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November 19, 2006


Its nice to see you back Andrea!

Its nice to see you back Andrea. Good luck with your book> I hope all is well.


An artist colony will strenghten Union Square's idendity? They already have an identity: working class people who want to live in the city. Why do artists get special treatment? What IS an artist? Will they be expected to produce something? An artist is a lifestyle choice, not an occupation. If they want to move here on their own accord, so be it. But I'm sick of the city treating these "artists" like they are the saviors of Somerville. Get a job like everyone else.

Art Bellwether


Where are these working class people? I don't see them voting, I don't see them at the polls and I don't see them at the meetings. Except for the ones with city jobs. And the few that do vote are so gullible they vote for the crooked politicians. If they want to stay in this city they better wake up and get involved.

Subsidize Me

I agree with 'identity'. Why are we always supposed to provide affordable housing for artists? Have you ever seen the enormous building already provided for them on Fitchburg Street? Why more? I love the arts and support them, but I don't think I should be subsidizing their lives. Why aren't we building affordable housing for blind people, diabetics, veterans, or any other group you can name, who also contribute to the life of the city? I don't think subsidizing artists is what will improve the area. Look at Davis Square. Suddenly Art Beat which used to be a great affair showcasing art, craft, and other area businesses is now nothing more than mardi gras in Somerville. It's full of bizarre performance art, cross-dressers, etc. Art Beat as a local arts festival is no more.



So do you disagree with what I said, or were you just using it to blast the working class and entrenched politicans? For the record, I agree with what you said. But the problem with you progressives, as I assume you are, is you have such distain for the working class that the only "help" you ever provide is a patronizing attempt to tell us how to live. Who do you think came up with this "artist colony" idea to begin with? It wasn't a plummer, thats for sure. How are you going to help us when you obviously don't respect us?

Arts are where it is at

When you bring Arts to the center you increase the profits for business owners. You also attract more Ron Newman types so that they can keep the liquor flowing and the crowds coming through your neighborhoods much much later at night. It would be one thing, if these changes would benefit the average citizen of Somerville by lowering your property taxes. But they wont. It won't because the businesses don't want to help the citizens, that is not what they are in business for. They don't want to pay for your city services, they just want to make as much money as they can. And if they did put more money into the city coffers, that money would not go towards helping the regular citizens, much less the poorer people who can barely afford to stay. Instead the money would pay to promote more police and to purchase forestry vehicles. And even before that happens, all the politicians have to provide jobs for their lazy brother-in-laws. Don't you see that the city employees and Unions get the lions share of city money. They get first dibs at any new revenue and they constantly work to come up with ways to require more money for one project or another.
How about we start a new group, Someville Citizens for Property Tax Reform, to fight the special interests that have turned both state but mostly local government into profligate spenders. We are tired of Politicians in Somerville as well as at the State that are treating us citizens as ATMs. They have no idea how to restrain spending, and more and more people are saying they can’t afford to live here anymore.

For more than a century and a half, Somervill offered people affordable living in pleasant communities with close procimity to Boston. But today Somerville is a cautionary example of how to cripple a thriving middle class community. Increasingly muscular public-sector unions have won billions in outlandish benefits and wages from compliant officeholders eager to continue to get re-ellected. A powerful public education cartel has driven school spending skyward, making Somerville among the biggest education spenders, even as student achievement lags. Inept, often corrupt, politicians have squandered yet more millions wrung from somerville property taxpayers, supposedly to uplift the poor, which have nevertheless continued to disappear despite the record spending. To fund this extravagance, the city (and state) has relentlessly raised taxes on both residents and businesses, while they have jacked up property taxes furiously. Somerville's cost advantage over its free-spending neighbors has vanished: it is on its way to be the nation’s most heavily taxed places. And despite the extra levies.

Unless we find some Somerville leaders that can stand up to entrenched interests—and the signs aren’t promising—the city may find itself permanently relegated to second-class economic status with little affordable housing and lots of high priced condos. Somerville could become corrupt money maker for a select few while killing the poor if we keep following the the old way of raising taxes to solve budget problems. That is been done for so long and it’s done nothing but make things worse.

If we want to discourage this exodus we need to open the awareness that Somerville has fallen into the grip of a corrupt, rapacious political machine. The persistent corruption, vaporizing millions of taxpayer dollars, only serves to give public-sector unions the leverage to wrest control of the Somerville’s (and the states) urban agenda for their own benefit, leading to even greater waste.

Union-backed pols pile on -- In recent years, the aquiring of favored contracts ultimately serves to inflate the school construction program to a budget-busting amount—a gift not only to the education lobby but also to the construction unions and other tax eaters. To evade voter approval for the lavish spending, the officials do things like create a large unaccountable system that Somervilles’s courts bless because they are full of appointed long term friends of the same pary. The patronage-ridden authority proves so corrupt that it quickly spends all its borrowed money, while completing only half of its building projects, leaving taxpayers under court order to pour in yet more funds. Do you see how all this works yet?

Neither the courts nor the officials overseeing the urban reforms and school districts have or ever will demand any tupe of fundamental reform of these bureaucracies, let alone innovative solutions like vouchers. The money thus will make little difference.

It’s hard to overstate the might that public-sector unions—the teachers’ union, city employee unions and the police union above all—now wield in Somerville. With a high percent of local workers organized and record low sufferage at local elections, Somerville has all the tale tale signs of a highly corrupt machine.

The unions have wielded their clout to win among the richest benefits and highest pay of city workers anywhere. Not only are health and pension benefits for these workers—including the possibility of retiring early with cost-of-living pension adjustments for life—plusher than the private-sector norm; on average, they’re above what other state governments grant workers. These pension plans cost way too much money to be giving them away to lazy brother-in-laws so that interdepartment in fighting can take away real efficientcies.

The city departments and unions ferociously protect their spoils. They all get out to vote ant they are prime movers of ad campaigns opposing a thus-far-unsuccessful effort by taxpayer groups to reform things. All the union- and court-driven spending and misspending has burdened Somerville citizens and firms with heavy taxes. Since Somerville residents get precious little in return for their state taxes, Somerville must finance it's operations through property taxes—one reason those taxes are so high Today, Somerville residents are finding themselves paying for two sets of local governments and two school systems: our own (through property taxes) and those of cities in western mass that don't have the same taxable income that Urban areas and incomes like Somerville has.

Many ordinary, hardworking Somerville residents feel like the taxman won’t rest until he’s pushed them out of the state. People can’t wait to retire and get out of this state. They can’t afford to live here, and it’s a shame. Leaving Somerville and Massachusetts has become the sensible option for middle-class retirees. Poeople that have lived and worked in Somerville all their life can no longer afford to live here. In so many ways the state city tells you when you have completed your working life: We don’t want you—move on to New Hampshire or some other tax-friendly state.

Hefty tax hikes will also lead newcomers to reconsider their choice to live or move into Somerville. When a lot of us moved here we knew that our property taxes would go up—But we don't expect them to keep rising so much so fast—Somehow you don’t believe they can keep going up so much


One, two, three, four...
One, two, (one, two, three, four!)

Let me tell you how it will be;
There's one for you, nineteen for me.
'Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman.

Should five per cent appear too small,
Be thankful I don't take it all.
'Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman.

(if you drive a car, car;) - I’ll tax the street;
(if you try to sit, sit;) - I’ll tax your seat;
(if you get too cold, cold;) - I’ll tax the heat;
(if you take a walk, walk;) - I'll tax your feet.


'Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman.

Don't ask me what I want it for, (ah-ah, mister Wilson)
If you don't want to pay some more. (ah-ah, mister heath)
'Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman.

Now my advice for those who die, (taxman)
Declare the pennies on your eyes. (taxman)
'Cause I’m the taxman,
Yeah, I’m the taxman.

And you're working for no one but me.


The Beatles.


California’s Tax Revolt

Within a few years the country was swept by a wave of tax protests, often called the Tax Revolt. Almost every state imposed some kind of limitation on the property tax, but the most widely publicized was Proposition 13, a constitutional amendment passed by popular vote in California in 1978. This proved to be the most successful attack on the property tax in American history. The amendment:

1. limited property taxes to one percent of full cash value

2. required property to be valued at its value on March 1, 1975 or on the date it changes hands or is constructed after that date.

3. limited subsequent value adjustment in value to 2 percent per year or the rate of inflation, whichever is lesser.

4. prohibited the imposition of sales or transaction taxes on the sale of real estate.

5. required two-thirds vote in each house of the legislature to increase state taxes

and a two-thirds vote of the electorate to increase or add new local taxes.

This amendment proved to be extremely difficult to administer. It resulted in hundreds of court cases, scores of new statutes, many attorney generals’ opinions and several additional amendments to the California constitution. One of the amendments permits property to be passed to heirs without triggering a new assessment.

In effect Proposition 13 replaced the property tax with a hybrid tax based on a property’s value in 1975 or the date it was last transferred to a non-family member. These values have been modified by annual adjustments that have been much less than the increase in the market value of the property. Thus it has favored the business or family that remains in the same building or residence for a long period of time.

Local government in California seems to have been weakened and there has been a great increase in fees, user charges, and business taxes. A variety of devices, including the formation of fee-financed special districts, have been utilized to provide services.

Although Proposition 13 was the most far-reaching and widely publicized attempt to limit property taxes, it is only one of many provisions that have attempted to limit the property tax. Some are general limitations on rates or amounts that may be levied. Others provide tax benefits to particular groups or are intended to promote economic development. Several other states adopted overall limitations or tax freezes modeled on Proposition 13 and in addition have adopted a large number of provisions to provide relief to particular classes of individuals or to serve as economic incentives. These include provisions favoring agricultural land, exemption or reduced taxation of owner-occupied homes, provisions benefiting the poor, veterans, disabled individuals, and the aged. Economic incentives incorporated in property tax laws include exemptions or lower rates on particular business or certain types of business, exemption of the property of newly established businesses, tax breaks in development zones, and earmarking of taxes for expenditure that benefit a particular business (enterprise zones).

Yorktown Street

I know Jesse Kanson-Benanav, and I assure you, he did not say "their will be some displacement in Union Square." He said "there" will be.

Prop 13

Well, we could pass Prop. 13 if we'd like, but the Legislature would just refuse to enact it. Back to square one.

Matt Lighty


Who's town is it anyway!

There is going to be a lot of out of town developers and chain stores looking for easy targets in Somerville. Many of the shady ones already have targeted Somerville because there is proven less chance of objections from less affluent neighborhoods. People who were not allowed to setup their community draining businesses or cellular radiation emitting antennas in Cambridge have instead used Somerville as their next choice because they knew it was much easier to get their shady deals done here. These businesses and developers will be taking our aldermen, mayor, and other officials out to nice dinners and courting them over so that they can move in and buy up real estate and start making money in our city and squares. They know that they are going to need cooperation to get all the available parking set up for their customers convenience. That is why we need to make sure that our elected officials work for the people who already live here.

For those people that don't get displaced you will be faced with attacks on the quality of your life here in Somerville as retailers put up neon signs and loud speaker systems. Restaurants will be filling dumpsters with food and using all of our tax paid for garbage collection services to fill even more garbage trucks that have to travel in and out of our neighborhoods. Delivery trucks will be coming in, making more trips and delivering later at night with noisy beeping roaring rumbling polluting trucks. More cars will show up, at more hours with more horn blowing. For those folks that live close to Union, you may find that your parking spaces get converted to metered parking. Our sewer system is already over taxed and spills into out drainage system each time there is a heavy rain. In parts of town the drainage backs up into peoples basements , and it is probably mixed with the sewer. How much is it going to cost have so many more people in this part of town. How prepared are we to deal with every contingency? How many other problems do we have with our infrastructure that we don't know about because it was kept quite so that unions can get paid and the next set of corrupt Somerville politicians can be left with holding these hot potatoes.

It is not all cake under this icing folks. Not for the residnets and taxpayers anyway.

Kemps Nuts.....

Down on Walnut St. across from Gilman where Kemps Nuts used to be there is a large parcel of land that is growing tumbleweeds. Does anyone know who owns this property and what it is going to eventually be used for?

Kemps Nuts

I thought the city purchased it a number of years ago. They were supposedly planning a skateboard park. Obviously that never happened. I'm not sure what the current plan is.


They probably discovered some burried abandoned oil tanks from a previous administration and decided to move on.

What type of ART is this.......

"Tenants at the artist studios at 435 Somerville Ave. accidentally started a fire when they were "fooling around" with flammable material that included a doll’s head on Friday night, according to a fire report. While the incident is still under investigation, fire Chief Kevin Kelleher said, "As of now, we believe the occupants of the studio were fooling around with some flammable material and started the fire."

Artist Housing = Artist Welfare

And according to news reports, after starting the fire, they left the premises. And by the way, since when has there been an 'artists building' on Somerville Ave.? Does anyone know where it is? And these are the people that everyone feels we should build even more subsidized housing for! Too many of these artists are whacked-out crazies masquerading as 'artists'! I say let's subsidize housing for disabled kids, military veterans, or some other DESERVING group! The artists already enjoy that huge building on Fitchburg St. alongside McGrath Highway. Why must we continue to provide housing for this particular group?

kemp nuts

Last I knew, Kemp Nuts area residents did not want a skatepark in their neighborhood. NIMBY syndrome.
Their response was that a million dollar skate park is being built in Charlestown, part of the Big Dig. They said our kids could go there.

Instead the City presented a plan for a Tranquility Park, right next to the train tracks. Trees and benches.

As of today, NOTHING is being built at Kemp Nuts except weeds.

Because artists are liked by developers and rich people

That is simple. Rich people, developers, and Ron Newman like artists, they don't like poor somerville people.

Ron Newman

Perhaps the Farm Team Paper got the address wrong? The Paper and Provisions Warehouse building, next to Demoulas Market Basket, has some artist studios in it. Its address is 438-440 Somerville Avenue.


It seems to me that the city is using "the arts" as a code word to avoid talking about the affects that gentrification of Union Square will have on the square and surrounding community. Arts is a far less objectionable, a word that people can rally around. Who can be against the arts after all?


For anyone interested in seeing what happens when cities cater to artists much in the same way this article describes, look to New Paltz NY. This Hudson Valley town is about 80 miles north of NYC. Due to the housing prices in Manhattan, many artists started moving upstate to this town via city programs aimed at building artisitic housing. At first, everyone thought it was a good idea since the area was economically depressed. Were they wrong. Today the median home price is one of the highest in New York and the the town has been overun by yuppie socialists from Manhattan who were attracted to the artistic scene. It starts as artists, but its like a disease. As it spreads the towns identity is lost and the people that grew up there are pushed out. A new breed of obnoxious yuppie liberals move in and they begin to take over politics. After this, the city/town becomes the laughing stock of the country because the yuppie socialists are more concerned with trendy issues as apposed to the important onces like taxes, paving roads, etc.

Ron Newman

On the other hand, look at Lowell. That city has also marketed itself to artists, and attracted the Revolving Museum to move there from Fort Point Channel in Boston. The arts have helped revive what had been a nearly dead downtown. Has this hurt the people of Lowell?

Pawtucket, RI, seems to be looking to Lowell for inspiration.

Keith Caputo

Why do cities and towns have to cater toward a certain demographic of people. I am all for diversity in cities but the sad reality is that there are winners and losers in these schemes. The winners always seem to be people of higher incomes and the losers are the working class. What if I like the way my town already is, even if the fufu types see it as undesirable. My city is my culture, its my family, these days though I feel like the people we call leaders have turned their back on us. The bottom line is competing with other cities for high income residents and those who are vulnerable mainly the working class are tossed to the curve. Wouldn't it be nice to live in the same neighborhood that my grandparents settle in years ago. When I was in Italy I visited a town where the same families have lived for hundreds of years. American's don't seem to have that pride and desire to preserve our heritage and culture anymore. We would rather displace the undesirable for the beutiful and rich. Politicians call them the future of Somerville, Boston, etc. What about the future of those who were already here. People say its closed minded to keep outsiders out, but isn't that just a natural defense to the way things are these days. How about the kids who feel like they are being displaced and labeled as undesired. Should they not be concerned about the fact that they may not be able to live in their hometown. To get to my point, all of this smart growth and other economic development policies aren't good. They displace families, and destroy the culture of cities. I think that it attributes to more social problems because cities become transient places. Years ago when I was a kid I remember knowing everyone on my block, the church was the center of everything. We were poor but we all watched each others backs because the future of the city we lived in was us. If we didn't know someone, we were skeptical of them and made sure they weren't there to harm our people. When one of our neighbors was down in the rut it wasn't social programs that helped them out of the hole. It was neighbors coming together taking care of one of our own. Granted some may see this as closed minded thinking, but for those who remember, weren't things better.

What is an artist?

What is an artist? How can you give affordable housing to a group that is impossible to define? I'm a writer, does that make me an artist? My buddy is a rapper, does he qualify for affordable housing?
Do these artists have children that are in need of support? To me that is the only qualification for affordable housing. Of course, not all people choose to have children. Maybe we should call a spade a spade and say its affordable housing for gays.

keep it in perspective

Cities cater to this art thing because it sounds trendy and helps revitalization. It brings in investors. So whether you let the business community or some new group of liberal socialists come in and start changing your neighborhoods does not really matter. The net effect of this is that people get displaced and you lose your parking spot to people who want to come here and shop and dine.

when this happens just like I am telling you it will and just like I told you gas prices were going back up after the election don't go blaming the newcomers. It was your current business community and elected officials that steered this ship in that direction. Many of the police and other public officials in this town are making a killing off of the revitalization and real estate. And what are you poor folks that are going to get displaced doing about it? You either not voting or you are putting these local hoodlum run thiefdoms up on pedestals while they change the zoning in your quite streets. If you want to who the a-holes are that screwing you just open your ears and start looking at the people who keep whining "Somerville is so anti-business" or the "MVTF help up development at assembly square". Because these are the guys that are selling you all out.

brickbottom to Newman

You wrote:"The arts have helped revive what had been a nearly dead downtown"

Are you kidding me?????

Don't you think the Tsongas Center helped just a little bit in reviving downtown?

What a reach that was!

Family Guy

As a lifelong resident of Somerville with young children, I see this as one more way of making Somerville less family friendly. It happened with Davis Sq. Anything that was family oriented is gone. Now, Union Sq is to be controllrd by artists? Why? Why is it that when revitalization happens, families and children are never considered? Pushing families out of the city, and providing nothing to attract new families into the city is self destructive. It is also leading to the decline of the school system. When we consider quality of life issues, shouldn't family life, school systems, and children be considered. The people that push for these types of projects are so single minded, they never consider that there are others that are just as deserving.
How about we build that affordable housing in Union Sq for families who can no longer afford to stay in this city due to projects like this, or for families that were forced out and never wanted to leave. The brand new school will be right there ready and waiting.

If you build it they will come

I have a radical idea....let's just build housing and sell/rent to whomever wants to live there. Why does it need to be marketed to anyone? That way maybe you'll truly have some diversity and the 'mixed-use' that everyone keeps talking about!

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