Somerville Speakup Line: Op-ed on Clarendon Hill/Redgate

As a Somerville resident, I find myself extremely concerned about the transfer of a highly valuable parcel of public land to private hands, without a fair bidding process—Clarendon Hill. I am further concerned that Redgate, the no-bid developer on this project is coming back time and again to ask for government handouts, when it hasn’t complied with government bidding rules, and seeks to pre-empt the prevailing wage rules that govern public projects. Wouldn’t we be better off if we developed much-needed affordable housing ourselves, rather than doling out high-priced goodies to developers at a premium?

Redgate, brazenly, demands to have its cake and eat it too. On the one hand, Redgate wants to enjoy government subsidies, including a $10 million handout for providing “community benefits,” and a whopping discount on the value of the Clarendon Hill parcel, estimated by some to be worth more than double what they paid. But the developer doesn’t want to be held to prevailing wage standards, which are required on public projects–instead asking for a Home Rule Petition to circumvent those wage protections.

It smells rotten to me. And it smells rotten to the state Inspector General, too. The Office of the Inspector General is an independent agency that promotes good government by preventing and detecting the misuse of public funds and public property. The Inspector General, Glenn Cunha, recently wrote a letter advocating for the transfer of public land to private hands to be governed by a public bidding process. Cunha wrote strongly, in the letter, about the importance of the fairness, transparency and accountability that comes with the public bidding law on publicly owned lands.

The Inspector General explained that municipalities have a wide berth to design the public bidding process in a way that makes sense to the community. So why is Somerville giving sweetheart deals to one developer, instead of letting all developers compete on an even playing field? I wonder if it has something to do with which developers give the most campaign contributions.

When taxpayers own the land, and taxpayers are footing the bill for sweetheart deals, then taxpayers have a right to accountability, transparency, and fairness when it comes to selecting which developers will profit off Somerville.

Tom Walsh

Somerville Resident

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