Showing posts from December, 2018

Rosie's Place

Boston-based Rosie’s Place was the first women’s shelter in the United States. It provides meals, shelter and support services including housing assistance, counseling and eduction for 12,000 women per year. Today, I donated some goods to Rosie’s Place through my coworking office’s holiday drive.

Environmental contributions

We’re at the end of the year, so it’s time to make sure all of my tax-deductible donations are in. Today, I made donations to two local environmental organizations that I’m personally engaged with. The first was to the Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN) , which is doing a lot of great coordinating work relevant to the Climate Coalition of Somerville. The second was to the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) , which is doing amazing work on conservation and resilience for the Mystic River watershed, which Somerville abuts.

Historic Somerville

Understanding history adds important context to civic engagement. I’ve taken part in several tours of Somerville’s history, for example, which have helped me understand how the city has become what it is. Today, I made a donation to Historic Somerville , which celebrates and protects the city’s historic resources to underscore their relevance to modern life. I plan to do some more digging into Somerville’s history in the coming year.

Indivisible action for climate

Indivisible is catalyzing a national day of action on January 3. Several local chapters are organizing together and I joined in, as part of Indivisible Somerville. Today, I sat for a couple hours with another climate leader (a good friend, too) to plan the climate-related messaging for the action.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice

Today, I made a donation to Asian Americans Advancing Justice , a great organization that is fighting for civil rights and empowering Asian Americans. I made a donation to them in 2017 and took part in several actions . I wasn’t as active in 2018, but I’m staying vigilant.

Ecosia search engine

Google has been my search engine of choice and I’m a heavy user of Google’s services. But I’m not 100% comfortable with everything Google represents. The scandals continue to mount and the costs to society are heavy given the company’s influence. It certainly has come a long way from it’s old “Don’t be evil” mantra. Today, I took a small step toward weening myself from Google by installing the Ecosia extension (to Google’s Chrome browser, unfortunately). Ecoasia is known as the “search engine that plants trees” because it’s a benefit corporation that takes a portion of its ad revenues and uses it to, well, plant trees.

Somerville Homeless Coalition

It’s Christmas Day and as I sit with my family, my mind drifts to families in need. Today, I made a donation to the Somerville Homeless Coalition , whose assistance and interventions in Somerville are vital.

Support the Pink House

If you’ve ever been to Plum Island, a treasure off the coast of Newburyport, Massachusetts, then you’ve driven past the “pink house,” a lonely structure in the middle of a salt marsh. It has a storied history among the artists in the area. But it’s also under threat, having been abandoned and sold to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is a great organization to be sure, but not one that’s devoted to the preservation of historic buildings. Today, I made a donation to SupportThePinkHouse , an organization that is trying to save the house from demolition, refurbish it, and support its role as an iconic landmark.

Statewide building codes campaign

This year, city officials across the U.S. will vote on revisions to the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), the code that underpins the Massachusetts Building Energy Code. The Massachusetts Climate Action Network and Metropolitan Area Planning Council are pushing to adopt a more aggressive stretch code that will enable cities and towns across the state to set codes that align with their energy efficiency targets. After all, buildings represent 46% of emissions in Massachusetts and 58% in Somerville. Today, I worked on a letter to be sent to Somerville city staff in the planning, sustainability, housing and other offices, on behalf of the Climate Coalition of Somerville) hoping to persuade them to get involved in the voting process. ( h/t to Paola, who did the heavy lifting in drafting. )

Supporting journalism

Journalism is vital for the functioning of democracy. Yet, journalism is under assault on the business front from an Internet culture of “information wants to be free” and from the culture side and the spread of the “fake news” meme that is undercutting trust in the media. Today, I supported journalism projects small and large. First, I made a donation to a Kickstarter project for a small investigative news outlet called Truth Media in Florida. Second, I subscribed to the Washington Post , a journalistic institution unparalleled for its political coverage. While I subscribe to the Boston Globe , the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal , and read all three every day, the relevance of the Washington Post is higher than ever and they deserve my patronage.

Indivisible action planning

Indivisible is planning a national day of action on January 3, generally around greeting the new U.S. House of Representatives (Whose House, Our House). My incoming Rep. is Ayanna Pressley. Unfortunately, she’ll be in Washington on January 3 and she doesn’t yet have an office in the district, which limits Indivisible Somerville’s opportunities to greet her on that day. Today, I joined with leaders from Indivisible Mystic Valley and Minuteman Indivisible to help plan a day of action with their representative, Katherine Clark.

Conscious Capitalism meet and greet

Sentinel Benefits signed on this summer as one of Conscious Capitalism Boston chapter’s corporate sponsors. And for good reason, because their leadership team puts a lot of emphasis on its culture and its communities, as well as its clients. Today, I joined with four Conscious Capitalism board members to present what the organization is all about to Sentinel’s leadership team, and to have a friendly chat with any other employees who stopped by.

Meeting with the Somerville Board of Aldermen President

Today, I sat down for a three and a half hour meeting with the President of Somerville’s Board of Aldermen. We went over the Climate Coalition of Somerville’s list of sustainability issues and potential action items that the Board could take. Very productive meeting, although we didn’t even work through the whole list in that time, so we’ll have to schedule a follow-up.

Ujima Fund webinar

Thomas Piketty showed that returns on capital are greater than economic growth in his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century , which leads to reinforcing cycles of growing wealth inequality. Those without access to capital — a burden borne in Boston by working-class communities of color — fall further and further behind. It will take a purposeful re-allocation of capital to address inequality. Today, I attended a webinar for the Ujima Fund : The Ujima Fund is a democratic investment vehicle raising capital to finance small businesses, real estate and infrastructure projects in Boston’s working-class Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color, as part of the larger Boston Ujima Project. Ujima uses a participatory budgeting process in combination with traditional underwriting to put economic development decisions in the hands of community members. The Ujima Fund is raising capital from investors and institutions from across the country, Ujima Voting Members (current and displace

Passive House project in Union Square

I’ve spent time over the past year learning about passive house standards and advocating that they be included in Somerville’s zoning code as a density bonus — an incentive for developers. Today, I attended a presentation from a developer who is exploring a project that would construct a passive house in Union Square. I asked them specifically about the density bonus and they replied that this project was made possible by (and is dependent on) the density bonus in the proposed new zoning code. That’s an encouraging sign that the density bonus would encourage the kind of development that Somerville needs more of.

Environmental League of Massachusetts

Back in June, I attended the Environmental League of Massachusetts’s Earth Night.  ELM been around since 1898. They’re a small organization with an influence far beyond their means. Today, I made a donation to ELM.

CNote savings account

Do you know how your bank is investing the dollars you’ve parked with them? Hint: It’s not all good. CNote has a different model. They invest your deposits with non-profit CDFIs, which lend to minority- and female-owned businesses in local communities. And CNote pays a higher return than a typical savings model, though to be sure, it is not FDIC insured. Today, I opened an account with CNote, and I plan to move a small amount of savings into the account to see how it works. I’m excited to put my savings to work helping minority and female entrepreneurs.

Letter to the Boston Globe

The Boston Globe will be publishing an article on Sunday, decrying climate denialism and the high standard of “reasonable doubt” that the public seems to be applying to the issue. Today, I wrote a letter to the Globe editor describing the reason for the “reasonable doubt” standard and highlighting why it ought not apply in the case of climate change.

A Conversation on Innovation & Gentrification

Today, I attended a panel discussion hosted by the Asian Community Development Corporation. The conversation was meant to discuss the impact of the tech sector on housing stability. The representatives from the tech sector, while well-meaning, were surprisingly out of touch with the premise of the discussion. They talked about the importance of diversity, yes, but never touched on housing affordability and community engagement as something they ever thought about it.

Somerville Commission on Energy Use and Climate Change

Today, I went to the December meeting of the Somerville Commission on Energy Use and Climate Change. A big agenda item was the debrief of the Somerville Climate Forward launch a few weeks ago. Here’s a video of the speakers, if you’re interested.

The Register of Copyrights

The Register of Copyrights has two jobs: registering copyrightable works and providing information on copyright law to the government. The office is situated in Congress, not in the Executive Branch. Yet, there is pending legislation that would make the position of the Register of Copyrights subject to presidential appointment and Senate confirmation, as opposed to an appointment by the Librarian of Congress. Why? Who knows. But it doesn’t seem to make sense to make the office a political appointee that could be influenced by a president’s policy stances partisan confirmation processes. The American Library Association opposes the bill and so do I. Today, I wrote my senators asking them to vote against the bill.

Last Climate Coalition of Somerville meeting of 2018

Today, I participated in the last monthly meeting of the year for the Climate Coalition of Somerville. So much to touch base on, from so many groups, from a renewed Fossil Free Somerville’s divestment campaign to urban forest advocacy. It was nice to not talk about zoning and buildings for the first time in awhile.

Somerville pedestrian transit advocacy meeting

I joined a task force for pedestrian and transit advocacy last month. Today, I joined their first meeting. I spent the meeting listening, mostly, so catch-up on the scope of the task force and it’s activities. Probably something I need to stay involved with.

Ranked Choice Voting beer election

Yesterday, I wrote to my state Senator, advocating for Ranked Choice Voting . Today, I attended a mock election held by Voter Choice Massachusetts and heard their latest pitch. (We voted on beer at brewery, naturally.) A key talking point: Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. Maine enacted ranked choice voting a year ago and it’s already had an impact. In the mid-term election last month, Bruce Poliquin garnered the most votes but did not get a majority. Using ranked choice voting , the independent candidates’ voters’ second choices were then factored in. The winner became Jared Golden, not Bruce Poliquin, providing an instant case study for how ranked choice voting can change an election.

Ranked Choice voting advocacy

I’ve become a supporter of ranked choice voting , the system under which you vote for your top choice, as usual, along with your #2, #3, etc. If no one gets a majority, the bottom vote getter is eliminated and his or her #2 votes get added to the tally. And so on, until someone gets a majority. Today, I sent a letter to my state Senator, Pat Jehlen, advocating for ranked choice voting. Voter Choice MA has a meeting with her in the near future, so it was important to let her know that constituents care.


Today, I made a recurring donation to Indivisible Somerville, through an ActBlue page setup by the national Indivisible organization. Seems like an oversight that I hadn’t started this donation sooner. The organization runs lean but it still needs a little bit of capital. And it was helpful to see the financials at our meeting last night, so we could see how the money was being managed.

24 Hours of Reality watch party

Today, I attended a viewing party for 24 Hours of Reality , with the Climate Reality Project’s Boston Metro chapter. Today, I also tweeted at seven progressive House leaders to encourage them to support the Green New Deal resolution, as part of a Sunrise campaign .

Green New Deal

A new Congress takes over in January. One of the exciting new developments is the energy that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York is applying to demand a “ Green New Deal .” What’s that? At its heart is a draft resolution for the House to create a special committee to pump out legislation that would transition the economy (emphasis on jobs) to one powered by renewable electricity. Eighteen Democrats have signed on so far, including my own Representative-elect, Ayanna Pressley. Today, I supported the Green New Deal by donating to Sunrise Boston, which is sending a busload of youth to Washington on December 10 to urge House leadership to create the special committee. Today, I also signed a petition (along with 58,000 others so far) that will be sent to House leadership urging the creation of the special committee.

Vote Remote

Indivisible Somerville’s offshoot, the Institute for Social Engagement, launched its signature initiative in time for the mid-terms last month. Called Vote Remote, the initiative pulled together a website that was a one-stop shop for voter registration and absentee ballots. You’d have thought it would be simple, but election laws and processes are actually quite varied state-by-state, county-by-county. And, crucially, Vote Remote paired the website with a program of Campus Coordinators who would provide the personal hand-holding that apparently college students need, in order to vote. The theory of change being that more college students in Greater Boston — and there a quarter million of them — could be brought into civic engagement by voting in their home states. Today, I met with a few of ISE’s leaders, getting an update on what they’ve achieved and providing some feedback on how to move forward.

Hemlock Hospice

You may recall the Triple Decker Ecology exhibit I attended a few weeks ago, at the Somerville Museum, when we hosted our climate social. It was a fascinating visioning of Somerville adapting to climate change. Well, the same artist, David Buckley Borden, had another exhibit called Hemlock Hospice. This installation took over Harvard Forest and paid tribute to hemlocks, a species of trees that is being eradicated from the forest by insects that would in the past have been controlled by cold winters. Alas, climate change has expanded their range and they are flourishing at the expense of the hemlocks. Today, I went back to the Somerville Museum (and I became a member, because these exhibits are awesome), for an event that featured a 20-minute documentary about the Hemlock Hospice.