taking.
– Have a set time limit for children to return home.
– Explain the difference between harmless “tricks,” and vandalism.
Residents Who Plan to Distribute Treats Should:
• Turn on your porch light.
• Move lit jack-o-lanterns off the porch where kids get bunched up if they are trick-or-treating in groups.
• Remove objects from your yard that might present a hazard.
• Report any suspicious or criminal activity to the police.
Children Should:
• Always be accompanied by an adult.
• Be sure costumes, shoes, and treat bags are safe.
• Make sure that any accessories, such as fake guns, knives, and other potentially dangerous items are not mistaken for the real thing.
• Make sure all costumes are visible in the dark, and/or utilize safety equipment to make them visible to other pedestrians and motorists.
• Stay in a group and communicate where you will be going.
• Only go to homes with porch lights on.
• Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
• Never cut across yards or use alleys.
• Never enter a stranger’s home or car for a treat.
• Obey all traffic and pedestrian regulations.
• Always walk. Never run across a street.
• Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks.
• Never accept or consume food items or drinks.
• No treats are to be eaten until they are thoroughly checked by an adult at home.
• Notify police or other authorities immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.

Drivers Should:
– Drive in an extra cautious manner.
– Keep a keen eye open for children who forget safety rules.
• Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible Adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
• Try to apportion treats for the days following Halloween.
• Although sharing is encouraged, make sure items that can cause choking (such as hard candies), are given only to those of an appropriate age.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ballots Posted by Elections Department for Review

Election Day is one week away and, as always, I wanted to link to the ballot Ward 5ers will see when they head to the polls! Posted by the Elections Department, all ballots are available for review before the election.

Some wards have new voting locations for this election. If you don't know where you are supposed to cast your ballot, the Elections Department has a handy database you can use! Ward 5 voting locations have not changed and are as follows...

Precinct 1: Department of Public Works garage (Map)

View Larger Map

Precinct 2: Brown School, Kidder Avenue (Map)

View Larger Map

Precinct 3: Engine 7 Fire Station, 265 Highland Avenue (Map)

View Larger Map

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Traffic and Parking Committee to Meet on Tuesday

The Committee on Traffic and Parking will be meeting on October 28th at 6:00 PM in the Second Floor Committee Room of City Hall. The meeting will cover a 74-item agenda, some of which, concern Ward 5.

Including dated legislation surrounding truck activity through Magoun Square, traffic calming submissions on various locations and safety-related requests for Lowell Street, the agenda also brings up how the administration plans on spending the $220,000 MaxWell's Green traffic mitigation money (Legislative item #196436). This money has already been received by the City.

The Traffic Committee is chaired by Ward 3 Alderman Bob McWatters.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Popular Somerville By Design Charrette Series Comes to Winter Hill

Somerville by Design will be hosting a series focusing on Winter Hill starting this Fall that will include a visioning session, "open studio" charrette, and ending with an "open house" in January.

In an email, Somerville by Design writes, "We are pleased to announce the fall and winter schedule for the "Somerville by Design" neighborhood planning effort in Winter Hill. This fun, participatory process has been very successful in neighborhoods like Gilman Square, Lowell Street, East Somerville and Davis Square. Over the next four months, residents, business owners, community organizations and commercial property owners will be rolling up their sleeves with City officials to prepare a plan that guides public and private investment in the Winter Hill neighborhood, from Mystic Avenue to Medford Street, and from Foss Park to Magoun Square.

From October 27th to 29th, we will hold an "open studio" event in the vacant storefront at 328 Broadway (former MetroPCS location). For three days straight, from 9am to 9pm, you can drop in at the studio and work with City staff and designers to draw and discuss ideas about the future of the neighborhood. Green space, jobs and housing, business development, traffic management, arts and culture: it's all on the table. We will work together to generate as many ideas as possible, and at a "Pin-Up Presentation" on October 29th, we will ask you to select the ones that are worth keeping, the ones that need more work, and the ones that should be thrown out.

During the early winter we'll take what we've heard and refine it, and come back for an open-house presentation in mid-January."

For more information and to see studies of other Somerville locations, check out the Somerville by Design website!

It's ResiStat Tiiiiiime!

Mayor Joe Curtatone presenting at a Ward 5 ResiStat meeting.

The Ward 5 ResiStat meeting will be kicking off the fall meeting season on October 28th at the Kennedy School (5 Cherry St). Refreshments will be served at 6:00 PM with  presentations beginning at 6:30 PM and running until 8:00 PM.

ResiStat meetings are a great way to learn about current and upcoming city services and events. Ward 5 has always had high attendance numbers for this meeting going back to the days when it was held at the VNA on Lowell Street.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Board of Aldermen Set to Meet Tomorrow

The Board of Aldermen will be meeting tomorrow in the Aldermanic Chambers of City Hall at 7:00pm. The agenda for the meeting has been posted online per the Open Meeting Law and interested citizens can attend in person, tune in on channel 13 (RCN) or Comcast (22), or watch online at the City's Meeting Portal.

Assault on Central Street Prompts Community Meeting

After a sexual assault on Central Street, City Officials are holding a community meeting at the end of the month at the Winter Hill Community School to discuss neighborhood safety and provide important updates according to the flyer provided by meeting hosts.

Both, the Somerville News Weekly and the Somerville Journal, reported on the October 8th incident that left neighbors shocked and worried (Letter: Winter Hill residents extremely concerned after attack in Somerville; Somerville Journal October 16, 2014)

The meeting will be held in the Winter Hill Community School cafeteria (use Medford Street entrance) on October 29th at 7:00pm.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Free Flu Shots Begin This Week...

The City is providing free flu shots for the next few weeks! The schedule is as follows...

Free Flu Vaccine Schedules
Please Note: Public Health Nurses have duties that can prevent them from being in the office, and as a result, flu vaccines cannot be provided on a walk in basis at the Annex.

Flu shots are provided to all at no cost, but we ask that you please bring your health insurance card.

Children 5 years or older must be accompanied by their parent or guardian to receive a flu shot.

Flu Vaccine Schedule

10-16-2014: COA Health Fair at the TAB - 9:30-11:00am

10-16-2014: City Hall Sub Comm Room - 2:30pm-5pm

11-04-2014: Vote and Vax event at the ESCS - 7am-10am & 4pm-7pm

*PLEASE NOTE the ESCS does not have to be your polling place for you to receive flu vaccine at this session

11-06-2014: City Hall Annex - 5pm-7pm

11-13-2014: City Hall Annex - 5pm-7pm

12-04-2014: City Hall Annex - 5pm-7pm

This schedule assumes that vaccine supplies will last through the 4th of December. An update will be provided to all of the parties included in this email should vaccine be completely used up prior to any of the already established clinic dates. Additionally if there is any remaining supply after the 4th, other clinics will be scheduled until the supply is exhausted.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Friends, Family Honor Memory of Ryan Harrington By Giving Back to Somerville

Friends and family of Ryan Harrington held their 3rd Annual Corn Toss Tournament to raise money for Somerville Organizations, netting $20,000 in revenue that was immediately donated to local recipients including the Somerville Youth Hockey (picture on the left), the YMCA (picture on the right),Somerville Youth Football and Cheer, Somerville Little League, and Somerville Pop Warner. In total, the Ryan Harrington Foundation has raised $40,000 in three years and have donated 95% of tournament proceeds.

The tournament, held in Ward 5's Trum Field, included the tournament played on hand-painted corn toss boards, as well as, raffles of items generously donated by local Somerville businesses. Eat at Jumbos, The Pub, On The Hill Tavern, Daddy Jones Bar and Olde Magoun's Saloon are just some of the participating businesses in the raffle.

This year's male winners were Douglas Huckins and Stephen Huckins of "The Hawks" while Alex Gustafson and Courtney White of "The Golddiggers" took home the women's championship.

 To find out more about the foundation, please visit the website at: More photographs from the tournament and check amounts donated to organizations can be found on the foundation's Facebook page:

Friday, October 10, 2014

Olde Magoun's Saloon Holds Oktoberfest, Donates Proceeds to Somerville High School Track Team and Chamber of Commerce

Olde Magoun's Saloon held their annual Oktoberfest, raising $2,500 for Somerville High School's Track Team and $250 for the Somerville Chamber of Commerce.

As the only Oktoberfest held in Magoun Square, Olde Magoun's provides a parking space for the Paulaner Truck - an 18-wheeler truck outfitted with functioning taps and filled with each beer they produce.

Authentic German food, music and partially-tented sitting areas gave attendees a comfortable space to enjoy one of six Paulaner selections: Premium Pilsner, Helles Lager, Oktoberfest Marzen, Oktoberfest Weisn, Salvator Doppelbock and Hefeweizen. The event was free of charge to enter.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Word Around the Ward

Crafters, bakers and other vendors are needed for the annual Somerville Craft Fair held at Somerville High School this year. If you have items to sell, you can find more information and/or purchase a table online! The 24th Annual Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair will be held on Saturday November 29, 2014 from 9:00am-3:00pm at the Somerville High School Field House (81 Highland Ave). Admission is free to the general public.

Somerville Local First is holding our popular Harvest Fest event on Saturday, October 18 at the Arts at the Armory. You can purchase tickets here to either session. There are already tons of restaurants and businesses signed up and ready to offer their best in culinary creations and brews!

The development at 235 Lowell Street is moving along at record pace with a structure already set. There has been no action at the 231 location, nor any community meetings about it lately. You can see plans for 235 here and read more about past community meetings here.

The Community Path extension has been paved, but City Officials are asking that residents remain off as it is still an active work site.

The updated Lowell Street Station Area Plan will be published on the Somerville By Design website soon. Once available, it will be linked here on Ward 5 Online.

SomerStreets will be taking over Union Square on October 19th from 12-4pm, rain or shine. Do stop by for the Monster Mashup! This is the final SomerStreets festival for the year.

As promised, the Board of Aldermen has set the date of Tuesday October 14th, 7:00 PM for the public to deliver their perspective on the "Pay to Play" Ordinance that has been filling headlines since last year. This item has been the topic of much debate in the Aldermanic Chambers, as well as, social media, so the commentary will be worth watching.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Thursday's BOA Agenda Includes Proposed Anti-Nepotism Ordinance, Ban on Elected Officials Gaining Contracts or Employment With City.

The Board of Aldermen will be meeting on Thursday at 7:00 pm in the Aldermanic Chambers of City Hall. The agenda has been posted online per the Open Meeting Law.

Two interesting pieces of legislation included in Thursday's agenda come from Ward 4 Alderman Tony LaFuente who is proposing a anti-nepotism ordinance and Ward 5 Alderman Mark Niedergang who is interested in learning the Board's legal authority to enact an ordinance prohibiting former elected officials from gaining a contract or employment with the City.

LaFuente, through agenda item #27 (ID: 10355), is seeking to prevent the Mayor or members of the Board of Aldermen from appointing family members, boyfriends or girlfriends as an employee or officer. The legislation reads, "The Mayor or Board of Aldermen shall not appoint as an employee or officer, to receive any compensation for the City, any person who is a relative by blood or marriage within the second degree of the Mayor or any member of the Board of Aldermen or any person who is in a cohabitant relationship with the Mayor or any member of the Board of Aldermen. This shall not apply to any employee hired before the passage of this Ordinance.

No member of the Board of Aldermen shall vote on any matter involving a department or for a bond giving money to a department where an employee of that department is a relative within the second degree of that member of the Board of Aldermen or where the employee of that department is in a cohabitant relationship with that member of the Board of Aldermen."

Niedergang is looking to prohibit former elected officials from gaining contracts or employment with the City through agenda #36 (ID: 10365). The legislation reads, "That the City Solicitor report to this Board whether this Board has the legal authority to enact an ordinance that would prohibit elected officials from employment with or contracting with the City government for a specific period of time (for example, two years) following the termination of their service as an elected official."

The Board of Aldermen meetings are televised on channel 22 (comcast) or 13 (RCN), broadcast on both those channels throughout the week and streamed live online on the City's meeting portal.

Attention Local Businesses: Sponsorship Opportunities Available for Somerville Local First's Harvest Fest!

Are you a local business that would you like to be a part of one of the most exciting events in Somerville? Here is your chance!

Somerville Local First has sponsorship opportunities for this year's Harvest Fest that features local restaurants and breweries providing samples of their creations throughout a two-session, music-filled festival at the historic Armory on Highland Avenue in Somerville. Read about the confirmed participants here!

If you are interested in sponsoring, please fill out this form and return it with your payment to Somerville Local First! I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Green Line Meetings Set for the Fall

MassDOT and the MBTA are hosting two public meetings this fall to provide an update on the advanced design of the first three stations of the Green Line Extension (GLX) project. These stations will be the first three new stations to be opened as part of the GLX project. We invite you to join us and hope you will share this information with your friends and neighbors.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 6:00 – 8:00 PM: The New Lechmere Station
The meeting will take place at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, 41 Second Street in East Cambridge.

Served by MBTA Green Line (Lechmere) and Bus Routes 68, 69, 80, 85, 87, 88, and CT2.

Thursday, November 6, 2014 6:00 – 8:00 PM: Washington Street & Union Square Stations
The meeting will take place at the Holiday Inn, 30 Washington Street in Somerville.
Served by MBTA Orange Line (Sullivan Square) and Bus Routes 80, 86, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 95, 101, 104, 105,109, and CT2.

Friday, October 3, 2014

State to Hold Campaign Finance Seminar at City Hall

The Office of Campaign and Political Finance will be holding a one-hour seminar on new finance laws for City Council and Alderman candidates on October 9th at 5:45pm in City Hall. This meeting is open to candidates, treasurers and interested citizens.

The seminar will cover new regulations surrounding filing procedures with the OCPF including new depository requirements and recently approved donation increases.

The OCPF also hosts the seminars each Wednesday at 2 PM in their conference room, as well as, evening seminars throughout October and into November in various locations around the State.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Public Hearing Set for "Pay to Play" Ordinance

As promised, the Board of Aldermen has set the date of Tuesday October 14th, 7:00 PM for the public to deliver their perspective on the "Pay to Play" Ordinance that has been filling headlines since last year.

This item has been the topic of much debate in the Aldermanic Chambers, as well as, social media, so the commentary will be worth watching.

The Word Around The Ward

Construction will begin on the Union Square Green Line Station this month, so expect the traffic issues that come along with demolition and contaminated soil cleanup. Read all about it here!

Crafters, bakers and other vendors are needed for the annual Somerville Craft Fair held at Somerville High School this year. If you have items to sell, you can find more information and/or purchase a table online! The 24th Annual Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair will be held on Saturday November 29, 2014 from 9:00am-3:00pm at the Somerville High School Field House (81 Highland Ave). Admission is free to the general public.

The Board of Aldermen have promised to hold a public hearing on the recently vetoed "Pay to Play" Ordinance. Meeting information will be posted here as soon as it becomes available.

Somerville Local First is holding our popular Harvest Fest event on Saturday, October 18 at the Arts at the Armory. You can purchase tickets here to either session. There are already tons of restaurants and businesses signed up and ready to offer their best in culinary creations and brews!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Two Bloggers Walk Into A Bar...

I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Lauren Shuffleton, creator of The Somerville Connection, this past summer. I was excited to be featured on the same website with such Somerville-awesomeness as David Sloane. Here is the text from that interview for your reading pleasure!

It’s hard not to know Courtney if you live in Ward 5—she seems to be everywhere. I first learned about her tireless work in community improvement from her immensely popular Ward 5 Online, and emailed her multiple times when she served as my alderman for most of the brief, wonderful time I lived in that ward. Like any self-respecting blogger, she is a master of selfies (see above with her niece, Shannon). We sat down at Daddy Jones over cocktails so I could learn more about her work in Somerville.
To start, I was hoping you could tell me how you ended up in Somerville. I understand you were born and raised here? Do you know how your family got settled here?
My father is the youngest of twelve kids, and his family lived in a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment right over here on Dexter Street. So although it’s technically in Medford, it was right on the Magoun Square border. It wasn’t so much of the Somerville scene I was drawn to as it was the Magoun Square scene.
This bar [Daddy Jones] used to be Danny’s Bar. My father was a patron and knew the owners. My mother came in on a date with someone else and met my dad, who she thought looked like Paul Newman. The rest, as they say, is history.
My mother was living in the Clarendon Hills apartments at the time. Eventually they moved onto Richardson Terrace, a teeny tiny street, got married, and had my brother Conor and I—we are only thirteen months apart. My dad was doing work for somebody who told him, “Listen, I know about this house that caught fire and the owners are looking to sell it.” And that’s the house that we all live in now.
I know that your typical one-line bio is that you started Ward 5 Online and that you served as an alderman for ten months, but I also know there are a lot of other aspects to your engagement, both formal and informal. Can you tell me in your words what the scope of that is?
For me, it’s really about keeping my ear to the ground and staying engaged. It doesn’t always have to be something I’m going to write about for my website. In fact, what drew me to city meetings had nothing to do with the website, it was a matter of wanting to know what was happening and watching how things moved through the process.
Eventually, I was blessed enough to gain really great relationships with some of the aldermen and department heads at City Hall, and it ‘s actually enabled my activism to be much more fruitful. It’s not such a head-butting thing as it was in the beginning, and I’ve learned that we can all work together to maintain Somerville as a place we’re all proud of.
So the website is more secondary. When it really came down to it, I just wanted a nice place to live, a nice square to walk up to. For a little while, Magoun kind of struggled—we had a lot of empty storefronts. I’d say to my friends, “Hey, let’s go to Magoun Square,” and they’d ask “Why?” Now, you’re seeing the fruits of our labors—not just mine, it’s a lot of people, a lot of people wanting this square and the city to be awesome.
I have also served on boards throughout Somerville including Somerville Local First and the Zoning Advisory Committee.
When did that light for civic engagement turn on for you? Was that something you always had growing up here?
A little bit. Growing up I remember being in high school and getting invited to my very first political fundraiser at the Sons of Italy. I remember being an avid reader of the city paper… I always just liked knowing what was going on in the city. After college in 2002 I came home and I really just wanted to know what was going on.
A couple years after that my Dad started having medical issue after medical issue. I knew as I went with him on that journey that I wasn’t going to be buying a condo in Arlington and moving away, that wasn’t in the plans for me.
Do you think that this engagement you have for the local politics, do you think that’s more inherent to you or is it something Somerville specifically inspires?
I think it’s a little bit of both. The city, between its communications and ResiStat meetings and the fact that aldermen are so accessible, is planting the seeds. In some people those seeds grow, and in some they don’t. Some people are very dedicated to their life, they may stop every now and then to read a newspaper article or go to a meeting about something that directly affects them, and that’s fine.
For me, between having a degree in political science, having a passion to want to be involved and informed, and wanting to inform other people. That’s really the mixture—[she points to the cocktails we are drinking] the Courtney O’Keefe, the cocktail that is me. I’ll also admit that I have a minor in writing, I took a ton of writing courses and so that desire to write has also always been a part of me since elementary school. And the website has been criticized a lot—but it is what it is, I’m not claiming to be the know-all, the insider. I’m claiming to be that one girl who goes to meetings and then I blog about it. Sometimes it’s on point, sometimes it’s not. But I’ll admit it and try to fix it when it’s not.
That’s one of the things I was wondering about. When I look through your body of work, it just baffles me the amount of time management that must go into that. But I guess part of that is helped by the fact that it comes from passions that have been in your life from the start. When you’re sitting and writing an article about something, it probably doesn’t feel like the exercise it would to me. Do you have ways that your prioritize which meetings you go to? Or how to juggle this with your other priorities?
Absolutely. Now that I am no longer on the Board of Aldermen, I’ve actually taken a leave of absence of sorts. But I go to meetings that do impact Ward 5. Other than that, I am starting to rely on other sources of information. Other newspaper articles, other bloggers, other people who Tweet or who have Facebook. Once you get used to the routine of it, you don’t necessarily have to go to every aldermen meeting. I can catch up with it a few days later when they publish the minutes.
But, I know that when I walk down Willow Street or I go out for my morning walks or my nightly runs, that someone’s going to stop me, someone’s going to ask me a question. There’s really nothing more fulfilling than not only answering somebody’s question, but maybe letting them know that their preconceived notions are wrong. There are a lot of preconceived notions about government, about the City of Somerville, and there is really nothing more satisfying then saying, “No, I was there. I sat at that meeting, and that’s not true.”
And we can all go to meetings together, it doesn’t have to be so solitary. And it’s not solitary. I know a lot of people who read Ward 5 Online and probably think, look at this one girl–she must be nuts, going to all these meetings. No, it’s not actually that solitary.
How do you think we could get others more involved in what happens in their local government?
You know, I think it’s about coming down to the issues. And really asking people what their fears are, what their hopes and dreams are. What they want to see in their city. And maybe asking them, “Why are you here? What brought you here?”
What keeps me here is that I can walk to the end of Richardson Street, and I can take a right and go to an artist community or I can take a left and go to a business district. Or I can go in the other direction and go to a huge open space. Or I can take that right on to Lowell street and, in November, get right on the Community Path Extension.
So you really want to hone in on what people’s passions are. Is their passions local businesses? Is that what keeps them here? Are they passionate about the events that we have here? I think as Somerville become increasingly more expensive, you’re finding even the renters are coming to meetings. Renters are going to their local businesses and they are looking around. I wouldn’t just put the emphasis on property owners, and I wouldn’t just put the emphasis on business owners—we really are a community. Some people are more financially invested than others, but at the end of the day we really are all a community. You don’t have to own to vote. If I’ve learned anything, I’ve learned that.
Can you tell me a little bit about your stint as Alderman?
A lot of people didn’t like the appointment process and a lot of people associated that process with me, personally, so I became a punching bag for it. The Board of Aldermen chose to change the City Charter after they conducted a public interview with me and unanimously approved me to represent Ward 5.
I supported that Charter change based on the fact that I knew it needed to change, but also based on the fact that I didn’t want anyone to go through what I went through. I’m a tough girl, I grew up around here, I fist-fought boys when I was younger. So I could take that Somerville Journal columnist screaming, screaming at me…in my face, right in the middle of City Hall and I could take the snarky “dwarf lesbian” comment made by another Ward 5 resident. Bring it on…I can handle it…I’ll take it, so no one else has to.
I can tell you that I don’t regret a single minute of serving the residents of Ward 5. I know my people were very passionate and worked very hard on my campaign and who were very supportive of me and really stuck up for me. I don’t regret that at all. It’s definitely one of the best wards in the city—but I may be biased.
I was going to ask you that! What reasons make Ward 5 better than all the other wards?
We have a really great amount of open space—between Trum Field and the Community Path and Junction Park and Hoyt-Sullivan—and we have great businesses. Our arts—we have the Arts at the Armory here and Vernon Street Studios—we have another sprinkling of little artists by Bartlett Street. I always felt as though it was one of the most engaged wards, at least based on the attendance at ResiStat meetings. It is one of those really great parts of the city, it feels like a secret you don’t want to get out.
Well it’s funny, because when I think about it, when I think about which part of the city is the “urbanist ideal,” I think of Magoun rather than something like Davis. It just feels more walkable to me. There’s a greater diversity of businesses and people, there’s more families. It’s just the perfect mix, here. This is where it is.
In January, Curbed Boston said that Magoun was the Somerville to Davis’s Cambridge. Curbed was on to something because this section has many of our original property owners and/or their children. Walking these streets, it seems like time stood still while everywhere else was changing.
Can you tell me a little bit more about how Magoun Square has evolved since you’ve been here? I know the traffic intersection is a lot safer with new lights and things like that, there’s a historic revitalization project. How did that all affect you living near here?
There were aspects of Magoun Square that I wanted to see change; I definitely wanted to see new businesses come into those empty storefronts. But in the same sense, there’s also a character you want to maintain.
You have your little Irish pub, you have your little trendy cocktail bar, you have your sports bar, you have your really great sandwich place and a great Brazilian bakery… and then you have what people call the Old Somerville: White Sport, K2 market, your liquor stores on either end. To have that mixture of the new and the old was definitely something that I wanted to see kept.
And expanded! You look around now, and [points] he’s Greek, he’s Irish, K2 market is Indian-owned. It’s the way business should be. That’s the type of stuff I wanted to see maintained. This square was always diverse even back in the day when I was walking up at eight or nine years old, buying my brother’s birthday cakes at Cara Donna’s.
It’s really hard to create policy that encourages that. How do you think it happened that you were able to keep this diversity here?
I think it’s the planning department and the zoning department and the administration being ready and realizing that this was a place where people wanted to come and open a business. A great example is Mike Dulock, who is on Highland Avenue. He was in Concord, left Concord, and came to Somerville with the dream of continuing to be a craft butcher-here. He could have gone to Medford. He could have gone to Lexington. He could have stayed in Concord. But he wanted to come to a place that has really positioned itself to be an incubator of great entrepreneurial opportunities. Everyone can find assistance and a network here, whether it is through the Chamber of Commerce or Somerville Local First.
Anything else you want to add?
I will always be an activist. The politics really come secondary to that.
I would like to see a little less combativeness, especially when it comes to the media. It’s getting a little out of hand, a little out of control. Challenge when something needs to be challenged, but give credit where credit is due.