Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The annual return of the street sweepers to Somerville

It's not quite as romantic as the swallows' annual return to San Juan Capistrano, unless you're the person who counts the money generated by ticket fines on street cleaning day; however, April 1 is upon us and some of us will be moving our cars to the even side of the street before the sweepers come around on Thursday morning, preceded by the inevitable ticketers.

If my last year's experience proves consistent, there will be no grace period or warnings for those who forget to move their vehicles because it's the first week; instead there will be a bright orange envelope secured to your windshield wiper and flapping in the breeze for sending in your hard-earned (if you still have a job) $50 to the Traffic and Parking Office.

Boston.com does provide help for those of us who haven't memorized this year's list of first and third Thursdays and second and fourth Fridays yet. Go to bostonsweeper.boston.com and enter your city and street name to receive e-mail notification the day before the sweeper comes around.

My goal, as always, is to get it right every time, but there are a lot of first and third Thursdays and second and fourth Fridays to come before the end of December and the thought is rather discouraging. I really believe that one's first street cleaning violation of the year should be waived in common courtesy to residents who have more on our minds than whether tomorrow will be the first or second Thursday or the third Friday or whether it will be Thursday or Friday at all. Unfortunately, this year's budget cuts make it likely that parking ticket revenues will be grasped at harder than ever.

If you're frustated with Somerville's ticketing policies (and who that drives a car here isn't?), don't forget that you can hop over to the Somerville Parking Problems Google group to kvetch with others in the same boat. I think we should start keeping a running total over there of the fees we've paid as a constituency. I'm sure it will horrify us and make the parking commissioner dance with glee.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Somerville Journal reports on Give the Gift of Somerville

The Somerville Journal kindly published an article about my little Facebook application this week:

The unique gift of Somerville – now on Facebook
By Auditi Guha
Wicked Local Somerville
Posted Mar 24, 2009 @ 10:24 PM

You know you spend a lot of time on Facebook when you start creating your own applications. Thanks to Somerville resident Laura Slapikoff you can now gift your friends all kinds of Somerville things from the dreaded orange parking ticket to the historic Powder House.

Give the gift of Somerville – a whole new way of sharing the City of Seven Hills with your friends” debuted Sunday and already boasts 185 users. “Wow, I am amazed!” the Spring Hill resident said when she counted it up. “It’s become very popular very quickly.”

There are 44 items available so far from historical landmarks and postcards to the plain wacky – a “suffocating Mary” or a garden statue of the Virgin covered with plastic.

An everyday Facebook user, Slapikoff, 44, came up with the idea because “I thought it would be a cool idea to send people Somerville things and because I know people who live here love Somerville.”

She aired her idea on online community Davis Square LiveJournal and set it up over the weekend with techie help from Dev Purkayastha, another local resident.

But that’s just where it starts. Slapikoff is working on using the application to raise funds for a local non-profit. She plans to approach area businesses interested in being a Facebook gift item to contribute for it and is working with Community Action Agency of Somerville to arrange the fund flow.

“I definitely want more people to use it so we can raise money for a cause,” she said.

Slapikoff grew up in Arlington and moved to Somerville in 1993. “I love that it is such a diverse community and love the support here for local businesses and artists,” she said. An artist, writer, web designer and recent blogger herself, she has embraced online social networks like Facebook and believes they can be used positively.

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Raptors on Hoverboards

Thanks to my cousin Paul for sending me this important information about Somerville. According to xkcd.com the highest number of Google searches for "raptors on hoverboards" comes from our own little 'ville. I'm intrigued. Have there been sightings of raptors on hoverboards around town? If so, I hope some photographic evidence emerges. In the meantime, keep searching the skies!

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Give the Gift of Somerville

Now you can share Somerville with your friends on Facebook using Give the Gift of Somerville, a new gift application developed by Somerville resident Dev Purkayastha and myself. You can use the app to send Somerville landmarks and icons, from a bathtub Mary, to the Round House, to a parking ticket, and many more to your friends all over the world.

The purpose of the application will be to raise money for a Somerville non-profit, most likely CAAS or the Somerville Homeless Coalition, by inviting local businesses to be added to it in exchange for a donation to the chosen non-profit. I'm still in the planning stages of the financial part, but the application is available for immediate use, with new gift items to be added in the coming weeks.

Please share your feedback and any requests for landmarks, etc. If you have Somerville photos you'd like to donate, I'll add them and give you photo credit. If you're a business owner who wants to get involved, please contact me here to set up a meeting.

Enjoy virtual Somerville!

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Somerville Receives e-Government Award from Common Cause Massachusetts

Yesterday, Somerville was among 117 Massachusetts municipalities to receive 2009 e-Government awards from Common Cause Massachusetts. The award recognized cities that publish the following information on their websites:
  • their governing body's agenda and minutes
  • budget information
  • general by-laws
  • if applicable, their town meeting warrant and results
Common Cause Massachusetts is a non-partisan organization created to ensure open, honest, and accountable government at the federal, state, and local levels.

According to an article in yesterday's Globe, Common Cause began auditing Massachusetts municipal websites in 2006, at which time only 24 cities made the above information public.

Somerville did not receive an e-Government Award with Distinction, given to 49 municipalities that publicize the following:
  • archived governing board agendas and minutes
  • zoning by-laws
  • school committee agendas and minutes
  • agendas and minutes for an additional board or committee
  • a calendar of all public meetings
Let's let our reps know we're proud to be among the award winners and encourage them to publicize more city government information so that next year we'll receive the "distinction" we deserve!

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Two new Somerville websites

Wow, this is great. Somerville residents are furiously typing all day and night, sharing our experiences with one another on everything from local shopping to city services. All you have to do is poke around the web a bit (or stay tuned here) and you'll find everything you want to know about the City of the Seven Hills.

At somervillefoodscene, anonymous reviews of restaurants plain and fancy, as well as grocery stores, are being posted bi-weekly. The reviews are thoughtful and detail-oriented. In the latest entry, about DeMoula's Market Basket, there are price comparisons with other markets, a little history of the store, and observations about the patrons, in addition to an enumeration of some of the things you'll find on the shelves. The review of Tacos Lupita notes cooking techniques, the "laconic" staff, and the decor. Obviously, "anonymous" loves writing about the food here in Somerville, and I think the bi-weekly idea works well, because it seems to give her (I gather from the entry about Highland Kitchen that "anonymous" is female) time to write informative and thorough reviews. I definitely encourage anyone who eats in Somerville to check it out.

As much as I love to read about delicious things to eat, I think my favorite new discovery is Somerville Parking Problems, a Google Group devoted to, well, Somerville parking problems. Anyone living or parking in Somerville has stories to tell about the outrageous rules, regulations, and restrictions that dog our every search for a spot. Somerville Parking Problems is a much-needed support group that invites us to share stories, situations, and solutions to the insanity. In one post, Joe Beckmann makes the apt comment that "It's not a matter of traffic - they ought to shift the whole department to the assessor's office." If that doesn't make you want to shout "Yeah, brother, testify!" then you've obviously never been charged $50 for leaving your car in a spot in front of your home longer than 48 hours. The real mission of the group is to bring together the voices of Somerville residents and by doing so, influence city officials to adopt more reasonable policies. Let's hope it works!

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Morning moon over Spring Hill

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Rant

Okay, so the big news in Somerville is that U2 are coming to the Somerville Theater Wednesday night, March 11, to play a "secret show." The reason it's so "secret" is that it's for commercial radio station personnel (and the few listeners to whom they gave away tickets) only, meaning that no one in Somerville or anywhere else has the opportunity to obtain tickets. It royally pisses me off that a bunch of jaded radio types are going to invade my town to see one of my favorite bands, so they can undoubtedly yawn and say how much better they used to be back in the day, or how they never even liked them and never understood what the big deal was, or some such hipper-than-thou crap. Meanwhile, according to the Somerville Journal's blog, parking has been prohibited in the area today and tomorrow, forcing residents to scramble for already scarce legal spots. I've been a U2 fan forever, forgiving Bono his rehearsed-sounding onstage soapbox speeches in light of the fact that seeing the band is so powerful, and the fact that they use at least some of their money to bring positive change to suffering people. I resent that Live Nation and U2 think they can just dump their exclusive event right in this town with absolutely no compensation to residents. They should have put the show-ola on in Boston, where all the radio stations are headquartered, instead of bringing the whole pageant here and rubbing our noses in our exclusion. Let them eat cake, right? Two thumbs down for Live Nation and U2.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Old Armory gets some new life as arts center - The Boston Globe

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Community Action Agency of Somerville

Today in my usual course of poking around the web for interesting things about Somerville, I discovered a group called CAAS, or Community Action Agency of Somerville. CAAS's mission statement runs thus:

The Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS), a private non-profit agency incorporated in 1981, is the legally designated anti-poverty agency for Somerville. The mission of CAAS is to reduce poverty among local families and individuals while working to counteract, and whenever possible eliminate, the societal conditions that cause and perpetuate poverty.

CAAS provides a number of valuable community services, such as help with tenant rights issues, eviction prevention, public benefits access, and several youth services. Their accomplishments are numerous as well, working with Somerville's low income and immigrant communities to build coalitions and assist with housing issues and programs like Head Start for toddlers.

CAAS's new Executive Director, Kimberly Smith-Cofield, has a background of 28 years in human services, including the direction of several other Boston area service agencies. CAAS's board of directors will host a meet and greet event (with wine and cheese!) to introduce Smith-Cofield to the community on March 30. Details are as follows:

CAAS Introduces new Executive Director Kimberly Smith-Cofield
Monday, March 30 from 4-6 pm
Aldermen's Chambers at City Hall, 93 Highland Ave.
Open to all who wish to attend
To RSVP, call Digna at 617-623-7370

If you are low-income, live in Somerville, and need CAAS's help, call 617-623-7370. If you would like to donate time or money to CAAS, go to http://www.caasomerville.org/contact (to volunteer) or http://www.caasomerville.org/donate (to donate financially).

Related links:

CAAS website


Somerville Journal article announcing Smith-Cofield's directorship


Somerville Journal profile of Smith-Cofield

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