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Somerville's Curtatone begins his reelection campaign

Posted by Jarret Bencks  May 23, 2013 11:06 AM

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Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone officially kicked off his reelection campaign Wednesday night.

Curtatone, who has been mayor since 2003, held a campaign kickoff party at the Armory. Here's the text of his speech:

Let me start off by thanking everyone who’s here today. I cannot do my job as mayor alone. It’s because of your support that we are able to accomplish the things we do. And it’s real easy to show up every day and do our work when we get to serve a city as great as Somerville.

Looking over at my sons, it reminds me that I’ve been at this for a little while. You’ll notice they’re not little kids anymore. All of them have their own things going on. And they just keep growing. It’s a good thing we passed the Urban Agriculture Ordinance because I don’t know how else we’re going to feed them.

Main thing is, ever since they can remember, I’ve been Mayor of this great city. Now I haven’t been at this as long as Tom Menino in Boston or Mike McGlynn next door in Medford, but I am proud to say that we’ve had more than our share of major achievements over the past 10 years.

And it’s customary for an incumbent mayor to kickoff of a reelection campaign by listing all the great things he or she has done in office. Well … I’m not going to do that.

If you’re here today I don’t need to list our accomplishments and awards during the past decade for you. You know that list. You’ve heard that list. You’ve lived that list.

Instead I want to talk to you about what’s happening in Somerville today and where that has us headed in the future. Because the reason I’m running for Mayor again is what’s happening in Somerville right now has me so incredibly excited.

If you drive around the city -- or better yet, if you walk or bike around the city -- you’ll see neighborhoods with tree-lined streets and smart-looking homes. You’ll see busy city squares. You’ll see parks and playgrounds, and people of every race, creed, color and age walking around with smiles on their faces.

When people visit from other cities, states and countries, they rave about what a pretty place Somerville is. And when people who haven’t been to Somerville for a few decades see what it looks like today, they can’t believe it’s the same place.

Probably the most effective campaigning I could do is to hold walking tours around the city. You can see how this city is flourishing with the naked eye. 

You can feel the positive vibe coming from the people of Somerville when you go out and speak with them. These are very good days for Somerville.

And I could take that walking tour over to Assembly Square where people can experience a beehive of activity. It’s one of the biggest and most active construction zones anywhere in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 

Within another year we’ll open the first new T station anywhere in the Commonwealth since 1987. 

They’re building new city blocks around it, which will feature thousands of new homes and offices and retail establishments that provide thousands of jobs.

It will put what I call the New American Dream within reach for more people in this city: the ability to work close to where you live, to spend more time with family and friends, to win back some quality of life from the daily grind.

They’re also building parkland along the Mystic River, reclaiming the waterfront we lost during the industrial buildup of the early 20th century.

And then you can walk over to East Somerville, where we’re giving East Broadway a complete makeover. The transformation of that area, including Harris Park, has attracted world-renown restaurateur Frank McClelland. We’ve also seen Mudflat Studio build an absolutely gorgeous facility along Broadway.

Once upon a time people referred to East Somerville as the forgotten corner of Somerville. Well, nobody’s forgetting it anymore. And I haven’t even gotten to the best part of East Somerville yet.

This fall we reopen the East Somerville Community School. That school is the beating heart of that section of our city. It’s a gathering place and community center. 

It’s also a symbol of our continued commitment to education and to moving Somerville forward for all the people in our city, not just isolated pockets here and there.

From there you can go to Washington Street and to Union Square, which sit on the verge of a major transformation because the Green Line extension is under construction. 

We’re not talking about the Green Line extension as if, maybe, some day in the future it will happen. No, it’s happening right now. We’re not fighting to get started anymore. Yet we do need to remain vigilant and insistent that the project get done on its current timeline. 

I know I didn’t spend more than a decade of my life fighting daily to get construction underway just to see it stop. I promise you that I will give every fiber of my being and every last ounce of energy I possess to make sure we’re riding Green Line trains from one end of Somerville to the other during this decade.

And the good news is the state really is committed here. I wish I could tell you that the prevailing wisdom of running the region’s main mass transit system through New England’s most densely populated city is what did the trick here. 

I wish I could tell you that the environmental improvements the T will bring or the social justice of giving our working class population easier access to jobs and cultural institutions is what tipped the scales.

Yet the truth is it makes too much business sense. Somerville is the next frontier in the expanding greater Boston job market. 

We’re planning on adding 30,000 jobs by the year 2030. Ultimately that’s billions of dollars a year in general economic activity and hundreds of millions flowing into the state coffers. 

It’s also going to be a transformation in terms of local taxes. Those new businesses will help fund our consistently-improving schools, street and neighborhood improvements, public safety, senior programs, environment initiatives, and recreational activities. It will alleviate the local tax burden on our residential taxpayers. 

I really want to stress the schools part of that. Make no mistake about this, the growth we envision in the economic opportunity zones near the new T stations is going to have direct impact on how well our schools tackle the current baby boom. 

We’re climbing to almost 1,000 births a year for Somerville residents. We haven’t seen numbers like these in decades. This isn’t just happening in Somerville, it’s happening nationwide. The Millennials are a big generation and they’re hitting their prime breeding years. 

Other cities and towns have been slashing teachers and programs in recent years. Not Somerville. We’ve been improving and expanding educational opportunities for our students.

Yet Millennials are a huge chunk of our local population and we’re going to need a larger commercial tax base to ensure we continue to move forward in our schools.

This is our window of opportunity to truly redefine what an urban school system is capable of delivering. This is our chance to turn to young parents in Somerville and tell them they’d be crazy to leave a flourishing city like Somerville when so many other school systems continually find themselves making painful cuts.

Economic growth is an essential component to delivering educational excellence in this city. 

I’m passionate about this because I have four major investments entrusted to our school system. Mayor Joe answers to Daddy Joe on this one. 

There is a big picture here and the people with the most to gain or lose are the families of Somerville. I’m working as hard as I do today to make sure they see that gain and not the loss.

And today, in the here and now, we’re making plans to rip down the McGrath overpass and replace it with a boulevard that brings together the sections of our city it split apart decades ago. 

We’re also working to take down the old trash transfer station by the end of this year. We’re redesigning Beacon Street so that it can be a thriving residential and commercial corridor.

We’re putting together plans for the next round of streetscape improvements in the wild success story of Davis Square. We’re determining the future of the Powder House School site. 

We’re beautifying Teele Square and Ball Square and Magoun Square and Winter Hill, and we’re fielding business interest in all of those areas. 

We just broke ground on the expansion of the Community Path from Cedar Street to where it will meet with the Green Line extension at Lowell Street. 

And I can make you the solemn vow that we will figure out how to extend it all the way to Boston.

Today, right here, right now, we are building a bright and beautiful future for our city. 

We are taking our destiny into our own hands and not chancing our future on the notion that maybe something good will come our way.

Daily I am awed by the creativity, passion, energy and activity of the people of Somerville and the people I work with every day. 

It is a privilege that I get to work on building our common future with all of you and that is why I am running for reelection.

I love what we’re doing today and I can’t wait to see what we get to do tomorrow. 

Thank you for your support.

Jarret Bencks can be reached at bencks.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on twitter @JarretBencks.

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