Somerville Speakup Line: Broadway Restoring by Mark Niedergang Ward 5 City Councilor

Dear Billy T and Somerville Speakup Line,

Here is my response to Arthur Moore’s letter regarding Broadway bus lane 

Dear Mr. Moore,

First I want to say how much I respect and admire your commitment and energy and time you have devoted to changing back the bus/bike lanes on Broadway, even though I disagree with you. I’ve looked at your petition and getting that many signatures certainly shows that your position has strong support in the neighborhood. I do understand that the new bus/bike lanes have cost a lot of people a lot of time and inconvenience, and I have pressed the Administration, as has your Ward 4 Councilor Clingan, to fix the flawed implementation of the bus/bike lanes.

But I want to be clear that I continue to support the change. I’ve sent the attached statement with my views on the Broadway bus/bike lanes out to the three local newspapers and am attaching it for your info.

In terms of putting it on the ballot, I am adamantly against that. Here are some of my reasons.

First, and most important, this is bigger than one neighborhood. Winter Hill Broadway affects far more than just the people who live in three precincts in Ward 4 and 5 — although I acknowledge that it certainly does affect some residents of those precincts more than anyone else. If we had every neighborhood decide what the major streets in their area of Somerville looked like, it would be total chaos and traffic would be worse than it is. What if people in Union Square decided to close it off completely to all motor vehicles? Personally, if I lived near Union Square, I would campaign and vote for that if I could! We are also part of a regional traffic system and we don’t want people in other cities and towns to be able to vote to make their streets good for them but bad for everyone else.

Second, there is a process in the City Charter for putting an issue on the ballot that and I am certain that it is too late to abide by that. In our City Charter and form of government, we are a representative system, not a system where decisions get made by direct referendum. You may disagree with that and want to change it, and the Mayor has said he will convene a Charter Commission if re-elected, so you could participate in that. It takes a lot of signatures or a vote by the City Council to get a question on the City ballot; it is extremely difficult, and in the last 20 years I can only think of three that were on the ballot. So like it or not, ‘Villens elect people to represent them and make policy, that’s the way our governmental system works.

Third, even if 90% of the people who live in Winter Hill hate the bus/bike lanes (which I don’t think they do), I would still support the bus/bike lanes. I am not the kind of politician/elected official who just does what my constituents want. I always prefer to do what my constituents want and try to do so as much as possible, and it is certainly the easiest and least painful thing to do. I listen to and respect what my constituents and other City residents think and want, but I will support what I think is best for the City regardless of what the majority wants.

Fourth, we Councilors are hearing from hundreds of people and your petition has been signed by perhaps by 2,000 now. So we are getting lots of feedback. I don’t believe a non-binding ballot is necessary. You would be surprised to hear, perhaps, that the emails and other comments are running neck-and-neck, pro and con. Of course we are not hearing much from the 20-25% of people in Winter Hill who don’t own motor vehicles, or from the bus riders, since they are happy with the changes.

Fifth, people who ride the buses, one of the primary reasons for the changes on Broadway, whose lives are made better by this, are unlikely to vote or to live in these precincts.

For all these reasons, and more, I don’t see the value in a non-binding referendum. In general, I think referendums are best suited for broad policy issues, not local street-by-street brick and morter issues.

I look forward to changes, improvements, better public education, adjustment from commuters who drive through Somerville but don’t live here, and other things that will improve the traffic flow on Broadway.

Yours,

Mark
Mark Niedergang
Ward 5 City Councilor
29 Conwell Street
Somerville MA 02143
(617) 629-8033
m.niedergang@comcast.net
mniedergang@somervillema.gov
www.MarkNiedergang.com

——————————————————–
From: Arthur Moore

Sent: Sunday, October 13, 2019 1:14 PM

To: City Council

Subject: Broadway Restoring

To the council members;

You may be aware that the recent changes to Broadway on Winter Hill has sparked outrage in the community. At a recent community meeting hosted by Councilor Clingan, more than 70 people were in attendance. Only three people spoke in favor or were neutral on the change in traffic patterns. That means more than 95% of the people in attendance were strongly opposed to the new traffic patterns.

I recently started a petition on change.org and already have over 1500 signatures opposing these recent changes. I’ve also put in a considerable amount of time monitoring the situation and the people I’ve met with agree: this new plan isn’t working. For anyone.

The new dedicated bus and bike lanes have caused traffic on Broadway and the surrounding neighborhood streets to become gridlocked – at all hours of the day. People are frustrated and angry. It’s become less safe for pedestrians and drivers and cyclists. Local businesses are suffering – the loss of more than 40 parking spaces on Broadway have made it difficult for people to patronize their favorite shops.

It was a mistake to implement a plan which does not work and made things worse. It’s causing havoc in our neighborhood. If it’s not within your power to immediately correct this problem CAUSED BY THE CITY, then you must at least have some ability to have the people in charge to listen to you and get this corrected before any more accidents and people get hurt.

As elected officials you are hired by the taxpayers to represent US. Not you. We are the employers and would like our request granted. We ask that the recent changes be rolled back immediately, and that any further changes be brought to the community for review prior to planning and implementation.

Lacking that, we formally request this be placed on the ballot in November for Wards 4 and 5 – the areas most impacted by these changes. We would like your cooperation on this matter. The ballots are not printed and at the very least the question can be put on it. Those most directly impacted should have our say as taxpayers and employers of our elected officials. This is not about being anti biking, nor against public transportation. It is about safety and air quality. It’s even more challenging for pedestrians after these changes. Idling cars pollute, moving cars much less.

Your constituents want and demand this. Please act immediately and decisively to restore Broadway.

11 thoughts on “Somerville Speakup Line: Broadway Restoring by Mark Niedergang Ward 5 City Councilor”

  1. Thank you, Councilor, for standing up for transit riders, the environment, and the city and region as a whole. All change is difficult, and you’re bound to get some angry naysayers, especially when it comes to changing anything as emotionally charged as traffic and parking.

    1. I would just like to say that we are not against those issues. We are asking for this to be restored until the bridges are open and then the city can see how to proceed based on that. We are thinking the city should be able to roll out a more up to date plan by a year from Spring. Others may have different opinions but that is not ours. Some of this may be my fault as I am not someone who does this and may not explain it correctly. And I respect people’s opinions regardless if they are not the same as mine. My talks with Niedergang have been civil. We both have strong opinions. I am out on Broadway a lot and speak to many people, anyone is welcome to talk to me. Thank you

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.