Board of Alderman update from June 14

On June 20, 2012, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

The future of the McGrath Highway’s McCarthy Overpass was among the many issues discussed by the BOA last Thursday. – Photo by Bobbie Toner

By Jeremy F. van der Heiden

Last Thursday, the Somerville Board of Alderman held its regular meeting to discuss some of the goings-on around the city, including some important issues in need of action this spring and summer.

The session began with recognition of several long-time Somerville residents who had recently passed away, as well as a celebration of those who observed milestone birthdays. Following this, the Board of Alderman approved permanent appointments to three individuals entering the city’s fire department: Thomas Bellini, Eric Saulnier and Francis Otting.

Early in the meeting, the board approved a new regulation to stay within compliance of a recent ruling by the Attorney General’s office regarding attendance at BOA committee hearings. This rule states that at any committee meeting attended by less than a quorum of regular members, visiting aldermen must sit in attendance and will have some legislative power. However, if a quorum is present, visiting members must participate as members of the public and will not be allowed to deliberate.

Among the most hotly debated topics of the evening was the request to approve a new ordinance pertaining to food trucks entering Somerville drafted by the City Solicitor, Frank Wright. Many members of the board were concerned with the legality and comprehensiveness of the ordinance.

The move began with the Committee on Legislative Matters convening to assess the need for legal documentation within the city to regulate food truck driver license approval. Currently, these drivers are granted licenses by the state of Massachusetts, and can simply enter Somerville after obtaining this documentation. This ordinance, the supporters of the bill explained, brings the regulatory process to the Somerville government, and thereby protects it from potentially erroneous decisions made by the state.

With respect to the new rule regarding the Attorney General’s ruling, several aldermen spoke out stating that it had prevented them from being as involved as they desired in the drafting and general committee process of the food truck ordinance. This frustrated several members of the board, while many shared the desire to create more stringent Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) checks for drivers and employees looking to set up shop in the city. At present, vendors need only pass through the state’s CORI check system, which did not suffice for many of the board members.

Members of the Committee on Legislative Matters explained that the current draft of the ordinance is comprehensive enough to empower the BOA to regulate food trucks comprehensively. Vice President of the BOA Alderman White further explained that the language within the piece of legislation grants the BOA and the City of Somerville government “tremendous discretion” pertaining to the application and approval process of prospective vendors.

In the end, the board decided to send the bill back to committee, while there will be a special meeting to ensure the concerns of all members are quelled before voting on its approval at another open meeting.

Ellen Reisner, member of the Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership, appeared to discuss the long-standing issue of the McGrath Highway’s McCarthy Overpass. This structure, all in attendance agreed, has served as nothing more than an impediment to the economic and societal well being of the surrounding areas. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation agreed with this sentiment in 2011, but made moves to restructure and refinish the overpass.

MassDOT held several meetings later that year and early in 2012 without alerting the public nor any of the committees which oversee traffic concerns in the city. Reisner explained that the results of the grounding study showed those involved from Somerville that the structure simply needed to go, and be removed in ways that ensure the safety of all the area’s residents and the road’s passers-by.

The BOA ultimately decided to place this matter on file, and will take further action in the coming months, as all agreed that this matter must be held up to public processes to come to an educated decision that wholly benefits the community.

After approving several community works projects and business-backed moves to improve operations within city limits, the board went into a fiery discussion of the current rodent infestation problem apparent near Lincoln Park and Central and Madison Streets. Alderman Heuston explained that this issue is of the utmost importance, as several long-time residents cited plans to put their homes up for sale because of the rodent problem.

After years of work to clear the city of these pests, the area in question has seen a marked increase of rodents, preventing residents from experiencing a quality of life in line with city standards. Absentee landlords were considered the biggest contributors to the problem, as several structures have not been maintained properly and, as a result, have become infested and fueled the spreading of what all aldermen agreed was a serious public health threat.

Alderman at Large Connolly stated that this process needs to be carried out in a joint effort of several branches of local government, including the Mayor’s Office, the Department of Public Works, the Department of Health, and the Office of the Director of Strategic Planning and Economic Development. He shared the sentiment of all others in attendance that all hands must be on deck in this fight, as residents choosing to move out because of the government’s inaction is simply not acceptable.

The BOA decided to send this matter to the Committee on Public Health and Public Safety, where a strong and swift plan of action will be established.

Several items were approved regarding outdoor block parties scheduled for this summer around the city, as well as approval for an event called ArtBeat that will take place in Davis Square on July 20. Other financial matters were either approved or sent to the Finance Committee for further action.



28 Responses to “Board of Alderman update from June 14”

  1. Rick says:

    If they tear down the overpass, the traffic in that area will be nothing short of a disaster. The people who are in favor of tearing down the overpass- like those in favor of more street lights on Somerville Ave- have no idea what they’re talking about and are, in fact, being counter-productive. Has traffic decreased on Somerville Ave since the new lights went up? Nay, it is now pretty much a disaster area during any afternoon hours.

    I’m honestly getting a little sick of the people who moved in to the Brickbottom dictating city construction. They say the overpass hurts business, yet Burger King, John’s Auto, Pat’s Towing, UHaul, and the Mercedes Benz dealership seem to have no trouble staying in business.

    I wish we would stop letting a group of people who moved into an already-secluded area next to a trash dump change the landscape of the city. They knew what they were getting into.

  2. Ray Spitzer says:

    Mr. Curtatone, tear down this overpass…

  3. Rose says:

    When discussing the rodent problem around or near Lincoln Park and Central and Madison Streets, did anyone think to also discuss the rodent problem in and around Ball Square due to the restaurants and the dumpsters. Kids can’t even play in their own yards because there are rats the size of small dogs are running around….. The deparment of Public Health should also discuss this area as well.

  4. paul says:


    The best thing for Somerville is that it gets nicer. You might be OK with having an overpass and a dump, but I think it is better to improve the city. I’d rather have East Somerville bring an extension of Kendall Square biotech jobs than Burger King and Uhaul jobs. I’m happy that the Brickbottom folks are spearheading moving the eastern part of the city forward. Also, please study the deelevations that have occurred in other cities in order to alleviate your fears on traffic.


  5. Harry says:

    No one picked up on the food truck tscam thing here? What a joke. The city wants to add their own “regulations” (cough, cough — fees — cough, cough) and stick their nose into another pig trough. Comical. They’re going to try to generate more “revenue” (fees) by hitting these poor slobs who are trying to make a buck with food trucks. I didn’t know the city has a more stringent CORI check than the state??? Really? Then shouldn’t we just fix the state system rather than adding another layer of incompetence? No… let’s add another layer of corruption.

    Rats? Not just near Lincoln Park and Central and Madison Streets. I saw one the other day near Teele sq (where the fire took out the kar kee lau and hawk cleaners). A good sized one too. They’re everywhere now. City solution: charge landlords extra feees. How about throwing down some poison and get rid of them once and for all? If you have a pet keep it indoors for a few weeks. Simple.

  6. Captain America says:

    Haaarry, please, go to hell :)

  7. Winter Hill Barney says:

    Rick, Somerville does not need to provide two major commuter routes to everyone who lives north of us, at the expense of a quality environment for those of us who live here. 93 can handle through traffic, and 28 can be remade to better serve local needs.

  8. HArry says:

    Hey Captain, trust me — been there. I’m sure your reservations are all set too.

  9. Boston Kate says:

    Rick – I’m on your side. Also, Sullivan Square is a mess, every morning.

  10. fred sousa says:

    get pats towing out take down who cares on side look like dump fix look mill dollars nice go for

  11. fred sousa says:

    rat are all over somerville becase fast food house trash bags all open on trash day if work ctiy somerville fine no one came check no one care make 10. 000 monhly fines sick never see any one get fine go out do or job

  12. fred sousa says:

    i see rat look like cats eat good somerville ave all side st it mess the hole ctiy the rat take ctiy off be all rat hire rat police dpptt oh boy we have ctiy police rat police wow

  13. fred sousa says:

    Did I already say there are rats in Somerville and blah blah blah?

  14. A Moore says:

    McGrath problem is really mute, needs to be repaired for safety while they take 20 years to figure out how to put it back to the disaster it once was.

    I know we just have a bag in the freezer we use for edible garbage and just put it out on the day it is to be picked up so nothing is here to attract and rodents or other pests. But driving around the city it is easy to see why we have a problem. Maybe we just need to get tough on the contributers to the problem? Like small fines that go up fast on 2nd and 3rd violations? IF we handle it like the parking fiasco here we stand to make a lot of money off that as well.

  15. Ron Newman says:

    Why repair it if you’re just gong to remove it a few years later? Just leave it alone, inspect it every six months, and once it fails inspection, take it down. Meanwhile, put a weight limit on it for trucks, and some netting below.

  16. j. connelly says:

    “A Moore” Good idea, unfortunately in this city it is selective enforcement, they go after the folks who usually follow the ordinance and the frequent offenders seem to be overlooked.

    I had a vehicle partially blocking my driveway, the T&P Officer walked by it in the early a.m., I called the T&P Office, the (out of state) vehicle sat there and five hours later still no violation tag and a short while later it drove off. I sent pictures showing the offence/vehicle to my Alderman.

    Since they can paint bike markings all over the city and since the T&P honcho loves things done [like Bow St Back in parking] on the West Coast. Perhaps, [like they do in some cities on the West Coast] they can (yellow) paint all the curbs by driveways in code (2 Ft. each side) [Good Job for the Summer Youth Job Programs], so people will park in compliance with the ordinance.

    If the city really enforced code and stopped the absentee landlords from packing the residences with more people than allowed, which is evidenced by the number of vehicles, there would not be so many vehicles on the streets. Better yet make the Off Campus students use On Campus Tufts Parking Facilities. Why should we be burdened by a Tax Exempt administrative organization that leeches our services, at our expense. ALL of the Board of Aldermen should be pushing to do this. Let’s see which Alderman passes an ordinance to enforce On Campus Parking for Off Campus Students.
    If they do not it, defines whose interests that they are really serving.

  17. AgreeWithAMoore says:

    People are slobs. They throw trash on the curb without caring that they are properly covered in trash bins. That’s the problem! Cite offenders!!

  18. j. connelly says:

    “Ray” an appropriate quote, First one came from a guy who screwed the nations working man. yours is in reference to a guy who screws local employees and retirees. You notice that neither one of them offered to take a pay cut or lose their own benefits.

  19. Somerbreeze says:

    Speaking of selective enforcement, j. connelly, I see the sidewalk cyclists are at it again in Union Square….

  20. j. connelly says:

    Well “Somerbreeze” I heard that the Police Traffic Division were checking on traffic conditions on another section of Washington St, One Bicyclist was arrested for failing to show proper I.D. when the officer requested it.
    So the SPD is out there trying to deal with both bad cyclists and bad motor vehicle drivers.

    I still say that they should have some of the Parking Control Officers on bicycles to help deal with it, especially in the squares. Cambridge has some PCO’s on bicycles.

  21. Winter Hill Barney says:

    A Moore, thank you for your good citizenship! Edible garbage stored inside until trash day is a lesson I wish my neighbors could learn.

  22. Somerbreeze says:

    j.c., I’m probably just seeing the trees for the forest, but now being temporarily disabled, the re-occurance of these clowns in Union Square is continually frustrating to us pedestrians…

    But yes, the SPD should get cut some slack for the thankless task of reining in badly behaving cyclists (& motorists). And PCOs on bikes is a great idea….

  23. j. connelly says:

    “Somerbreeze” I am sorry to hear about your temporary disability. I am in a similar situation. It is frustrating enough to be in pain, then have the added stress of not being able to do what you could do in the past. Then you have the needless anxiety worrying that some careless fool is going to strike you down as they race across the sidewalks.

    Time for the Board of Aldermen to pass an ordinance that bicyclists must stay off the sidewalks in the squares and ride in the bikepath lane on the streets in the squares.

    The Aldermen must place a heavy fine on the offenders…Thus all bikes need to display a license plate for identification purposes and bike rental facilities must record who is renting their bikes and for what time periods.
    and submit them either to the Police Dept or Traffic & Parking. Let us hope that one or more of our elected officials will make this happen.

  24. j. connelly says:

    I think the Aldermen have a legitimate concern on these food vendor trucks. I have seen one truck that is lettered on the side that indicates it is from Holbrook? i would rather see and support the local area and long time vendors who have been in Somerville for years. I miss the Pizza guy who was at the baseball games at Trum Field in the 60s’ & 70s’. Oh what I would give for a slice of that pizza, unfortunately my doctor would not agree.

    Saw Alderman Jack Connolly jogging around the city today. Great way to exercise and see what is happening in the city he serves. He keeps on top of things. Thanks Jack.

  25. Ray Spitzer says:

    There is no question that those f***ing bikers should be off the sidewalks!

  26. Somerbreeze says:

    J. connelly, there has actually BEEN an ordinance in Somerville prohibiting sidewalk cycling in the business districts–been on the books for over five years…

    But City Hall was loathe to enforce it, what with the Mayor’s love affair with cyclists (pedestrians aren’t organized).

    However, continual calls to the aldermen got a resolution passed that City Hall could no longer ignore–and hence the current task of enforcement.

    And here’s to the hawk-eyed vigilance of citizen activists like j. connelly who keep us on our toes!

  27. j. connelly says:

    BrickBottom People “They knew what they were getting into” is correct. It boggles the mind as to why they would locate their residences down by the railroad yards, where in the 70s’ the biggest chemical spill in the state occurred. Where evacuations occurred all the way back towards city hall and spread even further because of the expansion of the toxic cloud that occurred from the tank car. Well they got their special deals, now they will have to live with it.

  28. j. connelly says:

    A tip of the hat to you also “Somerbreeze’ and the others who write about the real issues in Somerville. Some of the people on the hill do read and listen. There are some elected officials who give it the extra effort to serve the citizens. The people keep bringing up the issues and down the line positive changes can be made

    Though sometimes the wheels move slowly….sometimes slow is good as a better look can be taken. I like slowly as today everything is too rush..rush and also I have a severe allergic reaction to pine I’m in no rush LOL

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