June Newsletter

June Newsletter

 

Happy Summer! We are in the midst of budget season here at the city council (more updates to follow on that next newsletter), but I thought I would take a moment to talk about a lot of the exciting things that have been happening here on the city council this spring and in my campaign. In this newsletter, I will recap our fundraiser and highlight our victories passing the plastic straw ban, regulating Airbnb and advocating and getting more money for immigrant legal services here in the city.

 

1)Campaign updates:

 

Fundraiser/Kickoff 2.0

 

We had a very successful Campaign Kickoff 2.0 at Sally O’Briens. We highlighted our campaign’s focus on fighting to keep Somerville a Community for All by Preserving Community, Standing with Workers, and Promoting Equity. Check out the speech that I gave to conclude the event HERE. Many thanks to my campaign staff, all my supporters who showed up, and the great musicians and artists who performed that night.

 

LAWN SIGNS!

 

We have our new lawn signs in for the 2019 elections- please email my campaign manager Mike Bowler if you would like one dropped off in your yard (or maybe a street facing window) - mlbowler03@gmail.com

 

2)Plastic Straw Ban Passes

 

I am excited to announce that the plastic straw ban ordinance was voted into law unanimously on May 9th. The ordinance will make plastic straws and plastic stirrers only available on request. Alternative non-plastic straws will still be allowed without request in order to promote their use when needed. The ordinance will be in effect in 9 months. Plastic straws are an important device for people with disabilities, so the Disability Policy Consortium was consulted during the crafting process, and their recommendations were incorporated.  An educational campaign will be done to educate businesses to make sure that plastic straws are still accessible to anyone who needs it.

 

With 500 million straws used yearly by Americans, plastic waste is a problem that desperately needs to be addressed. I am proud that an important first step has been made to help address the large amount of single use plastic waste which is affecting our environment.

 

3) Free and Low-cost Legal Services for Immigrants

 

Back on February 8th, with the help of my colleague Mark Neidergang, I passed a Board resolution that:  the administration appropriate funds to contract a community organization to provide free or low-cost legal services on Immigration and naturalization issues to immigrants living in Somerville.”

 

I am excited to announce that the new budget, thanks to the support of the Mayor on this issue, includes new funding measures that increases the free and low-cost legal services provided to our immigrant community! This is an issue of great importance to me, and I am excited to see Somerville putting money toward this essential service for our fellow community members.


4) Airbnb Regulation - Cut down on speculation!

 

Long overdue for an update here, but I am excited to announce that the city council voted on May 9th to pass the regulation on short-term rental units offered by websites like AirBnB, HomeAway, and VRBO. The regulations that were passed by the City Council require that units offered for short-term rental remain operators’ primary residence and create a registration process for short term rental operators aimed at ensuring safety for tenants and renters. Research conducted for the City by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council in July 2015 found that there were around 400 active AirBnB short-term rental listings in Somerville and that 40% were for entire residences (see Sustainable Neighborhoods Working Group Report pages 20-21). With many Somerville residents struggling to find affordable rental housing that will allow them to stay in the community, there is concern that allowing operators to rent out entire housing units will decrease the number of regular rental opportunities, making it even harder for residents to find affordable housing. The new regulations would allow short-term rental operators to rent rooms within their primary residence or rent their entire primary residence when they are away, but would prohibit operators from renting units that they themselves do not live in. The regulations also establish a short-term rental registration process administered by the City’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) that will require an inspection of the short-term rental unit to ensure compliance with the regulation of the ordinance and applicable health and safety codes. This is an exciting victory for affordability and community here in Somerville! The ordinance goes into effect January of 2020.

Thanks for taking the time to read my updates! I am excited to continue this important work in my second term, but I am going to need your support to get there. You can sign up to volunteer for my campaign by emailing mlbowler03@gmail.com or you can donate to our campaign by clicking here!



Your Public Servant,

 

Will Mbah



Always feel free to reach out over email to sign up for the newsletter or to ask questions/voice concerns at aldermanmbah@gmail.com or call me at 508-718-8126.

 

You can donate to our campaign by clicking here!


April Newsletter

April Newsletter

Happy Spring! We are gearing up for re-election here at campaign headquarters. There is already one new challenger running for At-Large City Councilor, and I will need all of your support to have another successful election this November. There is so much important work left to accomplish on equity and affordability! If you are interested in volunteering for the campaign, please email Mike Bowler at mlbowler03@gmail.com. If you would like to donate to the campaign, you can do so by clicking here. Thanks for your support!

1)Condo Conversion Ordinance Passes!

The City Council passed an overhauled condominium conversion ordinance on Thursday, March 28th by a vote of 10-1. I was proud to join many of my colleagues to vote in favor of this bill. The vote was the culmination of months of work by affordable housing and tenants rights advocates and city staff as well as months of public hearings and deliberations by the City Council. The new ordinance ensures that tenants, especially the most vulnerable, are treated fairly and with dignity when their landlord decides to convert their unit to a condominium. The law does this by first increasing the amount of time that disabled, low-income, or elderly tenants have to find new housing options from two years to five years. It also increases the amount of money that owners are required to provide tenants for relocation to $10,000 for disabled, low-income, or elderly tenants and up to $6000 for all other tenants. Landlords are now also be required to assist disabled, low-income, or elderly tenants with finding new apartments in Somerville. The ordinance also includes a requirement that tenants be given the right of first refusal to purchase their unit and gives tenants 120 days (or 180 days for disabled, low-income, or elderly tenants) to find financing and exercise their right to purchase. Additionally, the law gives non-profit affordable housing developers or the City the right to purchase converted units if the tenant does not wish to purchase. The existing Condominium Review Board will continue to be the body that enforces the ordinance.

The previous condominium conversion ordinance, enacted in 1985, was intended to protect tenants, but was out of date and ineffective at serving its intended purpose. Conversion of rental housing to condominiums over the last several decades has reduced the amount of more affordable rental housing in the city. And since 1985, Somerville has changed significantly with huge increases in rents and housing prices. Unfortunately, the old condominium conversion law did not keep up with the times. For example, the old ordnance references $300 as the amount necessary to pay for tenants to find a new place to live. Over the past few months, with input from community members and policy experts, the city redrafted the condominium conversion ordinance and now has passed a law that provides much stronger protection for tenants.

More information on the ordinance and the overhaul process as well as other condominium conversion laws in the area can be found at the cities condominium conversion amendment webpage.

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2) Plastic Straw Ordinance

Since November, the Open Space, Environment and Energy Committee has been working on a plastic straw and plastic stirrers ban to address the significant amount of plastic waste generated which has an impact on our planet and oceans. Approximately 500 million straws are used yearly by Americans, and are one of the top ten items found on beach cleanups. Plastics emit toxins when decomposing and also pose a physical hazard to animals. The aim of the ordinance is to reduce use of plastic straws by having them being given out only on request, as well as to have compostable or reusable straws available as an alternative.

It is important for the ordinance to acknowledge that plastic straws are an important accessibility device for people with disabilities. Therefore, I am working with the committee to make sure that the ordinance allows anyone with difficulty using alternative straws to be able to request a plastic straw without questions. I invited Colin Killick, Deputy Director of the Disability Policy Consortium, to discuss his advice at the last meeting, and he has drafted an addition to the ordinance and will be working with the City Solicitor to present this at the next meeting. The ordinance is also exempting medical facilities, local emergencies, as well as a one year exemption for schools.

I believe it is important to address the large amount of single use plastic waste which is affecting our environment. I am planning on making sure the ordinance will help reduce plastic use, encourage use of compostable or reusable straws, as well as still allow plastic straw access to those who need it.

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3) Support Workers

It was great to join in the rally to support Stop and Shop workers at the local Somerville branch. I draw so much inspiration from the many workers’ movements around the country. It is awesome seeing workers coming together to demand better treatment and better pay! We need to capture this spirit and use it in bringing about change in our community.

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4) Wicked Local Article on Representation in Somerville City Government

You can check out some quotes from me about the need for more representation in our city government. I am only one voice in a diverse city like Somerville. We can and we should do better! Happy Reading!

5) Construction, Construction and Detours!!

As always, to stay up to date on all of the busy traffic and detours in Somerville during this period of major construction related to the GLX and Union Square Redevelopment HERE.

6) Upcoming Meetings at City Hall:

7) Expect Updates on Somervision 2040 in our next newsletter

For now, you can follow the updates here.

 

Your Public Servant,

 

Will Mbah


Always feel free to reach out over email to sign up for the newsletter or to ask questions/voice concerns at aldermanmbah@gmail.com or call me at 508-718-8126.

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February 2019 Newsletter

February Newsletter

 

Happy cold, cold weather to everyone! Although it’s the time of year when leaving your warm bed feels impossible, there is a lot of important work going on at city hall that makes me get out of bed. For one, we are now officially known as a city council and city councilors! I am excited for this common-sense, gender neutral change. In this newsletter I am going to speak about my belief in stronger protections for the city against speculation and condo conversion that often leaves residents out in the cold. I will also speak at length about my moving conversation with David Gibbs from CAAS. This conversation reinforced the urgency I felt to investigate and solve the crisis of homelessness among our school-age youth here in the city. In a country and city with so much, it is embarrassing and morally indefensible that we have young children who don’t have a home attending our public schools. We can, and we should do better. In addition, I am looking into better protecting and paying restaurant workers (we need a stronger wage theft ordinance) and focusing in on building data on equity here in the city. Finally, I will give a report out on the important Union Square Neighborhood Council Elections.

 

1)Condo Conversion Ordinance

 

Over the past few months, City staff and the Somerville City Council have taken up amending the City’s condominium conversion ordinance, and on January 31st, the city held a public hearing on the proposed rewrite of the law. At the hearing, Director of the Office of Housing Stability Ellen Shachter reviewed the proposed changes to the law. She specifically highlighted how the current ordinance is out of date and ineffective at serving its intended purpose – protecting tenants in the city. Ms. Shachter showed that while the rental vacancy rate in Somerville is only 2%, 92% of the rental properties that owners have requested condominium conversion permits for in 2018 have been vacant. This means that the vast majority of tenants in properties being converted to condominiums are not being provided their right to notice, relocation reimbursement, and first right of refusal to purchase their unit as required by the current law.

The condominium conversion ordinance, enacted in 1985, is intended to protect tenants when landlords decide to convert rental property into condominiums in order to sell individual units. Conversion of rental housing to condominiums over the last several decades has reduced the amount of more affordable rental housing in the city. And since 1985, Somerville has changed significantly with huge increases in rents and housing prices. Unfortunately, the condominium conversion law has not kept up with the times. For example, the current ordinance references $300 to pay for tenants to find a new place to live. $300 may have been a reasonable number for relocation expenses in 1985, but when the median rent in the city according to the census is now $1400 and many landlords want first and last month rent as well as security deposit up front (not to mention the costs of moving itself), it is clear that changes must be made to update the law.  Over the past few months, with input from community members and policy experts, the city has redrafted the condominium conversion ordinance in an attempt to provide more protection for tenants.

The proposed ordinance that was presented to the public at the hearing on January 31st would make needed changes to the ordinance that would ensure that tenants, especially the most vulnerable tenants in our city, are treated fairly and with dignity. First the new ordinance would increase the amount of time that disabled, low-income, or elderly tenants – those who face the most challenges finding new homes in Somerville – have to find new housing options from two years to five years. It also adjusts the amount of money that owners are required to provide tenants for relocation to $10,000 for disabled, low-income, or elderly tenants and up to $6,000 for all other tenants. Landlords would also be required to assist disabled, low-income, or elderly tenants with finding new apartments. The proposal also makes the existing requirement that tenants be given the right of first refusal to purchase their unit more practicable by increasing the amount of time tenants have to exercise their right to purchase from 30 days to 120 days (180 days for disables, low-income, or elderly tenants). Additionally, the draft gives non-profit affordable housing developers or the City the right to purchase converted units if the tenant does not wish to purchase. The existing law is enforced by the Condominium Review Board, a five-member body whose members are appointed by the Mayor. The new proposal would keep the Board in place.

More information on the existing ordinance, the proposed amendment, as well as other condominium conversion laws in the area can be found at the cities condominium conversion amendment webpage. The City Council will now spend the next several weeks deliberating on the proposal and will likely hold a second public hearing in March. Please keep an eye out on my Facebook page for updates on the timing of the next hearing!

 

2) My Conversation with David Gibbs of CAAS and a Forward-Looking Agenda on Homelessness, Wage Theft and Equity

 

Recently, I was privileged to have coffee with David Gibbs, the Executive Director of Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS). I was motivated to meet him after an event he organized that was attended by some of my colleagues, including Senator Pat Jehlen.

 

This event was about restaurant workers and how they are sometimes mistreated and underpaid. I learned a lot about the restaurant industry and why other restaurants like Juliet in Union Square have decided to lead on that front by eliminating tips and paying their employees a decent wage.

 

My colleagues and I will be looking for ways to incentivize restaurants such as Juliet and to track and penalize the ones that are under paying their staff or that are involved in wage theft. We need a stronger Wage Theft Ordinance!

 

I also discovered the enormous work that CAAS does in our community and within the greater Boston are, which include

 

Head Start (https://www.caasomerville.org/head-start)

Homelessness prevention (https://www.caasomerville.org/homelessness-prevention-program)

Community and tenant organizing (https://www.caasomerville.org/community-organizing)

Free tax preparation (VITA) (https://www.caasomerville.org/free-tax-preparation)

 

CAAS is also accepting donations of non-perishable food as well as hygiene and baby products for distribution to families affected by the partial government shutdown (which will include anyone receiving food stamps (SNAP). (https://www.caasomerville.org/food-drive)

 

I also realized that nothing has changed in the homelessness situation in our schools. At any given year, there are between 50 - 100 kids in our schools that are homeless.

 

We need to have a baseline for humanity beginning by taking care of our most vulnerable. We need to build an emergency shelter to house these kids. One kid being homeless is way too many. I will be submitting a board order for an update on the homeless situation in our schools and for the creation of an emergency shelter to take care of these kids.

 

On Equity:

I also think it’s about time we know the composition of our municipal government. Unless we have a government that is reflective of the population it serves, equity will be a far reaching agenda item.

 

We also have to start talking about Race in our community and see how it affects each one of us. I attended one such conversation a few years ago when I moved to the city but I haven't heard much or anything since.

 

Here are the board orders I plan to submit at our next Council meeting for deliberation:

 

  • That the administration update this board with respect to the homelessness situation in our schools and to create an emergency shelter to house every single child
  • That the administration consider eliminating tips in our local businesses to allow employers to pay their workers what they deserve.
  • That the administration organize a quarterly race dialogue in the city.
  • That the administration present data on the demographics of its employees in municipal government, and including schools and explain their strategy to build a diverse municipal government that is reflective of the community it serves.

 

3) Union Square Neighborhood Council Board Election

 

I'm a strong supporter of the Union Square Neighborhood Council (USNC) and their goals of building community, empowering members of the Union Square community, minimizing displacement, promoting affordability, increasing economic opportunity, and stewarding the public realm and built environment. I proudly voted for the City's designation of the USNC as the body tasked with negotiating a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with the Union Square Master Developer, and I will continue to support them in their negotiations for a strong, enforceable CBA that the community can be proud of.

 

The elected board of the USNC serves a 1-year term, and, after a year of service by the members of the current board, there is an upcoming election in which members of the Union Square Community will have an opportunity to vote on who should serve on the board of the USNC in the coming year. On January 15th, I attended a candidates' forum at the Argenziano School, in which many of the 16 candidates who are running for the 15 available seats on the board spoke about why they're running and how they hope to serve the Union Square Community in the year ahead. You can view video of that event as well as written statements from the candidates here. And, if you live, work, own a business or property, or volunteer at an organization with a physical presence in the Union Square Neighborhood, then you are eligible to – and I encourage you to – vote in the upcoming USNC board election, which will be held at Bow Market today from 12pm-4pm and February 4th from 7am-8pm.



Your Public Servant,

 

Will Mbah


Always feel free to reach out over email to sign up for the newsletter or to ask questions/voice concerns at aldermanmbah@gmail.com or call me at 508-718-8126.


October Newsletter

October Newsletter

 

The Board of Alderman legislative session is in full swing and there many exciting things coming up this fall. I wanted to take time in this newsletter to tell you about a hearing I am running as the chair of the Open Space, Environment, and Energy Committee on the destruction of trees in the city. In addition, I’ll share some helpful dates and events that are coming up soon that you can get involved in. Enjoy!

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1)Open Space, Environment, and Energy Committee Public Hearing on Loss of Trees in Somerville- Wednesday, Oct. 3rd, 6pm

 

Concerned about the loss of trees in our city? I am. 2018 has been a disaster and a huge step backwards for Somerville’s trees. More than 1,800 trees have been removed, many of them with no replacement planned. At current levels, this is ten years’ worth of plantings.

 

The Board of Aldermen Committee on Open Space, Environment and Energy invites all interested community members to a Public Hearing on Trees. The Hearing will take place on Wednesday, October 3, at 6 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chambers, City Hall, 2nd Floor, 93 Highland Ave. The Committee will discuss and invite brief public testimony on a range of issues relating to public trees and the city’s overall tree canopy including the tree planting schedule, tree canopy development, the coming new Urban Forestry Committee, the drafting of a Native Tree and Plantings ordinance, Green Line Extension-required tree removals, and potential tree plantings for Junction Park.

 

2) 2018 Fall ResiStat Info + Schedule

 

Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and the Board of Aldermen invite residents to the Fall 2018 ResiStat Community Meetings, a twice-yearly effort to share the latest City news, data, and neighborhood updates directly with residents and gather their feedback. ResiStat is both a great way to learn more about what’s happening in your neighborhood and around Somerville and a chance to talk with elected officials, City staff, and neighbors. A social half hour before the meeting and time after the meeting provide an easy opportunity for one-on-one chats. (We serve pizza and kid-friendly, healthy snacks to make it more fun to come and chat.)

Seven neighborhood meetings, one in each ward, will be held in the coming weeks. Mayor Curtatone, ward and at-large aldermen, members of the Somerville Police Department, and City staff will discuss issues important to residents. Residents will also have time to ask about other issues important to them. With several large construction projects coming up or already in the works, this fall’s ResiStat meetings will heavily focus on construction.

Interpretation into Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole will be provided at every meeting

For more information about ResiStat, or with any questions, contact ResiStat Coordinator, Meghann Ackerman, at MAckerman@somervillema.gov or 617-625-6600 ext. 2120.

Partial Fall 2018 ResiStat Meeting Schedule

Meetings run from 6:30 to 8 p.m., with refreshments at 6 p.m.

  • Ward 1 (East Somerville, Assembly Sq.): Tues., Oct. 9, East Somerville Community School Auditorium, 50 Cross St.
  • Ward 5 (Magoun Sq., NE Ball Sq., Cedar & Lowell St. areas, NW Porter Sq.): Mon., Oct. 22, The Center for Arts at the Armory, 191 Highland Ave.
  • Ward 2 (S. Union Sq., Perry and Lincoln Park neighborhoods, Beacon St. area): Tues., Oct. 30, Argenziano School, 290 Washington St.
  • Ward 6 (greater Davis Sq. neighborhood): Thurs., Nov. 1, Spaces, 54 Chester St.
  • Ward 3 (N. Union Sq., Prospect Hill, Spring Hill, Central Hill): Wed., Nov. 7, Somerville High School cafeteria, 81 Highland Ave.
  • Ward 4 (Winter Hill, Ten Hills): Tues., Nov. 13, Healey School, 5 Meacham St.
  • Ward 7 (West Somerville, Teele Sq.): Thurs., Nov. 15, Tufts University’s Pearson Chemical Lab, room 104, 62 Talbot Ave.

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3) Construction/Road Closure Updates

 

If you want to find out more info on road closures and construction updates, the city has a great centralized location for those things. Check out this link and be prepared!

 

In particular, there is a public meeting about the situation on Somerville Ave on October 10- details below.

The next phase of the Somerville Ave. Utilities & Streetscape Improvements project is set to begin in early November. To accommodate construction, a major work zone will be set up in the middle of Union Square for about six months. Through traffic will be detoured off of Somerville Ave. around the work zone. Some stops on MBTA bus routes 85 and 87 between Dane Street and Union Square will also be temporarily closed and relocated during this time.

To learn more about the upcoming work and associated detours, please join Ward 2 Alderman J.T. Scott, Ward 3 Alderman Ben Ewen-Campen, City of Somerville staff, and representatives from the project team for a community meeting on Wednesday, October 10, at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held in the Academy Room at the Somerville Public Safety building, 220 Washington St.

For more information, including maps of the detours described above, please visit somervillema.gov/somervilleave, emailconstruction@somervillema.gov, or call the Engineering department at 617-625-6600 ext. 5400.





I hope to see many of you out at my hearing tomorrow night!



Your Public Servant,

 

Will Mbah


Always feel free to reach out over email to sign up for the newsletter or to ask questions/voice concerns at aldermanmbah@gmail.com or call me at 508-718-8126.


May Newsletter

This month’s newsletter will mostly focus on the important changes to the proposed transfer fee home rule petition that is presently before the Board of Alderman. There is a lot of misinformation out there on this issue. I want to help set the record straight and talk about why I support the transfer fee and this petition. But, first of all, I want to say a big thank you to Alderman Hirsch for her excellent revisions that have now been incorporated into the current draft of the petition. The newly revised version simply and elegantly protects Somerville resident homeowners while shifting the burden of the fee squarely onto developers and speculators, where it belongs.

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  1. Updates to the Transfer Fee Petition
  • Alderman Hirsch’s proposal, which the board has now incorporated into our working draft, exempts owner-occupant sellers from paying the transfer fee. All buyers who intend to occupy their new properties for 2 years or more will be exempt as well. This ensures that the burden of this minimal fee will not even fall on the people who actually live in the home they own in Somerville.
  • So who pays the transfer fee?
    • Developers, speculators, and absentee landlords!
    • If the person or company selling the property has not been an owner-occupant for at least two years, they must pay a 1% transfer fee on the sale. In addition, if the buyer/developer will not be living in the property, they must pay a 1% transfer fee. So, if a sale occurs between two developers/speculators/absentee landlords, there will be a total of 2% collected by the city. If the seller is an owner-occupant, but the buyer is a developer, then just the buyer/developer will pay 1%. And, if an owner-occupant seller sells to an owner-occupant buyer, neither of them pays any fee!
  • Key Takeaways:
    • Though we don’t yet have firm revenue estimates from the city, I expect that the revenue raised by this revised version of the fee will be roughly the same as that of the original plan. But, it accomplishes this while placing the burden where it belongs!
    • All money from the transfer fee will go to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund which is run by a board with good people on it, such as Alderman Ewen-Campen. To ensure their good work, I will also introduce a resolution in the future that asks that board to be audited yearly by an independent auditor that is not a city staff for better accountability and transparency. I heard in the testimony that people did not trust this board, and I want to make sure it is transparent and accountable to address those concerns.
      • The Somerville Affordable Housing Trust Fund (SAHTF) was created in 1989 by a City ordinance to preserve and create affordable rental and homeownership units in Somerville, and to carry out programs to directly assist homeowners and renters. All of its activities must benefit low to moderate income households (with incomes at or below 110% of area median income). Find out more about it HERE.
    • Owner-Occupants don’t have to pay this tax!
    • You can transfer your property to an immediate family member without having the pay the transfer fee as well!
    • These funds will enable the city to create dramatically more permanently affordable housing here in the city. The transfer fee is a necessary and important first step to help ensure that this generation’s working and middle class can call Somerville their home.
    • Without this transfer fee, the city will be merely paying lip service to affordability and anti-displacement efforts. Money is needed to actually make affordable housing plans a reality. We need to pass this petition now and advocate for its swift approval at the State legislature!
  • Another public hearing has been scheduled to permit the public to offer testimony on the latest version of the Transfer Fee Home Rule Petition. It will be at City Hall on Monday, May 7th @ 6:00pm. Please come out and voice your opinion. Let’s make developers pay their fair share!
  • You can read the full text of the current draft of the petitionby following this link: https://www.somervillema.gov/departments/proposed-transfer-fee-home-rule-petition




    2) Public Hearing on Affordable Housing in Somerville- Monday, April 30th

  • I was truly moved by the heart wrenching stories offered of people’s struggles to live and stay in Somerville. It was particularly disturbing how minorities and people of color are being squeezed by this affordability crisis in our city. We have to do a better job.
  • Regina Bertoldo, district homeless liaison for Somerville Public Schools, talked of the more than $200,000 per year spent to transport homeless students from temporary housing outside of the city back to their classrooms. Her testimony on the struggles of students who became homeless and were forced to sleep in the parks both saddened and angered me. How could we let this happen in our community where there is so much wealth and prosperity?
  • I wanted to thank all of the ordinary citizens and community experts that offered testimony. I promise to fight hard to find solutions that help with affordability.
  • Listening to the testimony offered at this public hearing really hit home with why we need the transfer fee as step 1 in taking action on affordability.
  • For more details, read this excellent article on the hearing.

 

     3) Spring Resistat meetings are here!

    • Stay informed with what is going on in the city and your ward/neighborhood. Below is the information offered by the city about Spring Resistat meetings:

 

  • Spring 2018 ResiStat Meeting Schedule

 

              Meetings run from 6:30 to 8 p.m., with refreshments at 6 p.m.

                          Spring 2018 ResiStat Meeting Schedule

         Meetings run from 6:30 to 8 p.m., with refreshments at 6 p.m.

 

  • Ward 6: Tuesday, May 8, TAB Building Senior Center Room, 167 Holland St.
  • Ward 5: Monday, May 14, Kennedy School, 5 Cherry St.
  • Ward 7: Monday, May 14, West Somerville Neighborhood School, 177 Powder House Blvd.
  • Ward 1: Wednesday, May 30, East Somerville Community School Auditorium, 50 Cross St.
  • Ward 2: Tuesday, May 22, Argenziano School, 290 Washington St.
  • Ward 4: Thursday, May 31, Healey School, 5 Meacham St.
  • Ward 3: Tuesday, June 5, Somerville High School Library, 81 Highland Ave. (enter through the Field House doors)

 

Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and the Board of Aldermen invite residents to the Spring 2018 ResiStat Community Meetings, a twice-yearly effort to share the latest City news, data, and neighborhood updates directly with residents and gather their feedback. ResiStat is more than a great way to get an overview of what’s happening specifically in your neighborhood as well as citywide. The social time before and after the meetings also offer an easy opportunity to talk one-on-one with the Mayor, your Aldermen, and City staff and police—and to connect with your neighbors. (We serve pizza and kid-friendly, healthy snacks to make it more fun to come and chat.)

Refreshments will be served at a meet-and-greet before each meeting. Interpretation into Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian Creole will be provided at every meeting. For more information about ResiStat, or with any questions, contact ResiStat Coordinator, Meghann Ackerman, at MAckerman@somervillema.gov or 617-625-6600 ext. 2120.

 

So many exciting things happening in our city. I am excited to be a part of positive change!

Your Public Servant,

 

Will Mbah

 

Always feel free to reach out over email to sign up for the newsletter or to ask questions/voice concerns at aldermanmbah@gmail.com or call me at 508-718-8126.

 

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February Newsletter

February 2018 Newsletter

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It has been an exciting first month in office for me. I am getting up to speed on the pressing issues facing the board but this time from the perspective of an elected official, not just a private citizen/activist. I am learning so much, and I am also making sure that my voice is heard on behalf of the people. This newsletter will give you updates on city business, and also encourage you to weigh in and give your feedback to the city so we can be the change we want to see.

 

1) City-wide Zoning Overhaul- Your input is wanted/needed!

  • The Mayor’s office has officially released its proposed Citywide Zoning Overhaul, and is asking for community input. There is a dedicated website: www.somervillezoning.com, where you can see the proposed map and regulations, and learn about the details. In addition, the website also contains the thinking behind the overhaul and the process by which the city will go about approving/voting on the changes. You can find where your property falls in the city’s Zoning Atlas. 

 

  • You can find out more information at an upcoming public hearing too:
    • On Tuesday, February 13, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chambers on the Second Floor of Somerville City Hall, 93 Highland Avenue, the City Administration will introduce the code, provide an overview, and highlight the differences between the proposed 2018 overhaul and the 2015 version;

 

  • Ways to get your voice heard!
    • There is a 'CiviComment' page (https://somerville.civicomment.org/) at the zoning website where you can leave input. This allows for people to comment directly on specific items in the code, and lets everybody see and discuss each other's comments.
    • In addition, you can also offer your thoughts by emailing the Planning Board at planning@somervillema.gov. These comments will be shared with the BOA as well.
    • Finally, you can contribute by offering comments at the public hearing on Tuesday, March 13, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chambers on the Second Floor of Somerville City Hall, 93 Highland Avenue.

2) Transfer Tax for Affordable Housing in Somerville:

  • State Representative Mike Connolly has proposed legislation at the state-level that would allow cities to enact taxes on real estate transactions. This legislation would allow cities in Massachusetts, like Somerville, to pass a real estate transfer tax ranging from .5 to 2% on speculation in the market and have the funds go directly to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund in Somerville! The board needs this legislation to pass on the state level in order to enact our very own transfer fee. Check out the favorable reviews his legislation has received thus far: http://www.repmikeconnolly.org/rep_mike_connolly_real_estate_transfer_fee_gets_favorable_committee_report

3) Clarendon apartments

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  • This is a complex development with many moving parts involving low income residents and their representatives (Clarendon Resident United) and developers (Somerville Community Corporation (SCC), Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) and RedGates. I attended one of several public meetings with huge turnout (pictured attached) where residents continue to express their concerns. I was pleased to hear very thoughtful comments from our Board President and Ward 7 Alderman Katjana Ballantyne about the need for further conversation between the developers and the residents to come to a reasonable and achievable compromise. This affordable housing remake is desperately needed, but it also clear that we need to support our Clarendon residents and fellow Somerville neighbors in this process. More updates to come as this situation progresses. Follow the project on clarendonhill.org.

4) Draw Seven State Park- Again, your input is needed/wanted!

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  • There was a community/public meeting on February 5th at the East Somerville Community School that detailed the possible options for developing the Draw Seven State Park (next to Assembly). Here is a link to that night’s presentation: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/draw-seven-park

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  • There was a great turnout at the meeting, including all the Aldermen at Large, Ward One Alderman Matt McLaughlin, and State Rep Mike Connolly. Neighbors and community members expressed their concerns, and the public is welcome to provide comments. The deadline for receipt of comments by the Department of Conservation and Recreation is Monday, Feb. 26, 2018.
  • Comments may be submitted online at https://www.mass.gov/forms/dcr-public-comments or by writing to the Department of Conservation and Recreation, Office of Public Outreach, 251 Causeway Street, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02114.

5) It’s About Time! Board of Aldermen to become City Council

  • It was nice to see a proposal come onto the floor Thursday night that requested we change our official title to that of “City Council” instead of the outdated and gendered “Board of Aldermen”. I 100% support this change- it is common sense and long overdue. The matter should be simple and straightforward and not take up a lot of the board’s time either (so many pressing issues!). The name change will not alter our roles or official duties in any way.

 

Next newsletter I will look to provide updates on the newly recognized USNC (Union Square Neighborhood Council), Net Neutrality and progress with the Housing Hackathon being led by Alderman Stephanie Hirsch. Please reach out and forward this email to anyone who would want to sign up for updates on what is happening in the city.

 

Your Public Servant,

 

Will Mbah

 

Always feel free to reach out over email aldermanmbah@gmail.com or call me at 508-718-8126.

 


January 10th Newsletter

January, 2018 Newsletter

It was with great honor and pride that I was officially sworn into office as Alderman-at-large of the great city of Somerville on New Year’s Day! I am both humbled and excited about the opportunity to serve the city that I love. You have my promise that I will work hard to understand all of the issues and challenges affecting the city, and that I will always put the community first in every decision I make as your alderman. I am excited by all of the new faces on the board, and think we have a lot that we can achieve working together.

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News and Updates:

 

1) Mayor’s Inaugural Address:

 

I was very encouraged by what I heard from Mayor Curtatone during his inaugural address. The mayor laid out a 10 point plan to help with housing and affordability in Somerville and called for bold action. Many of the ideas that the mayor called for were ones I championed on the campaign trail: Community Land Trusts, a Real Estate Transfer Tax, and the Right of First Refusal/Right to Purchase for Tenants. I encourage you to read the full speech for yourself here https://www.somervillema.gov/inaugural2018. I will be excited to see what we can accomplish together on some of these bold initiatives. Somerville needs forward thinking action on issues of housing and affordability.

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2) A Call to Action: Make a Phone Call For Tenant’s Right to Purchase

 

Please consider picking up the phone to call the chairs of the State Housing Committee to support Rep. Denise Provost’s bill “An Act to Preserve Affordable Housing Through a Local Option Tenant’s Right to Purchase.” The legislation, also co-sponsored by Rep. Mike Connolly, gives the state the power to grant municipalities like Somerville the authority to begin exploring Tenant’s Right to Purchase and Community Housing Trust Funds that financially support those tenants. If you are unfamiliar with Tenant’s Right to Purchase, it grant tenants of residential buildings with three or more units the right of first refusal to purchase such buildings at fair market value if they are being sold. This keeps rents lower and allows local community members to stay and avoid displacement. They collectively finance the building with 5% down payment and possible support from a city housing trust fund. See the flyer below for more details on how you can get involved with this important cause.

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3)Committee Assignments:

 

I am happy to announce I will serve on the following committees:

 

Confirmation of Appointments and Personnel

Licenses and Permits (Vice Chairman)

Traffic and Parking

Open Space, Environment, and Energy (Chairman)

Flood Forum (Special Committee)

 

I look forward to bringing my experience and background in environmental science to my first chairmanship on the Open Space, Environment, and Energy committee.

 

4) Union Square Neighborhood Council

 

Community elections were held for the first ever Union Square Neighborhood Council. The council will represent the people of the community as they negotiate with the city and the developer responsible for the Union Square project, US2. Congratulations to all of those that won a seat! I believe this model of a democratically elected board from the community that gets to play a role in shaping the development of their community has great promise. Community-led development is a must for Somerville moving forward.

 

5) First Board of Alderman Meeting: Thursday, January 11th.

 

I am excited for my first BOA official meeting this Thursday. I have already submitted a board order together with Alderman Stephanie Hirsch that the Director of SPCD report to the board on what he is doing to preserve minority-owned businesses in the city. I look forward to hearing the findings and will take appropriate action to preserve the diversity in our business communities that makes Somerville so great.

 

The meeting will stream live on the internet, and will be stored online, in a searchable format, at the City of Somerville’s Board of Aldermen’s meeting portal, http://somervillecityma.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx.

 

I am learning fast about all of the roles and responsibilities of an alderman, and I am excited by this opportunity.



Looking forward:

Look for an update on a Housing Data Hackathon being co-hosted by myself and Alderman Stephanie Hirsch to explore housing data in Somerville and envision possible creative solutions.

 

Please share my email newsletter with friends and neighbors, and ask them to sign up (email me at aldermanmbah@gmail.com) and hold me accountable on my campaign promises!

 

Your Public Servant,

 

Will Mbah

 

Always feel free to reach out over email aldermanmbah@gmail.com or call me at 508-718-8126.



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