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Election in Ward 7: Joan Whitney Puglia

A brief profile of Ward 7 alderman candidate Joan Whitney Puglia. 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 will feature a short article about each candidate this week.

Today, we feature Joan Whitney Puglia, and we will post articles about Trane and Ballantyne on Wednesday and Thursday this week.

Joan Whitney Puglia

Joan Whitney Puglia comes from a family of Somerville aldermen. Her grandfather, father and husband were all aldermen. Puglia, herself, has spent most of her career at , where she's worked for 29 years. At Tufts, she manages administrative support in the Student Services office; she oversees 10 full-time staff, and her office handles student records, loan processing for financial aid, student accounts and graduation requirement records, among other things.

As for her family background in Somerville politics, "I'll hit the ground running, and I think that's an advantage," she said.

Why run for the Ward 7 seat?

"It's been a life-long dream of mine" to serve on the Board of Aldermen, Puglia said, and "I just got to the point in my life where I felt that I could put the time into being an alderman."

Puglia thinks the Board of Aldermen should provide "checks and balances" to policy proposals brought forth by mayoral administrations.

"Currently we have an administration-driven agenda," she said, adding that over the past five to seven years almost every policy proposal has come from the administration.

She feels there should be more transparency in city government, she said, and she feels the Board of Aldermen should spend more time scrutinizing proposals brought before the board. Talking about her desire to ask more questions at Board of Aldermen meetings, she said, "I might not be too popular at first. I think the aldermen meetings could go longer."

Biggest issues in Somerville

Group Insurance Commission
"I think one of the biggest issues is the GIC," Puglia said, referring to the .

"Health care costs are such a major part of the city budget," she said, but she was disappointed the city was rushed into making a decision on the matter. "I would have wanted something more specific before I voted yes for the program," she said.

Green Line extension
Puglia said that Ward 7 would not be as affected by the Green Line extension as other wards, but she's concerned about the quality of life for residents during construction, particularly along Boston Avenue and Alewife Brook Parkway, where the Route 16 terminus would be built.

, "I completely agree with the mayor that we need to file suit to find out what's going on," she said. "It's not just okay to keep pushing this project out."

"It feels like we're being ignored," she said, and "[I'm] completely in synch with the mayor" about how to fight for the project to be completed. As an alderman, Puglia said she would work with Somerville's state legislators to advocate for the project.

Biggest issues in Ward 7

Puglia named real estate development as an ongoing issue in Ward 7. Among the development sites she's interested in is the Water Works building in West Somerville, which the state sold to the Somerville Housing Authority for $1 with the plan of converting the building into affordable housing for seniors.

Powder House School
One of the biggest issues in Ward 7 is the Powder House School site, along Broadway just outside Teele Square.

Puglia said, "the neighbors are frustrated that it's been four years and there really hasn't been much movement" at the school site, which is not currently being used.

Puglia would like to establish interim overlay zoning at the site. This would ensure the property is "not sold and developed without community support," she said. She said similar overlay zoning has been used in Assembly Square.

She also proposes a non-binding referendum on the ballot for Ward 7 voters about the Powder House School. The referendum, perhaps, would put forth three proposals for the site, she said.

To illustrate this idea, she listed three theoretical possibilities: 1) develop the site into residential units. 2) Develop office space at the site. 3) Develop the site into a low-impact business center, possibly an "incubator" start-up center where small tech companies and other businesses could rent space when "they're getting off the ground."

Puglia seemed most enthusiastic about developing the Powder House School site into a location that would bring workers to the area during the work day, because those workers would increase day-time foot traffic in Teele Square.

Policy Proposals

Puglia has listed a number of policy proposals on her website, and she talked about some of them in her discussion with Somerville Patch.

One idea is to place the authority to grant special permits and zoning variances in the hands of the Board of Aldermen as opposed to the Zoning Board of Appeals. "It does make the aldermen accountable" for significant development projects, she said.

She previously stated support for a referendum on the Community Preservation Act, which could provide the city funding for developing affordable housing, historic preservation, open space and recreational space.

Puglia has voiced opposition to increased parking fees in Somerville and would like to make visitor parking passes valid for seven days, among other parking-related policy ideas.

She would also like to see more off-street parking at new real estate developments, and she said about Teele Square, "I think the biggest issue is there's not a whole lot of parking there," she said.

Puglia's website is http://joanforward7.org

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