As part of the City’s “SomerVision Showcase” series, on Wednesday evening a dozen residents gathered in the auditorium of the Argenziano School to discuss the issues that matter to their quality of life.
The goal: for City officials to involve the community as they work on the Comprehensive Plan—a blue print for steps the City will take to improve Somerville over the next 2o years. More than 50 community leaders and City staffers have been meeting regularly since the fall of 2009 to create the plan. The current series of is the first step in determining whether the objectives outlined by the plan so far are aligned with the concerns of the community.
Armed with markers and a doodle-friendly table cloth sectioned into categories like work, home, play, and commute, residents entered into group discussions on the quality of life in Somerville and what they saw as important issues for the City to address—jotting down notes on the large sheets of paper as they went along.
Student translators, fluent in Portuguese, Spanish and Haitian Creole were also available.
Of those in attendance, many had already been involved in the comprehensive planning process, serving on the 50-plus member Steering Committee which has been drafting and discussing the goals of the plan.
Around the room, posters and flyers outlined more than three-dozen goals that the City, along with the Steering Committee, has formulated, fitting into five categories:
As part of the exercise, attendees were then asked to place blue stickers next to the goals that they found important, or unimportant, to their quality of life. Across the board, only a few of the goals received dots in the “unimportant” column.
“I’ll be interested to see how they’ll use these kinds of results,” said Susann Wilkinson. “Everyone sees these as important things, but how it will be implemented is another question.”
Residents concerned about aging in place, youth programs and more
However, some residents expressed that their concerns were not immediately addressed in the goals or categories listed. Wilkinson, for one, said she was interested in the City’s support of the aging population, and if Somerville is a good community to “age in place.”
Many of the student translators expressed a need for youth friendly programs such as after-school clubs and spaces where young people could go and spend time without having to spend money.
Other attendees expressed distaste with the impact of City governance on quality of life, or the decline in values that they've seen over the years. Walkability, jobs and traffic congestion were also common concerns.
Attendees also had suggestions for improving the meetings
As the meeting ended, residents voiced interest in learning about the policy initiatives related to the goals and suggested examples or case-studies be used to describe the goals in future SomerVision meetings instead of technical language and broad categorization.
Turnout was low, but three more meetings to come
Overall, turnout to the event was low, but organizer, Deb Gilburg hopes participation will increase for future events.
“I’m happy people are here,” she said. “Last time we did these, they built [in numbers] as they went along.”
The next SomerVision Meetings will be held:
Tuesday, March 15, 6-9 p.m.: Holiday Inn, 30 Washington Street
Monday, March 28, 6-9 p.m.: TAB Building, 167 Holland Street
Thursday, March 31, 6-9 p.m.: Center for Arts at the Armory, 191 Highland Ave.
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