Words of farewell from our outgoing Somerville aldermen

On January 10, 2018, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

By The Times Staff

Outgoing Board of Aldermen members Jack Connolly, Maryann Heuston, Robert McWatters, and Dennis M. Sullivan offer their thoughts and feelings on their tenure on the Board. They are presented in alphabetical order based on last names. We thank them for their service and wish them the best in their future endeavors.

 

 

Former Alderman At-Large Jack Connolly:

Since Election Day, it has been déjà vu all over again for me, having been in the same position some 12 years ago, having lost the Ward Six Alderman election.

No matter where I go, two to three times a day, somebody is saying “I’m so sorry for your loss…”

Nobody likes to lose, but the good news is nobody died: You can lose an election, but you don’t lose your reputation.

I feel OK, having been successful some seventeen out of nineteen elections, having served as the Ward Six Alderman for eleven straight terms starting back in 1984, and serving as an Alderman at Large from 2007-2017.

It has been a good run, and I am fortunate to have been part of many successes large and small, working with so many good people, organizations and officials.

Looking back, some significant milestones come to mind, all accomplished with the efforts of hundreds of citizens, neighborhood groups, elected colleagues, appointed officials, along with four elected mayors’ and their Administrations, often accompanied by agonizingly long and difficult negotiations, neighborhood meetings, and fiery debates.

Here are a few that come to mind.

Planning and building the Red Line T stops in Davis Sq. along with Mayor Brune his administration, and with the vision and foresight of, the Davis Sq. Task Force, to my mind, one of most influential neighborhood groups ever to have existed in the City;

Rebuilding Davis Sq after the Davis Sq. T stop opened, what with constructing of the Harvard Vanguard building on Holland St., and the 212 Elm St. office building at the south end of the Square;.

Creating the Somerville Historic and Traffic Commissions;

Saving the nationally-designated historic Somerville Theater in Davis Square;

Bringing in businesses such as Redbones, the Burren, the Diesel Cafe, the Joshua Tree, and CVS to Davis Square;

Planning and constructing the Somerville Housing Authority owned building Ciampa Manor (home to dozens of Somerville elders on limited incomes) on College Ave. in Davis Sq.;

Bringing streetlamps and new pathways to Powder House Park;

Adding the University District to Somerville’s Zoning Code, thereby limiting Tufts University to common-sense compatible campus development and preservation of green space in West Somerville;

Planning and constructing the Community Path from Lowell St. to Cambridge line;

Reforming the liquor License Commission, getting rid of bad barrooms, and bringing new restaurants throughout the City;

Planning and building Assembly Sq., and bringing the Orange line T stop to that development;

Planning and updating the Union Sq. Zoning Code in order to make way for the Green Line Extension into Union Sq. and on through the City;

All of these milestones were done with the cooperation and interaction with City Administrations, involved citizens, neighborhoods, and Board of Aldermen colleagues ( I served with almost four dozen) working together.

It wouldn’t be fair not to be grateful to each one of the Mayors and their respective Administrations with who I’ve had the pleasure to work with, (and yes, sometimes battle with!) and sharing many successes with, over all these years.

A heartfelt ‘Thank you’ goes out to Mayor BRUNE, Mayor Capuano, Mayor Dorothy Kelly Gay, and current Mayor Curtatone, since so much has been accomplished during our collective tenure.

Much has been accomplished working with so many committed Aldermen over the years. I am leaving the Board of Aldermen with several Ward Aldermen Maryann Houston, Bob McWatters, Tony Lafuente, and my At-Large Alderman colleague Dennis Sullivan. Several of us were born and raised here in Somerville, and the only agenda that all of us espoused was that of no agenda, other than to improve the quality of lives’ for citizens and residents one and all, whether you are a Somerville ‘lifer’, or new here to the ‘Ville.

It is certainly has been an honor to have served the City of Somerville with those fellow departing BOA members.

My best wishes to the Mayor and his Administration in his next term, and also the same for the Board of Aldermen for 2018 and 2019.

Farewell until we meet again; Look forward to seeing you around the City!

 

Former Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston:

My thanks to The Somerville Times for the opportunity to say a few words about my time in office and to express my gratitude for the privilege of representing Ward 2 for the last 16 years. Since the election I have received many expressions of thanks and that has been very gratifying. Yes, I am proud of the reconstruction of Beacon street and Somerville Ave, passing ordinances for open space and protection of the environment, a new ordinance to better regulate trash and address rodent issues, the passing of Union Square zoning including 20% affordability for new construction, and support of the Vision 0 Coalition to make our streets more livable. But my thanks go to the many residents, activists, business owners and City workers who inspired, challenged, and motivated me to take on issues both large and small.

I thank the residents of Brickbottom where their continual engagement has resulted in the removal of the Waste Transfer Station, the establishment of Art Farm, an active involvement in the GLX, pedestrian improvements along McGrath, and proposals regarding new zoning which will transform that area.

I thank the residents of the Lincoln Park Neighborhood for calling attention to a rampant rodent problem resulting in a focused approach to the address it, the creation of the Rodent Task force of the BOA, and a new trash ordinance. Lincoln Park neighbors also made an enormous commitment of time to participate in the design of the new Lincoln Park and their continued concern for cut through traffic and safe streets motivated advocacy for the reduction in speed limits and the creation of the first Neighborways in Ward 2.

Thanks goes to the many residents who advocated for open and green space resulting in 3 new Community gardens and Perry, Palmacci and Quincy parks and the first parklet in the City on Somerville Ave.

Groups such as Union Square Neighbors provided valuable advice on Union Sq. zoning and the Somerville Bike Committee provided perspectives which proved invaluable to me when thinking about safe streets and mobility.

Thanks to those residents who, with their phone calls or emails, alerted me to neighborhood issues and asked for assistance in solving quality of life issues.

To the many businesses that choose to do business in Ward 2 such as Greenetown Labs, Aeronaut Brewery, Brooklyn Boulders and Ricky’s Flowers and many more, I thank you for that commitment.

Deep appreciation to Mayor Curtatone for his leadership and vision and his hard working staff who were always there for me and my Aldermanic colleagues without whose support I could not have accomplished so much for Ward 2.

Finally, to those who work for the City, I could not have done my job without your advice, understanding and commitment to doing your job in the most extraordinary way. Whether it’s DPW workers showing pride in every aspect of their jobs, to Traffic and Parking, Legal, Finance, OSPCD, ISD and of course, our extraordinary Fire and Police departments, I have learned a little bit from all of you and have come to appreciate how you contribute to this City each and every day.

The hardest part about leaving office will be not being able to problem solve for someone in need. Just yesterday I received a call from a resident of Concord Ave who was not aware that I was no longer the W2 Alderman. It will be hard not to contact a department head to ask for help and advice and possible convert a request to a Board order or to craft a new ordinance. I will however, remain involved and participate as a “citizen” of Ward 2.

 

Former Ward 3 Alderman Robert McWatters:

It’s been a Privilege to Serve. After two terms-and four years-in office serving as the Ward 3 Alderman, I lost my bid for re-election to political newcomer Ben Ewen-Campen. With the first Mayor’s race in 14 years, voter turnout was understandably very high all across the city, but especially in Ward 3. Over 2,800 people, or 41%, came out to vote in Ward 3, almost double the projection of most political observers. New voters, and millennials, who usually vote around 10%, came out in droves, inspired by the populist message of change that the Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign honed as its primary message. While the results were surprising to many, I saw the signs well before and tried as best I could to appeal to that demographic. So many of the issues they raised, vital concerns like affordable housing, sustainability, responsible development, and green space, to name just a few, were my issues as well. In fact, they’ve always been my issues!

So what happened? Well, it didn’t help that the Chair of the Ward 3 Democratic Committee, in spite of praising me numerous times as an effective alderman, worked against me. I thought municipal office was non-partisan? In hindsight, while I campaigned on what I thought (and still believe today) are the core responsibilities of a ward alderman; constituent service, commitment to helping people in need, and responsible government, those important job tenants were lost in the shuffle. The change mantra was on, and it appears no matter how effective I was in my job, it was out with the old and in with the new. While the results were tough to take, (I gave it my all every day and truly loved my job!) I‘ve been in this game long enough to know that you pick up, move on, and work to make the best for the future for everyone, in every way you can. For the next two years, it just won’t be as the Ward 3 Alderman, but believe me, I will continue to be active in my community and stay involved.

Indeed, it has been a privilege to serve, and I am very proud of my record fighting for my constituents, and for all of Somerville, in the past four years. Here’s just a few of the issues that I’ve worked on with your help:

  • Traffic Calming and Safe Streets-This is what the basics are of a ward alderman’s role as I see it, implementing measures that affect people’s lives on a daily basis. I served as the Board’s designee to the Traffic Commission and one of my first actions was to propose lowering the speed limit to 20 MPH near school zones, parks, hospitals and senior facilities. I know how frustrating it can be with city regulations, so I initiated a successful move to allow residents to can now request traffic calming measures with a simple 9-signature petition.
  • Affordable Housing-Certainly the most pressing issue facing Somerville today, I strongly advocated for increasing the inclusionary zoning requirement for affordable units from 12.5% to 20% for large developments, and to 17.5% for smaller developments. I also voted against the recent exclusionary waiver sought by FRIT in the Assembly Square development.
  • Seniors-I can say the most rewarding responsibilities of my time as Ward 3 Alderman was helping and supporting our senior citizens so that they can thrive as independent, healthy, and productive elders. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the senior population, my grandmother was my lasting inspiration, and I’ve fought to keep senior housing affordable, accessible, and well-maintained. I strongly supported, and have consistently voted, for the budget and programs of the Council on Aging.
  • Green Space and Sustainability-I’ve always believed that we all share the responsibility to make our city and our world a better place than we found it I strongly supported the City’s efforts to become a carbon neutral city by 2050, and to create 125 acres of new open space by 2030. I’m proud to have led the push for the City to hire a full-time arborist to care for Somerville’s tree canopy, and to have called for more robust recycling programs including curbside compost collection.

For the last four years I had the best job in the world, a ward alderman in my native Somerville, fighting to help people in need, and working to make the city I love the best it could be. I wouldn’t give up the past four years for anything in the world! I’ve been fortunate to work with some great city employees who made my job that much easier. I first would like to thank my family; my mother, sister, brother, son, and all family members who have stood by me from the first day I decided to get into public service. At the DPW I want to acknowledge the department heads, Tommy Barry and the union employees who were invaluable to me in my four years as alderman. I would also like to thank the entire Traffic & Parking Department. Police Chief Dave Fallon, and the entire Fire Department, especially Deputy District Chief Mike Avery, are truly the Commonwealth’s finest in public safety. At Elections, Nick Salerno was always there to help and answer any question I might have. Though relatively new, Tim Snyder has been an incredible asset in the Mayor’s Office and I’ll miss working with him-and hounding him, on a daily basis! To John Long, the best clerk a city or board of alderman could ask for, thank you for everything you have done to ease my transition from an assistant clerk to board member. Of course, my goodbye would not be complete if I didn’t recognize and thank my colleagues on the Board of Alderman for their help and close partnership over the best four years, but especially Katjana Ballantyne, Maryann Heuston, Jack Connolly, Bill White, Tony Lafuente, and Dennis Sullivan!

Thank you Somerville, it’s been a privilege to serve.

 

Former Alderman At-Large Dennis M. Sullivan:

As I look back on my 20 years serving the residents of Somerville, I am not sure I could have imagined that serving on the School Committee and Board of Alderman could have given me some of my best friends, a family and the chance to effect so much change.

During my tenure on the School Committee, I was proud to oversee the building of several schools with 90% reimbursement funds from the Commonwealth, establishing a full-time nurse at the East Somerville Community School, closing the achievement gap for all students and serving as Chairman. Now, as my wife and I start to look at schools for our daughter, I’m able to see firsthand the great meccas of learning our schools are and how they shape the community.

As an Alderman-at-Large, I saw the opportunity to work on a broader scope of issues, and a chance to continue to give back to the city I grew up in. Some of the highlights as an Alderman are the Assembly Square MBTA orange line stop, expanding the community bike path, being one of the first cities in the state to offer zero-sort recycling and banning polystyrene/plastic bags at businesses, and watching the renaissance of lower Broadway. I’m proud of the progress we made in Assembly Square and Union Square with transit oriented development, increased affordable housing and economic development.

It’s no secret that I’m a dog lover, and I was proud to work hard to make Somerville a dog-friendly city, by opening off-leash dog parks and proposing outdoor seating for dog-friendly businesses.

Investing in our seniors was a major priority for me. Many established roots here long before it was ‘hip,’ so it was important for me to support a full-time mental health coordinator, an “R-U-Ok” program, and increased emergency preparedness training for the Council on Aging.

Some organizations may have sought to label me one way or another at times, but my record reflects my independence. I always led with my heart, and was never afraid to stand up for what I believed was best for the neighborhood or city as a whole.

The mobile office I initiated in my first term was one of my favorite parts of the job. Over the course of 200 hours – or 84 weekends – we set up my table on street corners, in the library and grocery stores. I met hundreds of residents, most not active in city government. We talked about the city, its history and the role we all play in its future. These chats truly shaped me as a public servant because they gave me a constant snapshot into the lives of the people that live here.

While in Boston recently Vice President Joe Biden gave a shout out to the families of local leaders, saying they share the title because, “when the phone rings at home you can’t hang up.” I owe a debt of gratitude to my family during this journey. My late mother never missed an election, standing with her sign at the polls whether sunny, cold or rainy weather. I met my wife, Melissa, when we were both delegates at a Democratic State Convention, and I am lucky to have a life partner that understands and believes in the process. She’s always been my biggest cheerleader and made me a better Alderman, but more importantly, she makes me a better person.

Lately, the big question has been what will I do with my extra time now that I am not out three to four nights a week? Well, I’ve been bringing Jaclyn to dance class, perfecting my skills in the kitchen, reading toddler nighttime stories and taking Nilla for longer walks!

I’ll end with this. Life is funny; you never know what the next day will bring. I’m looking forward to staying involved and seeing where the road leads me.

Thank you, Somerville! Together, we did great things! I can’t wait to see where the next 20 years takes us!

Also, former Ward 4 Alderman Tony Lafuente, chose not to run for re-election this term, his statement to follow.

 

1 Response » to “Words of farewell from our outgoing Somerville aldermen”

  1. Rachel says:

    Thanks to all for your service, and for the significant imprint you all have left on Somerville, my home since 1994.

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.