Somerville City Council Special Committee on Charter Review Public Hearing, Wednesday, 12/7/22
The Somerville City Council Special Committee on Charter Review will hold a virtual (online) public hearing on the City of Somerville Charter Review process on Wednesday, December 7, starting at 6 p.m. There are two ways residents can submit testimony and be heard:
- Attend online: To attend online and be heard, enter this link exactly as it appears into your internet browser any time before the meeting: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6294202019409171984. You can also find this link on the City Council’s calendar at somervillema.gov/councilmeetings. Once you arrive at the link, you will then be asked to register, and after registering, you will receive an email with instructions to join the webinar.
- Submit written testimony: If you are unable to attend but wish to be heard, you may email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, send them by U.S. mail to the City Clerk, 93 Highland Avenue, Somerville, MA, 02143, or drop them into the secure drop box outside the back door on the School Street side of City Hall. Your comments must arrive no later than 12 noon on the day of the Hearing, in order to be sure they are conveyed to the Council.
To learn more about the Charter Review process, visit somervillema.gov/charterreview.
Persons with disabilities who need auxiliary aids and services for effective communication (i.e., CART, ASL), written materials in alternative formats, or reasonable modifications in policies and procedures in order to access the programs, activities, and meetings of the City of Somerville should please contact Adrienne Pomeroy at 617-625-6600 x 2059 or email@example.com.
Read more about public commenting and sign up to speak at our upcoming meeting. Advance sign-up is not required.
The Committee will consist of designees of the Mayor, the City Council President, and the Chair of the School Committee and nine appointed community members.
▪ Meagan Benetti, Community Representative
- Bio: Meagan Benetti, MS, MBA is an evaluator, community-based researcher, and facilitator who has a deep commitment to advancing racial, social and environmental justice. She’s worked at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community for the last seven years where she’s partnered with a variety of stakeholders to improve mental health and social service systems. Meagan is new to Somerville and is currently a member of the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Volunteer Council. She enjoys traveling, yoga, hiking, kayaking, and exploring the Boston area through its rich culinary scenes.
- Why are you excited to serve on the committee? I'm excited about being able to engage with my fellow community members to see how we can collectively work together to make Somerville an even better place to live.
- Favorite Somerville small business: Rebel Rebel
▪ Ben Echevarria, Community Representative
- Bio: I am a lifelong resident, Executive Director of The Welcome Project, and a Trustee at Cambridge Health Alliance. I have years of organizing experience in the community.
- Why are you excited to serve on the committee? I'm excited to make government more equitable and responsive to all people.
- Favorite Somerville small business: Way too many to name.
▪ Ona Ferguson, Community Representative
- Bio: I am a senior mediator at the Consensus Building Institute, based in Alewife. Professionally, I help groups work together, especially on natural resource and public policy topics. I was born and raised within a half a mile of where I live now, and I have a husband and two young children.
- Why are you excited to serve on the committee? I really like thinking about how municipal systems can work best, and I'm looking forward to meeting others in the community while working on something constructive.
- Favorite Somerville small business: So hard to choose: Magpie Kids, Mike's Pizza, Neighborhood Restaurant
▪ Zoe Iacovino, Community Representative
- Bio: I've been proud to call Somerville my home for my whole life! I graduated from Somerville High in 2013 and after college came back to work for State Senator Pat Jehlen where I learned more about the needs of this city and community doing constituent services and communications. I'm currently a grad student at Harvard in Urban Planning and Public Policy.
- Why are you excited to serve on the committee? The Charter Review is an important opportunity to ensuring Somerville can best serve its ever-changing community with accessible, accountable, and effective offices of local government. I'm excited to be joining my neighbors for this process to keep Somerville prepared for the future.
- Favorite Somerville small business: So hard to choose! Dave's Fresh Pasta, Opa Greek Yeeros, and Leone's are up there!
▪ Jessica Lieberman, Community Representative
- Bio: Jessica has lived in Somerville for 11 years and serves as the chair of the Ward 6 Democratic Committee. She has a BA from Tufts, an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a JD from Boston College Law School. In her day job, she works for an organization that provides leadership and campaign skills training to veterans and national service alumni considering running for office.
- Why are you excited to serve on the committee? Local government has enormous capacity to improve people’s lives when it works properly. I’m excited to help the city I love to build a better, more innovative, and more equitable system.
- Favorite Somerville small business: There are so many! But Spoke Wine Bar and Lyndell’s have to be at the top of the list.
Matthew McLaughlin, Ward 1 City Councilor and City Council President, City Council’s Designee
▪ Laura Pitone, Ward 5 School Committee Member, School Committee Chair’s Designee
- Bio: Laura has represented Ward 5 on the Somerville School Committee for the last seven years including serving as School Committee Chair in 2017. In addition to volunteering and leadership positions in the Somerville Public Schools, Laura's professional background is in strategy, planning and organizational development. Laura has collaborated with City staff on facilities planning projects and the City/SPS Children's Cabinet. She and her husband live in Ball Square for the last 15 years with their two teenaged children and are celebrating their 20th anniversary of living in Somerville this year.
- Why are you excited to serve on the committee? I am looking forward to collaborating with thoughtful people to consider the most sustainable and functional organization for our city that best serves to represent the diverse needs and interests of our residents.
- Favorite Somerville small business: Neighborhood Produce (and True Grounds and Reliable Market and...)
George Proakis, Executive Director of the Mayor's Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development, Mayor’s Designee
▪ Kat Rutkin, Community Representative
- Bio: I'm an urban planner, political consultant, and nonprofit professional. I've worked for the City of New York where I wrote and interpreted zoning code, advised elected officials in New York and Massachusetts, and most recently worked in the non-profit sector here in Somerville. I'll be celebrating my tenth anniversary of living in Somerville this June. I live in East Somerville with my family, which includes two kids, two cats, one snake, and a hamster named Mabel.
- Why are you excited to serve on the committee? I love to read, write and interpret code. I am most excited about making the code accessible and equitable to reflect the values of our whole Somerville community.
- Favorite Somerville small business: This is like asking me to pick a favorite child, which I of course do not have. But, my two most favorites are All She Wrote Books in Assembly and Diaper Lab in Davis Square, which are both owned by strong women who prioritize giving back to the community..
▪ Lucas Schaber, Community Representative
- Bio: I am an active volunteer in the Somerville public schools. I have also helped out on many political campaigns in Somerville. I am currently working as an aide for Rep. Uyterhoeven after working for Rep. Provost for two years.
- Why are you excited to serve on the committee? I am looking forward to hearing from a wide range of people who have been active in Somerville.
- Favorite Somerville small business: Rincon Mexicano
▪ Beverly Schwartz, Community Representative
- Bio: Bev Schwartz is a long-time Somerville resident who has engaged with her community through Havurat Shalom, Somerville Pop Warner, and various City committees. With her wife, she has raised three children in Somerville and has experience with the Somerville schools, including special education. She has worked as a software engineer at a Cambridge company for over 30 years and looks forward to applying her research and analysis skills to this project.
- Why are you excited to serve on the committee? I've long been interested in the nitty-gritty of how organizations run and have worked on smaller projects, including three sets of by-laws. I am excited to broaden my view to the city level and bring my skills to help make the City of Somerville run better, more fairly, and provide better government access for all residents. I look forward to learning much and working with a great group of people!
- Favorite Somerville small business: My classic Somerville includes a cappuccino at True Grounds, picking up a half-moon at Lyndell's Bakery, and a pizza from Pini's.
▪ Crystal Turner, Community Representative
- Bio: I currently serve as co-chair of the Somerville Commission for Women and my analytical and problem-solving skills come from having spent over a decade working in finance.
- Why are you excited to serve on the committee? I'm excited to serve on the Charter Review Committee because it is a great opportunity to play a role in shaping the future of our city.
- Favorite Somerville small business: Ball Square Cafe
▪ Anna Corning, Project Manager
- Bio: Anna has worked as a project manager for Boston area tech startups. And more recently worked in the Boston Mayor's Office of Food Access to launch the Boston Food Access Council, on the legislative team in Congressman McGovern's DC office, and as a community organizer. She graduated from Syracuse University with a BS in Food Studies in 2017.
- Favorite Somerville small business: Yume Ga Arukara!
▪ Hope Williams, Project Manager
- Bio: Hope has experience working in federal government at the Federal Judicial Center, local government in Chicago, and community organizing in interfaith and electoral spaces. She graduated with her Master's from Harvard in 2020, focused on Religion, Ethics, and Politics.
- Favorite Somerville small business: Three Little Figs!
What is a Charter?
A charter is a founding document of a City that establishes the governing system and structure.
The City of Somerville’s Charter serves as our local constitution, creating a structure for City government. The Charter establishes the key institutions of City government and defines the relationship and powers between the Mayor, the City Council and the School Committee.
It details the procedures for elections, initiatives, referendum and recall elections, campaign finance, and how vacancies are filled. It also provides a guide on how the City is managed, the way taxes are levied and bonds are issued, how the streets, parks, sewers and other infrastructure are managed and improved, the powers of the Somerville Police and Fire, and how to amend the Charter.
What is the charter review committee? And what is expected of the committee?
The Charter Review Committee will be responsible for reviewing the City’s current charter and making recommendations for amendments to the Mayor and the City Council in an effort to improve and modernize the City’s structure and governance. The Committee will also engage the community in robust discussions about potential charter amendments.
How can I be involved?
It is vital that we hear from you, the residents of Somerville. All committee meetings are open to the public, and links will be posted in the Agenda/Meetings tab. There will also be specific community meetings to ensure community input and engagement, which are still in the works. In the meantime, you can sign up for our newsletter here. Please also submit your comments, questions, suggestions here.
How will this process be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
The impact of COVID-19 is real and will be felt by our community for years, and it is hard to predict when we will return to normal operations. Despite these barriers, we are committed to engaging the community, providing pathways for input, and making meaningful recommendations for the charter.
To ensure our review process is safe for committee members and the community, we will be holding all meetings virtually for the foreseeable future.
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