2017 Campaign Kick-off Speech

Here’s the full text of my speech from my 2017 mayor’s race campaign kickoff event:

All right, we all know why we’re here. We’ve got a mayor’s race, and not just in the final election, but in the preliminary too. I’m excited about it. I’ve got a new pair of shoes to wear out for when I go knocking on doors. I haven’t gotten to do that in recent years, but I actually like campaigning. It’s a chance to interact directly with the people of this city. I get to hear what they have to say and I get to tell them what we’ve been doing at City Hall … and I will put what we have accomplished – not just me, I’m talking about everyone in this city working together – up against all comers.

In the last 14 years we have made historic progress in our schools, neighborhoods and business community. During that time the number of Somerville High graduates who go on to higher and further education has risen from 59% to more than 80%. Our high school is now considered Level 1 by the state and we rank as the top urban school district in Massachusetts. I’m proudest of the fact that to this day no child pays to play a musical instrument or to wear a Highlander uniform.

Our crime rate is at an all-time low, far below the state and national averages. We have built or renovated dozens of parks and playgrounds across the city. We have added hundreds of new affordable housing units. We have become a city filled with festivals and events. Somerville has even become a tourist destination. For those us who can remember back 30-plus years ago, that is astounding. Younger me would have told you there was no way that would ever happen. Well, we made it happen. In a city where residents were once aching to get out, people now come here to have fun.

We have added more than 250 new businesses in the city in just the past two years and, over the past five years, 6,000 new jobs. We just passed new zoning for Union Square that’s going to add even more. The assessed value of commercial property is now worth more than ONE BILLION DOLLARS. And all that means more jobs closer to home and a stronger commercial tax base to help ease the financial burden on homeowners and renters alike.

Oh, and we built the Argenziano School, rebuilt the East Somerville Community School and are now planning to modernize Somerville High School. We get things done in this city, like no other place I know.

It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve Somerville, and we still have a lot more to do. I don’t rest on my laurels because I was a raised in a city that doesn’t rest on its laurels. We are entering the crucial construction phases of the Green Line extension. It’s a project we have spent decades fighting to make a reality. We’ve put 50 million of our own dollars on the line, a level of commitment to public transit no other community in Massachusetts has had to make.

We have been through numerous attempts to pull the project out from under our feet. I’m proud to say we’ve overcome those obstacles every time they’ve been in thrown in our way. Yet this is no time to get complacent. The GLX is not a done deal until the project is completed. We know this, and my pledge to you is I will be the mayor who makes sure the Green Line runs through the heart and across the length of this city.

We also need to be prepared for the Green Line when it arrives. It is a transformational development. We need the zoning to guide that transformation and make it consistent with our community values. We need to remain a city for children and seniors, artists and shop owners, lifetime Somervillians and people who want to become Somervillians for the rest of their lives. Right now our zoning forbids building anything that looks like Somerville in Somerville. Only 22 homes conform to our current zoning. We have spent thousands of hours over the course of years and we will deliver a new set of zoning regulations that gets us the open space, commercial growth and new housing – middle income as well as affordable – that our city needs.

It is a huge lift, but we are almost there and we will get it done.

Also on our priority list is knocking down the scar that runs through the eastern section of our city known as the McGrath overpass. We need to plan it, schedule it and get the whole project funded. It’s a huge undertaking with massive repercussions for our community. I’d like to point out that over the past 14 years I’ve gained some experience with planning and delivering massive projects for the betterment of Somerville.

An even bigger undertaking is making Somerville carbon neutral by 2050. First off, I promise you I won’t be mayor in 2050. All these things we’ve been working on, I plan to enjoy them. Yet no one gets to enjoy anything if we find ourselves in an all-out climate crisis. This is personal to me. This is about my sons, my nieces, all the kids I see in our schools. We owe them the future. Every city, every town needs to step up. We have banded together with other leading edge cities in America not just to honor the Paris Climate Accords, but also to serve as a beacon that lights the way for everyone else who needs to follow.

This is an all-in game. There will be those who come late to it and they need to see the way forward when they get there.

Finally, we find ourselves living through contentious times. Somerville has been a Sanctuary City for 30 years. Our police act like police, not deportation agents. We do that because it works. It’s basic respect for our immigrant residents who aren’t being profiled at every turn, and common sense community policing to have everyone in our city willing to work with local law enforcement. We have low crime, thriving schools and a strong local economy to serve as proof that it works.

Yet there are those who would force us to adopt cruel, nonsensical, failed policing policies. They want us to tear families apart and heighten tension for people all across our city. I didn’t get into government to treat people like dirt and I’m not going to start now. I have been a mayor for everyone in Somerville and I will continue to be a mayor for everyone in Somerville, and I don’t need to see your papers to show you human dignity.

To be honest with you, I don’t think our President actually cares about making life miserable for immigrant families or trying to de-fund sanctuary cities, but they make convenient scapegoats for him to whip up his political base. It’s red meat.

Somebody’s got to stand up to that kind of cynicism, to say that the people who live in our community aren’t meat for the grinder. Their lives matter as much as anyone else’s. I’m proud to have been a leading advocate for sanctuary cities, and hopefully during this next term Somerville can help lead the way as Massachusetts adopts the Safe Communities Act and declares itself a sanctuary state.

I’m thrilled to see so many of you here tonight. As you can tell, I am pumped up for this race. I know no other candidate is going to outwork me, and I know no one else is going to outwork the people committed to this campaign. This has always been a team effort and it always will be. It might be my name on the ballot, but it’s our city and our values that matter.

Get ready, it’s going to be a busy and exciting next few months. I thank you all and, remember, Somerville rocks. So let’s get out there and rock it.