2017: Together we made our 175th year one of the best yet

On December 21, 2017, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

By Joseph A. Curtatone

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

From celebrating a milestone birthday, to seeing the highest local election turnout in years (31.6 percent – more than double the turnout in 2015), to launching various community planning processes focused on community health, workforce development, and combating climate change locally, Somerville’s 175th year has been one of the best yet. While it’s impossible to list everything we’ve accomplished together in 2017, take a look at just some of the highlights:

  • As our community values were tested time and time again this year, Somerville came together to prove that our diversity is our strength. On the heels of the Boston Women’s March, thousands of Somervillians gathered at City Hall to rally in support of our immigrant communities and Somerville’s status as a sanctuary city. From that first sanctuary city rally to a vigil in support of Charlottesville in the aftermath of the domestic terrorism tragedy that took place there, I’ve been reminded this year of how incredibly lucky I am to be the mayor of a city that’s not only diverse, tolerant, and welcoming but also not afraid to show up and stand up for what’s right.
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  • In 2017, the City’s healthy financial position, strong financial practices, conservative budget management, and growing, diverse tax base led to the highest ever bond rating. Moody’s raised the City’s bond rating from Aa2 to a new high of Aa1, the second highest rating on the agency’s scale and one step from an Aaa rating. Better bond ratings affect the entire community, ultimately making it more affordable for the City to make needed investments in community priorities such as schools, roads, public safety facilities, parks, fields, affordable housing, and other important infrastructure. Lenders see Somerville as well-managed and reliable and give our community better borrowing terms as a result. We’ve been steadily improving city finances and financial management for more than a decade. It has taken time to get here, but now our community can benefit from the public investments for years to come.
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  • Our upgraded bond rating wasn’t the only accolade we received this year. We improved bicycle infrastructure, increased road safety education efforts (thanks to the continued work and advocacy of the Somerville Bicycle Advisory Committee), and made a commitment to Vision Zero. This year was topped off with Somerville earning the designation of a Gold-Level Bicycle Friendly Community from the League of American Bicyclists. We join our neighbors in Cambridge as the only two communities in the Commonwealth to earn the Gold-Level distinction.
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  • Somerville’s Community Preservation Committee hosted the first ever “CPA in the City” event so that urban communities like ours can talk through challenges around how to best utilize Community Preservation Act funds in an urban environment as well as share best practices. Somerville CPA also celebrated its 5th birthday this year!
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  • But the CPA event wasn’t the first time this year Somerville tried its hand at hosting something new. In July our Economic Development Division hosted our very own Public Private Partnership (P3) Showcase. City staff and community partners presented a variety of capital projects and infrastructure priorities to international P3 leaders focused on long-term investment, development, and management of public infrastructure. Public Private Partnerships aren’t utilized often in Massachusetts, and at this point it remains unclear if a new public safety building, infrastructure, more units of affordable housing, or some other unique concept could be delivered using the P3 method. However, showcasing our ability to be ahead of the curve and leading the charge on this conversation remains a highlight of the year for me and something we’re looking forward to exploring further in the year to come.
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  • While overall it’s been a great year for Somerville, 2017 hasn’t been without its challenges. The issue of housing has continued to be our biggest concern. Just a few weeks ago, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and I, alongside our fellow members of the Metropolitan Mayors Coalition, announced a regional housing task force that will accelerate the discussion around housing affordability and availability. We’ve bolstered our own commitment to the City’s inclusionary housing program and continue to work alongside many community partners to increase the availability of affordable and market-rate housing, but there is much more to be done. This is a problem that plagues our entire region, and we need to work together as a region to solve it.

The list above represents just the tip of the iceberg of all that we have accomplished this year. As we go into a new year, I want us to let this year’s successes and challenges inspire us to work even harder together to achieve our common goals. It won’t be easy, but it never is. This year was one for the books, but let’s make 2018 even better. Until then, I wish you, your families, and friends the happiest and healthiest of holidays.

 

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