Four cities, four mayors
The choices in Newton, Lawrence, Somerville, and Lynn.
By The Editorial Board
October 29, 2021
Mayors matter; that’s one of the clear lessons from these last tumultuous two years. Whether it’s reforming police departments (or not) and managing COVID-19 school closures (or not), some of the most critical government actions play out in city halls.
This year, the Globe is endorsing candidates in several of the most high-profile mayoral races in Massachusetts. These four candidates have convinced us they’d be good not just for the city they hope to lead but would also help find solutions to region-wide challenges, like housing costs, that every Greater Boston community shares.
▪ In the past nearly two decades under Mayor Joe Curtatone, Somerville has become a virtual Boomtown USA — a trendy city of rapid growth and rising property values. Today the new Green Line extension and a planned second phase of the enormously successful Assembly Square development hold the promise of more to come.
But with Curtatone moving on, it’s critical that Somerville’s next mayor bring a similar skill set, and an understanding that the city’s prosperity hasn’t always been shared across that great economic divide that still exists there.
Katjana Ballantyne, first elected to the City Council in 2013 and twice chosen as council president, has the experience, the vision, and the heart to lead the city into the next phase of its development. Her expertise in the creation of affordable housing comes from years working in the field, including a stint as board president of the Somerville Community Corporation.
But she also understands the link between housing and jobs and the need to create a tax base in the city that can sustain the level of services its citizens need — and that means expanding its commercial base as well as its clearly burgeoning residential component.
“We have to be able to fund our values,” she told the Globe editorial board, by which she means a host of traditional progressive priorities, including affordable housing.
Her opponent, Will Mbah, has an interesting life story as an émigré from Cameroon, but little in the way of concrete plans on how he would tackle some of the city’s growing pains.
By contrast, Ballantyne, who emigrated from Greece with her adoptive parents as a child, has put forth detailed zoning proposals and her own version of a Green New Deal that is comprehensive, thoughtful, and uniquely suited to one of the nation’s most densely populated urban areas. Her plan puts an emphasis on open space, bike paths, and “15-minute neighborhoods,” where most of life’s necessities are within walking distance.
“I’m for getting things done,” she added and that means working with developers and building coalitions — something that takes the kind of experience Ballantyne will bring to the job.
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