Somerville State of the City: Mayor Katjana Ballantyne Reflects on First Year in Office and Highlights Goals for 2023
Announces Universal Basic Income Pilot, Day Center for Unsheltered Residents, Start of Major Sewer System Upgrade & More
City Council President Ben Ewen-Campen and School Committee Chair Andre Green Share Updates and Visions for Future
On January 3, 2023, Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne, City Council President Ben Ewen-Campen, and School Committee Chair Andre Green shared Somerville’s annual mid-term addresses, reflecting on 2022 issues and efforts, as well as work to come in 2023.
In her Mid-Term Address, the first to take place in person at City Hall since 2020, Mayor Ballantyne outlined how her administration has worked to put her promise of progress for all into practice, and upcoming initiatives “to create a future where all – not just some – can thrive in Somerville.”
The Mayor’s blueprint for the city takes impactful steps to increase equity, safety, and sustainability for residents, the full community, and the local ecosystem with initiatives ranging from housing to infrastructure, and from butterflies to businesses.
“It's been an exciting first year in office--we made unprecedented investments in our Somerville Public Schools students, developed new tools to build affordable housing and keep people in their homes, and welcomed the Green Line to Somerville,” said Mayor Ballantyne. “I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved together in 2022, and can’t wait to build and expand on these accomplishments in 2023.”
Highlights of the Ballantyne administration’s first year in office include:
- Delivering a 10% budget increase in Somerville Public Schools, its largest financial increase ever and the largest in Massachusetts last year to strengthen core academics, expand social service and mental health supports, and invest in the workforce.
- Committing to helping women in the workforce with an infusion of $7 million into local child care programs and $2 million to fund local nonprofit projects focused on closing the gender wage gap.
- Allocating $8.3 million to the Somerville Affordable Housing Trust Fund to acquire land or properties for affordable housing, expanding housing stability staff, launching local rental subsidies for low-income families, and accelerating affordable housing starts with 500 units actively in the pipeline.
- Raising Somerville’s carbon-reduction goals and committing unprecedented investments to sustainability initiatives to address climate change.
- Signing legislation protecting the rights of individuals seeking gender-affirming and reproductive health care.
- Accelerating Safe Streets initiatives including delivering improvements to College Avenue and Holland Street and installing more speed bumps, curb extensions, and crossing islands than ever before to slow down drivers and help the City achieve its Vision Zero goal to prevent traffic fatalities and serious injury.
- Building out the Office of Racial and Social Justice, carrying extensive and intensive citywide public outreach, establishing the Racial and Social Justice Youth League and the RSJ Community Engagement Ambassadors, laying the groundwork for Civilian Oversight and Public Safety for All efforts set to advance in the coming months, and gathering feedback from more than 1,000 community members for the Public Safety for All Survey.
- Setting up two interim teen centers at the Edgerly and Powderhouse Park, while working with local teens to envision and shape youth-driven plans for permanent teen centers in Somerville..
- Beginning work on a first-of-its-kind Pollinator Action Plan, which will support threatened pollinators like bees, wasps, and butterflies.
Mayor Ballantyne also outlined exciting new projects and goals for the upcoming year, including:
- Piloting a Universal Basic Income program to provide funds to eligible low-income residents to spend on needs they themselves identify.
- Launching the City’s first Participatory Budgeting effort, allowing residents to decide how to spend $1 million in City funds.
- Partnering with the Somerville Homeless Coalition to open a daytime Engagement Center where unhoused residents can access services, supports, and supplies..
- Announcing the focus areas that will be prioritized by the City’s first-ever Racial and Social Justice Fund, which was seeded with $750,000.
- Developing a five-year multilingual language access plan, which includes American Sign Language and Braille.
- Intensifying anti-displacement efforts by reviving and expanding the Fair Housing Task Force to serve as an anti-displacement task force for residents, businesses, nonprofits, and artists.
- Launching the Clean Green program that will make energy-efficient upgrades more affordable for eligible low- and moderate-income households.
- Committing to triple the number of raised crosswalks, speed bumps, protected bike lanes, and more traffic-calming facilities across the city to greatly accelerate efforts to increase safety.
- Getting shovels in the ground to rebuild Pearl Street, prioritizing pedestrian safety at intersections in East Somerville and Winter Hill around schools, day cares, parks, and senior housing, as well as strengthening safe routes to school near the Healey, Brown, Argenziano, and the High School.
- Breaking ground on the long-awaited Poplar Street Pump Station to reduce flooding citywide, reduce water pollution, and build resilience to the severe weather wrought by climate change.
- Rebuilding schoolyards at the Brown School and the West Somerville Neighborhood School.
City Council President Ben Ewen-Campen, and School Committee Chair Andre Green, also shared their takeaways from 2022, and outlined their goals for the City Council and School Committee for the upcoming year.
“We can never take Somerville’s political will for granted. There are municipalities in Massachusetts where pushing for more affordable housing is the opposite of a popular political platform,” said City Council President Ben Ewen-Campen. “There are municipalities in Massachusetts that actively oppose new public transit, and vote down new community paths. So never take for granted what we have here. The political will we have in Somerville is the best thing we have going for us.”
“This year we’ll see this body not only select new leadership for the district, we will also tackle issues of enrollment, of school assignments, we will develop building plans that ensure every Somerville student can learn in well-maintained, modern educational spaces,” said School Committee Chair Andre Green. “We will double down on our commitment to the whole child by continuing to improve our school supports, and we will continue to develop equity-minded instruction and curriculum.”
Somerville community members can watch the individual speeches via the links below:
- Mayor Katjana Ballantyne: youtu.be/sc24GVawx3U
- City Council President Ben Ewen-Campen: youtu.be/kYlhIIuMZKY
- School Committee Chair Andre Green: youtu.be/e0mjURtPHBU
Individuals with disabilities who need auxiliary aids and services for effective communication, written materials in alternative formats, or reasonable modifications in policies and procedures, in order to access the programs and activities of the City or to attend meetings, should contact the City’s ADA Coordinator, Adrienne Pomeroy, at 617-625-6600 x2059 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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