Somerville YIMBY circulated a short survey to candidates for mayor and city council this summer. While all candidate surveys are limited in scope and necessarily simplify complex issues, our survey definitely erred on the side of over-simplification, especially in trying to squeeze Yes/No answers out of complex questions. We received excellent feedback from our respondents, and we acknowledge that it has a number of shortcomings. Please use this as a supplement to your own decisions.
We provide our endorsements and an explanation of them below. Our baseline goal was to find candidates who, regardless of their ideological background, intend to:
- Increase the total amount of housing in the city
- Move the city away from auto-centric development and excessive parking
- Enhance tenant protections
Going into the general election on Nov. 2, we’ve trimmed this guide to the candidates we endorse, except for councilor at-large, where instead we rank all of the candidates we believe would make great choices.
We chose to endorse Katjana Ballantyne.
Katjana supports our three key goals of housing production, reducing auto-dependence, and enhancing tenant protections. Our conversation with her and her comments on our survey gave us a great deal of confidence about her thoughtful and informed understanding of the intersection of commercial development, tax base, climate change, and funding for affordable housing. She also has the most experience on city council.
We chose to endorse Willie Burnley Jr, Charlotte Kelly, Kristen Strezo, and Jake Wilson.
In an effort to provide voters with further guidance on this choice, where you vote for up to four candidates for this office, we have ranked our four endorsements, plus two additional candidates we believe are also good, though we decided not to endorse them.
Jake aligns with us on housing production, transit/parking issues, and tenant protections. His written responses reflect a nuanced approach to development and other issues and an acknowledgement of the tradeoffs necessary in governance. For example, he noted that to achieve our goal of increasing the amount of green space in the city, we’ll also need tall buildings to balance it.
Willie Burnley Jr
Willie is in support of our key goals on increasing housing, moving away from auto-centric development, and enhancing tenant protections. He is more skeptical of market-rate housing than we are, but his approach to all the issues is deeply thought and nuanced. We believe that he would be an excellent City Councilor.
Kristen’s survey answers state that she aligns with us on housing production, transit/parking issues, and tenant protections. As a resident living in Affordable Housing herself with her children, she brings a unique voice to the Council. In our conversations with her, she stressed the important of not only creating more homes, but ensuring that the subsidized homes are well cared for after our attention turns to the next development project.
Charlotte aligns with us on creation of affordable housing, moving away from auto-centric development, and tenant protections. She is much more skeptical of market-rate housing than we are, but we feel that she’s still a great choice. Her response notes that “any serious approach to housing and development here in Somerville must have thoughtful processes rooted in equity, justice, and systemic solutions,” and we agree entirely.
Eve did not complete our survey, but we spoke with them briefly about the issues. Critically, they agree with us about the need to create affordable housing, and on climate and transit issues. Although we disagree with them about the relative value of market-rate housing production, Eve is a thoughtful and forceful advocate for climate, transit and housing justice.
Justin agrees with us about housing and tenant protections, but supports building more parking, which is counterproductive for both climate and traffic.
We chose not to endorse in Ward 2 and present our thoughts on both candidates below. Please consider other voting guides to help you in making this choice if you are a Ward 2 resident.
Steph supports increased housing and tenant protections, and we also like his emphasis on trees and green space. We disagree with him about parking issues. His track record as a community organizer and activist is excellent and we are confident that he’d do a good job as a councilor as well. He was also a co-chair of the SomerVision 2040 committee, and his experience there would be very valuable on the City Council.
JT aligns with us on housing, transit/parking, and tenant protections. He is very skeptical of market-rate housing, but has an excellent track record of building community engagement to reach effective goals. His work guiding the project at 346 Somerville Ave (the former J.J. Sullivan building) to an excellent and unconventional outcome is a great example of his pragmatic approach. He was one of several candidates to push back against the oversimplification in our survey, and made several excellent points in our conversation about it.
We chose to endorse Beatriz Gómez Mouakad.
Beatriz Gómez Mouakad
Beatriz aligns with us on increasing overall housing supply, addressing transit/parking issues, and tenant protections. We feel that her experience working on affordable housing for Just-A-Start means that she knows both how important affordable housing is, and how to create it. She told us that she would prioritize affordable housing over market rate, but recognizes the need to make that housing economically viable through mixed-use and mixed-income development.
We chose to endorse Judy Pineda Neufeld.
Judy Pineda Neufeld
Judy aligns with us on increasing housing supply, addressing transit/parking issues, and tenant protections. She supports added density near GLX stations to create more affordable housing, an expansion of the Affordable Housing Overlay, and reduced mandatory parking requirements.
If you would like to read any of the candidates’ survey responses, we list them all below in alphabetical order, linking their name to a PDF of their survey response.
Incumbents are indicated with an *
Endorsements are in bold.
- Katjana Ballantyne
- Wilfred “Will” Mbah (no answers provided)
- Matt McLaughlin * (no answers provided)
- Jesse Clingan * (no answers provided)
- Lance Davis * (no answers provided)
If you’ve read all the way through, thanks for taking the time! We hope this is a helpful resource, and we welcome any feedback you might have at firstname.lastname@example.org.