Capacity limits, police appointments, and rides for the elderly.
Welcome to the Somerville Wire’s second Weekly Roundup—a fast look at local news published every Tuesday at somervillewire.news. Readers with Somerville-focused news tips or press releases or calendar items or letter and opinion submissions can send them to Wire staff at email@example.com. Or call us at (617) 209-9511.
SUBSCRIBE TO THE SOMERVILLE WIRE EMAIL NEWSLETTER: eepurl.com/hpBYPv
Somerville businesses, gathering spaces remain at 25% capacity
The City of Somerville decided not to join the rest of the Commonwealth in raising capacity limits on February 8. This rule will apply to certain businesses and other spaces, including restaurants, stores used for retail, museums, fitness centers, and places of worship. While the state of Massachusetts increased capacity limits to 40%, Somerville limits will remain at 25%. For outdoor gatherings, no more than 10 people will be allowed to assemble together.
Mayor Joe Curtatone said that Somerville is exercising caution in its capacity plan and responding to a surge of coronavirus cases that the City has only recently been overcoming. In describing governor Charlie Baker’s approach to pandemic reopening rules, he called it “patchwork.”
“Across the board, on capacity limits, we’re holding steady,” said Curtatone. He added, “The governor, unilaterally on his own and without working municipalities, made a decision to lift the cap on capacity limits, against the clear warnings of the risk from health experts. We have followed those warnings, as we have all along, in an attempt to be deliberate, diligent, and methodical, in following the science. We are not rolling back at this time, though that could change. We are maintaining the course and will monitor how the pandemic is evolving.”
Curtatone stated that he is disappointed with the way that the vaccine rollout has progressed and that the supply is not where it should be right now. While he is heartened that Somerville has seen a decline in COVID cases over the past month, he said that city government will need to give the vaccine time to take effect before capacity changes are made and will need to find a way to make vaccines accessible to vulnerable residents.
MAPC calls for artists to create COVID-related works
The Metropolitan Area Planning Council announced that it is seeking artists, designers, and creatives to develop artworks that promote the COVID vaccine and other pandemic related health messaging. In particular, MAPC is looking for projects that “engage diverse ethnic, cultural, and BIPOC communities.”
Proposed pieces could be developed in a variety of media, including film, animation, graphic imagery, stickers, postcards, or flyers. They must command attention and convey a clear message. Total available funding for the grant program is $30,000. Concepts pitched should creatively “inspire safe and healthy behaviors across our region” and deliver a sense of urgency in expression. The application deadline is February 26, while there will be a virtual information session on February 19. Massachusetts residents aged 18 years or older are encouraged to apply, while those with experience working with BIPOC communities will be given preference.
Questions can be submitted to Daniel Koff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
City Council committee votes to fill police serve list, some question process
Three candidates were interviewed by five councilors on the Confirmation of Appointments and Personnel Matters on February 2, with the hope of being appointed to the Somerville police reserve list. The candidates were reviewed in order to fill vacancies in the Somerville Police Department. Matthew Fairchild did not make the list, in a 0-5 vote, while Giovanna Lorenzet Marin and Jose DaCosta were approved in a 3-2 vote.
Councilor J.T. Scott and Councilor at Large Will Mbah voted against all three candidates, with Mbah stating that he could not support a vote because of healing from the ongoing national trauma. Scott said that he had concerns about the reliability of the hiring process, later saying to the Somerville Wire that he could not say with certainty that something “untoward” had not happened. In particular, a candidate had said in anonymous interviews that they had a criminal record, but when questioned before the councilors on February 2, none of the candidates openly admitted the fact. Scott said that this turn of events led him to believe that one of them had lied.
“This evening’s conversation raises another concern for me,” said Scott, during the meeting. “That concern is that we have public documents that are a part of the civil service record that indicate that an answer was given by a candidate, and we know it was one of the candidates before us this evening.” He added, “When asked questions this evening, none of the candidates’ responses reflected what is in the sworn record of civil service testimony that is documented in this decision.”
Solicitor Frank Wright said that he understood the statements to be allegations made by the appellant and not facts put forth by the city, and chair Mary Jo Rossetti said that she was in agreement with him. Scott replied that the presence of a criminal record, while not disqualifying, is not hearsay but truth.
Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services offers free rides
Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) will be giving free transportation for elderly adults needing to visit nearby COVID vaccination sites. Currently, individuals 60 and older from Cambridge or Somerville who are eligible for vaccines can be offered rides. As of February 18, residents 65 and over and those with underlying health conditions are eligible for the vaccine in Massachusetts.
“Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services is encouraging everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated, and we do not want transportation to be an obstacle for the people we serve,” wrote SCES executive director Paul Hollings, in a statement. “As an essential service provider, our team has helped older adults maintain health and independence throughout the pandemic. We have seen demand increase for some of our mainstay programs, such as Meals on Wheels, and we have also tried to be proactive about meeting new needs as they arise. We think offering transportation for vaccine appointments is a good way we can help right away, and we have had a pretty good response so far.”
For more information about the SCES vaccination transportation program, or to register for a ride, call SCES at 617-628-2601 or email email@example.com.
This article was produced by Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism’s Somerville Wire initiative. All Somerville Wire articles may be republished by community news outlets free of charge with permission and by larger commercial news outlets for a fee. Republication requests and all other inquiries should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shira Laucharoen is assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and a staff reporter of the Somerville Wire.