City Election 2017: Alderman At-Large

On October 18, 2017, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

On Tuesday, November 7, 2017, Somerville voters will cast their ballots in a City Election for the offices of Mayor of Somerville, various Board of Aldermen members, and School Committee Members in Wards 1 and 2. This week, the Somerville Times asked each of the qualified candidates for Alderman At-Large to describe why they would be the best choice for the office they are running for and what specific policies they would advocate or implement in that position, along with a bio if they choose to include one. Their responses are presented here in alphabetical order based on their last names, ward by ward.

For the Office of  Alderman At-Large:

 

John M. Connolly

As the second-generation grandson of Irish immigrants’ and the oldest of five siblings, I was born and raised in Somerville, MA. I attended Somerville elementary schools and graduated from St. Clement High School.

I worked part-time and studied full-time at Boston College earning my Bachelors of Arts degree in Political Science (Cum Laude). I received my Master’s degree in Educational Technology at Boston College and Tufts University and also studied Municipal Finance at the JFK School of Government.

From 1974-1978, I was a community relations specialist for Somerville and later as acting director for the CETA jobs and training program. This program employed over 1,100 Somerville residents. In the 1980’s, I transitioned into State government working as a regional coordinator in the Department of Manpower Development. Next, I decided to work for the Compugraphics Corporation prior to beginning my career as a Property and Casualty Insurance broker for two large regional agencies. I then became a principal at Wedgwood Crane and Connolly Insurance Agency Inc. working by day, but spending a majority of my extra time striving for political changes here in Somerville.

I have been the President of the Board of Alderman twice, Vice President three times, and have chaired a majority of the Board of Aldermen Committees. I am very fortunate to have served with Mayors Brune, Capuano, Kelly-Gay, and Joe Curtatone.

In 2017 Jack Connolly was appointed by the President of the Board of Alderman to serve on the following Committees:

  • Public Health and Public Safety, Chair
  • Senior Services, Chair
  • Veterans Services, Vice Chair
  • Legislative Matters

Experience and Interests

  • Small Business Owner/Operator of Award-Winning Wedgwood -Crane & Connolly Insurance Agency Inc. in Davis Square.
  • Active member of The Chamber of Commerce.
  • Three decades of elected service as both a Ward Alderman (Six) and Alderman at Large for the City of Somerville.
  • Volunteer Board of Directors’ Member for Teen Empowerment and Member for the Somerville Home.
  • Tournament level Basketball Referee officiating over 2500 High School and Amateur Basketball games.
  • Active Road Running enthusiast, having completed 18 Marathons, and hundreds of road races from 1mile, 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon distances.
  • Earned a third-degree Black belt in Shotokan Karate here in Somerville, studying with International Grand Master the Late James Tatosky, Sr.
  • Homeowner on Winslow Ave. near Davis Square with my wife Gail, and our three daughters, Kerri, Kim, and Karalyn, all products of the Somerville Public School system.
  • Endorsed by City of Somerville Labor Coalition and a number of local non-Profit organizations

Based on his three decades of experience, Alderman at Large Jack Connolly should be one of the four choices of seven candidates for Alderman at Large in the Nov. 7th Election. He is the only candidate who has served as both a Ward Alderman and as an Alderman at Large.

“I worked with countless citizens to plan and bring the Red Line, Orange Line and Green Line to Union Sq. and beyond. I am currently working to expand affordable housing opportunities for all income levels, and continue to prioritize major investment in our public schools. I am also making sure we preserve our unique history, like my efforts working with Friends in Support of the Theatre preventing the major alterations for our National Historic treasure, the Somerville Theatre. Other major priorities consist of improving our services to victims of opioid and substance abuses, overhauling our zoning ordinances, enacting legislation to regulate Airbnb rentals, and dealing with constant airplane noise.”

 

Stephanie Hirsch

Thank you allowing me to share my story, what I have learned while campaigning, and my hopes for Somerville.

My Background

I grew up in a town in northern Wisconsin. My hometown had a strong middle class, and kids played together on our streets until our parents called us home for baths. That’s how many Somerville residents remember their childhoods. Growing up, I learned that community matters. We all need to contribute to our neighborhoods and community.

After college, I worked in Philadelphia and rural Georgia. In both places, children did not have a good chance to grow into providers for their families or communities. I made a commitment to try to fix the brokenness of government systems that leads to lifelong missed opportunities. After studying finance and statistics, I worked to improve child welfare and reduce youth violence in NYC and Boston. Since 2004, I’ve worked in Somerville, starting 311, SomerStat, and ResiStat, and helping the schools perform at the top of the state.

During that time, I also got married and settled in Union Square. My kids think I’ll be a good Alderman because: “My mom helps everyone, makes fun things happen, and fixes things.” I’m running because I want to combine my knowledge of how the city works with the independence of organizing from the ground up to tackle long-standing challenges.

Plans and Priorities

I have reached 7,000 households over the last 10 months. I am grateful to all of you who spoke with me. I’d like to share what I’ve heard and what we can try to tackle together:

  • Affordability: Almost every person I talk to worries about affordability. My goals include: preventing displacement of families; increasing ownership; preserving a middle class; and helping seniors stay in neighborhoods. Because I care so much about these issues and want to maintain an independent voice, I have committed to not accept campaign contributions from developers.
  • Quality of Life: The local and national worries are big. But sometimes what hits closest to home is a sense of safety in our backyard or on our street. Rats, cut-through traffic, and other issues make people unhappy and make it hard to connect with neighbors. We will organize to tackle these issues.
  • Community Institutions: I believe strong community institutions matter. They level the playing field and give us a place to form friendships. I pledge to work on improving community places and organizations that serve everyone.
  • Connections to Each Other: While door knocking, I’ll meet a person on one end of the block who shares concerns. At the other end of the block, I meet someone who has the same worries, but doesn’t know about the first person. If I get elected, I promise to help each neighborhood create its own ways to communicate, set goals, and track progress on goals.

My Unique Strengths: I have spent thousands of hours with children and families of all backgrounds in Somerville. I have taken to heart how they see the world. I have a deep knowledge of how the city works, but in the last 10 months my perspective has shifted. I no longer report to the Mayor or Superintendent – as an Alderman I will report to YOU as residents. I will use my skills, knowledge, and energy to meet your needs as I work on the job full-time.

You can learn more about the issues I care about at http://www.stephanieforsomerville.com. Thank you to those of you who has talked to me — I am learning so much from each of you. I hope I can earn one of your votes on November 7.

 

Will Mbah

I was born and raised in Cameroon, and Somerville has become my “promised land”—a city that celebrates diversity, values its residents, and fosters opportunities for growth and success. I was orphaned at a young age, and depended on my extended family and community for support as I completed my education. I even spent some time in foster care and ultimately my family had to sell our house in order to send me to college. As a college student at the University of Buea, I advocated for student rights, and earned a scholarship to Sweden’s University of Agricultural Science to study soil science.

In 2010, I moved to Massachusetts after winning the American Diversity Lottery—the blessing of my life. But my journey was just beginning. Despite my credentials, the process of finding work and settling down here was challenging. I know this sentiment will be familiar to all immigrants and working people. I took on odd jobs, washing dishes at a downtown hotel and working as a custodian so that I could get by.

Over the next seven years, I was able to work hard and move up, attaining a position in MIT’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety, where I now work as a technologist. I married the love of my life, Christelle, and welcomed a baby boy, Joel into the world. I also earned my United States citizenship. During this period of successful personal and professional milestones, something else was also true- I was not immune to the forces of gentrification and displacement. I had to move five separate times—nearly once per year—as skyrocketing rents pushed me and my young family out of home after home. At one point, I was even forced to leave Somerville, displaced to nearby Hyde Park for four months until I could find a way to return.

It is these experiences that have inspired me to run for office in Somerville, a city I have worked so hard to call home. I have watched as families, working people, artists and businesses have been forced to leave, disrupting their lives and weakening the fabric of the community just to line the pockets of special interests, many of them based out of state. That is why I am fighting hard for affordability, community-led development and economic fairness. We need to preserve the social and cultural fabric of Somerville and that means taking care of the people and businesses that make this city so special. My goal is to help build a city where ALL residents are values and have access to quality jobs and housing, and can meaningfully shape the development plan for their city. That is why I support an increase in the inclusionary zoning law from 20 to 25%, the creation of community land trusts, tenant rights of first refusal, a 1% transfer tax and intergenerational housing initiatives.

I think that my lived experiences set me apart from the other candidates running for at-large. I lived the working class experience here in Somerville; I lived the immigrant experience here in Somerville; I have faced the forces of displacement and battled to stay. I think these life experiences will allow me to bring the people’s perspective to the table in city government. In addition, I would be the only renter on the Board of Alderman, another important constituency that needs a voice in city government. Finally, our diversity is our strength here in Somerville, and I think it is important for residents of color to see themselves represented in city government.

 

Mary Jo Rossetti

Born and raised in Somerville, I am the daughter and granddaughter of former Somerville firefighters. As my children entered our school system, I became active in the PTA, co-chaired multiple school councils, enjoyed my days as a Girl Scout leader and CCD instructor. With the encouragement of the community I ran for Office and in January of 2000 was sworn in as the Ward 7 school committee representative. I soon became active in the MA Association of School Committees, with the eventual honor of being elected by my peers to represent them and their communities, as President of this prestigious Association. Appointed by Governor Patrick, beginning 2012, I served the Commonwealth for 3 years on the Local Government Advisory Commission, and also had responsibility as Chair of the ever-important state-wide Advocacy Committee (MASC). With each new opportunity came a wealth of personal professional development that continues to guide me today.

As my children matriculated to Higher Education, with it came my decision to step down from the School Committee and instead encourage a parent with children in our schools to seek my seat of Office. What followed next for me was unanticipated. Once again, with the encouragement of this wonderful community, I found myself running for one of four Seats as Alderman-At-Large.

Some of my responsibilities on the Board today include Chair of the Legislative Matters Committee and representing my BOA colleagues as I serve on the SHS Building Committee, closely overseeing the renovation project now underway. Aside from these chief responsibilities, moving forward my priorities continue to include:

– Health & Safety

– Housing Affordability

– Fiscal Responsibility

Examples of my advocacy efforts include:

– As I stated during our recent budget talks, the Board of Aldermen must have involvement in the upcoming negotiation of the Tufts University PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) Agreement. The Board has not been involved with this important negotiation in the past. It is my strong opinion, given an endowment of over $2 billion, Tufts can and should do better.

– Recent data from The Greater Boston Food Bank has indicated they have been serving MORE THAN DOUBLE their anticipated # of families here in Somerville. Our own neighbors are struggling to survive. Affordability is in crisis for far too many.

– We must seriously review an increase of our community’s Residential Tax Exemption rate.

– We must attract responsible commercial development to increase our commercial tax base, decrease tax burden on home owners, and increase local job opportunities.

– We must hold absentee landlord developers more accountable.

– The creation of Neighborhood Councils is another important step of assuring increased transparency and voice for the community.

– For so very many essential reasons, Environmental Sustainability is not to be ignored. During our upcoming discussions of the Administration’s proposed new Zoning legislation, strict language must be included in this regard.

I take pride in my style of constituent services. No matter the purpose of conversation, I thank and encourage each and every individual to continue to keep me on my toes.

Coordinating efforts with our State and Federal legislators is also vital. Having lobbied both in Washington D.C. and country-wide over a span of 10 years has afforded me the experience necessary. The Honor of representing the voice of many is a responsibility I never take lightly. I hope to continue, if The People so choose.

 

Dennis M. Sullivan

Many people say that they only see their elected officials in an election year, but they can’t say that about me. Early in my first term as Alderman, I started my neighborhood office hours – and since have held them twice per year in every ward. In the colder months, we hold them at the library or in the grocery store. It’s become a family affair; my three-year-old daughter, wife and our dog, join me whenever possible! It’s my way of connecting with residents in their neighborhood on their time. Social media and email is great; but nothing can replace talking to someone face to face.

“Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, for as long as you can…” This quote by Hillary Clinton sums up my belief in public service.

I first decided to run for Alderman after serving six years on the School Committee. During my tenure there, I was proud to oversee the building of several schools with 90% reimbursement funds from the Commonwealth, establish a full-time nurse at the East Somerville Community School, close the achievement gap for all students and serve as Chairman. I’ve continued to fight for low class size, technology, improved open space for our youth and making sure that the new high school that voters passed overwhelmingly, gets built.

My priorities continue to be:

Public transportation: we made history in 2014 when the Assembly Square MBTA orange line stop opened, but we need to be vigilant to ensure that the green line extension stays on track, making Somerville a walkable city from any point to rapid transportation. We must also expand the community bike path all the way to Boston to increase pedestrian access.

The environment: I’m proud to have earned the endorsement of the Sierra club in the past because of strides we’ve made in protecting the environment. Our zero-sort recycling is easy and makes a difference. Businesses here no longer use polystyrene or plastic bags. I will continue to work towards a net zero carbon footprint.

Smart growth development is about attracting the right businesses. It’s not enough to just pay taxes; businesses must provide good jobs for city residents, and help to enhance our streets and squares.

Clean streets and safe neighborhoods are more important than ever. I’ve seen firsthand the hard work our police and fire do on a daily basis. In the winter, our DPW employees work nonstop to clear the snow. I will continue to prioritize city services.

Last, but definitely not least, investing in our seniors remains a top priority. You built this city. Many of you established roots here long before it was ‘hip’ to call Somerville home. Your safety, health, and well- being are important. I continue to support a full-time mental health coordinator, an “R-U-Ok” program, and increased emergency preparedness training.

These are exciting times. Assembly Square, the green line, the renaissance of east Broadway and Union Square, where I have been an outspoken advocate for a community benefits development. These are some of the projects that will define us for decades to come. Now is the time for experience.

I have that experience. I’ve been an outspoken voice on the board for smart growth development and transportation; always fighting for what’s best for the neighborhood. I spend many nights at the planning board, zoning board of appeals, and license commission, fighting for your quality of life. I am the most accessible Alderman in the city of Somerville, and I will continue to be so.

Today I ask for one of your 4 votes on Nov 7th.

 

Hon. Kevin Allen Tarpley, I

As the former Ward 2 Alderman, I would like to once again have the privilege to serve the entire city of Somerville. It will be my goal to serve One Somerville, One Mission.

As the former Ward 2 Alderman, I will bring back many of the same services that made Ward 2 work in the interest of the people of Ward 2. I will seek to reestablish a Citywide Advisory Committee that I will meet with on a regular basis to hear different views about issues before the Board of Aldermen or that may impact the community as a whole and neighborhood specifically.

I will again seek to gain support for a change in the process by which development takes place here in the city of Somerville so that greater control over projects are in the hands of residents and not developer simply because they have gone through the process of meeting the requirements laid out by the Planning and Zoning Boards. We must slow down the condo conversion process in order to meet the needs of residents; from traffic and parking issues to affordable housing for those who want to stay in Somerville that are being priced out.

I want to again address the need for thinking outside of the box regarding youth development, senior care and services, open space and “Pocket Parks.” I want to again tackle the issue of seeking support for addressing the need to update our outdate sewer system in order to separate rain water and sewerage thereby reducing what city residents and property owners must pay for this long lastly waste and abuse of the taxpaying residents.

As the Alderman-At-Large, I want to serve the public as their advocate on the Board Alderman as an independent servant of the people who is beholding to no one but the people of Somerville. One Somerville, One Mission to serve the people of Somerville.

 

William A. White Jr.

People say that a person’s values are shaped in their youth. I grew up in Somerville near the last operating slaughter house in the City. It was a working class neighborhood where folks knew one another, helped one another out, and had a real sense of community. As a youth, I received help from a number of people in the community that allowed me to pursue my education. I graduated from Somerville High School, Harvard College and Georgetown Law. I now have a law office in Somerville. I became involved in politics because I wanted to give back to the City for all of the help that I had received as youth. I decided to run for office to put my skills and experience to use to benefit the City.

During my service on the Board of Aldermen, I have played a major role in drafting and passing important legislation to promote residential home ownership, to guide development forward to protect our neighborhoods, and to bring good commercial development to the City. As examples, I drafted the legislation that raised our residential exemption to 30% for real estate taxes and later urged that we increase it to 35%. This year, the residential exemption saved a Somerville homeowner $2,747.11. I also put forward legislation to have a similar residential exemption for our water and sewer bills, which is pending in the state legislature. I drafted the legislation that led to the creation of the master plan for Assembly Square, including the construction of the T Stop there. Because of my concern over the role that big money contributions could have on City government, I drafted the City’s Play to Pay Ordinance. This is one of the most restrictive campaign finance laws in the country, which limits the amount of money that developers and those doing business with the City can contribute to elected officials and candidates. I have also drafted zoning amendments to create additional affordable housing and increase commercial development in our City. Constituent concerns are also a top priority. I pride myself on answering their phone calls and emails and working with the staff of our City departments to address their concerns. It is not unusual for me to be drafting a piece of important legislation in the evening and then meeting with constituents to address their concerns, such as a rodent problem, the next morning.

The City of Somerville is facing its greatest challenges in over 100 years. We are in the process of building a new high school along with major infrastructure improvements. We must insure that we do not undertake unreasonable financial risks. Likewise, we cannot allow our resident homeowners and our renters to be forced out of the City by rising taxes which also increase rents. The Board of Aldermen will vote on new zoning for the entire City next year. This zoning must preserve our residential neighborhoods and also bring good commercial development to the transformation districts in our City. Good commercial development is especially important to raise the revenue that our City needs to offset its expenses. If our new zoning is not handled correctly, we could forever change the nature of Somerville for the worse by destroying our sense of community. We also need to find creative ways to increase our affordable housing units so that we can maintain Somerville as a diverse community, one that especially welcomes families and those who want to remain here for the long term. I would appreciate one of your votes for Alderman at Large. I hope that you agree that I have earned it!

 

3 Responses to “City Election 2017: Alderman At-Large”

  1. Old Taxpayer says:

    I can’t say about the others but Bill White to my knowledge is the most honest person running for office who does a wonderful job of returning calls and getting answers and doing what he can. I will admit I may not always agree with him on every issue but in my 70 plus years here there were only 2 politicians I knew to be very honest and sincere, Tom Taylor was the other one. I do not know the others to know if they are or not. For me personally he should be mayor.

  2. LindaS says:

    I heartily agree with Old Taxpayer on all counts. He would make a wonderful mayor. He actively tries to improve the affordability here for residential homeowners like myself, instead of constantly trying to build more apartments and focusing only on young professionals living here, perhaps only temporarily.

    We need more men like Mr. White working for us.

  3. JessicaR says:

    Agree with the others. City Hall is better because Bill White is there.

    I’m voting for Stephanie Hirsch also. Of the 7 candidates for at-large, she has great core values for the kids, families, and schools in Somerville, and about how issues like affordable housing effect us and our families. Stephanie also has the data skills to help the BOA get to concrete facts and figures which illuminate the need to fix specific problems in Somerville. Other than being one more woman for the BOA, she’s a very sincere individual person.

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