Argenziano School Sixth Graders Meet Curtatone
The students, who are learning about government, got lessons from the mayor.
Ed. note: The following is a very lightly edited version of an announcement sent by Kinga Borondy:
Argenziano Sixth Graders Grill Mayor, Learn Government Works to Promote Youth and Education in Somerville
Sixth graders at Albert F. Argenziano School at Lincoln Park met with Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone Thursday to learn about Somerville's government. Topics discussed ranged from how he spends his days (in meetings, mostly) to what sports he plays in his free time (he does martial arts and coaches his sons in hockey, soccer and baseball teams), his favorite food (Italian) and music (a mix).
The Mayor offered a warm welcome to the 39 students, accompanied by teacher Linda Manzelli and Alex Johnson, who attended the special meeting. The Mayor offered a brief civic lesson about the city’s government; comprised of the Board of Alderman of 11 members and an elected, full-time mayor, and then opened the floor to questions.
The students had all come prepared. They asked where he grew up (Prospect Hill, East Somerville, he now lives in Ten Hills), what schools he attended (he has good memories from high school) and what he dreamed of becoming as a 6th grader, (a pilot). The Mayor countered with questions of his own for the students: As the city grapples with the budget process, how much they thought Somerville spent a year on day-to-day city operations (almost $200 million) and what makes Somerville special. (Community cohesion: “It’s a great place to raise a family.)
Jeffrey Zou asked Mayor Curtatone what his children thought of his position.
“I’ve never asked them,” the Mayor said, explaining that it is a challenge to balance the two as both demand his constant attention and time. “It’s not a 9-to-5 job. But, the exciting part is that it’s different every day.”
Some days are very demanding, others are devoted to meetings. Some days are distressing and the Mayor responds to emergencies, accidents and other unpleasant incidents that happen in communities.
On other days he talks with Somerville residents, or meets with people who are interested in Somerville’s innovative programs. Mayor Curtatone mentioned meeting President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama and discussing the city’s Shape Up Somerville program, used as a model for the First Lady’s 2010 youth fitness initiative “Let’s Move.”
When asked if he had met anyone famous as Mayor, including popular bands like “One Direction” and “The Wanted,” Mayor Curtatone noted that President Obama and his wife are former Somerville residents, and the President referred to the city as his “hometown.”
“As to the bands, I like U2,” Curtatone said, but promised to support a group of sixth grade girls who identified themselves as “The Sunglasses.” They approached him after the meeting asking how to acquire permits to sing in the city’s parks and plazas. They told him they want to raise money to fund a recording session at a local Somerville studio.
Isabella Ferrari asked whether any of his election victories; he served eight years as an alderman and is currently starting his fifth two-year term as mayor, were won by a landslide.
“I think I won my first mayoral election by 800 votes,” Mayor Curtatone said. Subsequent elections were not as challenging. “I believe people have confidence in what we are doing in Somerville.”
But he did win the FNX radio mayoral radio song contest: “My Song Is Better Than Your Song” in an on-air battle against Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo in February by what was described as “a landslide.”
He believes the city’s biggest immediate challenge is to ensure the extension of the Green Line is completed.
“The extension of transit into Somerville will unlock economic opportunity; and as we become prosperous as a city, we will fund our own values and priorities.” These, said the mayor, concluded center on promoting youth and youth programs: education, recreation and employment.
Phillips Magre asked what was the best part of being mayor? Mayor Curtatone believes he has the most fun talking to the city’s residents and being able to make an impact on people’s lives; making them better.
“You can be the mayor, or you can do the job,” Mayor Curtatone said, explaining that his first thought is always of how to make Somerville a better place to live. “You can like being mayor, but you have to love doing the job.”
He advised the youngsters to find something that they love doing because that will be their lives in the future. “I changed my major seven times in college,” he said, adding he spent some time studying aerospace engineering. And he earned a law degree and last year earned a masters degree in public administration.
As for leaving office; he told the students he expects to run for a sixth term next fall; but when he does eventually leave the mayoralty, he wants it to be his own decision. “I hope it’s not because I’m being forced out,” He joked.
Claudia Pupo asked the Mayor: “Why is Somerville important to you? He countered by asking the class the same question. “Why is Somerville important to you?”
In the end, it boils down to community:
Somerville takes pride in investing in programs that sustain and nurture its young population and ensure that every child has an opportunity to achieve and succeed, regardless of the social and economic challenges they face.
“This is a great place to grow up,” Curtatone attested.