Hi Ward 2! I hope you’ve had a great summer. September is here, and we’re welcoming many new neighbors today. Ward 2 is over 80% tenant occupied, and we’ve seen truly astonishing rent increases in recent months. This underscores both how important it is for us to greet our new neighbors and help them become a part of our community – and also how critical tenant protections (and rent control) will be to ensuring that they can remain with us for more than one or two lease cycles and contribute to our shared civic life.
According to our recently expanded Tenant Rights Act, tenants have to be provided with information about the city and their rights within 5 days of moving in. You can find that packet in 6 languages here: https://somervillema.gov/ohs – but in addition to all the great information in that flyer, there’s still lots to know about the neighborhood like “how does street sweeping work?”, “what’s trash day?”, and “where’s the best place to park on a snow day?”. It’s a great thing to do to say hi, get to know your neighbors, and help them get a smooth start in this new home.
With the summer ending and school starting, the legislative session is also resuming. I got to spend a little time traveling this summer (and will probably have a few stories to share in future newsletters about comparative budget priorities in other municipalities as a result) but weekly office hours continue (every Friday morning from 8-10am at 269 Washington St and gotomeet.me/JTScott) and there’s lots of things I’ll be working on in the coming months.
Perhaps most impactful to all of us is news that next year’s municipal paving contract will be focusing mainly on Ward 2! The centerpiece of that work is going to be the Western Washington Street repaving. I held my first neighborhood meetings about this back in 2019 and have been working hard to make sure that this gets prioritized – and also that the design will accommodate neighborhood needs as well as emphasize cyclist and pedestrian safety. I’ve seen early drawings that include concrete-separated bike lanes, bus stop improvements and raised crosswalks at some intersections, but the presentation of the city’s proposal will happen on Wednesday Sept 28 at 6pm. It will be a great place to learn more and provide your feedback. You can find more information at somervillema.gov/westernwashington including previous meeting recordings and a link to join the meeting on Sept 28.
In addition, we have an opportunity in that paving contract to implement speed humps and other structural traffic calming measures on some of our neighborhood streets. The City is already considering Perry St, Dane St, Calvin St, and others for speed humps to slow down cut-through traffic, and I’m pitching to include Newton, Concord, Scary Way, and more. But nobody knows our streets like the people who live on them, so if you have ideas about what streets really need speed humps to slow down reckless drivers please send those ideas to me at [email protected]. I’ll make sure the mobility department hears about it! I’ve long said that no amount of enforcement can create long-term change in speeding; to do that we need structural change on our streets. This is an important opportunity for us to prioritize safety for young and old alike on our streets and sidewalks, and I hope to hear from you about where we can create impactful interventions in our neighborhoods.
Aside from that big project, there’s plenty to consider in the legislative session. I continue to push this administration to pursue funding for sewer and stormwater improvements in the ward, and to move swiftly on the creation of a brick-and-mortar Safe Consumption Site supported by real treatment programs and staff to address the continuing opioid epidemic in our city. I also will not rest in my calls for completion of ArtFarm and the park at 217 Somerville Ave, and the creation of more affordable housing including building municipal public housing and funding the Community Land Trust.
I’m also working on improving our zoning code to require more green space in new construction by trading height allowances for significant park creation, funds for establishing a Community Center, and increased affordability in those projects for residents and businesses alike. Two major focuses will be finishing the Brickbottom Neighborhood Plan and beginning work on the Union Square East Zoning Overlay that will cover Allen, Linden, Merriam, Rossmore, and Mansfield streets – more to come on those efforts in future newsletters. The Union Square Neighborhood Council continues to be one of the most immediate ways that you can find out about projects and directly negotiate Community Benefits with the major projects coming to Ward 2, and I encourage you to get involved at https://sites.google.com/view/usnc.
Finally, I’m excited to be going to City Hall tomorrow to cast my Early Vote in the statewide Democratic Primary tomorrow. Tomorrow is the last day for early voting in person, and you can find out more info at https://www.somervillema.gov/departments/elections/early-voting.
Tomorrow, I’ll be casting my votes in contested races for:
- Lt Gov: Tami Gouveia has shown up in Somerville and is the clear progressive choice in this race.
- Atty General: Shannon Liss-Riordan has walked the walk and fought for worker’s rights in the courtroom, and I have confidence that she’ll make a great Attorney General.
- Sec’y of State: Tanisha Sullivan is a civil rights lawyer who understands the importance of voting rights – and managing our state’s elections is one of this position’s most important jobs.
- Auditor: Chris Dempsey is by far the superior choice and has been endorsed by several of my colleagues, not least of which because he hasn’t made a habit of voting with Republicans in the State House for years.
- State Rep: Erika Uyterhoeven is a friend and colleague that has spectacularly stepped into the role Denise Provost served for years as the “North Star” of progressive policies in the State House. She has stood and delivered for Somerville and I look forward to fighting alongside her for material change that we need for our neighbors.
- And – though not contested – I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that I’ll be delighted to vote for Ayanna Pressley and Pat Jehlen as well. Both are inspirational to me in their own ways, and people that I’ve been honored to work with on substantive issues for several years.
I hope YOU get out and vote – either Friday morning at City Hall or at your polling place on Tuesday Sep 6 – and just as importantly I look forward to seeing you at upcoming neighborhood meetings and weekly office hours.
See you soon,