BOSTON (CBS) – Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, recently re-elected to his ninth term spoke with Jon Keller about some of the big issues that will be facing Beacon Hill when legislators return after the holidays.
Curtatone has lashed out at the state’s legislature on Twitter for failure to respond to the state’s affordable housing crisis.
“What we need is bold, systemic change. Still, we have bills before them for consideration, whether it’s the governor’s Housing Choice Bill, which I support, which is important to the two blocks of needs that we have, or the bills by representatives Connelly and Elugardo, which helps protect tenants’ rights,” Curtatone said.
The mayor said that displacements are at an all-high and that buying in the metropolitan Boston region is “almost impossible today.”
Curtatone, who is chairman of the Metropolitan Mayors Coalition, said affordable housing is essential to maintaining a talented workforce and a strong economy. Curtatone said he supports restoring a modified version of rent control, which was banned by voters statewide in 1994.
Elugardo’s bill would give communities a chance to opt into a version of rent control, something which could be politically toxic.
“We’re not talking about the rent control, which was really not a good version, in the 70s. But we have to not only produce housing, we have to preserve housing and we have to protect tenants. They are being taken advantage of. Rents are being skewed, they’re being gouged, and they’re being displaced. We have to have the ability and the courage to give people the opportunity to stay in their communities. We have to have this conversation. To say we’re not going to talk about it because it’s politically toxic, that’s not courage to me.”
Rent control was banned in the 90s after landlords couldn’t make a go of it and landlords began to neglect properties. Curtatone said the 70s version of rent control did not work, but states such as New York, California and Oregon are beginning to pass measures that protect tenants and property owners.
Transportation and infrastructure – and how the state will pay for it – is another issue facing Beacon Hill.
Curtatone said that one idea he supports is raising the gas tax.
“We are now the most – the Metropolitian Boston region – the most congested traffic region in the United States. Everyone experiences this every day, whether you live in this region, you’re commuting in and out. It’s impacting our quality of life. It’s deteriorating our environment. It’s going to impede our ability to grown economically. To connect people to housing, jobs and academia. And again, we’re not taking action on it.”
Curtatone said the Metropolitan Mayors Coalition supports a 15-cent increase. Curtatone said he’d like the state to looking at expanding tolls and finding other solutions as well. He said that the state needs revenue to make improvements that will bring the state into the 21st century and increase safety, reduce congestion and create a world-class infrastructure that is handicapped accessible.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Curtatone said he’s supporting Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, which has not been doing well lately.
“I think it’s mimicking the ebbs and flows of any presidential campaign,” Curtatone said.
Curtatone said there are some great Democratic candidates that are still in the running for the 2020 election.
“I’m a big believer in Senator Warren. I think she shows the leadership we need to find that change at the national level.”