Image by Jason Pramas using a photo by Derek Kouyoumjian.
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The following proposals were submitted for discussion by attendees of the Somerville Community Summit Follow-Up Meeting on Saturday, April 27 from 12-2pm at the Somerville Community Center—and to be read by interested Somerville community members who cannot attend the meeting.

Anyone who would like to help work on any of the proposals should contact the person who submitted it at the email address listed at the top of each proposal.

The proposals are listed in the order they were received.


A. Proposal for Union Square Neighborhood Council Programming 

Submitted by Gary S. Trujillo on 4/19/19. To support, email gst@webruary.org.

This informal proposal seeks to assemble a small team to handle recording and production tasks associated with enabling people in the Union Square area, and in Somerville generally to follow the activities of the Union Square Neighborhood Council (USNC) by means of video programming. Tasks would entail doing video recording of bi-monthly meetings and occasional special events, as well as doing whatever video editing might be required to make videos suitable for presentation on the USNC web site and on SCATV.

Background

The USNC has existed since December, 2017. It exists for the purpose of providing a community voice in the conversation that has been taking place for a number of years regarding redevelopment in the Union Square area, home of the Somerville Media Center and many other institutions and businesses that we all know and love, and where some of us live. The USNC was brought into being as the result of more than a year of frequent meetings, most held at the public safety building, in facilities belonging to the Somerville police station in which a variety of people who live, work and operate businesses came together to think about establishing an entity to represent our needs, desires and vision for an area where we know that a transformation is now happening. We want changes that are made to be consistent with out ideas about what makes the Union Square area so special to us, and to preserve and protect what we know and love while being part of the process of change and growth. (More details of this process and how USNC is participating in it can be seen on the USNC web site.)

Some video production has already been done, as can be seen from looking at the USNC web site. However, we have limited personnel to handle what is needed to produce video on a regular basis to the standards required for broadcast. We are now working on trying to build the necessary skills to do what is necessary to improve our production quality, but that process is happening at a slower pace than what is required to handle the backlog of material we have managed to record. We are open to thinking collaboratively about ways of improving our production capacity that do not require a long-term commitment, though we are certainly open to working on an ongoing basis with people who share our vision and could even help us improve what we are doing in ways we have yet to imagine.

Project Goal

Due to a number of factors, it is difficult for many people in Somerville who are interested (or would be interested if they knew about us and what we’re doing and hoping to do) to participate in our meetings and events. We hope that by having a substantial video presence, we can make more people in the city, especially those living, working and operating businesses in the Union Square area, aware of our existence, what we are doing, how we operate and how they can, if they choose, become involved in what we do in one way or another. We also want to make it easily possible for those who have an interest either in our overall activities or some specific subset of what we strive to achieve (e.g. parks and other open spaces) to know what is going on within the USNC and perhaps to participate by means other than in-person presence.

We look forward to being in touch with those who might like to be a part of this important enterprise!


B. Green Somerville Media

Using media outreach to build sustainability through community.

Submitted by Larry Yu on 4/25/19. To support, email lyu@speakeasy.net.

The city of Somerville is at a critical moment in its sustainability journey. The City has just published its climate action plan, called Somerville Climate Forward. And the last remaining districts slated for redevelopment, including Union Square, Inner Belt and Brickbottom, will be re-zoned and built in the next decade. Meanwhile, the remainder of the city consists of older housing stock, which is a challenge to retrofit for sustainability and livability.

Can Somerville meet its sustainability goals (i.e., become carbon neutral by 2050) and live up its SomerVision values around sustainability?

Proposal

The sustainability journey is a hero’s journey. Neither the heroes nor the villains, in this case, are in City Hall or in real estate developers’ offices; they’re in the homes and businesses in the city, where a culture of sustainability is beginning to take hold.

Green Somerville Media will tell those stories, using narrative approaches to tell stories of people and their projects, reality show style. Projects would leverage collaborations among resources found in the city, and catalyze new programs and initiatives. For example, a story arc could include:

  • A homeowner or renter consulting with a team from the community, pro bono, to inspect a property (a la the state’s Mass Save program) and give advice on rainwater management, from gutters and downspouts, to rain barrels, to de-paved driveways and yards, to basement flood prevention, to planting native gardens over those de-paved yards.
  • Contractors could be brought in to work on gutters and downspouts with city-negotiated discounts (a la Solarize, Heat Smart/Cool Smart).
  • A team from Green & Open Somerville could organize a community-driven de-paving party.
  • Contractors could be brought in to work on grading and French drains in de-paved yards with city-negotiated discounts (a la Solarize, Heat Smart/Cool Smart).
  • A team of youth from Groundwork Somerville could re-plant the new yard with native plants that restore the local ecosystems.

The whole story arc could be capture on video. Think of it as This Old House (perhaps with a more charismatic narrator). Along the way, different stories could be told about the organizations that are helping out, and the impacts on the community and the environment.

The series of videos would be hosted on the web, with more frequent prose stories about sustainability in Somerville – people and policy, buildings and infrastructure, events and weather.


C. Somerville Media Center Proposal

Submitted by Erica Jones on 4/25/19. To support, email ejones@somervillemedia.org.

In an era of media consolidation, access to grassroots, independent and community driven content is increasingly more important than ever for diversity in viewpoints, democratic participation and transparency.

Community media centers like Somerville Media Center provide our community with access to low cost training, production resources, seasoned professionals & connections, meaningful networking opportunities and distribution channels for sharing content.

SMC would like to strengthen and contribute to the greater Somerville community journalism network through exploring and utilizing our Somerville Neighborhood News program to allow for more member and community participation.

With that said, SMC would like to invite budding community journalists to join SMC as a member and begin creating news content that matters to them and their community.

Our bread and butter is to empower our community with the tools and resources to create content that matters to them.

Some ideas to propose are:

  1. To increase the number of members who volunteer to cover community meetings and stories. In order to achieve this SMC would like to offer quarterly classes that focus on video and podcast productions that are focused on storytelling and news gathering.
  2. Explore deeper collaborations with BINJ to offer a broader community journalism school and apply for grants to keep costs accessible. This contributes to the greater News Garden model and allows for consistent educational opportunities and mentorship.
  3. Organize quarterly panel discussions that are topical and invite community dialogue. This event can be a live audience and be recorded.
  4. Help facilitate connections between current SMC members with community journalists or other related CJ Organizations to cover content.

All the above falls within the scope of SMC’s mission and goals. It allows more community participation and more meaningful collaboration with groups like BINJ.

We hope that people become more invited to take advantage of the resources here at SMC.


D. Two Proposals from the Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership (STEP) [www.somervillestep.org]

Submitted by Ellin Reisner on 4/25/19. To support, email reisnere51@gmail.com

1. Traffic and Noise Pollution

STEP has worked for over 13 years in partnership with Tufts University Schools of Medicine and Engineering studying the health impacts of highway pollution on the health of people living next to busy highways such asI-93, Route 28, Route 16 and Route 38. We have extensive data posted on the study website https://sites.tufts.edu. Our most recent studies have included measuring noise pollution as well. Excessive noise has been found to affect health as well as quality of life.

Our proposal is to provide access to journalists interested in getting the information out to the public about how traffic pollution and noise impact the health of people living near the sources who are the most exposed. This is an environmental justice issue as most residents living near these sources are minorities earning incomes because housing along busy roadways is more affordable.

We can also discuss examples of mitigation and upcoming work the CAFEH team will be doing testing the effectiveness of in-home air filtration starting this summer.

2. Short term thinking and design of the new Green Line Extension Stations in relation to the proposed and partially planned development in Union Square and Inner Belt

The GLX station designs being designed are planned to provide service for the number of people expected to ride the GL when it opens without consideration of the commercial and housing build out that is anticipated over the next 20 to 30 years. This will be very problematic when ridership at these stations grows with development. Resistance to constructing an elevator and stairs on the Prospect
Bridge will not only inconvenience riders, it will force large numbers of users to use a single entrance.

The GLX should design the station similar to the one at Davis Sq. Red Line Station which has two entrances. An elevator should also be constructed at the Washington St. (East Somerville) Station as well to accommodate future development in Inner Belt and to serve the residents of the Cobble Hill senior housing development.

The GLX approach is to design the stations as cheaply as possible without consideration of long term increases in ridership.


E. Somerville News Garden Proposal/Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism (BINJ)

Submitted by Jason Pramas on 4/25/19. To support, email jason@binjonline.org.

Since its founding in 2015, the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism—a regional investigative reporting incubator and media education hub—has been working closely with the Somerville Media Center on a variety of television productions and training workshops.

Over that time, we became aware that Somerville was one of a large number of municipalities in Massachusetts and across the nation in danger of becoming news deserts… areas that no longer receive sufficient coverage from functioning news organizations.

Concerned that Somerville could easily lose most of its remaining news outlets without swift community action, we called the Feb. 16 Somerville Community Summit to start a conversation between residents and the journalists that cover the city in hopes of sparking joint campaigns to increase the amount and quality of local reportage.

Immediately after the successful 120+ person summit, BINJ publicly committed to spend $10,000 toward the furtherance of that goal in 2019.

And we are now ready to launch the project that those funds will support, the Somerville News Garden (SNG).

The idea of a news garden is aspirational. In a city that has been losing solid news coverage over the past quarter century, we now propose to help reverse that trend.

The metaphor of a garden is particularly apt, we feel, because—in addition to signaling the opposite of a desert—it provides us a nice framework to approach the work at hand. Which is, it must be said, very much like the hard but fulfilling work that many Somervillians put into community gardens.

The Somerville News Garden will:

SURVEY the news outlets that serve the city,

CULTIVATE those outlets through coordination and collaboration on both the editorial and business sides,

TILL the ground of community awareness with public education,

SOW the seeds of new news outlets,

WATER those seeds with money and community support,

HARVEST the new useful community news coverage and increased collaboration between local news outlets—new and old—that results.

All with the goal of growing the garden year by year until Somerville has the best news coverage it can have. While spreading the news garden concept to other municipalities under threat of becoming news deserts.

The Somerville News Garden will actively recruit a membership of volunteers called (what else?) Gardeners who will make the project go. BINJ staff—in close consultation with Somerville Media Center staff—will continue to play a convening role, and will accompany the effort in an advisory capacity.

Folks interested to join the news garden in this early phase can simply email Jason Pramas at jason@binjonline.org to sign up and get on its email list.


F. Cross-Age Housing Proposal

Submitted by Joe Beckmann on 4/26/19. To support, email joe.beckmann@gmail.com.

There is a proposal emerging from the PiLoT discussions that may interest some at today’s meeting. Cross-Age Housing to respond to Tufts’ continued enrollment growth with a pattern of mutual interest by matching seniors with space available for rent with students trained and certified as caregivers, offering the caregivers cheap rent for senior help, on a non-profit partnership reflecting the for-profit Nesterly model developed at MIT. There are currently 2117 seniors over 65 who own housing in Somerville, and over 600 Tufts students forced into off campus housing (not counting 90% of all Juniors and Seniors). The Nesterly model could be adapted and delivered by MIT grad students and Tufts certified caregivers could save substantially, while gaining credible experience off-campus and paying low if any rent. The Tufts Health Plan Foundation has two rounds of funding, for planning in July and for pilot efforts in September, to pay the Tufts Housing League or an interested nonprofit partner to refine this plan (with planning money in July) and pilot the efforts in the Spring of 2020 for Fall placements with a second proposal in September. We’ve had some preliminary discussions with the Somerville Community Corporation and the new Land Bank planners at CAAS, and Nesterly may be available to help replicate their training and certification.


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