Sept 14 2020 Update

Hello Ward 2! It’s impossibly hard to summarize the last 3 months – we’ve all been in it together, though. As we begin to launch the new school year and careen towards a national election that has everyone on edge, let’s try to keep kindness in mind. Having patience and love for our kids, our neighbors, and ourselves will go a long way to helping us all get by.

There have been more calls lately about neighborhood problems, and everyone does seem to be a bit more “on edge”. Frustrations are high and stresses are compounding, as we enter our seventh month of pandemic restrictions. It’s understandable, and I’m feeling that way too.

The rash of racist graffiti in Ward 2 hasn’t been helping, and it’s absolutely disturbing to see it pop up. Thankfully, DPW and local residents alike have been covering it as soon as it appears, and a group of neighbors are planning a Black Lives Matter mural in response here in the ward.

I’m extremely proud of the ways that our neighborhood has come together to help each other – be it through MAMAS (Mutual Aid Medford and Somerville) or just checking in on the neighbors, it’s important to stay in touch and support each other.

Now that we’re past September 1, we all have some new neighbors. I encourage you to reach out to them! We were all new to the neighborhood once, even if you were born here. Tell them about this newsletter, help them understand how to access city services, neighborhood mailing lists, anything to help get them oriented to Somerville and let them know how we do things here. We never know if new neighbors will be gone in a year or lifelong friends, but we never get a chance at the latter if we don’t reach out. I know I’m baking a few batches of cookies this week for my new neighbors, and will be including some flyers for information and local connections.

One thing that’s been incredible to see is the strong desire for everyone to stay engaged through online participation. Our Budget Hearing on June 24th may have been the most attended city meeting in a century, with many hundreds of you logging in not only to watch, but participate with public comment. Running a meeting that large was definitely a challenge, but getting to hear everyone out was essential and rewarding.

We see that kind of engagement in neighborhood meetings as well. There haven’t been as many for developments lately, but I have hosted a series with dozens of participants each (better than in-person meetings used to get!) for Boynton Yards, Gateway (Glass Stop) Innovation Center, Brickbottom/Chestnut St, and Joy St. The last is especially inspiring, as artists there banded together to face the scary prospect of having their building acquired by a developer. I’m happy to say that they’re now working together to build a strong relationship with that new ownership that emphasizes the importance of these artists to Somerville and secures a long-term home for them – not displacement.

We have a few more Neighborhood Meetings coming up, as well. As with all of these meetings, the questions are “what would work for us”, as in “how can this project make the neighborhood – and the city – work better for the residents”?

• 373 Washington St (Training Room) – Weds, Sep 16 @ 6:30
Link to join:
This is not the standard “Special Permit” kind of meeting – more an open discussion to gather the neighborhood’s preferences. I had zoned this property as Fabrication; the developer who owns it and Anna Moran’s house next door (zoned NR) would like to consolidate those parcels and change zoning to match, or accommodate a larger project. The question to the neighborhood is “what do you want to see here?” I’m hopeful for a well attended discussion that both gives the developer a solid idea of what the neighborhood wants, and a mandate for going forward (whether that be keeping the existing zoning or making a change).

 • 64 Webster Ave+ (across from Webster Auto Body) – date and link TBD, possibly Oct 5
This is proposed to be a project that sits in the Boynton Yards Overlay district, a large lab building with office. There are questions for the neighborhood about heights on Webster, traffic and loading patterns, and whether or not to support a zoning change to allow for a slightly different internal configuration of the building.

I also really encourage you to check out the online meetings of the Committees of the City Council. It’s never been easier to see both the agendas AND the discussion, and to get engaged in local government! You’d be amazed how much gets covered and how much influence YOU can have in your city.

If you’d like the Cliff’s Notes, several local folks on Twitter have accounts that follow and livetweet meetings of the Planning Board, ZBA, City Council, and more. For civic engagement, it’s a nice way to dip your toes into the information flow to follow @Somershade1, @3deckerlaura, and @DerrickAndADog for live recaps of public meetings and rundowns of upcoming agendas. And of course, you can follow me @JTforWard2 for much more frequent updates than a quarterly newsletter! I announce neighborhood meetings, city news, and more, including occasional cute pictures of my kids.

Finally, as always, every week I host office hours every Friday morning from 8-10am, and I welcome you to join me by going to any Friday.

Be well and be in touch,