All America City Award.
For the first time since 1972, the City of Somerville was named an "All America City" by the National Civic League. The All America City Award is America's original community recognition award, honoring communities of all sizes where community members, government, businesses and nonprofit organizations work together to address critical local issues. Somerville was chosen in 2009 for its dedication to the Green Line Extension Project, diversity and communication issues, and youth issues such as Somerville Cares About Prevention, Somerville Positive Forces 100, and the Mayor's Suicide Prevention Task Force. Somerville was also named a finalist in 2008.
Balanced Budgets, Expanded Services and a Growing Commercial Tax Base.
After two years of fiscal turmoil, layoffs, and service cutbacks under his predecessor, Curtatone submitted and obtained the Board of Aldermen's approval for a layoff-free budget during his first year in office. As part of his financial restructuring plan, he also consolidated several departments and reduced the debt service by refinancing bonds. When the Board of Aldermen passed the budget in late June, it cut just $54,000, the smallest reduction of a mayor's budget since 1991. In subsequent annual budgets, Curtatone was able to restore jobs eliminated at the school, police and fire departments while expanding services with new programs, including a 311 constituent service center and the Connect CTY mass notification phone system. Despite these investments and service improvements, Somerville continues to operate on fewer property tax dollars per capita than any city in Massachusetts with a population of 50,000 or more.
The Best Bond Rating in Somerville History.
In February, 2008, Moody's Investors Service upgraded the City of Somerville's credit rating to Aa3 from its previous grade of A1. The report from the analyst team stated that, "The upgrade reflects the city's substantial economic growth in recent years and solid financial position supported by conservative management." The report went on to note that "Somerville's conservative budgeting approach, increasing property tax revenues, and strong financial management will continue to support favorable financial operations."
Smart-Growth, Transit-Oriented Development at Assembly Square.
As part of a larger commitment to providing the city and its residents with a prosperous and sustainable future, Mayor Curtatone completely reworked the Assembly Square development project, transforming it into a showcase for multi-use, smart-growth transit- oriented development. A refurbished mall opened in 2006, Swedish furniture retailer IKEA has begun preparation for construction of a new store set to open in 2010, and lead project developer Federal Realty Trust is pressing ahead with its plan to develop 2,100 new housing units, 1.75 million square feet of office space, 450,500 square feet of new retail and restaurant uses, a 62,000 sq. ft. cinema and a 200-room hotel - all in conjunction with a new MBTA Orange Line transit station and an elegant public access park and recreation area along the banks of the Mystic River.
SomerStat: Data-driven Performance Management for City Government.
Using Baltimore's CitiStat program as a model, Mayor Curtatone made good on his 2003 campaign promise to institute the first "Stat" program in New England. Instead of basing management choices on past practices, customs or immediate crises, "SomerStat" gives senior managers the ability to analyze data, measure performance and make continuous adjustments to advance strategic goals in real time. The SomerStat program facilitates regular forums in which key City decision-makers meet to study financial, personnel, and operational data. The forums allow for identification of opportunities for improvement and over time, to track implementation of plans. Since 2005, the SomerStat Model (along with the City's 311 Constituent Service Center - see below) has earned national acclaim and led to Somerville's designation by Boston Globe Magazine as "The Model City." Government leaders from municipalities all over the U.S. and from nations as far away as Sweden and China have visited Somerville to learn about its innovative style of management. ResiStat, a subset of SomerStat, is a neighborhood meeting program, which brings city service updates to residents, and provides a forum for constituents' ideas and suggestions to improve city services. Representatives from SomerStat routinely track residents' suggestions and feedback, incorporating ideas into policy decisions and daily operations. There are currently 14 resident groups, including larger neighborhoods throughout Somerville, and specialized groups such as Spanish-speakers and Young Somerville residents.
Award-winning Public Schools.
Under Mayor Curtatone's leadership, Somerville's Public Schools have regularly received a designation from Standard and Poor's School Matters program as a top-performing urban school district. MCAS scores have risen during his administration, and schools programs - including arts, language extra-curricular, pre-K and after school - have been restored and expanded. In 2007, Curtatone oversaw the opening of the state-of-the-art, 110,000 sq. ft. Dr. Albert F. Argenziano School at Lincoln Park. The new school serves over 4,800 students in grades K through 8.
311 "One Call to City Hall."
A centralized customer service operation reached by dialing 311 was once a service that only larger, richer city cities could aspire to, but, in December of 2005, Somerville's Constituent Service Center became the first of its kind in Massachusetts, and one of the first in mid-sized city anywhere in North America. By dialing 311 from any landline or cell phone within city limits, constituents are able to make service requests, receive information about City departments or events, and track requests online. Customer service representatives also speak a variety of second languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, and Haitian-Creole, the three most widely-spoken languages (after English) in Somerville. In a Rutgers University independent 2008 study of 14 cities, Somerville's 311 call center received the highest overall ranking in operational efficiency, usability, and services offered. In May, 2006, Somerville also became the first community in the northeastern United States to offer both 311 and Connect-CTY technology. Connect-CTY allows city officials to place phone calls and send emails to thousands of homes and businesses in order to deliver time-sensitive or emergency messages within minutes. The system is used to notify residents and businesses of citywide issues, such as snow emergencies or construction projects, or specific neighborhood issues like water shutdowns or parking restrictions.
Partnership with Tufts University to "Shape Up Somerville."
In 2003, Dr. Christina Economos of the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition began a study of first through third graders in Somerville designed to serve as the basis for an ambitious project to combat childhood obesity. In 2004, she enlisted the assistance of Mayor Curtatone, who she later described as a "community champion" and a "sparkplug" to help her develop and implement a comprehensive program of nutritional and physical activity changes in Somerville Public Schools and across the city. Their efforts included an extension of a bike path that will eventually go all the way to Boston; a successful initiative to get more kids to walk to school by providing enhanced pedestrian safety; dozens of new bike racks for schools and streets; and a "Shape Up Partners" promotional program for area restaurants offering special menu items with low-fat substitutes and controlled portions. In May 2007, Economos published her first results, reporting an average weight gain of one less pound per year among Somerville participants as compared to similar populations. The program continues, and students are now offered healthy food options, improved after school programs and activity-centered curriculum.
Green Line Extension through Somerville to Medford.
Since 2004, Mayor Curtatone has remained an aggressive advocate for the long-delayed extension of the MBTA's Green Line, a crucial transit project originally promised by the state in the early 1990s as mitigation for the environmental impacts of the massive Artery-Tunnel Project. In alliance with Governor Deval Patrick and the city's legislative delegation, Curtatone has finally brought this project to fruition: state capital has been secured through a bond bill signed by Governor Patrick in April of 2008 and the design and development process is moving forward on the creation of six new stops through Somerville into Medford. In addition, the state continues to hold community meetings to solicit resident feedback on the potential sites for the stops, including a spur into Union Square.
Community Policing and Improved Law Enforcement.
In 2004, Mayor Curtatone hired former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger to review the Police Department's implementation of the 2001 police management study conducted by the Massachusetts Municipal Association. Following one of the group's most immediate recommendations, Curtatone removed the job of Police Chief from civil service, and sought public opinion for the hiring of a new chief. In August 2007, he hired the city's first African-American police chief, Anthony Holloway, who had previously served the Clearwater, Florida police department for over 20 years. Through a host of administrative changes, budget, training and equipment upgrades, and a complete renegotiation of labor contracts, Curtatone has also implemented a transformation to a community-based policing model with more officers on the street, two regional substations, and additional staffing at peak hours.
Established a Neighborhood Impact Team.
In 2004, Curtatone assembled a special "SWAT" team of police, fire, Health Department, Inspectional Services, DPW, and Council on Aging as an extra force against neighborhood blight. Over the last four years, the team condemned and oversaw the refurbishment of numerous dilapidated properties, brought local businesses and organizations up to proper code, and rescued and successfully relocated residents from unsafe and/or unhealthy conditions.
Developed the City's First-Ever Environmental Strategic Plan?
In 2006, Mayor Curtatone created the City's Officer of Sustainability and Environment, committing the city to a series of actions designed to reduce energy use and harmful carbon emissions, and promote best practices for a sustainable city. Successful programs and service changes have included:
Installation of energy-saving devices in municipal buildings (energy efficient lighting, solar panels on school buildings)
Switchover to a biofuel blend in the DPW fleet
Purchase of hybrid vehicles for the Police and Fire Departments
Replacing City Hall's electricity needs with 100% wind power from Sterling Planet
Installation of over a dozen Big Belly trash compactors across the city.
The City of Somerville is committed to reducing its carbon footprint by at least ten percent by 2010 and, in the immediate future, plans to increase "green cover" in the city by increasing its tree inventory by 20% in 2008.
Preserving and Enhancing Green Space.
Reaffirming his commitment to creating a "greener" Somerville, and a sustainable, livable city, Somerville has seen the addition or reconstruction of more than 18 new open spaces under Curtatone's administration, including one Off Leash Recreation Area (OLRA) for dogs at Nunziato Field. Under his Environmental Strategic Plan, and in keeping with the City's Open Space and Recreation Plan, Curtatone has already announced plans for several new parks and community gardens to be completed by Fall 2009, including a new park at the former Kemp Nuts site, and the Community Path Park and Community Path extension. Mayor Curtatone has worked tirelessly and successfully to regain control of the George F. Dilboy Memorial Stadium. In 2006, the City saw the completion of a brand new stadium and the transfer of maintenance from DCR to the City of Somerville. Curtatone is now working with the DCR to takeover maintenance and operations of Saxton J. Foss Park, and the Veteran's Memorial Skating Rink.
Created an "Accurate, Courtesous, Easy" (ACE) Customer Service Initiative.
Mayor Curtatone is committed to providing excellent customer service to all Somerville residents, which requires a transparent, open city government. He believes that the most efficient means of creating a sustainable city where people love to live, work, play, and raise a family is to engage residents in decision-making processes, and to provide forums for resident feedback and reliable customer service. In keeping with this idea, Curtatone became the first Mayor in the Commonwealth, and in the Northeast, to simultaneously adopt several innovative management and customer service tools, including:
A 311 constituent service system - "one call to City Hall."
A Connect CTY mass notification - "time-sensitive phone and email messages for residents and businesses."
An award-winning municipal website, www.somervillema.gov
A City Hall Welcome Desk staffed by 311 personnel, where walk-in customers can get directions, pick up recycling bins, obtain information on a wide range of topics and use a public workstation to pay city bills and fees on-line.
A "Mystery Shopper" Program in which residents review their actual experience trying to get help or do business with City departments.
Customer-service training for city workers.
Better signage inside municipal buildings and across the city.
ATM machines at City Hall and Traffic and Parking.
- A Web Registry Anti-theft Program (WRAP) that allows residents to register their personal electronic devices (cell phones, laptops, GPS units, IPods and more) so that they can be traced and recovered more easily if lost or stolen.
Making Somerville One of the Nation's "100 Best Communities for Youth."
Mayor Curtatone has overhauled the City's youth programs by hiring new directors, and reinstating lost programs and services. New programs include the SomerTime Day Camp and the Mayor's Summer Jobs Program, and in 2004 Curtatone increased youth programming when he hired Teen Empowerment, the nationally known non-profit organization, to establish a new, broad-based teen leadership program. In 2006, as part of Teen Empowerment, Mayor Curtatone also began meeting regularly with the Somerville Youth Council, a delegation of 13 youth leaders representing the various youth-serving agencies in the City, to spearhead youth issues. In 2008, the City of Somerville was selected by the America's Promise Alliance as one of the top 100 communities in the U.S. for youth programming and learning opportunities
First begun in 2006, the Safe-START initiative is designed to make Somerville even more walkable and bike-able by defining clearer, better routes from neighborhood to neighborhood and city square to city square. Improvements to date include: new bike lanes on Beacon Street, Powderhouse Boulevard, Broadway and Willow Avenue and better, brighter signage, pavement striping and visibility improvements at intersections across the city; and pedestrian countdown displays on traffic lights. In the pipeline are: updated Safe Route maps for Parents and Children; new bike lanes on Somerville Avenue and on the soon-to-be built Assembly Square Drive, and pilot programs for solar-powered pedestrian warning lights; infrared thermal heating equipment for faster, better pothole repairs; and expanded use of pedestrian bump-outs to calm traffic and improve safety at key intersections throughout the city.
Leading Regionally and Nationally.
Due to his effective leadership and innovative ideas, Mayor Curtatone currently serves as President of the Massachusetts Mayors Association, on the Board of Directors of the National Leagues of Cities, and serves as an active member of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, and its subset, the Metropolitan Mayors Association. Mayor Curtatone uses his leadership and membership on these boards and organizations to further the city's agenda while sharing best practices and ideas with his colleagues across the state and nation.
International Engagement at Home and abroad.
Mayor Curtatone created Somerville's first Multicultural Commission, this commission serves as a liaison and outreach coordinator for the one-third of Somerville residents who were not born in the United States. In addition, Curtatone has established also adopted the Sister Cities program, establishing formal relationships with the municipalities of Gaeta, Italy; Yucuaiquin, El Salvador, and Nordeste, Portugal between 2005 and 2007. The city is currently in the planning stages of a student foreign exchange program with Gaeta, and is working on the development of several additional Sister City relationships.
Leading in the Statewide Battle for Marriage Equality.
Curtatone rejected the Romney Administration's policy of differential treatment of out-of-state same sex couples, allowing out-of-staters to obtain licenses until the state's attorney general ordered the city to stop in early 2004. Somerville and 10 other communities filed suit, asking the courts to invalidate the 1913 law on which the out-of-state ban is based and asking for an injunction against the A.G.'s enforcement of the ban.
Restoring and Sustaining Community Traditions.
Memorial Day Parade In 2004, Curtatone reorganized a once great, and since lacking three hour-long Memorial Day Parade, featuring more than 60 bands, color guards, and other entertainment, including the Aleppo Shriners.
Trum Field Fireworks Tradition. In 2004 Curtatone scheduled the first Fourth of July fireworks in more than 20 years, restoring a Somerville tradition. The celebration includes performances by the Somerville Sunsetters, BOVA Productions, and a USO Performance Troupe, along with a 30-minute firework display over Broadway.
Family Fun Day. Along with the 4th of July fireworks celebration, the annual Family Fun Day completes July's festivities. The event includes face painting and obstacle courses for young children, watermelon eating contests for all ages, exhibitions and shows, and a large BBQ for the entire family.
The Sunsetters. As part of his plans to recover youth programming, in 2005 Mayor Curtatone reinstated the Somerville Sunsetters. During the 1970's and 80's, the Sunsetters were a popular performance troupe, giving live shows on Somerville streets at dusk throughout the summer. Summer 2008 will mark the fourth season for the new and improved group, comprised of Somerville teens aged 12 - 18.
The Largest Spring Cleanup in the Area. More than 200 volunteers turn out annually to help clean up more than 20 sites across the city and to enjoy a barbecue and environmental service fair at Nunziato Field and the Community Growing Center. An annual tradition, the cleanup's participation had dramatically declined prior to his taking office.