Reality Bites by James A. Norton:It’s Time For a Change

By James A. Norton


Have you learned your ABCs? Sure, it’s a joke, but maybe it’s time to get serious.


I have written a large number of columns in local, regional and national publications over the years. If you’re reading this, then you are probably more familiar with my writing with respect to Somerville. I went back through about 100 columns and scanned them, then picked out a handful, re-read them and determined that for the most part, a majority of them have been fairly positive, a few cryptic and I would say only a couple that were truly negative. Everyone has their own interpretation, though.


As I did before I had the opportunity to write my column endorsing Donald Trump, which today seems so long ago, I recently spent some time speaking several hundred people I know, and friends of theirs, about how they see Somerville. How they interpret their vision of issues that directly affect their lives – gentrification, affordable housing issues, real estate, Assembly Row, property taxes, parking issues, local government, and so on.


I might not live in Somerville any more, but, I work there and I spend a lot of time in the city (almost every day). That’s all well and good, but, as has been pointed out to me, I am not a resident anymore, and regardless of how “plugged in” I think I might still be, I felt as though I needed to talk to those who live and breathe there. So I did.


I have discovered some interesting things – most importantly, that no matter what side of issues people stand on locally, almost everyone is happy to be alive in 2017 and to live and/or work in Somerville. There is a good sense of pride out there amongst the every day Somerville resident. Sure it’s expensive to live here now, but, anywhere near Boston has a cost of living associated with it that is much higher than say, Armington, Illinois (for example).


So I asked people about the issues I mentioned above, along with others. Oddly, like the responses I got in one-on-one conversations about Donald Trump back months ago, there was an overwhelming sense of people seriously wanting change. Wanting more of a voice to speak to them specifically – that they were disenfranchised. So in an honest effort to direct their focus not on any one particular elected official, over the more important issues, I suggested that they become more involved with local politics. Start by talking to their neighbors, the people at corner store, at their church – and find out how local issues are affecting other people like them.


At times in this process, it was frustrating, because the assumption (people make far too many assumptions by the way) was when I was having these conversations, that I would like to see people vote one way or for/against certain people. Well, I do, but I’m not there yet, and when I was talking to them, I was trying to find out how they felt. What their thoughts were – how they perceived the issues and the people involved locally. I wasn’t politicking.


I know, your eyes just rolled because you probably don’t believe me. Well, that’s your right, but, I was having these conversations without any kind of personal agenda at that time.


My purpose in these columns is to give my own personal opinion about issues, situations and sometimes people – I have been afforded a fantastic opportunity to write this column – and for quite some time now. Some people hate me for it, others love me for it. Strangely, there is little middle ground. I’m ok with that.


I wrote back in June that Mayor Curtatone was a good mayor, as almost all of his predecessors were before him; however, it’s time for a change. Unlike previous mayors, he hasn’t moved on to some higher purpose politically or back into the private sector. The problem is that every politician battles negativity – some just and some unjust – but lingering makes people hate more, take things personally and often times warp their perception of how things are in their world, versus reality.


Bundle all that together, with the stupid banner on city hall, the pandering, the grandstanding, the silly press conferences, the police escorts, the arrogance, the ignorance, the rudeness. Some people really want to see change and it would be a shame if they don’t get it soon. There is a groundswell out there of people who truly see hope in candidates like Payton Corbett, who is running against the current mayor.


I suggest you find out about Payton and see what he is all about. Give him a serious look and think about your future as a resident of Somerville. You deserve better. It’s ok to want change – don’t let anyone tell you differently. Don’t let anyone bully you. Don’t let anyone try to bullshit you into thinking that everything in Somerville is all love and roses and perfect, because it’s really not.


In the spirit of being consistent, I want to repeat two paragraphs from a column I wrote in June:


Now is the time to move away from threatening business people and residents because they speak up about what they think is wrong. Now is the time to not parade around with police escorts because you think you might be assaulted. Now is the time for this city to wake up – and choose someone who will take what has been good work and maybe reach back into the community to those forgotten folk who are still here – still somehow live here, own a business here, spend time here.


It’s time for change. People need to speak up. It’s not just me, or a couple of my friends, out of 85,000+ people who reside here – get involved, stop the shenanigans and the flip flopping from old school thinking to neo-liberal idealism. It’s ok to pray at both churches, just don’t forget the parishioners.


The running joke is once again ABC – Anyone But Curtatone – well, I say enough of the funny little jokes, it’s time to get serious. Do yourself a favor and do your homework and become informed – find out about who is running for Mayor and make a decision for the future of Somerville. Do what I’m going to do – call a few hundred people and urge them to vote for Payton Corbett for Mayor.


Payton Corbett would be a fantastic Mayor of Somerville. Don’t take my word for it – go to and find out for yourself. You will be glad you did and make sure you call everyone you know and get them to vote against the current political machine that needs to be stopped.


It’s time to drain the swamp here in the Ville, people. #GMK #GTBTP



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