Fight for Somerville jobs Feb 17

On February 16, 2011, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

By Matthew McLaughlin

(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)

“Remember your promises.”  That is the motto of the clan McLaughlin dating back to ancient Ireland.  The centuries have passed, but the importance of keeping one’s word is still a litmus test to the honor of an individual.  KSS Reality has continually failed this test in dealing with the community, and on Thursday, Feb. 17, 5:45pm at City Hall, the community intends to hold them to their word.

Long before KSS demolished the old Max Pak factory by Lowell St. with intentions to build 200 high rent apartments, they signed a covenant with the city covering many important aspects of the proposed development.  That covenant “strongly encouraged” the use of union labor with special consideration for Somerville residents.  Of the many articles in the covenant, why is this the only clause KSS feels it can ignore?

With Max Pak gone and construction set to begin, there are many unemployed Somerville residents who would be proud to help KSS see its project to completion.  Yet, KSS has instead chosen to ignore the community’s needs.

At Planning Board hearings and in the newspapers, KSS has argued that it has made efforts to honor the covenant.  What we intend say next Thursday is “Prove it! Promises have been broken and your word is not good enough.”

For those who may think our coalition, which includes Save Our Somerville, the Somerville Community Corporation, and several other unions and community organizations, has no right to make such demands on a private business, consider the following:
— KSS is receiving $490,000 of taxpayer money to build an essential entrance ramp from Lowell St. to the MaxPac site.
— The community bike trail will be extended right next to the apartments, increasing the value of their property — thanks again to the taxpayers.
— The Green Line extension will also have a stop near the project, substantially enhancing the value of the property and again increasing their profits at our expense.

So millions of taxpayer dollars will directly benefit KSS Realty for apartments that they say will average $3,000 a month for a two bedroom apartment.  And we’re supposed to act like they’re doing us a favor by building it?  Since none of my friends can afford to live there, the least KSS can do is let them work there so they can afford to live in the city we all love.

Like any business, KSS looks at this as a matter of dollars and cents.  But while they are trying to make an extra buck, we are simply trying to survive.  What may be a mild inconvenience to them would mean a world of difference to Somerville workers and their families.  We are asking Somerville residents to stand up for Somerville jobs and tell KSS Realty to remember its promises.

Matthew McLaughlin is a lifelong Somerville resident, member of Save Our Somerville and serves on the board of the Somerville Community Corporation.


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