By Douglas Yu
As part of the community engagement process, the City of Somerville gave a quick review of the news and data of the city’s pressing issues, such as rodent control and Union Square development, at a recent Ward 3 ResiStat meeting.
Meghann Ackerman, Social Media and Community Engagement Specialist, said the meeting used data to guide policy and decisions that were made by the city.
“We’ve addressed issues that people asked about,” Ackerman said. “And we’re going to give you an overview of what’s going on in the city.”
Edward O’Donnell, Director of Economic Development for the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development, gave a blueprint of how Union Square is going to be developed under the master plan, which was determined the night after the ResiStat meeting.
Earlier this year, the city brought 10 master development proposals to the members of the Union Square Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC). The finalist will also work with the MBTA to improve public transportation, especially the new Union Square stop on the Green Line extension, which is planned to be completed in 2017.
“If you go to the city’s website, you can see master plans made by each team,” O’Donnell said. And he mentioned that in the last 24 hours, SRA (Somerville Redevelopment Authority) had recommended two master plans, one of which was created by Union Square Station Associates.
Washington Street station, along with Union Square station will be the first two new stops to be built on the Green Line extension.
When it comes to public safety information, Somerville Police Captain Stephen Carrabino, who is in charge of the Wards 1 through 4, said that crime had dropped by 27 percent in the last year. And in Ward 3, in particular, crime had decreased by 29 percent.
One of the residents at the meeting raised a question about the how Somerville Police can better tackle the domestic violence issue.
“I’m not saying that we can’t do anything about domestic violence,” Carrabino said. “A lot of the times, it is not something that we don’t know about; we heard yelling and screaming, and we went to house and investigated.”
Carrabino also mentioned that Somerville has a Jail Diversion Program, a program that involves counselors to talk to victims of domestic violence. In addition, another resident, Victoria I, mentioned that Somerville has one of the best domestic violence agencies in New England, an organization called Respond.
“We’re trying. We can’t be everywhere, but we realized domestic violence is an issue in our neighborhood,” Carrabino said.
Mayor Joe Curtatone gave a summary of the city budget and expenditures. “The operating budget is $200 million, and we also have a separate water and sewer budget combined with enterprise funds of $25 million to $30 million.
In regards to the city’s infrastructure, Ackerman acknowledged that there are certain tools available to ensure that Somerville is safer.
“Recently, there was an act passed by the Board of Aldermen and signed by Mayor Curtatone called Complete Streets Ordinance,” said Ackerman. “It makes sure the roads in Somerville are safe for everyone who uses them, and that includes bicyclists and pedestrians.”
Roads in the community will also soon be customized depending on each neighborhood’s unique needs. “If there is a speed problem in parts of the neighborhood, some bump outs are added to slow the traffic down. So the Complete Streets Ordinance is very flexible and adaptable,” Ackerman said.
Before redesigning roads, the City of Somerville collects data and phoned-in complaints about potholes and other street problems from 311 Somerville and comes up with detailed plans to address the issues that have priority.
“We use data to identify which streets we need to put more work into,” Ackerman said. “So we try to be smarter about how to save money and how to get ahead on other issues.”
ResiStat Community Meetings are twice-yearly efforts for the city to share its latest news and data directly with residents in each ward and gather their feedback.