Katjana Ballantyne runs for Mayor, Judy Pineda Neufeld campaigns for City Councilor title, and SPESO holds a rally in support of reopening schools.
Welcome to the Somerville Wire’s March 16 Weekly Roundup—a fast look at local news published every Tuesday at somervillewire.news. Readers with Somerville-focused news tips or press releases or calendar items or letter and opinion submissions can send them to Wire staff at email@example.com. Or call us at (617) 209-9511.
COMMUNITY MEMBERS REMAIN AT ODDS OVER CITY REOPENING PLAN
Business owners question why Somerville has stayed so cautious.
Katjana Ballantyne announces run for mayor
Ward 7 City Councilor Katjana Ballantyne announced on March 9 that she will be running for the position of mayor during the fall election. While Ballantyne has been considering entering such a race for a long time, she described this decision as coming at a crucial moment.
“It’s a pivotal time. We’ve had someone in office for eighteen years,” said Ballantyne. “I’m running to represent the values and culture of Somerville, to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard, based on my inclusive leadership style. I’m running because our next mayor needs to have experience and skills.”
In 2013, Ballantyne was elected to serve on the city council. She has twice been its president and also was a member and board president of the Somerville Community Corporation. If chosen to represent Somerville as mayor, issues that Ballantyne aims to address are climate change, mobility, safe streets, and a safe and responsible way to reopen the city. Infrastructure remains a concern, as do small businesses and the necessity for natural space. Over the course of this year, she will be rolling out policy platforms. Pulling the community out of the coronavirus pandemic will be one of the major tasks she would be trying to tackle.
“Every city had challenges in the early stages, because we were trying to navigate so much uncertainty,” said Ballantyne. “There was contradictory information coming from the science community and the various levels of government. At this stage, we’re transitioning to a phase where [there are] the approaches that keep everyone safe and allow our communities to get back on track, that our businesses can open safely and that our kids don’t fall through the cracks. I’ve worked with asking and putting in some orders in the last couple of months that deal with transparently showing the information, setting the goals, identifying what our risks are and coming up with contingency plans.”
Ballantyne said that as an immigrant who came to the United States at the age of four years old, diversity will be an important part of her leadership style.
“I truly believe that everybody brings something to the table and can always advance the discussion,” said Ballantyne. She added, “In the first couple of years that I was on the city council, we asked for and promoted that we add more diversity to the employees that work for the City, and there certainly have been positive changes, in that way.”
Judy Pineda Neufeld begins campaign for City Councilor position
Judy Pineda Neufeld has announced that she will be entering the race to become a City Councilor for Ward 7. She is a small business owner, the former executive director of Emerge Massachusetts, and an advocate for equity and justice.
Since April 2020, Neufeld has led Somerville’s Immigrant Services Unit, which has been part of the city’s COVID-19 response work. According to a press release, she has “led the unit in figuring out ways to bring much needed resources and services to immigrant families, and in turn has supported some of the city’s most marginalized community members.”
“Somerville is more than just the city we live in: it’s our community. And this community needs thriving small businesses, safer streets, green spaces, and affordable neighborhoods,” said Neufeld, in a press release. “I’m running for city council because I care deeply about making our community a better place to live, work, and thrive. I believe equity and justice are not just boxes to check on a to-do list, but rather a lens by which I live and lead,” Neufeld said. “As the proud daughter of immigrants and a Jewish-Mexican-American woman, I bring a keen understanding of equity and cultural competency that helps me understand and value diverse perspectives and find commonalities where others cannot.”
Green Line Extension to feature new artwork
The MBTA has commissioned new public art that will be appearing at stations along the Green Line Extension. Last month, upcoming artwork was presented to the GLX Community Working Group. According to a press release, the art was not “part of the GLX base scope,” but is being developed as part of an ”additive option” concept that came up during the GLX Design-Build procurement process.
“This GLX Art Enrichment Program seeks to contribute to the vibrancy of the GLX communities by investing in the success of local artists as one of many assets necessary for sustained community vitality,” reads the press release. “Artwork should also enhance the sense of place in key areas experienced by the riding public. The art component for the stations is integrated into the design of the stations. The goal is to enhance existing station elements to create a warm and welcoming environment in key areas experienced by the riding public, to both unify and differentiate stations, and to enhance the connection between the station and the community.”
The work includes ceramic printing on glass by Randal Thurston at Lechmere station, and a 3D printed polymer space frame by Matt Trimble at Union Square station. Nadir Tehrani will create stabilized aluminum foam, steel, and porcelain enamel panels at East Somerville station, while solar-powered light fixtures by Aaron Stephan will appear at Magoun station. Ceramic printing on glass by Christine Vaillancourt will be showcased at Ball Square station, while ceramic print on glass by Nancy Selvage will be featured at Tufts/Medford station.
SPESO hosts rally to support school reopenings
Somerville Parents for an Equitable and Safe Opening (SPESO) held a Rally to Reopen Our Schools on March 13 at Somerville High School. While red-clad participants waved signs, speakers Anastasia Kolokithas, Paula Magnelli, and Anna Siebler gave voice to the message that children belong in school. Sonia Conde could not attend in person, but her remarks were shared.
“Education is a right upon which all others may solidly rest,” said Kolokithas, a high school teacher and parent of a special needs student at the Healey School. “When we protect the rights of the most vulnerable among us, we protect the rights that we all enjoy. If there is a silver lining to be had from this year, it is that I’ve had the opportunity to see the daily academic challenges my child faces first hand. I now feel more empowered than ever before to advocate for their needs as we finally return to in person instruction.”
Siebler, a Somerville High School student, spoke to the challenges she has endured through remote learning.
“Before the pandemic, I was a motivated student who loved school. However, after a year of remote learning and isolation from my teachers and classmates, I am feeling burnt out and lonely,” said Siebler. “When I saw the reopening plan, I found out that the majority of high schoolers aren’t even considered to return to school. I know many of us feel abandoned by the City and completely forgotten. I have taken every opportunity this year to engage with remote learning …Despite this, I am feeling removed from the world and like a major sense of my identity has been lost.” She added, “No matter what online options are given, the only way to truly fix this is to let us see actual human faces before the end of the year.”
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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.