Over the past couple of months we have received dozens of emails from readers about Somerville. I’m not talking notes from people who are in love with the grub scene (for what it’s worth, though, we have a pretty awesome package planned for next month in advance of a Taste of Somerville). On the contrary, these darts are zipping in from individuals and families whose fears about keeping their housing outweigh any glee over the advent of exciting dining options.
Please keep sending your input. Along with all the public records that a few of you are requesting and highlighting, impugning, and in certain cases tracking with sophisticated methodology. Along with a cadre of journos and researchers who are eager to reopen the Somerville Files—that being a reference to a series of four articles that I produced for the Dig along with an ace team of investigative reporters in 2013—I would also like to take another dive into the pay-to-play procedures that have undermined the integrity of development there since the city was run by unelected gangs. I’m not sure where the budget is going to come from, as an effort of the scale we undertook four years ago would require more time and resources than are currently available. But considering the tone of so much correspondence coming from there lately, it’s clear that we have no choice but to make an increased effort to explore apparent problems. After all, we distribute about a quarter of our newspapers in Somerville, while the city’s probably been home to more Dig employees over the past 20 years than anyplace else.
Since I don’t plan on unearthing any fresh dirt in this rather brief note to our readers, I will at least explain how this sort of thing comes to pass. For many, moving to Somerville is like buying a new home in a horror film. Everything is sweet at first, and your family laughs it up and orders out for pizza while you’re unpacking your boxes. But soon after you settle in, you realize that unholy things are happening around you. Namely, that ghoulish building owners and developers are getting almost everything they want despite existing zoning regulations and the cries of community members. You then start Googling the names of the dealmakers involved, and in time discover that an absurd number of them have contributed to the campaigns of Mayor Joe Curtatone and other municipal players.
I don’t blame the readers who are now contacting us for not paying attention back when we last looked at Somerville. Many didn’t even live there at the time. Rather I blame every large media outlet in Greater Boston, as even a few recent attempts to cover the friction over development in Union Square and Assembly Row have neglected to impugn the campaign finance records of the pols involved.
Someone needs to do much better. I guess that somebody is us.
CHRIS FARAONE, EDITOR
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.