By Joseph A. Curtatone
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)
No municipal offices are at stake on November 6: Somerville’s next local election will be held in 2013. This is, nonetheless, an extremely important election cycle for our community right down to the neighborhood level. No one should sit this one out. That’s why I have been giving as much of my time as I can spare to three very different campaigns at the national, state and local levels.
Here in Somerville, I have given my strong personal support to the passage of Question 4, a ballot measure that would enable Somerville to participate in a state-sponsored program created under the Massachusetts Community Preservation Act (CPA). I am by no means alone in my support: this proposal has been endorsed by every local state and municipal elected official – our Aldermen and our entire statehouse delegation – as well as numerous local business and community leaders.
Question 4 will allow us to access a source of state funding that’s been available for years to richer suburban towns, but which cities like ours found less attractive until the legislature made a series of key changes last year (changes that were pushed hard by the Metro Mayors Coalition and other civic groups in the region). By establishing a local fund supported by a 1.5 percent surcharge on property tax bills (that’s about $33 annually for the average single-family homeowner; $16 per year for the average condo owner; $60 per year for the average two-family homeowner), Somerville will gain access to state matching funds. In the first year alone, we estimate (very conservatively) that the combined revenues would total more than $1.7 million.
With this new funding, and guided by a special community preservation board acting with the review and approval of the Board of Alderman, the City would be able to make significant new investments in parks and open space, in the preservation of historic city buildings like schools and libraries, in the creation and improvement of certain types of recreational facilities and in programs designed to keep local families from getting priced out of Somerville housing. (Contrary to the statements made by some opponents, Question 4 will NOT raise tax rates by 1.5 percent; the surcharge comes after the tax bill has been calculated.) The benefits will far exceed the modest cost and I ask every Somerville voter to say “Yes” to Question 4.
I’ve also been working when I can for Elizabeth Warren’s campaign to unseat Senator Scott Brown. The Warren campaign’s state headquarters are right here in Somerville, and I can tell you from direct experience working with her on policy issues and campaign events that she has a deep appreciation of the opportunities and challenges faced by Massachusetts cities and towns. Her support for investments in infrastructure and transportation to jumpstart economic development, and her commitment to quality education and sound environmental policy make her by far the best choice in the U.S. Senate race. (By the way, we have invited Senator Brown to Somerville, but so far as we know he has yet to visit us in his official capacity.)
And, finally, it’s been my privilege to serve as part of the surrogate corps for the national Obama campaign. When it comes to getting elected officials out on the campaign trail to speak on his behalf, the President pretty much has his pick of mayors: his polices helped cities and towns survive the recent recession, and his commitment to encouraging sustainable, transit-oriented development is helping attract billions in private-sector investment to Somerville and the entire Metro Boston region.
Wherever I go to campaign for Obama – Iowa, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania – I’m teamed with local mayors who have shared my experience of the way that the Obama Administration has worked to revitalize cities across America. My particular contribution on the campaign trail is to talk about my firsthand experience with the way that then-Governor Mitt Romney pushed costs off the state budget and onto cities and towns from 2002 to 2006, forcing cuts in local services so he could balance his books while leaving communities like ours to take the heat and make the hard choices.
President Obama’s reelection; Elizabeth Warren’s run for U.S. Senate; the broad-based community coalition to pass Question 4: They’re three very different campaigns, but all three are vitally important to Somerville’s future prosperity. I’m proud to back all three and I urge every Somerville resident to do the same.