Author Archives: Suzanne

Emerge Massachusetts/Outsourcing of City Jobs – July, 2010

Last month I had the great honor of being introduced at the Democratic State Convention along with my classmates from Emerge Massachusetts. If you are a Democratic woman who might be considering running for public office, I highly recommend the Emerge training program as an effective way to learn the nuts and bolts of running for office, and gain from the experiences of some of the dynamic and progressive women and men who currently serve as elected officials in our Commonwealth.

Also last month, in an attempt to close the city’s $8.1 million budget gap, the Mayor proposed outsourcing custodial services in our schools. I strongly oppose this proposal. In the short term, it undermines the city’s relationship to its rank and file employees, and puts the jobs of hard working Somerville residents at risk. In the long term, moving civil service jobs into the private sector, exacerbates the growing gap between rich and poor in our country. I had the opportunity to voice opposition to this plan before the Board of Aldermen, Committee on Finance on June 22. Unfortunately, the Mayor’s proposal was approved by the Board of Aldermen by a vote of 6 to 4 on Thursday, June 24. All signs indicate that the union which represents the custodians will pursue legal action, which will require the city to respond. Is it wise to spend time and tax payers’ money on anti-labor litigation? Is it wise to take such a blunt position with organized labor when the city’s financial future depends on concessions on health care coverage from the 17 unions that represent the city’s employees? These are worrisome developments.

Farmers Market/Party Politics/CAAS – June, 2010

Longer days, warmer weather, the end of the school year – many good things happen in June, including the Union Square Farmers Market. Opening day is Saturday, June 5th, (from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm) and this year the Market will accept cash, EBT/SNAP, credit card and Farmers Market WIC coupons. The Farmers Market is the signature event of Union Square Main Streets, a public-private partnership committed to enhancing the the Union Square business district and surrounding neighborhoods.

On June 4th and 5th, I’ll be attending the Massachusetts Democratic Party State Convention in Worchester. I’m proud to be representing Ward 3, and pleased to be supporting
Suzanne Bump for Auditor – This a important position has the power to audit any state agency. The misapplication of this watchdog function could seriously impede the ability of state agencies to do their jobs. With her integrity, commitment to public service and extensive experience in business and government, Bump will keep her promise to count dollars and make change as State Auditor; and
Steve Grossman for Treasurer – A Somerville business owner, Grossman has been a leader in creating a progressive workplace, and at the forefront of sustainable business practices. His comprehensive three part plan to address the Commonwealth’s $22 billion pension liability, support of the rights of corporate shareholders to have a say on executive pay, and commitment to financial education will put Massachusetts on the road to financial stability.

Also, on Saturday, June 26th from noon until 4:00 pm, my good friend and neighbor Brandy Brooks and I will be hosting a block party here on Columbus Avenue in support of the Community Action Agency of Somerville. The mission of this fine organization is to end poverty where we live. Please come, bring a covered dish, and find out more about their important work. (Rain date: Sunday, June 27th).

Spring Update (March/April 2010)

Spring training has begun , which means that street sweepers aren’t fair behind. April 1 is the official start date of street cleaning in Somerville. Boston Sweeper, a service provided by Boston.com, will send will send an e-mail reminder to your in-box in time for you to move your car. It could save you the cost of a grandstand seat at Fenway.

In February, I had the honor of being elected as a delegate from Ward 3 to the Democratic State Convention. The Convention, on June 5th and 6th, will be held in Worcester. At this important convention, we will nominate candidates for state-wide offices, including governor, treasurer, auditor and attorney general. This will be my first convention, and I’m very proud to be representing my Ward. Thank you so much to everyone who voted to send me to Worcester.

Several other members of the board of directors of the Community Action Agency of Somerville, (CAAS) and I have been working on a revision the organization’s by laws, to better reflect how our city’s leading anti-poverty agency functions. These are interesting times at CAAS; stimulus money has allowed us to expand staff and services to our neighbors who are caught in the economic downturn. CAAS has recently strengthen it’s accounting and finance functions, so I am confident that these hard earned tax dollars are being well spent.

I’ve also been working with a remarkable group, Emerge Massachusetts, which is part of a national movement to address the under-representation of women in office at all levels of government.

Finally, as a life-long reader and dedicated librarian, I am looking forward to Somerville’s participation in the One Book, One City program. The program, promotes reading, and community discussion through book talks, art exhibits, concerts and film festivals, all centered around one book. Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried (an excellent read!) has been selected, and the kick-off is a concert at the Center for Arts at the Armory (91 Highland Avenue) on Sunday, March 28th, 4:00 to 8:00. Admission is free. Hope to see you there.

Fees for Pre-Kindergarten Programs in Our Schools – November, 2009

Testimony before the Somerville School Committee

Monday, November 30, 2009

I want to thank the School Committee for holding this public hearing on the proposal to charge fees for the pre-kindergarten programs in the Somerville Public Schools. I appreciate your hard work, and earnest deliberations as you seek to guide our schools through the difficult times that lie ahead.

As the parent of a graduate of the Early Childhood Intervention Program at the Capuano Early Childhood Center, I can testify to the excellent work being done there. I can also testify to how difficult it can be for a parent, new to the Somerville schools to understand and successfully navigate the educational system – PT, OT, EIP, PIC, ECIP – it felt very much like swimming in a bowl of alphabet soup. Indeed, it wasn’t until someone at our pediatrician’s office told us the words we needed to say that we were able to get a placement in ECIP for our son. My point is that parents and guardians of pre-k students – being new to the system – are far more likely to be confused, and less likely to understand nuance and details than those of us who have figured out the difference between Choice and Controlled Choice*. Targeting this group as the first to be subject to sliding fees for services invited even greater confusion.

It has been pointed out that many of our neighboring communities charge for pre-k programs. I ask, do these school systems charge for other non-mandated, extra-curricular activities? Arlington, for example, charges for full day kindergarten as well as extra-curricular actives for middle and high school students.

In the past Somerville has charged for extra-curricular actives, and, I have been told that this was a dismal failure, driving away those students who most benefited from these important programs. I would suggest a different approach. Instead of having an individual pay to play, why not task the entire team, or orchestra or club with the responsibility to raise some or all of what it costs to run their program? Wouldn’t this approach reinforce the message of teamwork that these “extras” are trying to instill?

As everyone is aware, the peril of these times is that we end up pitting one group against another – the high school football player versus the pre schooler versus the middle school flutiest – who is the more worthy? Who is the most vulnerable? I ask you, as leaders in this community to take a broader approach, to examine fees for services in a comprehensive context.

Thank you,

Reforming the City’s Charter – February, 2008

February 25, 2008

Over the last several years, Somerville has made impressive gains in improving the quality of city services. SomerStat, the One Call to City Hall program, Connect CTY and ResiStat are all cutting-edge tools that have significantly created new efficiencies in the delivery of city services. Mayor Curtatone’s call for an examination of the city charter is another example of the Mayor’s effort to model a model city government. Mayor Curtatone’s eye toward innovation and efficiency, will, I believe, help the city during this continuing economic downturn.

Having a city manager, or chief operating officer, would further modernize our city’s government. Like all cities, Somerville is complex. There are a lot of moving parts. It is unrealistic, and inefficient, to have one person – the Mayor – responsible for both setting and implementing the city’s agenda. Our current structure – where everything crosses the chief executive officer’s desk, will, in the long run, hold us back. As the demands of our times continue to increase, this flaw in the city’s structure will hold us back, and may cause us to miss opportunities.

The Charter Advisory Committee is also considering changing the name of the city’s representative body to City Council. This small name change, from Board of Alderman to City Council is a little thing that means a lot. No longer will we have to stubble over what to call Mss. Heuston and Gewirtz. Alderwoman Heuston? Alderman Rebekah? Councilor is a nice, one-size fits all salutation that is neither awkward or potentially offensive.

Encouraging voter participation and people’s involvement is one of the guiding principals of this Charter Advisory Committee. As the results of our most recent national election so dramatically demonstrates, voters get involved when they believe that their voice will be heard. Citizens become engaged when they believe that what they do will make a difference. Towards this end, a forward looking city charter should significantly enhance the powers and responsibilities of our most representative body as it changes from Board of Alderman to City Council. A strong city council would provide an open setting for meaningful discussion of issues we face as a community. A strong city council would also provide the checks and balances needed to insure open and transparent government. To do otherwise potentially undermines our well-earned reputation as a progressive city.