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Jerome Lyle Rappaport
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Edward Glaeser
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Alasdair Roberts

Alasdair Roberts
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Joseph Curtatone
Mayor, City of Somerville
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David Barron
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Theodore Kalivas
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Antoniya Owens
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Susan Prosnitz
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Ben Thomas
Boston Green Blog, Dukakis Center for Urban & Regional Policy

Matthew Todaro
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Alexander von Hoffman
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Brett Walker
Student, Boston College Law School

Margarita Warren
Student at Suffolk University Law School

Somerville Mayor "Challenges" Remarks by Cambridge City Councilor

Thursday, April 14th, 2011
By Joseph Curtatone

Originally printed in the Somerville Journal 4.14.2011
Somerville Mayor presents 'Interesting City Challenge' to Cambridge
Somerville —

I just read yesterday that Cambridge City Councilor Ken Reeves doesn’t think Somerville has many interesting places. I suppose the honorable Mr. Reeves never has bothered to sully himself with travels north of the Cambridge border or he’d know better than to say such things, but this is an insult we will not tolerate in Somerville.

I want to declare here and now that Somerville is a far more interesting city than Cambridge with far more interesting places to visit. And I’m willing to back that up with an Interesting City Challenge to Cambridge.

It’s really not fair of me to issue this challenge. Cambridge stands no chance. For instance, I remember in my youth when Harvard Square used to be fun and funky. You know, back before it got turned into a mall. Seriously, when did Cambridge become Natick? And when does Harvard Square officially change its name to The Cambridge Collection?

It’s been well over a decade since Davis Square eclipsed Harvard Square’s hip factor. When the Museum of Bad Art was looking for a new home, it chose Somerville. And anybody who’s in the know these days will tell you that Union Square in Somerville in the new hip place to be with events like the Rock ‘n’ Roll Yard Sale, the Fluff Festival and The All-American Beard & Moustache Competition.

When they were filming the movie “The Social Network” and they wanted to show Harvard students on a night out at the start of the film, what location did they choose? The Thirsty Scholar…in Somerville. Good choice. Harvard kids are smart. They know where to go to have a good time. By the way, keep your eye on Broadway in East Somerville during the next decade because it’s going to pop.

Part of the reason why is because Somerville has a diversity that Cambridge can only dream about. If you want to eat something exotic like Peruvian or Nepalese food, you come to Somerville. If you want the latest in Brazilian women’s fashions, you come to Somerville. If you speak Spanish or Portuguese or Haitian Creole you can call 311 in Somerville and ask a question about the city to someone who speaks your language. Cambridge doesn’t even have a 311 service let alone someone who speaks another language to take those calls.

It’s called authenticity, and we’ve got it in the arts too. The City and local businesses weave art into everything we do. Public art absolutely needs to be part of this Challenge, though it’s not fair because most of the artists Cambridge had long ago moved to Somerville. And we’re talking everything from painters to sculptors to comic book artists. Oh, if you happen to catch a band in Cambridge anytime soon, make sure to ask them where in Somerville they live.

And historical landmarks? Let’s see, Somerville has the Powderhouse, which the British Army raided in September, 1775, setting in motion the hostilities that led to the siege of Boston. And when the colonists lost the Battle of Bunker Hill, they primarily fell back to Prospect Hill in Somerville, which had the most commanding view of the harbor. Most of General Washington’s troops camped there and it was the guns on Prospect Hill and down in Dorchester Heights which drove the British out of Boston.

We’d have those two landmarks on the Freedom Trail, but there’s this big empty space in Cambridge it would have to cross. Did they have Chardonnay during the Revolutionary War? Because apparently the good people of Cambridge were sipping it back then too. So let’s make historical places part of that Challenge.

I could pelt Cambridge with all the awards Somerville has won lately – the All-America City Award, the Healthiest City in Massachusetts, one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People – but it just wouldn’t be fair. Part of the reason for this is because in Somerville we have gone across the city adding some of the coolest parks and playgrounds you’ll find anywhere. It goes hand-in-hand with our Shape Up Somerville healthy living initiative, which served as a model for the Obama Administration’s Let’s Move program.

So let’s put community fitness and sporting prowess in the Challenge too. Again, not fair. Somerville can trounce Cambridge at most sports. Even at Cambridge’s best high school sport, boy’s basketball, it was Somerville who handed that team its first loss of the year. And in 2012 we will restart the old Thanksgiving football rivalry between the two cities. I’m comfortable enough to predict a win for Somerville in that one from 18 months out.

Oh, and Mr. Reeves made his comments during a meeting about the Cambridge City website. Go ahead, check out the Cambridge site ( Now check out the Somerville site ( You tell me which one is more interesting and current.

Talk is cheap, Somerville is willing to put its civic pride on the line and prove that is the more interesting city. We’re throwing down the gauntlet to Cambridge. Let’s work out the particulars of an Interesting City Challenge, not that we think a City government that wouldn’t even dare to play us in a softball game last year will take us up on the offer.


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