Having only lived in Somerville for about three and a half years, I have much to learn about the city’s past. Here are some historical articles that may be of wider interest. I hope others will share other stories that can inform the newer residents of what life was like in the good/bad old days.
- Somerville MA 1966-1972 : Civic Engagement – Somerville Massachusetts-Making Democracy Work … with link to a 223 page, 23.5 MB PDF
- Howe Family May Have Used Taxes For Political Advantage in Somerville , Nov 3, 1978 in the Harvard Crimson
- Minutes of the Board of Aldermen from 1969 : http://www.somervillema.gov/cos_content/documents/1969.pdf (685 page pdf) . Actually you can just change the year at the end of the URL to access minutes from different years. See a passage below from the 1969 minutes (starting from page 626) below in which Mayor James Brennan recounts the way in which a citizen’s petition forced his administration to rescind payment for reconstruction of the Western Junior High School following a fire there.
December 2?» 1969
The Honorable, the Board of Aldermen
City of Somerville
On November 2$th of this year I asked for and received authorization from your Honorable Board to borrow $350,000*00 to complete payment of the post of reconstructing, repairing and remodeling the fire ravaged Western Junior High School la accordance with the terms of the Emergency Contract entered
into in January of this year*
At that time I reviewed the entire history of the Western Junior High School reconstruction, from the disastrous fire on November 6, 1968 until the present, I pointed out to your Honorable Board the dangerous and intolerable situation that had been created for some 2000 children, their teachers and
their parents, by this emergency.
I related to you in the best manner at my command, that, acting under the emergency powers granted to me as Mayor by the City Charter, I entered into an emergency contract with United Construction Company to effect reconstruction, repair and remodeling of the school as specified in the “Scope of the Work11 prepared by the Architects Haldeman and Goransson, at an estimated cost of $1,200,000.00,
Incidentally may I point out that Haldeman and Goransson has an eminent and well earned reputation
in School construction. At present they are the Architects for the new Melrose and Brockton High Schools
Next I related that during the entire course of construction, other needs, other requirements, became apparent that had not, and could not have been anticipated at the beginning, – During the ensuing months these needs and requirements necessitated some 69 change orders to cover the additional work involved, these change order costs had been estimated at $387*000.00. Actually, as completed their cost was $312,000.00.
I also indicated to your Honorable Board that approximately Slj.0,000.00 of worth of work remained to
complete the School. This included provisions for new Electric Service Entrances which is presently being installed by the contractor, so that approximately $25*000.00 worth of other work now remains undone*
I think it is fitting that we reflect on the fact that under the present situation, the contractor would have had good reason to refrain from doing this work and could legally have probably prevented anyone else from doing so*
Yet the contractor in a display of Civic responsibility, that might well be emulated by many citizens of our City, agreed to do this work in order that the School would not be closed down.
It must also be noted here, that each and every circumstance surrounding the reconstruction of the Western Junior High School has been made public knowledge, during its entire history. The reconstruction was undertaken and carried out in a proper and legal manner. – Never has any project in this City been so well documented and so completely explained
And while it is true that there was some criticism of my decision to reconstruct rather than to build a new school, it must also be pointed out that NOT ONCE; NOT ONCE in all these past months; even during the heat of the past political campaigns, was one voice raised in real protest over the manner In which the job was being carried out. -
Where were all the self-styled watchdogs then? Why did they not take legal action then? ~ Why did they
not conduct their petition drive then, ~ Why did they wait until the Job was practically completed by a
contractor, acting in good faith, under the direction of a Municipal Government, acting legally and properly under its emergency powers.
The only reasonable explanation that any such action would have been politically suicidal, until AFTER the School was open, but then it became a golden opportunity to attempt- to: discred this administration, ‘-,
And so during the past weeks, we have witnessed the mounting of a campaign to place the matter of the $350,000.00 Bond Issue on a Public Referendum and thus prevent payment to the Contractor of the City’s obligation.
The unfounded rumors, the distortions of the truth,, the misinformation that has been spoken and written during this time would fill a book, **
Never has this City seen or heard from so many selfstyled Architects: ~ So many Self-styled Engineers; *•
so many self«styled experts of every description, In addition to this referendum petition a ten taxpayers suit has been filed in the courts to stop the bond issue, One can only wonder how many leaders of the
petition drive and how many of the ten taxpayers have ever inspected the work done at the school or know anything about the problems there.
In any case these actions coming as they have late in the year and in the closing days of this administration have effectively precluded any possibility •£ floating this bond issue this year*
To put this matter on the ballot would avail nothing and be an additional expense to the taxpayers of this city, – I must therefore, with a deep sense of regret, respectfully recommend that your Honorable Board rescind your order of November 2gth, 1969 authorizing me to borrow the necessary money to com**
plete payment for the Western Junior High School,
I would like to advise your Honorable Board also that as matters turned out we would not have had to borrow the full ^350,000,00, During the past weeks, we have with the help of the Heads of various Municipal Departments, been able to find some surplus funds, which are going to be available for payment of some of the unpaid bills due on the reconstruction of the -School* These funds will be encumbered for that purpose. The outstanding balances will now become “Unpaid Bills when this municipal year ends, and I suspect a suit by the contractor against the City will ensue.
Let us make the record very clear on this matter. These “Unpaid Bills” will be involuntary “Unpaid Bills”, -» As such the responsibility for them must now rest squarely on the shoulders and on the consciences of those, who by their irresponsible action, have frustrated every effort of your Honorable Board and of myself to meet these proper obligations of the City. We have fulfilled our responsibilities and
I believe we have fulfilled them well. Paced with a staggering emergency situation, we moved swiftly, we obtained competent professional help and listened to. their professional advice. Then made our decision.
By exceptional effort a small miracle was wrought. In 8 short months we built a fine school that is equal to a new one. Yes Gentlemen we have done our Jobs and we have done them well, ~ We feel frustrated now and rightly 90 as we see how gossip and innuendo has clouded this fine accomplishment, – We feel disconsolate when we witness the heartache of a decent business man, facing disaster, But we can take consolation in the fact that Justice will eventually prevail, The businessman will eventually recover, Time will prove us right,
James F, Brennan