In Inaugural Address, Curtatone Says 'Somerville is the Place to Be'
At the start of his fifth consecutive term as mayor, Curtatone spoke about Somerville's successes and about areas where the city needs to improve.
Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone highlighted development in Assembly Square, SomerVision and management of municipal finances as areas where the city has succeeded in recent years.
He also pointed to areas where the city needs to improve and continue to work: in public education and in the "fight" to push for the Green Line extension, to name two.
Curtatone spoke Monday night in the Somerville High School auditorium, delivering his inaugural address after being sworn into office for his fifth consecutive two-year term. He pointed out that he's one of only three mayors in the history of Somerville "to serve more than four full terms in office." The others were Eugene Brune, register of deeds in Middlesex County, and Michael Capuano, who is Somerville's representative to the House of Representatives.
Curtatone pointed to development in Assembly Square as one of 2011's greatest successes. In May, the Somerville Board of Aldermen approved a $25 million bond to fund infrastructure improvements in Assembly Square, and "that timely public support has, in turn, unlocked $1.5 billion in private investment that will bring our city thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars in future tax revenue," the mayor said.
Assembly Row, as the area's real estate development is called, will include commercial, retail, restaurant and residential space, in addition to a refurbished riverfront park.
Curtatone said Assembly Square is the "largest project of its kind in the Northeast," adding, "It's a model of cost effective economic recovery."
The mayor said that Assembly Square will be a "dynamic, engaging [and] diverse" neighborhood and that "Somerville is on the cutting edge of American's urban renaissance."
The mayor pointed to SomerVision, a community planning initiative aimed at creating a 20-year plan for the city's future, as helping shape the city's priorities.
They include preserving "the diversity of our people, cultures, housing stock and business" and promoting a "sustainable, transit-oriented economy," the mayor said.
Curtatone pointed to the city's bond rating, which the rating agency Standard & Poor's raised from A+ to AA- in 2011, as a sign that "we will have good access to financing even in the tightest credit markets."
"We haven't over leveraged our resources with ill-considered borrowing, and we haven't squandered our financial reserves to pay for current expenses, nor will we," the mayor said.
He also pointed to the strength of Somerville's housing market. "Our housing stock is a better investment and in greater demand than homes in more sterile fringe suburbs," he said.
Green Line extension
"If there's one thing we know for certain about Somerville, it's that we have to fight for everything we get, even things we've been promised," Curtatone said.
He said Green Line stations at Washington Street and in Union Square are "slated to open in November of 2016" but that we will "have to keep up the pressure to get this project finished in a timely fashion."
"The Green Line will get done, but we will have to fight for it, advocate for it and push for it every single day," he said.
Somerville instituted zero-sort recycling in October, and since then, "recycling has increased across the city by 40 percent," Curtatone said.
The mayor said the city still has work to do when it comes to public education.
"We must recognize that in one crucial respect, the image of the urban core hasn't caught up to its vibrant and engaging reality, and that area is public education," he said.
Talking about the proposesd Somerville Progressive Charter School, which Curtatone is on record as opposing, the mayor said the debate has reminded us that "we can and must do even better."
"It requires the same kind of broad-based civic engagement and partnership that we strive for in every area of Somerville life," he said.