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July 23, 2006

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so tell me then

You say "For Somerville to truly benefit from Assembly Square’s existing infrastructure... real development must begin."

Explain to me how Somerville is boing to "benefit"? Do you mean all of Somerville or just developers and contractors? And don't tell me I am going to benefit by being able to go shopping. I can go shopping anywhere. In fact, I just ate at the new Joe's american bar and grill right across the river. It was ok, I will probably go back.

a Longer vision

Somerville has a lot of great assets. These assets can help us meet the significant challenges facing us now - some that have
been in the making for many years. Let us not, however, focus on the "symptoms" of the past. We know those well enough. Let us focus on the future. I state these here to help identify the challenges we face and to help formulate a longer stronger vision. Not to point fingers. We don't have time to point fingers. Instead, let us join hands. Let us join hands as a community to enhance our quality of life for our community.

" Our residential neighborhoods have been overdeveloped and haphazardly developed leading to horrific traffic and overcrowded parking areas, tension, and vandalism.

" Our property taxes have grown burdensome. Somerville has historically enjoyed lower than average property taxes, but our real tax rate, or effective tax rate, became a lot more in 2005, growing dramatically in the last ten years and now average for the metro area.

" In the past Older, manufacturing companies left Somerville. They are not being replaced by modern, competitive companies of the future at a fast enough rate, or any rate.

" Working families struggle to meet the rising costs of health care, child care, energy costs and a regressive property tax system that unfairly squeezes the middle class.

" Our community is also becoming more divided along socioeconomic, generational and ethnic lines. Somerville's diversity can be our greatest strength, but only when we recognize that what we share in common is much greater than the small differences that can divide us.

" Finally, our municipal government faces at least a several million dollar deficit out of our annual budget over the next year and a half. This at a time when we also have significant road and sewer infrastructure, as well as firehouse and other facilities, urgently in need of improvement.

The challenges are clear. The time has come to focus on solutions. If we, the residents of Somerville, the business community, our education community, our faith-based and non profit organizations, our Town Hall staff, various political groups - all join in a new era of openness and straight talk about the future of our community, we can provide Somerville with a fresh start and a new beginning.

Let's discuss some key areas for our community: public trust, fiscal responsibility, planning and zoning reform, education, economic development, traffic improvement and safety, police reform and ONE Somerville.

PUBLIC TRUST

First, we must restore the faith of our residents in our government. There is a cynicism, as too many people in our community believe that public officials are not serving the public interest. And they are partly right here. Somerville demands open, honest, and effective government. Citizens have a right to expect that the public interest is placed above the special interest of well-connected political insiders. To this end, we should be fully supportive of a Somerville pay-to-play reform ordinance and the state's stranger than average disclosure laws. I pledge my active support for the most aggressive protection against the harmful cycle of money and political favoritism in Somerville history. The current administration can also set a higher standard by ensuring the ban of the practice of accepting political contributions from municipal employees.

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

Public trust will also help us achieve fiscal responsibility. We should be placing a new vigilance on fiscal discipline. We can no longer live beyond our means. We can close the million deficit that was created by runaway spending. The elements of the fiscal problem include millions in one shot revenues - or non-recurring revenues such as money possibly taken from our sewer utility surplus, millions from the sale of liquor licenses, and other permits, money possibly lost from capital surplus -
We should factor in hundreds of thousands if not millions in underestimated costs such as rising energy bills estimated to be $110,000 that was not factored into our budget. The use of non hybrid vehicles is going to kill us. There is also millions in known costs that are rising in Fiscal year 2007 due to contractual obligations and increased pension payments. By working with fiscal and municipal experts and the state Department of Community Affairs we can close this deficit and give the taxpayers of Somerville - both residents and businesses - real options to restructure our government and move us forward. We should be working with each of the department heads to downsize and reorganize our government to make it more efficient. We can re renegotiate health benefits in the marketplace to get a more competitive price, develop an accelerated attrition plan for senior employees, find creative new and fair revenue sources and look into restructuring our existing debt. We should look forward to have the BOA and all the Aldermen, administration staff, labor unions, business community and the residents of Somerville working together to craft solutions. Look for specific proposals over the next several months that will put our government back on the road to fiscal health.
These decisions also require a discussion on where our community wants to go five, ten and even twenty-five years from now so that we are planning and investing for the future. The short-term nature of crafting our budget and over-reliance on financial gimmicks need to be a thing of the past.

PLANNING AND ZONING REFORM

Long-term fiscal planning is needed for a better future. So is reforming our planning and zoning policies. Somerville's future growth must be more thoughtful. We need to stop overdevelopment in residential neighborhoods and move towards more neighborhood centers that enhance our quality of life, and new commercial development to stabilize the tax rate for our residents, but that also respects residential neighborhoods. To make sure the public can take part in the process, we must be open and transparent. We should have any planning boards and committees begin airing their meetings on television and ensure that they provide more detailed information to the public on pending applications. Newspapers should run a column on any plans and meetings for each neighborhood. We should update zoning laws and a Master Plan so that we can aggressively slow new residential and commercial developments and focus on redevelopment that rebuilds a sense of community. We don’t need gimmick condo ordinances or systems that unfairly squeeze the middle class. WE don’t need to give away special permits to businesses that don’t work to enhance the quality of the neighborhood they want to operate in. There are still too many applications that subdivide properties and squeeze as many new homes or businesses as possible on small plots of land, and applications that get approved for one group but not another - this needs to end. There are two rules for development in Somerville - one for the favored developers and business people and one for everyone else. We need to start meetings with all developers and community residents so that they know clearly where this community stands
on development and we need to ensure that the review process is open, fair and predictable.

EDUCATION

The quality of our schools is still the primary reason why Somerville will be an attractive place to live, to work and to raise a family for many people. We should consider launching new Task Forces on Education that create unique partnerships between the Board of Ed, Residents and Town Hall to support our public schools. We can begin by improving the quality of education and not overburdening our taxpayers through creative solutions and partnerships. Through a focus on theme schools and multiple paths of learning advanced by our educators working
in partnership with higher ed institutions such as local colleges, building more internships and apprenticeships with our business community and other institutions, getting the kids involved in local smart growth and green developments and participate in community clean ups we can be confident that we can meet and exceed these challenges. We can all work together to secure more state aid by advocating for more fairness in the distribution of state aid. And we can advance exciting new education initiatives like new Education Centers to help highlight environmentally protected areas in Somerville like the mystic waterway and other park systems.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT - THE SOMERVILLE PROJECT

We owe a debt of gratitude to those who endowed this town with the spirit that made this the site of important history and early economic developments. Events like the raising of Americas first flag and our early industrial history give us an identity - a great American pioneering spirit of innovation and hard work. We can start an economic development initiative to honor the Flag that put our community on the map. The Somerville Project can recruit the innovative, competitive companies of the 21st Century to move their operations to Somerville. Somerville can once again be "open for business." We can develop a marketing and business plan to recruit these companies, and one exciting aspect of the Somerville Project that we can do will not only encourages commerce, but also serves our residents well, we can build a new City-wide, high-speed, WI-FI wireless internet access service. We CAN hope and we can renew the innovative spirit that makes this community so proud of its history and heritage.

TRAFFIC IMPROVEMENT AND SAFETY

Besides taxes, the other "T" that makes Somerville residents' blood boil is TRAFFIC and pollution. Too many projects are guided by nearsightedness’s and contractor profits. By getting city hall and everyone working in partnership with community-minded residents all around this great city along with departments at local schools and area Universities, we can launch a Somerville Traffic Improvement and Safety Committee that is well represented. The Committee can identify and prioritize a range of necessary improvements such as road replacements, pollution alleviation, speed humps, sign improvements, bus routes, trains, traffic signals and intersection improvements with particular attention to areas around schools and bike paths. The Committee can identify new sources of funding and aggressively pursue grants for these improvements. The process for selection of these road improvements should be open and fair and based on a needs-assessment. The Committee can coordinate with planning, zoning and redevelopment work and can place special attention on encouraging the use of public and inter-modal transportation options. By linking these committees and development plans to our schools and universities we will be turning over the involvement of protecting our land to the people who will inherit it. Young folks have a more vested interest in making the right decisions when it comes to the environment. This goes a long way to serve in making the whole process more transparent and getting our youth involved in our community. This will no doubt give us more resources, lead to more state and federal funding, and provide us with support from local universities. After all, it is time that they give back too...


POLICE REFORM

We should all be proud of the law enforcement professionals of the Somerville Police Force who risk their lives to protect our residents. However, over the years, because of a lack of accountability, and the politicizing of the Force, the Somerville Police Department has been involved in incidents that have embarrassed the community and raised questions about the integrity of the Force. Most of the sworn officers of the Somerville Police Force are good men and women who want to see professionalism and want to have a fresh start. Working with a new Chief of Police and the city we can form a Blue Ribbon Commission that will have unprecedented access into the inner workings of the Force and be composed of diverse civilians with both professional law enforcement and other backgrounds. It can conduct a full review and make recommendations directly on necessary actions. In parallel with this effort, the next administration can arranged for an independent State Review of the Force led by the Chief which will look at the operational performance of this Police Force as compared to national best practices.
We will improve public safety and make the Force effective and efficient as we rebuild the trust
of the Somerville Police Force with the community, we should also work to ensure the city and police earn more money on detail work.

ONE SOMERVILLE - HUMAN RELATIONS

Diversity is Somerville's greatest potential strength. To build on that strength requires better understanding among our residents. To this end, the next administration should advance the Somerville Human Relations Commission and to modernize the Somerville Human Rights Commission. New funding should be available for the important work of keeping the diverse communities of Somerville as ONE. This Commission should bring greater understanding among the diverse groups of Somerville through educational programs and it should defend protected groups against bias in accordance with the Laws against Discrimination.

Whether our neighbors, or their parents or grandparents, came here from Ireland or India, Italy or Israel, Puerto Rico or Poland, China or Egypt, we are all united by the common values we share as Americans. No matter which neighborhood we live in, what religion we practice, how old we are, or how much money we have, all of us want the same things. We want our families to enjoy safe streets, good jobs, great schools, clean neighborhoods, and strong communities. The Somerville Human Relations Commission can work actively to bring greater understanding toward this goal and towards strengthening this community. The Budget sorely lacks funds for human rights. It currently one of the least funded and most needed items in our budget. This needs to change. Very few companies and governments achieve greatness because they have settled for mediocrity. Somerville is better than just "good." Somerville is "great." And Somerville deserves "greatness" from its government. We should not settle with what we have. We can do better.

We can not do anything by sitting by and casting stones against those of other opinions - but we can be great by taking action to fulfill our community's potential.

We have enormous potential. And we sit at the crossroads where we can choose to be great or we can choose the status quo. We can only achieve greatness together. Alone, we will fail.

Huckaroo Redux

Oh wise and all-knowing Wild Bill Shelton, why do you post this "manifesto" of your view (Mystic View?) of what this city should be like under your predomination? At least have the balls to put it under your own name if you're going to post this type of propaganda, which ultimately only pushes your warped socio-governmental mandate. Less is more, you dipshit. Seriously, you think 90% of the people on this weblog got past the first four paragraphs? All you had to do was agree with Norton about needing to come together as a community and you would have had greater success, instead you go on and on and on and end up being viewed (Mystic Viewed?) as either aloof or pedantic in your diffusive and abstruse rambling.

Huckaroo out.

Hey Huckaroo

What are you rambling about? I am not Bill; in fact I never even met Mr. Shelton. Sounds like you two are old friends though. You do seem to have some strong feelings towards him. So now that the cat is out of the bag do you think that you two can finally make up?

Fred Sullivan

Longer vision,

How do I sign up for the City-wide, high-speed, WI-FI wireless internet access service? And when does it start?

thenoseknows

wow fred im impressed i read about 10 lines of that post and fell asleep,i still have the keyboard imprinted on my face...can you tell me in 35 words or less what the rest of it said?

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