Mayor Curtatone’s farewell speech, a campaign to support Somerville students, and the flag raising on Prospect Hill
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Mayor Joe Curtatone delivers farewell address
Mayor Joe Curtatone held his farewell address virtually on Dec. 6, marking the end of his 18-year time as mayor of Somerville. Councilor Matt McLaughlin delivered opening remarks, followed by Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley.
“It is such a source of pride for me that … whenever I’m looking to offer an example of a north star that we should be following and to call out a pace setter, whether it’s on housing justice or racial justice and facial recognition technology, or disrupting the school to confinement pathway, or climate justice … every example that I have provided has been about the pace setting and visionary example of Somerville,” said Pressley. She added, reflecting on what characterizes Curtatone’s leadership, “What I’ve found, other than the fact that you love this city … is that in every conversation, you actively listen, and you listen to understand.”
When Curtatone took the stage, he stepped away from the podium to deliver his address, stating that he would not be able to give a prepared speech. He commended the Somerville community for looking out for each other during the unprecedented times of the pandemic. Curtatone continued on to say that he had been prepared for the job of being mayor by his experience growing up in Somerville.
“The neighborhoods taught me the art of tolerance, the value of diversity, the skill of compromise in taking on challenges, the cohesiveness of the social fabric of any community, because we all come from different places. But our families are here for the same reason, that same opportunity,” said Curtatone. “This community—what inspired me throughout the years is how it is aligned to one value: to make Somerville this exceptional place, to live, work, play, raise a family, and grow old, no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, what your status is or your belief.”
Curtatone spoke to the important role that government plays in addressing climate justice, racial and social justice, and economic justice. There is a reason, he said, that Somerville is viewed as “one of the most influential [communities] in the country,” adding that it is not him alone but rather that he and the people of Somerville have climbed a ladder together.
“I’m still a student, from all of you,” said Curtatone. “I’ve learned from everyone in this community, over the years, what leadership is, from the advocacy and the activists, from the social service agencies to the non-profit organizations fighting to give people that opportunity.”
What Curtatone will miss the most is the people, including his staff. He encouraged young people to dive into the world of politics, even though “leadership is a lonely enterprise,” because “we need your ideals.” There is still work that he said he wishes he could have accomplished during his time as mayor, such as convincing other leaders to open up supervised safe consumption sites and resolving the housing emergency. He left the audience with words of encouragement for the community.
“I have one or two things to ask everyone in the city,” said Curtatone. “One, please continue to be curious and spark that passion for curiosity. Please do not be shy. I want that boldness to be abnormal. … Don’t change. Be curious. Be bold. As long as we continue to align ourselves to that value and climb that ladder together, you will never be wrong. Test each other. Probe each other. Because we always end up on the other side in a better place and stronger. And the final thing, look out for one another.”
Somerville launches “Together” campaign
The City of Somerville and Somerville Public Schools formally announced the launch of the “Together” campaign, a public engagement campaign meant to “bring greater attention to the challenges facing Somerville children and adolescents in mental health and social-emotional wellness, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a press release. Mayor Joe Curtatone, Mayor-elect Katjana Ballantyne, Superintendent Mary Skipper, and the Somerville School Committee celebrated its takeoff on Dec. 13. The campaign is “designed to build awareness about the additional pressures and risk behaviors among Somerville youth today, to highlight the City’s new investments in targeted strategies and interventions, and to bring the community together in support of young people.”
“Throughout the pandemic, the people of Somerville have come together to support one another and help keep our community safe and healthy,” said Curtatone. “The ‘Together’
campaign will further focus that support on the urgent mental health needs of our young people. The City and the schools are making important investments to increase services for children and teens, but we need everyone in Somerville to do their part, particularly by reaching out to young people who are struggling and connecting them with the help they need.”
“Supporting mental health and wellness—a need that is far too often overlooked—is critical to ensuring all our students have the tools they need to progress and succeed during this challenging time, and always. We must ensure our students, especially those facing the greatest stresses, have access to resources that can help them build both immediate and lifelong resiliency,” said Ballantyne. “I want to thank the Schools and the Curtatone Administration for their important data gathering and work in this area, and I assure you my administration will remain focused on this vital effort.”
According to a press release about the study, the following findings were reported:
- “While the majority of students did not experience adverse financial or health-related effects of COVID-19, about one in five middle or high school students in the Somerville Public Schools reported having a family member or close friend who died from the disease.”
- “More than half of high school students and almost one-quarter of middle school students in SPS reported that they struggled with their mental health “most of the time” or “always” during the coronavirus pandemic.”
- “Genderqueer students were significantly more likely to report struggling with their mental health (88% at the high school level), and rates also were higher among multi-racial students (52% at the high school level).”
- “Among high school students, 47% of females reported struggling with their mental health, compared to 15% of males.”
Flag Raising on Prospect Hill
The City of Somerville will hold its 246th annual Flag Raising ceremony on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1. It will begin at City Hall with a 11:30 a.m. procession to the Prospect Hill Monument. There will be a short program at the monument, featuring Colonial songs, speeches, and light refreshments.
“This annual ceremony commemorates the raising of the nation’s first official flag, featuring thirteen red and white horizontal stripes, atop Prospect Hill on New Year’s Day, 1776,” reads a press release. “At the time, Prospect Hill was a key site in a string of fortifications created by Washington and the Continental Army in their siege of British troops in Boston during the first year of the American Revolution.”