Election in Ward 7: Katjana Ballantyne
A brief profile of Ward 7 alderman candidate Katjana Ballantyne. This week, Somerville Patch will profile the three candidates in Ward 7: Robert Trane, Katjana Ballantyne and Joan Whitney Puglia.
The city's only preliminary election for the Board of Aldermen will take place Sept. 13 in Ward 7.
Ward 7 encompasses West Somerville and includes the outskirts of Davis Square, Teele Square, the Clarendon Hill area and the neighborhoods along Alewife Brook Parkway.
The candidates running for the Ward 7 seat are incumbent Ward 7 Alderman Robert Trane, Joan Whitney Puglia and Katjana Ballantyne.
The preliminary election on Sept. 13 will whittle the field down to two candidates, who will face off in the general election held Nov. 8.
To give voters some information about these candidates, Somerville Patch met with each candidate in the Ward 7 race and is featuring a short article about each candidate this week.
Katjana Ballantyne grew up in Westfield and went to Saint Michael's College in Vermont, she said. She said she has an MBA from Suffolk University, and, among other things, she spent a few years living in Salzburg, Austria, and about a year and a half in Madrid.
Ballantyne has worked in marketing and she cofounded an architecture firm with her husband. She's also worked for a number of community development corporations and community organizations in the Boston area. At the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation she helped people develop job skills, she said. She's a board member for the Somerville Community Corporation and has served as president of the board.
"I love Somerville and I want to give back," said Ballantyne, who's lived in the city for about 20 years.
Ballantyne said she has a combination of business experience and community development experience that would benefit Ward 7, saying she would be a "positive foot forward."
Biggest issues in Ward 7
Ballantyne said there are three broad issues that are important in Ward 7: 1) Being open and accessible, 2) issues of affordability and 3) jobs.
She also said, "It's really important for people not to be surprised" by things like real estate developments and other important news in the neighborhood.
Powder House School
The Powder House School "was a surprise," Ballantyne said, referring to rezoning and development ideas for the closed school, which is located outside Teele Square on Broadway.
"There hasn't been leadership from this ward in [terms of] next steps," she said.
"People don't like to see empty buildings," she said, adding, "I think the ward alderman should be pro-active in talking about these developments ahead of time."
For Ballantyne, affordability is the biggest issue in the city, and diversifying the city's revenue sources—moving away from a heavy reliance on residential real estate taxes—is important. One idea for the Powder House School, she said, would be to create office space for start-up companies, which would help create jobs and add to the commercial tax base. "It's all interconnected," she said.
"We should be looking for how it connects itself to Teele and Davis Square," she said. She also asked, given the current real estate market, "Is this the best time to sell it?"
Ballantyne said any new use of the Powder House School should have green space, a pedestrian right of way connecting Broadway and Holland Street, and "the building should be sold in a manner that expresses the vision of the neighborhood."
Other Ward 7 issues
Ballantyne also named the neighborhood relationship with Tufts University, flat business in Teele Square and the city's takeover of Dilboy Stadium as among the big issues in the ward.
In terms of representing Ward 7, Ballantyne said, "I am open and accessible." She said, "I'm known as a listener and a collaborator," and, "I have the business experience and the community development experience" to be an asset to the Board of Aldermen.
Biggest issues in Somerville
Affordability is the biggest issue in Somerville, Ballantyne said, and the city should focus on creating more commercial office space to generate new revenue and take pressure off residential real estate taxes, which increases the cost of living.
Green Line extension
Ballantyne supports the Green Line extension to Route 16, in Ward 7. She said there needs to be some planning to "mitigate against any adverse impacts."
In regard to delays to building the Green Line extension, "The desire and the need and the legal obligation is there" and "the city is … taking a strong stand on it," she said.
Delays don't "mean that it won't be built," she said, but it's important to "keep fighting for it."
If she were an alderman, she would advocate with state officials and "keep the energy and the fire behind it," she said.
As an alderman, Ballantyne would focus on affordability and trying to "diversify our revenue stream in the city," she said, adding she would advocate for mixed-use, transit-oriented development.
She thinks she's the best person to represent Ward 7 on those issues and that the Ward 7 alderman needs "to think of the big picture as to how Ward 7 fits into greater Somerville."
She said "you have to generate ideas" because "it's the ideas that generate new revenue."
"It's looking … at the big picture to work on the cost of living in this city," she said.
You can visit Ballantyne's website at www.katjana.org.