Seizing the opportunities

On March 28, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

mayor_webBy Joseph A. Curtatone

(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.)

I want to talk this week about seizing opportunities.

During the past decade, Somerville has become a model city. We have no shortage of other communities asking about how we did it. They want to become healthier places to live. They want thriving local business districts. They want to deliver a higher quality of life to their residents.  In short, they like what they see when they look at Somerville, and they want to imitate many of the things we do. I tell them you really need to rally your entire community behind a shared vision. I also tell them it is critical to seize your opportunities.

When we go in to rebuild a park or playground, we don’t just plant a few trees and put up a swing set. We make sure we build something that can enhance the neighborhood around it for decades to come.

The same logic applies to Assembly Square. It has become a beehive of construction activity, and will become a bustling neighborhood and business district, because when the opportunity to transform that area of the city presented itself, we seized it.

The reality with many of the projects we undertake is that they represent once-in-a-generation opportunities. It takes years of legwork, often involving multiple state and federal agencies, to get the funding for some projects. We either seize those opportunities to enhance our city, or we let them fall to another generation two or three decades from now.

Beacon Street is one of those once-in-a-generation opportunities. For over a decade, Somerville has worked to secure funding for the project, which started as a standard repaving job. But as the decade went on, the corridor changed, the city adopted its first Comprehensive Plan, SomerVision and we adjusted Beacon Street to look toward the future illustrated by SomerVision.

As everyone has heard me say on many occasions, our guiding principle is to make Somerville a world class place to live, work, play and raise a family. We want nothing less than that for Beacon Street.

Some people have reservations regarding the proposed cycle track, but let me reinforce that it is just one piece of a larger picture, and this picture is not new. It is the picture illustrated in SomerVision and emerging on East Broadway where the new streetscape project will enhance pedestrian and bicycle access, beautify the area, and emphasize that this section of our city is a destination rather than a cut through to other communities.

We are seeing significant investment in East Somerville as a result of this vision. Projects are moving faster than we ever imagined possible. Businesses are viewing East Somerville as one of the hot, up-and-coming places in the greater Boston region, and clamoring to relocate or expand here. And all of this is happening because we seized our opportunity to reinvigorate that area of our city. We’re following the same winning game plan on Beacon Street. We’re making it more accessible for all; motorists, pedestrians, cyclist and transit users. Research shows that residents of well designed, multi-modal areas spend more time in their neighborhoods and get more enjoyment from those neighborhoods. It also shows that people who walk, bike and take transit to local business districts visit more frequently and spend more money in those districts.

Cycle tracks are relatively new, but Beacon Street is unique. It is part of the busiest bicycle commuting corridor in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (extending through Cambridge and across the Longfellow Bridge). At peak times, a quarter of the traffic on Beacon Street is bicycle traffic, and that number is increasing. At the same time, vehicle traffic has decreased across the Boston region, as well as on Beacon Street (13% from 1999 to be exact). Again, this is our chance to keep to our plan, to plan today with an eye on tomorrow.

We know the cycle track will maximize safety for everyone: cyclists, pedestrians, transit users and motorists. It is also the best way of meeting the future demands of everyone who will be travelling along that road. It will create an orderly and more predictable flow of traffic.

Yes, we will lose parking spaces as a result of these changes, and whenever the prospect of fewer parking spaces comes up, people worry about the local businesses. I can assure you, no one worries about our local businesses more than I do.

We hear your concerns. We understand them. And in order to respond to those concerns, we’ve changed the design to keep more parking spaces and we’re negotiating to provide more off-street parking opportunities. We can assure you that there will be enough parking on Beacon Street when the project is completed.

With an eye toward a future that is so clearly defined in SomerVision, we will create a Beacon Street that is even more livable, an even stronger neighborhood and a more active business district. And we will continue to do this in every corner of our great city. We have become the model city we are by seizing opportunities like this, not by passing on them.

Beacon Street’s time is now.

 

 

 

54 Responses to “Seizing the opportunities”

  1. A. Moore says:

    More like step up the pace to get rid of the rest of the long time resident working class here. The long time resident retired people who will also be forced out by all this so called progress which caters to one group of people. What a vision. Too bad we couldn’t have had a mayor that works for all the people in Somerville.

  2. Dave says:

    Okay A.Moore, I’ll bite. How does a cycle track on Beacon St. force anyone out of the city?

    Cartatone should be applauded for seeking innovative ways to improve the city. He is willing to take the risk instead of being satisfied with status quo. Back-in parking on Bow st.? Sure, we’re giving it a try! Not everything will be a win, but as the great Sam Johnson said, “Prudence keeps life safe, but does not often make it happy”.

  3. Somerbreeze says:

    So Mayor Joe says East Somerville is “hot, up and coming”–meaning, he’s got his developer buddies primed and loaded to recast East Somerville into Yuppy Heaven–and THAT’S the true subtext of SomerVision…

    Yeah, well, Good Luck with that, Joe; you can fool some of the people some of the time, but….

  4. GLSomer says:

    I wonder what “one group of people” the first commenter refers to? I bike to and from work (riding on Beacon Street every day) in part because I can’t afford to drive and pay for parking every day. Equating accommodations for cyclists with catering to the wealthy (or even the young) is ridiculous. I love my neighborhood (Magoun Square) particularly because of its diversity of age, incomes, and culture. Not all of “new Somerville” is rich, or trying to force “old Somerville” out.

  5. Somerville Resident says:

    If you’re retired and own your home, how will you be forced out? If anything, your property values will go up so that when you decide to sell you’ll make more money!

  6. Christine says:

    SomervilleResident is 100% correct. If anything, the changes in Somerville = big $$$ for long-time Somerville residents who own their home if/when they decide to sell.

  7. Jeff says:

    Thanks, Mayor Curatone, for standing up for a vision of Somerville as a better place to live, work, shop, etc. We appreciate your leadership on the cycle track!

  8. Villenous says:

    I find it amazing anyone could travel down Beacon St. and not want it fixed up. I’m not into eyesore preservation.

    And A. Moore, since when don’t working class people like living in a better looking, better kept city? Getting angry at the Mayor for giving people nice stuff is pretty messed up.

  9. Mary says:

    Well, why aren’t we more grateful for our property values? All you get for higher property values are higher property taxes, UNLESS you sell. If you’d rather stay, sometimes the higher taxes force you out. And when you do sell, you are accused of being a complainer, and then ‘selling out’ for big bucks. It’s a no-win situation. As far as trying back-in parking on Bow Street? I don’t know anyone who likes it, but watch and see when the trial will end. Catering to cyclists? Noone would really care if the cyclists followed the law and didn’t endanger themselves and others, putting the blame on the evil cars.

  10. TheTruth says:

    Hey Joseph what did you have left you to build on?? I seem to think that you have a ghetto or the basis to start with Joseph lets be an honest mayor that they claimed you to be!!!

  11. Charlie says:

    Thanks Mr. Mayor! Your vision of a more livable Somerville is one reason why I am so proud to call it my home. There are few places in MA where one actually can actually live without needing a car for every trip, and it’s great that Somerville is increasingly becoming a place where having a car really is optional for many people.

    I am confident as well that the new Beacon Street we are creating will be one that works better for everyone and makes it an even better place to live and shop.

    And as for the back in parking on Bow St, I love it! I have parked there a few times, and those spaces are much easier to use than traditional parallel parking. And on top of that the new bike lane that was created there makes it easier whether you are on a bike or in a car!

  12. Somerville Resident says:

    Not that cyclists don’t need to obey the law, but drivers kill hundreds of Massachusetts residents every year and injure thousands more. Cyclists haven’t killed anyone. Did anyone say cars are evil? A little less hyperbole would help keep this discussion on track.

  13. Denise says:

    As a cyclist who follows the rules, I agree that ANYONE who breaks the rules on the road is dangerous. I hope that adding cycle tracks and clearer traffic patterns that include bicycles will make the problem better, not worse!

    Ultimately, reducing the number of cars on the road should improve the experience not only for bicyclists and pedestrians but also for people who do need to drive. Somerville is taking the long view on this issue, and I am proud of them (us!) for that.

  14. JMB says:

    Odds that the new chair of the ZBA loves this idea?

  15. j. connelly says:

    Being handicapped and dodging bikes that are illegally racing on the sidewalks in the squares. If I had not been able to move in time on several occasions, I could be dead or seriously injured. (Dont get your hopes up joe).

    There is no documentation on bicyclists killing anyone as there are no laws that NEED to be enacted requiring licensing, plates, insurance, etc. of bikes so laws that apply to vehicles; cars, trucks, motor cycles, scooters, etc. also apply to bikes. As H.D. says “Nobody rides for free”, and bikes should be included as “vehicles”. They are used to ride to work, deliver packages, messages, etc., just like autos, trucks, etc. do.

  16. MarketMan says:

    Somerville Resident & Christine: I agree with you in principle, but even if you own your home outright (ie, no debt)… if the property values go up, your taxes go up. It’s relatively minor compared to mortgage/rent, but it can be significant if you are living on a fixed income.

    GLSomer: I agree. Many people bike and take the T because they cannot or do not want to pay the high parking fees.

    A.Moore: I’m always reading a bunch of you say that the mayor is just trying to push old Somerville out and doesn’t cater to all residents. What I want to know is what do YOU want him to cater to? What needs/interests do you have that the city is not providing, and how are you voicing that concern other than complaining on the Somerville News comment section. I’m actually interested in knowing.

  17. Somerbreeze says:

    MarketMan, Hey what dept. do you work for at City Hall?

  18. A. Moore says:

    Try to do this without writing a novel. Anything affordable that makes an effort to get into this city is quickly rejected. Foe example, Walmart and Olive Garden. Since I know many people here I know a a lot of the older crowd go to these places, having them handy here would be great for them. Regardles if you like them or me. Restaurants are getting mostly trendy here and too expensive for our crowd. Stores coming into Assembly are also coming in high end, that leaves the low income crowd out. There is a lack of affordable places to walk to. Acutally we now have to drive more to get to these places. If you are renting forget it. Already lost most of my friends and my relatives to that. Can’t walk to their house to visit them anymore. The city is one sided in that it wants to shove a lot of people into a small place. No big box stores. I know I can’t go back but at one time we could walk to affordable places, small markets, stores and the like. Now there is no place to walk to. I had planned on being here for life, now I am preparing to move after being here and loving it until about the last 10 to 15 years. My parents are the only thing keeping me here as they have one friend left in the city and the doctors they are used to. I am only here for them. As much as I dislike the change I already know it is not going in my direction as my income will no longer allow me to stay here. Looking at a recent article on Patch the city is about 50 5o now and that won’t last long. Anything I have talked to the Aldermen about is this is the agenda they are taking. I expect that, I am not that naive. And I am not alone in this. As for the mayor his agenda is very clear and everything he is doing is geared towards this agenda. Not all of us are young with high incomes and can run and bike through the city.

  19. amen says:

    reading these, i fear the future here even more. People who can’t grasp a simple concept. some of us have fixed incomes, some just don’t earn the type of money younger people make today. I couldn’t ever dream of paying the rents & mortgages around here. I do own my home outright, and YAY for the value increasing. But I CANNOT keep paying the ever increasing property taxes. That’s what people are refering to.
    Market Man i want to respond to your question when i have a moment. i’m off to my second job right now.

  20. Let’s get to the heart of the matter here: It isn’t an issue of vision for the future. It is an issue of poor design in the present, which the City stubbornly refuses to admit. The City’s cycle track plan is deeply flawed. It doesn’t make any change at all on the part of the street which has the worst crash record. It places a gutter next to one cycle track where bicyclists would slip and fall on ice. It places bicyclists on the other side of the street behind parked cars, passing numerous driveways so bicyclists and motorists would not be able to see each other until just before the moment of impact — and also makes it unsafe for parents to let their children out the front door onto the sidewalk. There are better alternatives. For more detail, my comment letter on the project is here: http://john-s-allen.com/pdfs/somervilleletter.pdf

  21. Mary says:

    What needs/interests is the city not addressing? Really? Look around. Davis Square hailed as the bright spot in the city, has deteriorated into bars, high-end restaurants and coffee shops. Not exactly what I would call a diverse offering. The cost of parking your car on the street, on top of the high property taxes, along with not being able to have company except on Sunday, because your street, which never had a parking problem, is now permit-parking only. Refusal to allow less pricey, more family friendly business into the city, while encouraging developments that are extremely expensive. Refusal to address the bicycle problem. Refusal to address the problems caused for the disabled by continuing to include brick sidewalks and crosswalks after being told repeatedly that it is a barrier to many of the disabled. I could go on, and on, but have run out of time and it’s simply not worth. No one is listening.

  22. Bostom says:

    “Seizing the opportunity indeed!”

    Quoting GL Somer: “Not all of “new Somerville” is rich, or trying to force “old Somerville” out.”

    The “new Somerville” I see may not consider themselves to be rich, and they have some justification for saying so when they’re paying $1600 to $2000/mo. OR MORE for a two bedroom apartment. Or $350,000 to $450,000 for a two bedroom condo. Of course, Somerville apartments didn’t used to have “cashmere granite” countertops (as seen on CL today) but instead families – not DINKS or roommates sharing a place – large families, in fact, usually with only one blue-collar wage earner, who used to be able to afford the rents here. “Trying to force ‘old Somerville’ out”? I doubt any new renter who can afford today’s prices intends to, but if they were honest with themselves, they’d see that’s exactly what they’re doing.

    But let’s forget about the rents. It’s difficult to raise a family here, if for no other reason than the abysmal quality of the public school system. Rather than ask you to take me on faith, as the mayor does (the “facts” he offers would be more persuasive with some context, or just plain old footnotes.) Here’s one, based on figures from the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. Dept of Education, and the MA Dept. of Education from schooldigger.com: Somerville’s schools rank 306th out of the 327 cities and towns in Massachusetts.* There’s an opportunity to be seized, one far more important to the city’s future than a bicycle track, which isn’t being addressed, presumably because “new Somerville” doesn’t have many kids in the public schools. If they did, I’m guessing they’d find their children’s education more important than unimpeded pathways on which to pedal.

    His sentence structure makes me wonder what he’s referring to when the mayor say there’s been a 13% decrease in vehicle traffic since 1999. Across the Boston region or on Beacon Street? If the former, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised but it’s sort of disingenuous not to mention why: there was a project going on called the Big Dig that did a bit to depress traffic volume in the Boston region back then. If the latter, I’m not surprised either – between the flooding, the construction to control the flooding, and the abysmal condition of the roadway; well, let’s just say I know I avoid it whenever I can.

    I could go on, but as long as the Mayor’s ambitions dovetail with those of the developers, and not those of the residents, nothing will change. Until, of course, Mike Capuano moves up to the corner office at the State House and Mayor Joe thinks the word “Congressman” has a nicer ring to it than his present title. If and when that happens, he’ll be in DC and we’ll still be here, if the ever-increasing taxes and rents haven’t forced us out of our homes, with the “21st from the worst” school system in the state, paying the debt on the bonds that financed his “vision” which, from what I read here every week, is by no means universally shared by all the residents of Somerville.

    * http://www.schooldigger.com/go/MA/cityrank.aspx

  23. There is a 10+ page article in May’s issue of Bicycling magazine that focuses on velodromes and what goes into getting the ball rolling on building them. It’s a good read.

  24. MarketMan says:

    Somerbreeze: I don’t work for the city.

    A.Moore: The mayor is trying to revitalize the city. The city is in need of revenue. I don’t necessarily agree with the city turning away businesses that want to setup in an abandoned area. But wrt Olive Garden, I would much rather have local restaurants that support local businesses more than I would a chain restaurants. I agree that there are a lot of higher end trendy restaurants setting up. There’s demand for it. But I also see many restaurants in parts of Somerville that are not high end at all and are doing well. Broadway is many. I understand your complaints about living expenses getting more expensive and not being able to walk to affordable areas, but Somerville is becoming a popular place.. so that’s going to happen. I don’t think the mayor is causing that. He is not raising the rents. Demand is raising the rents.

    Mary: That’s what happens when a place becomes high in demand. There are many factors making Davis Square the way it is now, and I don’t think the Mayor caused any of them. In fact, it started before the mayor took office. When an area gets popular, rent (for apartments and businesses) gets expensive. If businesses need to pay more in rent, then they need to make more money. They can only make that money by catering to the needs of people who are *spending* there. If people in the area didn’t want high end bars and restaurants, those places would go out of business. All these dynamics have little to do with the mayor. Refusal to deal with existing problems: I 100% agree. I have had my own complaints and no one is listening.

  25. A. Moore says:

    I was listening Mary. Maybe if I was back to when I was starting out I might like the direction the city has taken. It’s probably the fact I have been here since the stone age and I really liked it back in the 50’s here. We had it all. Some of these people are too young and didn’t see what it was like to know why we feel the way we do. They think of this as progress to them, to us it’s not. Some may understand but I think most won’t.

  26. JMB says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This mayor is more interested in the gloss and the headlines instead of actually making Somerville better in the true long run for all people. He is focusing on festivals and bike paths and happiness surveys and the being on stage with Michelle Obama and Tiki Barber.

    Yes, he is doing a good job with new development that will bring new commercial taxes. But no, he is NOT making this a place where families can live or stay.

    I’m not even talking about Old Somerville type families. There are virtually no residential units left in the city big enough for two adults and two kids in their own rooms. All the big old houses have been condoed to 2-bed places, and none of the new development is building 3 or more bedroom places. So we have fewer families with fewer kids, or kids at all.

    Families with kids who can afford a big place can afford to send their children to private school or simply leave the city for better schools. Families who have kids and are cramped in smaller apartments can’t, and send them to Somerville public schools. And like it or not, families with less means tend not to have the resources to help educate their kids like wealthier families – so the average Som Public School kid tends to be poorer and have less access to academic resources. Sure there are exceptions, but they are exceptions.

    So I agree with Bostom – there is a direct link between the mayor’s development preferences and the decline in the quality of life for families here. Mayor Capuano got it – he focused on education. Curtatone can’t hope to fill his shoes, ever. He needs to go. We need Capuano (or someone like him) back.

  27. A.Moore says:

    The city is need of revenue and always will be. But that runs all the way to the top. I am from the old school that only spends what comes in, not more than what comes in. We will be handing down so much debt I don’t know what the outcome will be. Whatever revenue they get will be overspent. Problem as I see it whatever they build or do will need repair before it is paid off. So the problem goes on and on instead of finding more frugal ways of doing things knowing this. The mayors agenda was clear to me when he first ran frm is campaign speeches which is why I disliked him from the start. He is the one in charge and pushing these things. If we got another mayor I would probably dislike him too(or her). The city went antibusiness well before he got in. I know many business people here and have also watched as long time businesses who were good lose out because of so called progress. I lost one I had many years ago because when they take your property it does not cover what it takes to start over unless you have the bankroll. We had some good businesses at Assembly who went out of business or out of the city. This happened on other projects too and I fear Union Square may have the same problem but I am sure yet on that one. I know many businessmen here personally and the struggles they are going through trying to make it here when residents don’t want businesses around them.

  28. j. connelly says:

    ‘JMB’ & ‘A.Moore’ last posts bring it on true. In the 70’s because the census was down there were vacant schools. Right away Cty Hall was declaring these school buildings “unsafe”, “asbestos”, “Danger of falliing down”, all the typical language that Developers give to City Hall to dump the schools and tear them down. “Asbestos” can be removed or encapsulated properly so that no hazard exists but because developers wanted the land it was an automactic demolish them attitude.

    Some were saved & despite the call from City Hall that they needed to be torn down but those developers that purchased them found them structurally sound and here today nearly 40 years later the buildings still exist. Shortly after the schools destruction the city population ihcreased, thus now NEW more co$tlly schools had to be built. Like Lincoln Park School, which had a short existance as the “asbestos” excuse was used too (instead of a less costly solution – encapulation) tear it down.

    While the City Braintrust (scammers) were pulling the usual Somerville Scam on the taxpayers other citie/towns instead leased office space out of their vacant schools (helping keeping them in use) and as their population again increased were able to reclaim those schools for student use.

    Many good businesses were forced out of the city needlessly. The mayors OSPCD, (One Sure Plan (4) Curtatone Development), instead of making a serious positive business attitude by helping those businesses with grants or relocation within the city, blew them off. This enhances the anti business attitude appearance to outside businesses that view Somerville’s attitude to let the ships sink instead of saving them. So the next mayor’s hit is Union Square where even Alderman Taylor had concerns as way more land than needed is being taken for the GLX. Another case of the mayor taking care of his developer buddie$, as this aids the developers needs at expenses to the taxpayers & businesses.
    Thus the appearance Somerville continues with it’s historic “Da envelope puhule.e.e.e.ez!” attitude. Until the U.S.Justice Dept. does another Assembly Sq Sting type action this will continue.

  29. Somerbreeze says:

    j. connelly – Your post about “da envelope puleeeeze!” reminds me that there’s trepidation here in Hack Haven if that Phoenix article about local corruption ever sees the light of day…

    And I’m also reminded of a famous English practical joke from many years ago…Seems a wag sent bogus telegrams to some of England’s illustrious ecclesiasticals, reading “Flee at once–all is discovered!”

    The next week most of those ecclesiasticals had booked passage on the packet boat to Calais….

  30. amen says:

    MARY–what is the city not addressing? people have been legit. complaining about cyclists disrespect for pedestrians for YEARS. Nothing happens, except we are re-designing the city for the cyclists! zippo for the people they’ve been threatening Same with dogs. i gave up complaining about dog poop in my neighborhood, and lack of respect for some of us who maybe just don’t like dogs, and don’t want your pooch in our face. What happens? We re-design the city to please the pooches, and again. GOOSE EGGS for the people they’ve been displacing. get it now?

  31. Bostom says:

    Thirty comments, the vast majority opposed to the Mayor’s “Vision”…and one from Gary who urges us to look at the May issue of “Bicycling” magazine detailing how to set up a velodrome. Could you post it, Gary, so we can see how a velodrome, by definition “an arena or outdoor track purpose built for bicycle racing” (bicycles w/o brakes, btw: maybe that’s why they blow through red lights here…) compares to the proposed Beacon Street bicycling, driving, parking, walking, “trying-to-get-the-kid-and-the-kid-seat-out-of-the-back-seat-of-the-car,” backing-out-of-the-abutting-driveways model that’s not up for discussion – it’s being forced down our throats.

    MarketMan: you’re entirely correct in your explanation to Mary that rising demand means rising rents. Ultimately, though, as you say, rising rents means only those businesses which earn enough get to stay. It’s happened in city after city in the US – varied retail can’t survive a street’s surging popularity and what you have left is bars w/ $8 beers and Haagen-Daaz (or JP Licks) stalls selling ice cream for $5 a cup. I’d much rather have someplace I can get things I actually need than a scaled-down version of Quincy Market.

    That’s not my vision for any of the Squares but Davis Square is the vision of the future. No more insurance agents, no more drycleaners, no more markets like McKinnon’s one of these days, no more seamstresses like Eleni, a fixture in Davis for years who, if it weren’t for her stubborness (God Bless her for that: ever try to get a pair of pants hemmed anywhere else? She’s another local treasure who’s being pushed out), no more camera stores, no more fruits and vegetables, no more funky used clothing stores, not even Social Security any more – so is that what we want? My vision is varied retail, not tax-evading Indian restaurants, glass fronted fitness palaces, or smokers six deep on the sidewalk across the street.

    Because if that’s what we end up with, the demand for the high home/condo prices and apartment rents is going to vanish, too. We’re not Newton or Wellesley or the Boston waterfront: never have been, never will be and when the bubble bursts again, they’ll decline a bit, as they did over the past five years during the recession, but we’ll tank because the underlying values of community, good schools, safe, clean, and well-maintained streets, a viable infrastructure, and stable families with a long-term stake in the city aren’t the “vision” of the mayor. Instead he concentrates on the trendy – like back-in parking – and btw, Al Capone has lost my business, sadly too – he runs one of the greatest food stores in town – because I’ve almost been killed twice by drivers who won’t stop as you try to enter those spaces on Bow Street. And again, that was supposed to be “an experiment.” When will the experiment end and sanity return? My guess? Never. Another lie told because “it’s good for us.”

    It’s fine (and cleansing for the soul) to detail what’s going wrong in a city I love but writing letters to the local paper isn’t going to change the way things are run in Somerville. It’s going to take new leadership, brought about either by something like the above-mentioned, long-rumored but never published expose of city government or by organizing and electing a new mayor, one dedicated to cutting the bloated city hall personnel budget he has padded with high-dollar MPA’s, cutting the obscene “raises for everyone” deal reached by the mayor and city council – let the cops and firemen wait for years for their’s but the Mayor’s and councilor’s went through in a walk, after the requisite multi-thousand dollar “study” – and doing something about the tax rate. Things look great now – business is coming back. But it’ll go away again because it always does and we’ll be in worse shape than ever before because of a “vision” I don’t share but for which we’ll all pay, and will continue to pay for in the decades to come.

  32. Marin says:

    Comments comparing Mayor to the Congressman?…one who doesn’t even know that we have Aldermen and not City Councilors…if you want to have proxies doing your bidding, perhaps they should have a Somerville manual.

  33. Foss Park Pool Shark says:

    I Agree with JConnelly, JMB, A Moore and especially Bostom. We Need new Leadership. We need To look beyond our existing elected officials who have never spoken up against the unnecessary radical changes this mayor has forced on us. I know several wards have challengers to ward aldermen and that Sean Fitzgerald and Mike Capuano Jr are looking at running citywide. We should support them and get them elected.

    We need more people to fight for sanity and not policies that are forced on us. both long term and new Villens are opposed to this and other things this mayor has touted.

    If anyone thinks this zoning commission is not going to be yes men for the mayor youre out of your minds.

  34. Lou Lou says:

    Foss Park Pool Shark–I love your name and I totally agree that we need fresh blood. Who is thinking of running? just Sean and Michael Capuano Jr? What about Todd Easton or Courtney O’Keefe? These are the kind of faces I want to see in city hall!!!

  35. Trivial says:

    OK, there is a lot said here that I am probably going to repeat. The biggest problem in the city now is the rubber stamp that the aldermen give the mayor…hands down. There are a couple that publicly question him but still say yes when it comes to it. For a mayor that is always screaming for accountability for everyone there is NONE for him. JMB is correct in that all mayor Joe cares about is getting his name in the press. Whenever there are this many negative comments on-line the mayor and his cronies run and hide and refuse to comment. I’ve challenged them in the past and have even asked specific questions but to no avail. They know they will get what the want because no one is keeping him in check. Go through each and every alderman (and school committee) and you’ll be able to match city employee that Joe hired for them – several are direct family members… joke.

    The latest example of how this city has completely lost it to their own arrogance is the traffic change at Powderhouse Blvd and Packard Ave. They change the pattern to a 4-way stop on a holiday weekend (??!!) and then on Easter Sunday morning as my elderly mother was driving to church they pull her over. Seriously, Easter Sunday??? The change and the police activity couldn’t wait a week or even this morning? Once again, this will be ignored…

  36. Winter Hill Barney says:

    What a sad predictable bunch of comments–from all of the usual suspects. The old vs. new Somerville rage sure doesn’t reflect my experience here. My street is full of great neighbors, some who have been here for fifty years, some for two. Owners and renters. Families with kids, retirees, and college students. We all take care of our properties and look out for each other. If some of you have problems getting along with the people around you, well, maybe it’s your own fault.

  37. Mark says:

    Hey Joe, I heard that Beacon Street wasn’t held up for funding, but to get the hotel deal signed that required the parking spaces for overnight and event guests. With the hotel approved, you then propose to remove the parking on Beacon it relies on. Slick move, Joe. Love your suits too.

  38. Brian says:

    Winter Hill Barney, I think most of the rants here are against the city, not against neighbors. Although, despite being very glad for you that you have great neighbors, we all know that isn’t always the case. It’s usually the ‘newbies’ who don’t pick up trash in front of their house, don’t put the barrel away after trash pick-up day, etc. Why? Because they don’t care about the community, they don’t plan to be here long enough to care. We need people, new or old, who care to become invested in the communtiy.

  39. Sam says:

    @Winter Hill Barney: It’s not old vs new Somerville rage at all. I’m not even 30 yet – I bike, walk and take transit far more than drive these days, and I think the design is terrible for the neighborhood for a whole slew of reasons, and not just “pahking.” There’s a big difference when you’re designing something for the perception of safety rather than the actual safety of cyclists…. I wrote about it in more detail here if you care to dive into the nitty gritty of this: http://www.somervillevoices.org/2013/02/24/uncategorized/the-beacon-street-cycle-track-false-promises-of-cycling-safety-and-a-burden-on-the-neighborhood/

    We’ve also requested better notification to abutters – several of our Beacon Street neighbors aren’t very tech savvy and would’ve really appreciated a nice letter in the mail or a robo-call about these meetings when they first started happening. If the city actually valued public feedback from the constituents most directly affected by the project they wouldn’t have ignored these simple requests for better notification about the meetings.

    The increase in volume of cyclists using Beacon Street today means that the existing street layout and bike lanes *are working* at attracting tons of new cyclists despite the poor surface conditions. Intersections where most of the accidents are happening could stand to be improved for everyone (cars, bikes, and pedestrians) but of course, those pain points haven’t been the focus – it’s all hub bub about why we must take parking away for cycle tracks.

    Beacon Street currently serves as living proof that you don’t *need* cycle tracks to get more people biking as a mainstream mode of transportation. Considering how much drama there is going on, people need to be reminded there has never been a cycling fatality on Beacon Street in Somerville. If there was, we’d definitely be hearing about how we *must* do something to prevent cycling deaths here just like some cycling advocates are doing with Comm Ave in Boston which was even just redone to provide better accommodations for cyclists. If accommodating cyclists was the real priority here, the city would’ve repaved the road several times over instead of letting hundreds of cyclists ride on it each day for years in its current state. But repaving roads isn’t as nice of a photo-op or tag line as the “first cycle track paid for with federal money.”

    We’re so lucky to have a large percentage of cyclists, walkers, and transit users compared to other municipalities in the commonwealth – especially given the nature of our commuter population. This is already an incredibly walkable, bikeable, and transit friendly city because it was mostly built out before the age of the automobile.

    Fix the utilities and the intersections. Repave the road. Give us some new sidewalk and crosswalks. Paint the bike lanes. Plant some new trees where you can. There’s only so much space to work with and so much money budgeted for the project (construction costs are over $7 million, it’s budgeted for $4.5 – no answers from OSPCD on cost break down on doing a cycle track vs not doing a cycle track). The more Somerville spends state and federal money by going overboard on these local road rebuilding projects, the less there is for other towns who need their own “Beacon Streets” fixed in places where people can’t get around without cars. I’d certainly love to see more towns put in bike lanes and sidewalks where there are none. Maybe fix up one of those structurally unsound bridges too while they’re at it…

    There’s a pretty major state and national transportation budget crisis going on, in case you haven’t been paying attention. We shouldn’t be going millions of dollars over budget for something that’s not only poorly designed and unsafe, but something that we don’t actually *need* and makes the neighborhood unhappy.

    This should be pretty simple and straightforward project and now it’s a big nutty circus. Can any of you humor me and give me a sanity check over here?

  40. Barry the Pig says:

    I bike as well…. Perhaps a couple of months per year, when the weather is nice. For most of us, biking is not a realistic commuting option. Even if you have to go to MIT from Somerville. It’s just not feasible on most days of the year.

  41. A.Moore says:

    Sam, the Beacon Street one I had thought from the start they could have used to extra money left over to do over more bad roads if they just did it over furgally and see how it goes in these tough times with a broke government. Plus having been here over 60 years it seems like they no sooner get it redone then they start digging ti up again. LIke they don’t know next year they have this other work to do. But maybe being government they make them spend money in a certain way. The big problem of safety with bikers is idiot bikers and idiot drivers, if we could solve that there would not be a problem.

  42. Bostom says:

    Marin: You are entirely correct – my mistake, they are “Aldermen” not City Councilors. I’ve had a cold – too much Nyquil?

    Sam: Better written, better focused, more informative than anything I’ve seen here on the topic. My hat’s off to you.

    W.H. Barney: What problems we have in my neighborhood can be blamed squarely on absentee landlords whose tenants – here for a year or two – have no respect for their neighbors and neighborhood, on dog owners walking through (if they lived here they wouldn’t be doing it) and on an inspectional department that has a hit or miss attitude about enforcement. It’s better than it was but they still have a way to go.

    I’ve lived here for 33 years, no doubt still making me a Barney, I guess, but I can’t tell you how many great neighbors and friends we’ve made here, people who look after each other’s places when they’re on vacation, call each other at work when we see something suspicious, have keys for each other’s home, take packages from UPS to keep ‘em from getting ripped off, etc., etc. etc.

  43. j. connelly says:

    I noticed in Arlington where the bikepath crosses Mill St the signage has small blinking yellow lights to alert auto traffic there is a BIKE crossing there…. however it LACKS flashing RED LIGHTS facing both ways towards each side of the BIKE PATH telling the bikers TO STOP instead of sailing right out into traffic. Thus an enhancement for BIKERS to violate RULES of the ROAD. This is what is GROSSLY WRONG with the CURRENT BICYCLE LAWS IN MASS. THERE IN NOTHING TO ENFORCE THE BIKES TO OBEY THE LAW, JUST VEHICLES THUS THE LAW IS FLAWED AND THE LEGISLATURE & INSURANCE INDUSTRY NEEDS TO ADDRESS IT NOW.

  44. Mark says:

    Sam, The best example I have of how people need to feel safe than actually be safe is air transit. Air transit is extraordinarily safe, yet many people still greatly fear flying. The airline industry has been battling such irrational behavior for decades. Bump outs, bike lanes, and bike tracks have no safety value, only perceived value at sometimes significant cost.

  45. A. Moore says:

    W.H. Barney, I think you are right about new versus old in a way. I hate seeing my neighborhood change from the people that were here that were friendly and nice. But the new ones we have moving in here in Winter Hill really have been fine so far. Outside of the house behind me that had about 25 people living there and a group home which they couldn’t control it has not been bad. I try to make the first move and say hello, some ignore you some say hi. The couple that moved in just a short while ago the wife goes out like some of us and cleans up the street outside her house. My wife goes out every morning before work and picks up the litter and if she rushes and does not get to it the other neighbor comes over and cleans up. So in that sense I have no problems and get along. Sometimes the lady next door to me makes bread and sends some over to myself and my parents. I do the same when I make some. I do some of the neighbors sidewalks with my snowthrower. If I am out working and it snows before I come home my sidewalk is shoveled. I can’t say it is as nice as years ago we used to have cookouts together, all pack in cars and go to the beach and stuff like that. But it’s not bad here on my street so far. I am not crazy about the city adding a ton of new apartments as I would have liked more business but that’s just my personal non expert opinion.

  46. j.connolly,

    Along the Minuteman, though, there are Stop signs facing the path alerting cyclists. Also, the PDF indicates that bicycles are vehicles too: http://bit.ly/aVEokA

    Other than my point above, I do agree with you that there needs to be more enforcement in order to make the roads safer for everyone.

  47. Mark says:

    j.connelly, The new flashing lights in Arlington where the bike path crosses Mill Street DOES have red lights for the bike path. They are just up about 12 feet high where nobody can see them, not just you. Its probably some regulation so pedestrians or a truck doesn’t hit them, or to reduce vandalism by bikers who don’t want to stop. The other problem is that after the radar signal is tripped to flash the lights, they continue for 30 seconds, long after the rider has crossed. This causes drivers to ignore the lights, defeating the whole purpose.

  48. Villenous says:

    So some folks don’t want their taxes to go up so they don’t want the city to fix up Beacon St. in order to make it a more attractive and successful place to do business (because right now it’s a bit of a wasteland). People, the ONLY way we’re going to get a break on our residential taxes is if the commercial tax base grows. No matter the value of your home, we still live in a Prop 2 1/2 world. Until we grow that commercial tax base our taxes are going up. Ugly up the city all you want, it won’t save you a dime.

    I like the way the city looks in the places where it’s been fixed up. I like the new parks. I like that the squares are generally doing better than downtown anywhere else in the U.S.A. Beacon St. looks grubby. Hit it with a hammer.

  49. MarketMan says:

    Bostom: Delayed response to your 3/31 response to me. Yes, I get your concern. I would appreciate a balance. Sometimes I like what Davis offers, sometimes I like what Ball Square offers (paint store, etc). The thing is, how do you continue to keep the small “useful” businesses in business as rents begin to rise? Many of the small businesses (insurance companies, hardware stores, small markets) have a hard time competing with the large chain stores on prices and selection. So people may go to them for convenience, but when they have much to buy or want to save, they are likely going to go farther to the bigger stores. Because of that, the small stores are often on the verge of going out of business… and when they do, a new wave of businesses come to fill the void (hopefully they do)… but often those businesses are quite different in what product/services they offer.

    From a government policy perspective, how would you suggest we change that? How do we properly maintain a balance of diverse businesses in our main squares when the rent prices are increasing faster than inflation? (They aren’t now necessarily, but they have in the past)

  50. MarketMan says:

    Foss Park Pool Shark: Mike Capuano Jr??!! I think you are just looking for friendly faces that you think have your best interest (and the city’s best interest) in mind. A great leader is somebody more than just a friendly face.

  51. amen says:

    A.Moore & others—possibly the most important point is that the city does NOT have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. we’re spending a fortune on worldwide trips to alleged ‘sister’ cities, weekend festivals, it’s all been covered here. When my family takes a financial hit, we sit down and decide where we cut back. The city can’t keep spending like drunken sailors and then say we have a revenue problem that gets passed to old folks like me.

  52. j. connelly says:

    Well do not worry with the new impending tax increases from the “Bacon Hill Gang” I am sure that some of the hundreds of million$ ripped off will be spent on over/underpasses for either bikes/cars to address these type of issues, while bridges collapse, etc. You know the way the political braintrust works in MA.
    Also refrain from eating any gaseous foods as next they will be taxing farts, [they refuse to enforce laws on bike]but you can bet there will be positions created for Air Quality Police. Then you will be hit with a tax on the number of children you have if you make under $100K/year.

  53. A. Moore says:

    amen says: That would be just using plain old common sense. They could have done so much more here by spending more wisely. It’s just maybe too simple for them to understand.

    MarketMan says: Most of the ones that stay and survive own their property. The only other way to lower the rent on small stores is if there are a lot of empty stores then the real estate has to lower the prices. A long time friend that had a store in a group of stores tires to get all the other stores together and buy the building so this would not be a problem in the future, however this never happened and would no one of the only ways outside of a place that gets high traffic. There is a shift in this country to mom and pop stores and hopefully it will catch on more. More of my customers are aking me where they can go to small businesses instead of the chains even at a higher price, but not too much higher. I use small places as much as I can myself having a small business I want to aupport them. We need to get back to working to help small businesses back into Somerville by making many things easier for them to do so. The city over the last 20 years has not been business friendly which does not help much either. I would suggest a trial period where they can give them some leeway because it is hard unless one has a lot of money to start up these days. Many would earn a better living by working for someone other than themselves. Been there, done that. And the zoning board could help by not taking a year for some types of changes so people look to other cities where you can get started without that hassle like here. Businesmen have often called Cambridge the republic of Combridge and now we are getting known that way here in Somerville. I personally would like to see the squares like they were in the 50 to 60 period, but don’t think that will happen and I hope I am wrong on that.

  54. Bostom says:

    MarketMan: I agree that there are no easy fixes, but it seems two competing objectives are at work here, at least in the short term. You can’t get to the big box stores with the lower prices (more on that below) without a car, but we’re told by il Duce that to some degree, at least, he wants to make the ‘ville a place you don’t need a car. You can’t have it both ways. ZipCar’s a partial answer, but not the whole answer.

    To the extent I can even contemplate your question, off the top of my head I’d say first get some ideas (no “visions,” please, but some framework) supported by the stakeholders, not something imposed from on high, by figuring out what you want, then building incentives to attract what you want (say, small retail businesses) whether through taxation, zoning, permitting and the like, and likewise, by dis-incentivizing more of what you’ve got too much of. Yup, it means somebody has to play God to some degree, deciding what opens and what doesn’t, who does and who doesn’t get a liquor license, etc. but that already happens to some extent, so it’s not like it’s the dreaded portal to seizing property owner’s rights. Essentially, it’s zoning. If they can keep Ocean State Job Lots and the Olive Garden out of a long-empty supermarket space that now seems to function as a crack-dealer meeting spot (decisions I’m not entirely happy about, btw,), they can direct development to at least some degree in Davis Square.

    I do think that in time – sooner than anyone imagines now – big box retail; the Sam’s Clubs and the Costcos and the Best Buys and the Targets only accessible by car – are finished, at least in the way we now know them. The internet is killing them. I’ve even read of stores that now charge a “browsing fee” (refundable if you buy) because so many people come in to check out an item to see if they like it and then go order it from Amazon.com or another online retailer.

    Whether or not that trend leads to a revival of smaller businesses in a place like Davis, I don’t know. What do you do when lots of businesses that once needed retail space no longer require it? Amazon, for instance, has vastly altered the book business, but niche bookstores have survived. Whether or not the niche stores survive the Kindle revolution, again, who knows? The music business has likewise been transformed – you don’t need brick and mortar stores to sell downloads – but in the end, just as I decry the loss of existing small businesses, I don’t see much of a future for a Davis Square that’s got nothing more than one or two bodegas, a high-end gym, a liquor store, the Somerville Theatre and the CVS, 25 ATM machines, 100 bars and restaurants and not enough parking. In the end it’ll collapse of its own weight: either no longer trendy enough or no longer affordable for patrons or businessowners.

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