Road safety issues, Mary Cassesso campaigns for mayor, and the announcement of new reopening guidelines
Welcome to the Somerville Wire’s May 18 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.
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Plan to launch nation’s first supervised consumption site is back in motion following pandemic pause
Reflecting on the incident involving Flavia Peréa’s son, community members and representatives question police presence
With the summer approaching, some galleries will be open to the public again
MassDOT plans raise road safety and environmental justice concerns
Urgently needed pedestrian and bike safety improvements at the intersection of Routes 28 and 38 have been delayed, according to Rep. Mike Connolly. In a December 2020 meeting with the MA Department of Transportation, Connolly said he had been told that construction on the intersection would begin in 2022, and that a public hearing would be held to review design in April 2021. MassDOT never scheduled the April public hearing to discuss intersections that Connolly calls “deadly,” and it looks like construction work will not be underway until 2023. Meanwhile, Somerville residents have been the victims of terrible tragedies at this intersection—with Cheryl Richards, Kevin Demont, and Marshall Mac having been hit by cars in this area.
In April 2021, MassDOT officials held a meeting with the Somerville legislative delegation to inform them that a $37 million I-93 viaduct preservation is making progress, being at the 75% design stage. Connolly said that the announcement was the first time he had heard about this project, which will divert evening interstate traffic onto local roads. Another problem with the viaduct plan is that it does not have necessary mitigation for long-term air and noise pollution, linked to higher rates of asthma, cardiovascular disease, and COVID-19. The goal of the project is to “preserve the life of the steel;” however, Connolly said that he is more concerned with preserving the lives of constituents.
“There are two major issues here,” said Connolly. “First, the apparent slowdown of the road safety improvements. Three individuals have tragically lost their lives, within the context of where these promised road safety improvements are intended. …The first major issue is that it appears that these desperately needed road safety improvements have been slowed down. And then, a whole other issue, which is no less compelling, is the need for air pollution and noise pollution mitigation from I-93. … We have been painstakingly working to build the case for sound walls, and those will both limit sound pollution and the ultra fine particulate matter air pollution. For years, we’ve been building this case and working to bring MassDOT to the table. For years, we’ve been told that that is something that could be done when there is a highway renovation project. It was very alarming when MassDOT presented these new plans to us that are clearly being fast-tracked, and that there hasn’t yet been any contemplation in their plans of air pollution mitigation.”
On May 26, Connolly will be joined by Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley for a rally on “Highway Justice” at 6 p.m. on the corner of McGrath Highway and Broadway (the former gas station lot).
Mary Cassesso enters mayoral race
Mary Cassesso took out nomination papers as a candidate for mayor of Somerville on May 10. She is chief community officer of the Cambridge Health Alliance and a lifelong resident of Somerville. Over the past year, she has been dedicated to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Facebook post.
“… I was in the trenches with community organizations, public officials, the business community and countless selfless individuals organizing healthcare, COVID education, food and essential services to the people of Somerville,” wrote Cassesso. “As challenging and, too often, heartbreaking as this work has been, it has inspired me to serve in a broader way; I want to harness our collective kindness, innovation and intelligence to eliminate hunger in our City, ensure that mental health services are available to everyone in need of care and support, enact innovative legislation that will incentivize multi-family homeowners and developers to provide affordable housing, and nurture local Somerville businesses that will thrive in the new economy.”
Issues that are important to Cassesso include addressing structural racism, the digital divide, green space, and environmental pollution. In addition, she has chaired the Somerville Affordable Housing Task Force for many years and helped to pass the Community Preservation Act. She wrote that she envisions a city that embraces diversity, treating “young, old, documented or undocumented immigrant, LGBTQ, Blacks, Asians, Latinx, and all others with whom we are blessed to share our City—with respect, kindness and compassion.”
“I am inspired to serve, I have the executive experience to achieve results, I understand the struggles that so many of us face and I care deeply and intensely for our City,” wrote Cassesso. “I have the energy, vision and optimism to lead us into the next exciting chapter of Somerville, as our City’s next mayor.”
Voices from Somerville’s Salvadoran Community
The Somerville Museum will be presenting “Voices from Somerville’s Salvadoran Community” on May 19 at 6:30 p.m. The event will be held over Zoom. Members of the local Salvadoran community will share stories and talk about their work in Somerville’s neighborhoods. Panelists include:
Kenia Alfaro: director of parental engagement and education policy, the Welcome Project
Irma Flores: community engagement specialist, city of Somerville
Luis Morales: founding pastor, Vida Real Church; founder, Amigos Market, Taco Loco, and other businesses
Mario Quiroz: documentary photographer
After the panel discussion, historian Dan Breen will talk about connections between El Salvador and the United States. The event is part of a series, “Voices from Somerville: Culture, Community, and History,” produced by Charan Devereaux.
Register at the following link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/somerville-museum-voices-from-somervilles-salvadoran-community-tickets-154454301975
Somerville announces new activities to be allowed
New activities and reopening guidelines, in phase 4, step 2, of the State’s reopening plan, will go into effect in Somerville on June 19. Somerville will be joining Boston’s schedule, which is on a three-week delay from the plan that the State is following. With the reopenings, Somerville will be “in alignment with all announced state guidelines,” according to a press release. The following changes will go into effect:
- Bars and breweries may open with seated service only. Alcohol may be served without food.
- Restaurant party size limits will increase to 10 people per table.
- Gathering limits indoors will increase to 200 indoors and 250 outdoors for public and private events.
- Festivals, including block parties, and parades may be held at 50% of 2019 capacity.
- Patrons of recreation facilities, like bowling alleys, will not need to remain stationary with food and non-alcoholic beverages. Businesses must still follow State guidance on alcohol.
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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.