Photo by Ron Newman
Somerville Open Studios takes off, facemask rules relax, and an amendment on air and noise pollution in Somerville is adopted
Welcome to the Somerville Wire’s May 4 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.
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The immigrant run eatery continues to honor culinary-cultural exchange and global fare.
An engagement center and self-cleaning bathrooms are on the City’s list for development.
Somerville Open Studios spotlights artwork, virtually and outdoors
Somerville Open Studios (SOS) had an exuberant outing this past weekend, from May 1-2. Because of the pandemic, the program was held both outdoors and virtually, making for a different kind of event. In the past, SOS would welcome visitors into the workshops and studio spaces of artists, who would showcase their own work and describe their creative processes.
“It was a very heavy lift, on the logistical side,” said President of the SOS Board Hilary Scott. “We had to do things that we’ve never done before, on a timeline that we never matched before. But we had a lot of help from various businesses and organizations that stepped up and were absolutely great to us. A lot of people I know said they got more traffic than ever before. That was pretty startling, since many of them were showing outside, in their driveways or backyards. It shows that people were hungry for something to interact with.”
On the virtual side of things, spectators were able to access the Booth Central component, where they could view artists’ work and communicate over video. Artists who were featured included Eric Bornstein of Behind the Mask Studio; Linda Sok, who investigates the Khmer Rouge regime through her work; and Julia Tenney, who creates intricately detailed, dyed eggs. Guests could also attend several outdoor spaces, where tents were set up, as well as visit the areas outside artists’ homes. There were smaller exhibits as well, at the Inside Out Gallery, Bow Market, and at Powderhouse Square.
“I was online at Booth Central for a few hours, and I got to talk to various people, in this case, other artists,” said Scott. “It was kind of like leaping into somebody else’s dorm room. We’ve had none of the social opportunities, and all of our Zoom meetings have been very event driven, very business oriented. This was an opportunity to leap into somebody else’s space and just say ‘hi.’ It did have this almost collegiate feeling.”
Alex Anderson campaigns for city council
Alex Anderson, a health care researcher, and racial equity and street safety advocate, is running for the position of city councilor for Ward 7. Anderson studied economics at the University of Pennsylvania, but he writes that his most important education came from volunteering in after school debate programs in public schools in Philadelphia.
“This was my first time truly seeing what systemic racism looked like. In many ways, growing up in a young, suburban town hid the realities of injustice across all our systems,” wrote Anderson, on his website. “In Philadelphia public schools—like so many of our systems across the country —the systemic failures of our institutions and leaders are impossible to hide. Dedicated kids, who wanted to further their education, who put in the work to stay after school for debate class, were still largely unable to read and write.”
Anderson also worked at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a non-profit organization founded by Dr. Don Berwick, who campaigned for the position of governor in Massachusetts. Over the past ten years, he worked to make IHI a more equitable environment. In 2013, he and his wife moved to Simpson Avenue in Ward 7. Anderson is a daily commuter, and between 2015 and 2019, he was an official member of the Somerville Bicycle Committee, appointed by Mayor Joe Curtatone.
“I believe these experiences provide insight into who I am as a person, how I think, and what I think is possible for the future,” wrote Anderson. “In all of the important areas in my life—as a family man, as someone who sees the world through a lens of equity and systems thinking, and as someone who has been working on issues that affect the long-term future of our neighborhood—I have been committed and dedicated to long term improvement. I plan to bring this same attitude and energy to Somerville’s City Council as your representative for Ward 7.”
Sara Dion runs for Somerville School Committee position
Sara Dion, a Somerville resident and teacher in the Medford Public School system, is running for the Somerville School Committee in Ward 7. She is an elementary English learner’s teacher and has been a member of the Somerville Democratic City Committee. Dion hopes to prioritize the demands of the Somerville Educators Union, support paraprofessionals, push back against high-stakes testing, prioritize the emotional needs of students and educators, and advocate for anti-racism policy and curriculum.
“As a teacher myself, I know the importance of listening to educators and providing them with the tools they need to do their jobs. What’s good for educators is good for students,” Dion said, in an article for Somerville Patch.
Outdoor facemask rules relax in Somerville
Starting on April 30, the city of Somerville has mandated that residents no longer need to wear facemasks outdoors if they are able to socially distance. In outdoor spaces where social distancing is not possible, masks will be required, and they will also be mandated in public indoor spaces, at large events, and at City-permitted activities such as outdoor fitness and yoga. The City recommends that people wear masks in smaller, private gatherings at homes, although this is not required.
“Throughout the pandemic we have followed the science and monitored local and state data so we are able to adjust our policies accordingly. We now know that outdoor transmission, especially when people can socially distance, is very low. But we do still need to be vigilant and remember to mask up when we can’t distance from others or when we’re indoors,” said Doug Kress, director of health and human services, in a press release.
The City advised that while restrictions are loosening, residents should still remain cautious and carry a facemask with them when they leave the house. Starting on May 7, Somerville will also be moving into a modified Phase 4, Step 1 of the State’s reopening plan. Many businesses will be able to operate at up to 50% capacity, with social distancing and sector-specific guidelines being followed. Included in this group are movie theaters and bingo halls—which were previously closed in Somerville.
“We are making real progress in Massachusetts on reducing COVID-19 cases, and to keep that momentum going as reopening progresses, I strongly urge everyone to keep up the good work. If we all get the vaccine, wear our facemasks, keep our distance in public, stay home and get tested when feeling ill, and wash our hands frequently, we can keep one another safer as we work to drive down COVID-19 cases and strive for a great summer,” said Kress.
Councilor J.T. Scott has endorsed Councilor Will Mbah in his campaign for the position of mayor.
Please send news of any other endorsements to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amendment on air and noise pollution in East Somerville adopted
Rep. Mike Connolly had an amendment adopted by the House of Representatives to fund a design study for sound barriers to reduce noise pollution and ultrafine particulate matter along I-93 in East Somerville. It was co-sponsored by Rep. Christine Barber.
Recently, air pollution has been correlated with increases in COVID cases in the neighborhood. Ultrafine particulate matter has also led to asthma and cardiovascular disease in East Somerville. The amendment will now move to the Senate, and from there a conference committee will work to send a final bill to the Governor before the fiscal year ends on June 30.
“For years, academic researchers and local advocates have painstakingly documented how this ultrafine particulate matter has led to increases in asthma and cardiovascular disease in East Somerville, which has traditionally been home to immigrants, people of color, and working class families,” wrote Connolly in an email. “More recently, we can see how this air pollution correlates with higher incidences of COVID-19, making this an urgent environmental justice issue. And yet, as it stands, we do not even have a feasibility study or a design concept to use as a basis of taking action on this issue. Adoption of this amendment moves us one step closer to mitigating the impact of these deadly toxins in our community once and for all. It also builds upon a $2 million Transportation Bond Bill allocation Sen. Jehlen and I secured earlier this year—we will be talking a lot more about this in the coming weeks as we work with local advocates to ramp up a campaign for highway justice.”
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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.