Oct 8 Update: Clean Elections / Transparency - Traffic Calming Efforts - Progress on Orange Line, Community Path and Green Lin

niedergang_assembly_sq_t_stop.jpg MN at the new Assembly Square T stop
morrison_ave.jpg Morrison Ave. pedestrian crossing sign

In this update:

  • Tuesday, October 14, 7 PM at City Hall - Speak up for clean elections & transparency in Somerville! -- Public Hearing on ordinance to limit campaign contributions by developers
  • On the streets of Ward 5: Traffic calming
  • Progress on Orange Line, Community Path and Green Line

Tuesday, October 14, 7 PM at City Hall - Speak up for clean elections & transparency in Somerville!

- Public Hearing on ordinance to limit campaign contributions by developers

Please attend this Public Hearing and/or email the Aldermen who have said they will vote to sustain the Mayor’s veto against campaign finance reform

The Board of Aldermen voted 7-4 to approve a municipal campaign finance reform measure but the Mayor vetoed it. We need one more vote to override his veto.

I voted in favor and strongly support this proposed law. While it does not go nearly far enough – for example, it does not limit contributions from City employees – it is at least a start and addresses a serious problem: the influence of developers on what can be built in Somerville. There will be billions of dollars of development in the City in the coming decade. It is important to limit the influence of developers on elected officials. The Mayor has received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from developers, their attorneys, spouses and associates. Many of these companies are major developers in the City, and some have contracts with the City. Their applications are regularly considered by City boards and staff.

The ordinance is modest. It would limit campaign contributions to $250 by developers of properties over 10,000 sq feet and by those who seek certain contracts with the City. (The current $500 maximum is going up to $1,000 next year by vote of the State Legislature.) It would have no impact on residents or those looking to make home improvements.

In order to override the Mayor’s veto we need a two-thirds majority or eight votes. If you live anywhere in Somerville, and if you agree with me, I urge you to contact the two Aldermen-at-Large who voted against it – Mary Jo Rossetti (mjrossetti@somervillema.gov) and Jack Connolly (aldermanconnolly@gmail.com). If you live in Ward 2 (Maryann Heuston, mheuston@hotmail.com) or Ward 3 (Bob McWatters, rmcwatters@somervillema.gov), please also email them and tell them to reconsider their opposition.

There have been two excellent editorials in the past four months in the Somerville Journal, an excellent op-ed piece by Ken Brociner in the October 2nd Journal and many, many articles in the Journal and other local newspapers.

On the streets of Ward 5: Traffic calming

The #1 issue in Ward 5 continues to be traffic. Residents all over the ward, from Ball Square to Central Street, on Cedar Street and Lowell Street, on Hudson, Alpine, Linden, Clyde, Porter and Trull Streets, Morrison Avenue and Broadway – have contacted me because cars just go too fast on our streets. I have put more time into this issue than any other, with some limited success. But the battle to reclaim our streets and make them safer for all users (including motor vehicles) has just begun! People all over Somerville are rising up to demand slower traffic and safer streets.

Some of the successes: Working with residents, I’ve gotten four pop-up caution signs placed at key crosswalks and a flashing pedestrian crossing sign at a dangerous intersection on Morrison Ave. and Highland Road. Chicanes (S-shaped curves with parking alternating on either side of the street) have been installed on Lowell Street, slowing traffic somewhat…but not nearly enough. Speed monitors are in place to provide data and show drivers how fast they are going. I’ve gotten two separate no parking spots at the intersection of Lowell and Vernon Streets, to make that area safer. There will be a follow-up community meeting in the fall about traffic safety on Lowell Street. I am very concerned about the ramp at the end of the Community Path which will come up from below right onto the Lowell Street bridge. I walked that area with our new Chief of Police Dave Fallon (who grew up in Ward 5 on Hudson St) yesterday and will be pushing City staff to make sure this temporary terminus of the Community Path is safe.

There will be a community meeting to discuss traffic calming on Cedar Street sometime in the fall. A range of changes have been suggested, including chicanes, bumpouts, flashing lights at crosswalks (like at Albion Park), etc. The contractor who is building the Community Path is supposed to install a raised traffic table where it intersects with Cedar St.

I am working with a group led by Mark Chase, a traffic planner who lives on Belmont Street, to develop a pilot “Neighborway” that will go through Ward 5 all the way to East Somerville, a pathway that involves painting streets, installing planters and other low-cost traffic calming measures. This is a creative, participatory way to slow traffic and take back our streets.

I have spoken directly with the Mayor several times about the need to change the regulations around traffic calming. I attended the Traffic Commission meeting on September 18th to advocate for getting rid of the requirement that to get a temporary speed bump on their street, a resident needs to get a signature from 66% of all the households affected – those on the street and on side streets as well! This and many other Traffic Commission regulations seem designed to make it difficult for residents to change things. As a result of the discussion about the speed bump requirement at the meeting and my discussions with the Mayor, there will now be a review of all the traffic calming regulations by the Administration with the engagement of an outside consultant.

Progress on the Orange Line, Community Path and Green Line

The Orange Line station at Assembly Square opened in early September. This is the first new subway stop in Greater Boston in 27 years, and it will contribute to the continuing development of Assembly Square, which is already bringing lots of jobs and tax revenue to Somerville, as well as lovely waterfront park area, stores and restaurants.

Community Path update – It’s happening….but oh so slowly. Work continues to crawl along on the 1/2-mile extension from Cedar to Lowell Street and is supposed to be completed by the end of November. The super good news is that the state did commit over the summer to fully fund the extension of the Community Path along the Green Line to Lechmere...and beyond…to link up with the Charles River and other Cambridge and Boston paths.

Work has begun on the Green Line Union Square station! This station, and another one east of Union Square on Washington Street, are to be completed at the end of 2017. The work in the heart of Union Square will only last a few months and involves removal of contaminated soil, demolition of buildings, and preparation of the site for construction of the station.

The other Green Line stations – Gilman Square, Lowell St/Magoun Square, Ball Square and College Avenue – are supposed to be built by 2019. However, there is a problem: all the money is not there yet. The Commonwealth has submitted a grant application to the Federal Dept. of Transportation. State officials are optimistic, but whether we get the money may depend upon:

  • Will we have a Democratic (Coakley) or Republican (Baker) Governor in Massachusetts from 2015-2018? Republicans are no friends of public transportation, and Republican Governor Romney did everything he could to kill the Green Line. And...
  • If Ballot Question 1 passes, it will limit increases in the gas tax and funds available for all transportation infrastructure, possibly leading the Feds to conclude that we’re not raising enough tax money ourselves…so why should the Feds give us money?

 

So cross your fingers and vote for Martha Coakley and No on Question 1!

Speaking of the upcoming election on November 4th, I will be sending you my suggestions for voting in a few weeks.


 

Sincerely,

Mark Niedergang

Ward 5 Alderman

617-629-8033

Mark@MarkNiedergang.com

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