By Izak Shapiro
On May 2, Davis Square residents gathered in the Community Baptist Church on College Avenue for the Ward 6 ResiStat meeting. Additional rows of chairs had to be created as the room filled with people, the high turnout no surprise anymore as Somerville seems to be implementing changes at a rapid pace while the public tries to keep up.
For this meeting, many of the participants attended in order to discuss the plans for a potential hotel in Davis Square with Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. When it was announced the mayor was running late, the crowd let out a slight groan. There were plenty of topics to get to in the meantime, however.
One of those topics was the issue of crime in Somerville. So far in 2013 in the Ward 6 Davis Square area, there have been no reported rapes or homicides, just one reported assault, and two issues of domestic assault cases. However, for property crimes, 30 cases of residential burglary have already been reported, 17 more than had been reported at this time last year, and 21 more than had been reported at this time two years ago.
“Fifty Percent of breaking and entering is due to doors being left unlocked and windows being left open,” said Somerville Police Chief Thomas Pasquarello. “For car burglary, sixty-five percent of them are due to doors being left unlocked.”
So be sure to lock your doors. Community in cooperation with policy formed the theme of this Ward 6 meeting. A motto took shape: “Somerville: a great place to live, work, play, and raise a family.” The 2014 budget priorities are as follows: increase education funding, library improvements, technology upgrades, capital investment, enhanced communications.
“Crime is really the fault of failed policies,” said Mayor Curtatone after arriving later in the meeting.
Mayor Curtatone and the rest of the Somerville government constantly strive for the best way to balance effective budgeting with sustainable community improvements. A small example of this is their decision to switch the outdated streetlights in favor of new LED streetlights, a change that should save the city $400,000 per year.
“We’re planning for twenty, thirty years down the road,” said Curtatone. “We believe we can build our neighborhoods smartly and effectively.”
A major part of the mayor’s plan for constant but sustainable improvement is the Somerville by Design program. Since 2012, the Green Line extension into Somerville has been underway, and by 2018 will extend into Davis Square via a stop on College Avenue. Kenney Park will be re-done, with creating space for all types of active play serving as the re-design priority. Other improvements will be made to Davis Square street design and patterning in light of Somerville’s always and increasingly dense population.
When the mayor finally got around to the topic of a Davis Square hotel, the energy in the room lifted a bit. One woman could not hold back her frustration, yelling when the mayor insisted on the hotel project.
“We intend on building a hotel,” said Curtatone, looking squarely at the woman challenging him. “We believe in the positive impacts.”
Others expressed frustration at the lack of participatory opportunity in the planning of the hotel and other Somerville re-design projects. One woman even asked what the endpoint is, or if there is an end.
“I promise you we won’t be Manhattan,” said Curtatone with a smile. “The end is how we plan it out.”
If you would like to involve yourself in the planning of a possible hotel in Davis Square, the first meeting will take place on May 21, location to be determined.