My philosophy: One of my most deeply held beliefs is that our City government should work towards making Somerville a community that fosters the involvement and interaction of its residents in schools, and in civic and social life, so that they feel empowered with a meaningful ability to influence elected officials on issues that impact them. The following items are a few of the examples of how I implemented my philosophy during my service in office.
ASSEMBLY SQUARE – – Today, everyone in Somerville is talking about development at Assembly Square and how it will create jobs and millions in tax revenue. It always wasn’t that way. Back in 1998, Assembly Square was slated for strip mall type development that would have created few jobs and little tax revenue. I was opposed to this and at my very first meeting as an Alderman, I introduced legislation that led to the comprehensive development plans for Assembly Square. At that time, no one had spoken about the need for a T Stop at Assembly Square to make it an attractive area for people to live in and work in. When I called for the City to work to obtain a T Stop at Assembly Square, people said I was crazy. I worked with residents and two mayoral administrations toward this goal. Well, we’ve come a long way and the T stop is in operation. Today, we have a waterfront park that all residents can enjoy along the Mystic River and construction is ongoing. We are now beginning to see Assembly Square blossom, as I hoped it would almost 20 years ago! But we also have a long way to go with the rest of the area.
RESIDENTIAL TAX BREAK – – Before my first election, Somerville resident homeowners received a 17% reduction in their tax bill. Many residents complained about increasing taxes and a fear that they would have to move out of the City because they could no longer afford it. I authored the legislation that increased this residential exemption to 30%, making Somerville the first city in Massachusetts to offer this break to residential homeowners. This tax break has saved Somerville homeowners thousands of dollars over the last few years. Three years ago, I again proposed that the residential exemption be increased to 35%. With the support of the Mayor and state delegation, the state approved this additional increase in the residential exemption. And many people have said that if it weren’t for this benefit, they would have been forced to sell their homes years ago.
COMMUNITY BASED DECISION MAKING – – I was one of three alderman who opposed the urban renewal plan for Union Square. I believed that the process was backwards. I wanted to have the community actually plan the type of development that we wanted, including the benefits that we expected, and then putting it out for bid by competing developers. Instead, the opposite took place, and the Board of Aldermen ended up with an agreement that was negotiated between the City and developer without approval of the Board of Aldermen. In going forward with development, I will continue to press to have community based decision making on development plans that impact people’s neighborhoods.