Somerville Police officer Steve Jones evaluates the situation as he interviews the accident victim, bicyclist Ray Carre after a motor vehicle driven by Syed Hague drove into him in front of 779 Somerville Avenue at about 5:15pm Wednesday night.
The motorist, Syed Hague, shakes hands and offers an apology to accident victim Ray Carre with passenger Syeda Akater in background. All three exchanged phone numbers and made plans to go for coffee before the holidays!
John Buonomo, a former Somerville alderman, was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison earlier this afternoon for stealing more than $100,000 from his campaign account and breaking into copying machines to steal money.
Buonomo, 57, plead guilty in October to 39 charges relating to both misuse of campaign funds and stealing from the coin operated copy machines in the Registry of Deeds basement, where he worked as the Middlesex County register of probate.
Buonomo had served in the position since 2000, and while prosecutors saying it is unknown how much he may have stolen security cameras filmed him breaking into the Cambridge building's machines in 2008.
At the 2 p.m. sentencing Judge Bruce Henry said he had considered appeals made by Buonomo's friends for leniency, his admission of guilt and his lack of a criminal record.
"They are serious offenses," Henry said. "They are offenses which undermine the faith citizens have in their government."
"Somewhat to his credit, perhaps late in the game, he's taken responsibility for what he's done," Henry added.
In addition to the prison term, Henry also ordered Buonomo to remain on probation for 10 years and pay a fine of $102,792.15. Henry said the "public humiliation" Buonomo faced from the ordeal was also a factor in his decision.
Buonomo, who sat by himself before the sentencing, displayed little emotion as he faced the judge and did not speak. Immediately after the sentence was read, Buonomo was led away in handcuffs.
Michael Natola, Buonomo's attorney, said outside the courtroom Buonomo will likely be eligible for parole in 15 months.
Buonomo is appealing a recent decision by the Somerville Retirement Board to repeal his $3,228.07 per month pension.
After being chastised for safety lapses following an assault last month, representatives from Market Basket promised on Monday to work with city officials to comply with fire codes and ease traffic issues around its Somerville Avenue storefront.
David McLean, the chain's operations manager and Somerville location manager Mike Dunleavy told the Board of Aldermen's Public Safety Committee that following the Oct. 11 assault and robbery of a woman in the store's parking lot, surveillance cameras had been installed.
Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston had earlier criticized the store for letting chaos reign in the perpetually full parking lot even as the store maintains dozens of cameras inside.
Dunleavy explained that since the incident, high-resolution cameras had been installed to monitor the parking lot.
"I can look into Ceaser's [across the street] and see someone eating a slice of pizza," Dunleavy added.
Heuston also pressed the representatives on the overcrowded lot and often blocked fire lanes, which she said pose a safety hazard to anyone in need of medical assistance - an assessment supported by a letter from Fire Chief Kevin Kelleher at the Monday meeting.
"I'm hoping there's a way we can come to an agreement here on making that parking lot a more reasonable place," Heuston told the representatives.
McLean said more lights would be installed in the lot and that they would undergo a parking study to determine whether more spaces could be added. The lot has an estimated 218 spaces, Dunleavy said.
"We've got a $25 million road opening in the spring," Heuston said, referencing the Somerville Avenue revitalization project. "Wouldn't it be nice to have something more than a parking lot with carts and some lighting in the middle?"
In the meantime, Alderman-at-Large Jack Connolly offered some shopping advice.
"We go early," he said. "I park on Church Street because I won't even attempt to go near the lot."
Committee Chair Bill White asked the store to begin enforcing fire lane towing and requesting a police detail to monitor the lot in addition to the detail posted inside the store several days each week.
"The weekend of the $3.99 per pound lobsters you could put an extra detail in," Inspectional Services Superintendent George Landers offered.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi endorsed Mike Capuano in his bid to fill Ted Kennedy's spot in the U.S. Senate. What does that mean to Mr. and Mrs. Massachusetts? Not much. What does that mean to Joe and Jane Somerville? Possibly less than that.
But why? She is, after all, the leader of the House of Representatives, so that should mean something. Pelosi may have no problem in her home district of San Francisco, but she would find Massachusetts a bit less liberal-friendly than most people assume.
And there is the rub - some say that Pelosi transcends progressiveness and heads straight into the realm of full-blown liberal. As progressive as Mike is and as progressive as Ted was, they both know how to play to both sides of the aisle - full blown liberalism wouldn't have played for either of them in the long-term. Ever.
So she comes to town to give the nod to Mike. Political proclivity and reality aside, for you and yours, that means that the top of the leadership in the House has the faith in Mike Capuano to be the next Senator from Massachusetts. There is a serious upside to this.
In an era where political newcomers are still in vogue, the uphill battle that Mike has in this election, outside of the shortness of time until the Primary, is hammering into every voter's head that a Washington insider is exactly what we need in our next Senator. Yes, you read that right.
And that's why the voters of this Primary should be impressed with Speaker Pelosi's endorsement of Mike Capuano for Senate - because we need more than the regular flash in the pan candidate for Senate - we need down in the trenches experience, period. Experience that a hard working, intelligent and dedicated candidate who is already way ahead of the others when it comes to political maneuvering in Washington DC can deliver.
|By Tom Nash|
Somerville police will soon have a new vehicle fleet following a Board of Aldermen vote to authorize $375,640 for the purchase.
The police will soon have six Ford Crown Victorias, four Ford Taurus detective cars, a Ford Expedition for the traffic bureau and new prisoner and animal control vans.
Ward 6 Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz asked Holloway at the Board's Nov. 12 meeting if the department had considered hybrid vehicles or sharing cars. The chief said neither is a viable option since hybrids aren't certified for use with police equipment and officers need to be able to split up at a moment's notice.
"I don't want them sitting in the station saying 'I can't go out because Tony Holloway has my car'" Holloway said.
"We're working right now at the bare minimum," he added.
Holloway said the new vehicles, which will cost 40 percent of the city's Capitalization fund, are meant to last 10 years. The old vehicles will be sold at auction for an estimated $5,000 each.
The fire department also slated to receive new vehicles, with three Toyota Priuses and a new $500,000 pump truck on the way.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Middlesex Juvenile Court and Probate & Family Court
It is important to note that this event is 100% funded from corporate donations, personal donations and funds from the Massachusetts Court Improvement Program, a federally-funded program administered by the Supreme Judicial Court.
The National Adoption Day Committee & Middlesex County would like to express our heartfelt appreciation and a special thank you to the following participants for their time, support and generous donations.
Schedule of Events
8:15 am Check-In Registration - Lower Level
Family photos are available at this time - 1st floor
8:15-Continental Breakfast is served in the 1st floor courtroom
11:00-Lunch is served in the 1st floor courtroom
Entertainment available throughout the courthouse
9:00 am Opening Ceremony - Press Conference
Paul Hartnett, Clerk Magistrate of Middlesex Juvenile Court, Tara DeCristofaro, Register of Probate & Family Court
Entrance of Color Guard
National Anthem Sung by Attorney Kristin Snyer
Master of Ceremonies
Honorable Jay D. Blitzman,
First Justice of the Middlesex Juvenile Court
Honorable Michael Edgerton,
Chief Justice of the Juvenile Court Department
Honorable Paula M. Carey,
Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court
Commissioner of Department of Children and Families
Dr. JudyAnn Bigby,
Secretary of Health & Human Services
Honorable Deval Patrick,
Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
CEO, Jordan's Furniture
Closing Song "WE ARE FAMILY"
Sung by Breanna Hewson & Jaclyn Casey
Legacy of an Adopted Child
Not flesh of my flesh, nor bone of my bone.
But still miraculously... My Own.
Never forget, for a single minute:
You didn't grow under my heart... but in it.
National Adoption Day is a collaborative event organized by:
Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange (MARE)
Massachusetts Department of Children & Families
Juvenile Court Department of the Massachusetts Trial Court
Probate & Family Court of the Massachusetts Trial Court
National Adoption Day is sponsored by the Massachusetts Court Improvement Program, a federally-funded program administered by the Supreme Judicial Court
The city has renewed its waste disposal contract with Fred W. Russell & Sons, despite lingering concerns raised by Ward 6 Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz about its labor practices.
The issue of whether to vote for a new five-year contract came up at the Nov. 12 Board of Aldermen meeting, where Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston said a decision was necessary in order to keep the company's $10.9 million bid.
"I believe if we don't make decisions tonight, we'll have to go back to the drawing board," Heuston said.
Russell principal, Kevin Douglas, who is a regular campaign contributor to several Board members, came in at $1 million lower than the two other companies considered.
Capitol Waste Services submitted a $11.9 million bid, while Waste Management submitted a bid for $12.7 million. Cities are not required to take the lowest bid, which Gewirtz said could be tied with the fact that it's a non-union operation.
Gewirtz said she wanted answers about allegations of worker mistreatment, including an attempt at union busting. In December 2007, a riot broke out during an attempt to unionize the workers.
"Any finding that goes against a contractor, we would immediately terminate our relationship," Curtatone told the Board. "We would not do so on innuendo and rumors."
Gewirtz maintained that while she doesn't trust the company enough to approve a full five-year deal, she is willing to withhold judgment until learning more about Russell's labor practices.
"I'm willing to give them the benefit of a doubt," she said.
The Board voted unanimously to remain with Russell for the next year, with Gewirtz the sole dissenter on a 9-1 vote to renew the contract for five additional years.
Learning about other cultures makes for better teachers who are sensitive to diversity, which is especially important when working in a multicultural community like Somerville. The same rings true for painters, musicians, healthcare workers, and just about every other profession.
That's why the city of Somerville just entered into a Sister Cities Civic Participation and Leadership Initiative with Tiznit, Moracco; a cultural and professional exchange that entails inviting 30 participants to travel there in December. The group said while there are already several teachers and city officials attending they are looking for artists to join the entourage.
"Somerville and Tiznit are very similar; there are lots of artists and influences," said Omar Boukili, a Moroccan native and office administrator for the University of the Middle East (UME), the Somerville-based organization that promotes educational leadership and civic engagement through cross-cultural understanding. "Tiznit is more progressive, and a very special town, like Somerville."
Located near the Moroccan Atlantic coast and the Tachila and Ouarzemimene mountains, Tiznit is known for its handcrafted silver jewelry. More recently, Tiznit (population of 55,000) has undergone an influx of both Moroccan and international artists who have settled on the hills surrounding the city in search of serenity and inspiration, Boukili said.
UME brought the sister city partnership proposal to Mayor Joseph Curtatone last summer. Curtatone and some of his staff will be travelling to Tiznit. UME wants a cross-section of Somerville residents to attend, which also includes doctors and public health experts, non-profit administrators, city planners, and business owners, said Ray Matsumiya, UME's executive director.
The sister city exchange is facilitated by UME, which will provide the translation, and logistical and cultural advisory services. The five-day professional development and cultural experience is designed to set the stage for a productive sister cities partnership, he added.
UME has a long-standing relationship with Morocco. For the past 12 years, the UME has sought to empower the most motivated and progressive secondary school teachers of the Middle East, North Africa, and the US through professional development and exchange programs that equip teachers with the skills and knowledge to broaden their perspectives and horizons.
It was six Moroccan teachers who came up with the sister cities idea and to form a partnership with Somerville, with the hopes that this will be an ongoing relationship, Matsumiya said.
Last summer, teachers from Tiznit visited Somerville and came to the high school to spend some time with teachers. From there, Somerville became interested in gathering a group of teachers to go to Tiznit, said Dr. Vincent McKay, the assistant superintendent of schools. It was a natural fit, he said.
Ten teachers from various schools in Somerville will attend in December.
"It's about opening our doors to the world," McKay said. "Learning about other cultures makes them better teachers who are sensitive to diversity."
Talmadge Nardi, who teachers English at the Academy of the Pacific Rim in Hyde Park, participated in a UME trip to Lebanon last year. She said the trip opened her eyes in more ways than she ever dreamed. For example, she worked on a collage project with Lebanese teachers that looked at their life experiences. Their collages were deeply influenced by political repression and conflict resolution, while Nardi's was more "hearts and stars," she said.
"I thought I would learn about other cultures, but also ended up learning a lot about myself," she said.
More information on the Sister Cities Initiative with Tiznit:
The trip's agenda includes a luncheon with the mayor of Tiznit, tour of the city, presentations, cross-cultural community building activities, site visits to schools and other applicable organizations, and group discussions. The cost of the program is $1,150, which includes all accommodations, food, and trip activities. It does not include air travel. Those interested in traveling to Tiznit can download an application at http://ume.org/programs/open-applications or call (617) 440-1636.
Similar to communities across the country, concern over the H1N1 flu hit Somerville this fall while vaccines remain in short supply even to those at highest risk for catching it.
The Somerville Health Department had to postpone public flu clinics after vaccine shipments fell short of expectations. Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, in Davis Square, told a similar story. This vaccine shortage comes to the distress of parents with young children, who are particularly susceptible to the H1N1.
There have been 1555 confirmed cases of H1N1 in Massachusetts since April, when it was first detected in the U.S. Of those cases, 13 people have died, according to a report by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH). According to the Centers for Disease Control, H1N1 is now widespread in 48 states, which has not been the case during typical flu seasons.
People lack immunity to H1N1 flu, according to the Paulette Renault-Caragianes, director of the Somerville Health Department, because H1N1 is a "novel" virus.
"Part of that newness is there's a significant part of our population that's probably never been exposed to this type of influenza," she said, adding that the seasonal flu changes only slightly each year.
H1N1 also differs from seasonal flu in the populations it hits hardest.
"90 percent of deaths you see from seasonal flu are from people over 65," Renault-Caragianes said. "In H1N1, 90 percent of the deaths we've seen are people under 65, and more than half of the hospitalizations have been people under 25-years-old."
'Vast majority'of flu cases will be H1N1
Dr. Benjamin Kruskal, pediatrician and Director of Infection Control at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, described the severity of H1N1 in Somerville as being "similar to that with seasonal flu."
"Because we're seeing more people sick, we are expecting to see more people who are severely ill," Kruskal added. "We're now seeing levels of flu illness that are typical of the very peak of a typical flu season [February]. We normally see very little flu at this time of year."
The Weekly Influenza Report released by MDPH showed the same trend, noting that of the 75 influenza-positive specimens tested in Massachusetts this October, 74 were H1N1, and the other was influenza B - not seasonal flu. Kruskal says that based on that data, doctors could assume the "the vast majority" of flu cases this fall are H1N1.
Along with increased numbers of flu cases has been a vaccine shortage in Somerville and across the country. According to Renault-Cariaganes, the city originally planned to hold H1N1 clinics in the fall, but in October it had received only "a very small amount" of the vaccine.
MDPH and the CDC has advised the city that it "should wait until November (and) until the supply that everyone has is sufficient for a larger-scale offering of H1N1 vaccine clinics," she said.
Renault-Caragianes blames the shortage on the fact that the same pharmaceutical companies have contracted with the federal government to produce both seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccines in the same year. As widely reported in the media, manufacturers have also faced technical difficulties growing virus for the H1N1 vaccine.
Even when the Somerville Health Department does receive vaccine, it will not be immediately available to everyone who wants it. Instead, the department will provide the vaccine first to priority groups and even sub-groups outlined by the CDC.
Renault-Caragianes said the priority groups include pregnant women, caregivers of infants under six months, people 24 and under, people 25 to 64 with underlying health conditions and healthcare workers. After going through each group, the city may hold clinics.
'An Odd Loophole'
On Nov. 2, the Somerville Health Department received a shipment of 400 doses of H1N1 vaccine and began inoculating children at Somerville schools. Most of the vaccine they received is in a formulation called FluMist, a nasal spray that contains a live virus which triggers the body's immune system without causing an infection.
Renault-Caragianes said that the vaccine is "limited in its use." Two high-priority groups, pregnant women and those with underlying health problems, cannot use the FluMist formulation, and the vaccine has only been approved for people aged 2 through 49.
The school flu clinics will start by vaccinating students only, and if vaccine supplies allow, they will move on to teachers and staff. The clinics are not open to the general public.
On Nov. 9, Renault-Caragianes said more vaccines had been received by the city and that pregnant women would be allowed to make an appointment to receive doses. She said there may be enough vaccine for more general distribution in December.
The shortage of vaccine and triage for available doses is a familiar problem for Somerville parents Sue and Vince, who did not give their last names. The couple has been struggling to get H1N1 vaccinations for themselves in order to protect their daughter. At 3 months, she is too young to receive the H1N1 vaccine.
In Sue's words, they "fall in an odd loophole in priority."
"We're not young children, we're not infants, we're not pregnant, but we're in that twilight zone where we care for a very young child," she said.
The couple tried to get vaccinated at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, but were told they could not get it.
"They had some, which they gave out to children under 2 who already had doctor's appointments and pregnant women," Sue explained. "But I wasn't considered high priority in the first round."
Somerville resident Liz Sylvan has had similar frustrations finding the H1N1 vaccine. Like Sue and Vince, Sylvan and her husband tried "a couple of different ways" to find an H1Ni vaccine for their 2-year-old daughter, Misha but have been unsuccessful.
"Nobody that we interact with has it yet," Sylvan said. " Our pediatrician's office doesn't have it, and I am worried about it, because she's little, she's 2."
Pointing to her son, she continued, "And he's under 6 months, so he doesn't even get to [receive the vaccine] yet, and so I am very concerned about it."
More information about H1N1 vaccine availability can be found at www.flu.gov.
To the casual eye, the ad-studded storefront of Farmer's Bounty in Davis Square resembles that of countless other quickie marts and convenience stores, catering to customers interested in its cigarette display and loops of lottery tickets.
But a closer look reveals a greater variety of options: the small store attracts clientele from other areas of the city, and beyond, for its selection of fresh produce and diverse imports - from Indian and Irish tea to crumpets and mango chutney.
Romy Sehli, who has owned the store for 18 years, said he started offering international goods five years ago to satisfy the "huge demand of international customers."
"Whoever doesn't change with the times loses out," Sehli said.
After turning away up to ten people looking to buy alcohol each day, Sehli decided to apply for a liquor license transfer from a business that had stopped using it, hoping to offer Indian wine and Irish beer for the "convenience of my customers."
Within days, Sehli said close to 400 people signed a petition in favor of the license. Yet almost four months later, Sehli and his customers are still waiting. The decision rests with the Licensing Commission, a three-person panel which administers all liquor licenses in Somerville.
The number of available licenses is capped by the state according to population. Somerville currently holds 84 restaurant and club licenses, and 20 package store licenses, said Jenneen Pagliaro, who works for the Licensing Commission from City Hall.
The Commission must weigh a myriad of factors in approving an application and deciding which store, restaurant, or area deserves a license, and which one does not.
All factors can be grouped into two main categories: the character and fitness of the applicant, and the "public need" or "common good," said Andrew Upton, the chairman of the Licensing Commission.
The first category is relatively straightforward: the Commission looks at the applicant's experience with the business and makes sure he does not have a criminal record.
Alderman-at-Large Dennis Sullivan, who testified in favor of Farmer's Bounty's application at one of the Commission's monthly meetings, called Sehli a responsible business owner with a "proven track record."
Yet it is the second category, that of "the common good," that poses more difficulty.
Commissioners must consider everything: the number of other liquor licenses in the area, noise and traffic levels, population density, proximity to churches or schools, as well as testimonies from the community ¬- from aldermen, customers, neighbors, and city officials.
In listening to "the public," each voice must be weighed against every other, business needs considered along with complaints of neighbors.
The Commission must factor in the eight Farmer's Bounty customers who came to the commission's last hearing in support of the store's application.
But they must also consider the testimony of Ward 6 Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz, who argued earlier that Farmer's Bounty patrons could simply buy their liquor across the street, from Downtown Wine and Spirits.
"I represent the residents and the neighborhood," Gewirtz said. "And I maintain that this license is not necessary."
Commissioner Vito Vaccaro said that "economic development" is the Commission's number one priority.
"Has it enhanced, or will it enhance, the dining experience in the city of Somerville? Will it help the city of Somerville?" Vaccaro asks for each license application. "That's the bottom line."
Liquor licenses can be used by the city to bring greater business to underdeveloped areas, such as Winter Hill. The Commission has also set aside ten licenses for Assembly Square, anticipating a proliferation of restaurants and hotels in the area over the next few years.
Somerville has become a "dining destination" in recent years, said Upton, the Commission's chairman.
However, until recently, there were not enough liquor licenses available for new restaurants.
"It's hard to have a successful restaurant without at least serving beer and wine," Upton said. "Sometimes people won't even come to your place for food unless they can also order a glass of wine."
No New Licenses?
To boost the appeal of the city's dining scene, Somerville submitted a home rule petition to the state legislature through the office of State Senator Pat Jehlen, asking for more liquor licenses for restaurants. Twenty full liquor licenses were granted in 2008, said Robert FitzPatrick, Jehlen's chief of staff.
Full liquor licenses can be used for package stores, restaurants, or bars and clubs, but FitzPatrick said he expects the city to use most of the licenses for restaurants, not for liquor stores.
"Somerville's done a good job of attracting really nice restaurants," FitzPatrick said. "Now it's up to the city to use these [new] full liquor licenses in the right way."
While the city plans to use the new liquor licenses to attract people to Somerville's restaurants and clubs, there are no new licenses available for liquor stores or "packies," Vaccaro said. Stores that want to obtain a liquor license must buy a transfer license from someone else, and the city must approve the transaction.
"We have only 4.2 square miles in Somerville," he said. "Everything you do affects the neighbors. We have to think, how are we going to affect the neighborhood?
"I personally don't want to walk down the street and see a bunch of liquor stores."
Upton agreed, stating that while restaurants draw people from all over the Boston area, "people don't come from all over the place to buy a six-pack of Buds."
"I don't believe the city, the commission, or anyone, think Somerville should have more liquor stores."
Rob May, from the Mayor's Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development (OSPCD), represented the city's position on the Farmer's Bounty case at the last hearing.
May suggested a compromise: Farmer's Bounty should submit a floor plan on where it plans to place its beer and wine, in order to ensure that it does not become a full liquor store.
As of August, May and the OSPCD have been working with the Commission to create a set of guidelines and criteria for the city's liquor licenses.
The OSPCD wants to formalize a licensing process that has long relied more on consensus and Commissioner experience than on the new technology, and statistical and mapping tools now favored by city governments across the country.
Somerville's existing guidelines for liquor licenses are simply taken from those used state-wide. However, May said that it is important to consider local needs.
By December, May said he hopes to present the Commission with several options for possible changes to licensing guidelines ¬- which may require liquor stores to limit the number of signs on the storefront, or install exterior lighting or live-feed TV.
However, eschewing the high-tech, Farmer's Bounty may do well to follow the example of David Jick, owner of Dave's Fresh Pasta.
When Jick decided to apply for a liquor license to supplement the other options in his specialy food store, he took the time to talk to neighbors and fellow businessowners "to make sure people were okay with the idea."
Although the process took over a year, Jick said he has had his current license for three years without any problems.
Jick's neighborly approach was much appreciated by Dan Parsons, the general manager of Downtown Wine and Spirits, which lies across the street from Farmer's Bounty.
"In the interests of community, I'd be happy if they came over here and told us themselves," Parsons said of Farmer's Bounty's liquor license application. "At the end of the day, Davis Square is nothing but a community."
Somerville parents, youth, and concerned members of the community gathered last week at a forum hosted by the city and the Children's Mental Health Campaign to call for action on an aspect of healthcare often pushed into the shadows.
An estimated 140,000 children in Massachusetts are in need of mental healthcare, with 100,000 unable or too afraid of stigmatization to receive help.
The Nov. 5 event served as a collaboration between the city's Making Connections mental health campaign and the state-wide The Time is Now Children's Mental Health Campaign, which stopped here as part of several regional forums held across Massachusetts.
At the meeting were calls for advocacy mixed with stories from parents affected by authorities' inability to properly address their children's health needs.
One mother recounted her struggle against a local school system to keep her child in school despite a behavioral and emotional disorder. Due to her child's acting-out behaviors, she was expelled from school and daycare programs without getting help for the underlying issues. After being rejected from various programs and landing in a hospital, she said her 7-year-old daughter said she wanted to kill herself.
Her case, she said, highlighted the need for sweeping changes.
"We can't tinker around the edges," the mother said. "We really have to think hard about reform."
Another young Somerville resident expressed frustration that his friend had been thrown in jail after reaching his 20s without ever having received attention for mental health issues that had been present for years.
"I can't help my own best friend," he said. "Tons of crimes are committed because of mental (issues) and the help people aren't getting. I'm asking for help."
Matt Noyes, a representative from Health Care for All who helped organize the forum, spoke of the need for more legislation from Beacon Hill to help buoy the 2008 legislation, An Act Relative to Children's Mental Health, meant to reform children's mental healthcare.
Noyes urged parents to send postcards to their representatives in support of An Act for Coordination of Children's Mental Health Services, which would allow mental health clinicians to bill private insurance for time spent coordinating a child's care with collateral contacts such as parents, doctors and teachers.
Massachusetts currently houses several large mental health state agencies, but Noyes said they are often unable to work together. The campaign's new legislation calls for the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Health to take the lead in coordinating them.
Noyes also addressed the stigma associated with mental illness, which he said has held back the cause as other health issues continue to receive attention both from the public and legislatures.
"If you had diabetes, you would not hesitate to get treatment, with or without insurance," Noyes said. "The brain is part of our body. We need to raise awareness of the validity of mental health as just as serious as other physical illnesses ... We shouldn't be ashamed."
Anne Herzberg, an English Language Learners counselor at Somerville High School, said the school is doing its best with the resources it has.
"The school's responsibility is to provide skills to promote life-long success," she said. "Of course, when a parent comes forward asking for more help, the school will try to help, but there are limitations."
"A lot of students are slipping not because they aren't asking," she added, "but because they get lost in the shuffle."
Tom Nash contributed to this report.
A top-to-bottom analysis of the MBTA requested by Gov. Deval Patrick released last week casts doubt on the agency's ability to maintain its current system and whether expansion projects should be undertaken soon.
The report, overseen by former John Hancock CEO David D'Alessandro, concludes that the MBTA masked massive debt and left 57 "urgent" safety projects unfunded, the total cost of which would be $543 million.
Among the safety issues highlighted is a water leak between the Harvard and Alewife T stations along the Red Line, which includes Somerville's only T stop in Davis Square.
"The Alewife/Harvard Project has been proposed and unfunded for three straight years as conditions worsen," the report states. "In addition to the potential of derailment, if the situation exacerbates, speed along that portion of the Red Line could slow to 10 mph. This will have a residual service impact with delays along the entire Red Line."
D'Allessandro told WTKK-FM after the report's release he would not ride along that portion of the Red Line, although he backed away from the statement in later interviews. Gov. Patrick has since sent inspectors to the area to monitor the situation.
Among the report's recommendations is that expansion of MBTA service take a back seat to improving the safety of the existing system, stating "(it) makes little sense to continue expanding the system when the MBTA cannot maintain the existing one."
Asked whether this could have implications for the Green Line extension project into Somerville, legally mandated by the federal government as a way to offset pollution from the Big Dig project in Boston, Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone said any attempt at delaying the project further would see a quick response from the city.
"There are no questions, there is no discretion," Curtatone said of the federal mandate. "If [the MBTA] does delay or tries to play games, we will sue them and we will win."
Curtatone said he had not had any discussions with the MBTA about the safety issues addressed in the report relating to the Davis Square Red Line station.
"I was disappointed but not shocked," Curtatone said of the report's findings. "You had years of deferred maintenance liabilities, and the problems compound over time."
"If we want a 21st century economy, we will need a 21st century infrastructure," he added. "The T and the transit system in this commonwealth are grossly underfunded ... and the buck is just being passed around."
Wig Zamore, a member of the MBTA Rider Oversight Committee and Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership added that the state stands to lose five times the amount of money it would spend on building the Green Line if the project were delayed beyond the mandated 2014 completion date.
"I think D'Alessandro did a good report (but) the report didn't really look at the regulatory context," Zamore said. "The federal regulations require that the state has to be proceeding on schedule."
As to the safety of the Red Line between Harvard and Alewife, Zamore said the possibility of a derailment along the Red Line needs to be put in context.
"The truth is all users of transportation in Massachusetts are at some risk," he said, noting the state ranks 46th in the country in the amount spent on bridge repair. "I think (the report) is correct that there are a number of scary situations, but the only solution is to roll up our sleeves."
Meanwhile, Somerville resident Andrea Lenco rides the Red Line to and from Davis Square as many as four times a day.
"That's [expletive]," Lenco said after being told of the safety issues as she was waiting for an inbound train. "Honestly, I don't know if it's going to keep me from riding this route. I'd rather be on the T than a bus that doesn't come for 45 minutes."
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation will present its latest assessment of the Green Line extension project at Somerville High School on Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. The D'Alessandro report is available at www.mbtareview.com.
As recently as the 1970s, most issues that affected a large majority of people would generate much public debate and involvement in the democratic process of electing people to represent us - local, county, state and national. The number of small PDS-like types of grassroots organizations throughout the 1970s and into the very early 1980s was amazing to watch if you were lucky enough to have lived here during that time.
After that, public interest on a local level seemed to wane around here. Maybe it was the crazed '80s that kept us all so busy we didn't notice things happening around us. Low voter turnout, still to this day, is somehow translated by some to mean people are "happy with things the way they are."
Don't buy it - the real heart of the problem is simply that people are too busy trying to stay afloat to notice every single issue. It seemed so shocking at the time when the Mystic View Task Force took up the fight to put Assembly Square on the right track - like they were fighting the "old boy network" on some level. It seemed even more shocking when other small politically-based movements started to pop up here and there, some managing to take hold of different segments of the voting population.
That's the problem - none of this is new - and none of it should be simply dismissed as "old" vs. "new" Somerville. We all live here, and see the changes that are happening. Some of us more than others, and that's okay - but maybe we can start coming together on more issues instead of being divisive and perpetuating myths and trying to act like we all don't want the same things - safe schools for our children, adequate police and fire protection, honest representation in local government. Maybe then we can work in the little things that we selectively desire from an ideological standpoint - collaboratively, not closed-mindedly.
We have to start be being more involved - not just blow the roof off the barn because parking times were lowered and fees were raised, not just because our property taxes have gone up, not just because one person favors a certain set of ideological principles over the next person. There has to be more collaboration, cooperation and working together to get these types of things moving in the right direction.
It starts by going out to vote, especially if you can't spend time working with a local community group, sit on a local board, or put yourself out there by running for office. It's not just your right, it's your responsibility to those people, like them or not, agree with them or not, that put themselves out there every day and night - the true believers that we can make a change right here, right now. We did it when we elected Barack Obama President - we can certainly do it when it comes to local elections.