Union Square Neighborhood Council

Somerville, MA


The Union Square Neighborhood Council will have a board of 15 members, for a term of one year, to be elected over the course of two days of voting: December 2nd, and December 6th, 2017.

The election is over, but just for reference, here are all the candidates who ran.

Candidate Names, Eligibilities, and Statements

Read the full candidates packet (Google Doc) to learn more about each candidate, or read the table below.

Name Eligibilities Written Statement CandidateVideo
Dave Ahouse Homeowner, open seat I want to have an active role in shaping the next 20 years of Union Square. I’ve spent 20 years in Somerville (15+ in Union), and have chosen to raise my children here, send them to the Argenziano School and support their passion for sports through SYSL. I have seen Union Square evolve and know this is a critical time of change. I will work to make sure all voices are heard and to collect/share feedback on the needs of children, teens, and families. I will bring to the board my belief in the strength of our community, our schools and the need for access for recreation. test video
Afruza Akther Worker, organization member, immigrant, open seat I am an immigrant from Bangladesh. I lived in Union Square for 10 years with my husband and daughter. I used to work here too, at Subway. I lost my job and home last year, because of rent increases. I had to move my daughter’s school and she is sad about it. My family cares about this community and we love being here.,Now I live in Magoun Square and I work at Nu Café. I have been very involved since the beginning of the Union Square redevelopment with Union United, and I am on the UU steering committee. I have personally experienced the issues in Union Square so I understand them and I can help other people fight for community benefits. test video
Tori Antonino Renter, organization member, open seat I am Tori Antonino, representing Green and Open Somerville and the Climate Coalition of Somerville. I volunteer with the Community Growing Center. My aim is to increase and improve our greenspace realm and prepare Union Square for climate change. We must achieve environmental sustainability with green infrastructure, green roofs, smart stormwater management with natural filtration and reuse instead of storage tanks, net-zero buildings, and smart technology. Union Square must also be sustainable, supporting a diversity of people, jobs, businesses with focus on affordability and homeownership. I will serve on the board with passion and enthusiasm. test video
Ben Baldwin Renter, open seat Greetings, Union Square community! I am a 3+ year renter and resident of Union Square and a resident of Somerville for five. My professional background includes science, education, and urban planning. I am a local musician and supporter of Somerville Arts programs, such as Open Studios and Porchfest. I received a Masters in urban planning and environmental policy from Tufts University and currently work as a community organizer, developing affordable housing and farms at a nonprofit in Roxbury. I look forward to putting these skills and experiences to use in advocating for an affordable, sustainable, and accessible Union Square! test video
Zach Baum Business owner, organization member, open seat As one of the founders and the day-to-day manager of Bow Market, I am incredibly invested in seeing Union Square fulfill its potential as both a commercial and residential center. I will be in the Union Square for most hours of most days. On or off the council, I will be working to maintain the aspects of Union Square that make it a fantastic place to work and live and to improve those facets that would increase commercial viability without sacrificing livability. Specifically, I would focus on helping avert people working at cross-purposes, especially when goals can be matched through improved communication. test video
Joanne Berry Renter, open seat I want to use my community initiative experience as a Union Square Neighborhood Council member to promote communication and public initiatives to work together preserving the integrity of our neighborhood. As a former environmental chemist, I want to create environmental improvements and green spaces. As a young clinician, I understand the necessity for affordable housing in our neighborhood. Lastly, I want to continue to walk through Union Square each day and appreciate the diversity represented through our community. You can’t spell Unique without Union Square and I will work effortlessly to ensure this neighborhood transition holds true to that statement. test video
Sean Bradley Renter, open seat As a recently graduated student, and a new renter, I represent the new members of the Union Square community. I’ve seen many of the properties that renters have to choose from, and I understand what newcomers want and expect from the Union Square Community. I plan to re-open the tiny museum,expedite and improve developments of Lincoln Park, and increase the percentage of patrons at our shops and restaurants. I’ve recently served as governor of Orchard Hill at Umass Amherst, and am looking to continuing serving and improving my community. test video
Ben Bradlow Renter, open seat I am a first-generation American. My wife, Fenna, and I are expecting a child and are looking forward to raising our family in Union Square. My professional training is in city planning at MIT. I have a decade of experience researching and working with communities to negotiate with developers and city governments to make development inclusive. Development should benefit all Union Square residents. This means minimizing displacement, and ensuring that new development improves opportunities for current residents to live and work here. I know that there is a diversity of interests that come with development. I will work as a founding Neighborhood Council member to build bridges across these concerns and to ensure that the Council is an institution where everyone feels that they are represented. test video
Derek Brain Homeowner, open seat My name is Derek Brain and I live on Adrian Street with my wife Danielle and 8 year old son Nico.,I have lived in the Lincoln Park/Union Square neighborhood since 1995 and care greatly for Somerville and Union Square.,I would like to be a voice on the USNC for families in Union Square, for the Argenziano School and for the Lincoln Park neighborhood.,I would be a strong voice for viable greenspaces, infrastructure improvements, community centers and the engagement of incoming businesses with the Somerville Schools.,The amount of imminent development in Union Square will undoubtedly be a great disruption to those living in and around Union Square. I would like to make sure the developers are held to the expectations many of us have of the community benefits process. test video
Ann Camara Homeowner, business owner, open seat I am a civic minded girl from a blue collar family. I came to live in my grandparents’ house in Duck Village 41 years ago. Somerville is my home. I raised my two sons here, ran a home day care, taught CCD at St. Joseph’s, and joined the community. I want to be a leader in the Union Square NC. I am inclusive, transparent, and a doer.,Now that the property values are increasing, our people can’t afford to stay. This council will be about preventing displacement and bringing community benefits to the neighborhood. I have been part of the NC working group and I want to bring my knowledge to the board. test video
Bill Cavellini Renter, organization member, open seat I have lived one and a half blocks from the proposed T station for 13 years. I have a Bachelor of Architecture and experience evaluating large real estate developments and their effects on surrounding neighborhoods. I was a tenant organizer, an advocate for affordable housing, and a co-founder of two community gardens. The new development in Union Square will determine what the future looks like for my two grand daughters who go to neighborhood public schools. This is one of the main reasons I got involved in Union Square organizing over 1 ½ years ago. My work with Union United and the Neighborhood Council Working Group proves that I am willing to put in the time and effort. test video
Richard Curran Worker, organization member, open seat Changes are engulfing Union Square in Somerville. Citizens must be prepared to: prevent gentrification and displacement with affordable housing; investigate creative financing and ‘asset growth’ for all; preserve and develop open green space for gardens, playing fields, walking paths; promote environment, LEEDS certified buildings; support creative/artistic innovation districts and start-ups; stimulate economic growth and training; establish cultural venues and civic spaces, e.g.; branch library, new YMCA, marketplace, theater; insure child care resources and senior drop-in center; control traffic flow and pedestrian/bike safety and provide parking. Check out: https://frcurran.wixsite.com/usnc/about-us test video
Kyle Emge Homeowner, open seat My background in transportation policy and operations will allow me to bring smart growth knowledge to the Council. We must ensure our city remains a diverse and inclusive community, by maximising both affordable and market rate housing in Union Square. We must focus on creating vibrant open spaces. Transportation investments must focus on the person, not the car, by improving public transit reliability, increasing bicycle safety, and improving walkability. I want to improve the quality of life in Union Square that my family has enjoyed, and ensure that it is available for everyone, NOT just the wealthy or lucky few.  
Mike Firestone Homeowner, open seat Since 2014, I’ve been a homeowner at 97 Prospect Street, where I live with my fiancé, Betsy Gwin, a legal aid attorney. I’m a lawyer and serve as Chief of Staff to Attorney General Maura Healey, where I work on a broad range of legal and policy matters impacting social, racial, and economic justice. Previously, I worked for Senator Elizabeth Warren. I’m running because I believe my experience in law and public policy will be valuable to the board, especially in developing the neighborhood’s Community Benefits Agreement with US2 and in drafting permanent bylaws for the council. My goal, like yours, is to ensure that in the face of change, Union Square remains a vibrant, inclusive neighborhood for residents of all backgrounds. test video
Andy Greenspon Homeowner, organization member, open seat I have been involved in local community actions since I moved to Union Square 4 1/2 years ago. I’ve provided critical feedback to the city about the Union Square Neighborhood Plan and Zoning overhaul - both of which will form the template for new development in the coming years. I’m also a scientist and hope to bring a unique perspective and attention to detail to ensuring new developments provide the most benefit possible to current and displaced members of the community. I have spent many hours over the past year providing input towards forming a Neighborhood Council with the vision, mission, and goals as stated. I hope to continue that work representing the broad community’s goals for responsible development, affordable housing, jobs, green and open space, traffic mitigation, and concerns of those in the Square. I want this organization to bridge different viewpoints and find common ground among all those who aspire for Union Square to continue to be the diverse and engaged community that it is. I’m happy to talk with anyone at any time about their hopes and dreams for the Square. test video
Michèle Hansen Renter, open seat Somerville has been my home for 36 years, and 5 generations of my family have lived and thrived here. Because of our love for the city, its community values and history of inclusion, my husband and I have chosen to raise our daughters here. Over the ten months that I have been working on bringing about the USNC, I have recognized the extreme changes that development will bring to Union Square. If I am privileged to be elected a member of USNC board, my goals are to work against displacement, to reach out to the community and keep them informed, and to make sure that the board, developers and the city are held accountable to the community. I will work to benefit the entire community, and to keep the welcoming identity that has made Somerville a desirable place to live. Let us not develop ourselves out of what makes Somerville Somerville. test video
Matthew Hoey Business owner, organization member, open seat From birth until age 23 I lived in the home that my great grandparents bought at 24 Summer Street. At the age of 18 I ran for Mayor of Somerville advocating for youth programming, affordable housing, and fostering civic engagement. Today I own a business on Tyler Street named Canopy City, which is an inclusive innovation space for local .orgs and NGOs, progressive candidates for office and social-impact focused tech startups. We also provide free event space in support of local community groups and run youth programming for kids in the Somerville Public Schools. One hundred words is not enough to convey the love and pride I have for the neighborhood that I grew up in. It would be an honor to contribute to your organization alongside others who love and care about the future of Union Square. Thank you. test video
Peter Insley Renter, open seat I moved to the Union Square area a year ago, to an apartment in a house on Rossmore Street.,I’m a programmer with a PhD in the sciences.,I’m extremely interested in issues of gentrification and displacement, and if elected would work to ameliorate the effects of new development and higher cost of living on the existing residents of Somerville.,I would be a forceful advocate for affordable housing in the Union Square area.,I’m very skeptical of large new commercial developments near Union Square, and I would fight to protect existing businesses from being replaced by outside conglomerates. test video
Jacob Kramer Renter, organization member, open seat I’m a writer and community organizer who loves living in Union Square. Over the past few years, I’ve seen friends pushed out as luxury is ushered in. It doesn’t have to be this way. If the city and developers commit to working with our neighborhood, Union Square can remain a place that is affordable and welcoming to immigrants, students, the elderly, artists, and working class people. On the USNC, I’ll work to negotiate meaningful Community Benefits and expand membership to democratize development so it works for the many, not just the few. test video
Abdul Latif Renter, open seat I have lived in Union Square for over a year, and it has become home. I’ve been taught that serving one’s neighbors is a duty, and this has led me to run for the council. As a student living with many young professionals, I believe I can speak to the experience of many of Union Square’s residents, and find ways for the student and youth population give back to the community. I am committed to working for populations left behind by gentrification and creating an accepting cohesive community. test video
Andrea Lizama Worker, open seat ‪I want to be the medium which young people feel comfortable talking through. ‬Working at Groundwork Somerville has given me a new perspective of the role of teenagers in our community; it’s difficult to speak your piece when you don’t feel like you’re being heard. And that simply isn’t true, there are ways to get your voice out there, and there are people who care about making sure everyone’s voice is heard, and joining the Council is one of those ways. Not every teenager in Somerville can be on the board, it’s impractical, but one voice, that’s all it takes. test video
Nisa Marks Renter, open seat I have lived all over the country, looking for home. This summer I came here and knew I had found it. Somerville is incredibly diverse – from lifelong residents to vibrant immigrant communities.,I am running to protect that diversity, so development maintains the community’s character.,Being newly arrived in Somerville is one of my strengths – I pledge to talk door to door with neighbors, so my actions on the board are directly informed by the community, not special interests or my own agenda.,I have founded and led two social justice advocacy groups, one of which was a stakeholder group similar to USNC.,I will bring my experience in strategic planning, negotiation, and organizational development to so USNC is accountable to the neighborhood, extracts binding commitments from US2, and continually engages the Union Square community.  
Rose Mattos Business owner, organization member, open seat As the owner of a small business in Union Square for 5 years and having lived in or around the neighborhood for almost 10 years, I believe that I have a unique perspective to offer as a board member. The development in Union Square is crucial to the success of many local businesses, mine included. However, if this project is handled without a thoughtful mind towards the population it directly affects it has the potential to leave many people behind. I am passionate about being a representative of not only my own community, but also reaching out to other communities in the Square to ensure positive change and growth in the neighborhood. test video
Athena Moore Renter, open seat I’ve been a resident of Union Square, artist at Washington Street Art, and member of SCATV since 2011. In that time, I’ve seen a huge amount of change. Much of this has been encouraging, but other areas need attention. I believe strongly in inclusion, intersectionality, and affordability, and believe it’s critical that we focus on open discussion and work in these areas so that we’re able to make solid, deliberate decisions for our diverse population. I want to protect the vitality of both the physical space that we occupy here and the residents that live in and love it.  
Erik Neu Homeowner, open seat I’ve devoted many hours to Union Square and understanding the needs, desires, and opinions of our community as well as the general process of development: The Union Square Civic Advisory Committee (CAC), LOCUS, Neighborhood Plan Process, Zoning, Neighborhood Council Working Group (NCWG). My goal within the NCWG has been to bridge factions and build allies for the Neighborhood Council. The Working Group worked hard to find common ground and build an environment of shared respect across many perspectives. Maintaining that is key to the Council’s success. This is why I am running.Union Square has greater challenges than most communities: affordability, infrastructure, jobs, office/lab space, parks, parking, transit, traffic. We also have unique opportunities. Let’s learn, listen, empathize, and work hard to make the opportunities meet the challenges. test video
Robert Rendon Renter, business owner My family and I have lived in Union Square for over 20 years now. We have encouraged and supported the development of Union Square through our family business Cantina La Mexicana for the past 22 years. Because I am both a resident and business owner of Union Square, my opinions on how the development should be negotiated and handled come from different sources of insight. I am truly invested in the idea that Union Square can become a compromise between the interests of business owners and residents, creating an even better Union Square built off of diversely educated ideas.  
Cheri Ruane Homeowner, organization member, open seat With only 15 years of Union Square residence under my belt, I’m often told I’m “new around here.” As a homeowner, mom, and designer of many of Somerville’s public open spaces through my profession as a landscape architect I believe I have a worthwhile perspective that can bolster the mission of the Union Square Neighborhood Council. I participated as a “Strategy Leader” through some of the US2 negotiations and could see first-hand the diversity and complexity of the issues facing Union Square today. Our collective voice will inform the Union Square of tomorrow; diverse, vibrant, and accessible to all. test video
Bill Shelton Homeowner, open seat My reasons for running are captured by the Neighborhood Council’s vision, mission, and goals. Over the twenty-nine years that I’ve pursued them, this moment holds the greatest opportunities and the greatest threats for achieving them. I am running to realize the opportunities and manage the threats.While my hard skills are in community-based economic development, my overarching commitment is to sustain, extend, and strengthen the bonds of community among our diverse neighbors. Anyone who wishes to know my positions on housing, jobs, displacement, community, empowerment, urban design, and open space may read them in Somerville Times columns that I’ve written. test video
Stacey Simon Business owner I own and operate two businesses out of Union Square, and though I live just outside the official neighborhood boundaries, I spend countless hours at the post office, and in the local restaurants and coffee shops, as well as parks, with my daughter and my dog, Otis.,I care very deeply about the future development of this thriving and diverse neighborhood. As a small business owner who likes to work with small businesses to solve their often complicated and/or overwhelming financial and accounting issues, I believe I have a knack for finding solutions to challenging problems, and I would like to contribute my skills and experience to this end.  
Scott Smith Renter, open seat First and foremost, I intend to advocate for more affordable housing in the redevelopment plan to maintain the economic diversity of Union Square. As a pedestrian, cyclist, MBTA passenger, and car owner, I want to ensure that Union Square effectively and safely integrates multiple modes of transit, especially with the influx of new residents and professionals that development will bring. As an architectural designer, I am interested in ensuring that new buildings in Union Square foster a great urban space for residents, business owners, and visitors. I feel I am particularly good at hearing and understanding perspectives that are not my own, which will help me represent the diverse interests of people in Union Square. I am often the person in the room who finds common ground among conflicting viewpoints. As a member of the Neighborhood Council, I intend to listen to everyone invested in the future of our Square and find productive ways to move forward. test video
Joe Sullivan Business owner I, Joe Sullivan, wish to serve as a business owner on this Council. PLease be advised that I was born in Somerville and resided at 18 Sycamore Street until 1953 and also resided at 82 Summer Street until I was married. I have been involved within the city managing J.J. Sullivan Plumbing & Heating Contractors in Union Square which was started by my father in 1956. Upon graduation of college I worked for a national CPA firm out of Boston. In 1968 I came to work with my father at JJ Sullivan Plumbing & Heating and have been actively employed there since. I have seen many changes in the city and presently serve on the Somerville Home Executive Commitee and Board of Directors. I am also Chairman of the Board of Directors for Middlesex Federal Savings and Loan Association located in Davis Square. Considering the many changes which will occur in Union Square I do believe that I can offer some expertise in properly planning the future direction of the Square. I respectfully request your vote for the position on the council. test video
Tim Talun Homeowner, organization member, open seat I seek a seat on the Council to help guide new development in Union Square so it creates places that strengthen community and improve our quality of life.,Both my wife Shu and I are architects and have been engaged in a range of neighborhood organizations and City-appointed committees related to planning and development over many years.,We are working parents with two children and do not have time to each participate individually, but we will both be engaged in the Council through this seat and will use our experience to act in the best interest of all of Union Square. test video
Pennie Taylor Renter, worker, open seat Union Square is vital. I’m wary of plans to “revitalize” our neighborhood that cut out the economic and cultural diversity that drew me to Union Square nine years ago. We need a strong community voice at the negotiation table to democratize development and keep our neighborhood about people, not profit. I’m an educator, art worker, and I run a small game business from home. With over a decade of experience volunteering for environmental and progressive political projects, I would be honored to continue to fight for justice in our community as a member of the USNC Board. test video
Lhadon Tethong Homeowner, immigrant, open seat I am Tibetan, born and raised in Canada, and have lived in Union Square for 5 years. I moved to the U.S. to work as a human rights activist in the Tibetan freedom movement. I have experience as a grassroots organizer and campaigner on many economic and political rights campaigns, including targeting multi-national corporations, and international financial institutions like the World Bank, for flawed investment and development projects. I hope to represent a balance of views from our community on the Neighborhood Council, especially of families with young children, and of immigrants, like the many Tibetan refugees who’ve called Somerville home over the past 25 years.  
John Thompson Renter, open seat I’ve lived in Somerville for 25 years. From ’96-’02 I was a founding and board member of the Washington Street art center, within the Union Square boundary, and served two years on the Somerville Arts Council. I’ve lived in Union Square since 2008. Since last April, I’ve been writing two portraits a month of Union Square’s diverse business owners and residents (google Union Square Portraits Somerville Times if you’d like to read them). I feel passionately about preserving this diversity. I grew up all over the world and am skilled at understanding, and mediating between, different points of view.  
Dennis Tourse Renter, business owner, organization member, open seat I have lived in Somerville for the last 10 years, calling Union Square my residence and home to my business for the last 7 years. I will send my eldest son to Somerville Public Schools to attend kindergarten in 2018. I’m an avid gardener and steward of plot 14 at Osgood Community Garden in Union Square. My ties to the square go back nearly 20 years as an employee of the celebrated eat. restaurant. I’m deeply invested in my home here, so with love and sincerity I will advocate for my neighbors in the square. test video
Ganesh Uprety Renter, immigrant, open seat I live at 357 Somerville Avenue with my wife and 2 children. I work full time in East Boston. One of my children goes to Argenziano School and the other is a baby.I immigrated from Nepal in August 2015 and have been residing in Somerville since then. I like Somerville because of the cultural diversity, nice residential environment, safety, school locations for children, easy access to shopping, and multi-cultural & ethnic peoples.While I was in my country I used to be involved in social organizations to serve the community, so I would also like to serve the community here. I want to see the USNC work on issues like affordable housing, good jobs around the city, open space etc. I have been involved in Union United for almost 1 year and I have taken part in rallies and meetings.  
Aaron Weber Homeowner, organization member, open seat Union Square redevelopment offers us the opportunity to shape the neighborhood for decades to come. It also poses risks: it can be too fast or too slow, too much or too little. The Neighborhood Council gives us the power to steer the process to help the whole community. As a Neighborhood Council Board Member I will seek to balance the needs of residents and businesses, renters and owners, newcomers and longtime residents. Together we can keep Union Square a thriving, sustainable neighborhood with room for all - parks and stores, cars and bikes, seniors and kids. test video
Rachel Weil Renter, organization member, open seat I am running for the Union Square neighborhood council to advocate for truly sustainable development in our neighborhood: environmentally, economically and socially.This is my third year living in glorious Union Square. I manage Project SOUP,the food assistance program of the Somerville Homeless Coalition, and hear about the displacement many patrons face. I want to make sure those voices are part of the dialogue when discussing development in our neighborhood. I also represent Fossil Free Somerville, an organization that successfully urged the City to divest its pension funds from fossil fuels. I would be honored to serve on the USNC to ensure Union Square has a sustainable future for all.  
Adam Wylie Homeowner, business owner, organization member, open seat Adam first came to Somerville in 2000 to attend Tufts University and has fallen in love with the city ever since. His wife, Molly, and he purchased a home in 2011 and have decided that this is the neighborhood they would like to stay in to raise their two young children, Max and Renzo. With a background in engineering, architecture, and construction management, Adam is the owner of a project management and consulting firm for commercial, institutional, and residential construction projects. He hopes to bring his experience of fostering collaboration through thoughtful project management to the Union Square Neighborhood Council. test video
Eric Yanovsky Homeowner, open seat I am a first-generation American, and homeowner in Union Square; for me, this is an opportunity to serve the community I love. Our close-knit and diverse neighborhood is evolving; it’s our responsibility to navigate those changes to ensure everyone feels prosperous, safe, and confident their voice matters. My work as a financial advisor centers on developing relationships with people from all backgrounds, to help them achieve their long-term goals and piece of mind. I would be thrilled to bring those values of ethics, planning, and relationship-building, to the community my wife, stepson, and I call home. I appreciate your consideration. test video