The eviction moratorium is prolonged, City Council candidate Stephenson Aman barred from an ORS forum, and the annual Fourth of July fireworks
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An interview with David Lindsey of the iconic, homemade ice cream shop
RSJ Director Denise Molina Capers calls allowing public testimony on her presentation to the Finance Committee unprecedented, Mayor Curtatone agrees
Somerville extends eviction moratorium
At a City meeting on June 17, the Somerville Board of Health approved a proposal that revises and extends the City’s residential eviction moratorium for 90 days, until September 15. They also approved the ending of the commercial eviction moratorium and allowing landlords to enter residential units for non-emergency reasons, with 48 hours advance notice to tenants, an opportunity to reschedule when necessary, and provided that COVID protocols are followed. The original Emergency Order Establishing a Moratorium on Eviction Enforcement was issued by Mayor Joe Curtatone and the Board of Health in March 2020.
“The City of Somerville will extend its moratorium on the physical removal of tenants in residential eviction cases except in cases where there is a risk to the health and safety of others. The moratorium has been extended for three months in order to minimize the public health consequences of evictions on Somerville residents,” wrote Ellen Shachter, director of the Somerville Office of Housing Stability, in a statement. “While the immediate threat of the transmission of COVID-19 has lessened due to the wide availability of vaccines, the economic impact of COVID-19 still places Somerville families at risk of imminent eviction. Many residents continue to need access to rental assistance and other housing resources to remain stable in their homes. The public health consequences of eviction as a social determinant of health are now well understood and documented. Somerville is committed to working with Somerville residents to keep them in their homes whenever possible. The city will look at available data over the summer to determine the extent of continued need for assistance and the number of eviction cases being filed. Restrictions on commercial evictions have been lifted as have a prohibition of owners or their agents showing units provided, they are following the necessary protocols issued by the Board of Health.”
Stephenson Aman barred from candidates’ forum, community leaders express concern
A candidate for City Council was barred from participating in the Our Revolution Somerville candidates’ forum. That candidate is Stephenson Aman, a disability advocate and youth sports coach, running for councilor of Ward 2. Whether he submitted his ORS candidate questionnaire in a timely and thorough fashion is the subject of debate among community members.
Aman is the son of Haitian immigrants, and he grew up in a single-parent household, later joining the foster care system. During his first year at the University of Massachusetts, he was the victim of a traffic accident, which left him wheelchair bound. He later learned to walk with a cane and was able to obtain his bachelor’s degree in political science. In 2015, he was elected president of the Mystic Apartments Tenants Association, and he also served on the Somerville Education Foundation. He co-chairs the SomerVision 2040 Committee.
Councilor Katjana Ballantyne expressed disapproval of the way that ORS handled the situation, in which Aman was prevented from participating in ORS’ June 18 forum and was rendered ineligible for their endorsement, according to a press release.
“These actions taken by ORS leadership, to silence Stephenson, can not be reconciled with my own vision of Somerville as an inclusive, equitable city where we can all thrive together, without exception,” wrote Ballantyne. “For nearly three decades in Somerville I have worked as a volunteer, in business and as a city councilor for this vision of Somerville. These are my values, these are the values of my campaign and I believe that these are our shared values in Somerville, to be inclusive, transparent and to hear and value all of our voices.”
However, Ballantyne also maintained that Aman filled out “a completed candidate questionnaire…”. This was then disputed on social media based on the full text of Aman’s responses—which ORS made available on Google Drive. A Somerville Wire analysis of the responses indicates that the candidate left over a third of the form’s questions unanswered.
A group of Somerville City Council candidates of color released a statement to ORS, asking them to rectify the problem. The letter was signed by Tracey Leah Pratt, Beatriz Gomez Mouakad, Judy Pineda Neufeld, and Aman.
“That is why we are calling on ORS to immediately suspend its political activities until it has gone through a formal process to address its shortcomings, acknowledge and take action to rectify the harm it has done in recent days, and transparently let the Somerville community know what steps it has taken to ensure such actions will not be repeated,” reads the letter.
According to ORS, Aman did not meet the deadline to apply for their endorsement, after having received an extension, and was therefore not invited to participate in the candidate forum. In a statement, ORS explained that the organization has made similar decisions before to not admit candidates who submitted their questionnaires beyond the deadline. Past examples include Mayor Joe Curtatone. ORS stated in a press release that they had emailed Aman the questionnaire and invitation to participate in their endorsement process on four separate occasions from March to May.
“ORS emailed Mr. Aman our questionnaire and invitation to participate in our endorsement process on four separate occasions from March to May. We did not receive a response from Mr. Aman to these messages,” reads the statement. “On our June 7th deadline, we sent a fifth email, reminding all candidates of the deadline. On June 9th, Mr. Aman responded to our most recent email to ask if he could still participate in the endorsement process. ORS agreed to a June 11th extension for Mr. Aman’s questionnaire. We did not receive a questionnaire on June 11th, nor did we receive a message requesting another extension or that the completed questionnaire would be forthcoming.”
The press release from ORS states that the organization regrets that Aman did not meet the deadline and hears the concerns voiced by the public and indicates they are listening to feedback on how to move forward as an organization.
Stay tuned for a full feature article on this developing story soon!
Editor’s Note, 6/22/21, 9:30 p.m.: The Somerville Wire released an initial version of this article earlier today that presented key assertions as facts rather than the subjects of debate. We regret the errors.
An alert: sign up for rat control
The Residential Rodent Control Assistance Program is offering residents free rodent control services. These services include the placement of bait boxes and burrow treatments. City health inspectors will survey property for evidence of rodents and give out educational materials on rodent prevention. Tenants and owners who receive these services are expected to take prevention actions, such as removing pets’ food bowls from the outdoors or clearing out debris from yards. In addition, pest control services will afterwards be provided by a licensed pest control company.
According to the City, rodent control is a joint effort between many different departments, including Health and Human Services, Inspectional Services, Public Works, SomerStat, and the Mayor’s Office. However, rodents are a community problem, and the City acknowledges that the Somerville community must be involved in the solution.
Please call 311 (617-666-3311 if outside Somerville) for more information about the program or to sign up.
Annual fireworks planned for Trum Field
The City’s annual Fourth of July Fireworks Celebration will take place at Trum Field on June 30. The rain date is July 1. Live entertainment will begin at 6:30 with DJ Brother Cleve playing soul, pop, funk, and other classic tunes, and this will be followed by performances by Booty Vortex at 8 p.m. Fireworks will begin at around 9:15 p.m. Fireworks attendees are not required to wear masks, but anyone who is not fully vaccinated is advised to wear one, as there will most likely be crowds.
Traffic and parking restrictions will be in place as follows:
o No parking from Cedar Street to Charles E. Ryan Road (eastbound), 8 a.m. to midnight.
o No parking from Ball Square to Magoun Square, 4 p.m. to midnight. Street closed from 5 p.m. to midnight.
- Cedar Street
o No parking 8 a.m. to midnight. Streets closed 4:30 p.m. to midnight.
- Franey Road
o No parking and street closed, 3 p.m. to midnight.
- Charles E. Ryan Road
o No parking 8 a.m. to midnight. Access for abutters only from 4 to 6 p.m. Street closed to all traffic 6 p.m. to midnight. MBTA Buses 80 & 89 rerouted from 5 p.m. to midnight. See www.mbta.com for full detour information.
SomerMovie Fest screenings to light up Somerville parks
Beginning on July 8, the City of Somerville will hold its annual SomerMovie Fest, showing family-friendly films. Seven movies will be screened in parks around Somerville. The schedule is as follows:
- Thursday, July 8, The Empire Strikes Back, Seven Hills Park
- Thursday, July 15, Mulan (animated version), Nathan Tufts Park
- Thursday, July 22, Mrs. Doubtfire, Nunziato Park
- Thursday, July 29, The Sandlot, Lincoln Park
- Thursday, August 5, Coco, East Somerville Community School
- Thursday, August 12, Black Panther, Baxter State Park
- Thursday, August 19, Guardians of the Galaxy, Seven Hills Park
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Shira Laucharoen is assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and assistant editor and staff reporter of the Somerville Wire.