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Somerville mayor attends dinners at residents' homes

Posted by Catherine Cloutier  February 21, 2013 03:37 PM

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Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone will come to your house if you’ll have him.

This January, the city’s Mayor In My Backyard (MIMBY) initiative kicked off, as residents invited mayor Curtatone to their homes to eat, get to know each other and talk about the issues close to their hearts.

Mayor Curtatone, who came up with the idea, said it has been a great opportunity to casually talk to residents.

“Having that one-on-one is very powerful for me, and it helps me get to know the people I serve,” Curtatone said. “A lot of times it enlightens me to ideas that residents have, and you don’t get that in the office; it’s from being out and talking to constituents.”

So far, the mayor has met with five groups, and is scheduled to meet with at least five more.

Liz Langdon-Gray and Brett Mickael hosted the mayor at their home on Bartlett Street this Wednesday.

Langdon-Gray said that the main reason they decided to host a MIMBY event was to bring up their questions about Magoun Square revitalization efforts. She said the square, which is located at the intersection of Broadway and Medford Streets, is an important part of the neighborhood that residents would love to see thrive.

“We’ve been in our house for two years . . . and everyone we invited has some sort of connection with the area,” Langdon-Gray said. “[The square has] a big CVS, and two new bars . . . but it’s not quite there yet.”

Langdon-Gray said that MIMBY allowed her guests to casually discuss their concerns with the mayor and receive his direct input.

Curtatone said he was glad to see a group of residents so interested in investing their time and energy into a specific part of the city. He enjoys that MIMBY events give him the opportunity to work alongside his constituents and to encourage them to get more involved in their neighborhoods.

“Ownership of a square is critical,” Curtatone said. “If we can get an active group to seed an area, we can create a brand and identity for the square.”

The group was able to discuss Magoun Square and possible ways to jump start the area’s economic potential.

Throughout the evening, Curtatone and the MIMBY hosts discussed topics ranging from the youth soccer league and new restaurant openings to Somerville’s history and the importance of an active streetscape. The setting of Langdon-Gray and Mickael’s home provided an intimate, relaxed setting for everyone to talk and laugh about the city of Somerville.

“I thought it was great. It flowed more easily than I thought it would, and I think it inspired people to better engage in the community,” Langdon-Gray said.

Mickael added that he was impressed the mayor would take the time to come to an event where so few people were present.

Curtatone said he is excited to see how the MIMBY initiative evolves as it moves forward. He would like to meet more people “off the clock” and start discussions in all regions of the city.

“I’m hoping we’ll find out which neighborhoods haven’t responded so we can reach out to them [to join the discussion].” Curtatone said.

To host a MIMBY event, contact ResiStat at resistat@somervillema.gov.

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