All I want for Christmas is a CBA by Somerville Ward1 Alderman Matthew McLaughlin


Christmas came early for the Curtatone administration. The Board of Aldermen unanimously approved a $50 million bond to keep visions of the Green Line Extension dancing in our heads.

       ​People cheered the decision like it was a New Year’s celebration. I played the role of Grinch, however, seeing this as a $50 million lump of coal.

       ​I was not happy to support this extortion, and I am even less happy that there is no clear pathway to shifting this hardship to the institutions that will gain the most from the GLX. So I am writing a letter to Santa Claus in the hopes that he brings me a CBA for Christmas.

       ​A CBA, or Community Benefits Agreement, is a contract signed by community groups and real estate developers that requires the developer to provide specific benefits to the community. I expect the community to be involved in the CBA process, but I also expect certain results that will indicate if this process was successful.

       ​My first wish is that Union Square developers help pay for the $50 million GLX bond, as well as the $70 million bond for Union Square and the $30 million bond for Boynton Yards we are expected to approve. Right now all of those costs are expected to be paid for by the homeowner, which will trickle down to renters. This simply cannot happen. We are burdening the very people that are supposed to benefit from the GLX and forcing many to pay for their own displacement. I expect the developers to pay their fair share and for the city to pass a home rule petition supporting a tax that the developers will pay directly. I will not be placing any new presents under the Christmas tree until this happens.

       There are several other benefits I expect from a CBA. I have always advocated for local hiring on city projects. I expect developers to commit to union hiring as well as preference for Somerville residents for construction jobs and the permanent jobs that follow. We already successfully advocated for a linkage fee for job training, although there is no update on implementation. I would like a clear plan for what could be tens of millions of dollars in local job funding.

       ​Open space is also a major concern residents have. The current zoning plan does not meet the Somervision requirements for increasing open space. I would like the city and developers to stick with their own plan and provide open space for one of the most congested areas in the city, one that will only become denser with current plans. ​

       ​These are a few expectations I have for future development, not just in Union Square, but throughout the city. ‘Tis the season for giving, but I fear residents give too much without so much as a kiss under the mistletoe. We need to expect more from the people who stand to gain the most from economic development and protect the people most likely to be harmed from it.

One thought on “All I want for Christmas is a CBA by Somerville Ward1 Alderman Matthew McLaughlin”

  1. I agree completely with your article however you are an Alderman so why didn’t you vote against the $50M GLX proposal? I’m asking myself this questions a lot. Seems like the Aldermen are what we call two faced. Say one thing that the people want to hear and yet vote the political game. I’m a homeowner in Somerville trying to figure out how the heck we are gonna find the money to pay for this.

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