Katjana's 2018 Inagural Spech
Welcome and Happy New!
Congratulations and welcome also, to our new colleagues on the Board of Aldermen, Stephanie Hirsch, Ben MBah, JT Scott, Ben Ewen-Campen & Jesse Clingan! You all bring to the board diverse skills and new energy which will go a long way to help us shape a bright future. Somerville expects a lot from its Board of Alderman as we work on the important issues facing us in the near future. We need you, let’s work together to get a result for Somerville.
Thank you – to everyone who participates in making Somerville an even better place to live, to work, to raise a family and to have fun! Thank you to everyone who has lent their voice, shared their thoughts.
Thank you to my family, especially to my husband who has supported me in all aspects of my career and personal life, and thank you to my two daughters.
• To our departing colleagues of the Board of Aldermen, we wish you all
the best and thank you for all of your hard work and dedication to Somerville.
• To all of my colleagues on the Board of Aldermen, I thank you for
honoring me with the privilege of being the Board President.
My family immigrated to the US when I was young. We moved to a community which did not value diversity as much as Somerville does. My family was a bit different in the way we behaved, the way we talked and dressed and in the food that we ate. We were not always made to feel welcome because of these small differences.
By contrast when I moved to Somerville, almost 25 years ago, I discovered a place that was truly diverse. There was ethnic diversity, racial diversity, religious diversity and economic diversity. Every person and every group was a bit different, and for the most part, the people I met here seemed to like things that way. I felt like I might fit in here because differences seemed to be okay. I chose to live in Somerville, it was a good choice.
When I became active in local issues the Davis Square T stop was new, rent control was on the books in Boston and Cambridge, Assembly Square was likely to be developed as big box retail with lots of surface parking, and the State had made a commitment to build the GLX.
Since that time, I’ve discovered many more kinds of local diversity, by being active in local issues, including a profound diversity of thought opinion. I began to advocate, along with many others in Somerville including a group called Mystic View Task force, for “Mixed-Use”
development, a planning concept that values putting diverse uses together for a mutual benefit. I’ve advocated for transportation equity with Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership (STEP), and I’ve advocated for affordability with Somerville Community Corporation (SCC).
During my time as a member and board president of the Somerville
Community Corporation I had a chance to work to preserve economic
diversity though affordable housing creation, workforce development planning and to engage youth to help solve the problems that sometimes come with diversity, through the Mediation Program. I learned about Teen Empowerment through my neighbors who were some of its first teens to participate in it. As a volunteer in the public schools, I discovered the Choice Program, which created and allowed a different approach to education. I discovered Somerville was a great place to live while getting my MBA, because there are so many education options nearby, and a great place to start a business, because there are so many resources here for start-ups.
I have always seen diversity as a part of everything that is special about Somerville.
In 2010 Somerville completed a 3 year community process which resulted in the creation of our community vision, and strategic plan, known as “SomerVision.” And it is no surprise to me, or to any of us in the community, that the number one value identified by our community is ‘DIVERSITY.’ The largest word in the SomerVision wordle is diversity, because Diversity was the word most often used by the community. The next larger words are the words, ‘Green” and “Space.” These words make the point that we have very limited diversity of urban spaces, and we have very little open space.
For my part as alderman I will remain committed to work to preserve diversity in our culture, in open green space, in housing, and to promote affordability and economic diversity.
Today we start a new year, and our new term as a local government. I hear often, as you all likely do, that the national discourse is divisive, and that our congress is dysfunctional. This gives us an opportunity to stand apart, to show everyone how we make diversity work in Somerville; by inclusion, collaboration, and genuine caring for our neighbor to make a better community.
Our recent city elections were attended in record numbers and created unprecedented change. These results reflect how engaged our residents are. Our engaged community is a great asset. Together we have a real brain trust here, of motivated residents who will help us move forward.
It is our job and we all benefit when we keep residents involved, we are all better when we work together.
As President of the Board of Aldermen I am committed to making our process inclusive.
We serve Somerville in a time that will see some of the most profound change in the history of the city. We have accomplished much together in the recent past, and there is much more to be done together in the near future.
In the past year alone, we've approved funding for a state-of-the-art new, High School, for the Greenline Extension, which will go forward now as the result of three decades of advocacy from residents & groups like STEP, the city administration, the state & federal government and help from the Conservation Law Foundation. We also approved new mixed-use zoning for Union Square that allows commercial office development by-right, and we’ve funded new infrastructure for Union Square.
Very significantly, we have also passed an ordinance that requires 20% of new housing development to be inclusionary, affordable housing. New affordable housing will help us to preserve economic diversity.
Somerville is now a clear leader in this aspect of affordability.
However the "affordability coin" has two sides; on the one side of the coin is the cost of living, and on the other side of the coin is the income that comes from having a good job.
We need to give folks the whole coin.
On the job creation side of the coin we've created job linkage requirements, which will link local people to job training and the local jobs that are coming to Somerville. Job linkage is another big win for Somerville, but we can do more.
To make new jobs happen in Somerville, we need to attract new businesses. Local businesses create local jobs, and they help us pay the cost of delivering city services.
We can do more to attract new businesses and new jobs to Somerville. We need to let everyone know that Somerville is “Open for Business”... We need to ensure that proposed new zoning and all of our city processes will attract the right kind of development and the right kind of businesses.
That's why I’ve pushed, and why I will continue to push, to make marketing Somerville to new businesses a priority. That’s why I’ll continue to push for zoning to allow commercial office development as a priority, because new business will need space.
Somerville has good public transportation, soon to be great public transportation, a highly qualified local workforce, excellent schools, great city services, police and fire departments and responsive, efficient local government. We have made remarkable local investment in our infrastructure. Those facts will bring new businesses to Somerville if we can get THAT message out.
Going forward into this new term, we can be grounded in the values of Somerville.
Our community clearly values the diversity of people, cultural diversity, open space and the environment, housing and economic diversity. We must work to preserve diversity in all of these aspects, this is our clear mandate.
Our community values our diversity of opinions, so we must continue our local tradition of respectful debate and productive collaboration.
Our community values economic diversity, and so we must work to give Somerville the whole coin, with an affordable cost of living on the one side and the good, local jobs that give folks the means to pay for it on the other side.
While we indeed have a lot to be proud of, we cannot rest on our laurels for one minute. Too much is at stake. I expect and want you to call me, email me, and tell me what you think.
I know that I'll be at work every day, to work with the administration, the Board, the School Committee, parents, teachers, activists, stakeholders, and the entire community, to make our excellent city even better.