Ward-Based ResiStat Meetings to Focus on Goals Identified During Spring Sessions; Update on City Budget
SOMERVILLE - The fall meetings will focus on City updates to issues and goals identified by residents during spring meetings, and on the City's budget outlook. Residents who have already subscribed to their ward ResiStat alert lists will receive updates with additional information prior to each meeting. Residents who have not already done so may subscribe by contacting 311.
"Since its inception, ResiStat has provided a unique and critical opportunity for residents to be directly involved in City government, and hold us accountable for the issues and concerns specific to their own neighborhoods, or the City as a whole," Mayor Curtatone said. "Over the last two years, we've seen attendance at each of these meetings more than double, and subscriptions to and participation in the ResiStat e-mail dialogues, in addition to attendance at these meetings, has been extremely important in influencing policy decisions in the City of Somerville."
ResiStat is a subset of the City's SomerStat data-driven management program. ResiStat brings data on City operations and policies in the neighborhoods and solicitors input and ideas from residents. The program was piloted in 2007 and was funded through grants from the Boston Foundation and the National Center for Civic Innovation. Currently, there are 12 ResiStat groups: one per ward and a number of groups geared towards specific constituencies, and the City will be expanding the number of groups in the coming months to including additional special interest groups.
The remaining schedule for the fall ResiStat meetings is as follows:
* Ward 5: Tuesday, December 1st, 7:00 p.m., Kennedy Elementary School cafeteria, 5 Cherry St.
* Ward 1: Monday, December 7th, 7:30 p.m., Capuano Early Childhood Center cafeteria, 150 Glen St.
* Ward 4: Tuesday, December 8th, 7:00 p.m., Healey School cafeteria, 5 Meacham St.
* Ward 7: Thursday, December 10th, 5:30 p.m., TAB cafeteria, 167 Holland St.
For more information or to sign-up for neighborhood specific updates please visit www.somervilleresistat.org, or http://resistatjoin.speedsurvey.com, or contact Stephanie Hirsch at SHirsch@somervillema.gov.
The Somerville Lions Clubhouse located at 9 New Washington Street was broken into sometime early Sunday morning. Culprits broke in through the front door of the clubhouse but couldn't advance any further due to locked secondary doors. At 8:45am a member from an organization that occupies the building's 1st floor noticed the front door showed signs of forced entry and immediately called a Somerville Lions official and police.
Somerville police searched then later secured the building finding nothing missing.
Anjila Shrestha explained how children in Nepal start school at age three; they are taught three languages-British, English, and Nepali-and while they do celebrate Halloween they don't recognize Christmas.
The Kheer recipe that Shrestha introduced to the class bubbled on the stove, while a simple version of a German dish, Bratwurst with ketchup and grape jelly, was baking in the oven.
Welcome to "Cultural Kitchen," an after-school program that Hostelling International USA, Eastern New England Council offers to cultivate global awareness through examining the connection between food and culture. Shrestha was joined by a dozen other classmates at the Winter Hill Community School last Wednesday afternoon.
Hostelling International also offers the class at schools in Boston, South Boston, Dorchester, and Roxbury.
"I like cooking food," Shrestha said. "It's great to come here and make food, while hearing about other cultures and countries."
She walked over to the bubbling pot and stirred the porridge. Kheer is an essential dish in many Hindu and Muslim feasts and celebrations. While the dish is typically made of rice, it can also be made with other ingredients, such as vermicelli. The recipe that Shrestha brought in featured rice, milk, cardamom seeds, saffron threads, pistachio nuts, sugar, and slivered almonds.
Paula Levitt, the Cultural Kitchen coordinator for Hostelling International, explained to the class how saffron threads are a delicacy, and very expensive-about $25 per pound. (Saffron is actually considered the world's most valuable spice because a pound of this exotic flavoring requires the use of 60 to 100 thousand flowers).
The children in the class-fourth and fifth graders from the Winter Hill school-were instructed to research the foods native to their country. In Levitt's class alone the students represented Germany, El Salvador, Nepal, Senegal, Uganda, Jamaica, and Haiti, among other countries. Then each student came to class with a recipe that they would share. They created a collage for their presentation to highlight interesting facts and phrases about their country.
Some other recipes include pupusas from El Salvador, fried plantains from Haiti, meat patties from Jamaica, mango lassi from India, and peanut butter candy from Uganda. The rule is that students must try everything, unless they have food restrictions.
"It's a time for them to deepen their cultural understanding while they have fun with cooking," Levitt said. "They learn about what is cultural, what are cultural norms. It starts a cultural sensitivity at an early age."
"The presentations help me to learn more about my friends," Alyvia Baker added. "I also like eating the food."
Alejandro Perez's favorite dish thus far was the Senegal-influenced salad of avocados, shrimp, lettuce, onions, vinegar, and mayonnaise.
Haley Senn favored the mango lassi, a drink made of yogurt, milk, fresh mango, sugar, and ground cardamom. She learned how Indian weddings are an elaborate affair and that the women paint themselves with henna. She admired their traditional wear, the flowing saris. Equally important, Senn learned how to respect others.
The class lasts for 10 weeks. Hostelling International has introduced the class to 200 students. This is their second year teaching in the Somerville schools.
"In today's world, it is important for young people to interact with those of other cultures," said Deborah Ruhe, the executive director of Hostelling International. "The schools are already diverse, but classes like this offer a deeper appreciation of similarities and differences among people, which is really important."
Learning informally through cooking is also effective for younger age groups, she said.
With the power running game of Brandon O'Regan, the Somerville High football team finished its season in grand fashion.
O'Regan rushed for 146 yards and three touchdowns, as the Highlanders cruised to a 42-12 win over Matignon in Thursday's highly anticipated Thanksgiving Day showdown at Dilboy Stadium.
The Highlanders, who were once 2-6, finished the season with momentum on their side, en route to a two game winning streak at 4-6.
"It was a great way to end the season, especially for the senior class," said coach Harry Marchetti. "They came out and played with a lot of heart and inspiration. We had a great crowd behind us, and we were really able to take advantage of that."
Also contributing to the scoring was Elston Delpe, who hauled in a pass for a touchdown, along with Jeff Guzman and Kelly Perez, who also managed to find the end zone.
Early in the first quarter, the Highlanders managed to execute a short scoring drive en route to an 8-0 lead. Quarterback Rob Pratt scrambled to his right, completed a bubble screen pass to Elston Delpe. Delpe broke through a pair of tacklers and dashed into the end zone. On the two point conversion attempt, Alejandro Cabrera hauled in a completion from Pratt in the end zone.
"It was important that we were able to get off to that fast start," said Marchetti. "We were able to see some openings and we were able to take advantage. Our defense did an outstanding job, and we were able to capitalize on a number of opportunities."
Following a quick defensive stop, the Highlanders struck again later in the quarter en route to a 16-0 advantage. After several rushes by O'Regan and Jeff Guzman, the Highlanders capped the drive as O'Regan recorded his first touchdown of the afternoon. On a toss right, O'Regan maneuvered through a pair of tacklers at the line of scrimmage and bolted to the end zone on a 19-yard touchdown run. O'Regan also added a two point conversion as the Highlanders cruised to the early lead.
As the Highlander defensive line continued to stymie the Warrior offense, O'Regan added to the scoring punch. After O'Regan muscled through several short gains into Warrior territory, the Highlanders increased the lead to 24-0 early in the third quarter. Pushing past a pair of Warrior tackles, O'Regan broke through with an 11-yard touchdown run.
Securing the first half scoring surge, the Highlanders paved the way for a commanding 30-0 halftime lead as Guzman scored on a 24-yard touchdown run. On a toss left, Guzman blitzed down the sideline and waltzed into the end zone in the final seconds of the second quarter.
"We really came out and dominated the first half," said Marchetti. "We established control on our running game, and we managed the game very well. We were able to play our style of football."
In the second half, the Warriors quickly averted any shutout following a kickoff return for a touchdown. Kicking off the third quarter, Owen Bullock received the ball at his 15-yard line, dodged through a pair of Highlander tacklers at the 30-yard line, and broke through down the middle of the field. Bullock then blasted into the end zone, trimming the lead to 30-6.
O'Regan once again found the end zone, notching his third touchdown of the contest. Following several blockers at the line of scrimmage, O'Regan outfoxed a pair of defenders and scurried down the field into the end zone for a 52-yard touchdown run, increasing the lead to 36-6 midway through the third quarter.
With the contest well in hand, the Highlanders added another score en route to a 42-6 lead. After a pair of rushes by Guzman and O'Regan, Kelly Perez connected on a two-yard plunge into the end zone in the final seconds of the third quarter.
Matignon added a score midway through the fourth quarter as quarterback Ron Slager spotted Mike Nicholson in the end zone, cutting the lead to 42-12.
"It's a great way to end the season," said Marchetti. "We worked so hard from the first day of training camp until the last day. It's just great to see the seniors go out with a great win."
Do you want to give back to your community this holiday season, but don't have a lot of extra time or money? The Toys for Tots Program offers several ways to contribute. Whether you donate online, by mail, or in person, helping a child in need has never been easier.
The Toys for Tots Program originated in 1947 when a group of Marine Reservists collected and distributed five thousand holiday toys to needy children in Los Angeles. Since then, the program has become a nationally recognized charity, making more than one-hundred-eighty million underprivileged children smile on Christmas Day.
To donate to The Toys for Tots Program, drop off a new, unwrapped toy at any Massachusetts State Police Barracks, Boston Fire Department, Toys "R" Us, or Babies "R" Us. For alternate drop off locations, or to make an online donation, visit the charities website at Toysfortots.org.
If you'd like your donation to help a family in the area, Toys for Local Children, (TLC) is a Somerville based charity that supports local families. Bring your unwrapped toys to the Somerville Fire Station, the Boston Sports Club in Davis Square, East Cambridge Savings Bank on Highland Avenue, or any of the City of Somerville Municipal Buildings. If you'd rather make a monetary donation, checks should be made payable to Toys for Local Children, and sent to TLC - P.O. Box 45406 Somerville, MA 02145. For more information, go to www.toysforlocalchildren.org.
Are you a parent that would like to receive gifts for your children? Fill out an application form online by December 12th for TLC. To work with the Toys for Tots Program, get in touch with your social worker or Pastor, and keep in mind their deadline of December 4th.
By receiving a new toy at Christmas, children are given a message of hope for the future. America's need has never been greater, with over 14 million underprivileged children living in this country. Your tax-deductible donation could make a child's Christmas wish come true, and contributes to the Toys for Tots Program's mission, which is and always has been to "bring the joy of Christmas to America's needy children."
On The Silly Side
(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.)
Thanksgiving is a day that always goes as planned. The meal is prepared and the family sits down and eats, engages in cheerful banter and everyone goes home fulfilled. Each family member gets along with one another and everything is wonderful. Not always.
For some reason, Thanksgiving is the perfect time for the unexpected, the un-scheduled and the unbelievable to happen. Thanksgiving is the stuff (or stuffing) television shows are made of.
Here is "Season 1 of Thanksgiving, the sitcom." All of these stories are true, and happened to some of my Somerville friends.
- I remember growing up with a thawing turkey in the tub. I would go to brush my teeth only to find a giant frozen turkey in the tub! This went on every year, and I was always oddly amused by it.
- Back in the day, because your refrigerator only held so much, you would store some of the Thanksgiving items in the back hall or on the back porch. One year we had an unseasonably warm week, causing the neighbors' apple cider to turn.
- We bought a fresh turkey from a specialty store - well at about 3 o'clock on Thanksgiving morning, we got a phone call from the store that the turkeys were bad. I asked how we could tell, and they said when you open it, it will smell like rotten eggs. So we went to the kitchen and opened it and the STENCH could have knocked you out. Luckily this store opened up on Thanksgiving morning and replaced the turkeys for all its customers and our dinner was saved.
- One year we had a house full of dinner guests and my husband had sharpened the knives before carving because he wanted to look like the TV shows where you see the husband carve perfectly even pieces at the beautiful dining room table...well the knife was certainly very sharp when it slipped and sliced his finger. Embarrassed and intent on not ruining everyone's else's day, he wrapped his finger in paper towels and went to the emergency room. When he got there were five other men sitting there with their fingers wrapped in paper towels.
- My folks didn't know the turkey was still frozen until they went to put it in the oven. All hell broke loose between my mother and father. The grocery stores were all closed and we couldn't even find a pound of hamburger. We searched through all the kitchen shelves only to come up with a canned ham. Moral of the story: always keep a canned ham on hand as a backup plan.
- My family has a few horror stories. The exploding chestnuts is my favorite.
- I remember more than a few Thanksgivings at my house where you (Jimmy) would fall asleep on the couch for an hour with a full glass of beer and never spill a drop!
- One year at my in-laws we all sat down for this great meal that my father in-law made. First he carved the bird in the kitchen and started to bring the rest of the food into the dining room. He stopped to talk to us and we heard a crash. Running into the kitchen we found that the dog had pulled the turkey off the table and was eating it!
- We were at my in-laws house for a few hours getting things ready when someone mentioned there was no turkey smell. Mom-in-law forgot to turn on the oven. Dinner was served around 8-9pm.
- How about having to dress up like a bleeping Pilgrim to twirl a baton at the Thanksgiving Day game? Complete with pilgrim hat? Doesn't get much more humiliating than that.
- Living in an apartment in Somerville many years ago, we didn't know the oven had a timer, as I had never cooked anything in the oven longer than 1 hour. About 3 hours after putting turkey in oven, I went to check on it, only to find the timer had shut the oven off...good thing us Italians always have a pasta meal along with turkey. We had lasagna for Thanksgiving dinner with mashed potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, peas and cranberry sauce. File that one under "Ciao down!"
- We had ham and turkey one year. My brother cooked the ham and brought it with him. As the day wore on and the ham grew smaller and smaller we discovered a few tree leaves on the bottom. Turns out dear brother placed the ham in the pan on the railing on his porch. It fell into a bed of leaves. He picked it up, put it back in the pan and obviously did NOT check to see if there were any leaves on it. We joked and said the maple leaves flavored the ham.
- We had an old tomcat named Sam who liked to hunt sparrows. Well, one Thanksgiving Sam decided to join us. The back door was open to let some of the heat out of the kitchen, and in comes Sam through a hole in the screen door with his own bird! I can still remember my mother yelling: "Get that G.D. cat out of the kitchen!"
- A friend of mine told me that her uncle got mad and tossed the turkey off the third floor porch.
Let's hope nothing like that happens this year. Alcoholic beverages + waiting for food to be served + in-laws + being in a hot, noisy, crowded house for hours = a dampening of some people's festive mood. Let's hope everyone's feast can be a happy episode of Thanksgiving, the sitcom.
Thanks to those of you who shared your Thanksgiving memories with me. So this Thanksgiving, we will loosen our belts, watch football and fall asleep in front of the TV - creating a chorus of snoring. Some of us men will probably also do that! If I was one of those guys, I would usually wake up grumpy and thirsty, but still thankful. I am thankful for the memories of those Thanksgiving Days gone by, and grateful for the ones we are lucky enough to enjoying this year.
I will return to Amelia's kitchen in Teele Square on Thursday, Dec 3rd for music, macaroni and mayhem. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!
This Thanksgiving, 35 volunteers for the Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services Meals-On-Wheels program will home-deliver meals, which are protected by insulated food carriers, to 350 Somerville and Cambridge residents, altogether --- until approximately 12 p.m., according to Mary Ann Dalton, Assistant Executive Director of Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES).
Each Thanksgiving, volunteers are sought because the program's regular drivers have that day off. Normally, about 700 meals are normally delivered on a daily basis.
Included in the organization's Thanksgiving meal, one will find the contents of a "traditional" holiday dinner --- complete with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, squash, a roll, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie --- although, should an individual require a specific diet, he or she will be accommodated.
For the most part, SCES's clients are, at least, 60 years of age, although, the number of younger individuals who are receiving services, is on the rise. More than 2,500 people, in various programs and 4,400 callers, were assisted last year.
"All of our clients have challenges that require assistance so they can live independently," said Dalton.
Currently, "a number of meals that address specific medical and dietary needs" are available, through SCES. Such options include: diabetic, cardiac, low renal, high renal, low lactose, as well as "meals for people who need their food to be a certain consistency, such as chopped, ground [or] pureed," she said.
At present, a vegetarian dietary option is non-existent because the organization, "There is not a very big demand. However, we anticipate that the demand will increase in the future, at which time, we would probably add that option, as well," said Dalton.
Beginning in the early 1970s, SCES has operated akin programs in Somerville and Cambridge.
A private, non-profit organization, SCES is a state-designated, Aging Services Access Point (ASAP) --- as well as a federally-designated Area Agency on Aging (AAA). Moreover, several SCES programs are available in Greater Boston.
The organization "strives to enable older adults and younger people with disabilities to remain living in their own or their families' homes, for as long as they choose to do so, through services such as homemaking, personal care, transportation, personal emergency response systems, shopping and meal delivery," said Dalton.
Also available are "opportunities for people to improve their health and well-being, by participating in evidence-based, disease prevention programs."
In the future, "We would like to enhance our capacity to address our client's mental health needs, by providing in home mental health services," said Dalton. Interested individuals may contact SCES at (617)-628-2601 or eldercare.org.
According to the St. Petersburg Times, Somerville Police Chief Anthony Holloway is one of the four finalists for the Clearwater, Fla. police chief position.
Holloway spent most of his law enforcement career in Clearwater before being chosen as Somerville's police chief in 2007. The four finalists, including chiefs from Orlando, Dallas and Colorado, will return to Clearwater in mid-December to sit down with city council members for an interview.
Current Clearwater Police Chief Sid Klein, who has served in the position since 1981, will retire in February after a successor is chosen.
Holloway has told the News he will not comment on his candidacy.
Sex Magic Music Productions presents a Night of Rock 'n Roll to benefit the MA C.O.P.s. Kids charity - on Friday, Dec. 4th starting at 8pm at the Sports Bar in the Holiday Inn on Washington Street. MA C.O.P.S. for Kids benefits the children of Police Officers that have fallen in the line of duty. This event is being solely planned by Marco Soares the band leader and long time Somerville resident, Marco is a nice guy who has the holiday spirit.
The Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) is partnering with the American Red Cross to host a blood drive for the Somerville community at CHA's Somerville Hospital campus Monday, November 30th from 10am to 3pm in the hospital cafeteria.
Is Chief Holloway staying or will he go to work back in Clearwater Florida at his old department - but this time around as their new Police Chief? We hear from sources down in the Clearwater area that the current Chief has decided to delay his retirement till after the holidays - and the decision of who will be picked is narrowed down to only a couple.
The Cambridge Weekly News website started a few weeks back very quietly, but you'll be hearing and seeing it taking root in Cambridge - as more and more local people over there have jumped on board and there are more to come. We will have some good news to shout about coming up in January over there and possibly another community as well. Don't worry, The Somerville News will still only be Somerville news, but you can go online to view the Cambridge site - www.cambridgenewsweekly.com
Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours event will be held from 5pm to 7pm on Thursday, December 3rd at Sagra Restaurant Bar & Café at 400 Highland Avenue, Davis Square. Come one and all to support the Chamber's hard work and their efforts to keep Somerville businesses on the move and thriving.
On the Best of Somerville 2009, the cook at Ball Square Café - Omar Djebbouri is absolutely one of the best around - and his food is top notch. The Café had some visits by some Newstalkers recently, sampling the breakfast - which if you haven't been, the wait in line is worth it - and oh, by the way, say hi to Patty Oppedisano - she's the waitress of the year as well. Patty has the best smiles and she's so pleasant. Great place to take the family on Thanksgiving Day morning breakfast, we'll see you there.
Holiday seasons, we hope you will remember the underprivileged children around Somerville by wrapping up a new toy and dropping it off a West Somerville Dental Office located at 124 College Avenue. They are collecting toys for the "Toys for Tots" program.
So the state wants to put the MBTA maintenance facility in Somerville and ruin any chance this city has to realize the full economic potential of the last piece of developable, open land we have. Not a popular concept around here, that's for sure.
What is it about Cambridge that they get to just say, "Hey we don't want that facility here" and the state turns to Somerville and says, "Well, this is where we are putting it." Really now? Someone should explain to the backward-thinking folk behind the idea that this Somerville and it's 2009 - not the West End, circa 1958.
Maybe they think there's only a couple of nutty artists at Brickbottom that are going to raise a little stink and they will just do what they want. You don't have to live at that specific area of Somerville to really hate the idea of a train maintenance facility located in our city. There are people living in West Somerville that are almost as crazed about it as the artists.
Think about it - it's about as appealing as having a new county jail here. Hell, why they're at it, why don't they just have Waste Management expand the incinerator?.
Just because that area of the city wasn't stupidly over-developed in the 1960s through the 1990s doesn't mean it's wasteland available for whatever use the state deems suitable. Oh sure, we all get the little wink, wink, nudge, nudge when it comes to "available funding for future expansion possibilities," which is pig-Latin for "Hey, don't give us a hard time about this, or we will make sure you don't get what we promised later on."
The state should really slow down and work with our community on ways to accomplish what they want, with us being able to ensure long-term growth and sustainability at the same time. Think about it - in the ring of available land in and around Boston, two out of three possible public/private projects have been completed already - the convention center and federal courthouse.
The only thing left is an entertainment/sports complex - and it will probably not be popular with many people in this community if/when it gets proposed, but, at least we will be able to discuss it, be a part of the process and own it for ourselves. Anything would be better than having a singular-use train maintenance facility jammed down our throats. Maybe we should all lay down in front of the bulldozers.
Elected officials and residents weighed in on a Green Line extension environmental report last Wednesday, with dozens putting in more than three hours of testimony cautioning state officials to analyze the project more thoroughly.
The Green Line Extension Project, mandated by the federal government as mitigation for the pollution caused by the Big Dig, will reach from the current terminus at Lechmere Station through Medford and Union Square. The recently released Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment (DEIR) analyzes a variety of environmental issues in extending the service.
The meeting, held at Somerville High School, began with a presentation from Green Line Project Manager Kate Fichter but quickly became a forum for a wide variety of officials and residents to explain why the DEIR is lacking.
The majority of those commenting spoke against the proposal to put a Green Line maintenance facility on a site in Brickbottom known as Yard 8, adjacent to a converted industrial space that now serves as an artist community.
Residents and city officials argued that in addition to quality of life issues Brickbottom neighbors would face, the real estate should be used for economic development or risk losing millions in lost tax base revenue.
Aldermen Rebekah Gewirtz, Dennis Sullivan and Bill White registered their opposition to the Yard 8 plan, demanding to know why alternative proposals created by the city were not taken on instead.
White said that unlike those who decided to route I-93 through the city, the decision makers at the Department of Transportation would not be able to hide in obscurity.
"I'll promise you folks, if Yard 8 goes through where it's sited I'm going to ask the Somerville library to create some shelf space, and we're going to call it 'DOT's Folly,'" he said. "We're going to have the information there."
Brickbottom resident George Gabin, a painter, said he had lived through the commuter rail line maintenance facility being put in a half-mile away and isn't willing to put up with the noise just across from his home.
"We are a creative group of people, and we are being threatened," Gabin said. "From the moment your bulldozers come, we will be in misery."
"I'm 78-years-old," he added. "If it comes to it, I will be the first one laying down in front of those bulldozers."
Others, including Medford city officials, picked apart the report's lack of detail in areas relating to disability access, storm water management and traffic issues.
Steve Mackey, president of the Somerville Chamber of Commerce, said state officials need to include a plan for economic growth in addition to studying the project's environmental impact.
"Let's not have another meeting without the Office of Housing and Economic Development," Mackey said. "Let's not underestimate the gateway to Boston and Cambridge -- the Innerbelt and Brickbottom area -- and let's not submit a $1 billion project without an economic development plan."
The DEIR can be found at www.greenlineextension.org or public libraries in Somerville, Cambridge and Medford.
Written comments will be accepted until Jan. 8 through e-mail to Holly.S.Johnson@state.ma.us or by mail to Secretary Ian Bowles, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, MEPA Office, Attn: Holly Johnson, MEPA Analyst, EEA #13886, 100 Cambridge St., Suite 900, Boston, MA 02114.
Tensions ran high at a third community meeting on a proposed condominium project at 343 Summer St. last Thursday, showing no signs of appeasement from abutters who say the developer is still ignoring their concerns over its size.
The Nov. 18 meeting, organized by Ward 6 Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz, saw residents, city officials and project attorney Rich DiGirolamo at times shouting over each other to make their points heard. Despite concessions from the developer, an offshoot of Dakota Partners, residents said they were largely unsatisfied with changes made to the long-embattled project.
"I still think the size of the building is inappropriate for the neighborhood," neighbor Sue Hill said of the current 32-unit proposal during the meeting. "I've been working on this for nine years and I feel like the neighbors aren't being heard."
The struggle began in 2002, when the project began as a 14-unit condo project, and has since been the subject to two lawsuits from neighbors and a third from the developer against the city for blocking the removal of a public shade tree to make room for a fire lane.
The fight over the tree essentially halted progress on the project, leading to a potential lapse in the construction license until the Zoning Board of Appeals granted an extension in earlier this year, using justification residents say was faulty.
In April, DiGirolamo announced the developer had a new plan for a "land swap" with the adjacent Dilboy Veterans of Foreign Wars Post that would involve building a new facility for them and a new condo development they hoped would satisfy abutters.
Since then, the four-story, 30-unit condo project that was to include a ground floor of commercial space has since morphed into an exclusively residential floor plan of 32 units, with the fourth floor decreased by five units in response to concerns raised at a September meeting.
The majority of residents' issues raised at that meeting, however, remained unanswered two months later - especially regarding noise and privacy issues with the new proposed VFW site that would directly abut residences.
Both VFW members and city officials stressed that the Dilboy Post needs a new facility, as the current one does not meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards. Residents are concerned about the facility's potential use as a function hall and windows that face into yards just a few feet away.
"The VFW is a member of our community, and an important member," said Monica Lamboy, executive director of Somerville's Office of Strategic Planning and Development. "To think of veterans not being able to get into the post is really disturbing."
Mickey Curtin, who served as the city's director of Veterans' Services for 41 years, pointed out the current VFW gives much of its use to community events.
"I think we've shown we're a good neighbor," Curtin said. "We're not monsters. I think in 90 years we've shown we're not here to infringe on anyone's privacy or safety ... I hope the neighbors would accept us for what we are."
DiGirolamo also fended off accusations that the project would take parking space away from the already tightly-packed Davis Square neighborhood. The current proposal calls for 45 underground spaces for condo residents and 68 for the new VFW post, which neighbors doubt will be sufficient.
Nancy Iappini, one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit attempting to block the Zoning Board of Appeal's ruling to extend the project's construction permit, said the back and forth seems to be going nowhere.
"(This process) seems unnecessarily not straightforward, and it's really frustrating," Iappini said.
DiGirolamo said the developer is listening, but, "quite frankly, they have a prerogative."
Meanwhile, DiGirolamo promised residents would have a chance to weigh in on the plans submitted to the city in January, after resident Evdokia Nikolova wondered allowed if they would be submitted over the holidays to avoid scrutiny.
When you ask someone what is missing from their life, they will rarely say, "a big box store to shop in," Michael Kanter said. Instead, what people really want is a true sense of community.
That's why Somerville Local First and Cambridge Local First launched the "Shift Your Shopping" holiday campaign, asking people to make the 10 percent shift by shopping at local, independently-owned businesses from November 29 to December 31.
"This is an opportunity to get people to think about their shopping, and to make it a purposeful attempt to buy from local independents," said Kanter, the owner of Cambridge Naturals and a Cambridge Local First executive committee member. "People need to better understand that doing so can build strong, local economies."
Both the Somerville and the Cambridge Local First will hold a press conference this Friday at 10:30 a.m. in front of 253 Washington Street in Union Square (the former Hope & Glory shop) to officially divulge more details.
As for a sense of community, spending time with local business owners gives people more of an awareness of the people around them, he said. One will probably conduct a more meaningful conversation with a business owner and experience better customer service, rather than trying to find help at a mall super store.
"People appreciate the more thoughtful gifts that local shops can create, rather than just mass-produced items," Kanter said. "The appeal of the local movement means that at the end of the day, what people really need are other people and to have others support them and to not feel alone."
The month-long Shift Your Shopping effort is an extension of the annual buy local week that occurs the first week of December, said Joe Grafton, the executive director of Somerville Local First. Somerville and Cambridge, as well as Portsmouth, NH and Portland, ME are trying out the month-long movement, to capitalize on the shopping focus that the holiday seasons bring.
Somerville and Cambridge Local Firsts will hold a series of events during the Shift Your Shopping month. On Monday, Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Somerville Theater, there will be a panel discussion and talk about the New Orleans study, "Thinking Outside the Box," by Civic Economics that shows that local retailers have twice the local economic impact of big box stores, while taking up a fraction of the land area. WBUR's Robin Young will be the moderator and the panelists include Kanter, Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz, and Grafton.
The businesses that sponsor Somerville and Cambridge Local Firsts will hold special sales and events throughout the season, including casual photos with Santa, sing-alongs and tastings, Grafton said. Shift Your Shopping sponsors include Ball Square Fine Wines and Spirits, Downtown Wine and Spirits, GRAND, Kickass Cupcakes, and Poor Little Rich Girl. Sponsors A complete list of Shift Your Shopping events and participants can be found at www.shiftyourshopping.org
Rachel Solem, the owner of Irving House and Harding House in Cambridge, and an executive committee member of the Cambridge Local First, is excited about the Shift Your Shopping program. She added it will be a long, slow process to get people to think about buying at local, independent businesses as it's about a shift in thinking.
Many busy people prefer the ease of the Internet or dashing to a department store for something like lingerie, for example. Chances are they will find something in their size. At a smaller, local store they may not. But, often times they can order something, and they will also receive a more personalized and quality shopping experience.
"The main reason to do this is that you are in an independent shop dealing with the person in charge who makes the decisions, so that you as a customer are not part of the random world of shopping," Solem said. "You have a better quality experience, which is what we want people to know."
The Somerville Rotary Club Hosted it's annual Tri-meeting with the city's three service clubs, The Somerville Lion's Club, The Somerville Kiwanis Club and The Somerville Rotary club. The event was held at the Mount Vernon Restaurant in Somerville mid-day on Tuesday November 24th, it was very well attended by all three club's members who all enjoyed a wonderful meal and had a fun time. Proceed's from the event went to "Project Soup and the "Somerville Homeless Coalition.
From the office of Senator Anthony D. Galluccio
Somerville Police responded to a call at 11:20am that men armed with shotguns and other weapons where hanging around in the rear of the Brickbottom Artist Studio Apartments located at 16 Fitchburg Street in Somerville.
The call was brought to Brickbottom's facility manager Bob Martel's attention by the description of a "vagrant" that was outside of the building who allegedly witnessed the activity. Somerville police officers searched the entire area sealing off the premises.
The situation is still under investigation.
Governor Patrick was Middlesex Registrar Tara DeCristaforo's special guest, he spoke in front of a crowd of over a hundred attendees at today's "National Adoption Day" ceremonies at the Middlesex Probate and Family Court in Cambridge.
The event honored and celebrated the adoption of over 200 Massachusetts children.
William C. Shelton and Joe Beckman
(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.)
Without much notice, Somerville is becoming one of the more innovative schools systems in the U.S. That is the subject of this series. Recent gatherings involving some of the nation's leading thinkers on the future of education provided evidence of the depth and value of Somerville Schools' innovation.
Alan November was the keynote speaker at a national conference on visual literacy. "Visual literacy" means recognizing how a message is shaped by the medium that is delivering it. Alan describes a phenomenon that will transform K-12 education as we know it. With the proliferation of digital technology and media as educational tools, schools will become the equivalent of one-room schoolhouses, where everyone learns from everyone else, and the teacher is more coach and choreographer than attendance taker and grader.
A diverse group of Somerville High kids were the only actual K-12 students at the conference. They deeply impressed conference goers by presenting videos that they had created. They discussed the videos' style and substance with greater sophistication than could be managed by a number of the graduate-school students in the room. In so doing, they proved November's thesis.
In our last column, we discussed how Somerville Schools have reduced by 50% in one year the rate at which they hold back students in grades 1-through-8. So I (Joe) was fascinated to hear Jay Smink, director of the National Dropout Prevention Institute, when some Somerville School staff and I attended a workshop on the subject in Worcester.
Jay emphasized the critical role of identifying students who are struggling, and the areas in which they are having a hard time. He says that such assessment can begin as early as the third grade. He advocates a range of interventions-projects, after-school programs, summer school, mentorships - to change a dropout pattern into higher achievement. Any of them is more effective than "retention in grade," that is, holding a kid back for more of the same thing that didn't work in the first place. In other words, he advocates the innovations that Somerville is already successfully implementing.
Smink's theory and Somerville's practice are consistent with some compelling insights that emerge from exhaustive research conducted by John Hattie. Hattie was the Chairman of Educational Research Methodology at the University of North Carolina and is now based in New Zealand. He examined thousands of studies and compared the results of fifty years of evaluations and experiments in K-12 schools.
He identified 138 practices used by teachers, schools, and parents, and compared their effects. Some of the practices were conscious methods, like teaching kids to assess their own work. Others were simply behaviors that had an affect on kids' ability to learn, like families moving so often that they didn't establish social networks. You can take a look at this research at http://www.education.auckland.ac.nz/uoa/home/about/staff/j.hattie. On almost all points, his conclusions coincide with Smink's-retaining kids in grade is an educational disaster, with no educational justification whatsoever.
Last week, I spent two days at meetings in Boston with a team from the US Department of Education (DOE) that is planning the development of Race-to-the-Top assessment methodologies. Race-to-the-Top is the new program that offers competitive grants to innovative schools and educators. It's funded by $4.3 billion in stimulus-package money, $350 million of which is for new assessment methods.
Part of the conversation involved the use of "portfolios." These are collections of papers or projects that a teacher and student believe are noteworthy. They accumulate in a file, or more recently on a CD Rom, over the student's middle- and high-school years. The Massachusetts' 1993 Education Reform Act that created MCAS also authorized the use of portfolios as an alternative or supplement to MCAS. There is even a budget line item for it.
If America and our children are to be successful in the world in which we now live, we must teach kids how to think, rather than what to know. What is important to know is constantly changing, so they need the capacity to think effectively about any situation in which they find themselves. The factory jobs that could pay a living wage have been vanishing for decades. Increasingly, the only economic sectors in which the U.S. can be competitive and that provide jobs with a future are those that require critical thinking, defining objectives, problem solving, and the skills needed to work well with others.
Assessments like the MCAS don't measure these capacities. Instead, they measure knowledge and some fairly trivial skills. Organizations like FairTest and elected officials like Carl Sciortino have been working to get policy makers to recognize this for years.
Better assessments would lead to more interesting teaching and smarter kids. That was the point made by the consultants who were at the Race-to-the-Top event. In response, the DOE officials seemed cool to the idea of portfolios. And Massachusetts has done little to develop the practice, despite its recognition in legislation.
But-you guessed it-Somerville High School has been compiling portfolios for some time. That's the good news. The bad news is that the portfolios have never been used. The other good news, though, is that there is now a committee in the high school reviewing how portfolios might be made more useful.
Adopting a single-stream recycling program, keeping Somerville clean by imposing code violations, and encouraging developers to increase affordable housing were just three priorities that the city's younger generation set before the mayor on Monday night.
Mayor Joseph Curtatone's Youth Somerville Advisory Group (YSAG) held its annual report and recommendation meeting at the Armory, as part of its ongoing efforts to involve and give voice to Somervillians aged 25-42.
"Somerville is a great place to live, with a great location, great restaurants, great people, and a mayor who cares about our point of view," said James Stark, 31, YSAG's co-chair. "We want to ensure that we keep it that way."
And it's not news to anyone that Somerville's young population is growing. The Ville is often touted as the new "hip" burb of Boston, admired for its diversity, creativity, affordability, and proximity to the highway. In fact, 42.6 percent of Somerville's population is aged 25-42-the highest concentration in the Boston area (see box below), according to 2000 census figures compiled by the city (the most recent youth stats data).
YSAG, which formed two years ago, is comprised of 20-30 members at any given time and meets with city officials twice each month. The group's mission is to learn more about ongoing and new efforts to improve city services, and to give voice to an age group that is typically not so active with town government.
The group's recommendations were gleaned from routinely surveying the city's young population via Google surveys and during community events like ArtBeat and Riverfest. A few highlights of the top priorities are as follows:
o Continue to work to implement a single-stream recycling program in Somerville. This means allowing people the flexibility to lump paper and canned goods into one recycling tub to make it more convenient for everyone to recycle. The city should also include recycling information and the benefits of doing so in resident tax billings.
o Use code enforcements as a tool to increase revenue, while keeping Somerville clean and safe. Such efforts might be directed at rental residents and those property owners (often absentee landlords) who are not maintaining the upkeep of their property; including those who don't shovel their sidewalks in the winter.
o Encourage developers to increase the number of affordable sale and rental properties, as well as discouraging them from converting properties into condos in order to retail sufficient affordable rental units.
o Develop a first-time homebuyers course for young residents.
o Increase the basic requirements for Shape Up Somerville-approved restaurants to improve the health of residents.
o Create long-term off-street parking lots or spaces where residents without driveways can safely leave their cars for one to two weeks, at a reasonable fee.
Establishing a strong presence in the community will be a primary focus in the upcoming year, YSAG members say.
Some other issues posed by members include adding more bike lanes, bike paths, and bike parking areas, said Jon Pettit, 30, who works in alumni relations for Harvard University. "I'm interested in alternative forms of transportation," he said.
Pettit heard about YSAG shortly after buying a condo here two years ago. He grew up in Amherst, a community that was active in local government, including "involved town meetings," he said with a chuckle. It was only natural for him to join YSAG.
"Engaging people in our age group is often difficult to do," said Matt Hartman, 28, a first-year law student at Suffolk University. "As a group, we have progressed to all sorts of issues that have come up, like improving communications with the city."
YSAG co-chair Lauren Tulp, 25, who works for a philanthropic consulting firm, said young people do want to get involved with politics, but oftentimes don't know how to go about it.
"This has been a great learning experience," she said. "I've learned about the structure of city government, how it works, what to take advantage of. There are so many opportunities for us out there."
YSAG would also like to reach out to the community and work with organizations that serve the homeless, for example, said Stark, a project coordinator for the state's Executive Office of Public Safety.
Members are really excited about the possibility of creating a first-time homebuyers class. Carrie English, 28, who works for WGBH, ended up buying a condo in Somerville after learning through being a part of YSAG about the resources available to young people like herself.
"Somerville has progressive affordable housing programs that many people do not know of," Pettit said.
YSAG members acknowledged that membership was mainly reflected in the college-educated, Caucasian, working professional. They are working to become more diverse by printing flyers in Creole and Portuguese and increasing their outreach into the immigrant population.
Visit www.somervillema.gov/youngsomerville for more information about YSAG.
The Boston area's youngest cities
The percentage of youth aged 25-42 in metro-Boston.
Somerville - 42.6%
Cambridge - 38.6%
Malden - 36.9%
Arlington - 36%
Boston - 35.8%
Everett - 34.8%
Chelsea - 34.7%
Medford - 28%
Source: City of Somerville census figures from 2000