Who I’m Voting for in Somerville’s 2021 Municipal Election, and Why

(If you’re looking for who’s endorsing me, along with all of the endorsement questionnaires, videos, and policy information, click here!)

I wrote quite a bit about what I’m looking for in my endorsements in the previous blog post. Early voting starts today, and whoever you support I hope you’ll get out and vote. With all that said, here are my recommendations for the Mayor, At-Large Councilor seats, and a few Ward races.

This is an incredible group of candidates, and it’s been wonderful to get to know them more since they declared for office. One thing that each and every one of these people have in common is that I learn something from every conversation with them. They each have such amazing talents and backgrounds, and their expertise is absolutely going to be an asset to the city. I’ve also been impressed with their universal dedication to positive, policy-focused grassroots campaigns that focus on bringing more of our neighbors into the political process – rising above any negativity surrounding electoral politics.

• MAYOR: WILL MBAH
• COUNCILOR AT LARGE: WILLIE BURNLEY JR, CHARLOTTE KELLY, EVE SEITCHIK
• WARD 5: TESSA BRIDGE
• WARD 7: BECCA MILLER

MAYOR: WILL MBAH

I’ve worked with both candidates for Mayor for four years on the Council, and I’ve got nothing bad to say about either one. But when it comes to selecting our next Mayor, Will Mbah stands out to me as the clear choice for a few reasons, and I’ll highlight three of them here.

First, his clarity of vision. Deliberative bodies – legislatures – can take a long time to work around issues. It can be easy to feel as if there’s never quite enough information to make the right decision, always peripheral considerations which can cloud the issue… but on the City Council, Will Mbah has consistently been a person who has the ability to stop and bring our focus back to the heart of any given matter. He asks the question: “How is this going to help the people of Somerville?” He helps us all by reaching past the minutiae and bringing us back to the core principles we all share.

Second, his decisiveness. Decision making with imperfect information is a vital skill for an executive like our Mayor. As an environmental scientist, Will Mbah understands the value of data and careful study – but he also understands that you’ll never have all the data. In a city where things are moving fast, we need a Mayor who has a track record of acting decisively – someone who can naturally combine careful consideration with the urgency for action. Will Mbah has the professional experience to make crucial decisions in a quickly changing world.

Third, his deep compassion and the relatability that comes from his honesty. When you meet Will Mbah, you may not agree with him – but you know you’re hearing what’s really on his mind and you can feel that he is a genuinely kind person who cares for this city with his whole heart. Being able to trust a person’s word, knowing that you can rely on them to tell it to you straight – these are qualities that are essential to working together to find solutions even through disagreements, time and again. Will and I haven’t always agreed on how to approach legislative matters in our time on the Council, but I know unfailingly that he’ll work with me and everyone else in good faith. 

I believe that Will Mbah’s natural ability to bring everyone to the table, shake hands, and work together is a trait that transcends skill. In a time when we’ve all suffered from the pandemic and years of increasing divisiveness, that’s the sort of positivity and unity that I think we need at the helm. I hope you’ll join me in voting for Will Mbah for Mayor of Somerville.

AT-LARGE COUNCILOR: WILLIE BURNLEY JR, CHARLOTTE KELLY, EVE SEITCHIK

For At-Large City Council we each have up to four votes. There are some fine people running, and I think we can all find something to admire about each of the candidates – but these three to me stand out for my endorsement and I’ll take a moment to tell you what I think makes each one a valuable addition to our City Council.

AT LARGE: WILLIE BURNLEY JR

There may not be a more savvy candidate in this election than Willie Burnley Jr. He’s observant, thoughtful, and decisive. He’s reached out to and even organized towards a common goal with people who might not seem to be natural allies, and that’s part of what makes him special. In my time working with Willie, he’s been unflinchingly willing to challenge my opinions; he’s also been ready to change his mind sometimes after a thoughtful conversation. In City Hall, Willie is a person who can shift conversations towards equity in a powerful way both with my colleagues and among city staff who are working on issues every day.

Willie’s experience with Sunrise and the campaigns of Sen Markey and Sen Warren have given him a sophisticated understanding of both how movement building works and how building coalitions to achieve real results is done. His lived experiences have rarely if ever been represented at City Hall. Having someone like Willie Burnley Jr whose internal compass is so unerringly pointed towards justice is a perspective that no amount of reading or theory can replace… and it can make a difference in people’s lives. I hope you’ll be marking your ballot for Willie Burnley Jr.

AT LARGE: CHARLOTTE KELLY

Charlotte Kelly’s professional resume is beyond impressive. If you care about results, Charlotte’s the person you want on your team. Very few people can lay claim to achievements as large as having built and led a statewide coalition to fight for more equitable public schools and colleges, securing more than $1.5 billion dollars in state funding for K-12 schools across Massachusetts. That’s just how Charlotte Kelly rolls.

Many of the issues facing Somerville can’t be tackled at the local level alone. Charlotte Kelly’s work as an organizer fighting for education justice has shown that she knows how to work at the state level to create change while building a movement here at home. Her broad support from environmental groups and her understanding of the importance of a strengthened working class shows that she’s the kind of leader who can help build a stronger, more prosperous Somerville for everyone. I’m excited to cast one of my At-Large votes for Charlotte Kelly, and ask that you join me in supporting her.

AT LARGE: EVE SEITCHIK

The job of a legislator – of a City Councilor – is to craft laws that implement policies. Both sides of that are important: a poorly written law doesn’t achieve its goal, and a well-written law without clear policy goals rooted in our values only worsens inequity. Eve Seitchik understands fundamentally that our values are not negotiable, and our city is not for sale. Eve knows that in this beautiful and diverse city full of colorful characters, it’s important to always keep in the forefront the purpose of government: to serve people, not profit.

In my time knowing Eve, I’ve seen time and again that their decision making always comes back for a final check-in with their underlying principles. That’s an incredibly valuable reflex in the challenging processes of crafting legislation and managing the city’s budget, and it echoes some of what I’ll miss in Will Mbah’s presence on the City Council. Eve’s bravery in naming and confronting injustice is impressive, and their organizing work has touched on so many campaigns which have all been bound together by a common thread: we need a city, a society, a world that works for all of us… and it won’t happen unless we come together to demand that we collectively do better. That resolute focus is something that Eve will bring to the City Council, and it’s one of the biggest reasons I’m voting for Eve Seitchik. 

WARD 5: TESSA BRIDGE

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working alongside Tessa Bridge for years on issues that make a difference for Somerville residents – like affordable housing, fair wages, and education. She’s analytical, organized, effective, and willing to speak uncomfortable truths. I’m a better activist because of the work we’ve done together.

Beyond understanding the need for action to address our climate and housing crises, Tessa Bridge clearly sees the underlying inequalities that have gotten us here. She knows that our solutions cannot be founded in the same policies and biases that created the problems – and that’s an important foundation to have when considering how to approach the billion dollar problems facing this city in the years to come. Ward 5 deserves thoughtful and independent representation on the City Council, and I can’t imagine a finer representative than Tessa Bridge for Ward 5 in the coming election.

WARD 7: BECCA MILLER

Becca has run one of the most impressive campaigns in the city this year. Her prior work on food insecurity demonstrates an impressive track record of getting results from an often absurdly complicated set of government bureaucracies by combining grassroots organizing with legislative advocacy. Similar to Councilor Mbah, she has a clarity of vision and a sense of urgency which will be an absolute blessing for the residents of Ward 7 who are counting on their local representative to advocate for what’s right alongside them. 

I’m excited to work with Becca on the City Council. She has incredible hustle, strong experience bringing people into the democratic process, and the commitment to transparency and inclusivity necessary to do outstanding work for the people of her Ward. Ward 7 deserves a Councilor who will speak plainly, listen honestly, and bring the residents directly into the decision making process. I’ve seen what it takes to be an effective Ward Councilor, and she has it all.

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