Ken Brociner offers his take on the candidates running for councilor-at-large
There are eight candidates running for the four At-Large seats on the Somerville City Council. For most people in town, trying to figure out who to vote for on Nov. 2 isn’t going to be an easy task. With that in mind, I’m going to offer my own views on each of the candidates in the hope that it might help you think through which four would most effectively guide our city in the years ahead.
I’ll start with the four candidates who I believe are the most qualified to represent all 80,000 or so residents of our city.
Kristen Strezo is the only incumbent At-Large Councilor running for re-election, and based on her year and a half of outstanding service on the Council, we would all benefit by granting her two more years to forcefully speak up for the rights of women, working people, and the most marginalized members of our community. Her list of endorsements is too long to enumerate here but it includes Ayanna Pressley, Joe Curtatone, the Greater Boston Labor Council, and the Mass. Women’s Political Caucus.
Justin Klekota has so many impressive credentials that it’s hard to keep track of all of them. For example, Justin was instrumental in putting together the resolution that became a key part of the Green New Deal that has been enacted by both the Mass. State Gov’t and the City of Somerville.
Klekota is a longtime resident of Somerville who has not only been active in progressive politics on a local level, he has also been an outspoken leader in the larger LBGTQ community. As if that wasn’t enough, Justin is also Somerville’s representative on the Democratic State Committee. In that capacity, he’s done his best to make sure that progressive views are always incorporated into the DSC’s ongoing work. Of the many professional hats that Klekota wears, perhaps none is more important than being a researcher in the fields of fighting breast and early childhood cancer and developing new vaccines against influenza.
Justin’s been endorsed by City Councilor Mary Jo Rossetti, School Committee members Carrie Normand and Ilana Krepchin, the LBGTQ Victory Fund, the Somerville Fire Fighters Association and several other local organizations.
Tracey Leah Pratt’s campaign was turned upside down by a serious health emergency that put her out of action from the end of July until the beginning of October. Fortunately, she’s fine now and is in the process of giving it her all to win one of the four At-Large seats on the Council.
Matt McLaughlin, who, by all accounts is one of the most progressive and effective members of the City Council, had this to say about Tracey:
If I can convince people to vote for only one person it would be Tracey Leah Pratt. I’m not supporting her because she would be the first African American woman to serve on the City Council, or because our ideals are perfectly aligned on every single issue. I’m supporting her because I truly believe her voice is needed at city hall.
Tracey is not a politician. She is an educator both professionally and in everyday life. While some people attach their names to groups or causes for personal gain, Tracey creates groups and advocates for causes in a way that is inclusive and rooted in compassion. She helped form the group Just Us Somerville to represent people of color who felt their voices were being co-opted by people who want to use the movement for their own self gain. She served as the Ward 1 Democratic Committee chair and helped select the city’s first Race and Social Justice Director.
Jake Wilson’s campaign has also been slow in getting up to full speed. The reason for this speaks volumes about the kind of person Jake is. He was so focused on making sure that Somerville Youth Soccer was going to continue on a solid foundation after he passed on its leadership to someone else that for several months he just didn’t have the time to go all out in his bid for the City Council. Wilson’s deep and long-standing commitment to many hundreds of kids and their families throughout our community has been widely known for quite some time. But now that he feels that Somerville Youth Soccer is in good hands, he is out there knocking on as many doors as he can before Nov 2.
Jake is a pragmatic progressive who considers himself an independent socialist who, interestingly, is not aligned with the Democratic Socialists of America. I think he’d make a wonderful addition to the City Council
Virginia Hussey’s life story is truly compelling. She is a combat veteran of the war in Iraq who faced homelessness when she returned. She’s a single mother and a lifelong resident of Somerville who has coached youth sports and has given back to the community in other ways as well. But when it comes to her political views and judgment, her support of William “Stop the Steal” Tauro raises more than a few questions about her suitability to serve on the City Council.
Three of the candidates running for At-Large seats are running as a slate which they are calling “Somerville For All.” Eve Seitchick, Willie Burnley Jr., and Charlotte Kelley have identical positions on all of the issues – all of which just so happen to correspond to the positions taken by the Boston chapter of the Democratic Socialist of America (DSA).
On most issues, their stands are solidly progressive. However, they seem to be unaware of the fact that Somerville’s current City Council has either proposed or already passed many of the plans that DSA has been campaigning on.
Eve, Willie, and Charlotte all sincerely (and naively) believe that they represent the cutting edge of a new movement in the United States which is being led by DSA. As someone who has been active on the American Left for the last 50 years, I am very familiar with this mindset.
All three of them are young and relatively new to left-wing politics. The way I see it, their zealous attachment to their newfound ideology and organizational affiliation is not terribly different from converts to a new religion.
Another trait they all share is that they see the world in such oversimplified ways that they have convinced themselves that the majority of Americans will eventually see the light and come around to their way of thinking regardless of how extreme some of their views may be.
For example, all of them support the “abolish the police movement.” Apparently, it doesn’t bother them (if they have given any serious thought to it to begin with) that Somervillians who live in the neighborhoods with the highest crime rates see this “movement” as nothing more than a cruel joke.
On some level, though, “The Somerville For All” slate has figured out that their advocacy of abolishing the police would probably not go over well with the overwhelming majority of people in Somerville. So what did they do? Hide it from the voters. Check out their campaign websites and literature – their support of abolishing the police is nowhere to be found.
Same with their explicitly stated goal of making Somerville “the first city in the history of New England to have a socialist majority on the city council.” Putting aside how most Somervillians may feel about this, the plain fact is that the “Somerville For All” slate has decided to keep one of their key goals from … the people of Somerville! You certainly won’t find it on any of their websites or in any of their literature.
What I find to be most galling about all of this is how often these three candidates proclaim their commitment to political “transparency.” Perhaps they themselves are unable to see it, but rather than “transparency” a more appropriate word for this strategy would be “deception.”
Ken Brociner has lived in Somerville since 1975. His essays, columns, and reviews have appeared in Dissent, In These Times, the Boston Phoenix, and the Somerville Journal, among other publications.