Mayor Joe Curtatone will not return for reelection, Eve Seitchik runs for councilor at large, Becca Miller announces city council campaign, and West Branch Library renovations progress
Welcome to the Somerville Wire’s March 2 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call us at (617) 209-9511.
Articles and Videos
Somerville Media Centers’s Joe Lynch breaks down what seniors can do to get vaccinated.
Curtatone announced that he will not be running for reelection.
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In a long anticipated culmination of events, students will at last be allowed back for in person instruction.
Curtatone will not be running for reelection for mayor of Somerville
At mayor Joe Curtatone’s midterm address, held on March 1, Curtatone announced that he will not be running for reelection for the position of mayor in November. He has been serving in office as mayor of Somerville since 2004. According to the Boston Globe, he has been the longest sitting chief executive in the City’s history.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve the city where I was raised,” said Curtatone, during the address. “For nearly 18 years, I have been privileged to work alongside so many in this community to strengthen, grow, and advance our shared goals and to take on the many challenges faced by our city, the nation, and even in some cases, the planet.” He added, “Mayors are links in the chain that extends way beyond each of our time in office. I want to honor my role in that chain and hand our next mayor a city that is on solid footing and ready to take the next twenty steps in its evolution.”
Curtatone said that he is choosing not to run again for personal reasons and not because of any “calculus politically.” He said that he is, “tired of COVID, but not tired of public service.” At the moment, he has not decided whether he will be considering campaigning for governor. During the address, Curtatone spoke to the challenges that the city has faced over the past year, including the devastation wrought by the coronavirus, the structural and systemic equities brought about by racism, and the impact of climate change.
“Somerville needs to rebound from the health, economic, and social hits brought on by the coronavirus outbreak,” said Curtatone. “I am determined to carry us successfully through this crisis, and I’m glad to do so without the distraction of running for another term in office.” He added, “This crisis has magnified inequities in our larger society that must be addressed. …The coronavirus has also laid bare the health crisis that is systemic racial injustice.”
Eve Seitchik declares campaign for Somerville councilor at large
Eve Seitchik, a socialist organizer and data scientist, announced their decision to run for the position of councilor at large in Somerville, on February 23. A two-term co-chair of the Boston Democratic Socialists of America, they have lived in the Boston area for their entire life and in Somerville for the past seven years.
“I’ve always had progressive politics,” said Seitchik. “I think it was really the Bernie Sanders movement in the summer of 2015 that really activated me. With Trump winning the election and seeing these outrages nationally—like immigrant kids being put in cages—at some point, I felt like I had to do something. So I decided to become an activist.”
Seitchik had been active in the 2020 fight alongside paraprofessionals of the Somerville Educators Union to negotiate a livable wage, organized in City Hall for a transfer tax on real estate development, and campaigned for police accountability and budget justice. If elected, they aim to fight for a Somerville Green New Deal that will create union jobs in the City, promote equity, and set a standard in the state. They have also proposed to defund the police, cutting the police budget by at least 10% per year in order to reallocate funds to non-violent mental health response, affordable housing, safe injection sites, and trauma support.
A transfeminine non-binary person who uses “they/them” pronouns, Seitchik would be one of the first openly nonbinary city councilors on a national level. They said that they hope to see more transgender individuals in office and that representation can show others that they “can and should think of themselves as people who can play a big role in making our community fair.”
“We’re really just at the beginning of gender diverse people serving in local, state, and federal government,” said Seitchik. “I think that representation does matter. It’s not the end of the story—I’m not running for city council because I’m trans—I’m running because I have these policies I care about, and I want to make our city better. But I do sometimes think about being part of this cohort.” They added, “If we win, this would be a whole new wave, and I would be among the first non-binary city councilors in the country. I think that’s exciting.”
Proposed investment in street safety and mobility improvements
This past week, mayor Joe Curtatone submitted a proposal to the City Council with the goal of increasing investments in street safety and sustainable transportation. The proposal would “create three new full-time staff positions in the Mobility Division to support traffic calming, transit-focused projects, public engagement, long-range policy planning, and complete-streets engineering,” according to a press release.
“These needed investments would accelerate and expand our community’s efforts to save lives and combat climate change with the scale and urgency required,” said Curtatone, in the press release. “We’ve made enormous progress, from saving the Green Line and Community Path from cancellation, to constructing miles of accessible sidewalks and new bike facilities, but we must maintain progress and accelerate our efforts if we are to achieve Vision Zero and our Somerville Climate Forward goals. This proposal is an important step toward that.”
The new staff positions would build on the City’s capacity to fulfill its Vision Zero commitment to eliminate serious or fatal traffic crashes. It would also support the Somerville Climate Forward commitment to decrease carbon emissions from transportation sources. The four fatal crashes that occurred in 2019 and the one that took place in 2020 have led the Somerville community to call for accelerated investment in safe streets projects and programs.
Becca Miller announces city council run in Ward 7
A climate justice organizer with Boston Democratic Socialists of America, food justice advocate, and renter, Becca Miller stated on February 26 that she will be running for city council, representing Ward 7. She is motivated by the fact that the climate, housing, and food security crises have been worsened by the pandemic and recognizes that they will need transformative governance.
“Somerville is a vibrant community that isn’t shy about it’s progressive values,” said Miller, in a press release. “However, our city government has not always lived up to its stated values. We need to speed up our police accountability and oversight processes for the police that were promised last summer, and the Administration still has not hired a Racial and Social Justice Director, nine months after the job position was created. Somerville can do better.”
Miller was born in Chelmsford and has lived in Massachusetts for her entire life. She has been a resident of Somerville for the past five years. She works as a campaign manager at a MA food systems policy nonprofit. She coordinates a large coalition to increase state funding for the Healthy Incentives Program, which gives people SNAP benefits and money to use on fruits and vegetables from local farms. She has stated that if elected, she would bring her experience in state level advocacy to the position, with a commitment to transparency and accountability demonstrated in her actions.
“I have seen how the COVID crisis has exposed inequities embedded in who has secure housing and abundant food,” said Miller. “We need to prioritize equity in our recovery, and we will be building out a Green New Deal for Somerville, community food security and farms, homes for all, free COVID testing and more.”
West Branch Library transfers holds from the Tufts Administration Building
On February 26, the Somerville Public Library West Branch moved book holds from its temporary location at the Tufts Administration Building (TAB) to the Central Library on Highland Avenue. The West Branch, which originally had its home at 40 College Avenue, just outside Davis Square, has been under renovation, with construction having begun in early 2019, and a small collection of books were being held in the TAB. A date for the reopening of the library has not yet been determined, but it may very well be during this spring, according to interim head of the West Branch Allison Mitchell.
The West Branch Library building is over one hundred years old and is classified as a Carnegie Library. It is an example of the Neoclassical architecture of the early 20th century, and according to chair of the Somerville Historic Preservation Commission Alan Bingham, the City has been working to make sure that the renovations preserve its historical integrity. It was previously unable to serve the needs of the community and was in need of repair. New changes will include the construction of an accessible and appealing entry space, a restored skylight on the second floor, an elevator, a separate restroom for children, and spaces to host library-sponsored programs and events. According to Bingham, the renovations were highly necessary.
“Somerville isn’t very good at maintaining its buildings,” said Bingham. “This is a building that was suffering from immense lack of maintenance. There was moisture intrusion in the basement. The envelope was leaking. …It withstood several decades of patchwork repairs, and it was in desperate need of fixing things properly, otherwise we stood the chance of losing the building.” He added, “The library provides so many benefits to people. A library is the repository of human genius. It’s our technology, our philosophy, our religion, our belief, our imagination, in fiction novels. It is so essential to have it and have it accessible to all.”
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Shira Laucharoen is assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and assistant editor and staff reporter of the Somerville Wire.