Somerville Elections: Meet the Candidates

Somerville Elections
Meet the candidates

By Matthew Korb

While the nation dusts off its podiums and settles in for campaign commercials in preparation for the 2012 presidential election, the city of Somerville is looking forward to its own political races. The thing is, there aren’t too many races. To be exact, there are only four:

• Alderman-at-Large (seven candidates for four slots)
• Ward 3 Alderman (two candidates for one slot)
• Ward 4 Alderman (two candidates for one slot)
• Ward 7 Alderman (three candidates for one slot)

Why so few races? Mainly because the incumbent aldermen from Wards 1, 2, 5 and 6 are all running unopposed. The mayor is also unopposed, as are the reps for all seven wards of the school committee.
Of the four actual races, the big one upcoming – on Tuesday, September 13 – is the preliminary election for Ward 7 alderman, which will narrow the three candidates currently on the ballot down to two. Those two candidates will then square off in the primary election on November 8.
The November 8 election will also determine the aldermen in Ward 3 and Ward 4. In addition, Somerville residents will select four aldermen-at-large from a pool of seven candidates (all four incumbents and three challengers). Who are all these candidates, and what would they like to change about Somerville? Keep reading.

Meet the candidates
We wanted to get a sense of the candidates’ priorities. So we asked them: What is the first thing about Somerville that, in their view, needs changing? Another way of phrasing it: If elected, what will be your first order of business/priority? Their answers are below.

For Mayor
Joseph A (Joe) Curtatone
130 Ten Hills Rd
Somerville, Ma 02145

Comment: We’ll continue down the path we have been marching down, which is making Somerville a great place to work, play and raise a family. That’s the one overarching value that has guided us and we’ll be continuing down that path. We’ve been at this for eight years and we’ve been humbled and gratified that the people of Somerville still show faith in our leadership and administration. I want to continue to earn that confidence.
We’ll also be continuing our focus on Assembly Square. We’ll continue to fight to make sure the state upholds its promise to build the Green Line through Somerville. We’re going to continue to make government more efficient. We’re going to continue focusing on customer service for our residents. And I am going to fight for services and public safety and education. Much of our future development plan is built upon strengthening our education system so that we can provide the best possible services for the people of Somerville.
I think the biggest challenge with a place like Somerville – like any other place in the Commonwealth – is trying to do everything you want to do and achieve everything you want to achieve with constrained revenues.
For Alderman-at-Large

John M (Jack) Connolly, Jr
17 Winslow Ave
Somerville, MA 02144

Comment: There’s no one thing that you can single out to be the most important project. One of the most important things is continue the fiscal oversight of the city. I’ve got to pay close attention to local corporations. One of our duties is to be fiscal overseers and, my first job among many, will be to continue to be the fiscal watchdog.
My main desire is to maintain the public safety, such as making sure our police, fire and department of public works are well equipped, both educationally and financially, to handle their respective responsibilities. It really is a three-way effort to protect our city. The police and fire maintain public well-being and the department of public works maintains the streets, roadways and underground utilities.

Bruce M Desmond
220a Summer St
Somerville, MA 02143

Comment: I think that the most important change that has to take place is getting more commercial business into this city. Most of the tax base is on the shoulders of homeowners and that needs to change. The sooner the city can do that, the sooner we’ll be healthy fiscally.

Dennis Michael Sullivan
138 Ten Hills Rd
Somerville, MA 02145

Comment: For the last eight years the hallmark of my public service has been office hours. I do office hours throughout the city. I do them year-round, one in the spring, one in the fall and one in the winter. I try to get every ward. It’s a sounding board for anyone who has any issue. It can be the littlest thing, like a pothole. I take those issues very seriously. So I would say constituent services are my biggest priority.
I see other elected officials doing it. I’ve noticed that since I’ve begun to do it other officials have done it. Some do it in coffee shops. I was the first one to do it. I’m very proud of that and it’s good to see other people emulating that. It’s good for the city.
I’m also working on a domestic violence policy for city workers. The victims of domestic violence who work for the city will be afforded certain things, such as time off for childcare issues and court dates.

William A (Bill) White, Jr
16 Browning Rd
Somerville, MA 02145

Comment: I have worked to transform Somerville into a city that fosters the participation of all of its residents in civic and social life so that Somervillians truly feel that they belong to a community in which they have the ability to influence elected officials on matters that impact them. I hope to further this work if re-elected.

Todd E Easton
35 Hudson St
Somerville, MA 02143

Comment: My first project will be to thank the people of the city for making the right choice and putting me in office. That will mean they are open to change and better representation between the city and people of Somerville. I’d then get to work on making sure the schools can be the best that they can be and working with the school committee and the mayor’s office to make sure the schools get the funding they need to prevent school fights.
That would be my first step. There are a lot of different issues that need to be engaged and addressed. I feel that the body of government that’s been around for a while, for the most part, has been around for 10 years and there is a bit of complacency going around. I think there has been a generational change and I want to make sure that the young, new generation is represented properly. People want someone that will represent them and the big picture for the city.

Sean J Fitzgerald
46 Garrison Ave
Somerville, MA 02144

Comment: I would certainly try to join the growing call for the immediate start to the extension of the Green Line. It’s been an ongoing issue for the last 10 years that has only really been stepped up by a lawsuit and the recent news they are going to delay it until 2018, something unacceptable in my opinion. I would work with fellow aldermen, the mayor and the community to convince the state that [the Green Line] cannot be delayed. Somerville used to be one of the most densely populated cities in New England, and still is one of the densest. Public transportation is the key with a city like this.
I’ve always been involved in public service since a very early age and I want to continue it by having a chance to serve the people of Somerville on the board of aldermen.

Michael D Nionakis
30 Mansfield St
Somerville, MA 02143

Comment: My first plan as alderman-at-large is to be fiscally responsible. I can’t see why we had to lay off the janitors and workers of the City of Somerville and then turn around and borrow up to $25 million for the Assembly Square project. It’s [fiscal] recklessness that I don’t condone. East Somerville is a pretty rough part of town. The storefronts down there are about 50-60 years old. I want to help rejuvenate that whole area right along Broadway. We have a family friend, Jack Parker, a B.U. hockey coach. He used to say that then he was growing up, it was one square, one park, one parish. It seems to me that that part of Somerville has slowly disappeared. I want to help bring that back.

For Alderman – Ward 1

William M Roche
17 MacArthur St
Somerville, MA 02145

Comment: If re-elected my priorities will be assuring high-end development at the Assembly Square Mall, and I will continue to work with the mayor and his administration on enhancing quality-of-life issues such as public safety, absentee landlords and traffic control.
There are many other issues that are a close second on the priority scale such as construction of the East Somerville Community School and the East Broadway reconstruction project. I will also continue to be visible and accessible to Ward 1 residents as I continue to ‘walk the ward’ on a weekly basis to hear firsthand from residents their concerns about our neighborhood.

For Alderman – Ward 2

Maryann M Heuston
115 Beacon St
Somerville, MA 02143

Comment: I have been the Ward 2 alderman since 2002 when I won a special election, my predecessor having left in the middle of his term. I have concentrated on several areas for my constituency and really it’s constituents who set the agenda for a ward alderman.
Plans for the Green Line and the future of the Brickbottom area continue to be a priority as well. I was happy to work with the Brickbottom residents in advocating for a change in the maintenance facility to a different location in relation to the Green Line extension. Joy Street has been repaved and now has sidewalks that you can actually walk on as well as trees. The end of the Waste Management facility in 2012 will open the door to future development in this area.

For Alderman – Ward 3

Thomas F Taylor
32 Vinal Ave
Somerville, MA 02143

Comment: My first order of business will be to try and stabilize the budget. My hope is that over the next few years we will decrease the number of layoffs and we’ll be able to retain business. Basically I want to make sure that the money we have coming in is enough to pay for services and expenses. I would also like to analyze the budget to make sure retirees receive a fair and equitable health care plan.
A problem in [Ward 3] is parking, especially around high-traffic areas like Union Square. I think what I would like to do is try to follow through with the renovations to Somerville Avenue to make sure Union Square retains attention and remains a destination [for residents].

Stephen A Delani
43 Berkeley St
Somerville, MA 02143

Comment: I want to take a look at some of the new fees that they’ve voted in. When I went door-to-door to get my nomination papers signed everyone can’t understand why [costs] keep going up and up. The biggest complaint I’m hearing from everyone is the raising of the fees.
My biggest concern for Somerville is what will become of the school and the property. But also I’m worried about the sidewalks. The sidewalk on the street that I live on is lifting up. And it’s actually a hazard, and I just sit there and think to myself, ‘Wow. This really needs to be repaired.’ Overall I want to help increase the safety of people who go out and walk on those sidewalks. The big thing is that nobody is being heard. None of the average people like me have a voice. And I think that it is time for a change in the city. The status quo has been going on for too long.

For Alderman – Ward 4

Christine P Barber
87 Thurston St
Somerville, MA 02145

Comment: I’m interested in hearing about the concerns of residents in our neighborhood. As I’ve been going door-to-door and talking with people, I’ve heard a lot about the things they like about the neighborhood, and areas that could be improved. As alderman, my main goal is to make sure that residents’ needs are heard as we move forward on opportunities in our neighborhood – making sure our neighborhood stays affordable and livable for residents, streets are safe and accessible for everyone, and the community has a voice in jobs and economic development.

Tony Lafuente
137 Sycamore St
Somerville, MA 02145

Comment: There are things in the ward that need to get done. For example, there are sidewalks and streets that need tending to. We need to talk to the owners of storefronts to get them in involved in renovations with the city. Obviously zoning on Broadway will be important. The Star Market site will also be a big concern. We are dealing with a very difficult developer. There are a number of things the neighbors have complained about: trouble places that we have to talk to people about to sort out problems. There is a local store across from the fire station that has, for all intents and purposes, become a gambling hall. I want to go in and talk with them and ask them if they are a convenience store or a Keno hall. Those two things are two issues that I’d consider are the most important when I get to office.

For Alderman – Ward 5

Sean T O’Donovan
30 Warwick St
Somerville, MA 02145

Comment: My first priority in Ward 5 is to stimulate economic growth in the ward’s square, particularly in light of the recent information from the governor’s office that the Green Line is now further delayed until 2018 for financial reasons. We need to work on making the square a vibrant location and help better the area around it. We have a lot of potential economic growth around the Green Line corridor. I want to help sort [the Green Line] out in a planned and calm fashion.

For Alderman – Ward 6

Rebekah L Gewirtz
131 Morrison Ave
Somerville, MA 02144

Comment: I’m very interested in promoting transparency and openness in local government so that people have easy access to information about what is happening at city hall. I’m going to continue to advocate for that. I’m going to advocate for small, locally run businesses, which I think in a lot of ways are the lifeblood of our community.
Also promoting our schools [will be a priority]. We have really good schools in Somerville. I’ve been able to see some really great ideas happening at the implementation of the Healey School. It is very important that we preserve the elements in that school that attract people to send their children there. All of these elements are interconnected and help make this community a desirable place to be. We need to focus on all of these areas to keep our city strong.

For Alderman – Ward 7

Robert C Trane
70 Hooker Ave
Somerville, MA 02144

Comment: There are a number of different issues I’m concerned of. We’ve come through numerous cuts to state aid and, despite that, we’re keeping services well funded. We’ll keep that up. So the key things to me are education and small class sizes, public safety and implementing community policing. Environmental issues are in the pipeline now, and hopefully we’ll sign a contract in the next few weeks to implement [commingled] recycling city-wide.

Katjana Ballantyne
49 Russell Rd
Somerville, MA 02144

Comment: I’m committed to open, inclusive government and local jobs. I want to keep Ward 7 affordable, with a high quality of life for all of us. I will work hard to manage our daily quality-of-life issues, and I will also work to help us focus on the big picture.
By working together we can shape the future of the Powder House School site, and other development coming to Ward 7. We can encourage complementary businesses to locate here and we can do more to match local residents with local jobs. We need to work together to keep the Green Line extension on track for the benefits it will bring, but also work to mitigate negative impacts. We all need to be involved to get the best results, and I’ll work hard to ensure that all of our neighbors’ voices are heard in city hall.

Joan Whitney Puglia
158 Powder House Blvd
Somerville, MA 02144

Comment: [My first priority] would be to resolve the issue of the future use of the Powder House School Property. My intention is to find out exactly what the residents of Ward 7 are looking for. There have been a lot of different propositions but none have come to fruition over the last several years. I think it is important to get that information and, after that, come up with a plan to discuss with the mayor [what do to]. Right now this is a mayor-driven conversation. I feel like it would be important to take a leadership role in deciding what to do with that property.
I’m looking forward to serving the people of Ward 7. I think it is important that we have a system of checks and balances in the local government. The solutions to [local issues] should be coming from aldermen and I’ve not been seeing that.


Candidates for School Committee

Beyond the mayoral race and filling the spots for the board of aldermen, this 2011 election will also see the return of all seven incumbents to the city’s school committee. Yet to the common Somerville resident, little is known of the duties and responsibilities of these officials.
The school committee is comprised of seven representatives, elected every odd year to their positions. These elections are on the same cycle as the mayor and the aldermen races. Each representative is required to present 100 signatures of Somerville residents to have her name on the ballot.
“[A committee member] must have a commitment to public education,” explains Adam Sweeting, a past school committee chair currently running (unopposed) for re-election in Ward 3. “An understanding of the diversity of the city of Somerville also helps. We have a lot of different voices in the city that need to be heard.”
The committee oversees the budget and policies of the Somerville school system. Education oversight is left to the school’s superintendent, who is appointed and monitored by the committee. The group’s main duty is overseeing the appropriate vesting of the school’s budget in different school programs and services.
During the school year the committee holds meetings on the first and third Monday of every month at City Hall (93 Highland Ave). These meetings are broadcast regularly on local cable.
Members also attend subcommittee meetings on different topics throughout the week, often every other day.
Honorary positions are also given to the mayor of Somerville and one member of the board of aldermen, so that they too can attend committee meetings.
Committee members create policies that affect the entire city of Somerville, not just the wards that elected them. “It’s really great to see how the current committee looks out [for the city],” offers Sweeting. “Everyone is really looking out for the whole district and the students.”
Though all seven members of the committee are running unopposed, we still asked them to prioritize what they felt needed changing in Somerville. Here are their answers.*
*Note: Scout was unable to reach Maureen Bastardi or Paul Bockelman for comments.

Ward 1

Maureen A Bastardi
14 Virginia St
Somerville, MA 02145

Comment: N/A

Ward 2

M Teresa Cardoso
9 Adrian St
Somerville, MA 02143

Comment: I don’t have a first order of business. I’ve been on the school committee for 20 years. We work collectively, as a committee, on an agenda for the school year. Nobody has a first order of business. That’s not how we work as a committee. We have agendas and we put forth items to be added to the agenda. I plan on continuing down the path I have been going for the last 20 years: working tirelessly with my colleagues so that our students can get the best education that we can give them. I am personally very proud of the Somerville school system I’ve been a part of. We have low class size and no fees for our students’ sports and arts. Those are the sort of things that, when re-elected, we will work on continuing.

Ward 3

Adam W Sweeting
44 Montrose St
Somerville, MA 02143

Comment: The school committee has stated that its first priority is our middle grades programming. I also want to keep investing in the schools; we’ve been investing despite the really tough economy. We’ve been investing in our schools to add academic coaches, expand our music program and add additional Italian instruction to the Healey School and move forward with a very aggressive unification program for the Healey School.
We have a real revenue challenge for the whole state. I’m very proud that we’ve been given so much and we’ve continued to invest with very creative and strategic thinking. We’ve got a great staff and great teachers and I think our biggest challenge right now is just fiscal. I’m looking forward to continue building on the work we’ve been doing.

Ward 4

Christine Theberge Rafal
122 Heath St
Somerville, MA 02145

Comment: First of all, I have really learned a lot during my first term and remain grateful to the voters for the opportunity to serve. I will continue to work on what the group deliberations lead us to. Two projects in particular that will have my attention are the implementation of the redesign plans for the Healey School and the rebuilding of the East Somerville Community School. On a personal level, I hope to work more on supporting multilingualism in our community, and to learn more about the finance side.

Ward 5

Mark Niedergang
29 Conwell St
Somerville, MA 02143

Comment: When I reach office I have four planned things to do: one, reviving the student assignment policy; two, improving and restructuring the middle grades; three, continuing to reach out to Somerville families so we can continue to increase enrollment in the school; four, I plan to work with the superintendent to help him hire a terrific, progressive principal for the unified Healey School.
One area that could be improved is the middle grades – something I and the rest of the school community have been focused on for quite a few years. There have been some improvements but I want to see major improvements.

Ward 6

Paul Bockelman
64 Wallace St
Somerville, MA 02144

Comment: N/A

Ward 7

Mary Jo Rossetti
80 Electric Ave
Somerville, MA 02144

Comment: Having the distinct honor of running for reelection unopposed, my plan for the next two years is to work collaboratively with my colleagues on the school committee. Together we can continue to make great strides in the education of all children here in Somerville. Working as a team is vital to the continued successes of the Somerville public school system. For example, we will need to recreate our educator evaluation system, and we will have to strategize effectively to deal with the effects of the lingering recession.
Additionally, my new appointment by Governor Patrick to the Local Government Advisory Council will allow me to continue to raise some of the issues which, were it not for the work of cities like Somerville, no one else would address. These include serving mobile and transient students who move during the year, mobilizing the resources of our social and health delivery systems to collaborate on supporting our families in need, and building superior academic experiences for all children, both those in distress and those at the top of our achievement ladder – readying them for higher education, work, careers and community service.

How to vote

Voting locations are based around regions or wards. Here’s how wards work:
• There are seven wards. Each is divided into three precincts.
• On Election Day residents are encouraged to go to the assigned polling place in their precinct.
• To learn where your assigned polling place is, visit Typing in the address will bring up information about your ward as well as your assigned polling place.

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One Response to “Somerville Elections: Meet the Candidates”

  1. [...] also see heated races for Ward 3, Ward 4 and aldermen-at-large. To learn about these contests, see Matthew Korb’s extensive breakdown of the candidates, including those for school committee. And if you’ve ever wondered what the school committee [...]

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