Ward 6 of Somerville, Massachusetts, has been a hot-bed of political activism this Fall. Election day tomorrow involves tough choices. I thought I’d vote out loud, or at least weigh the options out loud.
* A young, progressive woman, Rebekah Gewirtz, with a background in community activism, is challenging 22-year incumbent Jack Connolly for Ward 6 Alderman. Ms. Gewirtz has visited our street more than a dozen times, easily, leaving fliers and ringing everyone’s bell — working incredibly hard. Mr. Connolly has not come by once (at least that I’ve noticed), but he’s sent a great deal of mail to make the case for his candidacy. Gewirtz and Connolly have gone “comparative,” with almost-negative statements about one another (OK, some people would definitely call it negative) in the mail that hits every few days from each of them. Signs in the ward seem about evenly split. Mr. Connolly has served the neighborhood for a very long time, has a local business, and local endorsements, so will be hard to unseat. I give Ms. Gewirtz a great deal of credit for the race she has run — energetic, serious, and tough. No matter what, her candidacy has stirred up a number of issues and has made a long-time incumbent take re-election seriously. (Here’s what Ms. Gewirtz said in response to the Somerville Dog Owners’ Group‘s questionnaire, in case you were wondering. Isn’t the Internet great?)
* For School Committee in Ward 6, there’s a man named Paul Bockelman who has come by our house, running against Jim Thomas, whom I have not met. They are after a seat that the previous incumbent has relinquished. I am voting for Mr. Bockelman, since one of our neighbors brought him by our home, he seemed smart and capable, and his qualifications — as a long-time town manager — seem excellent. In addition to our neighbor, many of the local publications and officials have backed Mr. Bockelman. (I haven’t been able to learn much about his challenger, Mr. Thomas, beyond what his website says.)
* For Alderman-at-Large, we vote for four of the seven candidates (straight-up, not proportional representation, like Cambridge). I’ve heard in particular from Marty Martinez, a challenger with a celebrated background in youth services, and a young attorney, Kim Foster-Hirsch, who has lived in Somerville her whole life and has been articulate in what I’ve read and seen about the challenges facing the City (I couldn’t find a website for her, despite her raising and spending about $15,000, but got a fair amount of mail and found some responses to a questionnaire on affordable housing of hers are here). I’m not certain of my last two votes yet, but Mr. Martinez and Ms. Foster-Hirsch will certainly get two of the four. Denise Provost’s Sierra Club endorsement may sway me in her favor for vote number 3.
(If I were living in neighboring Cambridge, MA, I would vote a number 1 for my friend Brian Murphy and for Ben Lummis, a candidate for School Committee, who is a colleague of the incomparable Chris Gabrieli’s at Mass2020. For other Massachusetts election news, check out Blue Mass. Group and others sure to cover it.)
I am glad that it’s hard work to figure out how to vote tomorrow in Somerville. I find that I’m deciding mostly based on who made the effort to reach out to me in person, by phone (not robo-calls, of which there are 5 on the voice-mail tonight), or via the web with a good web presence (but not exclusively) — in no small part because there are many good candidates from which to choose, a great sign for our local democracy. Huge thanks to all who have put their names on a ballot this year.