Tuesday, July 16, 2024

A sign spotted by Somerville City Hall in 2014 asks if people feel involved in local politics. (Photo: Chris Devers via Flickr)

If Somerville’s election season were a dead cat, it bounced after councilor-at-large Charlotte Kelly dropped from the race in October. Barring a high mail-in vote count for Kelly, the four remaining candidates for at-large positions will proceed to their seats smoothly.

As November approaches, a former Trump supporter challenges Katjana Ballantyne for mayor, a budding politician and a high school teacher compete in Ward 5, a shut-in attorney faces a phone-happy council veteran for a race that will decide what it means to be city councilor in Ward 6, and two obscure candidates challenge council powerhouses Ben Ewen-Campen and Matthew McLaughlin. On the School Committee side, there are seven seats, all unopposed; six will be filled by incumbents.

The mayoral challenger

William “Billy” Tauro is running against Ballantyne for a second chance at the mayoral seat. Tauro, who previously ran in 2021 during the city’s first contested race for mayor in 18 years, once publicly supported Donald Trump, but told Cambridge Day he is no longer a supporter. Taking a page from the man’s book, Tauro demanded a recount of ballots after last year’s election, to no avail.

Public safety is Tauro’s biggest issue. “Somerville is covered in shootings, assaults, crimes – a lot of it unreported,” he told Cambridge Day in June. “I want to put the police back in our schools. I want the chief of police back in the civil service and out of the hands of politicians.” Tauro said training would be paramount in preventing police brutality and racial bias. Asked back in June which of the city’s departments he feels most deserved additional funding, he replied: “Absolutely, the police.”

Tauro is also focused on improving street safety for bicycles and pedestrians, taking care of public buildings and war monuments and reducing tax rates to prevent displacement. “Many answers have been provided by citizens [on these issues] but have fallen upon deaf ears,” Tauro told the Somerville Media Center. “I’ll produce results in my first 100 days.”

Tauro’s most immediate challenge lies in candidate surveys, leaving mostly incoherent answers to questions from the Somerville Educators Union and submitting answers to a different survey altogether to the Somerville Yimby group. Voters may find Tauro’s website  more helpful in identifying the candidate’s top issues and endorsements.

Ballantyne left a statement for the Somerville Media Center repeating her core campaign beliefs. She did not return the Yimby survey, but she did respond to questions from the Somerville Educator’s Union.

Ward 5: Sait vs. Perenick

When Councilor Beatriz Gomez Mouakad announced she would not run for reelection in Ward 5, two candidates quickly entered the race: The vice chairman of the Somerville Democratic Committee and Gomez Mouakad’s former campaign adviser, Jack Perenick; and Naima Sait, a first-generation immigrant from Algeria and decadelong Somerville resident who teaches French and is a union organizer at Somerville High School.

Sait said she’s running because of the ways in which issues facing today’s schools “mirror those in our community.”

“As an educator working in the community, I’ve been seeing and hearing about the daily effects the housing crisis and the state of the municipal infrastructure have on residents. I’ve also been hearing from our most vulnerable populations on the importance of having translations and interpretation services,” Sait told SMC.

In June, Sait mentioned she wanted to keep the council up to date on challenges facing the city’s schools. “During the last election season, the Somerville Educators Union put together a forum to endorse city councilors based on their understanding of crucial issues. But we realized the City Council had no idea what was going on in our schools. We ended up not making any endorsements.That we had to start with explaining the issues before even asking for advocacy was a significant problem for me,” Sait said.

Perenick is focused on improving hybrid transportation and building houses. “I’m a lifelong cyclist. My grandmother, who is 82, cannot walk more than 10 steps. There’s a lot of work left to do in transportation to meet everyone’s needs: How we’re going to optimize and promote streets for biking, how to designate more curbs for pickup,” he said.

He emphasized work on “solving the housing crisis and building homes for thousands through rezoning, inclusionary development and maintaining the current housing stock,” he said.

Ward 6: Connolly vs. Davis

The race in Ward 6 sees two candidates with opposite approaches to the council’s role. If incumbent Lance Davis hasn’t returned your phone call, it’s because he’s busy ensuring local ordinances are legally sound and implemented in a timely manner – council president Ben Ewen-Campen said as much in a Reddit post in support of Davis and his value to the council.

“It’s very hard to explain how difficult and detailed that work is, but Lance’s legal background, extremely solid progressive values and true fearlessness going up against the Mayor’s Office is truly what makes this work [on the council] possible – and this doesn’t even address the policies that he himself has advanced, such as the Welcoming City Ordinance, aka Sanctuary City Ordinance; the small-business overlay to protect small businesses in Davis and beyond; co-leading on the Surveillance Oversight and Facial Recognition Ban; et cetera,” Ewen-Campen wrote.

Meanwhile, Connolly will pick up the phone – in fact, he’s running on that promise. “I’m running because I plan to fix the lack of communication existing now in Ward 6. I’m Jack, I’ll call you back,” Connolly said to kick off his statement for the Somerville Media Center. Connolly was a Ward 6 Councilor from 1984 to 2005 and a councilor-at-large from 2007 to 2017. He believes the role of a city councilor is to hear out residential concerns instead of “directing them to City Hall,” and to seek resolutions.

“Ward 6 hasn’t made improvements with the current ward councilor. It’s fair to say that it has only gotten worse with them being elected. Longtime businesses have closed their doors and have been forced out, while others struggle to stay open, safety concerns have risen throughout our community, the education of our children has left the spotlight and residential concerns are redirected to someone else. Ward 6 has been neglected for years now, and the community deserves better,” Connolly wrote in response to a survey from Patch.

Connolly wants to see more community-minded development and leverage the city’s relationship with nonprofits to support residents, especially those struggling with addiction and homelessness. He also wants to see better upkeep of the city’s streets, sidewalks and buildings.

Wards 1 and 3

Ewen-Campen of Ward 3 and councilor Matthew McLaughlin of Ward 1 face candidates that have remained low-profile.

Matthew Hunt, a faculty assistant at Harvard University, is challenging McLaughlin. Hunt said he has 12 years of experience in “all manners of political activism” working “to protect vulnerable and marginalized people” in Northern Ireland while getting his doctorate in political history. Hunt does not have an online presence.

Jon Fitzpatrick, challenger for Ward 3, is similarly offline. Fitzpatrick declined interviews for Cambridge Day in June and did not respond to a text and voicemail confirming his candidacy Oct. 17.

What does it mean to be a councilor?

When Kelly dropped out of the race, she issued a statement citing frustrations with the lethargy of city politics, but also her capacity as a part-time councilor balancing a full-time job.

“I have reached the conclusion that I do not have the capacity to do this job with the level of dedication I believe it requires,” Kelly said. She did not respond to calls and texts – and one referral through a colleague – for an interview.

McLaughlin shared Kelly’s statement on social media. “I’ve already lost two colleagues before a single vote is counted. I take that as a testimony of how difficult the job is,” He said.

With arguably insufficient compensation and limited bandwidth, Kelly chose to prioritize work at City Hall over constituent services as the key way she could contribute to the council, multiple colleagues said. One charged that she dismissed it as part of the job altogether.

Fellow councilor-at-large Wilson, weighed in. “The role has changed,” he said. “The public rightfully expects a lot out of their elected leaders, and they’re getting a very committed City Council – I see my colleagues working hard.”

This year’s election cycle calls attention to the evolution, if not a debate over, the role of city councilor. At opposite ends, some voters expect a city councilor to pick up the phone and deal directly with their concerns; others want them working diligently with the mayor to prioritize municipal legislative work and ensuring oversight and transparency at City Hall.

This year’s challengers want to restore Somerville’s constituent services to their neighborly origins. That vision rings in Connolly’s slogan, “I’m Jack, I’ll call you back.” It’s what Hunt sees as “the bedrock of local democracy.” It’s the reason a recent Reddit thread asked about write-ins to oppose J.T. Scott. And it’s why Billy Tauro vowed to unscrew the door to this office in City Hall.

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The candidates

Where there is no text, a candidate didn’t respond and other sources couldn’t fill in the answer. The material has been edited for publication.


Mayor

Katjana Ballantyne

Incumbent

katjana.org

Thirty years of experience in international business, startup companies, nonprofits and local government. She served seven years on the City Council and was twice elected its president. 

In their own words: In so many ways, our city is setting the pace for progress across the commonwealth, such as adding more than $30 million in affordable-housing investments and creating a land acquisition fund and municipal voucher program. We have more than 500 permitted affordable housing units in the construction pipeline, celebrated the opening of the green line extension and community path and are making progress in rodent control, infrastructure, school buildings and roads. More work remains on affordable housing, rebuilding our buildings and infrastructure, helping our residents in need and addressing the climate crisis.

William “Billy” Tauro

Challenger for mayor

William Tauro for Mayor page on Facebook

“I am not a Trump supporter.”

In their own words: Our infrastructure is crumbling, especially within the schools. The streets are in other disrepair, development is in disarray. The infestation problems are not going away. Even the new bicycle lanes are not properly planned, and the sidewalks are a joke. Rents are out of control. Crime is on the rise. Many answers have been provided by citizens but have fallen upon deaf ears. I promise to address these issues and create results within my first 100 days in office. I will greet all constituents with an open door – In fact, I will remove the office door right off its hinges on my first day in office.

Pet project: I want to fix up city hall and relocate all the monuments that were taken away. 

Participatory budgeting: I would help the homeless, work on the rats and take care of the streets. 

Favorite place: Hanging with the seniors and veterans wherever they are! I’ve been going to meet them for the past 23 years. My father was a veteran. I understand what they went through.


Ward 1

Matthew McLaughlin

Incumbent for ward 1

Community organizer and elected official. I didn’t wait to get into office to start advocating for things such as affordable housing, substance abuse, prevention, local jobs, homelessness and immigrant rights. I was president of the City Council – elected by peers – for three consecutive years during the Covid pandemic, where we had one of the highest functioning city councils in the state.

In their own words: I have submitted 42 resolutions and more than 556 orders for basic services such as potholes, rodents, low-hanging wires, street cleaning and plowing since 2014. Two big efforts as alderman were construction of Symphony Park and the renovation of Otis Park. I advocated to increase the affordable housing percentage for new developments to 20 percent from 12 percent and got Assembly Row included alongside all other developments in the city. I promote smart growth and is not afraid to take on special interests and have pressured absentee developers to start working and maintain their properties,I worked with Assembly Row to get 25 percent of all jobs there held by Somerville residents and advocated successfully for local hiring and veterans’ preference in Union Square construction. I advocated for increased youth services that resulted in the creation of two outreach staff positions. I managed to fill the Ward Democratic Committee to capacity for the first time in years and to diversify it.

Pet project:One of the first things I did was ask for police and fire personnel to carry Narcan. it saved the lives of people I knew. If I wasn’t there, maybe a few dozen more people would have died. 

Participatory budgeting: Addressing homelessness in East Somerville.

Favorite place: Lexington Park, “the playground I grew up at and where I got my political start.”

Matthew Hunt

Challenger

A third-generation trade union activist and a Boston College alumni, Hunt holds a master’s and doctorate in political history and has 12 years of experience in “all manners of political activism to protect vulnerable and marginalized peoples.” His East Somerville extended family have been involved in inspirational grassroots, working-class, blue collar political activism in the community for more than 100 years.

In their own words: My own priorities are to keep Somerville affordable for working people, to make sure Ward 1 sees dividends from a changing Somerville when it comes to effective and efficient delivery of city services. 


Ward 2

J.T. Scott

Unopposed incumbent

jtforward2.com

I grew up in rural west Tennessee and attended Duke University. A semiconductor startup promoted me to its Boston office in 2000. I met and began dating my partner Chandra, an artist and an activist, in 2006. We still live together on Washington Street raising our kids and sending them to the Argenziano school. After more than a decade in semiconductors, I changed careers to start a gym in Union Square. I’ve fought for LGBTQ+ rights, fair wages and benefits for employees, our public right to health care and racial and economic justice. Locally, I’ve been involved in the fight for affordable housing and responsible development. I’ve been a member of Union United, vice chair of Union Square Neighbors and a board member of Union Square Main Streets. 

Pet project:The continued privatization of public services and outsourcing of municipal jobs to contractors. A good city government helps to build capacity by hiring and training for local needs. 

Participatory budgeting: Excited to see what my neighbors want prioritized. 

Favorite place: Union Square 


Ward 3

Ben Ewen-Campen

Incumbent

benforward3.com

I was elected to the City Council in 2017, inspired to get involved by the crisis of housing affordability. He has helped lead efforts to pass the most progressive affordable-housing agenda of any city in Massachusetts. I am a founding board member of the Somerville Community Land Trust and as chair of the council’s Land Use committee led the passage of Somerville’s Affordable Housing Overlay District. I launched a process this year to reestablish rent stabilization in Somerville to protect residents from rent-gouging and displacement.

Participatory budgeting: “Play For All” accessible playground equipment. Playgrounds are so central to the lives of young kids and their families, and it is so important that we make sure these spaces are accessible and usable for kids with all different needs and abilities.  

Favorite place: The Community Path

Jon Fitzpatrick

Challenger


Ward 4

Jesse Clingan

Unopposed incumbent

jesseclingan.org

Growing up in Somerville, I watched many of my classmates struggle with addiction. I know the importance of good public schools and strong youth programs to provide a positive outlet for youth. I co-founded Somerville Overcoming Addiction, helping affected families, advocating for treatment programs and lobbying for first responders to carry Narcan, which has saved hundreds of lives. I am an independent voice working for the people of Ward 4, not special interests and out in front in the fight to keep developers accountable to the community, supporting the city’s 20 percent affordable housing rule and providing community-benefits agreements. I served on the board of the Ryan Harrington Foundation, which provides funding for youth services and treatment programs.

Pet project:The 299 Broadway project replacing a closed Star Market is important to everyone, but one of the things I’m excited about is being able to negotiate the two lots on Sewall Street behind it – hopefully one as a public space, deeded to the city, the other on a land trust to build affordable housing. That, and building up the tenants association in the Mystic View Apartments. It’s an important body to have in existence. It’s a gateway to politics and it will fill a really big hole in tenant activism, building on the legacy of community activist Stephenson Aman, who died in May 2022.

Participatory budgeting: I was most excited about fountains, speed bumps and bike lanes, and Play For All playgrounds. That feeling of being on a swing is something every child should be able to experience. 

Favorite place: The Healey schoolyard in the Ten Hills neighborhood.


Ward 5

Jack Perenick

Challenger

jackforsomerville.com

I serve on one of the mayor’s advisory committees alongside department directors, city staff and other citizens on efforts to make our city more livable, environmentally friendly and safe. I have learned how projects move forward and when and where problems can creep in. In my professional life, I am a registered parliamentarian and review documents such as bylaws, ordinances and budgets. I am an “all of the above” commuter: I walk, bike, use public transportation, and drive within our city. 

In their own words: As the primary caretaker of my 83-year-old grandmother, who lives with me in Magoun Square, I know the difficulties of moving around this city for an older person or a person with disabilities. I will be committed to getting our infrastructure up to code, creating new modes of public transportation and ensuring accessible parking and drop-off points throughout the city. 

Pet project:The most critical part of what I want to do as our next councilor is to better connect residents’ voices to the projects, services and long-term vision for our city and see a rededication to new forms of citizen engagement. How can we get people more involved?

Participatory budgeting: Accessible playgrounds, traffic safety measures and the rat program.

Favorite place: The Community Path – I can see it through my bedroom window!

Naima Sait

Challenger

naimaforsomerville.org

Running for Ward 5 City Council

I am a first-generation immigrant, mother and a community member who worked as a teacher at Somerville High School for seven years. As an organizer and union member, I secured a 10 percent school budget increase, a $10,000 pay increase for paraprofessionals and helped advance climate education, which will help create a workforce to build sustainable infrastructure.

In their own words: We should put our growing prosperity to work for all of us, including long-term residents who want to stay in their home and new young people and immigrants wishing to settle down here. We should use our naturally close-knit neighborhoods to create a truly livable city with safe streets, a clean environment and a lively cultural scene.

Pet project: I speak four languages and care deeply about language justice, and I took action by connecting volunteers with community-based organizations that need interpreters and translators for newcomers and constituents who really need that to know what’s happening in the community, especially at a time of lots of change. It’s really important that we work on getting the information to the whole community, including people who do not speak English.

Participatory budgeting: Rats. I also think more outdoor tables and places for people to gather are important – during this campaign, people have told me they feel isolated, and it’s important to provide community – and food access. 

Favorite place: My backyard in Ward 5 where I got married.


Ward 6

Lance Davis

Incumbent

John “Jack” Connolly

Challenger

connolly4counciloratlarge.com

I was the Ward 6 alderman from 1984-2005 and alderman-at-Large – now known as councilor-at-large – from 2007-2017. I helped plan the development and arrival of the MBTA’s red, orange and green lines into the city and have been responsible for major assessing and licensing reform.

In their own words: I am seeking this office because I care about the community I have spent most of my life living and working in. It doesn’t sit well with me that our ward is being neglected, local businesses are struggling to stay open, community safety needs improvement, education is on the back burner and residential concerns are directed to City Hall instead of the ears of the current ward councilor, whose job is to not only to listen to the community but to also seek solutions. I can give the attention the community deserves while working for them, with them, and because of them.

The most pressing issue is affordable housing. I will push for a rent-stabilization policy that will reduce the number of people being pushed out; a real estate transfer fee that will raise money to build more affordable housing; and increased inclusionary requirements for developers to include more affordable units in new developments.


Ward 7

Judith “Judy” Pineda Neufeld

Unopposed incumbent

judyforsomerville.com

It has been an incredible honor to serve the people of Somerville’s Ward 7, and I am very proud of all I have accomplished thus far in my first term. I have successfully advocated for the passage of a language-justice plan that expands translation and interpretation services across city government, secured more than $14 million in funding to modernize and expand my district’s largest public housing complex, expanded municipal bereavement leave policy to cover miscarriage, stillbirth and abortion recovery for city employees and much more. I also have placed a strong emphasis on constituent services and government transparency by holding periodic virtual and in-person office hours, sending out monthly newsletters with council updates and ensuring responsiveness to all Ward 7 residents having issues accessing city services. I am also honored to have been elected by my colleagues to serve as the City Council vice president for the 2023 session.

In their own words: “As the daughter of immigrants, a community organizer, small-business owner and your Ward 7 city councilor, I care deeply about making our city a better place to live, work and thrive. Equity and justice are not just boxes to check on a to-do list, but rather a lens by which I live and lead. I’m serving on the council to take bold action on our common challenges from greater access to affordable housing, an accessible and livable city, healthier connected communities and more. My husband and I just had our first child, and as I welcome Ward 7’s littlest constituent I am reminded of the importance of this work to not only improve Somerville today but prepare our city for an even better and brighter future. I am so proud of all we have accomplished thus far, and I look forward to continuing my work standing up for the community I love each and every day.”

Pet Project: “More affordable and accessible housing. Issues with affordability and displacement have plagued our city for far too long; we need more than temporary fixes for our housing challenges. My work expanding access to affordable housing has included advocating for increased flexibility for group housing and pushing for the approval of a group living permit when my constituent on Hamilton Road requested one to expand the number of people he could lease rooms to in two newly renovated units. I also co-sponsored an ordinance with my colleague councilor Ben Ewen-Campen to get rid of the rule that requires group living permits for more than four unrelated people to live together. I also advocated for the funding needed for the Clarendon Hill housing redevelopment that allowed them to break ground this year.

“Increasing housing stability is also a key part of addressing our current housing crisis, and tenant protections are a critical tool for enabling families to stay in their homes. I support guaranteeing tenants the first right of refusal, the right to withhold rent if safety requirements or city codes aren’t met, the right to counsel in housing court and the adoption of just-cause eviction standards.

“In addition, I have sought to increase the resources available for the Office of Housing Stability, which often provides a critical lifeline for Somerville families. I support providing incentives to landlords who consistently keep rents below market rate and working with state officials on rent stabilization options in Somerville. I also sit on the city’s Anti-Displacement Task Force, which seeks to develop strategies and implement resources that will allow Somerville residents to remain in their homes and stay in the city we love.”


Councilors at large

Willie Burnley

Unopposed incumbent

willieforsomerville.com

I am a writer, renter and community organizer with years on the frontlines of social justice movements. In 2017, I was displaced from Somerville by a sudden rent increase of hundreds of dollars. In 2021, I was elected on a transformative platform to put community control back in the hands of residents, to create holistic and equitable public safety and to end the terror of housing instability and displacement. In this short, I have passed more laws than any of my colleagues, expanding rights for tenants and workers and increasing protections for LGBTQ+ folks, including first-in-the nation nondiscrimination ordinances. I have remained a consistent voice for transforming public safety by ending overdose deaths through supervised consumption sites, abolishing medical debt using city funds and creating unarmed alternative emergency response programs to deal with nonviolent issues.

I learned the values of solidarity growing up in a diverse, working-class community in sunny San Diego with my father, a unionized pipefitter and former Marine. I moved to Boston to attend Emerson College and became the first person in my family to graduate with a four-year degree. Since then, among other impressive feats I have organized against evictions with the Community Action Agency of Somerville, fought for permanently affordable housing with the Somerville Community Land Trust, worked on the reelection campaigns of Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, been a union steward, co-founded Defund SPD, stood with unions locally and fought for justice internationally.

Pet project: Using federal Covid-relief funds to abolish medical debt for residents making below 400 percent of the federal poverty rate. It would include 7,000 or so residents. 

Participatory budgeting: Concrete islands, green space, safety elements. 

Favorite place: The Community Path. I go on that pretty much any time I leave my house.

Jake Wilson

Unopposed incumbent

jakeforsomerville.org

I’ve had the privilege of working for you as your city councilor at large for the past year and a half. Every day I wake up thinking about how we can make our city the best it can possibly be. I really love working for you and I’m running for re-election this fall in hopes the voters of Somerville feel the same way about me as your counselor at large. I’ve shown up for city council committee meetings where I’ve missed only one so far, and that was when I was double booked with the public hearing, but still submitted questions that the chair asked at the Statehouse testified on behalf of our residents at Ward community and neighborhood meetings, community and school events. And for you, my constituents by being extremely accessible to everyone.

In their own words: In my 18 months on the council, I’ve been an outspoken advocate for the large-scale creation of affordable-housing units, safer streets, supporting working families, and better communication and transparency – sponsoring and co-sponsoring items related to each of those things and achieving results on all. As chair of the Finance Committee, I have innovated with a process for identifying the council’s top shared budget priorities and conveying them to the mayor, and by making the annual budget review process more efficient and humane. 

Pet project: Coming from a journalism and communications background, making sure people know what’s happening in their city is an absolute top priority. I do a regular newsletter packed with information on issues, meetings and events, averaging two a month. The old approach, which is reflected in the compensation, is that this is something people moonlight doing, spending a certain amount of hours per work. Those of us who do it full time or in addition to a full-time career are putting in a lot of hours on this now. And i think that’s what the public wants from us. This should spur a discussion about the role, demands and compensation. I also think it shouldn’t be up to the council to decide our salaries, there’s a conflict of interest there. I support a compensation study, there’s one in the works now, and I would set up something in the charter or an ordinance in which a compensation study would be carried out every five to 10 years; in the intervening years, the salaries would increase with CIT or inflation. The $40,000 paid now, if you just adjusted 2017 dollars to 2023 dollars, that’d be roughly $52,000. We’ve effectively had a pay cut in terms of real salaries. 

 Participatory budgeting: Play For All accessible playground equipment. I grew up in a family in which there were disabilities; it’s a minimal thing to ensure kids can play.

Favorite place: Highland Kitchen.

Kristen Strezo

Unopposed incumbent

kristenstrezo.com

A single mom of two kids in Somerville schools. I was raised in a proud union household, spent decades in a feminist punk band and acted as the sole caregiver of my elderly grandmother for 12 years. I ran for office because I knew Somerville needed decision-makers who understood the issues. I live in affordable housing, so I know how challenging it is to navigate available resources and programs without losing hope. I understand the difficult decisions many Somerville families make to stay in our community; it took years for my family to find an apartment that could accommodate the needs of my children and my grandmother, who needed ADA accessibility. 

In their own words: As chair of the council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, I fight for affordable housing by increasing short-term housing solutions such as voucher programs, expanding housing stock and increasing resident support. On support for small businesses, I’ve been working especially for those that are women- or minority-owned, because if we lose our small business community, we lose a part of our identity. On reproductive rights and body autonomy, I’ve introduced and passed bold policies that other communities have followed. On environmental justice and climate change, I’ve fought for such things as soundproof barriers and improving air quality. On youth and education, I have helped to increase after-school activities in elementary schools and to establish new free teen centers, making sure they are accessible, responsive, and supportive to all Somerville teens.

Will Mbah

Unopposed challenger

willmbah.com

I was on the City Council from 2018 to 2021, working with colleagues to create regulations and programs progressive city government. We strengthened the programs that are increasing the stock of affordable housing and created the Office of Housing Stability to protect families facing displacement by redevelopment and rising rents. We organized the Department of Racial and Social Justice to ensure inclusion and diversity in all aspects of city services. We fixed policies of police accountability, and covered the implementation of a civilian oversight board. In zoning and planning, we added more tools for citizen engagement and started to incorporate methods of environmental sustainability and energy efficiency. Covid disrupted this work and delayed the start up of key programs.

In their own words: It is time to complete the work on police oversight, on zoning and planning actions led by community needs and priorities, on enforcement of wage theft protections and tenant protections and strict application of rules for procurement and contracting that require equity and fair dealing. We need to set a priority on services for our schoolchildren and families, including universal prekindergarten, sustained investment in maintaining school buildings and playgrounds and ensuring that the lead connector pipes to our own houses are all replaced. We must pay attention to small practical improvements for children’s health and safety. That means installing port-a-potties in all parks and playgrounds and fixing facilities for disabilities compliance. As a council member, I see my role as careful oversight of city management and performance, support for citizen initiatives and openness to ideas and practical problem solving. I will try to ensure that all city services, regulatory activity plans and projects’ focus will be fixed on how individuals and families will best be served.

Pet project: Focus on the unhoused. That might not be as flashy as bike lanes, but I don’t hear enough about it from the other candidates. 

Participatory budgeting: Play For All accessible playground equipment and port-a-potties. 

Favorite place: Highland Kitchen.


This post was updated Nov. 7, 2023, to add responses by Judy Pineda Neufeld from publicly available sources.