I’d like to work with you to build the community we want.
Priorities for Ward 5 and Somerville
Make Somerville work for you.
Work closely with Ward 5 residents and city government to deliver effective city services.
Protect our neighborhoods.
Manage development wisely for the benefit of residents.
Preserve Somerville’s character and diversity.
People who grew up here, work here or put down roots here should be able to find affordable housing and good local jobs.
Enrich our environment.
Extend the Green Line and the Community Path. Balance cars and parking with walking and biking.
Keep families in Somerville.
Continue to improve our public schools. Strengthen our public libraries. Build more parks and fields.
Make city government fair, honest, and open.
Decisions and appointments should be based on what’s best for the community, not on personal or business relationships.
Read more about Mark's positions in his Candidate Profile on Somerville.Patch.com
I am a progressive Democrat, and I have the endorsement of the Progressive Democrats of Somerville and the Sierra Club and five unions. So I certainly am progressive!
However, I consider myself to be a religious progressive. I am an observant Jew. I observe the Jewish Sabbath and do not work, go to meetings, or campaign from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. I am an active member of Congregation B’nai Brith on Central Street in Somerville and I attend religious services regularly. I taught religious school there on Sunday mornings for 10 years and was the Executive Director in 1991-1992 and a member of the Board of Directors there for many years.
While I am a religious person, I do not believe anyone should force their beliefs on others. I respect people of all faiths, including Christians, and I also respect atheists and agnostics. In terms of Good Friday as a holiday, I do not believe it should be a holiday for the Somerville Public Schools or the city. In a multi-cultural city, I do not believe there should be religious holidays. In Cambridge, they take another approach and have Christian, Jewish and Muslim holidays. I believe it is simpler and clearer to not have any religious holidays. Students and teachers and workers who are observant should be allowed to have a day off to observe their religion — and they are in the Somerville Public Schools, which I oversee as a member of the School Committee representing Ward 5.
My first order of business if elected to be Ward 5 Alderman will be to work with all interested parties to tackle the rat problem. I agree with you that the city does not yet have an effective plan. Just baiting the sewers with poison and ticketing people for not covering their trash cans is clearly not solving this problem. I am concerned about putting toxins into our environment in the city; the poison we are using doesn’t seem to be working to kill the rats, and it can present dangers to pets and even people.
We need to get on top of this problem before it gets worse next spring and summer.
The first thing the city needs to do is to put someone in charge of solving the rat problem. Leadership is everything. This person should have some credentials and experience. I have heard that the plan is to appoint one of the inspectional services staff to be a “rat czar” to coordinate a comprehensive anti-rat program. We should hire the best person for this job. If we can’t get the right person to hire, then we should contract with an exterminating business that has proven experience to help city staff figure out how best to deal with the rat infestation. But we still need to have someone working full-time for the city who is in charge and will oversee implementation of whatever solution is developed.
We must develop multi-pronged strategies to address this problem. One obvious problem is restaurants and other businesses that sell food in our squares (Ball Square and Magoun Square, for example) who set their trash out at night in open dumpsters or trash cans rather than in tightly sealed containers.
Construction projects disturb rats’ homes, displacing them and sending them elsewhere looking for new sources of food and shelter. Developers must be held responsible for the rats that their developments displace. We need to develop measures that require developers to arrange for extermination of rats on neighboring properties, in ways that are not harmful to pets.
This is an important issue but this question is not really relevant to a municipal election as cities and towns have no power or standing to regulate abortion. Abortion is a state and federal issue.
I would be happy to discuss this more with you personally. Please feel free to give me a call at 617 629-8033.
Sorry, but I’ve had a beard for most of my adult life and I like it. Also I just don’t like to shave. So I am not planning on shaving my beard off. May I ask why you don’t trust people with beards? Abe Lincoln, perhaps our most revered president, had a beard. Now that all the Red Sox have beards, most of them scruffier than mine, I figured that the negative stereotypes about people with beards would have disappeared in the Boston area.
Thanks for your feedback. You make a good point. There are three comments on my website I haven’t responded to. One is about my beard and a second is about abortion. I will respond soon, but neither of these is relevant to a municipal election. There is a substantive question from the summer which just got lost in the campaign grind; it’s an important question and I should have responded to this long ago, but I will do so this week. It is: “I’d love to hear about your vision for Somerville’s streets. How do you propose to balance the claims of various road users?”
I have discussed my vision for Somerville’s streets in my responses to the PDS and Sierra Club questionnaires, both of which are linked above at right.
I look forward to your comments and thoughts on this and other topics later in the week, Jim.
Thank you for writing to me about the need for more affordable housing in Somerville and for sending the link to the Slate article.
I don’t recall the specific details of our conversation because I’ve had hundreds of conversations on this topic as I’ve met voters in Ward 5 over the past three months. So let me clarify what I think about density. I may have spoken to you about an 8-unit apartment building that is under construction on Linden Avenue near Elm Street, a monstrosity that does not fit in that neighborhood at all, and which over 100 residents signed a petition against. Perhaps you assumed that therefore I don’t support large apartment buildings.
I am not against high-density development, not at all. I grew up in a 10a 16-story building in Manhattan. (However, that’s not exactly what we need in Somerville.) Density has its place – in certain parts of our city, but not on quiet residential streets of two- and three-family homes.
So, for example, I support the proposed affordable housing development of 42 units in the old Boys and Girls Club in Union Square, and would support a similar project in a central business district in Ward 5. There are large apartment buildings on Broadway in Ward 5 that seem completely appropriate to me. I would support more such buildings, particularly if a large portion of the units were renting or selling for less than market rates. Some of the smaller, multi-unit developments recently built or now going up on Cedar Street seem of a reasonable scale for that busy street.
Neighborhood residents should be involved in discussions about what development should look like. But in general, I think that Somerville should have taller, high-density development on main thoroughfares like Highland Avenue, Broadway, Somerville Avenue, and Washington Street, and in transit centers. We should maintain smaller buildings in the quiet neighborhoods th story apartment in of triple deckers and allow medium density bridging in-between areas.
But, as you suggest, rents or purchase prices on almost all of the new apartments in Somerville aren’t affordable to anyone but pretty well-off people, whether they are in small or large buildings. Density does not necessarily equate with lower-cost. Look at the biggest new development in Ward 5, Maxwell’s Green. While 25 of the 200 apartments are affordable, as required by a city ordinance (I would propose that in the future it be far more than 12.5%), the rest are astonishingly expensive.
The only way that the city can preserve income diversity is to require developers to build more affordable units as part of the cost of doing business here, invest in building a lot more affordable housing itself, and get serious about permanently removing some portion of housing from the inflationary cycle. How we can develop a lot more affordable housing now that the real estate market is going crazy again is a key issue for Somerville’s future. Who is going to be able to afford to live here in 20 years?
Over the summer, I will be developing a detailed policy paper with some concrete proposals for how the city should go about developing a lot more affordable housing. I will send it to you in August and I invite you to comment again then on our proposals for developing more affordable housing in Somerville so as to keep this a mixed-income community.
I think the most interesting part of this is that Somerville’s population actually fell amidst all this 20% per year increase in rent prices. It’s time to face it: Somerville is no longer working class, it’s inherited property and very wealthy families who can buy in. The message is clear to those of us who work hard and are young: Come for college, stay for as long as you can afford rent, then get out. So you’re holding contradictory positions – anti denser housing but pro-keeping families here?