I love this job

On January 8, 2014, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

mayor_webBy Joseph A. Curtatone

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

The following is the beginning of the mayor’s inaugural address that was delivered at the inauguration ceremony on Monday, January 6, 2014. The full text is available here.

As I reflect upon the past decade, I think back to why I wanted to run for Mayor in the first place.

I love this city. My parents came from Italy and settled here seeking a better life for their family. They came to Somerville because they sought opportunity. They wanted to make their hopes and dreams a reality.

My neighborhood was filled with similar stories. Families from Ireland, Greece and Portugal, we all came together here to pursue our dreams.

I remember neighbors leaning over their fences to share their prized tomatoes or freshly grown basil. I remember walking down the street in my neighborhood and hearing different languages from all over the world.

I remember carrying my hockey gear in a bag down the street with my friends and kids playing ball in the street, while parents chatted on their porches. Somewhere, you could hear someone playing music.

I saw a city filled with hard working, optimistic, proud and creative people. I saw the potential in my family, my neighbors and my friends. I took in our diversity, all the tastes, smells, and sounds from neighborhood shops and squares, and I knew that here – here – we had something uniquely ours.

I took pride in being from Somerville. I knew that by working together, the potential within all of us – my family, my friends and my neighbors – could combine to create something bigger, better and brighter.

My story is your story – it’s Somerville’s story. We’ve all written our own chapters of that story, but they’re all part of the larger narrative that is Somerville.

It’s Alex Whitmore’s story. Inspired by his first bite of stone ground chocolate in Mexico, he came to Somerville and started his own chocolate factory – Taza Chocolate, lauded in the gourmet world.

It’s Silvia de la Soto’s story. She immigrated here from Peru, built up her credit while living in Somerville’s affordable housing, and used that credit to get a small business loan. And in the face of a tough economy, she decided to pursue her dream. Now she’s part of Somerville’s thriving restaurant scene as the owner of A-Gua-cate Verde.

It’s Tom Bent’s story. Born and raised here, Tom graduated from Somerville High School, earned a vocational degree and then set up shop in his hometown. Now he’s not only the successful owner of Bent Electrical, which offers great jobs in a union shop, he gives his time and passion here in the city and elsewhere.

It’s Gui Cavalcanti and Jenn Martinez’s story. Looking to pursue their passions of building robots and creating costumes, but lacking the space to pursue their dreams, Gui and Jenn saw the vibrant, creative and diverse community of Somerville as the perfect home for Artisan’s Asylum, a place where they and anybody could pursue their craft in an inspiring and supportive environment.

These are just a few of the many individual success stories that together form the narrative that is Somerville. These are stories of creativity, resourcefulness and dogged persistence.

I love being Mayor because I see these stories play out every day. I get to tap into this wonderful marketplace of ideas and rely on the collective depth and wisdom of this great community.

They say that leadership can be a lonely experience, but my experience as Mayor of this great city has taught me that I’m never alone.

When I fought for the Green Line, Orange Line, or the Community Path extension, I wasn’t alone – I had STEP, Mystic View, the Friends of the Community Path and scores of others beside me.

When I advocated for the Trust Act, Centro Presente was on the State House steps with me.

When I worked to help pass the Community Preservation Act my partners were many – the Somerville Community Corporation, Historic Somerville, Groundwork Somerville, Invest in Somerville and countless community leaders.

I am never alone when it comes to providing a voice for the aspirations and ambitions of this community – I can always count on you. That is why I love this job.

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44 Responses to “I love this job”

  1. gloria says:

    i also grew up in somerville during the 50s 60s and 70s i think growing up there was great everyone knew each other no crime never had to lock your doors walk the streets any time day or night life was so easy the kids today dont have it so easy so mr mayor keep up the good work so somerville could be good place to live like back in the day

  2. No periods says:

    Gloria apparently you left your punctuation behind also.

  3. Joyce A McCann says:

    Yes I too love this city. I, too, grew up here during the 60’s and 70’s. Our neighborhood was filled with very large families, everyone knew everyone it was a true neighborhood. Families came to Somerville to settle down here and stay.

    Not any more and definitely not in this neighborhood around Davis Square. Yes it’s hip and cool when your young and single and you buy your first condo and your living the city life. What I’ve seen over the last 20 years is that they grow up and get married and then when they have their kids they realize they need more space and that real estate is way too expensive here and the schools are not up to their standards and they leave. They leave for Newton, Brookline, Arlington, Cambridge and anywhere else but here. We have huge single family homes, with 5 bedrooms, with one adult living in the whole house. Not families.

    Yes, on paper or in city coffers this all seems like progress, but progress toward what exactly.

    On another note, in order to have a great city it needs to have a police department that does not lie.

  4. Johnnie Jazz says:

    There are no families and children left in this city – except for east Somerville. And those families are mostly not legal here. It’s the new Somerville – a tale of two cities. Dickens would be proud.

  5. Ron Newman says:

    If you really think there are no children in West Somerville, I suggest you take a walk over to Lexington Park or Hodgkins Park.

  6. Boston Kate says:

    Johnnie – no families, no children? The schools are full of kids, and they don’t live alone, so what are you talking about?

  7. Frankly says:

    Jonnie, Joyce – take a walk around my neighborhood. Tons of kids around Union Square, seems like every house that comes on the market is snapped up by a young family. Yes, seems like many also leave when kids get older. What are you doing to improve the schools and make it a more welcoming place for them? Great article, we’re lucky to have Joe as the Mayor … his ambition is one of the reasons we’ve chosen to raise our kids here.

  8. Somerbreeze says:

    @Frankly – Tons of kids around Union Square?

    Working class kids?

    Living in Union Square, or passing through Union Square?

  9. Johnnie Jazz says:

    Ron, when I said kids — I didn’t mean preschoolers and I wasn’t speaking in absolute terms. I bet you didn’t grow up around here because if you did you would realize that about 30 to 40% of the people on any given street had kids that you went to school with. You would hop a fence or two and be able to hang out with friends or play street hockey and have 10 to 15 kids in no time. Every day.

    On these same streets now and the next 2 neighboring streets it is ONE family has kids that would fit that description. I actually think it may even be ONE family *has* kids at all. Maybe a lot of people do have kids and leave them tied up to a tree or locked in the basement. I don’t think so though.

    I think as someone else said this city is now a city where young couples may have a child and then they make damn sure they get the heck out before that kid goes to school. Why is that? I know why, but let’s see if you and the mayor do.

    Boston Kate as I said East Somerville has families – they’re just mostly NOT legal here. No knock against them, but I think the # of students at SHS where English is a second language and not spoken at home now is at 68%. Record high. Probably not good for their job prospects nor the city long-term. But hey – keep pushing the yuppies in at the sake of the middle class as it helps my home values and the rents I collect. Seriously my wallet is loving this, but long term for the city it can’t be good to have a city of haves and have-nots. Where the haves are not vested beyond their property value and as soon it’s time to raise a family here they’re gone.

    Joey “tickets” Curtatone is that you going by the name Frankly again!?!?

  10. ritepride says:

    The fire engine in Teele Sq responded to a call and while there found an illegal apartment in the basement and called for the building inspectors. How do these situations exist when we have Inspectional Services?

    The city spends too much time on development in an already overcrowded city. Zoning gets changed for the benefit of the developers to the detriment of the safety of the citizens. Buildings are being placed closer together to benefit the developers yet if a citizen who lived here for many years wanted to do the same thing the request would be denied citing fire safety reasons. BOA President Bill White’s inaugural address was correct and properly put his concerns for the residents of this city first and slow down on the rush for development by the mayor.

    School buildings lasted for decades, no children were harmed or fell ill due to anything from the schools. Then the yuppies moved in and we had to have new schools built. Then when student enrollment reduced, (the yuppies all moved out), instead of renting school building space out to keep the buildings in use like other communities did, Somerville tore the buildings down or gave them away to tax-exempt organizations, (Tufts [Western Jr High, Powderhouse Community School], Boys/Girls Club). Then when the Boys/Girls club no longer needed the building (Pope School). Instead of the building reverting back to the city, the Boys/Girls Club made a profit by selling the Pope School property.

    Clarendon Hills Apartment Complex, sweetheart deal, 20 years no taxes paid on the properties. The 19th year the NY based owner sold the complex off just before they would have to pay taxes. Somerville historically has had the bad reputation of the envelope puhleez benefitting some politicians and their friends….costing the taxpayers millions of lost revenue that the taxpayers ended up paying for.

  11. Pixie Pocahontas says:

    Why did a school committee member state there are only 17% of school children enrolled, then later tried to make a desperate attempt to correct the statement to “increasing amount of young families coming to the city”. In your dreams. It’s always the chosen ones who get to profess such outlandish claims with their master in the audience.

    I also grew up here in 60’s, different time. The newcomers use our properties as temporary investment vehicles, few remain as long term committed taxpayers. They are the house flipping champions of the world.

    The public has been fed a fairy tale by prince toad himself.

  12. my street says:

    I’m the only old timer on my street. I don’t have a degree in urban planning, but here are my observations. Condos change hands constantly, my neighborhood is now transient. I don’t even know people’s names anymore. Every family leaves when your children get to school age. Only one family stayed and I was thrilled—I find they’re sending kids to a private school. Check the stats on this. Age 4, the family moves. They arrive all involved in the festivals, parties, celebrations. They love us. Till age 4….
    So the whole community is changed to address what these people want, and they’re just passing through. Those of us who are invested and planning to stay are ignored and overwhelmed.

  13. illegal apt. says:

    ritepride–how do you expect inspect. services to know about illegal apartments? they can’t just go into peoples homes and look around. you have to wait till something happens or someone makes a phone call. I don’t want the city going around entering people’s homes. Do You?

  14. Jackie Velos says:

    Who needs kids? Too many people already on this earth. Come one, folks…

  15. ritepride says:

    ["illegl apt."] Hey they illegally walk on to your property [trespassing] into your backyards to check on whether or not you have covers on your barrels.
    In this Ordinance happy city they should make it mandatory everytime an apartment goes up for rent/lease that Inspectional Services/Fire Inspection check them out, (naturally in this city) for a fee.

  16. Freebie says:

    While there may not be as many kids here as in the 80s, lets look at the facts. Somerville have more children per square mile than any other city in Massachusetts. Often 2-3x the number you find in the suburbs. We are raising a family here, and we find that the absolute number of kids on any given block is actually quite high. And, yes, all ages, and yes, in West Somerville.

  17. Freebie says:

    Lexington
    square miles:16.4
    Residents under 14: 6649
    per square mile: 405

    Newton
    square miles:18
    Residents under 14: 14682
    per square mile: 816

    Arlington
    square miles: 5.5
    Residents under 14: 6711
    per square mile: 1220

    Cambridge
    square miles: 6.4
    Residents under 14: 11391
    per square mile: 1780

    Boston:
    square miles: 48.4
    Residents under 14:98320
    per square mile: 2031

    Somerville:
    square miles: 4.1
    Residents under 14: 9671
    per square mile: 2359

  18. Matt C says:

    Freebie how are we supposed to make an emotional argument when you present data.

  19. freedomforthepeople says:

    Freebie you can make the numbers look good but you are decieving the people because of the size of the city.I would hope the communication staff of the city would stop putting propagander statements as comments or you elitest political kiss ass please really look at all the figures first .I do know that this city has regressed back to the days of Vincent Pero and his chief of staff Stan Koty there is more stealing going on it would blind you if you people out there actually opened your eyes .

  20. ritepride says:

    ” we find that the absolute number of kids on any given block is actually quite high. And, yes, all ages, and yes, in West Somerville. ” So why do the residents allow city officials to give away existing school buildings to tax exempt Tufts, when in fact we should be taking those buildings back, especially in West Somerville?

    The mayor’s needless plan to move the library, city hall to Union Square and then there will be some con game to close the high school so joe can give the land on the hill to his developer buddies to build high rise bldgs.

  21. Johnnie Jazz says:

    Freebie, that’s funny, but you do realize that “per square mile” we’re going to have more than ANY city in the state. Lexington has ~30K people and 6700 kids under 14, Newton would be the closest city to Somerville in terms of population and they have ~2x the # of kids under 14.

    We don’t have a lot of kids in this city any more. Not only is that my observation – your #s proved it. Thanks.

  22. got that right says:

    J Jazz gets it right. thanks for doing that math for me. and let’s not forget the elephant in the room — overwhelming numbers of those youth we have are non-English speaking and/or illegal immigrants and students with disabilities. This is what impacts our precious MCAS scores. We have a ridiculous % of special ed, and non-English speaking. I don’t have a problem with that, but lets be real about the costs and the impact. Newer families here want high MCAS scores and they go where they can get that. If you have the two populations we have in huge numbers, you can’t have good MCAS scores.

  23. Pixie Pocahontas says:

    Tonight: 6:30 p.m.
    TAB

    TAB Building
    (Formerly Western Junior High School, Holland Street)

    Rep from Tufts, city planning office and residents if ward 7.
    To discuss future project of PHCS
    Please come and voice your concerns

  24. CHAOS says:

    LOTS OF KIDS IN WEST SOMERVILLE?? BULL****. i’ve lived in Somerville my whole life, in West Somerville for 33 years and there are maybe two kids on my street and most of the surrounding area. I walk the neighborhoods with my grandchild all of the time. I think that most of the children living in West Somerville live in the Clarendon Hill Towers. There are absolutely NO CHILDREN playing in the streets, if fact, it is eerily quiet and seeing someone while strolling the neighborhood is very RARE!
    It is important to be truthful with the people of Somerville who have been here for such a long time. After all, we know the truth already!

  25. Freebie says:

    I realize what the numbers mean. Of course we have the most dense city in New England so we have more kids per square mile. But that is my point – my kids can walk to the homes of more than twice as many other kids as the kids in Newton. As a family here it certainly does NOT feel like there are no kids. Aston said go to some of the playgrounds and they are packed. Yes as a percentage of households we have fewer with kids, so what? We visit friends in Wellesley Newton and Weston frequently and their kids have maybe one friend they can visit without having to drive. My kids have more than 6.

    Secondly, comparing the count of kids you see playing the the street to what you saw in the 80s – you see far fewer in EVERY town because there are 2x the number of cars on the road both here and in the suburbs.

    btw kids in the west Somerville elementary schools that are non low income actually score higher on MCAS than the Weston and Newton kids. I see no reason to move.

  26. Johnnie Jazz says:

    Freebie, I think it’s great that you’re in West Somerville and keeping your kids in the schools here. And taking such pride. Our point is that there were a lot more of you years ago and we wish there were more now. There isn’t.

    There isn’t more of you because the politics in the city and shortsightedness has created an atmosphere where real estate prices don’t match the quality most people want in their schools, so they leave. Or – a lot of the younger couples that have bought condos/houses here always knew they were bailing when they were going to have kids and are just here for the whole little bohemian fantast they have of city living.

    Either case – political stupidity or transients making a quick buck – it isn’t healthy for the city to lose the middle class, but that’s exactly what’s happened here. There are the wealthy West Somerville and the poor in East Somerville and the Clarendon Hill towers/North street projects. Not a good mix long-term for any city.

    But I think most here applaud your decision to stay and take pride in the school system. We just need more of you back and the mayor is doing nothing to foster that happening. Actually his development deals and policies are doing the opposite.

  27. Freebie says:

    CHAOS,

    There are fewer kids than back then, no one is disputing that. However, statistically if you go to Arlington or Newton, you will see even fewer kids if you walk the same distance. Another thing at play here is that urban kids probably congregate at parks and playgrounds more because the yards are smaller. Kids just don’t play in the streets as much anymore due to traffic, it’s true here and in the suburbs too. Another trend, unfortunately, is kids staying inside too much in an era of video games. We have friends in the burbs with large yards that the kids barely use. But look at the data for just 02144 (porter/Davis/teele area) – there are 1.1 square miles with 3682 children, that is 3347 kids per square mile – in WEST Somerville. Now that number must have been astronomical 30 years ago but it’s still very very high.

  28. ritepride says:

    “CHAOS” I, having lived here in West Somerville for 64 years, remember when there were many kids living in West Somerville. In the summers the Recreation Dept. had staffers at all the local school yards and parks running daily activities for the neighborhood kids and those locations were packed with kids. Some of the neighborhoods had cookouts. Somerfest, originally had one group performing in a neighborhood each night had to expand to having 2 groups performing in 2 different neighborhoods each night.

    “Freebie” you are correct. Kids no longer play in the streets because of all of the non resident commuters using Somerville streets as shortcuts to commute through coming and going from Boston and Cambridge each day. I think it is more like 5x the number of cars today verses earlier years. The Police Dept. did a report on motor vehicle crashes in the city and found that close to 90% of the accidents, the cars involved were from other cities commuting through Somerville, [no Somerville residents involved]. This has an effect on residents auto insurance rates.

  29. wth says:

    The Somerville High student body now stands at about 1200 students. That student body encompasses 4 grades and includes the trade school. In years past, even without the trade school and before 9th grade was added, one class alone would include about 600 people.

  30. changes says:

    yes, we had 2 Jr. Highs, High School and Trade School filled. Consider the schools that are gone – Morse, Carr, Proctor, Edgerly, can’t name them all. They were all filled. Parks were filled all summer. There’s a definite difference in playing on the streets. Traffic is one, Crime is another. The parks have become drug stores. Abductions are rare, but that won’t help when it’s your kid. Nothing happens to dealers and pedophiles. Police are sometimes helpless in this. We lose an alarming number of youth to drugs, and many people keep their kids out of the parks for that reason. Video games are a big part, but there’s a reason parents tolerate that instead of being outside unsupervised.
    you can’t argue with a long-standing fact: overwhelmingly when your child reaches school age, you move.

  31. Pixie Pocahontas says:

    As one parent said to another, “See you in Lexington in 10 years”, after buying a home, flipping it for a handsome down payment in the burbs. And we want to know why our housing and rents are too high? There’s your answer. This comment was shared by a young mother who attended the first PHSC meeting, has toddlers and was told by a couple exiting our city with school ready children. Proof is in the people you talk to, not City Hall rhetoric.

  32. Frankly says:

    JohnnieJazz,
    I don’t think most of the families who leave Somerville do so because of local politics. Rather, many of the mayors efforts to make the city more livable actually attract families – things like bike lanes, street festivals, and the walkable neighborhoods are part of the reason I love raising my family here. Most of the families who live around me feel the same. The quality of the schools is more a reflection of our community than of city policy – good schools result from engaged, caring residents. While we certainly have many, there are still too many who are content to sit back and expect city hall to educate their kids. Yes, there are also many people who live here and who won’t end up raising their families here, and that’s fine – they contribute to the community in other ways, and that diversity also makes this a great place to live. Everyone commenting about people leaving Somerville because of the schools should also comment on what they are doing to make the schools better and more attractive for these families to remain in, not just blame city hall.

  33. Freebie says:

    Lets recap here:

    Somerville, even West Somerville, has a huge density of children. Stats for 02144: 3682 children packed into only 1.1 square miles
    http://www.city-data.com/zips/02144.html

    West Somerville elementary school students in the non-low income group score as high or higher than Lexington Wellesley and Brookline kids
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1OSw6GTFTRMMktxTUlkNk1aSzg/edit?usp=sharing

    So what are you complaining about?

  34. changes says:

    Frankly & Freebie continue to ignore the major reason for white flight from our schools. Throw all the stats you want, you’re leaving out the important one. Yes we have thousands of children. The vast majority are non-English speaking or special education students or both. Parent Involvement? In schools where these are the majority of students, there’s no parent involvement. The Parents don’t speak English. As pointed out above, these are the 2 things that drive scores down. Open your eyes, and see what the big issue is. It’s not politically correct to point it out, but it’s true.

  35. ritepride says:

    Remember when they’d hang you for stealing someone’s horse ($400.00)
    Now they steal your $25k automobile and the judge tells them to go back to work. Got my tax bill that the mayor LIED and said they were lowered, He didn’t tell you they re-assessed your home and your taxes actually went up. Mine went up $500. A gain for the Curtatone Regime a loss for me and the horse salesman.

  36. Freebie says:

    changes,

    There is parent involvement, but not in all of the schools and definitely not among all of the student. As I posted in the link above, look at how well the non-low income kids in West Somerville do on MCAS. Those are kids from involved parents, no question, and they are thriving. The non-low income 3rd graders are among the top 2% on math scores in the state.

  37. matt says:

    Interesting thread about education and one of the big reasons why families sometimes choose to leave Somerville. @frankly: I’m with you – Somerville has a very different mix of people living in it today than it did 40 years ago who have come to somerville for different reasons. All the variety of people add to the city making it the dynamic place that it is. @Changes put his/her finger on the biggest issue within the schools. Parents. The city can only do so much, or should be expected to do so much. It is up to parents and families of children to raise their children, helping them grow into the type of people they aspire to be themselves. That act used to be a big part of the american dream (or the american dream that I grew up with.

    I think we will see a change over the next few years where more families stay in the city, partly because the school system will improve (when our taxes are going up like they do they better!) but more because parents will opt for private schools as they become more affordable relative to the cost of housing in the city.

  38. The Captain says:

    I am sure that the Mayor’s parents came here legally. Too bad that he,Deval, and the other people like him bend over backwards for the illegals(excuse me-I meant to say “undocumented).

  39. AJ says:

    I have two kids, 8 and 6, at the Argenziano school and lots of friends with children in our neighborhood and all around town. There are kids everywhere! Check out the soccer fields in the spring and fall to get an idea of what this city will be like in 10 years or so. Nobody talks about leaving, not the folks that have been here since they were kids nor the newcomers. Somerville is a great place to raise a family.

  40. Joyce A McCann says:

    Smoke and mirrors everybody!! MCAS scores and all numbers can and are constantly manipulated to make you believe something is true when in fact a lot of the times it is all lies. Look around, read the newspaper, they do it every day with the jobs report and with unemployment numbers. MCAS has ruined public education. It has taken the creativity out of teaching and sucked the life out of so many wonderful, great teachers, young and old, who truly loved what they do. The young talented teachers are getting burned out after 5 years if they last. MCAS is a whole other topic, I do not think that has anything to do with families not staying. My neighbors still own the two family next door. They moved to Winchester a couple of years ago so their kids could go to that high school. They plan on moving back when the kids graduate high school in a couple of years. What does that say? No numbers needed! My other neighbors are a 30 something couple who lived here for maybe 6 years, they own a condo (triple decker, no yard) they just had their second child. They still own the condo and bought a house in Arlington. Top floor same triple decker, 30 something couple, kept that condo and now live in Cambridge down the street. Are these people saying something? Yes they are!!! The numbers, all the numbers are lies.

  41. Joyce A McCann says:

    Somerville is getting used, again. Developers, city hall, transient residents and just plain old greed, New Somerville is kind of just like Old Somerville only it is a progressive corruption now instead of the old style of in your face corruption.

  42. Jack Porter says:

    Just sold my Somerville single family for 975K! Kids are grown up, I’m outta here, baby!

  43. Joyce A McCann says:

    I also have a good friend, born and raised here. When it came time for her son to go to high school she up and moved to Arlington (this was not easy for her financially) so that he could go to Minuteman Tech. She was determined that he not go up to SHS. There are a great many reasons why people leave Somerville, people are afraid to tell the truth because most of that truth would be politically incorrect.

  44. Freebie says:

    You guy obviously have not been to Flatbreads either, the place has more kids than any restaurant I have seen in my life. Every time we go we run into several other neighborhood families.

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