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A City Council candidate debate, an art installation at Assembly Row, and Grab-and-Go meals from Somerville Cambridge Elder Services



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The Assembly Row shop offers stories, yes, but also aims to spark discussions


What happens to abandoned bicycles? The City Council is working to see if they can be repurposed


J.T. Scott and Stephenson Aman participate in debate

The Somerville Media Center held a Ward 2 City Council candidate debate on September 27, moderated by Adam Sweeting. The incumbent, J.T. Scott, and the challenger, Stephenson Aman, responded to questions put forth by Sweeting and in a second round, by each other. During the debate, they discussed topics such as affordability in Somerville and development in Ward 2.

Sweeting asked the candidates what word they would most associate with their approach to policing: defund, reform, abolish, retain, or expand. Scott said that he would choose to “defund” the police but emphasized that it does not mean an overnight reduction. He said that his interpretation of this word means to listen to studies and recommendations, that “haven’t been coming from radicals,” that have taken place historically. Aman said that he would use the word “expand,” stressing that he believes police officers have an important role to fill.

“How could we even think about taking anything away from them?” asked Aman. “Especially as our city grows … we’re going to be adding in thousands of more units, bringing in more people, and we want to lessen our police department? That’s one of the greatest unions in our city right now, and we have to protect them, because they are under attack.”

During the second portion of the debate, Aman asked Scott, when Somerville is a city that is 45% Latino represented in the education system, why is Scott not supporting the two Latino candidates for City Council? Scott explained that he sees the job of a city councilor as being to represent the people of your ward through policies, and that this mission transcends “what any individual looks like.” Representation matters, he said, but “policy matters even more.” Scott also asked Aman why he believes that Somerville “needs three more Assembly Rows.” Aman said that he would like to see more job opportunities for citizens of the ward and added that Assembly Row is an example of a place previously considered “undesirable” that has been transformed into a “fantastic area.” Aman asked Scott to elaborate on his affiliation as a democratic socialist.

“I was inspired by the campaign of Bernie Sanders, particularly the vision for a society where we can lift everybody up,” said Scott. “It has become clear that we are only as strong as the weakest, most vulnerable members of our society. We are only as safe as those who are most unsafe. And so, we have to lift up everyone around us. We have to work together. We are in a society and a city of staggering inequality. Ultimately, democratic socialism means two things. It means more equitably distributing those resources, it means increasing people’s access and their stability in their housing. And it means that by doing that, making them more involved in the democratic choices and day to day operations of the city, because we make the city together.”

Ayanna Pressley endorses Somerville candidates

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley announced that she is endorsing Katjana Ballantyne in Somerville’s mayoral election. She is also putting her support behind the following candidates:

  • Current City Councilor At-Large Kristen Strezo and Willie Burnley Jr. for City Council At-Large;
  • Current City Councilor Matt McLaughlin for reelection in Ward 1;
  • Current City Councilor J.T. Scott for reelection in Ward 2;
  • Current City Councilor Ben Ewen-Campen for reelection in Ward 3;
  • Judy Pineda Neufeld for Ward 7 City Councilor;
  • Current member Andre Green for reelection to the Somerville School Committee

HONK! Festival of activist street bands returns

The 16th annual HONK! Festival will return to the streets for one day only this Saturday, October 9, with its trademark spirit of joy and justice in a new, hyperlocal format.

This year’s festival will include multiple neighborhood events cosponsored by grassroots community organizations across Greater Boston. Throughout the day of the festival, HONK! performers will join activist groups in their neighborhoods, playing music and raising awareness for arts and social justice causes. More than 15 local brass and percussion bands will fill parks, squares, and street corners across Somerville, Boston, Cambridge, and Chelsea.

The day starts at 10:30 a.m. in Somerville’s Seven Hills Park with a performance by the Second Line Brass Band and tributes to Mayor Joe Curtatone and Somerville Olympian Phil Reavis, Sr. The Uncivil Servants, a new band featuring Mayor Curtatone and City of Somerville staffers, will play later in the evening.

“We Are Somerville” art installation unveiled at Assembly Row

Assembly Row and the Somerville Arts Council are unveiling a collaborative art project at Assembly Row titled “We Are Somerville.”  The art installation takes the form of three giant vertical banners, which display portraits of people who live and/or work in Somerville. Collectively, these “intimate yet bold portraits” by local photographer Kristen Joy Emack convey the personality and diversity of Somerville. The banners have been positioned on a facade along Great River Road and face the Mystic River and the Orange Line.

“These portraits capture what makes our city great—diversity and inclusion,” said Mayor Joseph Curtatone. “By looking at these smiling faces, it’s a powerful reminder that everyone is welcome here in Somerville.”

“We’re excited to have yet another art installation at Assembly Row,” said David Middleton, Assembly Row general manager. “Somerville is a town renowned for its artists and creative output, so as far as we’re concerned, the more art the better. It conveys who we are as a city.”

Somerville Cambridge Elder Services will provide Grab-and-Go meals

Somerville Cambridge Elder Services and the culinary department at Somerville High School are partnering to offer Grab-and-Go meals this fall. The meals will be free for eligible recipients. Cambridge or Somerville residents over age 60 are eligible, as are spouses and dependents with a disability of eligible people who are receiving a meal.

On Oct. 15, one meal per person can be picked up in front of Somerville High School, at 81 Highland Avenue, at 1 p.m. Participants must pre-register by calling 617-628-2601 and asking for the nutrition department. They will be mailed a form to fill out and return. The first meal will be chicken pot pie with spinach salad and a cookie.

City to hold West Somerville Neighborhood School schoolyard renovation meeting

On October 13, at 6 p.m., Mayor Joseph Curtatone, Councilor Katjana Ballantyne, and the City will be hosting a virtual community meeting to review the final design for schoolyard renovations at the West Somerville Neighborhood School.

According to a press release, “the design includes a small turf field, age-appropriate play structures, active areas for kickball and basketball, a climbing wall, significantly more tree canopy, tables and seating, new safety surfacing and fencing, and drainage improvements, among other features.”

Learn more and register to attend at

This article is syndicated by the Somerville Wire municipal news service of the Somerville News Garden project of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism.

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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.

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