City of Somerville holds unprecedented open and transparent process to select four public members for the committee that guides Community Preservation Act
An unprecedented open and transparent process has yielded four appointees for the public positions on the newly formed Community Preservation Committee, and Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone has submitted all four appointments to the Board of Aldermen for final approval.
The typical process used in other Massachusetts towns and cities that have adopted the Community Preservation Act (CPA) has the executive or legislative body unilaterally nominate the public-member appointees for their Community Preservation Committee, which is tasked with evaluating needs in open space and outdoor recreation, affordable housing, and historic preservation, and making recommendations on how CPA revenues should be spent. The act, which Somerville voters overwhelmingly approved adopting in November 2012, will raise an estimated $1.5 million in funding annually via a property tax surcharge and state matching funds.
The City of Somerville instead held an open process led by a Planning Team consisting of three members of the Committee for a Stronger Somerville, the grassroots coalition that campaigned for passage of the CPA, and three City employees with area expertise. Each candidate submitted along with their application a cover letter answering three questions, a resume, two references and a 150-word summary of their qualifications, which was posted to the City’s website for public review and comment.
Incorporating public feedback into its review, the Planning Team narrowed down the initial tremendous response of 35 applicants to 11 finalists. Following an interview with each finalist, the Team checked the references of their preferred candidates before selecting four finalists that together represent a depth and breadth of knowledge in the areas covered by the CPA. The names of the selected members were then provided to Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone, who will submit them to the Board of Aldermen on Thursday, Nov. 14 where they will be referred to the Confirmation of Appointments Committee (meeting not yet scheduled). If moved forward by that committee, the appointments will go before the full Board for final approval at its meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 26.
The four appointees are (in order of length of term):
- Uma Murugan (3-year term): Director of Projects and Fund Development for Urban Strategies, Inc., developing plans integrating human services with mixed-income housing, schools, community improvements and neighborhood services. Previously Chief Program Officer at Employment Connection, Inc. and Architect with Proencon Engineering Services in Chennai, India. Masters degree in social and economic development. Participant in the Somerville Academy for Innovative Leadership (SAIL), member of SAIL Education subcommittee.
- Elizabeth Duclos-Orsello (2-year term): Director of American Studies program at Salem State University and scholar of American history and culture. Board member of the North Shore Community Development Coalition, Trustee at the House of the Seven Gables and Beverly Historical Society. Worked as Consulting Scholar for Old State House Museum and Nichols House Museum in Boston. Previously affiliated faculty at Center for Economic Development and Sustainability, Fulbright Scholar and Visiting Lecturer at L’Université du Luxembourg, Lecturer and Thesis Director at Harvard University Program in History and Literature, adjunct faculty at Boston University American and New England Studies Program.
- Ezra Glen (1-year term): Lecturer in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies & Planning. Served in City’s community development office under Mayors Mike Capuano, Dorothy Kelly-Gay and Curtatone, and as Director of Community Development for the City of Lawrence. Has worked as a consultant in over 25 cities and towns on land use, open space, affordable housing, and infrastructure planning (including drafting Somerville’s 2005 Open Space & Recreation Plan). Current board president of Somerville Community Corporation, former board member of Mystic River Watershed Association, Agassiz Cooperative Preschool, and Massachusetts Chapter of the American Planning Association.
- Courtney Koslow (1-year term): Development director at Beacon Communities, developing affordable housing. Previously worked for six years for the Somerville Community Corporation as Senior Project Manager and as Special Assistant for Policy at Massachusetts Housing Partnership. Served as member of Somerville Climate Action, City of Somerville Zoning Advisory Committee, City of Somerville Transportation Research Innovation and Policy Task Force, MassDOT Green Line Extension Design Working Group and City of Somerville Parking Solutions Task Force. Founder of Somerville Parking Advocacy and Reform Coalition.
“I am thrilled that this rigorous and thorough process that included public review and feedback has resulted in four outstanding candidates for the Committee Preservation Committee, and I’m pleased to present them to the Board of Aldermen for further review and approval,” said Mayor Curtatone. “We have such a great diversity of expertise among our residents and we’re using that strength to guide CPA funds toward the best possible uses, making our city more affordable, expanding our open space and outdoor recreation, and preserving the deep history of our community.”
The four appointees, if approved by the Board of Aldermen, will join the committee that also includes ex officio members Michael Capuano of the Planning Board; Michael Fager of the Conservation Commission; Dick Bauer of the Historic Preservation Commission; City Parks and Open Space Director Arn Franzen; and Paul Mackey of the Somerville Housing Authority. Committee members serve three-year terms, but initial appointments to the committee have been staggered.
The Planning Team that reviewed the applications for the committee consisted of: Meridith Levy, Deputy Director, Somerville Community Corporation; Chris Mancini, Executive Director, Groundworks Somerville; Ellen Shachter, Senior Attorney, Greater Boston Legal Services; Candace Cooper, Assistant Director of Personnel, City of Somerville; Dana LeWinter, Director of Housing, City of Somerville; and Hayes Morrison, Director of Transportation & Infrastructure, City of Somerville.
To find out more about the CPA and Community Preservation Committee, please visit the following websites: